Barbatos prided himself on his unreadable expressions. It was fun to watch others try and figure him out, to see even Lucifer reduced to rubbing his temples and walking off when he was stunned into a spiral of confusion by a comment the butler had made. Diavolo was the only one who Barbatos’ comments and snide remarks said with passiveness didn’t get under the skin of, and while that was purely because his lord preferred to laugh everything off and most days barely listened to Barbatos’ suggestions, it worked right into their preferred dynamic.
A heartfelt, free-spirited ruler kept in line by his straight man was much more charming than a tyrannical, serious ruler. Besides, since most demons only ever saw Barbatos prodding Diavolo with reminders, it only added to their confusion and surprise when they finally spoke one-on-one to the butler, and were rendered speechless by his smirks and bluntness. The only person who was never taken aback by his comments were Solomon, who responded with just as much sarcasm, and…
The other human exchange student.
Barbatos sighed as he stood outside of MC’s bedroom. A few days had passed and Lord Diavolo had given the entire student council time off from classes while they investigated the incident. The criminals who assaulted MC were still chained up in Barbatos’ personal dungeon, as even if he had told the Avatar of Wrath off for being too brash with his treatment of them, Barbatos had no qualms with delivering his own form of punishment. Mostly because it was psychological and MC would never be able to see with their human mind the effects of it.
Despite that, MC was a perceptive individual. While the first time they had met, Barbatos had received the usual confounded look after making a remark layered in innuendo, wit, and just enough sarcasm to make him seem almost ignorant of whatever they were talking about, Barbatos was almost taken aback by MC’s gaze at their second meeting. His words were met with a more omniscient look, as if MC was looking straight through him and picking him apart, all while shooting an arrow through his heart with a smile.
As much as Barbatos had considered the turning back time, taking MC with him to a reality where the attack never happened or Barbatos got there before anything happened, he knew it would be wrong to do so without asking MC’s permission first. Going back to stop the attack would save MC in that new reality, but even if he merged the timelines, Barbatos found himself waking up at night in a cold sweat, his dreams of seeing MC’s untainted smile again always shattering with whispers of them still stuck in this world.
As much as he liked to believe he ruled over time, he knew he would never be certain of its heart. For as a king rules his people and demands they obey and praise him, one could never truly know all of the subject's thoughts. The chance that when he saved MC and merged the worlds together they would still be racketed by unfamiliar pains and memories from other lives, or the chance that he didn’t completely merge them as one and now one version of his love would be left in a world without all their friends and family as Barbatos shoved them into a new one with the wave of a clock’s hand… well...
Barbatos would be lying to himself if he said he was not frightened by the thought.
Besides, in his musing of other futures, most clearly he saw MC’s response to such an idea. At least, their words were able to bring a smile to his lips during the nights where he felt an unfamiliar sensation pricking at his eyes.
Laughter rang down the hallway, and Barbatos looked up, just as a flash of fabric dashed passed. His gloved hand easily reached for the door handle, and stepped aside to open it as MC flew inside. He shut it just before Mammon turned down the hallway, stomping passed about where did my human go? Barbatos let his hand fall back to his side once the noise subsided, and the hallway fell back into quiet once more.
At the very least, MC was doing much better.
Barbatos’ eyes snapped open as the door nearly collided with him and a hand yanked him by the shoulder of his waist coat. He was practically thrown against the inside of the door as it closed, and was face to face with the person of his musings, MC, who had walled him in with their arms.
“Hello to you too, MC.”
“I know what you’ve been thinking about,” they said, raising one eyebrow, “You’re practically screaming it, so, before you ask, no. I’m not letting you do it.”
Barbatos stared at them for a moment, before a small chuckle left his lips. His hands wrapped around their wrists and pried them off the door, breaking down the walls they built around him as he pushed off the surface and stood in front of them. The white cotton of his gloves blended in with the white of the bandages that looped up around their palm and up their fingers loosely.
“I believe I am under no pact of yours. Therefore, I am of no requirement to obey your orders.”
But I would still do so without question.
MC just continued to bore into him with that knowing, searching gaze of theirs. Barbatos sighed.
“Alas, I suppose as this involves your best interest, I will listen to you this once.”
“Good. Because going back wouldn’t change anything. Even if you sent me back, I would remember everything. And if I took the place of the other me, then everyone would be confused why I was upset. There’s no point.”
MC walked over to the window of their room, and opened it to the outside world, looking out over the garden that encircled the House of Lamentation.
Maybe they are not as perceptive as I gave them credit for, he thought.
“Besides,” they continued, taking a seat on the edge of their bed, “If you jumped to another timeline, what would I do without you?”
Barbatos, as if pulled along by a string, moved forward at the beckoning of their finger, and padded over until he was standing in front of them.
“Again,” he said, folding his hands behind his back, “I believe I am not in arrangement to be taking orders from you. And there is no need for me to jump to another timeline. There’s nothing weighing on my conscience that needs to be appeased.”
“So are you saying you wouldn’t try and make another version of me happy?”
Barbatos sighed, and reached out to brush back their hair, leaning down so their faces were only an inch apart, and they felt each other’s breath on their faces.
“Why would I jump timelines for that when I could make all versions of you happy by doing this in all of them?”
MC grabbed his face as they kissed, and Barbatos smiled against the corner of their lips as he shut his eyes.
He would just make sure to use his power to ensure that he never let another incident like this occur again.
“MC!” Luke said as soon as the front door swung open, “I brought you a ton of sweets!”
MC stepped back as a giant tray of cupcakes was shoved in their face. Belphegor cut in front to lift the dessert away before Beelzebub could devour them all, and as the tray was swiped out of their vision, Simeon stood there holding a smaller container of confectioneries tucked demurely in his arms. He crossed the threshold and, taking one arm away from the box, he tilted their chin up with his finger.
“I’m happy to see that smile hasn’t dimmed at all, my starlight.”
His finger slipped off their chin and flew ever upwards, before he circled his wrist and then brought it down to boop their nose.
“Now, where would you like me to bring these?”
Belphegor grumbled something but ushered the angel with him towards the dining room. Beelzebub followed close on their heels, entranced by the food, and MC walked beside Luke as the smaller angel hopped up and down, excitedly gushing about the recipes he had used. Simeon smiled over his shoulder when he heard the laughter bubble up from within MC’s chest.
All of those involved in the exchange program had been invited to the House of Lamentation today. Lucifer had messaged that MC was feeling better, and that he believed MC would feel better surrounded by their loved ones. Luke had immediately stormed the kitchen and began baking up a storm when Simeon delivered the message. Solomon was running late, and would be over later.
A few hours had passed, and after sampling as many of Luke’s treats that they could, MC had left the kitchen and retired to their room. Luke had gone with them, but Simeon had stayed to converse with Satan and Asmo for a more realistic view of how they were handling the situation.
Fingers tracing the ridges on the wall, Simeon walked slowly down the hall. He had not been inside the House of Lamentation before, so he was unsure of where MC’s room was, but he eventually spotted a figure dressed in green standing outside the door at the end of the hall.
Barbatos. The butler’s lips turned up at the sight of the angel, and he wordlessly opened the door for Simeon to step through.
Simeon did not comment on the way his eyes were rimmed by dark shadows and red. He understood. They all were still going through hell.
The door shut behind him. MC looked up as he came in.
They were sitting up in bed, legs tucked into blankets as Luke curled up on top of the comforter, sound asleep with his head in MC’s lap. His hat was removed and sitting on the nightstand.
“I apologize for Luke. He was up late baking,” Simeon laughed quietly.
“It’s okay. He tired himself out by talking,” MC stared at Simeon when he just stood by their bed, and leaned forward, careful to not knock Luke, patted the blanket, “I don’t mind. Join me.”
For a moment, Simeon’s blue eyes darkened, and flickered with several emotions, temptation nagging at the back of his mind. He squashed them quickly, smoothing his robes as he sat down, careful to stay to the edge of the bed.
He wouldn’t want to disturb Luke, afterall.
They sat quietly for a minute, MC not bothered by Simeon’s lack of conversation, and instead moving to stroke their hand over Luke’s head, running their fingers through his hair as the tiny angel shifted and made faint mumblings throughout their sleep. MC wasn’t blind to Simeon’s conflicted expression, they just chose to give him time, and was very conscious of the way his eyes followed every movement of their arms, still wrapped in bandages.
“Do you still have cuts underneath them?” He eventually asked.
“Yes, but they’re getting smaller by the day. They’ll probably leave small scars.”
Simeon frowned, “We couldn’t heal them right away, I’m sorry. Some of your injuries we had to let naturally heal, but I can reverse the scarring if they’re far enough along.”
MC stopped in their ministrations on Luke, “Do you want to see them?”
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
And so, MC carefully unwound their bandages, their brow furrowing and a hiss escaping their mouth as the cold air of the house settled over the bare skin, and some areas of dried blood were split from the bandage and wound. Simeon reached forward and with two fingers, plucked the edge of the white wrappings from their fingers.
“Let me help.”
Eventually, the bandages dropped into a pile on the floor, and Simeon traced the pads of his fingers lightly along the skin of MC’s arms, inspecting each scratch and scar. His inspecting gaze never faltered, his mouth simply began to utter a prayer as a circle of golden, shining light danced under his hand and followed the glide up and down the arm. The cuts sunk back into the skin with any scabbed blood, and the flesh knitted itself back over top. When they all were almost gone, the golden circle disappeared. Simeon gasped, releasing the grip he had on their arms and took a breath.’
“Some of them need a few more days of natural healing… Eventually, they will be good as new.”
“Thank you. That took a lot out of you to do, hm?”
“Oh, well.... In a way, yes. When angels heal injuries, we sometimes get a vision of what caused the injuries. It’s meant to help us be more empathetic towards the one who is hurting.”
“Oh… So you saw...?”
Simeon folded his hands in his lap, “Yes. I had already seen most of it when I healed the burns on your chest… Luke did as well, I suspect, but there was so much going on at the time I think regardless we both blocked it out. I was very focused on making sure you didn’t see anymore of the fighting that was going on.”
MC sat up more, leaning forward from the pillows propped up against their back to touch Simeon’s arm, “I’m sorry you had to see all that anyway.”
Simeon laughed, “I’m sorry you had to live it, my dear.”
His eyes flitted to the ground, half-lidded and crestfallen. Beneath MC’s touch, they felt the muscles in his arm tighten and begin to tremble.
“That is part of the reason we are… forbidden from healing emotional pain. We cannot completely erase or eradicate the feelings of stress and fear that come from such events. We get enough of a glimpse of such emotions through the visions of the physical injuries… if we were to touch matters of the heart, it would be practically scarring on our own.”
MC massaged his arm, and hummed, “I do not need you to erase what happened to me, Simeon.”
“Solomon says he has a spell if you wish. As much as I wish to take away the burden and memory of your pain, as much as I know it hurts you, I’m supposed to tell you that when you do heal from it, you will be stronger but… in this instance I cannot believe that,” his voice cracked and he brought his hands up to comb into his hair, his trembling increasing as he began to cry.
Shifting Luke delicately off of their lap, MC knelt and leaned forward enough so that they could tug Simeon back so his head was resting against their chest, their arms encircling him as they held him close.
“I appreciate the thought, Simeon, I do. But, you should not blame yourself for what happened, and for what you cannot do. I do not want you to see and feel everything I experienced… In the human world, sometimes simply talking about events can be enough.”
MC gingerly grabbed Simeon’s jaw and tilted his face up to look at them, “You may not be erasing the pain by taking it upon yourself… but, you can help me lighten the burden, if I ever need you to.”
“You do not wish to talk about it, then?” He asked, tears brimming his eyes.
“Not right now. Later. I’ve talked enough about it the past few days. Now, will you rest with me?”
Simeon’s eyes widened as MC languidly pulled away from him, leaning back against the pillows. It was no doubt meant to be an innocent move, simply nestling into the blankets again beside Luke, but a part of Simeon trembled differently when he saw how they smiled against the plush of the pillow they were sinking into. The moon from the window across the room cut across their cheekbones with a sharp light, casting shadows across their eyelashes which twitched as the one eye came too close to the silk of the pillow case.
With one arm loosely looping around Luke once more to tug him closer, and the other still reaching out, fingers beckoning him with a slight fluttering as MC stretched their hand towards his once more, he could almost mistake them for a painting of the Madonna and Child.
Simeon swallowed as the fingertips grazed his gloved hand which was unconsciously moving away from him and starting to reach out. He had seen many renditions of angelic paintings, and from the grandest, most well known to the smallest children’s drawing, but he had never seen a painting as enticing as them in this moment.
“Alright,” he whispered, and took a moment to shed his shoes and robes, he climbed further up on the bed, crawling into the space behind them. Careful of where to place his hands, they guided him to rest with only a brief touch over their elbow, and then they turned to face Luke, settling against the pillow and shutting their eyes.
Simeon watched from behind MC’s head as out the window, the moon shifted in the artificial sky, the beams of light cutting behind a tree in the garden until the room was bathed in a lavender darkness for a moment.
Simeon pressed a kiss into their hair, and then curled up closer, shutting his eyes.
Solomon opened the door to MC’s room quietly. He had arrived late, and Barbatos was no longer guarding the door, having been swept away to join Lucifer and Diavolo in a meeting. Solomon was all the more thankful for it, with a heavy spell book under his arm, he made his way inside with a solemn expression.
It would be easier to do this without interference from anyone else.
He stepped into the room and the floorboards creaked, and instantly, he glanced towards MC’s bed. He was met with the sight of them sitting up, surrounded by the sleeping bodies of Luke and Simeon.
Seeing MC awake, Solomon tightened his grip on the spell book.
“Solomon? I was wondering when you were going to arrive.”
“Forgive me, I had to find something before I came.”
MC motioned for him to come close to the bed, and Solomon did not miss the way their eyes stayed on the book. When the book was close enough that they could see the title along the binding was not in a human world language but an ancient demon tongue, their eyebrow arched.
“So, let me guess. You have a spell that will magic my memories away?”
Solomon sucked in a sharp breath, but his eyes were still empty. His smugness had been wiped away for days now, “Yes.”
“And you really think I would let you do that?”
“I was planning on you being asleep.”
“It’s for the best,” he argued, “I do not like… to see you suffering.”
MC frowned and gestured around them, “Do I look like I am suffering?”
Solomon was silent.
“Simeon just healed my arms, well, mostly. The pain is almost completely gone. See?”
“I cannot see whether you have pain or not, MC.”
“Yes, you can. Look at my face. Do I look like I am hurting?”
Solomon glanced up from their arms to their smiling face. He frowned, and shifted the book under his arm, “You can fake a smile. I have seen you do it many times.”
Solomon took the smallest amount in pride in how the smile faltered at that statement, because it proved his point of how fragile it was. But then, he was faced with the sight of MC being sad. Because of him. MC didn’t meet his eyes after that, and he sighed and started to pull out the book-
“Solomon, I know I can’t order you to do anything, but I will get all the brothers in here if you even try and cast a spell on me. I’ll summon Diavolo too.”
“Lucifer and Diavolo will be inclined to agree with me. It is better you forget all this.”
“But I don’t want to. And if you flip even another page, I’ll call Barbatos too.”
“I had a pact with him first, he’s powerless against me.”
“You would be surprised what the power of love can do,” they jabbed a finger up at him, “I’ll say one thing and he’ll disobey you. Want to test it out?”
Solomon blinked at them, starting to flip another page when he watched them suck in a big gulp of air, ready to scream out and call one of their demons no doubt. With a sigh, Solomon closed the book, and tucked it back under his arm before he smoothly grabbed MC’s wrist and turned the hand up towards him, the fingers unfurling like a flower in bloom.
“Yes, yes,” he said as he maneuvered the hand in his grasp, “You have them all wrapped around your finger, don’t you?”
He brought the palm to his lips, and pressed an open mouth kiss to it.
“That includes me, too.”
“Solomon, I know-”
“I don’t like seeing you in pain. I was the first to see you after Mammon.”
“That makes you the second.”
“That makes me the first before these two,” he said, frowning, but still holding the hand close to his face, pressed another kiss.
“I’m not in pain anymore, Solomon. I promise.”
“But you were. And that memory could come back at any time.”
“But it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’m alive. And if it does come back, I have all of you with me.”
Solomon sighed, and flopped down on the end of the bed, narrowly missing Simeon’s legs as he did so. Sitting cross legged, he pulled the book into his lap and opened the first page.
“Can I at least tell you about the spell I was going to use? I promise I won’t cast it, I just spent a long time looking for it and now you’ve put my time to waste.”
“MC, are you absolutely certain about this?” Diavolo said from behind his desk next week in the student council room. Although he was giving them space and sitting in his chair, his voice carried that judgemental tone that said he wanted nothing more than to fight MC on every point of their decision.
“Yes. If we are to unite the realms as you wish, then we can’t be executing people who make mistakes.”
“I hardly call it a mistake, they tried to kill-”
“Believe me, Diavolo,” MC said, pulling out another bottle of medicine, “You don’t need to remind me.”
MC was kneeling on the floor of the student council office in front of three very beaten up demons. MC had managed to persuade Simeon and Luke to reverse the deformities caused by Satan’s senseless beatings and Barbatos’ torture, but MC had to fight tooth and nail to get the angels to agree to reverse the injuries sustained from the actual incident in the shower.
“I know it will be a lot for you guys, but please. It’s not fair for me to get healed and them not to. I have no power over you two, but I would very much appreciate it if you could assist me in making amends.”
Simeon had not let Luke participate in that, and had the younger angel escorted out of the room as he undid as much damage as he could. After about a minute, when the burns were starting to close up, Simeon abruptly fled the room, and it was Solomon who met him in the hallway.
He shuddered at how dangerously close he had come to healing the injuries caused by MC fighting back, and the first vision he had received from the demons’ perspective that showed the human’s frightened, screaming face as they kicked and clawed back had brought bile into his throat. Solomon silently rested a hand on his shoulder as he crouched in the hall, and eventually, the sorcerer draped took off his school jacket and draped it over the angel, trying to ignore Luke’s worried glances peeking around the corner down the hall.
“From how I see it,” MC said as they dabbed medicine along the cut on the largest demon’s arm, “They’ve served their punishment. Let this be enough and let them go. Kill them with kindness, at least that was what I was taught.”
“They technically committed treason by going against the exchange student program. They should be executed.”
MC laughed, “You are truly too cruel of a ruler, Diavolo.”
They tipped the bottle and added more medicine to the cotton swab.
“Truly too cruel.”
They were alone in the office now. After MC had finished personally attending to the remaining wounds, Barbatos escorted their attackers out, and while MC wished against it, they were certain for the rest of their lives, those three would be facing various trip-ups, punches, and just get caught being the bearer of Satan’s wrath during school hours as punishment. That was enough justice for them.
MC closed up the first-aid kit and stood in front of Diavolo’s desk. His golden eyes burned with unfathomable rage and disapproval from behind his folded hands. MC set the first-aid kit on the desk and stared him down.
The morning after the incident, when everyone had stayed home, MC requested Mammon gather everyone in the common room again. They were nervous, but they knew it had to be done. Seeing their reactions to them almost being killed again had left a terrible knot in their stomach that was threatening to strangle their lungs and heart if they didn’t say what needed to be said soon. Once everyone was gathered, MC sat beside Mammon on the opposite couch, their first pact mate clutching their hand with reassurance and sending waves of comfort through their bond.
“I want you all to promise me something. I already had Mammon make the promise last night. I’ll say what it is first, so your pacts won’t activate before you hear me out.”
They then chose their words carefully.
“I would like it if… you would promise me that when I die, you don’t blame yourself for it. No matter what the cause was.”
Naturally, there had been an immediate opposition to it.
“Are you crazy? How can you expect us to make that kind of promise?” Lucifer was the one who lunged to his feet with anger, which MC had anticipated, but not so fast. They expected Levi or Satan to yell first, instead, those two looked stunned. Well, Levi looked as though he was about to cry.
“I’m not asking you to not mourn me. Listen to me carefully. I just am… fearful of you turning on each other and blaming one another for what happened, even if it was a natural cause. To be frank, I’ve worked pretty damn hard to get you guys to get along again, so if I died and you all broke up again because of it, I feel like… not that you would be dishonoring my memory, I don’t consider myself that mighty, but… I would just be sad. It would hurt me to know the ones I loved were so torn up about something I caused.”
Lucifer was quiet now, and so with another comforting squeeze from Mammon, MC continued.
“If I die, I don’t know if you will be magically freed from any orders from the pact. If so, then there would be no need to worry about this promise, because it wouldn’t go into effect when I die anyway!”
“Don’t talk about that with such a cheery tone,” Levi hissed as he uncurled himself from the couch cushions, his demon form flashing as his tail snaked forward and grabbed MC’s ankle protectively. The others had started to shift forward as well. Asmo knelt down in front of MC and grabbed their other hand delicately, looking up at them with downright puppy eyes.
“I know, I know. You’re right. However, a part of me likes to believe that if the pact still works, then maybe… even if it’s temporarily, when I die, you won’t suffer. I know I’m essentially putting a chain on your emotions, but my hope is that it won’t feel that way. My hope is that any thought of blame will vanish from your mind. If you want to mourn me, you will be able to. If you want to grieve me, or be sad, you will still be able to. I just don’t want…”
And MC’s voice broke as they bowed their head, and crumpled forward into the arms of their family.
“I just don’t want you all to hate each other again. Please.”
“So, if everything is taken care of, I will be heading back to class,” MC said, giving a small bow before turning to walk away.
“I heard about your promise with the brothers.”
They turned back around and tried to flash him the widest smile they could manage, “Yes. I’m sorry if I overstepped my boundaries in my pact with Lucifer. I know you own him more than I do.”
“No, I was just thinking. It’s unfortunate that you can’t do such a thing with Barbatos and I.”
MC’s mouth gaped for a second before they found their words, “Ah, that is true. I can’t simply order you two around, now can I?”
Diavolo’s eyes were rippling with something besides the anger from before. It was still an undeniably strong and powerful emotion that made them glow even without his wings and horns out.
“No, you can’t. Not publicly at least,” he smirked, “I can’t speak for Barbatos, so you two will have to discuss it later. But, I know at the very least, I would be sad if you were to die, even if it was a million years from now.”
MC's brain felt lost. A part of them strongly understood what Diavolo was getting at, but one part of them, the one that cowered under his gaze, nervously backpedalled.
“Well, the promise wasn’t about not being sad. It was about not blaming one another and fighting with one another if I died. I’m worried about another Belphegor incident.”
“I see. Now, I certainly don’t want to end up blaming Lucifer or one of his brothers and sending them off to their death for treason if I misplace blame onto one of them. Do you know of any way I can prevent that?”
MC just blinked at him again, their mind still trying to catch up, burying the hope in the heart underneath uncertainty when faced with the most powerful demon in Devildom.
“I… don’t quite understand what you’re getting at. I’m sorry,” they confessed.
Diavolo smiled, and raised one hand up to usher them forward and behind his desk. Once they had circled around and were standing in front of him again, with no formalities and the barrier of the desk gone, he transformed into his mighty demon form. He rested his head on one fist, staring up at them as his other hand reached towards their hip, just brushing them as he coaxed them closer even more.
“I want to give you the power to command me, just this once, for the sake of making this promise. There may be other instances in the future, in private- the future King of Devildom can’t very well be seen ordered around by a human- but in exchange for giving you this power, you must give me one thing.”
MC swayed closer as the hand came to settle against their body, making them shiver even as they stepped so their knees were barely an inch away from his. Diavolo smiled.
“In exchange for this you must give me… a kiss.”
MC’s face lit up with overwhelming glee and redness. Swinging a leg over him, MC straddled Diavolo’s lap and grabbed ahold of his face roughly, both hands framing his face and tugging it up to meet theirs, MC grinned.
“Fine by me.”