Any sign of news concerning the complete eradication of Overlords Velvet, Sinestra, Mesozoa , and demi-lord Boltaire came days after the fact, when allies came to their places of business and found them empty. Scoured of any and all evidence that it was even once a focal point.
In during this time, Charlie received no fewer than ten calls from her father, all of which were ignored. The hurt of basically being barred from her childhood home still stung fresh on her mind and heart, and she didn't want to have to deal with reopening that wound. Not yet.
The wound was tended over with some InstaSin pictures from Angel Dust's account, showing mostly close-up selfies with Alastor candid in the background either mixing a drink or preparing food, and somewhat saucy one of Alastor obviously asleep in bed, Angel taking a peace-sign selfie next to Alastor's bare back which had very telling claw marks. The only caption was a winky-face emoji but for some reason it made Charlie laugh until she cried.
It was just so surreal, seeing something so Angel-like from the spider demon she picked up when she first pitched the Hotel idea and having a mental timeline of everything that happened since then fly over her mind. So much, in so short a time period. Angel Dust had gone from a gutter-mouthed emotionally-closed brat to an overlord. Alastor came into the Hotel wanting nothing but entertainment for himself and found companionship and happiness instead.
Maybe Angel was right, she thought as she thumbed through her phone to look back at pictures of the wedding. If not a place of full redemption, then a place where a demon could find themselves outside of where their sins merely placed them. Where they could improve themselves as people before trying for anything as reaching as full redemption. It was a good first step, she thought, sitting back with a smile. This wedding was evidence that Angel Dust and Alastor HAD managed to change for the better.
When this first began, at no point would she have this picture she was looking at, of herself, Alastor, and Angel in a big selfie pic she didn't even have to beg to take of them. The smiles were genuine, the brightness in everyone's eyes real and loving. Even if it was just providing the Hotel itself, she felt that she played a part in their love story, and she was honored by the fact.
It was just sad now, that they wouldn't be here every day. They both had a lot of work to do now, improvements to make in their respective territories, and they were starting their own lives together. At least, she thought, putting her phone down, they would continue to be the pillars of support they had been, and swore to always be.
Angel Dust hummed to himself as he lounged on the seat, looking through his messages when a new one popped up, making his eyes brighten. "Oh-ho."
Alastor looked up from stirring something in a pot. "Something interesting, dear?" he called over his shoulder. Angel sat up, grinning.
"You could say that," he replied, sitting back to cross his legs. "The Overlord Summit invitations are out." He huffed a little. "It's only sent to me. Rude of them not to send out a couple's invite, because I KNOW they know we're married."
"Don't feel bad 'bout it, sha," Alastor said. "They stopped sendin' 'em to me years ago. I only know 'bout 'em because o' dear Rosie."
"I didn't feel like going." Alastor ladled out two bowls of his stew. "I never cared much for all th' pomp an' networkin' an' all tha'. I was in it for th' fun." He carried the food over, setting the bowls down on the table. "Didn't get serious 'bout it, really, 'til recently."
"Sounds fair." Angel sat back, eating his food thoughtfully. "So what should we wear?"
"Whatever we want, mon ange, we've got no one t' really impress."
"True." Angel smiled. "Still gotta let 'em know who's Boss."
"You're such a drama queen."
"Al, I'm THE drama queen. An' you married me, so there."
Alastor laughed. "That I did." He started in on his own meal. "We'll figure somethin 'out."
"Tail end of our honeymoon too, th' bastards. They'll pay for that."
"It's fine, sha."
The Overlord Summit. A once-a-year meeting extended to any and all overlords to join together in a ceasefire of any conflict and speak about possible cooperation and territorial rights.
A meeting that was going to be down five known overlords and officially presenting one new.
As per tradition, the Summit was held in the state room of Lucifer's palace, where each overlord could bring one second-in-command or servant of their own choosing, including demi-lords who had probable means of either attaining overlord protection and business, or were in serious running to become an overlord themselves. They all arrived at the specified time, seating themselves accordingly when shown to the state room, and looked on in either distaste or apathy at the five places that would not be fit to be filled anytime soon.
Lucifer sat at the head of the table, hands folded in front of his mouth as he kept his own displeasure of the situation to himself. He heard snippets of the other overlords taking bets over whether or not Angel Dust or even Alastor would be coming to the meeting, the latter of whom hadn't attended even one since his tenure as overlord.
Either way, start time came and went, and it had to start with or without them.
He stood up to address everyone when the door opened again, the sound of static hissing in the room as two figures walked in.
Angel Dust strolled in first, wearing a black pantsuit with a strapless corset top under an oversized black coat lined with pink fur, sharp stilettos cracking with each step on the floor. His eyes fearlessly perused over everyone, smile as wide and sharp as his husband’s behind him.
Alastor followed, dressed in his usual red suit, though it seemed to be a more modern tailored cut, his antlers extended out to a more noticeable six points and his microphone being slowly twirled between his fingers. He walked to the tail end of the table opposite Lucifer, looking over the empty seats.
“Quite a few missing,” he remarked. “Are we the only ones late?” He snapped his fingers to form another chair next to him rather than have Angel sit on one of the sides of the table, pulling it out for Angel.
Lucifer’s jaw tightened. “No, that particular honor goes exclusively to you two,” he said. “So good of you to finally attend, Alastor.”
Alastor beamed, pushing Angel in before sitting himself down, displacing his microphone as he did so. “Well I very well couldn’t let my dear husband attend his first Summit alone, could I?” he said.
“Yeah, and we might’ve been on time, if ya hadn’t scheduled it durin’ our honeymoon,” Angel Dust put in, leaning back in his chair. “Almost like you was HOPIN’ we wouldn’t come.” His smile went wider. “But we know ya got more class than that.”
“Someone has to,” one of the overlords muttered into his drink. Angel’s smile only widened, leaning his head on his hand.
“Ooh, wuddya mean by that?” Angel asked. “No really, I’m curious. How does everyone here feel about me? I need a baseline assessment for future reference.” He looked around expectantly. “Izzit th’ whole mortal-born thing? I think it’s that.”
“No no,” Alastor chimed in, sipping from a cup of coffee that appeared out of nowhere. “I think it’s you being a prostitute, dear. Not many are willing to admit that someone they paid to have sex with is their equal.”
“In what regard, because if we’re airin’ grievances, I know more than a few who could use some pointers in bed.” He paused. “Ah, no, wait, they’re dead, nevermind. Movin’ on?”
Lucifer scowled. “YES,” he said firmly, trying to keep the fire out of his voice. “Speaking of. The demise of so many overlords by the same one or two demons is definite cause of concern.”
Alastor arched a brow. “I wasn’t aware that two constituted as ‘so many’,” he said. “And it was personal business what caused their demise anyway.” His eyes went sharp. “I for one know that it was borderline criminal for Valentino to have treated an actual incubus as poorly as he did, ESPECIALLY being a purveyor of Lust himself. It wasn’t even ignorance what did it. He knew exactly what Angel Dust was when he made that contract.”
He tapped his clawtips on the table, taking another deliberate sip of coffee.
“And Vox attacked the Hotel. YOUR daughter’s Hotel. A place under MY protection. Attacked ME. Abducted Angel, who was still under MY contract at the time. Any overlord worth his salt wouldn’t let that go unpunished. So I ask you...which of their deaths was the most concerning?”
Lucifer’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “The deaths of Overlords Velvet, Sinestra, and Mesozoa, and of Demi-Lord Boltaire.” The ‘as if you didn’t already know’ being left up in the air but definitely implied.
“Oh, them.” Alastor looked to Angel, his smile completely neutral. “Had no hand in that. You?”
“I didn’t touch ‘em,” Angel replied with a shrug. “I’ve been too busy gettin’ married an’ fuckin’ my husband to do any killin’ recently.”
Lucifer almost hissed. “Ridiculous,” he said. “I know for a fact that you had your hands in it!”
“Now now, Luci,” Stolas spoke up from the side, looking endlessly amused at the married overlords’ banter. “If you wanted to make this Summit a trial, you should have at least told us.” He laced his claws together, resting his head on them. “But let’s say this WAS a trial. Circumstantial evidence on them entirely, isn’t it? After all, their wedding and honeymoon pictures are well documented, and the late overlords in passing were noted troublemakers.” His eyes took on an almost sadistic gleam. “Are you certain you’re not speaking from hurt, dear cousin? I know they were your friends.”
“Of course you’d play devil’s advocate for the whore,” a skull-headed overlord snapped at Stolas. “What, imps aren’t enough for you?”
Stolas clicked his tongue, rolling his eyes. “Darling, NO ONE is enough for me,” he replied. “But I also don’t let my emotions get in the way of what SHOULD be justice. I’m a connoisseur of information as well as a hobbyist of pleasures of the flesh. I’m not bound to staring at a fire trying to divine what can be easily undone.”
Angel flicked open a lighter, using it to light up a cigarette at the end of his holder. “And ‘the whore’ is right here an’ can be directly spoken to, jackass,” he said, flicking the lighter shut. “Creative insult, by th’ way. You talk to th’ Queen with that mouth too when addressin’ th’ succubi?”
He took a long drag from the end of the holder. “Besides. I’ll swear it on blood right now. I didn’t touch th’ damn overlords yer accusin’ me of. Because I was too damn busy havin’ an actual LIFE.”
Alastor beamed, finishing off his coffee. “Afterlife, dear.”
“Semantics. Is this all these meetings are, because if that’s th’ case, I’m sorry I dragged you outta bed for it, Al.” He gave the rest of them a sweeping glare, pinning the harshest of it on Lucifer. “Seriously. All th’ time in Hell to pull this shit, and it’s when I’m tryin’ to enjoy my honeymoon. If I wanted t’ have a goddamn board meetin’, I’d have one in th’ two companies I’m runnin’.” He paused. “Three, sorry, forgot I’m pullin’ liaison duties with Charlie too, THAT’S another full-time gig.”
He polished off his cigarette with a sigh. “I might just be ‘the whore’ to most o’ ya, but I’m a whore who’s got actual work t’ do. Shit, I probably did more work back suckin’ dick on an average Thursday than most o’ ya’s still do. So before I gotta get back t’ that, you bet yer ancient asses I’m not gonna spend what remains o’ my vacation here.” He stood up, tossing his hair. “C’mon Al.”
Alastor stood up, summoning his microphone with a flourish of his hand. “Well, I’m certainly glad to see I’ve missed absolutely nothing these past decades!” he said cheerfully. “Yes, I would much rather be having sex with my husband. And for someone like me, that’s actually saying something!”
“Glad it’s good for you too, ya damn weirdo,” Angel said, looping two arms though Alastor’s before looking over his shoulder. “So, yeah, it goes without sayin’, but stay th’ fuck outta our turf or I’ll fuckin’ kill ya. Arrivederci, ya boring fucks.”
The two headed out of the room, Lucifer barely managing to avoid smiting them where they were, his mood definitely not helped by Stolas laughing himself into a fit.
He took several breaths to calm himself before signaling in for drinks, and giving out mental orders to keep a close, almost invasive eye on those two.
"Capo primo, this is Padre Ragno. Is everything ready?"
"Si. Everything. All that is left is the okay from our bambine and Nobildonna, and then it's all yours."
"Primo Torre all set up?"
"Isn't it always?"
"Smartass. Cervo Principe says hi."
"Yes, I know, he's been putting shitty music into my headset all night. Look you deer asshole, I know you can hear me, knock it off, I never liked Dean Martin!"
"That's a damn lie, you're always singin' 'Ain't That a Kick in th' Head' -"
"I'll show you a kick in th' head. Capo primo, going on standby."
Angel smiled, looking at Alastor who was holding his microphone tightly in his hands, disregarding the conversation and staring out the window with a wide-eyed, hungry expression like the starving beast he truly was at the moment. Nothing was more beautiful to Angel than seeing Alastor like this. Raw, primal hunger, teeth bared in a smile with uncouth salivation and a flush of excitement like rouge on his cheekbones, ready and waiting to tear into his newest meal.
He was unable to contain himself, curling two of his hands around Alastor's middle and feeling the almost empty hollowness in the deer's abdomen, forever a testament to his neverending gluttony. "I know we're about to go eat, babe," he purred, nuzzling Alastor's head, "but I think a little treat won't ruin yer appetite, would it?"
A growl that came from the pit of that empty stomach was all the warning Angel had before he was thrown back against the couch, claws tearing into his abdomen as his husband took the edge off of his hunger. He laughed, burying his hands into Alastor's hair as the deer ate right from the source, not minding at all Alastor's ravenous appetite.
He'd have his own meal soon enough.
Lucifer sat quietly in his private parlor, staring at the hellfire in his fireplace, feeling a likewise rise of anger and heat in his soul. Everything now was unfavorable in every possible way, and he'd have to say it had to have started from the moment in 1933 when that deer bastard spawned in Hell.
Hell was home to plenty of evil men, but every so often one dropped down that hit a god-level tier of evil. Alastor LeBlanc, who had been born with a stained soul that he only nurtured himself over the years with an impressive body count, most of whom the man ATE.
But to make matters worse was Alastor's complete lack of regard for his own mortal soul. Lucifer found himself unable to even get close enough to touch it, but what he saw was enough for him to not want to. An ungodly mix of having a majority chained by blood to a voodoo Loa, another mass willingly sacrificed to the low call of ancient eldritch horrors, and a third given up to the unquenchable gluttony that made up his true demon form, Alastor was, in a word, DANGEROUS. That wasn't even considering the fact that Alastor didn't perform his abilities out of a want of power or gain.
Alastor was like a child seeking out entertainment. And if he did not find it, he MADE it. Lucifer had been wary that Alastor had gone somewhat quiet for a few years, and then showed up again like a harbinger of doom as soon as Charlotte advertised that rehabilitation hotel.
Lucifer was no fool. Alastor caught sight of something that could be the single domino piece fit for leveling the order of Hell itself as a means of amusement, and he had all the power and charisma to charm Charlotte into just about anything he could want.
Lucifer accounted for those things, ready and waiting to counter whatever it was Alastor had in mind, be it forming a binding deal to seducing Charlotte away from her girlfriend. What Lucifer HADN'T accounted for was Alastor actively setting aside those plans entirely to instead focus on a relationship with Angel Dust, of all demons.
It threw Lucifer for a loop. Why would Alastor, an asexual sociopathic homicidal maniac, choose Angel Dust?
It wasn't until Lucifer felt threads pulling in another direction, a feeling of something big the likes of which he hadn't felt since Alastor sauntered into Hell, that he realized that there had been so much more to Angel Dust than he'd realized. Than ANYONE realized.
Angel Dust was an incubus. One that had been basically starved off from the bulk of a constant flow of power for over seventy years before it suddenly became available to him by a simple tearing of his contract. But even before then, it had been enough to entice the Radio Demon's attentions, affections, and even his devotion.
Without his contract holding him back, Angel Dust could command the undying lust and devotion of any demon he desired with a single word if he wanted, from the lowest imp to a Hellborn noble.
And what then did the embodiments of gluttony and lust decide to do?
Marry. Unite and share their souls and power. Create a void between the two of them that only sought to devour and claim.
The very real possibility of the two of them making a power play made Lucifer paranoid in a way he'd never been before, and it was for that reason that he hadn't left his home in weeks. Lucifer had power, that much was true. It was a great and terrible power, and the workings and fates of Hellborn differed very much from the mortal-born, but no matter the power, it always came with a caveat.
Alastor had horrendous power, but it was a power he had to ask permission to use. Through blood sacrifice, it was only at the whim of the Loa or the ancient ones that it be utilized. One denial of that power or catching Alastor off-guard was Alastor's weakness. Vox had gotten extremely lucky with careful planning and stalking the Radio Demon's weakness, and only his singleminded desire to bring back his lover had been his demise. He let Alastor live, the absolute fool, and paid the price for it.
It was a different story for Angel Dust.
The incubus had grown inside of his mortal soul from life, seeking out pleasures of all forms unabashedly with no shame and no regret, able to seduce with unnatural ease. Had Valentino not snatched him up immediately, Angel Dust would have become too powerful to control. Valentino had also gotten lucky, keeping his prized whore stuck at the most base level of demonhood, keeping the incubus beaten down by twisting the man's remaining human desires, fears, and weaknesses while playing up the pieces that would be profitable.
Had it be known that Angel Dust was an incubus, Valentino would have been in a world of hurt by his superiors in the Lust Circuit, including Lilith herself. Simply by being an incubus, Angel Dust easily outranked Valentino and could have decided the louse's fate much sooner than had Alastor skinned him and put him in a pot of stew.
With his demon inheritance cashed in and only growing, Angel Dust's only weakness was his marriage to Alastor; where one soul was bound, the other had to follow. But Alastor shared in his power with Angel Dust, creating a loop of impenetrable power that only one devastating and calculated blow could destroy.
And since the two had already been subjected to attacks from other overlords, their defenses would be high. They would always plan for the worst and then prepare for worse than THAT. Not to mention they now held control of the information grid that all of common Hell ran off of, and possibly had hands in something that ran even deeper than that.
As of right now, they were untouchable.
All Lucifer could do now was wait and plan. There had to be a weak link in their chain, a traitor to exploit, a way to beat them at whatever attack they would launch next.
He sighed, rubbing his temple and draining his glass of wine before sitting up. He could try speaking to Charlotte again, he thought, trying to think past his throbbing headache. Show her everything. TELL her everything. If worst came to pass, he'd give her the throne against her will, just to show her that the despicable duo would cut her down to obtain it. A harsh lesson for his precious light to learn, but a necessary one.
Lucifer stood up and suddenly felt as though his brain had been liquefied as his vision swam and his equilibrium faltered. How much had he had to drink, he thought numbly, struggling to look at the bottle clearly and seeing only one glass's worth had been taken. This wasn't right, he couldn't have been poisoned. It would have no effect on him and even if it did he was far too powerful to even have a temporary death from such a paltry attempt.
He gripped the back of his chair, clenching his teeth as he raised a hand to summon someone to call his wife, only for the summon to simply not work. Icy coldness spread through his veins as he stared at his hand, power unresponsive, the call of his own father's power gone entirely before darkness overtook his senses.
Lucifer woke with a start, the lightheadedness he had felt just before blacking out gone. His senses were returned, all but just the one he was actively looking for.
Unresponsive, chained away and closed off from him.
He snarled, trying to sit up only to his when his hand jostled a chain around his wrist, the burn a telltale indication of it being made of holy metal. Both wrists were bound to posts of his own bed, his ankles as well, leaving him spread-eagle on the duvet. And worse, he was naked.
Realization of his temporary powerlessness had his heart lurch with fear he hadn’t felt in literal ages, especially when he was faced with the idea of who was behind it.
“Oh good, you’re awake!”
Lucifer stiffened, his eyes looking to the side to see Alastor sitting on a chair next to the bed, sipping from a crystal tumbler. Alastor gave him a friendly smile. “It took a little longer than we were expecting, but considering your more recent drinking habits, it’s not so surprising that the last batch did THAT strong a number on you.”
“Alastor,” Lucifer said lowly, his teeth bared. “Unchain me right now, and you have my word that you can have a full day’s head start before I hunt you down and have venison at my table.”
Alastor actually put on an infuriating show of appearing to think about it. “No, I don’t think that will do,” he replied. “We’ve been preparing for this show for far too long to simply end it…” He put a finger to his chin. “Although, what a fun idea...headhunting. I’m not one for pursuit hunting myself, more of a prey-comes-to-me sort of person, but it’s not always about what I want!” He grinned, leaning closer. “Sometimes it’s about what the people want.”
Lucifer glowered, despising his own temporarily powerlessness. “You think the people ‘want this’?” he remarked.
“I don’t think,” Alastor replied, sitting back. “I know. You see, Lucifer, being an entertainer means sometimes getting feedback from your listeners! After all, entertainment for just yourself can get a little stale if you don’t branch out.” He took another sip of his drink.
“At the same time, running solo can also become tedious. Having a partner makes all the difference, I’ve come to find! You just need to find the right one!”
Lucifer pulled on the chains slightly to try to find any give. “And you believe Angel Dust is the ‘right one’?” he asked.
“You DON’T?” Alastor laughed, sitting back. “Dear Lucifer, you wouldn’t be half as terrified as you are if you didn’t really believe so.” He set the glass down. “Don’t play coy either, Lucifer, I know you’re trying to talk to stall, but this is inevitable. So it goes without saying that if you want questions answered, simply ask. We’ve covered all our bases and nothing will be coming to save you.”
“My family -”
“Compliant. Entirely.” Alastor’s eyes glowed, his smile widening. “Aside from dear Charlie, of course, she’s unaware as of now, but the others? How else did you think we were able to get this far?” He began ticking examples off his fingers. “Leraje, Phenex, Sabnock...and Stolas was especially helpful and eager.”
Lucifer recalled Stolas’s endless amusement at the presence of Alastor and Angel at the Summit; he should have realized that sooner. “Stolas…”
“Yes. His invaluable knowledge of Hell-made herbs to mix in with a few select strains of spider venom were the groundwork for our victory.” Alastor laced his fingers, smiling. “I’m honestly amazed, Lucifer...you’ve been monarch of Hell for...why, I’m not even sure if anyone has an accurate measure of time...but you failed to utilize one of the greatest networks of old-fashioned spying and espionage that has been in place for some hundreds of years.” He held up his left hand, where his wedding ring glinted in the dim light. “Proud to say I married into it.”
Lucifer scowled. “The spiders.”
“The spiders.” Alastor looked at his ring fondly. “Spider demons can be a dime a dozen, but the Ragnos are the grand lords of the spiders here. Such humble people despite how far they reach and what they are capable of, either solo or en mass. Thanks to them, overthrowing the standing monarchy has been a game much more simple than I anticipated it being.”
“Angel’s dear family.” Alastor’s smile widened further. “MY family now too. Thousands of spiders, a syndicate mafia all under the banner of their Boss, dearest Angelo Martin Alessandro Ragno. My husband, Overlord Angel Dust.” He leaned forward, a hiss of static around his aura. “They’re everywhere, Lucifer. Vox’s head of the news station, Katie Killjoy? Daughter of a Ragno in life, loyal to the family now. Demi-Lord Raphael, the leading dealer in holy items? A Ragno.”
The static grew louder. “More than half your staff here? Ragnos, in hiding. Easy enough to hide extra arms or legs or eyes with practice. So easy to have your family in our side give them the herbs needed to mix into venom and serve in your food and drink. To let it build up, poisoning you for weeks, until the bit in tonight’s glass of wine was the final dose needed to completely and utterly seal your power away into your heart.” Alastor’s face was almost split by his smile.
“Which we will be eating shortly.”
Lucifer jerked hard on the chains, hissing through the pain of holy metal burning into his skin. “THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN!” he shouted. “MY WIFE -”
“Who ya think let us in, Luci?”
Lucifer looked over, seeing Angel Dust step into the room and close the door behind him, wearing a long silk robe he didn’t bother closing as he walked over, eyes glittering venomously as he looked Lucifer over. The spider’s hair was already tousled somewhat, and he smelled heavily of roses and pomegranates, two things Lucifer always associated with Lilith. Implications began blossoming and he loathed every single one of them.
“All finished, dear?” Alastor asked, tipping his head up as his husband leaned down for a kiss.
“On one end, yeah,” Angel replied, tossing his hair over his shoulder before giving Lucifer a smile that was almost sweet. “I hope you haven’t been torturing him, Al.”
“No more than talking, I swear,” Alastor promised. “Let him know a few things.”
“Didn’t get to th’ part where Lils bailed, or else he’d be way too pissed for coherency.” Angel shifted onto the bed, sitting back on his heels between Lucifer’s legs.
Lucifer snarled, trying to sit up. “What did you DO!?” he snapped. Angel just smiled.
“Question more like ‘who’ did I do,” he reiterated. “An’ th’ answer to that is Lilith.” His smile was unapologetic as Lucifer’s wrathful shaking rattled the chains. “It was a little Oedipal for me, t’ be honest...I mean, she IS th’ Mother of all Succubi an’ Incubi.” He shifted closer, sitting back on Lucifer’s thighs. “An’ even as a mortal-born incubus, that makes her my mother too. So you can imagine that she wasn’t too happy with ya for how badly I’ve been treated by you an’ those other hoity-toity fuckers who called me a whore. Who sealed their fuckin’ fates by insulting one of Hers.”
“Lilith was the hardest to convince,” Alastor chimed in, picking his drink back up. “Of course she was interested in a reform of sorts, but as her husband, you were still so dear to her. Not seeing what Angel was while bound and gagged behind a contract was forgivable. Not immediately informing her of her new child, not welcoming him into her court, and all but barring her blood daughter from your home without discussing it with her first? Not forgivable.”
Angel reached out, grabbing Lucifer’s face in his hand, claws pressing into snow-white skin. “If y’never got th’ memo from Charlie’s reports about me, I kinda have this...THING about fathers who can’t accept their kids for who they are.” His claws pressed in deeper, drawing blood. “Really makes me fuckin’ mad. At least before I shot mine point-blank in th’ head, he admitted he fucked up an’ offered me complete dominion over th’ family.”
His eyes narrowed sharply. “You told Charlie t’ choose between her life an’ yours. Between th’ family who loved her an’ th’ ones who told her that her dreams weren’t worth shit. An’ when she chose, you told her to not come back. Disgraceful.”
Lucifer hissed, tugging his head away from Angel’s claws to no avail. “You think she’ll even LOOK at you if you go through with this!?” he snapped. “You’ll just prove me RIGHT!”
“Perhaps,” Alastor said, his smile fading down to one that was more somber. “Or rather, inevitable. Despite the hurtful things you said, you ARE still her father. And with these ideas of betrayal you put into her head, of course she’ll believe we did this all behind her back.”
“Dick move on your part,” Angel said bitterly. “Al an’ I wouldn’t harm a hair on her head.”
“While we believe redemption is far-fetched, we do believe entirely that her ideas have merit. After all, what’s the first step toward salvation, if not self-improvement? Redemption is not something we’re personally interested in at the moment, but it doesn’t mean others won’t be.” Alastor’s eyes went sharp. “It was because you feared a change in the order. That if demons could find redemption after suffering a lesson, then who was to say your followers wouldn’t chase that as well? Simply because YOU couldn’t do it.”
“It doesn’t change the fact that I WAS right about YOU!” Lucifer hissed. “You USED her to get to ME!”
Alastor nodded. “I did. At first.” He picked his tumbler up, knocking back the rest before contemplating the glass. “I have been wanting to dismantle the social order for a very long time now. How absolutely WONDERFUL it would be, to see the chaos erupt from that fall? And when I saw dear Charlie’s plans? It was like Christmas.”
He set the tumbler down, turning to Angel Dust. “But plans change. Accounts for new additions must be made. And sometimes, an entire idea must be overhauled to adjust for such things.”
His eyes began to glow, antlers extending out slightly. “We will devour you, claim your power, and take the throne. That much is true. What happens after is a mystery. And that is what we’re counting on.”
“And as for Charlie hating us…” Angel’s claws dug in deeper before laxing. “...we’re willing t’ let her hate us.” His hand let go of Lucifer’s face, reaching back to slide the robe off of his shoulders and lean over Lucifer’s body.
The scent of Lucifer’s wife that the spider was giving off sent pinpricks of pleasure over his body that he desperately tried to reject to no avail. “What are you doing?!” he demanded.
“Aw, c’mon, don’t tell me you forgot already how we feed,” Angel purred, reaching down to run a clawtip over Lucifer’s length slowly. “But to put it into proper perspective...we’re doin’ things th’ easy way, and th’ BETTER way.”
“Simplest possible terms is that Angel Dust took the claim of being queen from Lilith,” Alastor said. “She was not bound to you in the way Angel and I are bound. Her magical claim to the throne was by just that. A magical claim. You two were not even officially married. Simply a king and a queen reigning together. In this way, Angel taking the claim of queen from Lilith makes HIM the queen. All it takes now is legitimizing it with the king.”
Angel’s soft stroking became firmer, wrapping his whole hand around Lucifer, squeezing tightly. “And once that’s done an’ Al eats yer heart, he’ll be legitimized as king.”
“And after THAT, the real fun can begin!” Alastor grinned, holding his hands with the fingers curled into the palms. “A new order in Hell, and won’t it be entertaining!”
He tore into his palms to draw blood, summoning his microphone and slamming the end into the floor, the room being cloaked in black.
“Hello, dear listeners of Hell!” he piped up, speaking clearly into the microphone cheerfully. “Tonight, we have an especially important and illustrious guest, but first, a moment of serious talk, if you’ll bear with me.”
His voice dropped slightly, indeed very serious. “Debate among the denizens of Hell have been ongoing for decades upon centuries, reaching as far as even the nobility in asking...why? WHY is there this structure of Hell, where something as paltry as birth among Hellborn are considered of higher standing than the sinners who make up the vast majority of Hell’s population?
“The answer to that, my friends, is nothing more than an ancient and outdated system that has needed to be overhauled for a long time, and tonight begins that revolution!”
Lucifer opened his mouth to shout, only to have Angel’s hand grab over it hard, a flex of his fingers threatening to break Lucifer’s jaw.
“Our dear Princess of Hell once said live on the pictures that during the Exterminations, ‘no one is given a chance’, and this is simply not true! During these Exterminations, in your living memory, how many overlords were erased? How many nobles? Has the king himself ever been in danger? The answer to that is none and no. Being an overlord myself, I have still made no move to hide my own radio tower or reinforce it during these times, seeing as how I found it more entertaining to see how many of those creatures I could pick off on my own. But that, dear listeners, is simply a testament to my own ability, not hunkering down under reinforced surroundings with cannon fodder working as bait to keep the angels away!”
His voice hit a lower pitch.
“As far as ‘being given a chance’, everyone WILL be given a chance! And we’ll start here, now, with two mortal-born demons taking the throne from the King of Hell himself, Lucifer Magne!”
Alastor set the microphone in the floor, sitting back in the chair. “Take it away, Angel dear.”
“Pleased to, Alastor darling.” Angel let go of Lucifer’s face as he sat up on his knees, his top set of arms running over Lucifer’s chest, the middle set stroking over Lucifer’s cock, and the third reaching down to rub between his own legs. “Try to be gentle, Luci,” he purred, “Lils was a little rough with me earlier.”
It suddenly hit Lucifer just what exactly was happening and how it came to be. His servants he’d assumed loyal. His allies. His family. His WIFE -his beloved Lilith- had all turned on him, for the ideals of the goddamn Radio Demon and a mortal-born incubus. His power, all of it, was bound away, making him nothing more than a feast for gluttony and lust.
Why was this happening? Why had no one even bothered to talk to him about whatever unforgivable acts he’d committed, leaving him instead to be fed upon like some lowly beast?
As Angel Dust lowered his body onto him, Lucifer could only think of the past handful of centuries, a drop in the sands of time where he held his daughter in arms, watched her grow alongside Lilith, who had been by his side almost from the very beginning. Why now, after ages, millennia? Why would she forsake him now?
Angel Dust’s hand cupping his cheek made him aware that he had been crying without realizing it, but now the tears couldn’t be stopped. The spider giving off his wife’s scent while riding on him slowly tore at the already-frayed edges of his thinning sanity, with none of his power at his disposal to be rid of what was causing it.
“Shh,” Angel murmured, leaning down so perhaps the microphone couldn’t pick up on it. “Don’t cry. It ain’t right for th’ king to be cryin’.” His claws pressed into Lucifer’s chest, drawing blood as he raised his voice. “Scream. Give ‘em a good show. Let ‘em know you went out bein’ fucked by Hell’s finest whore, bein’ devoured by th’ hungriest glutton.”
He tore his claws down Lucifer’s chest, drawing a loud pained groan from the man. “That’s more like it, Luci!” he purred, leaning down to bite into Lucifer’s skin, keeping his venom to himself but not skimping on the bites at all. Lucifer’s dwindling control over any part of his end of the situation cracked, letting out a shrill scream as he yanked on the chains binding his wrists and ankles, snapping his teeth whenever Angel leaned in too close.
“Now now,” Alastor said, reaching out to grab Lucifer’s hair, pinning the demon’s head back against the pillow. “No need for such terrible manners, Lucifer. After all, my husband is providing you with a service everyone except myself and a high-paying customer could only dream of.”
Lucifer snarled, jerking his head to attempt to wrench the Radio Demon’s hand from him with no avail, his ire even worse with the spider clawing over his torso and inciting further arousal. Every inch of him, every semi-lucid instinct was screaming at him to get free, to tear these two mortal-born sinners to pieces for DARING to touch him, to try to overthrow him.
His wrists and ankles were burned raw by the holy metal chains, his scalp bleeding from Alastor’s claws holding his head back from biting the incubus, who was taking his sweet time wringing every bit of sexually-stimulated energy from him. Angel leaned forward, pressing mockingly tender kisses over Lucifer’s neck before biting down harshly, letting out a gurgling purr as blood filled his mouth. Lucifer snarled, the nails in his scalp cutting further as he almost -ALMOST- managed to bite Angel Dust’s face, but the incubus sat up at the last moment, grinning with blood dripping through his teeth.
Angel reached out with one of his hands to curl around Alastor’s head, pulling the deer closer and tipping his head back before leaning over, opening his mouth to let Lucifer’s blood drizzle out onto Alastor’s waiting tongue. Alastor’s expression went almost feral, lurching up with a loud static-filled growl to latch his mouth against Angel’s in a hungry kiss, which only furthered Angel’s lust-fueled assault on Lucifer’s body.
Angel broke away from the kiss, his irises and his fur markings glowing as he buried his claws into Lucifer’s skin, his aura cranking the lust up to eleven as his walls clenched tightly around Lucifer’s cock. Lucifer’s head swam hard, for even just a moment forgetting why he was there, who was fucking him; his senses were filled with the phantom of Lilith, seeing her face and smelling her scent and feeling her hands over his body.
That one moment, his single lapse in realization was what cost him as he came with a hard jerk of his hips and a loud moan, not even fully peaking from the high of his orgasm before realizing his sealed fate.
The magic that wove through Angel Dust’s aura that laid in waiting for the king to claim his queen had been fulfilled.
There was no fanfare or victorious bolstering of that end being completed before Angel lifted himself off of Lucifer’s spent member, not bothering with finishing himself as he stepped away and Lucifer found himself now being pinned by Alastor.
The Radio Demon had no humanity left in his face despite still being in his most common form, his smile grotesquely wide and eyes like solid radio dials. He was an unnatural amalgamation of human and otherworldly sin, a creature pieced together using a corpse, a deer, and a radio, stitched with eldritch thread, blessed by a Loa, and given absolute power the same way children would play god with their dolls.
It might have been Lucifer’s own powerlessness, but the fact of that matter put a weight of dread into his soul, that if Alastor was just a sentient toy of gods and monsters, then what did that make HIM at this moment?
His existential crisis was interrupted by Alastor plunging his fingers into the middle of his chest, deep enough that even in his frozen stupor Lucifer could feel those claws hooking around his ribs just moments before Alastor ripped his chest open in half like a set of double doors.
A scream of agony tore through the room, pairing deliciously with the horrendous sound of a ribcage snapping open and skin tearing like cheap fabric. It was a pain Lucifer hadn’t felt since he’d crash-landed in the fiery wasteland that was Hell to begin with; a true, real visceral pain of being met with a force more powerful than himself and losing spectacularly.
Instead of his divinity, he was losing his throne.
Instead of his wings, he was losing his heart.
Instead of his home, he was losing EVERYTHING.
The King of Hell, he thought somewhere back in the part of him that was shielded away from this nightmare, taken down by mortal souls. Mere sinners.
Creatures who had attained a level of evil worse than him.
Alastor’s mouth didn’t even move as he addressed Lucifer, the dials in his eyes flicking wildly. “A̴N̵Y̶THING̛ ̵Y҉O̢U ̴WOUL̴D L͘IĶE ŢǪ ͟S͘AY̸ ̢T͏Ǫ OU̕R ĄUD͠IE҉N̶CE̡?” he asked, his enthusiastic radio announcer voice enterlaid with a horrendous over-and-undertone of something much more foul than his normal visage let on.
Lucifer’s eyes flicked at his open chest cavity where his heart was audibly pounding, then to Angel Dust who was on standby, fur beautifully ruffled and eyes aglow with lust and hunger for Alastor, who was eyeing Lucifer’s heart like a beast. Lucifer’s breath hitched, and the corners of his mouth twitched upwards, his entire body screaming at him as his broken bones quivered. The last shred his lucid sanity could only laugh hysterically at the ridiculousness of it all.
He looked at the demons before him, his laughter having drained him of every last drop of fight left in him as his body shut down and vision went blurry.
“...may God have mercy...on every last one of you...because these monsters won’t.”
The last thing Lucifer, King of Hell, was fully aware of was Alastor leaning into his chest and biting into his heart, seeing the shadow of Satan draw away from him and fall instead behind another who had been proven more worthy.
Alastor disregarded the eviscerated corpse on the bed, his body heaving as it adjusted to the wealth of power that no other feast had ever given him. It wasn't a fire so much as white-hot coals being raked over him, stuffed into his mouth, pressed into his eyes, and compressing his body, mind, and the piece of his soul reserved for Hell into one singularity.
With all this power, he'd never felt weaker or more vulnerable, never felt more humbled. As he was a mere man with the favor of a Loa, a speck of dirt in the face of the universal expanse of eldritch monstrosity, he was now a mortal-born cupped in the unforgiving hands of something once divine, the origin of profane. He was once more at the mercy of something greater than himself, and felt no shame in being but a fawn, a prey animal, humble and awaiting a fate he couldn't change.
As it was in life, his body was ravaged beyond moving, and he had a proverbial gun put between his eyes. There was nothing he could do except take what was offered.
A sudden lift of any trace of pain, hunger, or flow of power had him jerking to the present, looking up from being curled around himself. He looked down at his hands, seeing that they were the healthy soft tan as they had been in life, the rest of his body the same. He looked around at the black nothingness before seeing something even darker standing before him.
The being looked like a mix of a man, a goat, and an angel, something absolutely beautiful yet terrifying to behold.
The spirit of Satan.
No words were spoken between them.
Satan merely opened his arms, and Alastor stood and mirrored the gesture. 'Come to ME if I am worthy', was what Alastor said without speaking, feeling his own trademark smile cross his face.
And like Kalfu and the ancient ones before, Satan enveloped Alastor entirely, accepting him.
Angel Dust was silent as Alastor's eyes went pitch black in their sockets, knowing better than to disturb anything at the moment. It seemed like the minutes were ticking by as Alastor’s body remained still and silent, no doubt hundreds of thousands of demons likewise holding their breaths to see what was happening next.
Finally, a deep, tremoring growl rumbled from Alastor’s chest, the demon arching forward as his antlers expanded out to a baseline eight-points. His claws lengthened out another inch and red-and-black fur expanded over his back and chest, making him appear like a smaller, more humanoid version of his true form. The dials reappeared in his eyes first, and then faded to his usual red-on-red, albeit with more slitted pupils than before.
Angel barely had time to give the other demon a proper once-over before Alastor reached over the edge of the bed and grabbed his microphone.
“And that concludes part one of our revolutionary broadcast!” Alastor announced, his voice a definite octave lower. “Keep an eye on your handhelds for part two.” His smile widened “Stay tuned.”
His dispelled the microphone before turning to Angel Dust, reaching out to run his claws over the others’ face. “Well,” he said, smile twitching, “it appears that we are kings now, my dear.”
Angel laughed, leaning into Alastor’s hand. “Yeah, we are,” he said. “What does my liege want to do with his first act?” He purred when he was pushed to his back, Alastor looming over him hungrily.
“I want to legitimize my king,” he growled. “And this time WITHOUT an audience.”
“You are a prude in THE weirdest ways, Al,” Angel said with a grin, running his hands over Alastor’s newly-acquired fur in this form. “But I would wanna enjoy my buck for th’ first time in peace as a king.”
“Won’t be any peace, sha,” Alastor replied, his grin going feral before leaning down for a bite, wasting no more time in thrusting into the spider and rutting almost desperately, already being driven into bloodlust from his new power acquisition and the smell of open carcass permeating the room. Angel Dust clawing at his skin, pulling his fur, and screaming his name only pushed his needs onward, intending on spending the rest of the night sating them both.
Charlie had been in the cafe with the others when it happened, taking cute pictures of the dressed-out hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles while Niffty added chocolate shavings and Husk dumped some Baileys into his when the hellphones, the television, and the radios suddenly hissed to life.
“Hello, dear listeners of Hell!” Alastor’s voice chimed in through the speakers, making Husk’s ears lay flat on his head as the others just looked on in confusion. “Tonight, we have an especially important and illustrious guest, but first, a moment of serious talk, if you’ll bear with me.”
“Oh Al, what are you doing NOW?” Charlie huffed. “You’re supposed to be on your honeymoon -”
“Charlie,” Husk said thickly, his voice oddly strained. “Put down yer phone an’ go somewhere without speakers.”
Charlie frowned. “Husk, wha -”
“Debate among the denizens of Hell have been ongoing for decades upon centuries, reaching as far as even the nobility in asking...why? WHY is there this structure of Hell, where something as paltry as birth among Hellborn are considered of higher standing than the sinners who make up the vast majority of Hell’s population?”
Husk turned to Charlie, grabbing her phone. “Hey -what’s going on!?”
“The answer to that, my friends, is nothing more than an ancient and outdated system that has needed to be overhauled for a long time, and tonight begins that revolution!”
“Charlie, I’m fuckin’ serious.”
“Our dear Princess of Hell once said live on the pictures that during the Exterminations, ‘no one is given a chance’, and this is simply not true! During these Exterminations, in your living memory, how many overlords were erased? How many nobles? Has the king himself ever been in danger? The answer to that is none and no. Being an overlord myself, I have still made no move to hide my own radio tower or reinforce it during these times, seeing as how I found it more entertaining to see how many of those creatures I could pick off on my own. But that, dear listeners, is simply a testament to my own ability, not hunkering down under reinforced surroundings with cannon fodder working as bait to keep the angels away!”
Charlie looked between Husk and the various forms of speakers producing the broadcast as Alastor spoke, the ambiance of the room taking hard as Husk and even Niffty had grim looks about them, Husk’s being more desperate for Charlie to do as he asked. “Charlie,” Husk said, sounding more heartsore and sober than she’d ever heard him. “Please.”
“As far as ‘being given a chance’, everyone WILL be given a chance! And we’ll start here, now, with two mortal-born demons taking the throne from the King of Hell himself, Lucifer Magne! Take it away, Angel dear!”
Charlie’s heart dropped like a dead weight, eyes going wide as she snatched her phone back from Husk. “What?” she said, hardly able to wrench the word from her nausea-sickened throat. Her hands shook violently as she heard Angel say something that was lost to the loud ringing in her ears.
The last conversation with her father played on repeat in her head. Of his outrageous accusations of Alastor’s supposed bid for the throne. Through her. In some way. This wasn’t real. This had to be a clever smear campaign, a cruel joke, SOMETHING.
She looked up at Husk, seeing the chimera pointedly looking away, shame permeating his aura like a bad stain as a clawed paw rose to his mouth and eyes clenched shut. She looked to Niffty, who was sitting on her stool silently, hands clasped in her lap and being still and solemn for once.
Through the roaring in her ears, she could hear her father through the speakers, audibly struggling before letting out cries of pain. Of anger. Inhuman snarls and half-formed words in Hellspeak between Angel and Alastor both egging him on.
“No need for such terrible manners, Lucifer. After all, my husband is providing you with a service everyone except myself and a high-paying customer could only dream of.”
Charlie dropped her phone, bolting for the doorway only to have a forcefield made of red and black aura stop her like a translucent brick wall, unwavering to her shoving and hitting at it.
The speakers and radios amplified her father’s torture, the betrayal that cut into her ears and her heart, letting out a scream of her own as she hit the forcefield again. She covered her head with her hands, unable to block out the sounds of Angel and Alastor’s gluttonous lust, her father’s groans of pleasure and pain, until a brief moment of silence brought her back to the present, just long enough for her to lower her hands.
And then came the sound of bones snapping, flesh literally tearing, and her father -oh God in Heaven, her FATHER- screaming. A real, true scream that terrified her to her core. She put a hand to her mouth, almost vomiting as the screams died down to agonized wheezing and gagging.
“A̴N̵Y̶THING̛ ̵Y҉O̢U ̴WOUL̴D L͘IĶE ŢǪ ͟S͘AY̸ ̢T͏Ǫ OU̕R ĄUD͠IE҉N̶CE̡?”
Never before had Alastor’s voice frightened her like this. It went beyond what she’d heard in his last broadcast, brimming with complete and utter EVIL that would make any demon worth their salt quake with fear.
What scared her even more was the sound of her father laughing. There was no mirth, only hysteria, rising in crescendo in hopelessness before tapering away to defeat.
“...may God have mercy...on every last one of you...because these monsters won’t.”
Charlie fell to her knees, letting out a guttural scream as the sounds of organs being ripped out and fed upon echoed throughout the Hotel.
Vaggie could only stand by helplessly as her girlfriend sobbed on the floor, having already nearly lost a hand when she reached out to Charlie to comfort her. So many emotions were tearing through her, hearing that broadcast, seeing what it was doing to Charlie, and HATING herself for daring to let her guard down.
She knew. She KNEW that Alastor should never have been trusted for a second, and yet she stood by and let herself get attached and fall into a sense of security. For fuck’s sake, she’d been a grooms-maid at their WEDDING. HERE. Where they stood before all of them and proclaimed to protect and endorse the Hotel.
Vaggie clenched her unwounded hand, rounding back to the cafe with a spear manifested and at the ready. “Did you know!?” she shouted to Husk and Niffty. “Did you know that would happen!?”
Husk ran his paw over his face, giving Vaggie a tired look. “...’course we fuckin’ did,” he said hollowly. Vaggie’s hand trembled with rage.
“And you didn’t think for one second to give us ANY hint of this?”
“Hijo de perra!” she yelled, kicking at a chair, tears filling her eyes. “ALL of you! WHY!?” She lobbed her spear at him, even angrier when he too-calmly deflected it. “WHY!?”
Husk’s tired look didn’t waver, his hand reflexively grabbing hold of a liquor bottle. “Orders,” he replied before taking a large gulp. “When th’ sonofabitch who holds your soul gives you an order, you obey it. Simple as that.”
“What Mr. Alastor says, we do,” Niffty said with a distinct lack of pep, her eye almost dull and sad. “And he told us to keep quiet until he and Angel get back.”
“They’re not coming back.”
The three of them turned to the door where Charlie was standing, her eyes red from both demon fury and heavy crying, her horns piercing through her scalp. She gave Husk and Niffty looks of betrayal and anger, her finger shakily pointing to the door. “...both of you. Get out.”
Husk took another hard swig. “We can’t.”
“We. CAN’T.” Husk set the bottle down hard, his wings flaring slightly. “Alastor forbade us from leaving. He co-owns this place, he owns our souls, an’ he’s put a barrier up until he gets back t’ take it down! NONE of us CAN leave!” He snarled, throwing the bottle across the room to shatter it against the wall. He took several deep breaths, forcing his wings to fold back in.
“...do ya get it now, Princess?” he demanded softly, giving her a scowl. “When I said before, about not wantin’ t’ know Al’s business? About how if it gives YOU a headache thinkin’ about it, how much of a fuckin’ HELL it is t’ actually KNOW?” He gestured wildly around him. “WELCOME TO MY LIFE! What YOU are feelin’ right now, is MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE here! Bein’ fuckin’ angry an’ trapped no matter how bady you wanna feel otherwise! Because it don’t matter if that DEVIL calls himself yer co-worker, yer partner, yer goddamned BEST FRIEND, th’ fact remains that in the end, you are whatever piece of his game board you were assigned to be!”
He rubbed his face hard, shaking his head. “I didn’t want this for ya, Charlie. Neither of us did. Yer a good kid with a good heart. You shouldn’t have agreed to his help. This wasn’t worth it.” He went quiet, fetching another bottle while Niffty hopped down from her stool and began mechanically cleaning up the one he threw.
Charlie clenched her hands before turning and fleeing the cafe, running up to her room and collapsing on her bed, somehow having more tears to cry. Minutes later she was joined by Vaggie, who sat next to her and waited until Charlie turned to cry into her lap to comfort her.
“Why?” Charlie whimpered, her whole body shaking. “They...my DAD, Vaggie…!” She let out another sob. “WHY?”
Vaggie shook her head, carding her fingers through Charlie’s hair, offering only what she could. “...I don’t know,” was all she could say. “I don’t know.”
They didn’t move until late into the next morning, when both of their phones and the television suddenly turned on, video streaming illuminating the room.
It was black and white -as was most anything that concerned Alastor on camera- and looked to be done on a quickly-put-together filming set, held by an unknown cameraman. The video first focused on what Charlie recognized as the back courtyard of her family home, making her heart clench.
Vaggie quickly put the phone down. “We don’t need to watch this,” she began only for Charlie to sit up and stare almost stubbornly at the television. “Charlie…”
Charlie shook her head, eyes not leaving the television as a five-second countdown began on the corner of the screen for exactly 10am, and then the slightly-shaky camera went still and in full focus as it jump-framed to Alastor and Angel standing in the balcony of Charlie’s parents’ -former- bedroom, in full color.
Both of them looked different. It didn’t seem much in the way of things from having seen them so often, but it was a definite change. Angel Dust stood tall and alluringly imposing, wearing a deceptive white dress that matched his fur tone. The chest fur was stuffed into the sweetheart bodice, further constricted by a halter band. What cinched the effect was a black circlet around his forehead much like the crown Lilith wore, except with a single fealty extension much like a deer antler to one side.
Alastor, on the other hand, looked much more different than his usual fare. His antlers had extended out to something impossible to ignore even at a glance, out at eight points and elegantly branched and curved. Instead of his usual three-piece, he instead sported a long red closed-front coat trimmed with generous fur in the collar and cuffs. His microphone stood at his full height now as a staff, the ominous eye visibly glowing.
Alastor smiled widely for the camera, the look more terrifying than anything. “Good morning, denizens of Hell!” he said, his jovial tone still in play but with at least an octave lower. “This is the continuation broadcast from last night, one that I assure you was not a mistake, a prank, or a PR stunt. This is revolution. This is the future.”
The camera panned out slightly and Charlie almost screamed again at the sight of her father’s body hanging out like decoration in crucifix position, pierced in place by sharp deer antlers in his arms and hollowed-out torso. It thankfully didn’t linger long before focusing back on Alastor and Angel Dust.
“The future that we envision is one of a fair chance at the throne,” Angel spoke up, his voice clear and enunciated with no room for misunderstanding. “Not waiting around for hundreds or thousands of years for change to happen simply because of a status quo. The majority of the sinner population think so, and to be honest? Many of the Hellborn do as well.”
“Status quo is a cage that many of nobility have been locked in for millennia,” Alastor picked back up. “Images to keep up with for no good reason. Some who want something different, something new for themselves. But the part that we will put into play now is the future of the headship of Hell.”
He reached up, holding Angel’s shoulder. “Through our combined efforts, we subdued Lucifer and took the right of the throne for ourselves, confirmed and accepted by Satan himself.”
Charlie felt faint; this was even worse. The spirit of Hell’s First Fallen, ACCEPTING this? There wasn’t any denial of a claim to the throne now.
“Which is now what the process of claim will be, from now on.”
“What the fuck,” Vaggie muttered, hugging her knees tightly as she stared at the screen.
“This is a challenge for all!” Alastor announced, putting on the full flair of his showmanship. “There will be no more legacy of birth to the throne! No hierarchy of lineage! The title King or Queen of Hell will be one to EARN! One needs to only tear out my heart and eat it!” His grin widened. “Not that we will make it easy for anyone who wishes to try!”
“Any and all attempts will be broadcast,” Angel said, looking just as elated by the idea as Alastor was. “So if you DO try, try to make it entertaining for everyone else!”
“And also realize that in this vein of things, it might not even guarantee you the throne.” Alastor’s eyes glowed with a sort of black light. “Becoming ruler of Hell is something that is earned, but it is also earned by the WORTHY. This goes out to you lot in the Pride Circuit, by the way, watch yourselves or become our Sunday dinner.”
“Either way, we won’t even be locking ourselves away in some fortified castle,” Angel said, jerking his thumb behind him. “We’ve got day jobs you all know about, and a few more you don’t. So by all means, stop by for answers if you want them. But be very aware that WE will be very aware.”
“Further details will be forthcoming,” Alastor said, his tone indicating a polishing up of the broadcast. “But for now, expect a few changes to happen in the near future.” He shifted his microphone closer to his mouth, grinning widely. “Stay tuned.”
The feed cut off on the television and the phones, leaving the bedroom in silence. Charlie stared at the blank television, and Vaggie opened her mouth to say something -anything- to comfort her girlfriend when the sound of the front door opened downstairs.
No fucking way, Vaggie thought to herself. There’s no way those assholes would show up RIGHT after that broadcast.
Charlie jumping to her feet and stalking downstairs told her yes, yes they would. “Charlie -” Vaggie hurried after her, keeping an arm’s length away at the feeling of angry heat coming from Charlie’s body, following down the stairs and to the foyer. And indeed, they were there.
To their very thin credit, at least they had taken a second or two to materialize something of their more common clothing, save for the fact that Alastor kept his antler rack and modified microphone, and Angel Dust’s irises and fur markings were almost glowing.
It was nothing that Charlie cared about as she stalked over, fury and tears in her eyes. “Get out!” she snapped.
Angel held up his hands placatingly. “Charlie, listen -”
“I’ve listened to ENOUGH!” Charlie stomped her foot on the floor hard, a spark of flame flaring where her heel hit. “You BASTARDS! HOW COULD YOU!?” She furiously scrubbed at her face, her horns curling out of her hair as she glared at Alastor. “He was RIGHT! HE WAS FUCKING RIGHT! You were USING me!”
Alastor gave her a quiet look, his smile still in place. “In some manner, yes.”
Charlie let out an emotionally-pained muffled scream, fighting to stay upright. “You LIED to me!”
“Charlie. When have I ever lied to you?” Alastor shrugged a little, gesturing to the Hotel’s interior. “From the day I stepped foot in here, I told you what I was here for. Entertainment. If I did not indulge my every thought to you, that was me playing my own cards close to my chest. Had you asked me if what your father told you was true, I would have told you the truth. I have never once lied to you.”
Charlie was almost heaving with the effort it took to not completely lose her sanity by this point. “You’re telling me you would have TOLD me, to my FACE, that you were planning on binding my soul in a deal!? SEDUCING me if that didn’t work!?”
She looked at Angel, who didn’t look surprised in the least. “And YOU knew!?”
“I asked. He told me.” Angel’s expression was slightly more morose, but not guilty. “He told me everything. But I didn’t tell YOU because none of those plans had come to that. Because I became the second piece instead of you.”
Charlie almost dropped to her knees, hands over her mouth. In less than twenty-four hours, her entire life had shattered from beneath her, and two people she considered her best friends had been planning a takeover for the throne and the murder of her father, all under this roof. A hotel for redemption that did nothing but house treachery and betrayal.
She took several deep breaths, fighting down more screams, more fire and brimstone that would take everything around her with it if she exploded, and shakily stood to her feet, glaring at Angel and Alastor with all the hate she could feel bubbling in her heart.
“Get out,” she said again. “All of you. Get out of my hotel.”
Alastor closed his eyes for a moment, looking resigned. “As you wish,” he said, snapping his fingers. The Hotel somehow felt lighter, more empty than it just had been, several personal touches that Alastor had put in place vanishing into bare nothing. Alastor turned his head, addressing wherever. “Husk. Niffty. As you were. Your time here is up.”
The sound of static and smell of gunpowder and fire took more of the Hotel’s atmosphere with it as it faded, and Alastor inclined his head to Charlie. “We will leave then.”
Charlie just glared at him, tears like boiling water streaming down her face. “...I should never have let you in here,” she said. “Either of you.” She swore she saw Angel flinch, but the two new monarchs turning and leaving out the door immediately after didn’t leave her much time to notice. With the door clicking shut behind them, Charlie suddenly felt the hollow weight of loneliness in her soul, the part she put into this hotel in the first place.
Vaggie ignored any threat of inadvertent harm on her person, hurrying over and hugging Charlie tightly. Charlie broke down in her arms, hugging Vaggie back and sobbing into her shoulder. The emptiness of the Hotel made her cries echo almost painfully around them for the longest time.
After going silent, Charlie began a slow trek around the Hotel, feeling more hollow the more she saw just how much of a personal homey touch Alastor had put into everything. The cafe/bar was an empty room. The concierge desk was blank. The kitchen was barren. The library, the parlor, the event hall, all empty.
Vaggie walked with her, holding her hand tightly and trying to come up with something to say to make it better, to put a spark of hope back into her girlfriend’s eyes, but came up with nothing. As much as she loathed the demon for every hurt he’d caused Charlie, she couldn’t deny the impact that Alastor had in putting soul into this place. In growing Charlie’s hope and confidence in the idea of redemption or even improvement.
She just didn’t think ‘improvement’ meant jumping from overlord to king overnight by way of killing the father of his supposed business partner and friend.
What was worse, Vaggie could have somewhat seen this coming in the beginning, but she actually couldn’t believe that Angel Dust had just as much of an impact on this plan, and had gone through with it after everything. Maybe it was her own naivete, of not being in Hell long enough to lose the idea that bonds and friendship actually meant something.
Charlie had made her way back to the lobby, her head hanging low and solemn as though mourning the loss of everything except for Vaggie in one fell swoop. She sat down hard, leaning her head against Vaggie’s shoulder with mental and emotional exhaustion pulling at her to just lie down and sleep forever. “...what are we going to do, Vaggie?”
Vaggie held Charlie tightly. “...I don’t know,” she replied honestly.
The two sat in silence for the longest time before both of them jumped at the sound of a loud knock at the door.
Vaggie had a spear materialized in her hand immediately as Charlie stood up, a spark of fire reappearing in her eyes. If that was anyone coming to bother her about all of this, someone trying to encroach on one of the last things she still had in this world left that was hers, then by God and Satan, she may not have the throne anymore, but she still had her fury.
She stalked to the door, grabbing the handle and opening it hard, ready to rain down fire when she froze.
Charlie gaped with disbelief at her mother standing at the Hotel doorstep, having some way convinced herself of Lilith either being gone or in hiding. The details were fuzzy either way with her zoning out most of the broadcast in a fit of betrayal and despair.
Lilith gave her daughter a barely-there smile. “May I come in?” she asked. Charlie nodded quickly, almost ushering her mother inside and shutting the door behind her.
“Mom...I…” Charlie swallowed hard, not knowing what to say first, or what she COULD say. “...I’m...Dad, he…!” She felt tears brimming up all over again. “He’s GONE, Mom! He’s gone!” She wiped her eyes, feeling her mother put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Mom!”
“I am too.”
The calm tone of voice gave Charlie some pause, sniffling as she cleared her eyes and looked up. “...what are you sorry for?” she asked. “I don’t understand.”
Lilith sighed softly. “I wouldn’t expect you to,” she said, walking further in, nodding to Vaggie as she made her way to the sitting room. “Much has happened in such a short amount of time, and so many have been working to keep it from you.”
Charlie stared at her mother, trying to connect dots she didn’t know were there. “...keep what from me? Why would…” She trailed off, swallowing hard. “...Mom...did you know about all of this?”
Lilith sat down on a chair, waving her hand to summon small reptilian servants who appeared with tea before they were dismissed. “...sit down, sweetheart,” she said softly but with a tone that left no room for argument. Charlie was almost shaking as she hesitantly obeyed, disbelief almost smothering her. “Vaggie, you may as well sit too. It isn’t something I want to tell twice.”
Vaggie hesitantly sat down, on guard since she was getting the same bad thought as Charlie. Charlie didn’t touch the tea in front of her, her hands clenching tightly into her pant legs.
“Mom. What is going on?”
Lilith sipped her tea quietly before putting the cup down. “It wasn’t anything planned out of nowhere,” she said pragmatically. “And it didn’t necessarily have to come from Alastor or Angel Dust. It was in the making long before either of them were even conceived.”
“Lucifer’s downfall.” Lilith’s expression was only mildly saddened. “Ideally, it should have happened hundreds...maybe thousands of years ago. But with pride comes fear, a fear of losing what you already have. And Lucifer had that fear in spades.” She gave Charlie an almost apologetic look. “...you were conceived from that fear, Charlotte. It was a last-ditch effort from him to secure his place in Hell.” She shook her head. “And a foolish one.”
She pressed on through Charlie’s disbelieving stare. “With you being born, there was supposed to be a solidification of the monarchy. Of his legacy. But the decades, the centuries rolled by, and the rest of Hell began wondering when...IF you would ever take the throne. Even many of the nobility began following that vein of thought, and became more dissatisfied with the way things were, the longer it dragged on and became more apparent that you were still not ready.
“Long before Alastor even arrived, there was talk about how one would go about dismantling the entirety of the system that was stagnating. The more powerful Alastor became, the more apparent it was that there was change in the air.” Her expression went grim. “...that rather than be subjected to one that was born to rule, they saw fit to choose their next ruler.”
Charlie’s hands shook harder, her whole body trembling. “...they...CHOSE him?” she murmured, unable to force herself to speak louder. “I don’t understand...why? Why him? Why not just TALK to Dad? Why would...I mean…”
“Darling...you think none of them tried?” Lilith shook her head. “Your way of thinking and doing things is far too progressive for your father and the relics who sided with him entirely. So many others were so desperate for entertainment, for something new, that they would have gladly put their faith and support into a mortal-born upstart. Some would even contribute to his Dealmaking to insure he had enough brawn to back it up.”
“...and...Alastor’s plans to get closer to Dad through me. That was true...he TOLD me so himself…”
“Had Angel Dust not been there, it may have come to pass, one way or the other. It might have taken years later, much longer than anticipated. Angel Dust being a part of the equation sped things along by at VERY least a decade.”
Charlie rubbed her face hard. “...an incubus,” she muttered. “Why didn’t I notice? I SHOULD have noticed!”
“It’s not something that could have been noticed while he was stuck under contract,” Lilith said, her voice stiff. “Except perhaps for the fact that Alastor fell for Angel Dust in the first place. The Radio Demon would have met countless demons who shared his tastes, but the one who he became attached to being a slumbering incubus is nothing surprising. I’m certain it’s something they have come to realize and make peace with, all things considering...but it isn’t even Angel’s incubus status that gave them the boon they needed to succeed.”
Vaggie frowned. “What do you mean?”
Lilith closed her eyes. “...I can’t say.”
“What?” Charlie scowled. “What do you MEAN ‘I can’t say’?”
“Exactly that. Not that I WON’T say. I truly CAN’T say.” Lilith sat back. “I’m bound by oath not to, the same as the others who are in the know.”
“In the....Mom…” Charlie’s heart dropped. “...you were in on all of this.”
“Agreeable, for the most part. But completely supportive in the end.” Lilith held no remorse for her actions; both of the younger girls could see it all over her face. “It was Stolas who brought me into the inner circle of what was about to happen. He had been providing Alastor and Angel with spells that would slowly wind chains around your father’s power until one final potion in his wine completely bound them into his physical heart. Which Alastor devoured, with Satan’s blessing.”
Charlie scrubbed at her face, letting out a shaky sigh. “...what did you do, Mom.” She gave her mother a haunted look. “And why did you do it.”
Lilith took her cup again for another sip. “I transferred my claim of queen to Angel Dust,” she said. “As an incubus, he should have been brought to me immediately upon his arrival in Hell. Had Alastor not taken care of Valentino, I would have torn that louse to pieces myself for him having knowingly enslaved an incubus rather than alerting me right away. Even mortal-born, Angel was one of my own. He should have been in my court from the beginning, and Lucifer was made aware when Satan told him of an impending change in the air. He did not inform me. Nor did he inform me of his decision to bar you from our home. YOUR home.” Her eyes darkened softly. “It’s been set in stone from the first incubus I birthed from lust itself that my children would be dealt with at MY discretion. He agreed to this long ago, and when you were conceived. He broke his agreement. Twice.”
She finished her tea, sitting back. “I had secret correspondence with Angel Dust for some time before last night. We came up with the best way to legitimize everything, which came down to the easiest way. Me giving my claim to queen to him with sex, and then he legitimized it with Lucifer the same way. With Alastor eating the power bound in Lucifer’s heart, he took both the spirit of Satan and claim to the throne, as well as the claim bond your father and I once had. After that, it was a matter of simply putting my affairs in order and leaving. There was nothing else for me to do.”
Charlie shook her head, hands pressed against her face. “...this can’t be real,” she murmured. “This can’t really be happening, Mom...what are you going to do now that -”
“Being Queen of Hell was not even my highest accomplishment,” Lilith said crisply. “I am Mother of Succubi. The first progeny of lust itself.” She reached over, trailing a finger through Charlie’s hair. “...YOUR mother. I have so much more to do, but now I have more freedom to do it MY way.”
“...do you even care?” Charlie murmured, her voice shaking. “...about Dad...about what all of this even means?”
“Of course I do. But you have to understand, Charlotte, that if there was one thing your father WAS completely right about, it’s that this IS Hell. And I have been here since its newness…a very, very long time. And while I know something can and MUST change over time, some things never can and never will.” She folded her hands in her lap. “I loved your father very much, Charlotte. And making this decision was difficult to do. But the fact of the matter is, from the moment he impregnated me with the intention of securing his own legacy, everything went downhill. Everything fell apart. And I can’t tell you how HAPPY I was, the way you turned out.”
Charlie curled her arms around herself, her fingers pressing into her arms. “Are you really?”
“More than you can believe. You were so different than what he was expecting...and he kept putting off a proper coronation and only sealing his fate when he failed to realize that you should have taken over long ago. Because of that, he only proved that he wasn’t prepared to step down and simply let things be, even his own legacy.” Lilith shook her head. “He couldn’t even let you live your own life when he still had no intention of giving you the throne. It was with that in mind that we decided to completely go through with it.”
Charlie frowned. “...’we’?”
“Yes. Myself, Alastor, and Angel Dust. We decided to go through with this particular plan for you.”
Vaggie leaned away when Charlie’s ire flared, the former princess’s hands slamming on the couch cushion. “For ME!?” she snapped. “Forgive me for not exactly believing that you were EVER thinking about ME the entire time you were KILLING DAD!”
Lilith didn’t even flinch, her expression still level and calm. “You were a constant thought of ours, Charlotte,” she said, quietly looking away. “More than you think. Alastor especially had the plan in mind for you.”
“That’s a lie -”
“He has never lied to you. He has been questionable, that is certain, especially with your first verbal agreement.”
Charlie scowled, clenching her eyes shut, inwardly cursing at her own stupid wording. “It doesn’t matter,” she bit out. “He left. But he can come back and -”
Lilith’s lips quirked in a small smile. “...dear, think about it. About what you said. ‘As Princess of Hell and Heir to the Throne, I hereby order you to help with this hotel, for as long as you desire’.” She looked at Charlie, her eyes sharp with mirth. “...as of last night, with him taking the mantle of King of Hell, you are no longer the Princess of Hell. In doing so, he was able to give you an out.”
She reached out, smoothing Charlie’s hair. “You may no longer be the princess, but that is your greatest boon. The gift they gave you, Charlotte. You don’t have a legacy to bind you anymore. And you don’t have your own word binding him to you either. They chose that method for YOU, darling. Because they don’t hold you in contempt of Lucifer’s follies any more than me. Because they care for you, still, in their own way.”
“That isn’t...I…” Charlie buried her face in her hands, her fingertips sharpening into claws, pressing into her skin. “No no no no no don’t do this to me, Mom, don’t -”
“I will,” Lilith said, reaching out to take her daughter’s hands. “Charlotte. I believe Alastor himself told you the difference between good people and bad people who do good things. He and Angel Dust...myself...your father...we fall in the latter category. I have done plenty to deserve being here in Hell, but that never took away from the fact that I love you. That despite everything they’ve done, you were still a priority, enough that they unbound you from your own word and continued their support.”
She squeezed Charlie’s hands lightly. “...much of my life was changed when you were born, Charlotte...and not all of it good. For the first time, I was not seen as the independently-reigning Queen, of the Mother of Succubi. I was a wife. A mother. Another piece of a new status quo your father put into place. So I won’t lie and say I’m torn up about this new order we have. I lost my chosen partner of many eons...but I still have you. And I still have myself.” She leaned in, kissing Charlie’s forehead.
“And you still have so much more to have. To do. To BE. You weren’t just the Princess of Hell, Charlotte, not to me. Not to Vaggie, not to Alastor or Angel Dust. But you need to figure out for yourself what you want to be and what you want to do now.” She stood up, stroking Charlie’s hair again. “Take all the time you need. With focus being on the new kings, you’ll have the peace you need to figure it out.”
Charlie’s shoulders sagged, somehow feeling both heavier and lighter than before, giving the tiniest hint of a nod. “...okay,” she choked out. “...w...will you please...call more often?”
“As often as you need. And if you and Vaggie need to get away from the Hotel for awhile, you’re more than welcome to stay with me...although I can’t promise you’ll completely enjoy the company I keep.”
“...why’s that?” Vaggie asked, already regretting the answer.
Lilith smiled. “Angel Dust has asked me to be the High Mistress of a new brothel he’s building,” she said. “He said he needs someone who will take proper care of the prostitutes.” Her eyes flashed. “Someone who will do a much better job than Valentino. As if that was difficult to do.”
She fished out a calling card that was light purple with gold trimming. “My new number. And like I said, if you need a place to stay, you just need to come by and you’ll be escorted to my suite without any trouble, no questions.” She stepped back, looking Charlie and Vaggie both over. “...I know it’s asking for almost too much, to think about this, to accept it...but I...and Alastor and Angel as well...are ready to talk when you are. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need any help at all.”
Vaggie took the card from Lilith before sitting next to Charlie. “...thanks,” she said, feeling a little awkward with every angle of the situation. We’ll...keep you in mind. Thank you.”
Lilith read the room, nodding and taking her leave. She was almost to the door when Charlie raced after her and threw her arms around her tightly, shaking.
“...Mom...please…” Charlie buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. “...don’t...don’t lie or...or anything, just tell me…” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “...did...they just use me? I just need to know. Please.”
Lilith hugged her back, petting her quietly. “Not in the way you believe, and definitely not in the end. They did everything they could to keep you out of it.” She kissed her daughter’s head. “They’re bad people, but good friends to those they deem worthy. And you are their closest friend of all. I hope you come to believe that again one day.”
She kissed Charlie’s forehead before leaving the Hotel quietly, leaving Charlie and Vaggie with a lot more to think about than before.
Alastor sat in his penthouse home, reading through a few messages on the tablet that Angel about forced him to get, if anything just for message maintenance. Message boards and social media were clogged to the brim because of their broadcasts with the majority wanting more answers already. It didn’t matter, they would get their answers soon enough, if they just had the patience. It wasn’t every eon that Hell’s ‘most popular’ power couple got married AND took over the monarchy all in one week. It was amusing, to say the very least, but at the moment Alastor felt just a little more somber than gleeful.
Angel Dust’s head rested in his lap, a dullness in the spider’s fur markings that broadcast his mood as a very low one. Alastor couldn’t blame his husband, being that Angel was far more an openly-emotional and empathetic person than he was. Angel had his reservations about how Charlie would take all of this despite his conviction to go through with it. It didn’t say much about a friendship when he fucked both of her parents and then killed one of them, other than that friendship effectively being severed.
Both Alastor and Angel didn’t want Charlie harmed in any way during the takeover, and took steps to ensure that. Whatever happened after was on Charlie’s terms, and what happened was what they expected.
It still didn’t make it easier for Angel to deal with, awakening power being realized or no. But in a way, Alastor was glad for Angel’s emotional humility; being an overlord almost from the get-go did little for Alastor’s already-shoddy ability to form bonds with people outside of Dealmaking. Combined with Angel’s natural power to entrance people in one way or the other, and he was the perfect person to have in a room when alliances needed to be made.
Alastor thought back on the revelation that it was Angel working his bare-minimum latent incubus abilities that drew Alastor in much closer than he had ever intended on going. In some way, it almost felt like some aspect of their relationship had been based on some fabrication of illusion, rather than Alastor coming to adore and appreciate Angel on his own.
But in that vein, Alastor found himself grateful for it. What Angel had merely done was open Alastor’s capacity to recognize and accept affection. There was no illusion behind Angel’s excitement in getting that first date, giddiness at every small step they took, gratitude as being freed from Valentino, despair at their first big fight.
Alastor began sensing that there was something more going on underneath the surface then; never in his life or afterlife had he taken a break in a relationship that hard. Not even his own parents’ deaths. But one misunderstanding had him drunk in his room, enough that he could do nothing to stop Husk from dragging him out in front of Charlie and Vaggie of all demons, and then open enough to pour out his feelings to Angel before agreeing to take PCP of all things. It was when Alastor felt that he unconsciously decided that he would take things of his own free will instead of whatever underlying driving force had steered him to.
And everything that came after that, Angel Dust had no input in that he didn’t immediately feel. ALASTOR was the one who decided to share who he was and what he did. ALASTOR was the one to offer an equal standing to Angel. ALASTOR was the one to storm Vox’s Station building to get Angel back.
And it was ALASTOR who felt a momentary void of despair for the few moments he thought that Angel Dust had perished. ALASTOR who shared Vox’s heart. ALASTOR who decided to solidify their relationship with sex (on-air during the broadcast, but Alastor had permission to actually blame that on Angel Dust instead of his own over-eagerness).
ALASTOR who decided to propose and share his endeavor for the throne with Angel, the best decision HE made, before he knew all of the added benefits of partnering with Angel could have.
It was with all of that, that he looked back on his initial plans and found himself unable to properly fathom being 100% okay with how they would have played out, now that he had a floodgate of emotional stagnation released and refreshed. Being in a relationship with Angel Dust had only opened him up to new, genuine relationships with others. Husk’s long-standing companionship was of course the closest to a true best-friendship. Charlie as his trusted business partner, someone he felt almost familial affection for.
Alastor knew that his decision to take the throne would end in hurt feelings and broken relationships, and he was fully prepared to handle that.
Angel Dust was not. Yet another reason to be glad of their marriage bond, to keep Angel from breaking himself emotionally. The spider was no stranger to people telling him ‘fuck you and fuck off’, but he had a massive Achilles heel for people he genuinely cared for.
Charlie banishing him from the Hotel and declaring regret at having ever met him made a sore spot that was still tender and putting the spider into a mild depression.
Alastor had no doubt that Angel would get through it soon enough; they both had jobs to do, after all, and Angel was diligent and dedicated enough to get back to work as soon as they had to, regardless of his own feelings.
An unfortunate remainder of his seventy-plus years under Valentino’s grasp.
Alastor gently shadowed his way out from under Angel’s head, reforming next to the couch they were on and walking over to the window, staring out into the city in the direction of the Happy Hotel. He wouldn’t lie to himself and say that losing Charlie’s trust, even her friendship, didn’t sting at all, but that was the price he paid for opening himself up for one relationship. It still didn’t take away from the fact that he didn’t regret his choices.
He sat next to the window, fishing out a cigarette and lighting it up, keeping his eye trained on the direction of the Hotel.
At this point, Charlie could either accept what he and Angel did and be open to a future alliance at the very least, or she could choose to build herself up with allies of her own and attempt revenge or even taking back the throne for herself.
Either one, he thought as he took a long drag, they were equally prepared to deal with it.
It took days, almost weeks, of emotional ups and downs, mental highs and lows, crying spells and screaming into the void until she was hoarse, until Charlie felt mentally sound enough to sit and really think and talk with Vaggie about the facts at hand.
All of this had been going on long before Alastor and Angel Dust even existed. Hundreds of years, even before SHE was even born. Sure, Hell wasn’t really that much in the way of a democracy, but the idea that there were nobles -members of her family- who had been looking for a replacement because of her father’s refusal to change things was still hard to swallow.
Alastor’s arrival followed by the name he made for himself had apparently made the nobles almost unanimously choose him to be the replacement. Alastor’s infamy in being a mortal-born with so much power it tore down even Hellborn by the thousands over his tenure would ensure that should he be successful in taking the throne, it would not be contested as a fluke.
In the near-ninety years Alastor had been in Hell, at some point someone had to have approached him with the proposition to usurp the throne, and Alastor would have had to agree.
With little to be had from her mother, Charlie took Vaggie with her, setting out to the only other person who would give her the information she wanted.
“It really is good to see you again, Charlotte dear!”
Charlie stiffly nodded, usually not so formal with her uncle, but circumstances as they were, she wasn’t entirely too keen on being on friendly terms with one of Alastor’s inner circle. That, and the somewhat revealing translucent silk house robe he was wearing wasn’t leaving all that much to the imagination. “...I...sort of wish I could say the same, Stolas.”
Stolas tipped his head with a fond smile. “No need to be so businesslike, darling,” he said, waving a hand for servants to bring in some refreshments. “Regardless of the change in aristocracy, you’re still my niece, and I am more than happy to host for you and your girlfriend.” He folded his hands and rested his head on them, eyes crinkling in knowing amusement. “So. What knowledge do you seek?”
Charlie shared a look with Vaggie, who gave her a supportive nod. “...I want more information about why this happened,” she said firmly. “You can understand why I’m...not as happy with you about all of this.”
Stolas let out a hooted laugh. “My dear, I’m honestly surprised you haven’t screamed to the heavens to rain down fire and terror on dear Alastor and Angel Dust!” he said. “By all accounts, your anger is much deserved, and understandable. But you must know, Charlotte -”
“I prefer Charlie.”
“ -Charlie,” he amended without a thought, “that we in the innermost circle have been suffering the longest. This isn’t something we simply decided on willy-nilly. It was carefully constructed over hundreds of years, at last culminating when that delightful boy spawned in the Third Circle, devouring everything in his path with a smile on his face.” He fanned himself. “Why, if he were so willing, I would have taken him as a consort his first year!
“But as it stands, we all watched and waited and decided that he would be the one to replace Lucifer when the time came.” He sat back as some wine, fruits, breads and cheese was brought over. “Now, as for WHY, that part is simple enough.” As he spoke, he daintily paired up his food pieces. “There were those of us who were tired of being stuck in the status-quo that Lucifer bound us to.”
Charlie’s brow furrowed. “...bound you?”
“Yes.” Stolas nibbled on his food. “You see, the nobility here has their ranks, but also their specialties and breeds. I am a Goetic Prince, who specializes in knowledge. I am able to provide such knowledge, usually for a price. I have offered my knowledge to humans and demons alike, which is fine and dandy. But for the past....we’ll say two-thousand years, what with mankind rapidly gaining widespread literacy, philosophy, and sharing of information between themselves, my specialty has been greatly limited.”
He paused to sip his wine. “It is fair game, and there still remains knowledge of certain things that I am privy to, that only Hell can provide, but with fewer calling upon my name, that leaves me with SO much free time and in no way to use it. I wanted so much for some new endeavor, something to give my own existence more meaning. You know. A hobby or two. Perhaps one that could even be a NEW manner of raison d’etre !” His eyes narrowed. “...but Lucifer said no.”
Vaggie frowned. “...why would he say no to something like THAT?” she asked. “Makes no sense.”
“Oh, my dear, it makes more than enough sense when you’re as old as I am and he was,” Stolas said bitterly. “It was all about maintaining the status quo. I was always meant to be Prince Stolas, Commander of twenty-six legions. As though I had nothing BETTER to do.” His tail feathers ruffled. “I was not the only one, my dear. Even Lucifer’s brethren, the Archdukes and Archduchesses, agreed. Why would Mammona wish only to deal with nothing but money all the time? You know perfectly well she enjoys musical theater as well, Charlie, she’s collaborated with your mother enough.”
He took another sip of wine.
“But as progressive as your father...THOUGHT he was, simply updating clothing and technology and trends is not the same as updating the way things should go. The sinners in the common areas adapted well enough, even the elder ones who have survived more than a hundred-plus years’ worth of Exterminations have adapted and grown over time. Why then, must WE remain stagnant? The answer remains that your father FORCED us to.”
“How?” Charlie asked. “No one could just FORCE you to do all of this -”
“Oh my dear…” Stolas shook his head almost sadly. “Hundreds of years, and your father still has not even made mention of what holding the spirit of Satan can do, has he?” He tapped his clawtips over the table. “...tell me what you know of it.”
Charlie chewed her lip, wringing her hands. “...Satan is the spirit of Hell itself,” she said as though reciting from memory. “The mantle which the king holds as claim to the throne.”
“Very close!” Stolas said, smiling. “Satan is not merely the spirit of Hell, dear, he is the First of the Fallen.”
“...that can’t be right, Dad was -”
“Lucifer was BORN from Satan’s Fall,” Stolas said softly. “Given physical form as an entirely new entity as Satan’s spirit merely encroached upon all of Hell and then back to Lucifer as a guide. A hold, no matter how small, in every corner of Hell. At least, for as much as Satan would ALLOW him to have.” He took a few more nibbles of food. “In a simpler term, it is as though Lucifer had his own soul, but Satan was a secondary soul within him, acting as a source of knowledge and power for Lucifer to tap into as he wished.” He frowned. “And tap into it he did, to put everything and everyone in their place.”
Vaggie shuddered. “...the king was able to do that...just on a decree?”
“Indeed.” Stolas’s red eyes glowed softly. “Do you know how the Overlord Summit came to be, Charlie? It was made so he could keep lower-born and mortal-born demons from becoming more powerful than they ‘should’. To keep that status-quo where it 'should' be. After all, how unsightly would it be for a mortal-born to marry into nobility? To gain even the slightest more power that would label them anything more than a lord?
“And so, you can imagine the scandal when someone like Alastor, like Vox, like Angel Dust comes along, and shows having power comparable to a baron. Even a duke. Angel Dust simply being manifested as an incubus would automatically put him into Lilith’s court as an earl. Scandalous, isn’t it?”
Vaggie’s brow furrowed, glancing at Charlie. “...so...you started a resistance movement?”
“Precisely. Myself and many other nobles. However, there was little that we could do without a figurehead of change, without a sign from Satan that would be...we’ll say accepting...of our cause.”
Charlie wrung her hands tightly. “...what was the sign?” she asked. Stolas’s eyes closed almost reverently.
“The day Alastor overthrew his first Hellborn overlord,” he said. “NEVER before had a mortal-born done so. I don’t know if you would remember it, but...there was lightness, ankin to an inhale of fresh breath all throughout Hell. A sure sign of things to come. It was when our circle KNEW he was the one to give our support to.”
Charlie looked away, rubbing her arm. “...even if it meant...using me to get there?” she asked. Stolas’s eyes softened.
“Dear, you may have been an initial stepping stone, but you would not have been anything expendable.” Stolas said with conviction. “You had the same creed we did, if not an agreement to the methods. A new world order. An abolishment of what ‘should’ be.” He waved his hand. “We are not all as adverse to the idea of redemption as you believe, darling. Simply because many have not been able to does not mean the prospect is impossible. If angels can fall, demons can rise.”
“What would have become of me then!?” Charlie snapped, her eyes watering. “What would Alastor have done to me?”
Stolas thought for a moment. “His first plan was to strike a deal with you, with the payback being your steward for the throne,” he said. “Second plan was to seduce you. It might have taken a few years, but even without you having the throne yourself, he would have still been the first mortal-born to attain the title of prince, and he would have been even closer to slaying Lucifer.”
Charlie rubbed her face hard. “...and if THAT didn’t work?”
“Possibly bartering for your first-born child, the usual fare for Dealmakers.” Stolas finished his glass of wine. “Although I won’t lie, I AM more happy he fell for the wiles of Angel Dust. They make a much nicer pair. Much like you two! So adorable!”
“Stolas. Focus. Please.” Charlie sighed, lifting her head. “...my mom. When did she become a part of this?”
“Our ideals, or becoming an official part of our faction?”
“The second one.”
“Well,” Stolas said, sitting back, “that was actually right after your father gave you the ultimatum. Her agreement made things easier...and much less messy.” He poured out another glass. “I understand your feelings of betrayal, Charlie. I felt the same way when my cousin, a demon a thought of as my blood brother, bound me to something I was no longer passionate about without my consent. Something like that cuts you deep.”
Charlie wiped her damp eyes. “...but how different are things REALLY?” she asked. “I mean...you’re still here.”
Stolas shrugged. “I suppose,” he said. “This IS my home. But now I no longer have to hide who I am.” He spread his arms, smiling. “I am not just a purveyor of knowledge, or a commander of legions I have no interest in heading, I can FINALLY divorce my wife and be with someone that Lucifer would have considered ‘too below my station’ to be recognized! She is free, I am free, and Octavia can be commander in my place, you remember how she loved to play war with you!”
“She pinned me down and almost cut my face.”
“Exactly! She does not need to marry for power anymore than I had to, or you would have been made to. That manner of being has been done away with. And that is why we are so open to Alastor being king. His first binding decree.”
Vaggie frowned. “When he abolished the royal hierarchy?”
“Exactly! When he proclaimed in front of all of Hell that the throne would go to those who earn it instead of birthright or lineage. When he kept his word, what he promised us when we first approached him with our ideals. He was our dream come true.”
“Yeah,” Vaggie muttered, holding one of Charlie’s hands. “YOUR dream come true.”
Stolas noticed, sobering up a bit. “...Charlie, do you remember when you told the sinners of Hell that they were your people?”
Charlie sniffled a little, nodding. “...yeah.”
“Well. WE were your people too. The privileged sort, but...that fact still remained.” He took a quiet sip of wine. “And the fact of that matter is that the majority of us were unhappy with the way things were. He would not have given you the throne of his own volition, not with your methods and creeds. This was the next best thing for us, and as it stands, for the whole of Hell.”
Charlie mulled over that for a few long moments, squeezing Vaggie’s hand. “...Stolas...Mom said that...it wouldn’t have been as easy or even possible for Alastor to have succeeded without Angel Dust, but not because he was an incubus. What did she mean?”
Stolas smiled. “That is one piece of information that I cannot freely give,” he said, swirling the wine in his glass. “We were all bound by blood oath to not say. However, if you happen to come across such information on your own...nothing that can be done about that!” He took a deep swig that drained it. “After all, our new kings made the game of throne-seeking a winnable one to those who gather the clues and have the grit, drive, vision, and determination to succeed! Anyone from the imps to the mortal-born even up to your mother are able to win if they plan well enough and have every card placed just-so! But of course…” His smile went wicked. “The more you know, the harder it will be to win.”
He went back to friendly and perky. “Can I interest you ladies in anything else? A peruse through my library, if you wish? Was the food not to your liking, I have more -”
“No...no, that’s alright, Stolas,” Charlie said, standing. “...but...thank you for talking to me anyway. I’ve been trying to get straight answers out of people...and the only other ones who might talk I REALLY don’t want to see.”
“Fair enough.” Stolas stood too. “My home is always open if you wish to speak more, Charlie dear. Or visit. I do enjoy visits.”
Charlie nodded. “Alright,” she said. “Just...um...we’ll call you to make sure you’re...decent.”
“Oh, that is true,” Stolas said, tail feathers ruffling. “Blitzy is finally coming around to the idea of dinner, and he is a BEAST after a meal -”
“Okay thank you bye now!” Charlie yelped hurriedly, tugging Vaggie out of the room with her. “Jeeze, whyyyyy, Uncle Stolas…!?”
Vaggie looked vaguely ill. “Has he always been so…?”
“He’s not bothering to hide it anymore, but he was being polite for our sakes.”
“...so what now?” Vaggie looked around almost uselessly as they headed back to the car waiting out front with Razzle and Dazzle. “He pretty much gave us a how-to guide on all of this, but still...we have no idea how all this...new stuff is gonna go.” She let Charlie in first before following, shutting the door behind her. “...and what about the Hotel?”
Charlie leaned back against the seat with a heavy sigh. “...oh, I don’t know,” she said, staring out the window. “I just…” She rubbed her face hard. “...I don’t want to give up on the Hotel. I still believe it can happen.” She swallowed hard, feeling a lump in her throat. “But...is it hypocritical to do that when I don’t think I can forgive them?”
Vaggie leaned her head against Charlie’s shoulder. “...no,” she said. “Everyone has their baggage...their own burdens and stories. And...I think having those things makes it easier to empathize with someone else’s burdens, maybe?” She squeezed Charlie’s hand tightly.
“But...whatever you choose to do, I’ll support you, Charlie. Whether it’s to start the Hotel from scratch again or go after Alastor and Angel Dust. Okay?”
Charlie went quiet, staring pensively outside for the entire trip back to their home, mulling over her decision.
Vaggie wasn’t entirely shocked when she heard Charlie’s decision. It was only natural, from the way everything had gone down up to this point, and as promised, she supported Charlie in her decision.
And it started with Charlie pulling up her sleeves as soon as she was through the Hotel doors as she began fixing up everything she could in the couple of weeks’ worth of neglect for the place, making sure it would at least be up to snuff for one new patron to start with.
Alastor had taken a lot back, Charlie knew, making mental lists of everything that was made homey by the demon. But it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be replicated in some way, new or not. And regardless of the pain the past few weeks had wrought, it was the months before that, and the end of her grieving period, that she chose to look to.
When she first started, all she had was a literal storage house her father told her she could have. It was in absolutely deplorable shape with hardly anything that really said it was a place of healing and redemption. Alastor came in and rearranged, Niffty put the place spotless, and Husk had the micromanagement down to a T, always silently putting things and people where they should be without letting them KNOW he was.
The Hotel was almost empty now, but at least it was still clean and somewhat maintained. It was a clean slate. A new start.
Something after a few more days, Charlie came to realize was the idea that Alastor may have had in mind, knowing that she would tell them to leave.
The Hotel now would be hers entirely, and she wanted things to be different this time.
It still took time for any new patrons to come back, but little by little, a few trickled in.
A man who wanted a chance to be with the rest of his family in Heaven.
A woman who wanted a safe place to stay for personal detoxing.
A pair of siblings who had spent the tail ends of their human lives and thirty in the afterlife in bitter feud and decided to make things right with each other in a controlled environment.
Four to start with, and wanting personal betterment. Charlie set them up with rooms and had them fill out extensive forms about who they were and what they wanted to accomplish. She wanted to do this right, wanted to do this for THEM instead of barreling in with desperation with a point to prove.
It was slow going, starting from scratch. In between having personalized sessions with the new patrons and reaching out to some business to help provide for them, Charlie and Vaggie rarely had time for anything else. After awhile, it was painfully obvious that they did need help, if even a little.
“Okay, so,” Vaggie said, looking over the paper Charlie had jotted down on, “we can take shifts between talk therapy and concierge work, and everyone can pull their part with cleaning, but we DO need actual doctors and therapists.” She let out a big exhale of air, blowing her bangs from her face. “Hate to say it, but we actually had some bonuses with Husk and Niffty.”
“Yeah,” Charlie said glumly, folding her arms on her desk and resting her head in them. It was still a bad memory that started so well, making decorative hot chocolate with Husk and Niffty, only for that broadcast to come in. Remembering Husk trying to shield her from hearing it. Seeing the pained weariness when he recanted about it being his entire life, his and Niffty’s solemnness at her pain at being sworn to silence, knowing what was coming.
It was another bitter reminder of how little she truly knew about the lives of sinners, having spent the vast majority of her life in the company of Hellborn elite where contracted souls were something she didn’t come to contact with often. There was still so much she didn’t know, mostly on the basis of ignorance on her own part.
It was that twinge of shame of her ignorance in all those regards that had her quietly taking a stroll into the city and looking over the few other hostels and hotels that dotted around, mostly out of some need for by-the-night shelter and recreation. If anything, she could at least see where she was lacking in some spaces, and took a gander inside one of the more well-maintained ones.
The inside was situated more like a casino lounge, a bar and cafe spot off to the side that reminded her almost painfully of the one that used to be set up back at her own hotel. Seeing how it would be a little rude to peruse around without patroning anything, she made her way to the cafe area to get a coffee, internally wincing at the prices but figured in a casino-themed area it was to be expected.
What wasn’t expected was after she had her order handed off, she heard a familiar voice tell the barista, “It’s on th’ house.”
Charlie looked up, seeing Husk shoo the barista off to another order from his own spot on the other end of the slab separating the bar from the cafe. She curled her hands around the hot cup of sweetened coffee, feeling her own cheeks do the same from the suddenness of meeting him. “...you don’t have to -”
“I know,” Husk said, keeping his eyes averted in either his own brand of shame or kindness. “But I can afford to.”
“Um…” Charlie took an awkward sip of her coffee. “...thanks.” She looked around the place again. “I, uh...didn’t know you worked here.”
“Better than that,” Husk replied, “I own it.”
She almost spit around another sip of her drink. “You OWN this place?”
“...’bout a decade now.” Husk put some glasses aside, looking out over the area. “It’s good business. No shortage of gamblers, anyway. So what brings you here?”
Charlie nibbled her lip, fingers flexing around the cup. “...study, I guess,” she replied. “...I’m, uh...it’s nothing like it used to be, but I’m still keeping the Hotel open.” She exhaled hard. “...but I don’t know anything about running one.”
“Why th’ hell do y’think I was pulled in?” Husk asked, glancing her way. “I’mma be real, when I was brought to yours, I thought it was a joke. I run this place as DOWNTIME, this ain’t my usual contracted work. So when I was taken to yours? I legit thought I was bein’ made fun of.”
Charlie took a few calming breaths as she thought to herself. Alastor had been a radio host, not a hotel manager. Even HE wouldn’t have known exactly what he was doing. So he’d brought in someone who DID. “...I...don’t suppose you’d be willing to give me some tips…” she murmured halfheartedly.
She looked up. “Huh?”
“I said sure.” Husk shrugged, tapping his claws on the bar. “I’ve got more than enough help here you can borrow if you want ‘em too.”
“Oh...no, I couldn’t -”
“You want tips, yer gettin’ tips,” Husk said firmly, finally looking her way. “Are you serious about gettin’ that place up an’ runnin’ again?”
“I…” Charlie steeled her jaw. “I am.”
“Then give me a list of everything you need,” Husk said. “I’ve kept bookings an’ records of damn near everything here for th’ past decade, so you’re more than welcome to ‘em. Most staff will work for room an’ board, just feed ‘em and you’re set. How many patrons you got?”
Charlie shifted in her seat. “...four, right now.”
“Damn. What’s they’re damage?”
“...that’s a little personal -”
“Charlie, if ANY of those poor bastards actually get to Heaven, it’ll be EVERYONE’S business. And right now, you’re focusing on YOUR business.” He gave her a look. “You’re in Hell. Take your kindness where you can get it.”
Charlie nodded quietly, sipping on her cooled coffee. “...you, um...you won’t…” She trailed off, not quite knowing how to finish that.
“If you don’t want me tellin’ ‘em, I won’t,” Husk said, understanding her thoughts. “He never put his nose in my business, an’ this is my business. Not his.”
Charlie deliberated for a few moments before nodding. “...okay,” she said quietly. “Thank you.” She let out another whoosh of breath. “I was...almost afraid you’d...y’know...tell me to ask him or something.”
Husk scoffed, rolling his eyes. “I pretty much told ya like it is back that day,” he said. “I might be contracted to him, work for him, even be considered his best friend -and even by Hell standards that’s sad, innit?- but if I understand ANYTHING, it’s how much of a hurtful bastard he can be. And that’s comin’ from someone who can be a real hurtful bastard himself. So if you don’t want anything to do with him, you don’t have to. I won’t say anything.”
Charlie took a deep breath and nodded again, finishing her coffee. “Okay,” she said with a little more confidence. “And...to be fair, at least...I won’t ask about him...them...either.”
“Best that way,” Husk replied. “Not that I could tell ya much. They haven’t contacted me since Al sent me back here.” He tapped his claws on the bar again. “I think everyone’s takin’ some space. Good thing too, I think. All that was too much of a shit show for anyone to be up anyone’s ass about anything so soon.”
“...yeah.” Charlie sat back. “...I’m...sorry for -”
“I’m gonna stop you right there.” Husk looked her in the eye. “I know what Al is all about. I knew what was coming, even if I prayed it wouldn’t. I knew every goddamn thing they were going to do, and I still said nothing. Didn’t matter much if I was told not to. The only thing I could try to do was to try to spare you from hearing it.”
He paused, his claws looking like they were itching for a drink. “If anything, take it as a lesson. Unless someone’s fully committed t’ just bein’ erased completely, contracted bonds come first. Even if we hate it.”
Charlie lowered her eyes, contemplating that and remembering the terror of Angel Dust’s entire being that came from a call or visit from Valentino before Alastor took care of that.
“...would it be rude to ask about yours?”
Husk cracked open a bottle of whiskey. “Not rude,” he said. “Just personal. I was in a low place, I made a deal. At least I wormed my way around the deal to make my existence last longer.” He tipped the bottle back. “But if and when th’ time comes, I’ll have my heart eaten. I hope it gives him indigestion.” He glanced at her quietly for a moment. “Not all contracts are like that. But keep in mind who th’ holding demon is when figuring a way around ‘em, alright?”
Charlie sighed. “Alright.” She stood up. “...thank you again. I’ll...send you the list.”
“And I’ll send you what I can.” He took another swig. “Yer dream isn’t impossible. I know it’s not. THEY know it’s not. But you’ve gotta have conviction it’ll work, for the sinners’ sakes, not yours.”
He left her to it, watching her quietly leave the building before putting the cap back on the whiskey and stashing it away. “...I just hope you know what yer doin’,” he said to no one in particular.
It was slow-going, but little by little the bareness of the Hotel began to fill out with little touches from the patrons and Charlie’s thrifting. Their first new patron, Mark, had been a maintenance man in life and was a great help in fixing things. The woman who came to get clean, Clare, had dabbled in art before her death and took to art therapy and painting and decorating the Hotel like a fish to water. The siblings, Joan and Horace -though still in tentative company around one another- were a great help in the kitchen, just so long as it was one at a time cooking.
Further in the week, a handful of demons came through the doors, the no-nonsense and gruffness of whom let Charlie know exactly whom they worked for. Someone for an overhaul cleaning three times a week, another for paperwork, and a vending manager, to name a few to start, and then soon after they were tailed by an actual therapist who had arrived in the past decade and had more up-to-date and relevant treatment.
Charlie had already been once bitten about good fortune in help for her hotel, so she took the smooth sailing with a fist-size grain of salt and recognized the fact that while there were a few who wanted a hand at redemption, there were going to be those who wanted to watch her attempt fail, and who wouldn’t be afraid to have a hand in that.
She honestly didn’t know how much hate mail Alastor REALLY had kept from her until it began circulating in droves again, some even shoving a white-hot poker into the sore spot that was her demotion from the demonarchy. She quickly learned to skim the top line and toss the rest into the fireplace if it seemed suspect, if anything just to spare her own sanity.
That wasn’t much to say about being out and about with harassment. The broadcast of the downfall of the Magne line made her a target of ridicule, which for the most part she was already used to, having already been labeled the family disappointment once. Jeers were thrown her way when she was out and about, and more than once she had things thrown in her direction.
What it took a bit to notice was that the Hotel itself was never attacked or damaged.
And when Charlie did notice, it didn’t take her very long to begin actively searching for who. Her search led her to the roof after clearing out the attic access to it, rubbing her arms at the elevated wind chill as she looked around, taking in the view of almost everything, including the high-set lights of the radio towers in the distance.
“...I know you’re here,” she said after a long moment of silence. “I don’t care that you are, but I want to at least see you.”
After another moment of silence, a darker silhouette stepped out from the shadow of the Hotel sign, the shape easily discernible as Arackniss. The small spider demon kept his respectable distance, eyes glowing softly in the dim light. Charlie’s jaw tightened, but she kept her first-reflex reaction to herself and allowed her emotions to simmer before speaking again.
“Why are you here?”
Arackniss fished out a pack of cigarettes, lighting one up now that he was out of hiding to do so. “I think you already know the answer to that.”
Charlie crossed her arms. “I thought I made my feelings clear.”
“So did Angel.” Arakniss’s eyes narrowed fractionally. “Whether you like it or not, you’re under his protection. You, your girlfriend, the patrons, the hired help, the Hotel itself.”
“I don’t want to be.”
“Tough. Angel wants you and this place safe. He’s not interfering with how it’s being run. Th’ place is yours, but th’ well-being is his.”
Charlie scowled, her fingers clenching into her shirt sleeves. “And let me guess. No changing his mind.”
She sighed. “...has he been following us?”
“Not fully. Just making sure you’re safe. Your business is your own.” He rolled his eyes at her suspicious glare. “As fond as they are of you, they really do have more on their schedule than keeping exact tabs on you.” He took a drag of his cigarette. “...can I ask you somethin’?”
“You’re going to anyway.”
“Fine, prissy, will you ANSWER somethin’?”
Charlie sighed. “What is it.”
“Can you stop ignoring Crysta-Beth’s messages? It’s fine if you wanna give us th’ fuck-off, but at least TELL her, she’s been pouting like a dying cat and it’s gettin’ on our collective nerves.”
“Yeah, I’ll go now.”
“You do that.”
Charlie watched Arackniss put out his cigarette and grab a case before vanishing away in the shadowed parts of the Hotel roof. She sighed, knowing better than to think that was the end of that, but at least her suspicions were confirmed.
There wasn’t much she could do about it, she knew. Best she could do now was ignore them and go about her own business.
Well, once she really noticed, it was impossible to ignore the rest of the signs. Like how the people who harassed her or her Hotel were never seen doing so twice. Or how she never really received an invoice from the vendors that provided food and supplies.
Or the fact that Vaggie quietly told her that Clare had found something while looking for sculpture material.
Charlie ventured down to the basement that hadn’t been of any use, finding another door off to the side. She walked through and was stunned to find a secondary lower level that was MASSIVE, and inside it were a hundred and fifty years’ worth of her belongings from her old home.
It was almost arranged to be like a large packed bedroom, easy to locate nostalgic and valuable items from her childhood. Things from her bedroom, her closet, even her old nursery that she could never bear to part with.
She hadn’t thought much about these things, having thought from the start of her idea for the Hotel that she could return home like her father wanted her to at any point, and only the usurping by Alastor and Angel Dust giving her too little time to think about them again. She even had a thought that the old estate was gone at this point, destroyed or something; she somehow knew that neither of them were living there. Destroying the domicile of the old king would make enough of a statement.
But now, the idea that they had taken the time to gather her belongings and keep them safe down here for her to find…
...it changed nothing.
And she knew that THEY knew it changed nothing. Nothing to be grateful for, returning her own property to her.
But damn her soft heart for thinking so anyway.
Visiting her mother hadn’t been anything planned per se, but there were times like this one where she just needed to talk to someone who knew her as extensively as she knew herself.
Vaggie had almost pushed her out of the Hotel, insisting that she needed some down-time away from work and that if ‘The Bastardos’ really were keeping tabs on her safety, she might as well take advantage of it with some time out.
Charlie found herself in a part of the city that used to be rich in Valentino’s hold, finding it now to be refurbished in a tidier layout, seedy bars now replaced with nicer cabarets and lounges. She definitely saw her mother’s touch in these places, telltale curvature in the architecture that defined the grand music hall that the former queen had built being everywhere here.
She fished out the card her mother gave her, finding a building that looked like an entertainment hall and going inside. The demon at the concierge desk took one look at her and the card before wordlessly showing her to a singular elevator off to the side, giving Charlie a nod before returning to her post. The elevator took her up to a penthouse suite that held her mother’s touch in every aspect.
Thinking she should have called ahead, Charlie fished out her phone to at least text, but she needn’t have had to, her mother stepping out from another room with a smile.
“Finally visiting?” Lilith asked, gliding over and giving her daughter a hug. Charlie hugged her back, feeling some weight lift off of her shoulders.
“...yeah,” Charlie replied. “Sorry I didn’t call first -”
“Nonsense, I told you any time, and I meant it.” Lilith guided her to a sitting room, ushering her into a seat. “Tea?”
Charlie nodded, looking around at the suite quietly. At her more careful look, she could see a few more items and pieces that came from her old home. She honestly didn’t know how that made her feel.
“So,” Lilith said, pouring some out and sliding a saucer over, “how have you been?”
“...okay,” Charlie said honestly, taking the cup and saucer. “Not great...but not horrible either.” She took a quiet sip. “...and you?”
Lilith made a thoughtful sound. “I don’t want to sound gauche and say ‘wonderful’, but it is the truth.” She sat back with her own drink. “You’re been safe?”
“I think we both know I have. Considering.”
Lilith didn’t even pretend to be guilty, only smiling. “...I did say they were fond of you,” she said. “I didn’t even have to ask them to keep an eye on you.”
“Even if I didn’t want them to?” Charlie asked. “That I wanted time and space to really come to terms with all this myself?”
“Be that as it may.” Lilith took another sip of her tea. “If there are demons gunning for the mantle of king, you can bet for certain there are those who will want to see if they can take a stab at what remains of the old monarchy, including myself.”
Charlie frowned. “...people have been trying to kill you?”
“I’ve had quite a few after my head for millennia,” Lilith replied with a half-roll of her eyes. “Mostly those wanting to take my own mantle of queen. And even after I’ve given it up, I’ve still had the jealous few who have survived over the eons, the few enemies I’ve made. But I have just as many allies, as do you. More than you realize.”
Charlie huffed. “You sound like Uncle Stolas,” she muttered. “He explained a lot, but…”
“...that one thing we’re sworn to keep to ourselves?”
“The one thing that could ‘make things harder if I knew’? Yeah.” Charlie drained her own cup. “...is it really that big?”
Lilith hummed. “I think so,” she said. “And if you guess, I’ll be more than happy to tell you more. But at least for now, keeping the secret to success under wraps makes things more interesting.”
Charlie nibbled her lip quietly. “...do people expect me to do something about it?” she asked.
“They expect ME to do something about it, when I was in on it,” Lilith said. “As though I didn’t have all of that time before being a PART of it. I have new responsibilities and endeavors, as do so many already.”
“...and if I did?” Charlie asked, rubbing her arm. “Would you stop me?”
Lilith gave her a quiet stare before sitting back, folding her hands in her lap. “I would not,” she said. “I gave no loyalty oaths, only one of secrecy. Were you to step up to take the throne, I would not get in your way.”
“Would you join me, then?”
Lilith gave her a soft smile. “That depends. Would you get in the way of MY endeavors?” She tipped her head to the side. “Would you demand I put aside my own wants and desires, sacrifice my own territory and subordinates as fodder? And what would I get in the end?” Her snakelike eyes narrowed in amusement. “The current kings answered those questions for me. When you can answer to my satisfaction, you can have my unwavering support.”
Her smile brightened. “Until then, I am still your mother, and you’re a welcome guest in my home.” She offered Charlie more tea. “And I AM very curious as to how progress is going at your Hotel. I have a few escorts who have expressed some interest in attempting to go Heavenbound.”
“How did it go?”
Charlie looked up at Vaggie. “Huh?”
Vaggie rolled her eye with a soft smile. “Your visit to your mother’s. How did it go?”
“...how did you…?”
“It’s pretty easy to spot your ‘I had a talk with a parent’ look, cariño ,” Vaggie said. “But you don’t look as stressed this time.” She crossed her arms over her abdomen. “...did it go okay?”
Charlie nibbled her lip, sitting down in a lobby chair. “...okay enough,” she replied. “We talked...she didn’t give me more than Uncle Stolas did, so we just went with our lives and our work.” She wrung her hands tightly in her lap. “...she...said there are a few of her workers who are interested in the Hotel. No promises made though, but...it’s a heads-up.”
Vaggie nodded quietly. “...what else?” she asked. Charlie let out a burdened sigh, unclenching her hands to bury her face in them.
“...you know that...people are expecting me to do something about all of this, right?”
“I think I expect me to do something too.” Charlie sat back in the chair, looking world-weary. “And it’s understandable and stupid at the same time.” She closed her eyes. “I didn’t want the throne the same way my father did...sometimes I didn’t want it at all. But...I guess it’s a matter of pride that I want to do something about it, since my father and birthright were taken from me.”
Vaggie rubbed her arm, looking away. “...and if what they’re saying is true?” she asked. “That your birthright wasn’t even that?”
Charlie sighed. “...I don’t want to believe that I was born just for Dad to extend his reign,” she said. “But...I have the collective words of people...FAMILY...who knew him best say that’s exactly what it was.” She looked out a window across the room. “...but that wasn’t what he was to ME. Things seemed so good to me…”
“Until you really started pushing the redemption idea,” Vaggie put in pragmatically with only a hint of apology. “...I’m not saying what they did was right. But I’m also not saying that what everyone else has been trying to say and do for hundreds of years was wrong either. Even humans have a long history of resorting to regicide when their wishes are unanswered. Sounds to me like they were too chickenshit to do it themselves and waited for a figurehead to take that risk. I mean, they had HUNDREDS of years to do something themselves, from what they’ve told us. But why have a vengeful Hell turn on them when they have the new rulers to aspire for?”
Charlie closed her eyes again. “...not that I’d pity them, or thank them,” she said bitterly. “I don’t know what to really think anymore.”
Vaggie hugged her knees. “Well,” she said thoughtfully, “what is it you WANT? Because at this point, that’s what matters.” She waved her hand to the general area of the lobby. “We have the Hotel, patrons, and nobody to impress or gain approval of.” She smiled a little. “And like I said...no matter what, you have me.”
Charlie returned the smile with a tiny one of her own that looked shaky. “...even if I feel that I can’t move forward without some kind of resolution?” she asked. “SOMETHING that just...TELLS them that I’m still here, that I haven’t forgotten what they did, no matter what the reason was they did it?”
Vaggie gave her a calm, level stare before slowly nodding. “...even then,” she said.
They shared a moment of silence for the longest time before Charlie settled back. “...I want to keep going with the faith that someone can be redeemed,” she said. “It won’t be me by a longshot, but it’ll be someone. Sinners are in Hell for their own reasons...reasons that I don’t...I CAN’T know about...and while some are proud of it, I KNOW so many others want to do better and BE better, to have that second chance.”
She stood up and walked over to the window, looking out at the garden courtyard where Mark was helping Clare set up a little nook for her to stash paints for an outdoor mural so she wouldn’t have to keep carting the supplies in and out of the Hotel. In the background indoors, Charlie could hear Joan and Horace shouting over one another while they finished up dinner prep, never content to converse at a normal decibel level.
These four, with possibly more coming through in the near future, and Charlie knew that even with Arackniss and his kin watching the Hotel, it would still mean nothing if she or the Hotel itself didn’t have proper respect and regard to turn away vandals and ne'er-do-wells from the start.
She couldn’t be the passive little princess anymore who depended on Dealmakers and nobility to provide protection for a property and people that were HER responsibility. She might be the youngest of the Hellborn and the last Heir of Hell, but almost two-hundred years of her life didn’t accumulate to mere nothing, and surely, it was a virtue for those in power to protect those who didn’t.
And if just ONE person were to be redeemed, all of Hell would know. Those too tentative or hopeless to try would find that hope that she could only pray to provide.
If that were to happen, Hell would certainly be divided.
The question then, Charlie thought as a glimmer of red grew over her irises, was a simple one.
What would both sides do when that came to pass?
Hhhhhh, this was a slog and a half to get out. One more chapter to go, so thank all of you for your support and patience!
We're at the end now! I can't thank all of you enough for sticking through with this thing 'til the end!
Also unrelated, happy Leap Day!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Summit of the Overlords wasn’t something that was strictly annual anymore, with the current monarchy -and plenty of overlords- feeling that those who would attend had better things to do than keep tabs on one another. Changes were made over time, and it became a matter of announcement vote when one would occur, majority ruling.
Simpler matters that needed tending to were handled between the monarchy and the issue alone, there being no need to involve everyone in someone else’s business unless they wanted to.
Regardless, it was common to hear ‘courtroom dramas’ on the radio with a playful ‘public vote’ as to who the victor should be. May as well keep the masses entertained as well as keep the overlords in check, knowing that their quarrels could be used for public ridicule later.
Vote among the overlords did come in from time to time, and thus the Summits were reformed anywhere from a year to a handful of them at a time.
The biggest difference, however, was how it functioned.
Once the votes came in for a Summit, the dates were set and all territorial disputes ceased as the overlords and monarchy met. But ONLY for the overlords and monarchy. Whilst they were in the Summit, the open borders had three days to do as they pleased, meet whom they wanted, and trade without loyalty dispute. If demi-lords wanted open turf war, they could have it. If Hellbound family members with opposing overlord masters wanted to have lunch without fear of retaliation, that was the time to have it. If someone wanted revenge, that was the time to get it.
Whatever wrath the returning overlord decided to impart on the offending party after...well, they could only pray to Satan if it wasn’t worth it in the end.
“ -AND WITH FIVE MINUTES BEFORE THE SUMMIT, DEMI-LORD MAGNUS HAS FAAAAAAAAILED! LET’S GIVE HIM A ROUND OF APPLAUSE, FOLKS, FOR HIS VALIANT EFFORTS!”
Alastor beamed at the camera, speaking into his microphone as Angel Dust finished curb-stomping a demon into the ground, the offending party’s head little more than mush by that point. Angel shook the splattered brain from his boot as he walked over to Alastor’s side, giving a dramatic bow.
“Not too shabby, but not good enough for the throne!” Angel chirped as he straightened, tossing his hair over his shoulder. “We’d give the usual aftershow, but it’s time for the Summit!” He gave the camera a wink. “Stay tuned for another shot at the throne in three days! We’ll be waiting!”
Alastor brushed his jacket sleeve free from dust. “That was fun,” he said, offering his arm to Angel, who took it as they headed off in the direction of the radio station. “Not as messy as the last attempt, but he lasted longer.”
“By six minutes, don’t get too excited,” Angel replied, rolling his eyes. He caught sight of a few transport vehicles approaching the tower ahead of them. “I’m almost bored of playing with ‘em before I crush their skulls in.”
“I know you said we would televise all attempts, dear, but you don’t HAVE to drag it out every time.” Alastor twirled his microphone as they walked. “Sometimes a sudden-death shot is more entertaining than a drawn-out one-sided match.”
“And sometimes I just wanna curbstomp someone.” Angel huffed. “The week leadin’ up to th’ Summit has been capital-B Boring.”
Alastor snorted. “Poor you,” he said with false sympathy. “At least the Summit should provide some entertainment for your easily-bored sense.”
“Oh like you’re one to talk, Mr. ‘I Crave Entertainment’!” Angel nudged his husband’s shoulder. “Getting bored with bein’ king already?”
“HARDLY, my dear!” Alastor smiled, gesturing with his microphone. “With all of these developments over the years, it actually gets MORE entertaining as time goes on!” His smile went sharp. “And each year, we get another noble or two attempting to take our place. THEY provide the most fun, don’t they?”
Angel thought about it. “Sometimes,” he conceded. “Sometimes they’re just annoyin’.” He walked for awhile with Alastor, looking up when the clock tower chimed. “Time for work again.”
“Oh come now, Angel, this is the fun part!” Alastor chirped. “Seeing old friends again, the anticipation of who’s come and gone from the territories...it’s wonderful!”
Angel smiled softly. “Yeah, it is.” He allowed Alastor to shadow-walk them into the meeting room, where a few delegates were already assembled. “Stolas, early as always!”
Stolas smiled, ruffling his tail feathers. “Early bird catches the tequila worm!” he said, lifting his glass. “How have my favorite kings been?”
“Well an’ fine, Stolas,” Angel said taking his seat, holding his hand out for a glass of wine to be brought over as Alastor sat next to him and lit up a cigarette. “Anyone else come early?”
“I came with Blitzy,” Stolas said, tracing a clawtip over the horns of his Imp paramour, smiling fondly at the glare; it had been softening over the years, so progress! “Delegate for Imp City again this year!”
“Only because YOU keep investing in me,” Blitzø muttered. “Give another shmuck a chance, won’t you?”
“Nonsense, you’re perfect,” Stolas replied. “Now drink your Fireball, dear.”
Angel hissed with laughter through his teeth before turning to the door. “...Al, duck.”
Alastor didn’t even hesitate doing so, a mere half-second before the door was blown open and Cherri came crashing in accompanied by shrapnel. “Every time,” Alastor muttered, taking another calming drag of his cigarette as Cherri stood up and looked around.
“Ah shit, didn’t hit anyone this time,” she pouted. “It’s totally empty in here, where IS everyone!?”
“I TOLD YOU IT’S STILL EARLY, YOU DELINQUENT!” Sir Pentious snapped, slithering into the room and brushing off his jacket. “I can NEVER take you anywhere!”
Cherri rolled her eye, walking over to give Angel a quick hug before sitting down in her seat, Pentious taking a place next to her. No marriage after all this time, but an equal collaboration of their assets and territory had elevated them both into overlord status. No one really wanted to get on the bad side of a megalomaniac snake whose partner’s expertise put his weapons on nuclear proportions.
Alastor greeted Rosie, Lucas, and a few other of his old friends before his eyes lit up. “Husker, glad you could make it!”
Husk grunted in reply, walking in with Molly on his arm. “I RSVPed, didn’t I?” he said, sitting himself down.
“Hi, Angie!” Molly squealed, flouncing over to hug her brother tightly. “It feels like FOREVER since we’ve caught up!”
“Yeah well that’s whatcha get when you become th’ Missus,” he replied, giving Husk a cheeky smile over her shoulder and getting a middle finger in return. “Any spider-kittens I should be knowin’ about?”
“I will break my foot off in yer ass!”
“Yer welcome t’ try, Husky, you might just get my title if you succeed!”
Stolas laughed. “Angel Dust, dearest, if having something gargantuan shoved up your ass would have secured the throne, then wouldn’t I have -”
“Oh, for goodness’s ssssssakes !” Pentious snapped, a faint blush over his cheeks. “I came here for a meeting, not for…!” He gesticulated pointlessly. “...THIS!”
Alastor ground out his cigarette. “Try being married to an incubus, Sir Pentious, this is Sunday tea talk in comparison.” He nudged Angel’s shoulder. “Although, there ARE less inclined ladies and gentlemen in the room, dear, let’s keep it decent.”
“What you can get away with talking to Arackniss without him pulling out a pistol to blow his own brains out.”
“Fair enough.” Angel sat back as a few other overlords and delegates from various areas hashed out drink orders, his expression dropping a little. “...hey...y’think they’ll finally come?”
Alastor’s own smile went softer, his hand reaching over to hold Angel’s tightly. “...who’s to say, dear?” he replied. “It’s not up to us.” He lifted Angel’s hand to kiss it before standing. “Since we’re all apparently here, allow me to once again thank you for coming to our meetings here in Tower Beta -”
“Jeezus fuckin’ HELL, Al, it’s been FIFTY-TWO GODDAMN YEARS, CHANGE TH’ DAMN NAME!”
“I want a divorce.”
“Noted. As I was saying, we -”
Alastor was cut off when the doors opened and everyone went dead silent.
Charlie walked in quietly with Vaggie by her side, looking around at everyone before settling on Angel Dust and Alastor. No one in the room dared to breathe for fear of snapping whatever tension rod that was holding this moment together.
Angel broke it up a little with a subtle gesture to call off his kin, swallowing hard as he stood up next to Alastor. “...come on in,” he said, gesturing to two free seats. “We’ve been waitin’ for ya.”
The room continued to hold their breaths as Charlie stepped around the table and sat down with Vaggie next to her. There was a beat of silent nothingness for another few long moments before one of the other overlords slammed his palms on the table and stood up.
“Are you serious!?” he snapped. “Letting the likes of THEM here!? This has got to be some sort of JOKE -” He was cut off when a spider demon appeared behind him, a gun to the back of his head and a holy blade to his throat.
Angel gave him a glare, all eight eyes gleaming a poisonous pink. “I know yer relatively new here, Gelus, so ya have one benefit of the doubt before yer sent into oblivion.” His clawtips pressed into the table, eyes narrowing. “Everyone at this table was invited. Everyone at this table is a GUEST. An’ if even for a brief period, everyone at this table is to be RESPECTED. If you think yer too good for basic fuckin’ respect, then you can instead be part of th’ ending feast, capire ?”
Overlord Gelus gave the tiniest hint of a nod before he was let go, dropping shakily back into his seat. Angel nodded to the spider demon. “Thank you, Crysta-Beth.”
Crysta-Beth nodded back before turning to Charlie and Vaggie, winking four of her eight eyes and sauntering off back into the shadows where she vanished.
“Now then,” Alastor said, lacing his fingers and resting his chin on them. “Anyone ELSE have a problem with our invited guests?”
“Wonderful.” He inclined his head to Charlie and Vaggie. “Welcome, my esteemed Queens.”
It was fourteen years after the ascension of Kings Angel Dust and Alastor that the impossible happened.
Extermination day came, and dozens of demons witnessed angels standing outside of the Happy Hotel looking expectant. To everyone’s amazement, they saw the doors open and a patron of the Hotel step out, only to be welcomed with open arms and escorted up through the disk of light that separated Heaven and Hell.
There was no misunderstanding or doubt of what had transpired.
Someone had been redeemed.
Even to the previous hardcore nonbelievers, it was undenyable.
Word spread like wildfire, with plenty of publicity for it both good and bad. More demons came to the Hotel in search of sating curiosity and attempting redemption themselves.
Demons also came to attempt to destroy what had been started.
Between the ‘mysterious’ protection the Hotel always seemed to have and Charlie’s renewed vigor in protecting her own by any means necessary, that attempt and all others after were proven complete failures.
After the initial panic and uproar died down, Charlie filmed her own statement on the process of events and what was to come for the future.
“I intend to create a Hell that is but a temporary punishment, not an eternal one! Where any who is truly repentant can seek forgiveness and salvation! I welcome anyone and everyone to come, to help one another in seeking Heaven!”
It seemed like overnight after it was posted, a great migration of demons swarmed to the Hotel with a kindled flare of hope, all begging and pleading for details to attain redemption of their own.
It almost seemed like only weeks passed, and a definite feel of change in the air had enveloped the attention of almost everyone in Hell, enough so that many overlords damn near stormed the workplaces of Angel Dust and Alastor and demanded that something be done about it.
A broadcast of their own assuaged very little.
“Our views of the Hotel have not changed since our last endorsement,” Alastor had said. “Anyone who wants to seek betterment and redemption is more than welcome to! Far be it from us to stop anyone from trying!”
“That being said,” Angel put in, “no one will force you to stay or go. This is entirely between yourselves, Charlie, and th’ Head Honcho Upstairs.”
And that was all they chose to say about that.
Even as the years passed and more complaints and demands from the old blood persisted, seeing the Hotel’s property line expand as sinners both old and new flocked to find something better. The Hotel itself became a villa, which became a small city in and of itself that was left completely untouched by Exterminators come that time of year.
Forty-five years after the era of Alastor and Angel Dust began, a line was drawn in the sands of Hell, separating the intended domains of the Hellbound and the Heavenhopeful.
Summits, meetings, and impromptu barging into workplaces had plenty of demons in power screaming their heads off about the structural integrity of Hell coming undone.
And all the kings of Hell could do were laugh.
“My dear man, where HAVE you been for the past near half-decade?!” Alastor crooned, almost doubled over from laughter at the radio interview. “Were you simply not manifested when my husband and I took the throne?! Have you done NO research into who we are and what we do?”
Angel Dust looked very uncouth, almost clinging to his husband to remain upright from his laughing fit. “Oh my god Al, I think he’s serious! Jeeze buddy, our reign was FOUNDED on the structural destruction of Hell! We’re two mortal-born sinners who are KINGS of HELL!”
Alastor composed himself, staring down at the reporter with a grotesquely-wide smile. “There is no shortage of evil on Earth and in Hell. Even if everyone here is redeemed tomorrow, Hell will fill right back up and repopulate within the next year! So what is it you’re worried about? Losing territory? Silly. You would demand an interview for something so trivial?”
“So whaddya say, Al?” Angel asked, reclining with an arm on Alastor’s shoulder. “Five minute head start?”
“Make it three. I skipped lunch for this.”
No further major broadcasts were made on the matter since.
The matter that only grew since, dividing Hell down the middle to the point where many called the Heavenhopeful city its own kingdom, and hailed Charlie as its queen.
Regardless of the legitimacy of the title, so much territory under the banner of a demon was definite placement of the legitimate title of overlord.
Although, Alastor and Angel Dust had no qualms about calling Charlie and Vaggie queens, and offered out invitations to every Summit before and after the titleship.
And now they were here.
The Summit went on as it normally did, albeit a little more distracted with those who knew Charlie and Vaggie giving off looks of yearning to reconnect. Territorial issues were spoken of and agreed upon, trades and partnerships were discussed, and drinks were had aplenty.
Alastor and Angel Dust kept their eyes on Charlie and Vaggie, not keen on letting any naysaying demons try any foul business on them. At the same time, they kept their respectable distance, having not broken that pact for fifty-two years and regardless of status or significance of the meeting, they would not break it still.
It was closing in on the day when Charlie slipped away from Vaggie and approached the kings with a sense of calm purpose they hadn’t seen before. They remained silent, letting her approach close and make the first move.
Charlie came to a stop before them -five feet exactly, Alastor noted with a twinge of fondness- and stood quietly, looking them over in contemplation for a good while before speaking.
“...Vaggie and I want a private audience with you,” she said evenly. “...will that be an issue?”
Angel and Alastor glanced at each other for a moment. “Not at all,” Alastor replied. “You give us the time and place.”
“After the Summit” Charlie said, “and in the safest place you know of.”
Another look between the kings, and Angel gave a short nod. “We’ve got th’ perfect place,” he replied. “Safe for everyone.”
Charlie nodded and turned to walk back to Vaggie, who was trying her best to ignore Crysta-Beth’s pursuit.
Alastor shook his head, smiling. “She certainly doesn’t give up, does she?” he remarked.
“Nah, she doesn’t know how.” Angel’s own smile twitched. “...I might need to let her go. She’d be happier in th’ other kingdom.”
Alastor curled his arm around Angel’s waist. “...she isn’t the only one,” he replied, his voice softening as he watched Molly and Husk tentatively go over for a hello. “...a good few have no reason to stay anymore.”
“...they’ll bring it up if they wanna,” Angel said. “And I won’t stop ‘em.”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it,” Alastor said, leaning up to kiss Angel’s cheek. “For now, let’s enjoy the evening, and be good hosts to the queens later.”
Nothing was rushed, and nobody felt hurried or pressed for wrapping up and leaving, the afterparty tapering off naturally after the third day.
Husk bartered off a cut of profits for a few more casinos of his line in some other territories while Sir Pentious and Cherri argued more amongst themselves rather than with others over how much damage was TOO much in maintaining territory lines.
Alastor and Angel did more observing and peacekeeping than participation, having to only break up three fights this time, a new record. Pentious took his leave first, considering he had several dozen children to look after, and a babysitter could only handle so much, even for three days. He was 93% sure his home was on fire and for once it wasn’t Cherri’s fault.
“It was wonderful seeing ya again,” Molly told Charlie with a sincere smile. “If you’re not opposed to th’ idea, I...we’d...love t’ meet ya for lunch.”
Charlie nodded. “I’d like that,” she said, giving Husk a smile. “I’m sure we could arrange something.”
Molly beamed, exchanging numbers before flouncing over to Husk and hugging his arm as they headed out.
Despite the few stragglers, Alastor headed over to Charlie and Vaggie. “Are you ready?” he asked.
Charlie nodded, remaining still with Vaggie as Angel finished speaking with someone and joined them. Alastor held up a hand, his fingers curling inward to his palms as darkness surrounded up around them from the floor, receding back down after a few seconds to reveal a large open penthouse with no visible door and all four walls nothing but windows.
Alastor snapped his fingers, the outfit that he had selected for the Summit dissolving into a simple button-up shirt, slacks, and suspenders, Angel Dust doing the same to change out from the tight pantsuit and into an oversized sweater and leggings.
“Make y’selves at home,” Alastor said, his radio tin absent as he walked to the kitchenette and began fixing up a coffee tray. Angel Dust took the lead in walking to the sitting room and taking a chair, prompting Charlie and Vaggie to do the same with the couch. He remained quiet, letting the women take control of the conversational starters, until Charlie spoke.
“So this is the mysterious unlocatable home of the kings,” she mused, looking around. It was expansive to be sure, but very homey and well lived-in. “...judging from the position of the buildings around us, I’d say this is...the media station.”
“Right in one,” Alastor said, carrying over the tray and setting it down, putting down a plate piled with beignets to go with it. “A little piece o’ privacy for us when neither of us are workin’.” He fixed up four cups. “Y’ still take it white wit’ sugar, both o’ you?”
Charlie nodded, taking hers and Vaggie’s cups, sipping as she watched Alastor tip out most of the remaining sugar into Angel’s and carrying it over. “Surprised you would let us come here,” she said.
“Don’t know why we wouldn’t,” Angel said. “Took a lot t’ even bring yerself to speak t’ us. Might as well return th’ gesture with one with equal ground.” He sat back, crossing his legs. “Floor’s all yers.”
Charlie looked to Vaggie, who gave her a supportive smile and a squeeze of her hand. She took a deep breath and let it out before speaking.
“It did take a lot,” she admitted. “About fifty-two years’ worth of contemplation and reflection.” She tightened her hand around her coffee cup. “...a lot of pain and suffering. Hating you more than I even thought I was capable of.”
She took another breath.
“I kept talking to people...asking questions and trying to figure out why. To some extent, I understood why. They were unhappy. They wanted change. Talking didn’t change anything.” Her hand clasped tighter around Vaggie’s. “...and in any other circumstance, I probably would have let it go. If it wasn’t MY father, I would have accepted it. If YOU TWO hadn’t been my friends, I would have probably even been supportive in my own way.
“But what happened was you kept all of this from me. You broadcasted defiling and eating my father. Showing his remains on a televised broadcast. Knowing that I would be listening and watching. For decades, I kept wondering why. How people I considered to be my friends could do something so absolutely and utterly cruel. Evil.”
Her jaw trembled before she let out breathy laughter. “...And then...it occurred to me, about two-hundred years far too late...that this is Hell. And Hell is where cruel, evil people go. Where cruel and evil people do cruel and evil things.” Her eyes focused out the window, over the city that had changed so much over the past fifty-odd years.
“I lived in an ivory tower, being sheltered by the tamest of my father’s court, fed rose-tinted tales of humans and Heaven, feeling that just because I wasn’t inclined to the worst of humanity’s vices and sins, everyone else could be the same. Not even my parents were like me, and I couldn’t see it. I looked out at sinners and felt more in common with them than I did with the Hellborn.”
She squeezed Vaggie’s hand again. “...I thought I was justified when I met Vaggie. But she was newly-dead, hadn’t been subjected to the worst Hell had to offer. And she believed in me without knowing how deep that rabbit hole went as far as my family, the Hellborn, and Hell itself was concerned. And one person’s account doesn’t speak for the experiences of countless others.”
She paused to sip her coffee.
“I didn’t know the first thing about humans. What they’re capable of. How that capability comes with them to Hell, and can become even worse.” She gave Angel and Alastor searching looks. “...I didn’t know the first thing about who you were as humans before you became demons. And that was how I feel I failed entirely at my first go at the Hotel. I was trying to fix symptoms...not problems. Only looking at the surface issues instead of the underlying cause.” She lowered her eyes.
“...and for the longest time, I didn’t want to believe that some people were just...bad people. Things I vilified Vox for sometimes didn’t hold a candle to things you had done, but because I was close to you, it left me blind to it.” She looked at Angel Dust. “And I never did find out what you were even sent to Hell FOR. But for you to have come down as a slumbering incubus, it was nothing to make light of. That doesn’t even account for every other sinner in the city that I was trying to recruit.”
Charlie put her cup down, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “They were looking at a Hellborn with every advantage and nothing to lose, thinking ‘what does this Hellborn princess even know about sin? True suffering? What we had to endure in life for us to become who we are?’. And they were right. And that will still be something I will never understand. So what I CAN do is not redeem them...but help them find their own redemption in a safe place. Put MYSELF on the line instead of them.”
Alastor smiled. “You’ve done a fantastic job,” he said earnestly. “Creatin’ a safe haven in Hell, arrangin’ up a redemption...I’m sure y’know what they’ve been callin’ ya.”
“‘Saint Charlotte’,” Angel Dust said, sounding fondly amused. “Queen of th’ Heavenhopeful. That’s quite a distinction.”
“We were honestly a little surprised you didn’t contest the formation of an entirely new kingdom,” Vaggie put in, then rolled her eye. “Then we remembered how FOND you are of entertaining games, and we weren’t all that worried.”
Alastor laughed, fetching himself a beignet. “Hardly a game, dear,” he said, taking a bite. “Entertainin’...well, tha’s subjective.” His eyes glowed softly. “We’ve stayed outta yer affairs, but we’ve seen an’ know enough t’ feel that a kingdom o’ yer own is completely valid.” He grinned. “Hell split in two? Somethin’ worth seein’ about.”
Charlie shared a look with Vaggie before finishing her coffee, setting the cup down. “...I think so as well,” she said. “It’s only natural that there would be sinners and Hellborn alike who don’t care about Heaven. They’re happy where they are, happy with WHO they are. And it’s like you said, there’s no shortage of people who will come here, among those who don’t want to change.”
“Not yet, at least,” Vaggie put in.
Alastor arched a brow. “Well,” he said, fishing out a pack of cigarettes, “I believe I sense a shift in tone.” He lit one up, his grin widening. “What is it y’ have t’ say, sha?”
Charlie sat back, folding her hands in her lap. “...I hated you both for fifty-two years,” she said. “I’ve carried that pain in my heart for a very long time. What you did to me...to my trust...was cruel and evil and wrong.” She sighed. “But considering who you are and where we are, I’ve had fifty-two years to come to terms with it.”
She took a deep breath. “...I want to tell you that...I forgive you.”
Angel Dust and Alastor stared at her for several long moments before looking to one another. “...y’do?” Angel asked. “I mean...are ya sure?”
“We’ve already come t’ terms that ya never would,” Alastor said, flicking some ash away, though his eyes and smile had softened. “For any reasons.”
“That’s the point of it all,” Charlie said. “And just because I forgive you doesn’t mean I want you fully back in my life. We’ve gone completely separate ways, have separate creeds and lives. And we’re on opposite factions in Hell. But I’m doing this for me. To clear my past and move on without grudge for the future I have in mind.”
Alastor’s softened smile widened again. “Oh?” he asked. “Do tell.”
Charlie looked to Angel Dust. “I spoke to Stolas and my mother...and a few others in the inner circle...about what happened. About what they swore blood oath against speaking of. The reasons you were able to take the throne, and are now keeping it.”
Angel drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. “Go on.”
“It’s your family.” Charlie’s eyes held a tiny spark of challenge. “You were able to take over with espionage under an organized front, someone with real power in charge, having gained control over territory and enterprises they had been contracted under. Something they couldn’t do with your father in charge. You took over as an overlord, which gave you more power over them, drew more spider demons over to your side.”
“And with your family not being well-known, and spider demons able to blend in as other kinds of demons, no one knew the sheer numbers you had,” Vaggie continued. “They still don’t know about you having eyes everywhere in Hell. They don’t know about your organized syndicate of a monarchy keeping everything in line, giving you information on anyone after your throne, taking out threats and rebellions before they happen.”
“You run Hell like one big mafia,” Charlie said. “Overlords are just associates to you.”
Angel Dust let out a sigh, smiling as he leaned his head back on the couch. “Yes!” he hissed through his teeth, pumping his fist. “Suck it, Stolas!”
“Stolas made a bet that ya wouldn’t figure it out for a century,” Alastor told Vaggie, getting himself more coffee. “Angel dear had more faith in yer sleuthin’.” He took a slow sip. “But I’m sensin’ more.”
“You’re not wrong,” Charlie said. “Because I have one more thing to say.” She took a deep breath, giving Alastor a smile.
“I’m challenging your throne.”
Alastor’s eyes lit up, smile going sharp. “Oh-ho, you don’t say!” he chirped, his radio tin picking back up. “What a turn of events, my dear queen! Surely the best challenge we’ve had yet!”
“I should hope so,” Charlie said, her own smile widening. “Because with it, your kingdom will become part of mine. Somehow. Some way. Some time in the future, my goal of Hell being a temporary punishment will come to fruition. I will make sure everyone in Hell has a chance at redemption, even the Hellborn. Even if they choose me before it happens, I’ll leave behind thousands to carry on my work.
“But before that happens, I fully intend on redeeming you both and taking everything connected to you under my kingdom.”
Alastor and Angel looked at each other, sharing a silent conversation before they stood, smiling at Charlie and Vaggie. “I believe you’ve issued the challenge for the ages, my dear!” Alastor said with a smile. “An impossible endeavor, most would say.”
“They said the same thing about redeeming just one sinner,” Charlie replied. “And I believe Angel was being earnest when he said that when you and him get bored of being in power, you might give betterment a chance.”
“Might take some hundreds o’ years, Charlie,” Angel said. “An’ hundreds o’ years more after that, undoin’ all we’ve done, even out to th’ point where we even feel a change is bein’ made.”
“Well,” Charlie said, standing up too and clasping her hands behind her back, “we have all the time in Hell. I’m even willing to wager.” She held out a hand to Alastor. “That I’ll redeem you before I’m myself redeemed. Even if it’s down to just us and a barren nothingness. You’ll pass through those pearly gates with me shouting ‘I told you so’ after you. You said there’s no undoing what’s done. I call your bet.”
Alastor glanced at her hand, his grin widening before he burst into laughter, reaching out only to push her hand back to her. “Dear, I have no need for a deal to call,” he said. “Although the idea is poetic, yes? Either way, one of us would have to eat the heart of the other?” He shook his head. “No no no, a deal like that is something I would have no pleasure in fulfilling come time to collect.”
Vaggie arched a brow, crossing her arms. “Is that why you pulled in a broadcast of your record-breaking ninety-nine lives in a blood sacrifice to undo Husk’s contract?” she asked. “Because it’s not exactly subtle.”
“What I do is my business,” Alastor huffed. “He couldn’t very well have married dear Molly on a bound contract.”
“Uh huh. You know they’re coming to us soon, right?”
Angel shrugged. “We know,” he said. “Molly has no reason t’ stay. Husk found his future, but with his contract, he couldn’t move on. We already said, anyone who wants t’ go to yer kingdom is more than welcome to. But seriously, good luck getting him offa th’ cheap booze.”
“Noted,” Charlie said, looking up as the clock tower outside chimed midnight. “I suppose that’s our cue to head home.” She sighed. “This was a weight off of my shoulders, if nothing else.”
“And an interesting weight on ours,” Alastor said. “Future ambitions aside, we wish you well on your endeavor of redemption.”
“Yer gonna need it. Because good fuckin’ luck gettin’ Stolas off of some imp dick.”
Charlie rubbed her temple. “Oh god, I forgot about that. The migraine is back.”
“Just don’t think about it, hon.”
Alastor smiled. “Would you like a trip back to the Hotel?”
“No, but thank you,” Charlie said, reaching out to curl her arm around Vaggie’s shoulders. “Until next Summit.”
“Later, Charlie, Vaggie,” Angel said.
“Goodbye dear queens,” Alastor added, watching as Charlie’s demonic features shifted out as she and Vaggie vanished in a flash of fire.
“....she scorched th’ couch.”
“Yes, I’m so proud of her small petty revenges,” Alastor said, sliding his arm around Angel’s waist, dropping his radio tin. “...y’aight?”
Angel nodded, kissing Alastor’s antler. “Yeah. An’ you?”
“Mmm...it was a loaded evenin’.” Alastor picked up the plate of remaining beignets. “Care t’ help me finish these, dear?”
“Always,” Angel said, grabbing one and licking the sugar off.
“...you goddamn heathen.”
“Just t’ piss you off, Smiles.”
Alastor rolled his eyes, snapping his fingers to displace the dishes to the kitchen. “Jus’ for tha’, th’ chastity belt stays on t’night.”
Angel choked on his beignet. “What!? No! Y’ can’t do that!”
“Love ya, sha.” Alastor kissed Angel’s cheek as he went to distract himself by manually doing the dishes, a soft smile on his face.
He’d been forgiven.
It was a different sort compared to so long ago when Angel had forgiven him, when Husk forgave him sooner back after. No tears, little fanfare. On his part, anyway, he didn’t know how Charlie was faring in the privacy of her home.
His penance would be a long one if and when that time came, his and Angel’s both.
Centuries, millennia down the line, he still couldn’t imagine being absolved of his sins in their entirety. He couldn’t see Angel begging for forgiveness.
But then again, he mused, fifty-three years ago, he couldn’t have imagined turning around to give Angel Dust a second look.
He couldn’t have imagined Angel actually going clean for him, even for his consumption.
He couldn’t have imagined falling in love.
Alastor shook his head a little, smiling as he looked over at Angel Dust lying back on the couch, feeling a handful of emotions through their bond and was happy that none of them were debilitating depression.
The strongest one he felt was hope.
Soft humming from Angel had him turn his head, the sound almost familiar as Angel began singing.
“Inside of every demon is a rainbow…”
And that's the end, finally finished!
Thank you all again for reading, it's been so much fun!
Bonus picture of the monarchy, drawn by me. Ignore the mark, that app is the only way for me to take a decent picture of my shit because no actual scanner OTL