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A Different Look

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Durmonyás had been on the job for all of a week before Bakszén started looking at him weirdly. He didn't try to hide it, because—this had become clear in less than a day—Bakszén's idea of subtlety was to use a smaller megaphone. He just watched Durmonyás, whenever he wasn't pacing around the office ranting about some minor inconvenience, or mysteriously scarce.

Durmonyás was pretty sure it wasn't because Bakszén found scheduling riveting. In fact, he was pretty sure Bakszén thought schedules were invented solely to be ignored.

At first he thought it was because Bakszén had realized that he reported to Mamuk, and the speculative consideration was because Bakszén was contemplating the best way to fire him.

To be honest, getting fired was starting to look like the best option, really. It was painfully clear Bakszén wasn't at all interested in any kind of sobering influence, and Madame his mother already thought Durmonyás was a spineless incompetent—she had, rather sweetly, made that clear at the initial interview. Durmonyás was not sure she was wrong, because he certainly seemed to have trouble holding firm around Bakszén. Bakszén was arrogant, ridiculous, infuriating, and yet—there was a reason he’d managed to start a minor social rebellion among the younger devils, and it was because despite everything, he did have some kind of unholy charisma.

Or maybe it was the leather pants. Durmonyás could already sense that the leather pants were going to be a problem.

That morning Bakszén marched into Durmonyás' office, plopped into a chair with a creak of leather, and put his booted feet up onto the desk, sending a stack of papers, a sickly cactus, and a stress-relieving desk toy that was not in any way stress-relieving tumbling to the floor. "Clear my morning schedule," he said, waving a hand as if he did this all the time instead of just not showing up to his meetings. "We need to do something about you."

Okay, this was it, Durmonyás thought, trying not to look too nervous. He was going to get fired, from his first real job, and who would hire someone who couldn't even hack it as personal assistant to a spoiled prince—

"—you're just too square," Bakszén continued, giving Durmonyás that look again. It was a long, measuring look that stayed entirely above the waist and yet managed to make Durmonyás feel a little dirty. "I mean, you're not bad, kind of hot if you like nerds, but that suit looks like something my dad would wear, if he weren't the wealthy and all-powerful lord of Hell, and your hair—" He frowned, an expression that did funny things to the flight of butterflies in Durmonyás' belly, and then snapped his fingers. It should not have been possible to snap fingers when you were the kind of pretentious wanker who insisted on growing your nails into talons, but Durmonyás was beginning to accept that a lot of things Bakszén did were fundamentally unfair. "I know! Today you're going to learn about eyeliner."

"Um," Durmonyás said, feeling the sudden urge to find a second desk to put between himself and Bakszén, who was smiling like he had found his inner shark.

Before he could formulate an appropriate objection that did not include the phrase “it’s against the office dress code,” a phrase that would surely seal his fate, Bakszén had swung his feet down, leapt onto the desk (bootprints on his weekly report to Mamuk, that would look great), and slithered over to sit on the edge in front of Durmonyás, leaving not nearly enough room between them. That was...a lot of leather in his personal space. Leather and...skin, lots of skin, and muscles, and tattoos...and that was a train of thought best derailed at the station.

Bakszén pulled an eyeliner pencil out of his pocket, then grabbed Durmonyás’ shoulder, effectively ceasing his half-hearted attempt to slide the chair sideways and escape. He leaned forward, tilting the chair back and bracing his forearm against Durmonyás’ chest, and brought the pencil up. This close, he smelled like cheap cinnamon aftershave, which was probably why Durmonyás felt light-headed. That or the fear that Bakszén would slip and stab him in the eye with the pencil.

“Hold still so I don’t poke your eye out. Okay, for eyeliner, you have to prop your arm on something for a steady hand.”

Does that something have to be me, Durmonyás thought plaintively, trying not to blink. Allowing Bakszén to apply pointy objects near his eyes had not been on the agenda for his day. Or his life.

“You need to look up—yeah, like that.” Bakszén did something with the pencil along the bottom of his eye that kind of tickled. At least his hand seemed steady so far.

“I’m rolling my eyes.”

“Durmi!” Bakszén said, with unnerving glee, already working on the other eye. “Did you just talk back to me?”

“Yes. No!” Durmonyás said, approaching a giddy state that bore little connection to fear. “Maybe?”

“There’s hope for you yet. Now stop squirming or I’ll sit on you.”

The mental image of Bakszén sitting in his lap was far, far too interesting, even if the reality was that they’d probably break the chair (that could be fun, said a traitorous voice in the back of Durmonyás’ mind), and he desperately hoped that Bakszén would take the blood flooding to his cheeks as embarrassment over sassing his boss and not...well.

“It looks better if it’s smudged,” Bakszén continued, eyeing him critically. “Some people use the smudgey bit on the end of the pencil, but I prefer a more…hands-on approach. Close your eyes.”

Durmonyás closed his eyes, then opened one of them, but at that distance all he could see was Bakszén’s forehead and one horn. Okay, Bakszén probably wouldn’t put his eye out. He wore eyeliner every day and he’d managed not to stab himself, and it was probably easier to do this to someone else, right?

The pad of Bakszén’s thumb swept over his closed eyelid with surprising delicacy, given his usual approach to life, and when had his eyelids developed so many nerve endings, anyway?

“Other eye.”

Maybe it was just because it was mildly terrifying. The forced trust of permitting someone else to wave their stupid talons around his eyes caused an adrenaline rush, which naturally—

“Not bad,” Bakszén said. “It’s an improvement, anyway.” With a whisper of fabric, Durmonyás felt a tug at his throat that made his pulse leap, and out of the corner of his eye he saw his tie perform a neat arc into the wastebasket. “Tomorrow we’ll do something about the rest. Cheers, Durmi!”

Bakszén vaulted back over the desk, knocking over a jar of pens and a small marble statue of a hellbeast, and sauntered out of the room, whistling.

Durmonyás definitely did not watch his ass as he went, because he was a professional.


Lord Mamuk glanced up when Durmonyás entered the office, looked back down at the report he’d sent up earlier, and then looked at Durmonyás again, with the stony expression that made underlings quake in their suits. “Is that…eyeliner?”

“Um,” said Durmonyás, who thought he had managed to scrub all of it off that morning.

Next to Mamuk, Bakszén’s mother, impeccably clad in a leather miniskirt and jacket that managed to marry business and fashion, smiled sweetly at her husband in a way that clearly meant I told you so.

Durmonyás revised his earlier assessment. It wasn’t the leather pants that were going to be a problem. Bakszén was going to be a problem.