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i know it's mad, but if i go to hell, will you come with me, or just leave?

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"Are you ready, my love?"

Dallon was holding his hands over Ryan's eyes, eyelashes tickling him.

The demon had brought Ryan to the first level, surprising him with the finished courtyard. Him and Ryan had just eaten a big breakfast after finally getting out of bed, exploring all the new tastes Dallon could finally eat.

And now, Ryan was taking in the new surroundings, surprised by the changes to the indoor courtyard.

Beams of light made the ripples of gold on the marble floor glisten, sun shining brazenly through the tall windows.

All the boring chairs and benches had been replaced with matching marble tables, some adorned with bedecked chess pieces and old books Ryan had never heard of. The life in the room had been restored with potted plants standing proud in every corner, veins carrying vibrant greens.

Ryan looked up all those levels to see an baroque painting on the ceiling, surrounded by a frilly golden frame, pastel oils dotting every inch of the surface with small details no one would ever see. It was of women and men at a ball, faces daubed like porcelain dolls, cheeks and noses red & rosy. Dresses were streaked with soft pinks and blues, while the men's suits were purples and blacks, every tiny crease in the fabric brushed to perfection.

"Dal, it's... it's beautiful." Ryan turned around to face him, mouth breaking into a smile. The entire room looked like a mix between a courthouse and an art museum Ryan wouldn't be allowed in, but this time, it was his home.

It was their home.

"I'm glad you like it, mon chéri," Dallon gave him a kiss on the nose, eyes shining like pearls in the sunlight.

Ryan stood on his tiptoes and kissed Dallon back, letting their bodies gravitate closer. He was so encompassed with the moment he didn't see the spider scamper past their feet, crunching disgustingly when Dallon stepped on it.

"Ew..." He said, both of them staring at the black splatter of blood it left on the golden waves of the marble.

"What do you feel like doing today, mon amour?" Dallon brought Ryan's attention back to him, kicking away the carcass out of sight.

"I don't know... is it okay if I look around a bit more?" Ryan sheepishly stared at his new shoes, a pair that he would've never been able to afford on earth. After making love again that morning, Dallon sifted through their closet, showing Ryan all the new clothes they had.

It seemed crazy to Ryan how Dallon knew him so perfectly, rows of his favourite shirts and jeans hung so neatly on the bar, colourful next to Dallon's dark attire.

Ryan's hands roamed down Dallon's navy knitted sweater, the collar of a dress shirt poking out the neckline. It was a more comfortable outfit than what Dallon usually wore, but he didn't mind. Dallon got to live in the palace of his dreams- he could dress a little more modestly than normal.

"It's more than okay sweetheart. I'll be in the study if you need me, okay doll?" Dallon said, giving his cheek one last peck. Him and Ryan had all the time in the world to spend together, and Dallon wouldn't mind others seeing the marks on his love's neck, some fresh, some faded purple.

Dallon walked away blowing kisses, leaving Ryan to examine the chess boards, picking up the carefully chiseled pieces. They were all miniature figurines of the pieces, made up of intricate fragments of gilded gold and silver.

Ryan picked up the knight, it's tiny sword catching the sunlight, horse adorned with a royal saddle. Its front hoof was raised, little streaks of fur carved into the gold, a fierce look in both the horse's eyes and the knights. He carefully placed it back down with a clunk, admiring the beautiful stillness of the room, grand and open in front of him.

It was hard to believe this was his- a massive change from his ratty apartment with it's ripped up chairs, eclectic furniture and dusty old bottles of alcohol Ronnie wanted to stash away at his place. He felt breathless as he became enchanted by the painting on the ceiling, scene coming to life behind his eyes. Women's dresses swished in time with the haunting music, piano notes ringing through his head, heels clicking against the stone cold floor. And in the corner were two familiar white eyes, peeking out from the darkness etched onto the piece.

Ryan squinted, laughing when he realized it was Dallon. At further inspection, he saw someone sitting next to the wall of shadows, neon blue hair standing out from the oil pastels of the artwork.

It was him, talking to the two moons in the darkness, the music box on his lap. Ryan was beaming up at the painting, memories unfolding in his mind. The first time he talked to Dallon, their first kiss, the exorcist and when he was sick.

Ugh, Ryan was going to cry. He loved Dallon- he loved him too much.

The music of the ball seemed to grow louder inside his mind, notes dancing in his ears, overcome with emotion he usually didn't show to anyone except Dallon.

Yet, the melody only became more real as he got swept up in it, notes dipping between cheerful and melancholy. It wasn't in his head- someone was playing the piano upstairs, full tone echoing through the emptiness of the manor.

Ryan ran up the stairs, huffing when he reached the piano room. Brendon didn't notice him bent over in the doorway, clutching onto his chest as he gasped for air.

When Brendon finally finished, Ryan clapped, walking towards the glossy piano.

"Oh my god- how long have you been there?" Brendon whipped around at the sound, eyes flickering with alarm. It hurt Ryan's heart to see him embarrassed at something he was talented at, something that made Ryan feel things he only felt in extreme moments. The music bled with rich colours, the type that Dallon wore- deep reds, blues and purples, all dark and mysterious. But underneath the blanket was the pinkest, sweetest marshmallow scene you'd ever heard, quick moments of happiness that would sweep you off your feet.

"I- I heard you from downstairs... you're really good y'know." Ryan said.

"Oh, that's just an old song- I promise I'm better than that..." Brendon rubbed the back of his neck, eyes not meeting Ryan's.

The song didn't sound very far off from the records Dallon would lay on the record player Ryan bought for him, before joining him on the bed and pleasing his love. It was only on the nights where Ryan would have a bad day, when he'd seek comfort in Dallon's arms and let the sea of pleasure pull him into nothingness. Sometimes Dallon would tie him up and play with him until Ryan was shaking and sobbing, whimpering alongside the beautiful tune, and other nights Dallon would pet his hair and hold him close, whispering gentle things.

Ryan couldn't help but feel guilty- Dallon always gave him so much, and he barely gave anything in return. It made Ryan want to learn how to play Dallon's favourite type of music, to be able to give back to the demon, even if it was something as small as playing the piano.

"Hey... you wouldn't mind teaching me some stuff, would you?" He asked, ashamed for asking so much from Brendon.

"R-Really?" Brendon's eyebrows shot up, one foot resting on the golden pedal. "I mean, yeah, of course."

"Oh, thank you so much!" Ryan gave him a nervous chuckle. "Uh, but I better tell Dallon first. You don't mind waiting here, do you?"

Brendon shook his head, eyes darting around the room. "N-No, I don't have anywhere to be, heh."

It took Ryan a while to find Dallon, cooped up in the study, a room Ryan had never seen before.

The walls were stocked high with bookshelves, a rickety ladder standing stoically in the corner, candles casting little circles of orange on the books. And in the middle was Dallon, sitting at a desk with his legs propped up on the wood, a book in his lap. The lamp on the desk was reflecting light in his glasses, blank eyes framed by the thick black edges.

"Dal, I never knew you needed glasses," Ryan made his way over to the demon, frowning at the dread that morphed onto Dallon's face. Dallon quickly took them off and tossed them across the desk, landing on top of a paper. Ryan recognized Dallon's loopy handwriting, little notes about whatever book he was reading.

"Ah- I wasn't expecting you, sweetheart," Dallon's face blossomed pink, something Ryan didn't get to see very often.

"Hey, don't be shy, I love them." Ryan gave Dallon a kiss, making himself comfortable on the other side of the desk.

"You're too kind, mon chéri." Dallon was staring at him with adoration, and all of Ryan's anxiety dissipated.

He clear his throat, hands subconsciously picking at the blisters on his hand. "Um, is it okay if one of the servants teaches me piano?"

A crease appeared between Dallon's eyebrows, expression puzzled. "Why, of course my love. There's no need to ask me for anything- you know I love giving you the world, mon petit ange."

"Thank you..." Ryan bit his lower lip, encompassed by how handsome Dallon looked, especially with his glasses, surrounded by books and the soft haze of candles. "...Could you put your glasses back on? I like them..."

Dallon reluctantly picked them up and slid them back on, glancing away, face dusted with embarrassment.

"Pretty." Ryan pushed back his chair and gave Dallon a kiss, saying one last goodbye to the room, crammed full with words Ryan would probably never read. Dallon blended right in, so beautiful and he didn't even realize it. It was that thought that kept Ryan awake late at night, staring into Dallon's crystal white eyes until one of them broke the silence with a soft "I love you," or a gentle kiss.

Dallon's self esteem, or for better words, his lack of it, was something that bothered Ryan constantly, pain laying in the bottom of his heart. That pain had been there since their first kiss, when Ryan's fingers found the little lines of jagged skin, or whenever he would discover a new white gash on some part of the demon. Thankfully, he had never seen any new ones, only the scars that were long faded and struggling to hold onto his pale skin.

But Ryan loved Dallon in glasses, or with messy hair, or... basically anytime. The things Dallon was so uptight about were the things that Ryan loved most about him, whether it be his unnatural height, the shadows of tendrils or the way his eyes were a canvas just waiting to be painted. Ryan loved them like artists loved perfections, and Dallon's body was the most flawless work of art Ryan had ever seen.

It wasn't hard to find the piano room; Ryan was getting accustomed to the layout of the house, the maze of rooms that were all connected somehow. Dallon had dressed every one of them perfectly, every small detail fine tuned until it was exactly what he wanted, whether it be the drapes that flowed in an invisible wind, the polished tables that held every kind of flower imaginable, or the wax that slowly dripped down the slender fingers of the candles.

Brendon was playing a song more quietly, stopping when Ryan appeared in the doorway.

Ryan had played the piano a couple of times before, just for fun, but he was nowhere close to Brendon's level. He was a good teacher, taking his time to position Ryan's hands properly, explaining the notes and scales to him slowly while Dallon read away in the study.

The demon's favourite thing to do was write up thoughts and notes about the stories he'd get lost in, the type of fairytale romance he used to wish he had. But now he got to experience it every day, that unbelievably warmth and knowledge that him and Ryan shared the type of love others wished they had.

Dallon pushed his glasses back up, sweeping away the few hairs that fell in front of his eyes, hand scribbling words that were incomprehensible to others. His brain sometimes ran too fast for his hands to keep up, eyes flitting between the pages and the paper, writing snippets about how he felt about Ryan in the margin.

'A storm of deep emotions that surface when he gets excited. The sunshine of his eyes isn't very hard to find if you know where to look. His rose petals beam with vibrant colours like the sunset of summer nights, hands that are worn with words if you hold them carefully. They're easy to read if he lets you into his heart, yet they speak another language unknown to man. His lips are softer than the light that shines on God's favourite animals, but they feel the best when he smiles. His body runs warm when he's happy, cold when he's scared, and somewhere in between when he's unsure what he's feeling. It's best to hold him closely and listen to the beat of his heart, so steady and sure it flutters to the march of time.'

Dallon lost track of time, hand on his cheek as he wrote word after word, spilling his heart onto the page. He doodled hearts around the paragraph, face burning at how childish he was acting.

He turned over his wrist, checking the time on his watch. Maybe he should check in with Ryan- it made him nervous to leave him for so long.

The adorable clunks of piano notes led Dallon to the piano room, leaning against the doorway and crossing his arms as he watched Ryan play.

Dallon didn't like how close the servant was sitting to his love, but he wasn't going to let his possessiveness get in the way of Ryan having fun.

They finally noticed him, the servant's eyes widening in surprise as Ryan grinned.

"How was your lesson, mon chéri?" Dallon opened his arms and let Ryan fall into them, holding him close just like he loved.

"It was fantastic Dallon... Brendon is a really good teacher." Ryan glanced over to Brendon, who wouldn't look at either of them.

"O-oh, thank you. Ryan is a real natural. you should be proud, your majesty."

"I am proud of my sweet little angel." Dallon picked up Ryan effortlessly and twirled him around, fireworks fizzling in his heart. "You will be magnifique, my love. I love you so much."

"I love you so much Dal," Ryan giggled, feet stumbling over Dallon's as they walked away together.

The rest of the day passed by in serenity, with Dallon reading in the study and Ryan keeping him company, cozy in the room crammed full of books. It had to be Dallon's favourite room, other than the bedroom of course.

The study reminded him of the library of the one nobleman, the one he killed all those years ago after he saw a portrait of him. Now, Dallon wouldn't care much about the drawing- he had his Ryan, who loved him just the way he was.

Libraries had been his one safe place for many years, when he'd sneak in after hours and sit and read until his legs got cramped. The bookshelves made for excellent hiding spots, corners that held the type of shadows Dallon lived in. And for a few hours Dallon could leave his own world, the world that hated him so bitterly, and get lost in ones of adventure. His favourite books were the ones where the author found beauty in the ordinary; where they wrote about days where the sun was a little brighter, or the simplicity of orphans that found homes, knights in shining armor who saved the day, and dances that changed a woman's life.

Dallon still hadn't gotten his life-changing dance with Ryan, but he was going to tonight. It was something he'd fantasized about since the first time he played the music box, tiny notes twinkling like the stars so far above them, the same type of stars he found in Ryan's eyes.

For dinner Ryan and Dallon had steak and red wine, the type of meal Ryan never had the money for. Maybe it was because he hadn't had wine in a long time, but it tasted a bit off to Ryan, some extra flavor hiding around the edges. He brushed it off, enjoying the rest of the food before Dallon put down the fork and scooped him up.

"H-Hey! Where are we going?" Ryan laid limp in Dallon's grasp, wrapping his arms around the demon's neck as they walked through rooms.

"Patience mon chéri, it's a surprise." Dallon smirked, the type of smirk that only pulled up one side of his mouth, revealing his abnormally sharp incisors.

Ryan rolled his eyes. "It feels like every single moment I'm being surprised, Dal."

Dallon lead him to a room he'd never been in before, tucked away in the back of the manor. His dress shoes clacked against the polished wooden floor, catching reflections of himself carrying Ryan in the mirrors lining the walls, a chandelier in the middle of the room holding crystals like droplets of rain.

A thin veil of dismay fell over Ryan when he figured out where they were, a yellow glow hanging in the air. "Dallon- you know I can't dance."

"Nonsense. Everyone can dance my love, you just need some practice." Dallon set him down and strode over to a cabinet, flipping through records until he found the one he was searching for.

The record player was one of those old ones, a gramophone, with a brass horn and its wooden box. Dallon delicately placed the record on it, a few seconds of distorted fuzz playing before the song began to fill the room, a classical piano piece, not much unlike the one that Brendon was playing.

Ryan hesitantly took Dallon's extended hand, gnawing at his lower lip. He had never been able to dance, especially not something choreographed like ballroom dancing, and he didn't want Dallon to see him mess up.

"There's nothing to be worried about, darling. We'll take it slowly, alright?" Dallon pulled him in, locking their fingers together and placing his other hand on Ryan's ribcage, guiding his love's hand to his shoulder. "Just follow my lead. You look beautiful tonight sweetheart."

Ryan ducked his head down and blushed, focusing on where his feet were going. When Dallon's foot took a step back, he followed with a step forward, trying not to step on the tips of Dallon's toes.

His love was too busy concentrating on stepping in time to the music to notice Dallon's proud gaze, hearts falling into a rhythm. The feeling was suffocating him in the best way possible, beaming at how cute Ryan was when he danced, a magical presence accompanying them.

It was more than perfect- it was picture book perfect, the scene of the two of them dancing, sharing silence and adoration. Dallon chastised himself for not doing this earlier, thumb rubbing Ryan's hand in comfort, so deep in the moment it was hard to believe anyone else existed. The time passed by like dripping honey; golden, sticky and sweet, the lovely melody guiding the two of them, dancing like there's no tomorrow.

Once he was a little stable, Ryan glanced up at Dallon, nerves relieved by the grand smile on Dallon's face.

"You're doing amazing mon fleur, better than I ever imagined." Dallon said, and it was the truth. He had imagined this scenario so many times it was sometimes hard to distinguish dream from reality, especially because right now felt like nothing more than a wonderful dream that was slipping through his hands. Ryan seemed to be getting tired too, stifling a yawn, eyes staring into Dallon's. Dallon's beautifully pure eyes, the ones that he loved to hate and hated to love.

"I love you." Ryan said, stopping in the middle of the room to stand on Dallon's toes and kiss him. No matter how many times he said it, it was never enough. He felt compelled to say it at every chance he could, and this was the most perfect chance he'd ever experienced.

Dallon laughed against his love's lips, hand leaving its position on his torso to cup Ryan's cheek, leaning into the kiss. "I love you to the moon and back, mon belle ange."

Ryan pulled away to stare at Dallon's red lips, shining with the remnants of their kiss. He had finally given up trying to fight his yearn to sleep and yawned, eyelids beginning to grow heavy. "Mm- I'm kinda tired Dal,"

"You know what? Me too-" Dallon was cut off by his own yawn, holding onto Ryan's hand tightly. "Let's get ready for bed sweetheart."

They turned off the record player, abandoned the magic of the ballroom and made their way to the bedroom, bodies only growing more exhausted by the minute. Dallon and Ryan lazily brushed their teeth and changed into comfortable clothes, minds too busy trying to stay awake to be able to share any words.

"Goodnight my love." Dallon kissed Ryan on the nose before spooning him, holding him close and letting the patter of their hearts lull him to sleep.

"Night Dal," Was the last thing Ryan said before the current of sleep pulled his mind away, falling into a deep slumber.

Unbeknownst to both of them, Ryan wouldn't be there to kiss Dallon awake the next morning.


Brendon couldn't help but be pulled back to the piano.

It was one of the last normal things he was hanging onto- something that was full of happy memories, old days where his mountain of worries was still a small garbage pile.

He was playing louder than he should be, too busy concentrating to hear the low echo of voices from far underneath him. Thankfully, nobody had paid him any attention, leaving him to play alone in his own little world.

Last night he'd gotten the best sleep he'd had in a while- that didn't mean it was a good one. Brendon would wake up every time someone walked past his room, paranoid that someone would decide that they wanted to murder him. His conversation with the other servants had been eye-opening to the type of people who lived down here; the scum of the earth, people who's sins had racked up enough to be sent to hell.

Fortunately, last night he had managed to find food, a box of some weird type of pastries someone left in the common room. Brendon brought it back to his room and wolfed it down before falling asleep, trying to block out the memory of what he'd heard earlier.

The fire of his anger was still aflame, coals red with the heat of his fury. It was disgusting how absolutely unfair it was, and he couldn't shake that icky feeling of jealousy, something that couldn't be washed off with a shower. Brendon wasn't a stranger to jealousy; it was the only emotion more familiar than love, something he'd felt his entire life since the day he learned what it meant. Other kids at school had better lunches, better clothes, had birthday parties and toys. The only toys Brendon had was his aunt's cartons of cigarettes and her old books, ones he'd read so many times he knew the words by memory.

But this jealousy wasn't the ordinary kind he knew. It was deeper; it rooted from under his skin, vines that overtook the compassionate part of his brain. As much as he hated it, all he could think about was the two of them together, the way they touched each other so gently and how kind Ryan had been.

He hated it, hated having to replay the noises over and over, tossing and turning as footsteps clunked outside his room. The bed enveloped his tired body, blankets thicker than he knew they could be. The pillow was fuller than the thin ones him and Sarah slept on, and the room was so warm, hotter than their old apartment in July.

Now he was playing the piano, stuck in a bubble where nothing else existed but the melody. Brendon was so deep in the music he didn't notice Ryan behind him, his final note broken by someone else's clapping.

"Oh my god- how long have you been there?" Brendon's heart flooded with panic, embarrassed of being caught playing again by Ryan. It was bad enough that he could only think about the noises he heard last night- but now he had to face Ryan in broad daylight, to look at his face and act like he didn't utterly despise him. At least, Brendon thought he did.

"I- I heard you from downstairs... you're really good y'know." Ryan's voice sounded honest enough, but the rotten part of Brendon wanted to think he was just being nice.

"Oh, that's just an old song- I promise I'm better than that..." He felt stupid having to explain himself to Ryan, and technically it was an old song. All he knew were old songs, the ones he used to play at the bar while drunk old men sang alone, slurring all their words.

And wait- he didn't need to apologize to Ryan. Ryan got everything he ever wanted; couldn't Brendon just play his piano in peace? It was all he had.

"Hey... you wouldn't mind teaching me some stuff, would you?" Ryan finally spoke up, eyes shifting around the room, landing on Brendon.

"R-Really?" Brendon didn't know how to answer that. He wanted to hate Ryan, he really did, but... it was hard. Ryan seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and it was hard to keep feeding the fire inside him with more reasons to dislike him.

"I mean, yeah, of course." Brendon said, unsure if he could deny. Ryan was his boss, and where would he be if he didn't have a place to live?

"Oh, thank you so much!" Ryan's face broke out into a relieved smile, wringing his hands "Uh, but I better tell Dallon first. You don't mind waiting here, do you?"

Brendon assumed Dallon was his partner. He shook his head, turning back to the checkerboard notes. "N-No, I don't have anywhere to be, heh."

Ryan disappeared into the hallway, leaving Brendon to sort out his brain. He had never taught anyone the piano- and now he was going to teach Ryan, and his only job was on the line. What if some other servant saw him and wanted to murder him? Brendon had no shortage of thoughts about the stuff these heathens wanted to do to Ryan.

Ryan returned, a wide smile on his face.

Brendon tried his best to explain the octaves, placing Ryan's hands on the notes as gently as possible. He was treating Ryan like a glass doll, worried that he would accidentally move him too roughly and lose his job.

They decided to take a break, Ryan running to the kitchen to grab waters for both of them. Brendon accepting the bottle suspiciously, fighting to keep his wicked hatred living. Ryan's kindness was making it awfully hard, especially when they started talking about things other than the piano.

"How did you end up down here?" Ryan asked, taking a sip of water.

"Uhh..." Brendon wasn't sure whether he should tell the truth, but did it really matter? "I used to steal stuff for my family, and I guess one day I got hit by a car while running from the cops..."

Ryan's eyebrows furrowed, a sympathetic look crossing his face. "Oh Brendon, that's terrible- do you miss them?"

Brendon gave him an empty laugh, plastic crinkling in his sudden tight grip. Did he miss them? What kind of question was that? "Yeah- I mean, obviously, it's all I can think about..."

"That really sucks man..." Ryan was chewing on his bottom lip, genuine sadness hiding in the shine of his eyes. "Is there any way you could see them?"

He was surprised by Ryan's question, shaking his head as the piano bench creaked underneath the two of them, sitting uncomfortably close. "No... I don't think so. It's- whatever. I'll survive."

Brendon didn't want to talk about it anymore. It was only bringing back his own misery, coated in a sour layer of anger and jealousy, and now he wasn't even sure he wanted to be mad at Ryan.

They continued the practice is a heavy silence, interrupted only by the hesitant notes of the piano, Ryan working his way up the C-major scale. He kept looking back to Brendon with a weird look on his face, like a mix of confusion and pity. Brendon didn't want his pity; he wanted his family. He wanted Sarah and Tyler and Abby.

Brendon noticed the tall man in the doorway before Ryan did, but he didn't say anything. If anything, Ryan's partner scared him more- he looked like a monster of his nightmares, with his extra limbs, blank eyes and sharp-toothed grin. And what if he wasn't as nice as Ryan? He definitely was more demanding, and if anyone was going to fire Brendon, it seemed like he'd be the one.

Ryan beamed when he spotted Dallon ditching the piano and rushing over into Dallon's arms. It made Brendon's heart ache, thinking of all the times Sarah did that to him.

"How was your lesson, mon chéri?" Dallon said, planting a kiss to Ryan's forehead. Brendon shifted on the bench, suddenly wanting to crawl out of his skin. It was horrendous enough to think about what he'd heard last night- and he definitely felt like he was intruding their moment.

"It was fantastic Dallon... Brendon is a really good teacher." Ryan was smiling, grasping onto Dallon's sweater.

"O-oh, thank you. Ryan is a real natural. you should be proud, your majesty." The title still fell out of Brendon's mouth funny, something he hated to say, but he needed this job. It was the only thing he had left.

"I am proud of my sweet little angel." Dallon spun Ryan around, all attention focused on him. Brendon felt his stomach start to lurch again, studying the carpet like he'd have to memorize how many strings there were. "You will be magnifique, my love. I love you so much."

"I love you so much Dal," They walked away, making quiet conversation as Brendon composed himself. Now that Ryan was out of sight, the remains of his irritation returned, clenching and unclenching his hands. Maybe it would be in his best interest to talk to some of the other servants and see what they were going to do.

'That's horrible! How could you even want to hurt someone kind like Ryan? What would your kids and Sarah think?' The little angel on his shoulder whispered into his ear, words making Brendon stop in the middle of the hall and rethink his decisions.

Did he really want to hurt Ryan? No, he didn't... think so.

'Of course you should!' The devil on his other shoulder hissed, grinning maniacally. 'Ryan has everything he wants while you have nothing. Show him what it feels like to be you!'

Brendon resumed his march to the common room, certainty filling his mind. Yeah, Ryan deserved to be roughed up a little.

Thankfully the same people from his conversation yesterday were there, huddled close, murmuring hushed words.

"W-What are you guys talking about?" Brendon approached them carefully, like one would approach a rabid pack of wolves.

They all gave each other odd looks, eyes narrowing as their attention turned back on Brendon. "You're not a narc, are you?"

It was the woman with the oily black curls talking, hair surrounding her face like a cloud of frizz. The beefy man was next to her, along with a few other people Brendon didn't recognize from earlier.

"No- I hate-" Brendon cleared his throat, finding it hard to get the words out. "I hate those assholes."

They exchanged short nods, opening up their circle for Brendon to join them.

"Alright, listen close, but you can't tell anyone," The woman's voice was low as she nearly whispered, glassy eyes darting from person to person. "We're gonna kidnap the king's pet and keep him in one of the abandoned rooms downstairs."

Brendon's heart began to race, but he tried to keep the fear out of his wavering voice. "Wh- what are the abandoned rooms?"

"There's a bunch of old maid's quarters in the basement that no one else knows about. We've taken everything out of one- room 007. All that's left is the bare light and a chair in the middle." She was smirking just as evilly as the devil on his shoulder, arms crossed across her chest.

Brendon's palms were sweating worse than they ever had, but he wiped them on his slacks and continued listening, leaning into the small circle of people. This was what he wanted- to hurt Ryan. So why did he feel so scared?

"Tonight, Tony's gonna slip a pill in their drinks. Then when they're asleep we'll take him down there and tie him up." She was doing nothing to contain the glee in her voice, the smug grins on everyone's faces making Brendon want to puke.

But he was too far deep in now; what was he supposed to do? These people meant serious business and he didn't want to give them the wrong idea, but he definitely didn't like how this plan was sounding.

The group of servants disbanded, nodding one last time to each other before leaving in opposite directions. Brendon felt absolutely sick by what he'd just heard, knees quivering beneath him as he fell into a chair.

This was the most stupidest thing he'd ever done, even more stupid then when he'd spent his paycheck on a tattoo. It wasn't like he could warn Dallon and Ryan- then they'd know he was in on it, and he'd lose his job.

Or worse, he'd tell Dallon and Ryan, and the group of criminals would beat him worse than they'd beat Ryan.

He only had one semi-good option: don't tell anyone, let Ryan be kidnapped and live with a dirtied conscience.

Fuck, this was terrible. Brendon wanted to pull out his hair, grappling with the worst dilemma of his afterlife.

'This is good! Ryan gets to feel what it's like to be treated like trash, and Dallon gets to know what it feels like to lose a loved one.' The devil was back, it's scratchy voice even louder than before. 'If they really cared, they'd let you see your family again. They deserve it.'

Brendon's sad puddle of a heart perked up, fueled by the tiny devil's words.

This would be fine in the end, right? Ryan will eventually be returned, and maybe, just maybe, they'll let everyone go back to earth. Brendon would be reunited with his family and could go right back to stealing, rubbing the colour back into his children's cheeks and scaring away any critters that wanted to enter through their broken window.

Except spiders. He still couldn't stomach the thought of them, even after running into so many down here. It seemed like the castle was infested with them, shiny ones that hid in the dark corners, little bundles of red eyes mocking him.

Maybe the reason he was so intimidated by Dallon was because of the things on his back, surrounding him like spider legs. Brendon shuddered at the thought, searching around the common room for any to kill before leaving.

He mostly moped around for the rest of the day, ridding his mind of any doubts that popped up. Every glimpse of Ryan and Dallon reminded him of what terrible events were about to follow, stirring the queasiness in the bottom of his stomach.

It only made his skin prick with horror when he saw the two of them sharing a glass of red wine- the drugged wine. To escape, Brendon stole a sleeve of crackers from the kitchen and booked it to his room, worriedly cramming them into his mouth. Being poor, it didn't help that Brendon was a panic-eater, resorting to going to sleep distressed and hungry.

That's what he did tonight, yet the crackers weren't enough to fill to void in his stomach. All Brendon could hear that night was footsteps outside his room, muted whispers and thuds, giggles that people tried to hide. All he could think about was poor Ryan, drugged asleep, body being carried like a ragdoll.

And as he was finally falling asleep himself, all Brendon saw was the terrorized look on Ryan's face when he'd finally wake up, the way he'd scream and struggle,

and the way he'd his heart would drop when he'd realize Dallon wasn't coming for him, just like how Brendon's had when he realized he'd never see his family again.

- END OF ACT 3 -