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Aren't You Handsome

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Pokotho didn't speak with words, but Paul understood them as such. The loose musical sounds, more conversational than any performance, translated into sentences in his head. Perhaps because he was chosen, perhaps he was the only one meant to understand them like this.

"Hold still now,"

Paul did as he was told, holding himself as a statue while the gangly creature worked on him. He heard snips of scissors and felt a comb pull through his hair, but he couldn't see what was being done. He couldn't see much of anything now. Everything around him was washed in a blue haze, thick fog coating his vision and making his surroundings difficult to decipher. The stone encasing what was once his eyes didn't make it much easier. It wasn't a problem, though. Paul could see his patron Lord in Black perfectly clearly, and whatever they chose for him to see. That was all he needed to see.

He could still hear fine - relatively speaking for someone with retained hearing loss from a young age, but it hadn't gotten any worse. As long as he could hear the music, he was happy. He was always happy. Especially now, the gentle melody of Pokey's serenade drifting through his ears, drowning his brain in comfortable, silky bliss. It coaxed harmony from Paul's lips. He felt spectacular.

The pretty bells of Pokey's laugh chimed. Pleased. Proud? Paul hoped they were proud. He hoped his voice sounded nice. He wasn't a practiced singer, he'd never liked it much before, but he adored singing for his patron. He continued, weaving melodies on his own now, wishing only to please.

"Save your voice," they commanded, and Paul shut his mouth obediently, a little disappointed. A moment of hollow silence passed. "You sound lovely."

Paul beamed, his body brimming with pure joy. He felt thick, blue slime start to drip slowly from his nose, rolling down and staining his lips. The chime of the laugh came again, and when it subsided Paul was the one being sung to. It was hard to believe he'd spent most of his life not being too keen on singing, given how he felt right now. This was a beautiful gift he would never fail to cherish again. He was spoiled absolutely rotten with it, feeling every voice wrapping around him, safe and warm. Layers upon layers of his patron's love, so graciously given and so selfishly clung to. It held him tight, lulling him into a trance within a trance. It was nice to feel so blank.

Soon the snipping sound ceased, and the comb no longer ran through his hair. He felt strong, soft hands rest on his shoulders.

"There we are. You're going to look so nice, Paul."

"Can I see?"

"Not yet. Come with us."

Paul was obedient. He picked himself up from his chair and let the melody guide him through the thick blue fog, wandering in long, loose strides, a rat following the Pied Piper to drown himself. He stopped when the song commanded, and felt a pair of hands smoothing out the wrinkles of his shirt and fixing his clumsy buttons. Paul's hands twitched with the rhythm of the serenade, and he looked up into the face of his lord.

Cracked stone frozen in a blank expression, unshakable and elegant. Leaking the same slime that ran through Paul's veins - that should run through everyone's veins soon - blue to match their striking, hollow eyes. Their head hovered above the fluffy blue shoulders of their gangly frame, circled in the satin collar of the blue-lined cape they wore. Paul felt even more at peace. Still a bit restless, though, he glanced down at his own chest, damaged skin a little visible while his shirt was re-buttoned. Ripped through with dark, starry blue scars. He remembered there being similar scars on his face at one point, but Pokey had fixed that. Now it was only cracked, like theirs. He wondered why they couldn't have fixed everything, but before he could dwell on that his chin was lifted back up to look at them and he forgot the question entirely. He smiled. He always smiled.

Soft blue hands finished fixing the buttons on his shirt and folded his collar up, draping his black tie around his neck. He hummed brightly as his tie was tied, neat and perfect for him. His arms lifted and the familiar weight and smooth lining of his favorite brown blazer pulled over his shoulders.

Paul's vision cleared again and he was standing in front of a mirror, clean and trim and sharply dressed. His hair laid nicely out of his face, showing off the mask of cracked stone he'd been gifted. Cool, smooth rock, like bone, wrapped around the front of his skull in the likeness of his patron lord. Cracks ran down through the skin of his cheeks, dripping blue. He reached up to adjust the lapels of his blazer. It was the same thing he always wore, just his plain work suit, but he felt different. Better. He grinned at himself. 

"Aren't you handsome?"

Hands on his shoulders, Paul now saw them looming behind him in the mirror, doting and gracious. He nodded happily. He did look handsome, didn't he?

"And Emma's going to be happy to see me?"

"Of course."

"What if… she's not?"

"Do you doubt we can change that?"

"No."

"Then there's nothing to worry about. Now go and put on a show for us."

The hazy, dreamlike fog of his surroundings dissipated, and Paul was standing alone in front of a cracked bathroom mirror in the hospital. His mask was gone, his face perfectly healed and inconspicuous but for the brightness of his eyes. He didn't look quite like himself without it, he thought, but still he smiled. He was very handsome.