* I referenced The Breakfast Club. I don't own The Breakfast Club.
Charlie was surprised. So pleasantly surprised.
It was difficult to get every single resident of the Hotel in one place. Everyone's schedules were usually so busy and often erratic. It was the Cleanse that brought this on. Not a lot of sinners resumed their usual activities until a few days after each Cleanse was over and done with. Most would joke and say that it was Hell's vacation time. There was no fooling each other, though. Everyone knew it was actually to physically and mentally recuperate from the insanity.
Given that no one was going anywhere anytime soon, Charlie supposed that they probably gathered in the living room because they had nothing better to do with their time. Everyone was talking amongst each other as Charlie collected her thoughts.
This was what made her nervous. Not angels, but this. Standing in front of a large crowd.
She didn't have stage fright whatsoever, but what made her nervous was just the people in general. Anytime she had ever stood in front of anyone to announce anything, it backfired on her. It always did. And she knew, or at least anticipated, that this would be no different. Still, this needed to happen. She couldn't lie to her residents or put anything off. They deserved that much.
She glanced around for Alastor, hoping to get a small bit of silent reassurance from him, but she didn't get any. He was sitting off to the side, in the front row of seats, with all of his focus on adjusting something on his microphone stand. She exhaled anxiously. Well, she could at least hear a little tune that he was humming along to, and hearing it helped for some reason. Only a little, though, but it was better than nothing.
She decided it was now time, and she cleared her throat. Everyone stopped to give her their attention, including Alastor. His microphone stand had disappeared, as if he'd never had it in the first place.
"H-Hi, everyone," she stammered slightly, and she cleared her throat once more. "I'm glad all of you are okay. This year's Cleanse had a…lot more destruction than we all anticipated. If anyone has been injured or anything, you can always go to the…" Charlie then paused to rub her fingers over her eyes. "Why didn't I think of adding an infirmary to the Hotel, yet," she asked herself aloud.
"I got it," Niffty hollered from within the crowd, followed by the rasping of a pencil against paper. She'd all but begged to be the note-taker for this large meeting, always having the need to keep things organized.
"Thanks," Charlie said to her as she looked up at everyone again. "So, uh, I gathered all of you here right now to make sure everyone was accounted for, and…also…"
She took a deep, uncertain breath. "No one is getting redeemed."
…And their reaction was exactly what Charlie had anticipated.
The entire room was as silent as a grave, with only the sound of a pencil dropping to the floor to briefly break it. Charlie felt tears well up as she took in a couple of residents' astonished faces.
Niffty was frozen to her chair.
Sanderson and Steel were both scowling at the floor.
Husk was glaring at a wall.
Angel Dust had his arms wrapped around himself with pure tension and unease.
The yoga instructor looked distraught.
Their new bartender was silently chugging a beer bottle as if it were oxygen.
And, god, Charlie could go on and on in detail about all of the others, too. She knew they were disappointed in her, and it proved once and for all that this really would never have worked, and that she definitely had let everyone down.
… Although, upon further inspection, was that really the case? Yes, they weren't happy with what she'd just said, but with the way most of them stayed focused on her, as if waiting for something else, they didn't necessarily seem directly upset with her, per se. Charlie thought about how she'd worded everything, and she came to a conclusion.
They weren't disappointed in her.
They were disappointed that they weren't getting redeemed.
How?...How did a thought such as that make her feel more confident? As if a weight was slowly beginning to lift off of her? It was probably just her over-thinking brain getting the best of her. She could continue staring at their dejected faces all day and could even begin to once again spiral into a pit of hopelessness. But, no!
That's not what this meeting was about.
"I tried," Charlie said after many moments of uncertain silence. "I really did. I tried to tell the angels what we do here, that this place is worth every bit of time and energy-"
"What angels," one of the residents asked.
"Oh. The ones from the Cleanse. A couple of them-"
"You went out into the streets during the most fucked-up time of the year? Just to get our asses redeemed?" Another asked loudly.
"Well," she breathed. "…Yeah."
"Jesus Christ, you got some balls!"
This caused quite a few of them to unexpectedly chuckle, including Charlie, especially when she noticed Alastor's eyes roll at that uncouth statement.
"Well, uh, anyway," Charlie said, now smiling slightly, and she tried not to let it falter as she continued. "As I was saying. The angels…I couldn't convince them. They said they had too much going on, or something. So…No. No one's getting redeemed."
She looked at everyone, all of her employees and residents, most of which that had stuck with her for many weeks and months now, doing everything to better themselves and the Hotel itself. And she refused to let it all go to waste.
"But…That made me think of something else," she explained. "Because we're still here. Just because those angels don't want anything to do with this place doesn't mean that we shouldn't. Even though the Hotel can't be used for redemption purposes, that doesn't mean I want to give up on it." Her smile widened. "Just like how all of you haven't given up. That…That goes a long way for me. You have no idea."
She cleared her throat and straightened up confidently, no longer feeling uneasy or saddened. "I kept asking myself…What else could this place be for? What else could people here in Hell want?" She chuckled slightly, good-naturedly. "I'm…Well, I'm not as gullible as the majority of you might think. I'm well aware most of you originally joined the Hotel for free room and board."
Husk was suddenly clearing his throat. "Angel Dust," he coughed loudly into his fist.
"Man, sh-shut up," Angel retorted, but unable to hide the chuckling in his voice, especially now that nearly everyone was snickering and smirking along with them.
"And why wouldn't you all want that," Charlie continued. "We all know that a safe place to stay in Hell is hard to come back. This hotel wasn't just for sinners to get redeemed, but to also provide them a safe place to live while doing so.
"So…I've been thinking," she said. "Even after each Cleanse is over and done with, that still doesn't make Hell a safe place. There are still plenty of pitfalls and a lot chaos that happens all year round. But…not here. This place has, for the most part, been free of all that, as much as it can be. And I want it to continue that way.
"Just because you all aren't getting redeemed doesn't mean you no longer have a home here. Well, that's what I intend for this place to be now. Hell has never had neutral ground before. A safe house, if you will. But now it does, for anyone who needs or wants it. It could be temporary. It could be permanent. A safe place to stay for whoever wants it, so long as they are willing to respect it and each other.
"So, yeah," Charlie concluded. "A safe place. A safe house. Er, safe hotel, I guess you could say." She chuckled slightly. "So. What do you all think?"
Charlie couldn't anticipate what all of their reactions would be, but she was hopeful. That hopefulness didn't always pay off with most of her passionate ideas, but she'd be damned if she were to stop trying.
It was a day like this that made her proud of herself that she never stopped trying.
All of the Hotel's residents looked at her calmly, most with unabashed smiles on their faces that made them seem hopeful, too. A couple of them definitely scoffed, and Charlie knew that some of them might not like this kind of change, but for the most part…
Everyone seemed willing to try it.
And that was more than enough for her. More than she could have hoped for.
Little by little, they all dispersed from the living room. Most of them took their time, flagging down Charlie to talk to her about her speech, but mostly to just touch base with her.
They asked her casual questions, like if certain schedules could be tweaked, when the bar was going to get different liquor, if Husk was going to continue his sessions, if Sanderson could give them gardening lessons, and on and on. It was to a point where the questions were no longer even related to her speech.
It was as if Charlie had never changed anything.
The positive energy she felt from all of them was infinitely appreciated. At some point, the questions and conversations trickled to an end. One of the few remaining residents still in the living room was Niffty. She handed the pencil and paper to Charlie.
"There wasn't much to write down, except for the infirmary part," she said. "Ooh, wait, I lied! I actually wrote down something in case I forgot. Go up to the fifth floor and tell me what you think of the window."
Charlie's brows scrunched. "Which window?"
"The one Sanderson and Steel broke."
She blinked in confusion. "But…that was months ago. And didn't you fix it already?"
"Yeah, but I didn't like it. Just plain, clear, boring, stupid old glass. Stained glass is so much prettier. Anyway, lemme know what you think of it." On that note, she left. So, Niffty had apparently changed the window. Charlie couldn't wait to see it.
She hadn't noticed that Alastor had been standing right next to her nearly the whole time until his arm came around her torso. She jumped slightly, but then relaxed upon seeing him. And her heart began doing such wonderful somersaults. He was looking at her with that soft smile of his, beaming almost proudly at her.
She stood on her tiptoes and wound her arms around his neck, ready to tell him something, but then Angel Dust came into view. Aside from her and Alastor, he was the last to leave, having been trying to plan the next movie night, and placing the chosen selection next to the projector. It looks like the The Breakfast Club was next.
Before he could leave the room, Charlie told him with a friendly grin, "Remember a few months back when I told you that you and Fat Nuggets still have a home here?"
Angel laughed loudly at her. "Damn straight we do! Psh! I wasn't worried for a second. Can't get rid of me that easily, or any of us from the looks of it." Before he closed the doors, he gave one last comment. "Oh, and congratulations! Since none of us wayward souls are getting carted off to Heaven, it looks like you're forever stuck with us, blondie." He gave a final laugh, but not a mocking one. It almost sounded fond. A second later, the doors swung shut behind him.
"Yeah," she exhaled, her smile having yet to leave her face. "I guess I am."
"That all went rather well, I'd say," Alastor said.
"It did," she said, idly stroking her thumb against the back of his neck, her arms having yet to let go of him. "And that's all because of you. Well…All of the residents of the Hotel, but especially you."
He tilted his head. "Oh? How so?"
"Everything you said last night after I got back to the Hotel," she explained. "I don't know why, but it all made sense. It made so many things click into place. And you made it sound so effortless, too. Even though you never thought or cared if this hotel was going to work in the first place."
He chuckled. "Believe me, my dear, when I say that it wasn't without effort. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that your new goal would become of it." He tucked some stray hair behind her ear. "My dearest Charlie. I will never stop telling you what you need to hear." His grin turned playful. "Hopefully that's not more than what you bargained for."
Her smile was wide as her shoulders shook with laughter. Seeing her slowly but finally returning to a more positive mindset, he couldn't resist bending down to steal a sweet kiss from her, to which she responded without hesitation.
"Al," she murmured against his lips.
She pulled back a little. "I love you, too."
She couldn't help but giggle a little when he froze up at her words, only for that giggling to be blissfully smothered by newly fervent and passionate kisses from him.
Many months ago, when Steel had broken all of Baxter's beakers, Niffty had dutifully cleaned up all of the glass. Those that knew about her keeping the larger shards instead of throwing them away thought it was extremely creepy. What they did not know was the project she'd began working on.
Ever motivated to fix something or for things to look nice in general, she was driven to replace that boring fifth floor window with something else. Somehow, she had managed to individually stain each broken piece of glass.
Every time Charlie had cried this past year, it wasn't often that they were tears of happiness. Now, as she looked at the colors in front of her, she welcomed these kinds of tears. At first, Charlie had just looked at it with amusement. It was an adorable mesh of colors, all pieced together with no real pattern to it. Then, she realized just how wrong she was.
Yellow for her, red for Alastor, black for Husk, white for Vaggie, pink for Niffty, and an even lighter pink for Angel Dust.
All colors that represented her and her friends.
The original six residents of the Hotel.
Charlie sniffled, swiping some of the tears away as her smile grew ever wider.
Obviously, it was impossible for Niffty to have added every single resident of the Hotel to the mosaic. And given when the glass had been cleaned up, Niffty probably hadn't been anticipating more residents or the current ones at the time to stick.
That was okay, Charlie told herself as she stood up. Honestly, that's what the pictures and empty frames in the Hotel entryway were for, to make everyone feel included and welcomed. And she hoped that there would be more and more pictures to come. And who knows, maybe Niffty would feel creative enough to make more stained glass art of all of the other residents.
Charlie could have sat there all day to continue admiring it. Unfortunately - yet not unfortunate at all - the day wasn't over yet and she needed to get back to her duties as hotel owner. As she walked the halls, as she thought about the mosaic, and as she listened to the usual bustling sounds of her lively, fantastic Hotel, she felt more at home than ever. And she couldn't wait to see what their future was going to be like.
Obviously, they were still awaiting that dreaded news report from 666 News. And Charlie knew that Killjoy would more than likely try to demand another interview now that no one in the Hazbin Hotel was getting redeemed. None of that mattered to her, though.
Rosie was to show up any day now with her flowers, and to provide financial guidance.
Her employees went about their jobs, business as usual.
Most of the residents in the Hotel continued to stay. And more residents came in from word of mouth as a result.
They would all be okay. Every one of them.
This was Charlie's family, and it was an interesting family to have indeed.
If you have the time, please read this:
* Exhales *
Well, I just wanted to say a few things to conclude this. Thank you all so much for the support you've given my story. I always love hearing everyone's thoughts, opinions, and theories. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, to a point where I reread it on a weekly basis. I don't know if that sounds humble enough or not, lol.
It's funny, really. This story wasn't meant to be a chapter story. It was supposed to be a series of interconnecting one-shots leading up to an eventual romance. It was after the third chapter that I realized it wasn't going to work like that, lol.
I hope you guys were satisfied with the ending. And yes, it does leave room for a possible sequel. There were many things in this story that I hadn't been able to go over quite yet. And of course there were a few things that I purposefully left vague for a variety of reasons. However, I don't have the details I need to make that sequel. It's always a possibility it could happen, and it may even result in an additional epilogue for this story, but as of right now I don't have one seriously planned.
The one thing I hoped above all else, though, was that I did all of these characters justice. This story was so character driven that I tried to make sure that I respected these characters every step of the way. I hope I accomplished that.
Once again thank you all. I did not expect this story to get as much attention as it did and I appreciate every single review and overall support.
Just one last thing, please. If you decide to leave a review, please give a shout out to my editor if you can. He's helped me with nearly all of this story. He has such a busy schedule and he hardly ever has a whole lot of free time, and he still somehow manages to help me with my crazy stories.
One last time, thank you to all of you.