It all started with a tube of lipstick. Asmodeus had bribed him with it, although it had been obvious to the both of them that Barbatos didn’t need to be bribed for Asmodeus to spend time with Solomon. Barbatos valued the pact he had with the human - for the sake of the pact and their amicable relationship, Barbatos considered Solomon human - but he was aware that some relationships were worth more than it. Asmodeus didn’t have to convince him to release Solomon. If Asmodeus asked him, just asked him, no bribery involved, Barbatos would let go of Solomon’s soul immediately. There was no use in collecting a soul of a near-immortal. (Barbatos could kill Solomon if he wanted to. There was just one tiny problem: He didn’t want to. He had never, not once, thought about it.)
Asmodeus had bribed him before. It seemed to amuse him, to bring Barbatos tiny bottles of perfume, to paint his nails, to bring a package of sweets “he wasn’t going to eat, anyway” (that much was true). Barbatos accepted almost anything but he’d always offer Asmodeus part of the sweets he had just used to bribe him. Most of the time Barbatos would share the sweets with Asmodeus and Solomon before the two demons left him.
He didn’t feel insulted by this. Asmodeus was clever enough to be aware of how powerful Barbatos was but he wasn’t afraid of him. Barbatos didn’t have to ask for anything in his life but he gladly accepted Asmodeus’ offerings. He’d try some of the perfumes out in his room, spray them onto his sheets when he felt like it. Never onto his body, since he didn’t want the scent to distract Lord Diavolo. His painted nails were hidden during the day, so there was no reason for him not to enjoy them in private.
But then Asmodeus gave him the lipstick.
“We’re fresh out of bribery coffee,” he had told Barbatos who recognized this as a reference of sorts but had no idea where to place it.
Barbatos first put it on in the evening Asmodeus had given it to him, in his own bathroom in Lord Diavolo’s castle. Asmodeus had stolen Solomon out of a meeting that was about to end anyway. Solomon must’ve said something funny in the hallway because Asmodeus had been giggling until they had reached the exit and went out of earshot.
Lord Diavolo had reached for his D.D.D. immediately and had called Lucifer to tell him to come over. Lucifer must’ve said No because Diavolo had begged him, then ordered him and eventually had given up. Barbatos had caught his expression, both confused and hurt, like Diavolo was wondering if he was allowed to be hurt in the first place.
And something had warned him, a feeling in his stomach, the hint of a possible future, that Diavolo and Lucifer’s relationship was going to be more important than the two of them assumed. Barbatos wasn’t allowed to tell them, of course, but he watched them closely. Lucifer felt betrayed because they talked about important issues without him. Diavolo felt guilty. Barbatos had no idea how to fix it.
But he was going to. He was not going to lose the only home he had. At times Barbatos felt like he was watching a game of chess with control over who won. Then there’d be times where he’d feel like he was a pawn in said chess game, ready to be sacrificed to win. Sometimes he felt like he was the one playing but he had no idea who had challenged him. (Or who he had challenged.)
Barbatos had offered to stay with Lord Diavolo who had considered it but then sent him away.
“I don’t want you to be a replacement for Lucifer. Com’on, enjoy your evening, will you?” his lord had said with a smile that hadn’t been meant to be harmful but still stung somewhere in Barbatos’ chest. Not because it was hurtful but because Barbatos knew that this was how Lord Diavolo was truly feeling.
Barbatos was powerful but he wasn’t perfect. That’s why he had nodded at this, had bowed and had left. He hadn’t expected Diavolo to need anything during the evening, so he had tried out the lipstick. He had smiled at himself in the bathroom mirror and caught a sparkle in his eyes that wasn’t there on a regular day.
Barbatos liked it, he decided.
And then he immediately forgot about it because he heard Lord Diavolo calling his name. Barbatos wiped his face and teleported right in front of the demon king’s office. He had guessed correctly; Lord Diavolo was sitting at his desk and smiled when he walked in.
“Are you alright, my lord?”
“Yes, I-” Lord Diavolo interrupted his sentence and tilted his head. “Lipstick?”
Barbatos felt himself blushing and resisted the urge to wipe his lips again, since he feared this was going to seem even more professional. After a couple of seconds, he nodded.
“It looks good.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
Lord Diavolo stared for a few more seconds, then the smile was back and he relaxed in his chair.
“I wanted to ask you something but only if you have the time.”
Barbatos almost smiled at this but managed to keep his face under control. Of course he had the time. He had all the time in the world, if he were to manipulate the turn of events in his favor. He didn’t feel comfortable doing this most of the time. Not because he wasn’t capable of doing it but because there was always the risk of damaging the flow of time.
And also because he didn’t want to. He liked to think that his time was as limited as everyone else’s.
“I do have time, my lord.”
“Would you watch a movie with me? Not as a Lucifer-replacement but as… you. You-you. Not my butler… my friend.”
Barbatos’ eyes widened and for a couple of seconds it felt like he had forgotten every word in any language he had learnt.
“I think I could do that, my lord.”
“Nu-uh. No ‘my lord’ when we’re alone. Can you do that?”
Barbatos nodded, although he was sure that it was not going to be easy to unlearn the formal title on such short notice.
“I am going to try.”
“Do or do not…” Diavolo started and looked at Barbatos like he expected him to finish the quote.
Barbatos had no idea what to say.
“That settles it. Let’s watch Star Wars.” Diavolo stood up, pushed a few documents together which Barbatos recognized as his way of showing that he wasn’t going to do any more work for this evening.
For the first time in his life, Barbatos had no idea how to act. Diavolo walked past him and turned around at the doorstep.
“I’m coming,” Barbatos confirmed. “Actually, would you give me a moment? I’ll be with you in a second.”
They agreed to meet again in the sitting room in a couple of minutes. Barbatos stopped in his room first, walked into the bathroom and picked the lipstick back up. He carefully applied it, then he took off his gloves and looked at the black nails.
He was going to accept more lipstick from Asmodeus, if it ever came to it.