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If You Can't Beat 'Em...

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“If one more fucker makes a flaming phoenix joke in the next hour, I swear to everything that’s holy they’re gonna be reincarnated just so I can kill them again.”

It was far too hot in Hell today for most souls, and in a run down joint like the Happy Hotel, the occupants were just trying to keep from melting.

Husk laid flat on his stomach on top of the bar counter, arms stretched out in front of him. His long red wings drooped down on both sides and wisped lightly against the carpeted floor. Sweat was pooling steadily from beneath the feather tips. Not far away, Angel Dust chuckled from where he sat propped on the ground against a chair leg, two pairs of arms limp while the remaining ones worked slowly at untying his corset.

“C’mon Husk baby, it’s hard not to say somethin’ with those bee-autiful feather peckers,” he said with lazy eyes. “You gotta take it as it is.”

“A compliment?”

“A come on.”

Husk grabbed at the nearest bottle and took a long swig.

“Anyway,” Angel tactfully ignored such rudeness by dropping his gaze to the uncooperative bodice around his waist. “You’d think Miss Mime Face would be rich enough to get AC out here, her being a princess or whatever the shit. Not very accommodating for us working poor.”

“Miss Mime…? You talkin’ about Charlie?”

“Shhh, don’t say her name, Husk! Might summon her.” The spider demon made a show of looking around the room in mock nervousness.

“Don’t be a dumbass. That’s not even possible out there; definitely not here.”

Of course it was this moment that the bar doors slammed open with the force of Charlie’s outstretched arms, startling Husk so much he rolled sideways and fell off the counter with a loud thunk and a groan. Angel smirked.

“Speaking of the devil lady. Aha!” He succeeded in pulling off his corset, breathing a deep sigh as he dropped the piece of clothing in his lap.

Charlie came strolling in with her hands clasped behind her back. She looked at Angel, half naked on the floor, to Husk, who was currently picking himself up off the floor. There was a brief pause.

“Did I – interrupt something?” The girl asked politely.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Ah, okay then.” She took another moment to flick her ponytail behind her shoulder. “Sooo, what are we doing in here? Some kind of meeting?”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“I see. Well, since you can’t seem to make up your minds, how about we spend some quality time with the rest of the staff? It won’t do to hole yourselves up like this!” Her statement was accompanied by a well-meaning hand clap.

Husk collapsed onto a stool and sagged against the countertop. He squinted at the Princess of Hell like she had grown a halo.

“How the hell are you even moving in that outfit?”

Charlie’s smile faltered in bemusement. “What do you mean?”

“Uh, look around Char-Char! We ain’t exactly freezin’ over today, if you get my drift.” Angel laid forward on his stomach and reached out one hand towards the woman. It made contact with her right shoe and he tapped a claw against the leather. She squeaked and hopped away.

“Oh come one you guys, we can’t let one measly heatwave stop us on such a wonderful day! I doubt it’s even that bad, you just wanna find something to complain about.”

“Charlie, if you can find one other person in this hotel who isn’t dying again right now, I will give you half of the register money.” Husk said completely deadpan.

“But…you already do that anyway?”

“That means fuck off, doll-face.” Angel murmured, stretched across the carpet as the heat started overcoming him. His hair-fluff drooped and dripped with sweat.

“Fine,” the princess’ chin lifted in stubbornness. “I’ll go find someone else who’s not a spoilsport. And then I’ll be back to show you both how childish you’re being.”

With a flip of her ponytail, Charlie turned and walked calmly out of the bar with fisted hands at her sides. Husk and Angel exchanged one feverish glance and then simultaneously closed their eyes and let nothingness overtake them.

Ten minutes later, the doors swung open again and Charlie crept in looking considerably more weary and sheepish. Husk opened one eye to watch her lazily. Angel didn’t even bother to be that courteous.

“Okay, so. It seems I was maybe a little hasty to brush off your concerns.” She fidgeted, tapping her fingertips against each other. “Everyone else is sorta…out of sorts too.”

“Ya don’t say,” Angel growled without moving. His face was buried into the carpet.

“Yes, well, I do say. So in order to bring everyone’s spirits up, I’ve decided to make an executive decision.” Charlie paused, for dramatic effect and the chance for questions. Neither guy took the bait so she plowed on. “My decision is to beat the heat…through a bonding exercise! Yay! How’s that sound?”

“Terrible.”

“Like a fucking nightmare.”

“Great! Mandatory attendance in the main lobby, be there in two minutes or there’ll be consequences!” The last word was sung at a higher pitch as the princess skipped out of the room, considerably more chipper than during her entrance.

Husk sighed and got off the stool, swiping the whiskey he’d drank from earlier. He padded across the room and nudged Angel’s body with his paw.

“C’mon.”

“I don’ wanna.”

“Get your sorry ass up, if I have to do this then so do you.”

Ugh,” the spider lifted himself off the floor with shaking arms. “Fine. But I’m going bare-chested. And you owe me a French 75 on the house afterwards.”

“I don’t owe you shit, let’s go.”

When they arrived at their destination, it was to find Vaggie slumped in a lounge chair, who gave a halfhearted wave, and Niffty humming some wayward tune as she sat at a table with her head propped up by her hands and elbows. Her face scrunched up at Angel’s topless upper half.

“That’s not very proper, deary.” Niffty tittered with a head tilt.

Angel gave her the finger listlessly as he dropped to the floor again. Husk rolled his eyes and joined Niffty at the table. The four of them stayed that way, listening to the obnoxious ticking of a wall clock nearby, until Charlie came down from upstairs. She was armed with several objects shaped like cartoonish, oversized guns. The spider demon perked up immediately.

“Are those weapons I spy?” He sat up and looked them over. “They look kinda flimsy.”

“That’s because they’re not the kind of weapons you’re thinking of, silly!” Charlie dropped the guns on the table with a clatter. She hefted a larger one up against her shoulder. “These are water guns! This is how we’re gonna cool down.”

Vaggie frowned from her seat. “Uh, Charlie, I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

“Sure it is, don’t worry!”

Niffty oohed and aahed over the neon colors while Husk stared at the pile, disinterested. He took a drink of whiskey, stared again, and managed to look even more disinterested. Angel, meanwhile, crawled over to peer at the toys from the table ledge.

“What’re water guns? What kinda bullets they use?”

“They don’t use bullets you moron, they’re kids toys.” Husk downed another gulp. “She’s treating us like kids is what she’s doing.”

“Pff, no I’m not. These things are fun for all ages! And all immortals!” The princess held out the one she was holding for the rest of them to see. “Look, you fill this cap with water, right here, and then you press this trigger to squirt it. I already filled them all so don’t worry about that, but I was hoping we could each pick one and head into the backyard to have a water gun fight. Sounds fun, right?”

Husk shook his head and curled into the chair with his whiskey. Niffty seemed not to have heard Charlie; she had picked up the most colorful gun and was cooing over it. Angel stayed where he was, two pairs of hands clutched around the table’s edge while he peeked just over it at the plastic weapons. Vaggie stood up and moved to Charlie’s side, placing one hand on her shoulder.

“Listen, I know you’re trying to help us with the heat problem,” she spoke quietly to her partner, “and we really appreciate it, but I really, really don’t think this is the best idea.”

“Come on Vaggie, the backyard is totally safe from malicious demons, I’ve been putting charms around the perimeter so we don’t get any unwanted guests.” Unwanted guests mostly meant Sir Pentious but nobody was going to say that out loud.

The girl still looked skeptical, so Charlie smiled sincerely at her.

“And it’s not like I filled the guns with acid, so what’s the worst that could happen?”

“ACK!”

Angel flinched back violently as Niffty sprayed water in his face at close range. She giggled delightedly and sprayed him again, forcing the cursing spider to duck under the table.

“Hey, not inside! Outside!” Charlie scolded as Vaggie facepalmed.

But it was too late. One spidery hand whipped up over the table and groped blindly for all of two seconds before landing on a hefty-sized water gun, which was quickly pulled under the makeshift wooden hiding spot. Then the furniture was knocked sideways, sending Husk and Niffty sprawling as Angel popped up and held the trigger down, spraying indiscriminately.

Husk made a yelped curse and his wings drew up to block the sudden barrage of water. Niffty gave a cry of both glee and astonishment, responding by trying to shoot her own weapon. Her aim went wide and sailed past a cackling Angel right onto Vaggie’s chest.

She squawked and fell on her butt, to which Charlie mirrored. Vaggie flicked water off her breasts and growled.

“Charlie, give me your gun right now.”

“But, but outside –”

Now!

Angel was having the time of his life, right up until Vaggie came up behind him and smacked him with the gun itself. He stumbled forward and nearly tripped on the upended table.

“What the hell?!”

“This is your fault Angel!” The girl demon yelled and sprayed him in the back. He tensed up at the feel of cold water against his uncovered body, whipping around with a deranged snarl.

“Eat acqua, bitch!” He pulled the trigger like it was a machine gun. Water hit Vaggie right in the face and she started spraying back.

While those two remained locked for dominance, Niffty turned her sights to Husk, who was trying desperately to get out of the line of fire. She twittered maniacally as she pounced on him with her weapon, and with no proper way to defend himself the poor winged demon did the next best thing – he dumped his whiskey on her. She screamed, in disgust or delight it was hard to tell, and he took the chance to jump up and hightail it out of there.

So stood Charlie, standing helplessly as Angel and Vaggie threw obscenities and H2O at each other, Husk fled the scene, and Niffty brushed at her alcohol-covered outfit and licked her fingers. She made eye contact with the princess and gave a toothy, dangerous grin, lifting her weapon up slowly like a bringer of doom. Charlie’s gaze hovered down to the remaining water guns left on the floor.

“Well,” she decided, “if you can’t beat them, join them!”

.

.

.

.

A half hour later and huddled in the safety of his locked bar, Husk rolled his eyes as a third loud crash sounded through the hotel. Someone screamed and demonic laughter echoed with a suspiciously Charlie-like voice.

“Idiots,” Husk declared to himself, still drying his fur off. “Idiots and children, every single one of them.”