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But You’ll Be On My Mind, Forever

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Welcome to Imp City

Est. 1981

The worn-down wooden sign was positioned just outside the city limits, beneath a blood-red sky that showered everything in a demonic light. Traffic was booming in the streets, and for miles around, the car horns of aggravated drivers polluted the air. Here, in the Pride Circle of hell, where a plethora of tall, monochrome buildings pierced the sky, there stood a single office tower unlike the others.

Judging by the height of the structure, one might assume it was the headquarters of a corporation, or even a large business. It was easily just as corroded as the sign near which it was built. A set of imp horns protruded from either side of the building; white spikes were on full display, fixated on the bottom, middle, and top floors. In the latter, a meeting was taking place amongst a small pool of employees; the sole workforce of the Immediate Murder Professionals, otherwise known as IMP.

Seated at a long, rectangular table were four individuals: two imps, a hellhound, and a hellcat. Standing before them was yet another imp, with large, curved horns that were nearly identical to the pair garnishing the outside of the building. This was Blitzo, the founder and acting manager of IMP.

Most individuals in his position would begin a meeting with precise graphs of data (which was, for the record, scribbled on the whiteboard behind him, along with a slew of obscenities and nonsensical paraphrasing), an introductory PowerPoint, or even a simple "how is everyone doing today?". This imp, however, was clearly not your average manager. He was the type to start a company meeting with a stark contrast to all that was considered "traditional".

And, sure enough, that's exactly what he did.

"Alright," Blitzo began, "now I know business has been...a bit slow lately, yeah—"

He dramatically pressed his palms against the table, staring his employees in the eyes.

"And it's no one's fault, okay?" he continued, briefly flitting his eyes in the seated male imp's direction, "I'm not naming names here...Moxxie—"

Moxxie shot his boss a glare of sheer indignance, catching the eye of the hellcat across from him. She raised an eyebrow at Blitzo, her fluffy, striped tail flicking questionably. Her name was Connie, and as the one-woman marketing department of IMP, she was almost half-surprised that Blitzo hadn't named her, considering that it was her responsibility to spread the word about the company.

"I thought you said you weren't naming names?" Connie prompted, cushioning her right cheek with her hand, "Besides, as our boss, aren't you more responsible for this company's success than any of us?"

"That's—" Blitzo jutted a finger at her accusingly, only cutting himself off after he received a harsh stare from the hellhound at the table.

The hellhound, Loona, who also happened to be IMP's receptionist, was seated next to Connie, which was no coincidence, considering that the hellcat was her best friend (aside from her phone). In a rare moment where her attention was stirred by something other than her phone, Loona had opted to glare menacingly at Blitzo until he decided to shrug off Connie's comment for her sake.

"Touché, Connie," the manager imp acknowledged her, "touché."

"You owe me one," Loona muttered to Connie, burying her face in her phone once again.

"You didn't have to step in for me," the tabby hellcat whispered back, brushing her bangs to the side, "I can take the heat. Besides, he already knew I was right."

"Exactly," the hellhound smirked, glancing at her best friend over her shoulder, "someone had to shut him up. Would you rather listen to him talk shit about Moxxie all day, or get out of this dump at a reasonable time so we can go to Stylish Occult?"

"You're taking me to Stylish Occult?" Connie remarked, pleasantly surprised.

"Now," Blitzo continued at last, "does anyone have any bright ideas on how we can get business drumming up again?"

"What! About! A car wash?!" the female imp, Millie, suggested, leaping from her seat in delight.

"This is Hell, Millie," Blitzo shook his head, "no one cares about cars being clean here, okay? Oh, what about a billboard?"

"We can't afford a billboard, sir," Moxxie pointed out.

"Helpful, Moxxie," the boss remarked sarcastically, swatting his underling out of his chair, "really glad you're in the room right now—"

"He's right, you know," Connie interjected, pulling out a sheet of paper, "you haven't allotted advertising enough money to even consider something as expensive as a billboard. There's not much to work with. And I'm the whole damn marketing department, so I think I would know."

"Have you guys forgotten what service we provide?" Blitzo snapped, snagging a remote control and using it to turn on the conference room's TV, subsequently displaying a series of clips, in which each of the group members brutally murdered a client's requested human.

Blitzo was shown clubbing someone in the head, while Moxxie shot another victim's brains out. Loona tore into a person's neck and shook her helpless target around in her jaws like a rag doll. Millie sliced a human's head clean off, effectively decapitating them. And last but not least, Connie finished off a man with unsheathed, razor-sharp claws, dispelling the resulting blood from her hand with a single flick of her wrist.

The group watched the events unfold wordlessly, mostly entertained, aside from Moxxie, who still couldn't wrap his head around the current advertising debate.

"Ah, those were good times," Blitzo mused.

"I don't need any reminding, sir," Moxxie retorted, "considering you blew most of our salaries on an obnoxious TV ad last week...one that you then additionally paid to have run for a full three hours on a channel nobody watches."

"I'm still pretty pissed about that one," Connie admitted, "not only did you reduce the money I could deposit for my...confidential funds, the purpose of which will remain nameless...but you also overlooked the opportunity to add much-needed funds to the marketing department. Which, by the way, we might have been able to use for that 'billboard' you mentioned earlier."

"Uh, hey, excuse me," the manager objected, "what's obnoxious about a super fun jingle, alright? It's a fun distraction when an advertisement spits bullshit!"

"People love musicals, sir," Millie chimed in.

"Exactly, Millie," Blitzo nodded, waving his hands about excitedly, "and we're basically doing a musical!"

"We can still do jingles, sir," Connie replied, "they're proven to work under the right circumstances. That being said, we can't spend our entire budget replaying them, as Moxxie pointed out, on an unpopular network. If we want to reach a broader audience, maybe we should start with—"

"Are you gonna crush my musical theater dreams like my dad did?" Blitzo cut her off, deciding to guilt-trip Moxxie rather than take his marketing manager's advice.

"Sir—" Moxxie objected, only to be silenced as well.

"Because right now," Blitzo continued, "all I see is just my dad's asshole talking to me, crushing my dreams of being who I truly am inside!"

"Are you trying to crush his dreams, Moxxie?" Millie asked her husband flirtatiously.

"I—" Moxxie glanced at his lover, confused, "what?"

"I thought I knew you," Millie stuck her tongue out teasingly, her devil's tail curling behind her.

Moxxie rolled his eyes at her playfully; briefly, before returning his attention to his boss.

"I can't believe you, Moxxie," Blitzo shook his head in disbelief, holding up an extremely awkward framed photo of his employee, "after I made you employee of the month!"

"Okay!" Moxxie gasped, exasperated, "Sir...I'm sorry, a commercial jingle is not comparable to musical theater. Nobody actually likes the jingles!"

"I liked it," Millie shrugged.

"Do not..." her husband facepalmed, "do not agree with him in front of me."

"Speaking of the jingle," Connie added, "remember the kid that Moxxie accidentally shot in that commercial? Is that really something we needed to include in there? And the 'kids die for free' thing is costing us quite a bit of profit, when you really think about it."

"I'd like to go on record and say that incident was Loona's fault," Moxxie sighed, "dispatch is supposed to give us the right info on the target. It's very simple."

"Oh, sit on a dick, Moxxie," Loona rolled her eyes, while Connie stared across the table at her coworker discontentedly.

"Look who's talking, bastard," Connie muttered through gritted teeth, "you're the one who shot the wrong person, anyway."

"You sit!" Moxxie retorted, "sit on...uh...a...and the d—do your job!"

"Hey," Blitzo warned him, hugging the hellhound fondly, "now, we don't blame our screw-ups on Loona, okay, she didn't do anything wrong~"

"Are you kidding me, sir?" Moxxie objected, "She's awful!"

"Look, the point is," Blitzo interjected, "Loona is a valued member of our family, and we don't get rid of family."

"We aren't a family, sir!" Moxxie refuted, fruitlessly attempting to ignore Loona as she flipped him off, "You are the boss. We are the employees. You treat her like she's some troubled teenager. She's more like a meth-addicted homeless woman you let man the phones!"

"That is offensive!" the boss peered over his shoulder at him while he looked out the window, "Without homeless people, I wouldn't have half the joy and laughter I do in this life."

"And he wonders why he can't pick up any chicks," Connie snickered, lightly shouldering Loona with her right elbow.

"Tell me about it," the hellhound agreed, high-fiving her coworker without looking away from her phone.

"While we are on the subject of 'family'," Moxxie continued, "can you stop finding me and Millie outside of work?"

"Come on, sweetie," Millie insisted, "it's not that big a deal."

"Excuse me," her husband gasped, "what?! Sir, you hid in our fridge. You stalked us in our sleep in the middle of the night. You recorded me singing to Millie on our anniversary. Just. Stop. Doing. That."

"It's getting out of hand on my end, too," Connie added, burying her face in her hands, "I can recall more than a few times where my privacy was invaded by my own boss..."

◤◢◣◥◤ ◢◣◆◢◣◥◤◢◣◥

Do I Wanna Know

♪ Do I wanna know
If this feeling flows both ways? ♪

Connie was singing in the shower, washing her fur with a rose-scented shampoo. Her voice rang out against the walls of the bathroom as she ran her fingers through her scalp, massaging the bubbly substance behind her ears. Here, there was no audience, and she was free to sing her favorite song in peace.

Or so she thought.

♪ Sad to see you go
Was sorta hoping that you'd stay ♪

Just as she finished the end of those lyrics, she could've sworn she heard a masculine voice, quietly singing along with her. Assuming it was just her imagination, Connie kept singing, rinsing out her fur and moving on to her bottle of conditioner.

♪ Baby we both know
That the nights were mainly made
For saying things
That we can't say tomorrow day ♪

Then, squeezing some conditioner in her hand, she belted out the chorus passionately, making sure to scrub her fur thoroughly.

♪ Crawling back to you
Ever though of calling when you've had a few?
'Cause I always do ♪

♪ And maybe I'm too
Busy being yours to fall for somebody new ♪

And that was when the masculine voice became even louder. It wasn't just any voice. She recognized it from work. Upon realizing this, Connie promptly stopped singing, covering her mouth in embarrassment and whipping away the shower curtain to peek at the intruder. Sure enough, it was Blitzo, and though she had stopped singing, he hadn't.

"♪ Now I've thought it through...crawling back to you! ♪ Ah, good song."

"Blitz!" Connie spat, her face redder than her boss's skin, "What the fuck are you doing in my house?!"

"Singing, obviously," Blitzo shrugged, "you're a little flat, by the way."

"How the hell did you even get in here?!"

"You left your window unlocked," the imp replied calmly, as though he wasn't in the presence of a flustered, showering woman.

"Get out!" Connie hissed, yanking the shower curtain closed, "Get the fuck out of here! And don't look at my naked ass, you goddamn pervert!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

On another occasion, Connie was relaxing in her living room, texting Loona. It had been a quiet evening in her one-story apartment; she had ordered a sushi platter and watched a movie before she'd received a text from the hellhound. They were now engaged in a conversation about the new outfits Loona had bought from stylish occult, as per tradition.

Connie snagged a spicy tuna roll from the remnants of her dinner, stuffing it into her mouth as she awaited a response from Loona, barely aware of Blitzo, who was watching her from her bedroom window. Tired of being ignored, the imp obnoxiously pounded on the glass, grinning like a madman.

"What the..." Connie murmured, prying her eyes from her phone to the window.

"Heyyyy Connie! I like sushi too!"

The hellcat had screamed at the top of her lungs, prompting Blitzo to do the same before Connie stomped over to pull down the blinds, still reeling from shock.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

The third and most notable time Blitzo had invaded Connie's privacy had happened during a very bad time during her workday. She had been minding her own business when Loona had entered her office to inform her that she had forwarded her an email.

"Hey, Nia," the hellhound had greeted, leaning on the left side of her friend's desk, "sent you the link to that Stylish Occult sale I told you about earlier."

"Oh! Thanks, Loonie," Connie grinned, clicking into the email and looking it over, "wow, they have some real steals going on."

"We should sneak out of work when everyone else goes to the living world," Loona suggested, "you know, to beat that lame standing-in-line shit."

"Sounds like a plan," the hellcat agreed, "I don't have much actual work to do right now, considering that we don't have the funds to afford the magazine ads I was hoping for."

"Damn," Loona muttered, "Blitzo really needs to get his head out of his ass."

"Tell me about it," Connie nodded, "hey, while you're here, can I tell you something...private? It's important."

"I'm listening."

"Well," the tabby continued, "remember how I told you I was considering adopting a child?"

"Yeah," the hellhound prompted, "I still don't understand why you'd want to do something like that, but I remember."

"I've been thinking it over," Connie explained, pulling up a sperm bank site, "and I've made up my mind. I want to have the baby myself."

"Are you serious?" Loona gaped at her, "You, a single mother, working a job like this? Connie, are you sure that's what you want to do with your life?"

"Yes!" the marketing manager exclaimed, "I've been trying to figure this out for years, and I finally have!"

She took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down a bit.

"Look...I know, you've been worried about me since you found out I wanted my own kid, but...as basically the backbone of this company, I typically get paid a decent salary. Enough to support more than just myself. I wouldn't be considering this if I wasn't ready."

"If you say so..." Loona sighed, "I just...don't want you to fuck yourself over, okay? You're still a young, sexy bitch. You don't have to do this right now."

"Well, that's the thing," Connie admitted, "I can't go through with this yet. Getting a sperm donor is really expensive, and it's not guaranteed to work the first time. Not to mention how expensive building a nursery would be beforehand..."

"Hey, girls! Talking about getting laid?"

Both Connie and Loona snapped their heads up towards the ceiling, where Blitzo was peering down at them from a hole within it. Both hell-born creatures were furious, but Connie was more embarrassed than angry, and she hurriedly closed the tab she was in on her laptop.

"Blitz!"

◣◥◤◢◣ ◥◤◆◥◤◢◣◥◤◢

"I now have to delete my search history every day," Connie concluded, "because a few months ago, I found out that Blitzo was checking it every time I left my office."

All eyes in the room were on Blitzo now, who was still as unphased as ever.

"I don't see what the issue is," the imp shrugged, "something you guys don't want me seeing?"

"No," Moxxie denied the claim, folding his arms and looking away.

"Actually, yes!" Connie snarled, "The conversation you dropped in on between Loona and I was! There are some things about me that I'm not ready to reveal to other people!"

"Sir," Moxxie chimed in, jumping to his feet and jabbing a finger at his boss angrily, "what you say and how you act is totally inappropriate!"

"Calm down, Mox!" Millie gasped, lowering her husband back into his seat, "You're gonna have another panic attack!"

"I am calm!" Moxxie whimpered.

"Shh shh shh, there, there," Millie assured him, petting the top of his head.

"Look," Blitzo shrugged off the outburst, "I don't judge the boring couple stuff you do outside of work hours, so don't. Judge. Me."

"Oh I do judge you sir!" Moxxie remarked, "Quite a lot, actually."

"Mox, he's our boss!" Millie stopped him, before he could say anything worse.

"Oh no no no, it's fine, Mills," Blitzo added slyly, "your husband is just—how do I say this without being offensive—retarded."

"Does immaturely insulting me make you feel better about your sad, single life?" Moxxie shot back, raising an eyebrow at his manager.

"It actually does."

"The only reason you have a wife is because you're easy to manage," Loona commented.

"No he's not, you bitch!" Millie shouted, flipping the hellhound off with both hands.

"Do not talk to my receptionist that way," Blitzo scolded, "she's sensitive!"

"Yes I am!" Loona snarled, baring her fangs.

"Would everyone just calm the fuck down?!" Connie snapped, her eyes reverting to their chaotic state, which stained them black with glowing blue pupils, "This is why we don't get anything done around here!"

"You guys are all fucking assholes."

Every eye in the room darted to a boy lying on a smaller table. It was the same kid Moxxie had accidentally shot, who had been revived by a set of paramedics shortly thereafter. He had lived, and the IMP employees had carried him back to their headquarters, not knowing what else to do with him.

"Oh shut up, kid!" Blitzo shouted, "You're lucky to witness this!"

"Ugh," Moxxie groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, "this company is such a mess!"

"No shit, sherlock!" Connie agreed, gradually calming back down, "I can't believe I work here! Why do I work here?"

"Alright," Blitzo ignored the comments, "now let's get back to talking about my outfit."

"Nobody was talking about that," Loona corrected him.

"Which is why I'm trying to get that ball rolling," the manager continued, "so how does it look? It's good, right?"

"It's been a literal hell having to pretend that I'm paralyzed so that you fuckshits wouldn't kill me," the kid cut him off, ripping away the medical cords attached to his midsection, "but now I want that. I want death!"

"Careful what you wish for with these guys, kid," Connie warned, "they don't take requests like that lightly."

"I don't care," the boy continued, pointing at Blitzo, "you are a selfish, greedy clown. And I'm a kid. We're supposed to like clowns! Even the creepy ones."

"Hey now," Moxxie scolded him, "that's not very—"

"If I wanted to hear from a spineless jackass, I would rip out your spine and ask you some shit."

"That's my husband you're talking to!" Millie positioned herself in front of Moxxie, her hands on her hips.

"That's your husband?" the kid laughed maniacally, turning his attention to Loona, "I figured you were a slut, but I didn't think you needed dick that bad! And you!"

"What?" Loona asked, her glare as indifferent as ever, "What about me?"

"Nothing," the boy shrugged, raising an eyebrow at Connie, "I don't talk to dogs. I'm a cat person. Speaking of which, she seems to be the only sane one here. Can I pet you?"

"Uh..." Connie managed a fake smile, tugging at her collar nervously "I don't think I'd be comfortable with that...if you know how we are..."

It was a little late for that, however, as the boy had already approached the hellcat and began petting her tail. It took every bone in her body not to hiss and claw him to pieces, and the rest of the group watched on in horror, knowing full well that this was very awkward and uncomfortable—both to watch and experience.

"Wow," Blitzo shook his head, "well, you know, kid, you kind of are a piece of shit."

The other employees murmured in agreement, and Connie, her face completely flushed over, was only capable of a slow nod. It wasn't until Loona's phone buzzed and she smiled that everyone began to sense vengeance in the air.

"Oh, fuck!" the hellhound grinned, "Guys, I just got a text from our client. Guess he was the right target after all."

"Who?" Blitzo asked.

"Him."

Loona pointed to the kid stroking Connie's tail, whose face melted into a look of pure horror as he took in what was happening.

"Me?" he gasped.

"Yep," Loona nodded.

"They wanted us to kill an actual child?" Blitzo shook his head in apparent disbelief.

"That's what they're saying."

"Well, Christ on a stick," Blitzo mused, pulling out a shotgun, "I guess there is a God!"

He pulled the trigger, knocking the kid clean off of Connie's tail and sending him crashing into the wall. The bullet had ripped a hole in his chest, and at that point, it was clear that he was undeniably dead. As the rest of the group began stabbing and kicking at him gleefully, Loona approached Connie, brushing her bangs out of her face.

"You okay there, Nia?" she teased, "I swear, that kid was like a fucking tick."

"Heh, yeah," Connie smiled, her face still as warm as ever for reasons she couldn't comprehend, "thanks for getting him off my ass."

"Oh, whatever," Loona rolled her eyes playfully, "wanna sneak away to Stylish Occult now? Shopping spree on me."

"You sure?" the hellcat intrigued, "That could get expensive."

"Not for us," the receptionist smirked, revealing a credit card, "maybe it's more  of a Blitzo problem than ours."

"You're terrible!" Connie chuckled, following Loona out the door, "But I love it. Let's go buy some shit."

Chapter Text

The DERANGED CLIENT indicator atop the lounge room desk was rapidly flashing, but not a single employee was paying attention to the illuminated dashboard. They were too distracted by Moxxie, who was aiming a harpoon gun at an image of a human family. Loona, clearly bored stiff, held the picture in her free hand, using her other to text on her smartphone.

"Moxxie, stop shaking!" Millie advised, "You're gonna shoot our only hellhound."

"Wow," Loona replied sarcastically, "I feel so loved here."

"Well, they couldn't have chosen me to hold it," Connie shrugged, "I need to stay alive to market this business."

"Just take a deep breath," Millie coached her husband, "and let it out!"

"But..." Moxxie objected, "it's a family. Under what circumstances would we ever need to kill a human family?"

"I mean," Millie shrugged, "if that's what the client wants."

"Sorry, Moxxie," Connie agreed, "we can't miss out on any potential sales. Especially in the condition that IMP is currently in. Besides, more targets means the client has a higher fee to pay, which means we have more money in our funds, which will inevitably lead to more exposure and therefore, more clients. To put it simply, killing a family might actually be beneficial to us."

"Maybe, like, a shitty dad," Moxxie suggested, "or a mob family. That's understandable. But to eradicate an entire, innocent—seemingly in this instance—upper middle class family bloodline?"

"Well, when you put it like that..." the hellcat admitted, rubbing her neck nervously.

The mention of killing a family—the very thing that Connie secretly wanted to start on her own—finally began to tug at her heartstrings. Loona, too, seemed to sense the inhumane nature of that specific murder, staring at the photo of the human family with a look of sheer guilt. However, unlike Connie, she quickly managed to shove her feelings aside.

"Hey!" Loona refuted, making sure to leave the mother and baby in the photograph untouched for Connie's sake, "You don't know they're innocent. This kid probably sets dogs on fire, maybe this girl gets off to bullying Australian kids online, and this guy—this guy definitely watches."

"Exactly!" Millie nodded enthusiastically, "Humans are full of secret nasties! It's why so many of them end up here. But guilty and innocent aren't our business, Mox—killing who we're paid to is our business. Shoot the target."

She kissed Moxxie's cheek, leaving him once again to position his harpoon at the image.

"I just think it's a bit excessive," he murmured, "we could be a bit more selective is all."

At that moment, Blitzo slammed open the door to the lounge, dragging with him a pink, imp-like demon woman. She was very attractive: tall and intricately slim, sporting a torn black skirt and burgundy sweater, a yellow and red gem embedded just below the neckline. Two diamond earrings as blood red as her eyes dangled from her ears, and her long, silky gray hair was tied up in a black ribbon.

No one in the room had any time to fully embrace the appearance of their soon-to-be next client, however, as Blitzo's abrupt entrance spooked Moxxie enough to pull the trigger on his harpoon gun. The resulting arrow launch shot across the room, bouncing off the walls, knocking the aquarium tank of electric eels to the floor, ripping straight through the center of the family photo in Loona's hands, putting a hole in the desktop computer to the left of Millie, and finally, hurtling towards Blitzo.

Thankfully, the imp caught the arrow in his hand effortlessly, putting a stop to the silent panic in the room. However, as it seemed the fiasco wasn't yet over. The eels that had spilled onto the floor electrocuted the water they flopped about in, setting the entire room on fire. And the only words uttered after the incident were uttered by Blitzo, and paid almost no regard to the fact that the lounge room was going up in flames.

"Dammit, Moxxie, I just bought those eels!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

About fifteen minutes later, the fire department had arrived and put out the blaze, although most of the room had been scorched beforehand. They also managed to remove the dead eels from the premises before departing, as well as Mrs. Mayberry, who had hopped into a cab after arranging her payment with Blitzo.

"Bye!" he called after her, "And don't worry, we'll get that skank in less than 24 hours or your first kill is free!"

"You need to stop promising our clients free kills!" Connie facepalmed, "How are we supposed to make any money to keep this company and our lives afloat if you keep coming up with ways to give away unpaid business?!"

"When did you start implementing that deal?" Moxxie added, crossing his arms.

"When you set fire to my office in front of a client you fucking dipshit!" Blitzo bellowed, "Now someone please tell me that fancy book is still intact!"

"You mean our only ticket to the other side?" Loona replied, revealing the book from behind her back, "Yeah, got it."

"And that's why you're my favorite, Loonie!" Blitzo cooed, revealing a bone-shaped treat, "You get a treat now."

"Ew," Loona grimaced, "stop."

Taking the hint, Blitzo's tongue shot out of his mouth, and he grabbled the treat with it, swallowing it like a chameleon would a bug. Connie almost gagged watching the events unfold, clenching her tail in her hands and turning away. Loona wasn't amused, either.

"You're so gross!" she growled in disgust, grabbing Connie by the arm and dragging her around the corner, "Come on, Connie, let's go back inside."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

The rest of the day was quiet, as it typically was when Blitzo, Moxxie, and Millie were out killing clients' targets. A distraction-less work environment; no nonsense, no one yelling at each other or invading each other's privacy...just the way Connie liked it. She sat at her desk, contentedly scrolling through the Sperm Bank of Hell's website, clicking through each individual available donor's profile.

There were demons and hellish creatures of all sorts on the site, from imps to hellhounds, and even hellcats like her. Connie still had no idea what species of sperm donor she was looking for, but she didn't intend to be too picky. In fact, even if she did find a donor she liked, it might be months, even years before she'd collected enough money in her private funds to actually afford the sperm and additional expenses that followed. Therefore, a decision wasn't mandatory at this point in time.

"Still looking at that website from a few months ago?"

Loona leaned on the doorframe, phone in hand, gazing at Connie from across the room.

"Yes," the tabby hellcat nodded, "I'm just getting a taste of my options. They might not still be available by the time I get the adequate funding, but at least by then I'll hopefully know what I want in a donor."

"Fair enough," Loona replied, positioning herself on the right side of the desk, "there's not much else to do in this dumbass office anyway."

She glanced at Connie's laptop screen for a moment. The profile picture of the donor being displayed was a muscular, tiger-like hellcat, with gorgeous ice-blue eyes that could pique any viewer's interest. His sleek, muted brown fur only added to the visually appealing spectacle, and even Loona seemed somewhat impressed.

"He's not too bad," Loona mused, smirking, "I'd fuck him."

"Loona!" Connie giggled, "Sweet Satan, why do you have to say shit like that in front of me?"

"Just to see your reaction," the hellhound cackled, "it's priceless! You have no idea."

"Well, you got me, alright? But that's not gonna distract me for long. Not when I'm in the middle of researching something as important as this."

Loona paused, her smug expression fading into a softer smile.

"You really want your own kid, don't you?" she acknowledged, "Why is that? I never got a chance to ask."

"If I'm being honest," Connie admitted, "there's a lot of factors behind it. Maybe it's because I'm lonely. Maybe it's because I really want to see a little version of me running around. But I think the biggest reason is...it just feels right."

"It feels right?" Loona prompted, "And why's that?"

"Well," Connie continued, "I've always looked at other peoples' kids and thought, 'That looks like fun. I want to do that someday.' Like being a mom was something I was meant to do. I'm not really sure how to explain it. Some feelings are just so unique that you can't put them into words, and this is one of them."

"Hmph," the hellhound beside her grunted, "I'm starting to get what you mean. Usually I wouldn't say this, and you better not tell a damn soul, but...I can respect your decision, knowing how strongly you feel about it. Even if it is a little hard to express."

Loona's reaction was about as close to sincerity as the hellcat had gotten from anyone in regards to her desire to be a mother. Most individuals weren't quite so kind. Some would even go as far as to shame Connie, either for the fact that she didn't want to wait until she was married to get pregnant, or because she wanted her 'first time' to be on purpose. Regardless, it was nice to finally talk to someone who understood and respected her intentions, especially since her journey would likely be a long and difficult one.

"Thanks, Loona," Connie smiled at her in earnest, "really. I appreciate it more than you know."

Chapter Text

"Any luck with those magazine ads?" Loona asked Connie, scrolling through her phone from her seat at the receptionist desk.

"Nope," Connie sighed, shuffling through the samples of her project, "it's so frustrating! I spent two weeks designing these, and now I can't even have them published! Maybe if Blitz hadn't blown most of my department's budget refurbishing the lounge, we would've been able to afford it..."

"I wouldn't have minded the lounge refurbishment if Blitz had at least upgraded it a little," the hellhound huffed, "all he did was reorder the furniture, repaint the walls, re-install the same flooring and replace his damn eels. It's fucking boring. Were your ads any better?"

"I'll let you be the judge," Connie replied, handing her copies over to Loona.

Loona scanned them over dully for a moment, before her expression lightened. Her eyes widened with surprise, perhaps even impressed by what she was seeing.

"You made these?" she intrigued, smiling as she set the ads down on her desk, "I'm actually kinda pissed about this. They're almost as modern as the ads for Stylish Occult."

"Heh, thanks," Connie grinned sheepishly, brushing her bangs to the side, "that's what I was going for. To be fair, though, anything could top that God-awful billboard Blitz installed outside the building. It's such an eyesore, and he went and bought it without even consulting me first!"

"I know," Loona agreed, rolling her eyes, "honestly, you'd think he'd put a little more faith into his only marketing manager."

"Yeah..." the hellcat muttered, the smile dropping right off her face, her ears and tail drooping, "sometimes, I wonder why Blitz still wants me around. He hardly ever listens to my ideas, aside from the TV ad he had me throw together. But that was only because it was something he wanted to do. Is it because he thinks I'm mediocre?"

Loona glanced at her coworker sympathetically, her gaze softening. It pained her to see her best friend in such a self-conscious state, especially because of their shitty boss, who also happened to be her adoptive father. A tiny, anger-fueled flame ignited in her heart, and she rose to her feet, her eyebrows beginning to knit together.

"Alright, that's it," she growled, rounding the corner of her desk to confront the hellcat, "I'm tired of watching Blitz shoot you down, Connie. You deserve better than this. I know it, and I know you do, too."

"But what if he fires me?" Connie gasped, "I need this job, Loona, it's the only way I can afford to have a baby! I know you're right, it's just...I'm scared..."

"If he wants to fire you," Loona assured her, giving Connie's hand a gentle squeeze, "then he'll have to get through me first, and you and I both know that there's no way he would go that far. Come on. We're gonna go in there and talk to him right now, even if it means we have to kick down his goddamn door—"

"M n' M, Nia, Loonie, get in here!" Blitzo's voice rang out down the hallway, cutting his daughter off, "We're goin' to Loo Loo Land!"

"Loo Loo Land?" Moxxie could be heard intriguing, opening the door to Blitzo's office.

Hardly a second later, shattering glass could be heard, followed by Millie's excitable voice.

"Loo Loo Land?!"

"Loo Loo Land!" Blitzo repeated, the megaphone through which he yelled squeaking a little mid-sentence.

At this point, Loona had lost her patience with the trio of imps. Her fangs bared in an irritated snarl, she shouted at the top of her lungs, hoping to silence them for a moment.

"Shut the fuck up!!"

"Guess that'll have to wait until later," Connie shrugged, secretly relieved that there would be no conversation to be had, "come on, Loona, let's see what he wants."

"Ugh..." Loona groaned, grabbing the hellcat by her wrist and leading her down the hall, "fine. But mark my words, you're gonna talk some shit into him sooner or later, or I swear to Satan, I'll do it myself."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Guard Stolas and his moody teenage daughter, Octavia, during their visit to Loo Loo Land. Surprisingly, this was the sole objective of I.M.P's visit to the Greed Ring. At first, most of the group couldn't have been happier that this excursion hadn't been one of Blitzo's "employee bonding" activities. However, the relief didn't last long, especially after the thought of going to the dreaded amusement park began to settle in.

The minute the I.M.P company van pulled into the rather empty parking lot of Mammon's Loo Loo Land, Connie had every idea as to what to expect. The amusement park, although brightly colored, was visibly dilapidated; one might even assume it was falling apart at the seams. In addition, the entirety of Loo Loo Land was geared strictly towards two demographics: thrill seekers and very young children, neither of which truthfully applied to anyone in the group, including Stolas and his daughter.

Moxxie exited the van first, opening the sliding doors on the righthand side. Stolas extracted himself excitedly, donning an apple-themed hat and a matching t-shirt and shorts, but Octavia was more hesitant, only emerging after her father waved her towards the gate. She groaned, pulling her beanie lower over her face while the other employees hopped out of the vehicle.

Blitzo, Moxxie, and Millie were sporting very high-profile black suits and ties, with the addition of thinly-framed sunglasses to give the impression that they were official bodyguards. Connie had slipped on a similar outfit, but it was more feminine and work-oriented, and she had opted to not wear sunglasses.        

And then there was Loona, who had refused to wear a bodyguard suit at all. In fact, the way she was dressed clearly indicated that she wanted nothing to do with said duties. She had selected a comfortable black crop top with her classic inverted pentagram positioned in the cut-out just above her breasts. Added to her pair of low-waisted jeans, the outfit was enough to blow Connie out of the water, but she kept her mouth shut. There was no need to tell Loona what she likely already knew.        

"Now remember," Blitzo warned Stolas, just ahead of the group as they entered the park, "this is work and work only. Me and my crew are not here to satisfy your perverted bird needs, alright?"

"Hey, dad," Octavia intrigued, visibly disgusted by the comment, "do we have to—"

"Okay, yeah, hold on right there sweetie," Blitzo waved her off, returning his attention to Stolas, "if you try fuckin' my little ass in that park, I swear to—"

"You," Stolas mused, flirtatiously sliding his pointer finger down the imp's nose, "are so cute when you are serious!"

"I'm literally going to be sick," Octavia muttered, crossing her arms discontentedly.

"Oh crumbs," Moxxie offered, immediately coming to the teen's aid, "I knew today would be a lot! What do you need? Antacids? Ibuprofen? Morphine?"

He fished around in the fanny pack around his waist, retrieving several pill bottles as he listed off the bag's inventory. Last but not least, the imp revealed several hypodermic needles of a glowing, lime-green substance. Although his heart was in the right place, Octavia was unamused by his misinterpretation of her phrasing.

"That was figurative," she rolled her eyes at him, dragging her feet as she walked ahead of the group, "old man."

"Oh, right," Moxxie chuckled sheepishly, discarding the needles into a nearby baby carriage, paying no mind to the fact that it already contained an infant, "But she said it was literal."

"Moxxie!" Connie gasped, scooping the baby imp out of harm's way, "What were you thinking?! There was a baby in there; you could have seriously hurt him!"

"Yeah, Moxxie," Loona snickered, "you fucking bastard."

"Oh, jeez!" Moxxie apologized, albeit frantically, "I'm so sorry, I didn't think of checking first!"

"Okay," Connie sighed, repositioning the tiny imp to cradle him in the nook of her left arm, "just...please, don't do that again."

The baby giggled, his innocent yellow eyes melting the hellcat's heart upon her first glance. Connie gazed down at him warmly, cooing miscellaneous, comforting sounds as she moved her right arm to support his bottom. She caught Loona smiling over her shoulder, quietly observing her friend's motherly instincts kick in.

"Awww, look at you, Connie!" Millie purred, "You're practically a natural with kids!"

"Heh, yeah," Moxxie agreed, although there was a hint of jealousy in his tone, "she really is."

"You think so?" Connie shrugged, "Maybe you're right. That aside, what's he doing here, all by himself? Where are his parents?"

"Ahem!"

As if on cue, a female imp cleared her throat behind the hellcat, tapping her foot impatiently. Connie wheeled around to face her nervously, her eyes darting from the baby in her arms to the woman who had approached her.

"Can I have my son back now?" the imp grunted.

"Oh, uh," Connie nodded, hesitantly handing him over, "of course—"

The mother huffed, swiping the baby away from her and stomping off, leaving Connie with empty arms once again. She sighed, missing the brief sensation of joy that the infant had brought her. It had only taken her mere seconds to grow attached to that feeling, and now that it had been, quite literally, ripped away from her, she couldn't help but feel disappointed.

"Sorry, Nia," Loona placed a hand on her shoulder reassuringly, pained by Connie's disheartened expression, "she was kind of a bitch."

"Yeah," Moxxie added, careful not to get too close to Loona, "if it makes you feel any better, you'd make a better mom than that lady ever would."

"Oh, fuck off, Moxxie," Loona rolled her eyes at him, "no, of course that won't make her feel any better! Because—"

She cut herself off before she could explain any further, much to the relief of Connie, who had crossed her arms self-consciously. However, Moxxie and Millie were clearly intrigued, and it was at that moment that the hellhound knew: she'd fucked up.

"Because what?" Millie prompted, shrugging.

Loona was about to make up an excuse to defend Connie's secret life goal, but the hellcat stopped her with one hand, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

"Don't worry about it," she assured Moxxie and Millie, "I'll fill you in some other day. Now's not the time."

"Alright, alright," Blitzo cleared his throat, "let's get back to work. We're getting paid for this, you know, and Moxxie's the one who's always complaining about salaries."

"Hey..."

And with that, the group proceeded. As expected, the entire time, Millie was gushing to her husband about the "nostalgic" sights and sounds of Loo Loo Land, while Loona and Connie took up the rear, watching her in amusement.

"Wooooow!" Moxxie's wife grinned, her eyes darting around the park to take in everything in sight, "I haven't been to this place since I was a tot! It hasn't changed a bit!"

"Same here," Connie shrugged nonchalantly, "I have a crippling fear of heights, but there were always other things to do here. I loved the petting zoo!"

"So if I dragged you on the gondola wheel," Loona teased, "you'd have a conniption."

"No!" the hellcat rolled her eyes playfully, "I'd just squeeze the shit out of your hand."

"I wouldn't mind that," Loona muttered.

"What was that, Loona?" Moxxie prompted, raising an eyebrow at her.

"Nothing, you limp dick," the hellhound spat, her cheeks heating up, "just keep walking."

"Oh!" Millie gasped, excitedly pointing at a hideously malformed animatronic dinosaur, "LOOK! It's Big Woobly!"

Big Woobly, as he was called, was quite possibly the most unsettling animatronic to ever exist, even for hell standards. His entire face was twisted in the wrong direction, and to add the spectacle, every once in a while, he would open his mechanical mouth and release a terrifying, demonic shriek.

"Ah, perfect for the kids," Connie remarked, her voice laced with sarcasm, "nothing even remotely mortifying or unsafe here. Ten out of ten. Bravo."

"That is...deeply upsetting," Moxxie agreed, nodding slowly.

"Oh come on!" Millie persisted, "It's fun! You've never been here?"

"No," Moxxie admitted, "theme parks always disturbed me. Especially the mascots."

"Well hey there!"

With near impeccable and extremely unfortunate timing, the park's mascot, Loo Loo the apple, appeared behind the imp, scaring him shitless. He screamed, cowering on the ground in front of Millie, as the mascot introduced himself.

"I'm Loo Loo!" he greeted, "Welcome to Loo Loo Land! If y'all get hurt here, just try and sue us!"

"Look! Via!" Stolas whispered to his daughter, "It's Loo Loo!"

"I have a question," Octavia addressed Loo Loo, perhaps attempting to look at least a little interested to get her father to be quiet.

"Well ask away, little girlie!" Loo Loo chuckled, sounding more like a deranged cowboy than a theme park mascot, "A-hyuk a-hyuk a-hyuk!"

"Is it true this park is just a really shameless spin-off of Lucifer's far more popular Lu Lu World?" Octavia intrigued, glancing at Stolas smugly.

"No?" the costumed apple answered, knowing full well that the rightful answer was precisely the opposite.

"This place reeks of insecure corporate shame," Octavia concluded, folding her arms.

Stolas chuckled in slight embarrassment, hurriedly leading the moody teenager elsewhere.

"Why don't we go check out the rides?" he suggested, quickly changing the subject.

"That chick's creepy, huh?" Loo Loo turned to Blitzo, hoping for him to agree.

"Ah," the imp replied flatly, "wait till her dad tries to diddle your holes."

"What's that mean?" the apple mascot shrugged at the rest of the group, clearly unaware of Blitzo's innuendo.

"Don't talk to me!" Moxxie snapped, dragging his wife away with him as he rounded a corner in the park, "I know you're a pervert under there!"

"Let's just go catch up with them," Connie added, "he could be right, and I don't want to stick around to find out."

"Nah," Loona waved her off, "let's sneak off and do our own thing. There's got to be something in this lame park that piques our interests."

"Pfft," the hellcat rolled her eyes sarcastically, snagging a map from a nearby gift shop, "like what? This place doesn't even have a water park. Another reason why Lu Lu World is objectively better."

"But you know what they do have?" Loona prompted.

"What?"

"The petting zoo you were talking about."

"What?!" Connie gasped, "They still have it? Be serious!"

"I am!" the hellhound smirked, pointing at a location on the northwest side of Loo Loo Land, "See. Right there, next to that Lawsuit rollercoaster."

"And here I was, thinking this trip would be a total bust," Connie mused, "I just hope the petting zoo didn't age as shittily as the rest of this park."

"Guess we'll just have to see for ourselves," Loona shrugged, "well, what are we waiting for? Let's book it before Moxxie decides to shit on our parade."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

No sooner had Connie and Loona exited the petting zoo that they nearly encountered Moxxie and Millie; the latter was dragging her husband on The Lawsuit, although he appeared to be having second thoughts. Loona, of course noticed this immediately, and as usual, decided to start poking fun at him.

"Heh," she smirked, "how much do you wanna bet that he'll chicken out at the last second?"

"Loona," Connie remarked, "I get that you don't like Moxxie that much, but...could you at least try to cut him some slack every once in a while? Would you mock me if I was the one being dragged on a ride that terrified me?"

"What?" the hellhound replied, shocked, "Of course not! I'd beat the living shit out of whoever dared to put their filthy hands on you in the first place!"

And then something unexpected happened. Connie's heart began to beat a little faster as Loona's comment sank in, her cheeks dusted a light shade of pink. The words resonated with her much longer than she expected, and she smiled sheepishly, brushing her bangs to the side.

"Wow...really? You'd want to do that?"

"Are you kidding?" Loona replied warmly, "Nia, I'd do practically anything for you. We're best friends. Besides, I'm sure you'd do much worse for me."

"Oh, shut up!" Connie chuckled, playfully shouldering the hellhound, "You know it's the other way around. But your point still stands, I'll give you that."

"Alright," Loona mused, "you win, smartass. You win."

Hardly a second later, the pair spotted Moxxie and Millie on The Lawsuit, plunging off a sheer 90-degree drop at a blistering speed, into a glowing green tunnel. Moxxie was screaming at the top of his lungs, clinging to his lap bar for dear life, but Millie was clearly enjoying herself, hollering excitedly as they emerged from the tunnel and over a series of airtime hills. Just below another point in the ride walked the same female imp and baby that Connie had encountered at the front entrance of Loo Loo Land, now joined by her husband and teenage son.

"Oh, look who it is," the hellcat snarled, "damn. It's almost like they can't give me a break."

Karma, however, tended to be a bitch, even in hell itself. It could strike at any time, and today was no exception. As a roller coaster car zipped overhead, a freshly-heaved pile of vomit coincidentally rained over the family of imps, covering them in the nasty-looking green liquid. Loona and Connie watched from a safe distance, at first profoundly disgusted, before bursting into laughter.

"Ha!" Loona smirked, "That's what you get, bitch!"

"Oh, sweet Satan," Connie giggled, "that's priceless! I can't believe we just witnessed that!"

Promptly after the vomit-drenched family treaded past the pair, glaring at them disapprovingly, Moxxie and Millie emerged from the roller coaster's exit gate. Millie was just as happy as she had been at the start of her ride, approaching Connie and Loona with a childlike enthusiasm that practically bubbled out of her. Moxxie, on the other hand, wasn't looking so good, stumbling next to his wife as though thoroughly traumatized.

"Hey, you two," Connie greeted, "you totally missed it! That shitty mom we saw earlier got puked on, and it was fucking hilarious!"

"Oh, really?" Moxxie muttered, "what a coincid—urp..."

He wheeled around, heaving into a nearby trash can, his hands gripping the sides of the steel bin like his life depended on it.

"Moxxie!" Millie gasped, darting to his side and placing a steady hand on his back.

"Ohhh..." Loona remarked, snapping her fingers as she put two and two together, "that explains a lot. Whatever, it still worked out in the end."

"Loona..." Connie blinked at her disapprovingly, "I mean, you're right, but still..."

"Okay..." Moxxie remarked, recuperating from his motion sickness, "I'm definitely not going on any more rides today, but there's got to be something else in this overrated amusement park that we can do. Anyone have any ideas?"

"Hmm," Connie suggested, "not really. Maybe we should just take a walk around? You know, just to explore?"

"Oh!" Millie grinned, "That sounds like fun! Can we, Mox?"

"I don't see why not," her husband shrugged, "I'd take a casual stroll over puking my guts out again any day of the week."

"Ugh..." Loona grunted, rolling her eyes, "whatever. Let's just get this over with so I can go to Stylish Occult. This entire trip has been a literal hell unto itself."

The group had now arrived in the west wing of Loo Loo Land, where several smaller gift shops and attractions awaited curious visitors. Various booths lined both sides of the pathway, ranging from food vendors to carnival games, which displayed shelves upon shelves of plush prizes. One of these, in particular, was a target-shooting game, where the carnie manning the station attempted to entice the four I.M.P employees.

"Hello, hello! Step right up and win a thing!"

"A what?" Loona raised an eyebrow at the imp behind the counter, exchanging confused glances with her colleagues.

"Oh, look Moxxie!" Millie gasped excitedly, pointing to one of the booth's prizes, "A thing!"

The "thing" in question was some sort of plush purple penguin creature with imp horns protruding from its head, wearing pink overalls. The stuffed animal was labeled with a tag that read "THING?" as though even its manufacturers had no idea what they'd created.

"Oh," Moxxie remarked, glancing at his wife in amusement, "you like that thing?

"YEEEEESSS!" Millie squealed, "I don't really know what that thing is but I want that thing!"

"Finally," Moxxie replied smugly, handing the carnie a couple dollars, "something I can handle. Okay! One game, please!"

The carnie rolled his eyes, using his tail to hand Moxxie a pistol with a cork projectile in the muzzle. Moxxie, already confident in his wielding abilities, didn't even bother to line up the shot, instead lovingly glancing over his shoulder at his wife as he effortlessly hit the target right in the bullseye. Unbeknownst to Moxxie, however, the target hardly moved. After making a "ricochet" noise with his mouth, he blew the black powder smoke clear of the gun, pleased with his marksmanship.

"Strike one, little man!" the carnie crooned, leaning on the counter between him and the group.

"But I hit it," Moxxie frowned, glowering beneath the vendor.

"Hmmm,"  the imp smirked, "I don't know what to tell ya, buddy. The target, see? It didn't go down. So yeah, no go, bro."

"But he did," Connie added, shrugging, "we all watched him do it."

"I didn't," Loona muttered, smiling to herself.

Moxxie growled in anger, fishing another bill out of his pocket. He grabbed the pistol and fired another cork, hitting the target dead-center, but again, it didn't budge an inch. Moxxie slapped the plastic pistol in annoyance.

"The Heaven's wrong with this thing?!"

"Oh man," the carnie cried mockingly, "a real shame I tell ya. Wah, wah."

"Another!" Moxxie hissed, slapping another bill on the counter.

While the imp tried fruitlessly to knock over a target, Connie and Loona scanned over the prizes. On the shelf next to the alleged "thing" sat a gray plush owl, which captivated Connie the second she set eyes on it. Loona eyed her flirtatiously, watching as her coworker's tail curled in admiration of the prize.

"Awww," Connie whispered, "look at that one, Loona! Doesn't it look sooo soft? I could totally put that plushie in my baby's nursery, it'd blend in really well with the theme I was going for!"

"Really?" Loona intrigued, "That's why you want it? You wouldn't just keep it for yourself?"

"Nope."

The selfless answer lightened Loona's expression, and she nodded silently in understanding, strutting over to the carnie while Moxxie was still preoccupied.

"Hey," the hellhound prompted, sliding a bill over to the imp, "I'd like a turn now."

"Sure thing, lady," the carnie winked, handing Loona another plastic gun with his tail.

"Mmm hmm," Loona hummed, positioning herself two targets away from Moxxie.

Lining up the shot, she appeared as though she might actually pull the trigger and let the cork within the pistol fly. However, at the last second, she hurled the gun at her target, knocking it clean over and smashing it to pieces. Everyone's eyes were on Loona, but she blinked back at them nonchalantly, pointing to the owl plush.

"I'll take the owl."

"Excellent...choice," the carnie muttered, reaching for the stuffed animal and handing it to the hellhound hesitantly.

Loona accepted the owl, carrying it over to Connie and locking eyes with her, smiling while her back was turned to Millie and Moxxie.

"Here. I hope your kid likes it."

"Loonie!" Connie blushed, stammering as she took the prize and pressed it to her chest, "You didn't have to...I'm...that was really sweet. Thanks."

Loona gazed at her for a moment, arms folded, before she chuckled, adjusting her bangs.

"You're kinda cute when you're flustered," she teased, her half-lidded eyes practically glowing with amusement.

The moment, however, was promptly ruined when the carnie began chuckling behind the pair, admiring the large wad of cash he'd gotten from all of Moxxie's attempts at the target game.

"Wow!" the carnie snickered, curling one of the dollars in his hand into a cigarette and lighting it, "Man, you're really starting to make this sad. You know, if you suck, you suck! Guess you won't win your honey here a prize."

"Let me try!" Millie piped up.

She grabbed Moxxie's pistol and fired a cork at the target, which missed wildly. The carnie grinned mischievously, pressing a pedal under the booth, which caused the nearest target to collapse.

"Oh, look at that!" he shrugged, "Lucky shot, baby."

"Are you kidding me?!" Moxxie shook his head in disbelief, "You- you- you charlatan!"

"Hey uh, get lost, pipsqueak," the carnie shoved the furious imp aside, eyeing his wife, "I'm talkin' to the lady."

He leaned toward Millie and made a purring sound with his tongue. Millie immediately recoiled in disgust, and Connie immediately jumped to her defense, brandishing her claws.

"Piss off, you perverted jackass," she warned, "you don't want to cross the line in front of me."

"Hey, take it easy, sweet cheeks," the carnie replied flirtatiously, "There's plenty of room back here for a three-way."

"What the fuck did you just call me?" Connie hissed, her eyes shifting to their chaotic state, tinting her claws a bright green.

Before the situation could escalate any further, something—or in this instance, someone—crashed through the roof of the shooting gallery, crushing the carnie under them. After the rubble cleared, revealing it was in fact Blitzo, the group gasped, and Connie calmed down, satisfied with the results.

"Sir?" Moxxie blinked, surprised.

"Oh, hey guys!" Blitzo waved at him, dazed, "You should probably go uh, make sure Stolas is okay. I got some...unfinished business to take care of."

Connie, Loona, Moxxie, and Millie slowly turned around, their mouths dropping in shock. The entire park was going up in eerie lime-green flames, and from the wall of fire emerged a terrifying robotic clown, whose face was burning off as a result.

"A robot clown?!" Connie spat, clutching her prize in fear, "Oh hell no! Let's get Stolas and his daughter and book it!"

The rest of the group, save for Blitzo, nodded, taking off in the direction of Loo Loo Land's funhouse. Connie could feel her feet pounding against the pavement, propelling her as fast as felinely possible, but she still felt as though she was moving in slow motion. It was a race against time and flame, and she was falling behind.

That was when she felt the owl stuffed animal in her right arm beginning to slip out of her grasp. Hardly a second later, an emptiness that replaced its plush feathers sent a wave of panic over her, and she frantically skid to a halt, spotting it lying a few yards behind her.

"Shit!" she shouted, turning tail and rushing back for it.

Loona and the two imps heard their coworker's anxious cry behind them, and they wheeled around, their eyes widening as they watched Connie running towards the impending flames. But that wasn't the worst part. The hellhound's heart skipped a beat as her gaze flickered to the burning poles ahead, the wood of which was burning so fast that they were mere seconds away from caving in.

"Connie, no!" she cried, desperately reaching out to her.

By the time Connie had reached the plush owl, making a beeline for the group, it was too late. The poles collapsed right then and there, trapping the hellcat in a ring of burning wood. She screamed at the top of her lungs, surrounded by the ominous blaze.

"Connie!" Loona cried, "Hold on! I'm coming!"

"Oh, Moxxie, what do we do?!" Millie gasped, terrified of what was unfolding in front of her eyes.

"We have to find Stolas and his daughter," Moxxie assured her, "I hate to admit it, but...Loona will have to handle this. I just hope she gets to Connie before the whole park burns down..."

The pair of imps took off for the funhouse, while Loona scaled a nearby booth, one of the only structures that was still intact. Thinking quickly, she leapt from one structure to the next, her eyes fixated on Connie, who was calling her name in distress. At last, the hellhound landed atop the booth next to her friend's flaming prison, extending her hands as low as they could possibly go without risking a fall.

"Jump, Connie!" Loona instructed, "I'll pull you up!"

"Take the owl first!" Connie shouted back, hurling the carnival prize in the air.

Loona caught the owl, putting it to the side and offering her hands once again.

"Come on! Jump!"

Connie nodded, shrieking as she put all her weight in her hind legs, and pounced, digging her claws into the side of the booth. Loona dragged her onto the roof, handing her the owl plush and sliding off the other side of the building, sprinting to safety with both in her arms. When they'd finally reached the parking lot of Loo Loo Land, free from the threat of the fire, the hellhound set Connie back on her feet, panting from the effort.

"Damn it, Connie!" Loona growled, "Putting yourself in harm's way for a stupid owl! Why?! Why would you want to give me a heart attack like this?!"

"Because you won it for the baby," the hellcat admitted, managing a smile, "I want them to know what a good person you are when they're born! So they can look at the owl and maybe even name it after you..."

Connie sighed, hugging the owl in her arms in embarrassment.

"That sounded so selfish...you're right. I'm so sorry, Loona, I wasn't thinking—"

"No," Loona shook her head, her gaze softening, "don't apologize. It's because you were thinking that you did what you did. You cared more about the hope that this baby will exist than yourself, and in a way, that's probably the opposite of selfish."

She paused for a moment, before squeezing Connie's right hand in her own, draining the fear from her exhausted frame.

"But you better not even think about pulling a stunt like that again, you scared the shit out of me! I don't wanna lose my best friend...you're the only one I've got; the only one I've ever had..."

"Loonie," Connie assured her, pulling the hellhound into a comforting embrace, "to tell you the truth, I was really scared of losing you, too. Petrified, actually. But you know what? You got me out of there, and I'm okay now. We're okay. Besides, you and I both know that it's gonna take more than a flaming amusement park to separate us."

"You better be right," Loona exhaled in relief, hugging her back, "but you better promise me that you won't run into fire again. Okay?"

"Of course," Connie purred, "I promise."

Chapter Text

sashimi_kitty228: We still up for today?

simply_moxxie: Yes, whenever you're ready. It's the Hothead Café down the street, right?

sashimi_kitty228: Yep, that's the one!

simply_moxxie: Great, I'll meet you there 👍

sashimi_kitty228: Okay! C u then <3

Connie slipped her smartphone back into the front pocket of her jeans, her red laptop carrying case slung over her right shoulder. She was on her way to I.M.P's weekend departmental review with Moxxie, which was typically held in the Hothead Café down the street from HQ. Considering that Connie and her imp coworker were among the only three members, as they were some of the most punctual of the group, these meetings were typically very easy and coordinated. However, since the third member was on vacation, it would just be Connie and Moxxie today.

Rather than wearing her usual work outfit, like Moxxie would, Connie had changed into a casual, long-sleeved black crop top with a hole near the top of her breast. It was a comfortable outfit, combined with her faded jeans, and she would slip it on whenever she was relaxing at home, or didn't have anywhere exciting to be. Or, in this case, if she was simply going to meet up with someone outside of work.

The hellcat rounded a corner, brushing her bangs to the side and finding herself at the entrance to the café. She coolly opened the glass door, her fluffy tail bobbing behind her as she strode inside to have a look around. As she had expected, most of the dining area was filled to the brim with patrons, and the line at the register nearly stretched outside the building.

Thankfully for Connie, she had already pre-ordered her drink, which was awaiting her on the take-out counter: a frozen mocha cappuccino. She could already tell it was hers from a distance because of the chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream, which she had requested as an extra to "treat herself".

After snagging her usual and a straw, from the corner of her eye, she could see an imp waving her over. The hellcat glanced over her shoulder curiously, smiling as soon as she realized it was Moxxie. He had reserved a table nestled in the farthest corner of the room; a booth, which was the pair's preferred seating arrangement to optimize their privacy.

Connie waved back, carrying her beverage across the dining room to meet with her coworker. She seated herself across from him, taking a moment to settle in and remove her laptop from the matching carrying case draped over her shoulder.

"Good morning, Connie," Moxxie greeted, taking a sip of his latte, "I'm glad somebody could make it."

"Hi, Mox," she replied warmly, setting up her laptop on the table that separated the pair, "whew...at least we can finally get away from the commotion at the office. It feels like it's been forever since our last departmental review. It's too bad Heather couldn't make it to this one."

"Oh, I get what you mean," the imp admitted, "for some reason, these meetings just aren't the same without all three of us here. And it's a shame nobody else volunteered to take her place, like a responsible adult."

"Well, you know how everyone is," Connie shrugged, typing something into her computer, "Loona refuses to work on the weekends, and Blitz is...well, Blitz. I'm sure Millie would've come, but you already told me she was out getting a manicure. Which isn't necessarily her fault, because she planned it out a week ago, before Heather scheduled her vacation days."

"Fair point," Moxxie agreed, "where did Heather end up going, anyway?"

"Oh, she's out on some fancy retreat slash reunion," the hellcat explained, "apparently, the Barlowe family is rich as heaven, so they all pitch in and go on a nice vacation once a year. This time, they picked Grayglen Beach. It's a luxury resort in the Envy Ring that ordinary people like us could only dream of visiting."

"Oh, Satan, that place?" the imp across from her remarked, "Wow. They must be pretty rich. I thought only Princes could afford to go there."

"Exactly," Connie replied, leaning on her right hand, "I wish I had that much money. I would've been to get pregnant months ago..."

"Yeah..." Moxxie nodded, his eyes slowly widening as he processed what he'd just heard, "wait, what about getting pregnant?"

The marketing manager raised an eyebrow at him, and that was when it hit her: she'd accidentally spilled her secret life goal to Moxxie. She gasped, both hands flying to her mouth, as though it could stop the words that had just escaped her mouth. But she knew full well that the deed was already done.

"Oh shit..." she muttered, "why did I say that? And here, of all places. Ughhhh...so much for keeping that secret."

"So...let me get this straight," Moxxie began, "you don't want anyone to know that you want to get pregnant? Would you mind if I asked why?"

"Well..." Connie sighed, "I think I can trust you, so...okay. I'll tell you, but you have to swear that you'll keep it to yourself. I guess you can make an exception for your wife, but please, for the love of all things unholy, do not tell our boss. I'm not ready for him to find out about this."

"Of course," Moxxie nodded, "Millie and I can keep a secret. What else are friends for?"

"Good to know," the hellcat began, "alright. Here goes...Moxxie, do you remember when I saved that baby imp at Loo Loo Land?"

"Yeah, I do," he replied, "you were really happy when you were holding him. It was almost like he was your own."

"Well..." Connie continued, "that's the thing. I've always been so interested in raising kids, and I've been contemplating whether or not I wanted to be a mother for a long time. At first, I was considering adoption, but it hit me later that I wanted the whole motherhood experience, from start to finish. So..."

She paused, typing an address into the search bar of her laptop. A moment later, she spun it around, revealing the Sperm Bank of Hell's website.

"I'm trying to save up enough money to afford a sperm donor. Thankfully, I was able to use the bonus Stolas gave us to set up a small nursery in the bedroom of my apartment, but that's just the beginning of the process. I now have to prepare to pay for everything else: the costs of the doctor consultation, multiple insemination procedures, not to mention how many samples I might need to purchase before and if I actually get pregnant."

"That sounds really expensive," Moxxie remarked, "and you own an apartment, so you obviously have rent to pay. And amenities. And groceries."

"Yep," Connie continued, "so if my cost estimates are correct, the whole process might be around $2,000 to $4,000...and that's just for one attempt."

"Wow..." the imp murmured, impressed, "you must really want to have your own baby, if you're determined to go through all that bullshit. That aside, you haven't answered my question yet."

"Right," the hellcat acknowledged him, "I'm getting to that. Believe it or not, there's a lot of stigma around here when it comes to single mothers. I've had people mock me in the fertility clinic waiting room because I don't want to get laid first and see what happens. My parents have basically disowned me under the pretense that I'm a lesbian."

"Wow..." Moxxie shook his head in disbelief, "that's horrible. I'm so sorry."

"Don't be," Connie assured him, folding her arms, "they're dead to me, anyway. Parting ways was probably long overdue. Anyway, I'm just...I'm so tired of everyone riding my ass and jumping to conclusions because of a few stupid stereotypes. This is my body, and my choice. It's no one else's place to tell me what to do with it."

Moxxie listened to her rant silently; unjudgementally. Clearly, he was concerned, and he knew that Connie needed the validation. She had nowhere else to turn.

"I've gotten so much criticism towards my decisions over the past few months that I've decided to keep it a secret from everyone at work," the hellcat admitted, turning her laptop back around, "well...almost everyone. I confided in Loona first, because we're best friends, and I knew she'd take that information to her grave if necessary. So there you have it. That's the full story."

Connie glanced at the digital clock on the bottom right corner of her device's screen, her eyes widening once she realized how long she'd been stalling the meeting. The real reason why she and Moxxie were in the café.

"Shit," she muttered, "I'm sorry, Moxxie, we should've gotten started the departmental review minutes ago! It won't happen again, I promise."

"Hold on a minute," the imp halted her, drawing her attention back to him, "don't worry about the meeting. What you had to say was more important."

"You think so?" Connie intrigued guiltily, "I don't know, I feel like such a hypocrite. We were just talking about how nobody else wanted to come to the meeting, and here I was, taking up a good chunk of the time talking about something completely irrelevant."

"Like I said," Moxxie continued, "it's okay. It was really brave of you to open up to me. Thank you for trusting me with something that important."

"Oh, well..." the hellcat smiled, his acceptance lightening her mood drastically, "that means a lot to me. Thank you, too."

"As for the meeting starting a little later than usual," the imp admitted, "I don't think we have much to worry about. You're such a good worker that you're probably ahead on your departmental report. That being said, we should still go over it, so let's get started..."

Chapter Text

"I did it!" Connie chirped, entering the break room with the biggest grin on her face, "I finally finished setting it up!"

The energy in her voice immediately caught the attention of everyone in earshot, their gazes shifting to the marketing manager with piqued curiosity.

"Well, you're certainly in high spirits today," Moxxie remarked, flashing a casual smile in his co-worker's direction, "what did you finish setting up, Nia?"

"My future baby's nursery," the hellcat explained, pulling up a picture on her smartphone and motioning for Loona to join her and the imp couple near the reception area, "I snapped a picture in my apartment before I left this morning."        

"Wow!" Millie gasped, marveling at the beautiful setup, "Oh, Moxxie, isn't it pretty?"

"This is actually really impressive," her husband admitted, "how did you manage this? You know, with the whole paycheck situation and all?"

"Oh, I was already planning to set up a nursery a little while ago," Connie admitted, "before I got the idea to search for a sperm donor, actually. It took almost half a year to complete, but yesterday, I could finally afford to have the crib installed!"

"So you really did keep the owl I won for you," Loona mused, "is it because it hasn't ripped yet, or because you want to spare my feelings?"

"Of course I kept it!" Connie giggled, playfully shouldering the hellhound, "And you know it's for neither of those reasons. I really appreciate what you did for me in Loo Loo Land, and I'm sure someday the baby will, too."

"Oh, it wasn't that big a deal," Loona shrugged, "all I did was knock over a stupid target."

"You also saved my ass," the hellcat added, "you know, after Blitz's shenanigans set fire to the entire park, and I almost burned alive because I was being an idiot."

"Fair point," Loona shrugged, "that disastrous day is probably gonna be burned into my skull for the rest of my life, damn it..."

"We all know why," Moxxie smirked, winking at Millie.

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" the hellhound snapped.

"Come on, hun," Millie elaborated, "admit it, Connie scared you shitless!"

"She did not!" Loona huffed defensively, crossing her arms self-consciously, "I was just doing what any other concerned bitch does when their best friend runs into fire. And might I add that you two decided to leave us high-and-dry in that moment!"

"You know why we had to split up," Moxxie reminded her, "someone had to go after Stolas."

"Alright, alright," Connie waved the pair off, "let's not start any petty arguments today. The important thing is, we're all alive, we got decent paychecks afterwards, and we can finally get back to work—"

"Everyone stop what you're doing and help me hang up this shit!"

Blitzo practically kicked open the doorway to the lounge, sliding a large cardboard box of faded lavender party supplies across the carpet, which bumped to a halt against the farthest wall of the room. The boisterous imp's unexpected entrance startled the rest of the group, and Connie quickly slid her phone back into her pants to avoid her boss's attention.

"Sir, what in Satan's name are you doing?!" Moxxie intrigued in annoyance.

"What does it look like I'm doing, dumbass?" Blitzo retorted gleefully, leaping on top of the couch to pin a banner above it, "Setting up a surprise party for Heather! Now hop to it, people, we have less than ten minutes until she gets here!"

The Heather in question was I.M.P's resident close-range assassin, and Millie's best friend since childhood, although she was still closely-knit with most of her coworkers. Every year, after Heather returned from her annual family vacation, Blitzo insisted that the company halt their workflow and throw together a very last-minute welcome back party for their returning coworker.

The complete and utter squandering of a perfectly good work day was something that Moxxie absolutely loathed with every fiber of his being, but his yearly objections were nothing short of blatantly ignored; Blitzo's mind was made up. And when Blitzo's mind was made up, he was always intent on fulfilling whatever idea had been ingrained in his thoughts, no matter how impulsive or annoying.

"A surprise party?!" Millie gasped, her enthusiasm practically radiating from her very being, "This is gonna be so much fun!"

"Sir," Moxxie remarked, "we throw Heather a party every year. Don't you think, with that logic, that this would hardly be a surprise party? Not to mention what a waste of company time this annual affair typically is!"

"At least we're getting paid not to work," Loona shrugged nonchalantly, "I can live with that."

"Oh, calm your tits, Moxxie," Blitzo remarked, smugly booping Moxxie's nose as he descended from the couch, "it's gonna work, we'll turn off the lights and everything. Now why don't you make yourself useful and make sure the ice cream cake is in the freezer?"

"Ooh," Connie purred, "ice cream cake actually sounds pretty good right about now."

"Sir..." Moxxie groaned, facepalming, "why did you replace the usual and much cheaper bakery cake with an ice cream version? You went over budget again, just like with those eels you bought for the lounge!"

"Oh, come on, Mox," Millie encouraged him, "it's not a big deal. Besides, you love ice cream cakes!"

"Yeah, but..." her husband sighed in defeat, departing for the kitchen, "ugh, fine. But this better not happen again without my consent."

"Yeah, sure, Moxxie," Blitzo replied absentmindedly, before addressing the rest of his employees, "alright, Millie, you're on balloon duty! There should be a can of helium in the janitor's closet, but if not, then just blow them up and hang them from the ceiling, we're pressed for time, so just work with me here. Loonie, get those streamers and garlands hung on the walls, and Nia, you and Moxxie set up the snack table!"

"What're you gonna do, then?" Connie intrigued, dragging a plastic table out of a nearby closet.

"Supervise, obviously," the imp shrugged, "I'm the boss, aren't I?"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Ten minutes seemed to fly by in a flash, and by the time the party setup was over, there was hardly a moment to spare. For a rushed team effort, the lounge was looking surprisingly acceptable, at least for decoration standards. Every light in the building had been dimmed, save for the room the group currently stood in, and I.M.P was (almost) fully prepared for their coworker's arrival.

"Perfect!" Blitzo grinned at the layout of the room, "Good effort, everyone! Now all we have to do is wait for Heather's grand entrance..."

A rather expensive pink SUV casually cruised down the barren avenue, pulling into I.M.P's parking lot. Its ignition died down as it settled into a spot on the west side of the office building, making it obvious that Heather had arrived, and the group had finished setting up just in time. 

"...which apparently is right now!" Blitzo announced, hurriedly flipping off the lounge's light switch and ducking behind a nearby chair, "Everybody hide now! Go go go!"

For the remainder of the group, finding hiding places in the otherwise spacious room proved to be quite the challenge, which called for quick thinking. Moxxie managed to cram himself into a nearby closet, while Millie claimed the sofa before Connie could even blink. During that moment of disbelief, Loona seemed to have disappeared somewhere else, and the hellcat gasped, frantically scanning the room for any other fair game.

"Connie, get your ass out of sight before she sees you!" Blitzo whispered to her, "This is supposed to be a surprise party, damn it!"

"Okay, okay!" Connie hissed back, "I'm trying!"

In a silent panic, she finally decided to take refuge beneath the nearby reception desk. She crawled behind the piece of furniture, lying on her stomach in the space between the floor and the countertop, releasing a pent-up sigh of relief. Until she realized that it wasn't the floor she was lying on.

"Uh...is that you, Connie?"

Loona's whispering voice hit Connie's eardrums, drawing her attention just a few inches below her. She found herself mere inches away from the hellhound's face, involuntarily locking eyes with her. Loona's blood-red sclera glowed in the shadows of the relatively small space, blinking back at Connie in surprise. The hellcat sincerely hoped this didn't shed light on how heated her cheeks were; it would embarrass her even more than she already was.

"L-Loona!" Connie stammered apologetically, quickly sitting up under the table and nearly hitting her head in the process, "I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were under here..."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Loona chuckled quietly, repositioning herself on her knees, "I'm actually kinda relieved it's you, Connie. If it had been Moxxie on top of me, I would've flipped the fucking table with zero remorse."

"Loonie!" Connie stifled a giggle, "Sweet Satan, aren't you sassy today?"

"Mmm..." the receptionist hummed, scooting closer to her, "but you like it when I'm just a little sassy, don't you, Nia?"

"Guilty as charged."

Meanwhile, from the luxury vehicle outside the office, a lithe red tabby hellcat emerged, her thick and fluffy fur concealed only by a gray sweater crop top and fringed black shorts: Heather. She quietly hummed to herself, flitting her hazel eyes in the rear-view mirror one last time before shutting the car door and locking it. With a twirl of the keys on her pointer finger, she strode towards the entrance, ready to start her first post-family-vacation workday.

"It's her!" Blitzo whispered excitedly, peering from his hiding place, "Okay, everyone shut the fuck up! Don't ruin the surprise!"

"We were already quiet to begin with, sir," Moxxie muttered from his place in the closet.

"Shhh!" Millie's voice cut him off, hushing him from behind the couch.

Just down the hall, Heather pried open the glass doors and entered the office, immediately taking notice of the absence of light the second she stepped foot in the building.

"That's weird..." the hellcat remarked, "the doors were unlocked, so someone has to be in here. Did Blitz forget to pay the electric bill?"

She slowly crept down the hallway, briefly peering inside each room as she strode past them and turning on their respective lights. The power was working just fine, as it seemed, and Heather began to think that she had been misinformed about the day on which she could return to work. She was almost positive that she had been told to come back on this particular day, however, so she kept searching the first floor.

Upon reaching the lounge area, she stopped, her hazel eyes glowing in the darkness of the room. Just as she was about to leave, Blitzo flipped the light switch, blowing into a purple noisemaker hard enough that the tip just barely touched Heather's nose, which notified the other employees to spring out of their hiding places.

"Surprise! Welcome back, Heather!"

"Sweet Satan!" Heather gasped excitedly, albeit a little caught off guard by the sudden jumpscare, "What is all this?"

"It's a surprise party!" Millie chirped, "For you!"

"It was my idea," Blitzo chimed in, motioning towards the foldable table with his thumb, "we got your favorite ice cream cake for the occasion!"

"Oh, you guys," Heather folded her arms modestly, "you didn't have to throw me a party! I use my vacation days for this trip every year. But I have to admit, ice cream cake sounds really good right about now..."

"Oh, you're telling me," Connie added, "I'll cut a slice for myself, while we're at it."

Before long, the rest of the employees approached the table, snagging slices for themselves before dispersing into different corners of the lounge. By the time Heather had finally reached the ice cream cake, Blitzo was already there, holding a slice out to the hellcat.

"There she is!" the imp mused, "The woman of the hour! Here, I cut this one just for you."

"Thanks, Blitz," Heather exchanged warm smiles with him, happily accepting the paper plate, "you know, I never got a chance to properly say hello."

"Ah, okay, here goes..." Blitzo shrugged, clearing his throat before playfully waving at her, "hi, Heather! How was that?"

The red tabby hellcat chuckled, sinking the prongs of her plastic fork into her slice of cake, while Blitzo observed her in fascination. That adorable, down-to-earth laugh of Heather's warmed his heart every time, its dream-like association with the prolonged heat in his face sticking to his subconscious like a fresh layer of super glue. As per usual, the imp laughed along with her, trying not to get lost in his thoughts again.

"I didn't mean it like that, silly," Heather purred, taking a bite of her slice, "Oh, Blitz. You're so animated!"

"Heh," Blitzo smirked, raising an eyebrow at her, "you think so?"

"Well, sure," the hellcat shrugged, "I used to work as Prince Stolas's secretary, you know. His associates were so serious and polite all the time, which is fine, in most circumstances, but not on a daily basis. I actually made the mistake of dating one of them for a few months."

"You did?" her boss prompted, "Uh, were they a guy or girl?"

"A guy," Heather explained, "but I'm into both, if I'm being honest. His name was Thomas, I'm not sure if you met him before, but he's another owl demon, kinda like Stolas. Tall, handsome, well-groomed..."

"So now you think this 'Thomas' is handsome?" Blitzo intrigued, making quotation marks with his fingers, "I thought you didn't like him?"

"Not personality-wise, at least. Anyway, all Thomas and I ever did together was make out, sit on the couch, eat at other classy peoples' houses, make out again. I just...I could never get emotionally attached to him, knowing that I'd probably end up as a trophy wife."

"Yeah," the imp nodded, "I mean, I couldn't see myself pursuing a future with a prim-and-proper bastard with a stick up his ass, much less a social butterfly like you."

"Exactly," Heather continued, "he was constantly avoiding the 'filthy public', not wanting to introduce me to anyone or anything other than his rich friends and their property, thinking it was the only way to connect with me...it was a nightmare. I became boring."

"Filthy public..." Blitzo huffed, "what a privileged asshole. You dumped him?"

"Yeah," Heather sighed, "what else was I supposed to do, stick around and die of boredom? I don't think so. I'm in no rush to settle down, anyway."

"Understandable," her boss replied calmly, "but is getting laid out of your comfort zone?"

Heather cocked her head at Blitzo, staring at him as though he'd sprouted another tail. Her ear twitched, perplexed by the notion that he would ask her such a question.

"What makes you ask that?"

"Er," Blitzo's fingers rose to his neck, rubbing it nervously, "I was just curious. Sometimes, it's a little hard to keep up with your availability."

"Availab—" the hellcat cut herself off, finishing off her ice cream cake, "okay, my place in the dating scene is nobody's business. But...I'll tell you this much. I won't be on board with the whole 'getting laid' thing until I find someone I can really love. I don't do one-night-stands."

Heather swallowed, dumping her paper plate and cutlery into the nearest trash can before returning her gaze to Blitzo, which was softening by the minute. Still, she maintained her confident bodily language, folding her arms as her fluffy tail swished to the side.

"If you really want to know why I'm still looking for the one," she concluded, "it's because I have very specific taste. I'm not here for random booty calls, I'm not interested in douchey behavior, and most importantly, I refuse to settle for just anyone so I won't be lonely. I have more self respect than that, Blitz. I'd rather casually experiment for the time being."

Chapter Text

The I.M.P company van zipped down the highway, carrying all six members of the company inside. Loud rock music blared through the open windows and could be heard from blocks and blocks away, annoying everyone in I.M.P city as much as some of the vehicle's passengers. It was just an average morning for the group: Blitzo drove the van to each of the employees' houses, picking them up before driving them to the office.

"I love this song!" Blitzo shouted, obnoxiously starting to sing along to the lyrics the best he could, although it was clear that he didn't know all the lyrics by heart.

"You too?!" Heather chimed in, her tail curling up in excitement, "I thought I was the only one here who liked rock music! ♫ You were a spicy little demon with bleach-blonde hair ♫"

"Yeah, sing it Heather!" Blitzo encouraged her, grinning ecstatically at the fact that someone in the car had actually shared his taste in music.

Meanwhile, in the back of the company van, Moxxie clenched his hands over his eardrums, obviously annoyed by the volume of the rock song. Millie, however, seemed unbothered by it, rolling down her own window to let her hair blow in the wind. In the front seat, next to Blitzo and Heather, sat Loona and Connie, who were trying their best to have a conversation despite their current environment.

"So why did you request to take tomorrow off?!" Loona asked, shouting over the music, "Did you have a doctor's appointment?!"

"I didn't tell you the good news?!" Connie blinked in surprise, "Oh shit, I must've been so excited that I forgot! Tomorrow is my first insemination procedure!"

"It is?!" the hellhound gasped, "You finally found your sperm donor?! Who is—?"

"Hold on! Holy shit!"

Blitzo shouted over his daughter, frantically turning the steering wheel and slamming his foot on the brakes. The resulting jolt elicited a shocked scream from everyone in the van, petrified that they would crash into the hot pink car that spurred Blitzo's actions. Thankfully, they did not, and the van screeched to a halt...in front of the car, which had stolen the parking space Blitzo was going for. Fuming, the imp glared at the bumper of the car, which held a license plate with the words "sucks 4 life" on it.

"Oh, you suck for life, do ya?!" Blitzo snarled, whipping out a megaphone and peering over his shoulder at the hellcat closest to him, "Heather, turn off that radio! I gotta teach this son of a bitch not to fuck with me!"

"Bloody hell..." Heather sighed, doing as directed, "Blitz, please tell me you're not picking fights over a parking spot! Can't we try asking them nicely to move first? Blitz?!"

"Listen up you unoriginal pink cum dump!" Blitzo shouted into the megaphone, "You have three goddamn seconds to get your dick outta my parking spot!"

One of the figures in the car, a tall, magenta succubus with a luxurious fur coat, exited her vehicle. She was trimmed with hearts on practically all aspects of her outfit, and had star birthmarks on both of her horns. Long, flowing pink hair, which was lighter still than her fur coat, flowed over her shoulders, and she frowned at Blitzo. It only took a moment for everyone in the van to recognize who she was, including their driver.

"Oh shit..." Blitzo spat, "Verosika?!"

It was indeed Verosika Mayday, hell's most infamous pop star. She stood in front of the van, arms crossed, while blowing a bubble with her gum, allowing it to burst before speaking.

"Blitzo," she replied, emotionlessly staring the imp down.

"I should've known you'd be here," Blitzo growled, falling out of his car door's window, "I could smell fish for miles, which is odd, because I believe the nearest ocean is three rings down!"

"And I should've known you'd be here when I heard the amber alerts," Verosika retorted, pulling out a small canteen of what could only be assumed was alcohol.

"Oh yeah?" Blitzo smirked, "I'm surprised they let your fat ass out of rehab; I can still see you're a drunken whore, clutching onto that Beelzejuice bottle like it's the last cock in hell!"

"They let me out because I'm still famous," the pop star gave her hair a cocky brush, "and rehab is for sad, looser wash-ups. So...your sister says 'hi'."

"His sister?!" Heather remarked, glancing over at Connie and Loona, "He has a sister?!"

"Yep, he has a sister," Loona rolled her eyes, "but none of us have ever seen her."

"Why are you parking here?!" Blitzo demanded through gritted teeth, "This is the only parking spot my company has, so take your tampon racecar somewhere else!"

"Actually, prick," Verosika replied sharply, pointing to the name spray-painted on the pavement, "it has my name on it. I'm doing a bit of freelance for the infinitely more successful companies in the building..."

As she continued talking, Loona leaned out the window, her eyes now glued to Verosika. Connie peered over the hellhound's shoulder, equally as mesmerized.

"No way," Loona whispered, "is that who I think it is?!"

"Yep," Connie nodded, "it definitely is. Your dad has beef with the pop sensation we went to see in concert for my eighteenth birthday."

"Is there anything else about Blitz that I should know about?" Heather sighed, "Because sometimes, I feel like I know a little too much about him..."

"Wait..." Connie gasped, watching as a hulking hellhound exited the pink car and followed Blitzo and Verosika past the van, guiding the pop star into the office building, "is that...?"

"Is what?!" Loona intrigued, "Is who what?! You know that handsome hellhound?!"

"Vortex?" the lynx-point hellcat called after him, "Vortex, is that you?"

"Connie Viotto?" the massive hellhound's ears pricked at the sound of her voice, "Hey, look who it is! Didn't expect to see you here."

"Same here!" Connie grinned, rushing past her boss to meet up with him, "It's so good to see you, Vortex!"

"You know this guy?" Blitzo gaped at his marketing manager is disbelief, while Verosika took the opportunity to make her getaway inside the building, "Okay, Connie, you have some explaining to do right now! Don't make me take away your day off."

"If you fuck up tomorrow for her, Blitz," Loona shouted at her adoptive father from her seat in the van, "I'll kick your ass!"

"Ahem!" Connie cleared her throat, drawing everyone's attention to her, "Everyone, I'd like you to meet my very special friend, Vortex! He's actually my official sperm donor, and we've already stored all the samples, but we've kept meeting up with each other ever since we signed the agreement all those months ago. We're actually pretty great friends now!"

"You wanna have a baby?!" Blitzo and Heather gasped at the same time, exchanging glances from across the parking lot.

"Yeah," Vortex shrugged, "I got into the sperm donor business because I wanted to help a lady out. I mean, I'm not sure if I really want my own kids someday, but other people do, so why not?"

"And I turned out to be that lucky lady," Connie giggled, nudging the hellhound's muscular shoulder, "pretty crazy, right? I was half-expecting to have to settle for someone with traits that I wasn't entirely fond of...but then I found you!"

"Glad I could be of service," Vortex mused, patting the hellcat on the head in an almost older-brotherly fashion, "anyway I have to get going. Verosika's waiting for me."

"Aw, really?" Connie sighed, "Well...it was a nice surprise to see you on the day before my first insemination. Thanks again for agreeing to do this, Tex. It means so much to me."

"Hey, no problem," the well-toned hellhound shot her a final smile, "make sure to send me some pictures of junior when they finally arrive, okay? I wanna see what a stunning little pup or kitten they turn out to be."

"Can do," Connie promised, waving as Vortex departed for the office, "bye, Vortex! Hope to see you soon!"

"So..." Heather intrigued, stepping out of the company van with the rest of the employees, "now that that's over...why didn't you tell us about this sooner?"

"She was self-conscious about how we would treat her," Moxxie explained, "you know, with the whole single-mom thing and all."

"What the..." Blitzo glared at him, "Moxxie, you knew about this? Did anyone else know? Show of hands. Not you, Connie, you don't count."

Millie, Moxxie, and Loona raised their hands, while Connie nervously fidgeted her black collar with one finger. Blitzo groaned, face-palming and shaking his head.

"You know, Connie," Heather assured her coworker, placing a hand on her shoulder, "you can tell us anything. We're not just coworkers, we're your friends, and we'll always be here for you."

"She's right, Connie," Blitzo added, "you're forgetting I'm a single parent, too."

"Okay, okay..." Connie caved, "but you adopted Loona. I'm having a baby from start to finish, pregnancy and all. That's so much harder than signing a few papers and calling it a day."

"That aside," Loona prompted, "you know Verosika Mayday?!"

"Huh?" Blitzo replied, "Oh, yeah, her. Yeah, we dated."

"Was it before or after she became a pop star?" Millie intrigued.

"You dated a pop star?!" Moxxie's eyes widened in disbelief.

"Come on, guys," Heather suggested, "lay off the man a little. Maybe he doesn't want to talk about it."

"Okay," Blitzo rolled his eyes at the group, "why are you all acting like that's such a shock?"

"Hello," remarked Loona, "it's Verosika Mayday?"

"It's you?" Millie added.

"I just..." Moxxie blinked, "is she blind? Suffering some form of brain damage?"

"I mean," Connie shrugged, "Blitzo did point out that she's an alcoholic."

"Okay," Blitzo growled, "you are all making this into a way bigger deal than it needs to be. I don't pry into your stupid personal lives."

"You do that all the time, sir!"

"You do."

"Fucking hypocrite..."

"Uh-huh."

"They're right."

"What was the sex with her like?" Millie smirked, prompting a look of embarrassment from her husband.

"Millie!"

"What?" the female imp shrugged, "It's a pop star! You'd wanna know what sex with Michael Crawford was like."

"Touché..." Moxxie admitted.

"Okay, look," Blitzo spat, tossing Millie the keys, "let's just drop it! Millie, find a temporary spot for the truck. Loonie, Moxxie, Nia, Heather, let's go handle this shit."

"I still get the day off tomorrow as requested, right?" Connie called after her boss.

"Fine! Whatever!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"You think they saw me?" Loona asked Connie worriedly as they exited the elevator, "Fuck, I did my makeup shitty today!"

"Aw, you look perfect, Loonie," Blitzo purred, strutting past his self-conscious daughter, "like always."

"Shut up da..." Loona hissed, pushing Blitzo away as she realized her mistake, "Uh, Blitz."

The hellhound was so preoccupied looking herself over in her makeup mirror that she didn't notice Vortex standing down the hallway, and accidentally collided with his muscular form.

"Oh," Loona muttered, blinking up at Vortex lustfully, "whoa..."

"Hello again, Vortex!" Connie greeted, patting Loona on the shoulder, "You remember my friend Loona from the parking lot, right?"

"Oh, your hellhound friend?" Vortex smiled down at her, "Yeah, I remember you, but not just from the parking lot. Connie's told me so much about you!"

"Oh, really?" Loona blinked in surprise, shooting Connie a grateful smile, "Heh...that was sweet of her..."

However, Blitzo quickly took notice of the girls' conversation with the much larger hellhound. Judging by his shocked stare propelled by sheer fatherly concern, he did not like what he saw. Thinking fast, he quickly jumped between his daughter and Vortex, glaring up at the latter.

"Hi, big man," Blitzo snarled, "where's your bitch-bag of an employer?"

"She's in her office," Vortex explained, pointing to a room across from I.M.P, which had been repurposed as a makeshift studio, "there wasn't room on the second floor, so they moved it here on this one."

"Oh come on!" Blitzo cried, exasperated.

"Heh," Vortex shrugged, casually strutting away, "sorry, man. See you ladies later. Eh, again. We keep running into each other today."

"Oh no you don't, bitch," he growled, glowering in the presence of the makeshift popstar office.

"Sir," Moxxie offered, "how about you let me go in and try to reason with her? I don't really listen to what's classified as 'pop genre' music, so their status to me is—"

"Moxxie," Blitzo snarled, "shut the fuck up."

"Translation," Heather whispered to Moxxie, "yes. He just doesn't want to listen to you talk about Broadway all day. His thoughts, not mine."

"Alrighty then," Moxxie nodded, practically skipping into the Verosika's office.

"Moxxie!" Blitzo called after him, "Don't let her touch any of your holes!"

Hardly a moment later, Moxxie emerged from Verosika's 'office', his entire face covered in lipstick residue. The group stared at him in horror, their eyes following him down the hall as he collapsed, completely rattled.

"I...I gotta go lie down...now..."

"What the fuck happened in there?!" Heather gasped, "I sure hope Millie doesn't find out about this..."

"Oh, this won't stand!" Blitzo snapped, kicking open the doors to Verosika's room, "Alright, sluts! That's it!"

"Hold on, Blitz!" Heather called after him, "I'm coming with you!"

The pair charged into the studio-esque setup, stomping past Verosika's entourage to face the pop star herself. She stared down her ex-boyfriend and his hellcat companion, a flirtatious grin overtaking her face in the most sinister way possible.

"Hey, pretty kitty," Verosika began, "what're you doing hanging around a bastard like Blitzo, huh? Did he use you, too?"

"E-excuse me?" Heather stammered, "No, of course not—"

"Come on, sweet whiskers," the succubus smirked, fluffing up Heather's cheek fur, "let Verosika show you how a woman should be treated."

At this point, Blitzo was so infuriated that it took every bone in his body not to shoot his ex dead right then and there. To think this entire mess started with a parking spot!

"You keep your damn hands off of her!" he hissed, shoving Verosika's hands away from Heather and forcing herself between the two, "She has a hard enough time finding love without you forcing it on her with your perverted, booze-stained fingers!"

"Aw, are you jealous, Blitzo?" the pop star sneered, "Jealous that I'm ripping your next victim away from you before you can seduce her like the tramp you are?"

"Alright, enough!" Blitzo retorted, "If you're gonna be shitty to my employees, then I challenge you to a fuckin'...challenge! Fuck, I said that twice."

"Mmm," a blue-haired succubus among the entourage hummed, "is this imp boy starting a demon duel?"

"I think he is!" Verosika leaned down to her ex's level, her tail curling up behind her, "What's the game, then, Blitzo?"

"Every year," Blitzo elaborated, "you STD-spreaders go up top-side for easy pickings while spring break is a prime time for crime of all kinds! So I bet you succu-bitches can't fuck as many people as we can off by the end of the day!"

At that, Verosika and her entourage burst into mocking laughter, in complete and utter disbelief of what they had just heard. Blitzo, however was dead serious, and he glared at them in a menacing stance. Heather, who had finally recovered from her flustery state, emerged from behind the imp, wearing a brave face.

"Don't laugh," she hissed, slipping into her chaotic mode and unsheathing her claws, which were now glowing a bright red, "he means it. Or should I wipe those damn smiles off your faces myself, you bloomin' drongos?"

"Oh, you're serious," Verosika mused, slowly lowering Heather's hand, "b-t-dubs, that's kinda hot, toots."

"Get fucked..." Heather growled, retracting her claws and forcing herself to calm down.

"You wish," Verosika smirked, eyeing both of the I.M.P employees, "game on, bitches."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

A few minutes later, a very vengeful Blitzo gathered his employees in I.M.P's conference room for a meeting. Heather, Millie, and Moxxie were seated on the left end of the table, while Loona and Connie mirrored the trio, still profoundly convinced that this entire situation was being blown way out of proportion.

"Alright, shut your assholes!" Blitzo spat, whipping through a series of presentation boards with various scribbles he had fabricated to introduce his plans, "Here's how we're gonna do this shit! First, we find a fuck ton of clients. We portal up. We have our fun murder time as per usual. We pile all the bodies into a big fuckin' canoe. We push said canoe into some water. We light it on fire to attract the sharks and eagles, and maybe a goose, too!"

"Sir," Connie cut him off, "where are we supposed to get a canoe big enough to hold that many bodies? And those kinds of animals are definitely not going to swarm a burning boat with dead humans in it!"

"I'm not fucking finished yet! Anyway, they come and eat the bodies, we win the bet, and we rub it in that fucking bitch's drunken whore-ass face! Now do we have any questions?"

"Uh, yeah," Moxxie raised his hand, "why was that nonsense?"

"That wasn't a question," Blitzo replied dryly, crossing his arms.

"That wasn't a plan," Moxxie retorted.

"Well," Heather piped up, "technically, it was half a plan. I mean, at the very least, he could be on to something."

"Yeah, what she said!" Blitzo nodded, "Thank you, Heather, you're my new favorite. It was a flawless presentation of what we should do, Moxxie. It's not my fault you've got a smooth little brain up there."

"A what now?" Moxxie raised an eyebrow at him, exchanging offput glances with Connie.

"Wait..." Connie remarked, "is he insulting you with your own insult? I follow your Voxtagram, Moxxie, I swear I've heard you call him that before..."

"I'm calling you slow, Moxxie," Blitzo rolled his eyes at his weapons specialist, "God, why don't you learn to take criticism, you talentless baby-dicked troll?"

"Blitz!" Heather scowled at him in disgust.

"Well why don't you take an art class?" Moxxie shot back, climbing up onto the table.

"Why don't you see how expensive they are?!" Blitzo spat in exasperation, throwing Moxxie back into his chair.

"Hey," Loona asked her adoptive father, "is there any way I can come with you guys this time?"

"If Loona's going," Connie added, "I'd like to go, too. It's been ages since I had my last kill."

"Absolutely not," Blitzo objected, "I forbid it. Not gonna happen. Sorry, sweetie, spring break is no place for young, vulnerable goth girls. You know the kind of freaks up there who'll drool all over you. Besides, Connie, don't you have some work to do around here?"

"What work?" Connie glared at him, "I busted my ass doing everything I could possibly do with the marketing department. There's nothing left to be done! You still won't allot me the funds to publish half of those things, because you keep blowing them on ridiculous bullshit that's hardly important to this company! I mean, I think I should get paid to do something!"

"Well, I can blend in with humans easy enough," Loona shrugged, "just let me tag along!"

"Wait," Blitzo instructed her, "say that again."

"I can...blend in?"

"You have a human disguise?" Millie cocked her head at the hellhound, perplexed.

"Yeah," Loona replied flatly, "don't you?"

The group exchanged embarrassed glances, aside from Heather and Connie, who had already known about the revelation long before anyone else.

"You four have been screwing around in the living world this whole fucking time..." Loona pinched the bridge of her nose, "without human disguises?!"

"Okay, new plan!" Blitzo announced, whipping out a fresh poster board, "Loonie can help lure the humans to us, and we'll take care of the rest! Okay? How about that?"

"That's...actually a good idea," Heather admitted, "well done, Loona."

"Flawless logic," Millie added, giving her best friend a wink.

"I think you're missing the biggest issue, sir," Moxxie pointed out, "isn't it crucial to have a client who demands enough kills to win this bet? We aren't just going up to massacre!"

"I got that covered, Moxxie," Blitzo snapped his fingers.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"You're going to lower our prices again?!" Connie gasped, her fur on end as she watched her boss pin a "50% off victim" poster on a nearby pole.

"Yep," Blitzo smirked, "now, we wait."

"Goddamn it!" Connie gritted her teeth, biting back her anger, "I'm never gonna be able to afford to pay off those sperm Vortex donated to me! Why does life keep giving me inconvenience after inconvenience after inconvenience when it comes to my future kid?!"

"Aw, Connie..." Heather assured her, "try not to worry yourself to death about this. Maybe all these roadblocks are coming your way for a reason? You might even appreciate some good news even more because of them."

"Easy for you to say," Connie sighed, "you're rich as hell, and you don't want kids..."

"Sir," Moxxie argued, "there is no way we're going to get enough clients by the end of the day with one horribly-spelled, bad grammar flier!"

Loona cringed at the statement, daring to glance at Connie from the corner of her eye. It was enough to make Connie's ears and tail droop in disappointment. She buried her face in her hands; muffled groaning could be heard behind them.

"Way to go, dickhead," Loona rolled her eyes at Moxxie, resting a hand on her best friend's shoulder, "she feels so much better now that you've convinced her it's hopeless."

"That wasn't my intention..." Moxxie muttered, clearly feeling guilty now that the gravity of the topic had set in.

However, in a moment's notice that could have only been the work of divine intervention (or a sheer coincidence), a crowd of eager sinners approached the flier, chattering excitedly at the great deal they had been presented with. Connie peeked through her fingers, aghast at what she was seeing. Maybe there was still hope after all.

"See?" Heather purred, removing her coworker's hands from her eyes, "That's a lot of clients, which means we'll be making some decent profits. You can't throw in the towel just yet."

"I sure hope you're right, Heather..." Connie sighed in temporary relief, "because I don't know what I'm gonna do if you're not."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Dozens of clients later, the I.M.P arrived in the living world at the exact location where the majority of their targets awaited their doomsday. It was a beautiful coastal town in the Bahamas, filled to the brim with college kids of all ages who had just started their presumably long and crime-filled spring break. It was the perfect atmosphere for naughty behavior, and an even more perfect place for unnoticeable murders. Regardless, the team hid beneath the boardwalk, scouting out the scene as the contemplated their first kill.

Rather than wearing her typical office outfit, which was likely to slow her down during the killing spree, Connie had dug out her old assassin outfit: a pink sports crop top and leggings, which, to her surprise, still fit her perfectly. The fabric was flexible and got the job done, even if it was much brighter in color than the outfits of her coworkers.

"Now remember," Blitzo reminded the group, "we can't be seen. Loose shots will likely cause a panic, so Loona can help with leading targets to a better spot to off 'em. You've got the list, Loonie. Heather, you're our lookout, so it's your job to work with her to spot our victims."

The hellhound looked over the piece of paper in her hands with Heather, exchanging a silent nod with her before emerging from behind the boardwalk. Purple energy began to flow over Loona's fur, and in a flash, she had transformed into a human. The blood red sclera of her eyes had become her iris, but she retained her haircut and clothing, minus her bushy tail.

"H-holy shit," Connie stammered, her heart skipping a beat as Loona glanced over her now-human shoulder at her, placing a hand on her hip, "H-human Loona?! You look...your hair is just...wow."

"Heh," Loona teased, bending over to lightly tap the hellcat's nose, "I'm guessing you like what you see, Nia?"

At this point, Connie's face was beet-red, and she was too flustered to respond. It didn't help that the rest of her coworkers were staring at her curiously, and it was obvious that Blitzo had caught on to the marketing manager's state of mind.

"Sure hope you don't have any wet dreams after this," the boss smirked.

"S-shut up Blitz!" Connie spat, crawling out from her hiding place to stand beside Loona, "That's fucking gross! I can't believe you would even say that out loud...and in front of her!"

"Yeah, sir," Moxxie agreed, "that was pretty inappropriate."

"Nevermind that," Heather interjected, snagging the list from Loona and tucking it into her pocket, "there's our first target!"

She was pointing to a nearby beachgoer; a long brown-haired and bare-chested man with rimless shades. Loona casually approached him while Heather lead the rest of the group to a nearby building. The tabby hellcat flexed her claws, and with a powerful bound, she latched onto the side of the structure, climbing it swiftly with a rope between her teeth. Upon reaching the top, Heather tied the rope to a pole, testing it out before lowering it and signaling for her coworkers to ascend with a flick of her wrist.

"Wow, what a woman," Blitzo mused, grasping the rope between his hands and running up the side of the building.

"What was that, sir?" Moxxie prompted.

"Nothing! Now shut the fuck up and stay focused!"

With the three imps and two hellcats finally all in position, they awaited their target. Just as planned, Loona had led him to the alleyway below the building, and hardly a minute after they had arrived, Blitzo fired his gun, delivering a bullet to the man's head. Heather gave Loona the thumbs-up, and everyone moved forward.

And thus began an afternoon of brutal slaughter. Victim after victim began to pile up; hung, kicked off of buildings, suffocated in waste bins, hit in the head with flower pots, stabbed, clubbed, shot. Before long, the group had landed several kills, and began bagging them on the beachfront.

"That's nine kills in the bag," Blitzo boasted to Heather, tying one of the literal bags the I.M.P were using to store their dead bodies, "I'd like to see that willy snatch-orgasm that many—"

"Alright, spring breakers!"

The microphone-boosted voice of Verosika Mayday broke out across the beach, and all eyes were on the shore's singular stage, where the pop star herself stood. She had transformed into her human form as well, so as to blend in with the earthly environment she was in, and was addressing the crowd in a seductive tone that nearly sent Connie and Heather over the edge. The screens on either side of Verosika were lit up with the words "fuck you Blitzo", and judging by the imp's face, he was not having it.

"Y'all ready to get fucked up and make some bitchin' bad choices?!"

The crowd of horny humans cheered, clearly familiar with the succubus in disguise. And then, as expected, Verosika began doing what she did best: singing. And as she sang, practically everyone in the crowd began rubbing up against each other like a bunch of drunk cats. To make matters worse, Verosika's entourage was busy taking advantage of the humans' orgy, swooping in to have intercourse with practically anyone they could find.

♫ Pack your bags
Sun's out
Take a Vacay babe
Take it straight to Bonetown ♫

♫ V-time, free time, baby relax
Self care, no hair, Brazilian wax
Hardtop succu-bus to the beach
Catch some rays while catching some D ♫

"Oh goddamn it!" Blitzo shouted, "that bitch started her goatish mating call! Now she's gonna win all these sex maniacs! We gotta pick things up, guys."

"Agreed," Heather nodded, wheeling around and preparing to depart, "I'll get Moxxie and Millie ready for the next target."

"We'll be ready in a second," Connie added, nudging Loona's shoulder, "right, Loonie?"

Loona didn't respond at first, prompting the hellcat to nudge her friend again. However, when Connie followed her gaze, she quickly realized why she was so distracted. Loona's gaze was locked on a tall, muscular man below the stage, who very closely resembled Vortex, including the scar on his dead left eye.

It didn't take Connie long to grasp the situation, and the instant she did, she deeply regretted it. For the first time, she could feel an unpleasant feeling spawn deep inside of her, souring her expression and making her every breath shakier by the second. It was as though her entire world had stopped spinning right then and there, and everything was moving in a painstakingly slow motion. Her heart was beating so rapidly that she could barely contain herself.

And yet, despite all that, Connie had no idea why she felt the way she did. All she knew was that her best friend had eyes for someone who was not only the hellcat's sperm donor, but her friend. Her best friend, the same hellhound who had been with her since the beginning, even before being adopted.

Clearly, Loona had taken a liking to Vortex. In a more-than-friends way.

"Oh. He's here, too," Connie broke the silence at last, "you know, we really shouldn't go near him. Blitz might blow a fuse if we ditch work to talk with his ex-girlfriend's hellhound again..."

As though she hadn't heard her friend's warning at all, Loona starting walking towards Vortex almost absent-mindedly, setting off a slew of incomprehensible emotions within Connie's heart at once. Anger, bitterness, rejection, desperation...and they kept coming. But the only thing her brain was telling her at that moment was to go after Loona, so she did.

"Loona!" Connie called after her, shoving past every drunken person in her way, "Loona, don't go! Please! Come back! Loona!"

By the time she had finally caught up with the hellhound, it was too late. She was already engaging in a conversation with Vortex, smiling and laughing along with him. Connie's entire face was on fire, but she couldn't tell whether it was from anger or the sheer embarrassment that slammed into her like a freight train.

Am I...being selfish? For wanting to stop her from having a chance at happiness? Ugh...why does watching them hurt so much?

"Hello? Earth to Connie?"

The hellcat snapped out of her thoughts, managing a smile as she recognized Vortex's voice in front of her. She released a nervous laugh, tugging at her collar self-consciously.

"Oh! Vortex. Sorry, I was kinda zoned-out for a second there."

"It's cool," Vortex assured her, "but...you looked a little sad about something. What's up?"

"Yeah, Nia," Loona added, "what's up? Are you worried about Blitz getting mad at us? Because I already told you I'd handle him if he ever started treating you like shit."

"So," Vortex prompted, "I'm guessing you two are friends?"

"Yep," Connie nodded, impulsively stepping closer to Loona, "we're best friends. We've been best friends, since childhood. Sometimes, it feels like we've known each other forever."

"Mmm," Vortex mused, "best friends, huh? You know, Connie, I saw you almost had a nosebleed after Loona here disguised herself."

"I did not!" Connie gasped, her face flushing over, "I was just...really impressed. That's all."

"Heh, that's a first," Loona rolled her eyes playfully, "hardly anyone gets 'impressed' by me."

"Well..." the hellcat muttered, tucking her hands behind her back, "I do. All the time."

"Am I...interrupting something?"

Blitzo forced himself between Vortex and the girls, glaring up at the former with a display of undeniable fatherly energy. Loona was immediately annoyed, and Connie simply stood rooted into place, secretly relieved that they had been interrupted.

"Nah, man," Vortex replied coolly, "we were just having a friendly conversation."

"And conversation leads to HPV!" Blitzo growled.

Meanwhile, not too far away, Heather, Millie, and Moxxie were eavesdropping on the conversation. At this point, they were tired of waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, and were contemplating continuing the client murders on their own.

"And we've lost him," Moxxie sighed, "it's looking like it's up to us to handle this list."

"Isn't it always?" Heather shrugged, "And there's never an in-between. We always get dragged into messes over the most mediocre bullshit. A parking spot? Blitz, I know we're friends, but you can be such a bloody fuckwit sometimes..."

"Hell yeah!" Millie grinned, pulling her husband and best friend closer to her with both arms, "Team M&M and Aussiecat gettin' shit done! Makin' the money!"

The imp couple and the hellcat bounded away to pursue more targets, while Loona, Connie, and Vortex were still engaged in their cutthroat, high-tension argument. Things were really starting to take a turn for the worse, especially between father and daughter.

"Blitz!" Loona warned, "Get the fuck out of here! You're gonna get us all into shit!"

"I just wanted to see what was so important that you'd be distracted from your job," Blitzo retorted, crossing his arms in disappointment.

"What, I can't have a break?" Loona raised an eyebrow at him in annoyance.

"We have a parking spot on the line!" Blitzo shouted, his aggravation growing by the minute.

"Hey, dude," Vortex interjected, "why don't you chill out?"

"Why don't you stay out of it!" the imp shot back, turning to his adoptive daughter, "Okay? This is our business! Literally!"

"Ugh...fuck, Blitz!" Loona snarled, "why can't you just stay out of my face for five minutes?!"

"Because I adopted you!" Blitzo growled, turning away, "And that should mean something!"

"Oh, what does it matter?!" the hellhound-turned-human shook her head in exasperation, "You're not my real dad! I was almost 18!"

"It still counts!"

"Well it shouldn't!" Loona spat, "I didn't need you then, asshole! I don't now."

At long last, Connie couldn't take it anymore. Watching a father and his daughter, adopted or not, get into an argument as personal to them as it was to her was crossing the line. She was fed up with all the noise in her head; all the noise around her, making her bad mood even worse than it was at the start of this entire situation. Not to mention the kicked-puppy expression Blitzo was making, despite having his back turned to Loona.

"You know, Loona," Connie admitted, "I didn't want to say anything at first, but I'm not gonna stand by and watch you throw your dad under the bus because you want to look 'cool'!"

"What?!" Loona snapped, "Oh, so now you're on his side?!"

"It doesn't matter whose side I'm on!" Connie shook her head, slipping into chaotic mode, "I'm not gonna stand here and watch you guys scream at each other, especially when it's about family!"

"Just stay out of this, Connie," Loona warned her, "it's not like you'd understand..."

"You're right," the hellcat hissed, "I wouldn't understand what fatherly love is like. That's why you're lucky! Blitz would accept you no matter what your sexuality was! He'd accept you even if you wanted to have a baby as a single mother, no questions asked! He loves you for who you are, and nothing you do or say can ever deter him!"

"Connie, I'm sorry that your parents disowned you because of all of that," Loona sighed, "but I don't understand why my relationship with Blitzo is so important to you!"

"It's important to me because you're taking advantage of the feeling I've always wanted!" Connie continued, "He loves you, Loona. Unconditionally, fully, and honestly! I would kill to have Blitzo, or anyone at all, to care about me the way he cares about you. Because no one in my life does!"

"Oh, bullshit!" Loona glared at her, furious, "Practically everyone else we work with cares about you! And you know that I do, too!"

"No!" the hellcat shook her head, "I mean I don't have anyone in my life who loves me! Really, truly loves me. There's a huge difference between just caring about someone in general and caring about someone the way your dad does! And you get to have that every single day!"

"Oh, and speaking of love," Loona barked, "I heard you trying to stop me from talking to Vortex. Back when I first realized he was here. Was it really because you were worried about Blitzo yelling at us, or was it because you wanted your 'sperm donor' all to yourself?!"

"Don't drag him into this!" Connie gasped, motioning to Vortex with her tail, "Besides, I'm not romantically attracted to him at all! That's impossible!"

"Why is it impossible?!"

"Because my parents were right and I AM a fucking lesbian, okay?!"

The declaration seemed to echo across the waterfront, and for a moment, it felt like all eyes were on Connie. Even Moxxie, Millie, and Heather heard her shout from their place on a nearby building, their jaws dropping to the floor. Connie hadn't just come out of the closet—she had been dragged out, kicking and screaming, all because of one accidental burst of blind desperation. The worst part was, she wasn't even close to ready to share that part of her life with anyone, let alone her coworkers.

All it took to break Connie's overflowing dam of emotions was one glance at Blitzo's concerned expression. Her boss never let his emotions show in public. Never.

"Wait..." Loona murmured, her eyes widening as she slowly pieced it together, "so that means...oh, fuck. Connie—"

"I don't wanna talk about it anymore!" Connie choked out, her black-stained eyes already overflowing with tears, "Stop being a jackass and grow the hell up! Now leave me the fuck alone!"

She turned tail and bolted, her feet pounding against the sand as she made a beeline for the boardwalk. She could hear Loona calling her name behind her, but she didn't care. The last person Connie wanted to see at that moment was her, even if they were best friends. She might not have confessed any feelings to Loona in particular, but regardless, she was extremely embarrassed and needed some time to cool off.

It's not like she's gonna miss me anyway...

Not too far away, Moxxie, Millie, and Heather had gotten back to work, wracking up a solid 20 kills in less than ten minutes. They were now hiding on a table behind a row of kegs, where a mass of drunk, disorderly college students were in a sense busy making as many bad decisions as humanly possible. However, it was obvious that killing the target would be no easy feat...especially since he was weaving among the crowd, and couldn't for the life of him stand still, even just for a moment.

"Alright, we're down to the final target," Heather noted enthusiastically, "Mox and Mills, you know what to do."

The imp couple nodded, exchanging a quick kiss before Moxxie accepted his gun from Millie. The former leaned over the row of kegs in a sniper position, ready to wipe the the final target on the list of kills. However, the group of young adults had grown so rowdy that one of them had resorted to flipping the table, sending the imps and hellcat hiding on top of it flying. Unfortunately, Moxxie landed in view of a group of beachgoers, unintentionally spooking a woman among them.

"Ugh!" the woman recoiled in disgust, "Oh my God, it's a fucking possum!"

"I got it!"

The same man who had flipped the table proceeded to dunk Moxxie inside of one of the kegs...which also happened to be filled to the brim with some of the college kids' beer supply. Completely unaware of what had just happened to her husband, Millie emerged from a nearby sand dune, stifling a giggle as she found Heather's butt sticking out of the sand.

"Are you alright there, sugarcube?" the imp asked, dragging her best friend out by her legs.

"I think so," Heather sighed, shaking out her fur, "wait...I feel like we're missing something..."

"Or someone..." Millie nodded, frantically glancing around the waterfront.

It was then that they spotted Moxxie's gun in the sand, and a wave of panic rushed over them. In a matter of seconds, the pair came to the same conclusion.

"Where's Moxxie?!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Connie!" Loona shouted, strolling through the alleyways of the coastal town, "Are you around here somewhere?! Connie!"

"Connie!" Vortex chimed in, scanning the buildings as the pair walked past them.

The two had been searching the entire waterfront ever since Connie had run off, in hopes of reconciling with the hellcat, but to no avail. It was almost as though she had vanished in thin air; she left no signs of her anywhere, and even Loona and Vortex's enhanced eyesight couldn't locate her. If guilt hadn't already settled into Loona, it sure as hell was hitting now.

"I never should've snapped at her," Loona sighed, "sure, we have our differences, but she's still my best friend! I didn't mean to make her cry...and I sure as hell didn't mean to bring her sexuality out into the open..."

"Hey, don't beat yourself up about it," Vortex assured her, "sometimes, shit slips off your tongue before you can even think. It happens to everyone at one point or another. But that doesn't mean it's too late to apologize."

"If she even wants to hear it," Loona muttered.

"Well," Vortex advised, "if her friendship really means a lot to you, then it's worth a shot, don't you think? Besides, if you ask me, I'd say Connie really likes you. She'd probably appreciate an apology more than you might think."

"When you say 'really likes me'," Loona intrigued, folding her arms as her face started heating up, "do you mean, like, as a friend? Or something else?"

"Who knows?" the taller male shrugged, "My girlfriend and I were best friends for a really long time before we started dating. Sometimes, you just have to go all in, you know? See where life takes you."

"I shouldn't be surprised someone like you has a girlfriend," Loona replied, "thanks, Vortex."

"Don't mention it," Vortex nodded, pointing to a rope dangling from a nearby building, "you think Connie might be up there?"

"Maybe," Loona shrugged, "I guess I'll take it from here. See you around?"

"See you around."

Loona smiled and nodded at him, gripping the rope and slowly ascending the building. Upon reaching the top, she peered over the edge to see if Connie really was present, although she wasn't expecting to find her. To her surprise, she found the hellcat sitting in the farthest corner of the roof, her knees pressed to her face.

"Connie..."

Loona took a deep breath, climbing onto the roof and transforming back into her hellhound self before slowly approaching the hellcat. Wordlessly, she settled down next to Connie, her ears flicking nervously. She could hear muffled sniffling coming from between the hellcat's legs, occasionally breaking the silence that hung in the air above the two. Eventually, Connie spoke, her voice ragged from crying.

"I know you're there, Loona."

"I thought you did," the hellhound sighed, "listen, Connie...we need to talk. About what happened back on the beach."

"Why would you still wanna talk to me?" Connie murmured, lifting her eyeliner-stained face from her legs to glance over at Loona, "Don't you hate me for all the shit I said?"

"What?" Loona shook her head, scooting the hellcat into her lap, "No, of course not. What makes you think that?"

"I yelled at you over my own daddy issues," she replied solemnly, "I came out of the closet at the worst possible time, and now I probably look like a total bitch. I tried to stop you from hanging out with Vortex because I was scared of losing you..."

"Wait, wait. You were scared of losing me?"

Connie sighed, swiveling in Loona's lap to face her. She could tell that the hellhound wasn't expecting to hear her say those words, but she wanted to hear why nevertheless; her cheeks were dusted with a light shade of pink, and her ears stood on end, patiently awaiting an explanation from her best friend.

"Yes," Connie admitted, "I was. I didn't understand what I was feeling at the moment, but now that I've really thought it over, it's starting to make sense. You're my closest friend, Loona; so close that you're almost like family to me. And I thought that if you and Vortex hit it off..."

She paused, not realizing that she had starting crying again until she felt Loona's hand press against her right cheek, caressing it and wiping away the fresh stream of tears pouring down the side of her face.

"I was scared that you wouldn't need me around anymore," Connie continued, her voice cracking, "and you would leave and forget all about me like my parents did and—"

"Oh, Connie," Loona assured her, "is that what you were so worried about this whole time? I promise you, I would never do that."

"Y-you're sure?" the hellcat stammered, leaning into Loona's touch.

"Of course," Loona nodded, her thumb gliding across Connie's cheek, "remember what I said after we escaped from Loo Loo Land? You're my best friend, and the only one I have. I'm not going anywhere. So...you're stuck with me, whether you like it or not. Okay?"

Connie giggled at the hellhound's flirtatious comment, sniffling for a final time before she finally pulled herself together.

"So we're good?"

"Yeah, we're good," Loona mused, a warm smile overtaking her worried expression, "there it is. There's that fucking adorable little smile of yours."

"Oh, shut up," Connie playfully rolled her eyes at the hellhound, "you're such a big-ass softie."

"Yeah, but I'm your big-ass softie."

"Ugh...I can never stay mad at you for long. It's no wonder why."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Where is he?!" Heather muttered, digging through a pile of discarded beer kegs, "We've looked over practically the entire fucking beach! He has to be here somewhere!"

"Well, there's only one way to find out," Millie replied, "keep looking!"

The pair continued their search for their missing coworker, sifting through several empty containers and packages that the college kids had left behind. Just when it seemed as though all hope was lost, the purple keg next to Millie briefly shook, and the southern belle assassin gasped, realizing what this could mean.

"Heather!" she called for her hellcat companion, "Come quick! I think he's in here!"

"They really locked him in a keg?!" Heather shook her head in disbelief, bounding over to help Millie dump the liquid-filled container, "This is why I hate humans."

Thankfully, with their combined strength, the two were able to tip the keg over. The good news? Moxxie was, in fact, in the container, and he was still alive. The bad news? He was utterly and hopelessly inebriated.

"Moxxie?!" Millie gasped, watching as her husband washed onto the beach, along with the rest of the beer in the keg.

"Miiiillieeeeeeee!" Moxxie slurred, rolling onto his back in a drunken haze, "Hi. Hey, hey when did you get four heads? I wanna kiss 'em."

"Yep," Heather noted flatly, "he's completely pissed."

"Pissed?" Millie remarked, "He looks pretty happy to me."

"No, no," the hellcat tried to explain, giving up halfway through, "it's Australian slang for—oh, nevermind. The point is, there's no way he's gonna be able to fire a gun in this condition."

"Oh heyyyyyyyy, Heather," Moxxie giggled, attempting to wave at her, "your fur looks suuuper fluffy right now. Can I pet it? Pleaaaase?"

"Oh!" Millie squealed, "Can I pet you, too?"

"What?" Heather raised an eyebrow at her, "You can't be serious, Millie."

But she most definitely was. Before the tabby hellcat could object any further, both imps were latched onto her, stroking her thick, fluffy fur in all directions. Heather simply rolled her eyes, facepalming, knowing full well that there was no stopping them.

That is, until the entire beach began quivering beneath their feet.

Mere moments later, a blast of water erupted over the beach, revealing a gigantic, horrifyingly mutated fish. It towered over the beachgoers, who immediately stopped their lustful orgy to stare at the fish monster in horror. Even Verosika Mayday and her entourage seemed terrified of what had emerged from the ocean, and as everyone around them began to scream and run away, it was clear that this creature meant business.

"Cor strewth!" Heather gasped, gripping her head in astonishment, "What is that?!"

"Oooooh," Moxxie replied, pointing at the massive creature, "fish."

Unfortunately, the fish monster took notice of the easy prey by the water's edge, and its tongue shout out of its snag-toothed maw, coiling it around Moxxie like a snake and lifting him off the beach. The drunk imp was unphased, giggling beneath the fish's constrictive grasp until its jaws clamped shut, as Heather and Millie watched in horror.

"Bloody shit," Heather spat, "now what do we do?!"

"Hmmm..." Millie pondered, glancing over Heather's shoulder at a vodka-chugging beachgoer, "wait, isn't that the last target?!"

"Now that you mention it, yes!" the hellcat gasped, snapping her fingers, "Hey Mills, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Wombat-Toppler?" Millie smirked, whipping out a switchblade.

"Wombat-Toppler," Heather nodded, unsheathing her claws.

Thinking quickly, Millie stabbed the man in the back and snatched his vodka bottle, giving Heather time to rip off a huge hunk of his shirt. She handed it to her best friend, revealing a lighter as Millie slipped the fabric into the half-empty bottle. In a single, swift motion, Heather set the cloth on fire, hurling the makeshift Molotov at the giant fish monster's midsection.

Sure enough, the bottle exploded upon impact, easily toppling the creature long enough for Heather and Millie to act. Unbeknownst to the duo, Blitzo was watching from a safe distance, having just finished packing up the body they'd left behind.

"Damn," he remarked, his eyes locked on Heather as she and Millie latched onto the rising fish kaiju, "look at that spicy feline go!"

"Pry its jaws open!" Heather instructed her imp coworker, digging her claws into the fish's flesh, "I've got your back!"

"On it!" Millie nodded, using her switchblade to ascend to the fish monster's mouth.

The hellcat pounced, using her powerful legs to propel her up the fish's scaly backside, with help from the grip her claws allotted her. With a final leap, Heather had made it to the top of the monster's head, just as Millie had arrived below the its bottom lip. The pair began tugging its mouth in opposite directions, prying open the beast's mouth wide enough to reveal Moxxie, who was lazily punching its uvula.

"Get him out of there!" Heather grunted through gritted teeth, "Hurry! I don't know how much longer we can hold this thing!"

Millie obeyed, reaching for Moxxie's hand inside the creature's mouth, only to receive a high-five from her husband instead. The female imp rolled her eyes, gripping Moxxie's wrist and yanking him towards her. At long last, she was able to chop off the fish's tongue, sending both it and the drunk assassin entangled in it flying towards the beach...causing the fish to trap her in its mouth in his place. Although Blitzo was preoccupied watching Heather, he managed to catch Moxxie bridal-style, while the tongue remnants landed atop another beachgoer, killing him.

"Millie!" Heather gasped, slashing away at the fish kaiju's face with sharpened claws, "Spit her out, you oversized cock!"

The monster only began thrashing about more, roaring in pain as it was attacked inside and out; Millie was busy throwing punches from inside its mouth. Upon realizing this, a lightbulb went off in Heather's brain, and instantaneously, she figured out how to save Millie and take down the aquatic beast once and for all. It was a risky idea, but crazy enough that it just might work.

Taking a deep breath, Heather performed a nimble backflip off the side of the mutated fish's head, digging her claws into its flesh and tearing it on her way down. The vast opening torn into the creature's cheek granted Millie the perfect opportunity through which to escape, and she did, sliding down the back of the heavily-bleeding giant and into the ocean. In the nick of time, Heather retracted her claws, landing in the water and swimming after Millie. Together, they swam their way back to the shore, lugging their soaked bodies onto the beach.

"Oh yeah!" Blitzo smirked, eyeing Heather, "Way to show off, Heather! You too, Mills."

"Thanks, Blitz," Heather gasped for breath, shaking out her fur, "whew. What a workout."

"Is Mox okay?!" Millie asked in a panic.

"Oh, yeah," Blitzo muttered, dropping Moxxie onto the sand, "he's fine."

Millie rushed over to her still very much intoxicated husband, scooping him into her arms and giggling in relief. Moxxie gazed up at her with the dopiest grin anyone in the group had ever seen, casually slurring a response.

"This is funny. I'm sooooo...drinky."

"Okay, this is too wholesome for my liking," Blitzo huffed, folding his arms and shooting Heather an amused face, "that aside, Heather, you were magnificent out there. A real badass."

"Hmm, really?" the hellcat mused, blushing a little at the comment, "Well...thank you. Do you think we'll get back home in time for my date tonight?"

"Oh," Blitzo's face fell, "a date?"

"Yeah," Heather elaborated, "I've been wanting to get back on the dating scene for a while now, so I signed up for this app called Kindl. I finally got my first match yesterday! See?"

She dug her (apparently waterproof) phone out of her pocket, opening the app and showing Blitzo a photo of a goth-as-hell tusked sea lion demon with black trident tattoos on his left arm. The imp bit back a sigh of disappointment, but managed to keep a straight face, giving Heather an encouraging thumbs-up.

"That's...really great, Heather," Blitzo lied through his teeth, "maybe I should try that app sometime. Kindl, right?"

"Blitzo!"

Verosika Mayday's voice sounded behind the imps and hellcat, and they wheeled around to face her and her entourage, glaring at them viciously.

"Oh perfect," Blitzo remarked sarcastically, "That must be the whores!"

"That was handled rather…" Verosika paused for impact, raising an eyebrow at the group, "obvious, don’t you think?"

"I don’t think this belonged to any of us," Millie retorted, twirling an empty Beelzejuice bottle on her finger before tossing it to Verosika, "Would be a shame if anyone found out you guys were behind a giant monster fish in the human world."

"She's got a point," Heather added, dragging a finger with an unsheathed claw in a slash motion across her throat, "even worse, if any humans found out you were hosting a concert on the beach where all this...unfortunate carnage occurred, I wonder who they'd suspect first?"

"Oh Satan!" Moxxie erupted into a fit of maniacal laughter, "You'd all be so fucked!"

"Yeah, well," Verosika countered, "you three nasty-ass gremlins and your sexy kitty coworker will be in shit for not being in disguises."

"A human called me a possum," Moxxie slurred, face-planting into the sand at the disguised succubus's feet, "I am not a possum."

"You know," Blitzo offered, slyly pushing Moxxie aside with his foot, "we could keep this little B movie scene on the down-low if you agree to let us use that parking space."

"Fine," Verosika snapped, clearly pissed off by her loss.

"We fucking won!" Blitzo cackled, smugly walking past his ex-girlfriend and her crew, "In your face, bitch!"

"Fuck yeah!" Millie grinned, scooping Moxxie off the ground and high-fiving Heather with her free hand.

"Who's giving the arse to who now?!" Heather spat at Verosika, "Crack a fat, you dirty cunt!"

"What the fuck does that even mean?!" Verosika shrugged, clearly disgusted, "Ugh! Come on, let’s find Tex and get out of here..."

At that point, Loona arrived on the beach, still in her hellhound form, having transformed back before reconciling with Connie. She now carried her hellcat best friend in her arms princess-style, which immediately caught their coworkers' eyes.

"I'm guessing you two made up?" Blitzo prompted, raising an eyebrow at them, "Judging by Connie's smudged eyeliner, I'm guessing there was touchy-feely stuff involved."

"What?" Loona blushed, setting Connie back on her feet, "We...that's not...it's none of your fucking business."

"Eh, whatever," Blitzo shrugged, jumping into a portal to hell with his other employees, "it's not like I care about that shit anyway. Come on, Loonie-toony! Let’s go back and park our fat fucking car in our fat fucking space!"

"Well," Connie mused, after she was sure her boss had left, "I don't know about you, 'Loonie-toony', but I've had a long-ass day."

"Ugh, yeah..." Loona agreed, "today was the worst."

"Hey, why don't you come over to my place?" Connie suggested, "We could order some takeout and watch a movie together. Maybe have a sleepover?"

"Mmm," the hellhound hummed, "that could be fun. Okay, I'm in. Just let me pick up a pair of pajamas at my house first."

"Sounds like a plan," Connie nodded, "I'll get cleaned up while I wait for you. Seriously, my makeup is a mess."

"You still look pretty cute to me..." Loona muttered.

"What was that, Loonie?"

"Oh, nothing. Just thinking out loud. Come on, Nia, let's go back to the office before Blitz notices we're gone."

Loona subconsciously swished her tail to wrap around Connie's waist, leading her to the portal and jumping in with a strangely warm feeling in her face. It was probably nothing to worry about; besides, she'd faced more than enough difficult feelings for one day.

Meanwhile, Verosika and her entourage, still in their human forms, were preparing to depart for hell as well. Unfortunately, before they could take another step, they were promptly halted by a police squad, who surrounded them with loaded guns. The group of disguised succubi and their hellhound huddled together in fear, their eyes darting to Verosika for guidance.

"Put your hands up, you sick deviants!" a policeman instructed, shouting the order through a handheld megaphone.

"Alright, sluts," the pop star grimaced, doing as she was told, "get ready to suck a lot of pig dick."

The rest of the entourage sighed, putting their hands up as directed. Not only had they lost their parking spot, but there was a slight possibility that they would lose their dignity, too. There would definitely be no easy way out of this.

Chapter Text

"Hey, does anyone know where Heather is?" Blitzo intrigued, nudging open the door to the lounge with his elbow, an iced coffee in either hand, "I made it to happy hour at the Hot Head Café down the street and bought her a little something."

"Of course you bought her something..." Loona muttered, flipping through a copy of Hellhound Monthly magazine.

"I bought you one too~"

The imp handed one of the drinks to Loona. According to the label, it had three pumps of vanilla, which was Loona's preferred flavoring. Three pumps exactly, no more, no less. The hellhound smiled a little at this, quietly accepting the beverage and taking a sip through the straw poked in the top.

"Oh, you're wondering where Heather is?" Millie piped up, in response to Blitzo's original question, "I think she's in her office."

"She's been...uncharacteristically quiet in there," Moxxie remarked, "I haven't heard a word from her all day."

"None of us have," Connie added, "which is kinda weird, especially since today is Hellentine's Day. And it's common knowledge that every year on that holiday, she spends the last few hours of work raving about how excited she is for her special evening plans."

"Should we be worried?" Millie prompted, exchanging unsure glances with her husband.

"Oh, come on," Blitzo insisted, "I'm sure Heather's fine. She's probably just sorting through the rest of the client files from our little 'bet' with my drunken whore of an ex-girlfriend."

"Well," Connie admitted, shrugging, "we did have a lot of clients come to us for a cheap kill over the course of spring break. So there's a chance he could be right this time around."

"Exactly, Connie," her boss winked, "she's probably hard at work in there, just finishing up her share of the paperwork for the weekend!"

"Don't say we didn't warn you," Loona muttered, flipping to the next page of her magazine.

Blitzo shook off his adoptive daughter's comment, casually strolling down the hallway, past his own office and Millie's towards Heather's. It was about three rooms down, sandwiched between Moxxie and Connie's quarters. Loona didn't have an office due to her sitting arrangement at the lounge area's receptionist desk, and with fewer occupied spaces came more room for other amenities, like the employee locker room, which also happened to be just a few paces to the right of Connie's designated space.

The imp approached Heather's office quietly, knocking on her door with his free hand. There was no answer at first; in fact, there was barely a response at all, aside from the sound of brief scuffling behind the wooden barrier, which prompted Blitzo to pound on the door yet again, this time with an additional comment.

"Heather! Are you in there? It's Blitz."

Again, there was no answer. At this point, there were only two thoughts running through Blitzo's head: either Heather wasn't in her office at the moment, or she was, and something wasn't right. Hoping that the former was true, the imp slowly pried open the door, announcing his presence as he entered the office. He smiled as he noticed Heather sitting behind her desktop computer, although her face was obscured by the monitor.

"Hey, Heather!" Blitzo greeted, striding over to her desk and setting down the iced coffee, "Guess what I brought you! It's an iced mocha four-by-four, your...favorite..."

He trailed off the second he got a better view of the hellcat's face. Her cheek was pressed to her left hand, and she clicked through a few files on her computer with a kicked puppy expression. It was completely and utterly undeniable that something—or someone—had been upsetting Heather, assumedly all day, based on what the other I.M.P employees had noted.

And to Blitzo, that wouldn't stand. Especially on Hellentine's Day.

"O-oh, hi Blitz," Heather stammered, faking a smile as she caught his stare, "sorry, I was just organizing a few things. Did you need to talk to me?"

Blitzo's gaze softened, radiating concern. He rotated Heather's chair towards him, patting her right hand with his gloved left one.

"Well, I do now," the imp nodded, "what's going on, huh?"

"Thanks, Blitz," the hellcat sighed, taking a sip of her iced coffee, "I appreciate the thought, but...I'm fine, really."

"Aw, you can tell me anything, Heather," Blitzo assured her, lifting her chin to face him with the arrowhead tip of his long, flexible tail, "you know that. So...what's wrong?"

"Oh, alright," Heather caved, prompting her friend to remove his tail from her face, "I guess I'm just disappointed because my Hellentine's Day date changed his mind about wanting to go out with me tonight."

"Your date ditched you?"

"Yeah," the hellcat replied, rolling her eyes, "I guess he just lost interest."

"Fucking dick..." Blitzo muttered, "he didn't deserve you anyway. But...if it makes you feel any better, I don't have anything to do tonight, either."

"Really?" Heather raised an eyebrow at him, surprised, "You don't have any plans with Loona?"

"Well..." the imp shrugged, "it's kinda hard to spend some quality daddy-daughter time with her nowadays. She's been hanging out with Connie a lot more than usual lately, especially since the parking space fiasco. It's like every time I turn around, she's either on the phone with the lady or getting ready to leave the house to do Satan-knows-what with her."

"You have a fair point," Heather admitted, "I think everyone around here is starting to notice. So they're hanging out today?"

 "Yep. I overheard Connie inviting my Loonie over to her place to watch that sitcom Barks and Recreation tonight. Knowing those two, they're probably having a sleepover."

"Lucky them," the red tabby hellcat sighed, longingly closing out of Voxgle on her computer, "it's too bad I don't have anyone else to casually celebrate Hellentine's Day with. Millie already has plans for a fancy homemade dinner with Moxxie, so my backup plan is basically fucked."

"Hmm..." Blitzo pondered aloud, snapping his fingers as his thoughts suddenly comprised a solution, "well, since we're both shit outta luck on this stupid holiday, what if you and I had a little fun tonight?"

"Us?" Heather glanced at him hesitantly, "I don't know, Blitz. I was really looking forward to my date...I'm just not sure if I could enjoy myself. What if I drag down your mood, too?"

"Hey," the imp persisted, reaching for both of Heather's hands and pulling the hellcat to her feet, "not to pull the whole 'I know how you feel' bullshit on you or anything like that, but I've been there. Believe me, I've had my fair share of being ditched. Uh, but most of the time, it happened during the actual date, and not before."

"Ouch..." Heather remarked, her ears drooping a little at the notion, "I'm sorry, Blitz. That sounds really awful."

"Yeah, it wasn't fun," Blitzo continued, "but I know for a fact that if I had had someone there to drag my ass outside and do something with me to take my mind off things, I would've felt a lot better. A little less alone, at least. I guess what I'm trying to say is...can I do that for you?"

The hellcat's gaze flickered up to meet her friend's. The imp staring back at her was perhaps the most sincere version of him that she had ever seen, and her face melted into a guilty smile. There was no point in saying no to Blitzo, especially when he was looking at her with such a hopeful expression.

"Oh, alright," Heather caved at last, "what have I got to lose?"

"Yes!" Blitzo grinned, pumping his fist in accomplishment, "I knew you'd come around, Heather! Okay, here's what we're gonna do. After I drop you off at your house, I'll drive everyone else home, and you can use that time to get changed into something more comfortable. When I'm ready, I'll come pick you up, and we can get this show on the road!"

"Okay," Heather nodded, "but just so we're clear, for the record, this is not a replacement date. I'm not in the mood for something like that, for obvious reasons."

"Oh, of course," Blitzo replied, already heading out the door, "I wasn't even thinking of that. All the lovey-dovey bullshit on Hellentine's Day is fucking overrated, anyway. No romance here, just two friends stickin' it to tradition!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Well, Blitz did say to change into something comfortable. I mean, how much more comfortable can you get than this?

Heather looked herself over in the mirror one last time, running her fingers through the tuft of fur on her forehead. She had opted to wear a fuzzy purple sweater and faded blue jeans, with black heeled boots for good measure. Just in case the outfit looked a little too casual on her.

"I think I'm ready."

She could feel her right pocket buzzing from the subtle vibration of her phone's notification alert, and she dug it out, scrolling through her messages. Even before she opened the text she had just received, Heather knew it was Blitzo, due to the horrible spelling she'd briefly scanned over on the lock screen.

blitzorodeo: hey heathwr r u rdy? i'm outsde

shrimps0n_thebarbie: Hi Blitz, I'll be right out :)

Heather took a deep breath, slipping her phone back into her jeans and exiting the first floor bathroom. Despite the fact that Blitzo had just texted her, she could hear him spamming her doorbell like an impatient pizza delivery man (they were more common in hell than one might think). The hellcat rolled her eyes, trudging down the vast hallway to answer it.

"Sweet Satan, Blitz!" she called after him, "Hold your horses! I'm coming."

Heather pried open her front door of her mansion, revealing a derp-faced Blitzo, who stopped ringing the doorbell upon noticing the hellcat staring at him. To her surprise, the imp was wearing an oversized pink sweatshirt over a black tank top, rather than his usual torn coat and red undershirt. Other than that, the rest of his uniform remained. The outfit, which didn't fully cover Blitzo's right shoulder, prompted a smile from Heather, who found the temporary change in his outfit to be quite adorable.

"Nice sweatshirt," Heather remarked absent-mindedly.

"Huh? Oh, this?" Blitzo mused, glancing down at his sweatshirt, "It's just something I threw on. Don't get me wrong, I hate Hellentine's Day, but it's an excuse to wear pink, sooo...I'll take what I can get. You look nice in purple, too."

"Thanks," the tabby hellcat replied calmly, "so...what did you have in mind? For tonight, I mean."

"Mmm, I don't know," Blitzo hummed, motioning to the I.M.P van, which he'd parked in front of the mansion's garage, "why don't we go for a little drive and scout out some ideas?"

"Sure," Heather shrugged nonchalantly, "I'm in no rush."

"Great! I'll go unlock the doors for you."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Bravado

♫ All my life I've been fighting a war
I can't talk to you or your friends
It's not only you ♫

The I.M.P van cruised through Pentagram City in a surprisingly non-sporadic fashion; Blitzo had opted to drive slower, so as to give Heather a better view of her options as they drove along. The pair skimmed over the various shops and clubs that lined the streets. All was silent in the vehicle, aside from the radio.

♫ My heart jumps around when I'm alluded to
This will not do
'Cause I was raised up
To be admired, to be noticed ♫

Although it was one of Heather's favorite songs, something felt off when she listened to it more closely. For some reason, she couldn't help but notice how depressing the lyrics were...especially because of her missed date, not to mention her overall romantic life. Upon realizing how much she could relate to the song, the hellcat found herself slipping into an even more disheartened mood than before.

♫ But when you're withdrawn, it's the closest thing
To assault when all eyes are on you
This will not do ♫

♫ I'm faking glory
Lick my lips, toss my hair
And turn the smile on
And the story's brand new
But I can take it from here
I'll find my own bravado ♫

Each word jabbed at Heather like a white-hot poker; she could feel the emotional pain throbbing away inside her with every heartbeat. Before she knew it, her eyes were flooding with tears, spilling over as she began to sing along. Her voice broke halfway through each line, catching Blitzo's attention. He glanced over at her from the corner of his eye, concerned.

♫ It's a switch flipped
It's a pill tipped back, it's a moon eclipse, whoa
And I can tell you that
When the lights come on, I'll be ready for this ♫

"Heather?" Blitzo intrigued worriedly, "Are you okay over there?"

♫ It's in your bloodstream
A collision of atoms that happens before your eyes
It's a marathon run
Or a mountain you scaled without thinking of size ♫

Heather sniffled, still soldiering through the chorus, even if she was on the verge of losing it.

♫ I was frightened of
Every little thing that I thought was out to get me down
To trip me up and laugh at me, but
I learned not to want
The quiet of a room with no-one around to find me out
I want the applause, the approval
The things that make me go, "Oh" ♫

At the ending "oh", the dam finally broke. Heather sobbed along with the held syllable, prompting Blitzo to steer the van into a nearby parking lot and pull over. He turned off the ignition, silencing the radio and the song along with it before glancing over at the crying hellcat. Her eyes were smudged with runny mascara; she furiously swiped away at them, noticing that her friend had stopped driving.

"I-I'm so sorry B-Blitz, I can't—"

"Hey, no no no no," the imp shushed her, presenting her with some tissues with his tail, "don't be. Here."

"T-thanks..." Heather sniffled, practically pressing her face into them, "Blitz...I'm sorry I ruined—"

She was cut off by one of the warmest, most comforting hugs she'd ever received. Even if Blitzo was significantly lankier than she was, his widely-proportioned hands made up for it, cradling the small of Heather's back. She didn't object.

"I already told you," Blitzo hummed, gently working his palms over the hellcat's sweater, "it's okay. You're not the only one who needs a good cry every once in a while."

"...thank you..."

The two sat in the parking lot for a while, hugging and savoring a moment away from the rest of Hell. While everyone else in the city was out getting hammered, lusting over a stripper, or copulating in their bedrooms, among other Hellentine's Day activities, the imp and hellcat enjoyed the silence.

They didn't need to celebrate such a commercialized holiday in a flamboyant manner. And it wasn't like they wanted to, either, especially in Heather's heartbroken state.

"You feeling a little better now?" Blitzo intrigued, pulling away at last.

Heather nodded, throwing her used tissues into the van's mini waste bin.

"You wanna get out of here? Maybe go hang out at my place? There won't be anyone else there for the rest of the night."

"Mmm," the red tabby hellcat murmured, "I guess."

"Alrighty then," Blitzo agreed, turning the ignition once more, "that's where we're headed. I have some makeup wipes for you when we get there, if you want to clean up a little."

The car roared to life, and the radio turned back on, this time playing a much less depressing melody. The imp pulled the van back onto the road, making a U-turn onto a neighboring road. As they drove along, the song faded out, and a much more hardcore rock tune replaced it, filling the car with its fiery opening.

"Hey..." Blitzo acknowledged, immediately recognizing it, "is that...?"

"Mustang Dong?" Heather blinked in surprise, "Huh. Never thought I'd hear that one again."

"Oh, that was perfect timing!" the imp gasped, grinning at Heather, "Do you know what this means, Heather?!"

"I don't have to sit through another sad song?"

"Well, yeah," Blitzo shrugged, "but it also means you can vent that frustration towards the asshole that ditched you! It's the perfect revenge song!"

Although Heather was hesitant to agree with Blitzo, he started singing along to Mustang Dong himself, turning up the volume a few notches and striking a rock pose with his right hand.

♫ You were the little spicy little demon with the bleach blonde hair
Fiendin' for some semen when I caught your stare
Thought it might be love but you went too far
Fucked all of my friends and blew up my car ♫

The way Blitzo was obnoxiously belting out the lyrics, with no care as to the timing of each word, unexpectedly brought a smile to Heather's face. She quickly caved to her friend's carefree spontaneity, chiming in to the second set of verses.

♫ Lit me on fire, made me watch rom-coms
Made a secret sex tape and showed it to my mom
You were a bitch kinda generally
Now I'm a wet wild stallion and I'm running free ♫

For the first time that day, Heather could feel her spirits lifting; the dejected fog that seemed to enshroud her thoughts faded away, leaving her with a realization that she had never fathomed before that particular moment: maybe missing her date wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Maybe, just maybe, she would have rather spent Hellentine's Day with Blitzo anyways.

The hellcat exchanged an excited glance with the imp next to her, the revelation still fresh in her mind as she finished off the song with him as they sped off down the highway.

♫ You stepped on my nuts and you tore me apart
Slapped up my booty and tangled my farts
Cut off my dick when you shattered my heart
But it grew back twice as long
MUSTANG DONG ♫

Chapter Text

"So..." Connie prompted Millie, skimming through a rack of crop tops, "how was your dinner date with Moxxie last night?"

The hellcat and imp coworkers were on a shopping spree at the Pentagram City Mall the day after Hellentine's Day. They had bought lunch in the food court, and were now visiting several of the stores around the building. It was almost a mini "girls' day" in one form or another; they were doing it to catch up with each other while having a little fun. Currently, the two were at the outfitter 6 & 3rd Avenue, looking at the women's section.

"Oh, it was lovely!" Millie chirped, "He lit pretty lil' candles all around the kitchen an' made filet mignon for the both of us! It was sooo romantic~...but enough about me. How was your sleepover with Loona, Nia?"

"You heard about that, huh?" Connie replied, smiling modestly, "It was really nice. We just watched some Parks and Recreation together; nothing special."

"Mmm hmm," the imp nodded slyly, "not yet, anyway."

Connie's blood shot north, and she could feel her face heating up faster than she could blink.

"W-what's that supposed to mean?!"

"Aw, come on, Connie!" Millie nudged her teasingly, "I've seen the way you act around Loona. You really like her."

"Of course I like her," the hellcat shrugged, "we've been best friends since we were 11."

"No, silly!" Millie giggled, her tail curling into a heart formation, "I mean like like her. As more than a friend."

"Huh?" Connie gasped, shaking her head, "But that doesn't make any sense! How would you even know that?"

"Recall the beach incident," the female imp pointed out, "we all already know that you're a lesbian, so it's not impossible that you have the hots for Loona. An' you were practically by her side the entire time...especially when she had eyes for that sperm donor of yours."

"So?" Connie folded her arms self-consciously, "I was just making sure none of those perverted humans touched her. That's all."

"But I think there's more to it than that," Millie continued, "I think you might've been jealous."

"Jealous? Why would I have been jealous?"

"Because someone other than you had Loona's undivided attention."

Connie let the statement settle in. Now, reassessing the memories she had of that warm spring break evening, all those confusing feelings she had grappled with weren't so confusing anymore. In fact, she was starting to believe that her coworker was right. Why else would the hellcat have been so conflicted, and—dare she admit it a second time—terrified?

"Okay," Connie admitted, tugging at her black collar, "maybe I was a little jealous, now that you mention it. But I still don't understand why I was so scared to lose Loona. I mean, at first I thought it was because of my parents disowning me, but..."

"It's because you have feelings for her," Millie intrigued, "love feelings. Am I right, Connie?"

The revelation associated with those words slammed into Connie like a freight train. It struck her with the intensity of a thunderbolt, electrifying every inch of her body into alertness. It was like witnessing a second big bang; stars exploded, the universe expanded, and all was so abundantly and unbelievably clear. And just like that, for the first time in her two plus decades of life, she began to view her relationship with Loona in a completely disparate light.

Love. Feelings.

"Millie," Connie whispered, "I think you might be right. After everything that's happened...it's finally starting to make sense. I think I really do feel that way about Loona. But please...promise me you won't tell Blitzo. This is way more personal than the whole sperm donor thing. He would totally lose his shit."

"I figured, sugar cube," Millie mused, "an' don't worry, your secret's safe with me. At least, for the time bein'. So now that you know...what're you gonna do about it?"

Before Connie could answer, she could feel her phone vibrating in her pocket. Digging it out and noticing a text from Loona, she glanced up at Millie sheepishly, sliding past the lock screen.

"Well, ain't that a coincidence?" the imp remarked, sassily placing a hand on her hip.

"Oh, stop," Connie rolled her eyes at her playfully, opening the text.

moonlight_howling_666: Hey Nia, I was just wondering if you had any plans for tonight?

The hellcat raised an eyebrow at the message curiously, her gaze flicking from her phone to Millie, who glanced at her with a look that screamed, "well, what are you waiting for?" Smiling, Connie returned her attention to her phone, typing a response and hitting "send". And thus, the conversation began.

sashimi_kitty228: not that i know of. what's up?

moonlight_howling_666: You know that skating rink downtown? They're having some free "dynamic duo" event going on tonight, and I was wondering if maybe you'd wanna meet up with me there? 

sashimi_kitty228: sounds like fun! but i haven't roller-skated in a really long time, so i might be a little out of practice...

moonlight_howling_666: That's okay, I can show you the ropes if you need me to! I have some experience under my belt because I rollerblade all the time haha 😉

sashimi_kitty228: well, okay. as long as you don't mind <3

moonlight_howling_666: Great! I'll see you around eight, if that's okay?

sashimi_kitty228: kk, see you then!

"Aw, roller skatin' sounds like a lot of fun!" Millie interjected, grinning at Connie, "I think I'll take my Moxxie to that. Don't worry, we'll just stick around until you're ready to meet up with Loona, an' then we'll get out of your hair."

"Well, I could definitely use some moral support," Connie admitted, "I'm a little nervous about this. Like I said, I haven't roller-skated in a really long time, and I don't want to embarrass myself in front of Loonie..."

"Don't worry, Nia," the imp assured her, "I've got you covered. But first, why don't we pick out a new outfit for you? By the time I'm done with you, you'll be ready for a night on the town!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

The outfit Millie had selected for Connie was surprisingly comfortable, and even a little similar to her own. The ripped black pants and matching boots fit her form perfectly, but were still just as flexible as the fabric of her faded maroon crop top, which covered her shoulders and arms, but had a rounded rectangular opening wide enough to expose a healthy dose of cleavage.

Connie was sitting on a bench, slipping on her roller skates, having locked her boots away in the roller rink's locker room. They were just as black as her ripped pants, and would have blended in with them perfectly, if not for the skates' blood-red shoelaces and wheels. The hellcat took a deep breath. She saw no sign of Loona anywhere in the sidelines where she sat, scouting her out from all angles of the roller rink. Maybe the hellhound was running late? Either that, or she was here already, and Connie hadn't noticed.

"Oh, hey Connie. You're here too?"

Moxxie's voice rang out behind her, albeit a little nervously, as he and Millie approached. The latter was dragging her husband along, as this was clearly his first time on roller skates. Connie stifled a giggle, patting the open space on the bench beside her.

"Hey, M&M," the hellcat greeted, "have you seen Loona anywhere? I know I'm here early, but I can't find her."

"Nope, sorry," Millie shrugged, plopping down on the farthest side of the bench, while Moxxie situated himself between them.

"Oh, so you're the other half of her 'dynamic duo'?" Moxxie intrigued, raising an eyebrow at Connie curiously.

"Yeah, I guess," she laughed, tugging at her collar, "I mean, I must be, if she invited me here."

"Heh, you and Loona," Moxxie playfully rolled his eyes at her, "I don't have the slightest idea why, but she's much nicer to you than she is to everyone else at the office. I'm beginning to think she really likes you."

"You think so?" Connie's ears pricked at the notion, "Because I really like her too. A lot, actually."

"Really?" the male imp mused, "Well, I won't pry into your friendship like our boss would. Satan knows if he'd stop unless he got to the bottom of it."

"Hehe..." Connie gulped, hoping even further that Blitzo would never find out about her astronomical crush on his adoptive daughter, "yeah...that's for sure."

"Hey, Nia," Millie remarked, pointing towards the center of the skating rink, "looks like she's waitin' for ya!"

Connie practically sprang to her feet, carefully maneuvering herself a foot away from the bench, where she peeked out from behind a nearby pole. Sure enough, Loona was in the skating rink, gracefully gliding among the other skaters. The instant Connie caught sight of her best friend, her heart skipped a beat.

The hellhound had tied her hair into a messy ponytail, which was draped over her left shoulder. Along with the same pair of skates that all the other patrons wore, she sported a pair of extremely short shorts; so short that the pockets were showing, as well as a small red and black crop top, short-sleeved and just below her shoulders, embroidered with the word "SAVAGE" on the front in all caps. She had also replaced her usual spiked collar with a solid black one, from which a red pendant with an upside-down black cross in the center dangled.

Coincidentally, an indie rendition of the song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" began to play over the speakers, which couldn't have fit Connie's moment of admiration better.

Can't Take My Eyes Off You

"Whoa," Connie whispered, still marveling over Loona's appearance.

"Well, what're you waitin' for?" Millie prompted, "Go over there and get her attention!"

"I...I don't know if I should..."

"You could always try to wave to her," Moxxie suggested, attempting to stand up from his place on the bench, "if that's easier. Millie and I will leave you two alone."

"Right," Millie nodded, dragging her husband away again, "good luck, Nia!"

Connie sighed as they left, her gaze still fixated on the gorgeous hellhound on the wooden floor of the skating rink. If the hellcat had been impressed by Loona's outfit of choice for Loo Loo Land, then this one nearly brought her to her knees.

♫ You're just too good to be true
I can't take my eyes off of you
You'd be like heaven to the touch
I wanna hold you so much ♫

It wasn't long before Loona caught sight of Connie from across the rink. She smiled at her from under her beautiful silver hair, casually gliding over to the hellcat upon reaching her corner of the room. She tipped her right skate forward, braking in front of Connie, who could've sworn she saw a light dusting of pink across her cheeks.

♫ And if you feel like I feel
Please let me know that it's real
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off of you ♫

"Hey, Connie," Loona greeted, "glad you could make it! I love your outfit."

"Heh, thanks," Connie replied warmly, "you look amazing, too."

"Ready to skate?" the hellhound prompted, brushing her bangs out of her eyes.

"Sure! I'll try my best."

Loona chuckled, reaching for Connie's wrist and gently pulling her into the rink.

"Don't worry, I've got your back."

Loona released her hold on Connie once they were both in the arena, slowly taking the lead with a wave of her long, fluffy tail. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing, her feet rhythmically lifting off of the wooden floor and touching down on her skates' wheels, propelling her forward with each smooth stride. It was almost hypnotic to observe.

♫ Pardon the way that I stare
There's nothing else to compare
The sight of you leaves me weak
There are no words left to speak ♫

Connie found herself envying her best friend's movements, especially since she wasn't doing as well as she had hoped. She was beginning to fall behind, almost stumbling and falling several times. The hellcat sighed, struggling to keep up with Loona, even though she really was trying her hardest to maintain a steady pace. Loona glanced over her right shoulder, and upon noticing this, slowly wheeled around to face her, slowing her pace with a light tap to her left skate brake.

"Come on, let's have a little fun," the hellhound took both of Connie's hands in her own with a warm smile, "I promised you I'd show you the ropes, you know."

"Uh, sure," Connie returned the gesture, albeit a little nervously, "lead the way."

Loona playfully obliged, and after a moment of simple gliding, she began to move her skates. Inch by inch, step by step, she and Connie began to move a little faster. The whole time, they never tore their eyes away from each other, locking gazes as though the other person was the only one in the room. If only for a moment, it appeared as though everything was frozen in time; only Connie's heartbeat picked up speed, thudding in her ears.

♫ And if you feel like I feel
Please let me know that it's real
You're just too good to be true
I can't take my eyes off of you ♫

Unfortunately, that was when the hellcat slipped up, quite literally. She'd been so caught up in Loona's presence that she'd completely lost track of the fact that she was skating with her. Connie failed to notice that she was losing her balance, specifically on her right foot, and was caught completely off guard when it slipped from under her. She released a startled squeal, clenching her eyes shut, expecting to collide with the hard floor.

However, her fall came to an abrupt and unexpected halt. She could feel her back being supported; held, and almost couldn't believe her luck. When Connie cautiously pried open her bright blue eyes, she found herself face-to-face with Loona, who appeared to be just as surprised as she was. Her best friend had caught her before she could fall any further. Loona almost appeared to be dipping her in the position that she now stood in, blinking down at her in a mixture of relief and admiration.

"See? I told you I had your back," Loona mused, setting Connie back on her feet, "uh...are you okay, Connie?"

"Yeah, I'm okay," Connie chuckled in relief, "Thanks, Loonie. Call me crazy, but I'm kinda glad that you caught me."

"Let's try again," the hellhound hummed, intertwining her left hand's fingers with Connie's right, "but this time, we'll both have a head start." 

♫ I love you baby
And if it's quite alright
I need you baby
To warm my lonely nights
I love you baby
Trust in me when I say ♫

Holding Connie's hand, Loona gently tugged the hellcat alongside her, resuming her slow pace so Connie could catch on to her skating pattern. Sure enough, she glanced down at her feet, and she was beginning to get the hang of it. In a blinkered rush of happiness, Connie exchanged excited glances with Loona, laughing and smiling as they skated onward together.

That beautiful smile, her adorable laugh...two of the only things in this life that could melt Loona's heart like an ice cube. The hellhound's luminescent white eyes, which glowed like a pair of earthly moons against the blood red of Hell's sky, flickered in the dark as a sudden rush of warmth cascaded through her veins. It was a strange and wonderful burst of ecstasy; a breath of fresh air after years of being submerged in an ocean of loveless shadows.

She could get used to this feeling.

♫ Oh pretty baby
Don't bring me down I pray
Oh pretty baby
Now that I've found you stay
And let me love you, baby
Let me love you ♫

"Aw, look at them, Mox," Millie purred, leaning on the railing outside of the rink and admiring her coworkers' chemistry from afar, "remind you of anythin' in particular?"

"Hmm..." her husband pondered aloud, "if you're talking about our first date, I beg to differ. They're less awkward than I was."

"That's not how I remember it~" Millie mused, kissing the top of his forehead, "you were more romantic than any man I'd ever met, and I fell for you right then and there."

"Thanks, honey," Moxxie chuckled, returning the gesture, "but I'm curious. Why would you compare our first date to Loona and Connie skating together?"

Millie glanced across the skating rink at the two hellborns, smiling as she noticed, for the first time, that the pair were holding hands.

"What can I say? There are times where they remind me of us. And tonight is one of 'em."

Chapter Text

"Sweet Satan, I hope the spring break rush is over..." Heather muttered, sifting through the client filing cabinets in the copier room, "that was the most business that we've ever had. And to think that all we had to do was slice our existing prices in half!"

The hellcat had been stuck at the office all day, filing the remainder of the post-Hellentine's Day paperwork, while the imp assassins of the company went to the human world and fulfilled a few new assassination requests. Monotonous? Yes. But absolutely necessary, as Moxxie specifically consulted Heather on the matter, and both had agreed that Blitzo should not be left alone with so many important documents at the same time. That being said, she had opted to wear a more business-oriented outfit for the day: a long-sleeved blue crop top, black jeans and matching high-heeled boots, and a gold necklace with a rounded gold charm dangling from the center.

As Heather pushed in the final drawer of the metal filing cabinet, which was designated for clients whose names began with "M", she noticed movement through the adjacent window of the room from the corner of her eye. The window positioned directly outside of Verosika Mayday's makeshift studio, which was currently being disassembled, as the pop star's stay in the office building was to expire that afternoon. Which, judging by Heather's brief glance at the I.M.P logo-imprinted wall clock, was only 15 minutes away.

Vortex and the other seven members of Verosika's crew were busy carrying several boxes of sound recording equipment out of the rental office, down the hallway and straight to the elevator to deliver them to Verosika's hot pink Porsche. The car, as a result of the bet between the entourage of succubi and incubi and I.M.P several business days prior, had been forced to be relocated to the parking garage down the street; inconveniently located at least a block and a half away from the office building. The walking distance between there and the business plaza was the only factor for which Heather offered the pop star any pity, albeit silently.

When the group had dispersed, Verosika emerged from the room, nonchalantly watching them depart with both gloved hands on her hips. Somehow, by a miraculous (or in Heather's case, entirely undesired) circumstance, the red tabby hellcat had caught the pink succubus's eye. She repositioned herself to face her casual observer through the window. To Heather's surprise, Verosika showed no signs of hostility. In fact, she seemed...significantly less flirtatious? If that was even possible for a demon of her species.

As if that alone wasn't enough to catch Heather off guard, Verosika's lips faded into a ghost of a smile, and she turned and disappeared from view. Heather cautiously exited the copier room, rounding a corner in the office's hallway to pour herself some water from the jug dispenser in the lobby. The hellcat sipped from her paper cup, all the while grappling with an internal debate regarding the succubus's whereabouts and motivations.

Why is Verosika acting so unusually nice today? Is she just trying to hit on me again? During business hours? Oh, bloody hell...maybe it's a good thing that Blitz isn't here to see this...

"You're one of my ex-boyfriend's employees, right?"

Heather nearly choked on her water upon hearing Verosika's voice behind her, surprised by her sudden appearance. However, she quickly regained her composure, swallowing the cool liquid and peering over her shoulder at the pop star with an eyebrow raised.

"Yes, I work here as an assassin. But I'm sure watching me sort through the filing cabinets wasn't indicative of that."

"No, but I remember you and one of your coworkers taking out the giant monster fish during our little 'bet' in the human world," Verosika remarked, approaching the water cooler and pouring herself a drink, "so I had a suspicion that you at least worked in the building."

"Yeah," Heather nodded, "so are you here as a client, or...?"

"Actually," the succubus replied coolly, "I'm here to see you."

"Why am I not surprised?" the red tabby hellcat sighed, taking a sip from her water.

"I know what you're thinking," Verosika acknowledged her, "you're still offput by what I said to you during the whole parking space fiasco. But before you write me off completely...hear me out, okay? I just wanted to talk."

Heather blinked up at the pop star in surprise. This was a side of her that she hadn't expected to see; an amicable and tolerable side that was almost a complete 180 from her behavior just weeks prior, open to a non-flirtatious and honest conversation. Finally gathering enough respect to face the succubus, Heather turned around, her tail flicking with curiosity as she granted Verosika her full attention.

"Hmm...okay," the hellcat agreed, "as long as you don't act like a bitch on heat, I don't mind."

"Thank you," Verosika smiled graciously, "I don't understand your slang at all, but unlike some people, I can take a hint."

"You didn't seem to 'take a hint' a few weeks ago," Heather pointed out, "why is that?"

"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about," Verosika admitted, "okay, I'm gonna be completely honest with you. The flirtatious remarks I made towards you? Initially, I was just trying to get under Blitzo's skin."

"Well, he wasn't the only one whose skin you got under..." Heather muttered, taking another sip of her water.

"I know," the pop star continued, "don't get me wrong, I'm satisfied that it worked on him, but I didn't mean to make you that uncomfortable. And it bothers me that we never got to have a normal conversation because of it, so I came here to apologize."

"Apologize?" Heather nearly dropped her cup in astonishment, "That's why you wanted to talk to me? I feel kind of guilty now, because I thought you just wanted to hit on me again. You know, since Blitz isn't here to stop you."

"Oh, I wouldn't take advantage of anyone like that," Verosika assured her, "do you have any idea how many dickheads have harassed me over the years? I fucking lost count a long time ago, but it's not fun to put up with. That's why I decided to hire Vortex."

"I can imagine," Heather shook her head, finally starting to open up to the succubus, "I mean, you're a pop sensation. Who wouldn't want a piece of you?"

"I'd say the same for you, uh..." Verosika paused, realizing that she had never been properly introduced to the hellcat, "huh. You know, I never got your name. I guess I was too preoccupied to ask for it when we first met. Can we start over?"

"Sure," Heather chuckled, disposing of her now-empty paper cup in a nearby waste bin before offering her right hand, "I'm Heather Barlowe. It's nice to finally meet you."

"No shit, you're a Barlowe?" the pop star shook her head in amusement, shaking hands with the hellcat, "I should've known! I'm Verosika Mayday, but you probably already knew that."

"Oh, uh...thanks," Heather replied, flattered, "how do you know about my family?"

"How could I not know?" Verosika elaborated, "The Barlowes are so filthy fucking rich and successful that they're practically overlords! Unless you're from a different Barlowe family. What are your parents' names?"

"Brutus and Lorraine."

"No way," Verosika shook her head in disbelief, "isn't your mom the C.E.O of Pentagram City Couturier? And that means that your dad is..."

"...The founder and owner of the Lust Ring's pristine Cassowary Nightclub?" Heather finished the succubus's sentence for her, "Yeah, they're both definitely my parents."

"You lucky bitch," Verosika mused, "I'm surprised that I've never heard about you before, Heather. Haven't you ever had any publicity because of your famous parents?"

"Actually, no," the hellcat shook her head, "they weren't really 'famous' per say when I was a kid, except for my mom. Even so, we've kept it quiet. We're not big on unnecessary attention."

"What I wouldn't give to have that kind of privacy sometimes," the succubus muttered, "don't get me wrong, I have plenty of security at my place, but there will always be the occasional breach attempt. Also, I'm not big on the rich-people-dating-rich-people-for-clout bullshit."

"Ugh, me neither!" Heather nodded avidly, "That's exactly why I dumped my ex-boyfriend. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind dating other wealthy people, but I will never date a snobby asshole like him again. But hey, lesson learned, right?"

"I guess," Verosika shrugged, "while we're on the subject of 'dating', come to think of it, I don't think I've never dated another woman before. I mean, I've gotten close, but...meh, you probably don't want to hear about that. I wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable again."

"Huh? Oh, it's okay!" Heather assured her, "I'm bi. And even if I wasn't, I wouldn't mind talking about it with you. Actually, I think we have a lot more in common than I let on."

"You could be right," the pop star hummed, "again, sorry for the shitty first impression. I hope it doesn't make things awkward between us."

"Don't worry about it," the hellcat waved her off reassuringly, "you don't seem like such a bad person, now that I have the chance to talk to you personally. That being said, I'm willing to give you a chance."

"You're not as vindictive about my flirting as I thought you'd be," Verosika observed, smiling down at her, "you're actually...kind of sweet. I like that about you."

"You're not too bad yourself," Heather added, "I'm sure we'll get along just fine."

"Hmm...now that you mention it," Verosika suggested, toying with her long, flowing hair, "I think I'd like to get to know you better, Heather. But we should probably do it somewhere other than this office. Wanna grab some dinner tonight?"

"Excuse me, boss," Vortex interjected, peering through the door of the I.M.P headquarters from the hallway, "we got everything packed up and ready to go. Should I pull the Porsche out front for you?"

"Thanks, Tex," Verosika nodded, peering at him over her shoulder, "you can go ahead and do that. I'll be there in a minute."

The hulking hellhound nodded silently, grunting in recognition and departing for the elevator once again, leaving the two women alone in front of the water cooler. They exchanged friendly glances as Verosika whipped out a notepad and a hot pink gel pen, scribbling something on the paper before ripping it out and handing it to Heather.

"Let me know if you're interested when you get the chance, hun," the succubus winked, crouching down enough that she was on Heather's eye level, "like I said, I'm free tonight. Ta-ta!"

The succubus turned and left, but not before, intentionally or not, sliding her tail beneath Heather's chin. The hellcat watched Verosika strut down the hall in her shiny high-heeled boots, listening to their rhythmic clinking against the hard floor until all was silent once again. She felt a pang of disappointment, but she quickly brushed it off as irrelevant, and just in time: the Grimoire's portal opened into the lounge, and Moxxie, Millie, and Blitzo sprang into the office.

"Another mission accomplished!" Blitzo grinned, waving across the room at Heather upon noticing her presence, "Oh, hey Heather! How was the paperwork?"

"Heh, it was fine, I guess," the hellcat returned the gesture, rubbing her neck with the hand that wasn't holding Verosika's note, "we're all caught up with the spring break files."

"Oh, excellent work," Moxxie acknowledged her, sparing Blitzo an annoyed glance, "I knew we could count on someone to get the job done right the first time."

"See, Mox?" Millie nudged her husband playfully, "I told you everythin' would work out!"

"So, Heather," Blitzo intrigued, approaching her with a playful smirk, "anything interesting happen while we were gone?"

"Actually, yes," Heather admitted, glancing down at the piece of paper in her hands.

On the note, in the most readable cursive writing that she had ever seen, Verosika had scrawled her cell phone number, along with a rather endearing message for Heather, the i's of which were dotted with little hearts, including the signature of the writer.

Here's my number! If you're still up for dinner tonight, call me when you get the chance ♥

~ Verosika

"Whatcha got there?" Blitzo prompted, glancing over Heather's shoulder.

"Your ex-girlfriend invited me out to dinner," she replied sheepishly.

"Oh, that's ni—" the imp paused his eyes practically bursting from their sockets as the statement settled in, "wait, what?! Was she harassing you again?! How many fucking times do I need to tell that whore-ass bitch to leave you alone?!"

"As in, Verosika Mayday?" Millie piped up, her eyes glued to Heather in shock.

"As in, the pop star from our bet?!" Moxxie added.

"No no no, it's okay guys!" Heather waved him off, "I'm okay with it. Verosika is actually kinda nice. Believe it or not, she came over here and apologized for flirting with me, and the conversation just took off from there. As it turns out, we have a lot in common!"

"Oh, you do?" Blitzo raised an eyebrow at her, "Well, I mean, I guess that makes sense, since she and I used to have a lot in common...and you and I are practically best friends because of how much we have in common. But that doesn't change the fact that she probably wants to eat something other than dinner with you! Hint hint, special emphasis on the you!"

"It's not that kind of dinner!" Heather blurted out, quickly shoving the note into her jeans, "We just wanted to talk some more, that's all!"

"Mmm hmm," Blitzo nodded sarcastically, "that's what I said when I first went out with her. The next thing I knew, I was bedding up with her in some cheap-ass hotel room with my dick six inches deep in her hot-pink holes!"

"What the fuck is going on out here?!" Loona snapped, emerging from the lounge and clearly appalled by her adoptive father's previous comment.

"Verosika Mayday asked Heather out!" Millie explained.

"What?!" Loona's jaw dropped to the floor as she shouted down the hallway to her best friend, "Connie, get in here! You won't believe the shit I just picked up on!"

"Alright, I'm coming!" Connie called back, appearing in the lounge mere moments later, "What's all the commotion?"

"Heather's going on a date with Verosika Mayday!" the hellhound smirked.

"No fucking way!" Connie gasped, turning to Heather, "Is this true?!"

"Alright, alright!" Heather rolled her eyes, glaring at her coworkers in exasperation, "Can everyone else please leave the room so I can have a private conversation with Blitz? You don't like it when people invade your privacy!"

"She has a point," Moxxie shrugged, "we should probably give them some space."

The other employees reluctantly agreed, dispersing into their respective offices, leaving Heather and Blitzo alone in the lounge. Taking a deep breath, followed by a slow exhale, Heather returned her attention to her best friend, fully prepared to reach a point of compromise.

"We're just going out for dinner," Heather continued, "look, I get it, Blitz. Verosika is your ex-girlfriend and you hate each others' guts. I won't pry into your romantic life, because it's none of my business. But I'm serious, I really do want to get to know her. She seems like a legitimately nice woman, and I'm willing to give her a chance. And I already told you, I'm not into the whole sex-before-we-really-know-each-other bullshit, so why are you so worried?"

"One word," Blitzo replied straightforwardly, "Connor. That's why I'm worried."

Heather sighed at the mention of the name. Connor was a barista imp whom she had met when Blitzo had suggested that they try a different coffee place than the usual Hot Head Café. At the time, Connor had seemed very warm and friendly, so when he had asked Heather out on a date, she had been happy to oblige. However, towards the middle of their dinner at a restaurant, when Heather had left to use the women's room, Connor had snuck off and started hanging out with a female imp, whom he had apparently deemed as a sexier specimen.

Needless to say, Heather had not taken it well.

"Look, I just..." Blitzo continued, "Verosika is a succubus, and they're known to sleep around indiscriminately—"

"And you're an imp," Heather countered coolly, "a demon species that was repeatedly scorned and discriminated against in my previous workplace, especially since I was employed under the Goetia family. But that didn't stop me from giving you a chance as my friend, did it?"

That seemed to shut Blitzo up for a moment. His mouth hung open, as if he wanted to forge a rebuttal, but quickly clamped it shut, at a complete loss for words.

"It's sweet of you to worry about me, Blitz," Heather assured the imp, placing a hand on his shoulder, "but the Connor situation was an isolated incident. I was having a bad week, and the failed date was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I've seen both sides of Verosika now, so even if this one dinner doesn't work out, I'm sure I'll be fine."

"And if it goes well and you start dating?"

"We'll cross that bridge when and if we come to it. You know I was planning on consulting you first, right? Because I would never go out with one of your exes if you weren't okay with it."

"Really?" Blitzo's expression softened, caught off guard by the unusual courtesy.

"Of course," Heather nodded with a reassuring smile, "mates before dates. That's Aussie slang, by the way. My mom taught me that."

"Mates before dates..." the imp smirked, "sounds kinda kinky."

"Blitz!" the hellcat chucked, "You're worried about me getting dirty tonight? You're so much worse than I am sometimes!"

"Hey, I'm just trying to make life more interesting," Blitzo shrugged, playfully elbowing her.

"Well, with you in it, it's already interesting," Heather mused, "so...are you fine with giving me the go-ahead?"

"Sure," Blitzo nodded, "you're a strong, sensible woman. You'll be okay. But if Verosika breaks your heart, even just a little bit...I swear to Satan, I'll kick her fucking ass."

"No. Not unless anyone is in imminent danger."

"Fiiiiiine...but only because you insist."

Chapter Text

"You're going to Connie's place again?" Blitzo prompted his hellhound daughter, who was preparing to leave their shared apartment with a packed leather duffel bag, "Weren't you just over there the other day?"

"Uh, yeah," Loona raised an eyebrow at him, "we like hanging out at her place. What's so wrong about that?"

"You've been spending a lot of time with her recently," Blitzo shrugged, winking at her, "I'm starting to get a little suspicious, Loonie-toony."

"Suspicious of what?" the hellhound's eyes darted around the room frantically, her cheeks tinted with a faint blush at the notion, "I don't know what you're talking about. We're just best friends spending time together, it's not a big deal."

"Mmm hmm. Seems like a big deal to you, sweetie."

"Ugh, Blitz!" Loona spat, facepalming in embarrassment, "Knock it off! My sleepovers with Connie are none of your damn business!"

"Okay, okay," the imp chuckled, waving her off, "I won't pry too much into you two, if you're so worried about it. Maybe you should invite her over here for a sleepover sometime? We could have a lot of fun!"

"We will not be doing that!" Loona rolled her eyes at him, "Connie is my best friend. Not yours, mine. And if you're going to speculate about my relationship with her so much, then why don't we have a little chat about you and Heather?"

"What about us?" Blitzo folded his arms, shaking his head playfully, "I have nothing to hide about myself from her. Don't know why you'd mention it."

"Wow, really?" Loona smirked, "Nothing? Not even your astronomical crush on her?"

Blitzo gasped, his tail twanging straight upright at the mention of his deepest, darkest secret.

"What?! I don't have the hots for Heather! That's the most ridiculous fucking thing I've ever heard in my life!"

"Oh, yeah?" Loona continued, a sly grin creeping across her face, "What about that time you stole her phone in the middle of a meeting and used it to snap a picture of her in the 'Nightclub Hearts' filter?"

"So?" Blitzo scoffed, shaking his head, "I take pictures of everyone in Voxtagram filters."

"Or the time you and Heather crossed paths at the Imp City Community Pool and you took a selfie with her for Voxtagram, clearly admiring her form in that bikini?"

"That's not what I was doing!" the imp gaped at her in astonishment, "I was just trying to look cool for the photo..."

"Oh, here's a good one," Loona continued, "when you broke your foot and had everyone sign your cast, and you asked Heather to 'kiss it better' when she came to your office to escort you to the company van?"

"Doesn't everyone do that for people they care about?!"

"You also let Heather stay the night on the couch after she and Spindle saved you from being kidnapped," the hellhound pointed out, "remember that? And the picture you posted while she was sleeping, saying that she looked kinda cute?"

"But—"

"Oh, and lest we forget how 'Thigh Tuesday' was permanently cancelled after Heather wore those sexy boots and a short jean skirt to work that day," Loona snickered, "and you set off the 'soiled my pants' alert on the emergency dashboard because you—"

"—accidentally came in my fucking work pants!" Blitzo groaned in embarrassment, hiding his flustered face behind his hands, "Goddamn it, Loona, why'd you have to bring that up?!"

"You started it," Loona shrugged, finally heading out of the apartment, "anyway, see you later."

With the hellhound gone, Blitzo sighed and flopped himself down on the living room couch, his exasperation fading into silent longing. He knew damn well that every single incident Loona had listed off was indicative of his true feelings for Heather. In fact, deep down, the imp was fully aware of his profound and unparalleled fondness for his hellcat employee.

He just wasn't ready to admit it yet. Especially to her.

Truthfully, Blitzo had had a crush on Heather for as long as he could remember, quite possibly even the moment he'd first met her. The memory of that night alone was enough to send the imp's heart pulsing into a state of uncontrollable overdrive. The red tabby hellcat's long, plush fur; her splendid curves; those hazel eyes that glimmered like emeralds in even the darkest room. Oh, how they lit up when Heather smiled! The sight of it melted Blitzo's heart every time, an accompanying warmth cascading through his veins in a blinkered rush of happiness the likes of which he never thought was possible to feel.

Yet here he was, their friendship countless years strong, and not once had he ever mustered up enough courage to come clean to Heather. Despite all of the insecurities and discrepancies surrounding a plausible confession, a part of Blitzo avidly yearned to spill out his feelings to her, like a drink he should've skipped but convinced himself to swallow regardless. Clearly, he hadn't gotten to that stage yet. But that never kept him from his wishful thinking.

And out of the blue, Verosika Mayday had dropped back into Blitzo's life uninvited and given Heather the eye while he was hesitating. At that very moment, the two women were out on a dinner date, and the imp knew there was no going back. Verosika had always been good at piquing interests, and not just with her body. Her tongue could be as sweet as it was salty; she could spark a conversation with practically anyone that ever existed. Hell, she'd even managed to snag Blitzo's attention, and he was very hard to please romantically.

Stealing his parking space was one thing, but now she was aiming to swindle something that was secretly far more valuable to him: his crush's heart. And he loathed it entirely.

"Ah, shit..." Blitzo muttered, facepalming in regret, "I should've confessed to Heather sooner. Now she and that succu-bitch are probably hitting it off in some super fancy club, savoring two choice cuts of filet mignon and indulging in each other's small talk like the rich chicks they are. Damn it, Blitz, why do you have to be such a fucking pussy..."

Then, out of nowhere, a miracle happened. His hellphone's screen lit up, and the device started vibrating, prompting Blitzo to reach over to the coffee table and glance at the caller ID. The minute he picked up his phone, his jaw dropped to the floor. Without hesitation, he picked up.

Heather was calling him. And it was only 9 PM.

"Heyyy, Heather," Blitzo began nervously, "what's up? I thought you and Verosika would be out all night?"

"Heh, yeah...about that..."

"Oh fuck no," Blitzo growled, "please tell me that bitch-bag didn't run off on you like that Connor asshole did."

"What? No no no no, it's okay, Blitz, I swear. I'm fine."

"Whew, that's a relief," the imp sighed, "you had me worried for a second there. So...what's going on, then?"

"Well, it's a long story, but let's just say that Verosika had a few too many drinks at the restaurant. Needless to say, we had to wrap up our dinner earlier than I anticipated."

"Oh, Heather..." Blitzo sighed, shaking his head, "I'm sorry things didn't work out. She really is a drunken whore."

"It's alright, Blitz. This one's kind of on me. I should've known what I was getting myself into when she gave me her number. I'm beginning to think that quitting Kindl was a bad decision..."

"Aw, Heather, I think you were really brave to ditch that shitty dating app and get back out there at your own pace," the imp assured her, "I know you, Heather. You're the kind of woman that wants to meet your special someone in person. There's no shame in waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to come along on their own."

"Thanks, Blitz. That means a lot to me."

"Don't mention it," Blitzo prompted, "so...are you two still at the restaurant?"

"Well, Verosika drove me here in her Porsche, and there's no way in hell that I'd ever attempt to drive her expensive car, so I called up Vortex to see what he could do. Apparently, he lives right down the street from here, so he just walked over and drove Verosika home."

"Wait, he didn't take you with them?!" Blitzo gaped at the notion.

"That's the thing, he couldn't have. Verosika's car only has two seats. I mean, Vortex offered to make two trips, but I told him it was fine, and I'd just find some other way home instead. I don't want to get him in trouble. I didn't want to cry blue murder to Moxxie and Millie about this whole situation, either, because they already have plans—"

"Oh, I can give you a ride!" Blitzo offered, already springing off the couch and making a beeline for the door, "Say no more, Heather, I'm on my way over right now."

"Wow, really? You're gonna drop everything and come get me, just like that?"

"Hey, it's not like I had anything to actually do tonight," Blitzo admitted, shutting his apartment door and locking it behind him, "Loonie went over to Connie's place again. So what restaurant are you at?"

"Oh, Blitz...I appreciate the gesture, really, but you don't have to drive all the way down here. I'm at that Ardor Bistro in the Lust Ring, that's pretty far away from your—"

"Don't worry about it," the imp insisted, slipping into the driver's seat of the I.M.P van, "I know where that is! It's that snazzy bar by the frozen yogurt store."

"Blitz, I...thank you. You really didn't have to."

"Hey, what else are friends for?" Blitzo chuckled into the phone, "Sit tight, Heather. Or...stand, whatever's more comfortable. I'll be there in a few."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

After navigating the I.M.P company van a few rings down, Blitzo finally pulled into the Ardor Bistro's parking lot. Thankfully, Heather wasn't hard to locate; she was sitting on a bench in front of the restaurant, a faux fur cream coat draped over her shoulders. Despite the fact that her outing with Verosika had been ruined just minutes ago, she seemed rather content, smiling as soon as Blitzo emerged from his van to approach her.

"Hello, Blitz," the hellcat greeted, patting the open space beside her, "cor strewth, you didn't waste any time coming over here."

"Hey, like I said," Blitzo shrugged, settling down next to her on the bench, "I had nothing else to do tonight. Besides, I kind of wanted to see you."

"Actually, so did I," Heather remarked, "I'm kind of relieved that Verosika and I didn't hit it off."

"You are?" Blitzo intrigued, raising an eyebrow at his companion in curiosity, "Why's that? Was she an asswipe?"

"What? No no no," the hellcat shook her head, "that's not it. I just...I guess I didn't feel right about going out with her."

"Ah, okay," Blitzo nodded, "I get that feeling sometimes, too."

The pair sat in silence for a moment, staring off into the distance, watching a few cars drive by.

"Hey, Blitz?"

"Hmm?"

"Be honest with me. Were you really okay with me going out with Verosika?"

"If I'm being honest?" The imp paused, reflecting on the question, "Uh...no. No, not really."

"Blitz..." Heather whispered, blinking at him in concern, "if you weren't okay with it, then why didn't you just tell me? I would've understood."

"I don't know," Blitzo admitted, shrugging, "Listen, I love being Loonie's papa bear, but you have way more experience with romance than I do. I'm like 99% sure that you know what you're doing. Anyway...I just wanted you to have another chance at happiness. Because you deserve it more than I do."

"Well, I care about your happiness, too," Heather purred, "that's why I'm a little relieved that the date didn't work out. Verosika is your ex-girlfriend, and everyone knows that your best friend's exes are off-limits in the dating scene. I'm sorry, Blitz. From now on, it's mates before dates."

Blitzo chuckled at the Australian adage, patting Heather's left hand with his right.

"You're one of the good ones, Heather. Anyone would be lucky to have you around."

"Aw, you're too sweet to me," Heather waved him off, blushing.

A cold breeze blew past the pair, causing Blitzo to shiver in the aftermath.

"Phew, it's kinda nippy tonight. I probably should've changed into a different coat."

The hellcat slipped her coat off of her arms, draping it over Blitzo instead. Although the plush garment was meant to be smaller on its wearer, his significantly lankier form had much more space within it than its target model. Blitzo pulled the coat closer to him, blinking at Heather gratefully.

"You have got to be the nicest, most down-to-earth rich person I've ever met. Are you sure you don't need this?"

"Hey, I'm the one with fur," Heather shrugged, "come on. Let's get out of here."

Chapter Text

♫ Oh we are the C.H.E.R.U.B— ♫

The optimistic jingle on the conference room's TV screen was cut off when Blitzo carelessly fired his gun, sending a bullet straight through it. The device combusted, bursting into nothing more than a flaming shell of its former structure. Connie gaped at her boss in horror, glaring at him with eyes colder than ice.

"Nice one, B!" Millie complimented the imp, regardless of the damage he had caused.

"What the fuck, Blitz?!" Connie spat, diminishing the blaze with a nearby fire extinguisher, "That's the third TV you've destroyed today! How are we gonna have enough in the budget for our paychecks this week?! My rent's due at the end of the month, and if I'm going to afford a second insemination procedure—"

"Ah, it'll be fine, Connie," Blitzo waved her off dully, "give me another, Mox."

Moxxie grunted, heaving a second TV onto the cart in place of the first one and turning the dial to switch it on. He cringed, awaiting the next gunshot, while Connie groaned, sliding into an open seat at the conference table next to Loona. The hellhound glanced over at her worriedly, picking up on her forlorn mood.

"I don't know how much longer I can put with with your dad's bullshit...I swear, I'm this close to quitting. As Satan as my witness, I will fucking quit."

"Are you serious?" Loona prompted, "You're actually considering that? Did you try talking to Blitz like I suggested?"

"That's the problem," Connie sighed, "I can't explain anything to Blitz! You saw how he ignored me about the TV thing. He just doesn't give a shit. What's the point? Even if you tried to reason with him, he wouldn't care..."

She glanced across the conference room at Heather, who was leaning on her right hand in sheer boredom, much like the other imps at the table.

"Maybe I should have Heather hook me up with a better job. She has connections to some successful businesses, right?"

"You are serious," Loona blinked at her in surprise, her ears seeming to droop, if only a little, "well...I mean, it's good that you know when you've reached your limit, but...if you left, I'd—"

She paused, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"You'd what?" Connie intrigued, concerned, "Are you okay?"

"I just don't know how I—I mean, I.M.P," Loona muttered, "how the rest of I.M.P would react, you know, if you actually walked away from the company. That's all."

Before she could say anything else, the hellhound and hellcat nearly jumped out of their fur upon being startled by a second gunshot, which obliterated the current television set atop the cart in the same manner as its previous incarnation.

"Woo!" Millie whooped, congratulated Blitzo on his aim yet again, "You're on a roll, sir!"

"Satan's fuck, Blitz, would you STOP shooting away our goddamn profits before I go apeshit on your ass?!" Connie snapped, slamming her palms onto the conference table as her eyes reverted to chaotic mode.

Her voice seemed to echo off the walls, silencing everyone in the room instantaneously. However, that wasn't the only thing that seemed off. The floor was shaking.

"Guys, do you feel that?" Loona prompted, glancing around the conference room worriedly.

"Uh...is this my bad?" Connie whispered, calming back down once again, "Because I thought the vocal aspect of my extrasensory powers didn't work unless I was in the Lust Ring."

"No, no," Blitzo shook his head, "this feels more like a Hell-shake."

"That's possible?" Moxxie blinked at his boss, confused.

"Well, I guess so," Heather shrugged, turning to her best friend, "okay, nobody panic. Millie, it's time to engage in our employee natural disaster protocol! This is a Code Red!"

"Alright!" Millie shouted, gripping her husband's face, "Don't panic, Moxxie!"

"I'm not panicking," Moxxie remarked calmly, removing her grip on him, "because Hellquakes don't happen."

"I know," Heather reiterated, "I'm labeling it a Code Red because there's imminent danger, and I don't take any chances when it comes to the safety of my fellow employees. Now everyone listen up—"

"Stop getting hysterical, fatty!" Loona bellowed, smacking Moxxie across the room and against the west wall's window.

"Loona!" Connie gasped, horrified by the hellhound's actions.

"Why would you do that?!" Heather demanded, folding her arms and donning a serious face.

"He was getting everyone all fired up!" Loona protested.

"No he wasn't!" Millie objected, "What is your problem with my husband? You're always pullin' shit like this!"

While the pair were arguing, the wall where Moxxie had crash-landed collapsed as a stranger burst through it. He landed atop the resulting pile of rubble, under which the poor imp had been buried alive. Everyone in the office gaped up at the sinner who'd burst into the conference room; a tall, lanky man with a mustache that curled on both ends, dressed in black and neon green, a red cape draped over his shoulders. Several black and red robotic arms extended from his body, branching out in all directions.

"Do not be afraid," the sinner assured the group, descending the pile of rubble to approach the disgruntled employees. Loona had dropped on all fours, shielding Connie with her body and growling fiercely.

"Stay behind me, Connie," the hellhound warned, "if he wants to take you from me, he'll have to do it over my cold, dead body!"

"You're acting more protective of me than usual today," Connie remarked, brushing Loona's bristling tail out of her face, "I mean, I'm not complaining, just thought I'd point that out."

"Uh, please tell me you've got that 'insurance' thing," Blitzo groaned, clearly more concerned with the gaping void in the wall than his fallen brethren.

"Who are you and what do you want?" Millie growled through gritted teeth, whipping out a battle axe and brandishing it threateningly.

"I am Loopy Goopty," the figure introduced himself, contorting his body into, as his Hell name implied, loops, "dastardly inventor of all things loopy and loopish!"

"Could've just used the door, dude," Loona pointed out nonchalantly, having stood up and relinquished her position in front of Connie, "doesn't need to be this whole 'thing'."

"First the TVs, and now the wall?!" Connie added, facepalming in exasperation, "Is there no justice for my paycheck here?!"

"I am eccentric," Loopty smirked, "and must therefore do eccentric shit!"

"Oh, Satan," Heather groaned, covering her nose after the sinner approached her, "Blitz, the scent of this guy alone is so strong that it reminds me of that crowd horny humans we had to sift through on the beach."

"Ugh, you're right!" Blitzo cringed upon taking a whiff of the sinner's scent himself, "This old fuck reeks of the living world. Did you just die?"

"Yes!" Loopty nodded, "Moments ago, in fact! Which is what brought me here!"

"Just saying," Loona rolled her eyes, "the front door would've gotten you here fine."

"Exactly!" Connie added, "Heather, back us up on this. Please."

"The front door would've been a lot more...practical," Heather nodded, "then again, how many of our clients actually act normal?"

"Shut up, dear furries!" Loopty pushed past them, seemingly indifferent to the fact that the two were hellborns that had existed long before furries.

"What?!" the hellcats and hellhound barked, appalled by the comparison.

"This is the man I'm gonna need you to kill!" Loopty continued in a singsong voice, handing a photo of a very old and decrepit man over to Blitzo.

"Not even a shit's length of time in Hell and already plotting revenge?" Blitzo remarked, inspecting the photograph and shaking the client's hand, "I can respect a man with that sort of passion! I'm Blitz, the 'o' is silent!"

"What 'o'?" Loopty prompted.

"Unimportant," Heather interjected, "not to be a drongo, but as with all of our other clients, we request that you pay us in advance. We'll take out the target for you, and our receptionist will contact you once the job is done."

"Aw, thank you, Heather," Blitzo replied, secretly relieved that he didn't have to answer to the sensitive question for the millionth time, "now what's the tea, sis?"

"Drongo? The tea?" Loopty cocked his head, utterly confused by the unfamiliar banter.

"Oh, right," Heather snapped her fingers, whipping out her laptop and taking a seat at the conference table, "I keep forgetting that only a few of my friends understand my Aussie slang. Sorry, it's become a habit at this point. Anyway, we'd like you to give us a little background information about your relationship with the target, and why you want him taken out. Just so we can add it to our records."

"Guys?! Help!" Moxxie croaked, still trapped beneath the pile of rubble.

"Oh shit!" Connie gasped, rushing past the rest of the group to help him while Loopty filled Heather in on his backstory, "I'm sorry, Moxxie! I got a little too distracted by the client."

"It's getting...dark..." Moxxie squeaked in pain.

Connie hurriedly began hurling chunks of the rubble out of the gaping hole from which they came, eventually freeing him from the crushing weight of the wall remnants. The hellcat dragged Moxxie to the unoccupied side of the room, checking his vitals to make sure he was still alive. Miraculously, he was.

"Are you okay, Mox?" Connie prompted, hovering over him with a few fingers displayed on her right hand, "How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Uh...three?" the imp guessed, still fairly dazed but correct regardless.

"Oh, good," Connie sighed in relief, "I was worried that I would have to revive you with one of my seven lives! But seriously, how are you not dead? You're like a cockroach or something."

"Mmm...cartoon logic."

The hellcat felt her leather jeans vibrating. Digging into her pocket and removing the device, Connie recognized the number of the fertility clinic almost immediately, gasping and sprinting over to Loona. She dragged the hellhound out of the room in a flurry of anxiety and excitement, hardly able to differentiate the two due to their intensity.

"Not that I'm not grateful to get away from that weird-ass client," Loona admitted, "but what's going on? Is something up?"

"I...I don't know," Connie stammered, "the fertility clinic is calling me! It could be about anything! Well, I guess I'm about to find out."

She answered the phone call, not at all prepared for the news that she was about to receive.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Meanwhile, in the living world, the three imps and their red tabby hellcat companion were aboard a "celebrity home expedition" tour bus, which was driving past a very luxurious estate. It was nestled in an expansive neighborhood, where several famous individuals took up residence when they weren't out on the town. To blend in with the rest of the humans on the vehicle, each of the I.M.P assassins had slipped on a disguise.

Blitzo had chosen to be a clown; Moxxie and Millie simply opted to dress as elegant humans, complete with wigs and hats. Heather, on the other hand, was sporting a "downtown doll" outfit, trimmed with bead tassels, gold jewelry, and feathers. Blitzo couldn't help but admire the hellcat's form; the dark blue dress suited Heather's luscious curves perfectly.

Wow...look at her. If style could kill, she'd be an overlord!

At one point, Heather had caught Blitzo staring at her, his eyes sparkling in the soft white glow of the half-moon above them. She smiled curiously back at him, raising an eyebrow playfully.

"What?"

"Huh? Oh, uh, nothing," Blitzo replied, shaking himself out of his trance, "I just kinda zoned out for a minute there, heh."

"Hmm...if you say so," Heather teased, booping the imp on the nose, "just try not to clown around too much on this mission, alright? The sooner we get back to HQ, the sooner we can leave for the weekend."

"Ha! Nice one."

"Gee, I wonder whose house this is?" Moxxie prompted his wife, pointing at the enormous mansion to the right of the tour bus.

"And to your right is the home of famous inventor Lyle Lipton," the tour guide continued, answering his question with near impeccable timing.

"Let's do it, gang!" Blitzo grinned, signaling for the I.M.P assassins to move out.

The group leapt off of the bus, readying their weapons. Even Heather managed to make a flawless landing, despite the complexities of her dress.

"Let's kill this rich guy!" Millie smirked, brandishing a blood-tinged pair of knives.

"Wait, how'd you land like that?" Blitzo asked Heather as the group ran slinked towards the mansion, "You're wearing heels!"

"Is that a serious question, Blitz?" Heather replied, brushing her hair out of her face, "I'm a hellcat. I land on my feet."

"Oh, right," Blitzo nodded, "for some reason, I always thought that was a myth."

"It is," Heather shrugged, "but I've been practicing my landings for so long that they just come naturally to me! Now everybody get your arses into gear; we're going into this kill balls and all!"

Upon arriving outside of Lyle's bedroom window, the quartet of murderers peered through the glass to see what they were working with.

"Wow," Moxxie remarked gravely, "that machine really did a number on him."

"I'll say," Heather nodded, pausing upon feeling something bump against her left side.

A small sock puppet, which had been stitched to look like Heather, had been slipped over Blitzo's tail. While the others listened in on Lyle's conversation with himself, the imp held up the puppet to his hellcat friend, talking to her in a high-pitched voice and attempting to mimic her light Australian accent.

"Hiya Heather! I'm mini-you! Wanna cook some shrimps on the barbie?"

Despite the fact that Heather had encouraged Blitzo not to fool around during the mission, she couldn't help but laugh at the ridiculous impression of her.

"Does my accent really sound like that?"

"Nah, not even close," Blitzo shook his head, "yours is one-of-a-kind."

"Hey! What happened to going into this balls and all?!" Moxxie hushed them, "Shh!"

"Right, sorry," Heather apologized, returning her attention to the window

"Oh, fantastic!" Blitzo mused, watching as the bedridden old man attempted to tie his IV into a noose, "He's gonna do our job for us!"

"Should we go in there and tie it for him?" Moxxie suggested, noticing how long it was taking Lyle to assemble the suicide item.

"Not yet," Heather advised, "let's wait and see what happens. We shouldn't cause an unnecessary disturbance unless he changes his mind."

However, just as Lyle was about to hang himself, the IV vaporized in thin air, radiating a burst of angelic white light. The resulting force sent the I.M.P assassins flying, skidding across the perfectly-trimmed lawn.

Unfortunately for Blitzo's sock puppet, the blast was so strong that it was sent spiraling into the distance, never to be seen again. The imp seemed to be forlorn at the notion of letting "Heather" slip through his grasp. Nevertheless, he pulled himself together, his eyebrows knitting together in annoyance. What had caused that sudden emanation of blinding light?

"Who the fuck are they?" Blitzo snapped, wheeling around to glare at the window once more.

"Oh no," Moxxie shook his head in disbelief, "sir, those are cherubs!"

"The fuck is a cherub?" Millie asked Heather, who was standing up and smoothing off her dress.

"Well, from what I've learned as Stolas's secretary," the hellcat explained worriedly, "they're the equivalent of imps in heaven's society. I think it's safe to assume that they're here to prevent the target from killing himself!"

"Oh hell no!" Blitzo snapped, whipping out his flintlock and rolling up his right sleeve, "Don't listen to—"

The furious imp stormed right through the window without a second thought, falling on his face in front of Lyle and the cherubs. Moxxie, Millie, and Heather exchanged concerned glances, opting to enter the mansion through the front door instead.

"Lyle Lipton," Moxxie began, "it is our—"

He paused, eying Blitzo, who was lying in front of the broken window, covered in glass shards. Millie and Heather entered the room as well, cringing at the sight of the extremely uncomfortable position that their boss was hunched into. Regardless, Moxxie cleared his throat and continued.

"Humble opinion that you should continue the process to...commit die."

"I mean, what do you expect to do with all this money now you're old," Millie remarked dryly, "and gross."

"Is that a serious question?" replied the yellow sheep cherub, Keenie, snagging a pile of Lyle's money and throwing it like confetti, "He can help spread his wealth around with the people of the world, and do so much good with it, and be so fulfilled!"

"Mmm, no!" Lyle objected.

"He can pay for new hospitals and schools!" added the purple sheep cherub, Collin.

"Why won't you let me die?" Lipton whined, clenching the filthy sheets of his mattress.

"Aw, sounds like you need help offing yourself there, buddy," Blitzo interjected, turning and nodding at his employees, "Moxxie, Heather, what've we got for this fella?"

"I have some assault weapons, crossbow, hunting bow, tommy gun, old-fashioned shotgun, revolvers in three colors, chainsaws, katanas—"

"Oh, I have some cool Australian weapons, too!" Heather added, revealing a duffel bag full of her weapons, all of which were pink, "My family's been using these babies for decades! Spears, boomerangs...a few EpiPens, but those aren't weapons, they're more for emergencies..."

Heather set the back down, unsheathing her claws and flexing them.

"...the fearsome four, by which I mean my claws. Oh, and you can't beat the classics: throwing knives, hatchets, blow-darts, mallets, slingshots, sais, brass knuckles...yeah, I could go on all day. Did you have anything specific in mind? Because I probably have it."

"He's classier than that!" Collin protested, pausing to remove the cocked assault weapon that Lyle had shoved into his mouth, "There are still plenty of reasons to live, Mr. Lyle!"

"Yeah, right!" Millie countered, "Smells like he ain't been out of bed in months!"

She took one whiff of Lyle and vomited, only proving her point. Moxxie rubbed her back in an effort to comfort her, similar to what she had done for him at Loo Loo Land.

"I'm just gonna take Millie's word for it," Heather smiled nervously, "but seriously, how blind do you have to be to not comprehend that this man is crying blue murder to be...well, murdered!"

"What the fuck does that mean, crazy cat lady?" Lyle spat, "Speak English!"

"Well, compared to being called a 'furry'," Heather rolled her eyes sarcastically, making quotation marks with her hands, "getting labeled as a 'crazy cat lady' is much less insulting to me, so I thank you."

"Life can be beautiful at any age," insisted the third and final cherub, Cletus.

"And we'll show him!" Keenie piped up, prompting her comrades to cheer.

"No!" the I.M.P employees groaned, gripping their heads in frustration.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

To begin their quest in convincing Lyle Lipton not to commit suicide, the cherubs wheeled his hospital bed towards a ledge, overlooking a lush lakeside valley. The glorious sights and sounds of earth's nature surrounded them; birds fluttered in the breeze, deer traversed the pines, and a cool breeze blew past, rattling the leaves on the trees.

"Look around, Lyle!" Cletus prompted the elderly man, "God's gift of nature is a wonder to behold, regardless of age or wealth!"

"If you were to end your life," Collin added, "you'd be missing all of this."

"Mmm hmm," Blitzo smirked at them, wearing what appeared to be a lion costume, "you gonna buy that load of shit from a baby and the sheep it fucks?"

"That is so inappropriate!" Keenie gasped, appalled.

"Oh, kiss our ass, prude!" Millie retorted, decked out in a fluffy pink-and-white cat suit and flipping her off.

"Speaking of 'asses'..." Blitzo stammered, his jaw dropping to the floor upon seeing Heather's second disguise of the day, which was arguably his favorite, "holy shit."

"Oh my goodness!" Cletus cried, "Somebody cover the woman up! That's too much cleavage!"

"O-oh dear!" Collin added, shielding himself with the hospital bed, "My eyes are burning!"

"What? I was already a hellcat to begin with!" Heather raised an eyebrow at the humanistic cherub, "It's not my fault the only outfit in my disguise closet that worked was the sexy bunny!"

"Can we please get back to the task at hand?!" Moxxie asked, donning a tuxedo cat outfit.

"Anyway, take it from me," Blitzo continued, handing Lyle a pair of binoculars, "a fellow genius. Nature is no picnic up close."

In the field below the group, a small gathering of rabbits and squirrels were peacefully grazing in the field. However, said peace hardly lasted long enough for anyone to enjoy it. A pair of wolves darted towards their innocent prey, powerful pairs of jaws meeting flesh and crunching through solid bone. Blood and internal organs splattered everywhere, staining the once lush, green grass with a sickening shade of crimson.

"Oh no..." Lyle gaped at the scene in horror.

"S-stop looking!" Collin cried, attempting to tug the binoculars away from him.

"I can't stop! I've never wanted to die more than I do now!"

To make matters even worse, a hulking grizzly bear encroached on the carnage, slashing at one of the wolves with a set of razor-sharp claws. It slid across the field, drenched in its own blood, only managing to peer up at its attacker before it was to ruthlessly mauled, torn limb-from-limb just as it had done unto its own prey. However, much to the bear's misfortune, an enormous tree had been sawed free of its base and collapsed, brutally crushing even the muscular body of the beast beneath it.

The lumberjack behind the bear's death, however, was dangerously close to karma himself. A hive of wasps detached from an overhead tree branch, plunging towards the man's face and masking it in a world of pain. In addition to having his face mercilessly mutilated by the insects' incessant stinging, both of his arms were simultaneously sawed off by his own chainsaw, which he'd unintentionally hurled into the air upon having his head trapped within the hornets' nest. As if the over-the-top primal display couldn't get any worse, one of the deer roaming through the forest charged at the now-armless man, impaling him with all twelve branches of its horns.

Needless to say, Lyle and the cherubs were rooted into place, completely and utterly terrified by the barbaric display that they'd just had the displeasure to witness.

"Uh...let's go check out someplace else!" Cletus suggested nervously.

"Immediate Murder Professionals, one," Heather mused, winking at Blitzo, "cherubs, jack shit."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Oh Lord..." Lyle complained upon being dragged into a shopping mall, "where are we now? Let me perish!"

"We're here to show you another thing life is worth living for," Keenie replied, motioning towards a mall Santa, who was surrounded by an eager crowd of children, "childhood wonderment!"

"Why, look at those sweet, disease-ridden vermin," Lyle observed, turning to Collin, "their-their joy comes from innocence unspoiled by the burdens of adulthood and their middle-class existence! Such simple joy they have. It is inspiring. Thank you for showing me this."

"Hey, dipshit!" Blitzo interjected from across the room, where he and his employees were stooping next to the mall Santa.

The imp and his posse were all decked out in Christmas-themed outfits to blend in with the mall employees. Blitzo and Millie were dressed as elves, while Moxxie and Heather had taken on the roles of their reindeer, a buck and doe of the species. Heather's deer outfit, as with her previous two, was designed to be flexible and skin-tight.

"Seriously, woman?!" Keenie glared at her, "Where do you keep getting these revealing outfits?! How much money do you waste on tacky, improper attire?!" 

"My mother dominates the fashion trade in Hell!" Heather smirked, "I get a shit-ton of sexy outfits like this for free!"

"Ah, cool," Blitzo remarked, blushing a little and tapping his pointer fingers together, "do you think you could get her to make some cool shit for me?"

"I'll keep you posted," the hellcat winked, flirtatiously motioning to him with finger-guns.

"Anywho...wanna see whose lap you're sitting on?" Blitzo asked the child sitting on the mall Santa, smugly leaning in to rip off the costume.

To the horror of the swarm of kids present, "Santa" was revealed to be a very creepy middle-aged man, who had likely only been posing as the holiday icon to fuel an addiction of some kind. The children ran away screaming, and even Lyle had burst into tears, leaving the I.M.P victorious once again.

"Aaaand that's another victory for the Immediate Murder Professionals!" Heather declared, sassily planting a hand on her hip and fist-bumping Millie with the other, "We could keep this up all day, mates."

The red tabby hellcat plucked a candy cane off of a nearby Christmas tree, unwrapping it and giving it a sniff.

"Hmm...I wonder if these are any good?"

Instinctively, she gave the treat a lick very characteristic of a cat. She trilled in pleasure, dragging her tongue up the side of the candy cane, which made the cherubs uneasy and unintentionally turned Blitzo on.

"Oh my goodness," Collin shuddered, "what is she doing?"

"Mmm, what's the matter, you petty pastel pussies?" Heather shot them a shit-eating grin, her tongue seductively gliding across the surface of the peppermint stick, "Does this remind you of something...scungy?"

Moxxie and Millie chuckled in amusement, completely unaware of Blitzo's response to Heather's unusual innuendo display. Admittedly, he was starting to get a little hard...

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

The cherubs' third attempt to persuade Lyle not to end his life lead them to yet another ledge, this one at the edge of a popular location for the local adolescents. Several human-operated vehicles were parked nearby, occupied by couples who were making out in their front seats.

"Ugh, this place reeks of teenagers!" Lyle complained, repulsed by the presence of young life around him.

"Lover's Lookout, sir!" Cletus replied gleefully, "We're here to remind you of life's possibly greatest joy of all."

"Money?" the elder prompted.

"No!" Collin corrected him, "Love."

"I've never been in love before," Lyle remarked, "I imagine it's quite nice."

"It's not too late, sir," Collin nodded, "you can still find—"

"Ha! Nice try, ugly."

The cherubs wheeled around, finding themselves face-to-face with the I.M.P team once again, all of whom had swapped their Christmas disguises for some very elegant princess dresses. Heather's was relatively similar to those of her coworkers, aside from the fact that the hem of her dress was uneven, displaying a fairly large portion of her legs, as well as the glittery pair of silver heels that she was wearing.

"At least that whorish cat is wearing a dress this time..." Keenie muttered, facepalming.

Moxxie and Millie gaped at the statement, glancing over at Heather to see how she would react to such an offensive statement. Heather's fur bristled with rage, but she stood silent, carefully considering the insult.

"You privileged pricks wouldn't know a whore if one of them fucked you in the ass!" Blitzo retorted, taking Heather's right hand in one palm and patting it with the other, "I hope your precious 'God' has enough sense to strike you three little shitkickers down where you stand! Don't listen to that trifling hoe, Heather, you look beautiful. Like the spicy, badass feline you've always been."

Heather smiled at him gratefully, a light blush spreading across her cheeks as her fur began to flatten out. Upon realizing that the rest of the group was watching them, Blitzo pulled away, clearing his throat and whipping out a megaphone.

"Ahem! Anyway...hey, horny lovers! Which one of you would fuck this old man?!"

Every single car in the lot punched the gas, speeding as far away from the location as quickly as humanly possible, leaving a very dejected Lyle Lipton behind. Once again, the trio of imps and their hellcat companion had reigned superior in their methods.

"You know, you four are so utterly c-cruel!" Collin stammered angrily, "We're just trying to give hope to someone in need!"

"Oh, and you three are so superior to us just because we want some selfish, greedy, authoritarian capitalist to keel over dead!" Moxxie retorted, listing off the negative aspects of the I.M.P's target on one hand.

"Wow," Heather remarked, glancing over at Millie worriedly, "he really went brick shithouse on them for a minute there."

"You're making things too real now, Moxxie," Blitzo agreed, spritzing his underling with a bottle labeled "piss".

"That said," Heather continued, flipping off the cherubs with both hands, "score three for the I.M.P team! Ready to give up, ratbags?"

Chapter Text

Out of options, the cherubs decided to resort to showing Lyle one of the most important aspects of human life and expression: the arts. Their destination of choice? The opera. On the stage in front of them was a pianist and a vocalist dressed as a unicorn-riding Viking, her braided red hair so long that it covered her eyes as she belted out the notes.

"Behold! The wonder of art and music!" Cletus motioned to the opera singer, "Something always there to comfort, entertain, and live for."

Meanwhile, above the stage, Heather, Blitzo, Moxxie, and Millie were stalking the cherubs and Lyle intently, like jaguars about to spring from the bushes. Blitzo's tail even wavered back and forth as he shook his rump, which only made the comparison more accurate.

"Damn it," Heather muttered, "they pulled a quick fuck. Everyone knows that you can't beat the arts; they practically built society as we know it! Literally. You know, because everything in this room used to be a sketch on a blueprint. Why is it that I couldn't get my old high school to understand that argument?"

"She's got a point," Millie nodded, "so...how do we make this bad?"

"We can't," Moxxie shrugged, "there's literally nothing bad about opera. That's fact."

"Unless we ruin it somehow!" Blitzo suggested, snagging one of the stage lights and moving it away from the vocalist below.

When the opera singer attempted to skitter towards the spotlight, Blitzo slid it away from her once again, continuing to do so over and over and over again. The imp's actions slowly began to deteriorate the quality of the opera's performance, to the point where the cherubs and Lyle began to notice.

"She's not very good," the bedridden old man remarked, raising an eyebrow.

Blitzo cackled in the rafters, fiddling with the stage light in every direction on the stage imaginable. The other I.M.P assassins grinned maniacally; their relatively simple plan was going swimmingly. However, after a few minutes of meddling, tragedy struck like a thunderbolt. The spotlight wiggled free of its bearings, eliciting a collective gasp from the group as it crashed on top of the opera singer, crushing her beneath it. All that remained of her was a bloody mess.

Lyle, the cherubs, and the rest of the audience screamed in alarm, utterly horrified by the accidentally killing. The pianist on stage continued playing nervously, switching to a more morbid piece to add to the spectacle. The imps and hellcat gaped at what they were responsible for, but Blitzo shrugged it off, feeling accomplished.

"Well, at least we made it bad."

"That's it!" Cletus spat, finally fed up with the I.M.P's interference, "I have had it! You four monsters have messed with us enough!"

"W-we're just trying to do our j-j-job!" Collin stuttered.

"Well so are we," Moxxie retorted through gritted teeth.

"Enough!" Cletus bellowed, "We are savin' that shitty old man's life, whether he wants it or not!"

The cherubs summoned three angelic crossbows, aiming them at the imps and hellcat furiously.

"Oh, so now you're admitting that he's shitty!" Heather sneered, "It took you long enough!"

"Well, someone wants that fucker dead, okay?" Blitzo noted, holding up a green gem-encrusted horse with a tiny hat, which read "mare-ajuana" as a joke, "And he paid in advance, and I spent it all on this! So he's gotta go!"

"Blitz!" Heather objected, "Connie's gonna be so upset about this! You know how she is about squandering the budget!"

"You are all such disgusting, loathsome beasts!" Keenie interjected, hovering over Blitzo threateningly, "Your kind is nothing but dirt that shitty dead people tread on! And now you're trying to meddle with the lives of humans?!"

"So are you!" Millie barked back, "So why don't you shut your trap, you judgmental, cotton candy tit-halfin' bitch!"

"Well at least I don't dress like that immoral, dick-sucking furball that you little shits call your friend!" Keenie shot back, glaring at Heather, "She's such an erratic prude that even the lowest of the low wouldn't hook up with her, let alone touch her with a ten-and-a-half-foot pole!"

"You two-faced fucking stuck-up cunt!" Heather hissed, every hair of her fur standing on end, "I've giving you three goddamn seconds to take that back before I maul you, you fuckwitted, tight-arsed skank!"

Never before had such a slew of Australian obscenities escaped through Heather's teeth and lips. Even Blitzo was blown away by what he just heard. He knew from experience that never under any circumstance should you make Heather mad, because you'd hardly be alive long enough to regret it.

Heather hardly ever lost her temper, but on the rare occasions that she did, the hellcat was absolutely terrifying. Her rage was explosive; unrivaled by even Princess Stella, especially when her practically nonexistent romantic life was being blamed on account of her appearance.

"Why don't you come over here and make me?!" the yellow sheep cherub spat without even thinking, "You filthy bitch!" 

And that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"One..." Heather growled, dropping onto all fours.

"Okay, guys, stay back," Blitzo warned his imp employees, "she's gonna explode!"

"Two!"

"What are you talking about?!" Keenie prompted, "She's just a slutty...feline..."

A very poor choice of words, and the sheep cherub knew she'd only aggravated the situation further as Heather's eyes faded into chaotic mode, staining them pitch-black with hazel irises. She unsheathed her claws, her voice laced with malice.

"Three."

Heather pounced at Keenie, who narrowly ducked out of the way in time, sending Heather skidding across the metal bridge of the rafters. Regardless, she remained on her feet, bounding towards the yellow cherub in a blinding fury. Keenie dove at Millie to extract her revenge on a less primal target, and thus, a clash of otherworldly proportions ensued.

Collin and Cletus took the opportunity to begin firing their own crossbows at Blitzo and Moxxie, who whipped out their pistols and began firing back at their pursuers. While they were running, Moxxie spotted his wife and Keenie rolling off of the steel platform, tumbling down towards the stage and pummeling each other.

Thinking quickly, Moxxie grabbed onto a nearby rope, which was fastened to the railing, and jumped after her. He used his pistol to shoot a nearby sandbag free of its moorings, sending it crashing into Keenie. As the cherub plummeted, he swooped in and saved Millie, who shot him a seductive grin. The sounds of the opera; the firing of bullets and arrows; all seemed like the perfect environment to encompass their love.

So they decided to multitask, spraying bullets around them as they made out on the rope. While being targeted by Collin, who had followed them to avenge Keenie.

Meanwhile, in the rafters, Cletus was screaming and running for his life as Heather chased him up and down the walkways. At last, she managed to corner the humanoid cherub, bearing her fangs and growling like a rabid tiger. Blitzo watched on in awe, ducking behind a metal barrier to prevent himself from being shot by accident as the gunshots continued to ring out all across the theater. Unfortunately, he failed to notice a single stray bullet, which was heading his way at the speed of a torpedo.

Alerted to the imp's impending doom, Heather abandoned the quivering cherub, her feet pounding against the steel floor to save him.

"Blitz!" she shouted, the intense fear gripping her body diminishing her chaotic mode at once, "Look out! Move!"

"What?" Blitzo called out to her, gasping as he realized much too late that the bullet was headed his way.

At the last possible second, Heather shoved the imp out of the way, adrenaline still pumping through her veins. There was a sharp pain in her side, and just as swiftly as she had taken the bullet, she dropped to her knees, grunting in pain. Blitzo, still reeling from the shock of being shoved aside, slowly pulled himself off the ground, sighing in relief.

"Phew! That was close. Thanks for the save, Hea—"

The second he caught sight of Heather, his heart practically stopped. She was keeling over in pain, a black liquid dripping from a gun wound below her left rib cage. Her hazel eyes widened in panic as she clutched the area where the stray bullet had penetrated. The wound was bleeding rapidly, quickly draining away any and all of her remaining strength. Hardly a moment later, the hellcat collapsed.

For the first time while on a mission, Blitzo had witnessed his best friend being shot. She had sacrificed herself to save him.

"Holy shit, Heather!" Blitzo gasped, slinking to her side so as to avoid being caught in another flurry of bullets.

The imp rolled Heather onto her back, carefully sliding her head into his lap and stroking her cheek fur in an effort to get the hellcat to regain consciousness.

"Heather?"

The hellcat didn't respond. Her body had gone completely limp; devoid of life in every aspect imaginable. Blitzo pressed the side of his head to Heather's chest, gasping as he realized that she didn't have a heartbeat. He pulled away, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Come on, Heather," Blitzo encouraged, his voice breaking, "you can do it. And then we can kill that old son of a bitch already. And we can go back to the office and I'll drive everyone home and we can go over to your place and watch Spirit and—"

He stiffened, feeling something wet roll down his face and hurriedly wiping it away with a sniffle. There was no way in Hell that he would let one of those cherubs catch him crying, much less one of his coworkers.

"Please get up, Heather..."

A lustrous orange aura spread across the red tabby hellcat's body like a mystical wildfire amongst her fur, engulfing her in a cocoon of light. The bullet wound in Heather's side began to glow, the edges smoothing over with an accompanying flash, which caught Blitzo off guard. Suddenly, he realized what was happening.

Heather was being stripped of one of her seven lives.

At long last, the aura faded away, leaving her body as if she'd never been shot in the first place. Her eyelids fluttered open, and she gasped for air, bolting upright in alarm.

"Bloody hell..." she muttered, "did I just lose my first life? What happened—?"

Blitzo cut her off, yanking her into an almost crushing hug in a state of profound relief.

"Satan's fuck, Heather, don't ever do that again! You scared me shitless!"

"Blitz, I appreciate the gesture, but I can't breathe—!" Heather wheezed, managing a smile in his firm grip.

"Oh, sorry," Blitzo apologized, releasing her to cup her cheek fur in his hands, "but seriously, I thought you were dead. Like, forever! Why would you throw yourself in harm's way like that?!"

"What was I supposed to do, let you die?" Heather shrugged, raising an eyebrow at him, "Blitz, I care about you too much to not have taken that bullet. Besides I can take a few lethal hits now and then. You can't."

"Okay, fair," Blitzo shrugged, "just, please...don't do that again. You're gonna give me a heart attack one of these days..."

"So are you," Heather rolled her eyes playfully, giving him a gentle nudge, "come on, we have some cherubs to squish. Especially that piss-colored sheep. She's a bitch."

"Yeah she is," Blitzo smirked, brandishing his flintlock and tugging Heather along, "let's go pump her guts full of lead!"

"Oh no you don't!" Cletus objected, darting in front of them and aiming his crossbow between their foreheads, "This ends now!"

"Okay, drongo," Heather hissed, whipping out a pink pistol, "let's dance!"

The three met in a standoff above a set of stage lights, engaging in rapid gunfire. However, their luck quickly ran out as soon as the ammunition of both Blitzo's flintlock and Heather's pistol ran dry, leaving them at the mercy of the cherub's crossbow...or so he thought. In an act of desperation, Blitzo chucked his gun at Cletus's face, causing him to accidentally shoot the rack of lights loose.

"Ugh!" the humanoid cherub spat, "You fucker!"

The rack of lights crashed onto the stage, dragging Blitzo, Heather, Moxxie, and Millie down with it. They landed on the stage behind the pianist, arching the planks of wood on which the instrument stood due to the weight imbalance. Sensing that it would be a wise decision to move, the pianist simply dropped his stool to safety, jumping on top of it. Unfortunately, this sent the piano flying through the air, and at long last, it crash-landed on top of Lyle Lipton, ending his life once and for all.

"Well, well, would you look at that," Moxxie remarked smugly, "you did our job for us. Heh!"

The cherubs gasped, panicking amongst themselves while the imps exchanged celebratory, sinister grins. Mission accomplished. Not in a notably successful manner, but still fairly accomplished nonetheless.

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my God—" Collin sputtered, his hooves gripping his face.

"Get ahold of yourself, Collin!" Keenie scolded him, giving him several slaps across the face, "And do not use the Lord's name in vain!"

"This isn't over!" Cletus shouted at the I.M.P assassins.

Keenie created a heavenly portal and the three flew through it, only to be mysteriously repelled back on the opera stage.

"What the?!" Cletus protested, aghast at the fact that neither he nor his employees could enter the portal.

A group of cherubs descended from the portal, consisting of two bees, two sheep and Deerie, who, as her name suggested, was the doe leader of the group. The deer conjured a pair of glasses and a clipboard, addressing the humanoid cherub and his posse in a very smug and condescending tone.

"Yeah, no, sorry Cletus, but I'm afraid your actions resulted in the death of a human. I'm afraid you can't re-enter Heaven. Yeah, no."

"What?!" the C.H.E.R.U.B trio gasped, huddling together in fear.

"Yeah, um, sorry..." Deerie chuckled, indifferent to their despair, "yeah, no."

"Is there anything we can do?" Collin pleaded.

"Yeah, no!" the doe cherub replied, filing her hoof before pointing at each of the three banished cherubs individually, "Oh no, no no. Oh, no, no."

"But...we didn't mean to!" Keenie protested, pointing below her at the fallen set of stage lights, "We'd never! It was all—"

However, the I.M.P assassins that she was about to blame had vanished, having departed via the grimoire's portal just moments prior. With no proper source of blame, C.H.E.R.U.B was doomed to remain banned from heaven for all time and eternity.

"Anyway, sorry guys," Deerie shrugged innocently, disappearing back into the heavenly portal alongside her posse, "but those are the rules, yeah! Bye!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Well, the old man wanted to live again," Blitzo addressed his fellow assassins back at I.M.P HQ, "and we didn’t kill him, so we failed. Thanks to those fucking cherubs, he’s probably up in Heaven now."

The imp strolled across the conference room, peering out of the gaping hole in the wall to view the city skyline.

"So it’s a shame. All our client wanted was eternal revenge on his business partner. And now the two are forever separated, and now we gotta face the fire of fucking up. Not to mention that Heather lost one of her seven lives today in saving my ass from a stray bullet."

"Well, the good news is that none of us actually died," Heather shrugged, "the bad news is that Blitzo already spent the client's prepaid kill money on a toy horse. So now he's gonna be twice as pissed, and so is Connie."

"Sir," Moxxie intrigued, "when are you going to tell the client?"

"Oh, I already sent him a text," Blitzo replied, pointing at an ongoing chat on his hellphone, "we're in good hands, because texts don't make people angry."

"You're kidding, right?" Heather raised an eyebrow at him, "Do you have any idea how many angry texts I exchanged with my ex-boyfriend Thomas a few days before we broke up? It only made things worse because he didn't have the balls to communicate face-to-face."

Mere seconds later, Loopty Goopty descended into the conference room on an escalator, ruining the wall yet again. Thankfully, Moxxie narrowly managed to leap out of the way in time, wiping his brow in relief.

"Blitz!" he greeted in an almost insane singsong voice.

"Loofa! We can explain everything," Blitzo began nervously, "I was—"

Before he could continue, a second escalator crashed through what little remained of the west wall, crushing Moxxie beneath it. Lyle Lipton rolled into the room, now a robotic demon version of himself, similar to that of his former partner.

"Lyle Lipton?!" Blitzo, Heather, and Millie remarked at the same time.

"I don't understand," Millie shrugged, "we thought you went to Heaven."

"Heaven?" Lyle scoffed, "You don’t make millions in technological advances in robotics by not experimenting on the poor!"

"Oh, you no-good heartless son of a bitch!" Loopty nudged his old friend, turning to Blitzo, "Thank you for reuniting me with my best friend!"

"So...that means I didn't take a bullet for nothing after all!" Heather chuckled nervously, "But seriously, it hurt like a bitch. I could definitely do without that next time."

"The only question now is," Lyle pondered aloud, "what do two genius robotic inventors do now that we’re in Hell?"

"Did someone say, I say, inventors?" a tall, lanky imp with slender horns leapt through one of the only remnants of the wall, "Name’s Wally Wackford, and I am looking for creative new people to exploit…I mean employ."

"Everyone, stop fucking up my walls!" Blitzo snapped, "Moxxie’s gonna have to fix all this shit!"

Moxxie groaned from beneath the elevator he was trapped beneath, foaming at the mouth.

"Oh, chill out, Moxxie," Blitzo waved off his suffering, "if you kiss my ass any harder, you’ll go right inside me. Satan’s balls, first we deal with Heaven’s table-scraps, now this?"

"Can you stop making jabs at him?!" Heather groaned, facepalming, "One of us literally died for you today, let's not make poor Moxxie do the same!"

"I guess you can say, you say," Wally teased, "you have a hole-y operation here, Blitzo!"

"Get out," Blitzo ordered, clearly not amused.

"I said 'o'!" Wally repeated, cackling on the floor.

"No, I’m serious," Blitzo bellowed, "get the fuck out!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Well, now that that's over," Blitzo growled, still glaring at the gaping holes in the conference room wall, "let's worry about fixing this shit. I swear to Satan, if our next client decides to bust down our wall instead of using the door like a normal fucking person, I'm gonna charge them double!"

"Uh, aren't you forgetting something...important, Blitz?!" Heather rolled her eyes, pointing over to where Moxxie was lying beneath a pile of rubble.

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that," the imp snapped his fingers, "hey Heather, you got any of those 'powers' of yours on hand for this?"

"Fortunately for poor Moxxie, yes," the hellcat nodded, "we're in the Pride Ring, so I think my aura powers should get the job done. Hang in there, Mox!"

Moxxie only groaned in response, practically foaming at the mouth from the pressure. Heather knew she had to act fast if she was to save him from suffocation, so she held up her hands, causing a bright red aura to radiate from her palms. She swiftly shaped the auras into a sphere, which hovered between her hands; one above and one below the shape.

"Stand back, you two," she warned Blitzo and Millie, "I'm an experienced professional!"

"Oooh!" Millie remarked, awestruck by the hellcat's power, "Pretty!"

With a swift and precise twirl, Heather sent the orb flying in the direction of the rubble, sending it crashing into it. Upon impact, the remnants of the escalator shattered into a thousand pieces, raining out of the gaping hole in the wall and freeing the helpless imp from beneath it. He gasped for air, rolling over onto his back in relief. Millie rushed to his side, checking his vitals to ensure that he was okay. Thankfully, it looked like he was.

"That. Was. Fucking. Amazing!" Blitzo gasped, sliding in front of Heather, his face lighting up as he fawned over what he'd just witnessed, "You're amazing! I wish I could do stuff like that. It would make killing a hell of a lot easier."

"Heh, you think so?" Heather blushed, "Thanks. Unfortunately, I can't do that in the living world, because I need to be in one of the rings to have access to my chaotic mode powers."

"Aw, don't be so modest," the imp shrugged, "but you know, you pull off every mission pretty well, even without those badass powers. And you're hella good at pulling off disguises!"

"You're not too bad yourself!" Heather giggled, rubbing her neck nervously, "I mean, the dress was...and the cat costume...don't take this the wrong way, but I think you looked kinda cute. I mean, you always do, but...ah, you get what I mean, right?"

"Oh, yeah, I had fun with—" Blitzo paused, blinking in surprise, "wait, you think I'm cute?"

"Huh? Oh, sure!" the red tabby hellcat chuckled, giving her best friend a gentle nudge with her elbow, "I do."

"Y-yeah?" Blitzo retorted playfully, tapping Heather's nose with the arrowhead tip of his tail, "Well, you're cute!"

Thank Satan that his skin was already crimson. Everyone in the room would've known that he was blushing.

"Oh, stop," Heather mused, glancing over the imp's shoulder at Moxxie and Millie, "is he okay, Mills? Does he need first aid?"

"Nah, he's alright," Millie replied, planting a kiss on her recuperating husband's forehead, "my little Moxx Moxx is tough as nails!"

"Yeah, I'm okay," Moxxie nodded, pulling himself to his feet, "thanks, Heather."

"Don't mention it," the hellcat replied, "okay, I'm gonna go get some supplies to help us rebuild the wall. I'll be right back."

Heather turned and started for the door, but she paused just before reaching for the door handle, feeling Blitzo's eyes on her. She glanced over her shoulder at him, smiling, her tail flicking to beckon him to join her.

"Do you...wanna come with? I could use the extra help."

"Huh? Oh, sure!" the imp nodded avidly, rushing over to hold open the door for Heather, "After you, milady!"

Heather nodded at him gratefully, and the pair strode down the hallway together. However, they were caught off guard by what sounded like a wet sniffle. They stopped, listening for a minute longer, and realized that it was coming from the room to their left. Judging by the label on the door, that could only mean one thing. Someone was crying in the employee bathroom.

"Wait...Moxxie and Millie are in the conference room," Heather noted, peering into the lounge for a moment before continuing, "and Loona's still at reception. So that means...oh sweet Satan. I think that might be Connie."

"Huh, you're right," Blitzo nodded, "but why is she so upset? Do you think something happened while we were sparring with those fucking C.H.E.R.U.B dipshits?"

"I don't know," Heather sighed.

Suddenly, Loona rounded a corner in the hallway, her blood-red eyes locked on Blitzo in a menacing glare. Her lips were curled into a snarl, and even Heather cringed at the sight of her. Clearly, the hellhound was not happy.

"I hope you're satisfied with yourself, Blitz!" Loona snapped, "Do you have any fucking idea what you're doing to Connie?!"

"I...what?" Blitzo blinked at her, confused and offput.

"She told me this morning that she was thinking of quitting!" the hellhound continued, practically blinded by her fury, "To make matters worse, she disappeared after that phone call she took when you left the office! I haven't seen or heard from her for hours!"

"Loona..." Blitzo began, "listen, I—"

"No, you listen to me!" Loona spat, "If you don't grow a dick and be the bigger man for once, she's gonna leave! And I'll have to sit at that stupid desk in the lounge, alone, for the rest of my life! Was all that stupid shit you blew the budget on over the years really worth more than her?!"

"No! Of course not!" Blitzo cried out, "Don't worry, Loonie, we'll find her. Just sit tight."

"Whatever," Loona, growled, storming off, "you better."

"Okay, this is serious," Heather admitted, turning to Blitzo after the hellhound had departed, "I think you should go in there and talk to Connie."

"What? Me?" the imp raised an eyebrow at her, "Why me? I thought she didn't like me. I mean, she wants to quit."

"All the more reason," Heather explained, "listen, from what I've observed, she probably thinks that you don't like her. Now more than ever, this is a good time to change that."

"Oh, I don't know, Heather," the imp objected, fiddling with the skull emblem on his coat, "maybe we should get someone else to handle this one."

"Blitz, you've always cared for your employees like they're family," Heather continued, looking him directly in the eye, "why would Connie be any different? Please, just try to see eye-to-eye with her. You might even find some common ground. Besides, what have you got to lose?"

The hellcat had Blitzo there. Based on his status with Connie, he really didn't have anything to lose. Truth be told, he'd been wanting to establish a better work relationship with his employee ever since she'd stood up for him during his argument with Loona on the beach. However, the imp had found himself at a loss of circumstances in which to do so, especially considering that he'd squandered even more company resources just hours beforehand in shooting multiple spare televisions within the conference room. And oh, had that pissed Connie off.

Regardless, the pleading eyes that Heather was giving him, in addition to desire to make up for his shortcomings with Connie, were enough to convince him to give the suggestion a chance.

"Alright, Heather," Blitzo caved, "I'll try my best. But I can't promise anything."

"You don't have to," Heather assured him, turning to head to the storage room, "just listen to what she has to say. There's nothing more important in the two-way street of mutual respect than honest, open communication. I'll start lugging the supplies for the wall-rebuilding upstairs. You can come and help us when you're done. Good luck, Blitz."

The imp nodded, watching the hellcat depart before releasing a pent-up sigh. There was no way in all of Hell itself that this conversation was going to be easy.

"Okay..." Blitzo muttered, "here goes nothing."

He knocked on the bathroom door twice, but there was no answer.

"Connie? Are you the one crying in there?"

There was another wet sniffle, but still no definitive answer.

"Alright, I hope you're decent," Blitzo warned the occupant, "because I'm coming in."

The imp slowly creaked open the door, peering into the bathroom for a moment before stepping inside, gently shutting it behind him. Sure enough, Connie was in there, sobbing on the black bench in front of the stalls. Her eyeliner was running like crazy; she had a pair of red headphones on, blasting "My World Is Burning Down Around Me" on her phone, which explained why she hadn't heard Blitzo knock in the first place.

However, Connie quickly picked up on Blitzo's entry, sniffling and hurriedly turning off both the music and her headset, sliding the latter down to hang over her neck.

"Ugh...*sniff* d-don't look at me. Nothing's occupied, so you can do your b-business."

"That's fine and all," Blitzo shrugged, slowly approaching the crying hellcat, "but it's not the reason I came in here."

"Then why did you?"

The imp sighed, seating himself beside Connie, who was staring at the floor, intentionally avoiding eye contact with her boss. Clearly, their conversation was off to a rocky start.

"Hey," Blitzo prompted, cautiously reaching over to pat Connie's left thigh, "what's wrong?"

"Oh, why do you care?" Connie muttered, "Nothing I say ever matters to you. I gave up trying to get you to listen to me weeks ago..."

"Well, I'm listening now," Blitzo replied calmly, "is that why you're so upset?"

"No...yes...I don't know," the blue lynx-point hellcat shrugged, wiping her eyes, which were red and puffy from crying, "my entire day has been so fucked up..."

"Welcome to the club," Blitzo murmured, hoping to get at least a chuckle out of Connie, but to no avail, "anyway...what happened?"

"Do you promise that you're gonna listen this time?" Connie sniffled.

"Of course. My attention is yours."

"Alright..." Connie began, "you know those other five sperm that Vortex donated to me? Some dumbass at the fertility clinic was fucking around in the back and dropped the vials. They shattered all over the place and got ruined! And the first insemination didn't get me pregnant, so that means..."

She broke down sobbing again, burying her face in her knees and clutching them closer to her.

"I have to start the whole damn process all over again! And I already wasted $2,000 plus a bunch of fees on the first attempt!"

"Wait, what?" Blitzo gasped, "You can't get more sperm from that hellhound guy?"

"No...I can't!" Connie cried, "Blitz, Vortex had those sperm preserved before he started dating his girlfriend. He only wanted to donate once, in case he hooked up with someone after that. I'm not pressuring him to donate again just for my sake; he's such a nice guy, and he's done more than enough for me already..."

She paused, brushing her hair out of her face before continuing bitterly.

"So now I'm back to square one. I'll probably have to wait, because I already blew my baby fund on the first attempt. But I might never be able to save up enough to rebuild it, because you're just gonna keep ripping through our paychecks anyway...airing shitty TV commercials, posting horribly-spelled billboards without consulting me first, even though that's my job, shooting our spare TVs."

"I was bored," Blitzo shrugged, "what else was I supposed to do?"

"Hmmm, what else could you have done?!" Connie snapped, tears spilling down her cheeks again as she slipped into chaotic mode, "You could always start planning the budget better! Or allot my department enough money to publish advertisements! Or—here's an idea—actually let me do my job! The job that you hired me for, but never think I'm competent enough to handle?!"

The hellcat sighed, forcing herself to calm down.

"I'm sorry, Blitz. When I first accepted this job through a recommendation from Loona, never in a million years did I expect to end up in this situation, especially when I need my hard-earned money more than ever in order to start a family. But it just makes me wonder...why? Why do you even keep me around if you don't want to listen to my ideas? I just...I don't understand. Is it me? Do you not want to fire me, so you're trying to make me quit so you can get rid of me?"

"What? No no no no," Blitzo shook his head, placing a reassuring hand on Connie's shoulder, "I'd never want to get rid of you, Connie, never in a million years. In this office, we're a family, and we don't get rid of family. I thought you would believe me when I said that."

Connie sighed, finally bringing herself to make eye contact with the imp.

"Admittedly, I wasn't thinking of how you or anyone else felt about me spending the budget," Blitzo admitted, "but now that I can see how much it's hurting a loyal employee like you...I think you're on to something. Maybe we do need to make some changes around here, more specifically on my end."

"So...so you actually do care?" Connie intrigued, wiping her eyes again, "You're not just saying that to shut me up?"

"Of course not," Blitzo continued, "based on how you've been feeling towards me, it's obvious that I don't say this enough, but...you're a valuable member of our team, Connie. Always have been, and always will be. I guess I just got so caught up in wanting to be the best in the business that I completely disregarded the creative insight of one of my best employees."

"You mean that?"

"Yep," the imp nodded, flashing the hellcat an encouraging smile, "I really do. And I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry that I've been stealing your thunder for quite some time now. I'll tell you what. How about after we finish rebuilding the conference room wall, we finally review those magazine ads that you put together. Would you like that?"

For a moment, Connie almost seemed at a loss of words for what was happening. However, a huge grin spread across her face, and she did something that Blitzo had never expected her to do: she hugged him.

"More than anything!" Connie chuckled in relief, "I...I don't know what to say. Thank you! Thank you so much, Blitz!"

"Don't thank me yet, Connie," Blitzo smiled, returning the gesture, "I'll prove it to you. Just...remind me before I forget, okay? I have a lot on my mind, too, and I don't wanna fuck things up with you again."

Chapter Text

"You mean to tell me that you still haven't conducted a fire drill for your employees as I suggested? Even after I gave that emergency preparedness talk last week?"

Stolas blinked at Blitzo in disbelief, sitting in front of his desk in a chair that was typically used by clients. The imp stared back at him, downing coffee from his "boss bitch" mug. It had hardly been two hours after the I.M.P's clash with C.H.E.R.U.B, and they'd finally fixed the conference room walls. Blitzo had been hoping to get some work done before his meeting with Connie, intending to uphold his promise to her. Which, he reminded himself as he glanced at the clock, was in less than ten minutes.

Unfortunately, the Goetia prince had dropped by his office with other plans.

"Listen, Stolas, we've been over this, okay? We don't have time to practice preparing for something that's never gonna happen."

"If I recall correctly," the prince countered, raising an eyebrow, "your office has already caught fire once before. The electric eels, Blitzy?"

"Oh my God, it was one time!" Blitzo rolled his eyes, facepalming, "Moxxie was the dipshit who decided to fire his crossbow at the tank! Besides, it's not like I.M.P is your business, so why do you care what happens to my workplace?"

"I care, Blitz," Stolas explained, an edge to his voice, "because your 'workplace' is where my grimoire is stored until the full moon. If it were to perish, not only would you be forced to terminate your business, but I myself would be in terrible trouble, as I would not be capable of fulfilling my duties as a Goetic prince. You must be prepared to defend my book at all costs."

"Alright, I guess I can see your point," Blitzo nodded reluctantly, "but I'm still not gonna force my employees to participate in a shitty fire drill once a month, alright? Moxxie rides my ass about wasting company time enough as it is, and I don't need to give him something else to get all bent out of shape about."

"Very well," Stolas sighed, rising to leave, "I see that you cannot be convinced otherwise. I'm afraid that I must take these fire safety matters into my own hands."

"Ah, well, knock yourself out," Blitzo shrugged, taking another sip from his mug as the owl demon departed, "because I'm sure as hell not gonna stress about it. Fire drills...we live in Hell, for fuck's sake, why do we need fire drills?"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Sure enough, less than an hour later, Stolas had taken his notion of a "fire drill" to the next level. He snuck around the I.M.P office unseen; heating the handles of doors with a blow-torch, jamming keys into the locks and breaking them, hammering door stoppers beneath them. Last but not least, the owl demon lit a cigarette, dropping it into a waste bin in the hallway, hence sending its contents up in flames to give the illusion that there was an actual fire in the building.

Now all there was left to do was wait.

Stolas returned to the lounge area of the office, seating himself on the couch by reception and keenly observing his surroundings and the employees within them. Connie and Loona were quietly chatting at reception, Moxxie, Millie, and Heather were congregated by the water cooler, enjoying their break, and Blitzo was in his office doing Satan-knows-what. So far, nobody had noticed the impending cloud of smoke rising from the room over, which peeved the prince.

"Does anyone smell anything...smoky?" he prompted them, raising an eyebrow.

"Not particularly," Moxxie marked, "did you smoke before your visit today, your highness?"

Stolas shook his head. Clearly, he would have to give the group a nudge in the right direction.

"Ahem!" he cleared his throat, slightly tilting his head in the direction of the false fire.

Thankfully for Stolas, Connie caught on to his hint, slowly turning her head in his direction. Upon noticing the growing cloud of smoke that was creeping out from beneath the door, she gasped, jumping up from her seat beside Loona's desk.

"Oh my Satan! Oh my Satan, uh!"

The rest of the hellcat's coworkers quickly caught on to her anxiety, following where she was pointing with their eyes and practically jumping out of their skin.

"Fire!" Moxxie shouted, quickly reaching for Millie's hand in a panic.

"Oh, fire! Oh my goodness!" Stolas added in mock concern, "What's the procedure? What do we do, people?"

"The phones are dead!" Loona noted, after attempting and failing to dial for help.

"Oh, how did that happen?" Stolas shrugged in false bemusement, glancing down at the broken cord to the landline, which he had cut for the purpose of the simulation.

"It must be out in the hall!" Heather remarked, pointing at the door where the smoke was seeping beneath.

"No, we don't know that," Stolas corrected the red tabby hellcat, "the smoke could be coming through an airduct."

"Blitz! Blitz!" Heather warned her boss, pounding on the door to his office until he answered it, "We have a Code Red! There's a fire in the building!"

"Holy shit, okay, it's actually happening!" the imp gasped, darting to the front door ahead of his other panicked employees, "Everybody stay calm! Everybody stay calm!"

"What's the procedure, everyone?" Stolas reiterated, following the rest of the group to keep an eye on them, "What's the procedure?"

"Stay fucking calm!" Blitzo spat in response, clearly struggling to do so himself, to the dismay of everyone around him, "Everybody just fucking calm down!"

"No! No, Blitzy, no!" Stolas warned him, spotting him reaching for the doorknob, "Touch the handle, if it's hot, there could be a fire in the hallway."

Blitzo rolled his eyes in a combination of annoyance and exasperation, lightly doing as directed.

"What does warm mean?"

The I.M.P staff released a collective groan, uneasily wheeling around to scout out another exit.

"Oh my Satan, try another door!" Connie suggested nervously, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Hmmm, not a viable option," Stolas added, "what next?"

"Don't run!" Blitzo barked after his employees, although they either were too scared to listen or too worried about not being burned alive to care.

The group made a beeline for the next available exit point, which was on the other side of the office, down the hall from the copier room.

"Oh, here's a door!" Stolas remarked, observing Blitzo as he hurriedly patted the door handle, "Check that one out! How's the handle?"

"I-it's warm!" Blitzo stammered, gripping it with both hands and attempting to force open the door, but to no avail.

"Okay, go to the back door!" Loona advised, picking up the grimoire from a nearby bookshelf for safe keeping.

"Well, uh, another option—" Stolas began, before he was practically plowed over by the rush of panicking employees, "oh, jeez! Okay, settle down everyone!"

"I forgot my axe!" Millie gasped, wheeling around and attempting to squeeze through the stampede to retrieve it.

"Leave it, woman!" Loona snapped, forcing her through the doorframe and into the locker room.

"Get out of the way!" Blitzo yelled, shoving past Moxxie in his pursuit of the final exit, "Go go go!"

"Things can be replaced, little imp," Stolas remarked, following the group in their mad dash to their last option, "except for my grimoire, which the hellhound has successfully secured. Demon lives, however, cannot—!"

Heather made it to the exit first, pressing her hand against the doorknob without thinking. She immediately retracted it, having almost burned her palm on the heated metal.

"Bloody shit! My hand!" Heather hissed, "That's hot!"

"Uhhh...this one's hot, too!" Blitzo hollered, "Okay, we're trapped, everyone for himself!"

His words spurred a turmoil the likes of which Stolas had never witness before. The employees burst out of the locker room, branching out in all directions and running around in panic. A sea of screaming and shouting filled the office as the smoke continued to rise, only making the situation worse.

"Out of my way!"

"Let’s go! Get out of the way!"

"Get out of my way!"

"Calm, please!" Stolas squawked over the chaos, "Have you ever seen a burn victim?"

"Move it!" Blitzo shrieked, ducking beneath the owl demon's legs and bolting back into his office to find an alternative escape.

"Okay! Procedure, procedure," Stolas continued, undeterred by even the lack of attention to his directions, "exit options. Where do we go folks? Wha–use a what to cover the mouth?"

"It's okay, Millie," Moxxie attempted to soothe his wife, although he was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack himself, "we're gonna be fine; we're gonna be okay."

"A what? A rag," the prince rambled on, "a damp rag, perhaps. Let’s remember those procedures. What are the options? Remember your exit points. Exit points, people. What's next?"

Heather removed one of the tiles from the ceiling, scrambling to hoist herself up with her arms. Moxxie and Millie took notice, gaping up at her as she successfully climbed into the ceiling.

"Heather!" Moxxie called after her, "Heather!"

"Stay alive!" Heather called back to him, peering out from the hole, "I'm getting help!"

"Pull us up!" Moxxie pleaded, still clinging to his wife for dear life.

"You're too heavy!" Heather shook her head, "Our combined weight would collapse the ceiling!"

"We only weigh around 82 pounds!" Moxxie protested, "Save Millie!"

"I'm not taking one but not the other!" Heather apologized, frantically crawling away, "I'll be back, I promise!"

"How about 911?" Stolas advised, "Anyone? 911."

Meanwhile, in his office, Blitzo attempted to smash his window with a chair. It bounced right off of the glass, hardly even leaving a dent. He gaped at his failure in desperation, quickly searching the room for something else he could used to break it.

"What do we do?!" Connie gasped, clenching Loona's hand in an effort to reassure both herself and the hellhound.

"Use this surge of fear and adrenaline to sharpen your decision-making!" Stolas replied, starting to become greatly annoyed by the I.M.P's failure to comprehend his instructions.

"Okay, I am not dying here," Loona shook her head, guiding Connie to another area in the room amidst the chaos, "come on, there has to be another way out!"

As if the spectacle wasn't intense and fear-inducing enough, Stolas decided to light some firecrackers on the other side of the room. Coughing and screaming, it didn't take long for the staff to pick up on the hazard, only escalating their fear of the situation.

"What is that?!" Connie wailed, "What is that?!"

"The fire's shooting at us!" Blitzo cried, emerging from his office, "Where's Heather?! Has anybody seen Heather?!"

"What in the name of Satan is going on?!" Millie squealed, coughing and sputtering as she struggled to locate her husband because of the smoke.

Blitzo and Loona worked together to use a nearby chair as a battering ram, running into the front door with it, which failed miserably, sending both of them to the ground instantly. At the same time, Heather's legs crashed through the ceiling over Millie, who had finally located Moxxie again, startling the two imps and causing them to start screaming again. Blitzo pulled himself off the floor and burst back into his office, picking up the projector on his desk and hurling it at his window, which, finally, shattered the glass.

"Help!" he shouted, hoping that a nearby pedestrian would hear him, "Help!"

"I'm about to die!" Moxxie managed to choke out, gripping his chest and dropping to his knees.

As Millie got down on the floor next to Moxxie, helping him through his panic attack, Loona finally couldn't handle the pressure anymore. She broke down sobbing on the sofa, her makeup staining her white facial fur with streaks of mascara and eyeliner.

"G-goddamn it, I don't wanna go out like this!" the hellhound bawled, "I knew I was gonna die alone, but why here?! Why now?!"

Connie scanned the room desperately for her best friend, having lost sight of her after she and her adoptive father had attempted to bust down the front door.

"Loona!" the hellcat screamed, "Loona, where are you?!"

At last, she spotted the hellhound crying on the couch. Connie could feel her heart ripping in half just watching her, even from across the room. Sure, she'd seen Loona cry once or twice when they were kids, but as an adult? She hardly ever cried. Ever.

"Loona," Connie assured her, seating herself in the open space next to her, having a raise her voice a bit due to the mayhem surrounding them, "I'm here! I'm here, Loonie."

"C-Connie..." the hellhound croaked, lifting her makeup-smeared face from her hands to glance up at her, "I...*sniff* before we die...can I tell you something?"

"Don't say that," Connie shook her head at first, her light blue gaze softening, "but yeah, of course, you can tell me anything! You know that, right?"

"Okay, here goes," Loona nodded hurriedly, gulping, "Connie...I know you wanna quit because there's probably better opportunities for you out there, with better salaries and all that shit. And I don't blame you. But...I don't want you to leave!"

She furiously swiped at her eyes with one arm, stifling another sob.

"You're my best friend, and the only reason I come into work every day. And if you left, Connie...I don't know what I'd do with myself. I'd miss hearing your voice when it's too quiet around here. I'd miss seeing your face every morning. I'd miss eating lunch in your office. I'd miss sneaking out to Stylish Occult with you. I'd just really miss you. Like, really miss you."

Connie listened to her silently, her ears drooping in sympathy as Loona continued to spill out her feelings openly, for the first time in a long while. She didn't dare interject. Loona had been there for her for years, and she wanted to do the same for her.

"But I'm scared," the hellhound continued, "because I don't know if you'd feel the same about me. Would you still care? What if you just...forgot about me?"

"Oh, Loonie..." Connie replied softly, "is this why you looked so upset back in the conference room? You thought our friendship might not last if I quit?"

"Y-yes..." Loona sniffled, tears still pouring over her cheeks and dripping onto her crop top and shorts, "I'm sorry if that sounded selfish, but I don't wanna lose you. I really don't."

"Hey, don't apologize," the hellcat purred, gently gliding her thumbs across the hellhound's cheeks, "what you're feeling isn't selfish at all. Actually, I can relate. But I promise you, I'm not going anywhere, Loona. Blitz and I are working something out. But even if we weren't, I'd always care about you. Always."

"W-wait, you're not leaving?"

"Nope, I'm not," Connie shook her head, pulling her best friend into a hug, "but I still really care about you, okay? A hell of a lot. I always have, and always will, and I'll always be here for you no matter what."

Loona sighed, contentedly hugging the hellcat back. She nuzzled her head into Connie's shoulder, feeling her stroke her hair in return. Even if they were going to die, at least they'd die together, as best friends.

But...was the warmth that accompanied Connie's touch really because of feelings of friendship?

Before Loona had a chance to think it through, an air horn blared from across the room, catching the attention of all the frantic I.M.P employees. Stolas had made the noise, and was now yelling something that would change the course of the conniption prior.

"Attention! Employees of Immediate Murder Professionals! This has been a test of our emergency preparedness. There is no fire. It was only a simulation."

"What?!" Loona barked, glaring at the owl demon in utter disbelief, along with the other staff members, who were still reeling from the shock.

"Fire not real," Stolas repeated, "this was merely a training exercise."

Simultaneously, Heather dropped down from the ceiling, landing very awkwardly on her right foot. A sharp snapping sound could be heard as that same foot made contact with the ground, and the hellcat yowled in pain, biting back tears as she writhed in pain.

"Oh, dear, that didn't sound good," Stolas admitted.

"Oh my Satan..." Connie gasped, "is she okay?!"

"No, no, no!" Blitzo snapped, pushing past his other employees to get to his best friend, "Damn it, Stolas, look what you did to my best assassin!"

"Are you okay, sugar cube?" Millie prompted her, reaching for the hellcat's left hand to offer her some reassurance.

"Ugh...I think I fucked up my ankle!" Heather grunted, turning to Moxxie, "How does it look? Is it bad? Cor strewth, it hurts like a bitch!"

"Hold on, let me see..." Moxxie replied, taking Heather's right ankle in his hands to examine it, "okay, it's already swelling up like a piece of sunbaked roadkill, so that's not a great sign...yeah, we should probably take you to the ER, just to be safe."

"All this for a fire drill?!" Blitzo crossed his arms, fuming at Stolas, "What the fuck were you thinking, Stolas?!"

"Well, now do you understand why it's important to be prepared for these situations?" Stolas replied, "Your hellhound at least had enough sense to save my grimoire, but the rest of you ran about like a pack of wild animals!"

"Ugh, okay, you know what?" Blitzo groaned, scooping Heather off the floor princess-style, "We don't have time for this. I'll deal with you later. Alright, everyone to the van! We're taking Heather to the ER, and then we can finally get the fuck out of here for the weekend."

Chapter Text

It was just your average afternoon at the I.M.P headquarters. A vast majority of the time, their daily routine happened like clockwork: clients came in during the morning hours, paperwork was filed, the assassins of the company departed through a portal to the living world to fulfill the murder requests of a handful of clients, and Loona and Connie stayed behind, having the whole office to themselves.

Naturally, the two were planning to depart for the mall, as this was the slowest time of the day in terms of clients, giving them some much-needed opportunities for girl time. They did this every Friday, a tradition that had eventually come to be known as their very own workplace club, second in order of establishment only to the Weekly Departmental Review Committee (WDRC). They called themselves the Business Bitches.

Unfortunately, because Heather was stuck at the office until her foot healed, Loona and Connie had to formulate a backup plan so as to not get caught skipping work. Thankfully for them, there was a single loophole present: their lunch break. The minute that their breaks began, the hellhound eagerly peered through the doorway of her best friend's office to retrieve her. The hellcat gave her a thumbs-up, emerging from behind her desk and snagging her red purse before joining Loona in the hallway.

"Hey, Heather?" Connie notified her coworker through her half-open door, "Loonie and I are going on break!"

"Okay! Just make sure you clock back in by 1:30."

"Can do," Loona nodded, snagging Connie's right hand and maneuvering her to the front exit of the headquarters with a playful smirk, "come on, Nia, we're free!"

Smiling and laughing, the two slipped into the hallway, sprinting down the corridor to the elevator. Connie glanced over her shoulder at Loona as she took the lead upon reaching the lift, the enthusiastic sparkle in her light blue eyes unexpectedly causing the hellhound's blood to shoot north.

It was a confusing and wonderful sentiment, a million and one emotions racing through her head all at once; all she could do was smile back at the hellcat in almost a stupor of serendipity. As the elevator doors slid shut, Connie caught Loona in the act, and she raised an eyebrow at her best friend curiously.

"What?"

"Huh? Nothing," Loona replied sheepishly, fiddling with her spiked collar, "I just kinda spaced out for a second there."

"Heh, okay," Connie shrugged, adjusting her purse on her right shoulder, "do you really think we can make it back here in an hour?"

"The way Blitz's car drives?" the hellhound winked at her, "I'm sure we'll be fine. Sure, it's a rusty piece of shit, but it still has decent mileage."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Connie nodded, "plus, it's not like we're visiting every store in the mall. Just the trendy ones. And maybe a boba shop. You know, so we can prove that we 'went out for lunch'?"

"I love the way your beautiful mind works," Loona mused, blushing upon comprehending the adjective she'd used to describe her best friend, "uh...I meant that in a creative way! You know, because you're a marketing manager, and ingenuity is kind of your forte."

"Don't worry, I get what you're saying, Loonie," the blue lynx-point hellcat chuckled, brushing her bangs out of her face, "thanks. I try my best."

"Oh, I know you do."

The two glanced over at each other warmly for a moment before the elevator doors opened, signifying that they had reached the first floor. Loona shot Connie a playful grin, her left ear twitching in amusement.

"You know, I bet I could make it to the van before you."

"Is that a challenge?" Connie smirked, giving the tip of her tail a flick.

"Maybe, maybe not," Loona suggested smugly, motioning towards the front doors as the pair exited the elevator, "last one to the van has to buy the boba."

"Oh, you're on!" Connie accepted, bolting through the front doors without a second thought, "I hope you have some cash on you, because you'll be the one paying!"

The hellcat sprinted through the parking lot with Loona not too far behind, her black boots pounding against the pavement as she barked out a laugh. At one point, it seemed as though Connie had lost the hellhound, and she smiled triumphantly, convinced that she'd won.

That is, until she unexpectedly collided with someone standing in front of a red cabriolet.

Although the impact didn't seem to affect the person she'd run into, it caused Connie to drop her purse, scattering her wallet, makeup case, and pens on the asphalt. She grunted lightly, reeling momentarily before glancing up at the individual apologetically, flustered not only by the result of her own actions, but also the appearance of the pedestrian: a very tall silver hellhound with hot pink eyes and side-swept burnt-red hair, which rippled magnificently over her right shoulder.

She was, arguably, one of the most beautiful hellborns that Connie had ever seen, and so able-bodied that it was entirely possible that this particular woman was employed as someone's bodyguard. All the more reason that she struck immediate fear and respect into the hellcat's heart, and she instantaneously regretted getting in her way.

"Shit! I...uh..." Connie stuttered, blushing profusely in humiliation, "h-hi. I'm really sorry, I should've watched where I was going..."

"Huh? Hey, are you alright?" the hellhound asked, bending over to scoop Connie's supplies back into her purse, "Here, let me help you with these."

Connie blinked in surprise as this complete stranger, who could've easily snapped her spine between her thighs if she wanted to, handed back her purse with not a single threatening stance whatsoever. The hellcat accepted it in awe, managing a smile.

"Y-yeah, thanks."

"Connie!" Loona's voice rang out across the parking lot as she sprinted towards Connie worriedly, checking to make sure that her best friend was unharmed, "Are you okay?!"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Loonie," Connie nodded sheepishly, turning back to the taller hellhound, "it was kind of my fault for not looking where I was going. Again, I'm really sorry!"

"Oh, no worries!" she assured her with a friendly smile, holding out her hand, "It's pretty damn crowded in this parking lot, I mean, I'd be surprised if you didn't accidentally run into someone at least once. Anyway, I'm Ember."

"Cool name," Loona remarked, shaking it first, "I'm Loona."

"Heh, definitely," Connie chuckled, shaking her hand, "and I'm Connie, her best friend. It's nice to meet you!"

"Hey, Ember, is everything okay over there?"

Vortex emerged from the front seat of the red cabriolet in front of the three, twirling the car keys on his pointer finger, which had a pink heart-shaped pendant on the end. A casual smile worked its way across his muzzle as he realized that Connie and Loona were present, and he rounded the side of the vehicle, gently closing the door behind him as he approached.

"Ah, Connie and Loona!" Vortex greeted, holding out his massive hand for a fist bump from the pair of them, "Nice to see you, ladies! Let me guess, lunch break, right?"

"Guilty as charged," Loona nodded, "so, what're you doing here, Tex?"

"Just came to pick up my girlfriend," the muscular hellhound replied, slinging his arm over Ember's shoulders and gazing down at her lovingly, "we're both on break, too, so I thought I'd drop by and take her out to the mall. You know, just to kill some time."

"Wait, you're Tex's girlfriend?" Connie prompted, "And you work in the same business complex as we do? No shit! What company?"

"I'm a financial advisor for that accounting firm on the second floor," Ember replied, leaning into her boyfriend's touch, "a lot of people think this is weird, but...I kinda love my job."

"I don't think it's weird~" Vortex remarked flirtatiously, "I totally dig girls that are passionate about their office jobs. Plus, it's nice to be dating someone who happily offers to do all our taxes for free, just because she loves working with numbers and can't get enough of them."

"Mmm hmm," Ember mused, gazing up at her boyfriend endearingly, "and I think tough guys who are actually the biggest softies with the best sense of humor are hot as hell."

"Go figure," the hulking hellhound chuckled, planting a kiss on her forehead.

"Texy!" Ember giggled, her face flushing over as Vortex continued to pepper her face with a few more spread-out kisses.

"Aww, what's the matter, baby?" he fake-pouted, "Don't you want some more?"

"At least let me return a few, silly!" Ember smirked, cupping her boyfriend's muzzle in her hands and lightly smooching his nose.

"Is it just me," Loona whispered to Connie, "or are those two..."

"Really fucking cute?" Connie finished her sentence for her, winking, "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing! You know, Vortex has great taste in women. I wonder if there's someone out there who feels the same way for me, and I don't even know it."

"Heh heh..." Loona muttered blissfully, tucking her hands behind her back as she glanced at the ground, deeply in thought, "yeah...maybe..."

"Hey, since we're all going to the mall," Ember suggested, "why don't we carpool? What do you think, babe?"

"That's actually not a bad idea," Vortex agreed, "I mean, there's two extra seats in the back of the cabriolet. What do you say, ladies? Are you cool with that?"

"Well, it would definitely hide the gas evidence that we'd been gone," Connie pondered aloud, admiring the shiny red vehicle.

"And you guys do have a pretty awesome-looking car..." Loona added, following her best friend's gaze to the vehicle before returning her attention to Vortex and Ember, "you know what? Let's do it. This sounds like it could be a fun time."

"Great!" Vortex grinned, unlocking the car and sliding into the driver's seat, "Hop in, ladies, we're going fashion-hunting."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

After a short drive through Pentagram City, the three hellhounds and hellcat had finally reached the nearest mall. To their surprise, they managed to snag a parking spot near the entrance to the shopping center, a rare occurrence, especially in Hell, where shopping was one of the only safe pastimes available to hellborns and sinners alike.

Regardless, wasting no time, Vortex swiftly parked him and his girlfriend's shared red cabriolet, allowing the rest of the passengers to exit the vehicle. They strode into the building as a quartet, so well-suited to each other in both their clothing choices and dynamics that one might have assumed that they were all part of an entourage.

"So you're Connie," Ember remarked, positioning herself next to the hellcat as they walked, "I'm so glad that I finally get to meet you in person! Tex has told me so much about you."

"Oh, really?" Connie prompted with a smile, raising an eyebrow curiously, "Like what?"

"Well, for starters," the hellhound answered, "he told me that you've always wanted to become a mother. Which is insanely sweet and selfless, because a lot of hellborns end up with children by surprise rather than willingly."

"Aww, well, thank you," Connie purred, adjusting her purse on her right shoulder, "that means a lot to me. I don't really hear that from other people very often."

"You don't?" Ember blinked at her indignantly, "Well, you should. I mean, you're working your ass off to be a mother. That takes a lot of dedication and heart on your end. So from woman to woman, you have my respect, Connie."

"And you have mine!" Connie added, beaming, "Hey, uh, out of curiosity...you didn't feel uncomfortable with the fact that Vortex donated his sperm to me, right?"

"Oh, of course not," Ember assured her, "it's his sperm. As long as he's not cheating on me with it, then I don't mind. Besides, Tex donated to the sperm bank way before he met me, so it was out of my hands. But...he did tell me about what happened to your samples. I'm really sorry."

"It's okay," Connie shrugged, "I mean, I'm still really disappointed about it, but hey, at least I'm still fertile. I still have a chance to get pregnant; I guess now just wasn't the time for it. Maybe I should wait for a while before I try again, like, until I get married?"

Loona's ears perked up at the notion of marriage. She glanced over her shoulder at Ember and Connie, curiously observing them from her position beside Vortex.

"You know what?" Ember agreed, "That isn't a bad idea! If you're married, that means you'll have extra support when you need it the most, both financially and emotionally. Maybe this is just the financial advisor in me talking, but you could also use this extra time to save up for a house...or at least, a decent condo. You know, somewhere better than a shitty apartment."

"Now that you mention it..." Connie pondered aloud, "a condo actually sounds pretty nice. I'll definitely consider that. Thanks for the advice, Ember."

"Anytime!" the tall hellhound mused, brushing back her bangs, "Ah, sorry, I'm getting excited just talking about finances again. I guess it's just my thing. Sorry if that's weird."

"Hey, it's cool," Connie giggled, "it's nice to hang out with someone else who's into business! I'd love to talk more about it with you sometime."

"Wow, really?!" Ember beamed, "No one's ever been interested in my business lingo before! I'd be down for that! You're pretty cool, Connie."

"I'm cool?" Connie chuckled in amusement, "Well, thanks, Ember. You know, I could get used to hanging out with you."

At that, Vortex turned and winked at the hellcat, as if to say "I knew you two would hit it off", complete with finger guns. And hit it off they did.

Chapter Text

"Alright, let's cut to the chase, people," Blitzo began, pacing the floor of the conference room intently, "between the past few clients, the Loo Loo Land bodyguarding, and the spring break killing spree, we've made some decent money. The problem is, we have a habit of spending it on what I've been told is 'stupid and useless bullshit'."

"We?" Moxxie prompted, raising an eyebrow at his boss, "Uh, sir, we all know it was you."

"Just—would you learn to zip it for one day, Moxxie?" Blitzo groaned, rolling his eyes, "Anyway, Connie and I have been talking..."

The imp exchanged glances with his hellcat marketing manager, who nodded encouragingly in him in return.

"...and we've decided that some changes need to happen. Specifically regarding the way we spend our money. And since none of us are actually qualified to run the budget, and none of us really want to learn—you know, because that shit is boring—I've decided that we should hire our very own financial advisor and establish a new department for our profits!"

"That's actually a really good idea!" Heather nodded, "Why didn't we think of this before?"

"Ooh!" Millie gasped, springing out of her seat excitedly, her eyes sparkling, "We're getting a new I.M.P family member?!"

"Yep! That's right," Blitzo winked at her, turning to Connie, "and I'm gonna need everybody's help to get them on board, so listen up. Connie, did you already contact the publishing firm to get those magazine advertisements out there?"

"Yes, I did," the hellcat nodded, "and I sent them the files."

"Good, because if you're not working on anything else," Blitzo continued, "then I need you to do a little research on the qualifications of a financial advisor and throw together some flyers to show that we're hiring. You think you can handle that?"

"Of course!" Connie replied confidently, thrilled to be relied on for once, "Consider it done."

"Okay, then that's settled," the imp nodded, "Loona, when she's finished, can I count on you two to print out those fliers and start hanging them around town? Try to stick to Imp City, and maybe Hellhound City, if you have the time. That's our target audience, because both are pretty cheap to hire."

Connie glanced over at the hellhound, who looked up from her phone for a moment to acknowledge her best friend.

"Mmm, I don't know. That doesn't sound like a receptionist problem."

"Please, Loonie?" Connie pleaded, blinking at her best friend with puppy-dog eyes, "It would be more fun if you came..."

Loona's expression softened, a light blush dusting her cheeks. Damn that hellcat and her adorable face; it was one of Loona's only weaknesses. Only a coldhearted monster would say no to her in that moment.

"Oh, okay," Loona caved, sparing the hellcat a smile, "I guess I could tag along. You're lucky you're so fucking cute..."

"Wait, what?" Moxxie intrigued, staring at the hellhound curiously.

The hellhound shot her coworker a flustered glare, snarling a response through gritted teeth in an attempt to restrain herself.

"Shut. The hell. Up."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

THE IMMEDIATE MURDER PROFESSIONALS ARE HIRING!

We are looking for an ambitious and experienced financial advisor to join our team! Applicants must have a resume prepared, as well as meet the following credentials:

- Hellborn (we often travel from ring to ring for business purposes)

- Bachelor's Degree or higher in finance, economics, business, statistics and/or similar fields from a certified college or university.

- Basic knowledge of firearms, self-defense mechanisms, hand-to-hand combat, and/or advanced weaponry (not required, but strongly encouraged)

Interested? For applications, call 1-800-666-IMPS or visit us in the Imp City Business Park!

Heather examined the advertisement in her hands, one of no less than one hundred copies that were soon to be hung around the city. It had been printed on a gray background with the I.M.P logo strategically placed on top of the page; the font of the main text had been colored white, and an image of the current I.M.P staff (who were posing confidently for impact) occupied the bottom portion of the ad, which was sure to snag the attention of any curious passerby.

"Wow, Connie, I'm impressed," the red tabby hellcat remarked, smiling approvingly at her coworker, "this is an incredibly professional graphic design! Simple, aesthetically pleasing, and to-the-point. If this is your best work, then I can't wait to see your magazine ads!"

"Thanks, Heather," Connie blushed, tugging at her collar in flattery, "so...do you think we could start posting these around the city?"

"Oh, absolutely," Heather nodded, handing the flyer back to its creator, as well as Blitzo's car keys, "here you go. The van is all yours for the next few hours."

"Oh, nice!" Connie beamed, accepting both items with an eager flick of her tail, "I'll go find Loona, and we'll get started right now!"

Heather watched her coworker happily stride out of her office, sending her off with a wave.

"Good luck!"

The red tabby hellcat sighed, returning her attention to her pink laptop. She now had less than one week until she was finally allowed to have her right foot's cast removed, but until then, she was still stuck at her desk in the office. The good news? The company's paperwork was being taken care of more efficiently. However, Heather hadn't joined the Immediate Murder Professionals to do paperwork. Obviously.

But someone had to do it, and if came down to her or Blitzo, the rest of the group would always agree unanimously that Heather did a better job. She wrote more professionally than their boss, plain and simple. Which was important, especially when there were forms that the company had to fill out which directly impacted their payroll and profits.

Now, as the hellcat went to open yet another Voxgle Doc, this one regarding a recent client named Manilla Baye, she took a deep breath, repositioning her fingers on the keyboard.

"One more week," Heather reminded herself, clicking on the document name, "one more week, and then I'm back on the field."

And maybe back in the saddle, too?

The gentle feminine voice seemed to ring in Heather's ears, which pricked in surprise upon hearing it. Heather could've sworn that she'd heard her before; she sounded so familiar that the hellcat almost immediately knew who she was. Almost, but just barely.

"Connie, is that you?" Heather prompted, slowly emerging from behind her desk and rounding it with help from her crutches, "I thought you and Loona left to hang up those posters a few minutes ago?"

No, this is someone else, the voice replied, I'm sorry for stopping by on such short notice, but I was in town and wanted to pay you a visit.

At this point, Heather believed that this woman was a client who was waiting for someone to meet with her in the lounge. She must have slipped in because Connie and Loona forgot to lock the front door, but even so, this potential client must have failed to notice the business hours sign above the handle, which signified that I.M.P wasn't currently open to the public due to the assassins' departure to the living world. Knowing this, the hellcat maneuvered her crutches down the hallway, prepared to inform the woman of the company's current "closed" status.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but this office is currently—"

Heather cut herself short upon entering the lounge, a wave of nostalgia ebbing away at her before she even had time to react, blinking up at the room's occupant in disbelief. She wasn't a client at all; not a sinner, overlord, or even a princess. In fact, the individual that the hellcat had come face-to-face with was another species entirely, and a familiar and beloved one at that.

"S-Spindle?!"

The red aura-trimmed horse blinked down at her friend, nodding contentedly. If horses could smile, Spindle would definitely be doing so at that moment.

Heh, surprised? It's nice to see you, Heather.

"Of course I am, silly!" Heather beamed, cupping Spindle's muzzle in her hands, pressing her forehead against the bridge of her nose, "I can't believe you came back! Blitz and I thought you were leaving forever! At least, that's what you made it sound like. That's why I framed that last picture you took with us for Voxtagram."

I know, the hellborn fauna explained, since I'd finally repaid Blitz for taking me in, I thought it would be for the best if I disappeared for a while.

"Would you mind if I asked why?" the hellcat intrigued.

I don't mind, Spindle pulled away gently, her mane wavering in smooth, pleasant ripples behind her, I had more than one reason for leaving, though. For one, I didn't want to be anyone's horse anymore, because I'm not a normal horse, so I tried my hand at running free. Like that horse from Blitz's favorite movie...uh, what was it called again?

"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron."

Oh, right. Thank you. Anyway, the other reason I left is because I scare people, and I wanted to change that.

"What?" Heather raised an eyebrow at Spindle insistently, "Come on, Spindle, you've never scared anybody."

Heather, when I first met you and Blitz outside of that coffee shop, everyone within a ten-foot vicinity ran away screaming. Besides, Moxxie was t̸̨̨͕̹͈͔̗̣͙̫̹̉̀ͅȩ̸͔͉̻͚͇̯̞̱͎̩̗̼͗̅̀̈̄́͊̔̈́̓̒̏̓̏͠r̶̰̊̇̔̆͋̊ŗ̷̥̫̹̲͇̹̯͇̖̜̿̕i̵͈͒͗̅f̶̨̖̳̺̩̃͆̾͊į̵͕̯͉̱̤͉̫̯̞̉͐͜e̷̻̤̜̺̩̯͓͉͊̇̅͘d̶̘̖͙̽̏̓̐̓̇̍ the first time that he saw me. Don't you remember?

"Oh...I keep forgetting about that," Heather admitted sheepishly, "but you know Blitz and I don't think you're scary, right?"

You're the only two who aren't, Spindle continued, at least, when you see my demon form.

"Demon form?" the hellcat asked, "Does this mean that you have a human disguise, like me, Loona, and Connie?"

A human disguise? the horse whinnied in amusement, Oh, no no no. I don't have a human disguise. But while I was transitioning into a rogue, I discovered that I have many, many, m̶̡̧̮̹̥̜̦̦͉̰̫̙̌͜a̴̧̰̤̗̺̹͔̮͑̀̆͑̔̈́̃̉̈́͆̋͆̚̕͠n̸͔̼͂͂̏̉̆͂̚͜ỵ̸̧̡̛̰̻̜̭̙̪̙̜̒̃̌̈̓̚͜͝ different horse disguises.

"Ohhh, that actually makes sense," Heather snapped her fingers, "are they just horses in the living world, or...only hellborn horse breeds?"

I was wondering that, too, and I can actually do both, Spindle elaborated, hellborn a̵̧͙̖͕͕̞̲͎̎̈́͛̈́̊ͅn̶̡̨̯̳͖̣͎͚̾̾̍͋̂̏̿͛̚͜͝ḓ̸͈̝̮̬̦̤́͂ earthborn. I can shapeshift into practically any horse you can think of...and then some.

"Any horse?"

Any horse. But don't ask me to transform just so you can see what I'm capable of. I'd rather surprise you from time to time.

"And what makes you think you can do that?" Heather asked playfully, "If I didn't know any better, I'd assume you were suggesting that you wanted to stick around...for real, this time. Because if you were, you know I'd offer to let you stay at my place. Blitz might be jealous, but he already had his turn housing you."

Well, that's what I was about to ask, Spindle mused, but I knew you would catch on eventually. I guess you're just talented like that.

"Heh, thanks," Heather waved her off, "you're too kind. So...you wanna come back to my office? I have some paperwork to get done, but I wouldn't mind the company."

I would love that. Thank you.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Another mission accomplished!" Blitzo declared triumphantly, emerging from the grimoire portal with Moxxie and Millie close behind, "Great work, gang! My only complaint is that Moxxie still sucks ass at being the lookout, but hey, not everyone can be as talented as Heather."

"Everyone makes mistakes, sir," Moxxie muttered, rolling his eyes at his boss.

"Aw, don't worry, Mox Mox," Millie purred, planting a kiss on his cheek, "I think you're doing a great job! A for effort!"

"Thank you, honey," Moxxie replied sweetly, taking his wife's hands and returning the gesture.

"Okay, don't get all lovey-dovey in front of me," Blitzo rolled his eyes, striding past the couple and towards the hallway, "you know how I feel about the wholesome PDA between you two."

"Oh, because you're so good at hiding your affection for Heather," Moxxie retorted under his breath, crossing his arms.

"It's not affection, dipshit!" Blitzo shouted over his shoulder on the way to Heather's office, "It's well-earned praise! Get it right!"

The imp cleared his throat, straightening the skull emblem on his coat before entering his best friend's office, expecting to encounter the hellcat hard at work as per usual. What he didn't count on seeing was the sight of Heather playing chess with his former horse, who, apparently, was winning. Spindle and her opponent stopped what they were doing immediately, staring back at the very surprised and star-struck Blitzo in the doorway.

"Hehe...guess who's back?" Heather shrugged sheepishly, motioning to the hellborn horse with her thumb, "Oh, that reminds me, she told me to ask you if you'd like to grab an iced coffee with us after work and catch up—?"

"Are you kidding me?!" Blitzo gasped ecstatically, bolting to Spindle's side, almost at a loss of words, "Fuck yeah I do! The best horse ever is back in town!"

Chapter Text

Early on a Monday morning, the Immediate Murder Professionals were hard at work, lugging several sets of items into Blitzo's office. Two metal chairs, three clipboards, a small box of resumes submitted by applicants interested in the company, and a few cases of black pens. At long last, the big day had arrived.

Having finally finished skimming through the bulk of their financial advisor applications, the I.M.P had narrowed them down to around 37 resumes. Which, to be fair, was still way more than anyone was expecting, mostly because of the shit-talking graffiti that pedestrians had so lovingly spray-painted on one of the Imp City Business Park's office buildings. And of course, it had to be the tower where I.M.P was located.

The interviews were to start at around 11 AM. Giving Connie 20 minutes to set up Blitzo's office, plus 50 for Loona and Moxxie to butt heads, 20 for Millie to break up them up, 40 for Blitzo to make a coffee run, and 90 for Heather to finalize the itinerary, the preparation took just over three and a half hours total. Fortunately, if there was one aspect of the business that Blitzo was good at, it was sticking to a schedule.

"Alright, I think we're ready!" Connie announced, stepping back into the employee lounge, "The interview table is all set up, the resumes and applications are on hand, and we finished with a few minutes to spare."

"Great job, team!" Blitzo congratulated his employees, "Way to move your asses! Now, does everyone know what they're doing? Heather?"

"Yep, and just in case, I have everything written down right here," Heather nodded, skimming through a pink planner, "okay, let's see...Blitz, Moxxie, and Connie are conducting the interviews. Loona, you're manning the phones and directing applicants to Blitz's office. Millie and I are in charge of setting up a welcome party for the new financial advisor."

"Ooh!" Millie squealed, "We're throwin' a party, too?! That sounds like so much fun!"

All eyes in the room flitted to Blitzo, who shrugged in response.

"What? We're welcoming a new member into our family today, and that's a big deal! It's like... adopting a kid. And everyone celebrates when that happens, right? Because I know I did."

"Ugh..." Loona groaned, rolling her eyes at her adoptive father, "don't remind me."

"Sir, for the hundredth time," Moxxie rolled his eyes, facepalming, "we are not a family! This new employee is being hired to help us manage our profits in a more responsible manner, not so you can stalk someone else like you already do to us!"

"Well, he does have a point," Connie agreed, "I mean, if we're not careful, there's a chance that they might quit, and we'll be back to square one."

"Oh, come on," Blitzo insisted, "they won't want to quit when they see what a fun work environment we are! That's why we throw these welcome parties. They're the best way to get to know your coworkers for the first time and buddy up before you get down to business!"

"Actually, he's right," Heather pointed out, "I mean, I already knew Millie and Blitz when I started working here, but the welcome party you threw for me gave a really positive first impression."

"Exactly, Heather," Blitzo winked at her, "besides, it's an I.M.P tradition!"

"Everyone loves traditions, sir!" Millie chimed in, beaming at her husband, "Right, Mox?"

"Oh...I guess..." Moxxie caved, rolling his eyes at her playfully, "as long as we don't go over budget with the cake again, like last time."

"Don't worry, I've got that one covered," Heather assured him, "we're trying a different cake place this time called Crème De La Crème Catering. It's this place in the Envy Ring that makes bloomin' amazing artistic pastries, and my older sister runs it, so I get a family discount~"

"See, Moxxie, there's nothing to worry about," Blitzo mused, dragging the smaller male imp into his office with Connie close behind, "see you ladies later! The party supplies are in the closet, make sure you pick up the cake at 3 PM, and make sure you use the conference room!"

"We won't let you down, boss!" Millie promised him, turning to her best friend after the door to the imp's office had closed, "So...where do we start?"

"I guess we should set up the decorations first," the red tabby hellcat shrugged in amusement, waving her best friend after her, "I mean, we have a few hours before we need to pay my sister a visit, so we might as well kill some time until then. Come on, let's find Spindle and get to work."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Fifteen minutes later, after being unenthusiastically greeted by Loona at front reception, the first financial advisor candidate walked into Blitzo's office. He was a relatively short and lanky male hellhound, and judging by his sloppy bangs and baggy pants, he certainly didn't appear to be the most promising applicant.

Moxxie picked up on this almost immediately, exchanging worried glances with Connie, who was seated on the opposite side of Blitzo. However, knowing that they needed to keep an open mind, as first impressions weren't always everything, they dismissed their initial doubts with a quiet sigh. Besides, finding a person for this position would be no easy task, and if all else failed, they would need to choose from the small pool of applicants that had arrived for an interview.

In other words, they couldn't afford to scrutinize anyone too harshly. But that wasn't to say that two of the three interviewers didn't have their reservations.

"Hey, come on in!" Blitzo greeted the hellhound, "Make yourself comfortable, and we'll get this shit started!"

"But not too comfortable..." Moxxie muttered under his breath, readying his pen with a click.

"Alright, let's see," Connie began, skimming through her copy of the applicant's resume, "you're Mr. Teegan Larsen, right?"

"That's my name, don't wear it out," Teegan replied, much too casually for the hellcat's liking.

"Right..." Moxxie continued, raising an eyebrow at him, "it says here on your application that you attended Pentagram City Community College, but I don't see a graduation date anywhere. Does that mean that you're still enrolled in the business program?"

"Oh, yeah, no," Teegan shrugged lazily, "I dropped outta that shitty place, about, like, three months ago."

"Uh huh, okay," Blitzo nodded, "so...why'd you drop out? Care to explain a little more?"

"Well, like, it just was a huge pain in the ass," Teegan replied, "because I had to go to, like, a bunch of fuckin' parties on the weekends, and the workload kept getting in the way."

The two imps and their hellcat companion began jotting down their thoughts on Teegan and marking their checklists. While Blitzo was neutral at most, Moxxie shook his head, his brow furrowed in disapproval, and Connie sighed worriedly, offput by the quality of the first applicant. If this was how the vast majority of the interviews were destined to play out, then the bar was already so low that it sank below the floorboards.

This was going to be a very long day.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Hey, Spindle?" Heather intrigued, peering over her shoulder while holding the other end of a flag-strung banner, "Do you think you could give me a boost?"

I'm on it, the pitch black horse nodded, stooping down low enough for Heather to climb aboard.

Once Heather had ascended, Spindle rose once again, allowing the hellcat to stand on her shoulders. With a light grunt, Heather managed to pin the banner in her hands on the wall.

"How does it look?" Heather prompted Millie, who was observing her from the ground.

"Perfect!" the imp nodded avidly, "Right there!"

It had been about an hour since the three had started decorating, and at last, they were putting the finishing touches on the conference room. Matching magenta party decorations hung everywhere as far as the eye could see; streamers, balloons, tablecloths, plastic cutlery, banners, and even party hats garnished the space, ready to be used. Considering that the trio hadn't been rushed to make a perfect party at the last possible second, the quality of the celebration was definitely higher than in previous years, and it showed almost immediately.

"Well, that was the last of the decorations," Heather noted, sliding off of Spindle's back after she crouched down enough for her to descend, "great work, ladies! Not to brag, but I don't think the conference room has ever looked more stunning!"

Or pink, Spindle added, not that I'm complaining. I just hope that your new employee doesn't mind the color choice.

"Speakin' of the new employee," Millie intrigued, turning to Heather, "what do y'all think they'll look like?"

I hope it's another horse lover, Spindle suggested, maybe that's a little biased because I a̸̢̼̤͉̙͋͜͝m̵̢̳͔̝͉̻͕͈̐̍̋̏̍͘̕̕̚ a horse, but can you blame me?

"What, two isn't enough for you, Spindle?" Heather joked, lightly tapping the horse's muzzle.

You can never have too many. Am I wrong?

"Where's the lie?" the red tabby hellcat playfully rolled her eyes at Spindle, stroking the bridge of the mare's nose.

"My money's on another one of us," Millie chuckled.

"Hmm, I don't know," Heather shrugged, "what do you mean by 'us', exactly?"

"You know!" the imp winked, giving her best friend a gentle nudge, "Someone our age! But if not, at least someone who can get along with Moxxie. I think that's long overdue."

"I get what you mean," Heather agreed, "I mean, it's just you—"

"I don't count, sugarcube. We're married, so he's obviously goin' to get along with me."

"Okay, fair," the hellcat continued, "then it's just me and Connie. And half the time, our relationships with him hardly stretch beyond the work environment. But you're right, it would be nice for him to have a go-to coworker other than you."

"Exactly," Millie nodded, draping an arm around Heather's shoulders, "don't get me wrong, I love my husband, but sometimes, I just want to spend some time with my best friend. I mean, everybody here does. You and I, you and Blitz, Loona and Connie...I just hope the new financial advisor is nice to him."

Oh, they will be, Spindle assured the imp, because if they're not, I'm going to o̴̡͝p̸̩͗ë̴̞͔́n̵̤͖ ̷̭̈́m̵̼͛ý̸͇̱ ̴̲͑m̸̢̊͝o̷̡̬̅͘û̶̗̗̊t̷͔̅h̵̯̺̄̄ ̷̘̯̀͝ḁ̶͎̔l̶͈̾̀l̷̢͈̾͝ ̶̩͓̽t̴̥̓h̶̭͌̎ē̴̟̖ ̸̺̑̿w̶͔̰͆͋a̸̪͜͝y̷̫͝ ̵͕̕ä̶͎̠n̷͖͈̑d̶̟̲̈̈́ ̶̬̣͒̑s̵͉̿̉į̸̱͌͗n̸̮̎k̴̢̯̏ ̷̡̽m̵͙ͅy̵̺͆ ̴̲̇t̵͓̚ĕ̵̻̇e̵͔̒ṱ̷̉h̷̠̅—̷̘͊̈́

"No! No, you won't," Heather cut her off, chuckling nervously, "let's not get all worked up over something that probably isn't gonna happen. Anyway...we should probably go pick up the cake from my sister. Knowing how the traffic is around here, it might be a good idea to leave early. Especially since we're going there on horseback."

"Wait...you're letting me ride on Spindle?!" Millie gasped excitedly.

"Oh, I didn't tell you?" Heather mused, "Yep! That's what we're doing! I mean, we'd have to, anyway...Blitz forgot to give me the keys to the van before they started the interviews, and I don't want to disturb them. Besides, Spindle promised that she would show me one of her disguises when we needed it."

"You have a disguise?" Millie prompted the horse beside her.

Several, actually. But here's one.

Spindle's red aura began to fade into blue; the same hue as her eyes. Her entire body began to change color and shape, starting with her face, as a ring of teal light flowed towards down her neck, revealing the rest of her horse disguise as it glided past. In the blink of an eye, Spindle had transformed into a regular mare.

Well? What do you thi—

"You look amazing! Holy shit!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Another more hour had come and gone, and surprisingly, not one of the applicants that had been interviewed were suitable for the financial advisor job opening. After the conclusion of yet another disastrous interview, the two imps and their hellcat coworker sat in Blitzo's office, disposing of the paperwork regarding several more undesirable candidates.

"Ugh...these interviews have been so shitty so far..." Connie groaned, feeding another round of papers into the shredder beneath Blitzo's desk, "it's like nobody actually wanted this job! I mean, I know this is Hell, but come on!"

"Hey, now, we don't know that, okay?" Blitzo interjected, "Maybe they really did want the job, but they aren't used to being interviewed. It's kinda hard to tell sometimes."

"Sir, that wasn't even close to the biggest issue here," Moxxie pointed out, "it was blatantly obvious that these candidates' work ethics were practically non-existent!"

"Not to mention the fact that some of them looked like they'd just rolled out of bed," Connie chimed in, "but most importantly, hardly any of them could even manage their own finances. So what makes you think that any of them would be able to handle the work that we'd give them?"

"Okay, okay, I get it," Blitzo sighed, "we haven't been interviewing the most...qualified candidates today, that's for sure. But there's still more people to choose from! We're only about halfway done, so let's all just take a little coffee break and come back ready to question the shit out of these fuckers!"

"Actually, a break sounds nice," Connie agreed, rising to leave, "I'll be hanging out with Loona at front reception if anyone needs me."

The hellcat wound her way through the corridor of the I.M.P office, pulling out her hellphone and briefly scrolling through Voxtagram. She stopped upon finding a new post from @femmefiretail338, immediately recognizing it as Ember's username. It was a picture of the hellhound in a black business suit, smiling nervously at the camera with the caption "Got a job interview today! Wish me luck!"

"Huh, she's got a job interview today?" Connie murmured, double-tapping the post, "What a coincidence. That's a really cute suit, too..."

It was a surprise that Ember would want to start looking elsewhere for work, especially since Connie knew how much she loved her job already. If she didn't know this before, she had come to understand it even further over the course of the past month or two, as the two had continued to meet up after work ever since their first encounter, and as a result, were starting to become great friends.

Through their casual conversations, Connie had learned that the hellhound worked for Imp City Accounting, a firm on the sixth floor of the same building where I.M.P was located. It wasn't the most high-paying accounting job in all of Hell, but Ember couldn't find a reason to leave the company at the time. Apparently today she had. Smiling softly, the hellcat began to type a comment on Ember's post, hitting send after she'd finished.

sashimi_kitty228: You look amazing, Ember! Good luck! I'm sure you'll be great <3

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Meanwhile, Millie, Spindle, and Heather had finally arrived in the Envy Ring. Just as Heather had suspected, the traffic on the way to her sister's bakery was awful in every sense of the word. They had been forced to sit (or in Spindle's case, stand) in horrendous masses of vehicles for an hour and a half. And that was just to get out of the Pride Ring.

That's not to say that the outcome was unexpected. This was just a part of everyday commuting in Hell. It was already overpopulated enough in Pentagram City, but no one ever took into account the hundreds upon hundreds of hellborn species that existed and traversed throughout the seven rings, especially those who lived in a different one than they worked, like Heather. Then again, such was life in the underworld.

Trotting around the block, Spindle came to a halt just outside of Crème De La Crème Catering. The small purple hexagonal building sat on the outskirts of one of the Envy Ring's cities. Thankfully, the premises weren't swamped like much of the surrounding area, giving Heather and Millie some much-needed space from the claustrophobic rush hour that was afternoon traffic in Hell.

"Thanks, Spindle," Heather smiled at her horse as both she and her best friend descended her back, "we'll be right out. Come on, Mills. You remember Penny, don't you?"

"How could I forget?" Millie beamed, following the hellcat inside, "She's the best! Didn't she used to bring in those batches of cupcakes to school on Fridays? The ones she made herself?"

"Yep, that's my sister!"

The two approached the counter of the cake shop, already recognizing Penny Barlowe from behind it, icing a large three-tiered cake with a tube of thick red icing. It was a rather impressive looking dessert, even if it hadn't been fully frosted just yet. However, the cake was nothing compared to its decorator. So orange that she was almost blonde, Penny had white splotches all over her head and limbs; having heterochromia, her right eye was a vibrant green, while her left was blue. Not wanting to disturb her, Heather waited until the cat had put down her utensils, quietly observing her alongside Millie.

"Hey, big sis!"

"Hi, Penny!" Millie chimed in, waving gleefully from behind the front counter.

"Wow, you're here early, little sis!" Penny greeted, acknowledging the two visitors with a warm smile, "Oh, and I see you brought Millie! Long time no see! I'm guessing you two are here to pick up the cake?"

"Yep!" Heather nodded, "But you know...Mills and I still have a few hours until we have to be back at the office. Did you take your break yet?"

"I can take a break whenever I want, remember?" Penny chuckled, "I own the store, and I have someone from the back coming over to take my place at the counter in a few minutes. You know what? How about we go get some lunch, just the three of us?"

"Lunch does sound pretty good right about now," Millie remarked, "I'm in!"

"Me too," Heather agreed, motioning to Spindle with her thumb, "can we bring my horse? She's kind of our ride."

"You and your horses, sis," Penny rolled her eyes at her playfully, rounding the counter with an amused flick of her long, fluffy tail, "of course she can come. I've always wondered what it's like to ride a horse through the drive through, anyway!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Before long, the work day was coming to a close. Heather, Millie, and Spindle had returned from their lunch break with the cake for the new employee's party, but much to their chagrin, Blitzo, Moxxie, and Connie were approaching their final interview of the day, and they still hadn't selected an applicant to hire.

Never in their lives had the I.M.P interviewers seen such a disappointing turnout. Despite analyzing the resumes and applications of every other possible job candidate on their records, they couldn't seem to find a single one that was qualified or desirable enough to hire. Even Blitzo had eventually come to realize that their options were extremely limited, and if this final interview didn't go well, they would be forced to resort to other methods of finding a financial advisor for the company.

"Damn it..." Connie sighed, not daring to turn over the final set of paperwork in the pile, "we interviewed over 37 potential job candidates today. That's more than any of us could have ever anticipated! With those odds, I thought we were almost guaranteed to find someone we liked. I don't understand how we couldn't find a single person that was suitable for this position!"

"You're telling me," Moxxie groaned, facepalming, "and I thought Loona was the most incompetent person I've ever met. She's practically a cakewalk compared to the people I met today! I can't believe I'm saying this, but...there are times when I'm grateful that she's our receptionist, and not one of the smooth brains that I had the displeasure to meet today."

"Well, this is our last hope," Blitzo admitted, handing out the final sets of checklists to Moxxie and Connie, "let's see how this goes. At this point, we've seen every bad candidate possible, so if this one turns out to be shit like the rest of them, at least we won't be surprised."

"Wait, Blitz," the hellcat stopped him, "before we do this, I just wanted to say...thank you."

"Huh?" the taller male imp raised an eyebrow at her, "For what?"

"For this," Connie continued, flashing him a grateful smile, "for everything. I can tell that you really are serious about turning things around, and you're trying really hard to make it work. And I appreciate it more than you know. So...thank you."

Blitzo hesitated for a moment before returning the gesture, flattered.

"I...you're welcome. Well, we might as well get this over with, so...who are we interviewing?"

Connie took a deep breath, picking up the final resume and application. Slowly, she flipped them both over to the non-blank side, expecting the worst. However, the minute she saw the name atop both pieces of paper, the biggest and most relieved smile spread across her face.

Ember Villarreal.

And the instant that the hellhound walked in the door to Blitzo's office, smiling and neatly dressed in that same gorgeous black suit from earlier, the hellcat knew that I.M.P—and by extension, her baby fund—was saved.

Chapter Text

It was an early morning at the Goetia palace, and Stolas and Blitzo had just woken up from their monthly night of "passionate fornication" for the grimoire. Stolas, whose hands were bound to the bedpost by a long, thin rope, reclined next to the imp beside him, who was lighting a cigarette for the owl demon at his request.

"Ooooh~" Stolas moaned, leaning over Blitzo seductively as he burned through his ties with the cigar, "I'm sorry for having to move our little rendezvous early. I have an engagement this month on the full moon."

"When...this happens," Blitzo remarked in annoyance, fiddling with his BDSM gear, "it's not really something I fuss about. But do you really need the book for this farm bullshit? I have, like, 15 new clients waiting for heads to roll!"

Stolas took a long drag from the cigarette after Blitzo handed it to him, exhaling the resulting cloud of smoke with relative ease.

"As shocking as it may seem, Blitzy," the prince replied matter-of-factly, playfully tugging at his sex partner's right cheek, "my grimoire is actually incredibly important, and it isn't supposed to be lent out to itty, bitty imps like yourself~"

"Ugh..." Blitzo recoiled in disgust, slapping away Stolas's hand.

"The Harvest Moon is a very special occasion!" Stolas continued, forcing himself up with his elbows, "It's been my annual duty to showcase it in the Ring of Wrath. It's celebrated by a very charming little festival with the locals!"

"Wrath, huh?" Blitzo pondered aloud, "Most of my employees are from there. I've never really been, I hear it's full of inbred chuckle-fucks."

"Oh! Why don't you all join me and Locke at the festival?" Stolas suggested, chuckling as he buried himself beneath the crimson bedsheets, "I can guarantee you all special access~"

"Locke? Wait, I've heard that name before," Blitzo prompted, raising an eyebrow at him, "isn't he one of Heather's siblings? Hey, um...out of curiosity, do you have any...pictures of him? Or the two of them together? I'm kinda curious about the resemblance."

"Why yes!" Stolas mused, whipping out a photo of Heather and Locke, lovingly stroking the image of the male twin hellcat with his pointer finger, "Oh, it was rather difficult to find a secretary to take over for someone as competent and punctual as the lovely Heather Barlowe, but Locke...well, I suppose such splendor simply runs in the blood of twins like themselves~"

"Wow...you know," Blitzo mused, his tail curling into a heart out of Stolas's view, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think you're right. But look, I already told you, we're not bodyguards, okay? That was a one-time thing we did badly."

"I'm simply offering a work-free day of fun!" Stolas insisted, rising with the blanket still draped over his feathered head, "I feel quite safe at the Harvest Festival with my Locky beside me. It's the same every year, and no sane demon would dare pick a fight with one of the Barlowes' sons."

The owl demon crawled closer to Blitzo, giving his nose a little emphatic tap.

"The Barlowes are known for their unrivaled hand-to-hand combat, and the end result would be quite unpleasant, especially since each of them can die seven times. But I'm certain you already know that, didn't you, Blitzy~"

"Of course I do, dumbass," Blitzo scoffed, "I work with one. Well, if you promise this isn't some fuck-fest invite, it does sound like it could be a blast and a half. Plus, it's not like we can do jack shit without your book, anyway..."

"Aw, I'm sowwy your clients will have to wait~" Stolas purred, leaning in closer to Blitzo.

"Oh, fuck my clients!" Blitzo waved him off, the thought of impressing Heather almost making him blush, "Besides, I know a certain someone who's going to love this little festival..."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

♫ Pack your bags
Sun's out
Take a Vacay babe
Take it straight to Bonetown ♫

3:00 in the morning. That's what time it was when Loona's phone began vibrating on the nightstand, chiming out Verosika Mayday's "Vacay to Bonetown." The hellhound groaned, sitting upright in slight annoyance in her pajamas. Upon seeing Blitzo's video chat icon on the screen, she promptly hit "decline," sliding back under the covers and against the pillow barricade between her and Connie...but not before peering over the border and finding herself inadvertently smiling down at her best friend's sleeping form.

♫ V-time, free time, baby relax
Self care, no hair, Brazilian wax
Hardtop succu-bus to the beach
Catch some rays while catching some D ♫

To Loona's chagrin, her phone began vibrating again, causing Connie to stir in her sleep. Not wanting to wake her up, the hellhound grunted, snatching the device from the nightstand and picking up, squinting as the screen flashed to life. Along with Blitzo, several other video call screens were present, including Moxxie and Millie, Heather, and Ember, who were all blinking tiredly, and also in their pajamas.

"Heyyy everyone!" Blitzo began, "Sorry to disturb you, but...I have something to run by you real quick, okay? Loonie, could you wake Connie up for this? I know you're sleeping over at her place tonight, and—"

"This better be fucking important, Blitz!" Loona whispered angrily, glancing over her shoulder at the blue lynx-point hellcat, "Some of us have better things to do than this shit!"

"Aww, like what?"

"Hmmm...how about...sleeping?!" Moxxie spat, and for once, Loona nodded in agreement.

"Could you guys please try to keep it down?" Ember prompted, rubbing her eyes, "Tex was up all night working at one of Verosika's concerts. He's exhausted and I don't want to disturb him."

"Sorry, Ember, but you know that I can't promise that," Blitzo apologized, shrugging nonchalantly.

"So...what's this all about?" Heather prompted, stroking Spindle's head, which was resting on her lap, "Is it work related?"

"Well, sort of," Blitzo admitted, "but I want Connie to be in the loop about this, too. Loona, could you please get her up? Please?"

"Ugh...fine!" Loona rolled her eyes, "But you better not do this again! None of us are decent!"

The hellhound set her hellphone down for a minute, pulling herself to her knees and gently prodding Connie's exposed shoulder.

"Hey, Connie, wake up. Connie."

"Mmm...Loonie..." Connie muttered, unconsciously rolling over to face her, "I love you, but it's too early for a coffee run..."

Loona blinked down at the hellcat in shock, her cheeks as red as her glowing eyes. Thank Satan it was dark in the room, otherwise, it might have been visible. However, strangely, she didn't seem to mind hearing those words from Connie. In fact, there was a chance that she might have even...liked them? Regardless, the hellhound found herself releasing a light chuckle as she prodded her best friend to alertness.

"Heh, so you love me, huh?"

"I...huh?" Connie murmured, still not fully awake and clearly not comprehending what she'd just said, "Yeah, sure...what's going on?"

"Oh, it's just Blitz being a dickhead again," Loona explained, feeling her heart flutter unexplainably at the hellcat's response, "he wants us for a video call."

"...At three in the morning?" Connie glanced over her best friend's shoulder at the alarm clock.

"Yeah, I know," Loona admitted, rolling her eyes, "but you know he won't leave us alone until we join in. Sorry."

"Ugh...it's fine," Connie shrugged, "let's just get this over with."

Loona nodded, a ghost of a smile remaining from their prior conversation, and picked up her hellphone once again, waving Connie closer to the center of the bed so they both were on camera. Once Blitzo saw that everyone was present, he grinned and continued.

"Oh hey, Connie! Nice of you to join us. So, how would you guys want to visit the Wrath Ring for some harvest bullshit this year?"

"The Harvest Moon Festival?!" Millie gasped, beaming excitedly without a second thought, "Yee fuckin' haw! Can you believe this, Heather?!"

"Hardly!" the red tabby hellcat nodded avidly, "I can't wait! This is the best news I've ever gotten at three in the morning!"

"Ughhh..." Moxxie sighed, "well, Millie likes the idea, so I guess I'm coming, too."

"Okay, we got three in," Blitzo remarked, "well, four. Loona's obviously coming with me."

"You know what?" Loona caved, not wanting to waste more of her sleep on her adoptive father's antics as she turned to Connie, "Whatever. I'm too tired to give a shit. I'll go if you come with."

"Sure, we branched off and had a little fun at Loo Loo Land," Connie shrugged, "I'm sure we can find something to do at the Harvest Moon Festival. So that's a yes from me."

"Alrighty, then," Blitzo winked at the two before addressing Ember, "what about you, new hire? Ready for your first company excursion?"

"Are you kidding?" Ember mused, "Count me in! Imp City Accounting never took us anywhere, and besides, this sounds like it could be a lot of fun! Can I bring Tex, or...?"

"Sorry, Ember, employees only," the imp shook his head, "maybe when it's not a company thing, the big man can tag along. But not this time. Besides, didn't you say he was exhausted from working for my bitch-bag of an ex-girlfriend?"

"Oh, shit," the silver hellhound admitted, "I forgot about that. Well, just me, then."

"Alright, so we have everyone on board!" Blitzo concluded, "Great talking to everyone! See you all in a couple business days!"

"Wait...where are you calling from?" Moxxie prompted.

On his end of the line, mere seconds after asking the question, Blitzo fell from the ceiling of Moxxie and Millie's apartment, landing on top of their covers.

"Mmm hmm," Moxxie sighed, staring tiredly at the wall, "of course."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

ROUGH N' TUMBLEWEED RANCH

The I.M.P van drove under the tall, wooden sign at the entrance to Millie's family farm, which had been wound from top to bottom with kinked coils of barbed wire. Heather followed close behind on horseback, riding Spindle, who had disguised herself as a much larger and more muscular horse than her typical form.

Blitzo parked the vehicle in the front yard, where the imp couple were waiting for the carful of visitors to arrive. The minute Connie stepped foot onto the dirt path in her western outfit, she reminded herself to keep her distance, eyeing them carefully, although she spared them a polite smile when they made eye contact with her.

"Mama! Daddy!" Millie sprinted into her father's muscular arms, not wasting any time.

"Yeeehaw!" Joe hollered, swinging his daughter around in his arms before setting her back on the ground in front of her mother, "How's my deadly little pumpkin spice doin'?"

"I'm good, pa!" Millie beamed up at him, flitting her eyes endearingly, "Thanks for lettin' us stay here for the harvest jamboree."

"It's no trouble," Lin chimed in, albeit a tad patronizingly, "we know you aren't makin' as much anymore since y'all went 'freelance'."

"Freelance pays fine, ma!" Millie replied, brushing off the comment as though it was nothing she hadn't heard before, "We're doin' fine! It's fine."

"Hey, Joe and Lin!" Heather greeted, sliding off of Spindle's back, wearing her cowgirl-inspired outfit, "G'day, mates!"

"Oh my stars!" Lin grinned, turning to her husband ecstatically, "Look who it is, honey!"

"Well, if it ain't the grous girl herself!" Joe chuckled, grabbing the red tabby hellcat's right hand in his own, yanking her closer to him to exchange a hearty back pat, "How ya goin', mate? We haven't seen y'all 'round these parts since you and Millie were just a little pair of anklebiters!"

"Oh, it's been a wild ride," Heather mused, flexing her claws and eyeing them in a badass fashion, "gave these babies a damn workout at my new job. It's nitty-gritty, and I love it."

"Atta girl, usin' her bare hands like a fuckin' champ!" Joe praised her, giving the hellcat's elbow a nudge, "Oh, you're definitely your daddy's girl. Back when your old man was sheriff, he was bottlin' his blood's worth 'round here. But I respect the man and his wife for makin' that money nowadays. And they still know how to put up a damn fight!"

"Heh, I'll tell them you said hi," Heather promised, winking and stroking Spindle's massive head.

"Speakin' of which..." Lin mused, eyeing the hellcat's horse, "who's this beauty? She's one of the sturdiest lookin' beasts I've ever laid eyes on."

"Oh, you mean Spindle?" Heather replied, cupping the mare's head in her left hand, "She's my new horse. We crossed paths a while ago, and she's been by my side ever since."

"Well, she's welcome to stay in our stable for as long as she sees fit," Joe offered, "a fine girl like this one deserves a roof over her head."

"Thanks, Joe," the hellcat bowed her head respectfully, "oh, but enough about me. There's some other people I think you should meet, too!"

"Right, like this little sugarcube!" Millie piped up, grabbing her cautious lynx-point friend and dragging her over to her parents, "Go on, darlin', introduce yourself!"

Forcing herself to smile, Connie took every ounce of confidence she could muster within her and channeled it into her words, trying to appear as down-to-earth as possible. She held out her hand to Joe, who, to her surprise, politely accepted it, a ghost of a smile on his lips.

"Hi, I'm Connie. It's nice to meet you."

"Howdy, Connie," Lin greeted, shaking the hellcat's hand as well, "well, aren't you just a little cactus blossom? Say, Heather, are you sure this one ain't a distant relative of yours? Because she's a mighty fine specimen."

"Oh, uh...thank you," Connie chuckled, caught off guard by the imps' unexpected friendliness.

"No, I'm positive that she's not," Heather added in amusement, nudging her friend's shoulder lightly, "but she definitely could be! You should see her when she slaughters targets. This one time, she ripped a hole in a human so big that you could fit two watermelons in it. With just her claws!"

"Hoo doggy!" Joe beamed, "Did she really? That's damn impressive, lil' lady. Usin' your bare hands? You have my respect. So, pumpkin, what other friends of yours did ya cram into that big ol' van?"

"Well, let's see," Millie replied, spotting Moxxie struggling to handle two suitcases and ripping him away from them, dragging them to meet her parents, "y'all remember my husband Moxxie!"

The minute the imp couple locked eyes with Moxxie, they glared down at him in disapproval. Joe huffed beneath his mustache, blowing it like a tiny fan, while his wife crossed her arms alongside him, just as unimpressed.

"Greetings, Lin!" Moxxie addressed them, waving nervously, "Joe? How've you been, uh, with all the flaming twisters and stuff around here?"

"We lost our old farmhand to one of them terrors last week," Joe grunted in annoyance.

"Heh, heh heh," Moxxie chuckled nervously, "oh, crumbs! M-my bad! I am so sorry, I-I didn't mean to open that wound, sir."

"Hey, watch it," Blitzo spat at him from behind, emerging from the van with Loona and Ember, "I'm the 'sir' here, bucko!"

"Oh yeah!" Millie beamed, thrilled that her boss had provided an opportunity to ease the tension, "Y'all haven't met my boss, Blitz, and his hellhound! And of course, the taller hellhound is our new hire, Ember! She's the company's financial advisor."

"Nice to meet you!" Ember waved at Millie's parents warmly, dressed in her own one-shoulder western outfit, her gold necklace jingling lightly as she moved.

"I'm not just his hellhound," Loona remarked dryly, frowning at her, "what, so Ember gets a title and I don't?"

"Yeah, she's my daughter!" Blitzo added, pulling her closer to him.

"Only on paper," Loona noted, rolling her eyes, "Just said that for Connie's sake. Y'all don't deserve to know my name..."

"Well, at least you didn't deny it this time," Connie shrugged nonchalantly, walking off with Loona and Ember to explore, "it's a start."

"It's a pleasure to finally meet the sperm and egg factory that popped out this little gem of an assassin!" Blitzo greeted the imp couple, shoving Moxxie out of the way, "You two raised a sturdy bitch!"

"That we did," Joe nodded with a hearty laugh, "so, Blitz, is it? Hehe. That's a fine name."

"It reminds me of war," Lin added endearingly, clasping her heads together in pleasure.

"Ah, nothin' like a little war to make a strong man!" Joe agreed, flexing his biceps.

"I like you people," Blitzo mused, nudging Heather with a sly grin, "so, Heather, are your parents like these guys? Because if they are, I'd love to meet them. Also, your dad was a fucking sheriff?! How much more badass can your family get?!"

"Heh, I'm sure you'd love them, Blitz," Heather rolled her eyes at him playfully, "but that's an encounter for another day. I don't wanna spoil any surprises~"

"You know," Moxxie added, "more battles were won by technological advances in warfare. I've researched the history of weaponry extensively, and it's inspiring how, for example, the progression of guns utilizing angelic technology has changed the landscape of Hell's combative..."

He paused, noticing Heather, Blitzo, Joe, and Lin staring at him in boredom, while Millie made a cutthroat signal for him to stop.

"I mean..." Moxxie continued, shrugging nervously, "war fun!"

"Guns get the job done," Joe nodded, "but a man ain't nothin' if can't tear the head off a hellish beast with only his bare hands like your hellcat friends!"

"Ha! He's right, Moxxie," Blitzo cackled, taunting Moxxie with baby-talk and peering over his shoulder at Heather to see if he'd impressed her, "you've got cute wittle baby hands, like your baby dick! Right, Heather?"

Heather glared back at him, unamused, shaking her head in disapproval.

"Refrain, sir," Moxxie warned him, shoving his boss away.

"Speaking of strong hands," Joe continued, "y'all should meet our newest help. Hey, Striker!"

As soon as his name was called, the tall, semi-muscular imp rode towards the group on a black and neon orange horse, which was just as, if not even more muscular, than Spindle. He slapped the stallion's side with his tail to encourage him to go even faster, smirking at the group and revealing a sharp gold tooth, skidding to a halt upon reaching Millie.

Heather, however, was not happy to see Striker. In fact, judging by the shocked look on her face, it appeared as though the two already knew each other. The hellcat's ears pinned back, and she frowned at the rattlesnake-like imp in disbelief, her eyes transitioning into chaotic mode.

"Oh hell no."

"Well, howdy!" Striker greeted the group, sliding down from his horse to approach Millie, "Oh, lookie here! You must be the famous Mildred! Heard some good things about you from your folks, little lady."

Millie giggled, flattered, while the rest of the group watched them nonchalantly, aside from Blitzo, who was obsessing over Striker's horse, and Heather, who was still in chaotic mode, her gaze fixed on Striker like a jaguar would a lizard.

"What're y'all doin' so far away from Imp City?" Striker intrigued, huffing, "The free workin' finally slowin' down?"

"Oh, no, freelance isn't free," Millie attempted to explain, before giving up halfway in, as she did with her mother, "it's...nevermind. We're just visitin' for the festival. The prince is our boss's boyfriend!"

"Millie, I am not above hitting a female in front of her daddy," Blitzo warned her.

"And I'm not above telling a loose-lipped bastard to shut the fuck up," Heather muttered, crossing her arms self-consciously, as though she wasn't already pissed off enough by Striker's presence.

"Boss, huh?" Striker prompted, "Oh, so you're the bold imp who started his own killin' biz."

"Yeah, well, when you're good at something," Blitzo noted, "you should probably capitalize."

"Not many imps start businesses on their own," Striker remarked, "that's pretty impressive, sir."

"Oh...yeah?" Blitzo mused, caught off guard by the rare praise, "I-I-I guess...I guess it is, isn't it?"

"So you even conned that ditzy blue-blood into gettin' you to the surface?" the rattlesnake-like imp intrigued, shaking hands with Blitzo.

"Well, it's long and complicated," Blitzo shrugged, "but the short answer is yes. But he's not, like, you know, w-we're not, like, we're not doing a...w-we—the—uh, what's between us is...it's a transactional fucking, you see. I kinda have a thing for someone else~"

"Oh my Satan, enough about the fucking already!" Heather snapped, wheeling around and signaling for Spindle to follow her, "Come on, Spindle, let's go hang out somewhere else..."

"Hey, Heather, wait wait wait wait!" Blitzo chased after her with Moxxie and Millie, blocking her and her horse's path before they could go any farther, "Come on, Heather, you know I had to clear that up. I don't actually like Stolas. Like I said, I'm into someone else."

"I don't give a shit about who you're into, okay?" Heather whispered, angrily motioning to Striker with her thumb, "This isn't about you! It's about him!"

"What, Striker?" Millie intrigued, raising an eyebrow at her best friend, "Why? Did he do somethin' to you?"

"Yeah, what's going on here?" Moxxie added, just as curious.

"I...he...ugh..." Heather sighed, facepalming, "he's my ex-fiancé, okay?! We used to be together before Stolas offered me a secretary job. And...as much as I loathe admitting this...at one point along the way, we got close enough that he stole my virginity."

"Holy shit, you two were engaged?!" Blitzo gasped, loud enough to draw everyone else's attention to the group of coworkers, but not loud enough for them to hear what he'd said, "And you fucked?!"

"Could you say that any louder, sir?!" Moxxie hissed at his boss, "I don't think the whole farm heard you!"

"Yeah, but Striker did..." Millie remarked, peering behind her friends and causing them to do the same, revealing that she was right.

"Thought I recognized your face, whiskers," Striker began, giving Heather's nose an ever-so-gentle and playful tap, "it's...been a long time. Nice to see you back in Wrath."

Heather released a pent-up sigh, her ears drooping slowly as she found it in herself to lock eyes with the rattlesnake-like imp, her eyes reverting to their normal state.

"Not long enough. Hello, Striker."

"Hey, why the long face, whiskers?" Striker noted, tilting the hellcat's face towards him with his tail, "Aren't ya happy to see me?"

"Ugh..." Heather growled, slapping his tail away and crossing her arms indignantly, "you know, all I really wanted to do today was spend some quality time with my friends and have a little fun. And then you showed up..."

"Aww, don't be that way, whiskers," Striker nudged her with a sly smile, "This is the Harvest Moon Festival. I can still show you a good time, just like we used to have~"

"In case you've already forgotten," Heather hissed, turning to leave, "let me give you a little reminder. There is no 'we' anymore. You had your chance, and you fucked it up. So don't go following me around all day like a lovesick puppy just because you think there's a chance that I'll fall in love with you again, because I won't."

"Oh, c'mon, whiskers," Striker stopped her, his tone softening, "we haven't seen each other for years! I just wanna catch up with you a little, that's all."

The hellcat paused, taking a deep breath and gathering as much patience as demonly possible before speaking.

"Well, that's not what I want, okay? So keep your damn hands to yourself and stay away from me, and we won't have any problems. Capeesh?"

"If you insist, whiskers," Striker agreed with a tip of his hat, patting his horse, "me an' Bombproof here'll leave you alone."

"If you think you can butter me up with that horse," Heather scoffed, "then you're—"

Bombproof seemed to disregard the statement almost immediately, approaching Heather and sniffing her playfully, giving her a gentle nudge with his massive head.

"Okay, that's—" Heather chuckled, her serious disposition fading as Bombproof began to lap at her face, "ah! B-Bombproof! I-ah-ahahah! Alright, alright! I still love you, you walking barbie. Nothing that happened was your fault, anyway."

The hellcat rolled her eyes at the stallion playfully, planting a kiss on the bridge of his nose before clearing her throat and turning back to Striker, who was chuckling in amusement. Heather could feel her heart beginning to flutter at the sight of her ex-lover's sexy laugh, and her face heated up in embarrassment.

"Alright, so you buttered me up with your horse," Heather muttered, returning her attention to Spindle as Bombproof trotted off to graze, "big fucking whoop. That doesn't change anything."

"You know," Joe suggested, "you boys should enter the Pain Games!"

"I heard games," Blitzo replied enthusiastically, pushing past the rest of the group, "what games? I'm in."

"Every Harvest Festival," Lin explained, "there's a competition to be the roughest, toughest bastard in Wrath! Heather here was the youngest winner on record!"

"Ooh, really?" Blitzo mused, raising an eyebrow at the hellcat beside him, "How old was she?"

"Go on, Aussiecat," Lin encouraged her, "tell 'im!"

"Mmm..." Heather hesitated for impact, "13 years old."

"What?!" Blitzo gasped, amazed, "You never told me about that!"

"There's lots of things you don't know about me," Heather shrugged, winking, "if I told you all of my secrets, it wouldn't be as fun! But yeah, the Pain Games are what gave me the nickname 'Aussiecat,' if you were curious."

"Yeah!" Millie interjected indignantly, "Wish I could play!"

"Millie, you know you get too carried away," Lin shook her head, "the last competition ended in 15 separate funerals!"

"I'm aware!" Millie protested, "But I only caused nine of them! How come Sallie May still gets to compete?!"

"Your sister doesn't have a neighborhood headcount," Lin reminded her daughter.

"She so does!"

"It doesn't count if you don't find the bodies~" Sallie May mused behind them, lugging what could only be assumed were body bags along with her, with the help of her younger brother.

"Still, you get to root for her and your brothers," Millie's mother continued, "and now you can cheer on your boss!"

"You know," Moxxie piped up, "she can also cheer for me."

Joe barked out a hearty laugh at the thought of his son-in-law joining the Pain Games, nearly doubling over in the process.

"Wait, you?" Joe intrigued, just to be sure that Moxxie wasn't kidding.

"Yeah!" Moxxie barked, "I could compete, can't I?"

To prove her husband's point, Lin roughly shouldered the smaller imp, in the elbow, causing him to keel over in pain.

"Well, could," Heather shrugged guiltily, catching his fall, "but maybe shouldn't. No offense, Moxxie, but...I've seen the kind of shit that goes on during those games. Maybe you're a little safer because Millie isn't involved, but still, there are no holds barred out there. At all."

"Sorry, boy," Joe chuckled, "but I don't think sensitive, thespian types would last very long in the games."

"I was born here, too!" Moxxie insisted, slipping into a country accent, "I have some fight in me."

"Ha! Well then, little fella," Striker suggested, placing a hand on his shoulder, "why don'cha help me wrangle one of them hogs for dinner."

"Simple," Moxxie huffed, reaching for his gun, "watch me."

"No," the taller imp stopped him, handing him a knife and a thick, long rope, "with these. Bullets can't pierce the shell. You gotta get the knife underneath 'im and pry yourself an opening."

"Oh! Right, right," Moxxie nodded, "I knew that."

"Now, just remember," Blitzo reminded the imp, gripping his shoulders, "your rep with the in-laws is on the line here. So, no pressure at all, you totally will not make an ass of yourself in front of everyone important in your life. Now go get 'em, tiger!"

Moxxie gazed at the enormous pig in the fenced-in area in terror, not knowing what else to say to such a haunting statement.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"...And then that lil' anklebiter showed up at the front door with an entire fuckin' alligator head!" Sallie May chuckled, "My lil' baby nine-year-old sis! Oh, you shoulda seen the look on ma and pa's faces! They were all like..."

The taller female imp paused, impersonating the most hilarious shocked face that Connie had ever seen, forcing both of them to their knees, doubling over with laughter. Gasping for air, they wiped their eyes free of tears, pressing their backs to the wooden fence behind them and watching as Sallie May's younger siblings chased each other around the lawn gleefully.

"Oh, Satan, that was too good," Connie concluded, allowing a final giggle to escape from her mouth, "Mills was right, you really are the best storyteller!"

"Heh, thanks, ya lil' prickly pear," Sallie May crossed her legs, tucking her arms behind her head casually, "I try my best. Now enough about my redneck family. What's yours like, hun? Are they crazier than mine, or is that impossible to top?"

"Oh, stop," Connie shouldered her, "your family's not crazy! They're just...very passionate about their traditions. That's better than anything I could say about my situation. I mean, at least your family still loves all of their kids..."

"So your parents are total jackasses?"

"Well, they didn't used to be," Connie explained, brushing her bangs out of her face, "sure, they hated each other, but as far as their relationships with me used to go, everything was fine. We got along, and they treated me well. But after a while, things got...vastly more complicated."

"Really?" Sallie May prompted, repositioning on her knees and listening intently "How so?"

"Well...several years ago," the hellcat continued, "I realized a few things. Most importantly, that I was gay. But no one else knew except for me, because my parents were very strongly against it. I swear to Satan, my own father even repeatedly warned me over the years that if he ever found out I was 'one of them,' he would kick me out of the house. Well, when I was 17...guess what happened."

"Holy shit..." Sallie May shook her head sympathetically, "that's awful, sweetie. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," Connie replied softly, "don't get me wrong, it still hurts like a bitch to think about, but I'm glad that things worked out the way they did. I rented an apartment, graduated from business school, and after that, Loona hooked me up with a job at your sister's workplace. So I'd consider myself lucky, at the end of the day."

"Do you ever miss 'em?"

"Honestly?" Connie admitted, "I don't know. Sometimes I think I do, but even then, that still isn't it. Maybe I just miss the feeling of having a family, and not the actual family itself."

"Ah. I see."

"Hey, Connie!" Loona called out to her best friend excitedly from across the yard, sprinting up to her with Ember, "You will not fucking believe what's happening right now!"

"Oh, yeah?" Connie mused, allowing the hellhound to pull her to her feet, "What's up?"

"That Striker guy challenged Moxxie to kill a pig, and—" Ember explained, stifling a giggle, "I-I'm sorry, I feel so bad for laughing, but...you just have to see this!"

"The whiny little doofus my sis married is makin' an ass of himself?" Sallie May remarked, strutting past the group with an amused flick of her tail, "Now this I gotta see."

"Come on, Connie!" Ember grinned, tugging her hellcat friend along, "You're gonna miss it!"

Sure enough, the minute the group arrived on the scene, Moxxie had lassoed the hog in question, which was twice his size and far more muscular. The imp on his back struggled to wrangle it as it thrashed about, fruitlessly attempting to stab it over and over, but to no avail. All the while, Millie and her parents, Striker, Blitzo, Heather, Sallie May, and now the two hellhounds of the group and Connie were watching safely from the other side of the pig pen, gaping and chuckling at his efforts. Loona whipped out her phone and started recording.

"Fuck yeah, Moxxie!" Blitzo encouraged his employee, "Ride 'em, Moxxie! Make it that bitch you won't call back in the morning!"

"This is fucking beautiful," Loona shook her head in amusement, gazing down at Connie, who was covering her mouth to hide her smile, "nice to see you having a blast with this, too."

"If you had told me that I would get to see Moxxie riding an enormous pig during that video call at three in the morning," Connie snickered, "I would've agreed to go in a heartbeat!"

"Oh, so you do remember that," Loona tugged at her collar sheepishly with her free hand, "do you remember anything...else that happened?"

"No, not really," Connie shrugged, blinking at her best friend curiously, "why? Did I miss something important?"

"Huh? Oh, no," Loona shook her head, blushing guiltily, "not really. Just thought I'd ask."

"You're doing great, Moxxie!" Blitzo shouted over the fence, turning to Loona after he noticed that she was recording the whole fiasco, "Send me that video later."

"Heh, wow," Striker shook his head, peering down at Heather, who was watching the situation unfold worriedly, "you think I should step in, whiskers?"

"Uh, yeah, now might be a good time," Heather admitted, wincing as the pig nearly kicked her coworker clean off his back.

Striker nodded, hopping the fence with hardly any effort at all and stampeding towards Moxxie and the pig while they were distracted. With a tremendous leap, the taller imp shot into the air like a bullet, coming down on the pig and shoving Moxxie away to a safe distance. Before anyone could even blink, Striker whipped out Moxxie's now stolen dagger, twirling it at lightning speed before digging it into the back of the hog's neck with a heavy grunt. Instantaneously, the beast collapsed, his slain carcass beneath his killer. Moxxie watched as his victory was stolen from him, releasing a whimper as a sharp pain crept into his collarbone.

"Ow! My clavicle!"

"Don't worry, little one," Striker acknowledged the injured imp, his tail giving a slight rattle as he strode past him with the hog slung over his right shoulder, "you never stood a chance."

The rattlesnake-like imp winked at Heather as he approached Joe, eliciting a pained stare from Heather. The hellcat sighed, shaking it off and rolling her eyes as she followed Millie to patch up her husband.

"Hey, boss man!" Striker asked, glancing over his shoulder at Blitzo, "You wanna help the men skin this thing for dinner?"

"Oh, I am always down to skin the manly meat with the manly men!" Blitzo nodded enthusiastically, causing his adoptive daughter and Connie to start snickering.

"That's what she said," the pair of best friends remarked simultaneously, high-fiving and biting their lips as they each stifled a laugh.

"What who said?" Blitzo spat, emphasizing each word with a stomp of his foot, "What, what bitch is talking shit about me?!"

"It's from The Office," Ember explained, giggling as she casually strode past him to catch up with her friends, "you seriously don't know about that show? Where have you been for the past decade and a half, living under a rock?"

Moxxie watched in disappointment as the rest of the group departed for the house, while Millie and Heather finished bandaging his wounds. The male imp sighed, leaning against the fence.

"You know, Moxxie," Heather began, "you shouldn't compare yourself to Striker. He's just...he was born that way. He has that alpha male personality that's hard to resist being impressed by."

"Is that why you two...you know..." Moxxie intrigued, raising an eyebrow at the hellcat.

"No, it's not!" Heather huffed, blushing, "And I wish you people would stop bringing that up! Blitz literally fucks with a married prince every month and gets off scot-free, but when I mention that I got pegged by my then-fiancé, it's suddenly a big deal!"

"Aw, don't let my parents get to you, Mox," Millie returned her attention to her husband, "and hey, you don't need 'em to respect you! They will eventually!"

"No they won't," Sallie May smirked, leaning on the fence post next to Millie, who glared at her in response, "what? I'm right, ain't I?"

"Sallie..." Heather warned her best friend's sister, "please...don't add more fuel to the fire here."

"Oh, imma enterin' those games," Moxxie insisted, once again donning a country accent.

Millie sighed, giving her sister a side-glance as she leaned in closer to her.

"Mmm, how pissed would you be if I...bet on him dyin'?" 

"He won't be dying on my watch," Heather whispered to her best friend, "because I'm entering the games, too. I thought it might come to this."

"Wait, what?!" Millie whispered back, "But Heather, what about—?"

"Striker?" Heather finished her sentence, "Don't worry about him. I have enough experience with the man that I know his strengths and weaknesses. Just leave this to me."

"And what if you lose?" Millie intrigued worriedly, "You've never lost a single competition that you've taken part in. Ain't that gonna damage your name?"

"So what if I lose?" Heather shrugged, "It's just a title, Millie, it doesn't really matter. My life in this ring is pretty much over now, so I don't really have anything to lose. Besides, the Pain Games are my favorite part of the whole festival!"

"You're the best, Heather," Millie smiled up at the hellcat gratefully, "I don't know how I got so lucky as to score you as a best friend."

"I think the same about you all the time," Heather mused, giving Millie's elbow a gentle nudge.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Right this way, Prince Stolas," Heather's twin brother, Locke, instructed, leading him onto the stage and to his seat in the tent atop it, "now remember, a lot of imps around here aren't huge fans of higher-class demons. So please, for the love of Satan, do not say more than is formally required. It's for your own safety."

"Oh, come on now, Locky~" Stolas purred, toying with the hellcat's left ear, "don't be so stiff. This is the Harvest Moon Festival; a time for fun! Besides, I know you'd protect me. You always do. And please, call me Stolas. We are friends, after all."

"Stolas...please, don't do that," Locke remarked as a light blush spread across his cheeks, slowly removing the owl demon's hand, "I'm only one person, and I only have seven lives, so just...try not to get assassinated today."

"Oh, if you insist," the owl prince waved him off, taking his seat, "go on, then, make your speech! You have such a way with words, my dear Locke."

"Ugh..." Locke sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he approached the microphone.

At long last, the Harvest Moon Festival had commenced, and practically every imp in the Wrath Ring was in attendance. Several hundreds of spectators gathered together in clusters beneath the stage, watching as Locke donned a smile and kicked off the Pain Games.

"Welcome one and all to the Wrath Ring's annual Harvest Moon Festival! To kick the games off, we have the great Prince Stolas, here to usher in this year's Pain Games—"

Just as Locke finished speaking, Stolas elegantly accepted the microphone from his secretary, much to the chagrin of the imps below, who were much more fond of Locke due to his father's valiant sheriffing past in the Wrath Ring.

"How kind, Locky~" Stolas began, "greetings, tiny Wrath Ring imps!"

"Wow," Locke muttered, facepalming, embarrassed for his boss.

"I hereby welcome you all to another year of celebrating the spoils of your labor," the owl demon continued, despite the glares of the imps below him, "which continue to feed the citizens of Hell! I'm happy to kick off the start of these games that will challenge the toughest imps to show their skill in dominance! Good luck to you all! Especially that sexy little one there."

Stolas gazed across the sea of imp observers to where Moxxie, Striker, Heather, and Blitzo were standing, making very obvious eye contact with the latter.

"Yoo-hoo, Blitzy!"

"Oh, fuck me," Blitzo shook his head, glancing over at Heather, "so, that hellcat on stage is your twin brother Locke, huh? Certainly looks like a handsome fella."

"Yep! That's him!" Heather nodded, excitedly shouting across the crowd at her brother, "Hi Locke! Say hi to dad for me!"

"Hey, sis!" Locke shouted back at her, "Good luck out there! Your competition's gonna need it! Especially that fucking snake to your right."

"Good to see you too, partner," Striker remarked, tipping his hat at the hellcat on stage, "tell the old man I said hi!"

"Oh, don't worry, I won't," Locke rolled his eyes at his sister's ex, "consider it a favor! He still wants to rip your arms off for breaking off your engagement to his daughter!"

"Does he actually?" Striker asked Heather, albeit a tad nervously.

"I wouldn't put it past him," Heather smirked, sassily placing her hands on her hips.

Locke stared at Striker with the same expression. Truly, he and Heather were living proof of the chemistry between twin siblings.

Chapter Text

While the assassins of the company were preoccupied with the Pain Games, Loona, Connie, and Ember had snuck off to explore the rest of the festival's offerings on their own. Currently, they were on the other side of the celebration, walking amongst an array of activity tents and food trucks. Connie had agreed to watch Millie's youngest brother while the older kids participated in the games, and was walking with the impling ahead of her coworkers, smiling and laughing along with him as he playfully weaved between her legs, wielding a toy axe.

"I can see why Connie wants to be a mother," Ember admitted, "I mean, look at her. She's practically a natural. He loves her."

Loona didn't respond right away, only nodding and humming a reply as she observed her best friend and the impling. She could feel her cheeks heating up as Connie glanced over her shoulder at her, sparing her a playful thumbs-up before returning her attention to Remus.

"Loona? Hellooo. Hell to Loona!"

"Huh? Oh," the shorter hellhound chuckled nervously, finally snapping out of her lust-induced trance, "sorry, Ember. I was just..."

"...Thinking about finally confessing that you like her?" Ember concluded, raising an eyebrow at her in amusement.

"Wha—who?" Loona's eyes flitted around the area nervously, her face only getting warmer, "I-I don't like anyone here. Well, I mean, I do, but not like that! Haha."

"Oh, come on, Loona!" Ember rolled her eyes in disbelief, shaking her head, "Seriously, how long did you think it would take for me to notice? We've been walking around here for an hour, and you've been staring at Connie for half of it."

"What are you talking about?" Loona asked, tugging at her collar sheepishly, "Connie and I are just...friends."

The hellhound's ears drooped a little at the word 'friends,' and she stole another glance at the blue lynx-point hellcat. With every breath, she could feel her heart picking up speed, although she couldn't tell if the thudding in her chest was coming from the bass speakers of the nearby dance floor or her heart itself. Maybe it was a little of both.

"You know, Loona," Ember continued, "I've seen the way you look at Connie, and I know you don't just see her as a friend. And you don't want to, either. Do you?"

Loona fell silent for a moment, contemplating another excuse. To her surprise, she conjured something else instead. Something that she had been in denial of in every prior circumstance. Loo Loo Land, Heather's welcome back party, the human beach in the Bahamas, the skating rink, the day Connie had threatened to leave I.M.P, the false office fire, that time Connie considered marriage. Even just that morning, when Connie had, intentionally or not, told Loona that she loved her. Nothing had dimmed the sparks between them. In fact, they had only gotten brighter; embers in the shadows of doubt that clouded the hellhound's heart.

She sighed, longingly gazing in Connie's direction once again. Truthfully, Loona had no idea what to say. Her mind was still in her best friend's bedroom, where she had muttered those three simple words. Three simple words that, although forgotten by their deliverer, lingered in the recipient's mind, tugging at her heartstrings to say something; to do something, anything to comprehend what she was feeling. The hellhound was promptly snapped out of her thoughts when she noticed Connie walking towards her, having stooped down to scoop Millie's brother into her arms and carry him with her. The little imp had conked out just moments prior, and was now slumped over the hellcat's shoulder, out like a light.

"Well, it looks like this little guy has had enough fun for one day," Connie remarked, glancing down at his napping form, "we should probably take him back to the house, huh? That's what Lin suggested, anyway."

"Heh, yeah," Loona nodded, smiling at her softly, "sounds like a plan. You know, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Millie was right about something."

"Oh yeah?" Connie mused, raising an eyebrow at her best friend curiously, "About what?"

"You know, about the whole 'you being great with kids' thing," Loona admitted, blinking at her earnestly and motioning to the child in the hellcat's arms, "It probably wouldn't be easy for anyone else to handle a little boy as rambunctious as this one, but you did it so...effortlessly. Any kid would be lucky to have you as their mom."

"Aww, Loona," Connie purred, caught off guard by the sincerity in her best friend's tone, "do you really mean that?"

"Of course I do," the hellhound nodded, placing a hand on her shoulder, "you really want this, and it shows in everything you do. You've never even considered giving up, even after all the horrible shit that's happened. Because that's the kind of person you are. I admire you for that."

"I...I don't even know what to say," Connie blinked at her gratefully, flattered, "that was really sweet. I never knew you felt that way about me."

Loona and Connie exchanged warm glances, their ears dipping slightly in the moment's serendipity. Ember watched them in amusement, shaking her head, her hands sassily planted on her hips. Nearby, a new song began to play on the outdoor dance floor; a country slow dance song, which prompted several native imp couples to start making their way over, leaving the rest of the fairgrounds practically empty.

And that's when Ember got an idea.

Dance With Me

♫ Walk with me, by the oceanside
Together we'll take on this life
As the sun melts to pink and blue
So my heart melts for you ♫

"You know," the silver hellhound offered, casually approaching Loona and Connie, "If you want, I could take him back to the house for you. That way, the two of you could have a little fun together! You haven't really had a chance to do that yet with this little rascal around."

"Oh, Ember, you don't have to do that," Connie assured her, waving her off with her free hand, "I mean, he's kind of my responsibility. I'm the one who agreed to watch him, and I'd hate to dump that on you."

"Don't worry about it," Ember insisted, waving her off, "it's no big deal. I love kids! You two just go have fun."

"Well...okay," Connie agreed, carefully passing the impling to the taller hellhound, "I don't see why not, as long as you don't mind."

"Great! I guess I'll see you two later!" Ember winked at them, turning to leave, but not before whispering into Loona's ear, "She's all yours. Go get her, tiger."

Loona nodded back at her with a nervous grin, watching as the hellhound departed with Millie's brother slung over her shoulder. When Ember's bushy burnt red tail had disappeared around the bend, the receptionist returned her gaze to her best friend, who was smiling contentedly, her tail flicking ever-so-slightly to the beat of the country love song as a second set of lyrics filled the crisp and quiet air.

♫ Dance with me under the stars
Oh, dance with me wrapped in your arms
You'll be the band and I'll be the song
Oh, could it be that we belong?
Oh, something tells me we belong ♫

"You like this song?" Loona prompted the hellcat, raising an eyebrow at her curiously.

"Oh, this one?" Connie acknowledged her, running her fingers through her plush, dark gray bangs, "Yeah, I kinda do. I guess I have a thing for slow dance songs."

"Huh...it's a pretty nice song," Loona nodded, "at least, for Wrath Ring standards. I kinda like it."

"Really? Huh," the hellcat remarked, flashing her an impressed smile, "I didn't think you would."

"I guess I'm still full of surprises, then," Loona mused, leaning on the fence post next to her with a casual shrug.

Connie chuckled into her hand, her long, fluffy tail curling behind her in gaiety. The hellcat's heart began to flutter when she pried open one eye to find Loona gazing down at her flirtatiously, a light blush tinting the sheer white of her facial fur. Before she could forge a reply, the hellhound offered her right hand, using her free one to rub the back of her neck.

"Hey, do you...wanna dance?"

Connie's light blue eyes sparkled in the early evening sun as she briefly pondered the modest question, which, of all people, she'd least expected to hear from Loona. Caught off guard but pleasantly surprised, she slowly nodded in response, accepting her best friend's hand and allowing herself to be gently lead to the edge of the dance floor. Connie glanced around at the other occupants of the space, smiling shyly up at Loona.

"Um...I've never actually slow danced with anyone before," she admitted, sheepishly tugging at her collar.

"Don't worry," Loona assured her, "I have. Just follow my lead."

"Okay..."

♫ You and I are meant to be
As the shore is to the sea
Oh let me be your hand to hold
Your darling to kiss you when we're old ♫

Loona guided Connie's left hand to her right hip and her right into her left hand, positioning herself the same way, like a mirrored image. When both of them had settled into their desired posing, the hellhound ever so slowly began to sway to the music, prompting her best friend to do the same. Their feet gently kneaded the soft gray grass with every motion; Connie finally found it in her to pull her eyes away from them and meet her dance partner's ruby red gaze, her heart thudding along with the beat of the drums as Loona did the same.

♫ Dance with me under the stars
Oh, dance with me wrapped in your arms
You'll be the band and I'll be the song
Oh, could it be that we belong?
Oh, something tells me we belong ♫

"Hey, you're doing pretty well," Loona complimented the hellcat, "for your first time, anyway."

"Thanks," Connie grinned, finally beginning to relax, "you're not to bad yourself, Loonie. Where'd you learn to slow dance, anyway?"

"Would you believe me if I told you it was Blitz?"

"What?! Be serious!" Connie gasped lightly, "Blitz knows how to slow dance? Since when?"

"If we're being honest?" Loona admitted with a smile, giving her a gentle twirl, "I have no fucking idea. He showed me how not too long after he adopted me. I never thought I'd actually use what he taught me...well, you know, until now."

"You never fail to impress me, Loona," Connie shook her head in admiration, "I don't know what it is about you, but...you're just amazing to me. I hope you know that."

"Heh, look who's talking."

♫ Dance with me under the stars
Oh, dance with me wrapped in your arms
You'll be the band and I'll be the song
Oh, could it be that we belong?
Oh, something tells me we belong ♫

The hellhound slowly dipped the hellcat in her arms as the melody came to a close, her arms cradling the small of Connie's back with relative ease. It was almost as though the world around them had faded from existence; only the two of them remained, silhouetted against the neon glow of the sun. All the while, their hearts beat as one, fixating on each other like never before. Wordlessly, they locked eyes with flushed faces, their foreheads mere centimeters apart, almost touching. It was the closest the two had ever been.

And it was enough to evoke an instance of absolute clarity deep within Loona's hellborn soul. Maybe Ember was right. Maybe what she was feeling wasn't at all platonic. Maybe it was something more. She had to find a way to understand this...somehow.

But until then, the hellhound simply cherished Connie's presence in her arms. Straightening her position and setting her best friend back on the ground, she didn't dare move her eyes from the hellcat, who was just as much of a blushing, smiling mess as she was.

"That was...kinda fun!" she chuckled, her laugh nearly causing Loona's heart to explode, "I really enjoyed that."

"You know what?" Loona remarked, on the verge of grinning like an idiot, "Me too. Hey, on our way over here, I saw this food truck that was selling deep-fried candy bars. You wanna go check it out together?"

"That's a thing?!" Connie gasped, her tail curling up in excitement, "Well, now you know I have to! Take me to where the food is!"

"Heh, alrighty then," Loona mused, beckoning the hellcat with her long, fluffy tail, "come on. Let's go eat some good shit."

The pair turned and began their trek back to the fairgrounds, smiling and laughing along the way. Not too far away, Ember peered out from behind a nearby tent, watching as her friends passed by. The silver hellhound shook her head in amusement, mouthing "knew it" to herself.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

About an hour after the opening ceremony, at long last, it was time for the annual Pain Games to commence. The eager imp participants were beginning to make their way to the starting line, chatting amongst themselves and speculating about who would win the competition. However excited these contestants were, even the combined enthusiasm of all others present wouldn't be enough to encompass how bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Blitzo, Moxxie, Heather, and Striker were about the event. Meanwhile, Millie waved at her friends from the bleachers, both enthusiastic and concerned, particularly for Moxxie.

"Better watch out, whiskers," Striker warned his ex-fiancée teasingly, "you mighta won the hearts and praise of these backring buckaroos before, but there's a new contender in town."

"Maybe," Heather retorted with a smirk, "but just because you're a new contender doesn't mean you have anything but old tricks up your sleeve. I've learned a thing or two from being a close-range assassin. So don't be surprised when I kick your ass right back!"

"Still as feisty as ever, huh?" Striker remarked, chuckling in amusement, "It's nice to know that some things never change. See you on the field, whiskers."

The tall, rattlesnake-like imp winked down at her with one hypnotic yellow eye, the arrowhead tip of his long, flexible tail giving the hellcat's shoulder a frisky tap as he departed. Heather rolled her eyes at him, crossing her arms and shaking her head as she found her place in the starting lineup of Wrath Ring dwellers. Hardly a moment later, Blitzo appeared by her side, playfully nudging Heather with his elbow.

"Well, this is it. Ready to kick some redneck ass?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," Heather admitted, adjusting her rust-red velvet blazer, "well...for the most part. I'm not sure if I'll ever actually be ready to face off against my ex-fiancé. Sure, it's been nine years, but you don't forget your first real relationship just like that. Especially when he comes back into your life uninvited."

"Hey...it's okay," the imp assured her, reaching for her right hand and giving it a gentle squeeze, "I've never been engaged to anyone before, but I've been in love enough times to understand where you're coming from. And you know what? We're gonna give these rednecks the fight of their lives today."

"Wait, we?" Heather prompted him curiously, "Are you saying that you wanna help me?"

"Well, sure," Blitzo shrugged, "don't get me wrong, I still wanna win, but if I don't, then I'd rather have you score a victory."

"Really? You'd do that for me?"

"Of course I would," Blitzo nodded, smiling and rubbing the back of his neck, "besides, I originally accepted Stolas's invitation to this festival with you in mind. I know how much you love it here, and honestly, I just want you to have a good time. You know?"

To her surprise, Heather found herself at a loss for words. She stood rooted into place, scanning her best friend's luminescent eyes as she contemplated an answer, but could conjure nothing. The sincerity in those strawberry-red irises was all she could think about; her heart swelled with a newfound passion for the Pain Games, setting her hazel eyes ablaze with confidence.

"Alright, then. Let's do it! I've got your back."

The two exchanged an equanimous nod, fist-bumping each other for good measure as the last few imp contestants lined up behind them.

"Contenders ready?" Locke announced, whipping out a solid gold revolver, the side of which his initials had been engraved into, "Aaaand...go!"

Heather's twin brother pulled the trigger, and thus, the first event began: the obstacle course. Before Moxxie could even begin to wrap his head around the situation he'd gotten himself into, everyone in the lineup took off like a shot. He ended up entangled in the very heart of the stampede, the force of the sudden rush forcing him against the chest of Millie's oldest brother, Ranger. Meanwhile, Blitzo, Heather, and Striker lead the charge, neck-to-neck-to-neck in pursuit of their first win of the games. Their feet pounded against the dirt, kicking up massive clouds of thick red dust in their wake.

"Ready to give up, whiskers?" Striker flashed his ex-fiancée a toothy grin, "I'm gainin' on ya!"

"Not even in your dreams, viper boy!" Heather spat, her burning desire to win damn near as scorching hot as the setting sun behind her.

With a sudden burst of sheer determination, the hellcat bounded forward, her strong thighs propelling her even further. She was like a powerful mustang mare, racing through the desert with no holds barred, her long, fluffy tail bobbing behind her. Blitzo watched as his best friend surpassed both him and Striker, glancing over her shoulder at him with a look that, to him, was the sexiest side-eye that he'd ever been met with in his entire life.

The imp's heart pounded so hard at the sight of Heather that, unbeknownst to him, his pace slowly began to pick up speed. Before he knew it, Blitzo was by her side once again. Striker might have been close behind, but he couldn't have given less of a shit. The way Heather's pale green sclera glimmered in the sunlight captivated him like a moth to a flame, and he couldn't help but stare. The two exchanged a smirk and a laugh before deflecting their confidence to the dirt path ahead of them, their eyes still firmly fixed on the prize.

Just ahead of them stood a tremendous wooden ramp, which arched into a clean 90° angle, positioned in front of a muddy water-filled pit. The contenders would have to rush forward at just the right moment in order to fully ascend it and launch themselves to the other side safely. Heather was able to climb the structure with no trouble at all, digging her claws into the structure to assist her as she pounced her way to the top.

Striker managed to spring up the side of the obstacle at the same time, but before he could make the leap, Blitzo one-handedly, swung himself over his head, stopping him in his tracks as he and Heather flung themselves off over the ledge with a triumphant whoop. The two managed to lock eyes excitedly in midair, the hellcat below her imp companion with her hands outstretched playfully. Meanwhile, Striker had quickly rebounded, kicking against the wooden planks and darting after the pair. Shortly thereafter, Moxxie managed to lug himself over the ramp, only to find himself scrambling over the edge, raking the wood with his claws in a futile attempt to stop his fall. Ultimately, he failed to secure a firm grip, landing him in the mouth of an angry hellborn shark.

Next up was the wrangling competition. Unfortunately for Blitzo, Striker had managed to pin him down in 20 seconds flat, leaving his defeated opponent struggling beneath him. He hovered over his rope-bound target with a straw of wheat between his teeth, fingering it with his free hand. However, hardly a moment later, he heard Heather clear her throat, and both imps glanced in her direction in shock.

Heather had taken down not one, but two of Millie's brothers, in half the time that Striker had taken to conquer Blitzo alone. She was now sassily posing atop their fallen bodies, one foot on each, holding the ends of both ropes in her right hand.

"Ha! Gotta hand it to you, whiskers," Striker mused, plucking the tuft from his mouth, "you still got it."

"Damn straight," Blitzo added with a grunt, shaking his head at the hellcat.

Heather nodded back at them confidently before glancing beneath her at Millie's brothers, flashing the pair of imps a guilty smirk.

"Sorry about that, mates. It's all about getting an edge over the competition."

"I-it's cool," the sweatier bandana-sporting boy grinned up at her nervously, "you bested us."

"Yeah, now could ya get offa me?!" the other rolled his eyes at the hellcat, "Yer gonna fuck up my ass with those heels!"

On the other end of the fenced-off ring, Moxxie hadn't even started his wrangling face-off, on account of staring up at the buff imp with whom he was supposed to tussle in fear. Needless to say, that particular activity didn't end well for the smaller imp.

The good news was, the third event, tug-of-war, had paired Blitzo, Moxxie, Heather, and Striker up as a team. The bad news was that they could only stand on a single wooden platform for the activity...and said platform was surrounded by shark-infested waters. Regardless, both sides took the challenge head-on, yanking in the opposite direction with all their strength and grit. Blitzo had even clamped down on his portion of the rope with his teeth, which, surprisingly, didn't hurt him at all.

Eventually, with a collective heave, the group caused the cord to snap in half, leaving them victorious. However, the impact was so strong that Moxxie was unable to handle it, and was hurled backwards into the water, where yet another shark began to attack him. Heather gasped, tying the remnants of the rope into a lasso and tossing it at the demonic creature's horns. With one powerful tug, she had the shark at her mercy, whipping Moxxie out of its jaws and stamping on the beast's head to subdue it.

"Are you okay, Mox?" Heather prompted the imp, who was aghast at how easily she had conquered the shark.

"I...you didn't have to do that," Moxxie insisted, pulling himself back to his feet, "I can fight my own battles."

The fourth and final event of the Pain Games, and quite possibly the messiest, was mud wrestling. Fortunately, everyone was ready to get down and dirty, especially Blitzo, Heather, and Striker. The latter had forced Blitzo to the ground on his underside with his back turned to him, but he wasn't down for long. Taking advantage of the angle, Blitzo intertwined his lanky legs with Striker's arms, slamming him down in front of him and tussling it out in the grimy brown muck in the ring.

While the two were distracted, Heather decided to jump right in, using one of each hand and foot to pin both her ex and Blitzo. Her best friend smirked at her flirtatiously, rolling through the mud with the hellcat and laughing all the way. At one point, he paused, unexpectedly finding himself kneeling above Heather, his hands positioned on either side of her mud-drenched body.

"Heh...guess you got me," the red tabby hellcat chuckled softly, wiping a splotch of the brown substance from her flustered best friend's face.

The second that Heather's thumb began to gently stroke his cheek, Blitzo's heart skipped a beat. It was a good thing that his skin was already red; he was blushing uncontrollably, his face practically on fire with the sudden contact. Subconsciously, he leaned into his crush's touch, a subtle purr rumbling up his throat in response, but the vibration faded as quickly as it had arrived; the imp didn't want to startle Heather.

Blitzo, for once rendered speechless, cleared his throat, offering a hand to Heather to help her up. However, Heather's entire past flashed before her eyes as a distant memory temporarily immobilized her. If only for a moment, it wasn't her best friend whose hand was being extended to her with a friendly smile.

It was Striker's.

◤◢◣◥◤ ◢◣◆◢◣◥◤◢◣◥

【A FEW YEARS AGO, WRATH RING】

Need a little help there, darlin'~?

Striker had intertwined his fingers with Heather's, gently pulling her from the sunset-showered grasses of the barley field and into his arms. They had ventured into the most isolated part of the countryside to witness the golden hour, a phenomenon that was best observed in the Wrath Ring due to the accentuated reds and oranges of the sky in the area.

It was one of the prettiest sights in all of Hell, and Striker had insisted that the two ride Bombproof into the middle of nowhere to admire it for themselves. Which was unusual, considering that Striker hadn't usually been one for romantic clichés as mushy as watching the sunset. Regardless, Heather wasn't complaining. It had been a nice change of pace.

The hellcat wrapped her arms around her imp boyfriend's collarbone, pressing her forehead against his and taking in the hypnotic glow of his half-lidded eyes. She could feel Striker's slender tail snaking around her waist as he planted a kiss on her forehead, fluffing up her cheek fur with his hands as the golden hour began behind them.

The couple took a moment to admire their surroundings; the brilliant red of the sky and the clouds streaked across it, the way the grains fluttered in the breeze, the peaceful flickering of Bombproof's mane from his place on the ground beside them. Ethereal could hardly sum up the limitless beauty of the world around them. It was one of those rare and priceless moments that could scarcely be found anywhere else, and they were lucky enough to experience it firsthand.

It's beautiful, Heather had whispered, blinking against the imp's chest in awe.

Striker hummed contentedly in reply, slowly unraveling his tail from the hellcat's body.

Not as gorgeous as you, sugar. But it's the closest thing out there...

Striker's arms slithered out from beneath Heather's while she was distracted, releasing her as he dropped down one one knee. He reached into his fringed blazer, revealing a small black box, which he pried open just as he tapped Heather with the tip of his tail. The hellcat gasped, her hands flying to her mouth in surprise. Inside the box was an ovular-cut diamond, lovingly tucked in the center of an extravagant gold band, which sparkled in the light of the sunset.

…and I can't think of a better place to seal the deal. So, what d'ya say, whiskers? Will you be my beautiful buckaroo for the rest of our lives?

◣◥◤◢◣ ◥◤◆◥◤◢◣◥◤◢

"Heather? Hellooo, Hell to Heather?"

Blitzo's voice finally snapped Heather out of the nostalgic trance she'd been trapped in, dragging her back to reality. Her ears sagged a bit as she peered over the imp's shoulder at Striker. His back was turned to her, but he was still giving Heather the side eye, his arms folded over his chest. Although he was hiding it well, she could sense a hint of longing in the farmhand's ringed yellow stare, sending yet another pang of sadness through Heather.

"Oh, uh...sorry, Blitz," she apologized to Blitzo, "I kinda zoned out for a minute there."

"Yeah...is everything okay?" the imp asked her, glancing over at her in concern, "I mean, you looked like you were having fun for a while there. It wasn't me, was it?"

"Huh? Oh, no no no," Heather assured him, "I was just...thinking about something, that's all."

"Well, okay," Blitzo nodded, opting not to pry, "but just so you know, if you ever need to talk about it, you know where to find me."

"Thanks, Blitz," Heather managed a smile, beckoning him to follow her with a flick of her long, fluffy tail, "come on. Let's go get ourselves cleaned up."

The two departed for the changing rooms, along with the rest of their competitors, while Stolas and Locke discussed who would be crowned the winner of the Pain Games in the rafters of the wooden bleachers. A very beat-up and disheveled Moxxie heaved himself out of a pile of mud, but before he could join his coworkers, one of the sharks from earlier leapt from a nearby pond, raising its elbow to once again harass the poor little imp.

"Motherfucker!" Moxxie screamed, flinching and bracing himself for the impact.

However, when nothing happened, he cautiously pried open his eyes. To his surprise, he was met with the sight of Heather holding the massive demonic creature over her head, tossing it back into the air and punching it back to the waters from whence it came. Moxxie blinked up at his wife's best friend in complete and utter disbelief, blown away by the swift display of strength.

"I know you insisted before that you can fight your own battles," Heather admitted, helping him to his feet and guiding one of his arms over her shoulders, "but it's kind of hard to do that if you're already dead."

"Yeah, that makes sense," Moxxie sighed in defeat, allowing himself to be assisted out of the pen, "I...I really thought that I could handle this myself, you know? That I could prove that I'm just as capable of being strong as everyone else."

"I know," Heather replied nonchalantly, "but you know what? I think you were braver than anyone else out there, because you did something that even Striker couldn't."

"Oh, yeah?" Moxxie muttered, "What could I possibly have done that he wasn't better at?"

Heather stopped just outside of the changing rooms, looking her friend straight in the eye.

"You tried."

"But...I failed," Moxxie hesitated, still not convinced.

"You still made it out alive," Heather shrugged, "didn't you? At least you can rub that in Sallie May's smug-arse face."

The hellcat sighed, glancing over her shoulder a final time before disappearing into the women's locker room.

"Besides, you're forgetting that you have one other edge over everyone else already, and it's much more important than winning a competition. You're a happily married man who followed through with your promises to Millie, from the minute that she agreed to spend the rest of her life with you. And I would kill to have made it that far with Striker. Please, don't ever forget that."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"For the first year ever," Locke announced, eyeing the crowd of imps below the stage, "we have a three-way tie for winner of the Harvest Moon Festival Pain Games!"

"The winners are..." Stolas declared, plucking the microphone from Locke's hands yet again, much to the hellcat's displeasure, "Striker, Heather, aaand my darling Blitzy!"

"Just say my name right!" Blitzo snapped, stepping up to the stage, along with his fellow Pain Games victors, "Fuckin' dick!"

"If if makes you feel any better," Locke remarked, pinning a golden star-engraved ribbon to the imp's vest, "he never calls me by my real name, either. It's always 'oh, Locky!' like I'm some kind of royal pet of his."

"Right?! Thank you!" Blitzo grinned in relief, shaking Locke's hand, "Someone who finally gets it! I'm Blitz, by the way. Heather and I work together."

"Oh, so this is the Blitz you keep telling me about!" the hellcat mused, pinning a ribbon on his twin sister's blazer, "He seems like a nice guy. Nicer than a certain other gentleman who decided to run off on you after the prince offered you a job."

Locke glared at Striker, reluctantly pinning his ribbon on the imp.

"I didn't run off on her, pardner," Striker eyed him nonchalantly, his hands tucked behind his back, "it was a mutual split."

"Oh, mutual split my ass..." Locke scoffed, rolling his eyes and turning away, "go fuck around with someone else's heart, playboy."

The hellcat stopped by Heather on the way back to his seat beside Stolas, giving her a brief hug.

"Congratulations on your win, sis. I knew you had it in you."

"Thanks, Locke," Heather purred, "it was great to see you again!"

"Same here," Locke nodded, pulling away and departing, "see you later, Heather. And it was nice meeting you, Blitz. … Striker."

"Heh, nice seein' you, tomcat," Striker smirked after him, turning to Heather after her brother had left, "I gotta hand it to you, whiskers, you still got it. Then again, you've always been the badass type, so I guess that shouldn't be a surprise."

"Uh, thanks," Heather murmured, sparing him a forced smile and side glance before heading over to the bleachers, "I guess you weren't too bad yourself."

Scaling the rows upon rows of wooden seats, she noticed Moxxie and Millie waving her over near the center, and ascended the staircase to join them, seating herself in between her friends. The male imp was still just as beat up now as he was during the Pain Games, but Millie had patched him up to the best of her ability.

"Alright, so he has the physical advantage," Moxxie admitted, attempting to look on the bright side, "I'm better at other things, like singing!"

Unfortunately, he had spoken too soon. Striker had whipped out an acoustic guitar on stage, tuning the bone-shaped tabs at the top of its neck. Heather's ears drooped as soon as she saw the instrument, recognizing it immediately. Moxxie, likewise, was not happy.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to sing a quick song I wrote just now," Striker addressed the crowd of imps below him, "about me winnin'."

"Aw, what the fuck?!" Moxxie protested, shaking his head in disbelief.

"He...he bought that guitar so he could play it for me at our wedding," Heather stammered, a pang of sadness slamming into her like a freight train, "he told me that he was writing a song...to play on that fucking guitar..."

"Oh, Heather," Millie wrapped an arm around Heather's shoulders in concern, "sugarcube...I'm so sorry. Today hasn't been easy on you, has it?"

Even Moxxie found himself sympathizing with the hellcat, placing a hand on her other shoulder as Striker strummed the first note of his song on his guitar, and began to sing. His voice carried the same smooth and sexy serendipity as it had nine years ago, but instead of serenading Heather like it used to, it jabbed away at her like a white hot poker, ensnaring her in bittersweet nostalgia as the lyrics slid between her ex-fiancé's teeth and lips, snaking into her eardrums just as easily as Striker had slipped out of her life.

And sweet Satan, did those arrogant verses contrast with the Striker that Heather once knew and loved.

♫ Sweet victory
I smell the smell
From up in stinkin' Heaven
To the rugged rocks of Hell ♫

The sun was just beginning to set behind the gathering, and combined with the neon pink stage lights, the entire area simply screamed with lust. One of the imp girls from below the stage rushed up to the edge, fangirling out of her mind for Striker. The singing imp simply kicked her aside, where she was attacked by two other very envious imp spectators amongst the crowd, yet another cruel reminder to Heather that her ex-fiancé had changed drastically, and certainly not for the better.

♫ Sweet victory
With everything I do
With every talent, I'm so much more
Talented than you ♫

At that point, Blitzo plopped himself down in the open space next to Moxxie, squirting some hot sauce onto what appeared to be a cheese kabob. He contentedly bit into the Wrath Ring delicacy, blissfully unaware of Heather's forlorn stance as he began gnawing away at it.

"Isn't this guy great?" Blitzo prompted his employees, his mouth half full of cheese.

♫ Every time I try
I crush it and succeed
Every first attempt
Of every single deed ♫

"False!" Moxxie shook his head, raising an eyebrow at the taller imp in annoyance, "Sir, now really isn't the best time to be saying all this..."

"Why not?" Blitzo shrugged, taking another bite of his skewer, "The guy's right in front of us, playing a fucking amazing song on his guitar."

"Blitz!" Millie hushed him, motioning to Heather with her thumb.

Blitzo followed her signals, which guided his eyes from his fellow imp assassins to Heather. The hellcat was leaning on her right hand, the accompanying elbow pressed against her thighs as she watched Striker from afar. Upon noticing this, Blitzo's smile dropped right off his face. Never in his life had he seen Heather so miserable before, and with that visual, an immediate sense of guilt began to ingrain itself deep inside of him.

"He must've really hurt you, huh?" Blitzo remarked, his tone softening as he tossed away the remnants of his cheese kabob, "You never would've known it just by looking at him."

♫ And me
I'm gonna be the best
Me, me, super cool me, handsome guy ♫

"He didn't used to be like this, you know," Heather muttered bitterly, her pale green eyes laced with pain as they reverted into chaotic mode, "believe it or not, when we first started dating, Striker was the sweetest, most selfless imp in the seven rings. But now...now he's just a fucking douche. Maybe things would've been different if I hadn't accepted that stupid secretary job...a job that I didn't even end up fucking keeping. We might've still been together, and he wouldn't have ended up like this..."

It was nearly too much to process. The hellcat was on the brink of tears, clenching her teeth and burying her face in her hands in regret.

"I should've married him when I had the chance, goddamn it! This is all my fault!"

"Heather, I think you've had enough for now," Millie suggested, patting the top of her best friend's legs in an attempt to reassure her, "let's head back to the house and cool off for a little."

And then Striker did something worse. Singing the final stanza of his song, he purposefully turned in Moxxie's direction to look him in the eye from the stage, those once gentle and alluring yellow eyes now burning into Heather's friend's skull like lasers as the words left his mouth.

♫ Oh, Moxxie, go fuck yourself ♫

Unable to take any more reminders of his failure to impress anyone at the festival, poor Moxxie burst into tears and stamped away, humiliated, prompting a worried Millie to follow him. And for Heather, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Pet names and not-so-subtle flirting were one thing, but insulting the hellcat's friends was crossing the line, hammering the final nail in the coffin that was the man that Heather used to love.

Her Striker was gone, she was never getting him back.

♫ Did you hear somethin'?
It was just the wind ♫

If Heather wasn't already over the edge emotionally, then she most certainly was now. Raising from her seat, hot tears pricking her eyes, she turned tail and trudged towards the staircase. Upon reaching the bottom, she could hear Blitzo's voice behind her, radiating concern.

"Heather! Wait up!"

Heather stopped dead in her tracks, her back still turned to the imp, allowing him to catch up with her. Blitzo paused behind her, taking note of the hellcat's crossing arms and drooping ears and tail. He sighed, slowly approaching her and gently placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Hey, Heather...it'll be okay."

"No, it won't," the hellcat shook her head, "and it never will be again..."

"Why not?" Blitzo prompted, removing his hand as Heather wheeled around to face him.

"Because I'm never gonna find someone who'll love me as much as Striker did ever again!" Heather gritted her teeth, hot tears spilling down her face in freefall, "Blitz, I've tried so fucking hard to find the right person since I broke off my engagement with him, and I still haven't been able to hold a relationship with someone for longer than three months! Let's face it, none of them were ever really interested in me...and I doubt that there's a single demon in Hell who is..."

"Hey, you don't know that," Blitzo replied softly, rubbing his elbow guiltily, "I'm sure there's someone else out there who really likes and admires you, but you just don't know about it. They might even be closer than you think."

"Then why haven't they told me yet?" Heather sniffled, swiping the fresh stream of tears from her eyes.

Blitzo hesitated, contemplating an answer, but could conjure nothing, wordlessly glancing over at the crying hellcat for what seemed like an eternal silence.

"Well...I don't know for sure," Blitzo admitted, taking Heather's right hand in his palm and caressing it with the other, "but you know what? One of these days, you're gonna find someone who you'll be really happy with. Someone that'll stick by you and be there no matter what, because they love you more than any other sexy bitch that ever existed."

Heather pried her eyes from the imp's hands to meet his gaze. He blinked back at her endearingly, releasing his hold on her to glide his right thumb across the hellcat's tear-stained cheeks.

"Heather, you're one of the most badass women I've ever met. You're sassy, selfless, fun-loving, loyal to the core, an amazing equestrian, and an even more talented assassin, and I won the fucking lottery scoring a best friend and employee like you. And if Striker prefers a life in the Wrath Ring over you, then that's his loss. You deserve better."

"You really mean that?" Heather sniffled, managing a bittersweet smile as her eyes returned to normal.

"Of course I do," Blitzo nodded, gently elbowing the hellcat, "you're the only person I know who actually wants to obnoxiously sing along to 'Mustang Dong' when it comes on the radio. If you ask me, that already makes you a 10 in my book—"

Heather cut the imp off with a hug, catching him pleasantly off guard and causing him to smile like an idiot over her shoulder, his tail subsequently curving into a heart.

"Thank you, Blitz," the hellcat whispered, pressing her cheek fur against his neck, "really. That was the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me. I owe you one for still putting up with me after all this time."

"Hey, it's no big deal, Aussiecat," Blitzo mused as the two pulled away, "come on, let's head back to the house and grab a couple drinks. I can make you an Alabama slammer, if you want~"

"Oh, my favorite!" Heather purred, her ears pricking excitedly, "I hope Joe and Lin don't mind if we break into their liquor supply, though."

"Ah, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Blitzo waved her off playfully, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and guiding her down the dirt path, "I'm sure they won't give a shit."

As they walked, the imp's tail subconsciously wound its way around Heather's, loosely looped around the fluffy feline limb throughout the remaining trek back to the farmhouse. She didn't object, and for Blitzo, that in itself was a victory far superior to winning the Pain Games.

A small victory, but regardless, it was a start.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Dusk was quickly encroaching upon the horizon at Rough N' Tumbleweed Ranch, painting the once beige Wrath Ring sky a stunning shade of pale red. The I.M.P employees had finished eating dinner with Millie's family; unutilized remnants of the hog that Striker had slaughtered were now lying on the soft gray grass of the pasture, having been left there for Spindle and Bombproof.

The farmhand's stallion tore another chunk of raw meat away from the mutilated carcass with its long, sharp canines, pausing to allow his disguised mare companion to do the same. Blitzo and Heather observed the horses nearby, the former lying on his stomach and endearingly kicking his feet behind him, while the latter was seated beside him, rolling her eyes in amusement and nursing the remainder of her Alabama slammer.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, Connie was helping Millie, Lin, Andi, and Ranger load a plethora of jack-o-lanterns onto the back of Joe's pickup truck, while Loona and Ember leaned on the fence post nearby, taking selfies and pictures of the farm landscape for their Voxtagrams.

The pumpkins, according to Andi, were to be distributed and displayed around the festival before the annual display of the true Harvest Moon. It was a family tradition that had been passed down for generations, and Millie's family had even allowed Connie to partake in it, which resulted in the designing of a few pumpkins with designs consisting of several Hell wolf silhouettes against that of the moon. Surprisingly, she had received copious amounts of praise from both of her coworker's parents and her siblings; the most she had gotten since her parents had disowned her all those years ago.

Needless to say, if it was possible to obtain a slice of Heaven in Hell, then Connie had found it.

"You done good, Connie," Millie's older brother complimented her, heaving a massive pumpkin over his left shoulder and patting the hellcat's head with his free hand, "that was some fine handiwork back there. Only usin' your chaotic mode switchblade claws to carve? Now that takes some skill."

"Aww...thanks," Connie giggled, waving him off in flattery, "it was nothing, really. I do designs like this at work all the time!"

"You're a damn good carver, that's for sure," a tank-top-wearing brother added, carrying another, much smaller pumpkin past her, "ma and pa oughtta bring ya 'round here every Harvest Festival! Or better yet, hire you as a farmhand."

"Well, I'm flattered," Connie admitted, "but as fun as that sounds, I think I'll stick to my day job. Since we hired Ember, I haven't really found a reason to leave. I appreciate the thought though!"

"Looks like someone's havin' fun around here," Millie remarked, placing a hand on her hip and raising an eyebrow at her coworker playfully.

"Oh, I can't help it, Mills!" Connie admitted, "I mean, growing up, I never really had a 'family' like this...you already know about everything that went down with my shitty parents. But here? Your parents are happily married, you have five amazing siblings, and...it's a nice change of pace. I, uh...I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, Millie. I mean, they're your relatives, and I don't want you to feel like I'm hogging them or something."

"Oh, sugarcube, don't worry about it!" Millie assured her, "I'm glad you're havin' such a great time! Besides, nobody can deny that they love havin' you around, and it's about time that you found someone who does. I wouldn't take that gratification away from you. You deserve this."

Connie blinked gratefully at the female imp, pleasantly surprised that she wasn't at all jealous.

"Thanks, Millie. I really appreciate that."

"Oh, and by the way," Millie winked at her, "Ember told me that she saw you two slow dancing at the festival. That's so fuckin' cute! Did you ask her, or was it the other way around?"

"Wha—?!" Connie gasped, glancing over at the silver hellhound indignantly, completely and utterly flustered, "Ember!"

"Mills, you weren't supposed to tell her!" Ember guiltily half-whispered across the field.

"Oh...I wasn't?" Millie chuckled nervously, "Ah, sorry. My bad. If it makes you feel any better, Connie, nobody else knows. Well, except for Moxxie, and maaaybe Vortex."

"Ugh...well, as long as Loona doesn't know," Connie sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in slight relief.

"You know, hun," Millie pointed out, "you're gonna have to tell Loona eventually. Either that, or one of us will have to~"

Before Connie could reply, her hellphone vibrated in the front pocket of her ripped jeans. The hellcat removed it and glanced at the notification on her lock screen. Loona had sent her a text.

moonlight_howling_666: Hey Connie, Ember said something about the clingy rich asshole showcasing the Harvest Moon or some shit in like an hour, so we're going back to the festival to see it and snap some more pics. Wanna come with?

"Well, that does sound like fun," Connie admitted, turning back to Millie, "but I still have to help you guys with the pumpkins, don't I?"

"The hell with the pumpkins!" Millie half-whispered excitedly, "I'm sure everyone else will be able to handle them just fine. The Harvest Moon viewin' is the most romantic part of the whole festival! I mean, Ranger and his then-girlfriend shared their first kiss there, so anythin' can happen! I think you should go for it."

"Whoa, whoa," Connie interjected, "don't you think it's a little soon for that? I mean, Loona doesn't even know that I like her yet."

"You don't have to kiss, Connie," Millie playfully rolled her eyes at her, "all I'm sayin' is that it's a chance for you two to spend some time alone and get to know each other better. Like I said, anythin' can happen. Besides, Loona invited you to tag along, which is already a good sign."

"Well, I guess you're right..." Connie shrugged in agreement, typing a response into her hellphone and hitting send, "I mean, this is the Harvest Moon Festival, so why the hell not?"

"Exactly," the female imp grinned, peering over her shoulder at the hellcat as she rounded the side of the house, "how often do you get to visit the Wrath Ring? Might as well have a good ol' time while you're here!"

sashimi_kitty228: Sounds like fun, and Millie said she'd let me off the hook with the pumpkins, so I'm in! When are we leaving?

moonlight_howling_666: We should probably head out now to beat the redneck crowd around here, at least, that's what Ember suggested. Does that sound good?

sashimi_kitty228: Sure, whenever you're ready <3

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Moxxie trudged up the stairs of the farmhouse to the top floor, pensively eyeing the floor where his cloven hooves treaded. He was about to head to his room and call it a night when, from the corner of his eye, something shiny caught his eye. Apprehensively, the imp approached the door from where the ominous light originated. It appeared to be radiating behind the wooden barrier, illuminating the floorboards with its eerie glow.

"Well that’s troubling," Moxxie remarked, his glowing yellow eyes flitting from the floor to the doorknob, his curiosity prompting him to turn it.

Cautiously, he cracked open the door, peering into the room to see what was causing the sinister irradiance. He was greeted by the sight of a large, burgundy box, the interior of which appeared to be illuminated by a blinding pink light. Baffled by his discovery, Moxxie slowly approached the open case, stopping dead in his tracks once he realized what was inside. Nestled in a bed of velvet was a gleaming black and pink rifle. The imp's eyes widened in awe; he immediately recognized the weapon from his years of extensive gun technology research. This was no ordinary rifle.

"Oh my crumbs..." Moxxie gasped, his hand gliding across the shimmering surface of the armament in disbelief, "A genuine carmine crafted blessing-tipped rifle! How...how in the fuck did he get one of these?!"

"Why don't you ask me, little dude?"

Moxxie wheeled around, his heart racing as he noticed Striker leaning on the doorframe behind him. The tall, well-built imp smirked at him, plucking the straw of wheat from his teeth. His ringed eyes pierced Moxxie with the intensity of a viper, dangerously nonchalant in the midst of the darkness which engulfed the near-empty house.

"Shit! W-why do you have this?!" Moxxie sputtered, "Mister! You are aware this kind of weapon can kill..."

"...Demon royalty?" Striker finished his sentence for him, his gravely voice combined with his menacing stance sending shivers up Moxxie's spine.

"Yes. That."

"No shit," Striker remarked dryly, flicking away the wheat in his hand and raking his claws across the door as he shut it behind him, "that's kinda the point."

The rattlesnake-like imp loomed over Moxxie with a toxic animosity in his glowing yellow eyes, which greatly contradicted his smirk and unphased demeanor. Intimidated, Moxxie found himself being backed against the bedframe, words spilling from his mouth in a fruitless attempt to spare himself some time.

"Okay. Well I-I-I’m...I’m relatively concerned by your possession of this. I’m also glad my instant dislike of you has been validated—!"

Striker coiled his tail around Moxxie's neck, hurling him across the room and smacking him against the wall. The imp cowered beneath his attacker as firm hands were secured around his neck, beginning to choke him with a borderline insane grin. Moxxie hissed beneath him, clawing at his face, but it had little to no effect on the powerhouse that was Striker. Thinking fast, the weapons specialist spotted a vase on a nearby table, kicking it and sending the breakable item crashing down onto Striker's neck, shattering upon impact.

Outside of the house, Millie heard the resulting crash, wheeling around in concern. She glanced up at the window of the house from where the sound originated, wasting no time as she sprinted back inside of the house, whipping out a jagged dagger and prepping it for attack.

Back upstairs, Moxxie gasped for air, taking advantage of the opportunity to made a mad dash for the door of the bedroom. Unfortunately, Striker was too fast for him. He snatched the end of the escaping imp's tail, yanking him back towards him and smothering him with both hands. Losing oxygen faster than he could blink, Moxxie screamed in his grip, writhing and squirming with all of his strength until he couldn't anymore, his vision beginning to fade into black.

"Pathetic," Striker muttered, still smirking above his victim.

That is, until he was ruthlessly stabbed from behind, causing him to emit a startled grunt.

Enraged and mindlessly feral at what she had walked in on, Millie repeatedly dug her knife into Striker's back as a weakened Moxxie watched her breathlessly from the floor. His wife was breathing heavily and roaring in sheer fury, like a tiger defending her precious cubs. Ascending his back and holding the blade to his neck, she was fully prepared to finish him off, but Striker wasn't having it, taking the hits as though they were mere kicks and punches. He conjured the perfect angle and slammed Millie against the wall, breaking her arm in half effortlessly.

Striker had won.

Grabbing both fallen imps by their horns, he dragged them down the stars unnoticed, as by then, everyone else had assumedly departed for the festival. Knowing this, he opted to toss the subdued couple in a cellar just outside of the house, giving both of them a very rough landing. To make matters worse, Millie's foot became ensnared in a bear trap, eliciting a cry of agony from the already injured woman. Moxxie's eyes widened in alarm at this, and he scrambled to his wife's side, glaring up at Striker wordlessly.

"I’d kill y'all and your rodeo clown of a boss," he sneered, his golden tooth glistening in the sunset behind him, "but I feel like there’s more leverage with my ex-fiancée if I don’t. Plus you little things ain't worth the cleanup."

"You stay the fuck away from Heather!" Millie snapped, "Haven't you already put that poor woman through enough today?! She doesn't love your smooth-talkin' ass anymore!"

"Ya sure?" Striker retorted, "Because the way she was lookin' at the festival sure said otherwise. Might as well kiss your precious little friendship goodbye, because come nightfall, she'll be workin' with me."

"No!" Millie cried out, shaking her head in disbelief, "You son of a bitch, if I wasn't incapacitated, I'd kill you myself! I don't give a shit if she used to love you!"

Moxxie gritted his teeth, rushing up the stairs of the cellar to beat Striker to the punch. The taller imp slammed the double doors on him and locked it, and despite Moxxie's efforts to shove them back open, they remained firmly shut.

"Millie!" he shook his head in concern, rushing back down the staircase to her side and assessing her injuries, "Oh, Satan..."

"Moxxie, I’m fine," she assured him, much more gently than her husband had expected, "I got worse than this durin' the flower toss at my brother's weddin'. But I caught that fuckin' bouquet, and it was fuckin' worth it. You just have to get out there, and fuck up that brown-nosin' cocksucker for me!"

"But I can’t break through it," Moxxie sighed, staring at the floor and dipping his head ashamedly, "I’m not strong enough."

"Not with your hands, baby," Millie encouraged him, tilting his face up using her unbroken arm to look him in the eye, "use what you’re good at."

"I’m not good with my hands?"

Millie raised an eyebrow at her husband, unamused.

"Oh, right!" Moxxie nodded, finally understanding what she meant as he removed a pistol from his jacket, "Yeah. Yeah."

Swiftly aiming the gun at the door, he pulled the trigger, firing a hole in the center, which blasted off the lock once and for all. He turned back to his wife one last time, laughing nervously.

"I...I probably should’ve used this earlier, huh? Hehe."

"I love you, hun," Millie smiled up at her husband lovingly, albeit with a hint of vexation, "but for fuck’s sake..."

Chapter Text

"I have the grimoire, sir," Locke approached the owl prince, handing him the mystical blue book.

"Stolas, my dear Locke," he replied, graciously accepting his prized possession with a double-eyed wink, patting the hellcat on the head, "there is no need for any formalities between us!"

"Again, please," Locke sighed, gently removing his boss's hand from his head, "don't do that."

"If you insist, Locky~" Stolas nodded with a flirtatious smile.

The prince strode up to the microphone on the stage platform and grasped it, using his left hand to summon his powers, causing the grimoire to levitate within a blue aura. The magical book flipped open to the right page upon his command as he began the ceremonial unveiling.

"My dear commoners of the Ring of Wrath, I, Stolas of the Ars Goetia, hereby curse this year’s harvest with the glow of the true Harvest Moon!"

The red clouds in the sky began to swirl around in a cyclone formation, and within seconds, a viewing portal opened in the sky, staining it a deep indigo. Tiny white stars dusted the horizon, and in the center of them stood the Harvest Moon. The luminescent orb showered the entire ring in red moonbeams, casting maroon silhouettes against the shadows as the audience gazed up at the titular subject of their festival in awe. As if the moment couldn't have been any more incredible, one of Connie's favorite songs began to softly play through the bass speakers not too far away, which acted as the cherry on top of the evening.

I Wanna Be Yours

♫ I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathin' in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust ♫

"Whoa..." Loona, Connie, and Ember remarked in unison, sitting on a stack of hay apart from the crowd, closer to the fairgrounds.

"I have to shoot Tex a text about this," Ember grinned, standing up and moving closer to the mass of imps to snap a photo of the moon on her hellphone, "it's like that stargazing scene in Lady and the Tramp!"

Loona nodded nonchalantly, pulling out her phone and taking a picture herself. However, as she reviewed the image in her gallery, she paused, her ears slowly pricking as she heard a gentle feminine voice, quietly singing along to the lyrics of the song being played.

♫ If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots, babe
I just wanna be yours ♫

Loona glanced over her shoulder at Connie, more awestruck by her beautiful voice than even the Harvest Moon above her. Although the hellcat had heard her sing before, the opposite had proven not to be true, and Loona had always been curious about when she could get to hear it. Now, that moment had come, and it was more pleasant and lovely than the hellhound could have ever imagined.

♫ Secrets I have held in my heart
Are harder to hide than I thought
Maybe I just wanna be yours
I wanna be yours
I wanna be yours ♫

♫ Wanna be yours
Wanna be yours
Wanna be yours ♫

Even more fortunately, Loona knew this song by heart; it was one of her favorites, too. So she did the only thing that came to mind in that moment, taking a deep breath and singing along to the next set of lyrics, which seemed to slide from her tongue so effortlessly that she could scarcely believe it.

♫ Let me be your 'leccy meter
An' I'll never run out
Let me be the portable heater
That you’ll get cold without ♫

The moment that Loona began to sing, Connie stopped immediately, a soft smile overtaking her lips as her best friend's voice reached her ears. She was thrilled that someone else shared her taste in music, but even more thrilled that it was Loona, her cheeks dusting with pink as she locked eyes with her.

"♫ I wanna be your setting lotion ♫" the hellhound sang, her ruby red eyes glowing in the dimly lit atmosphere of the Wrath Ring night.

"♫ Wanna be ♫" Connie chimed in, her right hand subconsciously finding its way over to Loona's left, resting on top of it.

"♫ Hold your hair in deep devotion ♫" the hellhound continued, her wayward heart beating faster by the second with the unexpected contact, although the smitten expression and accompanying blush on her face said otherwise.

"♫ How deep? ♫" prompted Connie in song, her tail sheepishly curling around her thighs.

Loona smiled down at the hellcat, removing her hand and intertwining her fingers with Connie's as she sang the next set of lyrics, a very personal rendition of her own feelings towards the latter.

♫ At least as deep as the Pacific Ocean
I wanna be yours ♫

Connie's heart jumped in her chest at the cadence that flowed through Loona's delivery of the lyrics. It resonated deep within her for a reason that she could hardly explain, but it filled her to the tips of her ears with a sudden and wonderful burst of ecstasy. Was it possible that Loona was feeling the same way? Regardless, at long last, the two of them combined their voices into one, without even trying. The words seemed to slip past them without any resistance or hesitation, as though they were meant to be said, and not even the cruel atmosphere of Hell wanted to inhibit them from spilling out.

♫ Secrets I have held in my heart
Are harder to hide than I thought
Maybe I just wanna be yours
I wanna be yours
I wanna be yours ♫

Upon reaching the end of those lyrics, Loona and Connie simultaneously stopped singing, allowing the rest of the song to play out behind them as they exchanged a warm smile, their faces still flushed over with an unknowing lust. Their hands still woven neatly into each other, they sat that way for a little while longer, enjoying the warmth and happiness that came with each other's presence. Without even thinking, their bodies inched closer and closer together, closing the space between them until there was none. Connie lightly pressed her cheek against Loona's shoulder, and the hellhound didn't object, swishing her tail over the side of the haystack to wrap around her friend's midsection in response.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Meanwhile, in the rafters of the Rough N' Tumbleweed Ranch farmhouse, Striker aimed his angelic-fueled weapon at the main stage of the Harvest Moon Festival, where Stolas stood, admiring the moon, surrounded by a plethora of Wrath Ring inhabitants. The farmhand snickered darkly, aiming the rifle in his hands at the owl demon's head, right between his eyes.

That is, until he heard the sound of claws being unsheathed behind him. He wheeled around, surprised to find none other than his ex-fiancée, whose eyes were stained black with pale green pupils, the hallmark of her chaotic mode. The claws on her right hand, due to the power of the Wrath Ring, forged a switchblade formation, glowing a bright orange. The imp bore a sly smile, as though this were a casual conversation, and he wasn't being threatened with the razor-sharp organic weapons that were Heather's claws.

"Uh, excuse me?" Heather hissed, "What the fuck, Striker?!"

"Whiskers!" Striker improvised a friendly greeting for the hellcat, "I thought you were still at the ceremony with your coworkers."

"And I thought that you still knew some things about me," Heather rolled her eyes at him, "why in dick's fuck would I want to stick around while you were singing about how my best friend's husband should go fuck himself?"

"Huh," Striker remarked, leaning on the windowsill next to his sniper rifle, "now you seem disappointed in me."

"Yeah, well," Heather retorted tartly, "I’m not a fan of walking in on my ex-fiancé about to put a bullet through the brain of my brother's best friend and my company's only gateway to Earth behind my back."

"Heather, come on," Striker waltzed past his former lover, "you know the two of us are superior to most of our kind. Think about it. Your father used to be the most fearsome sheriff the Wrath Ring has ever seen, and now, he's one of the biggest entertainment kingpins in Hell."

Striker made his rounds in the bedroom, his hypnotic gaze locked on Heather.

"Your mother is a powerful Goetia demon who dominates the fashion trade. Everyone in your immediate family has perfected their power over society. What're you doing with your life?"

Heather followed the rattlesnake-like imp with her eyes, brandishing her claws, although she seemed to be taking some of his comments to heart, her expression fading into one of shame.

"Your boss sucks on the same disgusting rich pompous Goetia you used to work for," Striker continued, pacing the floor in front of her, "the same one your twin brother works for, only to have you sneak topside for scraps. You're working for bitter sinners who could care less who you are, when you could be slaying overlords and making room for your family name at the top."

Conflicted, Heather continued to eye her ex-fiancé as he roamed amongst the shadows of the room, his commentary starting to take root inside her subconscious.

"With your skill level," Striker pointed out, pinning the flustered hellcat against the wall with a sexy stare, "why would you wanna stick around at a dead-end job that's rigged against your success, when you could partner up with me and kill the un-killable? Starting with the one that treats both your boss and your blood relative like playthings."

"Oooh, that’s...kinda hot~" Heather mused, grinning up at him lustfully.

"We could be the most dangerous beings in Hell, Heather," Striker whispered in her ear, his voice sending shivers of pleasure up the hellcat's spine.

"Wow, snakebite," Heather purred, bringing back her ex's old nickname, "you're still quite the smooth-talker, aren't you~? I haven't heard you sound this sexy since our last fun little rut under the sheets."

"Been workshoppin' it," the imp replied nonchalantly, slowly tilting Heather's switchblade-clawed hand away from his neck.

"How could I say no to a blooming spunk like you?" Heather simpered, gliding her left pointer finger up and down his nose, "I'm in, snakebite. I hope you're still ace at the celebratory sex~"

Striker grinned, his gold tooth glistening against the glow of her switchblade claws. Everything seemed to be going precisely the way he'd wanted it to. That is, until the sound of two guns cocking could be heard behind him. He wheeled around, his lips curling into a snarl upon realizing that he'd been double-crossed. Blitzo was pointing his flintlock at him, while Moxxie had snagged Striker's rifle, aiming it simultaneously.

"Oh, look at that," Heather smirked, glancing over her ex's shoulder at her imp coworkers, "the backup is here already. How does it feel to have your heart toyed with, snakebite?"

"Ha ha!" Blitzo chimed in smugly, stepping closer to Striker, "Wow, you should’ve seen your dipshit face! I can't believe you actually thought she'd wanna fuck you again!"

However angry he might have been Striker quickly took advantage of the situation, gripping Blitzo's gun-wielding arm and causing him to fire it in Moxxie's direction. Heather and her imp coworker gaped at him in horror as the flintlock went off. Thankfully, Moxxie was able to use Striker's rifle to block the bullet, but that hardly dimmed the blaze of anger that Striker's actions had sparked within Blitzo and Heather, who glared furiously on either side of him.

"Oh, you daddy fucker!" Blitzo spat, sinking his teeth into Striker's right shoulder.

Striker shouted in pain, and while he was distracted, Heather retracted her claws, shamelessly smacking her ex-fiancé across the face. Blitzo followed the hellcat's lead, aiming his flintlock at Striker's head, only to have it knocked out of his hands with an elbow block, which sent him flying across the room and crashing into Moxxie. They fell to the floor in a heap, knocking the rifle out of the latter's grip. As he tried to reach for it, Striker stepped on his hand with the heel of his right boot, snatching the weapon off the floor and pointing it at the duo. Heather skidded in front of her coworkers, leaping to their defense and growling like a rabid tiger.

"You dumb fucks lost the upper hand fast, huh?" Striker remarked smugly, cocking the rifle.

"The only dumb fuck in this room is you," Heather snarled, crouching in front of the two imps behind her, "because you've forgotten that I have a secret weapon!"

She held up two fingers to her mouth and whistled a long, high note. In the pasture behind the farmhouse, Spindle's ears twitched at the sound, prompting her to raise her head from the hog carcass that she and Bombproof were still chowing down on. The disguised Hell horse reared, bucking her legs in the air and galloping towards the fence, jumping it and heading straight for the origin site of the signal. She needed to get out of sight in order to return to her ordinary form and teleport inside the house, however, because she wasn't arriving there fast enough, Striker took it as a sign that Heather's strategy had failed.

"She'll be here," Heather promised, returning her stare to Striker, "and when she is, she's gonna kick your fucking ass."

"It’s a damn shame, Heather," the tall, lanky imp shrugged, "We might've actually made a good team. Oh well."

"In your wet dreams," Blitzo retorted, forcefully delivering a sharp kick to Striker's shin, "you honky-tonk joke!"

The intensity of the impact caused Striker to drop his rifle, which Moxxie grabbed from his position on the floor, rising to his feet alongside Blitzo and Heather. The rattlesnake-like imp hissed in pain, gritting his teeth at his opponents. However, before he even had time to react, Heather had kicked him in the torso, sending him flying across the room.

Still reeling from the impact, Striker was even less prepared for the vase that Blitzo smashed on the left side of his face immediately after. Heather took the opportunity to land another punch on her ex's torso as Blitzo aimed one at his face, although Striker was able to dodge the latter's attack, which resulted in a large hole in the west wall where his fist had penetrated. Striker wheeled around, delivering a massive punch to Blitzo's right cheek in return, which ignited an even bigger flame of anger deep inside Heather.

No ex-fiancé of hers was going to shed the blood of the only man who had really been there for her that day. The hellcat pounced at the taller imp with outstretched, glowing orange switchblade claws, punching and jabbing and kicking all the way, following up each with a ferocious shout.

Eventually, Striker managed to shove Heather off of him, but it was clear that she had done a great deal of damage to him, just as he had done to Blitzo. Black blood dribbled from the noses and lips of both imps, but they were still far from finished. Blitzo coiled his tail around Striker's midsection and hurled him against the farthest wall of the room, trapping him in the corner as Moxxie fired a warning shot mere inches away from his head. The two imps and their hellcat friend encroached on him, wielding guns and glowing switchblade claws, in Heather's case.

"I still think it’s embarrassing," Striker turned to his ex-fiancée with shining teeth, "You’re wasting a lot of potential relying on a weak little—"

Moxxie silenced him with yet another warning shot from the confiscated rifle, glaring down at him threateningly.

"You gonna finish that fucking sentence? Pardner?"

"Vermin," Striker hissed, his tail rattling with subdued rage.

"Who’s weak now, bitch—?!"

At that moment, Spindle teleported into the room, undisguised, right in front of Heather and her imp coworkers. The Hell horse's red aura had been replaced with a blue one, and she bore a set of long, drool-soaked pointed fangs at Striker, looming over him and growling in a manner that was entirely un-horse-like, enough so that it scared even the cornered imp.

Spindle sank her teeth into her owner's ex's back, causing him to shriek in pain as she tossed him in the air, bucking him across the room and moving with such blinding speed that everyone else in the room had hardly blinked before she had Striker pinned beneath her with one bladed hoof, snarling a demonic strain of threats down at him.

S̷̺̅̋ö̷͚͓́ ̷̰̏̽y̴̧̗̒̍ö̶̹́̽u̸̗̇̈'̵̝̊r̷̨͉̈́e̶̼̳̒̉ ̵̧̞͗͠ṱ̷̜͑͘h̶̦͕͝é̵̬̮̎ ̷̰̒͜l̴̤̿͘í̵̯̜͋ẗ̸̡́͝t̸͍̟̓̅l̵̟͔͋͝e̴̡̓̚ ̸̝̣̾s̴̡̫͗h̵̯͇͌͝i̷͓̐t̴̢̙͌͌ ̷̫̑͗t̴̬͌h̴̪̀a̷͔̰̔t̸͓̕͜ ̴͉̂̂I̵̡̚͠ ̶̘̓͗k̴̭̬͒̾e̸͇͔̓ë̶̡̪́p̷̪̔̋ ̷̻͊h̵̭͒͝e̵͔̊ḁ̴̳̓r̴̥̔̓i̷͌ͅñ̶̮͉̒g̴̨͝ ̵̲̽ͅā̷̠b̸͙̬̈́̓o̶̤͝͠ũ̷̡̳ţ̴͗̏.̷̜̃ ̶̬̐Ṯ̴̫̊̏h̶̼͌ẹ̵̇́ ̴̼̗͂ȱ̸̞̳n̶̬͆ȅ̵̳͇́ ̸̟͐w̴̫̩̎̈́h̸̠̒ǒ̴̮̯ ̴͉̾t̴̜̭̃o̷͈̜̔ṙ̷̺̣e̶͍͗ ̷̤̬͂B̶̡̪̓͘ǫ̵̞̈̄ḿ̵̯b̷͎͍̈p̸̙̖̄r̵̲̹̈́̊ǫ̸̐́ò̴͙͝f̶̨̆̂ ̴͓̰͝a̵̼͉̎̀w̶̥̾͛a̶̺̎y̴̱̟̅ ̷̢̨̇f̶̢̎̓r̸͉̱͒̄ő̷̻ͅm̴̐ͅ ̶̳̃̚h̴͚͛͘i̷͖͚̓̚s̸̲͉̈͂ ̶̹͛f̶̪̑̈́a̷̻͛v̸͍̇o̶͙̔r̸̪̠͌̍ḭ̸̦͌͑t̸͔̀̊e̸̼̐̚ ̷̲̋r̷͇̙̉i̸̡̠̿d̵̛̫͑ẹ̸̾͗r̵̞̥͆.̵̝̰ ̴͍͉̃̚Ḋ̶͖̝ǫ̸̀́ ̴̗̙͊y̶̠̗̑o̵̫̒u̸̢͍͌͛ ̷̣̈́̚ͅh̵̹͍̃a̴͚͊̄v̵͙̇̐e̸͎̦͛ ̴̣͍̊a̶͕̫n̷͂͜y̴̭̳͆͠ ̸̦̣̚i̴̺̓̎d̷̆̃͜e̸̛̳͋â̴̰͇ ̸̢̞̔̚w̴̧̞h̷̥̱́a̸̻̠̍͊t̶͔͉̊ ̷̓̈́ͅI̷͈͑'̸͍̀̌m̶̮̃͌ ̷̼̊̈g̴̳̫͋͗ǫ̶̪̈́̊ï̵̹̲͌n̵̨̥̈́g̸̼͇͛ ̸̳͇͝ṯ̵̎͆͜o̴̼̲͂ ̸̩̇͌d̸̻̂o̸̢̤͘̚ ̴͙̽͝t̷͍̘̾͐ö̶͓́ ̷̦̦͠ỹ̵͇̇ö̵́̊ͅṳ̴̈́́?̴͓͗ ̴̨́Ṅ̸̨͍́o̶̢̓̎ ̷͕͎̈͛ǫ̵͙͊͠n̵͕̞͒̚ê̴̢̩ ̶͎̋ẅ̵̟́i̸̖͊̚l̶̻̾͌l̷͚̓͠ ̸̨͝ͅb̵̹̭̒e̶̗͆̆ ̵̛̗̇ā̸̝͙̎ḃ̷̯̯ľ̴̤̕e̶͖͝ ̴͍̦̓̾t̶̩͍̄͛õ̸͕͜ ̵͚̺͑r̷̖͋̕ḙ̴̿͝c̴̯͛o̴̫͚̾ġ̵̟͈͌ṉ̶̈́̈́î̴͇z̷̰̫͠e̷̼͌ ̷̣͊͝y̸͓̯̾o̴̖̙̍ů̶̢͉r̶̰̎ ̶̻̇b̶̧̙̉o̵̞̅d̸̡͓̀͘ỹ̶̹̐ ̶̳̲w̴̧͔͝h̸̼̻̊ĕ̸̹̺͆n̴̮͕͑̿ ̵͓͐̓Í̸͕̃'̴͉̿͝m̶̻͙͋̇ ̶̙̅t̸͍̣̔h̷̯͍̉͐ŕ̶̢͙̌o̴͉͊̏u̷̯͊g̷͍̪̅h̵̗̜͐.̷̬̘́̒ ̴͍͂̋N̸̟͛o̴̟̩̒ ̴̩̃ǫ̴͈̈͝n̷̖̐͂é̶̤ ̶̛̭w̴̠̝̓́i̵̙̼l̷̡͊͋l̶͈̓—̵̨̪̀̀

"Spindle, heel!" Heather ordered the Hell horse, "It's not worth it. He's not worth it, and we're not stooping to his level. We'll just make sure that he never sees his precious gun again. I think that should be enough."

Spindle hesitated, reluctantly nodding in response. However, before she obeyed, she pressed her hoof down on Striker's torso enough to elicit a gasp from him, leaning her head dangerously close to his own as her aura returned to red, signifying that she was calm once again.

Get the hell out of here and don't come back, Spindle warned him, releasing him and returning to Heather's side behind the others.

Before anyone could stop him, however, Striker pulled himself off of the floor, scampering towards the open window, but not before taking advantage of the situation to slap Blitzo's pistol out of his hand. He glanced over his shoulder, specifically at the imp, signifying the start of a blistering grudge against the man who clearly had more of Heather's interest than him.

"Maybe you’ll get me next time, Blitzy."

As he jumped out the window, Blitzo poked his head after him, but unfortunately, the runaway imp was nowhere to be seen. Striker had gotten away.

"Is everyone okay?" Heather prompted her coworkers, her chaotic mode fading back to normal at last, "Blitz? Moxxie?"

"Yeah, we're okay," Blitzo nodded, prying his gaze away from the window, smiling in relief, "are you? Emotionally and physically?"

"I'm fine," Heather returned the gesture, turning to the Hell horse beside her, "Spindle?"

Spindle stood silent, gazing down at her nonchalantly, her long and flowing pitch-black mane fluttering in the breeze from the open window. Heather stared back at her worriedly, raising an eyebrow in intrigue.

"Spindle?"

Heather, Spindle replied after a long pause, slowly bending her head down to Heather's eye-level, it's time for me to leave again. For good, this time.

"You're leaving?" Blitzo stammered, approaching the pair in disbelief, "But I thought you were here to stay this time!"

I'm sorry, Spindle gently closed her eyelash-tipped blue eyes apologetically, but I owed her a favor, much like I did for you, Blitz. Now that I've repaid her, it's time for me to go. I'm sorry to leave you again so soon.

"No...it's okay, Spindle," Blitzo replied softly, taking the mare's head in his hands and giving her one last hug, "we understand. We'll miss you."

"Thank you," Heather added, joining in on the group hug, "for everything."

I'll miss you too, Spindle gave a gentle bow of her head, glancing over at Moxxie, all of you. Take care.

She turned, rearing with a valiant neigh, which summoned a large, ovular portal, glowing redder than the imps' skin. Before she could walk through it, she glanced over her shoulder blade at Heather, her tail wavering behind her.

Oh, and Heather? Don't give up on your romantic pursuits just yet. As far as you know, good luck could be right around the corner. And if you close your heart too soon, you might just miss it.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

The next morning, everything regarding the events of the previous evening had been sorted out, and the I.M.P team was preparing to leave Rough N' Tumbleweed Ranch, having changed back into their regular clothes. Blitzo, Loona, and Ember were chatting outside near the company van, Moxxie and Heather were checking the group's suitcases before placing them into the back of the vehicle, Millie's parents were helping her patch up her injuries, and Connie was still back inside the farmhouse, packing up her clothes and belongings.

"I can’t believe you let him trap you, Millie," Lin scolded her second-oldest daughter, in reference to Striker, "haven’t we taught you better?"

"I was seein' red, Ma!" Millie protested, "An' he was slippery!"

"Excuses!" Lin shook her head disapprovingly alongside her just as disappointed father, "You’re better than that, Mildred!"

Moxxie and Heather lifted their heads from the trunk, glaring across the clearing as Lin and Joe continued to berate Millie for her lack of dominance over the hellcat's ex-fiancé. With a slam of his suitcase, Moxxie marched over to them, ready to give his in-laws a piece of his mind.

"You know, she protected me," he addressed them, on occasion slipping into a mock country accent, "and maybe I’m not a strong beefy dickhead, but Millie has the strength enough for both of us!"

Millie smiled and nodded in approval, along with Heather, who gave her best friend's husband a thumbs-up from behind him as Joe and Lin exchanged offput glances.

"You two are getting on her case about being hurt by a psychopath you hired?!" Moxxie continued, going full-on country at the end of his short monologue, "Shame on you!"

"Aw, Moxxie, look at you," Blitzo teased him in condescending baby-talk, "Speechin' like a big boy with his big pants!"

"Blitz," Heather warned him, glaring at him from her place at the rear of the van.

The imp glanced back at the hellcat, the fierce glint in her pale green eyes setting him straight.

"Uh...sorry."

To Moxxie's surprise, Joe strode over to him, looking him in the eye. He nodded curtly with a gentle grunt, then departed for the house with his wife, leaving an ecstatic Millie on the stairs. On crutches, she grinned at her husband, hobbling towards the van beside him.

"Wow! He nodded! He’s never acknowledged your input before!"

"So...is that progress?" Moxxie intrigued, starting to embrace his small victory.

"Yep, that's progress," Heather acknowledged him, striding past him next to Blitzo, "good on you, mate! Uh, we'll be right back. Blitz and I wanna have one last look at the horses around here before we leave. Ember said she's driving, anyway."

"Yep, I am," Ember added, playfully twirling the car keys around on her pointer finger and sliding into the driver's seat, "don't take too long out there, you two!"

"Mox and I call dibs on the front seats!" Millie declared excitedly, allowing her husband to help her into the car.

"Uh, that's where Connie and I usually sit?" Loona remarked, raising an eyebrow at the pair as she leaned on the side of the vehicle.

"Well, you can afford to share," Moxxie huffed from his seat in the van, still feeling a burst of confidence from his achievement of respect from Millie's parents, "at least this once."

"Ugh, fine..." Loona caved, "as long as I get to sit next to Connie, then I guess I don't give a shit."

However, the real reason behind the hellhound's change in attitude towards Moxxie hadn't stemmed from his monologue at all. Loona's mind was still at the Harvest Moon Festival the night before, where she had slow danced with Connie; where she was seated beside her on that haystack during the grand unveiling of the event's titular moon. After what felt like an eternity and a half of thinking, lying in the bed of her guest room in the farmhouse, Loona had finally pulled her shit together and come to a realization.

She had to talk to Connie.

Not wanting to wait until the hellcat appeared in the doorframe, Loona slowly removed her hellphone from her pocket, typing a text for her best friend as a heads-up.

moonlight_howling_666: Hey Connie, can we talk? When we make it back to Imp City, I mean. There's something kinda important that I wanna tell you.

sashimi_kitty228: Sure Loonie, is something wrong?

moonlight_howling_666: Oh no it's nothing bad, I promise. Sorry, I probably should've been more specific haha

sashimi_kitty288: It's okay! I'll be there in a minute, sorry that I'm taking so long, I thought I lost my phone but it was actually in my jeans from yesterday the whole damn time xD

moonlight_howling_666: Oh I know how that feels lol, also don't worry about rushing over here, Blitz and Heather are out looking at the horses like the rodeo geeks they are lmaooo

sashimi_kitty288: Omfs that's too funny, they really are two of the same braincell aren't they? Anyway, see you soon <3

moonlight_howling_666: Okay, see you 💕

On the other side of the house, around the same time, Blitzo and Heather leaned on the fence in front of one of the livestock yards, where several Hell horses were grazing. They shared the same physical build and flaming accents as Bombproof, some even sharing his coat and mane colors, although others appeared to be completely different breeds. This was especially interesting to Heather, who was sharing her expertise on the species with the imp beside her. He eagerly ate up every word, resting his hand on his cheek as his tail curled into a heart out of the hellcat's view.

To Blitzo, it was sexier than any of the shit he'd ever heard from anyone else, including Verosika and Stolas, and he was loving every minute of it.

"Wow, really?" he mused once she'd finished, "That's amazing! Where did you learn all this cool shit, anyway? I mean, who tells it to you?"

"My father, actually," Heather admitted, "Striker might've been the one to really get me into horses, but dad taught me everything I know about their biology."

"Shut up!" Blitzo grinned, awestruck, "That's so fucking cool! You know, when you talk horsey to me, it makes you sound pretty fucking smart."

"Really?" Heather raised an eyebrow at him sheepishly, "Everyone else tells me it's boring."

"Uh, excuse me," the imp remarked, "how are horses boring? If you ask me, they just don't appreciate your passion."

"Maybe. I tend to ramble when I'm passionate about something."

"Well, you can ramble around me whenever the hell you want," Blitzo offered, patting her hand with an inviting smile, "I don't mind. In fact, I kinda love it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I really do."

"It's nice to have someone around who does," Heather sighed, the tips of her ears slightly drooping, "you know, Striker would listen to me ramble, but I don't think he ever actually gave a shit. He was a less-talk-and-more-action kind of guy, and I could tell if he wasn't interested, even when he pretended to be."

The hellcat glanced over at Blitzo from the corner of her eye, the edges of her mouth already curling up at the sight of his half-lidded expression.

"But you? It's obvious that you do care, and not just when I'm talking about horses. I don't think I tell you enough how much I appreciate that, or even just having you around in general. It's because of you that I have a job I love, more meaningful friendships that I could've ever imagined, and above all, a reason to scrape my blooming arse off the floor and keep trying."

"I...I inspire you that much?" Blitzo blushed, flattered, "Wow. That's some pretty high fucking praise, Heather. I don't know what to say, I mean...I had no idea you felt that way about me. Even though I like to make a ton of dick jokes about Mox?"

"Well, nobody ever said that you were perfect," Heather mused, playfully rolling her eyes at the imp beside her, "I mean, I'm sure we could all do without the obnoxious jabs at Moxxie. But I'd say that it's already a good sign if Locke approves of you."

"Oh, wow, I'm 'Locke approved'," Blitzo nodded proudly, "I feel kinda special now. But yeah, your brother did look a little pissed to see your ex-fiancé at the festival. At least it's obvious that he cares enough about you to stick around, though."

"He can be a little...protective of me sometimes," the red tabby hellcat admitted, "but he means well, and he does tend to have good judgement when it comes to the people I hang around with. Sometimes, he's so perceptive that I wonder if he's part horse!"

The pair of assassins burst into laughter at the comment, beaming at each other in amusement.

"Hey, speaking of horses," Blitzo remarked, noticing one of the Hell horses in the field eyeing the two of them amongst the herd, "what's with that one? He's been staring at us for a few minutes."

Heather followed the imp's gaze, eventually finding herself staring across the clearing at the stallion in question. His luminescent, sunset-orange pairs of eyes blinked back at the hellcat in intrigue, silently observing her as she did him. Everything about this particular Hell horse, from his sturdy, well-muscled form to his sheer black coat, reminded Heather distinctively of...

No. He couldn't be. Was he?

"Bombproof?" Heather's eyes stretched into pale green saucers as she called his name, palms pressed against the fence that separated them.

The moment he heard the hellcat's voice, the stallion trilled out a gleeful whinny, emerging from the cluster of grazing horses and trotting towards her and Blitzo. His trot evolved into a canter, and a canter to a gallop as he approached the fence, clearing it in a single bound. He reared in excitement upon seeing Heather close-up, stamping his front hooves back into the dirt and lowering his head to her eye-level with an excited snort, proving without a shadow of a doubt that he was indeed Bombproof.

"Looks like he missed you," Blitzo grinned, planting his hands on his hips and admiring the hulking Hell horse before him.

"It is you!" Heather purred, hugging Bombproof's head and nuzzling his forehead against her own, "Bombi, sweetie, what're you still doing here? I thought Striker..."

The memory of the previous evening's western fist-fight flashed before her very eyes as she remembered the last of the former farmhand's presence on the ranch property. He had scrambled through the second-story bedroom window without a second thought, more concerned with saving his own skin than anything else, including his angelic rifle.

Apparently, he'd also abandoned his steed in the wake of his narrow escape.

"He left you behind, too," Heather acknowledged Bombproof, releasing her arms from his head, opting to cradle his chin in her hands instead, "just like he did to me...we're two of a kind, now, aren't we?"

"Well, what're we gonna do with him?" Blitzo prompted, "Because we sure as fuck aren't giving him back to that cock-sucking cowboy."

"You're right," Heather smiled confidently up at Bombproof, "we're not. Because he's coming home with us."

"Us?" Blitzo prompted her, confused.

Heather nodded, gliding her hand across Bombproof's soft, smooth coat as she rounded his body, stopping to the left of the Hell horse. She swiftly pressed her hands against his neck, paying no attention to the flames (they weren't composed of real fire, anyway) and jumping atop his back effortlessly, taking the reins in her hands. Although Striker's saddle pad was missing from the horse, Heather didn't need it. She was just as good at riding bareback as she was traditionally.

"Yeah, us!" Heather nodded, playfully peering down at Blitzo from her perch on Bombproof's back, "You said you always wanted to ride a horse freely, right?"

"Oh! Yeah, yeah," Blitzo replied avidly, "but uh...don't I have to drive the van?"

"Ember already said she was doing that this time, remember?" Heather reminded him, offering a hand to the imp, "Sooo...you coming?"

It would be practically impossible for Blitzo to feel any happier than he did at that moment in time. To get to ride on a real horse, bareback, alone with Heather? That was more than he could ever have hoped for. His excitement nearly left him at a loss for words, but thankfully, his heart took charge.

"I...I...fuckin' hell yeah!"

He accepted Heather's hand, allowing himself to be helped onto Bombproof's back. Once mounted, he got comfortable behind the hellcat, wrapping his arms around her waist. She glanced over her shoulder at him, sharing a sheepish grin in regards to their current position, before exchanging a confident nod.

This was going to be one hell of a ride.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Hideaway MOTEL
VACANCY
THE GUY THAT TRIED 2 KILL U DEF ISN'T HERE

The neon lights of the motel sign flickered weakly as the sun began to rise above the run-down two-story building, showering the nearly deserted area around it in bright red and orange beams of light. A single room in the center of the second floor had its lights on, half-covered by a tattered set of blinds.

Inside, Striker was reclining on his space's bed, toying with a pistol that had the same glowing patterns as his former sniper rifle, using his free hand to talk on the bedside phone. His right eye was blackened, swollen from the numerous times that his ex-fiancé had struck him in the face, although he seemed largely unbothered by the injury.

"I failed to kill the target at the festival," he confessed to the person on the other end of the line with a light grunt, "but don’t worry, ma'am. It won’t happen again."

"It better not," rang out the voice of Stella Goetia back in her royal dining room, drumming the tabletop with her fingertips as she shouted into her phone in sheer, unfiltered animosity, "I want this cheating prick dead. I don’t care who you have to go through, make it HAPPEN!"

The owl princess didn't appear to care about the fact that she was ordering the assassination of her own husband in front of both him and their daughter. Octavia, however, did not hear, or even take notice of the noise surrounding her, bobbing her head to the sound of the angsty music in her earbuds. Stolas, conversely, eventually did notice, lifting his gaze from a book titled "Imps in the Sheets" and pausing before biting into a forked potato to glance across the dinner table at his wife, who was glaring back at him with a strong animosity.

"Understood," Striker's voice replied nonchalantly over the phone, prompting Stella to hang up.

The imp gave his spare angelic weapon a spin with his hand, reaching over to the nightstand to turn off the bedside lamp.

"I'll get him next time," he vowed, pulling the cord.

Needless to say, it could be safe to assume that the I.M.P had hardly seen the last of Striker.

This was only the beginning.

Chapter Text

Connie approached the I.M.P office kitchen, where Moxxie and Ember were seated, eating lunch together. It was the day after the employees had returned from the Wrath Ring, and the events of the festival, particularly those involving Connie and her alone time with Loona, were still fresh in her mind, sticking to her subconscious like a layer of superglue. No matter what she did or how hard she tried, the hellcat simply couldn't think about anything—or anyone—else, and she was beginning to wonder if what she felt towards her best friend that night, even now, was mutual. She was so deep in thought that she nearly didn't notice her coworkers' presence until they spoke up.

"Oh, hey Connie," Moxxie greeted Connie from across the room, "are you on your break, too?"

"Yep, I am!" Connie replied, grabbing her tuna sub from the refrigerator, "Just for lunch."

"Same here," Ember remarked with an inviting smile, beckoning the hellcat with her long, bushy tail, "you wanna join us? There's room for one more~!"

"Heh, sure," Connie nodded, casually striding over to them and seating herself across from her friends, "so...what's new with you guys?"

"Not much," Moxxie admitted, turning to Ember, "we were just talking about the Harvest Moon Festival again, but mostly Heather's ex-fiancé. Striker, was it?"

"That farmhand guy?" Ember added, taking a sip of her iced coffee, "Yeah, I think that was his name. Where did we leave off in that conversation, anyway?"

"I think we stopped after I asked you where you thought he was now?"

"Ohhh, yeah," the silver hellhound snapped her fingers, "that's right. You know, he probably didn't get too far on foot. The guy probably stopped at a motel or something."

"Well, I hope to Satan that we never have to see him again," Moxxie huffed, taking a bite of his avocado salad, "not only was he a massive jerk to Heather, but he also tried to kill both me and Millie, and he nearly shot the prince, too."

"Yeah, Heather told me about that," Connie added, unwrapping her sandwich, "I'm kinda glad that he's gone. She looked really uncomfortable around him."

"I don't know," Ember admitted, "I have a feeling that we'll probably end up crossing paths with him again at some point."

"What makes you say that?" Connie prompted the hellhound, her tail flicking in intrigue.

"From my experience," she explained, taking a bite of one of her venison sticks, "people like Striker aren't easy to get rid of. They're like fucking cockroaches. Trust me, I know. I used to be a nightclub singer, and I can name more than a few occasions when the same creeps would try sneaking back into the place to flirt with the waitresses and shit."

"Ugh...I hope that doesn't happen..." Moxxie groaned, returning his attention to his lunch.

"Well, let's not worry about that right now," Ember continued, turning to the hellcat across from her, "I didn't get a chance to ask you, Connie! Did you and Loona have fun yesterday?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, we did," Connie chuckled, her cheeks flushing over at the mention of the prior evening's events, "why do you ask?"

"Well...you know how I was taking photos during the Harvest Moon unveiling?" Ember explained, pulling out her hellphone and opening her gallery, "I was scrolling through them to decide which ones I wanted to post, and I noticed something...interesting, in the background of one of my selfies."

The hellhound tapped on one of the more recent images, pulling it up as Moxxie and Connie watched her curiously. In the foreground, Ember was posing with the festival's titular moon above her in frame, smiling and winking at the camera with a hand sassily planted on her hip. Other than the occasional imp bystander, the photo seemed relatively normal, and neither coworker could see what was so notable about it.

That is, until Ember zoomed in on one particular aspect of the background.

The action revealed a clear visual of Loona and Connie sitting together on a haystack, holding hands and half-snuggling. Although it was very subtle, a light blush could be seen tinting both of the girls' faces, eliciting the same action from Connie at that very moment.

"Oh my crumbs," Moxxie shook his head in amusement at Connie, "are you two...doing what I think you are?"

"Yep, they are," the hellhound nodded, guiltily glancing over at Connie, "I'm sorry, Connie, I swear I had no idea that you two were in the background when it took it. But when I noticed, I just really wanted to show you, because it's kinda cute!"

"I can't believe I'm saying this," Moxxie added, "but I have to agree with Ember. You two look pretty happy in that photo. And it's not often that we get to see Loona smiling like that, so that really says something."

"Heh, you think so?" Connie smiled back at her coworkers sheepishly, "Well, I definitely remember having a great time with her. One of my favorite songs was playing, and she knew all the words, so we sang it together...she has a really pretty voice..."

The memory of Loona's presence on that night engulfed the hellcat in an invisible shroud of warmth, which she gladly embraced, taking the dusting of pink on her face in stride. She remembered the gentle touch of her best friend's hand; the soft red glow of her eyes against the maroon undertones of the sky, red moonbeams and swaths of stars showering her form. Did Loona see Connie the way that she saw her? Or was that half-lidded smile just platonic, at best?

The hellcat feigned a nonchalant sigh, finishing off her tuna sub before gathering her garbage and disposing of it in the nearest trash can, heading out the door and back to her office. She needed to get her thoughts in order. Even if she did covet the answers to her questions, it was clear that she wouldn't be finding any answers by merely thinking about them. She would have to go straight to the source.

"Well...I should probably get back to work," Connie chuckled, rubbing the back of her neck, "see you guys later!"

With that, she slipped past the doorframe, briefly glancing over her shoulder at her coworkers as she departed. Before she headed back to her office, however, she decided to stop by the water cooler. Maybe that would help to get her mind off things. This was definitely not because it was right across from the reception area. Not at all.

Okay, so she was terrible at lying to herself. Then again, who was really good at it, anyway?

"Connie! There you are. That was pretty good timing; I was just about to go looking for you."

The hellcat was about to reach for one of the paper cups on top of the dispenser, but stopped as soon as she heard Loona address her from behind. Intentionally or not, Connie's ears pricked at the sound of her best friend's voice, and she slowly wheeled around to face the hellhound, an ever-so-slight blush forming on her cheeks.

"Oh, hi Loona!" Connie smiled up at her warmly, her long, fluffy tail giving a flick of excitement at the sight of her, "What's up? Do you need my help with something?"

"Huh? Oh, no," Loona admitted, brushing her bangs out of her face, "actually, I kinda wanted to talk to you, now that I'm done with all those fucking phone calls. Sorry for taking so long, by the way. I just didn't know how swamped I'd be."

"Hey, don't worry about it," Connie assured her, waving her off, "it's no big deal. Hell, we're all probably a little behind because of the whole Harvest Moon Festival thing. Even though it was kinda fun spending it with you."

"Yeah?" Loona mused, "I thought it was, too."

The pair locked eyes with each other for a moment, their ears tilting back sheepishly as they recalled their time in the Wrath Ring together.

"Hey, uh, speaking of the festival," Loona continued, the white of her face tinted with a light blush nearly equivalent to Connie's own, "there's something I've been meaning to tell you, Connie. And I know this might sound a little weird, but...I just kinda want you to know."

"I highly doubt that anything you say to me would be weird," Connie remarked, glancing up at the hellhound with a reassuring smile, "but even if it was, you know you can tell me anything, right? Because you can."

"Heh, thanks," Loona blinked back at her best friend gratefully, clearing her throat, "well, anyway...here goes. Connie, when I told you that I had a lot of fun with you at the Harvest Moon Festival, I really meant it. Actually, I enjoy spending time with you in general. More than I do with most other people."

Connie could feel her heart swelling as the hellhound spoke those words, her light blue eyes glistening with serendipity as she continued.

"And at first, I thought it was because we've known each other for a really long time, so I feel like I can really be myself around you. Well, I mean, maybe that was one reason, but I still feel like there's more to it than that."

Loona sighed, the tip of her fluffy tail wagging slightly, although only she was aware of it.

"I just..." she admitted, rubbing her elbow with a sheepish smile, "I was up almost all night thinking about it. About how happy I am when I'm around you, and why I feel that way about just you. But I think I figured it out."

The hellhound reached over to take the marketing manager's hand, running her thumb over the back of it. At this point, both Loona and Connie's faces were redder than their imp coworkers' skin, but to their surprise, neither of them minded. It was almost as though they weren't standing in the I.M.P office, but somewhere else entirely, where it was just the two of them. A headspace where there were no ringtones, no printer or fax machine noises, and no distractions of any kind, and all that could be heard was the sound of each of their pounding hearts, beating in perfect sync with each other.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is..." Loona confessed, her lips curling into a nervous smile, "I like you, Connie. Like, really like you, a lot, and I have for a long time. And I want to get to know you better. So...if you ever wanna go out sometime—"

"Yes! I-I mean, yeah," Connie beamed, throwing her arms over Loona's shoulders, positively smitten, "yeah, I would love that!"

"Wow, that was a quick answer," Loona remarked, hesitating in surprise before returning the gesture, "are you sure you don't wanna think about it for a day or...something?"

"I'm sure!" Connie blinked up at the hellhound, slowly pulling away, "Actually, I've felt the same way about you for a while now, too. I just didn't wanna make things awkward between us if you didn't...you know..."

"Ohhh, gotcha," Loona nodded, still in a state of pleasant disbelief, "yeah, that makes sense. Honestly, same here."

Simultaneously, the pair of blushing girls reconnected their hands, slowly intertwining their fingers with each other's. Neither of them had expected to make it this far, but now that they were, a sense of overwhelming relief flooded through them. They no longer had to hide their feelings for each other.

Well, at least, between the two of them. Not everyone in the office needed to know what was happening between them at that moment. They'd cross that bridge when they came to it.

"So...wanna grab some coffee after work?" Loona offered, "There's a new place down the street from me and Blitz's apartment. We could try it out together, if you want."

"Heh, sure," Connie agreed, brushing her bangs out of her face with her free hand, "that sounds nice. I'd love to."

"Great! I guess I'll see you then," the hellhound mused, "hey, thanks for listening to me ramble for a little bit. It feels good to get that off my chest."

"No problem," Connie nodded, "I think we both needed that. It's almost like you read my mind."

Loona chuckled, giving the hellcat's hand a gentle squeeze.

"Well, I guess I'll see you later. I'm looking forward to it."

"Y-yeah," Connie smiled, returning the gesture, "me too."

Chapter Text

It was an hour past closing time, and Blitzo was leaning on the side of his apartment building holding the grimoire, mentally preparing himself for his once-a-month "passionate fornication" with Stolas. The full moon was upon him once again, and yet he was still far from ready; time seemed to be flying by faster and faster with each passing day.

But this full moon was an especially momentous occasion. It was the night of the Blood Moon; the first in two years, to be exact. And knowing Stolas, being the astronomy enthusiast that he was, something told Blitzo that a night of extra-lewd activities was in the cards. What he wouldn't give to be spending the evening with Heather instead.

And rightfully so. As of recently, the hellcat had opted to take an indefinite break from blind dates, in favor of waiting to see if she could meet anyone on her own. The Blood Moon would've been the perfect opportunity for Blitzo to make the first move, as there were always a million and one different venues hosting special events on that evening, all of which would've been perfect opportunities to spend some quality time with Heather. But when it came to Stolas's booty calls, well...it was common knowledge that there was no disputing a deal with a Goetic prince, especially one of his standing.

Blitzo sighed, digging into his pocket and removing a crested gray horse doll, whom he'd named Escalator, with his free hand, caressing the horse's flank with his thumb. He couldn't help but feel disappointed, just as he had towards practically every other outcome that resulted from this same inconvenience. It seemed like his sexual relations with Stolas only further inhibited him from acting on his feelings for Heather, especially since some of the best opportunities to do so just so happened to occur on the full moon. Of course.

Then again, Blitzo couldn't just break off his deal with Stolas. He needed the book to run I.M.P so he, and by extension, his employees, could make a living. Because without money, he wouldn't be able to afford to take Heather out on a date. If he could ever muster up enough confidence to make it to that stage.

That being said, he still had time, right? He might as well make the most of it.

A predatory-sounding knicker snapped Blitzo out of his thoughts, prompting him to tuck Escalator into his pants pocket for safe keeping. Sure enough, a Hell horse appeared on the road, rounding the corner and trotting into the driveway. He was a well-muscled stallion with flaming accents, much like Bombproof's, which coordinated rather nicely with his clean white coat.

Dressed from head to hoof in burgundy tack, the hellish creature belonged to none other than Locke Barlowe, who rode atop the Hell horse's broad back, confidently clasping the reins in his right hand. With a slight pull, he ordered his steed to stop. He obliged, his trot slowing to a walk, and his walk ceasing to a halt about one horse-length away from Blitzo. With that, Locke gently placed the reins over the horn of his saddle, gave the Hell horse's neck a gentle pat, and swung his right leg over the saddle, dismounting to greet the awestruck imp.

"I didn't know you had a horse!" Blitzo gasped, cupping his cheeks in adoration.

"What, my sis didn't tell you?" Locke mused, patting his stallion's shoulder, "I'm kinda surprised. She's always telling me about how much you love horses."

"She talks about me, huh?" Blitzo remarked curiously, tearing his gaze away from the white Hell horse to return his attention to the hellcat, "Hopefully all good things?"

"Oh, don't worry," Locke assured him with a casual smile, "I doubt you could ever do anything to piss me off as much as the last guy she got this close to, who will remain nameless...actually, from what I've heard, Heather thinks pretty highly of you, Blitz. You must really be something special to her."

"Heh, you think so?" Blitzo returned the gesture, sheepishly running his fingers along the back of his neck, "Thanks. Y'know, when Stolas said he was having you pick me up from now on for safety reasons, I kinda thought he was gonna send a limo or...something."

"He would've, but Princess Stella was using it tonight," Locke elaborated, "apparently, she wanted to attend a gala in the Envy Ring. But Stolas knows how much you love horses, so he thought you wouldn't mind."

"Yeah...this big guy sure is pretty," Blitzo remarked, gazing up at the Hell horse endearingly.

"He's quite the looker, that's for sure," Locke nodded, gently stroking the bridge of the stallion's nose, "his name is Solstice, but I call him Sol, for short. My dad gave him to me as a birthday gift a few years ago."

"Whoa, that's pretty fuckin' cool," Blitzo observed, the arrowhead tip of his tail flicking in pleasure, "hey, can I...?"

"Sure, you can pet him. He won't mind."

The imp's light red eyes sparkled with ecstasy, and he happily shuffled towards Solstice, allowing his hand to sink into his fur. Much like Bombproof's, the stallion's coat was delicately smooth and soft to the touch, possessing an almost satiny feel beneath his fingertips. Blitzo enjoyed every second of the contact, slowly running his hand along the Hell horse's neck, only pulling away when he heard Locke address him once again.

"Oh, one more thing before we leave," the orange and white hellcat suggested, "you might want to change into something more...formal. Stolas has other plans for tonight's, um, 'passionate fornication.' His words, not mine."

"How formal?" Blitzo raised an eyebrow at him, confused, "What the fuck is he up to this time?"

"Don't look at me," Locke shrugged, "I'm just the messenger."

"Ugh...fine," Blitzo rolled his eyes, reluctantly trudging back up the steps to his apartment, "I'll be back in a minute. I don't know why he wants me to do this, but whatever. It's not like we can work without that fancy-ass book, anyway."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Several minutes later, after changing into a crimson version of his usual suit with a white undershirt, Blitzo allowed Locke to give him a horseback ride to Stolas's mansion. Although he was thrilled that he got to ride Solstice, the imp was still understandably apprehensive about the Goetia prince's plans. Why had he requested that Blitzo wear formal attire? And why was Locke dropping him off next to the mansion's garden, rather than at the front entrance?

"Well, this is where you get off," Locke acknowledged the imp, sliding off his horse before allowing Blitzo to do the same.

"Damn it," Blitzo muttered, "well, thanks for the ride, I guess."

"Anytime, Blitz," Locke replied, "you know, I'd stay and chat for a little bit, but I should really get my ass in gear. My parents are hosting a Blood Moon garden party at their mansion tonight, and I don't wanna show up too late. You know, just to make sure my twin sis isn't getting hit on by any Goetia suitors."

"Huh. That happens?"

"Sometimes," the hellcat admitted, his ears starting to sag, "sure, mom probably wouldn't let anything drastic go down, but still...I don't trust just anyone with Heather. Especially after what happened with him. I'm not making that mistake again."

Blitzo nodded silently, immediately pick up on his implication. He cleared his throat, patting Locke's right shoulder with the tip of his tail.

"Well...if it makes you feel any better, I think you're a good brother. For worrying about Heather, I mean."

A ghost of a smile appeared on Locke's lips, a grateful glint in his glowing green eyes. He spared the imp a polite nod before turning to mount Solstice once again, adjusting his grip on the reins.

"Thank you," he addressed him, giving his steed's shoulder a hearty pat, "good luck with my boss tonight. Let's get a move on, Sol."

Solstice emitted a gentle whinny, complying with Locke's request and turning to depart. The luminescent glow of the Hell horse's flaming accents illuminated his every move as he trotted off down the road, disappearing around the bend along with his rider. Blitzo watched them leave, waving them off before the ever-so-slight creaking sound of Stolas's garden gate being opened dragged him back to reality, followed by the prince's voice.

"Ah, there you are, Blitz! I've been expecting you."

Much like Blitzo, Stolas sported a formal outfit; a navy blue version of his royal robes, still trimmed with speckled white faux feathers, as well as a matching hat, in front of which his Goetic crown remained. To Blitzo's surprise, he had addressed him in a much more formal manner. Well, at least more formally then usual. Regardless, paired with the fact that Stolas had refrained from his usual pet names, it was enough to leave the imp in a profoundly confused and intrigued state.

Stolas never started their rendezvous like this.

"Well, why don't you come in?" the owl demon suggested, motioning for Blitzo to enter with a gentlemanly wave, "We certainly have some catching up to do!"

"Wha—catching up?" Blitzo raised an eyebrow at him curiously, entering the garden with Stolas close behind, "You don't want me to fuck you senseless or something?"

"Not tonight, I'm afraid," Stolas shook his head, "shocking, I know. But there are some...imperative matters that we must discuss. And everyone knows that the best way to discuss matters of such high importance is over a drink!"

"And you're sure you're not gonna turn this into some kinky shit where I end up with something else sliding down my throat?"

"Oh my, Blitz!" Stolas mused, "You're such a card! But I must reiterate that I am quite serious. I do not intend to initiate any means of passionate fornication tonight. Now, I'll just take my grimoire off your hands, and we can settle in for an evening of sparkling conversation~"

Reluctantly, Blitzo forked over the navy blue book, which his business associate gladly accepted, carrying it along with him as the pair trekked through the royal garden. On their way, the two bypassed a seemingly endless array of plant varieties, from flowers to carnivorous vegetation to neatly-manicured topiaries trimmed in various hellborn creatures' images. Everything was so ornate and immaculately preened that even Blitzo had to admit that the royal garden was impressive.

Stolas guided his imp companion towards the garden's very epicenter: a wide, majestic black marble fountain, the center of which contained a circular island resembling his Goetic seal. The owl demon casually strode towards the water's edge, stopping to wave Blitzo forward.

"Now, come along! Our destination is just up ahead!"

"What the fuck, Stolas!" Blitzo growled, glaring at him indignantly, "You didn't tell me we were going swimming!"

Stolas cocked his head at him, raising an eyebrow in curiosity before his glowing red eyes widened, and he hooted in laughter.

"Oh, silly me!" he chortled, telekinetically causing the grimoire to hover beside him, "Fear not, Blitz, we aren't here to take a dip, however refreshing that might be. Just one moment..."

With that, Stolas sauntered closer to the fountain, the liquid of which was showered in scarlet beams of the Blood Moon. Clearing his throat, the owl prince peered at a page in his mystical book, enunciating the Runic spell with relative ease.

"ᚹᚨᛚᚴ ᛟᚾ ᚹᚨᛏᛖᚱ!"

As he spoke, Stolas confidently extended his right leg above the water's surface, planting his avian foot upon it, which spurred a triad of gorgeous red ripples. They stretched across the fountain in its entirety, coating it with a lustrous aura that nearly blindsided Blitzo with awe. He wordlessly stared after Stolas as he abandoned the shore, standing securely atop the liquid as though he were a deity.

"There!" he nodded proudly at his accomplishment, "That ought to do it. Now, let's get a move on. I suppose you could say that we're burning moonlight."

"Oh yeah?" Blitzo prompted, "Well, how am I gonna know I won't fall in? 'Cause there's no way in Hell that I'm getting fucking wet tonight. In either context."

"I assure you," Stolas insisted playfully, "it's perfectly safe to cross, so long as I'm on the water with you. Unless, of course, you'd rather have me carry you across~"

"Ugh...fine," Blitzo pinched the bridge of his nose, reluctantly trudging forward to join him, "but you better not be pulling my leg, or I'm gonna kick your ass!"

The imp took a deep breath, dipping his toe towards the water first. To his surprise, no matter how hard he pressed against it, the magical barrier remained, proving without a doubt that Stolas was telling the truth. Knowing this, Blitzo cautiously pressed forward, one foot in front of the other, until he and Stolas had reached the island in the fountain's center. There, a decorative table awaited the pair, where a bottle of champagne was submerged in an ice bucket, strategically placed on either side of a pair of flutes.

"And here we are!" Stolas declared, deactivating the spell by closing the grimoire and tucking it into his robe, "Go ahead, have a seat! Make yourself comfortable."

Blitzo obeyed with a sigh, seating himself opposite of Stolas as he telekinetically popped the cork from the champagne bottle, additionally capturing the resulting spray and pouring it into Blitzo's glass. He tipped the levitating container, filling the flute and sliding it towards the imp.

"Champagne?"

"Ah, sure," he shrugged, snatching his glass from the table and taking a swig, "why the fuck not...mmm...this is some pretty good shit."

"Why thank you, Blitz!" Stolas chirped, pouring some champagne for himself, "I made it myself with grapes from our royal vineyard. They have a rather distinctive, sweet taste; it's quite hard to resist having more than one drink."

"No shit," Blitzo nodded, taking another sip, "so...uh, what did you wanna talk about again?"

"Of course," Stolas began, picking up his glass and gingerly swirling its contents, "as you know, you and I have established a once-a-month exchange in accordance with our individual uses of my grimoire."

"Ugh...I'm fully fucking aware," Blitzo rolled his eyes at the prince, downing more champagne at the reminder.

"Yes, as am I," Stolas continued, "and for quite some time now, it's managed to work for both of us...well, at least, in one way or another. More champagne?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure," Blitzo agreed, allowing the owl demon to refill his flute, "well, I...guess I can't argue with that. I.M.P probably wouldn't be where it is now if you hadn't let us use your dumb book."

"Oh, don't flatter me too much," Stolas waved him off, "I'm certain I've gained far more from you than you have from me~"

"Damn straight," the imp smirked, his tail flicking in amusement.

"Anywho, I'll stop beating around the bush," Stolas continued, guilt creeping into his expression, "as...enjoyable as our little romps in the sheets are...over the past few years, I feel as though our passionate fornication has been harboring my true feelings. For many things, really, but specifically in regards to one special gentleman."

At the mention of "one special gentleman," Blitzo nearly spit out his champagne, but he forced himself to drain the rest of the bubbly substance from his glass, nervously staring across the table at Stolas. Admittedly, the regal liquor was going straight to his head, and he was starting to feel a little tipsy.

Tipsy enough to speak his mind more freely, coincidentally enough, at the same time as Stolas.

"Uh...I have a confession to make."

The two simultaneously exchanged astonished glances, taking advantage of the silence between them to individually sip from their champagne flutes. Blitzo contemplated what he should say next, should Stolas prompt him about his confession first. However, the action proved to be significantly harder to accomplish, even while under the influence of just one—two, now—glasses of irresistible and expensive booze. Regardless, while the imp was enshrouded in his increasingly hazy mindset, Stolas beat him to the punch.

"Would you like to go first, then, or shall I?"

"Heh, uh..." Blitzo hesitated, finishing off the last of his second drink, "you. You go first."

"Alright, Blitz," Stolas nodded, his gaze flitting to the floor, "you see...it's my secretary, Locke. No, not just my secretary. My best friend."

"What about him?"

"Well, he's remained faithfully by my side for many years," the owl demon continued intently, running his fingers through his hair, "even despite my wife's temperamental disposition and unchecked aggression. Even though I tend to resort to affectionate nicknames on impulse. Even after he discovered my sexual relations with you."

Stolas sighed, pausing to pour himself another round of champagne.

"At first, I didn't think much of it," he admitted, "after all, he'd had plenty of notice beforehand, what with his sister's experience as his occupational predecessor and all. However, as of late, I've begun to realize some things. Mainly that just about anyone of Locke's status who has ever worked for me was sent running in the opposite direction by at least one of those three previously listed factors."

"Uh, yeah," Blitzo scoffed as Stolas filled his glass yet again, "I would."

"And I don't blame you. But my point is, Locke didn't. Maybe I'll never truly understand his motivations for not doing so, but...I never realized until recently how much it meant to me. That he didn't quit, I mean. And that he didn't want our after-hours relationship to transition into a strictly professional one."

"Uh huh," Blitzo replied, the alcohol slowly causing him to adopt a more suggestible stance, "I, uh...sometimes, I feel that way about Heather. I mean, she's rich as Hell and could probably do any goddamn thing she wants to, but she still sticks around at I.M.P anyway. I like to think it's because she likes us, but...ah, I don't know."

"Really?" Stolas acknowledged his input in relief, "So I'm not the only one feeling this way?"

"Well, that kinda depends," the imp shrugged, "I mean, you gotta elaborate."

"Oh! Right," Stolas chuckled, nervously toying with his feathery robe collar, "anyway...I've thought it through, and just hours before you arrived, it hit me."

Even in the bright red light of the Blood Moon, a thick blush was prominent on the Goetia prince's face. He bashfully flicked his long tail plumage, pressing his cheek against his free hand.

"I believe I've caught feelings for the handsome hellcat," he confessed, gazing over at Blitzo apologetically, "I...I'm so sorry if this news troubles you, Blitz. If you'd prefer to continue our grimoire tradeoff without our initial agreement in place, so that you won't have to see me anymore, I completely understand—"

"So you're saying that you don't have romantic feelings for me?" Blitzo prompted him, hardly capable of containing his overwhelming relief and satisfaction, "It was only a sexual gratification thing that we had going?"

"W-well...yes..." Stolas stammered, "this doesn't upset you, Blitz?"

"Hell n—I mean," the imp corrected himself, "not really, it's totally cool with me. It's not like we were in love or some sappy shit like that. It was a transactional fucking."

"Oh...oh, Satan," Stolas sighed, just as, if not more relieved than Blitzo, "well, it certainly was great to get that weight off of my shoulders! I'm glad we're in agreement, my dear Blitzy!"

He stopped himself upon noticing Blitzo glaring at him in annoyance, clearing his throat.

"Er...sorry, force of habit. I'll try to refrain from calling you that..."

"Ugh...you know what?" Blitzo shook his head, "It's fine. Whatever. I don't give a fuck. Speaking of which, do I still have to come over here to plug you every full moon, now that we both know that you're interested in someone else?"

"Actually, I've been meaning to speak with you about that as well," Stolas elaborated, "perhaps our evenings of passionate fornication are just about over. Now more than ever might be an appropriate time to work out a different kind of exchange. If that's alright with you, of course."

"Hell fucking yeah!" Blitzo grinned, pumping his free hand in the air victoriously, "I swear to shit, I never thought this day would actually come! Uh...no offense."

"None taken," Stolas assured him, waving him off before taking another drink, "so, now that we're both on the same page, I believe I have a solution to our little dilemma. What if, rather than passionate fornication upon the zenith of each full moon, you join me in the garden for a night of simple discussion, regarding your business practices, and perhaps our lives in general. We could concur on different themes for each one, if you'd like! Or I could surprise you."

"No surprises," Blitzo refuted, crossing his arms, "but yeah, that sounds a hell of a lot better than fucking your feathered ass when I'm not in the mood. Alright, throw in some horse-themed shit, and you've got yourself a deal."

"Oh, marvelous!" Stolas hooted gleefully, "Very well, Blitzy, I accept. I will eagerly anticipate our next little conversation~"

"Heh, I can't believe I'm saying this," Blitzo huffed, "but maybe I am, too. I'm not one to complain about free fancy booze."

"I didn't think so, Blitzy," Stolas purred, pouring himself another drink, "now, why don't you tell me more about these horse themes you're after? I must admit I'm quite interested in them!"

Chapter Text

"Good morning, Loonie," Connie purred, approaching the reception desk with one iced coffee in each hand, "any calls yet?"

The hellhound's ears pricked at the sound of her best friend's voice, her face lighting up as she acknowledged her.

"Oh, Connie!" Loona greeted warmly, watching as Connie seated herself on the couch beside her, "Hey! Uh, nope, no calls. There's really not that much going on around here right now. Is that iced coffee?"

"Yep! They had a 2-for-1 thing going on down at the Hothead Café," she nodded, offering the drink in her right hand to Loona, "so I thought I'd get us a little pick-me-up while we're waiting for clients to roll in. It's steamed milk with three pumps of vanilla. I hope that's okay."

"You remembered my favorite?" Loona accepted the beverage and took a sip, flattered, "Wow, that's...that's really sweet, Connie. Uh, what you did, not the coffee, haha. Thanks."

"Hey, it's no big deal," Connie chuckled, "I just saw it and thought of you! Besides, it's easy to remember your regular, because mine is actually—"

"Steamed milk and three pumps of mocha."

"How did you—?" Connie flitted her eyes at her, amazed.

"Just a little something I picked up on," Loona mused, winking over at the hellcat flirtatiously.

Connie sighed contentedly, taking a sip of her iced coffee to hide her blushing face as her hellhound companion did the same. That is, until the reception desk's landline cut through the silence with its yipping ringtone, eliciting a groan of annoyance from Loona.

"Ugh, sorry," she flashed Connie an apologetic smile, "I gotta take this. Hey, we're still up for tonight, right?"

"Of course!" the hellcat nodded, sliding off the couch and heading back to her office, "That reminds me, are you in the mood for Italian? There's this new place that opened up down the street from my apartment, and I was wondering if you'd like to try it."

"Sounds good," Loona agreed, her ear flicking in amusement, "I guess I'll see you later."

"Okay! Bye, Loonie."

The hellhound smittenly watched her round the corner and disappear in the hallway, her bushy tail wagging as she leaned on her right hand in longing. Upon realizing that the phone was still ringing, she swore under her breath, snatching the bone-shaped landline and answering it, albeit more warmly than usual.

"Hello, I.M.P?"

"Oh, Loona!" the smooth masculine voice on the other end of the line replied, "It's Vortex."

"Tex! Hey," Loona beamed, relieved that he hadn't been yet another demanding client, "what's up? I thought you were working right now?"

"I got the day off, actually," Vortex admitted, "hey, speaking of 'work,' you think you could put me on the line with your boss?"

"Yeah, sure," the receptionist nodded, pausing before she could hit the 'transfer' button on the phone keypad, "why?"

"Well, I have a few questions about the company. I'm just curious."

"Huh...alright," Loona half-shrugged, "hold on a sec, I'll let him know before I transfer your call."

She pressed the 'line A' button instead, waiting until a beep on the other end registered that her adoptive father had picked up.

"Hey Loonie-toony!" Blitzo addressed her affectionately, "Do you need something, sweetie?"

"Blitz, Vortex is on the phone, he wants to talk to you. He's got a few business inquiries."

"And you're sure it's about I.M.P?" Blitzo prompted hesitantly, "He's not asking for your hand in marriage or some shit?"

"Uh, what part of business inquiries didn't you understand? Besides, he's dating Ember, for fuck's sake!"

"Oh, yeah," Blitzo snapped his fingers in realization, "well, in that case, send him in to Heather. Ember and I are in the middle of a shit ton of forms, and we don't have time for this right now."

"He's on hold, dipshit."

"Right! I knew that."

Loona sighed, hitting the 'transfer' button and hanging up, taking a sip of her iced coffee with her free hand.

"They don't pay me enough for this bullshit," she muttered, rolling her eyes.

Meanwhile, in Heather's office, the hellcat was scrolling through numerous saddle sets on an equestrian website, comparing them side-by-side to an image of herself and Bombproof. She was wearing her new outfit in the picture, one that was partially reminiscent of Connie's, so that the hellcats of I.M.P would share similar uniforms. It was a symbol of her willingness to leave her old life behind and begin anew, starting with her appearance on the job.

As far as Heather was concerned, her conceited cowboy of an ex-fiancé could go fuck himself. She had his former steed by her side, the only remnant of her past with Striker that she was willing to retain. Now, all that was left to do was give Bombproof's getup a makeover. Heather was about to click on a pink tack set that she liked before her office phone rang, and she paused, rising from her seat to answer it.

"Hello, thank you for calling the Immediate Murder Professionals," the hellcat greeted, "you hate 'em, we'll kill 'em! Heather speaking."

"Hi, Heather, it's Vortex."

"Oh, Tex!" Heather began cordially, pacing the floor in front of her desk, "G'day, mate! Nice to hear your voice again. What can I do you for? I'm guessing you need some top-side drongo to kick the bucket?"

"Well, actually," Vortex continued, "I was calling to ask about job openings."

"Job openings?" the red tabby hellcat prompted, twirling the landline phone cord on her pointer finger, "At I.M.P?"

"Yeah, are there any positions open right now? Maybe as an assassin or...at the office? Preferably higher-than-minimum-wage paying careers?"

"Uh...unfortunately, no," Heather admitted, "no, I don't think we do. You aren't asking because of those old 'help wanted' posters from a few months ago, are you? Because I thought we took them all down—"

"Oh, no, that's not it," the hellhound on the other end of the line explained, "I've been wanting to get a better paying job for a while, but especially right now. It's kind of a long story, though. I'm sure you guys gotta go kill some targets soon, anyways."

"I've got time," Heather shrugged, leaning on her desk, "we don't have to go to the living world until three. In fact...why don't you come over to I.M.P and we can discuss it further in my office? I just might be able to help you."

"I thought you said you guys didn't have any job openings?"

"We don't," Heather mused, "but I do."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

About a half hour later, Vortex arrived at the Immediate Murder Professionals' headquarters, and thankfully, he was able to slip into Heather's office unnoticed by his girlfriend. Ember and Blitzo were still hard at work in the other room, the door closed to ensure that there were no interruptions. However, once the muscular male hellhound was concealed within the walls of Heather's workspace, he knew his cause was safe. Knowing this, he seated himself in front of her desk, allowing her to settle in and prepare for their meeting.

"Alright, let's get down to business," Heather began, briefly chuckling at her own joke, "so, Tex, why do you want to quit your job as Verosika's bodyguard in favor of a higher-paying one? Although, knowing her, there's probably more than one."

"Heh, you're definitely right about that," Vortex mused, "but in all seriousness, it's not just about the money. It's about Ember."

"Oh, I see," the hellcat nodded, "what about her?"

"Well, our second dating anniversary is coming up."

"Wow, really?" Heather congratulated him, "That's a major milestone, Tex. Good for you two!"

"Heh, thanks," Vortex grinned, rubbing the back of his furry neck, "anyway, you're right, it's a really big deal, and I wanna do something special for her. Like, something meaningful...and important. But what I have in mind is kinda expensive. Okay, it's really expensive. At least more than a month's paycheck would cover at minimum wage."

Heather's long, fluffy tail wavered behind her as she listened to the hellhound's explanation, pondering it silently. Towards the end of it, she caught on to his implications.

"Okay, I see what you're getting at," she nodded, drumming her fingers against her wooden desktop, "and as someone who used to be in a committed relationship, I can definitely sympathize. That being said...I think I have a proposition that might work for you, Vortex."

"Oh, great!" Vortex prompted, "So...what kind of proposition is this?"

"Well, you already have experience as both a lackey and bodyguard," Heather explained, "at least, from what I've observed. In all honesty, I've been considering hiring a hellhound with your skillset for a few years. Since I broke off my engagement, actually, because my ex kind of used to fill that role. But lately, my priorities have shifted drastically, and now I need help with the responsibilities of this job...and my new life."

The hellcat peered at her computer monitor, minimizing the open tabs to view her desktop wallpaper. An image of her and Blitzo posing in front of Bombproof met her pensive stare, eliciting a soft smile from Heather.

"Anyway, I'll cut to the chase," she cleared her throat before continuing, "I can offer you a job as my assistant. It's a mainly full-time endeavor, but it comes with benefits and a $27-an-hour salary. We can negotiate those details at a later time, but for now, I can guarantee you that much. Does this sound like something you'd be interested in?"

"$27 an hour?" Vortex beamed, pleasantly surprised, "Whoa, that's a generous offer. Are you sure you can afford to pay me that much?"

"Of course," Heather confirmed, "my assassin job isn't my only source of income, you know. Being a Barlowe just has its perks."

"Well, in that case..." Vortex agreed, offering his right hand to shake, "I accept. I can't thank you enough for this, ma'am."

"Oh, it's the least I can do," Heather insisted, returning the gesture, "we hopeful romantics have to stick together, right? Anyway, please call me again when you've officially resigned from your previous job. I'd like you to start with this one as soon as possible."

"Yes, ma'am," the hulking hellhound vowed, "I won't disappoint."

"I know you won't. Oh, and Vortex? Good luck with Ember."

Chapter Text

It was the beginning of the assassins' busy midsummer season, a prime time for clients to hire I.M.P for a slew of arranged murders. As such, the afternoon had been otherwise uneventful for Heather, spent as it normally would be during the hours prior to the day's assassinations: sorting through the filing cabinets in the copier room while Vortex tidied up a portion of her paperwork with Ember.

That is, until a searing pain just above her forehead cut through her nonchalant state, one so strong that it instantaneously sent her to her knees.

"Bloomin' shit!" Heather hissed through gritted teeth, her fingers instinctively curling into fists.

The hellcat emitted a shaky exhale, unfurling her hands and pressing them against the floor. She silently hoped that the horrible sensation was a simple migraine, although that likely wasn't the case, as migraines tended to be much less painful than what she had just experienced. It couldn't have been a concussion, either; Heather hadn't done anything that could have caused one, neither at work nor at home.

Much to her chagrin, the site of the sharp stinging throbbed once again, but much harder than before. She emitted another hiss, cursing under her breath loud enough that she could be heard from the lounge, where Moxxie and Millie were taking their break.

"Sweetie, did you hear somethin'?" Millie prompted her husband, sliding off the couch and rising to her feet worriedly.

"Yeah, I think so," Moxxie concurred, narrowing his bright yellow eyes curiously, "I'm glad I'm not the only one. Even if Loona was paying attention, I doubt she would agreed with me. Not because she doesn't care, just out of spite."

Both imps turned towards the receptionist desk, where Loona was texting on her phone whilst lightly bobbing her head to one of Verosika Mayday's songs, which she was playing in her earbuds. Moxxie rolled his eyes at his hellhound coworker, shaking his head disapprovingly. Just then, a much louder agonized growl sounded from the neighboring corridor, one that Millie found all too familiar, which sent her heart into a state of anxious overdrive.

"Shit, that was Heather!" she gasped, making a beeline for the hallway, "Hang in there, hun, we're comin'!"

"Millie, wait up!" Moxxie called after her, darting after her in concern.

The pair wove their way from room to room, frantically searching each for Heather. At last, they reached the copier room, where they paused in the doorway, their eyes stretching wider than dinner plates at what they encountered.

Heather was kneeling in front of the printer with her eyes reverted into their chaotic mode, shaking like a leaf, while tiny streams of blood flowed down her face. Droplets of the thick black liquid began to drip onto the carpet, in which she was digging her claws, gripping hunks of the fabric as though her life depended on it. Amidst it all, Millie managed to spot the most concerning aspect of the scene, her jaw dropping at the sight of it: a pair of sharp, hot pink nubs protruded from either side of her best friend's head.

"Oh no...it's happenin' now?!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"What do you mean we have to reschedule?!" Blitzo growled into his hellphone, pacing the floor of his office, "Listen, Stolas, I'm working my ass off right now, okay? I already have five fucking kills to get to tonight, plus 29 clients on backorder!"

"I understand that, Blitz," Stolas explained, a noticeable and unusual edge to his voice, "but now really isn't the time—"

A startling, guttural cry of pain on the other line cut the prince short, silencing even Blitzo, whose lanky tail shot straight up at the disturbing sound. It was reminiscent of the anguished shouts of a woman in labor, all the more reason why the imp was caught off guard.

"What the hell was that?!"

"It's alright, Locke," Stolas's reassuring voice could be heard on the other end of the line, his tone as delicately soft as a silk bedsheet, "I'm right here. You're doing so well, just keep breathing! In and out..."

"Locke?" Blitzo frowned at nothing in particular, putting two and two together, "Wait...he's the one who screamed? What in dick's fuck is going on?!"

"No time to explain," the owl demon responded, albeit hurriedly and apologetically, "we'll have to negotiate an alternative meeting date at a later time. Locke is in a lot of pain, and he needs me. I don't know how long this could take."

"That doesn't answer my question!" Blitzo snapped, hearing Stolas hang up, "How long what could take? Hello?!"

The imp sighed in annoyance, pinching the bridge of his nose as he ended the call.

"Well, that's just great..."

Before Blitzo could even begin to collect his thoughts on the whole situation, the door to his office flew open, revealing a very anxious Moxxie.

"Goddamn it, Moxxie!" Blitzo groaned, rolling his eyes, "You're damn lucky you didn't ruin my horse poster. What could you possibly be so freaked out about five minutes before we go to the living world?"

"B-but sir!" the imp in his doorway stammered, "It's an emergency!"

"Does it have something to do with your baby dick?"

"Sir, this is serious!" Moxxie protested, glaring at his boss.

"Well, alright, Mox," Blitzo shrugged with a smirk, "what's got you all worked up this time? Did you see a spider in the bathroom or something?"

"Wha—no!" Moxxie explained, jutting his pointer finger towards the hallway, "Something's wrong with Heather. Millie said I should warn you about 'a fallen angel rising'..."

At the mention of the phrase, Blitzo's smug expression dropped right off his face, his heart practically skipping a beat.

A fallen angel rising.

Of course. That would explain why Stolas had cancelled their full moon rendezvous. He had wanted to be there for Locke during the same inevitably excruciating experience.

"A fallen angel rising" was the secret code that Blitzo, Millie, and Heather had agreed upon, which denoted the latter's transition to her final form. In other words, when one of the three so much as uttered the phrase, it meant that Heather was in the process of sprouting her Goetic demon appendages.

It's because my mother is a species of Ars Goetia. Even if I was born a hellcat, like my dad, I'm still a halfblood. I'll grow my appendages later on because I wasn't born with them. Penny and Locke will, too.

Sure enough, both of Heather's siblings already had. Blitzo remembered Heather informing him about Penny's transformation; the hellcat's older sister had sprouted hers about a month prior. As for Locke, well, it was obviously a work in progress. Which probably explained a lot, based on what else Blitzo been told about the process.

Because Locke and I are twins, we might experience it around the same time. But it could still vary, at least by a few minutes, because Locke is the older one. Either way, the whole process could either be as painful as childbirth and last for an hour at most...or it could be very mild and happen gradually. I've heard that if the latter's the case, it's like a Hell hog piglet growing its tusks; you don't even notice anything is happening unless someone points it out.

Blitzo grimaced at the memory, hoping to high Hell that Heather's Goetia parts wouldn't cause her much pain. Unfortunately, based on Moxxie's panicked entrance, it was clear that it would. Knowing this, the tall, lanky imp shoved past his employee almost mindlessly, sprinting past his daughter at reception and darting down the hallway.

A series of pained cries hit his eardrums; Heather's cries, which nearly sent Blitzo into a full-on panic as they drew nearer and nearer. Eventually, he skidded to a halt in front of the copier room, where he found Heather lying on the carpet in a fetal position. Tears brimmed her pale green eyes as her body was wracked with yet another agonized spasm, earning a faint whimper from the hellcat.

Kneeling behind her was a visibly concerned Millie, who had somehow suppressing her anxieties about the situation enough to maintain a somewhat calm approach to it. Utilizing a hand towel that she'd snatched from the kitchen sink, she acted quickly, dabbing away the remnants of blood surrounding Heather's hot pint horn nubs. The appendages in question had grown about an inch since Moxxie had last been in the room, revealing that both were pointing slightly outward towards her ears.

There's usually only bleeding involved if you're undergoing the hour-or-less growth rate. Otherwise, since the process is slower, the force of it isn't intense enough to break the skin entirely. That being said, if you do bleed, you only do so when the appendages first sprout. It's important to clean yourself up as soon as possible; if you lose too much blood, you could risk one of your seven lives.

"I'm gonna need you to lie down, sweetie," Millie instructed, coaxing Heather's trembling form to the floor, "it'll be safer that way."

Millie acknowledged Blitzo's presence with a wave, encouraging him to approach. He quietly obeyed, kneeling in front of the red tabby hellcat, left at a near loss for words at what he was witnessing. Someone might as well have waltzed into the room and ripped Blitzo's heart clean out right then and there; seeing Heather cower at his knees in so much pain and legitimate fear nearly had the same effect on him.

"Hey, Aussiecat," Blitzo greeted softly, attempting to imitate the soothing tone that he'd heard Stolas assuring Locke with over the phone, although a fleck of his playful personality was still very much present.

"B—ah—Blitz..." Heather stammered, her gaze flooded with tears.

"There you go," Blitzo nodded, gingerly stroking Heather's cheek fur with his thumb, "yep, it's me. You're really strong, you know that? If this shit were happening to me, I'd probably have a goddamn conniption."

Heather managed a faint chuckle, although another, more intense wave of pain washed over her before she could fully enjoy her friend's comment. She clenched her jaw to prevent herself from screaming as the nubs protruding from her head slowly emerged by another centimeter, emitting a sharp exhale when the growth had paused. She subconsciously inched closer to Blitzo, pressing her cheek against his right thigh with a jaded grunt. Not long after, Moxxie appeared in the doorway, briefly skimming over the scene before speaking.

"Sir, Loona is ready to open the portal. We have to go now."

"What the hell, right now?" Blitzo peered over his shoulder at him, "Seriously, Moxxie? Do you not see what's happening here?!"

"Oh, Mox," Millie glanced over at her husband with puppy dog eyes, "we can't just leave her! What if somethin' happens while we're out killin'?"

"Sorry, honey," Moxxie admitted, "I'm just as worried as you are, but we need to get these kills in before Monday if we want to stay on schedule."

Before Blitzo could even begin to contemplate what to do, Heather exhaled a heart-wrenching whimper, managing to drape her arms over the imp's lap. Blitzo winced at the sound, gazing down at her in deep concern. Sure, the assassinations were important, but he couldn't bring himself to leave Heather's side. Not when she was like this. As if that wasn't already enough to convince him, what the hellcat said next definitely did him in.

"Stay..." Heather begged him in almost a whisper, "please..."

"Don't worry," Blitzo assured her, giving her right hand a gentle squeeze. "I'm not going anywhere. I promise."

He turned back to his employees, accepting the hand towel from Millie.

"You guys can go ahead without me. I'm staying with Heather."

"What?!" Moxxie gasped, "But sir—"

"You can take Connie with you," Blitzo cut him off, "she still has enough assassination experience for the both of us."

"What about you?" Millie prompted, joining her husband in the doorway.

"What about me?" Blitzo scoffed, "I'll be fine. You're not the only one who knows how to handle this. Now hurry up with those assassinations! We don't have all night!"

The imp couple simultaneously exchanged a silent nod with their boss, turning tail and scurrying out of the room to find Connie. Alone with Heather, Blitzo took a deep breath, mentally and emotionally preparing himself for what was to come.

By now, Heather's horns had become more than simple nubs; they now measured about two inches in length, their diameter only thickening as they continued to grow. Thankfully, the bleeding had stopped, but Blitzo knew that once the next set of appendages sprouted from her fur, he would need the hand towel that Millie had left him. Until then, he concentrated on reassuring Heather, running his widely-proportioned hands over her back in soothing circles.

"B-Blitz?" Heather stammered, peering up at her boss through her tears, "How am I doing? W—ngh—what's going on up there?"

"Well, your horns are growing in," Blitzo replied, as calmly as demonly possible, "I'd say they're about halfway done. You're doing great, okay? Just keep hanging in there."

"How long has it b-been?"

"Ah, about 10 minutes," Blitzo shrugged his shoulders.

"Ugh..." Heather groaned, "it feels like forever...I know Penny said this was gonna hurt like a bitch, but this is just—"

She cut herself off with an agonizing wail, clinging to Blitzo's thigh for dear life as her horns forced themselves out by another inch, revealing a beautiful, smooth curve in their structure.

"Bloody fucking Hell!" she screamed through her sobs, "Make it stop!"

"Fuck, Heather..." was all Blitzo managed to say, "I'm sorry, I wish I could...do you need me to get something for you? Anything?"

"Sh—agh—shit! Okay, uh...d-do we have any pillows?"

"Yeah," Blitzo nodded, "there's some on the couches. Want me to get Spirit Jr., too? He's super soft and cuddly~"

"Mmm...okay," Heather managed an exhausted smile, propping herself up against her best friend's knees.

"Alright, my office is right down the hall," the imp explained, gently lowering Heather's body to the floor before departing, "I'll be right back, okay? Stay right there."

"H-hurry!" Heather called after him, her body wracked by another spasm, "I think my horns are growing again!"

Beads of sweat were forming on the hellcat's forehead with each strain, but she was too preoccupied with the throbbing in her body to notice. Just as Blitzo had predicted, she was nearing the halfway mark of her Goetia transformation. Thank Satan.

"I'm back!" Blitzo shouted, sprinting back into the room with both a pillow and his plush horse tucked under both of his arms, "I got the stuff. How're you holding up?"

"F-fine, I guess," Heather exhaled sharply, allowing her head to be lifted onto the cushion atop Blitzo's lap, "thanks. I know I'm probably acting pretty damn insane right now—"

"Insane? Are you kidding?" Blitzo shot her a playful smirk, "Heather, have you seen me when I'm drunk at a wild party? I'm probably way worse."

"Heh, I guess," Heather chuckled weakly, leaning closer to him.

"So...I know this whole thing sucks ass," Blitzo pointed out, "but hey, at least you're getting some badass horns out of it! I think that's pretty cool."

"I hope I get pretty horns like yours..." the hellcat half-muttered, stroking Spirit Jr.'s soft brown mane, "we could be horn buds."

"Horn buds," Blitzo mused, "huh...wait, you think my horns are pretty?"

He didn't get his answer, because before Heather could reply, she was interrupted by yet another scream-inducing sting, which, at long last, propelled the remainder of her horns from her head. Now fully-grown, the hot pink structures rose just above the tips of Heather's ears, shimmering below the lights in the ceiling.

Unfortunately, Blitzo and Heather didn't get to enjoy the sight of them for long, because almost immediately after the hellcat's horns had sprouted, a searing pain began to radiate just below both of her shoulders. Within 30 seconds of intense agony, two smooth, bright pink bumps appeared, bringing with them a second burst of blood.

If you thought horn growth was the longest part, unfortunately, you were dead wrong. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Your wings tend to take twice as long to grow in, and rightfully so, because they're much bigger. In fact, they're supposed to be about knee-length when they're fully grown. Thankfully, I can retract them when they're not in use, so they won't get in the way at any other given time. Anyway, when they first sprout, it'll be just as painful—if not more—than when my horns first sprouted.

The good news? Heather was only about as tall as Blitzo, so the process wouldn't take as long for her as it would for, say, someone of Stolas's height. The bad news? Heather would likely have to endure her excruciating pain for yet another half hour.

"Christ on a stick," Blitzo remarked, using the hand towel to one again clean away the black liquid, "that has to be one of the most ludicrous things I've ever witnessed."

"Yeah, imagine what it feels like to be the one growing them!" Heather snarled.

"Don't worry," the imp reassured her, offering the hellcat his hand, "you're almost done. It'll be over soon, and you'll never have to go through this again. Well, unless you wanna have kids."

"Yeah, right," Heather grunted, "after this? No fucking—ahhh!"

She clutched Blitzo's hand like her life depended on it as the throbbing bumps below her shoulders emerged even further, inch by searing inch, revealing that her wings bore a divinely pink hue. Blitzo was so awestruck by what he could see of the appendages that he barely registered Heather's crushing grip on his hand.

That is, until he heard her sobbing even harder than before, sweating buckets from her uncontrollable straining. Finally snapping out of his trance, Blitzo snagged the nearby hand towel, dabbing at Heather's perspiration-soaked forehead in an attempt to provide her with some temporary relief.

The imp winced as Heather whimpered weakly, collapsing atop his knees on her stomach. The minutes were ticking by like glaciers, almost as though prolonging every inch of the poor hellcat's wing growth, and by extension, her suffering. Blitzo hated everything about the whole process, and watching his best friend grapple with the pain was so difficult that at times, he couldn't bring himself to watch.

The Ars Goetia were supposed to be among the alleged most powerful demons in Hell, weren't they? Of course, one might expect that from a multitude of species who possessed capabilities and power that surpassed the comprehension of just about any denizen in a lower class, including overlords. So why would growing appendages of the same variety of your Goetic demon mother be this painful?

Satan, the universe could be a real bitch at times. And that being the case, Heather's current situation was definitely one of them.

Eventually, before she knew it, Heather's wings were almost entirely sprouted. She and Blitzo were impatiently awaiting the arrival of the remnants of her scapulars, which were still in the process of emerging from her back. However, her wings wouldn't reveal themselves to the world all that easily. Clearly, they wouldn't be budging without a fight.

"Alright," Blitzo encouraged the hellcat, massaging her shoulders in an attempt to speed up the process, "just a little more, okay? You've got this!"

"You—ngh—you've been saying that for 20 minutes!"

"I know, I know," her boss cooed, "but I really mean it this time! You're so close!"

Sure enough, with a final, valiant cry of exertion, both appendages were out. Heather sighed in relief, still reeling from the experience as she shakily propped herself up with her elbows. At long last, after just under an hour of agonizing physical effort and pain endurance, her Goetic demon horns and wings were fully-grown and ready for display.

And Lucifer, what a display it was.

The moment Heather spread her wings for the very first time, Blitzo's entire world felt as though it had stopped right then and there. He was absolutely floored by everything about them; the smooth, plush feathers, the brilliant sheen, the beautiful light pink heart and diamond pattern along their coverts, everything. To him, that wingspan put all of Heaven to shame.

If only those bigoted cherubs could see Heather now.

"...Sweet Satan," Blitzo observed in almost a whisper, gingerly tracing the surface of Heather's left horn with his pointer finger, "they're absolutely gorgeous, Heather! Holy shit, look at them! Look at you!"

He slowly moved his hand over to the adjacent wing, smoothing over her feathers. Although a little ruffled from their rough sprouting, they were delicately soft to the touch, silkier than even those of a Hell dove. Though he'd never touched an exorcist's pinions before, and likely never would, he guessed that they possessed a similar texture.

"So..." Heather chuckled, nervously fidgeting with her hem of her crop top, "you're not...this doesn't turn you off at all?"

"What? Never!" Blitzo grinned, although his expression began to fade as soon as he caught wind of the hellcat's shift in mood, "Hey...hey, what's wrong? You don't like your fancy new stuff?"

"No, no," Heather explained, shaking her head, "it's not that. It's just...what is everyone else gonna think when they have to see me like this every day? Moxxie and Millie, Loona, Connie, Tex, Ember...you?"

"Hey, hey. Look me in the eye."

The red tabby hellcat did as directed, tearing her pale green gaze away from the carpet to meet Blitzo's. He smiled back at her fondly, caressing her mascara-smudged cheeks with his thumbs.

"How long have we worked together, Heather?" he prompted, "Not just you and me, but everyone at I.M.P as a whole."

"I mean...Vortex just started working for me," Heather sighed, self-consciously retracting her wings into her back, "and Ember's only been an employee here for a few months now—"

"Okay, well," Blitzo waved her off, "they don't count, then. Besides, if either of them act up, I can just fire them! Well, I mean, I can fire Ember, you'd have to fire Vortex—"

"Blitz..."

"Alright, alright," the imp continued, "anyway, what about everyone else? How long have you been working with the people who've been here from the start?"

"Well, when you put it like that," Heather admitted, "a long time. Long enough that we all kind of understand each other, even if things get a little chaotic between us."

"Exactly," Blitzo pointed out, "Heather, I know these guys as well as you do. They would never see you any differently, and neither would I. You're still the same sweet, sassy, Aussie equestrian we all know and love. It's just that now, you have badass wings."

"And horns," Heather added with a playful smirk, finally feeling like herself again.

"And horns," repeated Blitzo, nodding and hugging her closer to him, "still badass. Can't forget about those lil' bitches."

"Hey, Blitz?" Heather intrigued, pulling away first.

"Hmm—?"

The imp's already-crimson face grew even redder as Heather planted a brief kiss on his forehead, right on the black heart-like emblem preceding his horns. He continued to gawk at her even after she pulled away, the thumping in his chest faster than ever before.

"Thank you," Heather purred, "for always being there for me. Especially today. I couldn't have made it through that hellish experience without you."

"I-I, oh, uh..." Blitzo stammered, his mouth curling into the most idiotically elated grin to ever exist, "n-no problem, Heather. Haha."

"I'll make sure to return the favor," the hellcat winked, carefully rising to her feet, "now...I'm gonna go back to my office and nap for a million years. Can I use one of my off-days for that?"

"Oh, pfft," Blitzo chuckled, still positively smitten, "don't even fucking worry about it. I'll come get you when it's time to leave. See ya later~"

"G'day, mate~" Heather mused, striding towards the door.

Her long, fluffy tail glided beneath Blitzo's chin as she departed, leaving him just as flustered—if not more—than before she'd left. As soon as Heather was out of sight, the imp practically leapt to his feet like an excited little boy, his entire tail curving to form one massive heart as he found himself on the verge of ecstatic tears.

Clearly, he was making progress with his crush; it was moments like this that convinced him of the wild possibility that his feelings weren't so one-sided after all. It seemed like every day, he found himself closer and closer to confessing. All the right hints were there, so what was stopping him now? All he had to do was wait for the right moment.

She kissed me! Heather Barlowe just fucking KISSED ME! Christ on a stick, there IS a God!

Who would've thought that a fallen angel rising would've given Blitzo his own little version of Heaven in Hell?

Chapter Text

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a commission! All artwork shown belongs to cosetteanime on Instagram! Any other postings of this image by an individual other than them or me, unless otherwise announced, should be considered art theft.

 

Chapter Text

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a commission! All artwork shown belongs to montysdrawz on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube! Any other postings of this image by an individual other than them or me, unless otherwise announced, should be considered art theft.

 

Chapter Text

"Remind me again why we're hiding in a human waste disposal bin, sir?"

Moxxie shifted uncomfortably in his seat atop a full trash bag, exchanging glances with his wife mid-inquiry, although Millie didn't seem to mind the filthiness of the atmosphere. But that was to be expected, considering that she was, quite literally, raised in a barn.

"Because we're still waiting for Heather and her hellhound to give us the all-clear," Blitzo half-whispered, clambering over to him covered in miscellaneous bits of garbage, "now shh! Remember, we can't be seen."

"Pardon my word, sir," Moxxie remarked in a much more hushed tone, "but you're currently being the loudest."

"I said shhhush your dick-sucking lips, Moxxie," Blitzo hissed, poking at the aforementioned imp's mouth.

Moxxie scrambled to shove him away, recoiling in disgust at the sight of the used condom dangling on his boss's pointer finger. Blitzo followed his gaze to the sexual paraphernalia, rolling his eyes with a scoff and flicking it away.

It wasn't until he heard the dumpster lid opening that he paid any mind to his appearance, shaking the remnants of trash from his body and smoothing out his coat. Even if the imps were literally hiding in the garbage, Blitzo wasn't about to look unpresentable to anyone, especially Heather. Sure enough, there she was, along with a human Vortex, who helped her gingerly prop the bin's lid against the adjacent building. 

"Alright, mates," Heather affirmed, descending to peer over the side, "the coast is clear."

"Great!" Millie nodded enthusiastically, albeit mindful of her volume as she emerged from the garbage bin, dragging her husband along with her, "Let's move out! C'mon, Mox!"

Blitzo watched as they departed alongside the hulking hellhound-in-disguise, but stayed firmly rooted into place, admiring Heather's silhouetted form against the moon. Despite the changes that the hellcat-Goetia hybrid's transformation had brought to her body and life, it was as though nothing about Blitzo's feelings for her had changed. In fact, it seemed like they were only getting stronger, if that was at all possible.

To him, Heather was still the same slice of Heaven with a wild side, and with the exception of her newfound abilities, he wouldn't have her any other way.

"Wow, you work fast," Blitzo mused, absentmindedly crawling over to charmingly lean on the dumpster's edge, "you know, I really should give you a promotion sometime~"

"Oh, pfft," Heather chuckled, smiling back at him, "now you're just flattering me! I wasn't any different today than I am any other day."

"Which is still badass as f—agh!"

Before he could finish his compliment, Blitzo lost his grip on the railing, flinching at the thought of colliding face-first with the pavement. However, at the last second, he felt a strong pair of hands cradle his back, breaking his fall.

The imp cautiously pried open an eye, the other snapping open as he found himself face-to-face with Heather. From where she stood, it almost appeared as though she was dipping him, sending a rush of heat coursing through his veins, flowing into his already-crimson cheeks and staining them an even deeper shade of red.

Satan, he felt like a dumbass. Sure, Blitzo had heard of falling head-over-heels in love, but this was just ridiculous. Heather, however, was more sympathetic, helping him back to his feet with a sheepish smile and a gentle laugh. Had Blitzo not been left in a smitten stupor by her reaction to his blunder, he swore his heart would've combusted right then and there. Sweet Satan, why did Heather have to be so damn obliviously cute all the time?

Wait...was she blushing, too?

"Nice reflexes," Blitzo flashed the halfblooded hellcat a half-smitten smirk, resisting the urge to slap himself for allowing himself to utter such a boneheaded comment.

"Heh, thanks," Heather chuckled sheepishly, "I guess that's just the true blue in me. You okay?"

"Miss Barlowe, I texted Loona to let her know we're ready. The portal should be opening soon..."

Blitzo hardly had time to respond before his train of thought was interrupted by Vortex's deep, chocolate-smooth voice. There was a vibrant red flash, and in an instant, the grimoire's portal back to Hell appeared, revealing that Loona, Connie, and Ember were awaiting the group's arrival on the other side.

"Which apparently is right now," Heather concluded, nodding up at Vortex gratefully, "much obliged, Tex. Oh, and you can call me Heather, if you want. I don't mind having a casual relationship with you."

"Phew, that's a relief," he chuckled, transforming back into his hellhound self, "sorry, just a force of habit. Verosika lived for the whole high-and-mighty thing. It sucked, buuut...you know. Do what you gotta do so you and your girlfriend can buy pizza bagels."

"Wackadoo, I love pizza bagels!" Heather beamed.

"Fuck, really?!" Blitzo added, "I love those 'lil bitches too!"

"Ah, yeah," Heather nodded, "that's the good shit. Alright, Tex, you can head back. I'll be there in a minute."

Vortex nodded, sauntering away from his boss. Shortly thereafter, Moxxie and Millie followed suit, holding hands as they hopped through the portal and into the reception area. From her position, Heather could just make out Ember's able-bodied frame propped up on one of the couches. The silver hellhound's face lit up as soon as her boyfriend draped his well-muscled arms over the furniture, prompting the two to affectionately touch noses. Meanwhile, Loona and Connie talked and laughed in the foreground, the former holding the grimoire in her left hand whilst holding Connie's in the other.

Wait a minute.

Loona and Connie were holding hands?

The revelation shocked Heather to the core, although judging by the pair's behavior towards each other ever since the Harvest Moon Festival, added to the fact that whenever Connie was around, Loona's phone was nowhere to be seen—Connie, and only Connie, had her full attention—she probably should've seen this coming from a mile away. Regardless, it was truly a sight to behold, and Heather shook her head in amusement. Apparently, she owed Millie five bucks.

Unfortunately, she was so entrapped in her state of smug observation that she failed to register the sound of a weapon behind deployed behind her. 

"Get down!"

Blitzo's warning shout nearly scared her shitless, and she shrieked in surprise as she felt herself being shoved out of harm's way. Before she could even begin to process what was happening, her coworker's lanky body protectively positioned itself over her, glaring at their attacker with a fiercely protective glint in his glowing red eyes.

The sound of a gun cocking finally reached Heather's eardrums, and she cautiously peered out from beneath Blitzo to find a tuxedoed brunette aiming what appeared to be a steel-netted trap launcher directly at them, blocking the other end of the alleyway to prevent them from escaping. As if matters couldn't get any worse, when the pair attempted to make a beeline for the portal, a blonde woman descended from a rope tied to the roof of the adjacent building, blocking their path.

"Loona!" Blitzo ordered, panic lacing his tone as he looked his adopted daughter directly in the eye, "Close it!"

"Wait, no!" Millie protested, a look of sheer horror crossing her face as the receptionist did as she was told, much to the dismay of everyone behind the portal, "Heather!"

"Millie!" Heather gasped, her hand instinctively outstretched towards her.

But by then, the deed was already done, and the portal dissipated, leaving Blitzo and Heather stranded in the alleyway to fend for themselves. The hellcat-Goetia hybrid's forced separation from her best friend ignited a flame of rage somewhere deep inside of her, and she immediately sprang into action, roundhouse-kicking the female agent in the face. Heather's quick thinking allotted her enough time to make a hasty getaway down the neighboring alleyway, taking Blitzo by the wrist and dragging him along with her, both humans in hot pursuit behind them.

"Wait, why can't you just fly?!" Blitzo prompted hurriedly, sprinting as fast as demonly possible to keep up with her.

"Does it matter?!" Heather furrowed her brow self-consciously, "Are we just gonna ignore the fact that we're being chased by a pair of deranged government lunatics?!"

"That's exactly why it matters! Why, is something wrong?!"

"No, it's just..." Heather exhaled sharply, her feet pounding against the pavement, "it's because my wings are still a work in progress. I've been a little too preoccupied to learn how to use them, with all the new clients and my upcoming family vacation and everything else going on around here. Sure, things have been a little easier with Vortex helping out, but still...balancing my personal life with the whole Goetia thing has been a chaotic time for me."

Unfortunately, that was when the two encountered a dead end, and at the worst possible time. The armed humans had finally caught up to them, and wasted no time in cornering their hellborn targets, guns poised to shoot. Heather hissed, her eyes transitioning into chaotic mode as she threateningly brandished her claws. Simultaneously, Blitzo whipped out his flintlock, cocking it and aiming directly between the female agent's eyes.

"Back off," he growled, instinctively positioning his pointer finger over the trigger, "you tuxedo-wearing fucks!"

Either it was opposite day, or the blonde and brunette had a bone to pick with their demon targets, although the latter was more likely, judging by the malicious smirks on their faces. But Blitzo and Heather stood their ground, their threatening stances never wavering, even if they were staring into the face of danger.

That is, until the male agent loaded his rifle, and the whirring of an impending electrical current radiated from deep within its base. All it took was one press of a hidden button to release the rampant surge, mercilessly zapping both the imp and Goetic demon hybrid in front of him. The sheer force of the shock sent even Heather to her knees, writhing in agony.

"I'd like to see the suits at corporate callin' us losers now!" the male chuckled darkly, turning to his partner with a victorious smirk, "That was pretty badass."

"Super badass," she beamed, posing excitably with her rifle in hand.

The last thing Heather saw was the sedated body of the imp beside her, the ghost of his name dying on her lips as she faded out of consciousness.

"Blitz..."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"No! No no no no!"

Millie screamed at the top of her lungs, battering the empty wall where the portal once was with her fist. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes, threatening to overflow with each punch, but she didn't care. She'd gone completely feral at the prospect of her boss and best friend's kidnapping, unwilling to accept that her best friend wasn't here, right now, safe in the office. The rest of her coworkers looked on in a mix of horror and empathy, unsure as to what they could possibly say or do to improve the situation.

Clearly, Millie was still too distraught to register anything around her, pupils narrowed into furious slits as she continued to relentlessly pummel the wall, as if somehow, it would miraculously open the portal and lead her back to Heather. Of course, deep down, she knew that it would never happen, which only fueled her frustration in the heat of the moment.

One look at Millie's face told Connie everything she needed to know, and way more than she ever wanted to. Seeing her coworker, her friend, in such anguish made Connie's blood run cold. She couldn't just stand by and watch this. Not after all the times Millie had been there when she needed it.

"Millie," Connie addressed her softly, approaching her from the side.

Her coworker's animalistic shouts drowned out her voice, and she continued to assault the wall with an undying fervor. It absolutely broke Connie's heart to watch, but she pressed on, wanting more than anything for this horrible situation to end.

"Millie!" she repeated, much louder this time.

Millie's punches began to slow, but she still couldn't bring herself to stop. She was too frustrated and angry to think straight. Realizing this, Connie gripped the imp's shoulders, attempting to turn her away from the wall by force. Millie grunted in protest, resisting her grip. The gravity of the situation was starting to settle in, but it was obvious that she wasn't giving in without a fight.

"Millie!"

At last, with a sudden burst of vexation, Connie managed to get Millie to look at her. In any other given circumstance, she would've admittedly taken off running at the sight of primal anger in her eyes, but not today. Today, she would be the one putting on a brave face, although her light blue eyes bore anything but fierceness.

In fact, the raw concern radiating from her gaze was slowly beginning to counteract the fire burning in Millie's inflated irises. She stared back at Connie with perhaps the most vulnerable face she'd ever seen from her, one that might as well have driven an icy pick in the center of her heart, while the rest of their coworkers watched on the sidelines. Even Loona was left speechless by what she was witnessing.

And that was all it took for the floodgates to burst open. Millie practically tackled the lynx-point hellcat into a hug, wrapping her arms around her midsection and burying herself in her chest, her small frame quivering in the embrace. Fat, heated tears spilled over her cheeks in droves, soaking her face—and Connie's shirt—and leaving messy black streaks of mascara in their wake.

"Shit!" Millie sobbed, "Shit, shit, shit! Agh! Shit!"

"Oh, honey..." Moxxie sighed, kneeling next to Millie to offer her a side-hug, "I'm so sorry. This is my fault, I-I should've done a headcount before we headed back here."

"No, baby..." Millie shook her head, "no. It's mine. I was the one who didn't make it back to them in time."

"You, uh..." Loona inquired cautiously, for once doing away with her indifference for the sake of her coworkers, "you okay there, Millie?"

Judging by Millie's menacing glare, she'd spoken too soon. The imp twisted herself free from Moxxie and Connie's grasp, fiery intensity flowing back into her eyes as she shot back to her feet to confront the rest of the group.

"What're y'all doin' just sittin' there?!" Millie snapped, motioning to the grimoire in Loona's hands, "Blitz and Heather are in trouble! Loona, open it again!"

"Wait, wait, wait," Ember interjected, "shouldn't we talk about this first? I mean, you saw those guys, right? They're armed and definitely dangerous."

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to agree with Ember on this one," Vortex nodded concurrently, "we shouldn't jump into this unprepared. Don't get me wrong, girl, I wanna save my boss as much as the rest of you wanna save yours, but we should at least have a plan."

"There's no time!" Millie objected, "Satan knows what those assholes are doin' to 'em! We gotta go back now!"

"Blitz was using a total of zero euphemisms, innuendos, or swears," Loona explained matter-of-factly, "that means it was serious, which means I don't use the book until—"

Not the wisest choice of words on her part, even if she was technically in the right. Clearly, Millie was done messing around. She shot forward, snagging a fistful of the hellhound's crop top and yanking her down to her eye level to repeat herself even more vehemently.

"Open the fuckin' portal NOW!"

"That's enough, all of you!" Connie scolded, forcing herself between the two, "Listen, I understand that some crazy shit just happened and everyone's on edge, but tearing each other apart isn't gonna get Blitz and Heather back! So for the love of Satan, put your differences aside, pull it together, and act like adults!"

"Goddamn it..." Millie sighed, "you're right. We're just wastin' more time that we could've spent gettin' our asses back there and rippin' those demon-nappin' fuckers' arms off!"

"So what's the plan?" Vortex prompted, "Do you guys have an emergency procedure for these kinds of situations or...something?

"Actually, we have several," Moxxie pointed out.

"Yeah, but Heather's the safety officer," Connie admitted, "and she's the one with all the emergency codes and operations, so..."

"So you're saying this whole operation is basically fucked," Ember deadpanned.

"Not necessarily," interjected the weapons specialist, "I think you'll all be happy to know that we're not fucked, because there's an emergency bag of various weapons for every two people in this office."

"Wait, we have emergency bags?" Loona raised an eyebrow at him, "Since when?"

"Ugh, seriously?" Moxxie facepalmed, "Am I the only one who pays any attention during the business park's annual workplace safety meetings? Haven't you guys learned anything from the fire drill incident?"

"That this building isn't up to code and we'll all probably die anyway if there's a real fire?" Connie commentated.

"That's—" Moxxie paused, mulling over the statement, "oh. Y-you know what, that's actually a good point."

The rest of the group murmured in agreement, exchanging nonchalant nods.

"Okay, we're gettin' off-topic again!" Millie interrupted, "Can we please get back to the emergency bags? Where do we keep those?"

"Oh, right," Moxxie continued, "well, there's one at reception, one in the conference room, one in Heather's office, and one in the weapon room. That last one is in the compartment next to the rifle display. But we need a key to get into Heather's office..."

"Leave that to me," Vortex offered, digging into his torn shorts and revealing a small keychain, the key in question having a Hell horse decal on the end, "she gave me copies of all her keys for business purposes. Side note, the little horse charm is actually kinda fire."

"Your dad would lose his shit over that," Connie snickered, gently nudging Loona's shoulder.

"Knowing him?" Loona mused, "He probably already has."

"Oh, thank Satan!" Millie sighed in relief, "I can't believe I used to poke fun at her for bein' the mom friend. Guess you never know what you have 'till it's been stolen from you by a couple'a good-for-nothin' human dickheads..."

"Well, they won't have them for much longer," Moxxie promised, taking his wife by the hand and gently tugging her down the hallway, "not on this company's watch."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

A few minutes later, the group reconvened at reception, having uncovered and double-checked all four emergency bags (all of which were embellished by various horse doodles, obviously Blitzo's doing). Since the imps were the smallest members of the rescue effort, Loona, Connie, Vortex, and Ember were tasked with wearing the backpacks of supplies, while Moxxie and Millie each carried their weapons of choice on hand.

Now, all that was left was for the capable I.M.P employees to transform into their human disguises. Loona and Vortex, of course, were able to do so with relative ease, already having knowledge of the inner workings of the process from prior experiences. Connie, however, watched them like a deer in headlights, which sent a clear signal to the rest of her coworkers.

"I'm guessing this is your first time, Connie?" Vortex prompted.

"Wait, do hellcats even have human disguises?" Moxxie added, confused.

"Oh, no, we do!" Connie assured him, "It's just that I've never used mine before. Sorry, I probably should've been more prepared for this, huh?"

"That's okay," Ember approached her, nodding, "I can teach you!"

"Really? Just like that?" the hellcat raised an eyebrow, "Isn't it a little, I don't know...hard?"

"That'swhatshesaid," Loona coughed, hiding a smirk.

"Oh, pfft, you—shut up!" Connie stifled a laugh, eyeing her best friend across the room, "Come on, Loona, aim higher!"

"That's—"

"Nooo," Moxxie cut the hellhound off, jutting a finger in her direction, although his objection only egged her on more.

"—what—"

"No."

"—she—"

"No."

"—said."

"Ahem!" Ember cleared her throat, rolling her eyes at their antics as she returned her attention to Connie, "Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted...human disguises aren't hard to figure out at all. Actually, it's as easy as breathing! Just follow my lead, and you'll be fine. Ready?"

"Okay," Connie agreed, nodding, "yeah, I'm ready."

"Alright, start by thinking about what you wanna do," Ember instructed, "close your eyes, take a deep breath, and reaaally concentrate."

Connie did as she was told, her eyes fluttering shut as she inhaled, simultaneously releasing the breath with the silver hellhound adjacent to her. Consequently, a mystical violet aura flared from the pair's feet, spreading along their thighs, up their arms, and reaching a pinnacle at the peaks of their heads.

The spirited howl of a wolf and a triumphant wildcat's growl pierced the air, and the cocoons of light dispersed, revealing two humans in place of the hellborns, sharing every basic physical characteristic except their fur. Ember pried open her eyes with a proud hum, flipping a strand of burnt red hair over her shoulder as she shot Vortex a side-eye.

"Damn, girl!" he barked out a laugh, "You might've changed forms, but that sass ain't going anywhere. Side note, you're still sexy as hell, baby~"

"You're not too bad yourself, handsome~" Ember winked over her shoulder, her hot pink eyes flitting in admiration once she'd gotten an eyeful of Connie, "heyyy, speaking of 'sexy...'"

Every eye in the room was on Connie, and that was when Loona felt her blood shoot south.

Holy fucking shit.

If Connie had been flustered when she'd seen Loona's human disguise for the first time, then Loona nearly had a nosebleed. As it turned out, the hellcat's second form was even more breathtaking than she could have ever anticipated. Connie now took on the appearance of a young Italian woman with sun-kissed skin, manicured black nails, and long and wavy dark gray hair that cascaded past her shoulders and down to her waist. But most strikingly beautiful of all were her eyes—retaining their brilliant light blue hue, they stood out even against the vast whiteness of her human sclera, sparkling like diamonds.

By now, Connie had caught on to her best friend's flustered expression, her own face flushing over once the hellhound had caught her eye. And then, with a flirtatious brushing of her bangs and the coyest smile imaginable, she recited the exact words that Loona had teased her with during I.M.P's spring break mission, her lighthearted quip saving the receptionist's heart from spontaneously combusting in the process.

"Heh, I'm guessing you like what you see, Loony~?"

"Ha ha, very funny~" Loona smirked, rolling her eyes as she opened the grimoire, tucking it back into her bookbag once the desired spell was cast, "alright, guys, let's move."

The I.M.P employees exchanged a collective nod, emerging from the newly-opened portal and into the same alleyway where they had last seen Blitzo and Heather. However, much to their dismay, the aforementioned imp and Goetic hellcat were nowhere to be found. Even worse, there wasn't a single trace of them or their kidnappers left behind. It was almost as though they had vanished in thin air.

"Whoever those two are," Moxxie remarked, "they sure are good at covering up their tracks."

"They aren't here!" Millie gasped, falling to her knees in desperation, "Ohhh, how are we ever gonna find 'em now?! They could be anywhere!"

Vortex reverted to his hellhound self with a gentle hum, plucking Millie from the ground and settling into a kneeling position. He leaned forward so that his nose was mere inches away from the pavement, giving the stone surface a few experimental sniffs before donning his human disguise once again.

"Mmm...I'm not too familiar with Blitz," he observed, tucking Millie into the emergency bag on his back, "but I know my boss's scent anywhere. Either way, they were both alive when they left here. And judging by the scent, something tells me they went this way."

"They're okay!" Millie nearly sobbed in relief, clutching her axe as Vortex pursued the trail, "Oh, thank Satan!"

"Well, we better hurry if we want them to stay that way," Connie advised, just as the portal fizzled out behind her.

"Agreed," Ember nodded, offering a shoulder to Moxxie, "hey Mox, want a lift?"

"Huh—oh!" the imp hurriedly accepted, clambering up her arm, "Yeah yeah yeah. Please and thank you."

Much to his coworkers' amusement, Moxxie comically lost his balance and dove into the backpack face-first, his tiny legs flailing in the air in an attempt to reposition himself. Ember stifled a laugh, lifting him from the bag and setting him back inside properly before rushing off to catch up to her boyfriend and Millie. Loona and Connie tagged along, the former glancing down at her flirtatiously.

"Want me to carry you, too?" the hellhound teased, "You're the shorter one."

"S-shut up!" Connie giggled, "I am not short! You're just too fucking tall."

"I make a great big spoon, though~"

"Hmm, well," Connie admitted sheepishly, "I wouldn't know that personally, but...I'll take your word for it. I'm not gonna make you carry me, but I know something we can do instead."

She intertwined the hellhound-in-disguise's fingers with her own, enjoying the feeling of her crush's human skin. It was soft and warm, similar to her fur, only smoother. It was almost like hellhound Loona had never left. The receptionist smiled back at her softly, gingerly stroking the back of Connie's thumb.

"This is nice, too," Loona whispered, closing the space between them as they walked, "alright, come on. Let's find the dumbass twins."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

When Heather finally regained consciousness, three things were immediately brought to her attention. Firstly, and most prominently, she was seated in the center of a musty, dimly-lit room, foreign to her in every sense of the word.

Second, she had no way of investigating her surroundings any further, as when she attempted to stand up, she was met with heavy resistance from her shoulders down. At second glance, Heather quickly realized that she had been tied to a chair, and even if she were to flex her claws, her wrists were so restrained by the thick rope that movement was nearly impossible.

And thirdly, she was being gently prodded from behind by a pair of thick, curved horns, one of which nearly got caught in her hair.

Thankfully for Heather, a glance over her shoulder revealed that the aforementioned appendages belonged to Blitzo. But before the Goetic hellcat could express her relief at the discovery, she received a rude awakening in the form of a blinding light being shoved in front of her face.

"Finally awake from your catnap?" the same blonde woman from earlier noted coldly, "Huh, furball? Your owner has been for a while now."

"Bloomin' excuse you?" Heather glared at her, "Does it look like I'm some flaming galah's pet? When was the last time you saw a fucking cat with horns? And not just a cat with horns, a talking cat with horns."

"Oh, so we've got ourselves an Australian here!" the female agent noted, "Hate to break it to ya, Miss Kitty, but I know a bit of slang myself, so don't think you can go and fool us with your fancy talk."

"Heh, yeah?" Heather countered with a smirk, "Well, Miss Kitty is one of the most badass western bitches ever, so thank you. And as for Blitz, I probably shouldn't be surprised. It takes a lot to keep him down."

"She's right, shitbag," Blitzo remarked nonchalantly, kicking one leg over the other, "I took a fuck ton of tranquilizers in the college I dropped out of. Also I've been strapped nipple-first to a car battery."

"Oookayyy..." Heather grimaced, "uh, that's...interesting."

"Yeah, it really was," the imp flashed her a flirtatious grin, "wanna hear more about it?"

"Ummm, yeah, no. Hard pass."

"I swear it wasn't as gross as it sounds," Blitzo continued, "the point is, I've—oh, okay!"

He and Heather squinted as the brunette man on his side gripped the lampshade above them, shining it directly in their eyes and eliciting a hiss of discomfort from the latter.

"Tell us, demon scum," the agent demanded, "who do you work for? Satan?!"

"How did you get to our world from the afterlife?" the female human added, pulling the light to her side of the room.

"Why are youse killing humans?!"

"When did you show up here—?"

"Okay, I'm gonna stop you right there, bitch," Blitzo began, "first of all, we just woke up from a very nasty shock, and I'm still feeling fuckin' woozy. So I'm gonna request you fetch us some coffee before we get into this. I mean, everyone gets coffee in shitty movie scenes like this, right? I want something iced, bitch! Heather?"

"Oh, are we ordering takeaway?" Heather straightened, giving her tail a kittenish flick before turning back to the blonde agent, "Great! I was hoping this place would have room service. Since you already know so much about 'strayas, then this should be easy as."

"Is that a challenge?!"

"It shouldn't be," the tabby snickered, her eyes half-lidded, "I'll have a skinny vanilla flat white. That means one short black at the bottom, not two; the baristas hardly ever get it right unless they're from my hometown, so I just thought I'd specify. I usually order it with full cream, but I wanna mix it up today~"

The humans exchanged exasperated glances as Heather continued to ramble about her order. Blitzo, on the other hand, was nothing short of impressed. Even after all those years of working together, this woman still managed to be full of surprises.

"If your chestnut-sized brains can't handle that, then I'll take a mocha cappuccino, also with one short black. Make sure they use 2% milk; same goes for the foam; and—oh! Could you get them to top it off with a dusting of cocoa powder? That's the good shit. My twin brother thinks I'm crazy for ordering sweet tooth coffees most of the time, but honestly he's the crazy one, because what kind of bloomin' bogan drinks long blacks on a daily—?"

"Enough!" the brunette snapped, "We aren't gettin' youse coffee!"

"Wow, Heather," Blitzo mused, "I didn't know you could be such a coffee snob. Congrats on playing off those massive douche chills~"

"Thanks, mate," she chuckled, shrugging her shoulders, "it feels good to flex the Aussie barista lingo every once in a while. Sometimes, I miss working at a café..."

The duo's captors, however, were less than amused. The woman leaned closer to Heather until their noses were just inches apart, teeth gritted in an attempt to be menacing. As if anything these humans could do would startle a pair of demons who slaughtered their kind for a living.

"If we have to," the blonde threatened, "we are willing to resort to torture methods to get answers outta you nasty Hell beasts!"

"Torture methods?" Heather scoffed, "Oh, sweetie, you must really suck ass at these interrogations. I mean, physical or psychological, they're both notoriously ineffective. You'll never end up with the answers you want, because we'll tell you anything to make it stop. Just stating the obvious."

"Well, either that or we'll like it too much," Blitzo added, "and then you've got a whole new thing to deal with."

"What do you mean by that?" the male agent cocked an eyebrow, confused.

"Ah, you're stupid, huh?" the imp quipped, "I can work with stupid. Daddy likey dummy~"

The humans recoiled in disgust, caught completely off guard by his split-second innuendo, while Heather nearly doubled over laughing in her chair, her feet tapping against the tile floor wildly. Blitzo smirked at his accomplishment, pleasantly surprised by her reaction and, likewise, grateful that his already crimson skin tone had once again saved him from being exposed by his flushed face. 

"Daddy likey dummy?!" Heather managed to articulate, "Oh my Satan, Blitz, that's priceless!"

"Huh, it is, isn't it?" Blitzo mused, much to the annoyance of their interrogators, "Really getting a kick out of that one, aren't you?"

"You better stop laughin' at us!" the blonde agent snapped, stamping her foot in frustration.

"Yeah!" her partner added, gripping Blitzo by the collar of his shirt and yanking him from the floor, "You are the ones at our mercy!"

At that, Heather began sniggering to herself, prompting the woman adjacent to her to shoot a furious glare in her direction.

"What the hell is so funny to you?!" she snapped, "Didn't I just finish tellin' you little shits to knock it off?!"

"I'm sorry, really," Heather stifled a giggle, wiping a laugher-induced tear from her eye with her tail, "'at your mercy,' I can't with that. See, it's just...wouldn't we have to be afraid of you to be at your mercy? I mean, the only thing that's even remotely threatening to me right now is how you two are dressed."

"What's wrong with our uniforms?" the brunette shot back, "What, are they too badass for you? Hmm? Is that it?"

"No no no no," Heather shook her head snidely, "it's just that a Halloween store from the 80s called...and they want their suits back."

If the government employees hadn't been pissed before, then they sure as hell were now, the brunette releasing his hold on Blitzo to sputter in indignance. 

"Whoa! Damn, Heather!" Blitzo beamed, impressed, "Look at you, not pulling any punches! Where'd you learn how to do that, huh?"

"Hmm, I don't know," she flashed him a coy smile over her shoulder, which he smittenly reciprocated, "I guess you could say I learned from the best."

"Oooh, smartasses, eh?!" the male human sneered.

"One more quip outta you two, and we'll shut you up!" his accomplice warned, jutting a finger at the chair-bound Hellborns.

"Oooh, get kinky!" Blitzo wiggled in his ropes, impishly exchanging glances with Heather.

Both agents shrieked, recoiling towards the west wall in disgust at the suggestive comment. Heather couldn't help but laugh at their response. Sure, the I.M.P had had some amusing interactions with humans before, but this entire experience took the cake.

"We aren't playin' any of your vile demon kinks!" the brunette man shouted.

"I mean," Blitzo taunted them from across the room, narrowing his eyes, "that's what it sounded like back there, you sickos."

"Don't go giving them any ideas, Blitz," Heather chuckled, "I think their brains are already stuck between their legs~"

"I'm sure they already have more than enough ideas for the both of us~"

"Ahhh!" the brunette snapped, "We are not gettin' kinky with youse!"

"Calm down, One!" his coworker cautioned, gripping his shoulders to steer him away from Blitzo and Heather, "Don't let these monsters get to you!"

"Heyyy, aren't we gonna get our phone call, bitch?" Blitzo inquired slyly.

"Well that entirely depends," Agent One countered, donning a mockingly childish tone, "who're you gonna call, hmmm?"

"Your brick shithouse of a mom!" Heather interjected smugly, "Begging her to cop a root!"

"Nice try, demon!" the blonde, whom Heather deemed to be Agent Two, retorted, "But it's gonna take more than that to get your Satanic asses outta this."

"Oh yeah?" Blitzo chuckled darkly, "Says who?"

"Says us," Agent Two jeered, "because his 'brick shithouse' mom is dead!"

Chapter Text

"D.H.O.R.K.S?"

Peering out from behind the side of a building, Connie read the company name aloud, cocking an eyebrow at her findings. The rest of her coworkers followed suit, exchanging confused glances with each other. Not a single one of them knew what was behind each of those letters, but judging by the fact that Vortex had traced Blitzo and Heather's scents back to the place, it was more than safe to assume that they couldn't mean anything good.

"Of all the acronyms they could've gone with," Moxxie rolled his eyes, facepalming, "they chose...that. I swear to Satan, the human race just keeps finding new ways to disappoint me."

"I know, right?" Ember agreed, "You'd think they'd come up with something cooler. I mean, they're a government agency. Why would they call themselves dorks?"

"Well, I guess we're about to find out," Vortex remarked, "because this is definitely where Blitz and Heather ended up. Their scent's all over the yard."

"Fuck, this looks intense," Loona noted, eyeing the pair of armed guards at the entrance, "how are we gonna get in?"

"Wish I knew..." Millie sighed, peering at the locked door from her place in Vortex's bookbag.

She trailed off as soon as her gaze settled on a ventilation chamber just above where the group was standing. The sight of it instantaneously flipped a switch in the imp's brain, conjuring an idea in seconds. As it turned out, luck was on her side after all.

"Wait a minute...the vent," Millie gasped, handing off her axe to Ember before addressing her carrier, "that's it! Tex, gimme a boost! I've got an idea!"

Vortex gave a curt nod, obeying without question to her implications. He stretched his arm as high above him as he could, which Millie proceeded to scale in a swift spiral, not unlike a a squirrel would a tree. She yanked the metal cover from its bearings, tossing it behind her before clambering inside the air duct and making a break for the nearest opening.

Thankfully for the rest of the rescue team, Moxxie's instincts were in top form, driving him to catch the panel and tuck it back inside the tunnel before it could clatter against the ground, and quite possibly blow their cover. By then, Millie had already successfully broken into the building, swinging open the door whilst standing on the interior handlebar, one hand effortlessly planted on her hip.

"Good thinking, honey," Moxxie complimented with a smile, turning to Ember, "that's my wife~"

"I think I've been working here long enough to know that, Mox," the silver hellhound teased, sparing him a playful eyeroll.

"Alright, people," Vortex plucked Millie from the door, placing her on his right shoulder, "let's get this show on the road. Operation Save-Our-Bosses'-Asses is ago."

"More like Operation Save-Tweedledee-And-Tweedledumbass," Loona whispered to Connie, entering alongside her.

"You're terrible!" the now-human hellcat whispered, smothering an impending laugh with her hands, "Tweedle-what?"

Connie's resulting half-snort earned an amused snicker from Loona as she shut the door behind them, and the pair rushed off to join the infiltration with subconsciously-conjoined hands. As expected, tuxedoed Edo-armed guards were around every corner, the I.M.P's only saving grace being that their backs were conveniently turned. Knowing this, they managed to carefully slink past the first few government agents, rounding several extended hallways unseen.

That is, until they entered the longest corridor in the building.

There, they were promptly ambushed by dozens of weaponized humans. And by the looks of them, it seemed like they had been anticipating this encounter before the assassins had even stepped foot in their headquarters.

A uniformed man with a kama aimed a blow at Loona, who just barely managed to duck out of the way in time. To the agent's surprise, his sickle did find a target, but definitely not in the way that he was expecting. Connie had intercepted the attack with her weapon of choice: a pair of black gloves similar to Loona's. However, they were no ordinary gloves. They had thick, curved daggers where the finger holes would typically be; makeshift claws known as nekote, ironically also from the Edo period.

"You stay the fuck away from her!" Connie snarled, slapping her opponent's weapon away as Loona paused to admire her, flattered.

Before the man could even begin to process what was happening, a swift swipe from the disguised hellcat tore his throat to shreds. She left him to bleed out as she turned to take out another agent who'd approached her from behind, and sure enough, the unfortunate human quickly met the same fate.

Meanwhile, just ahead of Connie, Ember swung Millie's axe above her head with a grunt, slicing her and Moxxie's pursuer's legs clean off. Moxxie took the opportunity to spring from her shoulder, one pistol in each hand, spraying bullets in mid-air with a well-choreographed barrel roll. He managed to slaughter four agents at the same time, landing two bullets in each, and landing on Vortex's other shoulder, adjacent to his wife, while Vortex tore his victims apart with his bare hands. Even in human form, his still had the strength of a bear, much to Moxxie's shock.

Millie flashed him a sadistic grin, avidly observing Ember as she hurled her axe across the room, where it lodged directly between another agent's eyes. Millie excitedly scampered over the bloodstained tiles to retrieve it, slinging Moxxie over her shoulder. Even in his new position, the weapons specialist's aim was none the lesser, felling several more employees along the way as his wife snatched her axe with her free hand, using it to slice a nearby woman clean in half.

Loona tore past the others with the agility of a fearless alpha wolf, bounding over a brunette's head and landing in a split, completely unphased despite his attempts to assault her with a pair of twirling nunchucks. He swung them at Loona over and over, missing each time. She was just too fast for him, and even faster when a second agent chucked a kusarigama in her direction. The blade went right over Loona's head, and its failure to hit her would prove fatal for the assailant's coworker; he was instantly decapitated by the impact.

While the accidental murderer stood in stunned silence, Connie approached from behind, jabbing right through him. Her right set of steel claws penetrated his chest, and she ruthlessly tore the blades upwards, completely mangling her victim's torso and tossing his corpse aside without a second thought. At this point, blood, limbs, and shredded organs littered the entire hallway, rendering it a sickening scene fit for a horror movie, but the assassins hardly batted an eye at the carnage. They stampeded towards the remaining guards on the other side, lead by the imps and backed by the tallest hellhounds of the group.

By now, the government employees were fully aware of their impending gory demise, and had devised a plan that they deemed foolproof. Two of them pelted the I.M.P with shurikens while the other pressed a button on the wall, causing a massive door to begin lowering in front of them. Clearly, the thick sheet of steel was their last line of defense.

"Quick, somebody throw me!" Millie ordered, brandishing her axe.

Loona nodded, whirling around on the balls of her heels to give the imp enough momentum to reach her targets. Millie somersaulted beneath the barrier just before it closed, giving the rest of her coworkers a moment to breathe as she continued the fight from the inside.

Moxxie, Loona, Connie, Vortex, and Ember blinked wordlessly as they heard what little remained of the slaughter unfold, thoroughly impressed with the valor involved. Sure enough, Millie had come out on top, pressing the button a second time to unlock the room once she'd finished. Dismembered bodies were scattered on the floor behind her, but she flitted her long eyelashes regardless, feigning innocence.

"Whoa."

"Holy shit—"

"Sweet Lucifer."

"That was incredible!"

"Damn!" Loona smirked, casually passing the imp into the new corridor, "You're pretty agile for an old lady."

"I'm like, five years older than you," Millie corrected, "but I gotta give you credit, you've been surprisingly cooperative today. Connie must finally be rubbin' off on you."

"That's what she—"

"Don't even think about it."

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Back in the interrogation chamber, Agents One and Two were still preoccupied attempting to crack Blitzo and Heather. Of course, their efforts continued to prove to be entirely fruitless, yielding only one notable result: a very pissed-off Agent One.

"Stop insultin' my motter with your Australian bullshit!" he snapped at the Goetic hellcat, tears of frustration seeping past his sunglasses, "She's dead!"

"Hey, hey," Agent Two advised, "let's just leave them here until they feel like talkin'..."

She tugged her indignant partner towards the double doors on Heather's side of the room, shooting her a disapproving glare over her shoulder.

"This ain't over, pussycat."

"First Miss Kitty," Blitzo retorted, "and now pussycat? Satan, I thought someone with your thighs would have way more room in their body for originality."

He somewhat doubted that Agent Two had heard his parting quip, judging by how fast she'd slammed the door behind her. With both humans gone, Blitzo frowned in discontentment, struggling against his ropes in an attempt to break free. Finally caving to the realization that his restraints wouldn't budge, he released a pent-up sigh, suddenly finding the tiles under his boots to be extremely interesting.

Here he was, finally alone with Heather for the first time in months, and what were they doing with it? Being held hostage in some musty government basement, forcibly tied in uncomfortable chairs with their backs to each other.

Even worse, judging by the way things were going, it occurred to Blitzo that there was an undeniable possibility that he and Heather might actually die here, at the hands of the same species that they killed for a living. And Satan forbid this catastrophe escalate into the mortal dilemma of his lifetime: dying with a clean conscience, or taking his affections to the grave.

No. Blitzo wasn't going to let that happen. Not when there were so many things he had yet to do in this life. Not when he had a daughter back at home. And especially not when one of his biggest reasons to live was on the cusp of slipping from his grasp; for good, this time.

"Don't worry, Heather," he assured her, "this isn't my first time getting caught; I know all the loopholes for this kinda thing. If we keep being obnoxious, they'll eventually slip up, and we'll get a chance to get out. Let's just keep fucking with them until they get so frustrated, they stop thinking clearly. It usually works."

"It's not just us I'm worried about..." the tabby admitted, "it's everyone else. Knowing them, they're probably on their way right now, putting themselves in harm's way to save us. I mean...what if they get hurt out there?"

"I'm sure they'll be fine, Heather," Blitzo insisted, "Moxxie can be a wet noodle, but he knows how to be coldblooded when he needs to. Millie? It would take a roided-up hippo to take down that woman when she's upset. And speaking of roided-up hippos, if they're bringing your hellhound with them, then at least they'll have a human shield."

"Human shield?" Heather eyed him sarcastically, "Wow, that's assuring."

"Wasn't it?"

"No, especially since this is the human government we're talking about!" she frowned at nothing in particular, "We've never had to deal with this kind of danger before. And what happens if none of us make it home? Think about our friends...our families..."

Blitzo paused, suddenly finding the floor to be much easier to look at as the gravity of the situation finally penetrated his thoughts. Unbeknownst to him and Heather, an ominous green smog was beginning to seep into the room from the air ducts, swirling around their ankles as the latter continued with a sharp sigh.

"And there's still so much I haven't done. I haven't learned how to be a Goetia, or had the chance to be the Maid of Honor at my siblings' weddings, or...or had my own relationship. Maybe I shouldn't have taken a break from the dating scene so soon, or maybe my soulmate was ready for me the whole time but I missed my chance. I don't know...I just...I thought I had more time—"

And for whatever reason, for Blitzo, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Ugh, do you ever honestly shut up about dating?!" the imp's unfiltered thoughts spilled from his tongue so effortlessly that he barely registered himself speaking them, "It's always 'Oh, I wonder if I should join this dating site?' 'I can't tonight, I'm going out with someone!' 'Blah blah blah soulmates!'"

Heather watched him with wide eyes, ears tilted in disbelief as Blitzo continued his rant. While what he was saying would easily set her off if said by anyone else, the uncharacteristically raw honesty in the air immediately set off red flags in her conscious. Clearly, this was something that Blitzo had had on his mind for a very long time, and by extension, something that he would never have said otherwise.

"And the same thing happens every time! You end up falling for some douchebag-in-disguise who ditches you for some other woman, or doesn't wanna settle down, or just doesn't give a shit. And then I have to sit back and watch you duct-tape your heart back together only to have it ripped apart over and over again! It's fucking...it's fucking torture, Heather. Why...how do you keep putting yourself out there like that?"

The Goetic hellcat silently mulled it over, almost as touched by the extent to which her boss really cared about her as she was offput by his words. No, normal Blitzo wouldn't let himself go like that. He was infamous for keeping his deepest, most uncomfortable opinions to himself, and Heather knew this first hand. Only when he was hopelessly inebriated or under the influence of strong pain medications did he allow himself to be this openly vulnerable.

That being said, something definitely wasn't right here.

"That was..." Heather remarked at what first came to mind, "unusually honest of you."

"Yeah, you know what?" Blitzo agreed, somewhat relieved that she hadn't opted to dwell on his outburst, "You're right. I don't know why the fuck I just let my guts spill like that!"

Heather nodded in agreement, scanning the room for answers, starting from the ceiling downwards. She did a double-take once her eyes reached the ground, ears pinning back worriedly once she caught wind of the mysterious quality in the air.

Oh no.

"...I think I might know."

"Wait, what?"

"Blitz, look!" Heather gasped, kicking up a cloud of the gas with her right foot, "They're filling this room with something!"

"Fuck!" the imp sniffed, craning his neck as high as possible in an attempt to get fresh air, "What the hell is this?"

"I-I don't know!" Heather admitted, "But whatever it is, I think those two human drongos are trying to use it to get information out of us!"

"Oh, you think?" Blitzo rolled his eyes, "Well how do you know that's what made me slip?"

"Ugh, I can't believe I'm saying this, but..." the horned hellcat sighed, resorting to facepalming into her tail after remembering that her hands were bound to her chair, "just ask me something. Something I probably wouldn't tell you otherwise."

Truthfully, there was one thing in particular that Blitzo had always wanted to know about Heather more than anything, but prying it out of her when she had reluctantly consented felt...wrong? Even worse than what he'd said to her beforehand. So he opted for a different approach, one that was just as revealing but not quite as personal.

"O-okay, what's your idea of the sexiest evening ever?"

"I wanna be wined and dined," Heather giggled lewdly, "and 69ed~"

Blitzo promptly burst out laughing, leaning forward in his chair so far that his head was almost tucked between his knees. His unfortunate co-kidnappee, however, was far from amused.

"Oh, fucking...seriously?!" Heather sputtered in embarrassment, "Bloody hell, Blitz! Why that?!"

"Why do you think~?"

"Ooohoohoo, I'll tell you what I think!" Heather spat in frustration, "I think it makes you sound like a total dickbrain!"

Blitzo emitted an over-dramatic gasp, rotating his head as far as possible to gape at her.

"Fuck..." Heather recoiled as she realized her mistake, her tail swishing to cover her mouth "I'm so sorry, Blitz, I didn't—"

"How fucking dare you!" the imp fired back, "Well, you know what?! I think your Australian slang is some of the dumbest shit I've ever heard, and I just pretend to understand it—ah! I'm sorry!"

"W-what...?" Heather stammered, sinking deeper into her seat, "This whole time...you thought it was...dumb? But you said you liked my Aussie lingo!"

"I lied!" Blitzo confessed, "It doesn't make any sense!"

"You...you said it was hilarious!" Heather choked out, her vision swimming with dejection.

"I had to, Heather!" the imp tried, and failed, to look her in the eye, "You just looked so happy and I didn't have the heart to tell youuu!"

"Australian slang is part of who I am, Blitz!" Heather snapped, "So if you think that's weird, then—ugh, why the fuck do you still hang around me if you think I'm weird?! Were you just...pretending to like me, too?"

"No! No, Heather, of course not! I don't think you're weird, just the slang! I never thought you were weird!"

"Then what do you think of me, Blitz? Do I even wanna know?"

Blitzo had to physically bite his tongue to stop himself from saying everything he wanted to. In truth, he knew exactly what words he would use to describe her—the problem was, not one of them would pass as platonic. Unfortunately, Heather seemed to take his silence as an answer, turning her back to him. Blitzo couldn't see her face, but the quiet, broken sobs that reached him were proof enough of the damage done.

He really was going to take his affections to the grave. And judging by the drastic increase of the green smog in the room, the soul-crushing thought wasn't too far off.

You fucking idiot! Even if you both make it out of this shithole alive, she'll never wanna see your sorry ass again, and it's your own damn fault! Well...if this really is the end, then at least go out with a bang. Maybe you can't get up and storm off or steal her car or take her fancy gun...but at least you can still break her heart. Her big, stupid, romantically naïve, sweet, sexy heart...

Blitzo sniffled, regretting it almost immediately as the potent green smog filled his lungs. He wasn't crying for Heather. No. Absolutely not. It was just the airborne drugs that made his eyes water and his heart throb in vexation with every pulse. He wasn't crying over this. He wasn't crying. He didn't cry when he retired from comedy. He didn't cry when he drove off in Verosika's Porsche. And he definitely didn't cry when the smooth-talking redneck at the Harvest Moon Festival turned out to be a total dick.

So why was letting Heather go this painful?

Do it already! Cut her off!

Blitzo hesitated, coughing up a storm as his conscience continued to relentlessly thunder at him.

What the fuck are you waiting for?!

He didn't know. No, that was a lie. He did know, and he was dangerously close to screaming it for the whole room to hear. To Hell with the government lunatics who were presumably watching his every move. They were going to kill him, anyway, so what did it matter?

END IT!

"No, NO! I CAN'T FUCKING DO IT!" Blitzo allowed the truth serum to take him, his eyeliner running like crazy as he surrendered to the ugliest ugly cry he'd ever experienced.

"I—*hic*—I don't get it! I can be a piece of shit to literally anyone else! I can steal a celebrity's car and max out their credit card; I can blow people's paychecks on purpose; I can even fuck a married man just to get my hands on his stupid portal magic! But you...you make it damn near impossible for me to hate you. And I don't know whether that's a good or bad thing..."

He slumped against his chair with a heavy sigh, tiredly staring at the ceiling.

"You wanna know why I still hang around you? I stayed because you stayed. I stayed..."

His voice was almost a whisper as he drifted out of consciousness, the last few tears escaping his eyes as they fluttered shut.

"...Because I love you, Heather."

Unbeknownst to Blitzo and his freshly-spilled guts, for better or worse, Heather hadn't heard a word he said, having passed out in the silence beforehand.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

In a matter of seconds, the interrogation room had blurred out of Heather's view, and she now found herself standing behind the counter of a quaint little coffee shop. The scenery was enchantingly dream-like, every soft color and furniture detail fit for a Disney movie.

"Heather! There you are!"

The Goetic hellcat wheeled around to find Millie dressed in a white button-up shirt, black skirt, and red apron—a uniform that she immediately recognized. The imp's hair, styled with a matching headband, flowed over her shoulders in the same voluminous length it had been several years ago, when the pair had actually worked together in this coffee shop. Sallie May tagged along behind her with a similar hairstyle, although her bangs were long and untamed when compared to her younger sister's.

Most notably of all, the imps themselves looked like they came straight out of a Disney movie. Glancing at her reflection in a nearby mug, much to her surprise, Heather discovered that she was the same. The truth gas from the interrogation room must've been making her hallucinate, made even more clear by the approach of a second Heather, this one sporting a uniform as well, lacking her present-day Goetia appendages.

"Oh! G'day Mills, Sallie," dream-Heather flashed Millie a smile as the present-day hellcat observed, "what's new, mates?"

"The boss said we could go on break!" Millie chirped, grabbing her arm excitedly.

"Yeah, we got 10 minutes," Sallie May added, "an' I ain't wastin' any more time in this shitty fuck-dump unless I'm gettin' paid."

"Aw, c'mon, sis!" Millie shouldered her, "All things considered, I think we got it pretty good! At least we get free drinks."

"This ain't about that," Sallie May smirked, revealing a large iced coffee and taking a sip.

"Anywayyy..." Millie beamed, nudging her towards the exit, "we just wanted to let you know that your boyfriend's waitin' for you outside~"

"Oh, stop!" dream-Heather rolled her eyes in amusement, "He's not my boyfriend! He's just a guy I met at the Harvest Moon Festival."

"The same mystery guy you've been runnin' 'round with ever since?" Sallie May teased, "Hun, we may be rednecks, but we ain't stupid."

"I'm telling you two," dream-Heather insisted, strutting towards the exit, "we're just friends. Nothing more, nothing less."

"If you say so," Millie shrugged naïvely, "either way, have fun!"

"Yeah, give 'im a big 'ol smooch for me!" Sallie May snickered, earning a disapproving frown from her sister.

The imp women turned and walked right through Heather, unphased by her presence at all. Clearly, she was on the outside looking in, witnessing a distant memory that she once thought was long since forgotten. After all, throughout the playful exchange, Heather had remembered when exactly this moment had happened. She needed to see how it ended one last time.

Following the hallucination of herself through the doors leading to the terrace of the coffee shop, she paused when she made it outside, met with a light pink backdrop, the ground beneath her an infinite white surface. She managed a faint smile as she watched past Heather run over to greet a mustache-less, gold tooth-less Striker, her ears dipping in lieu of her nostalgia.

It all made sense now. This was the moment that had started it all: when Striker had finally asked her out, after months of seeing each other privately.

Past-Heather allowed Striker to help her onto Bombproof's back, and with both lovers in the saddle, the Hell horse departed, fading away in a flash of light a few feet ahead of the Goetic hellcat. Heather sighed, shaking her head at the memory. Unbeknownst to her, the coffee shop behind her had disappeared as well, leaving her alone in the midst of the misty pink void.

"Just wait for the two-year mark, younger me," Heather muttered, folding her arms, "it only goes downhill from there. And then you fall in love again...and again...aaand again...like you never learned anything."

She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration.

"But not this Heather. Oooh no. I'm gonna keep my guard up, because starting now, I'm never letting myself fall that hard again. There's a new fallen angel rising!"

Heather donned a confident smile, brushing her bangs out of her face and striding forward with a flick of her long, fluffy tail. Maybe it was just the airborne drugs in the interrogation room talking, but she could feel a song coming on. No, not just a song. Her anthem.

When He Sees Me

♫ I stick with real things
Usually facts and figures
When information's in its place
I minimize the guessing game ♫

"Guess what?" Heather deadpanned briefly, continuing in song while addressing no one in particular, her animated stance fit for a Broadway production.

♫ I don't like guessing games or when I feel things
Before I know the feelings
How am I supposed to operate if I'm just tossed around by fate?
Like on an unexpected date? ♫

A translucent magenta table for two appeared in front of her, forcing her into a chair across from a ghostlike figure resembling her owl demon ex-boyfriend, Thomas. Heather glared at him from her seat, singing over his nonsensical silent chatter.

♫ With a stranger who might talk too fast
Or ask me questions about myself
Before I've decided that
He can ask me questions about myself ♫

In an instant, Heather was no longer at a dinner table with Thomas, but in a restaurant booth next to Verosika Mayday, the bench across from them empty. The succubus leaned in uncomfortably close to her "date," flitting her long lashes down at her seductively.

♫ She might sit too close
Or call the waiter by his first name
Or eat Oreos
But eat the cookie before the cream ♫

Sure enough, every single one of those actions happened in that order, much to Heather's dismay. Eventually, she'd had enough, abandoning her place with Verosika and leaving it to fade away, just as with the previous hallucinations.

"♫ But what scares me the most... ♫" she sang, staring at the floor self-consciously, "what scares me the most... ♫"

♫ Is what if when he sees me
What if he doesn't like it?
What if he runs the other way and I can't hide from it?
What happens then? ♫

A hallucination of Heather's previous love interest, a barista imp named Connor, appeared. He took one look at her, peered over her shoulder at a sexier female of his species, and ran off with the woman, ditching Heather just as he had done during their date all those months ago.

♫ If when he knows me
He's only disappointed?
What if I give myself away to only get it given back? ♫

A present-day rendering of Striker took Connor's place, narrowing his eyes down at Heather disapprovingly. The red tabby reached out to him mid-verse, only for her ex-fiancé to fade away in front of her, fragments of his translucent magenta form slipping through her fingers as a ghost would through walls.

"♫ I couldn't live with that... ♫" Heather concluded dejectedly, standing alone once again with self-consciously folded arms. 

♫ So I'm just fine inside my shell-shaped mind
This way, I get the best view
So when they see me... ♫

She slipped on a brave face, belting out her feelings with a strong conviction.

♫ I want them to! ♫

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Blitzo's "tripping" experience, on the other hand, was nothing short of nightmare fuel.

He came to his senses in a glitchy, barren terrain, dripping with mountains of thick sepia ink and blindingly-white lights. Embarrassingly enough, while the chair he initially arrived in appeared to be the same one in which he'd lost consciousness, Blitzo was horrified to find what he'd been reduced to: a 1930s-esque cartoon, dressed in a depressing clown suit. He was now a splitting image of that same tasteless laughing stock working at Loo Loo Land; the version of himself he hated the most. 

Massive blobs of muted color three times bigger than Blitzo's own body swirled around him aimlessly, their masses dripping like freshly-melted candle wax. The carmine slime shot across the bleak patch of sky above the imp's head, splattering its sticky red substance all over him. Disgusted yet intrigued, Blitzo sniffed at his hand, lapping at a clump of the liquid. Before he could decipher his thoughts on the taste, the same slime monster bowled him over, materializing into pencil sketches of everyone in the office, drawn in Blitzo's messy art style. Everyone except for one red tabby hellcat.

"We simply follow your orders," doodle Moxxie droned on as his boss lugged himself up from the ink-laden ground, "it isn't our fault that your orders are as nonsensical as a sun-tanning bed left out on the cold rainy porch of a fresh April shower."

"Why are you talking like that?" Blitzo snapped, "What the fuck does that even mean?"

"Mi deludi, Blitz," Connie chided him in Italian, her appearance flickering from her true form to her doodle appearance, "anche in un viaggio con l'acido, sei ancora delirante come sempre! Forse se il tuo buon senso fosse prevalente quanto la tua stupidità, potresti capire quanto tempo e denaro sprechi giorno dopo giorno—"

As the rest of Blitzo's hallucinations of his employees continued to talk his ear off, the other slimy blobs of color began to close in on him, circling above him like vultures preparing to strike.

"Shut up!"

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"♫ I'm not defensive! ♫" Heather insisted, huffing in annoyance, "♫ I'm simply being cautious! I can't risk reckless dating due to my miscalculating why... ♫

♫ A certain suitor stands in line, I've seen in movies
Most made for television
You cannot be too careful when it comes to sharing your life ♫

She brushed past illusions of all of her past love interests, not bothering to spare any of them a passing glance. That is, until a shimmering diamond ring appeared on Heather's right hand, prompting its wearer to stop dead in her tracks to cautiously examine it. While she was distracted, Striker's rattlesnake-esque tail snaked around her waist, yanking her into his arms with a sinister grin. Heather fearfully stared back into his hypnotic gaze, peering right through them and gaping at her wide-eyed reflection.

♫ I could end up a miserable wife! ♫

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Admit it, dickhead," doodle Loona addressed her adoptive father, "you don't know what the fuck you're doing most of the time!"

"Frankly, my dear boss," Moxxie chimed in, "she is correct. You depend on me and the others to manage your foolish flights of fancy. Without us, your poor entrepreneurship would leave the entire company in shambles!"

"I don't need you guys," Blitzo growled, "I can do this shit on my own so easily—!"

A nearby sepia-toned mass of sludge coiled a tentacle around his neck, cutting him off and hurling him across the clearing. The imp skidded through the muck on the ground, clasping at his neck and gasping for air. His attacker loomed over him with an all-too-familiar tail rattle, and before he even spoke, Blitzo was keenly aware of his identity: Striker.

"But you don't wanna do things alone, Blitzo!" Striker boomed with a flick of his serpentine tongue, eyes piercing his target with their sickening lime green glow.

Blitzo hardly had time to process what was happening before two black sludge fists had him in a death grip, tossing him in the air with disorienting speed, paired with the distorted voice of his Loo Loo Land nemesis.

"You tried the solo act," the black-and-white cartoon Fizzarolli heckled, pressing himself flesh to Blitzo's face, "it didn't work out so well!"

The deranged imp unwound his twisted limbs, sending Blitzo flying back into the dirt, reeling from the impact. A third magenta blob of slime touched down in front of him, from which a dripping Verosika Mayday emerged in a very revealing purple dress, crawling towards her ex-boyfriend menacingly.

"And you still shove away anyone who gets too close until they resent you for being a selfish shitty shitfuck!"

Ironically, that's exactly how Blitzo reacted to Verosika's approach, physically shoving her away from him and clambering as far away from her as possible, frantically glancing around the nightmarish hellhole he'd been thrust into. It was then that he ran headfirst into a very regally-dressed Stolas, tumbling backwards and sinking back into the inky-black mud below. After a moment, he peeled himself off the ground, glaring up at the prince.

"Yet you consented to pleasuring me," the owl demon scolded, "dancing with fire with one of Hell's elite, all for a silly little book to keep your company from going under. But in the end, it wasn't the company that held your best interest, was it?"

"Of fucking course I did it for I.M.P!" Blitzo protested, "Why else would I have showed up on every full moon to see yours?!"

"Perhaps you were physically present during our impish little ruts under the sheets," Stolas commentated, "quipping and moaning and taking charge...but in reality, your mind was a galaxy away. Set on a certain former secretary of mine whom you've had eyes for ever since."

The prince strode out of Blitzo's line of view, revealing a lush, sunset-showered field in the space beyond. In the very center stood Heather, her back turned to him with unfurled wings. She peered over her shoulder at Blitzo, flitting her pale green eyes in a seductively slow motion and beckoning him in a singsong voice.

"Are you afraid to love people, Blitz~?"

Awestruck by the sight of her, Blitzo absentmindedly pursued her, edging closer and closer to the field. As soon as he stepped foot in the grass, his sludge-covered clown outfit transformed in a blinding flash of light, revealing that the imp was now dressed in his I.M.P uniform. He was finally free from the chains of his consciousness, if only for a minute, before Stolas continued to berate him from the sidelines.

"I believe it's safe to say, given your history of disappointing amorous affairs, that you simply cannot fathom someone with whom you can share a deep and meaningful love.  Consequently, you've held yourself back for years at a time, treading so unbelievably close to the brink of intimacy, and yet so hopelessly far...even from the one person in your life who can give you the affection you so desperately crave. "

Dream-Heather gracefully whirled around to greet Blitzo as he approached, offering her right hand to hold. He hesitated, glancing from his own to the one extended to him, unsure as to whether or not he should accept the gesture.

"It's quite a shame, Blitzy," Stolas observed as the doodle and sludge hallucinations of Blitzo's friends and family began to fade from view behind him, "considering this is often how you treat those who stand by you, especially those nearest and dearest to you...and important colleagues such as myself."

Unfortunately, by the time that Blitzo finally made up his mind, Heather had begun to dematerialize into a flurry of pink primrose petals, swirling about in the air around him, fluttering out of his reach. All the while, Stolas's words drove an icy pick into the imp's heart, spurring a slew of confusing and horrifying emotions to attack him from the inside out.

"Are you worried that one day, we may grow impatient with your impulsive recklessness as well? "

"Stop fucking talking!" Blitzo snapped, his voice cracking, "All of you! You don't know what the hell you're saying!"

"On the contrary, Blitzy," Stolas countered, vanishing in the growing curtain of petals, "I'm certain the only one here who doesn't is you."

Blitzo gaped after him in shock, unaware of the rush of primrose essence swarming around him until it was too late, leaving him entrapped in their merciless tornado, which quickly began to close in on him. Heather's voice, once gentle and sweet, had lost all its warmth, resonating with the stone-cold edge of a sharpened knife.

"You're going to die alone..."

The voices of everyone Blitzo knew thundered in his skull as his entire body was coated with stray petals, starting with his face and gradually reaching his tail and hands, binding them together. His erratic breathing left him gasping for air that didn't exist, and screaming for a way out that was nowhere in sight. Maybe he really was going to die here.

"You're gonna die alone, Blitzo."

"You're gonna die alone, Blitzo!"

"You're gonna die alone, Blitzo—"

And for a split second, he was almost positive that he did.

Chapter Text

When He Sees Me, continued

♫ He could be criminal!
Some sort of psychopath
Who escaped from an institution
Somewhere where they don't have girls! ♫

Heather's wings expanded with a tenacious burst of willpower, forcibly freeing her from illusion Striker's grasp and causing him to disintegrate in the process. With one asshole former romantic interest out of her sight, the Goetic hellcat retracted her feathery appendages into her back, wheeling around to find Verosika Mayday walking her against a "wall" in the dream realm.

♫ She could've masterminded some way to find me ♫

Suddenly, despite the Disney-esque nature of her hallucinations, Heather saw red. Pressing both of her palms against the makeshift "wall," she delivered a powerful double-kick to the succubus's midsection, shattering her into an array of dissolving fragments just as she'd done to Striker. However, the musical nightmare was still far from over.

♫ He could be colorblind!
How untrustworthy is that?
He could be less than kind! ♫

Thomas and Connor were the next to go, and Heather wasted no time obliterating the owl demon and imp with one simultaneous backhanded punch each, completely over their bullshit influences on her romantic life. They were supposed to be behind her already. What kind of drugs did those human lunatics put in that truth-telling serum, anyway?

Satan, now that she'd finally had a chance to think it through...had Heather really seen it all? There were times when it seemed that way. She'd been through so much over the years that it was entirely possible to have experienced every possible deception, rejection, disappointment, and heartbreak scenario in the book. From date to crush to relationship, to the oh-so-rare engagement, Heather came so close and yet so far to achieving a genuine love for another person. Striker was the pinnacle of that mountain, and he was long gone now.

Did that mean that she would never reach that point again? Had that conniving rattlesnake imp stolen not only her virginity, but a happiness that she would never be able to uncover again? After all, it took a special person to win Heather over. It was like her mother always said: love is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get until you take a bite. Well, Heather was convinced that she'd already sunk her teeth into every goddamn chocolate in the box...and they were all different versions of that disgusting variety that you were initially so determined to avoid.

Where was the one good chocolate? The one with a soft and sweet center? The one that she'd been holding out for, even after putting up with all the less-than-desirables? The one that had been there all along, patiently waiting by her side in all its undeserved generosity? Never asking for anything in return, but always giving her hope; always there for her no matter how awful the last chocolate tasted. Despite the ridiculousness of the metaphor, when analyzed deeper, it somehow managed to flip a switch in Heather's brain.

Because as it turns out, she might already know someone like that. And to her surprise, Heather wheeled around to find herself locking eyes with him.

♫ Or even worse, he could be very nice
Have lovely eyes... ♫

The Blitzo hallucination, unlike those before him, didn't possess the same ghost-like quality. In fact, it was almost like he was physically present with Heather, maintaining his classic demeanor, the only difference being his equally Disneyfied appearance. He tucked his hands behind his back, flitting his soft red eyes at her.

♫ And make me laugh... ♫

Dream Blitzo coupled the action with a characteristically-derpy expression, sticking part of his forked tongue out at Heather, earning a stifled laugh. It was no secret that the Goetic hellcat loved the faces her imp best friend made, it had always been one of her biggest weaknesses. Blitzo was the biggest dork she knew, a stark contrast to the stiff demeanor of Thomas, or the dry humor of someone like Striker.

Come to think of it...in general, Blitzo himself was a breath of fresh air. His chaotically adventurous persona. His obsession with horses. The way he obnoxiously belted out the lyrics to Mustang Dong in the car, never giving a shit about the stares from neighboring drivers. But above all, his undying fervor for everything he was passionate about. It was a deep, nostalgic spark the feline demon had never felt when she was near anyone else. And that included her past romantic affairs.

♫ Come out of hiding... ♫

Heather couldn't believe that she'd never realized it; the full extent of her appreciation of everything about Blitzo...until now, when he slowly faded from view with a smitten wavering of his long, whiplike tail.

"♫ What do I do with that? ♫"

Disentangling herself from her thoughts, Heather finally allowed her emotions to take the wheel, pulling her in a million different directions. But ultimately, they all stemmed from a single, increasingly prominent origin.

And Heather was not at all ready for the revelation that found her.

"Oh Satan..."

♫ What if when he sees me
I like him and he knows it?
What if he opens up a door
And I can't close it? ♫

Memories of Blitzo swarmed Heather's mind, replaying and replacing each other as she poured out her heart and soul and insecurities all at once in song. How long had these feelings been present? Days? Months? Years? If that was true, then why did they feel like they were spawning out of nowhere?

"♫ What happens then? ♫"

Heather didn't know. But the rush of emotions had its positives, too, equally as liberating and warm as they were terrifying and confusing.

♫ If when he holds me
My heart is set in motion ♫

Dream Blitzo rematerialized behind her, enveloping Heather in his body, chin nestled in her bangs. His tail had been lovingly coiled around her waist, pulling her closer to him as she sang. Heather's heart thumped against her chest, swelling with a burst of ecstasy at the gesture. It was as close as she could get to the real Blitzo without actually being Blitzo, and the overwhelming desire to hug him back flooded her veins until she caved.

♫ I'm not prepared for that
I'm scared of breaking open!
But still I can't help from hoping— ♫

Much to Heather's chagrin, when she swiveled in his grasp, he vanished, leaving her standing alone in the eternal pink void once again. It was a painful reminder that this was a hallucination, and the real Blitzo was likely still tied up behind her. Never before had Heather wanted to wake up so badly, but there was no telling when—or worse, if—she ever would again. But until then...

♫ To find someone to talk to... ♫

She turned, feeling a sea of eyes fixated on her, remaining calm even after she realized that she was right. The ghost-like forms of Striker, Thomas, Connor, and Verosika wordlessly glared across the space in disapproval, but among them, Heather could make out a pair of opaque black and white horns. The only person in the crowd that she couldn't see through.

♫ Who likes the way I am... ♫

Making up her mind, Heather slowly approached the cluster of acquaintances, treading on the path she never thought she'd take, but could deny no further. The ignored adversaries faded as she passed, accepting their fates, until Heather finally reached Blitzo with an unknowing blush.

♫ Someone who, when he sees me... ♫

She could worry about her Hell-bound feelings later. Right now, all that mattered was addressing them. With that in mind, Heather offered her hands to Blitzo, which he accepted with a soft smile, cradling the Goetic hellcat's palms in his own.

♫ …Wants to again ♫

They pressed their foreheads together, eyes effortlessly fluttering closed in a moment too blissful for words. And just like that, nothing in Heather's life had been clearer.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

"Oh, thank Satan..." Ember swiped at her brow, brushing away her bangs, "we made it."

"This must be the place, right?" Connie wove through her coworkers to the front of the group, inspecting the stainless steel door looming over them.

"You guys want me to try and bust it down?" Vortex offered, "I mean, I ripped a ton of people in half today, so I think I can do it—"

"No, wait!" Ember warned, gesturing to the keypad on the wall, "Tex, don't. It's got a security system. For all we know, you could die, and I'd be missing out on 20 bucks when I win a certain bet we struck up~"

"That's what you're worried about?" Vortex feigned shock, despite being fully aware that his girlfriend was joking, "Oooh, I see how it is! And to think I was gonna make you pizza bagels tonight if we made it back~"

"Nooo, babe!" Ember fake-pouted, "Not the pizza bagels!"

"Hey! Focus, y'all!" Millie reminded them, "The password ain't gonna guess itself!"

"Unless..." Moxxie clambered his way onto Loona's shoulder, peering down at the numbered buttons affixed to the monitor, "hey, someone scratched out the '1' key. Maybe we should try that one?"

"Cool," Loona deadpanned, holding him in front of the keypad, "you can be the test monkey."

"What?! Hey!" Moxxie protested, "I didn't sign up for this!"

"Oh, for fuck's sake!" Millie snapped, "Someone just do it! We got nothin' to lose!"

"Okay, fine, I'll do it," Moxxie nodded hurriedly, pressing the "one" button five times in a row.

Surprisingly, and much to the I.M.P's relief, the electronic door unlocked, revealing the receptionist desk to yet another room, the D.H.O.R.K.S acronym mounted just above it. The group exchanged a collective nod, sprinting into the room and rounding the furniture, just as the overhead closed behind them.

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

Heather's eyes slowly flitted open, the blurriness of the interrogation room coming into focus as she regained consciousness. The truth serum had cleared from the air, and every was back to the way it was before. Heather sighed in a temporary state of relief. She was alive. And judging by the faint sniffling behind her, so was Blitzo.

Wait, sniffling? Was he crying?

"Blitz? … You okay, mate?"

Blitzo briefly glanced over his shoulder to meet Heather's gaze before turning away again, but what he revealed was more than enough to give the Goetic hellcat her answer. The imp's black eyeliner was a complete mess, smeared all over his red, puffy eyes and cheeks, his nose was running like crazy, and in general, he looked absolutely miserable. Heather's heart clenched at the kicked puppy vulnerability in his gaze, mentally kicking herself for contributing to it.

Oh, Satan...I made him cry. He hardly EVER cries...

"Sorry," Blitzo's choked apology tugged at Heather's heartstrings, her ears drooping as she listened intently, "you know, for being...*ssssssnnnnrrrrkkk*…a total dickbrain. I don't know what it means, but you're probably right."

"Dickbrain" was an Australian term equivalent to the word "pervert," but Heather knew better than to elaborate on that, especially when Blitzo was in this state.

"I'm sorry, too," she sighed, "I didn't mean to say those things, I was just...pissed. People say shitty things they don't mean when they're pissed."

"But the government psychos gassed us with truth-telling drugs..."

"No, you're right," Heather admitted, "they did. I guess I thought what you said was dickbrained. I don't think you're one personally, but...either way, it was wrong. And I'm really sorry."

Blitzo sniffled, but was otherwise silent, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

"Hey..." Heather prompted after a moment, "do you remember what happened after my date with Verosika?"

"Guh...*sniff* I try to forget."

"That's fair," she nodded, "don't worry, this isn't about that bitch. Just about the two of us."

"Oh...then no," Blitzo admitted, "I don't really remember that much."

"Well, I do. You dropped everything and went out of your way to drive all the way to Lust, just to make sure I got home safely. There was also Hellentine's Day, when you offered to take me downtown to cheer me up when my date cancelled at the last minute. And that time you brought me a horse plushie at the hospital when I broke my ankle. And the Harvest Moon Festival, and how you stayed with me when my Goetia parts were growing in, even though you had clients to satisfy."

Heather paused, a light blush blossoming on her cheeks as she recalled each event.

"I could go on all day, really," she chuckled softly, "you've done so much for me over the years. You're always there for me, offering a shoulder to cry on, wanting to spend time with me, making me laugh...and I can't even say that I deserve it. Sometimes, I don't think I'm good enough for anyone, but in the end, you make me feel like I am. And I would give anything to make you feel twice as worth it."

The tears really were falling now, spilling over the Goetic hellcat's cheeks as she managed a bittersweet smile. She shakily inhaled, releasing the breath slowly before the room faded into silence again.

"But you already do."

Heather's ears stood on end at the sound of Blitzo's voice, her eyes flying open as she slowly swiveled to face him.

"Huh?"

"You already do," Blitzo repeated, smiling back at her gratefully through his own tears, "more than anyone else I know. Oh, shit, now I got you going."

"It's okay," Heather sniffled with a relieved laugh, "now we're both ugly-crying snot monsters, so we're even."

"You shut your mouth, it's impossible for either of us to be ugly."

"Bloody oath."

They burst into wet laughter, not giving a shit who was watching and who wasn't. Maybe they would be stuck in this stuffy room for a while, but there was no one either demon would rather be kidnapped with than the best friend across from them.

"I kinda wish I could hug you," Heather muttered, "I think we both need one."

"Hmmm, well..." Blitzo hummed, "I think I might have an idea."

The imp leaned in closer to Heather, craning his neck to press their foreheads together, just like in Heather's drug-induced fantasy. She could feel the heat radiating from both her face and Blitzo's, but she was too content to notice, pressing back and nuzzling his nose with an instinctive purr.

"So how was that, huh?" Blitzo asked as he pulled away, sheepishly half-hiding his face in his sleeve, "Close enough?"

"Yeah," Heather mused, "it got the job done."

A rustling in the ceiling drew both assassins' attention above them, wondering if their human captors were preparing to finish them off. However, their situation was about to take a turn for the better.

Because that was when Moxxie and Millie crashed through the tiles, dropping into the room to save them.

"Moxxie! Millie!" Heather beamed, her pale green eyes sparkling ecstatically.

"Heather!" Millie returned the gesture tearfully, rushing over to untie her while Moxxie did the same for Blitzo, "Oh, Heather! Oh, thank Satan!"

The two pulled each other into an almost crushing hug, which might have affected Heather's body more had she not recently become a significantly stronger Goetia.

"Did they hurt you?!" Millie inquired, grabbing her best friend's face, "They better not have hurt you, because I swear to all things unholy, I'll fuckin' destroy 'em! I'll slit 'em mouth to ass an' wear 'em like jackets!"

"Okay, first of all, ew," Heather chuckled nervously, removing her hands, "that won't ever be necessary. But seriously, we're okay, Mills. They didn't hurt us, they just...doused the room in truth-telling gas."

"Yeah, that's why my face is all fucked up," Blitzo added hurriedly, "no other reason. It was strong shit so it made it look like we were crying but we weren't sooo..."

"Okay, okay," Moxxie assured him, offering both him and Heather a handkerchief, "we believe you, sir, and we're glad you're okay. Just clean yourselves up, and we can get out of here."

"That was pretty damn impressive, guys," Heather remarked, wiping off her face, "did you two get here all by yourselves?"

Before Millie could answer, the glass window behind the group shattered, revealing that Vortex had used Agent Two's head to bash it open, while Loona, Connie, and Ember pinned Agent One on the other side of the control room. Vortex tossed the blonde in his hands aside, and the three clambered through the window, transforming back into their demon selves.

"...Well, we had a little help," Moxxie concluded.

"Loony?!" Blitzo gasped, "You came with them?!"

"Yeah, you're welcome, Tweedledee and Tweedledumbass," Loona retorted, "now get your asses in gear before more fuckers show up!"

The hellhounds and hellcat slipped their supply backpacks off of their shoulders, placing them on the ground for the others to dig through. Guns were loaded, blades were brandished, and claws were flexed as the room quickly pooled with government agents, armed with the same Edo period weapons as their predecessors. The I.M.P grouped together, glaring at the tuxedoed force surrounding them as one.

"Okay, I've had one too many emotions for today," Blitzo declared, exchanging impish glances with Heather, "guys, let's fuck! These! Fuckers! UP!"

The red tabby nodded avidly, clawing at the air with a savage hiss. One of the government employees took the bait, hurling his kusarigama at her, but the attempt didn't go very far on Loona's watch. The hellhound sprung forward, intercepting it with her mouth and using the chain at the weapon's base to hurl its former wielder against the wall, killing both him and another employee. A redheaded woman attempted to attack her from behind, swinging a tinbe rochin at her head, but Loona was effectively dodged every dab, ducking and lunging at just the right opportunity to sever her throat. Leaving the blade in her previous victim's throat, she gripped the chain with both hands, whipping it around the throats of two male humans and decapitating them with a devastating thrash of her arms.

Meanwhile, in the crossfires of the action, Connie was locked in a fierce battle with a war fan-bearing agent, countering her attacks with her dagger-sharp hellcat claws. The scrimmage ended with one wrong move on the human's part, allotting Connie enough time to knock her off her feet and rake her natural weapons across her victim's torso as she fell, just in time to swing that same hand across the throat of an approaching attacker. His throat was ripped to shreds, but his falling corpse was quite useful as a launchpad, off of which Connie pounced above her next target. She dug her nails into the man's chest on her way down, front-flipping off of his midsection and using her hind claws to lacerate yet another human, after which she stuck a triumphant landing.

Nearby, Millie performed an impressive barrel roll with her axe, slicing both a human and his katana clean in half with a single swing, splattering blood and organs everywhere. A second man wielding the same sword variety charged at her from the rear, but the imp made quick work of him, slicing off both arms (which, disgustingly enough, were still holding his katana) and doing the same to his legs, rendering him a limbless monstrosity. A third agent tossed shurikens in Millie's direction, but she managed to deflect them with her blade, whacking them all in his direction and finishing him off with a merciless blow to his lower body. Dodging a fourth agent with a katana, she came at him with the force of a raging torpedo, splitting his body at the waist and demolishing his weapon at the same time. Even then, Millie was far from finished, decapitating a fifth attacker after shielding herself from his shurikens.

A woman was just about to strike the imp from behind, but was quickly stopped by Heather, who barbarically wrapped the human's arm around her own neck and yanked, breaking both bones at once. She somersaulted down from the agent's shoulder, sticking an impressive landing in front of Millie, who clapped gleefully at her success.

"Nice one, H!"

"Thanks, Mills!" Heather grinned, "Hey, wanna see something cool?"

"Hell yeah!" Millie nodded, "Show me!"

A lustrous orange aura swirled around Heather's hands, and in a flash of light, two perfectly honed sets of yellow, electricity-singed claws appeared over her natural ones, eliciting an excitable gasp from Millie.

"No fuckin' way!"

"My mum taught me that spell over the weekend!" Heather explained, turning to a cluster of impending humans, "Come on, let's kick some arse and see what they can do!"

With that, the two charged, lunging at the government employees with no holds barred. Heather slashed at the man holding up the end of the group, the intensity of the electrical shock paired with his wounds swiftly ending his life. Witnessing the resulting flash, Millie sliced several more humans in half, roundhouse-kicking them towards the rest of their colleagues. The impact sent them all stumbling backwards, collapsing like dominos until they reached the electrocuted man, which zapped them all in one massive pile, killing them instantly.

"That was amazin', Heather!" Millie squealed, tugging her best friend along once the spell had worn off, "Let's go kill more people with it!"

Adjacent to them, Blitzo and Moxxie were standing back-to-back, covering each other while blasting a flintlock and two assault rifles in a vicious kill circle. Every round they fired was more and more precise, and as the used gun pile began to rise, so did their body count. It was, surprisingly, one of their most effortless murders on record; so effortless that at one point, Blitzo paused to snap a selfie with a severed head from one of Heather's victims, which would most likely end up on Voxtagram should the group make it out of this experience alive.

Vortex's strategy, on the other hand, was much more ruthless and violent, something that no one would have ever expected from the otherwise level-headed and patient demon. He stampeded across the room on all fours, tearing into his victims and shaking them around like rag dolls before flinging them elsewhere. Occasionally, when he spotted a human that was targeting his girlfriend or boss, he would toss them into the air with his mouth and crunch their spines between his teeth, moving on to tear the limbs off of others government workers like clockwork. A true alpha if any of the I.M.P had seen one.

Not too far away, Loona and Connie had teamed up to take down a swarm of opponents on their own. The hellhound would punch and roundhouse-kick the agents she couldn't snap her jaws at in Connie's direction, where they would meet an equally grisly demise at the hands of her claws. A moment later, Blitzo arrived to check on the girls, handing them each an assault rifle. Loona and Connie whirled around at an almost blinding pace with the guns, plowing over any humans who were foolish enough to challenge them with a sea of bullets.

"Die, motherfuckers!" they shouted in unison, tails subconsciously intertwining to follow each other's bodily rhythm.

Eventually, when the two stopped to reload, they noticed what their tails had done while they were preoccupied. They exchanged flustered glances, which quickly evolved into amused laughter, unbeknownst to the fact that Blitzo was watching them proudly until they turned around in preparation for the next round.

"What?" Loona prompted her adoptive father, nervously glancing over at Connie.

"I am just so damn proud of you, Loony!" Blitzo purred, planting a kiss on Loona's left cheek before darting off again, "Bye, sweetie!"

Loona grunted in embarrassment, taking out her anger on a nearby human while Connie gave her a playful eyeroll, joining in the carnage shortly thereafter. Adjacent to her friends on the battlefield, Ember was on a roll herself. She jabbed away at her victims, courtesy of a bright red knife with a massive blade that she'd uncovered in one of the weapon bags, leaving no bystander unscathed in the process.

"Hey, Mills!" Blitzo called across the room at the female imp, who had just slaughtered a dozen more victims just moments ago.

"Hey, Blitz!" Millie waved back at him, sadistically grinning at her next set of targets as she prepared to maul them, "Just one sec!"

As predicted, the murders didn't take long at all. Hardly a few seconds later, she managed to decapitate, disembody, and brutally liquidize four government agents, pausing only to watch the final individual's blood splatter all over the wall.

"You need a gun or anything?" Blitzo suggested, offering a custom-made shotgun with the word "STALLION" imprinted on the side.

"Nah, I'm good!" Millie assured him, kicking off her next set of assassinations with the complete liquefication of another unlucky woman in her path.

The assassin then proceeded to wrap her thighs around a blonde woman's neck, choking her whilst sawing half a dozen other agents in half with a single swing to their midsections. Bringing the human she was riding on to the ground by slicing off her left leg, Millie now held her in a death grip, preparing to finish her off before Blitzo interrupted her.

"How about some water?"

"...Sure!"

Millie nodded, allowing Blitzo to squirt a stream into her mouth from a green and purple water bottle. No sooner had she swallowed the water had she snapped the neck of the woman beneath her, so effortlessly that it was almost scary.

"Thanks, Blitz!" she blinked up at her boss gratefully, grabbing her axe and sprinting off again.

"No problemi, Milli-Milli—oof!"

Blitzo peered over his shoulder, beaming once he realized that it was Heather he'd bumped into rather than another government assailant. Likewise, the hellcat seemed as relieved as he was.

"Oh, heyyy, uh—" the imp greeted, "what was that Australian slang thingy you call me all the time? Mate? That's good, right?"

"You're right," Heather elaborated with an amused laugh, "it's mate. And yeah, that's good. It means you're my friend."

"Ohhh, cool cool cool," Blitzo nodded, unveiling a pair of assault rifles, "cover me, mate?"

"Sure," the tabby agreed, "go for it, mate."

"Now..." the imp nodded, his voice deepening into a sexy, gravely tone as he gave his guns a twirl, "who wants some quality time with daddy~?"

Heather froze on the spot, her pale green eyes widening in admiration. Even Striker couldn't rival whatever the hell that just was.

"Ohhh, mama..." the hellcat muttered, completely unaware of the fact that her tail had just curved into a heart behind her.

Thankfully, Blitzo was too involved in his killing spree to notice Heather's Freudian slip, ascending a nunchaku user's shoulder to fire off his dominant rifle at each passing agent, never missing once. Apparently, Moxxie wasn't the only sharpshooter in the group, especially when Blitzo could pull off acrobatics that the former never could, a staple of both his experience in the circus and as an assassin. Once he'd stuck the landing, Blitzo whipped out a kanabo from the weapon bag draped over his chest, swinging it at the legs of yet another victim and clubbing his spine in half once he was down. He then tossed a grenade in the air, hit it like a baseball, and sent it hurtling across the room towards an unfortunate set of government agents, blowing them all to smithereens.

"Four!" Blitzo whooped, planting his hands on his hips as he returned his attention to the clearly impressed hellcat behind him, "Huh, guess I didn't need you to cover me—uh, you okay there?"

"That. Was. Gnarly," Heather gasped, "oh, that means 'awesome,' by the way. Just to clarify."

"Heh, really?" the imp cocked an eyebrow at her in amusement, "You know, maybe I was wrong about Aussie slang; it's actually kinda fun when you understand it. Well, good on ya for convincing me~"

"You just said one without even thinking!" Heather beamed, her tail wavering behind her in excitement, "Holy shit...this is my favorite day—!"

"BIIITCHEEES!"

Moxxie's victory screech caught the pair's attention on the other side of the room, where he stood at the pinnacle of a massive pile of corpses, shooting human after human on a gun-fueled rampage. Blitzo and Heather watched him in amazement, rushing over to get a closer look.

"Hey, Mox!" Blitzo approached his employee from behind, spooking him.

Moxxie lost control of his gun, accidentally firing it at a male agent's crotch while fumbling to secure the weapon again. The human doubled over in pain, too shocked to scream, and while Moxxie and Heather recoiled in disgust, Blitzo was greatly amused.

"Oh, wow," he remarked, grabbing his knife to finish the job, "really going for the dick there, ain't ya? Here, I've got it for you."

Moxxie opened his mouth to object, but Heather stopped him.

"No, just...let it happen," she deadpanned, patting him on the shoulder, "he was gonna do it to someone here, anyway."

"Damn right I was!" Blitzo smirked, setting his weapon bag down between the two to fish something out, "Now hold this."

"Hold whaaa—" Heather gaped up at the hulking weapon the imp had pulled out, "oh my Satan, that thing's fucking huge!"

Loona and Connie both bit back a snicker, a sly glance at each other being more than enough to communicate what they were thinking. Even more dirty was the fact that the massive missile launcher was remorselessly named "MY DICK." Clearly, the most recent weapon shipment had been a field day for Blitzo.

"Oooh, yeah!" he grunted, positioning his finger over the trigger as Moxxie and Heather balanced the barrel of the weapon, "Gettin' hard holding this motherfucker! Mwahahahahaha!"

The trigger was pulled, and the ultimate weapon, accordingly named "PUSSY DESTROYER," spiraled towards the remaining employees of D.H.O.R.K.S, effectively putting an end to Agent One and Two's onslaught of Edo period attackers when the explosion cleared. For a moment, the I.M.P employees were speechless, standing in complete disbelief of the odds they'd braved to make it out of this mess alive.

"Oh, crumbs," Moxxie broke the silence at last, mentally performing a headcount of his coworkers, "is everyone okay—?"

Blitzo landed on his employee's back, hollering victoriously with clenched fists, earning a celebratory grin from the rest of the assassins.

"Hooo! How's that for demon scum?!"

"We fucking did it!" Loona declared, plucking Connie off the ground and tossing her in the air.

"Yeahhh!" the hellcat landed in her arms grinned, draping her arms over the hellhound's shoulders, "We're alive, I can't believe it! Take that, bitches!"

"Yes!"

The two burst out laughing as Loona playfully twirled around with Connie clinging to her body like a baby koala, too overjoyed to notice or care about their colleagues' stares. After what felt like an eternity, they stopped, and Loona gently set Connie back on the ground. The hellcat seemed confused at first, but then she noticed how flushed her best friend's face was, and it didn't take long for her to do the same.

Loona's gaze was locked on her, wide-eyed and silent. Those same brilliantly ruby-red eyes Connie had grown up with, the ones she thought she knew like the back of her hand, were somehow disparate this time around. They were brighter, warmer; although not physically, it was more than enough to set her entire body on fire. To tell the truth, Connie was half-surprised that the floorboards beneath her hadn't ignited right then and there.

And that was when the mission went from good to great. Loona cupped Connie's cheek in her hand, stroking the fur ever-so-gently, stimulating the warmth in her face even further than she thought possible. Her heart was absolutely pounding, but that was nothing compared to what happened next.

Because that was when Loona kissed her.

It was an agonizingly gentle gesture; tender, sweet, and over far too soon, but to Connie, it was everything. Never before had so many butterflies swarmed in the pits of her stomach, fluttering up her throat as she drank it all in. Every single pleasant little emotion in the universe flashed in front of her, a few at a time and then all at once, almost as if she was standing amidst a scintillating field of fireflies.

But above it all, there was only one word that could even come close to describing the experience: bliss. Pure, unadulterated bliss. It was all theirs, and only theirs. And as the hellhound pulled away to look her best friend in the eye once again, she was certain that she felt it, too. So what was there to worry about?

Oh, right. Connie's reaction.

"F-fuck! Why did I do that?!" Loona stammered, releasing her crush and wheeling around in embarrassment, "I'm sorry, Connie, I don't know what the hell I was thinking! IswearI'llneverdoitagainifyoudidn'tlikeit—"

And then Loona was met with the even more surprising sensation of Connie's hand grazing her cheek. She practically melted into the hellcat's touch as her eyelids cautiously fluttered open, relieved and thrilled beyond her wildest dreams to find Connie smittenly smiling back up at her. She leaned in to return the kiss once she was sure that Loona was on board.

"Whoa..." Connie purred once they'd pulled away, so over the moon that combined with her flushed face and random giggles, it would've been easy to assume that she was drunk, "I kinda liked that."

"Y-yeah?" Loona giggled nervously, "Uh, I mean, yeah! I-I kinda liked it, too."

"Actually...Loona," Connie admitted, "there's something I've been meaning to ask you. And I know this is probably the worst possible place to do this, and there's blood and guts and body parts everywhere, which is super gross and probably not ideal for this conversation...not to mention that I have no idea how you'll react to this—"

"Connie, it's fine," Loona cut her off gently, "really. You can tell me anything, okay? I promise, I won't—"

"Loona, do you wanna be my girlfriend?!"

Connie's hands flew over her mouth, and she mentally cursed herself for blurting out the question like that. Every other jaw in the room dropped to the floor, except for Millie, who was on the verge of squealing. Loona, to say the least, was absolutely stunned, the emotion behind it unreadable, leaving Connie fearing the worst.

"I guess you beat me to it, huh?"

"I...what?"

"You beat me to it," Loona mused, "I've been thinking about asking you that question since our last date!"

"Wait, so that's a yes?" Connie blinked in surprise, her heart fluttering.

"Yeah," Loona laughed, reaching over to squeeze her hand, "that's a yes."

"Fuckin' finally! It's about time you two stopped pussy-footing around!"

Blitzo's exasperated shout snapped Loona and Connie out of their temporary fantasy world, earning a confused stare from both of them.

"Ha! I knew it!" Ember added, smirking over her shoulder at her boyfriend, "Pay up, babe. They committed a week early!"

"Fiiine, you win," Vortex playfully rolled his good eye at her, forking over a few bills, "here."

"Wait a minute," Connie cocked an eyebrow at her coworkers, "you guys knew?"

"Oh, Connie," Millie flashed her a shit-eating grin, "sweetie, everyone knew. Everyone."

"And Blitz isn't upset about this?" Loona prompted, "Like, at all?"

"Nooo, of course not!" the imp shrugged, gesturing to Vortex with his thumb, "I mean, it's not like I don't know Connie. And let's be honest, anyone would be better for you than him."

"Dude, we've been over this," Vortex facepalmed, "I have a girlfriend. She's literally standing right next to me."

"Yeah, yeah, I knew that," Blitzo waved him off, wrapping an arm around both his adoptive daughter and her new girlfriend, "anyways, go crazy, you two!"

The imp leaned in closer to Connie, his expression darkening significantly.

"But if you ever break my daughter's heart, I will break your fucking bones."

"Nooo, you won't," Loona deadpanned, plucking Blitzo off the ground and setting him down further away from Connie, "don't worry, Connie, he doesn't actually mean that."

"Yes I do."

"I swear to Satan, if you don't stop talking—"

The obnoxious blaring of an emergency siren cut her off, followed shortly thereafter by a flashing red light on the wall closest to Blitzo. The I.M.P employees collectively raised their heads at the warning sign like a coterie of prairie dogs, wide-eyed and anxious.

"Oh, shit!" Blitzo waved the group towards the door, ushering Heather along with his tail, "Come on, fam, let's blow this popsicle joint!"

Loona, Connie, Vortex, and Ember quickly slipped the emergency bags of empty weapons over their shoulders and joined the rest of the group in their mad dash for the exit. Loona and Connie took the lead, hand-in-hand, with the former dragging the latter behind her. However, they were promptly cut short as the gateway to their escape route slammed shut, triggering the hallway's lockdown system. Racks of steel bars, overhead doors, laser beams, and even an "occupied" bathroom door ensured that they were going absolutely nowhere.

"Hey!" Loona gasped, peering through the small circular window in horror, "They locked us in!"

"Tex, bust it down!" Heather ordered her hellhound, jutting a finger at the target.

Vortex obeyed with a heavy grunt, pushing past the cluster of panicked assassins and swinging a massive fist at the door over and over again. Unfortunately the door remained as tightly locked as ever.

"Sorry, Heather," Heather's assistant shook his head, "it ain't budging. Next plan?"

"Quick, the book!" Moxxie suggested, worriedly clutching his wife's arm.

Loona gave him a curt nod, digging through her bookbag until her fingers found the hem of the grimoire. She whipped it out and frantically flipped to the page containing the portal spell, attempting to skim over the runic text, but to no avail.

"Shit, I can't..." she growled in frustration, knocking her hand against the book, "I can't read the spell in this light! I can't see dick!"

"Don't we have any more weapons?!" Ember gasped, inching closer to Vortex, "We brought four emergency bags! There's gotta be something!"

Blitzo dug around in his coat for something, anything, sighing in defeat once he realized that the were, in fact, completely defenseless.

"Well, shit. Looks like we milked this weapon tit-dry and now we're out of badassery."

Heather peered around her at the rest of her coworkers; her friends; clinging to their sweethearts for comfort in what would presumably be their final moments of together. This really was the end, wasn't it? They were all going to die here, they would never make it home, and their families and friends back in Hell would be left completely in the dark about what had happened to them.

The thought of her imminent demise haunted Heather's subconscious, tears pricking her eyes as she came to grips with her fate. Her wings sprung from her back to shield her friends as best she could, bracing herself while Agent One and Agent Two approached with loaded pistols. Blitzo rounded the Goetic hellcat's left pinion, standing his ground beside her and offering her hand a reassuring squeeze.

"Ha!" Agent Two barked out a laugh, "You demons aren't goin' anywhere now—!"

The humans stopped dead in their tracks, gaping as they noticed several odd lights above their cowering demon targets. They seemed to resemble a pair of seafoam green orbs, glowering in the shadows with a low, menacing growl. Agents One and Two cautiously took a step back, pointing their pistols away from the I.M.P team just in time for a wave of static to flicker onto a nearby television screen. They watched in horror as the device began quivering, the image of the chairs in the center of the room replaced with two sets of bright red eyes, staring down the agents from their place in the top right corner. Even more unsettling was the ominously hushed voice echoing off the walls, goading Agent One and Agent Two with the edge in his voice.

"̴̨̬̥̄͊͊̈͛̈W̶͇͚̪̞̙͒͜h̴̜̙̪̒̎̓͒̃̕ǫ̸͚͓̼̗͎̹̓̃͗̇̕ ̷̢̗͚̬̫̤͌͆͒͋͐͜ḑ̵̺̯͖̤̼͊͌̌͑̊͂a̵̡̨͙̩̲̣̦̋͆̑r̸͈͈͎̘̖̉͋̿̀́͜ë̵̯̘̳̬̮̠́ͅṣ̷̦̼͕̚ ̵̝͛t̷̥̦̮͐̔͒̋̈́h̶̫͚̍̓̍̓͊͒͋r̶̢͍͚͂̉̐̓̑ę̸̛͍̖̾̄̎͐͐̄a̴̧̖̣̭̍̃̆͑ţ̸̙̩̜͚̅͗͠͠ė̸̢̘͇͉̙̈́ǹ̵͕̤̳̞͗̏ ̶̺̤̺̘͍̍̈́̇̆̓̚m̷͎̯̫̙̒͝y̴͙̩̘̼̐͒͆̚ͅͅ ̴̻͂̉̔p̷̝̘̣̗͕̙̙̊͗̂̈́r̴̗̗̟͓̥̓̋̿̏͜e̵̜̮̗̮͒̆̍̆̄c̸̻̳͖̰̆̋̒̑̈̐i̴̖̟̩̟̼̬̇̄̇̓̀̚ơ̸͇̱̋͊͆̌u̵̝̳̘̼̹̮̹̐͆s̷͖̙̥̠̜̲̄ ̶͇̱̥̹̹̺̤̽̀̊̽͂l̷͈̘̺̓̿̔͂i̵̼̯̍̌̈́̌͘͜t̷̜̀t̷̼͙̾̒̂́ḻ̸̣̫̠̑̈́͌̍̈͘è̶͚̝̺̏̽̍̑͂̕ ̶̩͔̗͎̠̠̎̇͂͂̿̕s̴̳̤̼̈́̓̇͛̈́̃i̷̧̼̪̝̐̄̿ș̵̱̯̗͕̖̀̈́͘̕t̴̟̻͉̪̆͂̇͗͆͜ę̴̖͓̣͚͉̣̆̆͐͂̃r̶̡͕̬̱͍̊͌̇͆̾?̷̨̮̖̫̠̩̗̒̊͐"̴͎̘̩̮͕̐̐̓

"Who said that?!" Agent One snapped, brandishing his pistol until his partner shouldered him.

The humans froze as a trail of what appeared to be pawprints spawned on the floor in front of them, slowly approaching in their direction. A second quivering monitor slammed into Agent One's face when he aimed at the impending footprints, knocking his sunglasses off and forcing him to the ground, his left cheek bleeding from the impact. Reeling, he shakily scraped himself off the floor, peering behind him at his partner, whose back was turned to him.

"Agent Two?"

He made the mistake of attempting to reach out to her, and whatever demonic force was in the room at that moment decided to rear its ugly head; in this instance, quite literally. Agent Two's face spun a full 180° to maniacally grin at him with dagger-sharp teeth, her irises inflated wildly with an eerie green glow in their centers. Agent One immediately retracted his hand as if he'd been burned, recoiling in terror as a shadowy black mass emerged from her abdomen.

hellcat silhouette with Locke's voice, speaking in synchrony with his possessed human victim.

"̷̞͎̬͓Ẅ̴̢͈͉͑̎͑̄͂̊ḩ̸̢̛̳͉͕̮̽̇̈́͜á̴͎t̴̗͋͆̍̂̈́̇͘'̷̝̟͕̞̣̿͋̑͐̈ͅŝ̵̥̰͈̯́̌͘͝ ̵̹̞̣̯̓̒̈̕t̶̛̫̑͋ḧ̵̛̳́͋̈͑́̎ȅ̵̢̝̩͓͋͋̔̐̈́ ̸͔̫̓͌͊̂͒̚m̷͇̣̹͕̓͋̂͒̈́̉̕͜ą̷̲̺̫̫̝̈́̍ͅẗ̸̨̨̛̠̦͉̥́̿̋̕͠ţ̸̳̗͂̎͒̆̾̾ė̷̳̝͙̆̕̕͜r̸̪̬̥͍̤̒̒̔,̵͇̚͠͠ ̶͉̠̉̄̇̅̌͂d̴̼̘̚ę̶̟̯͓͈̃̽̓͜m̴̪̣̹̓͑ö̵̟́̀n̶̞̍̎͂̌͜ ̷̭̻͛̈́̔h̶̗̾̽́̓u̸̜͎͈͍̲͐̎͝ñ̶͓͈͍͚̺͑̓̃ț̶̨̧̻̇̌̈͆̔e̵̥̮̫̣̰͕̙r̶͎̫̦̀͐̉̎͋̉́?̶̤̋ ̸̧͚̲̟͔̘̣̊͝Ň̵̺̠̘̀̈̓̽͝e̴̬̾̿v̴̢̛͕̘̜̦̙̎͆̈̀͝͝ę̵̯̐͆̈́̚̕r̸̨̺̓͘ ̶͚̩̭̯̆͒͛̉͝s̴̨͚̬̘̝̲̀̏̆̎̐̈́͘͜e̶̼̜͊̈́ë̷̡̖̘́̉̈́͆̃̾ņ̴̢̭̩͇͕͉͗̄͆̅͠ ̴͓̘̪̗͎͕̓̈͜a̶̟͚͎̟̲̺̼̓͆̌ ̴̧͇̻͍͚̱̇̓̒̿̑͛̈r̸͉̫̠̍͋͛̑͋ě̸̞͗̕͝͝ą̶̫̔̒̾̇̈́̅̇l̶̢̧̹͚͉͈͌̀͊̆ͅ ̶͉̌̅̇̕͠͝ḑ̴̹̮̱̞̬͂̑̇̓͛͜͠͝ë̵̗̟͈̱̟̭͐͒̕̕͝m̸̞̊̍̓͝o̵͚̰̲̹̭͋͂̋͒͐̈ṋ̶̑ͅ ̸̧̛̼͇̹͈́̀͌̕ͅb̷̛̦̙̰͎̱̹͆͊̉͜ë̵̻́͗̉f̵̹̒͂̊̇̽͋͝ở̷̤̭̞̝͈̈́̇͂͝ṙ̷̨͍̯̞̼̭͑̽͛̈́̽ȅ̵͍̖̥̝͋̾̌͜?̶̦̟̻̺̓̿̑̊"̶̢̢̎̓

One by one, the bodies of the government agents that the I.M.P had slaughtered rose from the floor in a coordinated mass, dipping their fingers in their own blood and using it to draw a Goetic seal on the tiles and collapsing once their work was done. Agent One backed away in horror, shaking his head in disbelief as both shadow Locke and Agent Two barked out a mocking laugh. The hellcat silhouette leapt back into the blonde woman's body, snapping her head back into position with a pained grunt, and most gut-wrenching of all, forcing her to the ground in a series of painful spasms.

It was a scene fitting for a horror movie. Agent Two writhed on the ground, her limbs snapping in practically every direction they should've have, a thick, inky substance seeping from her body and pooling on the floor around her. But whatever the liquid was, it most definitely wasn't blood. It began to materialize in front of her in a towering mass, taking on the shape of a wildcat with tremendous horns and wings, outlined entirely in the same shade of green as his eyes. Eventually, Agent Two was freed from all demon influence, her body restored to its original state, but she and her coworker were still far from relieved. Especially when they locked eyes with the monstrosity looming above them.

Crouching on all fours with a deafening roar, the true Goetic demon form of Locke Barlowe shocked everyone within eyeshot, including his twin sister, who gaped at his unbelievable power in complete and utter speechlessness. If this was what he was capable of, Heather couldn't even begin to imagine what she could do if provoked.

Having thoroughly traumatized Agent One and Two with his newfound abilities, Locke transformed back into his hellcat self in a flurry of dandruff and feathers, his menacing gaze still fixated on the cowering humans in his path. Just like Heather, he now had a pair of curved horns and patterned wings characteristic of his mother's species of Ars Goetia, but had also exchanged his old work outfit for a new business suit, adding to his new appearance even further.

"If you ever come near my sister again, I swear to all that is unholy—" Locke hissed, flexing his claws threateningly.

"Oh, for Lucifer's sake, Locke..."

Stolas interrupted his chain of thought on the other side of the room, disabling the security system and turning the lights back on with the push of a button. He exited the control room to join his secretary, nonchalantly eyeing him with his hands tucked behind his back.

"You don't have to be so melodramatic, you know," the prince continued, removing a stray feather from Locke's shoulder and gingerly flicking it away, "I think your deviously clever scare tactics got the message across well enough."

"Well, they better have," Locke folded his arms with a huff, "nobody fucks with my siblings and gets away with it."

"And you're such a good big brother for caring so much," Stolas hummed, steering him towards the I.M.P employees with his tail, "thankfully, it looks like we made it here in time."

Locke's expression immediately softened in relief, thankful beyond words that the owl demon was right. He immediately rushed to Heather's side to inspect her for any injuries, having nothing but raw brotherly love in his eyes.

"Are you okay, sis?" the apricot hellcat prompted softly, cupping her cheek fur in his hands, "Did they hurt you at all? Cuts, bruises, broken bones? Anything?"

"No worries, big bro," Heather chuckled lightly, "I'm alright. Thanks for the save, though."

"Don't mention it..." Locke sighed, enveloping her in his arms, "this could've gone so much worse. I'm just glad that it didn't."

Just as quickly as the sibling moment began, it came to a screeching halt when Locke pulled away to grip his twin's shoulders, furrowing his brow in annoyance.

"Now tell me...how. The fuck. Did your entire company get caught by humans?!"

"Hey, leave them out of it!" Heather frowned, "This was technically my fault. I was the one who didn't hop through the portal soon enough."

"Yeah, don't worry," Blitzo piped up, "it was just Heather and me who got kidnapped. But then everyone else went topside to save us, sooo..."

"Satan almighty..." Stolas shook his head, pinching the bridge of his beak, "are you little creatures not being careful up here again? You know if you get in trouble, I get in trouble! We don't want that!"

"They caught us off guard, your highness," Moxxie explained politely, "we'll be more careful from now on."

"Yeah, you can unclench your bird-puss, Stolas," Blitzo rolled his eyes, "it's not gonna happen again, okay?"

"Luckily for you," Locke rallied, taking a deep breath, "most people don't believe anything that demon-obsessed lunatics have to say. They are seen as kooks."

Stolas stifled a laugh, his cheeks reddening in amusement, prompting Locke to glance over his shoulder in intrigue.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing really," Stolas chuckled, "just that...that word you used just now."

"What, kooks?" the hellcat shrugged, confused.

"Yes, yes, kooks," Stolas nodded, "kooks! Such a silly word! It has a nice ring to it~"

"Heh, okay," Locke spared him a playful eyeroll, shaking his head, "whatever riles up your 'roo, mate."

"Now!" Stolas clasped his hands together, using them to pry open a portal to the office, "Let us all return!"

"Yes, please," Moxxie nodded eagerly, taking his wife by the hand and leading her towards the mystical entryway, "I'd like to get back to the correct hellhole as soon as possible."

The other assassins followed suit, jumping through the portal and back into the living room to resume their everyday lives as before. Heather couldn't help but smile at the outcome, thanking whatever mysterious circumstances led to this moment. She was going back to her life, and was free to resume her search for her soulmate without any further interruption.

Strangely enough, Heather wasn't sure what to think about that last part anymore.

"Phew, that was really something," Blitzo flashed her a sheepish grin, watching as the portal closed in on itself, "but hey, at least we survived."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Heather nodded, "you know, when we were tied up back there, I was worried that I was gonna die before I could really live the life I've always wanted. And now I'm here again, walking away from a near-death experience with a second chance...and I have no idea what to do with it. I mean, what can I do with it?"

"I could take you out for dinner after work," Blitzo suggested, "a little food always helps me think. Well, if you're up for something like that after tonight's fiasco."

Heather silently pondered over it, her tail flicking in thought. She turned back to the imp with a grateful smile, a light blush tinting her cheeks as she replied.

"Actually, dinner sounds great. Thank you."