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WeaselBit t1_j0rrrc0 wrote

The hulking form of an archdemon loomed over me where I lay in my plush bed, the comforter pulled up to my chin. I could smell his sulfurous breath, an almost tangible thing, as it washed over my form with his deep breathing. "Didn't I... Send you home last night?" I wheezed, reaching blindly to my bedside table to brush my fingers against the magic lantern that immediately began to glow, spreading a warm light across the terrible visage before me. "What... What are you wearing?!"

The archdemon was massive, his skin red and blistered, muscle stacked on muscle, the hoary head of a boar with beady black eyes staring down at me with a hunger I'd rarely seen before, saliva smeared across his tusks, dangerous horns coiled back over his porcine ears. That was all normal... The apron was new. It didn't fit him, the usually long neck strap was stretched wide around his neck and the flap fluttered against his chest, the ties hanging loose as they were too short to fit around his massive barrel chest. "AN APRON." He answered, lifting breakfast tray which was laden with foods and setting it across my lap as I coughed, unsure if I should laugh or not.

"I SAW YOU WERE ILL SO I MADE YOU TEA." The hellbeast rumbled as his meaty hands reached down to lift up the delicate tea pot and pour a cup of something herbal. "Since wh-when do you make tea?" I took the cup anyway, it wasn't as if he could harm me, given our pact, though I was no less puzzled as I sipped it. He'd added lemon and honey. My mother didn't even do that. My eyes narrowed in suspicion. Aseriaforth, thirteenth Duke of the seventh Hell, had been acting more and more strangely as of late. Nothing nefarious, just odd. Lingering after battles to help load up the wagon. Cheerfully sticking around to heckle and harass our enemies during a siege. I should have been really tipped off when I jokingly told him to go play hide and seek with some orphans we'd rescued and found him hiding (poorly) in some bushes an hour later. And now tea with lemon and honey. He'd even seemed almost upset (though it was hard to tell with his lack of human face) when I'd told him I was easing into retirement, having ousted my step-father from his rule and taken it over myself as the rightful heir.

Considering for a moment, I sipped my tea, Aseriaforth looming over me in a way that would have been disconcerting had he been anyone else. Licking my lips, I tried to start the conversation delicately but instead began to cough, the hellbeast carefully taking the teacup from me so I wouldn't spill it. Drawing in a few whooping breaths, I centered myself and tried again. "Is there some reason you've been... unusually helpful?" Aseriaforth straightened up, handing me my cup back. Did he look embarrassed? "I AM BOUND TO YOUR SERVICE." The demon growled, sounding very much as though he were trying to hide something.

"Don't skirt the issue, Aseriaforth." I cleared my throat and finished my tea, it was pleasantly warming. "Our pact only states that you must do my bidding. I have summoned you sparingly, only as I must to achieve my goals, and yet each time you've remained well after I've relieved you of your duties at the time." The demon was definitely squirming now. I'd seen him rip unholy knights limb from limb in battle, stare down hordes of barbarians, and wrestle a dire bear, but now he was squirming like a child who had been caught sneaking cookies. I raised a finger as I set the empty cup down on the tray, "Furthermore, why is a Duke of the Seventh Hell wearing an apron and making me tea?!"

He was definitely squirming. I stared at him from my plush sickbed of pillows, reaching for one of the small cakes he'd placed on the tray, wondering firstly, how he'd known that the rosewater ones were my favorite, and where on earth he'd gotten them at this ungodly hour. Staring him down seemed to be working as his ears laid back and his shoulders hunched briefly before drooping in defeat, "I DO NOT WISH TO GO HOME." I continued to stare at him, pointedly licking the buttercream from my fingers. Giving a sulfurous sigh, he finally spilled the beans, "THERE IS A WAR OF SUCCESSION ON MY HOME PLANE. IT HAS RAGED SINCE BEFORE THE DAYS OF YOUR GREAT-GREAT-GREAT GRANDSIRE. I AM TIRED OF WAR. YOUR PETTY TROUBLES AND BATTLES ARE REFRESHING. I NO LONGER WISH TO LEAVE SO I HAVE AVOIDED DOING SO WHEN YOU'VE DISMISSED ME." The demon still seemed to have at least some of his pride as he didn't beg me to let him stay, but his eyes certainly had a certain pleading look that I may have been merely imagining.

"So... You would like to stay here rather than go home and participate in this long war." I held my cup still so that he could refill it for me, sniffling as my nose started to finally drain. The demon nodded as he held the delicate teapot in one huge hand. Drawing in a huge breath, trying not to cough, failing briefly, and then trying again, I let it out and sipped my second cup of tea, feeling the warmth spread through me. "I can allow you to stay here but you'll have to remain within the scope of the pact. It can be minorly rewritten but can't be broken until my natural death." I reminded him. Looking down at the spread of teacakes and herbal tea I smiled, "Have you considered being my butler?"