Theseus buries the box and recites the incantations with the same numbness on his tongue as he had since IT had happened. He waits with bloodless limbs, fingernail beds blue with cold, and feels none of it. None of the elements, none of the anticipation. He feels only impatience.
He spins on the spot, looking this way and that down the four-pronged road, and growls an angry plume of white into the frigid winter air. His fingers curl into fists, but there is no one to strike. It was a lie, and he knew as much, really – but he had hoped…
“Hey there, handsome,” says a voice behind him, smooth like honey and just as unhurried. Theseus spins on one boot heel, hand already around his wand, only to still at a baby-fresh face and two large brown, mischievous eyes peeking out at him innocently overtop cupped hands – irises red in the brief moment it takes for his lighter to catch and his cigarette to ignite. Smoke curls from its tip and the stranger blows a perfect circle into the air after a long, heady drag before smiling – smoke eeking out from between his teeth and the playful spread of his nostrils. “Bit cold for this sort of business, don’t you think?”
Theseus doesn’t bother to warm himself as the demon does. Doesn’t bother to tuck his neck against the elements or burrow his hands, and it just makes the demon look younger and even smaller by comparison. Harmless and innocent.
Tricky son of a bitch. He wonders if the demon chose this form on purpose. He wonders if he knows.
“I want to make a deal,” Theseus says immediately, and something like pity crosses the demon’s eyes – eaten quickly by the predator that chases it: excitement.
“Ah,” he says simply. “You’re one of those.”
Theseus narrows his eyes and the stranger makes a show of gesturing in a leading way, as though suggesting something obvious. “Only two types of people seek me out. The particularly dumb; greedy and stupid as a sack of shit. And the desperate; broken and numb. You’re one of the broken ones.” The stranger takes a long moment, lips puckered around a fierce drag, before sighing out in a haze of smoke, “Yup. Whatever you want, it’s gonna be expensive. You know that, right?”
“I didn’t know you dealt in cheap affairs,” Theseus says, dry as a bone, and the demon laughs. He points his cigarette at him and says through a smile, “I like you. So what’s it gonna be, handsome? Your woman leave you? Five months left to live?”
“My brother’s dead,” Theseus says. “Fix it.”
The stranger sucks a hiss through his teeth, and Theseus can’t help but think the man is just the same age as Newt is–was–except he knows better. That soft face hides centuries of murder and theft and cruelty. Torture and God knew what else…
But that face also hid his only chance at saving Newt. So here he was.
The stranger drops his cigarette and grinds it into the very soil Theseus had buried the ritual box before letting out a cute little shiver and a grunt.
“What if I said I can’t?”
A little grin. A flash of hard to read eyes.
“You know I’ve heard about you. The great war hero Theseus Scamander. Already got a golden ticket for the pearly gates.”
“I’m not that important,” Theseus scoffs, not biting, and the stranger nods, a bit of black fringe falling into his eyes.
“No, you’re not – or at least you weren’t until a week ago. That’s when he passed, right? A week ago. Before then, you weren’t even remotely on our radar. Someone as shiny as you, fat chance. But now… here you are. Why me?”
“I hear you’re somewhat fair, for a demon.”
The stranger smiles the way the story books of his youth used to paint the cheshire cat’s grin. Young and cunning and with too many teeth.
“Cute,” he says. “I like to think I’m…honest. For a demon,” he kicks the dirt a bit, making a show of thinking, before catching Theseus’ gaze again. “One year.”
“He’ll only have one year?” Theseus growls, confused – what sort of deal is that?!
The stranger laughs.
“No. You get one year. Here, on earth. Brother dearest gets brought back, right as rain, and you get one year left to enjoy with him before you follow me back to hell. Fair, for the cost of retrieving a soul and returning it to this mortal coil in a healed body.”
Theseus narrows his eyes, but considers it.
“He’ll have a natural life ahead of him?”
“I’ll do you one better and even charm him. Barring the inevitable, he’ll be safeguarded from some of the more… unusual deaths available.”
Theseus looks out across the Irish meadows that surround them, billowing silver grains in the colorless light of the moon above. Like a white sea, ready to swallow him whole – innocent and overwhelming, like the shark he was swimming with.
One year. One year to get his affairs in order. To… to spend time with Newt. And in exchange, the knowledge that Newt would have the life he deserved. One that didn’t get ended early by the hands of a criminal Theseus had failed to catch.
He opens his mouth to answer, but the demon is suddenly in his space – a finger on his lips. Silencing him, eyes alight with life.
“Or,” he purrs, “You can live for however long as your natural life might’ve granted you. You get your bouncing baby brother back. He gets the charm. You get your happily ever after, or as near to it as you lovely alcoholic aurors ever seem to get.”
Theseus narrows his eyes again, stiff and wary. “And?”
“And,” the stranger says, “In exchange, you’re mine.”
“You said I stay.”
“You do stay. For however long you manage to keep your very handsome self alive. But in exchange, you’re mine. If I come knocking to play,” he purrs, and now he’s closer – words slipping right into Theseus’ mouth as the man stands on his tip toes to speak against the surprised part of his lips. “We play. No questions asked. And I expect participation. Vigorous participation. And when you die, whenever that may be, you come with me.”
“You want me to be your whore,” Theseus deadpans, eyes like saucers, and the demon chuckles against him.
“I suppose a whore is fitting… but I want more than that, handsome. I want everything.”
Theseus pulls back, desperate for room, for a breath, and bristles at the sound of the demon’s amused laughter – even light as it is. It’s not a good deal, but it is a better deal. More time with Newt. More time to live.
But he’d be living as a demon’s bitch…
He looks over the hush of the meadow. He curls his fists again and again. And when finally he turns to regard the demon, the demon is already so. damn. close.
“What’s it gonna be?”
Theseus offers his hand between them after a bitter moment, spine stiff and jaw tight.
“It’s a deal.”
The demon looks at his hand like Theseus had offered him a muddy shoe, then coyly bats it aside.
“Oh darling,” he purrs, “A deal like this you don’t seal with something as weak as a handshake.”
And then in a blink, he’s holding him close – hands clutching his bicep and his waist – and Theseus feels small and powerless beneath those hungry, eager eyes.
“A deal like this,” he says, breath hot and heady with the whisper of forgotten smoke, mingling with the whiskey still burning on Theseus’ tongue, “Deserves a kiss.”
And then there’s lips upon him and the feeling of a knife scrawling fiery letters into the very fabric of his being, claiming him as damned. But beneath the searing carving is a rising pleasure, a connection beyond anything he’s ever felt, and with every passing second it grows stronger. He feels wanted. He feels anticipation. He feels life breathe its way back into his bones, into the span of his lungs, into his heart –
– and just down the road in a motel bed, Newt Scamander sucks in a heaving breath, alive.
When finally the demon pulls back, Theseus already knows his name as though its his own. Percival Graves, he goes by lately. But he has many names. Old names. Frightening names.
Percival smiles at him like he’s a new toy, and Theseus shudders.
“Be seeing you around, handsome,” he says and winks, and he’s gone. Leaving Theseus alone and confused in a sea of silver meadows.
He lets out a heavy, shuddering breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding, and it plumes free from his lungs in a mess by comparison to the smoke rings the demon had been blowing.
Theseus rubs his lips with shocked, shaking fingers and searches for regret inside himself, but instead there is only satisfaction and victory and dare he name it – excitement.
And again, the demon makes him wait.