Turns out last week was Asexual Awareness Week. Why do I always learn these things too late?
Anyway, this chapter took a while because the direction kept changing every few paragraphs. So I resorted back to the movie "My Fake Fiancé" for help. You'll see some of its influence in this chapter. Also I implemented a few New Orleans wedding traditions.
The wedding was on a Saturday. As the ladies dressed Tina for the ceremony in one of Alastor's spare bedrooms, Rosie laughed at how in her day, marrying on a Saturday was considered bad luck.
"They also said, 'Married in red, you will wish yourself dead.'"
Tina looked at her red gown in the full-length mirror. "How lovely."
The bridesmaids were dressed in dark pink, to fit the theme without outshining the bride.
"Well, we're dead already," Rosie said as she adjusted the bride's veil. "So I think those old superstitions hardly matter."
"She should at least wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue!" Niffty said, smoothing out the ruffles in Tina's skirt. "Luckily, I came prepared!"
The tiny cyclops whipped out a blue rose hairclip. "I got this years ago! So it's old, borrowed, and blue! And the dress counts as something new!"
"It's adorable, dear." Rosie took the clip to fasten it into Tina's hair. "It also serves as a nice splash of color to bring out those lovely violet eyes of yours."
Tina turned her gaze to the floor so she wouldn't have to look at her reflection. "Mimzy, ya finished readin' through those vows?"
"They're…very nice, hon." Mimzy lowered the crumpled paper in her hands. "But it kinda reads like one of your routines." She held it up. "Ya sure ya want this many jokes in your marriage vows?"
This marriage is a joke. "Al would think there was something wrong with me if I didn't crack a joke."
Mimzy shrugged. "True. You are a natural wisecracker."
"Al definitely thinks you're funny!" Niffty said.
"Which is interesting," Rosie said as she fanned out the veil. "Usually Alastor is the one making the jokes. He doesn't often have someone who bounces off him so easily."
"Yeah, you two were on fire last night! Not really on fire, but you were really cutting a rug on the dancefloor! And at the end when you two kissed…" Niffty sighed as she placed her hands on her chest. "Aw, I had butterflies in my stomach just watching you! You two are gonna make such beautiful babies!"
Tina winced and clenched her white-gloved hands. Mimzy was the first to notice.
Niffty rambled on without a care. "It'd be so adorable seeing little demons running around the house! Oh the dirty diapers and spit won't be fun, but it's been so long since I've seen a baby with such big cheeks I can just squeeze the life out of—"
"Niffty," Mimzy said.
Niffty placed her hands on her hips. "Well, that's rude! I was just—"
Mimzy put a finger to her mouth and tilted her head towards Tina. Niffty turned and finally noticed that the bride's eyes were watering.
"Oh." Niffty stepped back awkwardly. "Sorry, Miss Tina, I tend to run my mouth sometimes. If I said something to upset you, I didn't mean it. What was it, anyway? The something blue, the being on fire, the babies—"
Mimzy clamped her hand over Niffty's mouth just as a tear fell down Tina's cheek.
"Now, now, dear, we can't have any of that." Rosie spoke softly as she wiped Tina's face with a lace handkerchief. "I'll have to do your makeup all over again."
"Can we just," Tina said, holding up a hand, "be quiet for a minute?"
The bridesmaids nodded, Niffty muffling against Mimzy's hand. Just as Rosie was putting the finishing touches on Tina's hair, there came a knock at the door. It wasn't the groom's signature knock, so they knew immediately it wasn't him.
"If this is a peeping Tom," Rosie said, approaching the door, "I'm sorry to inform you that we're all dressed in here."
"Good to know!" Lucifer said as he poked his head in. "Fortunately for you, I'm a happily married man!"
"Your Majesty," the bridesmaids said as they curtsied.
"I do hate to impose on you ladies," the Devil said, letting himself into the room, "but I wondered if I could have a private word with the bride."
Rosie raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Whatever for?"
He waved his hand. "Oh, simply to offer her some friendly advice as someone who's been married for millennia. It will only take a moment." He gestured his cane outside. "Feel free to wait by the door if you're that concerned."
No one dared defy the King of Hell. All the same, the bridesmaids looked to Tina for permission.
"It's fine," she muttered, still facing the mirror. "I can handle him."
The bridesmaids silently nodded, eyeing Lucifer warily as they exited the room and closed the door.
"My, my," he said, glancing Tina over. "You just might be the loveliest bride I've ever seen. After my Lilith, of course."
Tina looked at the Devil's reflection in the mirror. He was in his usual ensemble, the only difference being a red magnolia pinned to his right lapel. There was something sinister in his grin that suggested this was more than just a casual chat.
"This the part where ya tempt me with an apple?" Tina quipped.
Lucifer chuckled as he tapped a finger against the apple on the end of his cane. "You'll come to learn that a true tempter never uses the same trick twice."
He stepped forward. "But you'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Miss Davis?"
Tina's ears twitched. She hadn't heard her real surname in almost two years.
"Did you truly think you could deceive the master of deception? That I wouldn't see through your little ruse?"
She spun around, her eyes wide in panic. How had he figured it out? If Lucifer knew everything, did this break Tina's deal with Alastor?
"You certainly may have Alastor fooled," Lucifer said, pointing his cane at her, "with your sweet smile and alluring figure, but I know better." His teeth seemed to grow sharper. "I know what you really are."
Tina relaxed a bit. So, he only thinks I'm the one pretending here. That probably was fine as long as Lucifer didn't know the whole act had been Alastor's idea. So, she played along.
"And what am I?" she asked.
Lucifer's eyes followed the tiny apple as he tossed the cane between hands. "Did you know when dear, old Dad banished me, it was my idea to have the damned take animalistic forms reflecting the beastly sins they committed in life? Have them become the monsters they made themselves to be? I thought the concept poetic."
Tina self-consciously crumpled her wings against her back. "What's this gotta do with anything?"
He sized her up. "Interesting thing about bats. They can be predators, but they can also be prey."
His step was slow as he began circling her. "Take the vampire bat, for instance. She jumps from victim to victim, leeching whatever little nourishment she can get, but never remains with one meal for too long."
The Devil stopped in front of her. He was so short compared to most demons that he and Tina were at the same eyelevel.
"But she has to watch out for those creatures who will snatch her up in the night." His face was but a breath away. "Hawks, eagles…snakes."
Just then, the purple snake in his hat—which Tina had thought to be ornamental—snapped up and hissed at her. She jumped back, fearing it would bite her. Lucifer laughed heartily as the snake recoiled and returned to its seemingly inanimate state.
The Devil's words cut Tina deep, because she knew they were true. She'd wondered about her demon form. Now it made perfect sense.
"What is it ya want?" Tina asked, her lip trembling.
"Me?" Lucifer put an innocent hand to his chest. "I simply want you to continue this little façade of yours!" He gestured to her gown. "Play the blushing bride, the devoted trophy wife, the young filly hopelessly in love. It doesn't matter to me if you are not infatuated with Alastor the way he's clearly infatuated with you."
Tina's hand covered her engagement ring. "What…makes ya say that?"
"The tongue may weave lies, but the eyes never do," Lucifer said, pointing to his own. "Whenever his fall upon you, there is nothing but adoration and pride."
She tried not to show her puzzlement. Alastor had expressed countless times that he had no romantic interest in Tina. But if Lucifer was that good at seeing through the veil of deception, how could he be mistaken about something like that?
"But your eyes," Lucifer said, waving a hand over her eyes, "while lovely, are as empty and lifeless as that cold, dead heart of yours."
He let that comment stir for a moment, before taking a step back. "Not that I'm criticizing. I applaud your ambition, enchanting one of the most powerful Overlords in Hell, and the one least likely to stray. I wouldn't expect any less from a woman in your position."
Tina shivered as his black-gloved finger touched her chin. It was colder than any winter she'd ever lived through.
"All I'm asking," the Devil said in a honeyed tone, "is that you keep Alastor entertained for as long as you can, in whatever way you can. That shouldn't be difficult for a charming creature such as yourself, should it?"
Tina had never spoken with Lucifer alone before. There was something in his voice that stirred a sick feeling in her stomach and tickled her ears. Like she wanted to get away from him and listen to what he had to say at the same time.
She supposed this was what separated Lucifer from Alastor. The Devil didn't need parlor tricks like voice distortion, radio static or shadows to show his power. He didn't even have to be that tall.
Temptation didn't need much. Only flattering, carefully chosen words.
Tina's teeth were chattering so hard from the Devil's cold touch, she could barely get the words out. "W-W-Why? W-What's i-in it f-f-for y-you?"
He dropped his finger, allowing Tina to rub her arms to regain her normal temperature.
"I may have failed to conquer the Kingdom of Heaven," Lucifer said, placing his hands behind his back, "but as wretched as this hellhole is, it's still my kingdom."
He strutted over to the window and gazed up at the endless, red sky. "And I'm not looking to give that up. If a certain power-hungry demon has his attention on other matters, I won't have to."
"Wait." Tina put a hand to her head as she processed the situation. "You think Al's after your throne?"
"The man gets bored easily." He craned his head towards her. "Do you honestly think the idea will never cross his mind?"
Tina opened her mouth, but then reconsidered. It definitely sounded like something Alastor would do.
"That's why you were pushin' him to get together with me," she said with realization.
Lucifer tapped the place his nose would be if he had one. "Granted, I didn't think he would be so…eager about it, but I could never figure that soul out, even whilst he was alive."
Tina wondered if Alastor was aware of Lucifer's suspicions. Was the Radio Demon actually planning a hostile takeover and this wedding was just to throw the Devil off his scent?
Then again, if that had been Alastor's plan all along, wouldn't it have been simpler to marry Lucifer's daughter, the heir to the throne instead?
"Even if he did wanna be King of Hell," Tina said, "I doubt I'd be enough to distract him from something as big as that."
"Perhaps." Lucifer held the cane out to his side. "But given your…offenses, I'm sure you can come up with a few creative ways to push his buttons."
Tina's jaw dropped.
"What? You think I don't keep thorough records on all my subjects?"
She turned her attention to the floor. "Al's aware of my past."
"How much? The sexual favors," he said, listing each sin off his fingers, "the manslaughter, the greed, the child abandon—?"
Tina stiffened, making the mistake of meeting the Devil's gaze. His grin shrank into a smirk of triumph.
"So, he doesn't know what you did to your child." He tapped his chin. "Hmm. I wonder how he'll feel about that when you have children of your own."
Although she knew that was out of the question, the thought of having Alastor's child caused Tina to blush.
"He doesn't have to know," she said, her eyes shifting. "And even if he did, he…he could handle it."
"Ah, but can you?" He pointed a finger as he stalked towards her. "If that's the one sin you haven't confessed to him, a cannibalistic serial killer, then it has to be the one sin you are most ashamed of." His finger wagged. "The one for which you simply cannot forgive yourself, no matter how much you repent."
Tina's ears fell flat against her head as the Devil, though petite in stature, seemed to loom over her.
"And why should you?" His eyes narrowed. "You couldn't even put the infant out of her misery, or hand her off to another poor schlep. Instead you left the poor dear to fend for herself, all so you, her disgraceful mother, could keep her career."
Lucifer's voice echoed in her ears, along with the high-pitched, banshee-like wail of a baby. But not just any baby.
Mother bats always recognized the sound of their own kin.
"I'll admit." Lucifer's eyes and teeth glowed a faint yellow. "Not even I would do something so…cruel to my own daughter."
Pressure built up behind her eyes as the baby screams grew louder.
It wasn't my fault. I had no choice!
"But I'm not here to judge you."
Lucifer pulled back, returning to his previously relaxed demeanor. But the screaming didn't stop.
"I'm here to propose a little deal." He held out his hand. "If you keep Alastor entertained and inform me of any plans for conquest he may have, I will see to it that that old paramour of yours never learns your whereabouts, or that you abandoned his daughter."
Tina tensed further, hearing the crack of a paperweight against a human skull.
"Oh, yes. He's here. He's still rather peeved at you for murdering him. He never received the birth announcement, did he?"
The Devil's words were nearly drowned out by the crack-crack-cracks and wah-wah-wahs. Tina clasped her hands over her ears in an attempt to cease it all.
"I also won't tell Alastor about your child," Lucifer carried on, oblivious to the demoness' deteriorating mental state. "After all, you wouldn't want to ruin your new life of comfort. And if your husband-to-be knows how selfish a person you truly are—"
Her scream was so loud that it shattered the mirror and windows. Lucifer's eyes widened in astonishment. Tina was slowly increasing in height, her claws and fangs growing, and her fur standing on end.
"SHUT! UP!" Her wings fanned out, now twice their normal size, giving her the resemblance of a vengeful Valkyrie. "WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE A FUCKING DEAL WITH YOU DEMON BASTARDS?!"
With an agonizing wail, Tina flapped her enlarged wings and flew out one of the now open windows.
Meanwhile, Alastor was in his own bedroom, checking himself in a full-length mirror. He had altered his red tuxedo so that the stitches were no longer visible. His top hat, which sat on a dresser, also looked as good as new. The Radio Demon had to look his absolute best today for his new bride.
"So what do you think of my vows, Husker?" Alastor asked as he buttoned his freshly polished cufflinks. "I was up all night penning them!"
Husk, who was slumped in an easy chair in the corner, held out the red piece of paper by his claws. "Really? All night?"
The cat demon naturally had the appearance of wearing a tuxedo. So all he'd changed into was a pink hat and bowtie to match the bridesmaids, a red magnolia sitting on the brim of his hat.
Alastor was too busy humming "Get Me to the Church On Time" to acknowledge Husk's sly remark. Rolling his eyes, Husk cut to the chase.
"It's flowery, mushy, and makes me wanna hurl."
"Ah! So it's perfect then!" Alastor's grin widened as he stretched out his bowtie. "I tell you, old friend, I haven't been this elated since I tortured those Nazis back in '45 for two months straight! Ha-ha-ha!"
His voice lowered. "That Adolf had the most delightful scream."
Husk was too emotionally numb to care about the Nazi torture, but the first part of the statement caused him to raise an eyebrow.
"Don't tell me you're actually in love with the dame," Husk said gruffly.
Alastor's hands paused just as they were releasing his bowtie. "I…wouldn't know if I did."
For a moment, the static in his voice was almost nonexistent. Then he shook his head and went to fluff out his hair.
"But the prospect of having someone of her caliber around the house on a permanent basis sounds absolutely delightful!" Alastor summoned a handkerchief to polish his antlers. "I don't know why I didn't think to try marriage sooner!"
Husk couldn't tell if he was serious or rehearsing. "So, what? Ya would've proposed to some other poor chick down on her luck?"
As Alastor picked up his top hat, his finger brushed the red magnolia he'd pinned to the ribbon.
"No," he said at a volume so quiet that it shocked the cat demon. "I don't believe I would have."
Alastor was about to put on the hat when his ear twitched, picking up some sort of high-pitched sound.
"Strange," he muttered to himself.
"What's strange?" Husk asked. "That you're sounding like a fucking human being for once in your afterlife?"
Before Alastor could retort, the door to his room flung open and Mimzy and Niffty rushed in.
"Al, Al, Al!" Niffty cried.
Alastor's head snapped around a hundred eighty degrees. "Didn't your mothers teach you not to enter a gentleman's boudoir without knocking?"
"Sorry, Al," Mimzy said, her cheeks darkening. "But it's an emergency!"
The rest of Alastor's body turned so that he was facing them fully. "Yes?"
Mimzy bit her lip. "Err…tell him, Niffty."
She pushed the little cyclops forward.
"But I thought you were gonna—?"
"He likes you better!" Mimzy hissed.
"Really?" Niffty wrung her hands. "But you've known him longer."
"You practically live with him!"
"Part-time! You know I'd never live with a man out of wedlock!"
"Just tell him already!"
"You tell him!"
"ENOUGH!" Alastor's voice boomed as he snatched up the girls by their necks. "We're all supposed to be walking down the aisle in twenty minutes, so would one of you kindly tell me what this emergency is, so I don't have to tell my sweet Tina that she's going to be short two bridesmaids?"
He tightened his grip in warning. Mimzy and Niffty glanced fearfully at each other.
"W-Well, ya see, Al…" Mimzy gulped. "A-About your, uh…sweet Tina, she, uh…well, she…"
"She's gone!" Niffty squeaked.
Alastor stiffened, the corners of his mouth twitching. "What do you mean gone?"
"Well, she kind of, uh…" Niffty shut her eyes. "Flew out the window?"
After a long pause, Alastor gave the women a hard shake. "You imbeciles! I told you to keep an eye on her!"
"We did, Al!" Mimzy shouted. "We didn't let her out of our sights!"
"Except for when Lucifer said he wanted to talk to her," Niffty said. "We left her alone then."
Mimzy shook her head to get Niffty to stop, but it was too late. Alastor's eyes were now glowing dangerously.
"Lucifer, you say?"
"W-We had to leave them alone, Al!" Mimzy insisted. "We can't disobey the King!"
Alastor dropped the girls to the floor. Radio static crackled as he growled.
"That meddling snake!"
Husk went to help the ladies up as Alastor stomped out of the room. None of them dared follow him.
If there was one thing that angered Alastor above everything else, it was when demons went back on their word. He had felt ready to rip the wings off that bat, until Niffty had brought up Lucifer. Whatever Tina's reasons for running off, Alastor had a feeling the Devil was to blame.
A snap of Alastor's fingers caused a group of shadows to manifest on the walls. "Find her."
The shadows nodded and spread out across the hall, a few of them disappearing under the cracks of doors. If Tina had only just left, she couldn't have gone far.
To think this morning Alastor had been looking forward to getting married. He was not about to let that ungrateful woman make a jilted groom out of him.
The door to Tina's changing room was open. Glass shards littered the floor. Alastor guessed the high-pitched sound he'd picked up earlier had been Tina's sonic screech.
He narrowed his eyes when he spotted Lucifer and Rosie leaning out one of the shattered windows.
"WHERE IS SHE?!"
Rosie jumped and spun around. Alastor's eyes were as bright as traffic lights, his lips quivering over his teeth. His hunched back and growing antlers suggested he was on the verge of transforming. Rosie knew by now to keep a calm and steady voice whenever the Radio Demon was like this.
"Why don't you ask him?" she said, glancing accusingly at the Devil.
Lucifer sighed as he turned to face Alastor. "I hate to tell you this, old chap, but I think your bride caught a terrible case of cold feet."
Vodou symbols began floating around Alastor. "What did you say to her?"
"Me?" Lucifer put a hand to his chest. "All I did was offer her a little pre-marriage counseling. I just wanted her to be properly prepared for the struggles and sacrifices that come with a lifelong commitment."
Alastor's pupils transformed into radio dials as he increased in height. "WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU SAY TO HER?!"
"I'm afraid that's a private matter." Lucifer gestured out the window. "It's better if you hear it from Tina."
Alastor lunged toward the Devil, who held up his hand.
"Now, now, let us not be quick to judge." Lucifer tapped the apple on his cane. "Blaming the Devil is easy, but the truth is I never force people to sin. I merely tell them of the dark desires already brewing in their imperfect little hearts. It isn't my fault your bride could not follow my advice."
Alastor clenched his now enlarged claws. "This whole thing started because of you, Luci! If it ends because of you—"
Just then, one of his shadows appeared beside him and whispered in his ear. Alastor's form relaxed and slowly shrank back to normal. His eyes blinked and stopped glowing.
The shadow nodded.
"Thank you, my friend. Go inform the others and make sure she stays there."
The shadow saluted and melted back into the floor. Alastor narrowed his eyes at Lucifer.
"Tina and I will be seeing you at the altar."
Rosie's eyes widened. "You are going after her, then?"
"This wedding isn't canceled yet." Alastor turned on his heel. "I expect you all to proceed as planned."
As he exited the room, Husk, Mimzy and Niffty came running down the hall.
"Al, where ya going?" Mimzy asked.
"To fetch my bride," Alastor replied shortly.
"No, no, no, you can't!" Niffty clamped her arms and legs around his ankle. "You can't see her in her dress! It's bad luck!"
Sighing, Alastor pried her off his leg. "Niffty, we're in Hell. As far as luck goes, we've already hit rock bottom."
He dropped her and disappeared into the shadows.
"If I didn't know any better," Mimzy said as she helped Niffty up, "I'd say he actually cared."
"Al? Caring?" Husk huffed. "Yeah, right. And 'Nam was all a hoax."
Alastor manifested in the middle of the swamp, right in front of the gazebo. Just as his shadow had said, Tina stood there, leaning on the rail, her head in her arms. Alastor closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief.
She didn't run away.
"Tina, darling?" Alastor said as he approached her.
Tina snapped her head up and quickly wiped her face. "Whaddya doin' out here?"
"I was about to ask you the same…thing."
Alastor stopped in his tracks when Tina turned around.
She was a vision in red. As per Alastor's request, Rosie had fashioned the gown into a Southern belle style, with a ruffled hoop skirt. Except this one hung just above the ankles so it wouldn't drag mud. The bodice was tight around her waist, held only by spaghetti straps, the back practically nonexistent to allow room for Tina's wings.
Her black hair was tied up in a bun, a comb of red magnolias holding the red veil in place. The veil fell down her back like a river of blood, draping over her folded wings. Pinned on the side of her head was a blue rose hairclip that complemented Tina's violet eyes.
There was a sudden warmth in Alastor's chest as he took in the sight. She truly did look like a bride. His bride.
And she was quite possibly the loveliest thing he had seen in a long, long time.
"I know I shouldn't be out here."
Alastor shook his head so he could focus on her words, brushing off his momentary awe as simple aesthetic appreciation.
"Honestly, not sure how I got out here." Tina put a hand to her head. "I…I remember talkin' to Lucifer and…gettin' angry, and…next thing I know, I'm here."
Alastor did a doubletake and noticed the tears and stretchmarks in Tina's gown. Her mascara was also smeared, like she'd been crying.
"Well, from what I was told," Alastor said, "you flew out the window in quite a tizzy!"
"Out the…?" Tina looked back at her wings. "But I can't…I've never—"
"Given your emotional state, I'd say you underwent a demon transformation! Your first, I take it. Memory loss is normal the first few times, you'll get used to it! It must've temporarily strengthened your wings!"
He tilted his head thoughtfully. "Frankly, I'm disappointed I missed it! Oh well, given we'll be married, I'm sure I'll get plenty of opportunities to see your deadlier form!"
Tina rolled her eyes. "Right. I'm sure you'll get me plenty angry enough for that."
"Ha-ha!" Alastor patted her head. "Now that you're back to normal, darling, let's get you back to the house so Rosie can fix you up! She put a lot of work into that gown, you know, and we can't have you walking down the aisle looking like you've been through a storm!"
He took her hand and started down the gazebo steps, but Tina slid out of his grasp.
"Come now, dear," he said, turning back. "Mustn't keep our wedding party waiting!"
Alastor reached for her hand again, but she took a big step back. He squinted impatiently.
"Tina, I'm in no mood for games." The static in his voice increased. "Now, I will ask you one more time. Would you please follow me to the house, or do I have to drag you through the mud?"
A few weeks ago, a threat like this would've intimidated her. But any fear Tina may have held for the Radio Demon was long gone. There was nothing he could do to her that would be any worse than what she'd just experienced.
"I'm sorry, Al," she said, turning away from him. "I don't…I don't think I can do this."
There was a record scratch to accompany the stabbing pain in Alastor's chest. Rejection was something he was used to from her. But now it seemed to pack a bigger punch. Perhaps it was because today was supposed to be their wedding day. All their planning, all their preparing, and Tina was choosing to call it off just minutes before the ceremony.
It wounded Alastor's pride more than his heart.
His eyes glowed along with the Vodou symbols emanating from him. "Need I remind you what happens to demons who fail to deliver their end of the bargain?"
"I don't care," Tina whimpered.
Alastor snapped back to normal. "Pardon?"
"Go ahead." She held up her hands in surrender. "Lock me up in that mic of yours. I don't care. I deserve it."
He scrutinized her. "You puzzle me, darling. Is the idea of marrying me so horrible that you'd rather be imprisoned in a microphone, completely at my mercy, for the rest of eternity?"
Alastor scoffed, shaking his head. "I must say, sweetheart, that's almost insulting."
"Yeah, whatever," Tina said, her eyes downcast. "Just do it."
He sighed. "If that is what you wish."
The microphone appeared in his hand. "Though before I lock you up in my eternal torture chamber, might I inquire why the sudden change of heart?"
Her hands dropped to her sides. "I just…don't wanna marry ya."
"I knew that from the beginning. There's something else, isn't there?" He bent down to her level. "Have I offended you in some way?"
Tina looked away and muttered, "No."
"Did Lucifer offend you?"
She bit her lip.
"Darling." Alastor spoke softly as he cupped her cheek, turning her face towards him. "If I'm going to be left at the altar, I believe I should have the right to know why, don't you think? So," he said, gritting his teeth, "what did that blathering worm tell you?"
His lack of anger surprised Tina. She had really thought Alastor would jump at the chance to lock her away forever, or force her through the ceremony, or at the very least strike her. But he was calm, patient, restrained. His only fury seemed to be directed towards Lucifer at the moment.
He's not blaming me.
Tina gently removed his hand from her cheek and held it in front of her. "Lucifer's seen through the act."
Alastor stiffened. "He knows everything?"
"Well…half of it, anyway." She snorted. "He thinks you're a lovesick idiot while I'm a gold-diggin' Jezebel."
He released her hand. "So he thinks you're acting but not me?"
"That's not all," Tina mumbled as she went back to the railing. "He wants me to keep ya…entertained."
He raised an eyebrow. "Whatever for?"
Shrugging, she rested her elbows on the rail. "He thinks you're gonna overthrow him."
Alastor growled and gripped his cane with both hands. "Why that rotten, scheming, fu—"
He quickly bit his tongue to stop himself from cursing. If Tina were in a better mood, she'd be teasing him about how he refused to be a potty-mouth despite being in Hell.
"I've told him countless times I wasn't interested in his throne!" Alastor banged the cane against the gazebo floor. "But perhaps I will take it just to spite him! And why did he think you would even be up to something like…?"
He looked at Tina, whose shoulders were slumped. "He offered you something, didn't he?"
Her silence told him the answer was yes.
Alastor waved his cane away. "What was it?"
She lowered her head, resting her chin on her arms. She supposed it was ridiculous hiding her greatest sin from someone who had committed much worse. But unlike Alastor, Tina had yet to accept her sins. She'd only been in Hell for a couple years, after all.
And what could she say? That she'd abandoned her child, not because she couldn't look after it, but so her career wouldn't be ruined? That not a day had gone by that she hadn't thought of that poor babe she'd left in a box outside a restaurant? That her daughter's cries still haunted her dreams, even while awake?
No, Tina couldn't say it. Not after Alastor had said she didn't deserve eternal damnation. The truth was the punishment wasn't hard enough.
"Darling," Alastor said tentatively, leaning his arms against the rail. "I thought we agreed there'd be no secrets between us."
"Yeah?" Tina huffed. "Well, maybe some things are best kept secret. After all," she said, scowling sideways at him, "you won't tell me everything. Like what the fuck ya keep in that cellar and study of yours. Or why ya killed and ate all those people. I don't even know your last name."
"Nor I yours."
"That's just it, isn't it?" She threw her arms up. "We're not a couple! Not really. We don't share things! We don't trust each other!"
Groaning, she hung her head. "And why should we? We've only really known each other a couple weeks. How can we possibly be ready for marriage if we're not even ready to trust each other with stupid small stuff like this?"
Good Lord, did I really just say that?
"Anyway, it doesn't matter what Lucifer offered me," Tina mumbled. "I didn't take it."
Alastor felt some relief at hearing this. "May I ask why?"
Tina slammed her fists on the rail. "Because I'm sick of my love life bein' everybody's goddamn business! Not just with you, but every time I get even close to a guy, that's all it is! Fuckin' business!"
She held her hands out to the side, weighing them like a scale. "Quid pro quo, tit for tat, do this for me and I'll move ya up in the world, it's all the same with ya men!"
She turned her back to him. "Even if ya don't want me like every other man I've been with, ya have your ulterior motives." She crossed her arms. "Askin' 'bout my favorite things, givin' me gifts, dedicatin' songs to me in public broadcasts. None of it's because ya care! I know that. I've always known that. And that…that's what bothers me."
Her voice grew quieter as she dropped her head onto her palm. "If there's…nothing else ya want from me, why do any of this stuff? Is it just part of the show? Cuz it don't make sense when ya give me a pair of shoes or ask my favorite color when no one's watchin'! Nor does…comforting me when I'm upset."
Tina paused to take a deep breath. "So, I'm gonna ask ya straight, Alastor. And I'm gonna ask ya just this once."
Turning, she looked him square in the eye. "What am I to you?"
Alastor opened his mouth, but she held up a finger. "And don't just say I'm your fiancée! What do ya see me as?"
The Radio Demon had been patiently silent during her rant. And though he'd heard every word, he was still greatly confused. Tina had said she wasn't interested in the two of them having a real relationship, but at the same time was bothered by the fact that they weren't?
"Do all you women have such complex emotions?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Just answer the question."
He tilted his head. "Well, in the simplest of terms, I'd say I see you as a potential friend."
Tina blinked. "Friend?"
"Why, yes! Have you never been simply friends with a man before?"
She looked down at her feet. Alastor's mouth fell into a thin smile.
He was beginning to understand now.
Alastor bent down. "Did my little acts of courtesy give you the impression that my interest in you was romantic?"
Tina rubbed her arm. "W-Well…"
"Yes, perhaps I should have been clearer." He ran a claw through his hair. "I understand my behavior is often…difficult to read."
That's the understatement of the century, she thought with a roll of her eyes.
"I merely thought," he said, bringing his claw down to his neck, "you'd appreciate the consideration. Would you rather I ignore your needs?"
"No." She looked out at the swamp. "It's just that…well…no one's ever treated me like that. Other than my family. And even then, I…I drifted away from them as soon as I got big."
Tina gazed up at the sky, right at the glowing white orb that was Heaven. "I'm a selfish person."
Alastor shrugged. "Yes. And?"
She sighed. "I don't wanna be. I used to dream of makin' a difference. Usin' my comic career to stand up against racism and sexism. But I couldn't even get a gig without sellin' my body. Instead of makin' a difference, I pushed the people I loved away. Even my own…flesh and blood."
She forced a laugh. "They really do know how to punish ya down here. I'm still the same color I was up top. Still the hot black chick everyone wants to get their hands on." She looked down at the claws poking out of her gloves. "A predator and a prey."
She glanced back at Alastor. "And it figures, I finally find someone willin' to make a commitment, and he doesn't even want me. Once again, I'm sellin' myself to climb up the social ladder."
Grunting, she pounded her forehead with a fist. "I'm a fraud. A hypocrite, and a fraud."
She waved her hand. "So, go on. Lock me up, chain me to the wall, cook me into gumbo. I don't care. I'd take anything over the Hell I'm in now."
Alastor hummed. "The idea is tempting, I'll admit. You do have a rather unique scream I wouldn't mind coaxing out of you from time to time."
Coming up behind her, he gently settled his hands on her shoulders. "But…I'd rather not."
He turned her to face him and saw her confused expression.
"If it's any consolation, Tina, I do admire you." Alastor's smile softened as he cupped her cheek. "If I were capable of such an emotion, I might grow to love you. Given time, of course."
Tina's eyes widened at this admission.
"But," he said, retracting his hands and placing them behind his back, "while we may be pretending for the rest of Hell, I won't pretend for you." He shook his head. "I won't pretend that we'll be happy in love, but I do believe, to some extent, we could be happy."
Alastor took her hands. "You see, my dear, unlike your previous…liaisons, you'll find that I require nothing from you but your mere presence. As far as this union will go, I find that to be enough.
"Furthermore," he said with a slight chuckle, "I hate to burst your bubble, but fighting oppression and injustice in Hell is an impossible task worthy of Sisyphus! That's why it's Hell! Unless your desire is to be annihilated, you must do whatever it takes in order to survive down here!
"The good news is, ma chère, that you won't have to face it alone." He brought her hands to his chest. "Not after today."
Alastor wasn't sure where these passionate words were coming from. But they seemed to affect Tina, so he kept going.
"You may not like me very much, darling," he said, releasing one hand so that he could pat the other, "but I am a demon of my word. I meant what I said. I will never let any ill befall you, as long as you are at my side."
He summoned a handkerchief to clean her face. "Don't think of me so much as a husband, but a roommate whose ring you happen to wear!"
Tina blushed. "I don't…dislike ya."
Alastor's teeth were back again. "Then perhaps this marriage won't be a complete sham, after all!"
He booped her nose and Tina cracked a small smile as she batted his hand away.
"That's where that smile was hiding! Now," Alastor said, making the handkerchief disappear as he dropped to one knee, "I can't promise you love. But in all other respects, I swear to take my duties as your husband seriously."
He brushed his lips against her knuckles, just above her ring. "I'll let you decide the nature of such duties."
Tina decided to let this gesture go, as it wasn't technically breaking their deal since she was wearing gloves.
"You can choose whether or not to tell me your secrets," Alastor whispered. "Perhaps, someday, I will feel inclined to share mine with you. But there is one thing I am sure of at this very moment."
Meeting her gaze, he laid his hand over hers. "I can't think of any other woman I'd rather have for my wife."
Tina put her free hand to her chest in an attempt to calm the rapid pounding within. "You're…not just sayin' this, are you?"
"As I said, my dear," Alastor said, his lids falling over his eyes, "I will not pretend for you."
"So ya still wanna go through with this? Even though I almost backed out?"
He shrugged. "Why let all these preparations go to waste?"
She snorted. "I'm gonna be a right pain in the ass. Ya know that, right?"
"Then we'll be evenly matched!"
She couldn't argue with him there.
"And what about Lucifer?" she asked. "Doesn't it worry ya he might figure everything else out?"
"Oh, you just let me worry about old Luci." Alastor's eyes glowed for a brief moment as he said this. "It pains me that he upset you so, my dear. What say we prove his little theory wrong and show him just how much in love we can be?" He chuckled. "Won't that make him feel like a fool?"
Tina liked the idea of getting back at the Devil. She couldn't fight him, but she could certainly confuse the hell out of him by putting on an even more convincing show.
This whole fake marriage might actually be kinda fun.
"That reminds me," Tina said, sliding her hand out of Alastor's hold. "Before we go out there, could ya answer something for me?"
Alastor stood and bowed. "Name it."
"Why ya so scared to kiss me?"
There was that record scratch again as Alastor's eyes went to television static.
He blinked his eyes back to normal. "Ha-ha! Very amusing joke, darling! You know very well that I am not scared of anything!"
"Except dogs, right?"
He scowled. "Dogs, yes. Kissing, no! Wherever did you get an absurd idea like that?"
"Al," Tina said, crossing her arms. "At rehearsal, I had to slap ya back to reality. And don't think I didn't notice ya freeze when I did kiss ya last night. Ya know I don't like ya that way, and ya know it's all just for show, so what's the big deal?"
Alastor opened his mouth as he tried to come up with an excuse. But he knew he couldn't avoid this conversation with her forever, especially if they were supposed to kiss in less than ten minutes.
"I believe I mentioned before that," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, "I have little interest in…romantic activities, and therefore have very little…experience. You'll forgive me if I didn't know how to…proceed."
Tina stared up at him in disbelief. "Wait. So…when I kissed ya last night, that was your…first?"
He glanced off to the side as he nodded.
"You really…?" She put a hand to her mouth. "I…I thought you were exaggeratin', but…oh god, ya really are a fuckin' virgin, ain't ya?"
Alastor's cheeks reddened. "Is that so hard to believe?"
"Well…yeah!" She gestured to his person. "I mean you're so…"
Tina stopped herself, not wanting to admit how attractive he was. Even so, the man had been around for almost a hundred years, and he had never kissed anyone? Being a virgin was one thing, but not even a kiss?
And she had stolen that first kiss from him. Without asking for consent.
"I…I'm sorry," Tina said sincerely, wringing her hands together. "I…I didn't mean to make ya…uncomfortable. I didn't know."
"That's quite alright," Alastor said, tracing his fingers over his lips. "In hindsight, I should have explained it to you sooner."
She didn't blame him. A lack of experience in anything physical was not something men usually liked to admit. But she still felt guilty about it. She'd been used by so many men before, she'd forgotten that women had to ask for verbal consent too.
"We…don't have to kiss so much in public," she said. "But…ya know Lucifer's gonna know something's up if we say those vows and ya don't kiss me. So…"
She looked up at him. "What can I do to make it less…awkward for ya?"
Alastor's stomach churned at the thought of touching his lips to hers again, but he knew she had a point. They had to find a way to overcome this obstacle if this plan was to succeed. But hearing her ask made him feel somewhat less nervous about it.
"Perhaps if you show me the proper…technique?"
Tina's face flushed. "Um…it doesn't take much. I mean…it's just two pairs of lips meetin'. We don't have to use any tongue."
Alastor stiffened. "You mean…it doesn't just involve the lips?"
She tried not to roll her eyes, even if it was utterly ridiculous that she was teaching a man nearly three times her age how to kiss. At the same time, she was sympathetic. While Tina had never really experienced the emotional aspect of a relationship, Alastor had never experienced the physical.
Even under false pretenses, it seemed there was a lot they could learn from each other.
"Just…" Tina held out her arms. "Lean down for me."
Alastor gulped and bent down.
"Now put your hands on my…" She looked down at herself. "Well, face, shoulders, whatever's comfortable, I guess."
He settled for her shoulders, his hands shaking. She had to find a way to calm him down, as he was causing her to shake.
"Al, what exactly is it that you're worried about?" Tina asked. "That I won't enjoy it?"
"More like that…" His gaze shifted to the side. "I won't enjoy it."
She laid her hands over his. "We don't have to do this now."
"No, no!" He tightened his grip. "I…have to get around this. For pretense's sake."
"Okay. Well, here comes the easy part." She spoke softly as she took his face in her hands. "Close your eyes."
He did so, his mouth still in a forced smile with all his teeth showing.
"And your lips."
He silently obeyed, moving his mouth into the smallest smile she'd ever seen from him.
"Now, just relax." She rubbed her thumbs across his cheeks soothingly. "Don't think about anything but the feeling of our lips."
He tensed, seething through his teeth.
"Al." She was starting to sound like a mother trying not to blow her top in front of her child. "I won't make it any longer than it has to be."
Alastor sighed. "You must think me a coward."
"No. Everyone gets nervous. If anything, I think it makes ya…sort of human."
His eyes opened. "I haven't been human for a long, long time."
Tina looked down at his hands on her shoulders. "You're not alone there." Then she met his gaze again. "Ready?"
He shook his head, moving her hands along with it. At least he's honest.
"It's okay," she whispered. "Remember, I expect nothing from you. If it's bad, I won't think any less of you."
Once again, she had a point. There was no pressure on Alastor to be any good. And if he kept his eyes closed, he wouldn't even have to look at her while it happened.
So, he closed his eyes and mouth again, surrendering himself completely to the demoness.
Tina watched him for a moment as all the muscles in his face seemed to tense up, his eyes in a wince. In a daring move, she reached one hand up and began stroking his hair, hoping this would get him to relax. She was surprised by how fluffy it felt, like petting a Pomeranian.
A whimper from Alastor reminded Tina that she'd promised this wouldn't take too long. She couldn't remember a time she'd been so mindful during a kiss. Every other partner had been so willing. She'd never seen a man so hesitant.
Then again, she was also hesitant. Last night, she'd kissed him so quickly, not even thinking about it. But now there was no audience, just the two of them. The Radio Demon was in a state of complete vulnerability, trusting her to take the lead.
Tina wasn't afraid that she wouldn't enjoy it. Quite the contrary. She was afraid she would enjoy it.
That would certainly make their fake relationship problematic.
Alastor's claws were digging into her shoulders, urging her to get on with it. Taking a deep breath, Tina closed her eyes and gently pulled his face down to hers.
Alastor resisted the impulse to open his eyes the moment their lips made contact. He tried not to focus on the bitter taste of her lipstick, or the chapped lips beneath, or the fur that grazed against his teeth. He tried thinking happy thoughts. Blood, murder, roasted demon, anything to get his mind off what was happening!
Then Tina cupped a hand around his neck and pulled him closer, bringing him back to the present.
This kiss was…different from the first. Slower, more tentative, giving them both time to savor the sensation of each other's touches. Her gloved hands felt warm on his cheek and neck. They didn't wander anywhere else, which Alastor appreciated.
The act was still unsanitary, in his opinion, but there was also some sweetness in it. The touch of their lips was like a silent promise, and the slowness of it a show of trust. Was this why people felt the need to taste each other? To come to this small, physical agreement? This confirmation that they were on the same page?
Alastor could not say this kiss changed his opinion on love, but it certainly was…something.
Tina felt his right hand slowly lift from her shoulder and then, in a curious motion, move down to the small of her back, just beneath her wings. His hand pressed down lightly, bringing her an inch closer. He seemed to be relaxing into this act of intimacy and had decided to experiment.
Just as she had, he didn't go too far in his touches. The shyness and respect were refreshing to Tina. To think he trusted her with something that discomforted him so, that her lips would be the only ones he'd ever taste in this manner.
Because demons didn't need to necessarily breathe, neither were certain of how much time had passed when they finally broke apart.
They opened their eyes, each seeing the other's face completely red. Tina looked Alastor over and then let out a loud, squeaky sound. It took a few seconds for Alastor realize that it was laughter.
He found himself stammering. "I-I wasn't that bad, was I?"
"No! No, it's not that, it's…" Tina shook her head and pointed. "You…you've got my lipstick on your mouth!"
Alastor brought a finger to his lips. Sure enough, his fingertip was smeared in bright red lipstick.
"You…" Tina held her sides as she kept on laughing. "You look like a creepy-ass clown!"
He had never heard her laugh before. A few giggles, but not such an uncontrollable fit of laughter as this. She'd barely batted an eye at his jokes, and ever the professional, never laughed at her own.
To think all it had taken to awaken the mirth within her had been a small bit of lipstick on his mouth.
The very absurdity of it caused Alastor to laugh himself. Not his usual broken "ha-ha-ha's," but a joyful, contagious laugh to match Tina's. The two of them bent over, covering their mouths in an attempt to contain themselves. But this act smeared both their lipstick, which made them laugh even harder.
Finally, Alastor rematerialized the handkerchief to wipe his face.
"H-Here," Tina said, catching her breath as she reached for the handkerchief. "Let me get it."
He allowed her to wipe what he couldn't see, the two of them slowly recovering in chuckles.
"You have a wonderful laugh, my dear!" Alastor snapped his fingers to make the handkerchief vanish. "And, objectively speaking, a fine pair of lips!"
Tina's blush returned. "Th-Thanks."
It had been so long since she'd laughed like that. Ironic, for a comedienne. Even before she'd fallen, she'd been dealing with PTSD, depression, alcoholism, smoking addiction, night terrors and breast cancer. Not exactly a decade to laugh at.
Perhaps the two of them were marrying for the wrong reasons, but that didn't mean they couldn't make the best of it. As Alastor had said, they could simply be two friends living together, making this eternal resting place of the damned a little more bearable.
At the very least, they wouldn't be alone.
"So…" Tina held out her hand. "Ready to get hitched?"
Alastor's eyes raked over her. "Well, I am. Afraid I can't say the same thing about your state of dress."
At first, Tina thought he might be referring to her smile. Then she looked down at herself and finally saw the damage her demon transformation had done to her gown. After crying so much, she dreaded to imagine how her makeup looked.
"Shit." She held up her tattered skirt. "Rosie's gonna fillet me into the next recession."
"Allow me, darling!"
Alastor twirled his finger over her head, and Tina's dress swirled around her. In a matter of seconds, all the tears were patched up and the dress was as good as new.
"There we are!" He summoned a hand mirror for her. "Now, don't we look…?"
He trailed off when he saw her smile, making her face glow more than mascara and lipstick ever could.
Tina was too busy adjusting her veil to notice the lack of static in his voice. "Well, guess we better get out there, huh?"
Alastor shook out of his daze. "Quite right!" He made the mirror disappear and held out his arm. "Shall we then, ma jeune mariée?"
"Fifty bucks says he comes back without her," Husk said as he poured himself a drink at the wedding bar.
"Nuh-huh!" Niffty slammed her hands on the counter. "Alastor won't rest until he finds her!"
"Oh, he'll find her alright," he said, lazily bringing the mixture to his lips. "If he doesn't tear her limb from limb, he'll lock her up in that mic dungeon for backing out."
"She wasn't running from Al, she was running from him," Mimzy said, pointing at Lucifer.
"Once again," Lucifer said tiredly, "so quick to point fingers at the Devil."
"I have no doubt Alastor will at least allow her time to explain," Rosie said, sipping a cup of tea she'd brought out of nowhere. "Then he'll decide whether she deserves punishment."
"You all think so little of Al!" Niffty crossed her arms. "He's head over heels in love with that lady! He'd never do something so cruel to her! I'm telling you, they'll be here any minute, arm-in-arm, smiling like lovestruck idiots, ready to take the first step to their happily ever after!"
"Uh-huh." Husk rolled his eyes. "And the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy will come skipping merrily up behind them to hold the fucking bridal train!"
Just then, the opening to "Here Comes the Bride" came out of seemingly nowhere. Everyone turned to see Alastor's shadow minions playing brass and string instruments. The Radio Demon himself came out from behind a tree, top hat on his head and an open red parasol in hand. He glanced over at the demons staring at him from the bar.
"Husker, didn't I tell you not to serve drinks until after the ceremony?"
Husk set down his bottle and everyone scrambled to their positions. Lucifer took his place beneath the flower arch while Rosie hooked her arm with Alastor's and began escorting him down the aisle in place of the mother of the groom.
Then it was Husk and Mimzy's turn. Both of them glanced around worriedly for any sign of the bride.
When Alastor and Rosie reached the arch, she kissed him on either cheek and whispered, "I hope you know what you're doing."
Niffty followed behind the best man and maid of honor, sprinkling petals across the aisle. She had to bite her tongue to stop herself from sweeping it all up right then and there.
Rosie and Niffty took their seats while Husk stood behind the groom and Mimzy on the bride's side. The shadowy orchestra then changed key and everyone's attention went down the aisle.
Tina stepped out from behind a tree, carrying a red parasol identical to Alastor's over her shoulder. The red veil covered her face, but her shining violet eyes were unmistakable. She marched in time with the music, idly twirling the parasol above her head.
Niffty sent Husk a smirk, who groaned as he mouthed, "I owe you fifty bucks."
When Tina reached the arch, she handed her parasol to Niffty, and Alastor handed his to Husk. The bride and groom then faced each other and Alastor gently lifted the veil over Tina's head, revealing her smiling face.
The music died down and the couple joined hands. Lucifer opened up the Satanic Bible.
"Dearly departed, we are gathered here today to bind the souls of this demon and this demoness in unholy matrimony." He glanced between the bride and groom. "Marriage is a rare occurrence here in Hell, in absence of a…conventional legal system."
Lucifer fiddle with his bowtie. "But every now and then, two damned souls will choose to make a serious commitment to last all eternity. As a married man myself, I think it better for two souls to meet in Hell rather than on Earth."
He pointed upwards. "Up there, people pretend that they are without sin. Even go so far as to hide their flaws from their own partners. But down here, it's no secret that everyone here is flawed. And so, Alastor and Tina will not enter their marriage with the delusion that they will live happily ever after.
"Oh no." Lucifer wagged his finger. "Alastor and Tina see themselves for who they truly are, flaws and all. And yet, they are still willing to stand by each other for the rest of their afterlives. Knowing the inevitable problems they will face, they are prepared to face them together, as partners, as equals."
Tina's smile faded as she locked gaze with Alastor, thinking about Lucifer's words.
"For down here, marriage is not simply a piece of paper," the Devil continued. "It's an eternal bond between souls, blessed by yours truly." He chuckled as the ceremonial knife appeared in his hand. "To represent all the joys and sorrows these two will share, so will they now share their blood."
Alastor's eyes did not leave Tina's as he took the knife. He then released her hands and brought the blade to his left palm, cutting through the fabric of the glove and into his skin. He would fix the glove later.
He didn't even wince as the blood seeped out, but calmly offered the knife to Tina. She then did the same to her left palm, grunting at the minor, but sharp pain.
As they had rehearsed, Tina passed the blade back to Lucifer and joined her bleeding hand with Alastor's. Lucifer held the Satanic Bible beneath their hands, open to a page that contained a certificate of marriage. The blood dripped onto the parchment and the bride's and groom's names appeared in red on separate lines.
"Now that the legal aspect of this union is out of the way," Lucifer said, pulling back the book, "it is time for the bride and groom to express their love for one another in front of all these witnesses."
Alastor dropped Tina's hand, reached over his shoulder and snapped his fingers towards Husk. The best man rolled his eyes as he took the red piece of paper out from under his hat and gave it to Alastor. Mimzy then handed Tina her crumpled up paper, which she'd tucked away in her bodice.
Alastor read his first. "Tina, my darling, I knew there was something special about you the moment I first saw you. You are beautiful, talented, comedic, and it is for all these reasons that I lo—"
Then he paused, lowering the paper to look at Tina. Her brow furrowed in confusion. Why'd he stop?
He skimmed through the rest of his speech. It was along the lines of promising to love her until the end of time and to make her the happiest demoness in all of Hell. Typical phrases one would hear from a man in love.
Then Alastor remembered his earlier promises, when it had just been him and Tina. He had said all of them so easily, without rehearsal. And he had said them honestly, no pretense whatsoever.
Those vows had been much more meaningful than the ones he'd written for this performance.
"You know what? Forget this."
Alastor crushed the paper into a little ball and threw it over his shoulder. Everyone gasped in astonishment, including Tina. Was the groom having second thoughts?
"I think we've said everything that needs to be said." Alastor held out his bleeding hand towards Tina. "Don't you agree, ma petite amie?"
He winked at her as he said "amie." Tina tilted her head as she tried to figure out what he was trying to say. In French, "petite amie" was the phrase for "girlfriend." But the literal translation was "little friend."
Then she realized the wink was to emphasize the "friend" part, just as Alastor had called her not too long ago when they were alone. Tina then recalled everything else he had said. That he wouldn't pretend with her, that he would care for her as a friend, that they would face the horrors of Hell together.
He had said his vows already. But he wasn't going to repeat them for everyone here. The only one who needed to hear them was her.
He was making their relationship, their true relationship, their business. And their business alone.
Smirking, Tina crumpled up her own vows and tossed it over her shoulder. "I believe we have, partner."
She clasped her bleeding hand with his and they shook, as if making another deal. Everyone was giving the couple bewildered looks, but Alastor and Tina didn't care.
After all, who said a husband and wife couldn't be friends?
Lucifer looked between the bride and groom, who seemed to be engaged in conversation through eye contact alone. Something had changed between them. He wasn't sure what, but they looked more comfortable with each other than yesterday.
"Well, don't just stand there like a ninny, Luci," Alastor said, his gaze still focused on Tina. "Get on with the marrying!"
"Err…very well." Lucifer shook his head. "Do you have the rings?"
The bride and groom received their rings from Mimzy and Husk. Instead of gold, Alastor had gotten a red ring, and Tina a black one, which were the traditional colors of Hell.
"Do you, Alastor," Lucifer said, reading from the Satanic Bible, "take this demoness to be your sinfully wedded wife, to walk together in this plane of eternal damnation, till an angel's blade shall part you?"
"I do," Alastor said, sliding the red ring onto Tina's finger, right above her engagement ring.
"And do you, Tina Twinkle, take the Radio Demon to be your sinfully wedded husband, to walk together in this plane of eternal damnation, till an angel's blade shall part you?"
With the pressure of the vows lifted from her shoulders, Tina didn't feel so hesitant anymore as she slid the black ring onto Alastor's finger. "If he doesn't eat me first."
Even the groom snickered at that.
"Then by the power vested in me," Lucifer said, glancing upwards, "by dear old Daddy, I now pronounce you demon and wife." He slammed the book closed. "You may now kiss the bride."
Tina expected Alastor to repeat their rehearsal from a few minutes ago, so she closed her eyes and waited for him to lean in. Instead, she felt his hands grip her shoulder and waist. Her eyes opened wide as she was swept into a dip.
Before Tina could process what was happening, Alastor's lips crashed into hers. Mimzy gasped, Husk's jaw dropped, Lucifer and Rosie applauded, and Niffty whistled in congratulations.
When Alastor broke the kiss and lifted Tina back up, she was panting.
"How'd I do?" he whispered in her ear.
"You're a…" She paused to breathe. "Fast learner."
He patted her shoulder. "I had a good teacher."
When it came time for the bride and groom's first dance, Tina didn't know what to expect. She'd told Alastor to just pick a song and she'd roll with it. So when Alastor pulled her onto the cobblestone pavilion serving as the dancefloor, she adjusted herself into the standard waltzing position and let him take the lead as the shadow played a slow, jazzy tune.
Then Mimzy started singing:
"Be sure it's true
When you say, 'I love you'…"
Tina looked between the singer and her husband. Guess I gotta get used to that word.
"Hasn't left my head since last night," Alastor said as he turned her. "Seemed appropriate, and you sang it so beautifully."
She blushed as she was pulled into a self-hugging position, her back against his front. "Ya realize this changes nothing, right?" She glanced at the new ring on her finger. "Just because we're married, doesn't mean I feel any different 'bout you."
"I'm aware," he said as he spun her outwards. "I want you to be nothing but honest with me, my sweet wife." He guided her back in, settling his hand on her waist. "So, if ever in this…eternal union those feelings of yours do change, I expect that you will speak the truth."
Tina raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, that ain't happenin'."
He showed his teeth. "Are you certain?"
She held up their joined hands. "Bit late to be havin' this conversation, don't ya think?"
"Perhaps. I merely ask you to be careful, dear. After all…"
He leaned in and softly sang the last line of the song with Mimzy. "It's a sin to tell a lie."
When the dance finished, Alastor bowed and kissed Tina's hand. She curtseyed in return.
"Excuse me, a moment, mon amour. Husker!" Alastor grabbed the cat demon by the arm. "Entertain my wife until I get back!"
Husk blinked. "The fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"Dance with her, pour her a drink, show her one of your card tricks!" Alastor pressed Husk into his side and growled. "Just don't get any ideas."
Husk was about to say he wasn't an idiot when the Radio Demon pushed him aside and glided across the pavilion to where Lucifer was sipping a glass of champagne.
"Well, old chap," Lucifer said, "how are you liking the married life so far?"
Alastor's eyes glowed as they narrowed. "I may not be able to do much to you, Luci, but attempt to bargain with my wife behind my back again, and consider our acquaintanceship dissolved."
Lucifer glanced at Tina, who was picking a card from Husk's paw. "So she told you, then."
"Of course, she told me. I'm her husband." His voice became momentarily distorted as he uttered this word. "She also informed me that she won't be taking your deal."
"Did she now?" Lucifer hummed. "Well, then. It seems you two are serious about this marriage after all."
Alastor tilted his head, bewildered by the Devil's unsurprised tone. "Did you…plan this?"
"You mean did I plan for Tina to refuse my deal, run off in tears, then for you to go comfort her, for her to confess everything, and for the two of you to come out of the whole tribulation stronger than ever before?" Lucifer smirked as his finger traced the rim of the glass. "Oh come now, Al. I may be the Devil, but I'm not omniscient."
Alastor's hands clenched behind his back. "And if it hadn't happened in that fashion?"
Lucifer shrugged. "Well, then she would've accepted my deal and I'd be satisfied either way."
Vodou symbols floated around the Radio Demon, but he did not dare make a move. He simply glowered at the Devil, as he did not like being manipulated.
"If you weren't the King of Hell," Alastor said, pointing to Lucifer's cane, "I'd shove that apple in your mouth, use that cane for a spit and roast you over the fire!"
"Only roasted? Not fricasseed?" Lucifer placed a hand on his chest. "You wound me, old chap."
The symbols faded away as Alastor snorted. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dance with my wife."
He turned on his heel and headed for Tina, who was laughing at Husk's card trick. Seeing her laugh quelled his anger momentarily. She really is a delightful little thing.
"Did she tell you what I offered her?" Lucifer called.
Alastor stopped, but did not turn back to face him. "Yes."
His hesitance told Lucifer that he was lying. "Would you like to know the full details?"
The Radio Demon didn't answer right away. Then he craned his head back towards the Devil.
"Not from you."
It was the truth. Despite the lack of love between them, Alastor had chosen to trust Tina. If she could be patient to hear his secrets, he would extend her the same courtesy.
If he wasn't going to love her, he would at least give her this much.
Lucifer watched as Alastor offered a hand to his bride and brought her into another dance. The snake in the Devil's hat came to life and hissed.
"I agree, my pet," Lucifer said, reaching up to stroke the snake's head. "Those two lovebirds just might make it, after all."
I only recently discovered what a quasiplatonic relationship was, and really I think that's the best word to describe how I intended for Alastor and Tina's relationship to go. I was going to have them go through the vows, but then realized it was a bit repetitive of their alone conversation, as Al realizes here. And again, was a bit of a "My Fake Fiancé" moment (extremely underrated romantic comedy).
All that remains is the epilogue, which leeways into my idea for a new fic...and explains why we don't see Tina at the hotel.