Smiling in the Face of Hell

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Chapter 11

When she woke in the morning, it took her a moment to remember why she was there and that she was not dreaming up everything that happened in Hell.

She helped herself to some cereal, a simple small meal that she felt like she did not really need.

Even though she did not need it she found comfort in the normality and she made sure to enjoy every second of it.

When she finished, she dressed in her favorite band shirt and a pair of jeans that were once pants length but are now a nice fitting pair of jean capris.

None of her shoes fit her feet. It was not like her feet grew unnaturally huge, it was just that miniscule growth difference that made everything uncomfortable to wear. She had to make do with an old pair of sandals. To the unsuspecting eye, no one would even guess they did not fit properly, but she still felt the discomforts.

She did not quite look like she was dressing properly for early spring where the air was still a bit nippy, but she was going to have to make due.

Walking out and strolling down her normal route seemed almost unreal. She wondered why she felt the need to walk this trail that lead her right to the Hell’s gate when she now apparently lived there.

She stayed on the surface to feel normality, yet she walked back to where it all started.

Her hair colour had faded but to humans, it would probably just look like a faded dye over bleached hair. She looked relatively human still, just a bit too pale and longer ears.

She did notice her ears grew and were starting to form a point, almost like Lionel, only much smaller compared to his very tall pointed elven ears, the only thing that would stick out but it was covered with hair so no one even truly saw them.

She could practice her new powers by using Lionel’s knowledge like she did the night before to hide her looks and give a normal human disguise to hide herself away, but she honestly did not care that much. Other than her ears, she looked normal enough, plus she had shoes on so there was no real reason to worry about concealing herself to everyone yet, it would just be a waste of energy.

When she reached the street of the old church that held the gate she realized that the entire time she was back on the surface, she felt the gate. It was much like a presence, big and very hard to miss. It was almost alarming that not once did she ever feel such a thing before until now.

I guess it is obvious why I feel it now, she reasoned inwardly with a somber snicker under her breath.

When she reached the door, she did not hesitate to just step in, like she always did.

The whole experience, however, was completely different than before.

She felt the shield that kept the souls in and humans out strain against her, it was almost like she walked right into saran wrap taped tightly across a doorway. It was a short-lived feeling when she felt herself do something. She could not keep track of what she did, but she felt the shield ease up just like that and let her in without breaking. It was as if she just made herself welcome as a demon, which originally was rejected.

The shift in the air just inside made her straighten her back as she closed the door slowly behind her.

She was not surprised to see all the souls, just like before. Just as she remembered it was a mess, except no line was formed and everyone was spread out, fear bright on their faces.

It was clear with an actual demon in charge things were very different and there clearly was a very different way things were done without her.

She spotted Dirge mid walk heading towards the gate with a soul tight in his grips, looking more than ready to hurl the soul right into the gate unforgivingly.

Yes, very different.

Dirge stared openly, jaw slack.

She remembered being shorter than him, by quite a few heads; roughly 1 ½ to 2 feet over her, but now, they practically stood the same height.

She was mildly amused at her lack of noticing the huge difference only now. She knew she grew in height, but she never realized just how tall she got until she was staring in the face of something, or someone, she was familiar with and compared before and after.

Other than Dirge, she noticed three other large, big mean looking demons, all similarly working, souls in tight hands, ready to throw them through the gate like they were sacks of trash being thrown into an incinerator.

Heh, the irony.

The shock on all of their faces was quite priceless.

Dirge was the first to move, turning to face her completely to give Scout a bow,” Queen.”

That was almost unexpected, now it was Scout’s turn to be shocked as the other three followed suit, bowing, calling her ‘Queen’.

She knew that was what she was, but it just felt wrong coming from Dirge for some reason. She would like to think they were almost friends. Not quite, but he did not hate her and did not seem to mind having her around. So hearing him say that and bow to her really just kind of struck her weird, it did not feel right.

It was probably just his job not to scare her off and keep her in line before when she was still a little human, playing a friend is one sure way to do that.

She cleared her throat, waving her hand at them, “stop that,” she muttered under her breath, completely embarrassed.

Suddenly she felt a familiar prick at the back of her mind, that mildly uncomfortable poke that she quickly learned what it had meant, one of them was trying to take a peek in her head. With a brow raised she straightened her back, eyes shooting right over to the culprit.

The demon stiffened from her gaze as she heaved a sigh,” really, already?”

Out of the four of them, Dirge was the only one she was familiar with, the other three were different faces from the others that were with Dirge when she worked there.

She saw Dirge send the demon a pitiful stare as it quickly bowed,” I’m sorry my Queen, forgive me for my rudeness.”

Scout waved her hand,” no, wait, it’s fine, I mean, it’s not, but like, can you just not do that is all I ask.”

She knew she shouldn’t be so nice, but being on the surface was much less intense and relaxed than in Hell, she couldn’t help it.

Dirge heaved a sigh as he casually tossed the soul in his hand through the gate, the screams of the old woman’s soul echoed through the silenced church.

The other souls who all fell quiet from her approach who were listening to everything quickly realized their positions as well as realizing who she was.

Screams of bloody murder resumed at Dirge’s actions, restarting the panic that must have been going on before she stepped in and pressed a pause button in everyone.

Dirge paid no mind to the loudness as he gave the other three a firm look, a clear message that told them to continue and he branched off and approached Scout.

His sigh told all that needed to be told honestly, but she played as if she did not hear it.

“My Queen,” he started, giving her yet another bow before continuing,” what can I do for you,” he asked carefully.

Scout gave a tight smile,” sorry to bother on a busy day.”

Dirge shook his head, glancing around nonchalantly,” it’s just another day.”

Suddenly she felt it, he wanted to know what happened and why she was here of all places. He was curious, but with that previous sigh, she would have never guessed.

It looked as if Dirge, Lionel’s house of servants, and the Prince’s are the only ones who knew she was just a human a few days ago. For plenty of reasons, it was probably a good thing.

“Relax Dirge, I won’t rip your head off for talking, just talk normal, you know how I was before, just because I’m Queen now doesn’t really change my attitude,” she said, feeling the guilt of her little white lie, she would like to think she simply omitted the fact that her attitude really did change and already stuffed two prince’s faces into the ground because of her new found temper.

She kept it vague, but he understood what she meant.

“Well, with Pers gone, and you fallen, a lot of things changed,” he said with another sigh, glancing over to the three others,” I got three newbies, I swear they don’t have a lick of sense.”

Scout blinked away her shock, to hear Dirge openly complain was a first for her, which made her realize that his sighs are towards the three others and not her. Well, she distracted them so he is probably a little agitated with her.

“Sounds like fun,” she began with a teasing smirk.

Dirge rolled his eyes, this might be the first time he has been so lax around her, which seemed odd to imagine, since she thought of all times for Dirge to be tense and careful, now would be the time.

Scout scanned over the loud hustling and bustling of frantic souls at the other three. They were all stiff as bricks, seemingly working diligently.

Them hearing of Dirge complaining to her about them really put them on their toes, especially the one she called out for even trying to take a peek into her head already. He was on edge more than ever, not knowing if his previous mistake was going to cost him. They knew nothing about her but she quickly saw why they were terrified. Not only did they know who she was now, but they also heard about Pers, Theodor, and Guo.

She wasn’t surprised they knew of Pers and Theodor, but she was shocked that Guo’s failure to stay on his high horse spread like a wildfire. It seems he was boasting around Hell about being ‘as high as the king’.

Hah, what a joke.

When he was told to stay away, everyone knew, and let’s just say they won’t let Guo live that down after all those years of shameless bragging.

So these three saw her as a ruthless Queen who will eliminate all who gets in her way.

Just a day ago, she might have actually felt bad about that, but now more than ever she welcomed that misunderstanding and planned to do nothing to correct it.

“So now that I’m gone, it’s an all day and all night kind of job,” she then asked, already knowing her answer but asked for conversation's sake.

Dirge scratched his forehead before suddenly reaching out to catch a soul that was running past by the neck.

It was the fastest strike she has ever seen from Dirge. Quick, effortlessly, like a snake, but faster.

Scout watched as he twisted to hurl the screaming man through the gate after two others from one of the other demon workers. With that, she became more aware of the system going on. From an outsiders point of view, this all looked like a huge hectic mess, chaos, just no kind of order, but just then, she saw the order.

They didn’t have a book checklist of souls like Scout did, but there was an order to which the souls needed to be lined in and they all knew it.

Whoever was next, was chased down and hurled in with no warning or hesitation. Workers at the gate had to be fast to get the job done at a steady pace and correctly.

Scout was fascinated at the thought of them slowing things down for her all for Pers’ grand scheme to breed out a fresh gatekeeper when it was Scout’s time to die.

Funny how that backfired real quick. Considering how long she could have been gatekeeper, even beyond her years on the surface, it, in theory, would have been a great plan, but it flopped on the first year it was put into motion.

“Until Pers came up with that stupid idea to put a human as gatekeeper, it’s always been an all day all night job. We had the blessing of a break at night for you but now that you are gone we are back to our normal routine,” he said pausing before glancing over to Scout with an apologetic smile as he unapologetically continued,” considering how terribly bad Pers’ idea went down the drain, the council is now strict on no longer involving humans, which means they feel the need to crack down on us to make sure we don’t slack off or get any idea that we might catch a break again.”

Scout cleared her throat. Yet another form of endless punishment, even for ‘service’ workers like Dirge.

“Sorry for messing up the groove you guys had, what happened to the others that were with you when I was here?”

Dirge heaved a sigh,” the King’s pet that he sent up for you that day killed one, and the others went missing the day you fell, haven’t heard from them since, just considered them dead, if not the council will find them,” he said with a nonchalant shrug.

The noise just got louder and louder, it was barely any room to talk any more as the souls kicked up their antics by getting in her face, begging for help, must be new ones who came in late who did not catch her intro.

Dirge began to lose his patience by smacking the souls away with no remorse, giving Scout a tight smile,” Queen, maybe you should go, “ he began as Scout nodded, putting her hand up.

“I get it, I can’t really just conversate with you while on the job, I will leave before you guys get in trouble. If this set back does get u in trouble send them my way I will get ya off the hook this one time.”

Dirge gave her a sad smile, she knew what he was going to say before he knew he was going to tell her,” you can’t be so nice to us Queen, if we get in trouble, then for your own sake, let it happen,” he said, referring to the fact that her arrival has undoubtedly put a stopper on their consistante pace already and with the council breathing down their backs, it was bound to get noticed and punishment for ‘slacking’ would probably be due soon for it. She knew once they were confronted about it Dirge would not dare blame Scout for it and openly take the consequences for it, she saw it, he was ready.

Scout cringed inwardly, the warning was clear, and he was right. If she showed too much kindness so freely, that can come around and bite her in the ass. Things like this were probably exactly what Lionel wanted her to understand.

Scout nodded deeply,” right, I will work on that a bit more,” heaving out her own sigh once again, running her hand through her hair,” mean just does not suit me much.”

Dirge nodded lightly,” I know, but in this world, you have to be to survive. This is only the beginning, there will be more to come, more Theodor’s and more Gou’s, there is no morels in Hell, no common sense, no will to live, others will come after you because it’s the last thing they think they have. They have nothing further to lose. You need to harden yourself and be ready to kill when you need.”

His message was clear, and she hated how genuine she saw he was. He did not know she knew about the true worry behind his tone. She suddenly learned far more than she thinks Dirge would even be comfortable of her knowing

She learned of his very long past, it was safe to say the man was about as old as James, only about 100 years younger, though in immortal years, that is equivalent to a year.

She learned of his human life, and she was certain she even somehow dug up parts of it that not even he remembers now. She knew him all, not just as Dirge, her former demon ‘coworker’, but as Kiattisak Duangoei. When she actually stopped to think about it after learning about him and learning his human name, he was indeed using his own native language with her too, Thai.

His past showed her what landed him in Hell where he was now, and he lived every single day remembering that moment for his entire stay in Hell, but never a single day to regret it.

Scout swallowed her sympathy and nodded,” of course,” was all she said before clearing her throat to turn and find her way back out, stepping through the mass of screeching and yelling souls as if she did not even know they were there.

When she stepped out to the cool crisp air of New York, she leaned back against the church doors, feeling the instant relief of being out from that monstrously loud place. The shield around the church kept all noise and movement at bay, gracing her with silence once again.

The shield did many things, keeping the human’s attention away and the souls trapped in was its main purpose. Humans knew there was an old church, but the shield was strong enough to keep it at that, no further thought about it, it was just a tiny presence in the mind of all New Yorkers, it was there, but it wasn’t at the same time.

Even Scout had trouble with it, then as a human, she never thought much of the old church, not until she was actually the gatekeeper that she cared to think about it. Only now did she realize it was the shields doing.

Since visiting Dirge at the gate, her break from Hell seemed useless, however, she did not regret it. Even though after everything she saw Dirge as a friend, and now one she can trust. Dirge in no way would be pleased to hear that. She wonders how many out there are like Dirge.

With a heavy sigh, even if she did find more like Dirge, in the end, she had no choice but to treat them all the same regardless, she walked down the street, stuffing her hands in her pockets.

Everything happens for a reason.

Her next stop was to the dinner.

When she stepped in, she was greeted by the normal host who gave her a confused once over. The person recognized her, but was completely confused on if she was the same person.

When she was sat, she noticed she was taken to a different table, whereas before she seemed to always make it to the same table.

She was shocked to see Tommy make his way over, his eyes wide, also confused.

“Hello, would you like a drink,” he asked carefully, making Scout smile at his clear confusion.

To herself, she looked pretty much the same, just a few small changes, but to others like Tommy and the rest of the diner staff who knew her face, they did not see Scout, they just saw someone who looked like her and was probably just related to her.

She went with the flow, doing nothing to fix their idea that she was someone related to Scout,” I heard the sweet tea here was quite nice, can I just get one of those,” she said, changing her speech in a minuscule way, further playing into what she already heard coming before he even actually verbally asked.

Tommy nodded as he wrote it down before shifting on his feet,” I will bring that right out, do you need a minute with the menu,” he then asked.

She smiled, nodding,” yeah sure, I think I know what I want but I will give it a once over just in case,” she said glancing down at it, taking a look at it for the first time in quite a while.

She saw him shift on his feet next to the table where he stood, here it comes.

“I’m sorry to pester you, but are you know a woman named Scout?”

There it was.

From the start she already made up her mind to make things easier to go on and tell a little white lie to avoid questions and confusions about her changes that would have been difficult to explain, as she lifted her head, brows up in feign shock,” oh, yes, that is my little sister.”

Sister, the thought that crossed both the host and Tommy’s minds upon seeing her, which made it easier to get away with.

Tommy snapped his finger,” I thought so you look so similar, I was shocked to see the resemblance, she hasn’t been in the past few days I was beginning to worry,” he said lightly, looking tickled pink to think he was actually meeting Scout’s sister.

He really did enjoy her company, and only now that she could actually see into his mind that she realized the Scout he knew, was his only break to the rest of his work day that he looked forward to.

She really did not want to peek into everyone’s minds, but it was an instantaneous thing. She had a lot of work to do, but in the meantime that meant she was going to be bombarded with thoughts and history, she would be sure no one would appreciate her digging and storing in her own mind. What they did not know did not kill them.

Scout nodded,” it’s nice to meet you, I heard a bit about you from Scout,” she said, feeling weird talking about herself in first person like this, but she did not let it affect her flow as she continued,” she’s moving down south tomorrow so she has been busy.”

Tommy noticeably sagged his shoulders,” really? That’s a bummer, it was really nice having her around, she was always funny and nice.”

It took all of Scout’s restraint to not act like that was news to her, she never realized she was such a bubbly and nice person in Tommy’s eyes, she really must have had him fooled. His idea of nice and funny was also questionable.

Then clicked, ah, he had a crush.

It was impossible not to realize it, yet it took Scout this long to figure it out. It was like his thoughts screamed at her, impossible to block out, especially now that she realized things.

The headache that she thought was finally gone from yesterday seemed to slowly make its way back up to the surface.

Great, and just when she thought she was able to sleep it off.

“Yeah, it was last minute for her so she hasn’t had much time to herself. Me and her are heading out tomorrow so she probably won’t stop by.”

Tommy gave a sad nod,” understandable, tell her goodbye for me,” he asked sweetly, clutching his notepad in front of him in a pleading manner, making her laugh.

He really was cute, taking a moment to wonder, if she was normal would things be different between them. The answer was probably obvious, but then again, they may have never crossed paths if she never got that job as gatekeeper.

“Of course, I will pass along the message,” she said with a smile.

Tommy brightened up at that, nodding,” thanks, I will give you a few minutes then and stop bothering you.”

She gave him a nod as she quickly looked down at her menu, finding that the eyes were so far the easiest entrance into a mind and its history. Maybe if she didn’t look into their eyes she won’t suck up their entire life story in one setting like she has been doing.

Suddenly she felt a particular presence pop up nearby, making her straighten her back in slight amusement as she glanced up to peek out the front windows of the dinner just in time to see the owner of said presence stepping out from a building that she knew he did not belong in.

I get that it is natural given your circumstances, but in the sights of a ‘cute’ boy will you always wonder how things would be if you were still human?

She raised a brow as he walked with confidence, his human disguise was up but she saw his real self easily, not even registering what his human mask looked like,’ i-is that jealousy I hear,’ she responded with a smirk, knowing full well he was close enough to see it.

She saw his eyes narrow as he crossed the street and stepped right in the diner like he owned the place, she saw the host glance up only to immediately turn blank face and look away, not a word ever leaving her mouth as she returned to what she was doing seconds later as if Lionel did not just walk in.

Jealous of what? That human? Hardly,’ he said sourly as he sat right across from her in the booth set table she had.

Scout nodded,” if you say so,” she said out loud in Italian, specifically for him.

Lionel leaned forward, hands clasped loosely in front of him on the table,” so did you take care of all you needed to,” he then asked, returning his naturally flawless Italian.

Scout propped her head on her hand when Tommy stepped out and set down a nice cold glass of iced sweet tea,” here you go, hello, I did not realize someone was joining her today, would you like anything to drink,” he asked cheerily, not at all affected by Lionel’s glare, she wondered if the glare translated through to his disguise, or if Tommy really just was the airheaded guy she always thought he was and wasn’t letting a glare effect him.

His cluelessness triggered something in Lionel, and she felt it, Jealousy really was a fierce thing as Lionel was ready to go on a mini-rampage, all because she thought he was cute.

She slapped her hand down hard on his clasped hands, stopping him from doing whatever he was about to do, knowing he would do him no real harm, but either way did not need to be acting like such a child about it.

She gave him an innocent smile when he slowly looked over at her, his eyes fierce as Scout spoke for him,” he will just have a water,” she said, never looking away from his bright eyes that softened after Tommy nodded and stepped away to fetch his water. She didn’t need to look into Tommy’s eyes to hear his intentions of giving her (who he thought was Scout’s sister) a good first impression. Somehow he was completely clueless to Lionel’s seething jealousy.

“I am no child,” he then said, twisting his hands to grab hers, trapping them in his gentle, warm grasp.

Scout snorted,” are you sure, you were about to go on a temper tantrum just now,” she teased, grinning when he heaved a heavy sigh.

“Just hearing you think about other men did put me in a dark place, I don’t know, it just happened,” he openly admitted, making Scout giggle at his own innocence.

He never felt something like jealousy before, how intriguing.

“Yes, Jealousy is quite a difficult thing to process.”

Lionel suddenly channeled his human teenage high school girl as he scoffed, leaning back against the seat, rolling his eyes and clicking his tongue and all,” I told you I am not Jealous of that petty kid, he has nothing on me.”

Scout wished she could have recorded that fierce denial reaction, because it was honestly probably the funniest thing she had ever seen from him besides getting whipped by his own plants.

With a laugh, she shook her head,” Right, there must be another word for wanting to annihilate someone because I thought they were cute,” she mused, watching his face twist in annoyance.

Tommy came by just as she finished her sentence in Italian, immediately he caught part of her speaking in it fluently and dove in for that opportunity as he set down Lionel’s glass of water in front of him,” Oh you speak Italian? I would have never guessed, that’s so cool,” he suddenly gushed, genuinely amazed by her knowledge on another language.

If only everyone could love and enjoy the sounds of foreign languages and find it cool and amazing that someone could be bilingual or multilingual like Tommy did. Language and culture are probably the two best and most beautiful things about the world and Tommy was one of the few who appreciated and respected both so passionately. It was honestly admirable that he wasn’t just saying that just to get on Scout’s good side by kissing up to her as ‘her sister’ but to his very core he was completely genuine about it.

Witnessing such passion Tommy had deep inside him for different parts of the world made Scout even more aware of all the languages she was blessed with knowing. It made her want to focus and truly hear and enjoy the languages she knows.

With that instant ‘language pack’ she had been given by the council, it was very easy to overlook what language was being spoken, and it somehow became easy to not really hear the sounds and tones behind the languages she carelessly switches through all the time.

Scout smiled up to him, nodding as she switched to English for him,” yeah, this one right here isn’t from around here, he doesn’t speak English well so I have to talk to him in Italian.”

Lionel narrowed his eyes at her, his disbelief of her playing with him sounded loudly in her head.

Lionel kept trying to pass off annoyance, but after a while, there was no hiding the amusement he was truly having watching her tease him ruthlessly. Even he did not know she had him all figured out already. What an interesting one.

Tommy glanced over at Lionel a bright smile on his face,” is he your boyfriend?”

Scout grinned at Tommy’s straightforward attitude, not even aware of the deathly side of Lionel that he almost witnessed himself,” yes, my wonderful and lovely boyfriend,” she gushed, taking that extra step just for Lionel to show him off to ease any lingering jealousy.

Of course, Lionel was happy, but heaven forbid he showed it as he firmly nodded in agreement, switching it up to English just for Tommy to make sure the kid understood,” Yes, mine.”

Tommy seemed to understand him, thinking it was because he was a ‘foreigner’, nodding with a wide smile,” how sweet, you two are a very cool couple,” he said lamely before pulling out his notepad as if nothing happened,” now are you ready to order?”

She ordered her normal, playing it off as it was a recommendation by her’ little sister’ and for Lionel without even asking she just got him the same thing.

When Tommy left she switched back to Italian just for him, to keep their conversation out of wandering ears,” can you eat human food,” she then asked, wondering if maybe she should have asked before she ordered him something rather than after.

Lionel stifled his laugh, finally let his serious mask fall as he shook his head,” I can eat human food, yes it’s no different than in Hell, I can eat, just don’t necessarily need to, and you know you are demon now too.”

Scout stifled a laugh, it was so odd that somehow she managed to forget that in this situation where she felt the most human again. How embarrassing, she thought with an inward huff of disbelief.

Scout just played it off and nodded, eyeing their hands in the center of the table that have yet to move,” So how is work?”

She refrained from grinning when he leaned back with a groan, accepting her change of subject,” don’t worry, I finished what I needed,” he said with a sigh.

She glanced out the window, thinking of the time difference, remembering that the time was closest to Italy’s time, it should be around eight at night over there,” not tired?”

Lionel twisted her fingers in his, shaking his head,” Sleep another thing we don’t really need but can if we wanted.”

In reality, his work is never supposed to be done, just like the gatekeepers, but he pulls strings to get breaks, clearly, he has a lot of wiggle room without getting in trouble compared to gatekeepers.

“But I’m still tired nowadays,” she said, once again quickly finding her answer, but kept quiet for the sake of conversations.

Lionel nodded,” you are still a fresh demon, so your sleeping schedule is still ingrained in your subconscious,” he began peeking up at her face to nod,” as you already know,” he noted making Scout heave a sigh.

This ‘power’ of hers was beginning to turn into a conversation killer. She was going to have to find a way to block getting all of the answers to any question she had by soaking up everything from the one she was talking to.

“Don’t worry about what I already know, just keep talking,” she said lightly, shoulders sagged.

Lionel pulled one of his hands free to reach out and pat her gently on the head, the first he ever did something like that,” alright, don’t worry, you will get the hang of things better after a while, no need to feel annoyed by it now.”

Scout nodded,” up until now I have thought of it as handy, cool all that, but I realized that it really did just ruin the mood when having all my wonders and questions answered before I can even ask and talk about them. I have a feeling this is going to put a big wedge in my social skills that were already low to begin with,” she admitted with a sigh, genuinely worrying about her sociability now with this big obstacle that was bound to make things harder and awkward for her.

Lionel had the nerve to laugh at her pouting,” I told you it will be fine, it will be difficult until you get a clear and strong handle on your powers, but really, it’s nothing to stress over like this, I’m confident in a few days you will be fine and strong as ever.”

Scout shook her head,” I know, just let me get it off my chest now,” she said just as Tommy returned with their food already.

Scout pulled her hands free from his, a hard feat since he did not want to let go to make room for the food.

Tommy only smiled, still oblivious to what Lionel could do to him if he truly wished. At this point, Tommy was just doing his job, not trying to engage in any more small talk since he genuinely just did not want to bother them. Customers flooded in for an afternoon lunch so he had even more of an excuse to try and not bother them too much and let them have their time together, leaving Lionel to straighten his back in content.

Even though Scout never had any true feelings towards Tommy, never had anything more than a brief moment to acknowledge that he was good looking and cute, but nothing more, Lionel continued to be overly aware and still be bothered by the poor guy.

The two of them ended up having a normal meal, which was strange to Scout yet again. Lionel’s behavior was so lax and calm with the occasional tense behavior towards Tommy any time he got close he knew how to act, and acted so much like a human, that Scout almost had a difficult time remembering that he was the freaking King of Hell.

The King of Hell, taking her out on mundane dates, sightseeing, having normal conversations with her, sitting in a human dinner with her eating corn dogs with fries and ketchup, talking about how her day went as if he literally did not just walk out of a gate from hell.

She knew he visited the surface often, but she did not know he visited enough to adapt to the modern human ways so much that he was literally being nothing but a 26-year-old human. Only, in reality, he was a couple thousand-year-old demon who rules Hell.

How does that even work?

The two of them had the most mundane conversation about clothes, mostly hers and why she changed into her old clothes instead of keeping on the gown that he made sure to express his deep liking for, the weather outside, the food. Just random little things, all the while not once bringing up Hell or comparing the surface to Hell with the only exception of the dress, but even then he did not mention it being from Hell at all, only that he really like that on her vs her band shirt and jeans.

She was not sure if he was really just being that careful, or if he really just that different on the surface, or just both.

She did not know which, but she still appreciate it either way.

He also knew of her visit to the gate, he had been alerted the moment she subconsciously adjusted the shield to her presence, but he never once asked why or wonder why she was on the surface to get away from Hell but would go back to the Hell’s gate.

He was taking her break far more seriously than herself, and she could not help but feel a rush of unexpected emotions from his consideration about it. Why is he such a kind and gentleman?

How could someone as considerate as him actually be a King of Hell, to her it just did not make sense. Even without the fact of it being her and the whole soulmate thing, she knew that even before he was quite the same in regard to his lax, calm and kind personality he had on the surface. Also alone with the Prince’s he was also quite kind and understanding and truly did treat them all almost equally as actual sons, of course to a limit, as far as he was able to in their positions and the harsh reality that the King’s seat was their target and could any time decide to attack for it.

She did not understand, at first. She had so many questions that she was steadily getting all her own answers for, but even with the answers, she just could not possibly piece together everything for it to legitimately make a lick of sense.

With him at mid-bite of his corn dog, Scout leaned forward with her elbows on the table, her chin resting on her hands that were clasped together in a rather serious manner as she lowered her voice,” Do you have split personalities?”

Lionel clearly did not see that coming as he practically choked on the corndog, struggling to swallow the huge bite he took mere moments before she spoke, reaching for his glass of water to chug down the entire thing to get the piece of corn dog that he sucked down whole from the shock of her serious face and tone asking such a ridiculous question.

Scout raised a brow as she reached over to pat his shoulder, how is this a King, she wondered, watching Lionel struggle with his corn dog for quite a few minutes before he was able to regained his composure.

Dare she say his otherwise pale face actually turned pink from the exertion for a moment before going back to normal.

“What kind of things are running through your brain to possibly come at me with that kind of question? And what does me choking have to do with my Seat as King,” he asked back, jabbing a finger at her accusingly, not pleased to have almost been taken out by, of all things, a corndog.

She bit back a smile as she shrugged lightly, keeping her face somewhat straight,” I just can not figure you out at all, even with my soaking up every last piece of information on you and your life, it still don’t make any sense. When we first met, you put on this rude tough guy act, which did not last long might I add. Next you turned into a mushy little ball of love an affection. The way you can go back and forth between different sides of you is just stunning. And now here on the surface, you are the most human person I have ever met, I don’t understand how you have all these dramatically different sides you can just flip a switch to. It’s weird,” she concluded with a slightly higher tone pointing a fry at him before stuffing it in her mouth.

Lionel wiped his face with a napkin, snorting at her confusion,” you calling me weird? Your not all that normal yourself.”

Scout wiggled her finger,” I’m more normal than you,” she shot back with a grin.

Lionel puffed out his chest,” just because I’m a King don’t mean I can’t be unique. Would you rather me go around using my powers on every human that walks past me, demand that they treat me as royalty, kill anyone who dares oppose me,” he asked with a laugh, now clearly enjoying the strange turn their conversation took, now that he was not choking, not seeming bothered with her judging and confusion.

Scout shook her head,” unique you call it,” she snorted,” it’s just, you really don’t seem like someone fitted to be in the position you are in.”

Lionel sobered up, stuffing a hearty pinch of five or six fries in his mouth with a huge glob of ketchup at the end,” I have had years to master my emotions and actions. I know who I can trust and who I can’t, I know how to act and when to act. Being old and wise is something that does not suit me. I never wanted to grow into this old ancient being who was spitting crap like riddles and wisdom every chance he got. I’m old, but the last thing I want to turn into is some kind of Yoda or something,” his reference was not only unexpected, but hilarious as well to imagine him as old, green, small and wrinkly, meditation and speaking in riddles all the time, thought she was not sure if that was what Yoda did, she never cared much for that franchise, but that always was something she did imagine Yoda doing,” I spent hundreds of years trying to find the person I once was before I fell to Hell, and once I found it again, I never wanted to let go. I like evolving with the surface, kept up with the news, trends and what not over the years. In a way, I did not want to be left behind while everyone else was moving forward. Like you, I just did not want to let go of my human self. As you already know, the surface is definitely a place I myself like to escape to and enjoy when I can, just something I have done for years, and honestly still see myself doing for years to come. If anything I am completely normal considering everything. I know how to be a human, but in Hell I know how to be a King, and behind closed doors I know how to be support,” he said with a light shrug of his own,” plus, if I really did walk around on the surface acting like a royal douche and controlling or killing humans, then I will surely get into big trouble by my boss,” he said with a grin.

He knew movie references, he knew casual language, she had no doubt he knew slang too, just further showing how much he kept his human self. It was intriguing to say the least, she initially began to think that he was too nice to be a King, but she was reminded of how he reacted to the maid when she first got there and knew that he was probably more of a King than he has yet to show her. It was just as he said, he knew what to do and how to do it when he needed to do it. He had a job to be the King in Hell, but when he was on the surface, he was almost taking a vacation and just being himself, knowing that no one worthy of concern will ever see that side of him.

While he was speaking, her mind helped itself in taking in even more about him. Very few creatures on the surface know just how powerful and how ruthless he really can be. The surface never called for a King of Hell, so there was no reason for him to show it to anyone. His twin brother and James were only two of the very few on earth who know his other side and know his true power. Scout could count on her two hands how many people know about him and what he truly does and his strength, and that is not much compared to the billions of non human creatures that roamed this earth among the humans.

He literally had the power, ability and know how to end planet Earth if he wished, cause an apocalypse, restart the surface, but she knew that only she knew that. A piece of info she did not fully register at first, some information that not even his own brother knew.

She had not realised how quick her mind reading escalated to find that, but in that instant she regretted it.

Scout blinked, rubbing her temple as the rush of information began to make it’s effect on her right away. She got carried away and was greedy in learning more about Lionel. Curiosity was a terrible thing at the moment when she had over thousands of years worth of life she just attempted to soak up, examine and understand all within the span of a few minutes.

Lionel reached out to cup her cheek, his eyes bright with knowing,” relax, you have plenty of time to get to know me, don’t rush it.”

His unspoken words behind her knowing about the one thing that no one knows rung clear. No one knew he could do that for a reason, and it needed to stay that way.

She had no qualms with keeping that a secret with him, knowing such a thing would bring who knew what kind of reaction from not only the surface but Hell as well.

Scout squeezed her eyes closed, sucking in an uneven breath,” that was intense,” she said with a breath.

Lionel slid his hand down her cheek to her neck to gently stroke the side of her neck with his thumb, keeping his hand on her skin, giving her that painkiller effect she was coming to appreciate more and more,” I imagine, even I was overwhelmed, and it was all stuff from my own head. Just take it slow, I ain’t going anywhere and we have plenty of time to get acquainted. You went pretty far in, I’m surprised you didn’t get stuck,” he said lightly with an apologetic smile.

Scout nodded, she couldn’t agree more,” I did not realize until I was already there, I’m surprised I’m not bleeding through my ears,” she said in a joking way but something weird flashed through Lionel’s eyes the second she finished her sentence as he then pulled a clean paper napkin to press it to her nose.

Scout blinked in shock, taking the napkin from his hand to look at the spots of blood that came from her nostril.

Well, she did jinx it. Sort of.

Lionel looked regretful but never acknowledged it as he passed her more napkins,” Little Tommy noticed your bleeding, I’m keeping him away for now,” he said lightly, making Scout turn to find Tommy turned, working almost robotically on something she could not quite see.

Lionel gently patted her head, not in any way hard enough to jar her headache that grew by every passing moment,” don’t worry, I’m keeping him distracted and made sure to make him forget seeing anything, we should go. That little trip you took just now is about to come full thrust here in a minute.”

She could not fully register his words as she nodded, slowly and steadily sliding out of the booth with Lionel who stood quickly to help her to her feet.

With a strange weak mumble she pulled one hand free to reach into her pocket, pulling out her wallet with a shaky grasp, her vision suddenly blurring, her ears ringing, her focus began to slowly drain out.

She heard Lionel say something before grabbing her wallet from her to put down two twenties on the table for their meals, understanding she did not want to leave without paying, although she began to wonder where that thought even came from to pay for the food when she was clearly going down hill face first into unconsciousness more by every passing second.

She was gone moments later.

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