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White Asphodel

White Asphodel

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The war between Heaven and Hell resolved long ago, locking both dimensions off from the material plane... and locking humans into a world with some of the foulest of demonkind.

3,320 readers have visited White Asphodel since Aethyia created it.

Nemeseia are listed as curators, giving them final say over any conflict & the ability to clean up mistakes.

Introduction



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There never was a night
....that could defeat sunrise.

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The city of Tartarus, last major bastion of civilization on the material plane, is Hell on Earth.

Literally.

It's sort of unclear how long ago the Last War was fought. Demon redactors are good at their jobs, and hardly anyone knows much about history anymore. But there are still those in Tartarus who know the truth—that three human generations ago, Heaven and Hell at last met on the final battlefield, and the results were not what anyone had expected. The Legions of the Damned were strong, and bolstered by the ranks of the Fallen, angels who had disgraced themselves and lost most of their divinity in the process, more freshly than the original betrayers who fell with Lucifer.

The combined forces arrayed against them turned Heaven's army back, and so its commanders made the decision to abscond with the chosen few saved, lifting these souls to Heaven and sealing the pearly gates for good. Everyone else was left behind.

Save the Three. A trio of archangels, dissatisfied with Heaven's abandonment of humanity, remained behind, sacrificing their chance to return home and hanging their hopes on their own ability to beat back the Legions. Michael, High Commander of Heaven, Raphael the Healing Light, and Azrael, the Angel of Death, pit themselves against the Four Horsemen and the archdemons that commanded them. Bit by bit, they succeeded, closing the seals the apocalypse had undone, and banishing the demons back to Hell.

And still, something went wrong. No human alive knows exactly what, but somehow, Hell too was sealed off, the Three disappeared, and the demons that remained upon the material plane took control of it for themselves, building the megacity of Tartarus atop the ruins of the Earth, and bringing the remaining humans to heel under their feet. These days, souls are for sale, traded often for a leg up in a cutthroat aristocracy where the Hellspawn are always on top. Android police roam the streets, keeping people in order, and most of the residents of Tartarus just try to keep their heads down and their noses clean.

But rumors are spreading of a rebellion, a group of individuals not content to sit squeezed under the Archdemon Bael's thumb. Unless and until they make more of themselves, though, induction holds: the future of Tartarus looks exactly the same as the three generations already gone.

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Private Roleplay between Aethyia and Nemeseia


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Taking place in...

Tartarus our primary setting

Last major bastion of civilization on the material plane

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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
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9 Victorianus
Bael's Office - Late Afternoon - Heavy Snow
Samael Lennox


It wasn't often that Bael summoned Sam.

It wasn't often that Sam had to see Bael.

Sam tried his best to avoid Bael as if he were the second plague, mostly because he really didn't feel like being yelled at for something. Because that's what Bael mostly did. He'd disapprove of something Sam did, yell at him, threaten him, and then Sam would go back home and pretend like nothing ever happened. He wasn't sure what he did, this time at least, to be summoned, but he supposed it might just be the montly visit. Or it would have been if they were in Sam's house and not Bael's office.

“Yes, your evilness?" he stated as he arched a brow in Bael's direction.

Bael, historically devoid of a sense of humor and no different now, scowled at him. “Don't be cute, Samael," he replied, running a tanned hand back through his medium-length white curls. Red eyes narrowed at the Fallen across from him. “What the Hell were you thinking, getting involved in Crowley's business? I have neither the time nor the patience to be hearing about petty disputes between my people."

Ah.

So that's what this was about.

“For starters, it wasn't Crowley's business I was getting involved in," he started, giving Bael a flat look. “It was his idiot son, Alastor. I was simply trying to bargain with Crowley to see if he could see reason. Alastor isn't your people, but he is Crowley's," he expelled a harsh sigh. Why Crowley even bothered to tell Bael about that was beyond Sam.

“As for what I was thinking, I was thinking about my potential employee not being harassed and quitting on me. It's hard to find a decent mechanic, and this one in particular is damn good. Talent is very hard to come by, nowadays." He intentionally didn't give Bael any names. Sam didn't need the demon interrogating her, or scaring her off.

“So it was over a human. Of all the idiocy..." Bael's hands formed into fists on the desktop, probably more to do with the fact that Samael was talking back to him than anything. “You couldn't have picked some human from the refuse piles of them not currently someone else's business?" He rolled his eyes. “You should know better than getting attached to any of the pathetic creatures anyway—they're as fickle as anything, and you of all people would know how it feels to be on the wrong end of a fickle woman, wouldn't you?"

Sam felt a little spike of anger in his chest, but he gave Bael a flat look, reaching up with his pinky to scratch the inside of his ear. Sam's history wasn't exactly a secret to Bael, nor anyone else, really. He'd been a fool in love with someone who'd damn near killed him. Both figuratively and literally.

“At least she wasn't human," Sam retorted. Fickle or not, woman or not, Sariel had been an angel. Soleil was just human. “And at least humans are more predictable," he continued, his eyes narrowing slightly in Bael's direction. “It's not like I knew she was Alastor's business," he really hated the way that was phrased, but it was likely the only way to get through to Bael.

“My previous mechanic disappeared; I needed a new one and someone recommended her. Now she's my business, and the little shit knows it," Sam felt his body tense.

It's fine, he only knows a gender, and not a name.

He hadn't meant to slip up like that.

Bael's eyes flashed, a faint brimstone scent flavoring the air. “That little shit is at least half a demon," he said sharply. “Do I need to remind you again where you stand in the hierarchy? Because you are not above him." His eyes narrowed to slits. “You live on my largesse, and you do so because you were, at one point, useful to me, something you have not been for a while. If you are going to be completely pointless, the least you could do is not cause me problems. If Crowley were any less even-keeled, this could have been a full-on legal battle about who has rights to your human. I do not have time for that right now."

Sam would admit that Bael's words did sting a little. “I suppose you've a point, however," Sam started, not bothering to hide the expression on his face. Because I still live on your largesse, any human in my employ is, technically, mine. If you've a problem with that, then I suggest you amend the clauses in which state that a human employed by a demon or other of a higher status is considered theirs until employment is revoked or other. Even if they are someone else's business. In this case, I am a higher status than Alastor. Maybe not Crowley," he didn't really care, “but that little shit is still beneath me."

“That makes her mine, and I can do whatever I see fit with that." In this case it meant keeping Alastor off of her ass, at least. Might not be the younger one, but... well, he was trying.

The twisted expression on Bael's face somehow conveyed triumph, of all things, a glint in his eye that said Sam had stepped into some kind of trap.

“You're putting up an awful lot of fight, for you," he observed, leaning back in his chair. The anger was still there, seething under the surface, but the surface itself was looking quite smug. “Don't tell me she actually means something to you."

Sam sighed in a dramatic manner. Really? That's what Bael got from all of that? That she means something to him?

“Do you just not hear anything that I say?" he asked, not bothering to dignify that question with an answer. Mostly because Sam was almost certain it was true. It'd been a long time since he could say that he found someone's company... enjoyable. She talked to him, and fixed his cars and sometimes explained the process to him. It was the company that meant something to him.

“I'm putting up an awful lot of fight because talent like hers is rare. She fixed a fucking 2442 Yrden with a part that she built from the ground up, and was able to identify the problem by simply taking a look at it. I value skill. Told the same fucking thing to Crowley." Demons valued nothing in a person other than their fighting skills and skills in general. It wasn't an apt thing to compare Soleil's skill to, but it was the only thing demons understood.

“Watch your tongue," Bael snarled, but it didn't quite crack the mood he was in, whatever weird thing it was. Instead he heaved a sigh and gestured at his office door. “Fine, whatever. But leave Crowley's spawn's business alone from now on. You obviously know where and who it is now, so I'd better not hear about any of this again. Get out."

Too fucking bad, because Sam was almost certain Bael would be hearing about it again. Sam smirked a little, though, and gave Bael a mock salute.

“Sure thing, your evilness," he replied as he left Bael's office. The demon hadn't responded to making an amendment about employment. Perhaps he could temporarily use that to his benefit? Something would be coming up this month; it was the last month of the year, after all. Didn't they have those charity things or some shit like that? The smirk on Sam's face widened slightly into a plotting smile.

“This is on you, Bael."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
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#, as written by Aethyia


16 Victorianus
Shelter #309 - Evening - Cold
Soleil Nishant


Soleil frowned at the carrot under her hand. It was turning the fingers of her latex gloves orange, but that wasn't the cause of the frown. Rather... did there have to be so many people here?

She understood, of course, that it was cold and a holiday and people needed to eat. And if people were going to eat, someone needed to make the food. But none of that explained why the someone had to include her, or why she had to be basically shoulder-to-shoulder with the closest two people. It was just... really uncomfortable.

Making her best attempt to ignore it, she diced the carrot, mindful that it was going in the next batch of soup and they were already behind. So small bits for quick cooking, so the carrots didn't delay the whole thing or come out still mostly raw.

Luna was going to owe her for this.

Luna was helping set up small tables around the area. They didn't have a long table for everyone to sit at, and likely it was going to be about four people per table. She didn't seem to mind, though, occasionally fixing a chair that was crooked or setting down a paper plate. She glanced up and smiled in Soleil's direction, making her way to stand in front of her.

“You're a big help, you know that, right?" she stated, grinning slightly as she tilted her head at Soleil. “I'm actually kind of glad you're helping out. I don't think we had enough people and the extra pair of hands was much needed," she continued, glancing slightly to her right and furrowing her brows. “I see a few new faces, but..." she trailed off and shrugged her shoulders.

Soleil resisted the urge to sigh. Charity wasn't exactly her wheelhouse. It wasn't that she thought anyone here deserved their situation, just that she'd always been too busy keeping her head down and trying to keep herself and her sister alive to ever really do much for anyone else. More than that, she hated that there were this many people so close to her. It just... felt uncomfortable. Itchy.

"Yeah, whatever," she said, shaking her head and trying to keep the grumpiness to a minimum, for everyone else's sake. "What else do you need me to do? I'm done with enough carrots to last the rest of the night, probably."

Luna blinked in a thoughtful manner as she glanced around the area. “Well..." she trailed off, perhaps looking for something. “Food is prepped, the tables are mostly set," she listed a few things, seemingly talking to herself. “If you want to take a rest, you're more than welcome to. I think everything is pretty much set up already. All we have to do is wait for the food to finish cooking, and then we can pass it out to everyone."

She leaned a little closer towards Soleil, and held up a hand near her mouth as if she were trying to tell Soleil a secret. “I know how much this is bothering you. You were never one for large crowds," she stated in a sympathetic manner before folding both of her hands in front of her. “I promise I will make this up to you. Whatever you want, your favorite dish, a night to yourself in the house... I really will make this up to you."

This time, Soleil did sigh. If Luna knew how much this bothered her, she wouldn't have asked her to do it in the first place, but she wasn't going to say that.

Resigned to her fate of later playing waitress, she nodded slightly and stepped out into the main room, picking one of the last empty tables and making a beeline for it. Unfortunately she wasn't the only one who'd noticed it, and she arrived at about the same time as two people.

Ordinarily, the woman might have been more noticeable, what with the bright pink hair and all, but Soleil's demon-sense was smacking her in the face, and the source of the sensation was definitely the tall guy lurking in her shadow. Never socially adept, Soleil wasn't exactly sure what to do with this situation, and ended up blinking wordlessly at the odd pair in front of her for several beats too long, without anyone taking a seat.

"Uh." The diminutive woman was the one to break the silence, though it wasn't exactly gracefully either. "If you don't mind sharing, we can just take this side? There's only two of us; looks like the table seats five in a pinch." She smiled, a slightly-crooked expression that seemed genuine to Soleil at least.

She cleared her throat. "Sure, I guess. I just need somewhere to be until the food comes out anyway." They didn't exactly look homeless to her, but apparently the kitchen served poor people of all types, not just the ones actually living on the street. They didn't look like they were made of money, either—the repairs on their clothes were definitely done by hand.

The demon didn't seem to know what to say or do. He just took a seat next to the pink-haired woman, and glanced in Soleil's direction before glancing down at the table as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. There was a slight furrow in his brows, though, as if he'd sensed or seen something he hadn't in a while. It took him another minute before he glanced back in Soleil's direction.

“I'm Vinny," he stated, clearing his throat in an awkward manner.

For some reason, this made the woman smile, a soft thing that somehow made Soleil want to turn away, as if to give them privacy. But it wasn't like it was a particularly intimate thing—it was just a facial expression, and a benign one at that. Only somehow it made Soleil sure there was something between them, and she'd been sitting here for all of thirty seconds. Maybe because she'd never seen anything quite like it before? Smiles like that existed as descriptions in books to her, and nothing real at all.

"Soleil," she said, concealing her awkwardness by talking, or trying to, in as normal a fashion as she could. It was a little easier, now that she knew they were awkward too.

"Nice to meet you, Soleil. I'm Éva." The woman extended her hand across the table and Sol took it, holding carefully so as not to hurt her. She wasn't getting any suggestion that Éva was anything sturdier than a normal human.

"So, uh, stop me if this is rude but... what brings you guys out here?" She didn't say it, but a demon was about the last kind of person she'd expected to walk through those doors today. Next thing she knew, there'd be a whole damn angel, never mind that the non-Fallen ones were all dead or locked into some other dimension or whatever it was.

Vinny stared at Soleil for a moment, almost as if he were trying to think of an answer, but in the end, merely shrugged his shoulders. He didn't seem the type to be talkative, and perhaps wasn't unless he had to be. Still, he glanced towards Éva before turning his attention back to Soleil.

“A friend of ours mentioned that they were in need of extra hands today. It was the most logical thing to do," he finally stated as he glanced over Soleil's shoulder. His brows furrowed further, though, when Luna appeared, blinking mildly in Soleil's direction and then towards Éva and Vinny.

“Oh, uh, hi?" she stated, unsure of what was going on, it seemed. Vinny nodded his head in her direction, but didn't say anything immediately. “The food will be done in about another ten or fifteen minutes," she continued, taking a seat on the left side of Soleil. “And I hope you don't mind, but I invited someone else to sit with us," Luna said as she directed it towards Soleil.

“Oh, also, I'm Luna," she introduced herself to Éva and Vinny.

“Vincent, or Vinny. Whichever is your preference," was his reply.

Éva repeated her name as well, offering Luna a handshake also, before glancing around. "Who'd you invite? There's loads of people h—ah." She seemed to come to some kind of realization, and Soleil turned her eyes in the same direction.

If Vinny's demon-ness had hit her like a punch, whatever this guy had going on was more like being bathed in sunlight. Summer was, if rumor was to be believed, a joke now compared to what it had once been, but somehow the guy gave the impression of summer, and she knew it was the real kind, without knowing what the real kind was like.

It was sort of a weird impression to get from a bum the approximate size of a bear, with shaggy red hair and scruff stubbling his chin. She didn't doubt he could get a full-on mountain man beard going if he wanted to, but he was well short of that now. He took the seat at the end of the table, clearing his throat softly. Soleil wasn't sure if she imagined it, but she thought he threw a wary look at Vinny, too. Was that a coincidence, or...

Could he tell?

"Sorry to intrude," he said, voice rumbling lower than Soleil had known voices could go. Any louder and she might be able to feel it through her feet. "Mick. Nice to meet you all."

"Éva, Vinny, Soleil," Éva replied. "Just to cover the bases." When she stuck her hand out towards Mick, he accepted it with a vaguely-perplexed look, clearly taking care not to shake too hard. His hands were probably over double the size of Éva's.

“Soleil is my older sister, the one I told you about," Luna stated in Mick's direction, offering a short smile before turning towards the others. Vinny cleared his throat softly as well, trying not to keep eye contact with Mick for some reason.

“What brings you out here?" Vinny asked, directing Soleil's question towards Luna and herself. Luna grinned lightly as she sat back in her chair.

“I volunteer here," she stated, sighing softly. “On a regular basis, that is, or as regular as I can," she continued, clearing it up a bit, it seemed. Vinny made a vague 'oh' before returning his attention towards the table.

“What about you two? I've never seen you around here before?" Luna asked, tilting her head. “Not that you aren't welcome to be here; everyone who wants or needs something is free to do what they'd like," she said.

"We just dropped by for a visit," Éva said vaguely, lifting her shoulders in a shrug. "You don't have to feed us or anything. We're just kind of new to this part of town and wanted to know what was around, as resources went. We're okay, but we know some people who aren't, so we figured we'd check the place out for them. They're a little shy."

Mick seemed to accept this, nodding slightly. "I know some people like that," he said simply. "If it helps, I can say that the staff here are well-meant, even if some of them are a little nosy." He glanced askance at Luna as he said it, but Soleil interpreted some amount of humor in the implication.

How well did her sister know this guy, exactly?

Luna gave him a flat look, though, that suggested she wasn't amused. “I am not that nosy, alright?" she murmured, pursing her lips together and folding her hands over her chest. Vinny looked like he wanted to roll his eyes slightly, but seemed to refrain from doing so. “But... he's not entirely wrong. Mean well, but sometimes I do get a little in over my head," she added as she rolled her eyes somewhat before smiling a little.

Vinny pushed out a soft gust of air and turned towards Éva. “She gets like that, too," he stated as he laid a hand on her head before dropping it.

She stuck her tongue out at him. Soleil rolled her eyes a bit, but Mick was watching the interaction with something akin to curiosity. For just a moment, something like comprehension flashed across his face, only to be quickly replaced by something more neutral, and a little... sad? She didn't really get it, and wasn't good with feelings in the first place.

"I don't," she said bluntly, her best effort to contribute to the conversation. "No offense, because you seem like cool people, but if you never tell me anything about yourselves, I'll be okay with that."

Éva laughed, apparently genuinely delighted. "Oh but now it seems like you must be great at keeping secrets. No one would think to ask you for them!"

“Even if they did ask her for them, Sol wouldn't say anything. She's very tightlipped," Luna stated in a nonchalant fashion, grinning in Soleil's direction for some reason. “But it's not every day we see a pair like you," she continued, tilting her head slightly in their direction. “Well, not one so open with their affection for each other," she clarified. Vinny blinked slowly at her before turning towards Eva.

“We're not..." he trailed off, still keeping his gaze on Eva. He furrowed his brows softly before shaking his head. “It's not like that, I don't... think," he murmured.

“Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to assume it's just that... well," Luna stated nervously as she rubbed her forearm. “You just seem really close is all." That prompted a small quirk of Vinny's lips as he nodded his head.

“I've known her for a long time," he replied.

Éva cleared her throat, shrugging in what Soleil almost thought was a casual manner. She was fidgeting with her hands, though, and decidedly not looking in Vinny's direction. Her hair fell forward enough to kind of hide it, but her cheeks looked to be turning pink. "He, um—yeah. What he said." She chuckled again, but it was strained.

Mick, perhaps deciding to have mercy, changed the subject, though not before lifting an eyebrow at Luna as if to point out that he was right to call her a little nosy. Soleil couldn't decide if she liked him or not, but she thought with a little time, she might.

"Looks like they're getting ready to serve the food," he noted, before turning to Vinny and Éva. "I appreciate that you don't want to take what you don't absolutely need, but I'm pretty sure there's more than enough to feed everyone here, so I wouldn't feel too bad about it if I were you."

Vinny nodded his head. “It is appreciated," he simply stated as he glanced back towards Éva. Luna, however, glanced at Mick and furrowed her brows. She didn't say anything though, perhaps because the look he gave her might have been a little true.

“A bowl would be... nice."

"Then we'll get you one," Soleil said, surprised at the fact that she'd said it. It wasn't an outrageous thing to say, of course, but... it wasn't really like her, either.

Standing, she gestured to Luna. Maybe if she actually did the thing she wouldn't feel weird about it.

Or maybe she was just always doomed to feel weird around people. That seemed more likely.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
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18 Victorianus
Samael's Mannor - Mid Morning - Cold
Samael Lennox


Samael stared at the arrangement on the table. He didn't know what Soleil liked as far as her preferences for food went, and he'd hired a chef to make the best breakfast foods he could think of. There were blueberry pancakes, strawberry and cream cheese filled crêpes, cinnamon rolls, french toast with bananas and blueberries, milk toast, and something called a youtiao. He wasn't entirely sure if any of these options would be something that Soleil and her sister would like.

He'd invited the both of them to his manor today to discuss a sort of plan he had. He, of course, still hadn't told Soleil about what he'd had to do, but... well, he was hoping this plan would soften the blow a bit. He didn't know if she would be upset, or something of that sort. And he didn't want her to be upset with him. He'd tried his best, really. He tried to get Crowley to reel in his idiot son, but Alastor was persistent, and Crowley... well, Crowley was Crowley.

Sighing softly, he ran a hand through his hair before checking the time. They should be arriving in a few minutes. Was everything set up properly? Did everything look okay? Why the Hell was he so worried about it, either way? It shouldn't be his problem, but...

“Stop being so fussy, you idiot," he stated to himself as he made his way towards the door Soleil usually used. She'd be using that one today, hopefully. Otherwise he'd be standing at the wrong door like an idiot when she arrived.

As he drew closer, he caught a snatch of conversation. "—through here. I have a card key, hang on." She must have kept it in an easily-accessible pocket, because not a few seconds later, the electronic lock beeped to indicate someone had been admitted and the door swung open carefully, bringing him face to face with Soleil herself.

She drew up short, steps hitching to a stop, eyes a little wide. "Oh, uh... hey." Che cleared her throat, stowing her key back in the pocket of her long black coat. "Didn't expect you to be right, uh, right here. Am I late or something?" She pushed a strand of black hair behind her, remembering to shift aside to let her sister step in as well.

Sam felt the corner of his lip twitch slightly, but he shook his head. “No, you're not late," he stated as he stepped to the side to give the both of them a little more room. “I figured it was your sister's first time here and..." he wasn't entirely sure what to say to that. Why was he just hanging out by the door?

“Oh, so you thought it was a good idea to meet us," Luna stated as she arched a brow in his direction.

“I suppose so, yes." Soleil could have easily directed her sister around the manor. She'd been there enough times to know it, Sam thought, but he wanted to be here to greet them personally. It wasn't often that he had people visit, but he didn't want to get ahead of himself. There were things that he still needed to discuss with them.

“Are either of you hungry? There's a breakfast table in the dining area that has a few dishes if you are," he stated as Luna glanced in Soleil's direction with an arched brow.

“I won't say no to free food," she replied.

"She won't," Soleil agreed flatly, but there was a hint of amusement in her expression, and he could feel it coming through in the less mundane way as well. The strength of her love for her sister, an omnipresent protectiveness at the moment ceded to the urge to gently mock. "I haven't eaten yet, so thanks." She nodded before heading towards the kitchen, though not before pausing long enough for him to get the idea that she was waiting for him to walk with them.

He followed perhaps a little too willingly, making sure that he wasn't too far ahead of them as he led them towards the dining area. Once they did, he grinned a little to himself as he gestured towards the table.

“I wasn't too sure what it was the both of you ate, so the chef prepped an assortment of shit," he stated, frowning slightly. What if they didn't like anything on the table? What was he going to do? He couldn't make anything unless he wanted to accidentally kill them. And that wasn't what he wanted to do.

“Oh.... Sol... Sol there's blueberry pancakes," Luna stated as her eyes widened a little. She made a beeline for them before pausing and glancing at Sam and Soleil.

“Help yourself," Samael replied, shrugging his shoulders lightly, feeling just a little bit proud that he got one right so far. Now, to gauge Soleil's reaction because he needed to pacify her, first.

Her face was almost no help. Fortunately for him, he seemed to be able to read her emotions even more easily then most people's. She was surprised, and woven into it was a distinct thread of appreciation, and a faint bit of guilt, too, for some reason.

It took her a while to decide, but eventually she approached the crepes, something about her motion suggesting she wasn't exactly familiar but wanted to try. After placing a couple of them on a plate she took a seat and returned her attention to him expectantly, though what exactly she was expecting wasn't clear.

He wasn't sure he knew how to say this in a delicate manner. Part of him wanted to just say what needed to be said, and maybe wait for it to settle in, however; part of him was also kind of regretting asking Soleil to bring her sister along. Mostly because he didn't know how she'd take the news, either. He wasn't familiar with the younger woman like he was with Soleil. Even though he'd said Soleil could bring her when she visited, this was Luna's first time at his residence. He wondered if it was by choice or if maybe Soleil didn't trust him enough yet.

He could understand that, he supposed. Trust wasn't easily given, and he speared a hand through his hair once more. There really was no easy way to say this, was there?

“I spoke with Crowley and Alastor," he began, picking up a plate of the french toast for himself. He wasn't hungry, though. Not with this guilt eating at him. “I've managed a deal with him but..." he trailed off, glancing up to meet Soleil's gaze.

The response he got was mostly muddled, some faint resentment and annoyance and even a vague hint of fear—not for herself, he sensed. But a needle of concern lanced through all the rest, and that was easiest to identify because it was aimed at him. "Are you all right?" Soleil asked. "If he demanded something unreasonable, you don't have to..." she trailed off, shaking her head faintly and tilting her head at him. "I'm getting ahead of myself. What happened, exactly?"

“It has nothing to do with me," he clarified. If she was concerned for him, as much as he appreciated it, he shouldn't be the one she was concerned about. “Alastor will no longer bother you," he put an emphasis on the word and kept his eye contact with Soleil, “but he is still entitled to her." He shifted his gaze towards Luna who was midway into taking a bite of her pancake when she frowned at him.

“Like Hell he is," she murmured before shoving the piece into her mouth.

“Unfortunately he is. He can still request fees to be paid for you, but he will no longer be increasing them every month. He has a set amount that I'm sure he told you about," he continued, turning back towards Soleil. Alastor had upped the fee to nearly four credits, but to Sam, that was more reasonable than letting it get to over ten.

“I'll be paying those for you, however; there might be a way to stall it, albeit temporarily."

Soleil, who still hadn't touched her crepes, studied him over her plate. She'd looked about to protest when he said he'd be paying the fees; she apparently decided to put a lid on it after he continued though, her eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "Motherfuckers," she muttered, sighing through her nose. "Okay... what's the plan then? We're pretty used to temporary fixes. Even just more time to figure out how we're going to handle this would help."

Her words betrayed no sense of resentment, anger, or upset with him, and neither did the rest. She was feeling plenty of anger, but it was firmly directed elsewhere, and left enough room for... gratitude. She was grateful to him.

Sam felt something in his chest. Pride? Happiness? No, it couldn't be either of those, but it didn't stop the small smile on his face that he hid behind his hand as he placed it on his chin in a thoughtful manner.

“There's a charity ball or something like that that is being held in about a week or so," he began, sighing softly. “Usually, we hire people to help attend those kinds of things. If she were in my employ, then Alastor wouldn't be able to lay claim on her as he has. She'd be in my employ which would temporarily extend what protection I can offer to her as well. Since it will only be for that one event, though, it'll only be for the rest of this month and the first week of next month."

“That means you won't have to pay fees for next month until I can figure something else out. Something more permanent." He did have something in mind, but he wasn't so sure how they would take it. This was much easier than the other option he had.

“What would I have to do at this event?" Luna asked a little suspiciously.

“Usually the people we hire are hired as hostesses. That means you'd be serving whichever demon or cambion who required your assistance."

Soleil furrowed her brows, then cleared her throat. "Uh... not to be the spanner in the works here but... we've met, right? I'm pretty sure I don't give off 'accommodating hostess' vibes."

He smiled a little ruefully at her statement. “You wouldn't have to do it," he began. “You're already in my employ which means you're already under my protection. Luna, however, would be the one who would have to do it if she wants to be in my employ," and his protection. Soleil was his mechanic; she didn't have to be hired for this event.

“He has a point, sis," Luna stated, sighing a bit heavily. “Like you said, you're not exactly an accommodating hostess, but I can do this. I work in a more people-oriented place, and we both know I can handle people a lot better than you can," Luna continued as she gave Soleil a sympathetic smile.

“They're not just people, though," Sam interjected. “These are demons, and in order to show that you are in fact in my employ, that means I have to invite Crowley and Alastor to show them. That means either one of them could buy your assistance and you would still have to deal with them for the rest of the night."

If Soleil wanted to go to keep an eye on her sister, though, Sam could invite her as his escort.

Soleil shook her head immediately. "I don't want to leave you on your own for something like this," she said to her sister, then amended. "It's not that I think you'd let anything happen, Sam, just—you'll probably have a million things to do at an event like that, right? Zinoviev's a sneaky bastard. I don't trust him as far as I could throw him."

She grimaced. "Actually I could probably throw him pretty far. Bad example."

Luna snorted into her drink before she set it down at the same time Sam snorted. A little grin appeared on his lips as he leaned over and placed his chin in his hand, resting his elbow on the table to support it.

“If you want to go and have a little more freedom than a hostess," he began, glancing in Soleil's direction, “you can accompany me as my date. That way if you really wanted to keep an eye on her, you could use that card I gave you and buy your sister for the night."

"Are you sure that's okay? Won't people flip their shit if you show up with a human as your—" Soleil's stream of words halted suddenly, eyes widening as it seemed to hit her exactly what he'd proposed. "D-uh." She flushed, her skin turning from porcelain-white to rose-pink and then red in real time. The color extended all the way down to the high collar of her shirt and presumably past, and there was no mistaking the cause, even without Samael's empathic abilities.

“So is that a yes or a no?" he asked, clearly amused and feeling slightly overwhelmed by her emotions. They hit him just a bit harder than that happiness had, and he found he enjoyed this as well. “As for people flipping their shit, who cares? They'll just be jealous once they see you and your sister dressed appropriately," he continued. He had plans for that, actually. He might not have been the best cook, but he knew how to put people together, especially beautiful people.

Her embarrassment was a strange thing, shot through with bits of irritation—probably at his amusement at her expense—and something else. A fluttery feeling that was akin to the glimmer of attraction he'd felt from her before, but not exactly the same. "Nobody likes a smug bastard, Sam," she grumbled, harrumphing and biting into one of the crepes at last. For a brief moment, her face shifted into pleased surprise, but it smoothed out again quickly, and she wiped a bit of cream away from the corner of her mouth with her thumb.

Clearing her throat, she glanced up towards him. "But uh—yeah. I'll go. I have to keep an eye on her somehow, so..." Her eyes dropped again.

He only grinned further. “Should I just take my breakfast into the other room?" Luna stated as she cleared her throat lightly. Samael chuckled lightly but waved a hand in front of his face in a nonchalant fashion.

“Alright, then we have a contract," Sam stated as he glanced in Luna's direction for a brief moment. She made a face but nodded her head. “You'll be going as my date, and Luna will be in my employ. I think this works out sufficiently until a more permanent solution can be found."

He knew Bael wasn't going to like the fact that he had a human as his date, and another human in his employ, but Bael was an asshole.

“The event will be on the twenty ninth of this month. It's best if the both of you stay the night on the twenty eighth so that we will have plenty of time the morning before to get the both of you ready," he stated as if it were the most natural thing in the world. It would be strange to have them at his home for a night, but... well, for some reason he wanted them to say yes. They didn't have to, of course, but...

Soleil nodded a little, her embarrassment fading as she reasserted control over her own emotions. It was in a much more typical, pragmatic tone of voice that she answered. "All right; we can make sure our schedules are clear." She paused, then with a sideward glance at her sister, pursed her lips.

When she turned back to him, though, she was almost smiling, and the gratitude was back. "Thanks. For going so far to help us out. I'll figure out some way to make it up to you someday, I swear."

Samael smiled, the first one that felt genuine in years.

“Of course. I'll look forward to it," he replied.

“Ugh, seriously guys, get a room."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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#, as written by Aethyia


20 Victorianus
Shelter #309 - Afternoon - Snow
Michael Asmund


The snow was coming down in thick flakes this afternoon, the light of day already fleeing, ceding its position to the deep grey of a long pre-twilight. Not uncommon here, especially not in winter. And fittingly enough, the month the demons had named for their victory over heaven was very much a winter month, when sunshine and warmth were scarce.

Still, this had some small benefits. For example, Mick had been able to secure the four large bags of potting soil over his shoulders for the price of a few hours' work at a construction site. It wasn't the right time of year to plant anything, and the bags were dusty, leftovers from a landscaping project in some warmer month. But it'd last just fine until the spring, provided the shelter could find somewhere to put it.

He caught himself wondering if she'd be there. He'd not run into Luna for a good week and a half, which was not at all unusual. The last time had been... interesting. Admittedly he'd been a little wary, considering he'd run into bloody Abaddon of all people at the same time, but it seemed that he, too, was going by a different name these days. Living a different life. It was something he'd have figured for impossible, once. Now all it did was stir the old memories, of the only other person he'd known who'd really managed to adapt to the new world they were in, instead of trying to assert himself over it like the demons did or opting out of it as much as possible like Mick did.

They weren't exactly welcome recollections, but he didn't hate them. The side effect, of making him think about Luna and her sister, was less nice. But he'd live. He'd see her eventually, confirm she was all right, and... that would be that. There was no need for anything else.

He approached the shelter, opening the door only slightly awkwardly given that he was carrying over two hundred pounds of soil over his shoulders. It wasn't the weight that made it difficult, just the volume. Stepping through, he was hit with a wave of warmth, and nodded to a couple of the regulars seated at a table.

"Who's in?" he asked, elevating his volume only slightly. The nice thing about having a bass like his was that it carried. "I've got a, uh, donation, I suppose."

“Lu's in today," Louis replied, jabbing his finger in the direction she was presumably in. “Been muttering to herself all day like she lost it or something," he continued with a light shrug of his shoulders. Louis was sitting with Marianna, and she offered Mick a short smile.

“You say that as if she doesn't talk to herself often," she stated, shaking her head at Louis before turning back towards Mick. “I'm sure she'll be grateful for the donation, though. She's been in a weird mood lately. Looks mostly good, but who knows," she continued as she mimicked Louis and shrugged her shoulders. It was only a moment later that Luna arrived, though, and she blinked in Mick's direction.

“Thought I heard someone," she stated as she glanced towards the bags. She had a smear of dirt on her cheek, but her hair was pulled into a ponytail, probably to keep it out of her face with whatever she was doing.

“What can I do for you, Mick?" she asked, smiling somewhat in his direction.

He arched an eyebrow at her, a soft whuff escaping him. He'd have thought that'd be fairly obvious. "Well, uh, if you can find me somewhere to put all this down, that'd be appreciated," he said simply, his voice taking on its usual gruff edge. He didn't try to put it there, it was just... how he talked most of the time.

It didn't seem to bother her, though since she smiled and nodded her head. “Oh, yeah, sure," she stated as she motioned for him to follow her. “You can set it down in this corner over here if you don't mind," she continued as she pointed to a corner near a couple of broken tables.

“Thanks Mick, but, uh... what is it?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

He full-out snorted at that, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Soil," he explained. "For your garden boxes. You don't want to use the normal dirt around here—almost nothing will grow. This is the lab-made stuff. Simulates old-Earth dirt."

Carefully, he eased the bags off his shoulders and onto the ground, stacking them neatly so they wouldn't be too difficult to pick up for the next person that did so. She could probably handle a few no problem, but the others around here were mostly just humans, and not all of them especially strong.

He eyed the broken tables. One of them was in fact out and out busted, but another looked to just have a badly-bent metal leg, and the third seemed workable. "I can fix these?" he offered, pointing to the two in question. "They won't look pretty, but they'll work."

“Really?" she asked, arching a brow in his direction. “I mean, that would be great because they'd be usable again. They don't need to look pretty; I think everyone would appreciate just to have more places to sit. Also, that would mean more people could come if they wanted to," she stated as she moved towards the broken tables.

“Oh, but... I don't have any tools with me right now, and it might be awhile before I can get them, especially at the end of this month," she said as she pursed her lips together and furrowed her brows. “Do you think you'll need tools to fix them?"

Should he need tools? Yeah, definitely.

Did he?

Not even slightly.

Of course, this itself was a conundrum. He got by because he never made the fact that he was something other than human obvious. His supposed humanity was the foundation of these people's trust in him. And yet... it had never been what helped them. What he had to give anymore was relatively little, but even he was capable of this.

"I think I can manage without," he said, choosing not to make a big deal of it. With a little luck, they'd just believe him unusually handy and creative. "I've got a little wood glue leftover from my job today anyhow." That was true enough, at least; he tended to take the last little bits of things, what would otherwise be thrown out, from any job he worked, and in so doing had accumulated a modest stockpile of useful supplies. He'd used to carry them around in the pockets of his big coat, which due to a trick of magic were always just roomy enough to accommodate whatever the wearer thought would fit. Now he had to stash them, because the coat he had left wasn't really large enough to make that look plausible to the human eye.

"Why don't you go clear out whatever spot you want them to be at?" he suggested. He couldn't do this with an audience, after all.

She arched a brow at him and stared for a moment longer before she pursed her lips together. “Well... if you don't need the help," she began, glancing over her shoulder for a moment before turning back to face him, “I can go do that. Shouldn't take long, I don't think." She gave him a thumbs up before turning on her heel and making her way towards whatever spot she'd choose.

He rolled his eyes at the gesture, turning back to face the tables and reaching for the one with the bad leg first. That, he just bent back into shape, making sure not to get it perfectly straight because that would be unusual, and likely impossible for even a cambion to do, unless they were particularly physically gifted. Setting that one aside, he withdrew the tube of wood glue from his pocket.

There wasn't nearly enough, but abundance wasn't a particularly-difficult trick for him, not in small measures, anyway. He'd never be able to feed a crowd on a few fish and loaves, but he could at least manage enough to fix a crack in a tabletop. Once the tube was full again, there was no real need for secrecy, so he took that one a little more meticulously, applying the glue and pressing the sides of the crack together as well as he could.

It was, as he'd suggested, an ugly fix, but a fix nonetheless.

“You were not wrong," Luna stated with a mild hint of amusement in her voice. “It really is an ugly fix," she continued, huffing slightly. “Thanks for fixing it, though. There will be more places for people to sit; they'll also be able to sleep on it if they need to," she stated as she folded her arms over her chest.

“The shelter doesn't have many beds to begin with, but even if it's not exactly ideal to sleep on a table where so many people eat..." she trailed off as she scratched her cheek in a thoughtful manner. She shook her head, though, as if thinking against it.

“You've been a big help, you know that? And I'm not just saying that because you're so tall. You... well, thanks," she murmured softly, smiling a little awkwardly.

"Was that a pun?" Mick asked, almost incredulous. If so it might well be one of the worst he'd heard, but for that exact reason he huffed a soft chuckle. "You're a strange girl," he said, shaking his head with a vaguely mystified expression. "Ah, though, perhaps I should say woman. Girl's a little rude for an adult, I suppose. Pardon me."

Luna snorted and lifted her hands when she shrugged. “It's not like I'd be offended if you called me a girl. I am one after all, no matter what age the word is tied to," she replied, rolling her eyes seemingly at herself and smiling.

“Do... you mind if I ask your opinion on something?" she asked suddenly, her smile fading as she wore a somewhat serious expression.

Mick adjusted one of the tables so it was in the spot she'd left for it, then took a seat, gesturing for her to do the same across from him. "Sure," he said, wondering if this had to do with the 'weird mood' the others figured she was in. "Something eating you?"

“Kind of wish something was eating me, then I wouldn't have to feel so awkward about this," she said softly as she took a seat across from him. “There's this event thing going on at the end of the month and... well, I was hired to be a hostess for it. But the thing is..." she paused, furrowing her brows lightly as she stared at Mick.

“The reason I was hired was so that my sister wouldn't have to pay some asshole, protection fees. She works as a mechanic to a demon, or whatever he is, named Samael so she's protected from the asshole whom we pay the fees to. I'm... not, but Sam suggested that if I wanted to be in his employ, that I could work as one of the hostesses at the charity event." She grimaced slightly before leaning back a little and folded her hands in front of her.

“I just... well, there's going to be a lot of demons there, and I just thought that maybe you might have some advice or something like that. I mean, I don't know what your experience with demons has been, but..." she trailed off slightly.

Samael.

The name slammed into his thoughts with all the finesse of an eighteen-wheeler sans brakes, and for a moment, he was sure some of his shock must have registered on his face. Mick struggled to get it under control, but at the same time he knew there just... was no hiding it.

So he dragged his hands down his face, giving himself a moment of reprieve, then ran them back through his hair, blessedly free of tangles or he'd have snagged them for sure. "Uh..."

It wasn't a matter of whether he needed to explain his reaction. It was a matter of how. "Look—" He grimaced. "Do me a favor and don't mention me to the guy, but... I'm familiar with him."

Only then did he start to put together the rest of what she'd said, only it didn't make any sense. "Can you... back up and give me a little more context on... all of that? Who's asking for protection fees, and how did Samael get involved, exactly?" Maybe that would help him make sense of this.

“Alright. I won't mention you to him," she stated first before furrowing her brows deeper. “Soleil and I live in the Pits, which is part of the territory Alastor owns. He's a wanna be cambion crime lord who only gets away with the shit that he does because of his father, Crowley. Unfortunately if we want to keep Alastor off of our backs, we have to pay him protection fees."

“Of late, though, he's been a little more persistent. He wants Sol and I to be his caged pets," she made a face of disgust at the word before shaking her head, “but we turned him down. He didn't like that so he increased our protection fees. Originally, it was five hundred, two hundred and fifty each, but he increased it and put an increase for each month after. Soleil was hired by Samael to be his mechanic and... well they must have become close somehow because he pays her really well. Well enough that we could afford the protection fee increase, but... Alastor found out about it."

“He made an outrageous demand that we pay him even more money because of who Sol works for. She must have told Sam about it because the next thing I know is he's inviting us to his manor and telling us that Sol is safe from Alastor, but that he couldn't do anything for me. I don't... hate or blame him for it, really. He's been very nice to us that it's kind of hard to believe that he has an ill-intentions. And the way Sol smiles with him, and he with her, it's..." she paused and shook her head.

“Anyway, he invited us to his manor the other day to tell us of a plan that would help me if only temporarily."

"Well shit."

Mick wasn't oblivious to the organized crime element in Tartarus, of course. It was just one of those things that he had never been able to do much about, aside from chasing the occasional enforcer off when he happened to know someone being harassed. He could offer the same here, he supposed, but it was kind of a different thing when the crime lord himself was personally involved. A cambion, as she said, backed by a powerful demon father. Both of those things were rarer, and complicated the situation a great deal.

And then there was Samael.

Mick didn't know what to make of his involvement. It didn't sound like him. Or at least, didn't sound like who he'd become. If anything, it sounded like... like the way he'd used to be, before everything had gone to shit. He sighed heavily, forming one hand into a fist and resting his jaw on it. "I... don't know what to tell you, honestly," he said, choosing his words carefully and speaking slowly as a result. "There's... there's good in Samael. But last I knew of him it was buried pretty deep."

His lips pursed. "I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you to be careful around him. But... there's a chance that he's genuine in his desire to help." If so, it was something Mick hadn't imagined he'd ever see again. And, well, he wouldn't. All the more reason for them not to ever mention him—it might sour things, and he didn't want that.

"As for your larger problem..." He hesitated. He shouldn't be getting involved. It was none of his business. Sure, he'd said he'd look out for them, but that was a long time ago, and then he'd lost them. What right did he have to play knight in shining armor now? That wasn't the kind of thing he could be anymore.

Maybe he could just let her decide. "If there's anything I can do, just ask. I've scared off a few idiots in my day." He tried for a smile, knowing she'd probably decline because she figured him for a human. Fragile, and unlikely to be able to do much.

Part of that was even true.

"But the plan, uh... that's this job you were talking about?"

She nodded her head, but seemed occupied with something else. “You'd... really be willing to put yourself in that kind of danger for us?" she asked softly, almost as if she didn't quite believe him. “I appreciate it, really, but... I wouldn't want anything to happen to you because of some idiot," she said, smiling ruefully.

“I mean, you might be able to scare him off; you've got the grumpy bear look going for you, and I'm sure you could pull it off very well in the end," she rolled her eyes in a joking manner before shaking her head.

“But yes, that's what this job is that I'm talking about. It would put me in Sam's employ temporarily which would mean that Alastor could effectively shove off for a month or so, but... well, it's only a temporary fix."

Alastor. Crowley. At the very least they were names he'd heard of once or twice. Names he could begin to dig into a little bit. Mick knew people, and those people knew things. Maybe he'd be able to unearth something useful.

Tucking that thought away at the back of his mind, he focused on the more immediate part of things. "Hostessing for a charity event, you said?" He knit his brows. "Demons' idea of charity uh... really isn't. Most likely it's a pretext for all of them getting together to party, make backroom deals, that kind of thing. A couple private schools will get whatever money they claim to make for 'charity.'"

Mick shook his head. Off-topic. "Uh, anyway. Be... careful with that kind of thing. Samael might be different, but... most of them don't see humans as worth anything. Even if strictly speaking it's against the rules you might be asked to, uh..." He realized a bit belatedly that he next part wasn't necessarily comfortable to talk about. It wasn't that Mick was ignorant about how the world worked, but he got the sense that Luna had been protected from a lot of this stuff, and he wasn't exactly happy to be the one breaking the news.

"Well, sometimes 'hostess' isn't that far removed from 'prostitute,' at these things." Mick knew plenty of sex workers. They weren't, in general, any better or worse than anyone else. But it wasn't the kind of work everyone wanted to do or could handle, and he definitely didn't want her to be blindsided by such a demand.

“Kind of figured as much when Sam threw around the whole buying bit," she replied dryly and sighed heavily. She rolled her eyes a bit but offered him a smile. “I'm not four years old, you know. You don't have to be gentle with me. I know the world isn't rainbows and butterflies, or however that idiom goes," she continued before her smile stretched a little wider.

“But thanks for the headsup, Mick. It's just going to suck so much," she said with an exaggerated sigh.

She may well not be, but that didn't quite quash the instinct to be gentle. "If I'm not, I squish things," he said, trying for a bit of humor and drumming his fingertips on the table top. "And yeah, it probably will." He wished he could offer some kind of help, but if he got within a block of an event like that, someone was bound to sense him, even diminished as he was, and then all bets were off.

"I'm uh... around if you want to talk about it, though," he said, feeling a little irony in echoing an offer she'd made him once.

She chuckled at his first statement it seemed before she nodded her head. “I suppose that would be a bad thing if you just squished things all the time," she stated, clearly amused. “Thanks, Mick. The event is on the twenty ninth so... if you don't hear from me or see me a week after that, well... I suppose it was nice having what little freedom there was," she seemed to be joking in her statement, but there was something in the way her shoulders slumped that suggested a sort of defeat.

“But if all goes well, I'll tell you all about it. Who knows, something interesting and funny might happen. Alastor might somehow find himself falling down the long flight of stairs demons seem so fond of having."

Mick resisted the urge to frown; honestly he wasn't sure how successfully. If she did end up captive somewhere, he at least would know where to start looking. His word might not be worth a damn anymore, but he wouldn't just ignore it if she vanished.

He didn't say that, though, instead nodding slightly at her joke, though given her previous statement he couldn't find it funny. "Try not to draw too much attention to yourself," he drawled. "He'll get what's coming to him even if no stairs are involved."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
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29 Victorianus
Samael's Manor - Early Evening - Overcast
Lunaria Nishant


Luna stared at herself in the mirror. There was apparently a uniform that the hostesses had to wear, however; the one in question had been altered slightly. Luna wasn't entirely sure why, but it was too late to back out of the contract. The dress itself was black and very pretty, she had to admit. It fell in layers around her legs, filtering out slightly in the back with what looked to be synthetic crow feathers. The dress itself was sleeveless, but the jacket that accompanied it was high collared and looked like it was attached to the dress itself.

That wasn't the strange part, really. What was really strange was that Samael, of all people, was currently running a brush through her hair, combing out the tangles that would have been there, otherwise.

“You have a lot of tangles. Don't you work as a secretary? You should take better care of your hair," he murmured as he continued running the brush through the strands. Luna resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“What's it to you? It's not your hair," she retorted, causing Samael to snort softly.

“You and your sister both have beautiful hair. It should be showcased more often," was his reply as he began braiding part of her hair. Before she knew it, he had her hair mostly up with a braid on the side of her head connecting to the loose bun. “Close your eyes, now. Your makeup needs to be done," he stated as Luna rolled her eyes this time. She didn't immediately comply, though, and glanced around the room.

“Where's Sol?" she decided to ask. They had stayed the night at Samael's, which was just strange to begin with.

“She's getting dressed in the next room over. She'll be over once she's done so I can do the same thing," he replied.

It wasn't much longer before Soleil in fact shuffled in, looking distinctly uncomfortable and batting at some of the sheer material that comprised her gown.

The thing itself was a work of art, in a way, a gradual fade of colors in varying shades of purple and blue, but it only took one glance to know that it suited her sister exceptionally well, Sol's tall, slender frame carrying it with aplomb. It had one shoulder, almost no back and a long slit up the leg, but the fabric was floaty and gauzy enough that the exposed skin was nothing more than a tease, really. Tasteful, was the word for that kind of thing.

Sol, however, just looked uncomfortable. She was carrying the shoes that went with it in one hand—tall heels that were as barely-there as the thinnest parts of the gown. "This is too weird," she grumbled. "I'm going to stick out like a badly-driven nail."

Samael looked pleased, if anything, and Luna just snorted at Sol. “Is it because you're human, or because you look like you'd basically shame all the demonesses there?" Luna retorted as Samael snorted softly.

“It's not weird," he stated, moving Luna's head a bit so that she was staring forward. “It looks great on you, and if anything, you'll blend right in once I'm done with you," he continued as he placed his forefingers on Luna's eyelids, forcing them closed. “This one needs her makeup done, first."

“Fine, fine," Luna stated as she could feel him starting to apply eyeshadow, maybe. It took him almost half an hour to finish, and Luna wasn't entirely sure why it had taken that long to begin with. He turned her so that she was facing the mirror and Luna almost blinked in surprise. Is that what she looked like if she actually applied makeup? Her eyes were painted a light pink fading into a darker red. The eyeliner was done in a soft smoke kind of way, almost as if to give her the smokey eye set-up.

Her lips were a glossy pinkish red, and had just enough blush on her cheeks so as to not look so pale.

“I look like a fucking doll," was the only thing she could say.

“Well... yes, that's the point. Anyway, Sol, your turn." Samael pat the chair Luna was currently in, causing her to roll her eyes. She stood, nonetheless, so that Sol could take the chair. She was interested to see what Sam was going to do.

Soleil grimaced. "Not a lot, please," she said, yanking the ties out of her hair with little ceremony. It was even longer than Luna's when let down, hitting the small of her back. "I really don't like makeup in the first place."

She sat on the chair anyway, though, making sure the skirt of her dress didn't fall apart at the slit and expose her leg.

Sam sighed almost dramatically, and Luna had to admit that he complimented Sol very well. It wasn't even that their coloration was the complete opposite; she was Sol's complete opposite too, but it was moreso that they just seemed comfortable with each other. In a way that Luna's not entirely sure she'd ever seen Sol that comfortable. A demon, fallen, whatever the hell he was, was combing Sol's hair, and she was letting him.

Once he was done with her hair, he'd mostly left it loose, however; it wasn't obvious at first that it was actually braided. He'd put a few ornaments in the braids, ones that looked more like flower buds. He turned Sol's chair around, though, and did the same thing he'd done to Luna: closed her eyes with his fingers before applying Sol's makeup. He was being extremely meticulous, and Luna was almost in awe at how skilled he was with this. If someone had told her that someone like him was a makeup artist... she might have believed it, actually, with the way he dressed and carried himself.

“You sure that's my sister under all that?" Luna stated, causing Sam to give her a flat look as he turned Sol's chair back towards the mirror so she could see what he'd done.

Her eyeshadow was an electric blue color that turned a bit darker towards Sol's temples. There was some white in there near her tearducts, but the eyeliner was winged. It really made the violet of Sol's eyes pop, and it looked really beautiful in Luna's opinion.

Sol, for her part, blinked several times, scrunching her brows and then relaxing them before she turned her eyes up towards Samael. "Wizard," she accused. "You did something to my actual face. Moved the bones around or something." She sounded a very Sol-like mixture of grumpy and vaguely surprised with the results. But, also in a very Sol-like fashion, she didn't like to make a fuss, or have one made about her, so it was only a beat later that she went about the business of slipping on her shoes and standing.

In the heels, she was actually just about the same height as Samael, maybe just a touch taller, though the difference was impossible to tell for sure. Slight, either way. "At least Zinoviev won't recognize us. Should make our lives easier." She shook out the fabric of her skirt so it lay properly. "What am I supposed to do for this, anyway? I get that Luna's waitressing or whatever, but am I just supposed to follow you around?" She tilted her head at Sam.

“He won't recognize you at first," Sam stated in a matter-of-fact tone, giving Sol a flat look. He smirked, though, and shook his head. “No, not if you don't want to," he replied to her question. “You'll be accompanying me as my date, but you're free to roam around if you want. I figured it was something you'd like to do to keep an eye on the little one," he stated, pointing in Luna's direction.

“I'm not little," Luna retorted, furrowing her brows as Sam gave her a flat look.

“You're the youngest and shortest one, here. That makes you little," he deadpanned. Luna just rolled her eyes. “Anyway, as I was saying," he began, huffing lightly, “you can follow that one around and even buy her time if you want to keep things cordial. That's entirely up to you. If you want, I can also follow you around; it doesn't matter either way, but if I do, you'll likely be in the company of more people than you'd like to be."

"Popular, huh?" Sol lifted an eyebrow at Samael—it almost looked like she was teasing him, except Sol didn't really do that. Not with anyone but Luna, anyway. After giving it a moment of serious consideration, she pursed her lips. "I guess I'll buy her time, since that's probably the only way to stop Zinoviev from doing it. What kinds of stuff will be at this venue? If I have the chance, I'm going to make him regret his bullshit, but I need to know what I'm working with."

Sam snorted softly and rolled his eyes a bit. “Yeah, well the thing about buying time is that you'll need to make sure you request it for the entire event. Otherwise Zinoviev can still swoop in and say he'd like to claim an hour or so. It's a... tricky business, I suppose," he shrugged his shoulders as Luna furrowed her brows. She really didn't want that to happen. Any time spent in Zinoviev's company for longer than a minute was likely to get her or Sol in trouble. Well... likely her since she'd be the one stuck with him.

“As for what kinds of stuff are at this venue, hm," he frowned as he seemed to contemplate her statement. “Well, the charity event is just a front. Most of the demons will be doing other shit, mostly moving territory around, negotiating souls, and things like that. As for what's actually going to be at the charity, well..." he trailed off, causing Luna to furrow her brows.

“Well what?" she asked, watching as he slumped his shoulders a bit.

“At the end of the night they auction people off, mostly people who still have their souls and whathaveyou. There's a chance they might try to do that to you," he explained as he turned towards Luna.

“Don't you think you should have mentioned that before I agreed to this shit?" Luna stated. She really didn't want to be treated as a piece of property for people to buy. It was disgusting, and even if Sam had the money to buy her, or whatever it was, it still felt gross. She could feel her skin crawling.

“Don't worry about it, too much. I've arranged it so that you won't be on the list, given your inexperience. No offense, but demons want those with souls to have some kind of experience and, well... you don't peg me as the type of person who does." Well now Luna felt a little offended.

“You don't know. Maybe I do," she retorted, causing Sam to snort.

“Sure, whatever you say."

"You're sure she's not going to be on the list?" Sol said, clearly not willing to let it go at a 'most likely' kind of thing.

Luna could understand, honestly. She didn't like the look on Sam's face, though, as he furrowed his brows. “Honestly, even my word doesn't have much sway when it comes to things like this. I've done what I can to keep her name off the list, but there's no telling whether or not they will put it on, anyway."

Well, that wasn't exactly promising. Luna resisted the urge to run a hand through her hair, not wanting to mess up Sam's work, however; she really wanted to do something.

“It's fine, she can just bid for me, right?" she asked Sam as he nodded his head.

“Even so, depending on who's bidding at the time, even she might get outbid. They'll keep going just to make it entertaining, but it's up to the auctioneer to decide, ultimately, whose bid wins."

“Great."

"That makes the second part of this even more important," Soleil said, voice firm and expression hard. "Do they gamble at these events? Poker maybe? If I can win enough, it won't matter, and I can borrow against the card to get myself a spot at the table."

It was something she'd done once or twice on a much smaller scale, Luna knew. Staked a check for a job on a poker game with some idiot who thought they could beat a big-eyed little girl at a game of bluffing and calculation. But still... those weren't exactly upper-class demons.

“Of course they do," Sam replied almost immediately. “The only thing, it's not just money they gamble with. They gamble with souls, too, depending on who is actually playing. You don't get many humans here, but those that can afford it, and still have their souls, do show up from time to time." He furrowed his brows at that as he glanced at Sol, and Luna could have sworn she'd seen something flash in his eyes.

“Don't. Don't gamble your soul no matter what, alright?" he seemed almost concerned, but Luna thought it might just be a farce. Why would he be concerned about Sol? Why was he so concerned about them in general? It made no sense, but...

“You shouldn't underestimate my sister, Samael," Luna stated as she glanced back at Sol. “But he's also right. I don't care what ends up happening; it's just for a night and I don't want you risking your soul for me. No. Matter. What." Luna was adamant about that. She didn't want Sol to risk her soul just for her sake. If on the off chance Luna's name was on the list, she could handle a night, but a soul wasn't so easy to get back. She believed in her sister's abilities, but at the same time, she couldn't help but feel a little doubtful.

Soleil frowned at the both of them. "Do I look like an idiot to you?" she asked, a little irritation sharpening her otherwise flat tone. "Besides, I'm not going to need to." She sniffed. "Bastards aren't going to know what hit them."

“You look like a beautiful idiot," Luna drawled, earning a soft snort from Sam.

“We should get going," he stated, moving so that he was standing a couple of feet away from Sol. “She needs to get prepped for her job, and we need to make an entrance," he stated, holding out both of his elbows in their direction.

“You look like a chicken doing that, Sam," but Luna took his right arm, anyway.

"Don't steal this one," Sol said wryly, taking his left a little hesitantly. "He's much more useful in his coop."

“Wouldn't dream of it. He's your chicken, after all," Luna retorted. Sam just looked vaguely confused.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
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#, as written by Aethyia


29 Victorianus
Lux Hotel and Casino - Night - Overcast
Soleil Nishant


This place had so many lights she felt like it was going to burn her eyes out.

Soleil had decided she hated it as soon as they were inside. The lights, the eyes. All these demons had probably sussed out that she was a human immediately, and they must be offended, because it felt like they were all glaring at her. She was doing her best to act like she didn't notice it, but even she had her limits, and she'd never liked crowds to begin with.

Still... so far, the plan was working. She'd bought her sister's "time" for the night, which basically just meant Luna was free to wait on tables and try to earn some tips without anyone trying to demand more than that. Well they might anyway, but they at least had to pretend to be reasonably classy about it, and they had to let her go when she informed them she was already under contract for the whole time.

The amount she'd had to pay was ridiculous, but she was about to make it look like peanuts.

Approaching the counter, she nodded to the woman behind it, another dressed in the staff uniform, then handed her the sleek black card in her hand. "I'd like a thousand credits in chips, please." Her tongue nearly tripped over the number—that was literally a million dollars. If she lost it, she didn't have a hope in the world of repaying Samael. She was staking a lot on her brain and her poker face here, but it was like she'd told Luna a while ago. If they didn't start playing offense, they were just going to get crushed in the long game.

She tried not to think about the consequences if her very literal high-stakes gamble didn't pay off.

The woman gave her half a skeptical look before she spotted the name on the bottom of the card and her eyes went a fraction wider.

“You know Mr. Lennox?" she asked, her tone... was that hopefulness?

Sol blinked. "Uh... kind of. He's my employer."

The woman sighed and smiled, almost as if she'd—Soleil had read about this in books. Did this lady have a thing for Sam?

Handing over a velvet satchel with the chips, she also handed back the card. “They might be literal demons, but some of them are really nice to look at, right?"

"Erm—"

“I'm just saying. Girl'd sell her soul for a night with that one."

Soleil assumed that must be a joke, because she could not imagine selling her soul, much less for one night of anything. She stowed the card and wrapped the bag's drawstrings around her wrist.

"If you say so," she said flatly, then turned to take her leave before she could be subject to anything like a request for more information.

She did need to find him, though—she suspected he was the only one that would be able to help her get into a high-stakes game. There were people playing on the floor, of course, but the kind of thing she needed was more likely to happen in the back rooms.

She found him in a small circle of demons, mostly women and two men. He seemed to be talking with them, but the expression on his face was easy to read as boredom. He was bored talking to them for some reason, however; it might have been a trick of the eyes, but his own eyes lit up when he spotted her. Excusing himself from the group, which was basically just walking away mid conversation, he made his way towards her.

“There you are, I thought you got whisked away," he stated, clearly amused by something.

Soleil snorted, fighting down a smile. "By whom?" she asked dryly. "If anyone here tried to whisk me anywhere, there'd be a fight about it." She wasn't delusional enough to count herself the winner of any such fight, but she'd give them Hell anyway, as the saying went.

Holding up the velvet bag, she shrugged. "I went to borrow more money than my life's worth so I could play with the high rollers. Any idea where that's happening?"

“Ah, so you want Crowley's table," he replied as he glanced over Soleil's shoulder. He sighed a little softly, though, before turning his attention back towards Soleil. “It's a demon-only table, but I might be able to squeeze you in. Depends on how cranky Crowley's feeling today, and from the looks of it," he paused to glance over her shoulder again, presumably at the person in question, “he looks to be in a good mood. About as good as it can be, anyway."

“Are you sure you want to go to that table, though? We can start you somewhere else if you want," he stated, pursing his lips together.

She shook her head. "I actually have a backup plan if it's no humans allowed. Sort of. It'd require your cooperation, though." She tilted her head to the side. She sort of figured he wouldn't mind, and that by itself was weird—it was very akin to trusting him, and she wasn't sure how to feel about that. It wasn't like she trusted people normally. But, well, he had helped her this far.

"But I need to turn this into enough to pay you back, plus enough to guarantee I can out-bid everyone else for Luna if it comes to that. That means big money tables from the get-go." She paused, putting two things together. "Besides, if Crowley's Zinoviev's dad, I'm gonna make him sorry he has him for a kid."

Samael barked a short laugh, earning a few eyes on him before he shook his head. “It's not like he had any other kids to choose from. Alastor is an anomaly, really," he stated as he held out his hand towards her. “And even if it is all demons, I can still get you a seat at the table. There are some things that demons can't refuse, and a good challenge is one of them. Crowley might make an exception if we word this right," he continued, rolling his eyes a little.

“You don't have to pay me back," he stated suddenly, a hint of seriousness in his tone. “You know that, right?"

Soleil had been reaching for his hand, more on an instinct she didn't understand than any conscious decision on her part. It was strange, how relative things could be. Before when she'd felt his... well, his otherness, the way he wasn't human, it had made her uncomfortable. But here, surrounded on all sides by demons, there was something almost reassuring about it. About the way he wasn't quite that either.

The words, though, halted her, and the stayed like that, suspended in mid-motion, as her brows furrowed and she frowned. "Sam, it's... it's a million dollars." She couldn't imagine it being nothing, even to him, and to her it was... well it was hardly the kind of thing she could even conceptualize properly. It might as well have been infinite, for as far as it was from anything she'd ever thought to be in her ballpark. "I can't just..."

His generosity, he'd demonstrated so many times by this point that she didn't bother to ask herself if he had some ulterior motive anymore. He was just like this. Whether she could accept a gift of this magnitude, however, was a different matter. Because she was a certain way too.

He just shrugged his shoulders, though, reaching the rest of the way to take her hand. “So?" he began, arching a brow at her. “If I wanted you to pay me back for this, I would have said so in our contract," he continued, shaking his head lightly. “Look, if you really want to pay me back, just... I don't know. Beat Crowley at poker."

“I'll consider all debts paid if you do that. If you lose... well, you can figure out a different way to pay me back if that's what you really want."

She couldn't help the uncomfortable tingling at the back of her neck when he took her hand; it was distracting enough that she almost missed what he said. Forcing herself to focus, Soleil sighed quietly through her nose. "Well... beating him's the plan anyway, so I guess we'll see what happens." She wasn't about to let it go at just that, but now was hardly the time to be hashing out the disagreement.

She wasn't sure how a table full of very rich demons was going to react to this plan, but she knew she needed to wear her game face. So Soleil straightened her back, rolling her shoulders and tilting her chin so she looked confident, even if she didn't feel it, especially not in this dress.

"Let's do it, then," she said firmly.

He only smiled and nodded his head, leading her towards the table where the demons seemed to be finishing up their game. Sam rolled his eyes, but cleared his throat. One of the demons sitting at the table glanced up, her two-toned eyes, one hazel the other a dark green, meeting Samael's before glancing in Soleil's direction.

“What have you brought here, Sam? A bargaining chip?" she asked, arching a brow back in Samael's direction. She didn't seem entirely pleased that Soleil was there, but she didn't seem to be immediately put off by it. Another demon merely scoffed at the woman's statement.

“Sam hasn't played a game of poker since you wiped the floor with him almost a millennia ago, Caim," he stated. The woman, Caim, merely rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, well things change," Samael retorted with a light shrug of his shoulders. “Besides, there are more interesting things happening nowadays then playing a game of poker with old shits like yourselves," he added. Caim just gave Samael a flat look.

“And yet you still disrespect your elders. Aren't you so thoughtful," she drawled before turning her attention back towards Soleil. “What of you, girl? Are you here to play a game?" she asked.

"If there's an open spot, yes," Soleil's voice was flat as she could make it, with no discernible emotion, and her face matched it.

Something, whether what she'd said or how she said it, finally drew the attention of the third person at the table. It was hard to tell at first, what with the fall of snowy hair and the jet-black horns jutting up from his head, but his facial features bore a strong enough resemblance to Zinoviev's that she knew who he had to be.

“There are any number of tables at which you might attempt such a thing," he said, just as toneless as Soleil himself. His eyes locked on hers, the kind of burning gold that was actually slightly luminous. Apparently Crowley didn't play at humanity like a lot of these others did. The aura rolling off him was a lot stronger than either of the other two were giving her, but Soleil locked her knees and refused to back down from it.

"None with the stakes I want," she replied, giving the bag of chips a little toss so it landed in front of the empty seat directly across from Crowley. "I'm not here to play for peanuts."

His eyes narrowed; she knew she was walking a fine line between boldness and disrespect, and she watched him try to decide which it was, heart in her throat.

After a moment, though, he nodded the faintest bit, which she interpreted as her cue to sit down.

Samael merely stood behind the chair Soleil was sitting at, however; Caim seemed rather pleased with the outcome. “I like her already," she stated as she glanced towards Crowley and then back towards the other demon at the table. “It's your turn, Malphas, pass the cards out," she stated, causing the man to furrow his brows.

“Shut your face, Caim. I know how this shit works," he replied as he reached for the deck of cards, however; Samael took them, instead.

“Since I'm not playing, I'll be the dealer," he simply stated, glancing in Crowley's direction as if looking for permission. He didn't wait, though, and took a seat on the other side of Crowley, shuffling the cards with ease and began passing them around the table.

Crowley didn't seem to care. At least knowing no one was stacking the deck would be helpful—one less thing she had to watch for. The cards were dealt, and Soleil took a brief look at her cards before laying her hand over them. It was a decent hand to start, nothing spectacular, and when the three were laid out for everyone, she felt about the same. Still, she needed to make this a statement. Win or lose, she had to be interesting enough that the demons would let her stick around.

Fortunately, she was the first to go. Once her chips were neatly stacked in front of her—the pile only about half the size of the next smallest one and maybe a quarter the size of Crowley's, she pushed a small tower of them forward.

Caim and Malphas simply matched it, though they remained quiet for the most part. No one seemed too eager to speak at the table. Samael merely sighed, but pulled three cards from the deck. One was a nine of diamonds, a three of spades, and a Jack of hearts. Both Caim and Malphas seemed to study the cards drawn before glancing at their own hands.

“Raise," Malphas stated as he pushed two gold colored chips to the center. Caim rolled her eyes, but pushed two of the same colored ones forward.

Crowley simply folded, seemingly more interested in watching what Soleil would do than in playing the round himself. Even that was a useful bit of information—he knew when to fold. Soleil wordlessly matched the upped ante, and the bidding went around again.

Samael flipped over another card, this one a two of clubs. “Raise," Malphas stated, pushing a black chip forward this time.

“Call," Caim stated, narrowing her eyes slightly at Malphas.

Soleil called as well, though she was beginning to suspect both demons were fairly confident in their chances.

Samael flipped over the last card: an ace of spades. Malphas didn't bother to hide the grin on his face at that. Caim, however, subtly arched a brow, glancing at the cards in her hand momentarily before glancing at the five cards on the table. She blinked slowly before she glanced in Malphas' direction. Her eyes narrowed again.

“Player's last bet," Samael stated, glancing towards Soleil, first.

Soleil didn't let her face waver even the tiniest bit. Malphas had to have something really good—if she was going to win this round, she had to convince him it wasn't as good as what she had. Caim's eyes suggested she was double-checking suits, which most likely meant she was looking for something matchy rather than sequential—a flush rather than a straight. Not a royal one, with what was on the table, but still better than Soleil's pairs.

Well, it was bold or nothing. Taking a tall stack of golden chips from her pile, Soleil pushed them all forward without the faintest bit of hesitation.

Caim didn't seem to want to take a chance, placing her cards face down and folding. Malphas, however, narrowed his eyes at Soleil, almost as if he were trying to read her. Samael arched his brow in Soleil's direction as well, seemingly curious as to what she was doing.

“Ah, whatever. I ain't ever lost to a stinking human before, ain't gonna start now," he stated, reaching for a stack of gold chips as well.

“I don't know, Mal. This one has a look in her eye. You sure you want to risk it?" Caim stated, smirking slightly in Malphas' direction. He openly glared at Caim before turning it on Soleil.

“Fuck it," he stated, throwing his cards on the table. Samael snorted softly and shook his head.

“First round goes to the winner," he stated, smirking in Soleil's direction and pushing the chips towards her.

She nodded, scooping them all towards herself and rearranging them in stacks. She had a sense, now, that it might be possible to play those two off each other—no doubt that was at least part of the reason Crowley currently commanded such a lead. But he had the information advantage over her now, too, having folded from the start and not had to acquaint her with his style yet.

Still, the faint smile he was wearing suggested that he was, at the very least, entertained by her, so that was probably enough to keep her at the table if she could handle it.

The next several rounds passed quickly; the demons played fast, and didn't hesitate to speed up once it became clear she could keep pace. Everyone won sometimes, but Soleil made sure to play boldly enough that she won big when she did, and folded early when she needed to. Crowley was far and away the hardest to read, Malphas being the easiest, but she thought they were having trouble getting a fix on her, too, which was what she'd counted on.

An hour in, Malphas was out, and Sol's pile was triple its original size, while Caim's dwindled. The female demon had already folded, though, and it was just her and Crowley facing off across the table.

“I believe I understand, now," the demon remarked offhandedly, pushing forward several more chips.

The comment seemed almost to be directed more at Samael than herself, though she couldn't shake the sense that it was about her, somehow.

Samael smirked, seemingly pleased with this. “Good. You understand why, now, I was so adamant about keeping Zinoviev away," he replied, confirming that it was, indeed, linked to Soleil. Samael placed another card down, this one another ace. There were two of them on the table, one the hearts suit, and the other was spades. The other two cards were a queen of hearts, and a king of hearts.

“Player's last bet," he stated, glancing back in Soleil's direction and arching a brow.

She didn't need to glance down at her cards to confirm, and suppressed the sliver of excitement that threatened to appear on her face. Now her goal was to bet high enough that Crowley would match, and not so high he'd catch wind of the fact that she had an unbeatable hand.

Tilting her head at the table, she mentally calculated the amount of chips he had compared to hers, and then divided her pile exactly in half, nudging one forward. It was literally a million and a half dollars.

Crowley considered it for a moment, then matched.

They both threw down their cards, and Soleil scooped the entire pile towards herself.

“Well, well," the demon murmured. “I do believe you are the best poker player at this table, Miss Nishant." He inclined his head in something almost respectful, then collected the rest of his chips. “As such, I believe I shall curb my losses here, before I end up as my associate." He arched an eyebrow at Malphas.

Malphas merely glared at Crowley before crossing his arms over his chest, almost like a child would if they were mad they couldn't play with their toys any longer. Caim chuckled softly, however; Samael was laughing a bit loudly. It was enough to draw a few pairs of eyes in their direction, but it subsided a moment longer.

“A royal flush of hearts, how funny," he stated, glancing in Crowley's direction.

“Yeah, well it won't be so funny when I rip yours out," Malphas murmured softly, glancing in Samael's direction who merely rolled his eyes.

“Come now, Mal, accept the fact that you lost to Lady Nishant. She's not so bad," Caim stated, leaning forward and catching her chin in her palm. “Perhaps she'd even be willing to come back for another few rounds, or perhaps for something a little more. I've never had human before," she continued, almost as if she were flirting with Soleil.

“And you won't be having human, especially this one," Samael replied, narrowing his eyes slightly in Caim's direction as she just chuckled.

At one point, Soleil would have been ticked off by the suggestion, but at this juncture, she suspected it was more something Caim was doing as a... well, not a joke, exactly. But it was also different from the purely objectifying thing Zinviev did when he made similar implications, so she let it slide with a little shrug. "The way you say that makes me unsure if you mean for sex or for food," she said bluntly, but the slight quirk to her brow gave it away for at least mostly a joke.

Crowley snorted softly.

“That would depend entirely on you, my dear. Either way works for me, though I do have to say, you'd enjoy the former a lot more than the latter," she replied, causing Samael's frown to deepen. It almost looked as if he were pouting.

Soleil huffed. "Yes well... low bar, I think. Being eaten isn't on my bucket list, shocking as you may find it." She wasn't sure what Sam's deal was; maybe there was history here she didn't know?

“Hm, indeed, although there are various ways to be eaten. Just name the time and place if you ever change your mind," Caim replied as she winked at Soleil. Samael's brows just furrowed deeper before he sighed in a dramatic way.

“You're an ass, Caim. I hope you know that," he simply stated.

“Why thank you, Sam. I know I have an ass."

“Not what I said."

“Ugh, shut the Hell up, you two," Malphas looked vaguely sick at the banter.

Soleil suppressed a flare of embarrassment at the demon's rather blunt suggestion, clearing her throat. "I'll... keep that in mind?" It came out sort of like a question, because she wasn't entirely sure how to deal with that, but in the end she just offered a shrug, stashing her chips back in the bag. "I should go; thanks for the game."

She made eye contact with Samael and tilted her head. With any luck, she should have plenty of money to protect Luna tonight, and if she managed to keep any of her winnings, well... it was a lot of money, even after she paid the original sum back. With interest, because that was the kind of person she was.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
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1 Satanus
Manor - Afternoon - Snow
Samael Lennox


Sometimes Sam wondered if he was finally going crazy.

His home felt strangely empty, which was strange in itself because it was always empty. The only people who visited were Lilith, Leraje, and Soleil when she was working on one of the cars. Today was not one of those days, but he thought that it might have to do with the fact that Soleil and her sister had stayed the night a few days ago.

Even though it was for the purpose of getting them ready for the event, they had stayed.

The night.

At his house.

Now that the event was over, Sam found himself wondering if maybe he should just ask if they wanted to live with him. It would make them both his wards, in a way, and it would mean that they were no longer in Alastor's territory. Which meant that he wouldn't be able to extort them or try and make them sell their souls to him. Or worse, make them his toys. Sam visibly shuddered at the thought before shaking his head.

Even if he did ask, he almost knew Soleil's answer. After all, why should she trust him to not try anything? He wouldn't, of course, unless she wanted him to, but he wasn't that kind of person. He'd just... well, he was beginning to think that he'd made a genuine friend.

“Sam! We're home!" a familiar voice called out, causing Samael to frown slightly.

“No need to yell, Lily," he replied, glancing in the direction of Lilith and Leraje, the former smiling broadly.

Leraje, on the other hand, wore the same emotionless expression he always did, even as he politely removed his coat and shoes in the entryway. There was a small paper bag tucked under one arm, which was probably the obvious, but he'd get to it when he got to it. Pretty much nothing ever bothered that guy, and it meant nothing could make him rush.

"Samael," he greeted mildly, at a much more indoors-appropriate volume than his companion.

It was one of the few things that Sam respected about Leraje, actually. Even if the guy moved at his own pace, did things on his own accord, he was still mindful of where he was. Lilith, on the other hand, walked across the floor, shoes still on and coat still clinging to her. She didn't seem to care much about dragging the snow that was already melting, across the floor.

“To what do I owe the honors of this visit? It's not my monthly's, yet, is it?" Sam asked, clearly joking, however; Lilith rolled her eyes.

“Why can't we just visit? Are you hiding someone in your closet?" Lilith asked, arching a brow at Sam.

“I'm not twelve, Lil."

“Sometimes I wonder about that."

Leraje looked once between them, then pushed his glasses up his nose. "Can we continue this in the kitchen? I'm hungry."

Without waiting for an answer, he headed that way, setting the bag down on the island and making himself a bowl of yogurt and granola. "You have a different brand this time," he noted, reading the ingredients list on the back of Soleil's bag of granola. She'd brought her own at first, insistent that the kind he had bought 'tasted like cardboard.'

"It's better, but cheaper. Unexpected for you." With this observation made, he shook some out into his bowl, stirring it around in the vanilla yogurt and taking a seat at the island.

Sam felt rather pleased with that for some reason. He wasn't entirely sure why, but he nodded anyway. Lilith made a bowl of cereal for herself, though, and took a seat on the opposite side of Leraje. If he hadn't known any better, he'd have thought those two made a strange pair. He'd seen stranger demons coupled together, but... well, these two were just strange in a way he couldn't describe.

“Thought I would try something new," he finally replied as he made his way towards the only open spot near the island. He wasn't hungry like the two of them were, and crossed his arms over his chest.

“So... besides the obvious, why are you here?" he decided to ask again. It wasn't that he wanted them to leave. Quite the opposite, but they did come a little unannounced. Not that they ever announced themselves to begin with when they visited him.

Leraje shrugged. "The bag has a new formula in it. No name yet. Careful with it—it's got a pretty sharp kick. Take too much and even you'll overdose." He lifted his shoulders. "I'm working on developing a waking dream that the dreamer has some control over. Like a version of virtual reality, but infinitely variable based on individual desires. This is the first step in that process."

“I'm not going to start sleep walking, am I?" Sam replied as he arched a brow.

“Oh, you should probably call it something like that. Sleepwalker or maybe dreamcatcher," Lilith interjected before taking a bite from her bowl of cereal.

“You're usually a little more creative in your names."

“Hm, yes, well I've been busy with lock boxes and other things."

"And collecting seedy tabloid publications, today," Leraje remarked, crunching through another bite of granola with utter nonchalance. "She has something to ask you about that. Not sure why she's beating around the bush."

She pointed to her bowl of cereal as if it were answer enough. Samael rolled his eyes, but was confused about the seedy tabloid publications that Leraje was refering to. “Who is she?" Lilith asked, taking another bite of her cereal before reaching into her coat pocket. She produced a photo, tossing it on the table as she took another bite. Sam glanced at it and nearly snorted.

It was obviously Soleil in that picture, but it looked like Lilith didn't recognize her. “She was my date for the event. Why, Lil, jealous that I didn't ask you to be my date?" he stated as she gave him a flat look.

“In your dreams. You're not my type," she replied easily enough.

“Hm, yes, you like the quiet loner types," Sam drawled before rolling his eyes again.

“Who is she, though? I've never seen her before, and I've been just about every where." She seemed a little adamant, now, about knowing who it was.

“I told you, she was my hired date for the night. Lost the contact information, though, so I can't give it to you. Would if I had it."

"Apparently she cleaned out Crowley, Caim, and Malphus at Gehennan hold 'em," Leraje said, tilting his head down at the photo. "You have good taste at least." It was unclear whether this statement followed on the previous one or was made simply because of Soleil's appearance, but to Samael's knowledge, Leraje had never really been swayed by anyone's looks.

"Bael was very displeased, but Crowley seemed rather more circumspect about the matter. According to him, your date didn't quite seem as human as she appeared."

“Wouldn't know anything about that," Sam replied honestly. As far as he knew, Soleil was human. She didn't seem like a demon to him, and he didn't exactly get cambion vibes from her, either. Granted, there was something about the Nishant sisters that he couldn't put his finger on, but it wasn't like it bothered him. If they weren't human, then they weren't human.

But what were they, if not human? Bael, however, could kiss his ass. The demon deserved that display of disrespect, as he would no doubt call it. If he hadn't been such an ass about the whole thing, he might have kept it to a minimum.

“Crowley is more reasonable than Bael to begin with. If he thinks she wasn't quite human, that's on him. Don't really care either way," he added with a light shrug of his shoulders.

“You shouldn't be like that, Sam. Bael's only trying to look out for you, you know," Lilith replied before finishing off the rest of her cereal.

“Like Hell he is," Sam muttered beneath his breath. Bael was likely to have Sam's head on a silver platter, first, rather than look out for him.

Leraje's only response to any of that was a slight upwards quirk of his brow. "Whatever you say." It was sort of ambiguous which one of them he was speaking to, and he didn't clarify. He scooped a bit of yogurt from the bottom of the bowl. "How were the last doses of A—" he darted a brief look at Lilith and sighed quietly. "Oblivion?"

Lilith smiled brightly at the name as Sam rolled his eyes.

“Didn't you receive my update?" he asked, quirking a brow at him. It was obvious enough that he hadn't, and Sam sighed softly. “It's not strong enough," he simply stated. “Still had a bit of memory, and the baseline mood was completely off. I went from really erratic to almost... what did the humans call it, zombie? Brainless, essentially, but not completely. It did, however, convince me I was a fly for a moment. Tried hanging on the side of the wall."

Lilith snorted. “Maybe you just had too many different types of drugs in your system."

"I meant the doses I sent after the last update," Leraje replied mildly. "Did you not get around to trying them yet? That's unusual." He didn't seem to care, as such, but knowing him he was inferring plenty from the fact that Samael's drug habits had changed even a little. He could be wickedly sharp when he wanted to, Leraje. Fortunately, his lack of concern prevented him from doing much with his observations, on the off-chance he even bothered to share them.

“Ah, those," Sam stated as he glanced back towards Leraje. “Haven't had the time to do those, yet," he continued, shrugging his shoulders lightly. Lilith raised an inquisitive brow in his direction.

“Since when has Sam ever not had the time to do drugs?" she asked, causing Samael to frown slightly.

“Since Sam's been too busy," he retorted, aware that he was referring to himself in third person. She huffed slightly, and Sam knew she didn't buy it for a second, however; it wasn't her concern. She wasn't his mother; he didn't have to tell her shit if he didn't want to.

“Well, make sure you take them, eventually. The data on those will help with the pricing and also whether or not they're worth putting on the market."

“Why do you care?" Sam shot back, raising a curious brow. She blinked at him, glanced at Leraje, and shrugged her shoulders.

“I don't. It just makes things easier."

“Whatever you say, Lil."

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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3 Satanus
West Area Park - Early Afternoon - Light Snow
Lunaria Nishant


Luna wondered when this good luck streak her and her sister were on, was going to turn around and bite them in the ass. It had to be soon, right? When had life ever been so easy for them? Since when was there ever a time when they actually had food in their fridge and not have to worry if they'd have it tomorrow, or the next day, or even next week? Sometimes Luna wondered if it scared Sol as much as it scared her because this was just too much to believe.

What was Samael really after? What were his true intentions? He had to have them, right?

Sighing heavily, she pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind. She had prior plans for today, and those thoughts didn't need to ruin it. She had something she wanted to do, but first, she needed to find a certain someone. The information she collected, well traded for, said that Mick was somewhere in the nearby park. She wasn't sure why she was seeking him out, of all the people she had readily available to her. Some part of it just... maybe enjoyed his company.

The other part of it definitely thought he was the best person to ask because he always seemed to have good ideas. The garden, fixing the tables, and this was one thing she definitely wanted his advice for. Plus, she just really liked listening to him talk. She wasn't sure why, but she liked the way the bass of his voice just rumbled. It sent shivers down her spine, but not necessarily the kind that were uncomfortable.

And she could feel her cheeks burning slightly.

“Get a grip, Luna, you fucking psycho. He'd think you were crazy if you told him that," she muttered to herself, tapping her cheeks just lightly enough to feel the sting. It wasn't the cold, though, that stung. She could never explain why she wasn't bothered by it as much as most people, and it was perhaps that reason alone that she was only wearing a charcoal grey puffer vest over a thin white long sleeved turtle neck. The shirt itself had a hole near her elbow, but she didn't mind so much. She'd had it for several years, and it was one of her favorites. The same thing could be said about the jacket. It was clearly worn, but remained mostly intact.

Her pants, however, were littered with random holes and tears, all near her knees and some near her calves. Those were covered by the dark grey long boots she wore, though. Still, none of the exposed skin from the holes were bothered much even with the light snowfall.

“Alright, let's see. Levi said he was around here somewhere," she murmured to herself, pursing her lips together. Maybe he'd left already? If he did, finding him was going to be a lot harder. She could ask someone else to accompany her, but...

Fortunately, he didn't seem to be going to any particular effort to keep himself hidden or anything. She hadn't been traversing the park for long before she spotted him, sitting on some brown grass with his legs crossed. He wasn't wearing a coat, either, just a cardigan and some fingerless gloves over a normal long-sleeved shirt. Even the scarf was missing, an omission that made a lot more sense when she spotted what he was doing.

In front of him, tucked into the space underneath a couple of bushes, was a battered cardboard box, filled with newspaper scraps and the scarf, and, it seemed, a mother cat and some juvenile kittens. Mick was slowly breaking apart a stick of jerky in his hand, feeding the mother cat by hand, it seemed.

It was enough to make her smile, though, because it was just too adorable. Here he was, this grump-bear of a man, hunched over a cat and her kittens and tending to them. She moved a little slower so as to not startle the animals, keeping a respectable distance from them. Luna didn't want them to scatter away from the warmth they were no doubt enjoying.

“Hey, Mick?" she called out in a tentative manner. “You have a minute?" she asked.

He didn't startle at the sound of her voice, so maybe he'd already known she was there. He usually seemed to, somehow, like he was ever really surprised by anything. He did turn his head towards her though. When he was no longer in profile it was easier to see the tiniest of smiles curling one side of his lips. "Sure," he said simply, gesturing to the spot next to him as he continued to break apart the jerky stick. "Have a seat."

She took it obligingly, situating herself next to him to stare at the animals. “As you can see, I made it back in one piece," she began in a light tone. After all, the last conversation they had was before the hostess job, and that had been something she'd said offhandedly in a slightly joking manner. She pushed a soft sigh through her nose, though, and inched her smile a little higher.

“And I need your help with something since you said you'd be around if I needed to talk about something." Maybe she could even get something for the kittens, something a little warmer than the scarf and box they were in. If she could, she would take them home and give them a nicer place to stay, but they were probably better off here. At least Mick was tending to them, right? Pushing the thoughts from her mind, she glanced in Mick's direction.

“Do you..." she pursed her lips together, frowning a little at herself. “Do you want to go shopping with me for the shelter?" she asked once the words formed properly in her mind. She might have had more experience than Sol when it came to talking to people, but that didn't mean she wasn't just as awkward about it, sometimes.

As the mother cat took a chunk of meat from his fingers and started to chew on it, Mick turned towards Luna and blinked. The request had evidently not been what he was expecting, if he'd been expecting anything in particular. "I don't mind," he said after a moment, laying the rest of the jerky pieces down in front of the cat and crinkling the wrapper up in one hand. "Where are you going to do this, exactly?"

He didn't ask the more obvious question—where did you get the money?—perhaps because he deemed it too rude or something of the kind. He could be a very blunt person, even rough in his mannerisms sometimes, but he did seem to have a sense of manners.

Either way, Luna was used to those kinds of mannerisms. Sol could be like that sometimes, even if there were miniscule differences, but Luna figured that's just how some people were. She furrowed her brows a little deeper, though, when Mick's question caught up with her.

“I don't know," she replied, sighing softly. “I want to get things that the people will need and can use, but at the same time..." she trailed off, chewing her bottom lip for a second. If she went overboard, that could attract unwanted attention. Demons and cambions of all sorts might show up at the shelter and cause unnecessary trouble for the people there. Luna didn't want that.

But she also didn't want them to be without. “That's why I need your help," she admitted, glancing up to meet his gaze. Even when they were sitting down, she was still much shorter than him. “I don't want to get things that will draw attention to the shelter, but I also don't want anyone to go without something they need. Food, clothes, those are all priorities, but if a demon or cambion sees someone who isn't usually dressed nice... they might get the wrong idea."

She really didn't know how else to explain it.

Mick blinked. "You've really thought about this," he said, sounding pleased, of all things. Expelling a heavy breath, he unfolded his legs and stood, oddly smoothly for a man of such bulk. "I think your best bets are disposables, like food, but stuff that'll last a while, so you can store it. And also secondhand things. For clothes and all that. Cheaper to get a lot of, for one. Also perfectly functional but not likely to seem out of place." He ticked the points off on his fingers, then belatedly offered a hand down to help her to her feet.

"I know a couple places for that, if you've got the time today."

“Of course I thought about it," Luna said, not bothering to hide the smile on her face as she took his hand. It was rough and calloused, but Luna supposed it must have been from the years he spent on the streets and the odd jobs he picked up. Once she was standing, she realized a little belatedly that she hadn't released Mick's hand yet, and pulled hers gently, setting it to her side.

“I, uh, I'm off today so I have all the time," she stated, coughing lightly before rolling her eyes. Mostly at herself because she sounded like she couldn't form a proper sentence with what she just said. “I have time is what I meant to say," she grumbled.

“Why don't we start with the closest place?" she suggested.

Nodding, Mick started out of the park, pausing long enough for Luna to catch up and walk next to him instead of behind. "It's not far. Maybe a mile or two. There used to be a bus that ran this way, but..." He shrugged. The end of the sentence was obvious enough. Some demon had decided it wasn't worth the expense to have a line of transport for the area.

"You... how did you find the other night, then? You'd mentioned a job. Seems it went all right at least?" He narrowed his eyes, as if searching her for any sign it hadn't been.

Luna snorted softly. “It actually wasn't half as bad as I thought it was going to be," she admitted, rolling her eyes at one particular memory. “One demon tried to get a little fresh but..." she shrugged her shoulders. It was kind of funny when Sol intervened during that. All she did was look at the demon and they backed off. Sol could be really intimidating when she wanted to be, but Luna had a feeling it might have had something to do with a particular Fallen who had been there as well.

“It went well enough that I was actually able to get," she paused as she glanced up towards the sky, trying to remember the exact amount she'd received in tips, “at least four credits in tips. I think it was a little more than that, but I'm not really keeping count because it's not entirely mine."

That wasn't true, exactly. Sure, it was her money, but Luna didn't want to keep it all for herself. The shelter and its people meant a lot to her and she wanted to do something for them. She wasn't entirely sure why it was especially so for him. It wasn't like they'd known each other for very long, but... well, maybe they were on the cusp of actually being friends? That'd be nice.

“What about you? How are you doing? I see you're missing your trademark coat," she noted.

Mick whistled, low and soft, at the number, but made no further comment about it.

"Good to hear it went all right, then," he noted mildly, hanging a left. "As for me, yeah I guess. I traded the coat away a while back, and the cats need the scarf. I'm all right though; the cold doesn't bother me much. The coat was mostly just for the pockets, and I can do okay without it."

He didn't seem much smaller without it, either, even ambling casually down the street with a slightly-hunched posture and his hands in his pockets.

In time, they arrived at what seemed to be a large consignment store, once-cheerful blue exterior paint faded and chipped. Someone clearly took the time to wash the building, though, and when Mick opened the door for her to enter, she was met with long rows of... well, a lot of things. Clothes, dishware, toiletry items and other disposables, and so on. It had a faintly-stale smell, and one of the overhead lights was flickering with a soft buzzing noise.

Her immediate thought was that Soleil could probably fix that, however; she wasn't here for that. She was here to find things that could be used at the shelter. Mostly things that wouldn't draw too much attention, though. She furrowed her brows and chewed the bottom of her lip for a moment. If she grabbed too much at once, that would definitely be suspicious.

She might be able to afford those things, now, but it would have defeated the purpose of remaining incognito. “Well, since we're in the beginnings of Satanus," she began, glancing towards the area where the clothes were located, “maybe we should start with that? I'd rather the people be warm enough to survive the winter, first."

It was one thing to die of hunger, but they would likely die from the cold, first, if they weren't properly clothed. Food would be the next thing to get, but she wanted to choose blankets and coats, first.

“We should probably get a variety of sizes, too. Nothing to big, although..." she trailed off, glancing in Mick's direction and snorting softly. He was really tall, and she doubted there would be anything here that would fit him. Sure, he had a coat before that looked like it fit okay, but he'd said he traded it.

“I guess we'll have to find something for you, last."

He offered her a small smile at that. "Don't worry about me today," he said simply. "I can usually get what I need. Someone always needs help lifting something, or with construction or whatever. It's better to worry about the folks who are already sick or disabled or have a hard time finding temporary work."

He did nod, though, after a moment. "Stuff for warmth sounds like a good idea. I recommend things that can be layered. Lots of us end up sharing, and clothes are useful currency, too. Having a bunch of layers gives us the freedom to prioritize, and means that giving up one or two of them isn't as bad. Blankets are good for the same reason." He started back towards that section, slowing his pace enough to keep next to her.

They drew a few eyes, mostly because of him, probably, though in a way Luna might be more unusual to see in a place like this. Mick did sort of fit the surroundings, in the sense that this was very clearly a part of town in which he was comfortable.

Luna supposed she could understand that. She might have lived in the poorer parts of the Pits, but she wasn't exactly dressed like someone who was. Sure, her own clothes might not be as worn down and beat up, but she was used to the eyes, regardless. It didn't bother her as much as she knew it bothered Soleil. She was just better accustomed to it, she supposed. She shoved the thoughts away and glanced at one of the racks that held a few jackets.

“Even so, I would at least like to get you something for today. You might have said you had time today to help me with this, but you could have spent that time doing something else. Let me treat you to lunch or dessert or something," she stated, pursing her lips slightly as she pulled a jacket from the rack. He really didn't have to help her, but the more time she spent with him, the more she learned how much he actually cared. It wasn't quite the same as the way Luna might have cared about Soleil, or anything like that. It was more pure than that. She couldn't describe it any other way even if she wanted to.

He didn't owe anything to anyone, but he worked very hard to help the people in any way he could. She admired that about him, really.

"Mm. I'll think about it."

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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#, as written by Aethyia


5 Satanus
Geraldine's Diner - Early Evening - Snow
Michael Asmund


Mick doffed his hat and gloves, setting them down on the bench seat next to him. His usual table had been open, fortunately, so he'd sat with his back comfortably to the wall and the steel and neon 'jukebox' that sat between the table and the long counter. Geraldine's had a so-called retro atmosphere to it; he recognized it as hearkening back to diners from centuries ago, though by this point and through no fault of its proprietor it scarcely resembled anything of the kind. It was a newly-post-apocalypse kind of retro now, a little more steel and xenon and soot than shiny chrome and polished wood and multicolored neon.

He'd somehow let Luna talk her way into treating him to dinner for his help, so he'd picked Geraldine's as a sort of... halfway point. Luna didn't know this, but the owner always let him eat here for free, since he'd done her a favor a few years back. Her name was Hannah—Geraldine was her daughter, and Mick had found her after she'd gone missing on her way home from school one afternoon. He was glad he had, and didn't take her up on the offer of free food that often, mostly just coming by to see them and maybe accept a cup of black coffee.

The food, though, was good. Simple stuff, and a bit on the greasy spoon side, but filling and tasty. He wasn't sure if it'd be up Luna's alley, but it wasn't like he could take her out to—

Take her out? What the hell is wrong with you, old man? That's not what this is and you know it. You'd be running for the hills if it were. As you should.

He sighed, smiling at Hannah when she came to take his order. He just ordered a coffee for the moment, as he hardly wanted to get started without Luna. Even though this wasn't... that, they were meant to be sharing a meal.

He didn't have to wait much longer for Luna to arrive. She'd spotted him almost immediately after he placed his order with Hannah, and made her way towards him. She stopped for a moment to speak to Hannah, probably to place an order for her drink so that Hannah wouldn't have to go back to the table. Once she was near Mick, though, she smiled at him and slid into the seat in front of him, placing a small package down to her right side.

“Cozy little place," she stated, turning her attention briefly away from him to glance around. “What's your favorite from here?" she asked, seemingly genuinely intrigued as she returned her attention to him. “I want to try what you'd suggest since you picked the place out," she continued, a small grin forming on her face.

"It really sort of depends on what you're into," he replied, turning one of the menus over and sliding it towards her. "Anything's good, about half the stuff is calorie bombs, but that's sometimes exactly the ticket." He found himself smiling wryly. There was something about comfort food, even for him, and he didn't technically need to eat ever.

It was a good idea in the winter though. Too many dreary days with no sun and even he could get to feeling a bit lethargic. "You can't really go wrong with the breakfast menu, but today I'm planning on the chicken and dumpling soup with cornbread."

Her eyes widened a bit when he mentioned breakfast, and she opened the menu almost immediately as if to find it. “Oh... they have blueberry waffles," she stated, seemingly excited about it. “I fucking love blueberries," she continued, speaking almost as if to herself this time. She blinked for a second before glancing up from the menu and smiled sheepishly at him.

“Sorry," she stated before turning back towards the menu. “I guess I can start with that. Oh, do you know if they do take-out orders? I want to take something back for Sol," she asked, flipping to the other side of the menu.

"Yeah, sure," Mick says, a little bit surprised to hear her use that word, though perhaps not totally. It doesn't exactly fit her image, but for her personality? It actually sort of tracks. "Just order it when Hannah comes over and ask for it in a box. She can do that if you have any leftovers, too."

He remembers something rather belatedly: a much younger Soleil stuffing herself on banana and chocolate pancakes. "She still like—" Abruptly, he cuts himself off, clearing his throat. "Sorry. Wires crossed in my brain. Happens when you get old."

Luna snorted before arching a brow at him. “Old? You? You barely look," she paused, narrowing her eyes slightly as if she were trying to guess at something. “You don't look much older than Sol, maybe thirty, thirty four at the oldest," she finally stated, amused by something, it seemed.

“I mean... if we clean this up a bit," she started, gesturing to Mick's entirety, “and maybe shaved your old man beard, you'd look younger, but it works for you." She shrugged her shoulders as if she'd just stated it on a whim. There was, however, just the faintest bit of pink on her cheeks.

Mick feigned a hurt expression as he lifted a hand to brush across his whiskers. "Old man beard?" he repeated, losing hold of his amusement and chuckling. "I guess it suits. I really can't do that fresh-faced thing anymore." He supposed that if he did clean up and shave, he'd look the same eternal late-twenties he always had, but it was better to avoid that, certainly. The scruff and the worn clothes served a purpose, to be sure.

“Listen to him, would you?" Hannah clicked her tongue as she approached, notepad in hand to take their orders. “Next thing you'll know he'll start complaining about his joints." She was in her early forties, Hannah, thickset and sturdy, with lush auburn curls.

"Well actually, my back is—"

Mick saw the pad incoming when she went to swat him in the head with it, and threw up his hands in mock defense. It landed anyway, of course, and he pretended to flinch, rubbing at the spot while she frowned at him. “Oh please. You lifted Geraldine with one arm the other day, and she's twelve years old."

Rolling her eyes, she stuck a hand out to Luna and gave her a warm smile. “Hannah Abbleby," she said. “Old friend of this lout."

Luna reached over to shake Hannah's hand, returning the older woman's smile. “Lunaria Nishant, Mick's newish friend," she replied, grinning slightly in Mick's direction. “I wouldn't say we're old friends, but," she paused almost as if on purpose before rolling her eyes at herself, “we're not exactly new friends, either. More like, acquainted friends, I suppose?" She didn't seem to sure how to word it.

“It's nice to see I'm not the only woman-friend in Mick's life," she stated, her eyes narrowing slightly in mischief towards Mick before turning her attention back towards Hannah. “I was almost beginning to feel special," she added as she chuckled.

Hannah grinned. “We all do, m'dear," she replied on a sigh, “but this one's not the settling down type."

It was clearly only a joke, and Mick took joking offense accordingly. "Hannah, you've really got to stop, or all the women I take out to eat are going to get the wrong impression," he drawled. "I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of Casanova."

She threw back her head and laughed. They both well knew that he was anything but that. “Oh don't worry, Mick. No one's going to tell you to turn in your Lonely Hearts membership anytime soon."

"Good. I get free drinks there; I'd hate to lose it."

Shaking her head, Hannah turned to Luna. “What can I get for you, hon?"

“May I get the blueberry pancakes with the blueberry crepes?" Luna stated as she glanced towards Hannah, the amused smile still on her face. “And may I get the banana and chocolate pancakes to go? Oh, and the pineapple upside down cake if you have it?"

“I want to get something for Sam since he's been a big help the last couple of weeks. Not to mention last month, but I don't know what he likes. The last time I was in his kitchen... it was full of unhelpful stuff," she stressed the last word as if that wasn't quite the word she wanted to use.

Hannah took it all down with a couple of nods and a smile.

Mick's own tensed at the mention of Samael; it was still a little weird to hear him given a casual nickname, especially by a human. He knew, of course, that the reason Luna had money to spend was because of a job he'd given her, but...

He cleared his throat softly. "An order of the bacon and cheese monkey bread," he suggested. "I'll have the dumpling soup and the cornbread."

Hannah cleared off to prep the order, and Mick sighed slightly, shifting his attention back to Luna. "Any music you like? I have the override code for the jukebox."

“Not really," she replied, placing her chin in her hand and rested her elbow against the table. “I usually just listen to whatever Sol's playing when she's in the garage. I don't really have any other means of listening to music," she continued, taking in a slow breath. “I suppose I've never really been a fan of things that have too fast of a melody."

“How about we just pick at random? That way I can expand my music palate a little more," she suggested.

"Sure." Mick shrugged, then stood, making his way over to the machine, currently playing some sort of jazz number, and punched in the code, bringing up a a roulette of selections. He used a pulse of magic to shuffle it more or less randomly, and selected the first thing that came up.

He was pretty sure the genre was called 'electric swing' or something of that nature. It was upbeat, but not extremely fast, and suited the atmosphere of such an antiquated place as Geraldine's. Mick nodded his head along with the first few pulses of sound, and resumed his seat.

Luna listened as the music played before she started rocking her head lightly. “This isn't so bad," she stated, turning her attention back towards Mick. “I bet you used to dance a long time ago," she said as she grinned lightly. “I wouldn't be surprised if you did, but you have the air of someone who knows how to move."

“Am I wrong or right?" she seemed curious if anything.

Mick chortled, a soft almost-laugh, and shook his head. "I'm curious how you figure that," he admitted. She wasn't necessarily wrong, but it'd certainly been a very long time since he'd done anything so celebratory.

She grinned while shrugging her shoulders. “You're not stiff," she finally replied, frowning as if that wasn't quite what she'd wanted to say. “I mean, your movements are very fluid and controlled. It was either that, or you're just super good at moving around. Not in the way that goes unnoticed, but... hm," she pursed her lips together, her brows furrowing slightly as she seemed to concentrate on how to explain it to him.

“It just seems like you did at some point. You know how to do a lot of things and I figured dancing would be in that repertoire," she stated.

"Well..." Mick shrugged, stirring the ice in his water with the straw. "I suppose you're not wrong. I do know how to dance, though don't ask me about any of this modern stuff people do in nightclubs." He wrinkled his nose and mock-shuddered, surely only cementing his 'old man' image.

"The ridiculous fancy and pretentious shit though—I can do that."

She laughed at his response. “Well, if you have time, you'll have to teach me, one day," she stated once she had managed to get her laughter under control. “The fancy and pretentious shit, not the stuff people do in nightclubs. That kind of dancing isn't as interesting since it's basically the same concept. The fancy, pretentious dancing, though, seems more... intimate? I don't know the word I'm looking for but," she shrugged as she trailed off, grinning just a bit wider.

She wanted him to teach her something—

Nope. We're not going there, old man. Get your mind out of the gutter, you degenerate.

"Sure, kid." Mick was not very good at lying—something about the residual power, but the words came out, probably because they were vague enough not to really constitute a promise or anything like that.

Hannah brought their drinks by first, a tall cream soda float in Mick's case, and he sighed with satisfaction after the first sip. He didn't even care that it was cold outside; these just always hit the right spot.

She arched a brow at his response but waited until Hanna set her drink down before responding, “I get the feeling that it likely won't happen any time soon, but I can wait. I'm sort of patient." She took a sip of her drink, a hot malted chocolate. Smiling with what seemed satisfaction, she turned back towards Mick.

“Thanks for letting me take you out," she began, glancing towards her side before turning back. “I, uh, got you something for helping me out. I know you probably don't need it considering that I've seen you wear one from time to time, but..." she trailed off, playing with her straw.

“I saw it and it looked like it suited you," she continued, reaching for the small box she'd placed to her side, and slipped it towards him. “It's just a plain grey scarf to help keep the cold away." There was a faint pink dusting her cheeks, and she seemed intent on staring at her drink.

Mick blinked, first at Luna, then at the parcel. He shouldn't, really, accept it. It wasn't a good idea for a lot of reasons, but—but he had the feeling it'd make her sad if he didn't. And he wasn't such an insensitive asshole that he didn't care at all about that, even if in some sense it might be better for the both of them if he were.

She really didn't need to be mixed up with the likes of him in any capacity.

But he opened the box anyway, carefully unfolding the scarf. It was nice, nothing fancy, the color a plain heather grey just like she'd said. Mick smiled a bit, and wrapped it loosely around his neck.

"Thanks, Luna. I appreciate it."

She smiled brightly at him and nodded her head. “You're welcome, Mick," she replied as her smile softened a bit before turning into a grin. “I would have given you a floral crown as well, but, well, flowers are hard to come by and I didn't want to ruin your grizzly bear look," it was obviously a jest from the way she'd said it.

He snorted; it was sort of a random thing to think of giving someone like him in the first place. He had no clue where she'd even find the flowers for a start.

"Your consideration for my aesthetic is appreciated," he replied with a solemn nod. "Can't go giving the wrong impression, now."

Hannah returned with their food, leaving it in front of them with a grin and a reminder that they could call her over if they needed anything, and Mick tucked into his soup with a satisfied sigh. He did take the scarf off, though, just in case of a very unlikely accidental spill, and set it on the side of the table against the wall.

Luna was grinning even as she took a bite of her pancakes. Immediately, her eyes widened and her nose wrinkled a bit. She seemed satisfied with her meal. “Oh, my love, my precious blueberries it's been a while," she stated, apparently speaking to her pancakes since her attention was on them. She glanced up towards Mick, and then back to her pancakes before she cut off a piece.

“Do you want to try it?" she asked, offering the piece in his direction. “They're really good," she added.

"I'm not sure I could bear to take them from you," he replied with a raised eyebrow and a trace of amusement. "It'd make me like a homewrecker or something."

Luna gave him a flat look before glancing at her fork. “I mean, technically you wouldn't be a homewrecker since I offered," she began, a smile tugging at her lips as she continued, “and besides, it's not like they'll mind. As a matter of fact, I'm almost certain they want you to try them."

"You realize this is getting a little weird, right?" Mick didn't especially mind, though, so he figured he might as well, and leaned forward, stealing the pancakes off the end of her fork. They clashed pretty terribly with his soup, but that was all right.

"Hm. I don't know if I love them as much as you do, but they're pretty tasty."

She huffed softly and arched a brow at him. “Um, excuse me, but have you met me? I am weird and things are always weird in my life. They're a special kind of normal for me," she stated with an amused smile. She took another bite of her pancakes before something more solemn crossed her face.

“Actually," she began, glancing down at her plate. “This is the first time I've actually been able to do something like this with a friend. I don't have many," she continued with a soft sigh. “I work and volunteer with a lot of people but it's not quite the same as having an actual friend."

“So... even if it's temporary, thanks for letting me treat you out as a friend."

There was something just a little bit sad about the idea.

Fuck it. I owe both her and her old man more than this.

Mick tilted his head, and told her something his heart wants to and his head thinks is a terrible idea. "It's not," he said. "Temporary, I mean. Not if you don't want it to be." He pursed his lips, and skirted the truth. "I don't really have much to offer you, but I can assure you one thing I'm good at is sticking around. Usually a long time after I should've left, for that matter." He smiled, a touch wryly.

“So," she began, glancing at him through slightly narrowed eyes, “that means I can hang out with you more than just a couple times a month?" She seemed somewhat hopeful for whatever reason. “I mean, as long as you don't mind or anything like that. I wouldn't want to intrude on your personal life," she added, stuffing her mouth full with another bite of pancakes as if to keep herself from saying anything else.

"Yeah, I'll see if I can pencil you in to my busy schedule," Mick drawled, rolling his eyes a bit. He was a little surprised that she wanted to spend more time with him, but... well it wasn't like he was going to say no if that was what made her happy. He could keep a leash on his damn mouth—he wasn't worried about that much.

"Sorta figure your job and stuff kept you busy," he pointed out. "You in school these days, or...?"

The question seemed to elicit a deep frown from her. She took another, slower, bite of her pancakes before she sighed. “Not really," she started, pushing some of her food to the side of the plate. “I'm mostly working, and when I'm not working, I'm doing one of two things. I'm either helping Sol around the garage, or I'm volunteering. School is more expensive than it has a right to be, and with Zinoviev..." she trailed off, sighing harshly and running a hand down her face.

“I guess I just don't have time," she smiled a little ruefully. “I mean, it's not that bad. Even if I had the money to go, I wouldn't know what I'd be going for, and I'd just be wasting money. I'm not particularly good at anything, at least not that I've discovered, and it's not like there are many job opportunities. At least not ones that don't require a soul, you know? I'm rather attached to mine and I'm selfish," she stated assuredly, grinning as she did.

For a moment, Mick was a little afraid he'd stepped in it with the question, but as the answer resolves, he finds him self shaking his head. "That's not selfish," he said quietly. "That's sane. You give away your soul, that's a part of you. It's not all of you, but... even if the demon doesn't do anything with it, you'll be missing part of who you are your whole life. I've... seen it."

He looked down at his food. It was probably much too heavy a conversation for casual dinner—

The bell on the door rang, signaling the entrance of a new patron. Mick looked up by reflex, and his brow furrowed heavily. A tall figure, roughly human-shaped, dressed in the typical dark blue uniform of a TCPD patrol officer. But their hands and face glinted dully under the lights, silvery and steel instead of any of the myriad colors of human skin.

Hannah looked a little wary for a moment, but her servicewoman's smile quickly took over. “Hey there, hon. Somethin' I can get you?"

“I—" Something is off about the android's tone.

Mick had seen and heard a few of them, mostly nuisances that chased his companions off park benches at night and couldn't be made to look the other way as easily as human cops. He knew they should sound even and regular. Modulated. This one... they sounded almost desperate.

“I—n-n-need—"

With a quick look at Luna, Mick stood, carefully placing himself between the android and Hannah, just in case. "Are you all right, officer?"

“Officer-r-r-r #3964—connection is—n-no, please—please help me. I can't—I can't—"

Abruptly, he straightens, clearing his throat. “Apologies for the malfunction, citizens. I will return to headquarters for maintenance."

As swiftly as he'd entered, he left, and Mick resumed his seat with a sigh. "Even the robot cops have problems," he muttered, shaking his head in disblief.

Luna had taken a slow bite of her food when Mick had returned, her eyes fixed on the door the android left out of. “I don't know about you, but that was just plain creepy. I know machines and shit will often have problems, but I thought TCPD was supposed to have the elite of AI? I'm not saying they don't; I'm not an expert in that field, but still..." she trailed off taking the last bite of her food.

“They shouldn't even have bots in the PD to begin with, heartless bastards," she muttered the last part softly to herself, it seemed. She sighed heavily before sinking into her chair a bit, arching a brow at Mick. “Have they ever given you any problems?"

Mick lifted his shoulders in a labored shrug. "I'm homeless, Luna. And the cops around here are, as you put it, 'heartless bastards.' A lot of them are also soulless, but that's not the same thing. Still... they don't usually give me personally too much trouble, but I've had my share of run-ins." He contemplated for a moment, breaking off a chunk of his cornbread with roughened fingers.

"I have an arrest record, but I've never spent more than a night or two in jail, so I'm doing a lot better than some folks."

She smiled a little wrly and huffed lightly. “Well, about that, your earlier statement," she began, setting her fork down on her empty plate. “I'll ask Sol about it, and I'm sure she won't say no, but I need to ask her anyway. If... if you ever just want a place to stay for a night or so..." she trailed off, biting the bottom of her lip as if she were trying to figure out what she wanted to say.

“I mean, we have a bit more than we're used to, anyway, and since I like you and you're a good person," she continued rambling, “you can stay at our place for a night or so." She had folded her hands in front of her by that point, and was fiddling with her thumbs.

Mick's eyes softened, but he had to admit he also felt a stab of concern. "Don't tell me you let all the strays into your house, kiddo," he said lightly. It was true that many of the transients in the city weren't bad people at all, but some were, and he could see her mistaking the difference.

"As for me, well, I appreciate it." He would not be taking her up on it, for many reasons, but he did appreciate it.

Luna furrowed her brows and pursed her lips together, almost as if she were pouting. “I'm not a complete idiot, you know," she stated, huffing slightly in an amused fashion. “You're actually the first person I've extended the courtesy to, mostly because you're a friend and I like you. I know Sol will like you, too, since I mention you a lot to her. She rolls her eyes at me sometimes about it, but that's just Sol's way of being affectionate?"

She shrugged her shoulders and pulled her hands towards herself. “Anyway," she started, clearing her throat lightly, “if there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know. I'll do whatever is within my abilities to help."

He felt himself crack a smile. "Yeah, got it. But that goes both ways, okay? I might not be the most reliable guy, but I'm pretty useful in a pinch."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
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5 Satanus
Sam's Manor - Early Evening - Light Rain
Samael Lennox


For what felt like the umpteenth time, Samael smoothed out his shirt. It was one of his dark blue button up shirts, the kind he could wear with a suit, or by itself. He made sure his hair was pulled back into a loose tail so it would stay out of his face because today felt important. He'd invited Soleil over to his home under the pretext that something had short circuted and needed to be fixed. It was a lie, of course, but he wasn't too certain if she would just come over if he asked. They were... something, though he wasn't sure if the word friends could be applied to it.

Maybe they were and he was just in denial? Whatever it was, Soleil would be arriving soon, and he needed to make sure he had everything ready. He wanted to take her somewhere, a place she'd be comfortable at and also buy something she might want. She and her sister still hadn't used the personal card he'd given Soleil at the beginning of their contract, but he supposed she really didn't need to with the amount of money he'd been paying her. Still... it made him feel inadequate. Like he wasn't quite reliable, for some reason.

He pushed the unsettling feeling, aside, and took in a slow breath. Get your shit together, Sam. It's not like you've exactly proven yourself trustworthy. You basically lied to get her to come over, after all. She'll probably be mad at you for that.

Anger was a rather delectable emotion on people, but for some reason, he didn't want her to be angry. He enjoyed it when she was happy and bright. He didn't have a right to enjoy her happiness, but he was a selfish bastard. Rolling his eyes at himself, he made his way towards the front door, and pushed down the strange excited feeling that threatened him.

A few minutes later, the electronic lock on the door clicked, and it swung open to admit Soleil, who kicked her shoes as free of water as she could on the small step up into the house, stepping up onto the map before she noticed he was already standing there and turned her eyes up towards him. "That much of an emergency?" The question was wry, but he could sense a little flicker of pleasantness accompanying her surprise at his presence.

She dried her boots on the mat and slid her long coat off, shaking the water off out the door before putting it on the hook and letting the portal close behind her. When she looked back at him, he detected another flicker of surprise, and then something almost like intrigue.

"Your right eye," she said, pointing to her own. "It's red today? Is that like a fallen angel thing or did you just forget to take out a contact lens?" A small pause. "Also, hi."

Shit.

He forgot to put his contact in to hide that, and almost immediately his hand went to cover the offensive eye. “It's not a contact," he stated, turning away from her and walking towards one of his desks. He kept spares of his contacts all over his place, just so he wouldn't have to worry about incidents like this. He retrieved the small case, popping it open and dipping his forefinger in, delicately.

“Give me a moment, I need to put these in," he stated. At this point in his life, he could put the contacts in without a mirror, however; he knew some people didn't quite enjoy the sight of him poking his own eye. Once he had it set, he blinked a few times to ensure it was in place before he turned back towards Soleil.

“Alright, that's settled," he grinned lightly before it disappeared. “I have a small confession to make. I might have lied about the short circuit. I... just didn't know if you'd come over if I asked without any context."

Of all the things he'd felt in his life, shy wasn't one of them, however; he felt strangely bashful about his statement. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling, he didn't think. It was just strange.

There was a lot of confusion: first about the contacts and then about the other part, but he didn't sense any anger, at least not yet. She did fold her arms beneath her chest, though; she'd donned a crisp black shirt and a pinstriped vest with black denim pants tucked into her boots. "I guess I have two questions, but both of them are why," she said dryly, narrowing dark blue eyes at him. "Why hide the eye, if you don't mind my curiosity, and why call me here if you don't need anything fixed?"

It wasn't that he minded her curiosity, but he wasn't entirely sure how to sate it. Because someone I once loved told me they loved them, but ended up causing me to fall? wasn't the kind of response he could give her. It wasn't something he wanted to talk about, or bring up for that matter, but... he didn't want it to be the cause of her terminating her contract and leaving him. She had every right to, of course. He wouldn't stop her if that's what she wanted to do, even someone like him knew courtesy and when not to push things.

“I don't like it," he settled on saying that, instead. “It reminds me of a time I'd like to forget." More accurately, it reminded him of a love he wanted to forget. A love he wished he'd never known. “As for why I called you here," he glanced towards the floor, again, the strange feeling taking hold of him.

“I wanted to take you somewhere. To one of the shopping districts you might like for some new clothes. Be it work or otherwise."

The confusion changed tenor; it was that one she got whenever he did something she thought was nice. Like it confused her that anyone would bother. Soleil's dark brows furrowed. She clearly decided to push no further about the eye thing, but the other part of what he'd said made her tilt her head, regarding him with little expression but enough emotion that he could tell she was trying to figure something out. Figure him out, possibly.

"You... want to take me shopping. For clothes." A hint of suspicion. "Is this for another job like that one from the end of the month? Because I don't think I really want to do that again, if I'm being honest." A stab of apprehension, like she wasn't sure how he'd take that.

“I don't blame you," he replied almost instantly. He had seen how uncomfortable she had been during the time she'd spent, however; he wasn't planning on subjecting her to that again. There would have to be a different approach to how they would handle Zinoviev and his ridiculous protection fee in the future.

“It's not for another job or anything like that, I just," he paused, pursing his lips together. Why was it so much harder to say the things he wanted to without sounding like a creep, or weird? “I just wanted to do something for you. Something that wasn't giving you a job to do, or making it seem like it. You don't have to if it's not something you don't want to do. I wouldn't force it on you."

He knew many demons who would have been offended if she'd turn them down on something like that.

Uncertainty. More confusion. Maybe even something akin to embarrassment. He could tell she didn't hate the idea, but that fact itself was not the most comfortable for her, somehow. "I just... I don't get it. You say 'do something for me,' but I'm the one sitting here with now clue how I can ever repay you for all the things you've already done."

Soleil's brows furrowed; she regarded him with an otherwise-smooth pokerface, but he could see where her frame was carrying some tension. The sense of indebtedness was absolutely real—he could feel how keenly she felt it.

“Just stay and be my friend."

The words were out quicker than Sam could process them. He hadn't intended to say that; it was a momentary thought that slipped through, but he meant it, regardless. He sighed softly, resisting the urge to run his hand through his hair.

“I'm... I don't do these things with the intention of having you pay me back, Soleil," he began, furrowing his brows slightly. “You don't owe me anything, and you don't have to feel like I'm doing this with the ulterior motive of making you indebted to me. If it makes you uncomfortable with the things I do, you can tell me."

“I know I look like one, but I assure you, I'm not a complete asshole." To be sure, Sam knew he could be, but when he looked at her, and her sister... he knew he couldn't be to them, especially Soleil.

Surprise, and then, almost as quickly, understanding, and a wave of what felt something like sympathy. Not pity. More like... the understanding coupled with acceptance. Her expression doesn't change much, but she does fold her arms beneath her chest. Her lips purse.

"The... woman. With the blue hair." Annoyance, uncertainty. "Never mind. I'm not... uncomfortable with anything except money being spent on me. If you can agree not to do that, then..." Soleil swallowed. She was nervous, for some reason. "Well I guess I wouldn't mind the trip, at least."

Sam sighed softly. It would defeat the purpose if they went shopping and he couldn't spend money on her. Perhaps... he could ask her sister when Soleil's birthday was. He could use this trip as an opportunity to see what kinds of styles and clothes she liked, and then buy something similar and gift it, later.

“I did give you your own card, did I not?" he stated, instead. “You can use it to purchase whatever you'd like, and you don't have to treat it as me spending money on you. Think of it as treating yourself out. The card has your name on it, after all."

He shrugged his shoulders in a nonchalant fashion so as to seem indifferent about the matter, but Sam was strangely happy. He motioned for her to follow him towards the garage, and chanced a glance towards her.

“Do you want to drive?" It always seemed to make her happy, and the way he stated it gave her free reign to choose any of the cars if she wanted to drive.

There was a spark of it there, too, at the question. That happiness, and this time undiluted with suspicion. It would seem the fact that he hadn't insisted had eased some of her apprehension. "You mean—any of them?"

Sam nodded his head. Any of them."

Immediately, she gravitated towards one of the old ones; the bright yellow Porsche 718 Spyder. She'd done a little work on it, when she'd checked all of them for anything amiss. Apparently it hadn't been anything urgent, just performance enhancements of some description. "I have no idea what your thing is about yellow, but even if just about any color would be better, it's a gorgeous car."

She made a pleased little humming noise, brushing the fingertips of one hand along the front on the drivers' side as she headed towards the door. "You don't mind not hovering? It's a really different feel."

She really was easy to please, wasn't she? Sam chuckled softly and rolled his eyes. “I wouldn't have given you the option to choose one if I was going to be upset being on the pavement," he responded, making his way towards the car. “And for your information, yellow happens to be my favorite color. It's my... thing."

He smirked before opening the passenger door and slipped into the seat. “You know, if you'd rather forgo the shopping bit and just take this for a spin..." he trailed off. He had the slightest inclination that he might not exactly be fit to go anywhere. If this was going to be anything like the first time she took the Yrden out, he was going to need to stay seated.

She frowned a little, but it didn't match her emotions very well. "I'd feel kind of bad, if you invited me here for something we didn't even do," she admitted, popping the door open and slipping into the driver's seat with another burst of happiness.

Soleil fit the key into the ignition and sighed quietly with the thing roared to life, then settled back into a purr. Leaning forward, she set her forehead against the wheel. "Ugh, I'm so uncool right now," she muttered.

“I wouldn't say that," he drawled, trying to keep the grin on his face, spreading. She was adorable, if anything. “I think it's rather cute."

“And you don't have to feel bad about it. It's not often you get to drive these things," he started, waving his hand in a nonchalant fashion, “so just think of it as taking a cruise around town. Plus you can familiarize yourself with the neighborhood a little better."

For once, Soleil didn't seem to have much of a poker face at all. At least not what of it he could see. The wave of sheepish embarrassment, followed by the strangely-fluttery feeling that was being genuinely flattered, followed by crushing shame, apparently at the latter.

She was also, he could see, turning bright red, starting at the tips of her ears.

"For fuck's sake, Sam, you can't just say that shit to people." She drew herself back up, still scarlet, and hit the button to open the garage. "You're lucky I'd die from carbon monoxide poisoning way before you would, or I might have risked it."

She pulled them out onto the street, throwing him a waspish glare.

This time, Sam didn't bother hiding the grin on his face. He arched a brow in her direction, giving her a somewhat challenging stare. “Why can't I say it if it's true?" he questioned, feigning a somewhat hurt tone to his voice. He was pleasantly surprised to hear her call him Sam, for once. It sounded nice coming from her.

“Although cute might be putting it mildly," he added. There were cute aspects to her, to be sure, but that didn't truly define her. There was a repressed beauty to her, something that was subtle, but also quite obvious if one knew how to look. He killed the sudden instinct he had to reach over towards her, and turned his attention towards the scenery.

“I'd say it was more..." he tapped his chin to give her a thoughtful expression, enchanting."

"You dick," she accused, a fresh wave of crimson darkening her cheeks, though she kept her eyes on the road. "I hate you so much."

It might have been convincing, were she not projecting a particularly thick cocktail of emotions, none of which involved hatred—though there might have been a little resentment in there. Perhaps she was annoyed by the ease with which he'd thrown her off her rhythm? Otherwise, though, there was a lot of confusion, some suspicion, a tiny misplaced kernel of hurt, and a lot of strange, foreign giddiness and her own perplexed reaction to it.

“You call me a dick like you didn't already know that about me," he replied casually, feeling a little lightheaded. Her emotions, mixed as they were, were potent to him. “And you don't hate me," he added, smiling a little to himself.

“If you hated me, you would have done everything in your abilities to get rid of me. Admit it, you like me." It probably wouldn't do him any favors if he kept teasing her, but it was so easy. He enjoyed it far too much even if the small voice in the back of his head told him he shouldn't.

"I do not," Soleil groused, turning with a little too much torque onto a different thoroughfare. Not the Outer Ring; rather it was a slightly more scenic trip through some of the nicer parts of the city. "Also if we crash and I die, it's your fault."

“We won't die so it's alright if we do." Well, suffice it to say that Sam wouldn't die if they crashed, but some strange little part of him thought the same of her. He couldn't explain it really, but he wasn't going to try and figure it out. It was too much work and he didn't want to put in the effort to figure it out.

“And you do, too. It's alright to admit it, Soleil, everyone likes me. I'm used to it." He really shouldn't keep teasing her like this, but she was too damn adorable to leave alone. Was he already getting high off of her emotions?

"Then it's a mystery why you hang out with me," she replied, still evidently grouchy. She was enjoying herself though; he could tell. The banter seemed fairly natural to her with the one glaring exception, and when she shifted into third gear, really letting the engine out a bit, she actually smiled.

“It really isn't a mystery. It's because I like you a lot more than everyone else," he replied almost immediately. “Everyone else sucks, and they're always just trying to get something from me," he continued, furrowing his brows slightly and pursing his lips. He seemed almost childish, he knew, but he was currently feeling a euphoric high, something he couldn't experience with any of Leraje's drugs.

“You, though," he glanced towards her, “you're not. You don't want anything from me." If she did, she certainly hadn't said as such.

"I mean..." Soleil pursed her lips; he could feel a sympathetic drop in her mood. "You're practically inviting me to rip you off here, Sam. I just... don't feel like I need to do that." She shrugged. "I don't know if it's me being different from anyone else though. You've just already given me the only thing I need. A steady job."

Guilt, a stab of anxiety.

"So don't go thinking I'm special or anything. I'm just as bad as everyone else, honestly. Selfish to the core."

He hummed.

“But that's where you're wrong, Sol. You are special. Maybe not in the way you think you are, but to me..." he paused, trying to get his thoughts in order. It was difficult when everything was getting muddled together, but he tried. “I don't think it's in your nature to rip someone off, or try and take advantage of them. I mean, for fuck's sake, you played poker with Crowley and the two stooges just to make money for yourself. You paid me back, so... yeah."

“There's nothing wrong with being selfish, either, you know. I think... those stupid demons twisted it to make it seem like it is, but... it's really not. Ah, fuck, sorry, I'm trying to get my thoughts and words right, but it's not working for me. I think I'm drunk."

He should have known better than to try and be sentimental. It didn't work for him the first time. Why would this time be any different?

There was a clear, sharp spike of concern. "How drunk?" she asked. "Do we need to stop so you can get some air?" Even before he could answer, she was pulling over, into a gravel parking lot for one of the 'environment domes' a half-park, half-museum of old-earth plant life and stuff. They were accessible only to authorized persons, but she obviously expected that he was one, and released her seatbelt, hopping out and moving around to his side of the car to open that door as well.

"If you can get us into this dome it might help. I hear fresh air was good for this kind of thing."

Sam couldn't help himself, and laughed. “I'm not drunk, drunk. It just feels like I am," he stated, staring at her from his spot. He hadn't attempted to move, because if he did, chances were he'd fall over. He didn't want to accidentally hurt her in the fall, because he knew himself well-enough.

“I'll just sit right here for a moment, but..." he paused to lean forward towards the glove box. “Here, take this and see if there is one of those, what do you call them, vending machines. Maybe some caffeine or water will help." He held out one of the key cards he had. She could just wave it in front of the machine and it would pay for whatever she wanted to get.

“Get yourself something, too, if you want. We have a town to see!" He couldn't exactly explain why he felt so damn happy. Maybe it was her happiness, or maybe it was her? Sam couldn't be too sure.

She sighed. "All right. I'll get you something to drink then. Wait here, and do me a favor and don't wander off, okay? I'll be annoyed if I have to track you down."

Sam snorted. “I don't think I'd get very far even if I did."

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#, as written by Aethyia


10 Satanus
Warehouse 284 - Evening - Heavy Snow
Éva Devereaux


Éva sighed quietly, shutting the monitor off but leaving the tower on. Her programs would keep running faithfully while she saw to her annoying human needs, like food and rest, much as she despised the need. Stocking feet, adorned in bright knit colors, touched down on the bare concrete floor of the warehouse, and she resisted the urge to shudder. It was always so cold.

Grimacing, she tried to find someone she could talk to while she made her bedtime tea—she'd have been fine even with a coffee, really, but some people didn't see it that way, and she'd learned to pick her battles.

Specifically, all the ones she was going to have out with freaking Bael. Stupid, oppressive, cranky demon asshole. Humanity wasn't a bed of roses, either, but they deserved the chance to rule themselves. Not have their souls harvested by uncaring demons who didn't even see them as people.

Stretching her arms over her head, she felt a few of her vertebrae pop into place and let out a long sigh, shuffling over towards the kitchenette.

“You should really get some rest, Éva," Vincent called out from beind her. He was like that, always popping out of nowhere. He was carrying something in his hands, though. It looked like a jacket of some sort, though it looked rather large. He glanced at the object in his hands, and then back towards Éva.

“It's a particularly cold night, tonight. I brought this for you to help keep you warm." He handed the object over in her direction, though upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a blanket rather than a jacket.

By now, Éva was pretty used to Vincent's sudden appearances from nowhere; usually she didn't even startle anymore. Though that may have had more to do with the fact that she was often very tired and at the moment at least didn't really have the energy to be all that surprised by anything.

She fought back a flush, though—the last thing she needed to do was let on to any of that just because she was sleepy and her dad was gone. Vincent was a friend of her parents, and on a good day a friend of hers kind of, and that was it. He didn't need her being weird about things when he'd literally seen her grow up, including all the literal awkward teenage angst.

So she accepted the gesture for the kindness it was intended as, humming softly as she took the blanket and threw it around her shoulders as she flipped the kettle on to boil water for tea. "Thanks, Vinny," she replied, sparing him a small smile. "I'm going to try but my brain is just... wired right now. So I'm trying to wind down before I head to bed is all." She frowned, and leaned back against the counter. Trying to figure out why Bael's AIs were so good was difficult.

There was a soft huffing sound from him before he made his way towards the other side of her. “I hear chamomile and lavender is good for relaxing," he stated softly, glancing around as if searching for something. “I've also been told that it helps to talk about whatever might be on your mind."

“I might not be able to give you any ideas or be of any help, but..." he paused briefly, furrowing his brows as he seemed to contemplate. “I can at least listen."

He was a little too perfect, really. It was dangerous. Éva smiled anyway, about to shake her head but thinking better of it. After all, she tended to do her best when she let people help in the ways they could, and if he was offering anyway it probably wasn't too much to accept.

So she sighed quietly, taking the tin with her tea in it down from the bottom shelf of the cabinet—the only one she could reach. "It's the AI," she said. "Bael's robot cops. I can't figure out how he or anyone in his circle managed to come up with such a sophisticated one. At first I was worried maybe someone got ahold of mom and dad's research, but it's totally different. So different that even with all the data Ves has managed to get from readings of her partner I can't make heads or tails of it. It's emergent, like Ves is, but emergent in a totally different way."

She threw her hands up in frustration, making a discontented noise. "It's like... there's math underneath Ves. She's not just math—that's what emergent means. But there's still math under there. Code. Things that link pieces of hardware to the software, so to speak. I can understand basically how she gets from circuits to thoughts, even if there's a bit of a gap there where she comes in. But with these it's like... there's no math, Vinny. It's voodoo—I can't do voodoo!"

Vincent listened quietly as she talked. When she finished, his attention was on the ground, brows furrowed deeply with pursed lips. “I'm not certain anyone is capable of voodoo," he stated in a soft, yet firm tone. It didn't seem like he was directing it at her, but moreso as if he were confirming it to himself. “Is there anything else that can act as a link? Something that doesn't quite require the math to put into it?" His head tilted to the side as he regarded her.

Vincent may have been thousands of years old, but there were still some things that seemed to elude him. Math had been one of those things.

"I dunno," she grouses. "Maybe they just have someone who can do stuff so far beyond me I can't understand it, or maybe they figured out some fancy magic way to obscure any potential readings, so I'm working off gibberish for that reason. I also can't find any record of the right code in any database I can get into either."

She sighed, more heavily this time. "I might have to risk leaving some tracks to look deeper. Set up a temporary rathole somewhere and just shoulder my way in to the central records." It would be... extremely dangerous and time sensitive, but the androids on the police force were strong, and smarter than the average human. If she didn't find some way to deal with them, her people were going to be at a seriously disadvantage for the foreseeable future.

“If demons were as smart as you think they are, they would have done something like this ages ago. The fact that humans were the first to figure it out means something more than you know. Those same humans were also your parents; I believe you'll figure it out soon. We should try other angles, though, before you risk leaving any tracks."

His expression softened as he glanced at her, reaching up with his right hand and giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. “There will be something we can use against Bael, and figure out these machines. In the mean time, we should keep tabs on all interesting individuals. Maybe they can give us some insight?"

It wasn't really any help to the core problem, but Éva smiled anyway, humming softly when he squeezed her shoulder. "I guess I can leave it a bit longer, but I don't know how monitoring organic people is going to help much with the android problem." Still, it was another strand worth investigating. Word on the street was one of those Nishant sisters was a hell of a mechanic—maybe they could at least figure out the most effective way to jam up an android's physical body?

Though that would be well down the line if it ever happened. It wasn't like either of them was part of this, and if they didn't want to be, Éva could understand. It was a huge risk to get involved even a little.

"By the way—do you know that Mick guy? You two seemed to recognize each other last month."

He blinked slowly at her question.

“I do, though I was not expecting to see him here, of all places," he finally replied after some thought. “Mick is..." he paused, “he is an old friend and enemy. I knew him in a time before I became a demon, and after."

“He was known as Michael, during those times. Why he is on the mortal plane is something I do not know, however. I was certain he absconded with the others when they sealed off the firmament and Hell."

Éva blinked, water almost running over the top of her teacup as she poured. She cut the flow just in time and grimaced, dumping a little back into the pot before shifting her attention fully to Vincent as she opened the tea bag packet. "Wait, wait—like... the Michael? Left Hand of God? Mr. Fiery Sword, threw down Lucifer? That Michael?"

She gaped at him. "Vinny... who are you, really?"

His expression softened when she spoke, however; there was a faint rueful smile on his face at her last question. He remained quiet for a moment before he pushed a heavy sigh from his nose. He straightened his posture, regarding her with an even gaze.

“I was once known as Abaddon, the archangel of destruction, though that title should be former archdemon. Now, I am simply Vincent."

Abaddon?

Éva just stared back at him, half-wondering if she'd heard right. An Archangel. Who became an archdemon. And he's here in her stupid little warehouse hideout with a bunch of normie humans and one not-so-normal AI.

"There's a whole month named after you," she said, stupidly because she can't get her brain wrapped around the rest of it. Her hands had fallen still, and she belatedly forced them through the rest of the motions necessary to extract the teabag from its paper and drop it into her cup to steep.

She managed to tear her eyes away from his—so gorgeous, the red—to pretend to be occupied with her tea.

I absolutely WOULD have a crush on a guy this far out of my league. Oh my god I'm a LITERAL child to him. And a literal ant, too.

She bobbed the teabag up and down a few times via the string. "The name change makes some sense," she continued, unsure where she was going with this but needing to at least act like she wasn't a huge idiot. "Abaddon doesn't have a lot of nice nicknames, and I don't think you'd want anyone calling you Baddy. Abby? If I had to pick I'd probably have gone with Abby, and you know how kid me was. You wouldn't have been able to stop me."

So much for not sounding like an idiot.

Hey God? If you're actually still listening, can you do me a favor and make the ground swallow me now?

There was a soft huffing sound that resembled a soft laugh coming from him. “I wouldn't stop you from calling me Abby if that was what you wanted. I recall a former comrade who used to do the same thing. He thought it would annoy me, but... I think it back fired on him when I started calling him Lucy."

From the light smirk on his face, it almost seemed as if Vincent was joking. “Unfortunately, it stuck with him."

On second thought, no swallowing. I have to see this. It was beyond rare for Vincent to smile, let alone tell a joke, and something in her warmed at the sight. Well, her face warmed a little, too, but hopefully he would attribute that to the tea she was holding now. He was so beautiful when he smiled.

Ugh. She was pathetic.

"I'm just gonna pretend I'm not pretty sure you're talking about actual Lucifer," she drawled with a smile of her own. Hardly the same kind of accomplishment, but him being happy always made her happy too.

“One and the same," he answered. “Contrary to what people believe, Lucifer was not..." he paused, brows furrowing slightly before they smoothed back out. “He was a decent angel at one point. Something just... snapped. We're not so different from humans despite what demons and angels claim," he continued, the small smile back on his face.

“We all feel anger, happiness, love, hate. I suppose we've just had more time to cover it. Keep it sealed and hidden." He shrugged lightly. “I do not mind if you call me Vincent, Vinny, Abaddon, or even Abby," he stated suddenly, a serious expression crossing his face.

“But if you do, Abaddon should be used only in private. There are those I would like to keep in the dark that I am still alive."

Éva nodded immediately. "My lips are sealed," she promised, just as solemn. She couldn't quite believe he'd trusted her with something like that, but for all her tendency to talk too much, she did keep a lot of secrets. Perhaps that was what made it seem like an okay idea to him.

"Did my parents know?" she asked, curious but not accusatory.

“Other than Mick... no one on this plane knows who I am. You are the first person I have told. Your parents only knew me as a demon and nothing more. They were not aware of my identity," he answered almost smoothly, his eyes narrowing softly in her direction.

That shocked her. Somehow she'd assumed that if he'd bothered to tell her it must be something he told people at least sometimes. And Mick presumably knew because of history, not because of being told.

"Am I... really the only person you've told?" Something in her chest jumps at the thought.

Don't you dare go making anything stupid out of this, Éva. He's trusting you as a friend and associate, and you should be more than happy with that alone.

And she was, but...

Damn if it wasn't making her hope a little, too.

“You are," he replied, the corner of his lip tilting slightly upwards. “I have never trusted anyone to tell them, but you..." he paused, brows furrowing slightly before sighing softly. “I trust you."

“It might not be much, but you're... important to me. So use me in whichever way you'd like." He seemed completely serious from the way he stared at her.

Use?

The word made her angry, in a way. "I would never want to just use you, you big idiot!" Éva proclaimed, setting her cup down on the counter with a little too much force and suppressing a wince at the loud noise it made. It wasn't like there was anyone else around at this hour but them, but she knew his hearing was more sensitive than hers, given he was a demon.

Still, she can't let that derail her from what she's saying. "Sorry," she said first, because she did have some manners at least. "Just—don't talk about yourself that way, Vincent. You're important to me, too, okay? Maybe I'm being presumptuous, but you're—" she faltered over the end of her sentence. "You're my friend. My only friend. So." She looked down at the counter and sighed.

"We can work together, but I don't want to use you. I'm not that heartless." She'd done things she wasn't proud of, for the sake of her cause. It wasn't like she liked stealing things, or destroying parts of the city, or cracking private databases. Even one miscalculation in some of those things and innocent people could be hurt. She'd made miscalculations before. But—

But she wanted to believe she wasn't a terrible person nonetheless, even if it was just delusion.

For some reason, there was a smile on his face. It was more prominent on his face, but still just as subtle as his usual ones. Vincent wasn't expressive as a rule, perhaps because of the years he spent as a demon, but the smile on his face was noticeable for her. He didn't smile like that.

“I did not mean it like that," he said softly. “I only meant that if you needed someone to do something you could not, that I am here for you. As you've said before we are in this together. I will never abandon you." He reached over, lacing his forefinger with a strand of her hair. He twirled it around his finger for a moment before he dropped his hand and took a small step back. There was another serious expression on his face, though, as he regarded her.

“And I will destroy the fool who ever calls you heartless. You are anything but heartless."

"Oh." Éva colored, but whether it was more from the embarrassment of her overblown reaction or the way he touched her hair, she couldn't possibly discern. She dropped her eyes towards the floor. His boots were only about a foot away from the toes of her silly socks. "And here I went off on some self-righteous rant there. Sorry for being weird."

She cleared her throat and lifted her eyes back to his. "Also please don't destroy anyone on my behalf even if they're mean to me. I'd feel bad." She smiled a little, as she hadn't taken that part totally literally, obviously, though in the nonliteral sense it was a nice sentiment. Éva wasn't exactly used to people wanting to look after her. At least not since she lost her parents. She did most of the looking out, these days.

He huffed softly. It sounded like a soft chuckle, if anything, and the corners of his lips quirked up a little further. “And if I wanted to? Because they deserved it?" he asked, brow tilting up just slightly.

She thought he might be... joking again? Two in a day? Maybe she really was doing something right in life. It sure felt like it, even if he kind of had her on the back foot.

So Éva formed her lips into a moue, pouting at him. "Maybe don't? As a personal favor? I'll think of some way to make it up to you." She had no idea what she was saying really, but maybe that was par for the course with a joking Vincent.

“As you wish," he stated, leaning closer to her for a moment before pulling back. “But before you make it up to me, you should get some rest. You'll need it if you want to properly pay me back," he added, smirking lightly.

Éva stopped breathing, she was sure of it. Her face had to be on fire; how was he this perfect even up close? She had to have all kinds of flaws: dumb freckles or blackheads or dark circles under her eyes or something, and here she was looking at a face literally sculpted by God. Life was so unfair, doubly so because she couldn't be more cool and confident in a situation like this. Couldn't treat it like the nothing it was.

"Yeah?" she asked a little breathlessly. Screw it. It felt like he was doing this on purpose, and if so, she wasn't the kind of person to take it laying down. "Well." She swallowed.

Brave, Éva. Be brave.

It was just harmless fun, right?

"What if I can't sleep? Do I get a goodnight kiss?" She pointed at her own cheek. Not as platonic as the forehead, but still within acceptable friendship boundaries. Maybe.

“As many as you'd like," the reply was almost instantaneous as he leaned forward again. He pressed his lips gently on her cheek, lingering perhaps a moment longer than what was considered friendly, before finally pulling back. “Though I am a bit disappointed you wanted one on the cheek," he stated, shrugging his shoulders lightly.

“But I will only take what you offer."

"Uhh." Her eyes were wide; she must've looked like an idiot, gaping at him like a fish. Pinching her own arm hard, she used the sting of it to convince herself that she was probably not dreaming, as impossible as this all seemed.

Was Vincent actually flirting with her? Did he find her... attractive? She'd have said no, but she had never once in all her life seen him flirt with anyone, man, woman, or person. Not once. Could he possibly—

No. No there was no way he liked her. Not like that. He was just... more comfortable with her than most people. Maybe this was what his personality was really like. If so, she was going to have to be extra careful, because if she had it bad now it was only going to get worse if he kept saying stuff like that.

Realizing she'd been staring for an awkward amount of time, Éva swallowed thickly and stumbled backwards, unsure how to handle herself. "I'm—I'm gonna go to sleep. Don't want to start hallucinating or something!" She laughed, a little too high-pitched, and waved, because that made sense, before abruptly turning on her heel and fleeing for the sectioned off part of the warehouse that was her bedroom.

Oh my god. Oh my godohmygod.

She was in so much trouble.

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Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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12 Satanus
West Park Building - Mid Afternoon - Light Snow
Lunaria Nishant


Demons were assholes.

Luna always knew this, but this was being a bit much, flaunting their authority just because they could. These people were seeking shelter from the elements of Tartarus City, and to be chased from it simply because a demon didn't like the sight of seeing dirty humans from a building they were going to build was just...

“Fucking stupid pieces of shit." She hadn't meant to say it out loud, but Luna was furious. She didn't blame the Baileys. She couldn't because it was their building and they were, perhaps, one of the few good people she knew. They let their buildings be used as temporary shelters for those who had none, but they were being threatened. Demons would block every opportunity to make sales which would, inevitably, cause the Baileys to lose their only source of income. Their livelihoods were at stake, and they were making the most logical decision.

If it were Luna, she wouldn't have cared, however; she'd lived on the streets before. She knew how hard it was, and she was a kid being raised by her older sister. They were young and more resilient. The Baileys were not, and they wouldn't last a month on the streets. Sighing softly, she glanced up at the building currently being occupied by a handful of people. She could feel a soft squeeze on her heart as she tried to steel herself.

“I wish Mick was here. This wouldn't be so hard if he was," she murmured to herself. It wasn't because she was afraid of the people here, but moreso because she knew she wouldn't have the resolve to tell these people they no longer had a sheltered place. That they were no longer welcome because of some asshole demon. Mick just had a way about him that seemed to make her feel better, but she wasn't even sure if that was the reason she wanted him with her for this.

“You can do this, Luna. You... have to," and with that, she made her way towards the front door of the building. She rested a hand on the handle and hovered for a moment before opening the door. Once she was inside, she glanced around to see if she could find at least one person.

“Hello?" she called out, hoping someone would answer.

As it had been before, the space was largely taken up by an array of ramshackle housing, rather ingeniously or in some cases just luckily assembled from the likes of chicken wire, newspaper, blankets, tarp, and in at least one case a section of chain-link fence.

At this time of day, it was hardly surprising that most were unoccupied, their residents likely out searching for food or other supplies. A few lingered though, and a familiar soft pink color caught Luna's eye. It would seem the woman who had been here last time she'd come had finished her knitting, and was now wearing the hat she'd fashioned from it, wisps of grey and brown hair poking out from beneath it. She blinked at Luna, eyes pulled up from where she'd been focused on what seemed to be newspaper want ads.

“Oh, it's Mick's girl." She frowned at her own phrasing and shook her head. “Or the girl that was with Mick, I mean. Lu-nar—Luna?"

“It's Luna," she replied. Luna tried her best to smile, but found that it faltered. How could she smile at a woman who was about to lose whatever semblance of a shelter she had? It was too cruel, Luna thought. She opened her mouth to say something, but found that no words would come out.

What could she say?

There might be another shelter they could go to, but with the demons cracking down on abandoned buildings, a majority of these people weren't going to be able to find anything. Those who couldn't find shelter would die, and winter was too harsh for them to survive without one. Luna swallowed past a lump that grew in her throat as she tried to keep her composure.

It wasn't fair to these people. They weren't hurting anyone; they weren't disturbing anyone. They were simply trying to live, just as she and Sol once had to.

“I'm sorry," she stated softly, glancing towards the floor. “The city is ordering the Baileys to clear the building," she finally stated, trying to glance up at Margie, but found she could not look the woman in her eyes. “Everyone needs to be out by tomorrow morning."

Margie was quiet for a long moment, then she folded the newspaper over with a rustle, splitting it again along the dividing line and then folding one more time, creasing it sharply as if it were a much more precious thing than it was. “I see," she said after a moment, sighing long and hard. “Well, thanks for the notice. I'll make sure everyone hears. Can't promise they'll all leave. Some of them are stubborn bastards."

For a moment she chewed her lip. “Can you find Mick, Luna? He might be able to help get everyone out in time. I don't want to leave 'em to the demons, not even Shotgun Pete."

“If he's around, I'll see if I can." She wasn't sure if Mick would be here. He roamed a lot and she didn't have a way to contact him. Sometimes she would see him at the shelter she volunteered at, but he was always the one who seemed to find her.

Maybe it's because she sought him out more and more, knowing that he was a friend she could lean on. “Do you happen to know if he's at least on the property? Or around?" If he was, then maybe she could find him.

“I think he's probably at the park," Margie replied, hauling herself to her feet with what seemed to be great effort. She leaned heavily on a wooden stick that had been shaped into a rough cane, and though it looked like it should break under the pressure, it held firm and steady. “He's usually there if he doesn't tell anyone where he's off to. Bit of a tip, I guess."

She managed a weary smile, then turned to begin waking those that were around but sleeping.

Luna muttered a weak, “thank you," before heading towards the park. It wasn't too far from the building, but that didn't stop the painful clench her heart felt when she'd watched Margie walk away. The woman probably suffered from arthritis and shouldn't be moving so much. Luna wasn't a doctor, she didn't know for sure, but if she was using a makeshift cane to walk with...

She pushed the thought from her mind and half attempted to rub at her eyes. She could feel the stinging sensation behind them. This... they shouldn't have to leave, especially if there were some in the building who couldn't. It wasn't fair to them, to anyone who couldn't afford to have a place to rest, or even call home. They should be taken care of. There should be more shelters in place to help them, to help anyone who so much as asked for it.

When Luna approached the park, she took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. She could do this. She could find Mick and she could tell him the situation, even if her heart felt like it was shattering to pieces.

Mick was, in fact, in the same place she'd last found him, humming softly in a bass tone, melodic and resonant. The reason for this seemed to be the mother cat and kittens. It's been a while, and already the young ones were moving around, most of them attempting to climb the big man with tiny claws dug into his trousers and sleeves. One of them had made it as far as his bicep, but was struggling, so he lifted his arm out to make the route more horizontal, catching another in his free hand as it fell from his knee. The mother cat was seated comfortably in his lap, rolled onto her side so he could glide his hand along the length of her, which she seemed to enjoy.

He was wearing the grey scarf along with his fingerless gloves and a thick, olive-green cable-knit sweater, a bit frayed at the edges, russet-orange shirttails sticking out underneath and dark khaki pants with his heavy boots.

She could feel the smile forming on her face, but had to surpress it when her bottom lip quivered. You can do this, Luna. Just go up and tell him the situation, she tried to steel herself once more, but found she couldn't. She didn't draw closer, and instead, took a deep, steadying breath. She didn't need to show him that she was on the verge of heartbreak for something that was out of her control.

“Mick," she stated loud enough so that Mick could hear her over his humming, but soft enough so that she wouldn't startle the cats. Still, her voice did not sound like her own. It was much too heavy to be light in this situation. “I need your help."

He turned towards her, and the humming halted immediately. Something of her state must have shown on her face, because almost immediately his brow furrowed and his mouth dropped into a frown. "What's the matter?" he asked, looking unsure as to whether he should stand, and then shifting his eyes past her as if to scan the area before finally patting the spot on the bench next to him.

"Is it something you can sit and talk about first, or do you need me to do something right now?"

Her legs would not heed her command to move, and for a moment, she just stood there, glancing down to the floor beneath her. It was a simple question, and the answer was just as simple, but why did it feel like there was lead in her mouth that felt so heavy? She answered the only way she could, nodding slightly as her legs finally moved forward. She took the spot next to him and folded her hands in front of her. She did not glance up at him, though.

“It's the West Park building," she finally stated after another moment of silence. “The one that the Baileys own. They... the people..." she swallowed past the lump in her throat, and squeezed her hands together.

“They're being forced to leave. They have to be out by tomorrow morning, or the demons under Baphomet are going to come and wipe them out." Baphomet was a demon who had a certain kind of interest in the West Park area. Apparently they had told the Baileys that they had seen potential in the area, and that the building the Baileys owned needed to either be demolished, or cleared out of unwelcomed inhabitants. They didn't want such a sight in their new neighborhood.

Mick sighed, long and heavy, and nodded a little. "It was bound to happen eventually," he said quietly. His tone suggested no forgiveness for those responsible, but a simple acceptance of the inevitable. In that, it much resembled Margie's.

He looked down towards her profile, though, idly running his fingers along the mother cat's flank while the intrepid kitten finally reached his shoulder and nuzzled its head into his cheek. "You know this isn't your fault, right?"

She knew.

She knew it wasn't her fault, but it didn't stop the painful stab of guilt that kept hitting her. What could she do against a legion of demons inclined on making life miserable for people, especially towards the people who already had nothing?

“I'm aware," she stated, loosening the grip on her hands. She'd held them too tightly that her knuckles had turned white. “It... it's just that there's nothing that can be done to stop it. Not even to just give them at least an extra day or two. How do they expect everyone to get out within a day? Some of them probably can't even move all too well, and there are probably others who just won't make it without that building acting as a shelter, and I..." she took in a sharp breath and shook her head.

“I can't do anything about it. I can't help them; I can't offer them shelter or a warm bed, nor anything else that might ease their burdens and sufferings. It's almost as if the demons want there to be people left," and honestly, they probably did. There weren't many laws that protected humans againt demons, and there were just as few laws to protect those considered homeless. If a demon wanted a human gone, or dead, it was perfectly within their rights to do so.

The man next to her reached over, setting a kitten in her lap and a hand on her head. "It sucks," he agreed, petting her hair in a way not entirely unlike he'd been petting the cat.

The kitten sniffed at her, its grey striped tail held straight in the air. It must have decided she was all right, because it butted her hand with its head after that.

"And you're not entirely wrong about the consequences," Mick continued. "But, I won't let any of them still be there tomorrow, at least. Don't worry about that much. We'll find somewhere else. We usually do, eventually."

It was probably meant to be comforting, but Luna couldn't find any comfort behind it. It was a shitty feeling, but at least there wouldn't be any people left for the demons, tomorrow. She might not have known these people on a personal level, but she understood their hardship. She wished, with all her being, that there was something she could do. There wasn't, though, and it was a hard truth to swallow. She placed her hand gently on the kitten's head, stroking it softly as she felt the fur between her fingers.

“I might not be able to do much for them, but," she paused, taking her eyes off the kitten to glance at Mick. “The offer still stands for you. Sol said it was fine so long as you don't cause trouble of any sort." It wasn't entirely what Soleil had said, but it was close enough. Luna suspected that Soleil wasn't comfortable with the idea to have someone stay a night with them. She had managed to convince Soleil that it wouldn't be a permanent lodge, though, and it would only be temporary. Mick was good at doing things which meant he could probably help her around the garage if need be.

As if sensing that his attempts at help weren't achieving anything, Mick lifted his hand away, returning his attention to the cats instead. Another had clambered up into his lap, and he rubbed at its belly with a large fingertip, drawing out a mew of protestation, which made him chuckle a bit under his breath.

"I appreciate it, Luna, but I can do for myself. Besides, I've got a new place in mind, and people are going to need me to get into it. I know I'm probably asking too much, but try not to let this hang over your head. It was a good thing we had this place for as long as we did, but everyone in there knows no shelter is permanent. We'll get by."

“Alright," she mumbled softly. She could try not to let this get her down. He was right, no shelter is permanent, and anything that seems too good to be true, is. The reality of it all hit her like a lead pipe, but she wouldn't let it get to her. She needed to be more optimistic, to try and see a better alternative.

“Thanks, Mick. I'm not the one who should be comforted, but I appreciate it nonetheless. You were right about one thing, though," she stated, feeling a small smile on her face. “You're very useful in a pinch. I mean... well, not useful, but helpful is the better term for it."

He snorted softly. "Don't feel like I've done much of anything," he replied, picking up the cats in his arms to return to their box. It seemed to have been upgraded, to scrap wood held together with a few rusty but serviceable nails, the inside lined with scraps of newspaper, fabric, and his old scarf. Once the ones on him were all settled, he held a hand out for the one on her lap.

She took his offered hand and huffed lightly. “Of course you wouldn't see it that way, but you've done a lot. I'm not saying you haven't done anything for anyone else, but you've been, hm," she paused as she tried to think of the word she wanted to say. He'd been helpful to her in a way she couldn't describe. Sure, he might have been a little curt with her when they first met, but the person she knew now was someone she relied on.

It was strange, in a way, relying on someone who wasn't Soleil. She wasn't even sure if that was what she actually felt, but it would have to do for now. “You always seem to be there when I need you the most, I suppose. Like today."

Mick shook his head, a bit ruefully. "You're giving me a bit too much credit for liking kittens," he observed, "but I suppose I won't argue with you. You're much more stubborn than I am, so I'd lose anyway. Also, uh... I was reaching for the cat, not that I mind helping you stand or anything."

You're a fucking idiot, Luna, was the only thought that crossed her mind as she let out a sheepish ha. “I knew that," she stated, trying to regain any dignity she might have and fighting down the heat that covered her face.

Of course he was reaching for the cat and not your hand. Now you just look like an idiot who is mean to cats and kittens alike.

“I'm just going to go find a hole and bury myself in it."

He chuckled, warm and rich, and shook his head, gently letting go of her hand to scoop the kitten up and returning him to the box with his mother and siblings. When he was done, though, he stood and offered the hand back down to her, gently pulling her to her feet. "Well, that's entirely your decision to make," he said, still wearing a half-smile, "but if it were up to me I'd rather you didn't. Things aren't always so nice up here, but I reckon they're still probably better than they'd be six feet under."

“You don't know, maybe I'd like just laying in the ground, buried in my shame and trying to forget it," she murmured, pursing her lips softly. She was such an idiot, really. “But since you put it so nicely, I guess I shouldn't. I'll just suffer the embarrassment and shame," she added, smiling just a bit in Mick's direction.

He smiles a little wider, and shakes his head. "It's all right, you know. It's a gesture that usually means something, and you thought it meant the normal thing. Not that embarrassing, I promise."

“That's easy for you to say," she stated with a soft huff. “You know, it should be a crime to look that handsome with a smile," she stated, realizing belatedly what she said. “I mean, seriously. It should be a crime to smile like that and look like that, and now I'm just shoving my foot in my mouth."

“Anyway, thanks, Mick." She wasn't going to be able to look him in the eye for a good while, but that was fine. At least... she didn't feel as bad as she did earlier. It wasn't going to be easy, but... she could at least try and trust that he would be able to find a place for everyone.

Since she wasn't looking at him, she couldn't see the expression on his face, but she could hear him clear his throat. "Uh... thanks? Nice thing to say to an old timer like me." His large hand ruffled her hair gently.

"So uh... if you wanted to help, chances are some of the older folks are going to need help packing their stuff. I'm sure they'd appreciate a bit of help if you felt up to giving it. Depending on how much time you have, you might be able to see the new one. If... you were wanting to know where to find me in the future."

“It would be nice to be able to find you," she stated. “It'd be nicer if it was easier, but this will do." She wasn't sure why her heart fluttered or why there was an onslaught of butterflies in her stomach, but she wasn't going to say no to helping out or knowing where to find him in the future.

“Lead the way."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
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#, as written by Aethyia


12 Satanus
Samael's Manor - Evening - Snow
Soleil Nishant


By the time Soleil looked up from her work, it was already evening. Her stomach insistently informed her that she hadn't eaten today, and so it was with some reluctance that she made her way to Samael's kitchen.

She'd been feeling a little... awkward around him, since the incident last time. Not that he'd been a badly-behaved drunk or anything, just that it had felt... she didn't know. He confused her. A lot. And she'd been so happy when he said they were friends. Too happy. And she didn't care that that other woman with the blue hair had warned her off just that, except she kind of did. If it had been just herself, she'd have risked it, no question. But with Luna's safety to consider, too, she just...

She didn't know if she could be a friend, even if she thought he deserved one.

It left her cranky, and so she'd sunk her time and energy into Samael's newest acquisition, which needed a lot more work than his others. Some part of her was wondering if maybe he'd bought it specifically because he knew she'd be able to fix it. It was a... nice thought, that someone might have that kind of faith in her skills.

Then, of course, she'd told herself to can it with the stupid ideas and gone to work.

And ten hours later, her body had finally seen fit to remind her that she was not a demon and probably needed to eat something, as her last meal had been... more than twenty four hours ago.

The kitchen was catalogue-perfect, something out of a particularly fancy, minimalist home design e-mag or something. There was absolutely nothing personal about it, and she didn't think it was really designed with actual occupancy in mind, either. She had to climb up onto the counter to reach the higher shelves even being pretty tall, and while she took care to keep her feet off them, it was still something she hated doing. She'd just have to wipe them down, later.

“You know there's a small ladder kept in the closet just down the hallway, right?" Samael's voice echoed, the amusement clear in his tone. “Or if you needed to reach something, you could have just asked. I wouldn't have minded retrieving it for you," he added, chuckling softly.

“What are you trying to get, anyway?"

She'd felt his presence before he spoke, a chill little tingle that raced down her spine.

Something wicked this way comes.

That had always sort of been how she'd thought of it, anyway. Soleil steadied herself and reached for the stash of granola she kept in the top shelf. The first time she'd bought some to keep here, someone had eaten half of it by the time she'd come back. If it was Sam that was one thing, but she'd bought it herself, and while it wasn't as expensive as the kind he kept here, it tasted better and she was not, unlike him, made of money.

"The good granola," she admitted, ignoring the part about the ladder and the rest with as much dignity as she was able. She had not known that, but she didn't want to look like an idiot, and she could do things just fine for herself. "You have very questionable taste in groceries, so I'm not surprised someone else ate mine."

She turned around and hopped off the counter, to find herself face to face with a fallen angel in what was probably his pajamas. Basic shirt, sweatpants. It was a lot different from how he'd been dressed when she met him, anyhow.

Was that a trust thing, or just because she was obviously totally harmless to someone of his sort? Her head said the latter, but her heart, stupid bastard that it was, kind of wanted it to be the former instead.

She needed to get a grip.

“Ah," he made the sound as he ran a hand through his hair to give it a shake. It was loose, so he ended up moving the entire length of it with that gesture. “Leraje said the same thing," he stated, moving from the spot he was currently in, and made his way closer towards Soleil.

“He ate some of it the other day, and has been since. I have questionable taste buds, as he has so eloquently put it," he continued, sounding the vaguest bit grumpy, but the smirk on his face said otherwise.

“I can replace it if you'd like, or just keep a stash of it somewhere and give him his own. I don't think he'll stop eating it any time soon. I can also just..." he paused, clearing his throat softly and glancing away for a moment. “I can stock your favorite things for you to have when you're here."

Soleil considered this for a moment, assessing that the granola bag was indeed only half-full. This Leraje person was apparently the opposite of courteous. She shouldn't be surprised—Samael was probably the exception rather than the rule on this kind of thing.

And there he went again, being all considerate of her. It really left her on the back foot.

"What about you?" she asked flatly. "I don't mean to be judgey, but your groceries look like they're what you order from the most expensive grocery store because you think if it costs more it tastes better. What do you actually like to eat?" She poured some of the granola into a bowl, setting it down on the counter and adding several large dollops of yogurt, and because it was all his stuff and super fancy, she decided to indulge in some honey and berries, too, stirring it all together with a spoon and taking a large bite.

“Souls," was his immediate answer, and for a moment, his expression had turned serious. The grin, however, reappeared as he rolled his eyes. He had been joking, it seemed. “I actually don't need to eat anything, really," he began, making his way so that he was on the other side of the counter.

“But if I had to choose, things like fruits. The sour kind like pineapples and kumquats," he shrugged. “But I also like savory and salty things. Spicy things that pack a punch, or at least try to. And for your information, I shop at Wholesome Foods because it's the only grocery store around these parts. Do you think they would have a Hughes Totter around?"

Soleil leveled him with a look, then rolled her eyes, licking a bit of honey off her spoon with a hum. "No, of course not. But you can go other places, you know. There's a whole garage full of functional cars you can drive." And one not-yet-functional car, but it had only been a couple of days. She'd get it functioning, or her name wasn't Soleil Nishant.

"Do you cook?"

“Do I look like I can cook?" he answered dryly. “I can't cook worth shit. Last time I tried, Leraje laughed at me for putting the egg into the frying pan. He might not have actually laughed, but he did sigh very heavily. And no, that wasn't a euphemism or anything. I literally put the egg into the pan."

Soleil smiled. It was actually kind of funny, to run across something Samael couldn't do. Not that she was going to leave it like that if he didn't want to. "Well," she said, "do you want to? If you'd like, we could make a late trip to the grocery store, and I can teach you how to pick ingredients, and then we can make eggs."

It was such an inane thing, and she tried to keep her tone casual. Not too embarrassed. Like asking a fucking fallen angel whether he wanted to go to the grocery store and learn how to cook eggs made sense. Like it wasn't laughably beneath him.

She took another large bite of her parfait to try and stifle the feeling.

He didn't answer her immediately, and seemed to be thinking of something. “You know, I don't think I've actually seen you smile like that. It's pretty," he finally said as he leaned away from the counter. “But I won't say no to learning how to cook eggs. Next time I can show that little bastard that I can actually do something simple."

“Eggs are simple, right?"

The expression disappeared as soon as it showed, too fragile to survive its own mention, and Soleil felt a wash of embarrassment. He hadn't seen her smile because she didn't, as a rule. There was nothing to smile about, and even if there had been, she was not an expressive person.

And pretty?

No, he was mocking her. Or maybe just being facetious, as she oddly didn't think he had any truly ill intent. Maybe she'd been around him long enough without the other shoe dropping that she was willing to believe it might not. Might not. Nothing was guaranteed, such tenuous attempts at trust the least so.

So Soleil cleared her throat and pretended it hadn't happened. "Well it depends on how you make them, but I was planning on teacing you how to scramble. That's as simple as you want to make it." She finished her parfait, careful to wash both it and the sppon in the sink, despite the presence of a fancy dishwasher. She left them on the drying rack.

"If you want to drive this time, I can navigate. Unless you're drunk again somehow." He didn't seem so, but if the last time was anything to go by he could apparently hide it for a while.

“It's fine," he said, waving a hand in a nonchalant fashion in front of his face. “I like being taken for a ride," the grin on his face was a little wicked before it disappeared. “The passenger seat has my name on it. Besides, it'll be easier for you to drive, and we won't risk me missing an exit or making a wrong turn. I'm not very good with directions, you see," he seemed to explain, though it wasn't likely true at all.

“Are you in the mood for porsche again? Or do you want to drive something different, this time? Can't take any of the bikes if we're going grocery shopping, but we can probably take any of the hovers or ground ones." The grin on his face was more akin to just being happy about something rather than the expression he had on a moment ago.

“The inventory is open for your choosing."

"Fine, but I swear if I have to haul you around Rogenmart..." She narrowed her eyes, making the displeasure this would cause her evident, she hoped, and grabbed one of the keys off the wall as they headed into the garage. The Tsukishima, this time, a sleek, gunmental grey hover vehicle. It wasn't as fast as the Yrden with her mods, but it was quiet, and the smoothest ride in the garage, with an antigrav system to die for.

She hopped into the driver's seat, pulling the vertical door closed behind her, and waited for him to settle before opening the garage and turning on the car.

"Why did you even decide to collect cars, anyway? You don't seem to like driving very much."

“Had to find something to collect that wasn't a human soul," he answered. “Plus it pisses Bael off that I've collected more cars than souls, and that I don't really plan on changing that. Besides..." he paused for a moment to ensure his seat belt was secure, before sighing softly. “I had to do something to pass the time, and try and preserve a little history, so to speak."

“Some of the cars from Old Earth are too beautiful to let waste, and other demons would just sell them for scrap or try and use them as a way to entice humans. Like yourself, there are humans who probably live for things like that." His brows furrowed before he glanced out the window.

“Not that any of it matters."

Soleil pulled out into the road, her brow furrowing a little at the words. They occupied her for a while; she wasn't the sort of person to throw out thoughtless platitudes or shallow attempts at optimism. Honestly, he was probably right. She didn't know that anything anyone did mattered much anymore, right up to and including the demons. If heaven and hell were closed for business anyway, and there was nothing anymore past whatever short mortal life humans got, well... sometimes she figured that was the lesser punishment.

Who would want to live here forever, after all?

"It matters a little bit," she said at last. "Like you said, it's history. Maybe it doesn't really matter much if anyone remembers it, but it's one small piece of humanity that's not dust. That's something." She shrugged a little.

"And, well, your weird collecting habit keeps me and my sister fed. I wouldn't have that otherwise. I don't know if that means anything in any cosmic sense, but it matters to me at least." She fell silent, feeling that she'd said too much. Talking wasn't really her strong suit.

“I suppose you're right," he stated, huffing softly before shaking his head. “I don't think I'd have met you and your sister, otherwise. I'm actually kind of glad, then, that I got to meet you. I'm not sure if it's fate or what, because fate was an asshole. Actually, I can't really say that, though. Az was a good guy, and a good friend..." he paused as if he'd said a little too much, but shook his head.

“You kind of remind me of him, honestly. I don't know if it's because of the way you are or what, but," he shrugged his shoulders as if to pass it off as nothing.

Soleil huffed, caught between disbelief and being flattered. "There's no way I remind you of an angel," she said, lifting an eyebrow and skeptical to her very core. "Not even the Angel of Death. I know I wear a lot of black, but I think it'd take a little more than that."

“Az actually was very bright, believe it or not," he stated with a light chuckle. “And I'm not saying it's because of the way you dress that you remind me of him. There's a lot of his mannerisms in you. It's in both of you, actually, but predominantly you." He snickered softly before shaking his head.

“And believe it or not, not all angels are considered beautiful. Take Remiel for example. Before he died, he wasn't the most pleasant thing to look at, but... well, he had heart. Besides," there was a hint of mischief in his smile, again.

“You're too wickedly divine to be an angel. You'd probably be in the higher realms of a seraphim like Lucifer and Michael... were," the smile faltered on his face at the mention of the last name.

She rolled her eyes at the last part, now certain he was exaggerating. The knowledge didn't totally stop the fluttering in her guts, but did blunt it a lot, and it died quickly, considering he seemed...

Well she was never any good at this sort of thing, but he seemed a bit sad to her. She didn't really know how to broach the topic, but it felt like he'd opened a door, and she didn't want to just ignore that.

"The Michael, huh?" she said, sounding rather unimpressed. She knew a few stories, but if he was the reason Samael was sad she was somehow predisposed to dislike him on principle. "Not a nice guy?"

Samael took a deep breath, and pursed his lips into a fine line. “He's actually a pretty nice guy, but he's also the guy that threw me out of Heaven. I Fell because of him, and... because of someone else." He didn't seem inclined to mention who the other person was, but it was apparent from the way his expression hardened that it was someone important to him some time ago.

“I'm... not entirely sure if I'm still even mad at him. It was a long time ago, and I don't really remember what we fought about. Contrary to popular belief, just because we lived through history and for a long time doesn't mean we remember everything."

“Not that any of it matters since I'll never see him again. He's probably sitting high and mighty as God's right hand, proud to have absconded with the few that they did." He seemed a bit angry at that, but his expression smoothed over a moment later.

"Dick," Soleil said immediately, then shrugged. She meant it, though. Those angels, and their so-called God, just took the precious mortals they thought were good enough, and left the sinners and the children of sinners, themselves innocent, to squirm under the heavy hand of Bael and his cronies for the rest of time.

She couldn't believe anyone had ever been stupid enough to worship beings capable of shit like that.

Annoyed, she pulled into the Rogenmart parking lot, taking a spot in the back so there was less chance of someone leaving a scrape on the car. "Anyway, we're here. Have you ever actually been inside a grocery store before, or do you get shit delivered?"

“I'm practically a hermit, Sol," he stated with a flat look. “I don't go anywhere unless I'm being summoned by Bael, or if I'm going to visit you and your sister," he continued, arching a brow in her direction.

“Usually I just order it through Goliath and they deliver it."

"Well, hermit, welcome to public excursions. They're not that fun honestly; I'd stay at home if I could, too, but once in a while isn't so bad." She had to fight not to smile again, but managed it, if only barely.

Still, there was a chance this could actually be fun.

Only one way to find out.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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26 Satanus
Location - Mid Afternoon - Light Snow
Lunaria Nishant


The good thing about Rogenmart was that it wasn't too far from where Luna and her sister lived. It wasn't easy being without proper transportation, but they never really bought much to begin with. They'd always purchased what they could, and filched what they couldn't. Today, however, they were going to actually purchase things. Soleil and Luna had spent a good chunk of their lives on the street that neither of them even remembered when their birthday was.

As a rule, they didn't celebrate it, but they'd both agreed to share the same date so if the day came that they wanted to, they had a date to plan for. Plus, they needed something for the official records and things like that.

Today was the day before their birthday, and Luna actually wanted to make something for Sol and herself. She'd settled on cupcakes mostly because they were the easiest things to make. Luna could cook, but she was a shit baker, and she knew it. Even with things that came premade or packed, Luna would somehow manage to ruin it.

“So, what kind of frosting do you want for your red velvet cupcakes?" Luna asked, glancing in Soleil's direction. “You have a choice between cream cheese, butter, or vanilla."

"Butter? Do you mean buttercream?" Soleil considered her sister out of the corner of her eye before pressing her lips together and considering the options on the shelf. She eyed the price tags speculatively, then sighed quietly. "I don't know what any of these taste like. I don't think cream cheese would be very good on a cupcake, so let's try the cream one. Or maybe vanilla? It's cheaper."

“Cream one it is," Luna stated as she reached for the container. “We're not going with vanilla because it's cheaper. We're going for one that'll taste better because it's a semi-special day tomorrow. We're not sparing any expense for this shit, especially not with the year we've been having," though to be honest, Luna still wasn't too sure about it. She still had some reservations about Samael. He was too good to be true. He liked Soleil, that much Luna could tell, and he paid Sol very well.

So well that they really didn't have to worry about much like they used to. Alastor was another thing, but even he hadn't been around in a while. He'd sent some of the lesser demons in his employ to retrieve the monthly bill, but that was it. Luna was grateful for that.

“Speaking of which, how's Samuel treating you?" she asked, knowing full well that wasn't his name.

"Samael," Soleil corrected automatically, though chances were good she knew Luna was doing it on purpose. "And fine. I tried to teach him how to cook eggs the other day. I think they came out all right, but I'll be surprised if he can replicate them on his own. I'm not sure he absorbed much of what I said."

She shrugged, as if this was not a concern, and looked back down at their list. "We need coconut for your weird recipe, right?

“It's not weird," Luna grumbled, rolling her eyes slightly. “And you tried to teach Sam how to cook eggs? Eggs?" She emphasized the word she repeated mostly because she was a little shocked. “They're like... the simplest things to cook. How do you not know how to cook eggs?"

"Not needing to cook things for yourself, I assume," Soleil replied. "You've seen his house, right? At least he seemed reasonably interested in learning." She grabbed a large bag of rice from a bottom shelf, putting it into the cart.

"Pretty sure he'd never been to a grocery store before either. He wanted me to push him around in a shopping cart like a kid he saw on the way in."

He wanted her to...

“Somehow, that really doesn't surprise me," Luna retorted, blinking slowly. “I don't think he's been anywhere other than those fancy parties and his own home," she added, grabbing a bag of shredded coconut and placed it inside the basket. She supposed that there had been a sort of childness to him, but she didn't think it was anything like that. Luna felt a grin tugging at her lips, though.

“So... did you do it? Push him around in a basket?"

"For a while, yeah. Wasn't like I cared if he looked like a weirdo. He grabbed stuff off the shelves so it was actually a pretty efficient system." Deleting the two items from the list on the tablet, she pursed her lips. "Well except all those times when he didn't know what stuff was."

Luna chuckled lightly. “He really does bring out your inner child, doesn't he?" she stated. “Sounds like you had fun, yourself," she added, moving so that they were headed towards the dairy products.

Soleil seemed to contemplate this for a long moment, then lifted her shoulders. "Well, he's not an asshole to me, so I guess I don't feel like I have to be one to him either."

Luna feigned a shocked gasp. “Does that mean Soleil Nishant actually likes someone?" she asked, widening her eyes to give off the shocked impression. It was a little surprising, she wouldn't lie. Luna couldn't remember a time where Soleil actually liked someone, at least in the sense that she wasn't coarse with them. That she would actually indulge someone and push them around in a cart... well, Luna couldn't say it was a bad thing.

“Wait... so does that mean that you were both on a date at the grocery store? Of all the places he could have taken you..." she trailed off, shaking her head in feigned disappointment.

Soleil sighed. "I like him, but it's not the kind of like you're talking about, if you think a trip to the grocery store was a date." She sounded slightly annoyed, but as she turned away, Luna could see that the tips of her ears were turning red. "I was just appalled by the state of his kitchen or whatever, and it turned into a conversation about making food, and how he didn't know anything about it."

She shrugged. "And that was the impetus of the shopping trip. He normally has shit delivered from Wholesome Foods—remember when we lifted pasta from there and it tasted like cardboard? I felt bad for him."

“Ew," Luna drawled, giving Soleil a flat look. “Why would anyone want to shop there?" she stated. It was obvious that Wholesome Foods was just an overpriced grocery chain. Most of the things they sold there weren't even pristine goods. But she supposed since demons didn't really have to eat, it was considered good. It took her a moment to realize what Soleil said at the end, and Luna arched a brow at him.

The Soleil Nishant felt bad for someone? Are the pearly white gates going to be opening soon? Because that is a miracle in itself." She was only slightly teasing Soleil, but it was rare that Soleil felt bad for anyone, at least like that. To the point she'd take him grocery shopping? It might mean nothing, but then again, it might mean something.

Luna was an ass, she knew that, but she was only going to tease her sister so much.

Soleil rolled her eyes, but didn't seem too interested in continuing the argument, if it even really was one, as such. Instead, she moved their cart to the next isle—canned food— only to pause. "Hey isn't that Mick?"

The man at the other end of the aisle, brows furrowed as though something important rested on the difference between the two brands of beans he was holding, was indeed Mick. His sheer size was almost funny in the context; he had to be taller than the aisle proper. His face was whiskery in a way that suggested it'd been longer than usual since he shaved, and of all things his hair was tied back into a knot on the back of his head, a few strands falling free near his ears, but the profile couldn't have belonged to anyone else.

“Indeed, it seems to be my handsome friend," Luna stated, grinning just slightly. He really did look handsome, and she wasn't going to deny that fact. Sure, she'd met plenty of people who were aesthetically pleasing, but there was just something about him that stood out. It was weird considering that most people who were that pretty were usually demons, but Mick didn't even seem to be half of one. It was weird how pretty he was, and how his physique...

Luna, stop thinking about your friend that way. Sounds almost like you want to jump him, she visibly shuddered before clearing her throat. She didn't immediately move to greet him, though. She was unsure how to, for some reason. She could easily say hey, or even hi, but that didn't seem quite right to her. She rolled her eyes at herself before pushing forward.

“Hey, Mick," she'd have to settle for that. “You doing alright?" she asked, arching a brow at him, and fighting down a strange tingling sensation on her cheeks.

Next to her, Sol scoffed quietly, but she offered no comment, because Mick had turned towards them, blinking slowly and smiling a bit.

"Hello, Luna. And Soleil." He gave her sister a polite nod as well, which Sol returned with the slight arch of a brow.

"Didn't realize you shopped the legitimate way," she said. It could probably be interpreted as rude, but Luna knew Sol, as someone who hadn't often shopped the legitimate way either, didn't mean it as anything but an observation.

Mick certainly didn't seem to take offense, just smiling a bit more brightly. "I don't, usually. But I was lucky enough to find some work the other day. So I asked for a list of what some folks needed, and here I am. I uh... don't really know what the difference is between one brand and another, but I'm not sure 'cheapest' is the best decision criteria either."

Luna snorted softly. “It depends, really," she began, shrugging her shoulders lightly. “Here, all you're really paying for is the brand. Most of these taste about the same," she would know. She had eaten at least half of them, but that might just be her own tastebuds. It wasn't as if one brand was superior to the other one. Except for the brands at Wholesome Foods. Those sucked and tasted like cardboard.

“What it comes down to is the sugar and salt content. The more sugar and salt, the better it tastes."

"So I should just get the cheapest one?" Mick frowns slightly, but seems to find this agreeable enough for the moment, setting one of the cans back and withdrawing an entire flat of the other from the shelf, balancing it easily on one outstretched hand before he put it in the cart.

“Yup," Luna replied with a light grin. “Cheaper products usually taste better mostly because they're substituting something with something they really shouldn't. In this case, more sugar and salt. Not a bad thing when you're trying to put on weight or fluff for the winter," she added, inwardly cursing herself for the last statement.

“Uh, anyway," she paused for a moment to glance in Soleil's direction. They didn't celebrate their birthdays often with other people, but... maybe asking Mick would be fine? Sol could ask Sam, too, but some part of Luna thought that maybe Sol didn't want him to know? Maybe she did, Luna couldn't claim to know.

“What else are you looking for?" this was a safe option. She could ask Mick if he wanted to celebrate with them, however; this was a more private thing. Plus, she wasn't sure if Sol would be comfortable with it since Luna hadn't really asked ahead of time. It wasn't that she needed permission for things like that, but this was their birthday. That meant that decisions on things like that should be discussed prior to the event, together.

He hummed, adding another flat of cans to the cart. "Uh, well, the list says nonperishables and water, so I'm taking recommendations if you have any."

"Rice," Soleil said immediately. "It's probably the cheapest grain there is, can go with a lot of stuff and lasts practically forever."

Mick nodded appreciatively. "Rice, water... hm. Some protein would probably be good, though I guess there's plenty of that in beans. Other vitamins? What's a canned vegetable that's not expensive..." He cleared his throat, waving a hand. "Not that you have to keep helping; you two seem to be on a mission of your own. What's the occasion?"

“Hm, we're almost done," Luna smiled. “And if you're looking for canned veggies, best ones to go with are probably green beans and carrots. Canned corn is more expensive than the others," she added, glancing in Soleil's direction for a moment.

“It's not really an occasion. We're just getting cake supplies," she answered his question. It was a little vague, but it wasn't a lie, either. She pursed her lips towards Soleil and arched a brow before leaning towards her sister. They were still a bit far from Mick, so she whispered, “should we tell him?"

Soleil rolled her eyes. "Why are you being so weird about this?" She turned to Mick and shrugged. "It's our birthday. We're shopping for cake supplies. First time we've really been able to get whatever we want, so I'm having red velvet and Luna's doing some weird chocolate thing with coconut."

"Ah." Mick grabbed two large bags of rice and put them in his cart, offering them a small smile. "Happy birthday to you both then. And many happy returns."

Luna had pressed her lips together as she gave Sol a flat look. She wasn't being weird about this; she was trying to be considerate of Sol. She wasn't sure if Soleil would want anyone to know, or if she would feel comfortable about it. Despite her nature to tease her sister, she was trying to keep her sister's quirks in mind.

“Thanks, Mick," she replied, resisting the urge to sigh. “And it's not some weird chocolate thing. German chocolate happens to be my favourite," she added, sticking her tongue out at Sol. It was childish, she knew, but Luna didn't care at the moment. “We only need a couple of more items. Mainly the coconut for the frosting and," she paused, furrowing her brows a bit. “Oh, and pecans."

"Well, maybe you know where all that stuff is, but if you don't, I'm pretty sure I saw nuts ad stuff two aisles down. Came in from the opposite side." Mick points in a direction they have yet to go. "Don't let me hold up your celebration, ladies. And thanks for the help."

“Ah, thanks," Luna stated, nodding her head in thanks. Before she could say anything else, she was distracted by a commotion from the nearby registers. Rogemart wasn't that big of a store, being located near the Pits, but it wasn't exactly small. Luna could see the registers from where she was, and what she saw caused her to purse her lips. It looked like someone called the cops, though Luna couldn't exactly tell why.

It was just one android, though, but from the looks on the cashier's face, and the person standing in front of the android cop, it might have had something to do with theft.

Poor bastard.

Theft might not be an extreme crime, but sometimes 'droids could be worse than human cops. Androids were programmed to uphold the law in the upmost way. Humans could at least give the person a bit of leniency if it was their first offense.

“Anyway, see you around, Mick," she stated, deciding to ignore it. It wasn't her problem, and she didn't need to draw any attention to herself or Soleil. Not today.

Mick, though, had narrowed his eyes at the confrontation, and she could see in her periphery as they walked away. He was adjusting his cart to move in that direction.

"Something bugs me about those robots," Soleil said on a sigh, shaking her head slightly as they moved on. "Can't quite put my finger on it, though."

Luna furrowed her brows in agreement. She was about to reply to Soleil's comment when another, alarmed voice intervened.

“Officer, are you alright?" one of the cashiers asked. Luna, against better judgement, glanced towards them. The android was still, almost as if its programming had been shut off and did not budge. Its gaze was fixed on the person in front of them, but the usual light behind its eyes was gone. It was almost eerie the way it stared, and Luna felt a chill down her spine.

It made a sudden movement, then, bringing its hands up to its face as if to study them. Luna thought she saw it tremble, but that couldn't be right. Androids didn't shiver or shake like humans or non-humans did. They weren't supposed to because it was a sign synonymous with fear, maybe even excitement. Androids didn't feel. They weren't capable of it.

“P-please," it started, its head snapping from side to side, almost as if it were confused. The metal sheen glistened with each movement before it seemed to lock eyes on the person in front of it. The sound that came out of its mouth was ear-shattering, and Luna immediately brought her hands up to cover her ears. A few of the people did the same, however; there was a human scream that followed.

The android had surged forward, grabbing the young man by his forearms. There was a sudden cracking sound, one that signaled something in the man's arm had broken. “Please!" the android seemed frantic as it yelled at the young man. It tried to shake him, but it stilled again.

“Someone get this thing off of me!" the young man used the brief silence to try and get loose from the android, but he couldn't. Luna didn't think she would be of any help, either, but her legs were already moving. Eerie eyes snapped at her, and Luna felt her breath catch in her throat.

“I--I can't. I--I--c-can't. C-c-con," it didn't get the chance to finish before it seemed to release the same piercing sound, and tossed the man as if he were nothing into the nearby register. The screams that followed were haunting as people began running in fear.

"Luna, stop!" Sol's hand was on her shoulder in an instant, her grip firm where her fingers dug into Luna's shoulder. "That's not a human—you can't just outslug something like that." Concern edged the normally flat tone of her voice, and her lips pursed.

"Come on, we're getting out of here. Leave the stuff."

Soleil's voice snapped Luna out of her stupor. Her brows furrowed, though, as she shook her sister's hand off of her shoulder. “I wasn't going to fight it," she stated, lips pursing into a fine line. “But at least I can weather a beating a little more than they can. If someone gets caught by it, they wouldn't stand a chance and you know it." It wasn't like Luna was trying to play hero, either. She just... she didn't want anyone to get hurt.

Luna knew Soleil was only thinking about their well-being, it was always them before anyone else, but...

“Maybe we can distract it so everyone can at least get out safely?" she suggested. There wasn't much time, though, as the android moved towards another person, screaming the same horrific sound as they approached the young woman. It looked like the woman was trying to shield something. Luna didn't think. She moved, running towards the android and the young woman, placing herself between them as the android reached out.

It's hands clenched around her shoulders, and the pressure with which it squeezed was excruciating. Luna felt her mouth open, but no sound came out. She couldn't scream.

"Luna!" Soleil's voice came from behind the android, and then suddenly her sister's arms and legs were around it, as she jumped on its back, trying to force it away from her. But even as strong as Sol was, it didn't move much, and its grip on her shoulder tightened, the thumb digging into her collarbone until, with a sharp spike of pain, her clavicle snapped.

"Let go you piece of shit—" Soleil slammed her fist into its head several times. This seemed to have a bit more of an effect, at least enough that it turned its attention to her, tossing Luna into one of the aisles with an unthinking strength.

Before she hit the floor, though, she hit something else with a whump of fabric, and the person, not in the least knocked back by her weight, steadied her.

"Easy," rumbled a familiar bass. Mick. "You all right?"

“I'm fine," she replied, taking in a sharp gasp of air. The pain in her shoulders and collar bone were saying otherwise, but she couldn't focus on that. “I need..." she paused, taking in another breath, “I need to help Sol." She started towards her sister, intent on keeping the android from hurting her.

Mick clicked his tongue against his teeth. "I'll make you a deal," he said, moving to follow her. "I was trying to get everyone else out. If you do that job for me, I'll help your sister." He smiled, a little strained and a little urgent, still heading towards the front. "I can handle it, I promise. She'll be safe, if you can trust me with that."

This was her sister, though. If neither of them could hold off an android, what made Mick think he could? That wasn't important. Helping her sister and the people still in the store, was. Could Luna trust Mick with the person who meant the most to her? Maybe it was just the pain in her shoulder, or maybe it was the adrenaline in her veins; Luna didn't know, but she nodded her head and swallowed thickly.

“Okay," she stated softly. “Just... be careful, too," she added, pausing for a moment with a serious look on her face. Mick was human which meant he was just as capable of being hurt, if not worse than either Luna or her sister. He was her friend, and she didn't want him to get hurt, either. Taking a deep breath, she turned a different direction to ensure everyone else could get out safely.

Her trajectory took her past several aisles, all abandoned, in many cases half-full shopping carts left in the middle or crashed against shelves. One unit seemed to have fallen over.

“Help! Please!” A weak voice called out—seemingly from beneath the shelves and fallen boxes that has spilled from them. “Someone, please!”

“Hey, hey, I'm here," Luna stated as she approached the person. The shelves didn't look too heavy, but Luna's collar bone was still broken. Her arms were still throbbing from where the android grabbed her, as well. It meant that lifting the shelf off of the person was going to be difficult rather than easy. She moved some of the boxes out of the way, wincing when a slight pain shot through her arm. She did her best to ignore it, but she wasn't exactly tolerant to pain. She might have healed slightly faster than most people did, but even a broken collar bone needed some time to mend itself back together. Luna was almost certain she'd broken a bone in her arm, as well.

“I'm going to lift the shelf and once I do, I'm going to need you to crawl out, alright?" she stated once she'd cleared some room. She took in a deep breath and placed her hands underneath the shelf. “Ready?" she asked, lifting the shelf slightly.

There was a struggle; several more boxes emerged from beneath the unit, as if pushed. A grunt of pain and effort followed, and slowly, a person emerged. A close-cropped head of brown hair with a mohawk, a shabby brown jacket. The young man couldn't be more than a teenager, and his face distorted in pain.

“Leg,” he gasped. “Hard to… move. S-sorry.”

Luna cursed beneath her breath and shifted the shelf slightly. “Is it broken?" she asked. If his leg was broken, she would have to be careful. She couldn't risk making it worse.

“I dunno,” he said, tone hard with pain and frustration. He continued to pull himself out with his hands as well as he could. “Can't exactly see it. It just hurts.”

“Alright," she stated, taking in a deep breath. This was going to hurt her like a bitch, but she needed to get him out from underneath. “Not going to lie, this is going to hurt a bit," she stated, preparing him as best as she could. She lifted the shelf as high as she could with one hand, shifting her other one so that she could grab him, and pulled.

“Ah, fuck, that hurts," she grit between her teeth, dropping the shelf once the young man was free. She turned to him to examine his leg, sighing softly as she noted the torn jeans. Luckily, there wasn't a bone protruding, but that didn't mean his leg wasn't broken.

“Can you stand?" she asked, offering her hand to him. She could at least help him out if he couldn't.

He yelled as she wrenched him out from beneath the shelves, biting down on it once he was clear and no longer moving. Breathing heavily through clenched teeth, he took several moments before answering her question, long enough for the sound of shattering glass to reach their ears, followed by an emphatic, but not loud, ”holy shit.” It was unmistakably Soleil.

The kid nodded slightly, gripping her by the arm and leveraging himself to his feet, or rather one of them. The other, he held gingerly off the ground, still breathing forcefully slowly. “Thanks.”

“No worries," she replied, sighing as softly as she could. “Let's get you out of here, first," she continued, moving so that she could securely hold him and help him leverage his leg better. She didn't like the way the sound of glass shattered near Soleil, but she had to trust that Mick would keep his word to keep her safe.

It was a slow trudge, but eventually, they made it to where Soleil and Mick were. “What... happened?" Luna asked, staring slightly wide-eyed at a shattered window. The android wasn't in sight.

Soleil seemed uninjured save for a heavy scrape across one side of her face. The was also holding one arm slightly away from her body, but though it was hard to tell for sure under the sleeve, it didn't seem to be broken. She had been regarding Mick with furrowed brows, but flicked her eyes to Luna when she approached.

”Looks like the cop shut down or something.” She threw another glance at Mick and shook her head.

For his part, Mick smiled mildly. ”The idea was to go through the loading exit out back,” he noted with a small huff, ”but I suppose this way's just as good, now. You'll want to get clear soon, I'm guessing; it probably won't be long before TPD shows up to collect their officer.”

“Good call," Luna stated, glancing towards Mick. They should get out of here while they could so that she and Soleil could take care of their wounds, and so the young man could get his foot looked at.

Today sucked.

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Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
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#, as written by Aethyia


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3 Luciferus
Nishants' House - Noon - Clear
Soleil Nishant


New year, same shit.

It was a refrain that Soleil had been able to count on for most of her life. The thing was… she couldn't say how true it really was this time. There was… actually kind of a lot different this time, and she was still trying to decide what she thought all of it meant.

Pulling the ancient pot off the stove, she stirred around the soup a bit, serving her sister a bowl and setting it at her usual spot, then repeating the process for herself. She needed to talk to Luna about something, but she wasn't exactly sure how to approach the topic. She hated when that happened.

Easing into her chair, Soleil lifted her soup bowl, drinking down some of the broth to start with. It was the absolute dead of winter right now, and their ancient HVAC just didn't stand a chance against the chill. She'd take any warmth she could get.

Luna merely stared at her bowl, occasionally pushing some of the ingredients inside with her spoon. She seemed to rub at her collar bone where it had broken a few days ago. It was healed, now, but she still rubbed at it on occasion. Taking a deep breath, she glanced up at Sol.

“So, I'd say last year has been... fun." She didn't elaborate on what she meant, but she'd said it in a bit of a sarcastic tone.

Soleil dipped her spoon in her soup. Her own injuries had amounted to a dislocation where the droid had grabbed her and thrown her over its shoulder, and some cuts and bruises. She'd popped the arm back into its socket on the spot, and the rest had healed over within a day. She didn't want to think about the condition she'd have been in if not for the help.

Honestly… she was kind of annoyed still that Luna got involved at all. What if one of them had been so injured they couldn't work? Money was… not as much of an issue now as it used to be, but she didn't want to count on their circumstances remaining the same. This was once in a lifetime luck, or better, and luck was exactly what it was, too.

"Yeah I guess." Honestly she couldn't say it'd been all bad. The Alastor stuff was shit, obviously, but—she didn't view it with the same scorn as her sister's sarcasm implied. Weird feeling, to be the one who felt better about something, overall.

"Mick's not human." She didn't know how to approach the topic, so she just said it, straight out. "I know he's not."

Luna just stared at Solelil for a moment. It wasn't incredulous or anything like that, but simply as if she was regarding Soleil. “It's because of what happened with the droid, right?" she stated, almost as if she already knew.

“I mean, I had something of an inkling that he wasn't human, but..." she pursed her lips and shook her head. “It just seemed like he was. He didn't seem like a cambion, either, and we would have known if he was a demon. It's... kind of hard not to know, after all," she smiled wrly.

“He's not a bad person, though, Sol," she seemed almost defensive, now. “If he was, he wouldn't have helped us out the way he has."

"I don't think he's like us either though." Soleil frowns slightly. "I'm not saying he's a bad person. I'm saying I don't know what he is. It feels… different. Sometimes a little more like Sam than anyone, but I don't think he's a fallen angel either."

Her tone darkens slightly. "He broke the android, Luna. Not on purpose I don't think; it was trying to kill him, after all. But he just broke its back over his knee and threw it out the front window, like it was nothing. Whatever he is… he's stronger than you or me. By a lot."

“What the fuck?" Luna seemed surprised by the statement. “Like... just broke it?" It was more of a statement than a question, and Luna's eyes remained wide. She mouthed a wow before sliding back into her seat.

“It'd be nice if we were that strong," she muttered. “Wouldn't have to put up with Zinoviev or his shit."

Soleil hadn't exactly been thinking about it in those terms, but now that her sister mentioned it. "And twenty bucks says he's not tied up in demon politics." She tapped her spoon gently against the side of her bowl. It was only common sense. The guy was genuine-article homeless. Demons barely paid attention to the existence of such people, and she figured Mick had to be pretty good at staying under the radar before, or else that kind of strength would have been noticed.

Why had he chosen to give himself away now, then? He could have just left, and been completely fine. But he'd helped her instead, then shut the droid down in the most efficient series of moves Soleil had ever seen. He wasn't just strong, he was trained to use that strength. Maybe some kind of government project? She wouldn't be surprised if the demons had experimented with people.

"You think he'd stick his neck out far enough to help with the Zinoviev problem?"

Luna had been in the middle of taking a bite when Soleil asked the question. She swallowed a little too quickly and tapped her chest a couple of times before glancing in Soleil's direction. “Honest answer?" she asked, furrowing her brows lightly.

“I don't know. I could ask him the next time I see him, but... I don't think he'd say no, exactly," her lips were pursed slightly as a light tinge of pink ran across the bridge of her nose. “He did say he was useful in a pinch, and that I could ask him for help if I needed it." She sighed softly and pushed the food around in her bowl.

Soleil hummed. "Sounds like he would, then. I'm not suggesting you make him do it for free. We could easily pay the guy, even if it was just with what fucking Alastor would bleed out of us this month, you know?"

Help if she needed it, huh? Soleil narrowed her eyes slightly. An interesting offer, and more interesting still was the look on Luna's face when she mentioned it.

“So... like pay him as a bodyguard?" Luna stated, arching her brow slightly. “I mean, he probably would do it for free," she murmured before shoving the spoon into her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully before she glanced back at Soleil.

“I guess I can go find him after this," she pointed to her bowl. “He's usually around the park by now," she added, taking another bite of her food. “Unless there's something else that needs to be done today?"

Soleil shook her head. "No, I'm mostly just working on that Carino that came in yesterday. Might head up to Sam's around three, but all the chores are in order. Go see him, if you want to."

“Alright," she stated, pursing her lips slightly before pointing the spoon in Soleil's direction. “Just make sure you take some pajamas just in case you stay the night."

"Oh my god Luna shut up." Sol grumbled it. As if she'd ever do something like—like stay over at his house. Even if she did, she'd just sleep in the workshop or whatever. It wasn't like that.

The back of her neck was burning.

“I'm being serious," Luna stated, furrowing her brows. “If you stay the night, you need pajamas. I'm sure Sam would be more than happy to provide you with some, but we both know how comfy your pajamas are. I stole your pants last week." She stated it matter-of-fact.

"Yeah, yeah, okay mom," she grumped in reply, rolling her eyes and taking another bite of soup. "I can take care of myself, thanks. You just worry about finding your super tall lumberjack not-a-demon."

“He's not that hard to find, and you're not wrong. He is super tall," she grinned at Soleil. “He'd be pretty useful for reaching the stuff on the tall shelves that neither you nor myself can reach. Can't say the same about Sam, though."

Soleil shrugged. "I just climb on his counters, it's fine." She frowned a little across at her sister. The comparison was a little odd, but then she supposed as far as 'weird but surprisingly nice people' in their lives those were the two that stuck out. So maybe it was only natural.

“And I'm sure he'd like that," she stated, her grin growing wider, “you climbing on him."

"That is not what I said, Luna." She grimaced, narrowing her eyes. "What is it with you and not letting this go? It's not—it's not like that."

“Because he makes you happy," she replied almost immediately, a sort of seriousness on her face. “When was the last time you were ever really happy, Sol? Like... actually happy to have someone you could count on? We're family so all we have is each other, but..." she paused, almost as if she were uncertain of her next words.

“Maybe it wouldn't hurt to just see if it could be like that? I'm just saying that... maybe for once, things really are looking up for us." She sounded almost hopeful.

And now they were back to the usual way of things, with Luna being the optimist and Soleil the realist. "Nothing lasts," she murmured, shaking her head and taking a bite of her soup. "I can't risk that much when nothing lasts." Her sister, she could count on. They were family. They'd grown up together, always been there. She could believe that bond was unseverable.

But everything else, no matter how good it had ever seemed, went away. The hungry kids exhausted goodwill, the apprentice became too much more skilled, the interest in the strange girl with the sharp tongue dwindled into annoyance. Sam, too, would reach a point where she was no longer novel or interesting. It was just the way of the world.

She didn't hold it against him, but she knew it to be true nonetheless. And Soleil? Her stupid heart couldn't accept the reality her head knew for fact. It needed something that would last, and she couldn't open it up to hope for that. That was the surest route to destruction.

Luna sighed heavily and shook her head. “So what?" she stated, narrowing her eyes slightly. “So what if nothing lasts? Why can't we just enjoy it while it does? I know it's how we've lived for so long, but..." she paused and shook her head.

“I'm tired of living like that, Sol. I know you are, too. This life... maybe we should just try and enjoy it for once? At least if we do, we already know it won't last and can just... soften the blow when it does end."

"If you can do that, then you should," Soleil said quietly, and she meant it. "But I'm not… I'm not built that way, Luna. Sometimes I already feel like I… depend on it too much. This assumption of 'it'll still be there for me tomorrow.' And on the day it isn't, I—" She shook her head, and fell silent.

Luna smiled ruefully. “How can I if my sister can't?" she stated, reaching over to grab Soleil's hand. “We promised to always be there for each other. Your life is my life, and my life is yours, remember? We'll always have each other until the end, but..." she sighed heavily and shook her head.

“I'll let you know what Mick says," seemingly dropping the topic.

Soleil accepted it. She didn't really want to talk about this, to be honest, so the dropping of the topic was a relief.

"Sure."

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