Stand By Him - nihil-gaiman (nonbinary_tatooine) (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Pro Memoria Chapter Text Chapter 2: Depth of Satan's Eyes Chapter Text Chapter 3: Cirice Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 4: Infestissumam Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 5: Idolatrine Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: If You Have Ghosts Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 7: Kiss the Go-Goat Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 8: Kaisarion Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 9: Deus In Absentia Chapter Text Chapter 10: See the Light Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 11: Respite On The Spitalfields Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 12: Witch Image Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 13: Genesis Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 14: Prime Mover Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 15: Mary On A Cross Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 16: Jigolo Har Megiddo Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: Hunter's Moon Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Secular Haze Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 19: Dominion Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20: Waiting for the Night Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21: Phantom of the Opera Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22: Bible Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 23: Spirit Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 24: Ritual Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 25: Watcher in the Sky Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26: Spooky, Scary Skeletons Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 27: La Mantra Mori Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 28: Rats! Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 29: Death Knell Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 30: Square Hammer Chapter Text Chapter 31: From the Pinnacle to the Pit Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 32: Zenith Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 33: Ghuleh Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 34: Stay Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 35: Call Me Little Sunshine Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 36: Zombie Queen Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 37: Monstrance Clock Notes: Chapter Text Notes: References

Chapter 1: Pro Memoria

Chapter Text

Copia has never been arrogant. He takes all of the praises from their clergy and tour of the Infernal Gospels with a humble sense of self, devoting the praise to the Dark Lord rather than his own ego.

But tonight, he allows himself a pat on the back and a smug smile in the vanity mirror. Rigatoni the mottled grey rat, his favorite pet but don't tell the others, is already dressed in his hand-sewn tuxedo jacket. He sleeps in the small basket in Copia's lap as his owner finishes touching up his papal eye paint.

Swiss and Dewdrop bicker behind him in his closet with one of the Sisters of Sin over what jacket should don their Papa's shoulders on the red carpet tonight. The smaller Ghoul is arguing that Copia should wear his blue embroidered papal robes as the ultimate sign of sending their thanks to Him.

Swiss, arguably the most fashionable of the male-oriented Ghouls, chatters on about the need for Copia to use human fashion to appeal to the Hollywood paparazzi that will no doubt be all over them tonight. "I'm just saying that we'll be criticized if we go the religious route. You've read all those preachy magazine headlines."

"But we're not that kind of religion! How come Pope Francis is allowed to only wear his robes but you're scared of ours wearing his? This is a high honor and we need to show our love for Him."

Swiss groans, handing the red sequined jacket to Sister Rebecca who brings it to the man sitting patiently at his vanity. She smiles and helps him slide his arms into it, fastening his Grucifix cufflinks carefully. "I think this is a fine outfit for the award ceremony." She says, her smile-lined face wise with her older age.

"It's too simple!" Dew huffs. "We are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! A sparkly jacket is not enough." He stomps his small booted foot with all of his might.

"Dewdrop." Copia warns. The small demon has been unusually high-strung as of late, having outbursts in gospel rehearsals, and being jittery during Black Mass despite it being the Ghoul's favorite activity.

"Sorry, Papa. I just…I want to look good in His eyes."

"I think He's pretty proud of us already. What does Sister Imperator think I should wear?" The Anti-Pope stands to place his slumbering basket of rat on the vanity counter. His red concert jacket is one of his favorites and he's inclined to take Swiss' choice on the matter. His black silk tie hangs loosely around his frilled collar waiting to be the finishing touch to his outfit.

Both of the Ghouls give each a look from behind their goggles. So they haven't talked to the matriarch then, Copia laughs to himself. "Rebecca, please find Sister Imperator."

The woman nods and leaves, Swiss' hands coming to rest on his hips. "Papa! She's going to side with Dew. She always does!"

"She may not this time. She is not always as, uh, traditional as you believe her to be." He shrugs. She has definitely surprised him before, even for instance his ascent to Papacy, which was apparently recommended by visions gifted from Lucifer to the woman herself of Copia's ascension. He is so eternally grateful for her continued support of him in front of the Upper Clergy despite him not being of the Emeritus bloodline.

A knock on the door reveals the woman and a small, curvy Ghoulette, Aurora. Why did the two demons not think to ask the one demon who devours every piece of celebrity media she could? Aurora was definitely more of a fashion-head than either of the boys.

"No, no. This will not do. We need something more charismatic, something…that broadens your shoulders." Imperator says immediately. She takes the jacket off Copia's shoulders. She strides to the open walk-in closet, passing the two male Ghouls. "Cardi, where is your military jacket?"

"I'm sure it's somewhere in there…" He grimaces, unsure if he remembered to put it aside for dry cleaning after the last touring Ritual a week ago.

The three Ghouls get to work to look for the missing coat, leaving their leader to watch them bustle around with a guilty conscience if it is found unclean.

Aurora pulls the jacket from its wedged position between pairs of boots next to his unpacked suitcases. "I found it! I think it's been cleaned."

Imperator plucks the matching gold-threaded waistcoat from its hangar. "Now why was your waistcoat hung but not the jacket, Cardi?" She rolls her eyes good-naturedly as he shucks the plain vest he was wearing to switch to the new outfit.

He flashes her a nervous smile. "It probably slipped off the, um, hangar," He lies. He just forgot about it in his rush to fall into an exhausted sleep when they arrived back at the Abbey.

She allows him to fasten his gold Grucifix front fastenings as she straightens the epaulet fringe. The jacket is beautiful against the black and white of his papel paint, broadening his stature to a confident lilt while accentuating his hips. "There, look at how strong this makes you! You two were trying to make him too Hollywood." She stands back to appreciate her work as Copia spins in a slow circle with his arms out.

Dew thwacks on Swiss' arm. "Yeah, like I said!"

"She didn't choose your outfit either!" The multi-ghoul exclaims. He pushes the fire Ghoul who almost loses his balance.

"Hey! Stop fighting," Copia calls to stop them before a full-blown demon brawl begins. "You both had good opinions."

"Sorry Papa," Both mumble, masked heads hung low. He pats each of their heads as Imperator leads them out of his chambers and into the hallways of the Abbey. Aurora grabs Rigatoni's basket and shuts the door behind them all.

"Now, Cardi," Even though he's used to her only calling him by his old title of Cardinal, it still feels a bit like she doesn't see him as leader of the Church yet. "There will be three interviews tonight. Two on the red carpet and one with the museum director after the ceremony. Your speech script is in a folder that Mountain will hold onto until you are up on stage. If there are questions you can't answer or don't wish to, I've authorized Aurora and Primo to answer for you."

"Wait, I thought I was doing that?" Swiss co*cks his head.

Imperator bobs her head in agreement, but grimaces a bit at the demon. "I think it would be better if Aurora did this, this time, just in case." She puts a hand on the Ghoul's shoulder then moves the group down the hallway towards the sanctuary.

Swiss follows behind them with a depressed aura, spaded tail dragging along the tiled floor. Copia wants to comfort the Ghoul but is pulled into the large fellowship hall before he can.

The other five Ghouls are waiting with the three Emeritus brothers near the dais and front pews.

"Looking good!" Terzo claps a hand on Copia's back. The third Papa (no longer the frontman, however) rakes his eyes over his adopted younger brother appreciating the dramatic flair similar to his own style.

Copia can't help the sheepish smile that breaks across his face. "Thank you."

Imperator claps her hands. "You have to make it to the venue by five so you must be leaving now. I trust the speech is checked and printed?"

Mountain gives a stoic, quiet nod, black folder in hand.

Primo has a small red rose in his hand, cut down to fit neatly within a small corsage. "For spreading His word. You have made us proud, Papa." The eldest brother's thin fingers pin the small arrangement to his lapel. The other two brothers have smaller, but matching corsages already fastened to their own outfits.

"Thank you, Papa." Copia bows to the three of them, who bow back, Terzo's black bangs flopping out of their gelled hairstyle to hang in front of his eyes.

"You, Mister, are getting a haircut after this." Imperator shakes her head and licks her thumb to smooth back the hair, much to Terzo's whining.

"I'll fix it in the car, Sister! Geez," He bats her hands away.

"Make sure he does," She grumbles to Secondo, who nods.

"Snitch," Terzo huffs.

Sister Imperator ushers them out onto the sidewalk where a long, black limousine idles patiently. The driver opens the door and the eight Ghouls pile in, followed by the birth order of the Papas so Copia could step out first.

Swiss is curled with his arms crossed, no doubt still upset as Imperator changed his role within the last hour before leaving. Hopefully the Ghouls will be able to cheer him up before they step onto the red carpet in the somewhat short time to arrive.

Secondo has pulled out the weathered deck of Uno cards from the pocket of his suit and immediately begins to deal them out on the small table that telescopes from the car wall. "Best 4 out of 6?"

"Winner gets an hour alone in the limo with someone during the reception." Terzo suggests with a waggle of his eyebrows.

"Can't you go a day without sex?" Primo groans, flipping through his dealt hand. His rounded reading glasses are perched at the top of his hooked nose.

"It has been 36 hours, thank you very much. And besides, my duty now is to make sure His desire for org*sms are adequately spread through all humans."

Copia rolls his eyes in time with Primo and probably Mountain.

Secondo bobs his head in agreement with his youngest brother, though. "We will be in New York City! How else will we spread his word if not through spread legs?" He starts the game with a slap of a yellow 5 card.

The limo gets stuck in a bit of traffic once they are close to Manhattan, but thankfully Sister Imperator made them leave a bit early just in case. Primo surprisingly ends up winning their small tournament, causing the Ghouls to exchange their bet money to Cirrus, who oozes smugness at winning unexpectedly. Copia lets out a sigh of relief knowing that there won't be any gross stains in the limo tonight.

After another half-hour of traffic, the Brother of Sin driver pulls them into the line of celebrity cars dropping off at the start of the paparazzi carpet.

Copia should be used to being in the spotlight now. He's been Papa for two years now. He's toured across the world gathering believers and led dozens of Wednesday and Sunday night Black Mass Rituals. So why do his hands still shake as the red carpet comes into view?

Terzo basks as the flashes of camera greet their limo. The Brother of Sin driver opens the door and helps Copia and the others out into the blinding spectacle of a red carpet entrance.

" Papa, over here!"

"A quick word, please!"

"Give us a smile! Do a spin!"

It all rushes against his ears as one of the labeled carpet ushers guide their large group to a spot for pictures. Copia does his best to remember the poses they all agreed upon with all of the noise around him. Terzo, ever the camera whor*, makes sure to place his hand on Copia's lower back to remind him where to stand.

The Ghouls are also a welcome presence and take away from the spotlight as Copia steps up to the guardrail to do his first interview. The reporter is nice, asking appropriate questions that he answers easily. Aurora floats behind him in case of the stray question, but the interview passes quickly and leaves him in a lighter mood. He's guided to the next interview spot and the tone of it has a bit of a more critical eye.

"So how does it feel to be the first religious group inducted into the Hall of Fame?" She asks, something judgmental in her tone. She’s too close, clogging his head with the sour smell of divinity.

"We're all very honored," Copia begins, “This means so much to my family to be recognized at this level.”

Don't be preachy. Talk about the music itself, not His word. Humans can be hostile when coming to face other religions, Sister Imperator's words remind him.

"My brothers and I have spent countless hours together with the Ghouls to write music. It's been an incredible experience touring-"

She nods, cutting him off as she takes the microphone away from him a bit early. "And these Ghouls of yours, are they given the choice to perform with you? Are they trapped devil worshippers as well-"

Copia finds the strength in his soul to defend his precious family and interrupt her. "The Ghouls are talented musicians that choose to work with us. Anyone who says that has obviously not listened to our music or knows what we stand for. It's not difficult to see that they work incredibly hard but they work hard because they enjoy creating music as much as us brothers do."

He knows it's bad taste but he walks away to where his brothers stand before she can open her mouth again. Yells of the paparazzi follow after him like wild dogs. He ignores it as they are led inside for the ceremony.

"You okay, Fratellino?" Secondo whispers.

"Yeah, just another reporter accusing the Ghouls of being slaves." It happened more than he thought it would. He relaxes as they're seated at a large round table near the large stage. Mountain and Swiss flank Copia, and Swiss gives him a bright smile as he points to the gold-embossed programs laid out on the table.

The last few guests file into their respective tables over the next few minutes. Mountain hands him the speech to look over.

"There's an In Memoriam for the old croaker." Terzo hisses across the table.

Copia groans. Usually he'd be okay with In Memoriams, but Papa Nihil is (somehow) still alive. Did Sister Imperator tell the press the blind bat of a man was dead? "I guess we play along." He shrugs to Terzo, who nods.

Copia sips from a flute of champagne as the lights dim. He'll need a bit of courage for this next part of the night. At least the Museum Director interview was after all this. Someone who was probably understanding and an academic like he was.

The lights dim to the golden sconces and colored stage lights. Against the back wall of the stage is a collage of the different Papas on tour, including a central picture of Papa Nihil performing a saxophone solo back in 1969. If only the old coot was still that liberal.

From behind the sashed sparkly gold curtains walk out two familiar faces. Famous guitarist, Per Eriksson, his long blonde hair flowing as he moves with talented musician Jutty Taylor to the central podium. Jutty carries the large plaque engraved with a gold record and their band's, Ghostemblem sparkling in the light. Jutty sets the plaque on its easel stand next to the podium with a grin directed to the table of musicians.

Swiss waves back excitedly, eager to see his musician friend again. Ghouls weren't not allowed to be around humans, but it was an unwritten rule of the Abbey to limit all possibilities of humans knowing they were inhuman.

"Hello, I'm Per Eriksson,"

"And I'm Jutty Taylor,"

"and the two of us are super stoked to be presenters of the National Music Hall of Fame's Rock 'n Roll Legacy Award tonight." Per finishes.

"The Rock 'n Roll Legacy Award is a highly competitive honor only eligible to artists or groups that have been performing for at least 25 years and have made significant contributions to the Rock 'n Roll genre." The curly-haired musician states, having to lean down to the podiun's microphone.

Per flips a bit of his long hair over his shoulder. "This year's inductee has been around since 1969," a pause for the round of clapping that follows that,"and began with a determined rock saxophonist, Neil "Papa Nihil" Emeritus, busking on the streets of New Jersey with his friends until they scored their first gig at a nightclub in Atlantic City."

"Since then, the band Ghost has been led by four of Papa Nihil's sons and flourished in the rock 'n roll genre and counter-religion circles. We have the Emeritus family to thank for countless songs and albums that have changed the trajectory of music for the better. Per and myself want to thank them for being open about their religious ties and not falling victim to opposition."

Per takes the mic from Jutty to turn to the screen behind them. "Before we hear from their current frontman, Papa Emeritus IV, the Music Hall of Fame Museum has put together some of the best moments from this band's legacy."

Kiss the Go-Goat starts as the black screen brightens to reveal a young and handsome Papa Nihil singing on the small black stage wedged above a crowd of jumping onlookers. The music fades to a quieter noise level as an interview's voiceover appears.

"Seven Inches of Satanic Panic is the name of your first album, is that correct? Aren't you afraid of getting rejected albums?" The voice of some well-known radio figurehead washes over the audience, but Copia doesn't care enough to know his name.

" Well it had to be called something. And why not name it after me? People are going to be arseholes anyway, but there's a massive bunch of good record labels that care about the music more than what everyone else thinks about God. I was put here to make rock 'n roll, and I'm going to continue doing it no matter what anyone says…"

Copia had to admit that all of the Papa Nihil interviews before Terzo was born were somewhat inspirational.

The next scene opens with a younger Primo being interviewed in the early 1980's as a portion of the screen shows him swinging a thurible during Con Clavi Con Dio.

"What does your Father think of you continuing his band?" A new reporter, handsome and tan sits across from a full papacy Primo. He still has long white-blond hair that falls over his robes.

"I was always so jealous of his hair." Secondo grumbles from beside Mountain.

"I like to think he's excited. As expressive as he is on stage, he's a stoic man in real life. He mostly shows his emotions through music. It's one of the ways we bond as a family, especially now that my brother's been born. He'll only sleep if Father sings to him."

Primo pats a hand on an embarrassed Secondo's back. "They didn't choose the one where I talked about Tiffany at least."

Next comes a clip of Year Zero and it cuts right before it shows Secondo lifts up his robes to flash the camera.

"One band has been the center of an international controversy this week with a release of their music video that contains nudity, sexual acts, and devil worshiping. Ghost was considered controversial with their opening album discussing Satanism in '69 but was embraced by the looser culture of the time. However, releasing such a video just after the Cold War has made many music fans reeling. We wonder if there is a larger conspiracy behind this band… "

The video fades to one of Terzo strolling out onto the stage with his usual swagger.

"After nearly 30 years of being criticized by conservative religious groups, Ghost has finally received the praise it deserved in the form of the Grammy Award for its musical contributions. Papa Emeritus III is with us today to celebrate this family's accomplishments."

"It was a struggle at times. When we were on the road back in the 80s (when I was still small enough to be in a booster seat) there would be people trying to knock the van into ditches. There'd be crowds shouting for us to leave. I got used to it because I grew up hearing Dad's music and loving it, and I loved carrying on my brother's band and putting my own spin on it."

The reporter checks the list of questions in front of him. " Are there still angry crowds when you tour?"

"I don't think there ever won't be. We could cut out Lucifer's word and people would still hate us. The late 90s have been revolutionary for music and religion so I don't see us stopping any time soon." Terzo winks at the camera.

Then comes a burst of sound at the beginning of Rats! A young Cardinal Copia dances around a stage in his red cassock, silver-masked Ghouls surrounding him.

"Satanism's favorite gospel band has had a reawakening after a hiatus of five years. The newly-dubbed Cardinal Copia brings back the rock music and quirky makeup counter-culture has been missing."

The red Cassock of Copia's morphs into the red sequined jacket of the Impera Tour and eventally transformed into a still shot of Copia holding the mic to the audience while wearing his military outfit.

The lights come back up and the two announcers join the crowd as they clap. "What a family! Seems like music really can be inherited." Jutty jokes.

"We are so honored to have almost all of the Papas here with us tonight. Can we have our inductees join us on stage, please?" Per gestures to them to stand file up to the podium.

Copia is flanked by the three brothers as he gives Jutty and Per big hugs. The musicians used to help the band with studio recording before they both took off in their own careers.

“Now that they’re up here, we wanted to have a moment of remembrance for Neil “Papa Nihil” Emeritus, who unfortunately passed away last month.” Jutty says, Per going to the side of the stage to bring out a large bouquet of white lilies and red chrysanthemums to hand to Primo.

The crowd quiets and the humming of the electrical equipment can be heard. Copia hopes the strange expression on his face can be taken as grief. How is he supposed to mourn someone who’s not dead?

Finally, he’s allowed to step up to the podium and begin his speech. "This is an incredible feeling and privilege to have this award dedicated to our family tonight." Copia has basically memorized the script in front of him with how much Imperator made him recite it, but the paper does help him stay on track with all the eyes watching him.

"My brothers, and Papa Nihil, have really made this band more than just about music and religion, but about making a community of the most amazing fans someone could ever ask for. I've only been frontman for Ghost for two years, but they've been the best years of my life because how close it's pulled our family together again. Papa Nihil's passing was sudden,"

LITERALLY. It's been what, 20 minutes?

"...and it forced us to reconsider who we were as a band. We worked through our grief and I think he would be proud of us continuing his dream. It will be so rewarding to see the museum exhibition that will come from this award. I speak for my brothers and Ghouls when I say thank you to everyone who has listened to our music and supported us through the difficult times and angry mobs. We love you!" He hoists the plaque into the air as the crowd roars.

Square Hammer blares over the speakers and black and red confetti shoot out over the stage and audience.

All of the group poses for several pictures before they are led back down onto the reception floor where different musicians and celebrities meet them with hugs and handshakes. It takes about two hours for Copia and the group to handshake their way through the crowd to their table. There's some pieces of confetti still on it, but waiters quickly bring them more champagne and hot plates of food.

None of them really need to eat normal amounts of food; between the Ghouls being demons and all of the Papas gifted with Lucifer's blessing, consumption of food was unnecessary. It would just disintegrate once it entered their mouths. Still, it was fun to pretend to taste what the food was like.

After the reception, most of the celebrities filed out with final goodbyes and left the group alone with a small collection of people with name tags. They were shown to a conference room while the reception area was cleaned up. The tall woman was dressed smartly in a white pantsuit and shook their hands as they shuffled inside..

"I'm Dr. Evelyn Myers, Director of the Music Hall of Fame Museum," She begins once she gets back to Copia. "Congratulations and my condolences for Papa Nihil."

"That video was really cool. Did you make it yourself?" Terzo asks, trying to get away from the sympathy for their still-living Father.

Dr. Myers laughs loudly, her bob-length hair shimmying. "Oh no. I don't have a creative bone in my body. I'm mostly donor relations, functionality, and logistics. Anything creative you see in our Museum is done by our head Curator, Lilly Warren and her creative team." She gestures to the shorter woman next to her and the small handful of people on Lilly's other side.

Lilly Warren was maybe an inch shorter than Terzo, with brown-blonde ombre shoulder-length curls, light brown eyes dusted by long eyelashes and black eyeliner. She was plump and shorter, contrasting Dr. Myer's severe thinness, and dressed in a dark green velvet dress that reached her knees.

"Hi," She says and shakes all of their hands. "Like Dr. Myers said, I'm Lilly Warren and I'll be creating the exhibition display commemorating your induction. I've been listening to your music and it's really had an effect on us. It's even been added into our office playlist."

Copia feels all of the tension of the day leave him when Lilly's smiling eyes meet his. Someone who actually enjoys their music and isn't doing it just because of their job.

Terzo and Secondo are immediately interested as she reaches them, pushing each other aside to press a kiss to her knuckles first. The youngest Emeritus wins, and bows as she flushes. His mismatched eyes look to her left hand and sees the flash of a diamond, cursing internally.

"It is an honor to meet you, Mrs. Warren." Terzo bends back up.

Lilly waves a hand. "No, no. We're engaged. Not a Mrs. yet, but thank you for noticing." She laughs but it's a bit nervous. She shuffles in front of Copia and smiles as he squeezes her hand gently.

"He's always like that."

"I could see that in a lot of the interviews I watched. My friend was a Cirice back in 2004, I should show you pictures of their shrine to Ghost."

Oh, Dark Lord, Terzo does not need another ego boost today.

"Or you could show me your friend's number," Terzo says smoothly, proving Copia’s point.

Secondo smacks him upside the head. "You are not corrupting the Curator's friend."

"They was a Cirice! I knew there was something special about them even in the heat of a concert." He argues back.

"Andie would love to talk. I can set something up with you two once I get started on the background questions tonight." Lilly assures the two brothers. She turns to the stack of files on the table to their right. "So this is a few stacks of the background information I was provided by your…Sister Impera-tor? Am I saying that correctly?"

They all bob heads in agreement. Copia didn't realize there was that much about them, but after a moment it made sense how thorough the short woman had to be to create this display.

"To give you a big picture of the process; because of the Legacy aspect, this will be a permanent display and will take a bit longer than usual exhibitions. To celebrate the official induction, we're creating a small, temporary display in eight months. The actual designing and installation of the permanent display will take about three years."

The four brothers glance at each other.

Lilly gives them a knowing look. "Yeah, we're going to be very close at the end of this project." She opens the top manila folder to take out two small binders, her sparkly nails match her dress as she flips the top binder open.

"These binders have the Museum's contact information, as well as my personal contacts. After those pages are some questions you're welcome to either write on or email me about. I'm also free to meet in person at the Museum if that's more comfortable."

"This is so much work for you already, is there anything we can tell you now?" Copia feels guilty at how large the stack is underneath the plastic binders and there seems to already be the beginnings of dark bags under her pretty eyes.

"My job is to make sure you're represented in this exhibition on your terms, not the Museum's. Don't worry about me," Lilly smiles, closing the binders and handing one to Copia and the other to Mountain. "You seem like the responsible one." She whispers.

Mountain nods, silent not because of how he usually is, but because of the black flush that heats his gray cheeks under his mask. He holds the black binder to his chest like it holds the key to the universe. "Thank you, Ms. Warren." He manages to say.

"Please call me Lilly; Mrs. Warren makes me feel like my grandmother." Her fingers accidentally brush against Copia's gloved hands as she hands it to the Anti-pope. Even through the leather, Copia's fingers warm at the contact.

Stupid demonic gifts. He is probably laughing at Copia's attempts to fight off feelings for this taken woman. "Call us by our first names as well." He introduces the eight Ghouls, despite their moniker being Nameless Ghouls. "This is Mountain, Swiss, Sodo, Cirrus, Cumulus, Aurora, and Phantom." All of the ghouls wave as their name is called.

A strange look comes over her round face for a moment but it vanishes and is replaced with her bright smile that balls up her cheeks. "It's great to meet all of you. I hope this project will be enjoyable for all of you to participate in."

The group of interns that make up Lilly's creative team are introduced and Dr. Myers explains a bit about the museum's history before the same Brother of Sin who drove them is led into the room to take them back to the Abbey. At the sight of Brother Thomas, Copia realizes how tired he is.

"I'd say that wraps up the introductory logistics. I'll reach out to see if I can set you and Andie up." She teases at Terzo, who perks up in interest.

"I've never looked forward to anything more, principessa." He says softly, causing the woman to flush yet again.

Primo rolls his eyes at his younger brother and thanks the Museum team before he's gathering his wily family out to the limousine. Sister Imperator should be glad he's so responsible.

Chapter 2: Depth of Satan's Eyes

Chapter Text

"Look at us, members of the Music Hall of Fame," Terzo grins as he's unceremoniously shoved into the limo between Swiss and Rain, where all three giggle in a tipsy fit.

Copia fits in next to Cumulus in the corner of the bench seat, the warmth of the Ghouls surrounding him making his eyes close. He feels a masked head lean on his shoulder and wraps his arm around Sodo's upper body as the fire demon cuddles closer. They have an hour to rest before having to come to terms with their new awards, more if traffic is as bad as before.

Imperator and a coughing Papa Nihil are waiting on the limousine when it pulls to the front of the Abbey's quartz exterior. "You did perfectly in your speech," She kisses Copia's cheek when he's able to stumble groggily out of the car.

"Thank you, Sister." He says. Sodo is still plastered against his side, the effects of the entire bottle of champagne he shared with Terzo still running through his veins.

Nihil watches silently, a loose term for how white his cataracts have gotten, as Copia begins to pass him. Copia doesn't want to admit that he craves for the man to acknowledge him but his good spirit deflates the tiniest bit when he passes by without Nihil congratulating any member of the group.

It's incredibly dark outside and the group is eager to move inside to either sleep or continue drinking (Terzo and most of the Ghouls). Copia hands a drowsy Sodo to Mountain and continues to his room in the papal suites west wing of the Abbey.

His room is not as grand as his adopted older brothers, but it's better than being in a dormitory like at his home Abbey in Italy. He shuts the blue curtains behind him as he enters his room, forgoing the usual spiral of thought about how Imperator hasn't had a door installed yet.

His platform bed is modest but squishy and he hurries to wipe the papal paint from his face to climb under the weighted blanket. It's warm bliss mixed with the lingering taste of champagne and sheet cake as he drifts off to sleep yet again.

Copia doesn't stay asleep long.

He jolts upright, sweat beading on his forehead, as the sound of running footfalls pass his room. He hears the whispered tittering of Ghouls and suddenly the curtain is pulled back to shine the hallway lights directly in his face.

"Papa….!" Swiss whispers but it's not quiet in any sense of the word. "Are….you awake?"

He rubs his eyes. "I am now."

"Oops," Cumulus whisper-yells, her ‘s elongated by her slurring of Ghoulish and English.

Swiss is for some reason on his knees and crawls towards the anti-pope like a cat, curling up on the floor next to his mattress. "Can we sssleep with you…Sodo isss being mean."

Copia sighs but nods and Cumulus quickly skids in the room to wedge herself between Swiss and the mattress. The multi-Ghoul rolls to his side and grabs one of Copia's spare blankets kept within reach just for times like this. He helps evenly tuck in the blanket over his Ghouls and settles back under his own covers. He can tell they aren't fully ready to sleep when the near-silent Ghoulish whispering reaches him.

"Go to sleep," He snaps. He's exhausted, reeling from alcohol and the small spiral of loathing caused by Nihil's ignorance and he just wants to fall back asleep.

They hush instantly, reminding him of when he was caught reading restricted books late into the night and an apology is immediately falling out of his mouth. "I'm sorry, I-I," He shifts onto his side where the two Ghouls blink up at him with their respective sets of glowing blue and purple eyes.

"It's okay," Cumulus scoots closer to him. "Sorry we were talking…" She doesn't have on her usual stage-goggles, and her silver true Ghoul face shines dully in the dim light. Swiss spoons her and faces Copia, his purple eyes blinking closed. The tension resolves enough for Copia to fall back asleep.

When he wakes, Copia finds breathing extremely difficult due to the pile of slumbering Ghouls on top of his chest. He manages a weak wheeze that dissolves into a cough. He can't even tell what Ghouls are on him! There must be more than just Cumulus and Swiss with how his poor mattress is nearly deflated underneath him.

"Papa!" A bright voice and suddenly all five Ghouls on top of him raise their silvery faces to look at him. It's quite startling even as he's used to their true forms.

"I can't…breathe," He struggles to punch out.

Ghoulish gasps meet him and the five move off him, one anonymous Ghoul accidentally stepping on his arm which prickles with non-use. There's still someone weighing down his legs. Sunshine helps him upright to breathe easier and Copia finds a still-unconscious Terzo hugging his legs like a pillow.

"What? You guys couldn't help him at least take off his paint before coming in here?" Copia groans and runs a hair through his own bedhead hair. There's smears of gray, black, and white everywhere (even on some of the Ghoul's pajamas) and Copia silently asks Satan to not have Sister Rebecca yell at him for how much washing he'll be putting in today.

"He insisted it wouldn't smear," Phantom crosses his arms, smearing a splotch of white across his chest.

Honestly Copia isn't that upset and it's cute to see the slightly older man so at peace, even if it's due to cuddling his brother's legs while sleeping off a hangover. For all of Copia's love for Terzo, he can't feel his legs and is terrified that with enough cut off circulation, they'll have to amputate them. He leans down and shakes him until Terzo groans.

"f*ck off, I'm sleeping here," He groans

Copia rolls his eyes, "You're, well, cuddling my legs."

Terzo snores in response, already asleep again. Cirrus grabs hold of Terzo's suit collar and lifts him until he's forced to release the younger man's legs. "I was so comfortable…" He whines, scruffed like a cat.

Copia shifts his legs and is helped to his wobbly feet so the blood can flow back into his freezing toes. Terzo gives him a pathetic look. Cirrus walks away still holding him aloft as if he's nothing more than a bunch of grapes.

When Copia and the Ghouls wander into the main Sanctuary for Sister Imperator's daily briefing, they find the contents of one of the binders spread out over the cleared altar.

"That Curator of yours is quite pretty." She says, not even looking up. The six of them are the first to arrive. Even from here he can see the gears spinning in her mind as she plots.

"She's not my curator," He stresses, even though the contact page's professional headshot of Lily beckons him with a sweet smile.

She's engaged and I have too much sh*t going on. He thinks. She was just being nice. You've known her for two hours.

"I don't want to hear it; she's engaged," He gets out right as Imperator begins to speak the sentence he knew she would. "And she's a professional. We're just part of her job and we are not going to cross that line."

"The Clergy grows restless that you are not indulging in the sins of the flesh, Cardi. It's not a good look when a Papa doesn't follow the rules."

He scoffs but steps closer to the altar to look at the other papers spread about it. There's a few rough outlines of some display cases for the temporary set up within six months. It's intriguing that he could already picture the smaller woman sketching this out in the dim light of an office, passionate every hour of her work before she had even met any of them.

"When do you meet with the Museum again?"

Copia picks up a paper that has a few lines of text about the backstory of the exhibition. He doesn't know but is saved by the sanctuary doors flying open.

A flustered but much more awake Terzo runs down the main nave to the altar. " Principessa has reached out a delicate hand!" He calls.

"Who?" Imperator's brows scrunch in her typical exasperated expression.

"Lilly Warren! She says her friend is willing to be introduced to me!"

Sister Imperator rolls her eyes and goes back to reading part of the questionnaire in her hand. "I thought I already sent her the answers to all of these?" She hands it to Copia.

"She showed us the pile of documents, but we didn't have time to go through them."

Sheets dedicated to questions about Papa Nihil and the four Papas were typed neatly with empty lines below each question.

The last question on the page sticks out at him:

Was there ever a time you did not want to join Ghost as frontman?

Yes. There definitely was.

"She probably just needs quotes or something." Terzo snatches his own sheet to scrutinize when the other Ghouls and Papas stroll into the room.

"Well if she's already disregarding all of the paperwork I gave her then she must be new. Good morning," She calls when everyone approaches them.

The Ghouls press themselves against each other in their own Ghoulish greeting. It reminds him of wolves scenting each other. Sodo and Mountain, the only Ghouls not contributing to the morning cuddle pile, come to hover just behind him. He lifts his left arm to allow the small demon to wrap around his waist. Mountain doesn't do much except stands comfortingly close over his shoulder to peer at the papers.

The other silver-faced demons latch themselves to the other Papas with the exception of Swiss who is engrossed in reading the museum's history page.

"The timeline of this exhibition is too drawn-out. When they did one for Papa Nihil in 1990 it only took a year." Imperator points out to a page that shows a black and white picture of a display back from before the Museum went under renovation.

"Well either way, I'm going to see the wonderful Lilly and her friend tonight on a date."

"She's already texted you?" Primo sighs. Yet another girl that will eventually be broken-hearted by their brother.

"Yes! So please get on with the announcements so I can go prepare myself to woo the beautiful Andie and Lilly."

Sister Imperator rolls her blue eyes yet again. "All of you are to take your questionnaire sheet and fill it out by tomorrow morning. You can go…get ready, Terzo." She shoos him away.

Copia wanted to follow his adopted brother, but didn't want to dislodge Sodo under his arm. His questioning of what the curator woman would say if Copia had asked after her could be considered extremely creepy.

-

Terzo smoothes his black gloved hands down the front of his burgundy suit jacket. His hair was wolfishly styled so a single jet-black strand hung over his forehead in the way so fans would compliment him on during his tenure as Papa Emeritus III.

He strolled out of his rooms into the main nave to find Copia and Phantom standing near the side door out to the driveway.

"Fratello," Copia begins, anxiety written into his mismatched eyes.

"Yes?"

"Would you…tell me about your date afterwards?"

Terzo furrows his eyebrows. Since when has the man ever cared about his love life. Is he finally going to ask Terzo for dating advice? "I am always available for advice on wooing lovely ladies and men, Copia. But yes, I will come tell you…unless my lovely Andrea decides to come back here with me tonight."

Copia nods, then shuffles away with Phantom following.

He watches them go and puts the interaction off as part of his brother's social anxiety. He slides into the family's white 1968 Buick LaSabre (it's really Copia's restored baby, but he tolerates Terzo and Sister Imperator driving it). He starts the old girl and relishes the purr she greets him with until his eye catches a slinking shadow falling across the back bench seat.

"Aurora, Rain, get out of the car."

"But Papa!" They whine and their masked Ghoul forms morph into view.

"No, I'm not going to take any chances of scaring away Lilly or my Andie. Go back inside."

"We can shift into humans! We'll even sit at a separate table. You have no idea who these people are! You need bodyguards." Rain pleads.

They talk as if he doesn't have Demon Sight or the powers of Hell running through his body. Both of the demons know he can't refuse their pouty expressions. "...You promise you won't interfere? You'll stay at your own table and not stare?"

"Of course, Papa." They sing.

Nosy-ass demons. Fine, then. "Shift now, so we don't attract more attention." He puts the car in reverse as Rain transforms into an olive-skinned young man with shoulder-length dark hair and a strong nose, while Aurora morphs into a petite woman with light green eyes, mousy curls and a large smile.

It's a nice ride, singing together passionately to Terzo's album, Meliora, finishing close to the center of Manhattan and the restaurant chosen by the two girls. They park in a garage structure attached to the hotel that contains the Korean fusion restaurant.

"You two interfere, and I'll tell Sister Imperator, got it? No funny business." The two human-looking Ghouls nodded, eager to begin their adventure with the retired Papa. He leads them, after making them stay at least four paces behind him, through the lobby to the hostess who leads him to a booth where three people are sitting.

He feels the two disguised demons be seated at a table across the room. Terzo focuses on the three guests, trusting the Ghouls to behave. In the left corner sits Lilly, her smile large as she scoots out to shake his hand, instead Terzo brings her in for a hug and smells her soft perfume. The person who steps out of the booth with Lilly is stunning to the retired Papa, with androgynous but feminine leaning features paired with silky smooth dark skin. Glossy and plump lips part when he meets their light hazel eyes.

"Whoa…I can't believe you're actually here." Andrea, 'Andie' whispers.

"Lilly didn't tell me how stunning you were in person." He doesn't need to force any of the charm out, reaching out to kiss a manicured hand. He smells raspberries and falls in love.

Andie looks just as enamored as he feels and is suddenly reminded there's someone else he has yet to be introduced to.

It's a man. One with blue eyes that glare at him. Who the Hell is this asshole? Terzo thinks.

"Adam, be nice." Lilly snaps, and the man rolls his eyes and holds out a hand for Terzo to shake as he is made to sit beside this new man. "Terzo, this is Adam, my fiancé. I forgot to tell him it was a double date until like an hour ago, so he's a bit grumpy."

"He's always grumpy," Andie whispers across the table to him.

Terzo flashes a smile to the man and tries to discern him discreetly using his Demon Sight. He's met with a sour, sweet taste in his mouth from how Christian the man is inside. Of course, a zealot.

The man's blonde hair is cropped short with a muscular jawline and a chiseled upper body. He's dressed a black t-shirt, a stark contrast to the three of theirs' formal attire. Terzo tries his best to ignore the man beside him and ignore the traitorous thoughts of how wrong Lilly is paired with him.

"So, Terzo, Andie here is one of the biggest fans of Ghost I've ever seen." Lilly says, elbowing her best friend.

He can see the swell of his Era's Grucifix tattooed on the inside of their right wrist. "I'm so extremely flattered. I knew there was something alluring when I saw you in Madison Square Garden."

"That was one of the best nights of my life. Lilly was supposed to come with me but she canceled to hang out with her boytoy."

"I truly believe that was a peak concert of my career because you were in it." Terzo grins and interlocks their fingers. From here he can see the delicate black linework that makes up the cathedral floor plan behind the double Grucifix. Such dedication for a small tattoo.

"Your family and band have just created such a welcoming community of fans. Like, I went alone after Lilly couldn't go, and I made at least six friends in line at will call. It's been difficult since I came out as nonbinary in high school and to be welcomed so readily…I've been a believer ever since."

Terzo can feel the belief for the Dark Lord within their interlocked fingers and melts. Finally…a believer rather than someone who's just trying to get in his pants. "I need to know your tattoo artist. I have this horrid one on my back that I really need to get covered up."

"It can't be that bad." Lilly co*cks her head.

Terzo sighs and pulls out his phone, flicking through his gallery until he stops on the terrible art on his lower back.

The two friends gasp and Lilly has to curl her lips to curb her shocked laughter. "You have that?!"

He nods. "It's even worse because it's basically a tramp stamp. We had just finished playing in Vegas and this guy in a casino was offering free tattoos. I was sloshed and high from performing, so I sat down and told him to surprise me."

"I bet you had some 'regerts'." Andie giggles.

"It wouldn't be that bad if it was spelled correctly." The blonde girl joins in.

"Yeah, so I need that covered desperately so my brothers can stop laughing at it."

Dinner arrives and the four of them dig in, not one peep coming from Adam beside him. He'll ignore the man as long as he continues to sneer.

The three of them take shots of Soju while Adam's jealous form seethes silently in the corner. Lilly eventually tries to broker her soon-to-be husband's silence. "Not to sound weird, but I remember coming across some of your soccer awards when I was compiling the Award video. Adam played in the rugby team at Brigham Young."

Terzo perks up at the sound of his past soccer career. He used to be on his public high school's team and was passionate about it until he had to graduate and take over as Papa. Though he immediately deflates because if Adam and Lilly met at college…" I really wish I could get back into soccer. Do you still play?"

"There aren't any programs east of the Mississippi. It's one of the reasons we're going to move out west with my parents once this Award stuff is over."

Lilly makes a confused face, "That wasn't the plan."

"It's always been the plan," Adam crosses his arms. He could probably pop Terzo's head like a grape. "I want to teach at BYU and you can work at one of those museums out there."

"But we just moved here…" Lilly's brown eyes flicker to the side as she tries to recall something but Adam stares her down.

"We'll talk about this later." Adam finishes and goes back to his silence.

Terzo watches the man beside him extra carefully when Lilly has a small flinch at his shut-down tone.

The double date is arguably a success even with the tension that hangs over the engaged couple. Andie is the sweetest and turns down his offer of coming home with him, but does press a cherry lip gloss kiss to his cheek as they part outside on the sidewalk.

A new cell phone number sits innocently in his contacts, and a promise of an actual date in the near future. Lilly waves as Adam practically drags her down the sidewalk away from him. Poor Andie has to jog in their platform loafers to catch up.

Terzo jumps as Aurora and Rain appear beside him. "Damn," He gasps.

"Someone is in love…" Rain singsongs as they walk to the parking garage.

"I am. Andie is a true believer and loves candy corn, just like me! I think it went wonderfully. Andie and I-" He hears raised voices echo through the parking garage from the floor below them. Just over his shoulder, Terzo can see the top of Lilly's head as she's arguing with Adam in the stairwell.

"-Why in God's name are you actively talking to them, Lilly? I thought I gave you enough freaks when I tolerated Andrea and gave up everything for this stupid dream of yours-"

Lilly interrupts him, her head bobbing. "Andie is not a freak. They were there for me when you were too busy hanging with your teammates. Andie is named Andie now, stop deadnaming them."

Adam scoffs and it sounds like nails on a chalkboard as the man blows past her to continue down the stairs. "So help me, you will not talk to them outside of the Museum, got it? You're risking everything by playing New Yorker with them. You're not their friends, you are a soon-to-be-wife, and you are most importantly a woman of God."

"You are not going to control my career, Adam! You have never supported this move to New York."

"You think this is real?! This is me letting you play around in the city while my parents build our house in Utah. Have another one of these hissy fits and I'll have you supervising the Temple nursery on Sundays or worse."

The voices fade into indistinguishable echoes as the couple walk away from them.

" That's her fiancé?" The Ghoulette whispers.

Terzo nods, every nerve in his body screaming for the chance to rip the man's throat out. If this is what the man is like in public, then what is he like behind closed doors?

Aurora grins in the rearview mirror once they get to the car and tries to lighten the mood. "Dinner was nice. We tried some strange human co*cktails and fish."

Rain nods along, "I really enjoyed listening to the gossip of the couple to our left. The guy was wearing a horrible toupee." The two ghouls explain the hairstyles of the ritzy people of the restaurant and their varying levels of fakeness.

"You were so enthralled by your little friend that you didn't see it," Aurora teases, sighing as she's able to morph back into her Ghoulish form.

It's late but not so incredibly late that Terzo should go to sleep. Instead he finds himself walking through the main sanctuary to the apse that hold their small devotion spaces. He hasn't needed to engage in personal prayer since he came to terms with his forced retirement, but now he feels unsteady at the thought of how much trouble Lilly is under because of them.

Terzo kneels on the black rug and lights the three votive candles that bracket the gold platter. He dusts the offering table places a handful of dried tobacco in the waiting mortar and pestle and lights it with the central candle flame.

Siamo con clavi

Siamo con Dio

Siamo con il nostro Dio Scuro

He whispers as the smoke drifts into his nostrils.

It has been a while since we convened privately, Terzo Asmodeus.

Terzo hangs his head. "I'm sorry, Sir."

Nonsense, you were resting. And, despite how Light it makes you, I'm proud of your selflessness with your brother's success as Papa IV.

"He's worked incredibly hard to become Papa. It's rewarding to see him so happy." He lets his Lord's deep voice soothe him. He inhales more of the tobacco.

Not that I'm upset, but you did not convene with me just to talk about Copia, yes?

He shook his head. Lucifer probably couldn't see it but oh well. "I am worried about Lilly Warren. Her fiancé seems bent on keeping her restrained." It will affect how she does her job if Terzo begins to see Andie more often. “Am I going to screw this up if I continue to be with Lilly’s friend who already has a strained relationship with the couple’s religion?”

Lilly is a special one, certainly.

Well, duh. "What do you mean by that?"

Her family is steeped in the Light. Though she is a weak flicker compared to her kin, the amount of divine that intercepts her will be unbearable at times for you and the Clergy. I warn you to be cautious.

"She was fine until Adam got pissy."

Why are you so full of concern for her? She is capable of handling her life.

Terzo needs to admit what he's felt in the short time he's known the curator. "I feel this…energy around her. She is so infernally intoxicating to be around. I know it may just be one of my attributes but there is something about her that I need to protect. Like with Copia."

You witnessed a distressing argument. She is not a Believer and therefore does not need your worry. I wouldn’t include yourself in her life too much unless she wants it.

"No offense, Sir, but I swear, this is different. Do you have any connections to her that I'm picking up on? She's crucial to this exhibition, yes, but she feels important to us, to Ghost, to Copia. I feel like I'm not seeing something clearly."

You should ask Copia Leviathan yourself if you think this involves him.

I hope we meet more often, Terzo Asmodeus. Try not to doze off during Mass from now on.

And with that, the tobacco burns to ash in front of him. "Of course, thank you, sir." He closes the ritual offering prayer and stands, taking in the smell of tobacco once more before he leaves silently.

Chapter 3: Cirice

Notes:

of course Lilly has to like star wars. you'll get a digital cookie if you can guess her favorite character from the originals and prequels

Chapter Text

The next morning, Copia turns in his questionnaire at the morning meeting, noticing how troubled the look Terzo greets him with. Of course, Copia's mind flails to the worst conclusion.

"Who died?" He asks his brother frantically.

Terzo's nose scrunches in confusion. "What? No one's dead. Why are you asking? Did you hear something about someone dying?!"

"Because you look like someone died!" Copia exclaims. Of course both of them would rile each other up.

"No one's dead!" Secondo butts in. "Terzo's face is just ugly."

Terzo gasps dramatically and glares up at his older brother from his seat in the front pew. "There's no need to insult me. And besides, I'm considered the most handsome Papa from the fact sheet Lilly gave us."

Secondo storms to the front altar to rifle through the binder, interrupting Primo's careful reading of his brothers' answers.

Copia waves him off and places his hands on his hips. "Why did you give me a sad look if nothing is wrong?"

Terzo blinked owlishly to the point where Copia could see the wheels spinning with no traction. It's probably like Rigatoni the Rat's exercise wheel. "Oh! Well, I do have bad news."

"And is that bad news that someone has died?!" Copia argues, frustration mounting.

"Why are you so obsessed with people dying today?" Secondo groans.

"Just tell me what the bad news is!" Copia flops onto the opposite row of black-cushioned pews.

"Lilly Warren's future husband is a total God-jerker," Terzo finally gets to the point. He does look a bit embarrassed at not understanding how to tell the news. "He was an asshole and was a rugby player at Brigham Young, which means Lilly and him are Mormons."

"Seriously? She was wearing a dress that went above her ankles," Secondo quips. "The Mormons are usually buttoned up to their noses. It’s incredibly hard to get those skirts off.” He speaks from experience.

Primo sets down his reading papers to watch his brothers. "She doesn't necessarily need to be Mormon, she could be converting for him. She shook our hands and made eye contact. Normal people don’t even do that. She must be more liberal in her beliefs than him."

"I'd rather her be Catholic." Terzo mumbles. "Adam was such a jerk. Then, Rain, Sun, and I were out in the car and we heard them arguing! He called my sweet Andie and us freaks, then threatened Lilly if she publicly saw any of us outside of the Museum."

Copia feels a weight fall into his stomach and immediately understands why Terzo was so troubled. It must show on his face. "Is she safe?"

"How am I supposed to know that? They walked away." Terzo eyes him with a narrow gaze. Is this his younger brother’s continuous people-pleasing or something more?

The current Anti-Pope stands, "You heard him threaten her and didn't do anything?" Copia felt so fired up, as if he were channeling the powers of their Lord to summon the Ghouls again.

Why couldn't he calm down?

Terzo's posture rears up in response to the veiled accusation. "Hey, look, just because he was being an ass doesn't mean I can go over and throw him off the ledge of the parking garage. We'll just, I don't know, keep a close eye on her at the Museum somehow."

"Absolutely not," Sister Imperator's heels click against the marble floor, accompanied by the creak of Papa Nihil's oxygen tank wheeled by a small child-sized Ghoul. The man himself makes it to the front pew and plops down next to Terzo, who tries not to wince. "I don't know what has you two up in arms about this girl, but it will cease today. I am giving these papers to Ms. Warren while all of you prepare for Mass tonight."

"Can't one of us go with you?"

Papa Nihil croaks beside the black-haired man, "Stop whining, Terzo, you still have responsibilities here."

"I'm taking Mountain and Cirrus with me. Hopefully all of you can survive a day without responsible ghouls." She gathers the papers with finality.

Terzo stands. "Sister, please, I arguably know Ms. Warren the best to introduce you to. I won't do anything. I’ll even drive us."

Imperator's blazing green eyes meet his, and he stays still as she weighs her options. The furrowed lines around her eyes ease when she sighs. She doesn’t want the headache of driving into Manhattan. "Fine."

Copia feels a sting of jealousy at Terzo's hopeful expression. He knew the man was enthralled with Lily's friend, but he could never be sure of the playboy's next move. If only he was still a Cardinal and not the leader of Midweek Mass then he could petition to go…

"C, can we take your car again?" Terzo asks.

He could say no and force them to use one of the black SUVs as a sign of his pettiness…but Terzo's face wears him down and he hands over the pale pink set of keys again.

The Music Hall of Fame Museum was located in the heart of Manhattan along the row of museums that border Central Park. It's an extremely busy part of the city, but Lucifer seems to smile on them with a parking spot only three blocks away.

It's a brisk autumn day that fills Terzo's lungs with invigoration. He sees Mountain's human glamor, a tall male of lean stature and slicked back light brown hair, and Cirrus who was now an equally tall woman with long, layered black hair.

Imperator checks over the disguised demons with approval and begins her confident stride to the museum's entrance.

Cirrus and Terzo talk about the beautiful swirls of 'cirrus' clouds above Central Park, Mountain adding quiet remarks about the various weeds that blossom between cracks in the sidewalk. They are quickly left in Imperator's dust, but Terzo doesn't mind the distance.

He misses his own Ghouls.

>

When he was dragged off stage during Monstrance Clock, he was shoved into a limo with Imperator and Nihil behind the stage.

They had dragged him to the Abbey and into the sanctuary where somehow his Ghouls were vibrating with anxiety. All of them were restrained in handcuffs until one by one, Nihil spoke of expellment back to the Pits of Hell they were summoned from.

Terzo was berated for his misalignment of values and forced to watch as most of his precious darlings were swallowed by Nihil's gold portals.

His six Ghouls that had transformed over his tour of Rituals, were taken away.

Ifrit was swallowed first, then Ivy and Zephyr, and Mist went with a scream of agony. His sweet Omega and Dewdrop were left and Terzo had to be held down as Nihil began the Italian incantation for his favorites (he knows he shouldn't have them but he does) to be dragged back down to Hell to be reassembled into new Ghouls for whoever was replacing him.

Omega held his teary gaze until he was dropped through the floor and Terzo could no longer watch.

Dewdrop was shaking with fear but still standing, the golden portal beneath him only shimmering lightly.

"Oh, what the hell?" Imperator crosses her arms. "You must be saying it wrong!"

Nihil barks out a cough then points to the large Demonic Bible on the podium in front of him. "I'm not saying it wrong! It worked for the others."

"Try it again! We need room for eight new Ghouls," She commands.

Eight new Ghouls?

Terzo squirms in the hold of the burly Brothers that restrain him. "Please, let Dewdrop stay. I know I've been led astray but he is one of our best guitars! Please, " He pleads.

"We require new soul fragments. That is how this works. If you wanted to keep your Ghouls, then you should have kept the Lord in your thoughts." She stands firm.

Papa Nihil starts the incantation with a growl but the usual rising brightness of the gold portal doesn't appear.

The sanctuary doors fly open to reveal Cardinal Copia, his face a mess of blood, with a glowing left white eye overshadowing his usual green. "Stop! I was never told you would be banishing them!"

"Cardi, this doesn't concern you-"

"Like Hell it does! If you expect me to be Papa then of course this does. I explicitly told both of you that part of my agreement was to keep all of the current Ghouls intact. " He shoves a finger at the two high-ranking clergy leaders. "You've banished all but Dew?" He whispers in horror.

"A new era of the Church needs new Ghouls! Why are you stuck on being sentimental? They're just lower demons!" Nihil thunders.

This is the angriest Terzo has ever seen the typically- soft spoken Cardinal. He has the gift of Sight and is actively commanding both Nihil and Imperator…Is he part of the Emeritus bloodline?

He's the one replacing Terzo.

"If you want me to go through the initiation, then you will keep Dewdrop." Copia stands between the frightened demon and the man and woman.

"Cardi," Imperator tries, voice sickly sweet.

The cardinal remains silent, red robe whipping in the slight whirlwind of the portal.

Just as Nihil opens his wrinkled mouth to once again try the incantation, the portal beneath Dew's booted feet disappears.

You had better listen to your new Leader. Comes a voice some deep it shakes the sanctuary.

" Lord Satan," Nihil rasps. "You understand the protocols-"

Protocols which are determined by each new Papa. And I believe Papa Emeritus IV has just created one.

A viscous, inky blackness oozes out of the marble's cracks to cling to Copia's red cassock. It crawls up his calm form until it envelopes him completely then fades as if it evaporated.

Left behind is a transformed man, one draped in an embellished papal robe and jewel-encrusted miter. His small eye paint has been redone into one of a skull, where angular black cheekbones and white paint replace pale olive skin.

He is glorious.

"Copia Leviathan is to be respected as the new Heir. Since you have not informed Terzo Asmodeus of his failures before banishing his Ghouls, he will be forgiven as his brothers have been." Copia's voice echoes the words as they swirl through the stained glass-filled room.

And then, everything stops shaking and Terzo feels pride rather than disappointment.

>

The three Ghost members catch up with Imperator waiting impatiently at the inside information desk. A gallery docent gives them a welcoming smile as they approach.

"Now that you're here, I can take you up to Lilly's office." The man says cheerfully and weaves them around the desk to a hallway with an elevator. He scans an access card and presses the 5 button.

"What took you so long?" Imperator hisses to Terzo.

"We were enjoying a gorgeous Autumn stroll. We did get sidetracked to look at some English Ivy." He shrugs. Mountain was an incredible botanist and Terzo feels guilty he doesn’t make time to spend out in the greenhouse with the Earth Ghoul and Primo.

She turns her green eyes to Mountain, who flushes and rubs the back of his neck. "We were nearly late because of this.”

"No need to worry, since you're the Legacy project, you take priority over other Museum business she is working on. Plus, you were her only scheduled meeting this afternoon." The guide assures them just as the elevator reaches the top floor.

It opens onto a grand complex of modern offices, sprinkled with blue, gray, and black throughout. Terzo marvels at the bustle of the workers as they chat and work. He finds a familiar form at the coffee station near the left side of the room.

Daniel, as his nametag says, leads them over to Lilly's turned back. There should be no way for her to hear them coming but she turns to see them as if she did.

"Hello! Sorry, I needed a refill of caffeine after our night last night." She says sheepishly at the largest mug of black coffee in her hand. She offers them each a drink but is refused by all of them except Terzo, who takes an extremely sweet mug of coffee.

Daniel leaves them and Lilly brings them to her large office that is decorated with different family pictures, Star Wars posters, and Mothman themed stuffed animals.

If only she knew the cryptid was real and that depictions made the species much larger than they actually are. They are called Mothmen for a reason.

There's a squishy leather loveseat on the wall facing the desk and two grey mid-century modern armchairs that flank it. It’s much more modern than he thought she would have, but he assumes it was meant to match the surrounding office space.

The Ghouls sit together and Terzo takes the armchair closest to Lilly's large white desk. He can tell that they want to curl against each other but they resist the urge and stay sitting close.

Lilly sets down her mug that says, "Who's Your Daddy?’ in the yellow Star Wars font. She opens her slim black laptop and types in a few words before turning her attention to the four people in front of her. "It's wonderful to meet you in person, Ms. Imperator. Your information has been extremely valuable to getting this exhibition started. I might even be able to shorten the construction window to about 2 ½ years.”

Imperator nods in approval, sitting daintily in the dark blue chair. "Our family is honored to be recognized."

Lilly takes the stack of questionnaires and flips through them. "And just as a general piece of information for the wall labels, are you related to any of the Papas? You don’t need to answer if this is too personal."

"Copia is Papa Nihil and I’s son."

Terzo's head snaps to face her. Does Copia know that? The "Orphan Cardinal" as he was called because he was found on the steps of the Abbey years ago? Was it a lie like Nihil's death?

"It's quite sweet how all of you are continuing Papa Nihil's dream. I imagine it's a lot to handle sometimes." Lilly jokes, brown eyes knowing as she glances at Terzo. "Terzo had lots of stories last night about how close all of you are."

"He did, did he?" Imperator raises a manicured blonde brow at him as if she didn’t drop a hydrogen-bomb level piece of information on him.

"It was nothing too incriminating," Lilly grins at him. She types something in her laptop and her earrings that are shaped like cartoon UFOs glimmer in the office overhead lights.

Terzo flushes. There's that damn feeling again! It's not lust or love (because those were definitely aimed at Andie) but something deeper in his core. He wonders if Imperator could feel it as well.

"And Mountain and Cirrus, it's cool to see what great musicians look like under those masks."

All of the Satanists freeze.

Cirrus gapes at her. "...You know who we are?" She whispers. Ghoul glamour was a powerful spell that made most of them indistinguishable to humans by anything except their heights. It’s part of why Primo decided to make them “Nameless” when he restarted the Ghost Project. None of them have ever met someone who was able to tell them apart or even remember the Ghoul’s names.

Perhaps she’s just seen a lot of pictures of them performing and is able to see slight differences, his mind supplies.

Lilly also freezes, paling as if she said something wasn't supposed to. "I…I could tell by how tall you were?" She tries weakly.

Terzo co*cks his head in concern, maybe it was more than just thorough research. Is she a Satanist and he just can’t tell? "Lilly, are you alright?"

The woman holds her face in her hands for a moment then smiles shakily , face going back to its normal color. "Yeah, sorry. I get spacey sometimes. Moving on, I have some swatches of paint that I would like for all of you to pick for each Papa…"

A few hours later finds the four clergy members back out on the sidewalk with Lilly, a new set of forms and display questionnaires in Imperator's binder.

"Oh! One more thing. I've found HD concert recordings of Black Mass for all of the Papas except Copia. Is there any way I could get a recording or have someone come record one?" Lilly's eyes are pleading. This must be a big selling point.

"I don't see why not?" Terzo says before Imperator can start speaking. "We hold Mass Wednesday nights, like tonight, and on Sunday evening."

She looks thrilled. "There's one tonight?"

"Yes, but it's only a small congregation during the week. Sunday Mass is open to the community." Imperator tucks a blonde fringe that escapes her severe bun.

"I'm sure Papa Copia would be open if you wanted to have someone record it this weekend. He's an expert now." Cirrus chimes in.

"I'm not supposed to have my interns work on the weekend, but I'll be available if that's comfortable?" Lily types something into her cellphone, which has dangly star charms.

Terzo feels a bubble of anxiety. "Will Adam be okay with it? You said he went to Brigham Young."

She rolls her eyes at the name of her fiancé. "I'm not doing anything Mormon until he decides to marry me."

"You're engaged though," Mountain observes.

"He proposed three years ago . Obviously if he wanted me to be a Mormon wife, then he would have done something by now. I'm completely fine attending Mass, and Adam is away at a Rugby conference for the next two weeks."

She doesn't calm any of Terzo's anxiety. How long had the two of them been together, if they were already engaged for three years? Lilly didn't look over the age of 26.

"I'll let you know what Copia says," Terzo smiles despite his concern.

"Perfect. Have a good day!" Lilly turns and goes back into the museum, blending into the line of visitors like a ghost.

"I see why you're enamored with her." Sister Imperator slows down for their walk to Copia's LaSabre. "She has a deep spiritual connection with something Ancient."

"More ancient than Him?" Cirrus asks.

"Almost. It felt like Him but something less overbearing. This husband of hers is Mormon?"

Terzo nods. "He's a right asshole. I heard them arguing after and he threatened to move them to Utah if she went against him in public. I could taste how divine he was.”

"We should explore this, it may interfere with the exhibition." Imperator slides into the passenger bench seat. She doesn’t say anything about her confession.

Terzo starts the engine and doesn't say anything until the city streets morph into surburban avenues. Even Cirrus and Mountain stay quiet in the backseat, both of them staring out at the changing colors of the trees around them.

He lets the car ride stay comfortable until he physically feels like he’s going to explode."When were you going to tell Copia?" He demands, the hurt hitting him all over again. He grips the large steering wheel with white knuckles.

"Tell him what?"

"That you're his mother? That he’s part of the bloodline? Or maybe that he’s not an outsider?!”

She glares as if she would smack him. "It’s not information he needs to know currently and it’s information that you will not tell him.”

"But he deserves to know it! Do you know he still cries out in a nightmare because he believes he's an orphan? That he watches all of us call him 'brother' and beats himself up over being a 'fraud?'" Terzo can't hold it in as they pull up to the driveway of the Abbey.

"We are going to tell him before the exhibition." Imperator growls.

“And when will that be? After another 2 ½ years of him not believing in himself?”

"If you tell him before that, then you may as well crawl down to the Pits yourself." She threatens and storms out of the car and into the Abbey, slamming the door.

Terzo sighs deeply. Damn that woman. He tries not to think about how different Copia would be if he knew the truth. He might actually like himself.

The ghouls in the backseat give him knowing looks. “We promise not to tell,” Mountain says, steadfast in the storm of Terzo’s thoughts.

“Thank you.” Is all he can manage when he turns off the car’s purring engine.

Wednesday night passes in its typical, low-nonsense way. Terzo knows much energy is devoted to running even a small Mass, so he doesn't seek out Copia until the next morning at their meeting.

The current Papa was petting Rigatoni the rat while waiting for Sister Imperator to arrive.

Perfect to test my theory. Terzo knows he's a little sh*t. But if he's correct about his inkling that Copia might have a thing for Lilly, this Sunday's Mass is about to be very interesting.

Maybe he'll turn up his awkward charm and guide her soft soul away from Adam's orbit.

"Hey, Fratellino," Terzo leans against the pew's aisle panel, smirking at the sleepy man.

"Good morning," Copia yawns, repeated by Rigatoni and the collection of Ghouls in the pews near them.

"So, in our meeting with the beautiful Ms. Warren yesterday, she said she needed a recording of a Black Mass during your time as Papa."

Copia's face flushes slightly under the papal skull paint. "There are some online, I'm sure…"

He shakes his head. "She said those weren't good enough for the exhibition, so I invited her to Sunday's Mass. That's fine with you, right?"

"She's coming here, to record my Mass?" He stutters in his charmingly anxious way. He pets Rigatoni's pear shaped body with fervor. "How was Mass last night? Is there anything I should change before this weekend? Am I being too preachy?"

Terzo has to really reign in the blooming mischievous smile that threatens to split his face in half. So, he's correct. "Nothing that I can think of, just make sure she feels welcome." And with that, he saunters to his usual pew to leave Copia stewing in his feelings.

There are the rows of Siblings of Sin who usually have their own meeting after the Papas, but the announcement of the recording must require everyone to know at the same time.

Sister Imperator arrives sans Papa Nihil. She sweeps down the aisle in her daily pantsuit. "We have an important event coming up. Lilly Warren of the Museum will be recording this Sunday's Black Mass to use for the exhibition. I need everyone to be on their best behavior, including the Ghouls. Any disobedience will not be tolerated."

A hand goes up from one of the sisters. "Will there be anything special we need to prepare for this guest?”

Imperator for once, looks to Terzo for the answer. He shrugs, taken aback. "I don't know, she really likes coffee?"

Sister Jacoba nods and sits back down.

"Please treat her with respect. She is the creator of our representative display. Brothers and Sisters, you are dismissed for your meeting. Please see that all chores are completed before noon on Sunday at the latest."

The siblings file out with a bow to the upper Clergy and Papas.

-

The four days of the rest of the week fly past the Abbey in a flurry of activity. Sisters dust and Brothers mop the floors, and Terzo and Primo (as part of their many hidden talents) mend anyone's robes that need the attention.

Copia finds himself a bit lost in the different smoothly-moving cogs, so he spends time kneeling in front of his personal shrine to Lucifer more than usual.

One thing different about Lucifer was his desire for actions as offerings rather than material stuff, (though he doesn't turn down the wine and tobacco offered). Copia has always struggled with these offerings of personal confidence and rebellious acts, but becoming Papa has certainly given him a boost of self-satisfaction.

Siamo con clavi

Siamo con Dio

Siamo con il nostro Dio Scuro

You have flourished in your role, Copia Leviathan. I am pleased with your continued service.

Copia smiles brightly at the flicker of the candles. "Thank you, Sir. I feel more confident in my place here at the Abbey."

This woman, Lilly Warren, are you also of the shared mindset of your brothers?

Copia furrows his brows as he looks down at his knees. "I haven't seen evidence of any domestic abuse between them, but I do trust Terzo not to lie to me."

I was blind to Adam Pollack's divine obsessions. I believed he was just a servant of the Mormon Church, but I am wrong. I would heed Terzo Asmodeus' words. This Black Mass may be a turning point in her faith, and I want you to keep an eye on her.

"Is something going to happen to her?" His heart rate picks up

Lucifer's deep voice is uncertain, a rare occurrence. I don't know. The Light of God blocks my view. I will watch over you and the Abbey, Copia. I wish you safety and wellness.

Copia thanks him but stays kneeling. He has a few hours until he needs to prepare for Mass and a few words he needs to hear from Terzo.

Chapter 4: Infestissumam

Notes:

TW: Actual Satanic rites,

This is compiled from The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. LaVeyan Satanism (The Church of Satan) is non-Theistic, so I changed a few things to fit what I believe and what I think Ghost would believe.

Hail Satan!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Terzo unsurprisingly is asleep in the quire pews behind the altar in the main sanctuary. He’s at least dressed in his papal robes but his sprawled form means he’s been asleep for at least a half-hour. That makes sense because Copia was in the personal apse chapels behind the quire for about 45-minutes speaking with Lucifer.

“Terzo,” He says.

The retired Papa jerks awake and to full attention. “Yes, Sister?”

Copia has to bite his lip not to laugh. “At ease, Fratello.”

“Oh thank Lucifer it’s you,” He flops ungracefully on the reserved pew. “What time is it?”

“It’s only four. I wanted to talk about Lilly.” He shoos the man over so he can sit beside him.

Terzo rubs at his eyes delicately. “Am I considered a Lilly-expert now?”

Copia doesn’t deign that with a response because of the jealousy that spikes within him. “I spoke with our Lord and he spoke of being blinded by divinity over Lilly and Adam. Is there something you have noticed about her?”

“You felt that weird thing at the award ceremony, right? Terzo asks instead.

“She was so familiar. It was like I had already met her.” He admits. “I got this immediate craving to protect her.”

Terzo nods. “Exactly! I think either at one point she was a Believer, was living with someone who was, or is around Andie enough to have the familiar mark of Him. And with how possessive Adam is, I’m worried that we’re not seeing something.”

Copia stares down at his own ungloved hands. “Are we…Are we doing the right thing?”

“Depends on what you consider right. I think Adam is a controlling asshole. If guiding her to Lucifer’s light brings her out of his reach, then I think it’s justified.”

He watches his adopted older brother for a moment with anxious mismatched eyes. “What if tonight is not good enough?”

Terzo scoffs softly, “Copia, you’re a great Papa. If the recording doesn’t work tonight, then we have plenty of time. She’s just trying to get everything done while Adam’s out of town.”

“Adam isn’t here? Is that why she’s coming?” He feels his heart soar.

“I think so,” Terzo shrugs, his favorite expression, “She said she wasn’t concerned about attending mass while he was away. She did drink alcohol with Andie and I on our double date the other night. I don’t believe she’s as religious as we think she is.”

Copia bobs his head. “Thank you, Terzo. I feel much better.” Terzo’s grin is mischievous when Copia meets his eyes again. “What?”

“You like her.” It isn’t a question.

“She’s engaged.”

Terzo rolls his eyes, “She said Adam proposed three years ago. That’s a long time for humans.”

Copia tumbles the thoughts around in his head. "I…honestly don't know what I'm feeling. I barely know her. We met for a few hours and I can't stop thinking about her."

"I quite enjoyed seeing the flush on her cheeks after she took sips of Soju. It brings out the richness of her eyes. She also enjoys National Treasure movies like you." He teases.

Copia stands, unable to hear any more lest his true feelings fall out of his mouth. He shushes the retired anti-Pope and flees to his chambers with burning cheeks.

-

Cumulus is helping Copia pat setting powder onto his finished skull paint when Swiss bursts into his bedroom and forces Copia to inhale the chalky powder.

He coughs and Cumulus glares up at their intruder, "You could've messed up his papal paint, idiot!"

"You gotta see Miss Lilly, Papa, she's so gorgeous," Swiss bounces on his toes.

"I know she is, Swiss," Copia smiles, "but I need to put this powder-"

Phantom then runs in, nearly knocking Swiss over. "Papa! Miss Lilly is here!"

Cumulus huffs and crosses her arms. "I need four minutes of peace to finish this, Papa."

Copia nods and cranes his head over his shoulder. "I promise I'll be out in a few minutes. Can you two make her feel welcome without being too crazy?"

The two male-presenting Ghouls salute him and scamper back down the hallway towards the soft echoes of voices. "I thought I was somewhat discrete." He mumbles and closes his eyes, allowing Cumulus to powder near his eyes.

"You forget that you summoned us. We feel an amplification of your emotions as part of your gift is imbued inside of each of us. Especially in multi-Ghouls and Quintessence."

"Oh…so you've been feeling, well, everything, since you were Summoned?"

Cumulus' masked-head co*cks as she thinks. "To an extent. Some emotions like lust, joy, and rage are more concrete to us. When you're in turmoil or between emotions, all we feel is something close to static."

Copia uses her final dusting as time to reflect. He's been Papa for two years and he never knew the Ghouls could feel his emotions? He thought they were perceptive because of their connection to the energy Pits of Hell. That would make sense around the nightmare the other night and all of them piled on top of him…to comfort him.

"I can feel that you're embarrassed, what's wrong?" Cumulus snaps the powder shell closed.

"I didn't know you could feel. I thought all of you were perceptive. Can I feel your emotions?"

She shrugs, moving so he can stand. She straightens his robes and has to stand on her tip-toes to place the stole around his neck. "Have you ever felt unreasonably horny? Either around any of us Ghouls or at seemingly random moments?"

Should he confess how often that happens? "Yes."

"That's definitely us," She gives him a once over then nods in approval, "Swiss and Sodo are constantly f*cking. They did it once at intermission on tour and Kevin had to break them up so they wouldn't miss their cues."

He does remember something like that. Huh.

"So my feelings for Lilly-"

She nods apologetically. "Yes."

Copia sighs. He was never good at lying anyway. At least he loves the Ghouls and knows they won't judge him for it.

Maybe it wasn't so bad to feel lust when they curled their dense but velvety forms up against him.

The main sanctuary of the Abbey was a large fellowship room reminiscent of Eastern Orthodox churches. Dripping with golden frescoes of Lucifer triumphing over a depiction of angel principalities made up the main wall behind the central dais, flanked by vibrant, stained glass, floor-to-ceiling windows that show every Papa being crowned with their miter.

A gathering of community members, clergy, and mingling Ghouls was dispersed throughout the narthex (the large two-story hallway that leads from the front doors to the sanctuary) and sounded like the ebbing and flow of waves as Copia and Cumulus sweep down the side hallway.

"Papa Emeritus IV!" Comes the wash of noise.

This was Copia's favorite part of Black Mass. Everyone was dressed in their finest blacks, grays, and whites, and seemed so happy to come together and praise their Dark Lord. People begin to filter into the sanctuary and find their seats in the dark wood and black cushioned pews.

After most leave with a greeting to him, the elder Emeritus brothers and Ghouls are left clumped in a group. Copia and Cumulus approach, and as Terzo moves to go inside, Copia's breath catches in his chest.

Lilly's shapely form is draped in a long-sleeved, black velvet dress. Her ombre brown hair is curled at her shoulders and her dark eyes are lined carefully with black eyeliner. A purple shimmer decorates her eyelids as they widen when she sees him.

Andie stands beside her, but is closer to Terzo, and wears a deep purple plaid dress that complements the purple gemstones embedded in their long braids.

The Papas leave with a snicker from Terzo, and the Ghouls follow with knowing looks through their goggles.

"Hi, I'm Andie," They introduce, "Lilly invited me along, I hope that's alright."

Copia shakes his head, "No, no! More than okay. That's primarily how we operate with new members. Please don't feel bad about coming along after this, if you feel inclined."

Both of the friends smile.

Lilly gives him a once over, her brown eyes lingering on the stole that is embroidered with his papal name. "This is some incredible work."

Copia lifts his arms to showcase the rich cerulean robes in the light of the golden chandeliers. "Surprisingly, Terzo and Primo made them. I accidentally ripped part of it at the end of touring and they spent this last week fixing it."

"He can sew too? Where can I find the marriage papers…" Andie looks as if they would swoon.

Copia grins, happy that all of Terzo's own swooning is being reciprocated. "He made his own robes. I'm sure he would let you see them up close-up."

Andie's blush deepens. "I'm going to find us a seat, Lilly, I'll see you inside." They tease quietly, and slip inside the doors.

"I have the camera set up in the organ box. Secondo and I had fun climbing up that crazy spiral staircase. I think he hit his head more than me." Lilly laughs, a bit nervous.

"Thankfully the Museum gave me one of the high-tech cameras so I can actually sit and enjoy."

"I really hope you do enjoy it," He says softly. He realizes how close they are when he notices that her eyes are level with his neck, forcing her to look up at him through her lashes. "We do have Unholy Communion at the end. If anyone makes you feel pressured to do it, let any of the Ghouls or Papas know and we'll take care of them."

Lilly gives him a nod. "I'll let you start the ceremony, Papa."

The way her voice says his title so sweetly rings in his skull as she disappears through the doors. He stands there dumbly for a moment until Terzo pokes his head out.

"Come on, lovebird, showtime!" He hisses.

Copia nods and hurries to the door as the choir box filled with the Ghouls begins the opening hymn of Infestissumam. The four Papas make their way down the nave just before the music can turn into its fast-paced ending, fading into a beautiful echo as Copia turns to face the filled pews.

He gestures for the crowd to sit back down. "Welcome everyone, to the beginning of another week under the joyful gaze of our Dark Lord Satan. Every week I am pleased to see both familiar and new faces in our pews," He begins, opening the large Unholy Bible set carefully on his podium.

Sister Rebecca steps to the dais with his staff and he takes it carefully. He points to the sharp, golden Grucifix in the order of the Emeritus birth order: "Beelzebub, to the North, Berith, to the West, Asmodeus, to the South, and Leviathan, to the East. Brothers of Emeritus, please raise your desires to the Infernal Heavens," He turns to his own stained glass window, and in conjunction with his adopted brothers says, "Hail Satan."

"Hail Satan," The rows of followers repeats.

"I would like to begin with our invocation of our DarkLord. Please open the hymnals to page 6."

Believe in Satan, do we,

Satan Almighty,

The Unholy creator of Heaven and soil

And the Invisible and the Visible.

And in his Son, begotten of Father, by Whom all things will be Unmade

Who, for Man, and His damnation incarnated

Rise up from Hell.

From Sitteth on the Left-Hand of his Father,

From thence on He shall come to judge out of substance with Satan,

Whose kingdom shall haveth no end.

Hear our Satan Prayer, our Anti-Nicene Creed,

Unholy Ghost, Overlord, and Taker of Life!

Copia reads and feels the power surge through him at the intensity of the echoed prayer. He looks at the followers and turns the page to the next hymn after his first sermon. He spies Andie and Lilly sitting next to Sister Rebecca, the Sister of Sin whispering something with a smile to them in the hymnal.

He reads his prepared sermon on the Book of Indulgence, the doctrine given to Secondo in a vision from Satan, that details the difference between Compulsion and Indulgence in the sins of the Flesh.

Primo lights one of the large red candles on the altar on the West Wall, using the fresh wax to drip in the middle of the salt-dusted sigil of Baphomet that lies across the stone altar.

"People often mistake compulsion for indulgence, but there is a world of difference between the two. A compulsion is never created by indulging, but instead by not being able to indulge. Indulgence implies choice, while compulsion indicates lack of choice. When a person has no proper release for His desires, they rapidly build to become compulsions." Copia recites, feeling as though the doctrine is increasingly speaking personally to him. "If everyone had a particular time and place for indulging in their personal desires, without fear of embarrassment or reproach, they would be sufficiently released to lead unfrustrated lives in the everyday world."

Secondo steps up to the altar and lights the second of the three candles, letting a few drops of wax fall on top of Primo's small pile.

"The Satanist asks, 'What is wrong with being human, and having human limitations as well as assets?' By denying His desires the Mystic has come no closer to overcoming compulsion than his kindred Soul, the Christian." He finishes, just as Terzo lets his candle top the altar's small tower of blood-red wax.

With the first sermon finished, Copia moves to the quire pew to let Sister Imperator lead the next hymn. Terzo's black-painted upper lip curls into a grin as Copia takes a seat next to him. "I think you're charming the pants off our visitors." He whispers.

"Andie said they wanted to sign your marriage papers." He replies.

Terzo's eyes widened. "Really? We have a date after Mass."

Secondo shushes them quietly as the Ghoulettes' voices rise in song to their left.

The uplifting hymn ends after a few minutes of praise. Imperator does her sermon about the intricacies of internal frustration and how to overcome with devotion to the Lord. She closes with the second to last hymn, her mellow voice soothing as if he were listening to a lullaby from a mother he never had.

Copia steps back up to the podium and begins the final sermon. His green and white eyes sweep over the watching followers, finding Andie near the back…but no Lilly.

He starts the sermon that he has practically memorized and glances up to the empty organ floor where the camera lazily blinks red. Where did she go? Did we scare her away?

He makes it through the lecture with only a few fumbled words in his anxiety. The Anti-Pope feels Terzo approach with the platter of rye Unholy communion wafers to hand him, and a platter of small juice boxes in his left hand. Together they step down the dais stairs as a line forms for those partaking in the Unholy Communion with Satan down the right aisle. Each Believer kneels or bows to Copia.

Copia places each wafer carefully on the opened tongue of each follower, whispering 'Hail Satan' as each invokes it for the sacrifice. The Sisters and Brothers of Sin take their Sacrament, then community followers, then the Ghouls and Ghoulettes, the two eldest Papas, Sister Imperator, and finally Infernal Sister Rebecca, who leads Andie up to Copia.

Copia is about to pick up a wafer when the platter is snatched out of his hands by Terzo. The man then shoves the nearly empty juice box platter into his hands and moves him out of the way as Andie kneels.

Andie looks as if they would laugh, but restrains it as Terzo towers over their devoted form. Copia rolls his eyes as Terzo gives the wafer.

Copia searches the audience of mingling followers for Lilly's beautiful form, missing the way Andie's plush lips graze against Terzo's leather-clad fingers.

"Thank you, Papa," They whisper and rise, taking a juice box from a distracted Copia.

"Where did Lilly go?" Copia asks as Andie skewers the straw into the juice drink.

Andie sucks it down in one go. "Adam kept calling during Sister Imperator's sermon. She stepped out to see what was wrong. I hope he's been hit by a car."

"Me too," Copia murmurs and sets down the platter on an empty pew as he weaves out to the narthex and the mingling crowd.

There's no sign immediately, but a frantic-looking Rain runs into him by the front door. "Papa!"

"Rain, what's happened?" He holds the Ghoul by his shoulder and leads him away from the talking groups to outside. Before he can answer, he sees the problem.

Lilly in her beautiful velvet dress, sits curled on the Abbey's marble front steps, her body heaving with sobs.

The four Ghoulettes have formed a circle of protection from prying eyes and he can hear their comforting Ghoulish purring from the front doors. He has to hold his robes as he makes his way towards them.

"What's wrong?" He pleads.

Cirrus moves to let him sit next to Lilly. "Adam," The Ghoulette says.

Lilly is so embroiled in her hysterics that nothing distinguishable meets Copia's ears. Her glittery encased cellphone is being read by Aurora and Sunshine, who chatter in Ghoulish angrily.

"He p‐put a f*cking tracker on…my phone!" Lilly sobs. "And…because I'm here, he said he b-became tempted to cheat on me and he kicking me out!"

She hands him her phone that displays the text messages and large amount of missed calls. Lilly had texted him pictures of the camera set-up, saying how she was only there for the museum and was wearing a conservative outfit. She even had on a Crucifix bracelet that was now missing as she was comforted by the Ghoulettes.

Because of you, Satan tempted me into sleeping with another woman without protection. Now you have ruined my life and a future child's. Adam wrote.

If you're a whor* for the Devil, then I don't want you anymore. The next set of texts reads. I hope you're happy never going to Heaven, Satanic slu*t. You should have never taken advantage of me in college all those years ago.

He can't help the, "What the Hell?" that falls out of his mouth at the sight. This man, this Mormon, who was by all accounts engaged with Lilly for three years, cheated on her because of her job, even when she followed all of his rules?

"Lilly…I'm so sorry." Copia says.

The shorter woman wipes at her eyes and unfortunately smears her eyeliner. It becomes a parallel of Copia's own papal eye makeup. She leans into his hand on her shoulder and sags into his arms when he offers. "Sorry…I really enjoyed Mass. C-Can someone go turn off the camera? All you n-need to do is press the stop button and then the p-power button."

Aurora nods and disappears.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. When did you have to leave? I can fill you in on what you missed."

She takes a shaky deep breath, hand clutching that velvet over her chest. "I left during S-Sister's speech."

Copia nods, "So there's only one small part you missed then Unholy communion."

Lilly takes an offered tissue from Cumulus beside her. "Thanks. Adam says I have until Tuesday to move out of the apartment, do any of you know any moving companies?" She says between sniffles.

"We'll do it," Aurora announces. "There's a lot of us Ghouls to come help. Mountain and Cirrus are really strong, too."

Lilly gives her a watery, grateful smile; her makeup barely there but still beautiful in the streetlamps. "I can't possibly have you do that for me-"

Copa rubs her shoulder where his left arm holds her against him. "Nonsense, I'll even help. I will also get Terzo as well."

"Copia…" Lilly whispers, "I know I seem pathetic but I don't need you to go out of your way for me."

He watches her with sorrowful eyes. "Why wouldn't I? You've been one of the few people who actually cares about how we are presented. Just in the weeks we've known you, you've asked us for our stories with curiosity without distaste or hatred. You've become a friend of the Abbey and of us. Of course, we'll help you."

Lilly's brown eyes search his green and white eyes, staring more through him than at him. He feels that strange, spiritual fire inside him again.

There it is.

She blinks to nod her head and tries to hold in the next round of sobs but fails and her forehead rests against his shoulder. She smells of apples, sweet but tart in a way that reminds him of candy he would sneak from Sister Imperator's desk.

Notes:

say it with me now,

f*ck ADAM POLLACK

Chapter 5: Idolatrine

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Andie breaks away from their conversation with Terzo when the three Ghoulettes lead Lilly inside to fix her makeup. They don’t get far before Andie is barging into the woman’s personal space and taking her face into their hands.

"Lillypad! What the f*ck happened?" Their light hazel eyes are full of worry. It’s a heart-wrenching emotion that has Terzo panicking.

"Adam had a tracker on my phone and my car," She gets angry, but it dissolves into another round of fresh tears. "He broke off the engagement and is kicking me out."

"He's kicking you out of your own apartment?" Andie puts their hands on their hips.

Lilly shakes her head, "No. When we renewed last year I put it in his name so he could build up his credit after he crashed the motorcycle. Copia and the Ghouls have offered to help me move stuff into a truck."

"You are not moving to Connecticut again, you hear me? You're going to stay with me and Silas. I cannot survive with just my brother in New York City." Andie holds Lilly's smaller shoulders and shakes her a bit. "I will forcibly move in with your parents to make them uncomfortable enough to move you back out here."

"You live in an apartment tinier than Adam and I do. Monroe is only three hours away." She says, and gently brushes off her friend's grip. "I'm gonna go take off my makeup and call my parents. Dad can help me pay for a U-Haul back home." Lilly wipes her cheeks and scurries off towards the sanctuary's bathrooms.

"Terzo, I know this is new between us," Andie takes the retired Papa's hand, "but is there any way you could help me find a place for Lilly to live in New York? She's not picky and I will not survive if she loses this job at the Museum."

Terzo looks just as determined, pressing a kiss to Andie's forehead. "I already have an idea, Amore mio. Let me speak with my brothers."

Apparently, Copia has the same idea, as he's cornered Secondo, Primo, and Sister Imperator in the side corridor of the nave. "We have all these extra rooms for Siblings of Sin! She would be an incredible tenant, and it would help her with the exhibition," He hears Copia say.

"But Copia, as much as I agree with you, won't this be a conflict of interest for her job? Being paid to report on people she rents from?" Primo asks.

"Then she doesn't pay rent," Terzo shrugs. "It's not like any of the Ghouls or we do."

Sister Imperator shakes her head, crossing her arms over her sparkling black pantsuit. "She's not a Believer."

"I'm Papa and not an Emeritus," Copia snaps. He knows it's a low blow, but no one would dare retaliate. Sometimes he recognizes his own power. "I say we offer her a room by the Sisters."

"I second," Terzo adds. If Copia is already this fired up, there’s no reason to bring up Andie’s request. It might do more harm than good.

The two brothers look at Primo and Secondo who give each other their own glances. "We agree, but we need to discuss this more in detail with her after she moves in.” Secondo compromises.

The woman to their left takes a deep, slow breath. She’s been listening to those anger management tapes. "What will Papa Nihil think? Are we becoming a shelter for stray New Yorkers? We already have Terzo’s new flame to worry about."

"When does that man leave his room? There's a reason we put a kitchenette in there. If he does come out, we can say she's here to do intimate research." Primo grumbles. He gives a look of approval to Copia, mirrored by Secondo's softened look.

Copia nods enthusiastically, "That works perfectly! I'll go tell her now." His heart soars. He feels horrible for feeling such joy at this turn of events for Lilly's life, but knowing that she'll live down a few hallways from him is so enticing. He's probably a little high from leading Mass and learning about the Ghouls. He calmly walks (as much as he can restrain himself) back into the emptied narthex corridor. It's past midnight now, he can feel it in the way adrenaline is keeping his eyes open.

Copia took off his miter and handed it to Rain, who followed briskly alongside him. "Lilly!" He calls to the two friends huddled on a bench in the sparse corridor.

The short woman's makeup has been removed and her brown eyes are rimmed with red. She looks up at him with panic, "We're just about to leave-"

He waves his hands, "Please don't go just yet. I have an offer for you, but it's all up to you. We're more than willing to give you an apartment here at the Abbey." He proclaims.

"Well, thank you, I'll only need a place for about a week or two," She sags in relief despite her inner turmoil over being indebted to him.

"You can stay as long as you want," Copia encourages. His eyes sparkle in the candlelight as her entire aura fills with hope. "There are spare chambers in the west wing next to the Sisters but have their own bathrooms. You would have to share a kitchen with myself and my brothers, but the only messy one is Terzo."

Lilly stands, taking a moment to think it over. "I can afford about $2,500 a month-"

Copia cuts her off by catching her smaller hands in his leather-clad ones. "Lilly, please, you do not need to pay to stay here."

"I can't just burden you and mooch off your living arrangements because I got in trouble with my…" She pauses, a distraught look coming over her face. She looks down at her hand in Copia's, tears gathering as the small diamond on her engagement ring shimmers in the sparkle of Copia's bejeweled papal robes.

"I'm not going to transfer my burden to you." She finishes.

"You're not a burden, you could never be one-"

Lilly looks up at him, the overwhelming wash of self-doubt drowning Copia in a single breath. "You've only known me for a week, Copia. I knew Adam for six years and now it's as if we're strangers. I'm not a Satanist, I'm not a part of this incredible community, and I-I so badly want to be but there are so many things you don't know about me."

Copia co*cks his head, studying her wounded gaze, seeing how she's preparing herself for him to agree. "If you came to me with a face I have not seen, with a voice I have never heard, I would still know you." He recites quietly. He triumphed internally as the steady flow of distrust fades in the crumpling of her face.

She lurches forward to hug around his middle. It's a tight embrace he feels through all four layers of robes, wrapping him in warmth and hope. He holds her back, unsure where else to touch, but eventually when she stays snuffling into his shoulder, his hand gently pets her tousled ombre hair.

When Lilly's tears have evaporated for the evening (or early morning) she and Andie take off in Andie's beat-up Honda Civic with the expensive camera in tow, with the promise of texting or calling Copia around midday to begin moving things.

"Glad I'm not the only one staring off into someone's eyes," Terzo teases, but it's tender and empathetic.

Copia lets the smile come over his face. "Has Andie changed you into this lovey-dovey personality now? I should thank them."

"I've always been lovely to il mio Fratellio ," He replies, looking up at the moon. It's hidden by some of the smoky clouds, but winks its waning gibbous face down on them. "The holiday of Halloween is close."

"Are we trying for a living altar this year?" Copia asks absentmindedly. The faster they could establish the Abbey's needs for the special Communion, the less stress for him.

"Our Lord has not given me or our brothers any requests for one. I may ask Andie since they have now taken Unholy Communion."

The taller and current Antipope shrugs. "It's a big ask. If He has not asked, then I won't push it."

"They asked for the favor of Lilly living here."

Copia turns his thoughtful eyes to his brother. "They trust you that much?"

"Andie was a Believer before me, back when they were my Cirice in 2015," Terzo gives the moon one last nostalgic glance and turns to go up the Abbey's stairs. "I'm tired as f*ck."

"Me too," Copia joins him, both brothers holding the hem of their robes as they ascend.

-

Copia has a bad habit of oversleeping on Monday mornings. He would gladly oversleep every day of the week, but Sunday Black Mass always drained his energy reserves that are already comically low.

Come the next midmorning, Copia is unaware of his ancient iPhone’s ringtone. If someone really needed him they would know to call his Ministry landline (a number he had conveniently not given to Lilly). He is curled on his left side toward the wall when Sodo stomps through his room’s curtain to (gently) kick Copia’s legs.

“Papa, your phone has been ringing for five minutes! Wake the f*ck up.”

The disheleved head of the United Ministry of Ghost peeks over the weighted blanket’s edge, “...what?”

“Your phone-oh, Hell,” The morning grump of a fire Ghoul swipes the iPhone and answers the unlabeled dialler. “Who the f*ck is this that won’t stop calling?”

“O-Oh, I’m so sorry, Sodo, I thought Copia w-would be awake-” Lilly answers, voice taking on a bit of tremble at the harsh yelling. There’s the sound of something rustling, close to styrofoam or packing materials.

Horror like none other dawns on the Ghoul. “Lilly?! Oh, Satan, sorry. You see, Copia didn’t have you labeled and I don’t like mornings-”

Copia grabs the phone with a disappointed glare. Rightfully, Sodo hangs his head and kneels by the mattress in submission, spaded tail falling limp. “Lilly, I apologize deeply, I was still asleep and Sodo must have heard my ringtone.”

He can feel her relief through the device. “ It’s okay, I should’ve stopped calling once you didn’t pick up the first time, but I was concerned something had happened to change your mind. So, not many of the Ministry are morning people except Sister Imperator? She’s already sent me some documents concerning living at the Abbey.”

Oh no.

“Documents?”

“It’s pretty general things; schedule of cleaning duties, holidays, what things are and aren’t allowed.”

Copia thinks back to when he first moved to the Abbey from Italy back when he was a young Cardinal. That was nearly a decade ago and nothing strange appears in his memories. “I will talk to her about anything you’re not comfortable with.” He offers.

Lilly laughs. It’s quiet and still a bit timid from Sodo’s answer, but it sounds more like her. “ There’s nothing I don’t agree with. It does say, ‘Absolutely no Mormons.’ Which is probably the closest thing to a joke she’s made in front of me.”

He hears Sodo shift to hide his small giggle. “She does make good jokes occasionally.”

“I was able to put a lot of my things together in a somewhat organized and packed manner, so I’m available any time you want today,” She says, something rustling once again.

Copia smiles, holding the phone to his ear as he sits up and stretches. “What time is it?” He glances at the retro cat clock on his wall. “I think I can have everyone there around 11am.”

Dark Lord , it’s so early to him. Even now, at 8:17am, he could sleep for 36 more hours.

That works perfectly. I don’t know how to express how grateful I am for this.”

He shuffles to his closet, opening the smaller left cabinet to reveal a row of hanging tracksuits and folding t-shirts. “I know the Ghouls are particularly fond of Pop Rocks.” He suggests lightly, picking out a black Adidas tracksuit to switch up from his normal look. He needed to look decent, right?

“And what about you and the other Papas?”

“You really don’t need to worry about that, Tesoro .” The pet name slips out. Sodo perks from his nesting Copia’s discarded covers. “I-I mean-”

Lilly doesn’t understand the term thankfully. “ I already have a funny nickname? I guess I’ll have to come up with one for you as well, Copia. I’ll send you the address now. Thank you so much.”

For all of Sister Imperator’s resistance last night, there’s an idling U-Haul moving van waiting next to Copia’s Buick LaSabre. She watches the gaggle of Ghouls, Secondo, Terzo, and Copia approach with folded arms.

“You gave her a list of what not to bring?” Copia questions as he unlocks his car for four Ghouls to pile inside. Secondo’s sporty but large ‘59 Cadillac Coupe DeVille is unlocked for Mountain and Rain, while Sodo sticks to Terzo’s side, making the decision for the retired man to steer the U-Haul.

“We do have rules of Decorum, Cardi. You pay for any scratches he puts on that thing. I rented it for 24 hours from six this morning.” She presses a pamphlet with the instructions and receipt of the initial reservation. Maybe she does like Lilly.

“Thank you. I know Lilly is very grateful.”

Sister Imperator makes a shoo-ing motion and steps onto the grass that borders the large paved driveway.

“This sh*t has Blutooth! Suck it, classic car losers!” Sodo yells as Terzo pulls out onto the street. Rock music and bad karaoke (namely recordings of Ghost from Terzo’s albums) blares from the truck as it drives off.

Secondo perches his aviators on his nose and reverses, allowing Copia to start his own car.

“How is it that Terzo is so bad at karaoke of his own songs??” Phantom snickers.

Copia and his brothers are relieved to find that Lilly’s apartment building has a working elevator and comes with an attached parking garage structure. He doesn’t even want to know how expensive it is to live in a tall historic building near Hell’s Kitchen. Both of the classic cars have big trunks, but are meant today to be more of a body-hauler. Secondo looks very grateful when Copia says he can park on an upper level because they’ll pack any last items with him.

The two cars find spots somewhat close to the access doors to the apartment building, Copia sending a text saying they were here.

Cumulus spoke of the funny billboard they saw on the way in, making the whole group laugh. They hear the creak of the door and see Lilly poke her head out. Her eyes are puffy, but she smiles like nothing is wrong. “Come on in, guys.” Secondo, Mountain, and Rain pop out of the stairwell next to the door, scaring Lilly. “Oh man, I get the entire Ministry as movers? I feel so special. This will take no time at all.” She gives the open door to Secondo, who inclines his head for her to lead the way. She guides them to the left, stopping at the fourth door in.

Apartment 609

Swiss and Sodo snicker. Cirrus growls at them under her breath.

Lilly rolls her brown eyes playfully as she unlocks the door. “I know, Andie laughs every time, too.”

Inside is a typical Millennial grayscape hell; silver walls, light-wood furniture, sleek appliances. It feels sterile to the group who are swathed in the cherry wood and marble stylings of the Abbey’s gothic architecture. Secondo doesn’t hide his immediate distaste.

No wonder Lilly is under Adam’s control; this is a jail cell, not the apartment of loving newlyweds.

Boxes and totes are stacked in various piles. There’s a lot less of them than Copia thought, meaning they might not even need to put much in his LaSabre and Secondo’s DeVille. Lilly gives them a 30-second tour of the two bedroom space. “This is Adam’s room, and this is mine.”

Adam’s room is noticeably larger and cluttered with rugby memorabilia. The king sized bed takes up most of the room, its blue-plaid comforter and pillows strewn like a tornado had blown through.

“Typical men.” Terzo says, not acknowledging the fact that his room is almost the exact same way.

“I used to clean it for him, but I didn’t do a good enough job for him, so I stopped.” Lilly sighs. She opens the door next to Adam’s, leading them into a closet-sized room. The walls here are painted baby blue, dark spots of paint where things were obviously hung as her own treasured gallery wall.

It feels like her aura here even with the missing decorations. Copia would have given anything to see it in its glory.

You have a chance to see one that’s created while she’s happy. His mind supplies traitorusly.

She has most things packed, it appears. Only three framed pictures sit on her small nightstand with an opened toiletry bag. “There is one thing Sister Imperator didn’t say; did I need to transport my mattress? She said there was a bed and some other furniture.”

“There is a basic mattress on it, but I think you’d be more comfortable bringing this one. We have a U-Haul to put it in.” Mountain says. \

Copia realizes that all of the Ghouls are in their human forms and she probably doesn’t know who all of them are. He opens his mouth to introduce them again but the words die as a gasp echoes from the living room. A few of the Ghouls were beginning to haul the largest boxes out to the U-Haul with Terzo. Had one of them broken something?

“Lilly?!”

Out by the couch stands Swiss and Cumulus holding a framed picture that was laying on top of the coffee table. Copia searches the Ghoul’s human faces but can’t distinguish anything other than shock and a trickle of fear.

He gently pushes past the doorway. Lilly is right beside him. She sags in relief as she scans the room for anything shards of glass or spilled blood and it's clear. “Oh, thank goodness. You sounded like someone got hurt.”

Swiss turns the picture around to face the gathered Papas and Ghouls.

Inside the large, ornate wood frame is a normal looking family picture. It’s set against the rocky beach of Connecticuit, a splash of frigid ocean water visible in the lower right of the picture. Some of the older couple’s hair is flapping in the breeze and it looks downright cold with their large puffer jackets on.

Copia tries to find something odd enough to alert the Ghouls but all he sees is the recognizable thousand-watt smile of a much younger Lilly posing in front of a group of her supposed family.

“What? I know I was an ugly kid, but I didn’t think it was that bad.” She takes the frame from Swiss, who is nearly shaking. “It’s just a family picture from a typical beach vacation.”

She holds the picture for Copia and Mountain to look at more closely.

Finally…it hits him when he reads the written description at the bottom.

“To our sweetest Gift from God, Johannah, Happy 23rd birthday. Here’s a little throwback from after your first exorcism. We’re so proud of your engagement to Adam!

Lots of love, Grandpa Ed & Grandma Lorraine Warren.”

Copia reels back, something sour crawling up the back of his throat.

“Is something wrong? I can put this away if it makes you uncomfortable.” Lilly tries to catch his mismatched eyes, but he’s frozen looking at the faces of the elderly couple akin to murderers.

She looks around her to the matching expressions of shock.

“You’re a Warren. ” Secondo hisses. “You never thought to tell any of us that you’re related to demon murderers?”

All of the Ghouls flinch. Her brown eyes widened. “My grandparents? I was raised without them really involving me in their work.” She explains frantically.

“It says right here, Here’s a little throwback from after your first exorcism! Is this a scheme to infiltrate our Ministry for them?”

“I, I, no!” She stumbles, fear taking over her usually sweet face. “I swear me being the Curator for the award was added after I was given the position! After what happened in the first one they made me do, I told Grandma and Grandpa I would never do another one. They write that on there because they’re trying to guilt me into taking over the Museum in Connectcuit.”

Secondo doesn’t look as if he believes her. “Were you not going to tell us?”

“I was-just I didn’t think I would get this close to all of you so quickly and then the thing with Adam, I swear I didn’t think-”

Swiss, who Copia reaches out and restrains before the Ghoul can transform into his demon form, growls. “Your family holds our brethren in cages and tortures them with holy water! I lost my brother to your ‘Holy family!’” He hisses in Ghoulish.

To add more shock, Lilly continued talking as if Swiss were still speaking English. “Swiss, please, I’m really sorry that happened, but they were doing it years before my dad was ever born! He hated it just as much as me and when he got married, they moved away to Washington State to not be involved with it.”

“All these times where you were able to recognize us…you’re a clairvoyant.” Mountain states the calm presence of the group next to Copia.

“My dad never wanted me to tell my grandparents, so I never was assessed officially. ” She holds up her arms.

Copia probably looks like a gaping fish. “Your name is Johannah, but you go by Lilly?”

She shakes her head. “No, to keep my grandparents from involving me, my dad named me Lillith, a name my grandmother refuses to say. It was their way of giving me the freedom to be who I wanted to be. At one point, that did cause me to live with my grandparents for a year to eventually run the museum, but I was so distraught they let me move back to Washington with my parents. When I met Adam, it was a good compromise for everyone in my family.”

“What’s your proof of that?” Swiss bites out.

She nods and pulls her driver’s license from her cellphone. Sure enough, her name is Lillith Johannah Warren, born April 30th, 1994.

Hexenacht. The granddaughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren was born on the Satanic holiday that memorializes those who were victims of Satanic Panic and religious persecution. Are they not doing the same thing? She has shown nothing but curiosity and open arms of their religion, despite her relationship. In fact, she isn’t trying to restore her engagement with Adam, she’s embracing them after only knowing them a week.

Copia feels relief, all of his senses finally deciding to trust the woman who has captured his heart in so little time. “I believe you,” He says sincerely.

“No, no, no! We need to hold a counsel with Sister Imperator-” Secondo starts.

“And what, involve Nihil? Bother our very busy Lord with self-doubt, like cowards? We’ re no better than them if we turn her away. If she says she has no involvement, then she has no involvement!” Terzo snaps.

“You just want to be with that friend,” Secondo points a finger at Terzo’s chest.

That friend , Andie, partook in Unholy Communion and who Lilly accepts without judgement!”

Secondo glares, “You and Copia have always been too trusting. I’m leaving to seek counsel.”

Copia snags the older man’s arm, using his slight height advantage to stare him down. “You would rather partner with Nihil than your brothers; trust the man who wanted to kill you when you fell off the Left-Hand Path vs the brother that begs for Satan’s mercy and saved you? ”

The accusation stuns the bald man into a furious silence.

“Now, we’re going to help Lilly move her things into the Abbey and then we’re going to have a convening with the four Papas and Ghouls.” Copia ends the argument. He turns to give Lilly back her license and family picture when he sees the silent tears dripping down her cheeks.

She blinks rapidly and uses the sleeve of her black sweatshirt to wipe at her eyes. Cirrus, the unofficial matriarch of the Ghouls, plucks a tissue box from the kitchen and offers it to her. "Thanks, Cirrus," She whispers, taking a tissue.

Terzo drags Secondo out of the apartment, angry Italian echoing from them until they exit out into the parking garage.

"Why don't you sit down for a minute," Cirrus shoos a guilty looking Rain out from the couch, holding Lilly's hand and sitting next to her.

Copia inhales, steeling himself with a backbone. "Alright, why don't we continue moving things, huh? Swiss, feel free to go sit in my car if you want a moment alone." He holds out the keys and the Ghoul's olive-colored face looks tempted but the Ghouls shakes his head and follows Mountain into Lilly's bedroom to grab some boxes.

Lilly calms down after a few minutes of quiet Ghoul chattering as they delegate each other to haul the packages. Cirrus rubs her back when she has to blow her nose through her lessening snuffles.

"I always said one day I would go back to the Museum and free them from their cages," Lilly begins, reverent, "I could hear Forrasis' screams from within Annabelle the Doll and when I told my grandmother because I couldn't sleep, they added an extra binding spell. He would tell me all he wanted to do was to give the doll to a homeless girl that would watch over the doll in the Christmas display, and when he noticed the doll was purchased, he tried to force the family to return it to the store where he could leave it for the girl to have. Unfortunately all it did was make the family give it to my grandparents' who accidentally sealed it in his possession."

"Forrasis has been absent from Hell for several decades now." Cirrus agrees. "I was summoned from his legion when Copia ascended to Papa. I'd very much like to help you free him one day."

Terzo steps back into the apartment alone. His face brightens when he sees Lilly is no longer crying. "Secondo is going to buy us all doughnuts as an apology from the store down the block."

Copia grins, knowing that the man is probably nursing a sore jaw from Terzo's right hook. He always forgets how scrappy the younger Emeritus is in a fight.

"Again, I'm sorry about this."

Terzo leans his hip against the kitchen island. "Secondo lost some of his Ghouls during the 90s when Satanic Panic was big. He just needs some alone time to process his grief. Nihil didn't really care enough to teach us how to regulate our emotions because he was too busy f*cking prostitutes."

"No offense…but Nihil was considered a hot guy? His interviews were alway blurry because of all the hotboxing."

"You should see Sister Imperator in the 60s, total smokeshow of a woman." Terzo says. "Now she's gross and witchy."

Copia leaves Terzo to see what's taking the Ghouls so long to find boxes to bring out to the moving van. In Lilly's room, the seven Ghouls are huddled in the far corner of the room, next to Lilly's small wooden dresser. The group breaks apart when Copia approaches and to his disbelief, there's a four foot long snake coiled around Mountain’s neck as if it was always there.

“Where the hell did you get a snake?” Copia gapes.

“He was sleeping in one of her open dresser drawers. He said he was cold so I picked him up.” Mountain responds nonchalantly.

“Yes, that’s all fine, but did Lilly know there was a snake in her dresser?” He stresses. “Lilly?!”

Once again, Lilly is rounding the corner with a panicked look. Her eyes have mostly cleared of their teary redness. “What’s happened? Is everyone okay?” She moves further into the room, passing Copia.

Mountain uses two fingers to stroke the Sinoloan milksnake’s small head, grinning when the snake settles into his touch.

“Oh, you found Crowley! I was wondering where he had roamed off to.” Lilly runs a hand over the delicate black, white, and red striped underbelly of the animal.

“He is your pet?” Mountain asks.

“Why? Is he saying he allows me to keep him, again? He does that a lot.” She scolds the snake.

“He says he was cold.”

Lilly’s brown eyes soften and she takes the offered reptile, placing him over in an empty reptile tank on the floor by her bare bed. She moves the heating lamp to focus on the puddle of pouting snake and straightens her back. “You need to tell me when you get stuck in places.”

The milkshakes flicks out its forked tongue with a sassy shake of its tiny, bullet-shaped head.

“I let him roam today because I needed to disassemble his usual enclosure, but he likes to pretend he doesn’t know how to climb into this temporary cage when he’s cold.”

Mountain nods seriously. “He’s a very proud snake.”

“Which is why his name is Crowley.” She grins.

That breaks the tension enough for the Ghouls to resume their chattering. Finally after a drawn-out moment, they separate to each begin grabbing boxes, lamps, and her mattress. The room is cleared of most of the packed things within minutes.

Another trip back to the apartment means that Ghouls take the boxes within the living room and the few that are still being packed on the kitchen island by Copia and Lilly. He notices that she takes most of the seasonings in the one cupboard, leaving it bare of its colorful, marked jars.

“If he’s going to kick me out, then I’m going to make sure he misses my cooking and everything I bought for our relationship.”

Which includes the toaster, Insta-Pot, very expensive blender (which Adam can’t live without because of his addiction to going to the gym and drinking protein shakes) and every piece of cooking instrument in the entire kitchen. Pots, pans, utensils, silverware, and cups and plates. They fill two more large boxes.

After about an hour of rounding up any stray items of Lilly’s, the apartment looks as empty as a straight man living alone.

The Ghouls, mostly Swiss, took the calm of the empty apartment to head out to the parking garage to begin the ride back to the Abbey before the after-lunch rush began. Copia, Cirrus, Rain, and Aurora stay behind to make sure Lilly has no problems fully leaving.

Copia tells the three Ghouls to head out to the car as he goes back inside the apartment to make sure Lilly was ready to go.

Lilly isn’t in the living room or her own bare bedroom but in the slightly ajar doorway of Adam’s room. She isn’t crying, but looks close enough that Copia is concerned. He’s caused her enough strife for the day. This leaving should become a happy one.

“I think I would have really liked Adam in another life.” She leans her shoulder against the doorway, back facing him. “But, I don’t think he ever really cared about me. I wanted to marry him, but that faded over the three years he’s been stringing me along.”

“What is so great about him?” Copia finds himself asking.

She stares at the messy, unmade sheets. “It’s hard to remember right now, but I’m sure there was something.”

Notes:

Poor Swiss and Secondo...

Chapter 6: If You Have Ghosts

Notes:

Here's my layout for the Abbey
https://www.tumblr.com/nihil-gaiman/732702268304097280/stand-by-him-chapter-1-nonbinarytatooine?source=share

Chapter Text

The Abbey’s intimidating cathedral architecture has a different energy when Lilly parks her blue Honda CR-Z on one of the streets of the corner lot the sprawling Cathedral occupies. She steps out of the car and gathers the laundry basket filled with a week’s worth of clothing and toiletries so she doesn’t need to unpack every box immediately. The Ghouls have already gotten a head start with the emptiness of the open U-Haul. She walks up the paved driveway and is met with Sister Imperator’s stoic form, holding a ring of skeleton keys that appear to be transported from a Victorian manor house.

“This is your key to your chambers, one to the outside doors, and one to the main sanctuary.” She holds out the ancient keys to the younger woman. “If you lose any of them, you pay for them to be rekeyed. These are original to the Abbey and very important to its upkeep.”

They are heavy in Lilly’s grip and she has to readjust her hold on the laundry basket. “I’ll take the very best care of them, Sister.”

Sister Imperator turns and begins walking inside, leaving Lilly to wonder if she’s meant to follow. The woman looks back when she’s reached the top step of the Abbey’s front entrance, “Well, are you

The older woman leads the way through the familiar narthex corridor and takes a right down the side corridor and out into a beautifully manicured cloister garden. “Because we are at full capacity in the immediate papal corridor, your room is technically in the same cloister as the Sisters of Sin. The Papas have agreed to share their kitchen with you,” Following the covered outside passage, Lilly takes in Primo sitting on a stool while clipping at a group of green, flowering bushes. They make their way to the corridor on the far west wall across the cloister.

In the hall is a hallway of doors that end with a furnished, open room with high ceilings. It’s airy with several panels of stained and regular glass windows, many of which are propped open to let in the cool autumn breeze. It’s much more tropical in here than she ever expected, seeing how different all of the brothers were from each other.

Imperator leads Lilly back towards the cloister then off to the side, bringing her to a large and updated kitchen designed around the historic stone decorated walls.

This is where Terzo has snuck from his U-Haul unpacking duties; currently face-deep in a large carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream by the large refrigerator. Thankfully it is not the carton of chocolate ice cream that Lilly brought from her apartment. The boxes and coolers that held her food are empty around him, so he did at least do some part of helping unpack. The other two large kitchen boxes with her pots and pans sit untouched in the corner of the room. Her and the Papas can decide what items she could sell or donate later.

Terzo sees them, frantically replacing the lid of the ice cream carton and shoving it back in the freezer. “Hey, Sister, and Lilly. Have you seen your rooms yet?”

“No, I was showing her the papal common areas she will be sharing. We’ll leave to your…lunch.” Imperator walks off before Lilly can say anything to Terzo.

The kitchen leads back out into the cloister’s midafternoon shade. Some of the Ghouls have finished their share of moving and are now lounging under a large apple tree in the middle of the cloister garden. Cumulus lifts her head from its place on Swiss’ chest as they lay in the shade.

Lilly sees dual vision of the small Ghoul; both the familiar goggle-mask of their tour appearances and an older version of their silver demon mask that she remembers from earlier interview recordings. Lilly unfortunately can’t return the shy wave the Ghoulette sends her with the laundry basket in her arms, but she does her best to smile wide enough for her to see across the courtyard.

Sister Imperator’s red heels click on the stone in front of Lilly and force her to ignore the rest of the flickering, overlaid masks. The next hallway is on the right wall and leads immediately into a split corridor, one with Sisters of Sin chatting in front of rows of dormitory rooms, and the other filled with Brothers of Sin.

Sister Rebecca, with her wise and wrinkled smile, beckons the two women to the first door in the left wall of doors. “Lilly, sweet child, it is wonderful to have you live with us. My room is right across the hall if you need anything at all.” She lays a comforting hand on Lilly’s tired shoulder, and Lilly has to restrain herself from not bursting into tears at the depth behind her gaze.

Sister Rebecca leads them into Lilly’s room. It’s modest; there is a simple dresser, bed frame (with Lilly’s mattress now on it), an ornate wooden desk placed in front of a large window that opens out onto the cloister corridor and shade. Her boxes of things are stacked neatly through the room, and some of the fragile things she had packed last were placed on top of the long dresser top.

“This is so much larger than my apartment bedroom.” Lilly breathes. “This is so welcoming and warm, thank you so much.”

Sister Imperator actually smiles, something motherly and tender. “I’m glad you like it. Tonight is the Abbey’s community dinner at 7 p.m. in the Sibling Meeting Hall across the gardens from here. One of the Ghouls will come to collect you shortly before then.”

Lilly perks up at that, brown eyes sparkling. “Could I come help cook? My mom was an instructor at the Seattle Culinary Institute."

Sister Rebecca matches her grin. "Sounds perfect. Could you come by the Meeting Hall by 5?"

That would give her a few hours to unpack and set up some things. Lilly nods excitedly.

Lilly agonizes over the setup of her bed, nightstand, and refolding her clothes in each dresser drawer to make sure all of them are wrinkle-free and she’s not missing any.

Though, how would she be? The apartment had barely anything left when she and Copia walked out of it for the last time. She pulls out any clothes that were either Adam’s favorite or bought specifically as conservative attire for wearing to worship services at the Manhattan Mormon Temple.

To combat the sudden wave of repulsion that fills her, Lilly flees to the shower in her en suite bathroom, taking extra time to scrub herself down as if she were removing dried paint. She doesn’t think she’s handling this badly at all when the feeling dies down after the scalding water touches her.

Picking out an outfit that was both comfortable to cook in but was nice enough to not seem like she was depressed over losing her relationship was difficult. Eventually she settled on a black shirt and a pair of dark brown overallls embroidered with wildflowers to complement the array of colors that burst out of the cloister garden.

She grapples with the thought of putting on any sort of makeup, but one look in the mirror and she notices how dark the bags under her brown eyes are in the soft warmth of the afternoon and knows she can’t show them any more depression after this morning.

The Sisters are gathering across the cloister, their black and white habits stark against the greenery around them. Would she have to wear that? Lilly fights the urge to change into something from the messy pile of long, dark colored dresses that made up her Temple wardrobe. She decides to claim unknowing if anyone says anything since Sister Imperator’s rules don’t specify for her.

A few of the Brothers were dressed in short-sleeve black clergy outfits, strolling through the shade slower than the Sisters.

Lilly takes a deep breath before opening her bedroom door out into the empty dormitory hallway. She steps out, feeling both excited and anxious about being around the Papas and Ghouls after their reactions this morning.

-

Dinner is a simple affair. Cooking for thirteen Sisters, six Brothers, five Papas, and one Sister Imperator meant that the community meals were nothing too complicated so all of the food could be served at the same time.

Lilly slices vegetables for a soup that simmers away for the two hours before dinner. All of the Sisters help in some way throughout the largest kitchen in the Abbey and Lilly finds it surprisingly easy to remember all of their names despite their shared outfits. All of them have names that are found in the Christian Bible. It would be hard to distinguish them from the Catholic nuns Lilly has seen if it weren’t for the different colored Leviathan crosses embroidered on the bottom hem of their headpiece and the belt some of them wear to hold up their apron.

Sister Sarai explains all of the dishes, ranging from stewed fruits to the large beef roast that has been cooking since the early morning in preparation.

“What do the Ghouls eat?” Lilly asks as she helps Sister Martha fold napkins at the long wooden tables in the main meeting area. More Sisters of Sin follow behind them with a cart of plates and silverware.

“They don’t usually eat,” Sister Martha shrugs from the other side of the table. “I’ve only seen them participate in community meals maybe a few times a year.”

Lilly nods, acting as if she understands that the Ghouls don’t require food like normal people. “Is there a seating order?” There’s nothing to distinguish any of the tables from each other, and as nice as the Ministry has been so far, Temple meals always had a hierarchical table setting.

“No, everyone is free to sit wherever they wish to.”

“So, the Papas don’t sit at a separate table?”

Sister Martha’s coif headpiece has a bit of dark curls peek out from the white hem. “Oh, no, no. This monthly dinner is a bonding event for the Ministry. Were you expecting them to?”

Lilly flushes. “Yes. At the Temple I attended with Adam, all of the dinners were served in different rooms by gender and clergy status. It’s nice to not have to worry about seating charts, I guess.” She finishes lamely.

“You’re always welcome to sit wherever in here or in Mass. The only restricted seats are the front pews and the sectioned off choir and quire boxes next to the altar. Speaking with our Lord does not require special status or seating.” A bit of a wry smile twists the woman’s youthful face. “The only people to really sit separately are Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil, since they have a bit of an enlarged ego.” She whispers the last part.

“They mean well,” Sister Anna says from where she puts the white round plates next to their placed napkins, “but they’re of a different generation than most of us. It takes a bit of warming up for them, so don’t worry if they are a bit cold around you right now.”

The three long tables are sufficiently set up and all of them return to the kitchen areas where the steaming dishes are being ladled, scooped, and served onto covered silver platters. They're loaded onto small carts and pushed through the room to be placed on the tables in six different places.

Just as Lilly is placing the serving of stewed apples at the head of the last table, all four of the Emeritus brothers saunter in. Primo is dressed in a green sweater and calmly walking past his bickering brothers. His face is devoid of most papal paint, and it actually makes him look younger. He holds out a hand to Lilly and pulls her to the middle of the center table with a mischievous grin.

"How are your rooms? If I wasn't knee deep in my rose bushes this afternoon I would have welcomed you home." Primo sits across the table from her. To her surprise, Copia sits to her left, and Sister Rebecca to her right.

"Sister Imperator and Sister Rebecca were very sweet," She tries not to notice Secondo ignoring them and moving to the far end of the last table.

"Oh, posh, you don't know how excited we are to have you. Some of the Siblings wanted to serenade you, but I thought that was a tad much for all that you've been through." The older woman says.

Lilly smiles, leaning into the woman's arm around her shoulder. "I think I would have cried. But I would love to hear it after I sort some of this out and get into a new routine with classes and work."

Copia co*cks his head as he spoons brothy soup into a bowl. "You take classes as well as work full-time?"

"Yeah, some of the boxes this morning were so heavy because of all the art textbooks. I'm currently enrolled at Columbia for a Doctorate in Art Museum Programming. But it's weird," She takes a small bite of her steamed potatoes. "Because this job is a paid internship, my classes don't start back up until the New Year. So I have a bit of a head start on the temporary exhibition for all of you now."

"A doctorate? I have one from an old college back when I was a math wizard." Primo sighs, eyes glazed over in nostalgia. "Is Harvard still around?"

" Dr. Primo Emeritus I, math wizard. It's on his very official business card from 1964." Copia says lowly, chuckling as Primo searches his slacks for a spare card.

Lilly's glad she swallowed the soup so fast because the business card Primo handed her is so ancient it's practically crumbling in her hands. "A man of many talents. Please don't expect me to know anything about math."

Primo's green eye sparkled, "Well, art is just the laws of the universe and physics put in an aesthetic form! I took many art classes where we put formulas on graphs and recreated famous artworks with them."

"Fascinating, do you still have examples of them?"

He nods, "I'm sure they're somewhere in my office."

Lilly lets the youngest and oldest brother talk about supplies for the winter garden season, taking out her constantly buzzing cell phone to check why it wouldn't stop.

INCOMING CALL: Head Chef Mother

MISSED CALL (7)

NOTIFICATION (11)

"Uh oh," Lilly whispers. She absolutely does not want to skip out on an Abbey event again, but if her mother has already called this many times, she needs to answer. "Hey Copia?"

The man pauses in his sentence and turns to her. "Yes?"

"Could I be excused from dinner?"

He co*cks his head in that bird-motion she finds so endearing. "Of course? You can leave any time. Just put your plate over on the kitchen island. You don't have to ask for permission from any of us."

Her phone stops ringing for a moment then starts back up.

His eyes flicker down to it in her hand. "Everything alright?"

"I think so, it's just my mom. She didn't answer last night so I'm sure my parents are a bit confused if Adam has reached out to them." She tries to reassure him, but excuses herself to the kitchen quickly.

"Hello?"

"Lillith Johannah Warren! What the Hell is going on? Mary-Catherine Pollack has been blowing up our phones all morning about some nonsense." Her father answers instead of her mother. That meant both were listening in. At least she would have to repeat it to both of them.

Lilly stacks her unfinished plate on the specified cart and walks out into the dusky cloister courtyard. "What has she told you?"

" We're more concerned with your safety. She sounded as if you had done something horrible?" Her mother says, the cool-headedness of being a chef calming down her father.

"I'm okay. It's really stupid, just-I got a new project at work and it's for that band Ghost, the one that Andie really likes?"

"We saw the award show on the Museum's website. I think we may have gotten a glimpse of them on a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago. That video you did was so wonderful, sweetheart." Chelsea Warren's smile is audible.

Lilly lets her feet wander into the main church and eventually she ends up sitting on a pew in the low-light, empty main sanctuary. "Thanks Mom. This contract project was to create two exhibitions on the history of the band. The budget is almost $3 million for the cases, artifacts, and travel. Thankfully they operate just outside of Manhattan."

" Lilly, we are so proud of you," Joshua Warren says.

She needs to wipe at her eyes so she puts the phone of the hymnal in the back of the pew and turns the volume to a soft level.

She doesn't notice the way it still echoes up to the balcony.

"What has this great opportunity have anything to do with Adam?" Her mother asks.

Lilly takes a shaky breath. "Ghost has been around since 1969, and there's a lot of points where I'm missing interviews and recordings of concerts. Thankfully most of the lead singers are still practicing…but they're Satanists. They run the United Clergy Of Ghost."

Chelsea Warren scoffs, a noncommittal sound. "Lilly, I thought we raised you better than to care about things like that."

"No, you did! It's been so fascinating talking to them. It's just I need a recording of one of their religious sermons because they won the genre award and I couldn't get one of my interns to tape it, so I volunteered. Andie went with me. And halfway through, Adam blew up my phone, and he…he-"

The tears overwhelm her yet again.

" Oh, Lilly, he got upset over that?"

"Y-Yeah. He put a tracker on my phone, ap-parently. Said I had tempted him to sleep with another woman in Utah." She stumbles over the words.

"I'm going to skin him alive. I knew there was something rotten about him, Chelsea! " Her father is far away from the phone but she still hears his rumbling voice.

"Josh, calm down, we don't know everything just yet. Lilly, did he say anything else?"

"He got her pregnant and kicked me out of the apartment." Lilly admits, dreading the explosive anger from the other side of the phone.

"He threw you out on the street? Are you at Andie and Silas'? I can be there in three hours." Her father demands, firm in his fatherly possessiveness but an edge of emotion not directed at her.

Lilly wipes at her cheeks. "I'm okay, Dad. He gave me until tomorrow to move out. I was able to find somewhere and move out this morning. You really don't need to fly all the way across the United States."

"Lilly, you and your mother are my two reasons for living. I will fly across the world for you. But, if you want time alone and are safe, I can come later."

She nods then remembers they can't see it. "I'd love to have you come in February for the exhibition opening. I think you would get along great with everyone."

" When does Adam get back from Utah?"

Lilly shrugs and makes a helpless sound. "I don't know. I just keep…I keep thinking about all the times you and Andie didn't like him and how uncomfortable I always was at Temple…Why did I let him waste six years of my life?"

" You thought you were in love, sweetheart. Don't forget some of the good times. Your father will try to talk to Mary-Catherine. I have to go to work, but I promise we'll talk soon, Lilly. We love you. Are you sure you're in a safe place?"

"Yeah, I'm safe. I love you guys," Lilly whispers back, rubbing her eyes as her mothers hangs up. She almost wishes she was in her childhood bedroom, only having to worry about what sparkly sneakers to wear at school the next day.

Now she's sitting alone, crying over a guy who cheated and impregnated someone just because Lilly did something for her job!

Maybe he had finally seen how unhappy she was at Temple worship, how she had said she wanted to have a ceremony that could include her parents that weren't Mormon.

How will she survive without him? She's been frustrated over the past three years of waiting, waiting, and more waiting for a wedding that could only happen when their dream ranch was finished being built in Utah on his parents' land. But they've been together since they were juniors in college.

They've shared so many firsts before Adam became a stingy Mormon asshole; illegal kisses, drinking shots of vodka with Andie, and Adam finally letting her have a taste of pre-marital sin...

And now all Adam has done is used that against her.

Lilly replies to a text from Andie about her new accommodations and feels the prickle of eyes watching her.

She looks up from her cell phone to see low light glinting off the round glass of Swiss' goggles from the above balcony.

"He got her pregnant?" Swiss asks quietly, but it sounds as if he's sitting on the pew to her left.

She gives him a rueful smile. "Yeah. Which means he's probably slept with her before. He goes to these rugby conferences once every three months."

In the span of her blink, Swiss is standing in the aisle watching her with a calculating gaze. She jumps a tiny bit at the display of a sudden, impossible movement.

"He sounds stupid."

Lilly laughs. "He is. There's still a part that would take him back tomorrow if he asked."

Swiss shifts on his feet, unusually insecure for all of the times she's seen him so confident. "Can I give you a hug?"

Lilly thinks over it. She wouldn't be allowed to have physical touch with someone of the opposite gender, but she has an inkling the Ghouls aren't fully human and f*ck all of Adam's rules. If Swiss wants a hug, he's going to get one.

"I'm always up for a hug." She offers, standing and pulling his nervous form into her arms.

Swiss is taller than her, but only by a few inches so his goggles rest comfortably just above her forehead. "I'm sorry for earlier," He says, swaying them a bit.

Lilly feels weighed down in the hug. Like she's draped a heavy quilt over her shoulders. It's nice being held like this. She doesn't remember the last time Adam even held her hand, let alone hugged her.

Her eyes close against his neck and she begins to struggle not falling asleep with the barely-there scent of something spicy and sweet on his collar.

His tanned hand rubs soothing circles on her lower back and she doesn't know whether to take it as comfort or teasing. "It's been a while since you've been held like this, huh?" He purrs. It reverberates through her head with the undertone of an actual purr.

That melts her brain into an overdrive of craving for more contact. "So long…" She mumbles.

"You smell like apples."

Lilly grins into his shoulder. "That is the goal of wearing a perfume that is supposed to smell like apples, Swiss. I feel like I always overspray, is it too much?"

Swiss practically nuzzles her head in agreement. "Not nearly enough. It probably drives Papa crazy."

"I think I would like that one day," She whispers.

The Ghoul pulls away from the embrace and she mourns for the lost warmth and scent. Lilly tries to find his eyes through the lenses but all she sees is her own reflection staring back. "Go get some sleep, Miss Lilly."

Lilly groans at the nickname. "That makes me sound like an old lady.”

“I think it suits you,” Swiss laughs as Lilly grabs her phone from the pew’s dark cushion.

“In that case, Swiss Cheese, I bid you a good night.” Lilly winks, leaving the laughing Ghoul alone.

Chapter 7: Kiss the Go-Goat

Notes:

I hope y'all like Nameless Ghoul x Copia, if you don't this is not the fic for you past this chapter

EDIT 11/4/23: I put the full Ghoul orgy scene in the last part so I can have a normal sized chapter 8, enjoy the smut!

Chapter Text

Lilly pops her head back into the meeting room to see that most of the community dinner participants had left. Not seeing Copia or any of the Emeritus brothers, she decides to take a few minutes to explore this west wing of the Abbey connected to the main Cathedral part. Going through the meeting hall and up a small flight of stairs again, she finds herself in the hallway outside of the main sanctuary.

It runs parallel through the entire church body and is lit well for a place that doesn’t seem to have any people walking around at night. She follows the hallway, running a hand along the ancient light grey stone walls. It's cool to her fingertips and illuminated by stained glass windows that let in the cloister’s lantern light.

Evenly distributed through the hallway are six different doors, each with a bronze plaque that lists its owner on the wall next to the identical cherry wood doors.

She passes office doors for Papa Emeritus I, II, III, and Sister Imperator, all of which are closed until she reaches Papa Emeritus IV, which her mind recognizes is Copia’s office. The wooden door is slightly ajar and she can faintly hear voices coming from inside. She tries to ignore the conversation and walk past, but she spies a view of Copia from the side.

He’s still dressed in the black tracksuit from her move and the community dinner, but seeing him in the warm lighting of his office makes him look softer.

Lilly watches him speak with an unknown party about upcoming needs for supplies for the Abbey before she finds the strength to move past. The pooling of goo in her stomach from the physical contact with Swiss only enlarges by seeing Copia in such a flattering light. She needs to get away.

Papa Nihil, Emeritus Zero

Her heart sinks at the mention of the name. The door is cold and closed, reflecting the man’s absence since his death a month ago. She would have liked to meet him and find out what he was really like behind all of the interviews and recordings, the man who fathered the three eldest brothers.

The corridor curves to the left and into the main sanctuary. She steps up onto a carpeted portion, realizing she’s now on top of the dais and behind the stone altar. The mural of Lucifer and the four Papas is actually not the exterior wall but has small spaces that go behind the mural.

In the semi-circle atrium room behind the mural is a somewhat open row of different, smaller stone altars that have half walls for people to go into each.

None of them are labeled like the offices but each of them has specific objects that remind her of each Papa.

The first one on the left is dusty as if it has been abandoned, filled with sheet music, dried blue Forget-Me-Not flowers, and a saxophone sitting forlornly on a stand.

The next must be Primo’s because it is an explosion of potted plants, blooming flowers, and a large bowl of offerings of fall vegetables.

The next is probably Secondo’s; a stack of poker chips, a house of cards built on the low altar, next to a wine glass filled halfway with dark red wine.

Terzo’s altar is a display of dried tobacco leaves, pomegranate halves, and chocolate candies. It looks like something out of a magazine for beautiful Satanic altarpieces.

Of course his offerings would all have to do with aphrodisiacs.

There are two left, and the first one must be Copia’s. On the low altar there is a white basin of large green apples, shiny in the small apse’s overhead atrium. They look so crisp and delicious to Lilly and she almost steps into the space to reach out and take a bite of one. An open jar of honey sits innocently next to the basin. Finally a bowl of candied walnuts sits as an open offering next to the small cluster of black altar candles.

It’s very Copia, all of the items are so innocuous and variations of sweetness, but have an underlying twist.

Lastly is a shrine she wasn’t sure who owned; it was the tidiest out of all, with stacks of black paper on the altar, a small but beautiful vase of red roses, and a strange statuette of a pair of ceramic swans. Extremely girly to the point where Lilly was completely confused on what this one meant. Lovers? Passed loved ones? Papa Nihil? No, the first shrine was obviously his with the saxophone. This was someone else’s.

She takes one more look at what she believes is Copia’s altar of apples, honey, and candied nuts before she steps back out into the side corridor of offices. With a bit of disappointment, she finds all of the offices closed and no more voices discussing Abbey goings-on.

Lilly strolls back down into the courtyard and around the first bend to the dorm halls. In the wall scone-lit hallway, her room feels homey when she opens the door despite all of the boxes still sitting in the corners. She places the ring of ancient skeleton keys on her nightstand, ready to close the door for the night and figure out how she’ll sleep in this new place.

She had cried herself to sleep the previous night, exhausted from packing up her life with Adam. Crowley the snake had coiled around her neck as she moved throughout the apartment with tears on her cheeks until they were numb.

-

Tonight Lilly dresses in a t-shirt and long pants even though the room is warm, because they were the appropriate clothing when Adam wanted her to sleep in the same bed. She tries not to think too hard about it.

Lilly has to return to the Museum the next morning, so she gets up an hour earlier than normal because of having to enter Manhattan instead of already being in the thick of it. She sets up her makeup box on the vanity, basking in the rising sun that passes through her window.

It feels good to have something normal to do. She has three makeup looks: one for everyday, one for working at the Museum, and the more glamorous version that she hasn't been able to wear since she got engaged three years ago.

Her brown eyes find the glitter eyeshadow buried at the bottom of the small pile of eyeshadow palettes.

"Soon, but not today," She promises.

After dressing in some black slacks, a dark blue silk blouse, and some silver earrings, Lilly heads into the Papal kitchen to grab some of the fruit in a bowl she saw on the island, only to instead see Secondo staring groggily into the open refrigerator.

She freezes and goes to turn around, making the snap decision to buy lunch at work, but she bumps into the corner of the doorway with a thud.

Secondo’s head whips towards her just as Lilly regains her bearings. She goes to flee but he's already moving towards the door to the papal suites faster than someone of his grogginess should be able to.

Lilly guiltily plucks a green apple, one of her premade lunches, and a bottle of water and slinks out into the main body of the cathedral and out to her car.

-

"...Papa?" Swiss knocks on Copia's open office door.

"Good morning, Swiss," The Antipope looks up from a fresh stack of documents and autographs in his hands. His pleasant expression falters when he sees how the Ghoul is wringing his hands. "What can I help you with?"

The Ghoul steps up to his desk. "I wanted to apologize for my actions yesterday. I should have regulated my emotions, and I feel bad for making Lilly cry."

Copia smiles and beckons the Ghoul around the desk. He takes the gray-skinned demon's hands to keep them from twisting into each other. "I appreciate the apology, but you should be saying to Lilly."

"I already did. Last night, during the community dinner. She had called her parents and was upset."

He tries not to seem too eager to get more information. "Did they say something to make her upset?"

Swiss blinks his purple eyes behind his silver true demon face. "She told them that Adam had gotten the girl pregnant, and that she now believes he was cheating on her a lot more than just this time. She sounded so sad that I hugged her."

"That's very sweet of you," Copia rubs his thumbs over the cold knuckles. "I'm sure she liked that."

Swiss' eyes deepen a shade. "I could smell her perfume, Papa, she wears one that smells of green apples. It complements her sweet arousal." The Ghoul purrs.

Copia knows he shouldn't listen to the part of his brain that immediately snaps into 'horny-mode.' After an unsatisfying night on the Re-Impera Tour, he's tried not to get involved. It helps that he's always buried in paperwork.

But with Cumulus' conversation last week, does this mean the Ghouls need him to be sexually satisfied? They've never said anything about it before.

Swiss pushes him back in his office chair and swings a toned leg over Copia's thigh until he's straddling the Anti-Pope with a cheeky grin. "You like thinking about Lilly smelling like your offering…Well, I smelled her over by your apse this morning. I think she was also…intrigued."

Copia closes his eyes as Swiss' inhumanly smooth fingertips caress his lips, pushing up his lip to press at his canines.

The multi-Ghoul has had a fascination with teeth that stems from his concert moniker of being one of the Ghouls to smile widely at fans.

"I think your fangs would look so pretty biting on Miss Lilly's neck, don't you?"

Copia is hypersensitive to his open office door leaving them vulnerable to his brothers in their offices, so he twists the chair until he is facing the back wall with Swiss in his arms. It forces Swiss to hold on his shoulders as they spin, taking advantage to grind down against Copia's half-chub.

Swiss has to quickly smash their lips together to stifle the surprised moan that begins to fall out of the man's mouth. Copia leans into it, the three years of knowing the Ghouls and seeing them fall into each other finally snapping any amount of prudishness holding him back.

He's walked in on many things:

  • Rain getting f*cked by Phantom
  • Cirrus pegging Sodo
  • Swiss eating out Cumulus
  • Mountain and Swiss f*cking Aurora at the same time

And every kind of combination in between. He should've known one of them would try something. After the second time of getting caught, they started watching him with hungry expressions rather than ones nervous he would discipline them.

He didn't see anything wrong with it as long as it didn't affect their tour and rehearsal schedule.

And now he's letting the Swiss try to devour him whole. Copia should've joined in that first time three years ago if this is what it felt like.

Swiss pulls back and off his lap. Copia tries to follow him but a clawed hand keeps him in place. "I'm not going anywhere, Papa. I just want to show you how grateful I am for being your first Ghoul kiss." He sinks to his knees in between Copia's legs and begins to undo the laces of Copia's favorite ripped pants.

So incredibly horny, but worried about being seen, Copia cranes a look at his wall clock to see it's almost lunchtime. So everyone should be gone for the meal, perfect.

Swiss unlaces the man's pants and delves a claw in to gently pull out Copia's hard co*ck. "No underwear as usual, Papa ?"

"Stop saying my name like that, I'll get horny in Mass." Copia moans quietly as the cool velvet of the demon's hand wraps around him.

Swiss smirks then swallows him all the way down to his base. That sinful forked tongue all of the Ghouls are gifted with starts to swirl as Swiss nearly pulls off him before diving back in.

Copia uses his teeth to yank off his gloves and bury them in the dark coils of the Ghoul's hair. His fingers find the curved and elongated black horns, startling a whine out of the demon in his lap. "Hush," Copia pulls a horn and the demon falls into his touch with more gusto.

"Right there- ah- please, more," Copia is reduced to soft whimpers as Swiss pays special attention to the sensitive spot right below the head of Copia's co*ck with his forked tongue, grinning as the man's thighs begin to shake.

He's been jerking off by himself for so long that the mere sight of the confident demon swallowing around his co*ck has him gasping. " f*ck, Swiss," Copia hisses and pushes his head down, searching Swiss’ expression for permission before he forces the demon to deepthroat him repeatedly.

Swiss hums as Copia takes control of him and eases open his throat so the man could f*ck up into him faster. Copia was never harsh to any of them, but now the man tugged Swiss’ horns with an unexpected furiosity. It burned on his scalp because of the rough treatment Sodo had given them last night, but it only made Swiss swallow around Copia harder.

Once Copia loses control of his own rhythm, Swiss pulls his mouth off at the last moment, opening his mouth to catch the man's cum. He stays still while the droplets land on his tongue and lips. He wipes a solitary finger to catch any remaining beads of cum and presses it past the AntiPope's lips.

“Thank you for a delicious lunch, Papa.” Swiss stands unaffected, meanwhile Copia is struggling to catch his breath. “If you need anything else, us Ghouls are plenty willing to serve our Papa to the best of our ability.” The demon smiles and walks away innocently.

-

Lilly is absolutely exhausted. She needs a strong cup of coffee unless she is going to go to sleep the moment her shoes are off. Trudging through the cathedral, she smiles at all of the Siblings of Sin she passes, but can’t keep the smile up once she’s reached the cloister.

In her arms is a box full of picture frames filled with memories of Adam and her ex-in-laws that used to decorate her office desk. She had thrown them in the box to heave into the dumpster, but a crushing guilt came over her and here she is, carrying them as if the people in these photos still cared for her.

She gets to the dormitory halls with no one stopping her, but a short figure standing near her bedroom door stops her. “Hi, Lilly, I was wondering if you wanted to watch a movie with some of the Ghouls and I? We’re going to watch Jennifer’s Body, ” Cumulus flashes her a hopeful smile.

Lilly tries to mirror the smile but it falls flat when Cumulus blinks sweet, icy blue eyes at her. “Cumulus, I would love too, but it’s been a long day for me.”

The short Ghoulette nods, a bit disappointed. “It’s no problem, we’ll be in the Ghoul den for the next couple hours if you want to come. Let any of us know if you need anything.”

“I will,” Lilly says, guilty as Cumulus’s equally curvy figure walks away alone.

Once inside, she slams the box onto the stone floor, relishing the sound of smashing of glass that follows. She reaches in and pulls out a cracked picture of her and Adam standing on a cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon. Tears gather in her eyes and in a flash of rage, she bashes the frame against the floor until the paper picture inside is shredded by the shards of glass.

She pulls out another, barely glancing at the smile on her own face depicted, before it hits the ground with the same force as the others.

She makes it through three more frames before the panes of her bedroom window are wrenched open with a sickening creak. A pair of reflective goggles stare at her from the dimly-lit corridor. “You, uh, doing okay in here?”

Lilly yelps in fear and hurls the frame in her hand at the window, hitting Phantom square in his masked-face. The Ghoul falls backwards out of view and she hears both the thud of him hitting the ground and the wooden frame splintering. “Oh my god!” She struggles to her feet and stumbles out into the cloister where Sister Anais and a couple other Ghouls are surrounding Phantom’s sprawled form. “Don’t f*cking scare me like that!” She kneels by the fallen Ghoul.

“I just…wanted to make sure…you were okay,” Phantom croaks.

Cirrus and Mountain stride over and begin to gather the Ghoul in their arms. Lilly scrambles to stop them, but Mountain’s large form barely falters.

“He fell, and according to Dr. Gregory House, the first course of action is to check for spinal injuries!” She pleads, even as Phantom gives her a reassuring smile.

The injured Ghoul touches her arm as he is carried past her, “I’m okay.”

“He’s got jelly for bones. He’ll be fine in a couple hours,” Cirrus explains calmly.

Swiss has his hands on hips, “Who’s Dr. House?”

All of the other Ghouls and Lilly gasp, “You’ve never seen House?!”’

Lilly follows the three Ghouls through the cloister and past the Papal suites, heading to a set of dark doors that open to a creepy, dimly-lit hallway. “Where are you going? We should make sure he’s okay before doing any stairs-”

“Lilly, he’s okay, going down some stairs isn’t going to make this any worse. Our den is down here in the crypt where he can rest during the movie night.” Mountain hoists Phantom up and over his shoulder as he begins to descend the staircase.

Assured mostly, Lilly finds that at this point she has no reason to decline their invitation of movie night now that she’s injured Phantom and she’s standing at the entrance to their rooms. “Will there be popcorn?”

Cirrus and Cumulus stare at her in curiosity. “How do you pop corn-on-the-cob during movies?”

Lilly needs to let her hysterical laughter out after the roller coaster of a day, but reigns it in to follow the gaggle of Ghouls down into the cooler air of the crypt. “No, popcorn is separated kernels of corn and heated with salt and butter.”

Instead of being met with a dingy and damp basem*nt full of dusty coffins, the crypt is a large round room with a sunken middle space filled with a colorful assortment of blankets and pillows. Swiss, Rain, Sodo, Aurora, all walk past Lilly’s wandering gaze to layer themselves comfortably under blankets and each other.

Lilly finds herself craving to be amongst them, buried in the soft looking covers as they all curl around themselves.

Mountain places Phantom near the middle of the pile and covers him with a random quilt. The smaller Ghoul closes his purple eyes with a soft smile when Mountain pets his hair and sits down next to him.

“Are there any other snacks you would want while watching movies?” Cumulus asks from where she’s perched on the bottom stair.

Lilly thinks of Sister’s conversation about the Ghouls not usually eating dinner and wonders more about the shifting silver face masks that replace the goggle helmets for each of them. She knows they’re something inhuman but she isn’t quite sure how inhuman. “I really don’t need popcorn,” She says, unsure where she should stand or sit at this point.

“We’ll be right back,” The two Air Ghoulettes climb back up the stairs.

She can feel the gaze of the Ghouls on her back as she watches the two leave.

“Come join us, Lilly,” Aurora says, holding open the edge of the blue blanket that covers her legs.

The brown haired museum curator lets her feet move in the direction of the Ghoul cuddle pile and pauses at the edge of the sunken den when her eyes find Phantom’s sleeping form in the middle. “Is he really okay?”

Aurora’s purple eyes watch her patiently but there’s a level of exasperated fondness that forces Lilly to take her place amongst Aurora’s waiting arms. The Ghoulette is warm and wraps her in the thick blanket, cuddling up to her side as they relax into pillows.

The only issue is that Lilly’s pillow isn’t a pillow at all, it’s Swiss’ chest.

“Hey Applesauce,” Swiss purrs, an arm sliding over her side. It’s gentle to the point that she barely feels it physically, but her mind craves for any amount of physical touch now that there’s nothing stopping her.

“I thought my nickname was Miss Lilly?” She says, watching as a projector screen rolls down from the ceiling on the wall in front of them.

Lilly can feel Swiss shrug beneath her and the arm holding her tightens around her middle. “I thought you might be more willing with this new one.”

She leans her head fully on his shoulder, the 'purring' settling the waning adrenaline from her small breakdown and Phantom's injury. Aurora's head shifts to lay on Lilly's chest, cushioned by the beginning swell of her breasts.

Another Ghoul, this time Sodo, curls into Lilly below where Swiss holds her, and hooks their legs together. It's like being slowly strangled by a friendly (and horny) python like Crowley. Sodo emits the same purring from where his cheek is pressed against her stomach.

It tickles and she stifles the giggle. "I'm ticklish there!"

That only spurs the tiny Ghoul on, the purring rumbling deeper as Swiss joins in. They hold her as she squirms until Lilly's grinning and flushed from laughing. Sodo stops with a laugh of his own when the movie begins to play.

Lilly settles underneath all of the Ghouls with a breath of relief as they seem to release all of the tension inside her body.

Cirrus and Cumulus suddenly appear at the bottom of the stairs, a large tray of candy, popcorn, chocolates, and a large pile of Pop Rocks packets.

" Pop Rocks?!" All of the Ghouls perk up when the tray is sat down with the two Ghoulettes.

"We asked Papa about the best movie dishes and he gave us these." Cirrus grins and distributes a packet of the popping candy to each Ghoul. They turn off the lights so the space is reflected by the different colors of the movie. It's becomes a cozy space the more Lilly is wrapped up in their arms.

Lilly takes a freshly-popped bag of popcorn, opening it eagerly and crunching on some with relish. "Copia said how much all of you liked these. I still believe popcorn and chocolates are the best."

Quiet reigns over the room as the movie kicks into full swing and holds Lilly's full attention. She watches Megan Fox's character seduce Amanda Siegfried and remembers how much she used to love watching these culty, innuendo-filled movies made by men.

Throughout the movie Aurora and Sodo take turns offering Lilly different sweets from the tray, sometimes having her take a guess in the darkness before placing it in her open mouth. Most of the time she guesses incorrectly, but the flavors burst on her tongue so sweetly that she doesn't mind being wrong.

"You've done so well for us, Lilly," Aurora says, pressing another truffle in Lilly's mouth.

"I've gotten most of them wrong," Lilly chews and swallows the caramel chocolate. She tries to batten down the blush on her cheeks.

Sodo holds a square of milk chocolate close to her lips but holds it aloft when Lilly goes to grab it. "I say we try a new game."

She looks from the projector screen to Sodo's glowing red eyes "A game?"

"Yeah, this time you have to close your eyes and guess what you're eating."

Lilly's brown eyes flicker back to the movie, but the new type of game sounds more interesting. She could fall asleep at any minute if they continue watching the movie, and she doesn't want this to end just yet. "Let's do it," She grins and closes her eyes.

She misses the hungry looks all of the Ghouls give each other over her.

"Okay, first one," Aurora plucks a piece of popcorn from Lilly's half-eaten bag and places it on the woman's tongue.

"Easy, popcorn."

"Good girl," Sodo purrs and places a yellow candy next. Swiss brushes part of her bangs out of the way, making her shiver as she closes her mouth around it.

Lilly's lips pucker at the unexpected sour sweet, "Sour Patch Kid?"

"Perfect, and what flavor?"

She co*cks her head but can't remember the flavor over the massive amount of sugar she's had. "Um…Blue?"

Aurora laughs, something soft in the darkness of Lilly's closed eyelids. "When did Blue become a flavor?"

"Technically, blue raspberry is a man-made flavor." Lilly retorts.

She goes to open her eyes when Sodo stops them by holding a hand over her eyes. "No peeking! Since you've been so good, I'll take 'blue' as the correct answer. Next," He takes a cherry-liquor flavored truffle and places it in her waiting mouth.

Swiss smooths a hand under the hem of Lilly's blue silk blouse, thumb rubbing at the soft skin dabbled with stretch marks.

Lilly perks up at the sting of alcohol in the chocolate. "I haven't had cherry cordials since college! I love these," She brings up a hand to wipe at the droplets of liquor filling that cling to the corners of her lips.

All of the Ghouls eye her and nod for Sodo to level up the game. Sodo smirks and picks up a few Junior Mints and pops them into his own mouth, then leans down to seal his mouth over Lilly’s.

She gasps, her mouth opening enough for Sodo to push the slightly melted chocolate into her mouth. He pulls back, grinning as she tries to follow his lips before her eyes fly open. “You can’t just-”

Aurora shushes her and holds her plush lips closed with a single finger, “Shh, You’re supposed to guess what candy you tasted.”

Lilly stares in shock up into her purple eyes, then looks away. She enjoyed it and wants to do it again, but it just reminds her of all of the times she tried to press a kiss to Adam’s cheek or lips, only to be rejected and scolded for trying to violate their commitment to no pre-marital intercourse. She had never understood why small physical touch wasn’t allowed since they were engaged, but Adam insisted any touch with intimate intention was prohibited.

So now Lilly lays in between the eight Ghouls and wonders why the f*ck she’s hesitating. She’s been pent up for any kind of intimacy for almost six years and here is an opportunity to experience something with inhuman qualities in the basem*nt of a Satanic church.

“Sno Caps?” She blinks her brown eyes innocently, “I think I might need to taste that one again to be sure."

Sodo pops another few chocolate mints into his mouth, then kisses Lilly hungrily. She arches up to meet him, Swiss’ hands smoothing up under her blouse and ghosting over the ample skin available for touching. Her hand that isn’t held by Aurora reaches up to grasp at Sodo’s long blonde hair, releasing it from the messy bun he had thrown it up into before the movie.

“Hey, I want a turn,” Aurora whines. Her long, silver hair cascades over Lilly’s shoulder when she bends to press hot kisses against Lilly’s neck.

The fire Ghoul breaks away from Lilly but not without a nip to the girl’s lower lip with his small fangs. “Do you want ‘Rory here to kiss you while Swiss plays with your pretty breasts?” He teases as Lilly watches him with wide eyes, unable to move much with how Swiss has felt all the way up under her bra.

She nods frantically, eyes locking onto Aurora's sugar-dusted lips from the candy. The Multi-Ghoulette kisses her more shallowly, letting Lilly set the pace for how they slot their mouths together. The human shows her inexperience by how much her teeth clack against dulled fangs.

Swiss props her up a bit and pulls the blue bra out from her blouse, tossing it to Rain, who holds the underwire contraption close to his chest. “How can she stand such complicated undergarments?”

“That’s an expensive…bra, be careful,” Lilly gulps air between Aurora’s kisses.

Rain holds up the bra to the overhead lights. “You pay human currency for these? It seems like something the big jerk in the sky would force beautiful women to wear to be pious.”

Lilly reluctantly stops kissing the small Ghoulette. “I’ll show you the horrible undergarments you have to wear to the Temple,” Aurora pulls her back down, “this is considered normal for my size.”

“I want to see you in nothing at all, then.” Sodo murmurs into the pudge of Lilly’s stomach, leaving hickeys in the wake of his dull fangs.

She would respond, but Aurora gets fed up with the slow pace she herself set and starts licking into the human’s mouth.

“Okay, time’s up, Rory. Let the master show her how to be truly seduced,” Swiss pushes Aurora away to curl a hand under Lilly's chin and turns her until he can reach her lips.

Cirrus shifts from her place in Rain's lap to slot a thigh between Lilly's legs. She rolls her hips to test Lilly's reaction and grinds harder when Lilly's eyelashes flutter in bliss.

"So good for your Ghouls, Lilly," Swiss breathes when he lets her fill her lungs. "I bet you lusted after us even at the Award ceremony."

Lilly moans as Cirrus steadily f*cks against her clothed puss*. "Even…with those bug goggles," She's torn between reaching for Swiss's mouth again and arching up to meet Cirrus' thrusts.

Sodo laughs, licking a stripe up from Lilly's collarbone to her neck then capturing her mouth before Swiss can.

"Copia was the one to come up with them. Now you all call me 'Bug.'" Phantom sleepily pouts from Mountain’s lap.His concert glamour is a weak veil over his demon form, but Lilly is so involved with the other Ghouls none of them care. He seems to be mostly healed from his head injury but now the fatigue strikes him.

Lilly's breath hitches at the sound of Copia's name, her nails digging into Cirrus' thigh.

Swiss buries his nose into Lilly's ombre blonde and brown hair, breathing her in as her body is distracted between several Ghouls. "Lilly likes Copia, Lilly likes Copia’s fat ass and pretty eyes like all of us," He sings, laughing as she squirms at each taunt.

The woman gasps sharply, trying to retort against it but Sodo and Aurora don't give the space to speak more than a single word. She whines into Aurora's mouth and her face contorts until her voice climbs an octave higher.

“-urora, I need, I can’t hold it,” She tries, hands scrabbling to pull Cirrus as close as possible to rock out her org*sm.

Aurora weaves a dully clawed hands down past the waistband of Lilly’s jeans to massage her cl*t with light pressure. “We got you, Lilly, you’re so perfect for Cirrus.”

Sodo is the lucky Ghoul to swallow Lilly’s high keen as she c*ms.

Swiss presses kisses into the crown of her hair. “There you go, Applesauce.”

Tears escape Lilly’s squeezed-shut eyes and roll over her cheeks until they’re kissed away by Sodo and Aurora. Cirrus slows her movements but doesn’t completely stop until Lilly is shaking her head for her to stop. She closes her eyes to catch her breath and sinks into the arms grounding her.

Chapter 8: Kaisarion

Notes:

Lilly gets heart-broken, meanwhile, Copia learns the call of the abyss

Heavy on the religion in the second part! I'm really excited about how this has come together and is a good look at what is to come. All of the quoted parts are transcribed directly from Anton LaVey's The Satanic Bible. Though the Church of Satan is non-Theistic, I've always been a Theistic Satanist and believe Ghost's United Clergy would also be.

-Tatoo

Chapter Text

The next morning meant a new workday in what was a new routine for Lilly, but she woke up feeling anything but ready to face the morning. Her head pounded with a headache of religious guilt and small pinpricks from grasping claws marked along her thighs. She doesn’t remember how she got to bed after how tired she was from her org*sms, but she’s dressed in her pajamas and her face has been washed.Her bra, which was passed around like nachos at a Superbowl party, was neatly placed on the folded pile of her worn clothes at the end of her bed.

Hopefully, she can slip through the cloister without seeing anyone and make it to her car before she sees anyone who was involved with last night’s Ghoul pile-on.

Wednesday morning at the Museum is quiet. Some people have chosen to have that day off to make it seem as if they only had a two-day workweek. Lilly makes her morning cup of coffee at the espresso machine, tiredly watching the Star Wars-themed mug fill with her morning cup of coffee. She thought dealing with Lincoln Tunnel traffic would wake her up, but the stop-and-go traffic has only made her more tired the past few days.

At least today she could spend today at her desk mapping out all the different items Sister Imperator had already said were available for display.She hoped her morning coffee would keep any guilty thoughts about org*sms away…

Not really.

Well, it helps until lunch, when Lilly gets out the lunch she grabbed after she accidentally made Secondo flee this morning. The premade lunch is just a container of soup she made for Adam last week, and it’s got a thin layer of white mold floating on it that she didn’t see in her haste.

So she marches to the elevator and steps off on the ground level to find something in New York’s busiest hour of the day. People are already walking around her as she gets out the front entrance, finding a pace that somewhat allows her to look at the restaurants but also keep up with the New Yorkers. Seattle wasn’t a great walking destination, but Lilly feels she’s gotten better living in Manhattan for a year now.

The smells beckon in several directions. Street food, restaurant, or dine-in? She’s technically her own boss and can take as long as she wants, but everything smells so good to her appetite.

Lilly veers out of the moving crowd to stop in Times Square, transfixed as a billboard flashes a Spotify ad featuring a posed photo of the band from the award ceremony last week. Seeing all of the Papas and Ghouls posing together is so refreshing, they all look so proud and pride swells within her even if she's shocked to actually see an ad for them.

It just so happens that Lilly has unfortunately stopped beside a horde of Mormon missionaries.

“It’s appalling, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe they were given that award,” The young, stiffly dressed, teenager says as he steps up next to her.

She is startled so badly that she flinches, and the man puts a steady hand on her arm as people swerve around them.

It burns.

“Ow,” Lilly jerks away, holding her forearm where the fiery pain still emanates from. There's no visible mark but she cradles it to her chest.

“Hey, hey, sorry to have scared you. You looked so horrified at the billboard I thought-hey, wait!” The teen says, genuinely sorry. He co*cks his perfectly unblemished head at her as he sees her face in full. “You’re Adam’s girlfriend, Lilly, right?”

Her eyes widen. Oh no. “No, I’m not.” She lies, trying to move away but there are so many people he is able to catch up to her retreating figure. She can't make it into the M&M Store so she swerves around a group of tourists on Segway scooters.

“Whoa! I’m James Cochran, a brother-in-training under Pastor Joshua back in Utah. Adam said you worked somewhere around here.”

Lilly finally gives up trying to run away when he’s able to track her all the way across Times Square to the Taco Bell Cantina. “Look, James, things are really complicated with Adam and I right now.”

James doesn’t look too concerned about it. “Look, I know being the second wife can be a bit off-putting at first—”

Lilly whips around to face his innocent, yet corrupted face. “I’m not the second wife. He doesn’t have another wife.”

“He just got married to Sister Eve yesterday. I thought you were at the sealing?”

Her heart could’ve fallen out onto the piss-soaked sidewalk and been trampled, and it would still not hurt as much. “He…got married?” Tears well up against her will.

James panics, “Lilly, you didn’t know?! All of the courting girlfriends and wives have to sign the marriage license.”

Lilly sits down on the cold bench, James following her anxiously. “He broke up with me two days ago. I moved out of our apartment yesterday and he was getting married?!”

“I’m sure that he told you sometime…Women don’t always remember what their husbands tell them.” He shrugs like it’s something she is supposed to agree with.

She’s so offended and hurt that she reaches across and smacks the teenager, sending him stumbling into a half-naked street performer dressed as an Egyptian Pharaoh. She doesn’t even watch him get reamed out by the oily dancer, fleeing back to the museum without thinking about lunch.

If she still had an appetite, she’ll order in later.

-

Cumulus has been an unholy gift for Copia. The Ghoulette's bubbly personality was spurred on by the vanity prevalent in human society to create a whirlwind of talent for makeup.

Copia, who, before becoming Papa, had only dealt with Cardinal-level papal paint that consisted of dark gray coloring around his eyes. Now that he's the leader of the Church, his makeup has increased to a full face for most days.

At this point, he should remember the steps, but Cumulus talks about the latest trends and celebrity gossip with him. She also kisses his cheeks in greeting.

Copia loves his twice weekly sessions with Cumulus, so he beckons her inside his bedroom with his usual smile. "Good afternoon, Cumulus."

The short Ghoulette and him exchange kisses to his unpainted cheeks and her silver dark magic-glamoured ones, as he settles on the chair by his 'papal' vanity.

She places a bit of cheese in the central part of the web of colorful tunnels hung on his wall for his rats: Rigatoni, Penne, Fusilli, Sedani, and babies Orzo, Pastina, and Macaroni. “Hi sweet babies, I have a treat.” She coos as they squeak in greeting and nibble on the treat.

"And good afternoon, Papa," She pulls her long, white, fluffy hair into a ponytail before she picks up a jar of moisturizer. "I'm proud you've been keeping up the facial cleansing routine I set up."

"It's been difficult to, uh, remember sometimes." Copia admits. It has been nice going to sleep with clean skin and it calms him down even on the days he hasn't worn a full face of paint when he does it.

Cumulus shortens her claws and rubs the cool gel into his skin. She begins talking about a roundup of some strange beauty trends from the Kardashians as she puts a base layer of primer on his face. She picks up the palette of pure white paint but pauses. "What is your sermon about tonight, Papa?"

"I picked a lesson about love and hate from the Book of Lucifer. Even though I haven't noticed anything, I think it's a good reminder about having Lilly living with us from now on. I want everyone to get along and I want everyone to make her feel welcome."

“You’re such a sweetheart,” She smiles, fangs pushing out over her bottom lip. "…and speaking of love…"

Copia furrows his eyebrows before remembering that will ruin her paint job. "Yes?"

"Do you remember when Cirry and I asked you about movie snacks last night?"

"Yes, what about it?" He replies. They had been so eager to learn! He brought them to the kitchen and showed them his stash of sweets, of which they picked a variety to try. He probably should've asked why they wanted food if demons couldn't digest anything, but he was so excited to share his favorite treats with someone!

Cumulus begins applying the white to his forehead with a small sponge. "Well, they were wonderful choices. Lilly very much enjoyed them."

"Lilly was, uh, with you during movie night?" Did she know it usually turned into an orgy before she agreed?

She nods, "She was. And as much as I hate to say it, Swiss is right, she does smell sweet when aroused. Poor girl could barely handle watching Meghan Fox strut around in a cheerleader outfit before she started squirming against Sodo." She dabs the makeup on as if she's talking about the weather and not making him hard. Cumulus continues, waving a fan to dry the base layer. "She was so pent up that I didn't get a turn with how greedy Swiss, Sodo, and Aurora were, but once Sodo had started kissing her, she didn't want to stop. We wanted to see how far she wanted to go…"

Copia's hands clench into fists on the armrests of the chair. "You didn't manipulate her, right?"

She rolls her light blue eyes, "She walked down the stairs stinking of arousal. We only indulged her. Anyways, Cirrus couldn't quite get her over the edge with scissoring-"

He chokes on his breath, forcing the Ghoulette to fan him faster. "W-What?! She f*cked her?!"

"Let me finish, Papa." She pinches the dry paint of his cheek to test it and reprimand him, then begins the black details of the skull jawline, "When she was almost there, Phantom said your name and she came almost immediately. First org*sms always smell so delicious and last night was a feast for us all." She finishes, putting down the pot of black makeup on the vanity counter and turns to him.

Copia tries to regulate his breathing to hide it from the air Ghoulette but it doesn't work when Cumulus' blue-painted claws tilt his chin to the left and right.

Damn it. He gulps.

Cumulus leans into his reaction, "You should've seen her; her eyelashes fluttering in bliss as Cirrus f*cked her, Swiss' fingers in her hair, Sodo and Rory fighting over who gets to taste her lips…It was a gorgeous sight that could only be made better if our Papa was there with us."

He has to get dressed, so he expects her to help him by pulling down his pants, but it will expose his arousal if she hasn't already noticed. "Cumulus, I-I.."

"I can hear your breathing, Papa. If you were to go out in front of all of the clergy and Siblings preaching about ritualized expressions but you haven't taken care of your own, how will they take you seriously? You need some release before mass. Our Lord would want you to be open to take in His word."

Copia moans as his erection springs up out of his opened pants.

Cumulus undoes the bronze hooks on her short, black, lace dress, letting the material pool around her ankles. His eyes widen at the blue-gray skin of her soft belly and plump breasts in front of him. "Even before Lilly arrived, you felt attraction towards us Ghouls. You never reprimanded us for f*cking on the bus or backstage, especially even when you walked in on us with such a delightful mix of lust and shock. I can show you a taste of what you'll feel when you allow us to serve you, Copia. We were Summoned to be under your hand.”

The use of his name and how she straddles his lap eagerly has his eyes rolling back. "One incredible thing about us Ghouls is how we adapt," she reaches between them and slips his co*ck inside without any preparation, but her puss* opens as if she had prepped before seeing him.

"During Heat, there's a need for constant sex, and Mountain and Rain have very different sized co*cks, so Satan made us able to change our anatomy at will. When I f*ck Mountain, I can make my holes larger. When Swiss bends me over, I can make my holes wider. When you f*ck me, however…" She rises and thrusts down, "you fit perfectly."

Copia's hands come up to push back his bangs but the Ghoulette pins his wrists against the arms of the chair. "No touching, your makeup is still drying. We would be late for Mass and be disappointed all the Siblings and Clergy." She grins cheekily and rolls her hips in a steady rhythm. She's warm and wet around his co*ck, relishing his moans as she uses him for her pleasure.

Copia manages to break free from her claws and grips the pudge around her waist as she loses a bit of concentration. His mind supplies an image of Lilly's face above him, matching Cumulus's pace. She shakes his head, equally attracted to the silver sparkle of the Ghoulette's demon form. Her white, curled ram horns sparkle in the reflection of the mirror.

He groans at an especially deep thrust, "Cumulus…"

"Yes, Papa?" She asks and grinds down until her cl*t is rubbing against the undone laces of his crotch. She doesn't slow down at all even when his chest heaves in warning.

"Gonna…cum!" Copia gasps, she holds his head back against the chair so he wouldn't bury his nose in her breasts like she can see him straining to.

Cumulus' claws move from under his chin to his throat and squeezes the sides of it until his hips are stuttering in their small, upward thrusts, and he's cumming inside her. "Good, good! Thank you, Papa, it feels so good inside me." She wiggles her hips to milk him dry and he whines in overstimulation.

Copia comes down from the high slowly, eyes staring up at the ceiling absently. Has there always been a cobweb in that corner? Poor spider is probably cold all the way up there.

The Ghoulette taps her claws along his pulse point and behind each button she undoes on his shirt. "Time to get dressed for Mass, Papa."

He panics as she gracefully gets back to her feet, walking to his closet to pull out the gauzy robes for weekday mass. "I-I came inside you! Are…Are there going to be Ghoul-Papas? Have I broken the, uh, laws of physics?"

Cumulus stands on her tiptoes to get the outfit's hanger and pull it down. He tries not to stare at the way her breasts bounce at the movement. "Oh, Papa. Anything we put in ourselves that is material, gets infused into the Pits. Technically you're just ji*zzing into the abyss."

She shrugs as if he isn't having an existential crisis, imagining half-Ghoul, half-Copia and half-demon (because the gifts of Lucifer make all the Papas half Princes of Hell) running amuck through Primo's rose bushes.

"Now, get those birthing hips up, I need to get you ready to praise our Unholy Father."

"I don't have birthing hips. I just have a good glutes workout," He grumbles but obeys her.

-

Today was a good day for Lilly to catch up on work. Since not many people were in, she was able to hole herself up at her desk and create spreadsheets for the robes from all five papas (except for Copia’s in-use papal robes), and many of the Museum’s display cases were large enough for mannequins to match the Papa’s respective heights.

Dr. Myers updated her on the temporary space’s deconstruction, saying it was on track to be ready for painting in another two weeks. Now she had to pick paint colors which was arguably more fun than spreadsheets.

Fighting to get back to the Abbey by dinner is difficult with her extended commute. She parks her car in the same place as this morning and trudges up to the front steps. She knows there was a jar of pickles in the fridge that wasn’t marked with any of the brothers’ names, so she would be opening that blessed savory treat as soon as possible.

However, when she opens the wooden front door of the Abbey, she is greeted by the narthex corridor filled with Siblings of Sin.

“Lilly! You’re just in time, will you be joining us for weekday mass?” Sister Martha slides up beside her, habit pinned over her dark curls.

“I, uh, just got back from work. I forgot this was happening,” Lilly gives her a tired smile. “I haven’t taken Unholy Communion so I’m sure I can’t anyway.” She hoists her tote bag higher on her shoulder and looks to make an escape to the cloister and eventually her rooms.

Sister Martha glances over to see where the group was filling into the sanctuary. "Are you sure? You live here now; I know they'd be happy you were there even if it was just to listen."

Lilly sees that there's only a few more Siblings to filter in before Sister Martha would need to join them. “Sister Martha, I don’t know."

"C'mon, I'll take any heat if they don't want you there." She pleads.

Lilly looks down at her clothes and finds them dressy enough to sit in a sermon. "Okay. Can I snack on a granola bar?"

"Of course, there's usually ice cream after as well. They give you extra scoops if you get chosen to help say prayers." Sister Martha takes her arm to pull her into the line, the Brothers in front of them, waving and starting small chatter.

"So, what happens during these? I don't see any community members." Lilly whispers as they follow the lines to fill in pews. They take their seat in the middle of the row, Lilly putting her bag under the pew in front of them.

Sister Anais, sitting to Lilly's left, leans over. "The purpose of Wednesday mass is to strengthen the blessing over our sacred ground and community. Papa IV leads us in a sermon and then he chooses a group of us to go with him to bless the four corners of the property with incense and prayer." She whispers excitedly.

A pipe organ starts up, and Lilly follows as the rows of pews rise to their feet. It's a haunting melody that reverberates up through her toes until goosebumps are raising on all of her limbs.

Lilly can't see the aisle too well over Sister Martha, but she can see the bat-like tips of a black Cornette headpiece as the person walks up the aisle. As the waves of followers sit, Lilly feels her chest clench at the sight of Copia in full Papal paint paired with the headpiece and the silky black organza of these simpler, but just as beautiful robes.It falls around his body like a slick waterfall.

"Brothers, Sisters, Siblings, and Clergy; I am pleased to lead you in this week's rejuvenation of Satan's blessing on our community and sacred cathedral grounds." Copia speaks.She sees no microphone yet his voice carries throughout the room and surrounds her as if he were right next to her.

"Tonight's blessing I have found within the Book of Satan and Lucifer; in a time of suffering and misery, I urge our community to reflect on their relationships to earth, air, water, fire, and quintessence, and finally with each other. To begin:

'You cannot love everyone; it is ridiculous to think you can. If you love everyone and everything, you lose your natural powers of selection…Therefore, the Satanist believes you should love strongly and completely those who deserve your love, but never turn the other cheek to your enemy.'" Copia speaks, glancing up every so often from the large, leather-bound book on the podium in front of him.

"'Satanism has been thought of as being synonymous with cruelty and brutality. This is only because people are afraid to face the truth—and the truth is that human beings are not all benign and all loving. Just because the Satanist admits he is capable of both love and hate, he is considered harmful.'"

He pauses a moment, scanning over the three rows of pews filled with Siblings of Sin.

Lilly feels when his green and white mismatched eyes meet hers, electricity zinging up her spine in a parallel of last night’s org*sm. He's met her gaze so many times, yet this time feels so powerful.

"'On the contrary, because he can give vent to his hatred through ritualized expression, man is far more capable of love—the deepest kind of love. By honestly recognizing and admitting to both the hate and love he feels, there is no confusing one emotion with the other. Without being able to experience one of these emotions, you cannot fully experience the other.' This is why I encourage all of you to continue conducting your ritualized expressions, so your mind stays open to the flow of emotion."

He closes the book and takes outa leather journal. “I’m sure all of you have noticed the changes in the environment surrounding the Abbey. Our wonderful Papa Emeritus I, and our Garden Ghouls: Mountain, Rain, and Cumulus, have worked especially hard through this year’s rainy season to keep our sacred Apple tree producing sweet fruit. I ask all of you to thank them and enjoy them. Because of the harvest, we will be having apple dumplings instead of ice cream tonight.”

Copia reads something from the book and then speaks again, “Halloween is almost upon us in two weeks. We need to keep an open ear for any requests from our Unholy Father for the special Mass.”

Copia closes that book and places it on the podium as well. “That concludes my lesson. Would Sibling Echo, Sister Rebecca, and Brother Thomas please join me for the choosing of blessings?”

The three high-ranking followers step up to the dais, bowing and turning to face the pews of excited Siblings.

Echo, a tall, androgynous follower dressed in a Sister headpiece but a Brother’s clergy suit, smiles brightly. “This week, I have noticed a Sibling with incredible capacity for helping others, who showcased this with helping me prepare for ice cream after today’s mass. Sibling Ezra, please come forward.”

A cheer goes up through the crowd. A younger Sibling eagerly steps up to stand beside Copia, who places a hand on their shoulder.

Brother Thomas, an older gentleman with a bad comb-over but kind eyes speaks up next, “This is my first weekday mass in two weeks, as I was traveling to our other Ministries to spread the good work we have done for our community. I would ask Brother Jericho to come forward and accept my thanks for stepping up to lead our Brothers these past weeks.”

Another cheer, and the Brother with long, sandy hair a few down from Lilly stands to move up the aisle.

“Brother Jericho is such a good leader, I’m glad he’s being recognized.” Sister Anais whispers.

Sister Rebecca looks over the section of Sisters that Lilly sits in the middle of. “We have had celebrations of the Ghost Project this week, and a new light join us.” She winks at Lilly, who flushes at the nickname. “In welcoming our new community friend, one Sister has made every effort to be a kind flame. Sister Martha, please come forward. Lilly, you are welcome to accompany Papa, but please do not feel pressured to.”

Martha stands with a bounce. “C’mon, Lilly! It’s a high honor,” She says, tugging on Lilly’s arm.

Why the Hell not? She’s already here. And everyone is staring.

“I accept but my bag-“

Sister Anais waves her off. “I’ll put it by your door.”

Sister Martha pulls Lilly through the pew and up to the dais, where they bow in front of Sister Rebecca and join Copia and the two other chosen followers on the platform.

It’s honestly terrifying to turn and see the whole community of Siblings clap for her and Martha. The platform feels like (un)holy ground and she’s violating its sanctity by just standing on it.

“Welcome, chosen children,” Copia smiles at each of them, but when he meets Lilly’s anxious smile, it instantly calms her down. “Thank you for joining us tonight, please use this lesson to triumph over the bigotry and injustice of the world. Mass is adjourned, Nema.”

“Nema,” The crowd and all of them repeat. The three retired Papas and Sister Imperator all watch her with varying degrees of curiosity.

Lilly finds herself repeating it as well but meaning it.

The main sanctuary clears out quicker than it fills up, probably to set the so-called ice cream social out in the narthex.

She finds that she only had an apple, coffee, and instant ramen for lunch after running into James the Mormon in Times Square. She was starving and hoped they would leave something out for them after they did whatever ritual they were about to go do.

All of the Papas and Sister Imperator waited for the sanctuary to clear before she approached Copia with a low voice. “You cannot take Lilly with you to the blessings.”

He furrows his eyebrows. “…and why not?”

“I get that you have, something, for her, but this a sacred ceremony for Believers to partake in. Soon, you’ll have to deal with Terzo’s little friend on these as well.”

“I don’t have a problem with either of them coming along. She doesn’t have to participate in the actual readings. And I don’t have a thing.” Copia whispers back. “Stop listening to the Ghouls’ gossip.”

“They wouldn’t gossip if there wasn’t anything going on.” She hisses back.

“That’s like the whole point of gossip, Sister! They’re demons and they get bored.” He lies, “She can leave at any time. She agreed, so she’s coming with us.” The Antipope twirls to face the handful of chosen members. “Let’s go begin, shall we?”

He grabs the large leather Unholy Bible from his pulpit and leads the group down the aisle and outside. “I don’t believe any of you have ever participated in the Wednesday blessings before, right?” He says over his shoulder as they exit the cathedral to the front lawn.

All of them shake their heads.

“It’s really simple. We go to the boundary of land in each cardinal direction, I say an incantation, you repeat it in English, and then each elemental Ghoul will bless it with a part of their energy. Takes like forty minutes, tops.” Copia grins.

It’s crisp outside, with an almost full moon shining down on them. Lilly hasn’t ever really noticed the surrounding area the Abbey was located in, but now it’s hard to miss. Large and expensive mansions are spread around them, lit up with warm lights to showcase the desire for good weather to stay longer. Lilly sees her car parked near the corner of the two streets that intersect in front of the main cathedral’s entrance.

“That’s my car,” She whispers to Martha.

The woman squints in the darkness. “What kind of car is it?”

“An older one. It doesn’t have a good radio.” Lilly rolls her eyes. “But she’s been reliable.”

They stop whispering as Copia leads them to the gathered gaggle of Ghouls sitting on the curb of the lamp-lit street. “Took you long enough,” Sodo crosses his arms.

Copia holds up his hands, “Sister Imperator was having one of her fits again. Now, Cirrus and Cumulus?”

The two Air Ghoulettes stand and walk over to them. Cirrus meets Lilly’s gaze and winks, making her wave back shyly.

“First, we start in the North, to repeat the Ritual invocation we use for Sunday Mass. The North represents Air, gifted to us by Cirrus and Cumulus, and represents the beginning of invoking Satan’s power over our Sacred ground.” Copia reaches into his book and pulls out a few pages that he hands out. “Lilly, you do not by any means need to read this with us.”

“Maybe I want to participate,” Lilly answers, looking over Sister’s Martha’s paper with her.

She misses the smitten smile he gives her.

“Again, I read in Enochian, you read in English, then Ghoulettes do their thing, then we go to the next direction, got it?” He says.

“Got it,” The group chimes.

Copia beckons them to stand in a line in front of him, and each Ghoulette take the two middles.

“To the North: Micama goho Satan, zir comselh A zien biah os londoh. Em chis othilgigipah vnd-l Chis ta pvim q mospleh teloch Qvi-in toltorg caosgachisi od chis Ge m ozien, ds t brgdo Od torzul! acroodzi eol balzarg,od Aala os thiln netaab, dlvga vomsarg Lonsa capmiali vors em homilcocasb, Fafen izizop od miinoag de gnetaab, Vavn lonsh: panpirmalpirgi pild caosg Noan vnalah balt od vooan. A Satan's dooain,torzu! Zamran! Micma! Iehvsoz ca-cacom! Dooain noar micaolz aai om! Casarmg gohia: zacar! Torzu! Imvamar pvgo! Pvgo plapli cicles qaan!”

Copia reads, voice growing a booming undertone, even if his speaking level remains relatively the same. He looks up from his book to gesture for them to read.

“Behold! Saith Satan, I am a circle on whose hands stand twelve kingdoms. Nine are the seats of living breath, The rest are as sharp sickles Or the horns of death wherein the Creatures of Earth are not except by mine own hands, which also Sleep and shall rise! In the beginning I made you stewards, and placed you In the twelve seats of government, Giving unto every one of you power successively Over The nine true ages of time, to the intent that, From the highest vessels and the corners Of your governments, ye might work my power. Pouring down the fires of life And increase continually upon the Earth. Thusye are become the skirts of justice and truth. In Satan's name, riseup! Show yourselves! Behold! His mercies flourish! His name is to become mighty among us! In whom we say move! Ascend! Apply yourselves unto us! As unto the partakers Of his mysteries in your creation!”

They repeat, Lilly joining in with a softer tone, so she doesn’t mess up any of the words.

When they finish, Cirrus and Cumulus join hands across the circle, a pentagram scratched neatly into the dirt between all of them.

We call upon our Unholy Father to grant us the power to protect those who believe in Him. Wind shall carry away the woes of His children and batter the fortresses of His enemies!”

Lilly feels the Ghoulish words brush over her skin in a mimicry of a gentle breeze, that quickly strengthens into a full-blown tunnel of wind swirling around them. It blows through her hair and Copia holds a patient hand on his headpiece as the bat-wings flap around. None of the three chosen Siblings look affected. The howling wind dies down to a breeze and the two Ghoulettes’ eyes glow a vibrant crystal blue.

“Great job, Ghulehs,” Copia smiles and they walk to the west: past the dorms of Brothers, Sisters, and Siblings, to an area already marked with a pentagram in the low grass. The Ghouls follow with the two Air Ghoulettes bringing up the rear.

A steady breeze filters through the air, dropping the temperature by a few degrees as they stop at the sigil. They form the same standing positions, and Rain steps up to their circle without being summoned. The water Ghoul beams a small, knowing smile at Lilly before he nods for Copia to begin the next incantation:

“To the west: Gah de sdiv chis em, Micalzo pilzin de sobam; Casarm taviv harg ta miriad, Od obloc nore od pasbs De Satan, dlvgar malprg ar caosga Od emcanal sobol zar fbliard Caosga, od chis netaab od miam. Solpeth bien! Brita od zacam Gmicalzo sobha vavn trian lviahe Od ecrin de Satanqaaon!”’

He speaks, his eyes flicker up to them to begin their translation from the paper:

“The spirits of the fourth angle Are nine, mighty in the firmament Of waters; whom the second hath Planted as a torment to Jehovah, And a garland to the sons And daughters of Satan, Giving them fiery darts to winnow. The earth and nine continual workmen Whose courses visit with comfort: The earth and are in government and continuance. Hearken to my voice! I have talked of you and I move you in power and presence. You, whose works shall be A song of honor And the praise of Satan in your creation!”

Lilly grows more confident with each word until she’s holding half the paper with Sister Martha. It feels like one long tongue-twister, with each new rhythm changing flow and nearly catching her off-guard.

Rain raises a hand palm-up into the middle of the circle and calmly chants, “We call upon our Unholy Father to grant us the power to protect those who believe in Him. Water shall wash away the sins of His Children and Floods shall crash over the desert to cross the barriers which protect His enemies.”

The Ghoulish is a deeper, more guttural form of speech than any language Lilly has heard. She doesn’t know exactly why she can hear a translation of the infernal language in her head as Rain speaks, but it surprisingly doesn’t spook her.

A warm mist rains down upon them and seeps into her clothes, leaving her feeling refreshed as if she has slipped into a soothing bath. Water pours from the Ghoul’s palm onto the pentagram, which glows the same deep blue as Rain’s eyes.

“Thank you, Ghoul,” Copia praises and leads them quietly past the Papal suite corridor and to a pentagram made in the grass with various pebbles.

The building the sigil sits behind is one Lilly hadn’t seen yet. It was about the size of a large shed with matching dark stone walls to the Cathedral and greater Abbey architecture.

“What is this building?” Lilly whispers to Sibling Ezra, who stands to her left.

Ezra glances in the direction she looks at and makes a soft noise of recognition, “I think that’s where Sister Imperator lives, but I’ve never been inside.”

Copia calls them to attention once again, gesturing for Mountain’s tall form to join them. He opens his book and begins reading, his doubled voice loud in Lilly’s ears:

“To the South: Coraxo chis cormp od chis blans De babage. Aziazior paeb soba lilonon Chis virq eophan od raclir maasi Bagle iad od noqodi, ds ialpon Dosigod basgim, od oxex daziz siatris, Od salbrox cynxir faboan. Vnal chisConst ds yor eors vohim gizyax Od matb cocasg plosi molvi, Ds pageip, larag om droln Matorb cocasb. Emna l patralx Yolci matb Nomigmonons Olora gnay angelard. Ohio! ohio! ohio! Ohio! ohio! ohio! noibohio! Bolp idoigo madriax! Bagle iad madrid I, zirop od chiso drilpa. Niiso! Crip ip micalz apah.”

“The thunders of judgment and wrath are numbered And are harbored In the South. In the likeness of an Oak whose branches are nests Of lamentation and weeping laid up For Jehovah and His servants, which burn night and day, And vomit Out the heads of scorpions, And live sulphur mingled with poison. These are the Thunders that roar with a hundred mighty Earthquakes And a thousand times as many surges, Which rest Not, nor know Any echoing time. Here one rock Bringeth forth a thousand Even as the heart of man Does his thoughts. Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! Yea Woe! Be to he who sits On the holy throne in heaven! His iniquity is, Was and shall be great. Come away! But not your mighty sounds!”

The group of four repeat to him.

Mountain kneels in the dewy grass to hover a clenched fist over the pentagram and begins his own Ghoulish invocation, “We call upon our Unholy Father to grant us the power to protect those who believe in Him. Mountains and Valleys shall be safe havens for His children and the Earth shall crumble under the feet of His Enemies.”

The Ghoul gets to his feet, eyes glowing forest green. The smell of petrichor fills her head, as the ground rumbles beneath her feet. Mountain unclenches it fist and the pseudo-earthquake quiets.

“Thank you, Ghoul,” Copia pats a hand on his back and they begin the last walk around the Abbey’s semicircular apse to the Eastern corner of the grounds, where the pentagram in the grass has been scorched black at the night sky above them.

Lilly stands to the right of Sister Martha, on the end of their little line of chosen followers. Sodo saunters up behind while everyone was settling into their positions, a clawed hand brushing up Lilly’s thigh to cup the swell of her ass as he passes her.

She squeaks before she can catch it, swatting his hand before he tries to squeeze her again. He laughs and stands beside her, waiting for Copia to begin.

“To the East: Ils viv malpirgi salman de Donasdogamatatastos ds Acroodzi bvsd,bliorax balit; Ds insi caosg lusdan pvrgel; Micalzo chis Satan odfafen! Zacare ca od zamran! Odo cicle qaa! Zorge! Zir noco! Hoath Satan Bvfd lonsh londoh babage.”

“O thou of the Second flame The Houses of Hell which hast Their beginning in glory, 
Shalt comfort the just; Who walkest on the earth
With feet of fire; Mighty art Satan and his followers! Move therefore and show yourselves! Open the mysteries of your Creation! Be friendly unto me! For I am the servant of the same! The true worshipper of Satan/Lucifer In glory and power exalted Of the Kingdom of the South!”

The group speaks.

Sodo smirks, no hand movements needed as he says his Ghoulish verses. “We call upon our Unholy Father to grant us the power to protect those who believe in Him. Fire shall warm His children and flames shall scorch the flesh of His enemies.” Flames burst out of the pentagram at their feet, exploding into a column of fire that heats her face as if stood out in the middle of the desert at high noon. It doesn’t hurt but it isn’t pleasant on her eyes as it whites out her vision for a few moments after it dies down.

Sodo stares at her with crimson eyes, his gaze literally burning into her eyelids.

She needs to tamp down this lust before Copia or one of the Siblings notices.

“For this last part, we’re going to head back inside the sanctuary to finish at the main altar. Then it’s apple dumplings!” Copia says excitedly and guides them through the main entrance and up the nave.

The Papas and Sister Imperator are waiting behind the large stone slab, all of them looking bored except for Terzo, who watches them with interest.

Copia joins his family on the back side of the altar and has the four chosen members stand on the congregations’ side. Copia lifts the black silk that covered the stone, revealing a carved pentagram in the center.

Terzo hands the youngest Emeritus AntiPope a large chalice filled with a dark, viscous liquid that Lilly is desperately hoping is not blood. He overturns the metal cup on the pentagram. It does very much looks like blood as it oozes into the sigil’s carved lines to begin bubbling like the stone was heating up.

“Phantom, Swiss, Aurora,” He beckons. Phantom stands next to Lilly on the end of the right side, while the two other Ghouls stand opposite. The already activated five other Ghouls surround the altar’s gathered members outstretched hands.

“In nomine Dei nostril Satanas Luciferi excelsi!” The three retired Papas and Sister Imperator say in unison.

Copia lays his large leather book on top of the boiling symbol, much to Lilly’s horror. The book will be ruined!

“In the name of Satan, the Ruler of the earth, the King of the world, I command the forces of Darkness to bestow their Infernal power upon me! Open wide the gates of Hell and come forth from the abyss to greet me as your brother, sister, sibling, and friend! Grant me the indulgences of which I speak! I have taken thy name as part of myself! I live as the beasts of the field, rejoicing in the fleshly life! I favor the just and curse the rotten!

By all of the Gods of the Pit, I command that these things of which I speak shall come to pass! Come forth and answer your names by manifesting our desires!

Oh, hear thy name:

Baphomet, Berith, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Leviathan, Lilith, and Mephistopheles!”

The opened, heavy book snaps shut on its spine, the liquid crawling up its leather sides until it reaches the closed pages and seeps inside. It then snaps back open to a set of blood-stained, blank pages.

“In this final call to our Unholy Father, we ask for the knowledge, flesh, blood, and Infernal powers to protect and serve you, King Satan and Lucifer the Fallen Son, within this sacred ground and use music to spread your Love. Quintessence shall fuel His children and be stolen from the veins of your enemies, Dark Lord!”

Lilly feels hypersensitive to the tendrils of violet (magic? Flames? Blood?) that spreads from the chests of the three Ghouls onto the page where a detailed sigil of Baphomet rises to the surface of the page in purple ink.

Copia takes a deep breath, meeting everyone’s eyes to mouth, ‘Nema,” before lifting a hand:

“Nema.” They recite in unison.

Copia’s Unholy Bible then repeats it’s scary jerked-closing routine, lying still on the altar as everyone lets out a breath of finality.

“Great work, people! I’m sure our Lord is very pleased with your hard work.” Copia snaps out of the serious façade of Papa Emeritus IV and puts the prayer book back on his podium.

Sister Imperator is the first to move from where she stands, “Goodnight, everyone.”

“Goodnight, Sister!” Copia and Terzo call.

Lilly is a bit shaken from all she’s experienced today, her head pounding with the adrenaline in her veins. She is thankful for Sister Martha, who leads her out to the cloister and into the Sibling Meeting Hall where the Siblings have put out large casserole pans of Apple Dumplings and bowls of vanilla ice cream.

“Wasn’t that magical? Seeing Papa IV’s personal Bible up close? I think some of the best details are the ” Martha gushes, taking a bowl of ice cream from Brother Luke and a serving of apple dumpling from Sibling Morgan. Lilly bows her head in thanks to each of them as she receives her own portions.

“It was,” Lilly agrees as they find open seats at the far table. “I wasn’t expecting for there to be actual elements being summoned.” She laughs it off, shoving some of the warm desert into her mouth to calm her down.

Martha purses her lips. “I mean, I guess the incantations could produce hallucinations…”

“You didn’t see anything? The wind, or the fire? Did you even see the purple sh*t coming out of the Ghouls?” Lilly tries not to let it send her into a panic, but as she cycles through what she experienced and Martha’s worried glance, the panic mounts. She stands up from her seat and pushes her dishes towards Sister Martha. “I’m not really hungry, can you tell them the part I had was good?”

“Hey! Lilly, they never make these, at least take it with you for later. Promise me, you’ll regret not eating it, and I’ll regret eating it and then you’ll feel really bad.” Martha pleads, her deeply tanned hands catching Lilly’s before she leaves.

Lilly thinks immediately of how well Sister Martha and Andie would get along. She then thinks of how well they would get along and decides the world does not need more pranksters.

Sister Martha pushes the bowl with apple dumpling into her hands, then dumps Lilly’s ice cream into her own bowl. “I’ll sneak you into the kitchen tonight if you want ice cream.”

“Thanks, Sister Martha,” Lilly smiles tiredly and tries her best to walk out of the meeting hall without seeming suspicious.

Chapter 9: Deus In Absentia

Chapter Text

Copia removes his Cornette headpiece as soon as the four chosen members leave to attend the apple dumpling social.

“She felt all of the elements,” Sodo watches Lilly get pulled out into the cloister.

Secondo crosses his arms. “That shouldn’t be possible. Even Infernal clairvoyants aren’t given the gift of Sight.”

“What if it isn’t Sight?” Mountain remarks, “After yesterday, she could just be more connected to us Ghouls and experience it through a relationship to us?”

Primo shakes his head. “I’m going to get an apple dumpling before Sibling Echo eats all of them.” He’s gotten too old to deal with Ghoul relationships anymore, even if he’s only 54.

Secondo rounds on the lounging Ghouls in the front pews. “What did you do? I said not to get her more involved after the incident at her apartment.”

“The Warren thing? Get your head out of your ass, Fratello; if she wants to hang with the Ghouls and they don’t see anything suspicious, why are you flipping the f*ck out still?” Terzo rolls his eyes as Secondo steps down from the stage.

“It’s dangerous!” The second Emeritus brother argues.

“The Ghouls are demons! Copia invoked Satan! Lilly being related to some cracked-up medium in Massachusetts is the least dangerous thing in the entire Abbey.” Terzo gestures to the group, who flash their different colored eyes at the Papas. They’re restless tonight.

Secondo flips him off and leaves without another word.

“Terzo, could I speak with you for a moment in my office?” Copia asks. He eyes the group of Ghouls in the corner of his vision, noticing that some of them have already begun to pair up on each other’s laps. Before he can even entertain the idea of joining them in their post-blessing escapades, he needs to speak with his adopted older brother.

Terzo nods and follows him around the corner to the man’s office, closing the door behind him and settling into the plush chair in front of the desk. “Good job tonight.”

“Thank you,” Copia rounds his desk to sit in his office chair with a nervous sigh. “I…have some questions regarding the Ghouls.”

Terzo runs a hand through his jet-black bangs to push them off his forehead where his miter broke through the hair gel. “Something the matter? I thought all of you had finally started bonding after the Re-Impera Tour.”

He hesitates, worried that admitting this would be breaking some sort of Infernal Law. “Are we-Are we allowed to be intimate with the Ghouls?”

The older man co*cks his head, “Define intimate.

“I had sex with Cumulus before Mass tonight.” He blurts out, ears burning with embarrassment. He’s thankful for the papal paint still on his face.

Terzo smirks, “Was it good? She’s got the perfect body to hold onto.”

“Better than any sex I’ve ever had.”

Terzo idly looks at his gloves that are adorned with bronze, manicured fingernails. “And your issue is…?”

Copia tries to meet the man’s green and white eyes, “Am I allowed to?”

“Of course you are! In fact, it’s the best way to bond with them. They’re not just lower-level demons, they’re incubi and succubae, Fratellino. Don’t you remember the part of the Summoning where you have to provide an unholy sample of seed?”

Oh.

He had forgotten about that. That was a rather large part of the Summoning of Ghouls.

“Besides, why did you think Secondo is so upset over Lilly?”

“I love my Ghouls; I would also be extremely upset if one of them was killed!”

Terzo levels him with a knowing look, “Copia, Secondo is touted as a womanizer to the fans. Did you not find it strange all of his Ghouls were…male? It’s because he was getting so much dick from the Ghouls that he had to find puss* to give his ass a rest.”

Copia’s mouth falls open in shock. These nine years Copia has been living at the Abbey here in the US, he’s never really taken the time to pay attention to the sexual escapades of his adoptive family. He knows Primo is pretty much asexual, Terzo will f*ck (or be f*cked) by anything that shows any amount of interest in him, and Copia himself is pansexual in a less-desperate parallel of Terzo.

“Also, you remember Omega, right?” Terzo asks.

“Yes, he was very nice and would help take care of Penne before she died.” The tall and muscular Ghoul was a stoic giant next to the youngest Emeritus brother on stage but was kind to a newly arrived Cardinal Copia and his pet rat, Penne.

“Be honest with me, Copia,” Terzo says seriously.

Copia straightens a bit, “I would never be anything else to you.”

Terzo leans in as if he’s telling some big secret. “Did you know of our relationship?”

“I mean, I saw you two were close but I never wanted to assume-“

The black-haired retired Papa huffs a laugh. “You’re too innocent, Fratellino. Sometimes I think you were raised in a Catholic Abbey and not Lucifer’s. Omega and I were the closest thing to a married couple a member of the Clergy could get with a Ghoul. He’s bent me over so many times in my office that Imperator had to start knocking before coming in.”

She never does that. It must have been a serious problem Copia was completely oblivious to. “I’m sorry I didn’t get there earlier to save him.”

Terzo sits back in the plush chair, “You tried. It’s Nihil and Imperator that are to blame. They violated your word.” He shrugs but it’s a hopeless expression, “Besides, you saved Dewdrop. I know he loves you very much for giving him a second chance; and I love you for fighting for him.”

Copia smiles, relief evident in his shoulders. “I would do it over and over again.” Now he has to shoo away the older man so Copia can go see if the Ghouls would like some help with burning off energy.

-

Lilly sets the lone plate of apple dumplings on her vanity, unsure whether the gooey treat would make her feel any better. So many things run through her mind as she steps into the bathroom and begins to strip for a shower. She lets a few sniffles out as the steam begins to collect in the small bathroom.

Just before the water warms to her desired temperature, someone knocks on her bedroom door.

Does she ignore it and continue her wallowing of misery or throw on something and answer it?

Lilly groans and shuts off the water as the person knocks yet again, this time more insistently. She rushes to find something to cover herself with when a worried voice comes through the door.

The only thing full coverage enough is the Temple undergarments that cover her like a bad jumpsuit, opening the door to the annoying interruption. “What.” She snarls before she

Terzo quickly hides his raised hand. “Lilly, I was checking to see if you were feeling okay after Mass tonight.”

She co*cks her head and crosses her arms as the chill of the night air makes her realize how exposed she is. “I’m okay.”

The man scrutinizes her face. “You sure? Sister Martha sounded really concerned and you weren’t at the After-Blessing snack hour.”

“I’m fine really, I was just about to shower-“

“You’ve been crying.” He says and tilts up her chin. “What happened at the Blessing, principessa?”

She shakes her head, tears reforming. “No, no, it wasn’t the Blessing. I ran into someone who knew Adam in Times Square.”

Terzo notices how she shakes and leads her over to her bed, where she curls into herself and presses her knees to her chest. He closes the door but doesn’t lock it and sits down beside her. He wants to lay a hand on her back but isn’t sure where the line is at this point.

“You have a Spotify ad in Times Square,” She starts, “I got distracted by it and accidentally stopped near some Mormons and one of them told me that Adam had gotten married yesterday.”

“But he was engaged to you?” He states more than asks.

“Adam and I had said that we wouldn’t be a part of polygamy. I thought it was strange because I had only ever felt romantically attracted to him. I guess he didn’t agree and used me working IN New York as excuse to go after someone else when he saw I wasn’t going to be a typical Mormon wife.”

Terzo makes the decision to rub her back. He knows he made the right choice when she lets out a soft, watery sigh.

“There’s a part of me that thinks this is some divine punishment.” She says from between her knees.

“Why would you be punished?”

Lilly stays quiet for a moment, “…Can you keep a secret?”

Terzo bites his lip. “Depends, did you kill someone? Because if you did, I would definitely need to brag about it to the Ghouls.”

She laughs, “No, I didn’t murder anyone, at least that I know of. I knew the assignment of the Ghost Project’s award before I accepted the job here in New York. I didn’t tell Adam that it was one of the major responsibilities of this position when I told him I got the job because I was afraid that he would keep me in Utah with his parents. He was so furious when I told him about the assignment, I knew I made the right call…but he was angrier not because of your religion, but because he saw how much I liked Copia.”

“He is very charming.” He agrees.

Lilly’s brown eyes wander to the window that overlooks the warm lighting of the cloister as the Siblings and Papas file back into their own rooms. “It became difficult to imagine marrying Adam when I first watched Copia’s opening show.”

“You went to that concert? Andie had said you hadn’t ever been to one.”

She shakes her head, “Not that I hadn’t been to one ever but the one where you Cirice’d them. We’ve been to a couple. I’m sorry that they did that you…but seeing Copia come out on stage…” She trails off.

Terzo smiles a playful smirk, “So you really like him, huh?”

Lilly perks up at his tone and rolls her eyes. “You’re just as bad as the Ghouls, asshole. And I just got divorced, I’m allowed to go a little nuts.”

“I can have Cumulus put extra nuts in the banana bread.” He offers.

“There’s barely enough banging around in your empty head, I wouldn’t want to take away your last brain cells.”

He pushes her over, startling a laugh out of her. “Go take your shower.”

“How’d you know I was about to shower?”

Terzo stands and gestures to the steam slowly curling out from under the closed bathroom door. “Also, I don’t think you’re the kind of person to wear those anymore. Copia’s favorite color is blue anyway.” He looks her rumpled, white Temple undergarments then leaves her with a wink.

-

The week passes.

Lilly goes to work, staring at the Star Wars posters she hung to replace the now-destroyed pictures, as if Luke Skywalker would appear and tell her she wasn’t caught in some divine turmoil over someone who probably never really gave a sh*t about her happiness.

She drives back to the Abbey after being somewhat productive, she grins as she sees Andie talking with a few Siblings out on the front pavement.

Andie beams and runs over to Lilly as she parks in the free spot near the front (which has almost unofficially been labeled as hers), crushing her into a hug. “Lillypad!”

Lilly laughs into her best friend’s freshly twisted locs. “How did prepping for Halloween go?”

“Good actually. We somehow got a lot of shipment early, but that only means more obnoxious teenagers hanging around,” Andie replies. “We have some adorable new bullet vibes with your name on them.”

“I might take you up on that,” Lilly says and follows them into the cathedral’s narthex hall. Voices echo and mingle around them, heading into the sanctuary to take seats near the back of the grand hall.

“Are you going to take Communion?” Sister Martha whispers from the pew in front of them.

Lilly ponders that. She’s already had sex with some of the Ghouls and lives here now. But something stops her. Something in the back of her mind that brings up an image of Adam’s smile. “Probably soon,” She answers instead.

The lights dim to the sconces and candles around the large room and the choir box of masked Ghouls begins their soft opening hymn. Copia sweeps down the aisle in his now-familiar cobalt-blue papal robes and bejeweled miter, taking his place behind his podium. He opens with a warm call to the followers and Sister Rebecca steps up with his ceremonial sword to begin the invocation to Satan.

“Tonight, I thought it would be appropriate to talk of sexual expression with the upcoming Satanic Unholy day of Halloween in two weeks’ time. Satanism does advocate sexual freedom, but only in the true sense of the word. Free Love, in the Satanic concept, means exactly that—freedom to either be faithful to one person or to indulge your sexual desires with as many others as you feel is necessary to satisfy your particular needs.”

Lilly feels eight sets of inhuman eyes land on her. She glances to the choir box to see the Ghouls’ steampunk helmets turned in her direction and she flushes. It isn’t unnerving, but it was startling to feel the sudden weight of their attention land squarely on her shoulders. She shifts to ignore the warming in her lower stomach.

Copia turns the page of the large Unholy Bible, “As a community, we do not encourage orgiastic activity or extramarital affairs for those whom they do not come naturally. For many, it would be detrimental to be unfaithful to their chosen mates; while to others, it would be frustrating to be bound sexually to just one person. Satan is a religion of the individual’s choosing. It is your choice to be here, to worship his Dark Excellency, and to express your own individual sexual identity.”

Lilly takes Copia’s sermon in with an open mind, taking in the directed attention from the Ghouls and the weightlessness she feels after confessing her feelings to Terzo. She had been so scared of sexual contact that she never looked for a relationship, but when she first met Adam in college, she realized she had just never met anyone she felt attraction towards. It was a plus that he was Mormon and was forbidden from having any intimacy.

“Sexual guilt becomes ingrained in your mind when you self-deceitfully force yourself into being adulterous or monogamous just for the sake of others. Many of those who are constantly preoccupied with demonstrating an emancipation from sexual guilt are, in reality, held in even greater sexual bondage than those who simply accept sexual activity as a natural part of life.” He looks up from his written sermon to survey the bobbing of heads as the followers agree with his lesson.

Lilly meets Terzo’s gaze from the quire box with the other two Papas and Sister Imperator. He inclines his head with a smirk that pulls at his black-outlined upper lip.

Andie leans over to whisper to her, “Do you think the Ghouls have orgies? They seem really touchy.”

She blinks and tries to hide her immediate answer. “Probably?”

“You know something!” Andie gasps quietly, “Do they? Did you see one?”

Lilly shushes them with a finger to her lips, pretending to pay attention as Sister Imperator steps up the podium. The woman speaks on something about upcoming community events, but Lilly can’t bring herself to listen as her mind becomes enveloped by a craving to be surrounded by the Ghouls once again.

Thankfully tonight’s Mass seems to end a bit early to have a longer community gathering afterward. This time Lilly is actually able to watch Unholy Communion instead of crying on the front stairs as Adam dumps her. She feels the need to join her friend in the line but stays back. It’s only been a week. She hasn’t even really thought about whether or not she believes in this yet.

Lilly does want to mingle with the community members and Siblings. She’s met a handful of them after the Blessing but has barely been able to chat with any of them with how late she stays at the museum. She looks back to see Andie wrapped up in a conversation with Terzo and decides her friend can find her out in the crowd when they’re done smooching the Satanic priest.

Out in the narthex, Lilly is swallowed by the milling crowd. She scooches past people to get to the tables laden with cookies decorated with iced pentagrams and satanic crosses. She plucks one with red icing and bites into its soft center with a sigh of delight. Sibling Eren had said they were trying a new recipe this week for the sugar cookies, and they were absolutely perfect this time.

Lilly moves back to grab another cookie when someone steps up beside her to reach for a cookie on adjacent platter. She sees the peek of an incredibly detailed tattoo of a snake on the man’s wrist, wrapping around his wrist and disappearing up into his ruby-red shirt cuffs.

“Your tattoo is incredible,” Lilly compliments, her gaze travelling upwards to meet the most attractive man she’s ever seen. He has dark eyes, a straight nose, and a beard of short, black hair that connects to perfectly stylized short hair.

“Thank you, but I actually need to get parts of it retouched.” He says and turns his hand palm-up to where some of the vibrant yellows and browns are blurring from age.

Lilly tries not to stumble under the man’s incredibly attentive gaze. “It’s a Mt. Kenya Bush Viper right?”

He nods, eyes sparkling and gently guides her out of the way of the other members trying to grab cookies and drinks. Off to the side of the table feels much more intimate, as if he’s surrounding her on all sides. “I got it to represent a friend of mine that had passed recently.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m sure they would be gushing over how beautiful their memory is to you. I want to get a tattoo of my milksnake, Crowley.”

The man laughs at the name, “I’m Tom, pleased to meet you.”

Lilly shakes his extended hand with the one not currently holding half a cookie. “Lilly,” She says, his hand warm in hers. She doesn’t want to let go but Tom does anyway.

“You’re new here, hm?” He asks. It isn’t mean y how curious he looks. “I missed last week’s Mass, but I haven’t seen you around before.”

She shakes her head, “Oh, I’m actually the museum curator designing the Ghost Project’s display at the Music Hall of Fame. I had a bit of a rough patch with my fiancé last week and they’ve let me borrow a spare room for the time being.”

“They’re good people. Do you like it here?”

“I honestly don’t want to ever leave, but it’s odd being here and not truly being a part of the Church.”

Tom gives her an affectionate smile. “You listen to the sermons, come to Mass, live with the community…I think Unholy Communion is merely a formality. Actions speak louder than words, Lilly.”

She matches his grin with relief, “I’ve felt so guilty this past week because I’m fighting this inner battle. My fiancé was Mormon, and I never wanted to be one but I loved him so…”

“You were willing to sacrifice yourself instead of him compromising? Doesn’t sound like he was a good fiancé.” He sympathizes.

“No, I’m beginning to figure out he wasn’t,” She says.

Tom looks to say something else, but the gold watch on his left wrist trills. “It was lovely meeting you, Lilly. I hope to see you next Sunday?”

“Definitely,” Lilly smiles and watches his tailored form disappear into the crowd.

When he’s gone, Lilly snaps out of the rose-colored trance she was stuck in. Who was that guy?

Chapter 10: See the Light

Notes:

f*ck. adam. pollack.

but //f*ck// copia leviathan emeritus

;>

Chapter Text

Andie finds Lilly a few minutes after Tom disappears, staring blankly at the half-eaten pentagram cookie in her hand. “Hey girl, are those cookies that world-shattering?” They say, picking up one to eat themself.

“No…I met this guy. He was so beautiful and smelled like the richest cologne.” Lilly says wistfully. “He had this awesome snake tattoo.”

“Ooh, show me where he is, I want to see this hot demonic guy if he was able to get your attention.” Andie cuddles close to Lilly and spins her to look through the crowd. Their braid’s beads jingle as both of them look around for a glimpse at Tom’s tall form.

“I don’t see him anywhere! How did he disappear so fast?” Lilly whines.

Andie groans. “Aw man. This is what I get when I have a steady boyfriend. I miss out on all the hot Satanists.”

Lilly grins and shoves the rest of her cookie into her mouth, basking in the sweetness. “But your boyfriend is a hot Satanist.”

“Yes, he is. I can’t wait to climb him like a ladder down to Hell.” Andie licks the icing from the corner of their lips, laughing as Lilly overexaggerates her grimace. The two of them filter through the slowly lessening crowd of followers, stopping to talk to a few Brothers and Siblings until they made it out to the cloister. “Can I go see your room?”

Lilly leads them through the covered arcade that makes up the perimeter of the cloister but is forced to stop when they come across Mountain and Rain kneeling in a flowerbed full of bright blue Cornflowers and purple pansies.

“These are so pretty!” Andie gushes over the vibrant colors.

“Thank you, it’s a shame that autumn’s chill will make them wilt soon.” Mountain says quietly. He pats down the soil after he plucks a few green weeds.

Lilly smiles as Rain picks a few of the nearby fiery orange and red marigolds, holding the two blooms aloft for the friends to take. “You and Primo take wonderful care of the cloister garden.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Rain is on his feet, pressing a kiss to Lilly’s cheek and moving the flower to sit behind the pinned nametag on her chest. Rain winks then picks up a watering can to go fill over at the fountain.

The two friends return Mountain’s shy wave, fleeing to the safety of Lilly’s room before Andie is letting out a shriek. “He kissed you!?” Andie holds her shoulders and shakes her a bit.

Lilly steadies herself. “They’re just very affectionate,” she tries, but Andie has known her for far too long to be fooled by something like this.

You know something,” Andie’s hazel eyes are searching every pore of Lilly’s round face. They keep up the scrutiny until the woman sighs.

“I need a tombstone confession.”

Andie straightens, face brightening with the knowledge that something juicy is about to be spilled if Lilly is invoking their best friend secret-keeping phrase. “Ad infinitum.”

“...I slept with some of the Ghouls.” Lilly says slowly.

Andie’s eyes bulge at the confession. “No f*cking way…Some? As in....more than one?!

She nods, unable to keep her smirk under wraps. “They have orgies, Andie. We were watching Jennifer’s Body and they started feeding me and making me guess what I was eating.”

Andie collapsed into Lilly’s vanity chair, dramatically holding their head in their hands. “Food foreplay…Every person’s kryptonite.”

“Then…Sodo ate a Junior Mint and f*cking kissed me.”

“Please tell me you kissed him back,” Andie pleads.

“I did and then Aurora kissed me.” She says, sighing longingly at the memory of the Ghoulette’s soft kisses. Each of them had their own style that kept her begging for more. She’s never had such a high desire for intimacy before.

Andie’s sepia-toned hands came to move the vanity mirror until they could see their face. “I’m dreaming. There’s no way my soulmate was able to snog two of the hottest f*cking Ghouls in the entire world. Lillith Johannah Warren has achieved every Ghost fan’s wet dream and is acting like it’s not a big deal.” They whisper to themself.

“Who said I wasn’t acting like it wasn’t a big deal? I’ve been dreaming about doing it more ever since it happened.”

Andie swivels the chair to face the blond. “Wait, when did this happen?”

“Last week? Like last Tuesday,” She guesses.

“I’m going to combust.” Andie warns. “…Was it good?”

Lilly nods frantically. “Cirrus scissored me and Swiss fondled my boobs.”

Andie shakes her head. “You went from a prudish, conservative Mormon fiancée to having the hottest sounding Satanist orgy in a week, Lilly. I’m so goddamn proud of you!” They hug the museum curator tight to their chest, giggling madly.

“I was shaking, Andie. They gave me such an incredible org*sm my thighs couldn’t stop f*cking quivering.” Lilly grins, a bit hysterical as she truly comes (haha) to terms with the desire to do more sexual experiences with the Ghouls…and Copia.

“Have you done anything since then?”

Lilly shakes her head. “I threw myself into work, which is all working on Ghost, so I kept getting horny.”

Andie bites their lip, upset at the question they need to ask now that all of the juicy gossip is over. “When did the Mormon thing happen?”

“Probably last Thursday. I should’ve slapped him harder.” Lilly groans and sits in her vacated swivel chair. She picks up a remnant of a broken picture frame that managed to fly up onto her dressing table. “I smashed all of the pictures of him and that bitch, Mary Catherine.”

“Good. That was long over-due. Now, you can relax, work on the exhibition….f*ck the Ghouls,” They tease and stretch out on Lilly’s bed, cuddling her friend’s Grogu stuffed animal. “This is a new start, Lillypad, for both of us.”

“I’m glad things are going well with you and Terzo.”

Andie stares up at the plaster ceiling. “He’s so sweet…He was so ready to take me back, but didn’t push when I said no. He uses so many emojis, it’s like I can hear him when he’s texting.”

“Isn’t overusing emojis considered a red flag to you? As in, you broke up with Christine because she kept using the exploding head emoji?”

“Not in Andie’s Big Book of Wooing, second edition.” They say. “I’m allowed to find different things sexy. Especially for a retired Satanic Pope that’s 15 years older than me.”

“Wait, Terzo’s older than 40?”

Andie levels their friend with a raised eyebrow. “Yeah, that’s like…part of his appeal when he was Papa. He was getting into his mid-30s and was only getting hotter.”

Lilly leans back in her chair, thinking. “How old is Copia?”

“I wanna say only a couple years younger than Terzo.” Andie pulls out their bedazzled cellphone and searches Google. “Yeah, he’s about 40.”

“That’s only a difference of like 13 years.” She shrugs and thinks of her mother’s parents. “Better than Grandpa Edgar and Grandma Gertrude’s 23 year difference.”

Andie makes a noise of agreement, a bit sleepy sounding.

“You better not be falling asleep on my bed.” She warns, coming over to pull the green alien plushie from their arms.

“Lillypad, c’mon, I haven’t been able to have soulmate cuddles in nearly four months because of your bum-ass Mormon ex-fiancè. I miss my best friend naps.” Andie whines.

“Fine, but we’re going to ask Sister Rebecca if it’s okay first.” Lilly pulls them onto their feet and out into the Sister Dorm hallway. There’s not really anyone out at this point, but the little window into Sister Rebecca’s room isn’t lit. The woman must still be out in the narthex.

They make their way around the cloister to go back into the cathedral when Andie catches her wrist to stop her. “What’s this hallway?” They look down the papal suite corridor, lit by gold sconces.

“Oh, those are the papal suites.” Lilly says, ready to continue towards the sanctuary.

“Can’t we just ask one of the Papas?” Andie asks.

Lilly shrugs but it does make sense. “Probably.” Both walk into the long hallway, finding Primo and Secondo’s doors firmly closed for the night. Terzo’s is ajar, but the light is off so they move on to the next doorway with is only made up of a blue curtain. Light spills out from underneath the heavy fabric and voices filter out to the two friends.

After a moment, three things become clear: one, the main voice is definitely Copia, and two, that the second and third voices are Swiss and Cirrus.

Copia’s voice is strangled and the two friends wonder if he hurt himself on the way back to his suite after Mass.

Suddenly the third thing becomes more than crystal clear: that Copia isn’t in pain…he’s whimpering in pleasure.

Andie and Lilly share a wide-eyed look as a particular whine reaches them.

“You said that sermon tonight just to tease Lilly, huh?” Swiss taunts, another round of strangled whines reaching the two friends. “Satanic sex? You must be so jealous of Cirrus and I.”

Lilly forces a hand over Andie’s mouth as they go to squeal. She glares and shuffles back against the wall adjacent to the papal bedroom.

The sound of wet slapping registers and Cirrus’ usually calm voice is shaky as she joins in the taunting. “You’re taking me so well, Papa. I didn’t know you could open up so wide.”

Andie blinks their hazel eyes up at Lilly. “Pegging?” They mouth.

Lilly shrugs but the pace of skin-meeting-skin picks up along with Copia’s moans and whines. The man sounds absolutely wrecked with each thrust.

Both of them wish they could see how Swiss was probably stroking himself at the sight of the Antipope getting railed by the Ghoulette.

“Cirrus, do you think he’s been punished enough? Should he be allowed to cum on your co*ck?” Swiss coos. They can’t see it, but the multi-Ghoul holds Copia’s paint-smeared head up by his salt-and-pepper bangs.

“Please…” Copia begs. “I’ve been s-so good.”

“You caused Ms. Lilly to flush so prettily in the pews that she scurried off after Mass. Do you think she’s touching herself?” Swiss asks.

Andie’s mouth drops open, their entire being vibrating with giggles. Lilly ignores the stirring in her veins and hauls Andie to their feet. They need to get out of here before someone finds them eavesdropping like this.

The two are able to make it down the hallway mostly silent until three Ghouls appear to round the corner of the cloister. Cumulus, Phantom, and Aurora run smack-dab into the two friends, causing Lilly to bump into the wall.

“Sorry, Lilly-“ Cumulus chirps, but Andie claps a hand over the Ghoulette’s plush lips. Her flowing white curls bounce at the movement.

Andie and Lilly hiss for her to quiet. Phantom co*cks his head. “Are we playing hide and seek?”

The two best friends share a look, “Sure, let’s go with that.” Lilly nods. She grabs the other two Ghouls by their wrists and pulls them out into the cloister garden.

“Hey, wait, we were supposed to meet Cirrus and Swiss-“

Andie holds back a hysterical laugh and releases Cumulus. “They’re a bit busy in a meeting with Papa.”

Aurora panics, “They started without us! I told you we were going to be late!” She accuses Phantom with a clawed finger.

“I refuse to service Papa with frizzy hair,” He sniffs. “Not all of us were gifted with perfect hair, Princess.” Phantom flips his rakishly black hair that is streaked with silver and white at his bangs. He goes to walk past Lilly but she stops him with a hand on his chest.

“Phantom, they’re busy.”

He nods, confused. “Of course they are.”

She shakes her head, exasperated and fending off traitorous thoughts. “Like…busy busy.” She stresses.

Aurora huffs. “We know, Lilly. We were supposed to help Swiss and Cirrus but of course Phantom has to care about his appearance more than the pleasure of his Papa.”

Andie has to shakily sit on the ground. “After all these fanfictions…we were right. My best friend has truly cracked the code to the best orgies of the entire universe.”

Phantom looks to Lilly, “Did you want to join us tonight?”

She mulls over it and almost answers yes, but she doesn’t feel ready to face both the Ghouls and Copia sexually just yet. “Not tonight, sorry.”

“Just let any of us know,” Aurora smirks and kisses her cheek.

“Ask your boyfriend about all the times he got railed by Omega,” Cumulus pats their head apologetically. “We need to go help our siblings, goodnight!” She calls and ushers the two younger Ghouls down into the papal suites.

“I need a cold shower,” Lilly groans.

“Ditto.” Andie laughs.

-

Lilly and Andie wake up tangled together in Lilly’s twin sized bed, the sunlight of the central courtyard spilling across their faces. Andie lifts their head from where their satin-shower cap-covered head had come to rest on Lilly’s chest.

“It’s so nice not hearing car horns…” They mumble.

Lilly cracks a brown eye open. “I know, right? There’s birds and sunlight.” She snakes her arms tighter around their waist. “I have missed this.” She admits.

“Much better than sleeping in an empty bed in a separate room.” Andie sighs happily, cuddling closer.

Lilly closes her eyes again. “You better be glad I have Mondays off, lazy bones.”

“You would’ve called out for me.” They reply.

Both friends drift off into the early morning warmth of each other until someone knocks on the door, startling them awake. “f*ck me,” Lilly mumbles.

“I’ll get it, Lillypad.” Andie slips out of her hold and shuffles to the door, opening it while rubbing their eyes. Lilly sits up and copies the motion of rubbing the remnants of her mascara off with a yawn.

“Good morning,” Sister Imperator raises an eyebrow when Lilly isn’t the one to answer the door, “Lilly, you have two guests waiting in the narthex.”

Lilly throws the covers off and comes over to the sharply-dressed woman, “Who is it?”

“Chelsea and Joshua Warren, your parents I believe.”

“Yo, my favorite people are here!” Andie beams.

“They didn’t tell me they were coming, I’m sorry if this is an inconvenience.” Lilly apologizes.

Sister Imperator crafts a small smile. “They seem very lovely. Feel free to show them around and bring them to lunch in the Sibling Hall at noon.”

“Thank you Sister Imperator,” Lilly matches her smile.

“Just Sister is fine.” The older woman says, and leaves with the echo of her heels.

The two friends quickly dress (Andie stealing one of Lilly’s dresses with a belt to fit it to their slightly smaller form) and rush through the early-rising garden to the narthex.

Lilly, as Andie has come to find in their shared decade of friendship, is the perfect combination of her parents. Her brown eyes, plump cheeks, and height are all gifted from her mother; while her tall father shares her round nose, ever-present smile, and wide shoulders.

“Mom, Dad!” She cries and scrambles to hug both of them.

“Oh, Lillith, we’ve missed you so much,” Chelsea squeezes her daughter, then holds open an arm for Andie to cuddle into. “And we’ve missed our favorite adopted child as well.”

Joshua hugs Andie when Lilly pulls away. “I thought your mother and I would come surprise you on our vacation that just happened to be in New York.”

“You’re a horrible liar, just like your daughter.” Andie rolls their eyes but returns the tight hug.

“We’re here for a week but if you didn’t have any plans, we would love to treat you two to lunch out in the Big Apple.” He says. His blue eyes look so hopeful.

“Of course we’re free,” Lilly agrees. “I have Mondays off from the Museum and I don’t think we were really doing anything today.” She looks to Andie, who bobs their head. “How did you know I would be here?”

Chelsea Warren shares a knowing look. “We know you, Lilly. When you have a job, you dive headfirst into it. It only makes sense that you would practically live here while doing the museum exhibitions. It’s part of that passion we love you for!” She turns and looks around the narthex’s towering dark wood balconies and ceiling frescoes.

“Sister Imperator said I could show you around, and invited us to lunch here.” Lilly says.

“Would you be okay if we stuck around for lunch? All of these people seem so interesting to talk to.” Her mother says as a couple of Brothers pass by outside on the sidewalk.

Joshua places a loving hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Chelsea, we aren’t going to read anyone’s auras or give unsolicited advice, right? These are important people for Lilly.”

She waves him off. “I’ll keep the Edgar Cayce voices to myself.” She promises.

Lilly hugs her mother, “Thanks Mom. I know it’s difficult. It has been for me recently.”

Her father creases his eyebrows in worry. “Have you been troubled by visions or auras lately? I can ask Mom if there’s anything strange going on with the Veil.”

She shakes her head, pleading for them not to pry deeper at the moment. Being the grandchild of not only one clairvoyant (Lorraine Warren as her paternal grandmother) but also of another trance clairvoyant (Edgar Cayce as her maternal grandfather) meant that being surrounded by the inhuman presences in the Abbey was sure to raise her parents’ eyebrows.

“Just a warning, some of them…are not entirely human. I don’t know what they are, but they’re all super nice.” Lilly says and leads them into the main sanctuary hall.

“Beautiful…” Chelsea sighs at the sanctuary’s ornate dark cherry gothic woodwork. “This place feels so loved.” She runs a hand over a pew’s backrest.

Andie strolls beside them, taking in the minute details they weren’t able to see last night at Black Mass. The stained glass of Lucifer descending behind the altar reflects the soft lighting that turns on when the motion sensors detect them.

A figure appears from behind the stained glass mural, dressed in skeleton papal paint and emerald and black robes. Secondo.

He notices the family, and turns, ready to flee yet again. But Lilly sees her chance to make amends with the retired Papa. She can show him that her parents aren’t following in their parents’ professions of exorcisms.

“Papa Secondo! These are my parents,” She calls, bringing the two adults over to stand on the bottom step of the dais.

Secondo looks a bit concerned but it filters away into his usual charisma when meeting new people. “It is good to meet you, I’m Secondo, Papa Emeritus II.”

Joshua extends a hand and the man takes it, much to Lilly’s relief. “Joshua Warren, this is my wife, Chelsea Evans Warren.” He introduces.

Chelsea also shakes the retired Papa’s hand with a calm smile. “We wanted to extend our congratulations for your award and our gratefulness for allowing our Lillith to stay here.”

Secondo’s mismatched eyes flicker to the shorter woman beside her parents. “She’s been a wonderful presence in the Abbey. All of us Clergy members speak highly of her and her work.”

Lilly grins at the praise and hugs the man when he offers an open arm.

-

The four family members explore the interior of the Abbey. Lilly shows them her room, and her parents help her hang a few pictures she couldn’t reach herself, and then move outside to the dew-clinging grass grounds. Outside the cathedral and connected passageways and corridors is about ten acres of open space that overlook the rolling hills of upstate New York farmland.

She was surprised when she first got the Abbey that they controlled this much land only an hour outside of Manhattan, but looking into records of the United Clergy of Ghost told her that the Abbey had been around since at least the 1820s. So much of the original cathedral is intact despite many mobs and attempted arsons.

A few picnic tables dot the landscape directly around the Abbey. And even though the acres continue on around them, she points out the elemental pentagrams that mark the immediate occupied space of the grounds.

“Man, I wish Seattle looked like this.” Joshua says wistfully.

“You wouldn’t survive a week without walking to your coffee shop.” Andie teases.

Joshua shrugs, “I could learn how to make my macchiato at home.”

Chelsea laughs brightly. “You? Mr. I-Burn-Water, successfully working an espresso machine? I think I’d rather eat your green bean surprise casserole again.”

“Oh man that was bad,” Lilly fake gags. “I’ve never been so grateful for dry turkey.” She goes to say another jab at her father’s lacking cooking when the bell tower reverberates with the high noon chimes for lunch. “Lunch time. I have no idea what we’re having so open minds.” She jokes.

It seems as if either some Siblings have taken the bus down the street into Manhattan, or are sleeping in, because only one of the three large tables is full.

Sister Jacoba and Sibling Ezra jump up from their seats when they walk in, the smell of butternut squash soup filling the room.

“Mom, Dad, this is Sister Jacoba and Sibling Ezra, they help make a lot of the meal plans for the Abbey.” Lilly says.

“Mr. and Mrs. Warren, welcome to our home. Sister Imperator personally picked out the recipe for you to join us for lunch.” Ezra beams and leads them over to the warming plates that keep the large pots of creamy soup heated. There’s also freshly-baked rolls, salad, and steamed vegetables covered by silver cloches.

The two Siblings leave them to gather their own food. They migrate to the center table where a few Siblings sit and talk with them for a few minutes. All of a sudden, Terzo and Copia plop down on each side of Andie and Lilly with their own bowls of food.

“Good morning,” Terzo chirps. Andie laughs and steals his roll, tearing it in half and eating before he could whine about it.

“That’s my older brother, Terzo Emeritus,” Copia introduces, “and I’m Copia, the current Papa.” He takes the two parents’ hands in greeting.

“Lilly and Andie have a lot of great things to say about the Ghost Project and the Ministry here.” Chelsea nods, taking a sip of the steaming soup.

“Were you able to seethe cloister gardens? The Ghouls and our eldest brother, Primo, have crafted a slice of paradise.” Terzo asks.

She nods, eyes sparkling with passion. “You have a good variety of edible and nonedible plants. It makes the soup and salad extremely refreshing. The Culinary Institute I work at should take a few gardening tips with how thriving all of your plants are.”

“You’re a chef?” Copia inquires, glancing at Lilly.

Chelsea nods, “I used to be a lawyer down in Virginia for my father’s metaphysical company but Joshua and I decided it would be best for Lilly to move away from our parents’ influence. Seattle has a giant culinary school and I took classes until they hired me.”

Terzo steals the uneaten half-roll back from Andie. “Are you staying longer than just today? Primo usually takes today off to putter around, but sometime during the week he might be able to talk about some gardening stuff.”

Lunch goes by with conversations of Chelsea’s favorite cuisines and how the Abbey cooks large quantities but is still able to keep spices and flavors heady. Everyone is full of delicious soup, salad, and rolls after an hour.

Lilly’s parents call it a day after that. They leave with warm hugs to their daughter and adopted-child Andie before taking off from the Abbey with a promise of seeing them sometime this week.

Copia stands with Lilly as they watch both Andie and the Warrens drive away. He’s dressed in a casual dark papal cassock that flutters lightly as he walks. It makes him tall and slim while accentuating his shoulders and hips.

Lilly wants to kiss him.

He turns to her with a content smile, “Shall we go in?”

She nods and follows him, noticing the slight flinch he does when he stands up too straight. She might as well plunge into the question after her parents spent the hours swapping embarrassing stories of Lilly as a child.

“How was your night, Copia?” Lilly asks innocently.

The man chokes but hides it behind a cough. “It was good. I-I slept well. How was yours?”

She tilts her head, “Andie and I always have fun sleepovers. I tried to find you or one of the Ghouls last night to ask if they could stay, but Cumulus said you were in an important meeting together.” She veers around the front entrance to lead him back to the picnic tables.

He follows like a lost puppy.

“I hope Andie staying over was alright,” She says.

Copia catches up to her, eager to appease her worries. “It was more than okay. You never need to ask if you want a guest over. And as for the meeting, well, we had to discuss some ritual procedures for Halloween Mass. And we didn’t stop until very late.”

Lilly meets his mismatched gaze, recognizing how he does his best to keep her stride. “I hope it was successful?”

The atmosphere around him tightens as if there was a corset squeezing against Lilly’s stomach. Man, all those youtube tutorials and advice from Andie about how to flirt are working!

She internally celebrates as he begins to walk closer to her, their knuckles brushing with each step.

Neither move them out of the way.

Copia looks out over the open acres behind the Abbey then back to the lone structure rumored to be Sister Imperator’s private residence. At this time, Papa Nihil would be asleep for his afternoon nap and Imperator would be in her office delegating the Siblings.

The two of them were alone.

“Lilly,” He starts, anxious but ready to finally make a move. Last night where Cirrus and Swiss f*cked him had changed him; they had used every observed moment of Lilly’s mannerisms to taunt and tease him until he was overstimulated and leaking. The least he could do was see if there was any chance in the future after Adam.

“Yes?” She answers, standing so close to him, dressed in a baggy t-shirt and jeans that fit her personality just as well as the formal attire he’s seen.

She has no makeup on except for a light dusting of mascara. He can see the beginning lines above her eyebrows where she scrunches her nose when she laughs. He doesn’t know what he loves more.

“I know it’s only been a short while since you separated from Adam, but I…I wanted to know if-“

He’s interrupted by classical music.

Lilly’s eyes widen and she holds up a finger as she searches her jeans for her cellphone. “Lilly Warren,” She says professionally. “Dr. Myers, yes, hello.”

A beat goes by where she listens to the soft voice on the other side.

“No, he broke up with me a week or so ago. Tell them to throw them out and have security ready to remove him if he comes again.”

Another beat.

“Thank you, Dr. Myers. Feel free to keep them or give them to someone else.” She hangs up. “Sorry, bit of a crazy situation at the museum. Continue?” Lilly smiles, apologetically.

Copia feels the anxiety squeeze his throat, backpedaling wildly. “No, no. Um, is everything okay?” He asks instead.

She shakes her head, brown and blonde curls bouncing. “Adam apparently convinced security to let him up into my office where he filled it with bouquets of flowers and then started smashing all my sh*t. Dr. Myers threw him out and is having security make sure he isn’t allowed back up. Thank goodness I wasn’t there.”

He feels concern overtake his own nerves. “Why?”

“Well…sometimes he can be a bit aggressive when he doesn’t get what he wants. I think he got hit too many times playing rugby,” She laughs but it’s stuttered and timid, “Just…If I were to reject him to my face even after he tries to come back, I might need to use my tazer.”

“He would hurt you?”

Lilly’s brown eyes look over the weathered quartz and black stones of the Abbey courtyard walls. “He’s been calling and texting me for the entire week. He’ll go from lovely to threatening in a single text so I just ignore them all. I thought he wouldn’t be back in New York for a while, but I’m not too concerned, security is good when I actually remember to tell them not to let certain people upstairs.”

Copia takes her hands as they wring together. “Lilly, if you’re in danger, we can help you. Surely you can work on some of the museum project remotely.”

She watches as his gloved thumb runs over her knuckles soothingly. “I’ve always been able to talk him down.”

That doesn’t help. “Please, Lilly. Let me help you. Adam doesn’t have to hurt you anymore.” He pleads and holds their clasped hands to the sparkling grucifix that hangs from his neck.

Lilly watches him and to his horror, tears gather along her lash line. “I shouldn’t feel like this for someone I’ve only met for two weeks.” She whispers.

He brings her closer, taking in her apple perfume and how warm she feels against the cool breeze on his face. He can’t stand it any longer.

Copia’s always been a man of words, but maybe right now he needs to be a man of action.

He tilts her chin up and gently presses his lips to Lilly’s.

Chapter 11: Respite On The Spitalfields

Notes:

my computer keeps correcting Sodo to dodo so lmk if i missed any

Chapter Text

Lilly didn’t expect Copia to kiss her.

Despite the paint on his upper lip, they’re soft and slide against hers cautiously, testing how far she would let him go.

She slides her hands up from the grucifix rosary around his neck and up until her palms rest comfortably against his broad shoulders. He isn’t trying to quicken the kiss, but letting it settle against Lilly’s boundaries.

Lilly pulls her mouth away but doesn’t stray too far. “Your gloves are really cold,” She grins.

“It is a bit chilly out here,” He remarks absently, eyes cataloging every inch of her face before settling back on her lips.

She leans back in again and kisses him chastely, then takes a step backward until they’re no longer breathing in the same air. “I really want this,” She says.

Copia blinks, gathering his thoughts. “I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

A breeze manages to ruffle the hem of his dark brown cassock and wet it in the dusky dew.

Lilly nods fondly. “But I need us to take this slow. Whatever this is, I’ve never had experience with physical affection other than with Andie. Adam’s religion barely allowed us to hold hands.”

He internally gapes at the comment. He’s been so steeped in Lucifer’s word that he forgets how restrictive physical affection can be in other religions. Copia doesn’t know what he’d do with his daily hugs from the Ghouls and their now daily cuddles and orgies.

The Ghouls…

That could be a problem, especially once they go into Heat just before the new year.

Lilly looks up at the Abbey where three sets of silver Ghoul eyes peer over the stone wall and quickly disappear. “I don’t think I’ve been in love with Adam for at least a few years now, but it’s going to be rocky with me dealing with this.”

Copia sighs, wishing his meeting with Sister Imperator yesterday hadn’t happened so he wouldn’t burst this fragile bubble. “Sister Imperator wants Ghost to tour again.” He confesses, but sees the shocked look and tries to console her by grabbing her hand once again, “It would be a limited run here in North America and Europe for six months…but the Ghouls and I would have to leave right before spring.”

“That’s barely two months away! You just finished, what, a month ago? How can she do this?” Lilly thinks of the freshly-preserved Re-Imperatour posters sitting in the museum storage room, dated so recently.

“She said there has been a push from the Upper Clergy and we sold out so much during the rerun.”

Lilly takes his face in her hands, “Listen, Copia. I’m not the greatest at setting boundaries, but you are Papa. You’re allowed to rest. You’re allowed to ask for more time to prepare for something crazy like this. I know there are Believers and fans waiting…but we are still just humans.”

There’s something he can’t tell her just yet.

He isn’t fully human.

But he nods and swallows his guilt, refocusing on her plea for him to stand up for himself. “I will ask.”

She smiles that grin that he now knows tastes as sweet as it looks. “I could maybe take some time off to go see a certain metal band I like,” Lilly teases, holding his hand and leading him back around the Abbey. They may as well get the Ghouls’ curiosity out of the way now before everything gets complicated.

“You’d get free tickets and a VIP package,” Copia wipes the smeared black paint from his lips and stops her to dab away where its mixed with her lip gloss.

“Andie might have a heart attack.” She steals one last kiss, undoing the cleanup he had just carefully completed. She purses her lips and uses the black paint to form a sheer gray lip color.

When the two make it to the hallway of papal offices, they can see the Ghouls peering around the corner corridor that leads down to the cloister. “You can come out, guys.” Copia calls fondly.

All eight of the demons spill out at the bottom of the half-staircase. They land in a pile, with Secondo and Terzo falling on top of the heap.

The two retired men groan as their joints flare-up in pain. “How come all of you are so clumsy?” Secondo huffs to the Ghouls below him. Lilly hurries down to help him and Terzo to their feet.

Swiss elbows the man as he gets to his own booted feet, “I think it’s part of my charm.”

Lilly and Copia help the Ghouls up, each of them gifting the two smirks and knowing looks.

“Cut it out,” She rolls her brown eyes as Sodo winks, but accepts the affection when the small fire Ghoul‘s fanged grin grows wider.

Terzo claps his hands, “So…” He gestures for them to begin speaking.

Copia holds up his palms pleasingly, “We’re not putting any labels on anything.”

“But there’s something?” Cumulus and Cirrus ask hopefully.

Lilly nods, “I’m still working through everything so we’re going to see where these feelings go naturally.” She pauses then says again, “Could one of you come to the Museum with me tomorrow? I need to see how much of my sh*t Adam was able to destroy before security threw him out.”

Mountain, who towers over all of them except Secondo, uses his height push through the Ghouls to come to her in concern.

Rain follows hot on his heels, “He destroyed your office?”

“Yeah, I hadn’t told security about our breakup, so they let him up when he lied to surprise me with flowers. Once they left him alone, he went crazy apparently. I’m glad I have my laptop and really crucial files backed-up. Everything else I can probably replace.” Lilly shrugs, simmering resentment, and hopelessness for this to be over quickly thinly veiled as she explains.

“I’ll go!” All eight of the Ghouls chirp simultaneously.

They glare at each other until Lilly sighs. “I can only fit maybe two of you in my car, if that-“

Sodo’s small form is already sprinting through the group of them and out to the curb where Lilly’s car sits. “I call shotgun and aux!” He yells, blowing a raspberry at Swiss who gives chase until he is able to tackle the fire Ghoul to the wet grass.

“You don’t get both the aux cord AND shotgun!” Swiss hollers

“Guys, we don’t have to go until tomorrow morning! You can both calm down.” She turns back to the Papas and Ghouls left standing in the corridor behind her. “Are there any other takers? I could stuff someone in the trunk.”

“Will you be okay with them? They can be a bit…rowdy,” Terzo grimaces as the multi-Ghoul and fire Ghoul continue wrestling outside.

She waves off his worry. “Yeah, they’ll keep me motivated to not get distracted.”

-

Lilly very quickly regrets letting the two excited Ghouls come along with her.

They were nearly late leaving the Abbey because Sodo was convinced Cumulus had stolen his hairbrush and Swiss was lazily picking out an outfit, even if he wore the same black Henley and sweatpants every day.

“They’re all different shades of black! I can’t mix dark heather and charcoal up with slate grey sweatpants!” He cries, tugging the messily folded clothes out of his few drawers in his separated Ghoul bedroom.

Lilly huffs from where she leans up against his doorway. “Swiss, they’re just shirts. Wear a pair of jeans if none of these go together.”

He throws the dark heather colored Henley onto his untouched bed with the other rumpled shirts.

“Good, thank you,” She smiles until Swiss immediately strips his current Henley off, revealing chiseled abs that slope into a v-line down to the low-slung waist of his sweatpants. “We have to…” She croaks, mouth hanging open.

Swiss smirks and slides his new shirt on, covering her view. “See something you like, baby?”

Lilly licks her dry lips, “Go…to the Museum,” she finishes lamely, eyes glued to the tell-tale bulge at the front of his sweatpants. She remembers how it pressed against her back those few nights ago when she was quivering in his hold.

The multi-Ghouls saunters past her and briefly brushes his thumb across her dimpled chin in a foretelling of later that night.

Once Sodo is adequately brushed and Lilly calms herself down, the three of them take off into the suburbs to the highway. It’s a bit warm for late October, so they roll down the two door windows to allow in the warm breeze.

Sodo has conceded to taking the aux cord when Swiss wasn’t able to fit into the back shelf-seat of Lilly’s CR-X, grumbling only for a few moments until he discovered he could lay horizontally. Swiss relaxes into the passenger seat, putting his booted feet up on the dashboard with a content sigh.

“So, Dew, what’s first on the playlist?”

“Dew?” Lilly asks.

Sodo sits up to take the offered cord to plug into his cellphone, “I used to be one of Terzo’s Ghouls, Dewdrop, but Imperator tried to murder us and Copia stopped her. I chose a new name, Sodo. Anyways, I thought we would see how far we could get through Ghost’s discography while in traffic.”

Lilly reels from the whiplash of the sentence’s turn but is forced to focus on driving as they merge onto the highway.

Swiss groans, head tilted back against the headrest. “The entire list? That’s like over five hours. I’ll be asleep in no time.”

“We need to make sure Lilly knows the Papas’ full message for the exhibition! We can listen to the instrumental ones later, but we at least have to start with Opus Eponymous.”

Sodo and Swiss like to sing.

Very.

Loudly.

Copia probably has to turn their mics down because of how loud the two Ghouls belt out lyrics over the wind’s howling. Lilly’s actively loosing brain cells the longer this goes on.

She tries her best to sing along, but her lack of knowledge shows quickly, even if the two Ghouls don’t seem to mind when she messes up.

They make it through Opus Eponymous, Infestissumam, and half-way into Meliora before they are pulling into the parking garage connected to the Music Hall of Fame Museum. Lilly jumps as the two Ghouls are no longer silver-faced but instead look fully human.

“Wait, you look like Jutty Taylor and Per Eriksson; we can’t get past security if you look like celebrities,” She hisses.

Both groan and change a few features enough to resemble but not fully mimic the two musicians. Swiss’ usual cropped curly hair elongates into shoulder-length dreadlocks. Sodo/Dewdrop shortens his blonde hair and makes the full mustache above his lip disappear.

They all step out so she can give them a final once-over, approving the changes, and leading them to the visitor front desk.

Daniel perks up at the sight of Lilly and waves over a waiting security guard. “Ms. Lilly, welcome back! I wanted to apologize for the state of your office upstairs. We were able to get some custodians to pick up a lot of the large fragments, but we didn’t want to remove any important documents.” He says as the two disguised Ghouls sign in and show their IDs. If she wasn’t so nervous for what she was about to find she would be fascinated by the fact that they had actual California driver’s licenses.

The security guard scans the Ghouls, and they pass around the desk to the elevator. Daniel leads them upward and to Lilly’s office, guilty leaving them to take in the chaos.

Terzo was correct in his assessment of Adam Pollack’s strength.

All of the family pictures that Lilly had kept of her own family lay smashed on her desk, indented into the faux wood. Her wall of shelves that contained countless art, music, and theory books were lopsided and missing volumes that had fallen to their paper-bound death on the floor. Her cabinets of sensitive files were thankfully unharmed, as Adam was a horrible lock-picker, but did have a bit of standing water from the shattered vase of flowers on its top.

Lilly’s plush furniture was strewn about the room, overturned, cushions sliced, pillows ripped apart, and chunks of wooden frame cleared because it had been completely broken off.

She wanted to fall to her knees.

Dr. Myers had told her there was substantial damage.

But this…

There was almost nothing that left from Adam’s rage.

She didn’t even have a small piece of furniture left by Dr. Arianna Dodd, the woman who took every moment in her last year at the Museum to make sure Lilly felt acclimated to the staff and work load of her position.

The one picture of Lilly and Dr. Dodd that used to sit on her desk now lay crumpled as if it were personally ripped from its frame.

Lilly doesn’t hear the crunching of glass as she shuffles to her desk, smoothing the photo until it somewhat resembled its before flatness. She tucks it into her jean pocket, not willing to dissolve into tears while her office floor is covered in shards of wood and glass.

Swiss has his hands on his hips and is scrutinizing the chaos. Sodo is carefully collecting other crumpled photos that fell to the floor.

“Is there anything we can save?” She asks to no one in particular.

The fire Ghoul looks up from the other side of her desk, picking up an art book that was hanging together by the front cover. “Maybe some books and photos…the desk seems sturdy if a bit dented.” He says.

Lilly nods, cataloguing the hurt.

A knock on the open door shows Dr. Myer’s look of extreme concern. “Lilly, I’m so sorry, I got stuck in traffic yesterday and I was going to update the security lists once I got here, and Susan had already let him into your office-“

The younger woman gives her mentor a sad smile. “It’s not your fault, Evelyn. I didn’t think he was going to be back in the state or even show up at all. None of us could’ve known.”

“The Board has decided to give you a stipend to replace some of the furniture since they were Arianna’s,” Dr. Myers holds out an envelope. “Most of us here have chipped in some too.”

Lilly opens the check and her eyes bulge out of her head. “I-I cannot accept this.” She shakes her head frantically and pushes the check back into Evelyn’s hands.

The tall museum director steps over some of the debris, graceful in her three inch heels. “Why can’t you? Is it not enough?”

“No, I…Just, this is two hundred thousand dollars! My Star Wars posters and thrifted picture frames are not worth this much. I maybe only need a couple thousand for the furniture.” Lilly shakily wipes her eyes with her sleeve.

“Lilly, we are paid very well here. It’s part of Arianna’s legacy, and so are you. We want to give you this because of how hard you’ve worked and how much we love you here.” Dr. Myers rubs Lilly’s arm as she sniffles.

“You all have to help me decorate then. I only know how to thrift shop.” Lilly nods.

Dr. Myers gives her a hug before stepping back to the open office door. “There’s a big can right here and some brooms, but place anything you would like to keep in these boxes and a clean-up crew will clear out the debris today after you. Please take tomorrow off as a paid day off.” She points out the receptacles and leaves to her own office.

As soon as the woman is gone, Lilly dissolves into sobs, barely being caught by Swiss before her knees hit the glass-covered floor. The multi-Ghoul says something to Sodo over top of her, then turns his attention to Lilly in his arms.

“This isn’t happening,” She says and clutches the check to her chest. “I’ve only been here for a year. I just need some to replace the furniture, we’ll go thrift shopping and then I can give the money back…”

Sodo returns with a folding chair, sweeping a clear spot with a broom to place it for Lilly to sit down. She does gratefully, but her eyes are still locked on the words that spell out the $200,000 gift.

“Why do you want to give them back the money? This is your chance to really blossom into your position here.” Swiss co*cks his head, crouching to see where her brown were hidden by her hair.

Lilly takes a deep breath in time with Sodo, who stands beside her to guide her to calm down. “Mom and Dad’s parents all made tons of money doing their respective metaphysical foundations, but because of the Warren Foundation’s popularity, we were forced to live on the road and in RVs. Grandma Lorraine made us go to Mass nearly every other day and would force me to confess if I thought about being even slightly selfish.”

“Every extra cent we had was either donated to the homeless and charity, or used to support the Foundation. Christmas and birthdays were full of cards that told you how much someone donated in your name.” She has to take another gulping breath. “Even now, as much as I want to be selfish, I’m so guilty about using more than what is necessary because other people need it more than I do.”

Sodo closes the office door as her sniffling picks up.

She looks around the office, “A million dollars could help so many people on the streets! And what, I’m supposed to use it to buy furniture that wealthy donors and my coworkers barely use?”

“You’re allowed to be selfish, Lilly.”

Lilly shakes her head in denial, “No. I’ve let my grandparents down so much already; not becoming a medium or clairvoyant, not taking over Cayce A.R.E. or NSPR, and now I’ve lost the one guy they approved of! We’re just going to spend a little bit and give them back the rest.” She decides.

Both Ghouls recognize the two names of the clairvoyant foundations. If she was related to two high-power clairvoyants, it’s no wonder she was able to ‘see’ the Ghoul’s true forms so quickly.

Sodo brushes Lilly’s bangs off her forehead. She pushes up into his touch and leans her head against his side. “I think the important thing is that you’re happy. And it didn’t look like you were happy with Adam.”

Lilly nods, turning that thought over in her head.

Between Swiss’ pretty brown eyes watching her with such compassion and Sodo’s light physical touch, Lilly felt a small piece of her shattered heart meld back together.

-

By lunchtime, the three of them were able to clear the room of any small belongings that were still repairable and photos that were able to be reframed. They put on Ghost softly from Swiss’ portable speaker and the two Ghoul’s quiet singing along caused a sense of calm to wash over Lilly as they picked through her office.

Lilly called it a day and was overruled for lunch by the two Ghoul’s overexcited pleas to visit McDonald’s on the way back to the Abbey.

“Really? We’re in Manhattan, walking distance to Times Square, and you two want McDonald’s?” She asks, the elevator to the fourth floor of the parking deck, moving them upwards.

Swiss shifts the box of photos and repairable items into one of his hands to fish out his cell phone from his sweatpants. “I like to bring fries back for Rigatoni and his family.”

Lily shoots him a confused look as they walk to her car. “Rigatoni?”

“Papa’s rats.” Sodo answers, “Rigatoni is the patriarch, then there’s Penne, Fusilli, Sedani, and babies Orzo, Pastina, and Macaroni. They live in these fun tunnel systems in Papa’s room. If any Ghouls leave the grounds of the Abbey, we bring back McDonald’s fries as a treat.”

She looks a bit guilty at the explanation. “Does it make him uncomfortable with me having Crowley the snake in the Abbey? He usually eats small birds and sometimes frogs or quail eggs.” Lilly starts the car, her keyring filled with a charm of Mothman, a Mandalorian helmet, and a snake jungle as the car purrs.

Sodo reclines on his backseat shelf, staring out at the city thoughtfully. “Papa is a scardy-cat about a lot of things, but he’s usually very vocal about what he’s scared of. I haven’t heard him say anything about your snake.”

“Though, Rain will come after you if Crowley goes after his cloister fountain frogs and toads. Those slimy little sh*ts make him so happy for no reason when all they do is croak.” Swiss complains.

Lilly pats his thigh, “All Crowley does is sleep and I still love him.”

“But he’s a snake! That’s metal as f*ck. Toads are just animated blobs of slime.” He snakes a hand down to grasp Lilly’s hand and keep it on his thigh.

“Swiss, shut the hell up, you have a moustache as pet.” Sodo rolls his eyes. Lilly misses his deep crimson Ghoul eyes even if his blue human ones are pretty.

The multi-Ghoul’s heads whips around to face him. “Take that back! Behemoth the Tarantula has the perfect amount of hair for his age! That’s what a good shampoo and conditioner routine is for.” He huffs.

Thankfully Lilly can end the argument as they pull into the McDonald’s drive-thru. “Swiss, Andie usually hands me fries while we drive home-“

“Loud and clear, but there will be a 5% tax for the french fry distributor.”

“I’ll get you a large fry.”

Swiss beams, “Thank you for using your coupon at the International Bank of Swiss Army Ghoul.”

Lilly recites their large order to the drive-thru speaker, batting Sodo’s head away as he tries to wedge it out the slim space between the headrest and the door. They have to pull into a reserved parking space after paying, but they aren’t starving and it means Lilly can take her foot off the brake.

The two Ghouls are vibrating with excitement when the McDonald’s worker brings the two bags and one drink out to Lilly’s small blue car. It was like having two large puppies as she checked the bags and they were begging for her to hand out the food already.

She doles out the french fries and grabs a bite from her burger before getting back into traffic.

Swiss dutifully arranges Lilly’s burger into two manageable halves and readies a french fry to hand to her…except an idea flits across his mind.

Lilly holds out a hand for a few fries but the salty food never touches her palm.

“Open,” The multi-Ghoul orders.

She blinks and opens her mouth where Swiss gently places a few fries on her tongue.

“Good girl,” He purrs.

Lilly not to let them see how it makes goosebumps appear down her arms.

It continues the entire way home, which was over an hour due to lunch rush traffic. She isn’t sure how they even had that many french fries! He kept putting them in her mouth, and her brain kept going into overdrive focusing on the road and how the two Ghouls would take turns praising her.

She parks in her usual spot, putting the car in park so she can drag Swiss by the collar closer until she can mash their lips together. This is the most she’s kissed anyone in the past six years, but now that she can feel what’s Adam has deprived her of, she doesn’t want to stop.

Especially now that it fills her with the satisfaction of revenge for him destroying her office.

Lilly won’t lie that the kiss isn’t a bit awkward: she doesn’t really know how to kiss, they’re leaning over the center console which digs into her stomach, Swiss’s fangs catch her lips every so often, and Sodo is impatiently waiting for his turn behind them. She breaks it after one last indulging nip from Swiss.

She’s panting from the excitement but holds up a hand when Sodo makes a move to kiss her. “I…I can’t handle doing the orgy thing tonight.”

Sodo presses a clawed thing to her kiss-bitten lips, wiping away a spot of blood from Swiss’ fangs. “We only do what you want to, baby.”

Lilly nods, pressing a kiss to his thumb before moving to get out of the car.

“Damn, she smells so good…” Sodo groans, balling up his empty french fry containers as Swiss growls in agreement.

Chapter 12: Witch Image

Notes:

this one is a bit longer because I wanted to include the confessional scene! enjoy the rats, tattoos, and tears! (don't worry there will be confessional sex soon, i have to make them angst at adam for a bit)

Chapter Text

Lilly waits for the two Ghouls as they titter to themselves inside the car. When they clamor out, she hands Swiss the bag of french fries reserved for Copia’s pets.

“I want to see the rats,” She says, ignoring how they stare at her with thinly-veiled lust.

The two Ghouls share a look and eventually, a shrug. “I don’t think Papa would mind. He’s probably in his office or eating lunch.”

Sodo whines at Lilly until she lets him carry the box of her office belongings, grinning victoriously as she hefts it into his scrawny arms. Surprisingly Sodo barely budges at the new weight, while Lilly’s arms were already relieved from the lack of carrying.

The group make their way through the cathedral and into the papal corridor. Their boots squeak a bit on the clean marble floors, passing Sister Imperator speaking with a Sister in her office, Primo’s out-in-the-garden sign, Secondo asleep at his desk, and Terzo using a dramatically long quill pen to write something on a piece of paper. She can see Copia’s door is open when Terzo calls out to her.

Principessa! You’re home early,” The man stands and quickly rounds his desk. “How did everything go?” He searches her face and the two Ghouls behind her.

She grimaces. “The only things not destroyed were some books, photos, and some college stuff.” She gestures to the box in Sodo’s arms.

Copia’s head pops around the wall of his office. “Everything, everything?” The current Papa sees all three of them shake their heads. “Oh, Lilly, that’s horrible, we’ll help you replace the furniture-“

Lilly stops him with a raised hand, “The Board of Visitors has given me a very generous stipend, and some of my colleagues have chipped in. Thank you for the offer though. Swiss and Sodo were telling me about your pet rats.”

Copia’s mismatched eyes light up. “Would like to meet them? Cumulus and I were about to go feed them.”

“I’d love to.”

The now group of five make their way to the papal suites, stopping briefly to drop off the box of rumpled items in Lilly’s room. As they walk down the hallway, Lilly is reminded of the pleas and whimpers she and Andie overheard outside of this exact room just a few nights ago.

Her eyes watch Copia’s back in front of her, clad in one of his typical burgundy tracksuits. With Swiss, Sodo, and Cumulus behind her, it feels as though she’s in the middle of a group of Secret Service Agents, protected and important.

Copia stops and pulls back the infamous navy blue curtain.

Lilly feigns not knowing, “Why don’t you have a door?”

“I moved in after they had finished the renovations. This was meant to be some sort of, well, walk-in closet,” He laughs nervously. “Sister says she’ll be putting in a door soon.” He holds the heavy fabric open for the four of them to go inside.

Lilly is surprised at how nice the inside is. Yes, it’s two rooms not really meant to be a living area and bedroom, but Copia has been able to make it cozy enough for himself. The living area was a narrow room with a floral couch that sat across from a television and entertainment center neatly filled with gaming consoles and game cases. At the left wall is a door, probably to a linen closet.

Into the ornate archway straight back is a larger room that feels so overwhelmingly like home that she has to force down the feeling before her eyes begin to water.

A gothic fireplace warms the area with soft embers, the mantle decorated with unlit black votive candles and glass statues of upside-down Grucifixes. A back room leads to a bathroom. On the far wall is what appears to be his bed, a twin mattress placed against the wall with a stack of blankets by the single pillow.

A matching loveseat to the couch in the living area is across from the bed and a large vanity set sits beside it. On the wall adjacent to the vanity is a walk-in closet and next to that is a massive network of rainbow critter tunnels hung on the wall.

Lilly can’t help but gush over the small, tan baby rat that is asleep in one of the clear observation bubble caves. “Oh my goodness, you are the cutest little thing.” At the sound of her voice, the tiny creature blinks its dark eyes open.

When one wakes up, two more small rats poke their heads out of the nesting material, climbing to press their noses against the plastic breathing holes to sniff the newcomer.

“The tan one is Orzo, tan and white is Pastina, and white is Macaroni. These are the babies.” Copia introduces, unlatching the clear bubble next to the nesting babies, reaching in a gloved hand to gently pull out Orzo.

“How old are they?” Orzo was barely bigger than three inches, his head much larger than his body.

“Orzo and Pastina are twins, born maybe a month ago. Macaroni is about forty days old. I’ll need to separate them soon because they’re almost fully grown.” He holds him out for Lilly to stroke two fingers over the soft agouti colored fur.

Orzo squeaks at her touch and nibbles at the almond-shaped acrylic nails on her fingers. “They’re so f*cking cute, this is ridiculous.” He really is shaped like a piece of Orzo pasta.

Copia puts the baby back in his nest with his siblings, and shuffles to a part of the wall with bigger-sized tunnels. “These are the adults: here’s Penne, she’s Rigatoni’s wife and the mother of Orzo and Pastina, she’s the one who really likes french fries.” He pulls out a plump, agouti-colored, variegated-hooded rat that nestles in his two palms happily.

Swiss opens the bag of fries and hands a couple to Lilly. As soon as she has the fries in her hand, Penne sniffs the air hungrily.

“Break it in half, and if you hold it out, she’ll take it with her claws.” Copia instructs.

Lilly does so and Penne grabs the cold fry after a moment of smelling her fingertips. She nibbles at it then waits for the next piece, squeaking in demand.

“Good Penne! Those ten babies have got to make a girl hungry,” Swiss grins.

Cumulus reaches in and grabs a same-sized gray rat who wiggles in protest at being taken away from her burrow. “This is Fusilli, named that because she’s fussy. She’s just hangry.” The Ghoulette says, letting Lilly feed the new rat a few fry pieces.

Two male rats, one a dark grey and one an albino, scurry through the network of tunnels until they reach the open door.

“Sedani is the albino and Rigatoni is the dark grey and white one.” Cumulus points out.

Copia’s grin is blinding. “Sedani and Fusilli are expecting! I’m pretty sure that’s why she’s been so fussy lately.” He puts Penne back and plucks Sedani out, holding the cute pet up to his ‘wife’ where he begins to nuzzle all over her.

“Macaroni will be such a good big sister, she helps bring pieces of nesting fluff to her mother when she’s too tired to make her own burrow. I think Fusilli is about ready to pop based on much she’s been eating.” He takes Fusilli and holds up to the overhead light.

Lilly watches as Copia and Cumulus distribute some fry pieces and other rat food to the pets tuck into their lunch.

Copia refills two of the water drippers from a filtered water jug. “I have a little gate that we put out in the garden for them to play in. Primo keeps a small square unmowed so they can munch on the dandelions and play in the tall grass. We can do that sometime you’re here if you would like?”

Lilly nods, taking in the rats’ happy squeaks.

-

Andie arrives the next morning, their backseat full of craft supplies and glue required to repair Lilly’s things. Lilly doesn’t realize the time, standing at the stove in the papal kitchen cooking a delicious scramble of eggs and peppers. She’s still in her pajamas, a cropped t-shirt and long plaid pants as she stirs the eggs sleepily.

“Save any food for me, Lillypad?” Andie sets their box of supplies on the island, coming to stand next to their friend at the stove.

“Of course,” She replies, yawning.

Andie looks at the clock, concerned at how tired Lilly is at 10am. “You feeling okay? You’re never sleepy this time in the morning.” No, she wasn’t a morning person, but by midmorning Lilly had always perked up.

“Couldn’t get to sleep last night.” Lilly leans her head on Andie’s, resting her eyes while Andie takes the spatula to continue stirring.

“Bad dreams?”

Lilly huffs a self-depreciating laugh, “Not bad…but frustrating.”

Oh, Andie thinks. “Lilly has a crush.” They tease lowly, turning off the burner and grabbing the plate from the counter beside the stove.

“I haven’t even told you what’s happened in the past two days,” Lilly admits guiltily. She grabs two forks and a bottle of juice and ushers Andie back to her room.

“You really need a better vibrator,” Andie remarks as they shut the bedroom door with their hips.

Lilly clears off the box of office belongings from her vanity and pulls up a chair for Andie to curl up on. The two tuck in to the scrambled breakfast quietly.

“So…what was your dream about?” Andie grins, plum lip gloss undisturbed by eating, a skill Lilly wishes she could learn.

“Copia kissed me the other day.”

Andie gasps and their face morphs immediately into shock. “He kissed you. Like not-dreaming-totally-real-life way.” They specify.

“Yes, it was out behind the Abbey. I was fed up letting Adam control me after he destroyed my office, and after what we saw…he just tilted my chin up and kissed me so gently.”

Their dark-skinned fingers are decorated with golds rings that shine in the morning light as they hold their hands against their chest. “How romantic…”

Lilly laughs, “Yeah, except for all the Ghouls and Papas that were spying on us. They were perked up against the cloister wall, ogling us like a soap opera.” She tells, finishing the last bite of the eggs.

“I would do the same thing! One of the hottest metal band singers kisses you behind his gothic Satanic church! What was he wearing?” Andie raises their eyebrows.

She shrugs, not understanding the massive significance, “He was wearing something dark brown…they were similar to those red robes he wore on tour, I think.”

“I’ve never seen an outfit like that, brown Cardinal robes must be something special to the Abbey. Dude, you saw something really rare.”

Lilly sets down her fork with a soft ‘clink.’ Her bottom lip curls as a strained expression comes over her face. “I’m so scared, Andie.” She sniffs.

Andie pulls her close, wrapping an arm around her. “Tell me what you’re scared of, Lillypad.”

“I’m so terrified that Adam will do something to harm someone here at the Abbey or you or Mom and Dad. He destroyed everything, down to photos where he scratched out you and I’s faces. He was alone for maybe thirty to forty-five minutes…and just…he was capable of doing all that.” Lilly admits into Andie’s shoulder.

This is such a complex feeling for Andie; they’re so incredibly glad that Lilly feels through her emotions but knowing that Lilly was terrified of the man’s temper constantly squashed any relief. They had so many opportunities to try to make Lilly leave him and Andie didn’t do anything. This is also their own fault.

Lilly lifts her head from Andie’s shoulder, eyes red with tears. “Don’t you f*cking dare think this is your fault for one moment.”

“Then you can’t either.” Andie states firmly. “I introduced you. I told you he was just a bit crazy about sports. I defended him! You may not be in this position if I hadn’t told you about him.”

“You had no idea any of this would happen, Andie. I had no idea and I’m a f*cking psychic!” She exclaims, then loses the anger as the situation grasps her. “We’re almost free. I’m so scared of him coming after one of us, but I feel that I can see the light I didn’t know was there.”

“That’s good…good.” Andie finishes.

-

After a few hours together, Andie explains that they were invited for a homemade lunch with Terzo. Giggling the two decide to sneak over to the papal kitchen and peek inside by the window that overlooks the cloister garden.

Inside is a scene that melts their hearts: all four Emeritus brothers are spread throughout the space, working quietly in their respective jobs. Copia, a bit groggy by how he’s staring into the pot he’s stirring on the stove; Primo, wide awake and plucking various fresh herbs from their stems; Secondo, who is diligently chopping tomatoes, onions, mincing garlic, and peppers; and finally Terzo, bouncing on his feet anxiously as he arranges a platter of olives, cheeses, and fresh bread at the kitchen table.

“Calm down, fratello, they will like it.” Primo admonishes fondly, bringing the small plate of herbs to the sauce Copia has been mindlessly stirring. “Easy on the sauce, fratellino, do not over stir or the tomatoes will lose their sweetness.” He places a hand on the youngest brother’s back.

“I’m so worried though! What if the tomatoes aren’t stewed long enough or the pasta isn’t perfectly al dente or they aren’t hungry-“

Secondo groans, finishing off the tomatoes with a louder-than-necessary chop. “If they don’t like it, then we try another dish. Satan knows the two of them have enough good graces to give you a second chance at lunch.” He slides the sliced vegetables into the simmering sauce, using his hip to move Copia out of reach as he himself takes over watching.

“What has you all asleep still? Have your ratto domestico been squeaking all night?” Secondo grunts at the man.

Copia shakes his head and rubs at his eyes, which Lilly and Andie notice he’s still wearing his black gloves. He’s the only one of the brothers to wear them all day. “No, just…I haven’t been sleeping very well. Last night was really bad.”

“I can make you chamomile tea tonight,” Primo suggests. His protective and nurturing personality comes out in full swing at the sound of his adopted brother’s insomnia.

Terzo pipes up from behind the eldest Emeritus, “Do you need Xanax? I know a guy downtown.”

Copia purses his lips and almost agrees but ultimately declines when he sees the disappointed look Primo sends him and Terzo. “The tea sounds good, Fratello.” For the amount of marijuana being grown in the greenhouse behind the Abbey, one would think the eldest Emeritus brother would be more open to other ‘alternative medicines.’

It’s probably because he witnessed how drugs destroyed Papa Nihil.

Copia doesn’t think too hard about what he missed growing up as orphan in the Swedish Ministry branch. It was lonely, but now he’s here, and Papa Nihil is so old and grumpy he keeps to himself in the outbuilding with Sister Imperator most of the time.

Terzo kicks his three brothers out of the kitchen once the bolognaise sauce has simmered for another few minutes. Andie and Lilly thankfully do not have to hide as the three men exit the other side to their rooms, leaving the two friends undiscovered.

Andie and Lilly sneak back to the curator’s bedroom, giggling about how soft the brothers are as they touch up Andie’s makeup for the lunch date. Lilly pushes them out her bedroom at five minutes to noon and decides to explore more of the Abbey before the dinner date she had planned with her parents in the city.

Lilly breathes in the crisp high-noon breeze. It’s warm enough that a simple NYU sweatshirt is enough. As much as she loves getting dolled up for going into the office, it feels wonderful to be bare-faced and in sneakers.

Rain and Cirrus stand underneath the cloister’s central apple tree, the water Ghoul perched on a ladder as he picks the fruit with to place in a sling across his waist.

“Lilly!” Cirrus calls, not able to move from where she holds the ladder steady but does wave a hand for her to come closer. “Would you like an apple?”

Lilly’s feet are moving before she can demand them to, body thrumming with excitement at being offered a sacred fruit. “Of course.” She doesn’t tell them she forgot to eat the apple dumpling after Mass.

“Pick Lilly a good one, Rainy.” The Ghoulette says.

The Ghoul nods and surveys the tree’s large offering of red and yellow speckled fruits. He reaches for a large, stereotypically beautiful apple, plucking it carefully so the other two in its branch do not tumble to the ground. Instead of handing it down to Cirrus, Rain bends to hand it directly to Lilly, winking a deep blue eye from behind the silvery veil of his demonic face. “A beautiful apple for a beautiful woman.”

Lilly takes the offering with a flushed expression, the apple heavy in her palm. “Thank you, Rain.” Sensing a bit of anticipation, Lilly takes a bite of the fruit, the sweetness bursting on her tongue and mingling with the orange juice of her earlier shared breakfast.

Cirrus and Rain share a sultry look before Lilly notices.

“This is the best apple I’ve ever tasted.” She says before taking another crunchy bite.

“Mountain and Rain really know what they’re doing. They taste the best I’ve ever had as well.” Cirrus’ knuckles brush against Lilly’s wrist as the Ghoulette moves to pass her. Static electricity flares between them, sending pleasure up Lilly’s spine rather than the typical shock. “Sorry, sometimes I forget you’re not a Ghoul.” Cirrus apologizes, but her eyes betray the intention behind the touch.

Cool, so Lilly can now recognize flirting. Thank goodness for Andie ‘play-flirting’ until Lilly could distinguish some lesbian sub-text. “It didn’t hurt, if I touched your hand again, would it happen?”

Cirrus bats her crystal blue eyes at her. “There’s only one way to find out.” She holds out her hand.

Lilly sees double of the extended limb. An overlay of the woman’s white, freckled skin surrounds her arm; and when Lilly goes to take her hand, Lilly’s hand passes through the pale overlay to touch the heather grey limb. The skin is soft like a normal human’s hand but as Cirrus’ fingers enclose Lilly’s hand, long claws gently press against the back on her hand.

“Do you paint the nails?” She asks before she thinks better of it.

Cirrus nods, moving so the dappled light from the tree canopy catches the black holographic nail polish. “Copia painted them for me.”

Lilly has to suppress the thoughts that come up with that. Copia in a fluffy bathrobe, surrounded by the Ghoulettes and his pet rats, painting their nails with a cute look of concentration on his face.

“You come to our spa night tonight. They’re every Tuesday night down in the den after Papa finishes Confession duty. I can come fetch you for it today.”

“Wait, there’s Confession?”

Rain climbs down the ladder, sufficiently distracted by Lilly that he knows he’ll fall off if he resumes apple picking. “It’s better than any Catholic sh*t you’ve been through. Satanism is really about being your own God under the umbrella of Satan’s liberation, so Confession is more about getting advice on following the path to self-knowledge and self-care.” He explains. “You sit in the really nice booth, tell Papa if you’re worried about self-image, others taking advantage of you, how to masturbat*, offerings to give to Satan.” He continues past that one part as if he’s talking about a grocery list.

“Oh, don’t give us that look. You’ve been here two weeks now.” Cirrus laughs.

Lilly blinks away the redness on her face, but her ears still burn red. “Is it anonymous like Catholic confession?”

Both Ghouls nod.

“It’s almost like office hours for the Papas. Each of them take a day of the week. Papa Terzo on Mondays, Papa Copia on Tuesdays, Papa Primo on Thursdays, Papa Secondo on Saturdays. They all have different expertise, so members are able to go to Confession on the day they want.” Rain says.

“Is it required?” Should I be doing it? Is heard loud enough in the silence.

Cirrus tilts her head. “For baptized Siblings, Sisters, and Brothers, somewhat. Since it’s anonymous there’s no way to really tell, but I’ve heard from all the members that confession is a good way to keep track of themselves. You don’t need to.”

Lilly looks at the bitten apple in her palm. Strangely, the juicy flesh hasn’t oxidized yet. It’s still blindingly white-gold and perfect. “But I could?”

-

Chelsea and Joshua Warren are led to the table reserved for them at the Italian restaurant, greeting their daughter warmly as she gets up from her seat.

“Hi sweetheart,” Her father kisses the top of her head, right where the mousy brown of her roots meets the ombre of blonde.

“You’re really okay with eating this early?” Lilly asks worriedly. She had called her parents shortly after her conversation with the two Ghouls to move their shared meal up a few hours to a late lunch.

Chelsea hugs her tightly. “We actually got tickets to Phantom of the Opera tonight so we would have had to cut dinner short some. Did someone say rush tickets?” She holds the two slips of paper up for her to see.

“Those are insane seats!” Lilly gushes after they order their drinks and appetizers. “How did you get them?”

Her parents look a bit guilty. “We told them our daughter was a staff member of the MHoF and they gave us the royal treatment.”

Lilly beams, proud of them. “Good. Glad to know I can help you swindle Broadway.” She settles into the seat across from her parents with the menu open.

After a quiet moment of looking through the options for entrees, he speaks up. “So how is life with the Ministry going?”

“Honestly, incredible. I’m at the office a lot, but when I’m at the Abbey its really great.” Lilly replies without a second thought. Should she get spaghetti and compare it with Andie? Restaurant vs. Emeritus cookoff.

“I was worried when you wouldn’t say where you were living on the phone.” Chelsea says, her brown eyes watching her daughter over her menu.

Lilly decides on the overly fancy ravioli and puts her menu at the end of the table. She sighs, “Look, this is nothing against you, because you’ve always been there for me when I needed something, but I was scared to tell you that Adam had kicked me out. And the fact that I went to a Church community rather than move back with you guys…I didn’t want you to think I didn’t want to live with you.”

Joshua smiles, a bit evily. “Good, because we don’t want to live with you.”

Lilly balks dramatically. “Dad!”

“Loook, this is nothing against you,” He parrots her earlier statement, then softens his tone, “We know you were unhappy in Seattle. I don’t care where you live as long as it’s a safe place and…it’s a place Adam can’t get to you at.” He adds. “By the way, the security on your little Satan church is crazy.”

She co*cks her head. Sure there were a few security cameras, but she’s never encountered any gates or security measures other than that. “What do you mean?” She usually just walks outside, starts her car, and leaves.

Chelsea raises her manicured eyebrows. Good, she stopped plucking them herself and went to a salon. “Lilly, there’s a spiritual boundary you have to pass through. How could you not feel it? It was like hitting a mental brick wall until we were able to project that we were your parents.”

“I’ve never encountered anything like that.” Lilly shakes her head.

Her mother scrutinizes her. “Are you sh*tting me?” She asked seriously.

Lilly reiterates her disagreement. “No! Seriously. I mean, I’ve helped them bless the cardinal directions, but I…oh. I guess that would count.” She finishes lamely, remembering the five elements washing over her at each of the different directions.

Joshua sighs in relief. “Good. I thought your brain was switched out there for a moment. You’ve probably been accepted in those blessings, so you no longer feel the boundary. It was a pretty rough feeling. I imagine if we were less inclined, the boundary would have caused us to turn around without thinking about it.”

“You’re dealing with some real powers, Lilly.” Her mother cautions. “I like all of the Papas, but they have a different kind of strength than us. I just want you to be careful.”

Lilly nods. “I want to give it more time, but I’ve sat in some of their Mass sermons, and I feel really close with the other members. Something has clicked for the first time.”

And kissed, but she doesn’t mention that.

Both of her parents put down their menus. “You feel that way already?” Lilly was notorious as a child for her consistent questioning of religion, a trait that would draw Ed and Lorraine Warren’s scrutiny and the new family’s eventual move from the Demonologists.

“I do,” Lilly affirms.

Chelsea holds her daughter’s hand, then her eyebrows furrow. “You got a tattoo? You should’ve told me, and I could’ve gotten one too.” She complains.

Lilly looks down to her left hand. Centered on the light green-blue veins of her inner wrist is a black linework tattoo that she immediately recognizes from her research of the Ghost Project. A triangle points up to beginning of her palm, with two points of an upside triangle visible behind it. In the center is the Grucifix within a circle, a curved tail expands past the flat bottom of the main triangle like the letter Q.

She’s seen it on everything from earrings to concert posters. The combined symbol of the five elements represented by the Ghouls. Something that both warms her and scares her whispers in the back of her mind:

It's not a tattoo, but a brand.

“I…” Lilly gapes. When did that happen? Was it when she witnessed the Blessings?

Or perhaps when she ate the apple?

Lilly thinks to when her hand passed through the human veil to touch Cirrus’ hand.

“I think I might’ve been a bit tipsy when I got this.” She lies.

Neither of them looks convinced but her mother drops it. “At least it’s something you like and not something embarrassing.”

Lilly’s mind flashes to the picture of Terzo’s horrible, “NO REGERTS” tramp-stamp. “Yeah. That would’ve been bad.”

The late lunch goes by well, and Lilly can tell her parents are itching to go get ready for their Broadway show, so she lets them hurry off with the giggle of newlyweds. It’s refreshing to see them act young again. She remembers when they were so stressed and would argue over whether or not they were going to move across the country.

-

Lilly arrives back at the Abbey, constantly feeling for the boundary that her parents were so adamant was there, but she couldn’t distinguish anything. Parking and heading inside, the Abbey is in the leisure hours of the early evening. Dinner isn’t for another couple hours and the sun is just starting to set over the crest of the far-away mountains. It’s quite idyllic from the windows of the entrance corridor.

Just before Lilly makes her way down to the cloister, the sound of heels comes around the corner, Sister Imperator impeccably styled as usual.

“Good evening, Lilly.” She nods politely, carrying on past her to her office.

“Sister, I actually have a question.” Lilly calls.

The woman pauses and turns around. “Yes?”

“Am I allowed to go to Confession?”

Sister Imperator smiles, a small, genuine thing. “Of course. All are welcome. Has anyone told you of the different Papa schedules?”

Lilly nods.

“Good. Did you have any other questions?”

“Do I need to say or do anything? I know it’s supposed to be anonymous but like I’m not sure how much detail to talk about and…” She realizes she’s rambling and trails off.

Sister Imperator watches her knowingly. She probably deals with this a lot with new Siblings. “Let’s go talk in my office, yes?”

Her office is just as prim and proper as she is. The furniture is the same dark cherry as the rest of the Abbey, with a large desk, hardwood floors, and dark green walls. Instead, because Sister Imperator’s office is the on the end, there is an incredible gothic stained-glass window behind her desk that overlooks the main sanctuary. She sits in her office chair and gestures for Lilly to take a seat on the ornate gothic loveseat across from her. It’s much more comfortable than it appears. The floral satin runs smoothly under her fingertips.

“I am pleased to hear that you want to take Confession.” Sister Imperator begins, “You seem to have settled quite nicely here.”

Lilly nods eagerly. “Every morning I wake up so grateful. I’ve made friends with most of the Siblings, my best friend feels comfortable here, and Mass has been extremely interesting.” She says. She means every word.

Sister Imperator gives her the feeling Lilly wishes she felt from her own grandmother. “I was concerned you would not be comfortable here.”

“No, it feels like home.”

The woman looks a bit taken aback by that. “Your stay here is not bound by this at all, but have you thought about being baptized? If you feel that strongly already, that is the best way to truly join.” She looks hopeful.

Lilly’s eyebrows furrow. “I haven’t taken Unholy Communion yet.”

Imperator waves that comment off, “That’s just something that Terzo started because he was horny years ago and wanted to mock Catholics. It’s meant to be an introduction to his Excellency. The Baptism ceremony is the only real ritual we do except for,” She stops as if she has said to much then continues, “Anyways, take a few days to think it over, and then come talk to me again if you still feel this would be something for you.”

Lilly nods, then another question comes up. “Would I have to be a Sister after being baptized?”

“That’s a question for Copia. Each papa has their own baptismal stipulations. In Sister Rebecca’s case, Primo required those who were formally baptized would become members of the church community. Secondo was a bit more lenient and introduced the Siblings as a separate gender structure. Terzo decided anyone could be baptized and would an additional rite for those who wanted to become members, and Copia, well…” She huffs an exasperated laugh, “He’s only done Sister Martha and Sibling Ezra. So I’m not sure if he has any difference for community and general followers.”

That’s a lot of information, but she can remember to talk to Copia. “Thank you for this, Sister.”

The older blonde woman swivels her chair to the low bookcases under the stained glass window behind her. “One more thing! Here, these are copies of the Unholy Bible. There’s one for you and Andie. If you decide not to proceed with baptism, then feel free to keep it. Copia says you two are book lovers.”

That’s a sweet comment she didn’t think he would pick up on. “I hope Andie’s date with Terzo is over.” She mutters.

Sister Imperator’s green eyes sparkle in the same way Copia’s do. “It will probably last until breakfast, I’m afraid. Confession takes place in the booth behind the Ghouls’ choir box. Cumulus is on duty and she’ll tell you when you can go.”

Lilly thanks her again and walks out to the main sanctuary, heart a bit lighter. At one of the front pews sits Cumulus, her fluffy snow-white curls bright against the dark wood of the benches. A couple Siblings (A sister and two siblings Lilly hasn’t met) chat leisurely beside her. All four turn to Lilly as she steps up the stairs from the office corridor.

“Hello!” Cumulus waves her over. “Are you here for confession?” She asks excitedly.

“Yes, actually. I had a good meeting with Sister Imperator and I’d like to try it.” Lilly sits between Cumulus and the empty end of the pew, feeling vulnerable with this being her first time.

Why is she nervous? It’s literally Copia on the other side of the wall. Sweet, nervous Copia, who built a network of tunnels for the enjoyment of his pet rats that he named after types of pasta. She has nothing to be worried about.

“Well, it’s good Sister gave you a Bible then. I can tell you the rules, turn to the fifth page.”

Lilly does and sees that there’s a small script to say.

‘Forgive me, Papa, for I have strayed from the Path of Darkness.’

Oh no, That seems really kinky. “Is it meant to sound sexual?” Lilly whispers.

Cumulus giggles, “Oh, Lilly…Everything we do is sexual. That’s the point.”

Lilly files that information away and reads the next set of instructions.

‘I am a _____(Sister of Sin/Sibling of Spite/Brother of Blasphemy) and I wish to confess my missteps to allow Lord Satan back into my heart.’

Then, you have a conversation apparently. It’s pretty vague about how to talk except that you cannot use names to refer to yourself or the Papa in the booth. You can also talk about the Papa in the booth, but that is extremely frowned upon.

Only instances of sexual misconduct, mental or physical harm, or suicidal threats will be uttered outside of the realm of Confession.

Oh that’s good, at least. It’s somewhat anonymous. She’s sure she’ll f*ck it up somehow and Copia will know it’s her.

Suddenly, a brother rounds the corner of the raised choir box, wiping at his eyes with his shirt sleeve. Cumulus is up in an instant, producing tissues from thin air. The three Siblings also stand and enveloped the brother in their arms with words of comfort. He doesn’t look upset, more overcome with emotional release. The group of church members begin to leave and Lilly realizes she’s up next.

Panic seizes her as Cumulus puts a hand on her lower back to guide her to the open confessional booth.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Cumulus whispers. She duck her head in, “One moment, Papa.” Then comes back to pull Lilly out of earshot.

“I’m so nervous, Cumulus, I don’t know why.” Lilly’s hands are shaking in the Ghoulette’s grasp.

She blinks her crystal blue eyes and looks up at Lilly with empathy. “It’s just Copia. Think of him knitting sweaters for his rats. That’s what he does during Confession. He’ll even tell you what he’s doing if you ask.”

Lilly does feel better knowing the man is acting his usual self. She nods and takes a few deep breaths before Cumulus lets her step into the booth alone.

It's larger than she thought. Meant to blend in with the wood paneling of the sanctuary, the door seems normal until you open it. Inside is a comfy looking half-pew that faces her. A dividing wall is carved to her right as she shuts the door and sits, carved with an intricate filigree pattern. She can just barely see the profile of Copia’s strong nose in the dim red lamp. It’s now or never.

She hears the barely-there tink-tink of knitting needles and it calms her immensely.

“Forgive me, Papa, for I have strayed from the Path of Darkness. I am a Sister of Sin and I wish to confess my missteps to allow Lord Satan back into my heart.” Oh man her face feels so warm.

“…And what would you like to confess, Sister?” Copia asks after she hears a tiny sharp inhale.

f*ck. He knows its her. Oh, well.

“I am tired of being afraid,” She sighs shakily. “I am finally free of when I spent six years within an abusive relationship because I gave a drunk rugby player a blowj*b at a party. He would tell me that I needed to marry him so he could go to Heaven because I sexually assaulted him.” She admits. She didn’t mean to start off trauma-dumping like this.

Copia stays quiet and lets her continue after a deep breath. Her hands twist in the baggy material of her sweatshirt and she wishes she had tissues to rip apart to distract herself.

“I know I didn’t assault him. I was drunk too. My best friend found us after when he was beginning to brag about the blowj*b to his teammates. I thought everything was good and we started dating until one day he handcuffed me to the bed and forced me to swear I would marry him so I wouldn’t damn him to Hell.”

“Do you believe that you’re still responsible for his afterlife?” Copia replies.

Lilly sits with that. “I do.” A mockery of the vows she probably would have sworn.

“And why do you think that?”

She stares at the yellow light that shines through the bottom of the confessional door. “Because he was the first person who ever told me I was beautiful. Every time he would throw or yell things, he would call me the most beautiful names until I eventually did something to make him angry again. I’m scared he’s going to come after the people I love.”

The man on the other side of the wall left the admission hanging for a moment. Lilly did feel better with the confession off her chest. Though it wouldn’t be talked about publicly, she knew Copia would have to inform the upper clergy about the possible threats.

“I would need to inform the upper Clergy about a possible security threat like this.” He says simply.

Lilly nods even though he can’t see it. “I needed to tell you or someone, but I’m been so scared to tell someone to their face, I think. Adam is very good at hiding his punches, but horribly impatient.”

The name slips out of her. Now she’s really f*cked.

Copia voice is warm but cautious. “Is there anything else you wish to confess, Sister?”

“May I ask you a question?”

She can tell he’s taken aback by how his knitting needles disrupt their pattern. “Of course.”

“Am I…disrupting the community here by not being baptized? Everyone is so kind but there’s not much I feel I’m contributing.”

“That’s a silly question. Everyone here adores you. Even if you never become baptized, actions are our Lord’s favorite offering. Feel confidence, practice self-care and standing up for your own well-being mean more to Him than any silly water dunk.” He answers immediately. “If you feel inclined to join Satan, then the intention is all he requires.”

Lilly settles her fast-beating heart. Was it really that easy?

Maybe she could do this.

“Anything else?” Copia asks. The knitting needles start up again.

She leans her head against the dividing wall, hearing his breathing and the rustle of yarn over his dark brown robes. “What are you knitting?”

She can imagine the smile on his face as he continues weaving the tiny sweaters. “Sweaters for Fusilli and Sedani’s babies. Rats can have up to ten babies per litter and Fusilli is very large this time. I’m already thinking of different names.”

“That’s very sweet, Papa.” Lilly says quietly.

They sit in a comfortable silence before Copia speaks up again. “I’m afraid there might be someone waiting for confession, as much I don’t want you to leave, Sister.”

“Oh f*ck,” She curses and tries to read the Unholy Bible page, but the dim red lighting blurs her vision. “Sorry I-I can’t read the end script.”

“It’s okay, this is your session. You set the rules of Confession here. Please go talk with Cumulus.”

Lilly nods and stands, pushing open the door to see the back of the choir box and the overhead lantern. “Goodnight, Papa.” She glances back and sees his green and white eyes through the carved divider, warm and safe.

“Goodnight, Sister.” He winks.

Chapter 13: Genesis

Notes:

rupaul would love the amount of death drops in here

Chapter Text

Lilly doesn’t see Andie until the next morning, when they barge into their room at 7 am and flops on top of Lilly’s bundled up form. “Lilly…I need ibuprofen…”

The curator groans at the loss of her wonderful dream that was just beginning to edge into Cumulus’ hands tangling in Lilly’s hair. She tries to bump Andie off her, but it only allows their friend to wedge between Lilly and the wall.

“My vagin* hurts,” Andie moans pitifully.

Lilly rolls over to face away from them to try to get back to the wonderful dream. “Shut the hell up. Go back with your boyfriend.”

Andie wiggles until the first layer of blankets is free for them to snuggle under and spoons Lilly’s back. “Don’t you want to hear about my night with a hung Satanic pope?”

“It’s seven in the morning. No dick talks until at least 9.” She groans, holding her eyes tightly shut and covers up over her ears.

Both of them lapse into blissful quiet. Lilly is finally on the precipice of deep sleep when there’s a knock at her bedroom door. “For f*ck’s sake!” She moans. “Come in.”

“Lilly?” Phantom asks, peeking around her door. “Papa told me that you wanted to know if Fusilli had her babies.”

Lilly perks up from her cocoon of blankets. “She did?!”

The Ghoul nods, a bright smile on his face, “We woke up to a litter of about six baby rats this morning. Papa says you’re welcome to see them anytime you wish.”

She thinks for a moment and throws the blankets off, smacking Andie in the face with the covers inadvertently. “Can I see them now?”

“Of course. Andie can come too.”

Andie whines from the bed pile. “I’m too sore to move now.”

“Medication is in the bathroom. Take it easy next time.” She teases and pulls on a blue robe over her t-shirt and boxer shorts. It wasn’t that the outfit was inappropriate, but without a bra, her breasts were very noticeable in their movements. She tries not to notice the way Phantom’s gaze is directed at her chest.

Phantom and Lilly walk to the papal corridor where news of the babies has spread, the Ghouls chattering excitedly on the threshold of Copia’s bedroom. Cirrus clings to Lilly as she approaches, vibrating with happiness. “They’re so damn cute, you have to see them!”

She brings Lilly through the crowd of Ghouls to Copia’s bedroom where Primo, Mountain, Terzo, and Copia sit cross-legged on the floor. A black cat bed sits in the middle of their little circle, with small wiggling pink jellybean-looking rat kittens on it. Copia looks up as they enter, his face bright for how early it is.

“Come, come! I can introduce them to you.” He gestures for the two to join them between Terzo and Mountain.

Lilly grins as Fusilli the new mom squeaks at them in greeting, her dark eyes tired from giving birth and currently nursing. “I’m glad all went well with her labor. They’re so small it just seems so crazy they have that many.”

Copia nods, stroking a finger along Fusilli’s gray fur above where the five babies nurse. “I’m actually surprised she only had five. She had ten last time. But she’s getting up there in age so this will probably be her last litter. She deserves retirement.”

Terzo leans back on his hands. “Retirement is great. She could enjoy a sunny day out in the garden with a cherry tomato, watching her grown-up babies frolic.”

“Sounds like you have some experience.” Lilly says.

The black-haired man smirks, “Retirement gives you lots of time to…shall we say, explore, new interests.”

Lilly catches on immediately, “Yes it does. In fact, your ‘interest’ barged into my room to complain about how sore they were.” She deadpans.

“Well, worshipping the Dark Lord all night does require a bit of cardio.”

Primo groans, getting to his feet with the assistance of Cirrus. “I know it’s time to leave when Terzo starts talking about sex. I’ll be in the greenhouse.” He says to Mountain, who nods in response.

“I’ll be there soon, Papa.”

Terzo watches his eldest brother go with a sh*t-eating grin. “He used to be such a twink-f*cker. I can’t believe he’s asexual now-“

“Not in front of the children, Fratello! They are very sensitive to foul language this young!” Copia cuts him off, exasperated. He shields the litter as if it would keep the rats from understanding the man’s lewd language.

“Copia, they’re rats.”

Copia nods like that’s the correct answer. “And they have extremely good hearing, so we need to make sure we don’t say anything gross.”

Lilly catches the current Antipope’s eyes, “They’ll be okay, Copia. Terzo is just excited about being with Andie. Who, Terzo is going to retrieve from where they have cocooned themselves in my bed so they will not be late for work.”

Terzo sighs and stands, dutifully leaving to retrieve their strayed partner.

As soon as the man is gone, the Ghouls carefully edge into the room to form a new circle on the floor. Fusilli squeaks tiredly as the babies one by one stop nursing. Copia gently picks up one of the pink jellybean babies and checks over it. “Usually you shouldn’t pick up the babies for a few days, but Fusilli is tired I want to make sure they’re all okay. Would like to see? This one is Buccatini, a boy.”

Lilly looks down at the tiny creature. “Adorable.”

Copia picks up the next one, a mottled brown and pink, and another with the same coloring but different pattern. “Gemelli and Ravioli, two girls,” Then one that is a lighter pink, “Ziti, another girl,” The last one is a dark pink, almost red, “and little Gnocchi, a boy.”

The man arranges them on the soft belly of their mother, letting them wiggle and curl into each other with a fond gaze.

Squeaking from the rat tunnels on the wall alerts them to Sedani’s whining. “Cumulus, please go get Sedani, I think he wants to meet his babies.”

The curvy Ghoulette stands and releases the albino rat from where he has pushed his snout into the plastic to whine for attention. She brings him to the man, handing him over.

Sedani’s pink nose towards the nest. Copia holds him close enough so he can lick and sniff at the rat kittens and his wife, but doesn’t allow him to climb out of his grip. “No, Sedani, your wife needs to rest. You can be with her in a week or so.”

Lilly watches the interaction with a warm heart. These are truly Copia’s babies. She needs to introduce him to Crowley more in-depth. The milksnake has been sleeping lots lately, hibernating for almost 22 hours a day in his little log cabin-shaped hiding cave.

“Do you want to hold him? Cumulus and I have to feed the others.”

Lilly nods, even as anxiety kicks up in her stomach. She cups her hands, the sleeve of her robe slipping past her wrist to reveal the Ghoul sigil emblazoned in pitch-black ink.

Copia freezes, Sedani left literally squirming as he's dangled over her palms. “Where did you get that?” He breathes, horror blooming in his eyes.

She looks to see the tattoo. “Honestly, I’m not sure. I saw it yesterday, but I don’t know how long I’ve had it. Is it like a cool tattoo?”

Cirrus looks so guilty that Copia immediately catches it. “Cirrus.” He grits out, angry and scared like she's never seen.

The Ghoulette practically bursts into tears from the serious tone. “I did it! She ate an apple from the tree yesterday and I just got excited thinking she was going to join us. Rain didn’t stop me! He was right there too!”

The water Ghouls gasps in betrayal. “I was supposed to stop you?! Maybe you should know better on your own! I had self-restraint.”

Copia hands a whimpering Sedani to Cumulus. “You cannot do that to Lilly without asking her or the upper Clergy! I have to call a meeting immediately,” He stands and brushes off his knees, striding past the circle as Cirrus quickly follows behind him with tears in her eyes. Phantom, Aurora, and Sodo also leave with them to gather the Papas in the outbuilding.

“What the hell is going on?!” Lilly questions the remaining Ghouls.

None of them answer, guiltily staring down at the floor.

“Rain,” She snaps, watching as the water Ghoul’s gaze meets hers reluctantly. “What does this mean?”

He stares at her wrist before answering.

-

Copia storms into Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil’s private building, startling them where they sit drinking coffee at the small kitchen table.

“Cirrus branded Lilly!” He calls, intimidating without his papal paint and in his t-shirt and plaid pajama pants. He can hear

“She did what?!” Papa Nihil shakily sets down his mug. “How could you be so careless? This could upset all branches of the Clergy!"

The other Papas are quick to follow them inside, Primo’s sunhat askew his thinning, long blonde hair. Cirrus stands to side, clutching at herself with barely audible sniffles. Secondo rubs a hand on her back, remembering his own similar mistake.

“Cirrus, Lilly is not a member of the community or even baptized. This could ruin her relationship with the Church and exhibition at large. Why would you do something like this? You’re one of our most responsible Ghouls.” Sister Imperator says.

The Ghoulette takes a deep breath before answering. “Lilly ate one of the apples. I thought that if she ate an apple, then she was confirming herself to His Excellency and it would be okay to give her a gift.”

“Apples are fruits, not confirmation. She talked to me yesterday about becoming baptized but that is not assumption for doing this.”

Secondo steps up in defense. “Look, is it really that bad? To her, it’s probably just some odd tattoo. If she hadn’t noticed anything strange and mentioned because she’s already connected to the Veil, then what difference does this make?”

“Weren’t you against her even being here?” Terzo crosses his arms.

“I met her parents and they’re not anything like what I thought they would be. They passed Phantom’s boundary with no issues as well.” He argues. When he’s not wearing his sunglasses or paint, it’s stunning how much he looks like Papa Nihil.

“This outsider has the same power as us to summon Ghouls. We can’t let her leave the Abbey grounds until we know the extent of her loyalty and intentions.” Nihil says.

-

Lilly waits for Rain to answer her, heart pounding in her ears. How bad is this? She hadn’t felt weird, and her parents didn’t notice anything until they physically saw the mark.

“It’s a Ghoul sigil. Having it means you’re connected to the Aether of the Pits of Hell and can summon and/or banish Ghouls. It’s a mark only given to head Clergy members or Prince Demons.”

She stares at the mark and prods it with a finger. When nothing happens, she feels a bit disappointed. “But nothing's happened? I feel normal.”

“You need to recite incantations. Right now it is just a tattoo.” Swiss assures her. “You should be perfectly safe unless you speak Italian or Ghoulish.”

She nods, relief filling her. “That isn’t so bad. I don’t speak either of those, but I can sort of understand and listen to Ghoulish.” Copia is just probably freaking out over paperwork.

“Lilly,” Phantom says from the doorway, panting. “Please come with me to high Clergy meeting immediately.”

She follows the worried Ghoul out through the cloister and down the path that leads to the small outbuilding. “Why is everyone so worried? I can’t speak either of the evoking languages and I have no desire to summon or banish anything!”

Phantom nods, “I know. The problem isn’t that per se. It’s because of how much hold Adam has on you. Papa Nihil is concerned if you go back with him, then Adam will be able to manipulate you.”

Lilly waits for him to lead her inside the front door and down a short hallway where voices are speaking English and Italian. She can see the Papas and Cirrus gathered around the breakfast nook’s bay window seating area.

“I have her.” Phantom calls.

All voices stop.

Lilly flinches a bit as everyone turns their intense gaze on her, pulling her robe tighter around herself. Could they at least have let her put on a bra? Or some shoes that aren’t beat-up crocs?

“Lilly Warren,” Comes a gravelly voice. She sees Sister Imperator (with her hair down? It’s pretty) and a man who she thought was dead.

“How…are you alive?” This has to be some sort of prank. Sister Imperator gave her death certificate copies, pictures of a casket, pictures of a mausoleum in Italy of Papa Nihil. And here the old man is, drinking coffee in a building at the Abbey she’s lived at for nearly a month without her knowing.

The shock of the tattoo, waking up early after staying up late, and now seeing a man reanimated causes her to see double for a moment then nothing, passing out where she stands.

Phantom and Terzo manage to catch her before her head hits the ground, crumpling into their grip.

“sh*t, that’s right. I told her you were dead.” Sister Imperator groans.

Papa Nihil’s face twists in shock. “Why the Hell would you do that?”

The older woman levels him with a knowing glare. “Because you did die.”

He thinks then shrugs. “True.”

Phantom gets (gently) pushed to the side as Copia helps Terzo lift Lilly over to Nihil’s leather armchair.

The room stills when someone opens the front door and booted feet are heard walking down the hallway. A man with fiery red, short hair, circular sunglasses and an outfit head-to-toe in leather appears in the doorway.

“What’s up everyone, heard there’s a congratulations in order for a special Papa Emeritus IV?” He grins. It falls when he notices how gloomy everyone looks. “Oh, c’mon, is my jacket really that bad? Angel said it was a bit dated but I didn’t think it was too 1980s.” He lets out a large yawn.

“It’s not your jacket, sir,” Phantom says from beside him. “Which is very cool by the way, but the brand was placed when she didn’t know what it meant.”

Crowley, the fiery demon, tutted. “Well, that’s not too bad. Shouldn’t be much of an issue with the Big Man if I can just shuck the poor soul who got branded.”

Copia hurries towards the man, worriedly. “Lord Crowley, you cannot kill her.”

“Copia, my man, I get it, it’s waste for such a beautiful girl to die like this, but it’s infernal protocol.” Crowley puts a hand on his shoulder and pushes past him to round the armchair. He stops in his tracks and groans. “Now, I see what you’re saying. This is a conundrum. I’m afraid there’s not much I can do. I thought perhaps a Sibling had gotten branded, not her.”

“Would it truly be against protocol for her to keep the gift? She’s attended Mass, helped Bless the grounds, and is involved with Papa.” Cirrus pleads.

“You’re involved with her, Copia?” Nihil thunders. “This is why I was concerned about you becoming Papa. You make the decision to let this outsider live here, and now this issue pops up and I only find out now, you two are involved?”

Crowley holds up a hand. “Hold it, old man. That might work in her favor. You two are shacking up, as the kids say?” He asks Copia.

The man nods. “The Ghouls and Papas witnessed it.”

The demon grimaces. “I didn’t realize everyone here was involved in orgies. Not my business, but that’s a bit weird since you all are related.”

“No! No!” Copia dry heaves a bit, as does Primo. “They witnessed us confessing for each other.”

Lilly startles awake at that moment, causing Terzo sitting next to her to jump. “f*ck!” He yelps, hand over his heart.

She pants heavily, brown eyes wildly looking around the room until they find Crowley standing next to the couch. “Why are you here, Crowley?”

The demon huffs. “I was here because I heard the commotion about a Ghoul Brand, which you never told me you had recieved.” He raises his eyebrows at her.

“I didn’t know what it was! You should’ve been able to feel it.” She accuses after she catches her breath.

Copia’s mismatched eyes flicker between the two of them worriedly. “You two know each other?”

Crowley snaps his fingers and in a blink a familiar red, black, and yellow milksnake is curled across Lilly’s neck. Another blink and the demon is back in his humanoid form. “It was quite funny when Lilly got the job for the Ghost Project and then moved in with all of you.”

“Crowley saved me from my grandparents when I was younger. He gets to slack off his duties while being a snake, and I’m protected from any issues with my grandparents.” Lilly explains.

Cirrus watches Lilly with teary crystal eyes. “I’m so sorry I did this.”

Lilly waves her off. “I’m fine. Is this a big deal, really?”

Crowley bobs his head enthusiastically. “More than you could imagine. I was supposed to kill you. I will need to talk with His Excellency.”

Never mind that, I’m already here.” Comes an echoing voice that resounds both in their minds and the space around them. A black oozing portal appears on the floor in the one part of the living room not occupied by a Papa or a Ghoul. It expands upwards until it forms a human shape, then retracts to reveal Tom’s devilishly handsome form.

Now it makes sense why he was so handsome. Lilly sighs. Of course.

“Your Dark Excellency,” The room choruses, Lilly’s eyes widening as she misses the greeting.

Tom, Lucifer, Satan (whatever one wished to call him) gave her an exasperated smile and waved her off. “I was planning on handling this, Crowley, but I’m pleased you got here so fast. Any reason why that would be?” His smile is sickly-sweet, coated with his smooth accent.

“Sir, I was watching over my charge.” Crowley explains, but it falls flat.

Even Lilly can’t contain her grin at how bad his lie is. “I would be very upset if my pet snake goes missing.”

The Devil rolls his dark eyes. “Well, you’re going to see a lot more of him after his hibernation-which will be spent handcuffed to his office chair in his cubicle, catching up on the paperwork that has been rerouted to me in his absence. No conjugal angel visits either.”

“Once a month visitation with Aziraphale.” He barters.

“No.”

"Please, sir, it's crucial to my well-being!" Crowley tries.

Lucifer doesn't even answer him. Crowley hangs his head in defeat.

“Once a month visits with me, and Aziraphale may or may not be in the same room.” Lilly chimes in. Dealing with the Devil wasn’t difficult at all. People who write songs about him must be huge puss*es, she thinks.

Tom mulls over that, hand coming up to stroke his scruff. “Only if…you join the Clergy. I'm not keen on letting my leniency be taken advantage of."

A few people gasp.

Lilly isn’t phased. And at this point, she really has no reason not to. “Okay.” She answers.

“Really?” Copia looks so hopeful. If only she could capture that innocent gaze forever.

She feels comfortable with the decision out in the open. She just needed a push, or a Ghoulette to slip up. Crowley has been with her for years and though it's been a short time here, she couldn't imagine living anywhere else. “I was thinking of joining anyway. Sister Imperator and I met yesterday to discuss it.”

Tom’s dark eyes are alight with glee. “Wonderful, we have a deal then. You join the United Clergy of Ghost and I'll allow my disobedient little spitfire to spend one day/24 hours a month with you in the form of your pet milksnake.” He holds out a hand tastefully decorated with gold jewelery.

"We have a deal." Lilly takes it with a comfortable sense of finality. As their hands connect is enveloped by the same black ooze, laughing as it tickles it way across her skin.

When it dissipates, she is dressed in some similar to a sister’s habit, but the headdress is spiked upwards to mimic horns. A slit goes from her mid thigh all the way down to her platform boots, showcasing her thick legs encased in fishnets. Blue fabric embossed with the same pattern of inverted crosses lines the slit and shimmers as Lilly moves her legs to see her boots. Sparkling diamonds form a simple Grucifix pendent that dangles between her breasts. A gold chain cinches her waist, Copia's signature golden Grucifix dangling from the extra length around mid-thigh.

“You made her a Sister?” Papa Nihil’s pupilless eyes are narrowed in anger.

“Well, as part of our deal I did say the Clergy. But Lilly not just any ordinary member of the Clergy.” Tom surveys her outfit, holding out a hand. When she takes it, she spins her in a slow circle then lays a hand on her lower back for a heartbeat before letting her go.

She lifts her arms to look at the silky fabric flowing out from her elbows. After a moment she shifts uncomfortably, a strange grimace on her face.

The three Ghouls in the room perk up, eyes glowing as they take in the reason why Lilly suddenly flushes. It's a realization that the habit is all she’s wearing.

“You stole my boxers?” Lilly accuses hotly.

“You’re worried about your panties when I basically just felt you up in front of everyone?” He laughs richly and it should feel mocking when her underwear appears in his hand, but it only makes her blush.

Tom tosses them at Swiss, who greedily clutches them to his chest and fights off the other Ghouls that try to snatch it from him. With a jolt, Lilly feels her body is suddenly encased in lacy lingerie under the habit, looking away from the Devil's knowing smirk.

Lucifer claps his hands together, gold rings and watch glimmering. “Speaking of: everyone, let me be the first ever to formally introduce Sister Lilly Imperium, Prime Mover to the fourth heir of the Emeritus bloodline.”

Now it’s Copia’s turn to faint.

Chapter 14: Prime Mover

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Andie doesn’t know where Lilly up and disappeared to, and they’re pretty sure Terzo came into the room at one point, but also disappeared before Andie could fully wake up. Oh well, they need to get ready for work anyways.

Andie takes a few moments to rifle through Lilly’s closet, finding a pair of jeans her friend could no longer wear and a band t-shirt and oversized cardigan. They swipe some highlighter from Lilly’s vanity and grabs their tote bag from its place at the foot of the bed. They can brush their teeth in the employee bathroom of the adult store they work at.

“Call out of work.” Comes Terzo’s voice from the open window to the cloister.

Andie whips around, startled by the man’s face suddenly watching through the space. “I can’t just call out. I’m a shift lead.”

“Do you want to meet the Devil?” He’s breathless and a bit unhinged with the glint in his eyes. Andie flushes from the way he watches them hungrily.

org*sm-wise or like actually?

Terzo is suddenly behind to them, hands coming to squeeze at their hip-dips and press his clothed erection into Andie’s ass. Did he climb through the f*cking window?

Oh, what the Hell.

Andie scrambles to dial the store manager “Hey, Frank, it’s Andie. My car has a flat tire,” They pause as the man on the other line groans but accepts the excuse. “Awesome, thank you so much. I’ll cover for you this Saturday.”

Terzo’s hand slides around their front, creeping downward until Andie has to muffle a whine.

“Yeah. Nadine has availability today, uh, so does Katie.” Andie holds the phone a bit away when the man latches onto the smooth, dark skin of their neck. “Thanks again, Frank.”

As soon as they’ve hung up, Terzo is rocking them together and using his slight height advantage to bend them forward for easier reach to their crotch.

“We-We can’t do this here, Lilly will be back any moment.” Andie stutters.

They feel Terzo’s sharp grin dig into the meat of their collar. “Your friend is currently being f*cked to within an inch of her life by several Ghouls and Copia. We have a bit of time before any of them have enough brain function to remember their name. But after that, there’s Wednesday night Mass.”

They moan shakily at the thought. Andie and Lilly had been friends for a very long time, and it was difficult at the beginning not to fall for the woman’s sweet demeanor and grabbable bigger figure. After a night where the two of them tried to feel each other up but couldn’t stop giggling at each other’s expressions, they agreed they were best staying platonic soulmates. But watching Lilly get taken apart not only by Ghouls but also by their charismatic Papa sounded hot as f*ck.

“We still can’t do this here. Whisk me away to your bedroom, Papa.” Andie pleads, unwilling to dirty the space Lilly had just become comfortable in.

Terzo nods and lifts Andie into his arms like they weigh nothing. “Away we go, Amore Mio.”

-

So, Terzo had fibbed. Just a bit.

Lilly wishes she was being f*cked by eight Ghouls and her boyfriend/courting date/now husband(?) Papa, but she was instead fanning Papa’s face as he was passed out on the floor.

Sister Imperator and Secondo kneel next to her, but Terzo has somehow disappeared in a matter of moments. Phantom looks over the man’s still form and lets out a sigh of relief. “He’s okay. He didn’t eat anything this morning and was up early with the rats.” He places a hand on the man’s head, a soft purple glow emanates from his palm and drains into Copia’s temple.

The man slowly comes to, pupils dilated wide enough to cover most of his irises.

“Side effect of Quintessence, and he’ll be a little loopy,” Phantom assures Lilly’s panicked expression.

Behind them Papa Nihil is trying his hardest to argue with the literal King of Hell. “There has not been a Prime Mover in three Papas and you give the title to the Papa, not a true Emeritus? Is this bloodline some kind of sick joke to you?”

Tom co*cks a hip, leveling the old man with a frown. “Nihil, do your best to wrack that dusty, empty skull of yours to remember that Prime Movers are specifically chosen by me. Your three eldest sons are just as critical to the bloodline as Copia Leviathan is. Just because they do not have Prime Movers does not make them less worthy of being Papa or receiving your love.”

Secondo glances at Lilly’s form as she pats Copia’s cheek to get him to focus his gaze on her. He had tried so hard to battle his bisexuality to find a suitable mate that would impress Lucifer enough to make her a Prime Mover. Copia has this woman fall into his lap and suddenly she’s given the title within a few weeks after showing little devotion.

“You should be careful how you proceed, as I was unaware of your reanimation, yet I am doing nothing to drag you back to Hell.” Tom threatens with a finger pressed to Nihil’s sternum, “I know that this is difficult for you to understand with your ancient perspective, but you will not interfere with my decision. If you do, you may as well say goodbye yet again.”

Nihil’s pupilless eyes survey the firm decision held within the Devil’s posture. However, he still cannot fathom why the powerful being would choose someone like Lilly for such a crucial position. “Even if it’s wrong? Even if Copia is not a blood Emeritus?”

Tom raises a dark eyebrow at the audacity and conveniently forgets to answer the latter question. “Are we talking morality now? In that case, please tell me why your second oldest is over there agonizing over how he never felt good enough for you because he didn’t have a Prime Mover like his absent father? I have watched you neglect these children while spreading word of my Gospel and I refused to let it happen after you blew your brains out through your saxophone.”

Nihil doesn’t look to meet Secondo’s hurt expression. “How I interacted with my children had nothing to do with you! I was doing my best to impress you!”

“You’re correct that you were able to raise them as you wished to. Unlike God, I’m not going to smite you for being an asshole. It’s just that you did such a horrible job none of them are supporting your argument against me, despite their need to prove themselves as worthy of their retired titles to you.” He moves past Nihil’s slack jaw to talk quietly with Crowley across the room.

Copia’s gaze finally lands on Lilly and Sister Imperator rather than some intangible object above him. “Did you know that there are genetically different species of rats in each borough of New York?” He slurs. His green eye is much more dilated than his white one, giving him a hilarious look of delirium.

Sister Imperator sighs, “Of course that’s the first thing he says. At least he doesn’t have brain damage.”

“Very interesting, Papa,” Lilly grins and smooths back some pieces of his salt-and-pepper bangs.

“My favorite is the uptown Morningside Heights rat. They average about 12 inches long and are known for their high population of albino females.” He tells Lilly very seriously. He tries to measure 12 inches with his hands, concentrating very hard until he has a gross approximation of about three feet instead.

Secondo lets out a frustrated groan, “Please tell me he’s not going to only spout rat facts from now on.”

Copia grins, “I know lots of facts about mice, too.”

“I’m going back to bed. See everyone at Mass.” Secondo interrupts him and stands. He bows to Tom (who acknowledges him) and leaves with a cloud of mixed emotions about Lilly and Papa Nihil.

“How are you feeling, Papa?” Phantom replaces Secondo.

“Like I was hit by a train,” Copia answers, pupils slowly going back to normal. “Can you help me sit up? My back hurts.” Once Copia is upright, he blinks and regains most of his brain functions. He runs a hand through his disheveled hair. Lilly kind of misses it when he gets it back to its usual brushed-back style. “How long was I out?”

Sister Imperator checks her wristwatch, “Maybe five minutes? Not long enough for me to worry about you dying.”

He laughs at the woman’s trial of a joke. He grows serious, “Now, why did I pass out? I don’t remember.”

Phantom, Sister Imperator, and Lilly all stare at him. “Seriously?” Lilly questions.

“Oh yeah…” Copia murmurs. “You’re my Prime Mover.”

She nods. “Looks like you’re stuck with me.”

“I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.” Sister Imperator gives them a fond smile as she gets to her feet. She had messily twisted her ash-blonde hair into a bun, and she now takes a moment to fix it into something closer to her everyday look.

“Sister, a word please.” Nihil comes to hold her elbow gently.

She watches him then brushes his arm off her. “Get over it, Nihil. I’m not going to allow you to continue to harp against her. Go finish your coffee quietly.”

To everyone’s surprise, the old man only grumbles a bit as he trundles over to pout into his mug.

Tom gathers everyone’s attention simply by turning back towards the room. “Now, I need to take Crowley back to his office to begin his punishment, but I will be back tonight for Mass and the Blessing, of which I will help Lilly in her new role and iron out some organizational issues for the Clergy.” His dark eyes look over all of them as they nod and agree verbally.

“Sorry Crowley, I’ll see you next month?” Lilly gives him an apologetic smile, which the man returns.

“This isn’t your fault,” Tom speaks for the red-haired demon. “But I am glad he was able to save you from your horrible ex many times. Your prized milksnake will be back soon.” He claps the man on his shoulder with the force of a father hiding his disappointment in public. A similar black, gooey portal envelopes both men, their forms melting into the floor after a few moments.

“…What do we do now?” Cirrus asks. She stands against the far wall, tension written into every fiber of her being.

“Damn, I need to write a sermon! I have nothing for tonight!” Copia gasps. He jumps to his feet, wobbling to the point where Phantom and Sister Imperator have to steady him and help him to the couch.

“What if you just tell me what to write and I’ll type it for you?” Cirrus asks, hoping to make up for what she put into motion.

Copia gifts her with a smile, “Cirrus, I know I was upset earlier, and I’m sorry for that.”

The air Ghoulette can’t look Lilly in the face. “I still feel horrible.”

Lilly pulls her to the couch and plops down next to Copia. “Honestly this is best thing that could’ve happened. I’m religiously free of Adam, have a somewhat known direction for my life to head in, and a new family-sh*t!” Her eyes widen and jump to her feet, surprisingly nimble in the platform boots she had never worn before. “What am I going to tell my parents?! They’re going to be so upset.”

Sister Imperator places two comforting hands on the girl’s shoulders. “Lilly, how old are you?”

“28.”

“You’re allowed to do whatever you want in your life without your parents’ permission.” She affirms.

“But they gave up so much for me! Their opinion should matter a little bit at least.” Lilly tries. “They were okay with me being part of the Church, but this is a vast difference than being a simple follower.” She isn’t quite sure what a Prime Mover is just yet, but judging by the way everyone is panicking about it, it’s probably some sort of infernal connection between her, Copia and the Ghouls. At least she got some cool clothes. This is the most stylish she’s ever been.

Imperator inclines her head in agreement, “If you feel that way, then yes. But if I had a child, I would want them to do what makes them happy and not what only makes me happy.”

Lilly opens her mouth to argue that she does have a child (one sitting right beside them) but the tight look in the woman’s eyes makes her hold it back. “O-Okay.”

“Good, now let me get dressed properly and I can walk you through some of the initial duties in my office.” She taps Lilly’s shoulders fondly.

“Wait, I have work. Or, I guess Dr. Myers will understand that I need another day off,” Tom/Lucifer had placed her cellphone in a convenient pocket of her habit. Probably another gift from the Devil was the fact that Dr. Myers had already texted to take the additional day off from work. “That was easy. They need another day to fix some of the walls and paint my office.”

Copia gets to his feet, much more stable than before. “I want to get dressed as well. I’m sure Sister will want me to be there with you.”

The Ghouls perk up from where they were waiting quietly around the room, gathering by the front door as Copia showed he was ready to leave.

“Can I come with you guys?” She whispers the next part, but she doesn’t really care if Nihil hears it or not. “I don’t want to be left alone with him.”

“Of course,” Copia answers and fully understands.

All ten of them step out into the fully-risen sunlight, breathing in the fresh air after the emotional roller coaster of the past few hours.

Cirrus meekly walks beside Lilly, who takes the plunge to hold the Ghoulette’s hand and a smile that symbolizes she’s been forgiven. Cirrus tries to wipe her tears away without anyone noticing.

They get to the papal corridor and find Primo’s door ajar (he was still at Nihil’s house), Secondo’s door closed tightly, and Terzo’s door shut as well.

It becomes apparent why Terzo disappeared when Lilly goes to use Copia’s bathroom. Primo had said that most of the Papas’ rooms were soundproofed pretty well. The eldest brother had lost his desire for sex years ago when he fully embraced his gardening and age and had demanded the Clergy renovate the Papal corridor to accommodate soundproofing insulation. They listened, even though Terzo was the current Papa.

Still, Copia hadn’t come to live at the Abbey yet so the closet room at the end of the hall was left empty and unsound proofed. When Sister Imperator announced that the young Cardinal was asked to stay permanently-the Siblings and Ghouls scrambled to renovate the man’s room.

They forgot two things in their haste: a door to the actual suite and soundproofing in the bathroom.

Lilly pees as quickly as she can with the fishnets and grucifix belt Lucifer bestowed upon her. She washes her hands frantically and rushes out of the bathroom, a flush high on her cheeks and habit askew.

“Did you…have something happen in there?” Swiss questions, co*cking his head.

“Terzo and Andie are a bit occupied at the moment.” Lilly stammers.

Rain puckers his lips in confusion, hands on his hips. “And that had something do with you peeing?”

She huffs and yanks Rain to the bathroom by his hoodie collar, shoving the water Ghoul inside and closing the door while he yelps. She waits a moment before opening the door again.

Rain stumbles out, face burning a dark Ghoulish purple. “I’ve never heard anything like that…Are they?”

Lilly bites her lip and nods.

Copia comes out of his closet dressed in a black tracksuit over a red t-shirt, stopping as he notices Lilly and Rain’s identical flustered expressions.

“Lilly and Rainy overheard Terzo and Andie.” Swiss tattles from his lounging on Copia’s bed.

The Antipope tries his best not to stare at the fishnet covered skin of Lilly’s thigh when he turns to her for an explanation. Plush thighs were always his weakness. It’s probably why he felt so attracted to Cumulus when she was first Summoned.

“Well, I did know that Andie liked wolves, but this is a bit too much. Everyone is allowed to like what they like and I’m glad Terzo is able to share this with them, even if it has scarred me for the rest of my life. ” She holds back a hysterical laugh.

Sodo lights up and scampers to the bathroom to listen.

Phantom leans on Cirrus’ shoulder, purring to keep the Ghoulette from panicking further. “I’m surprised Lilly is taking Prime Mover status in stride.”

Lilly is surveying Copia’s makeup vanity as the man sits to apply the base layer of eye and upper lip paint he does every day. “It’s some sort of infernally-chosen soulmate right?” She opens one of the makeup palettes from a brand she has and tests one of the untouched shimmery eyeshadows on her left hand, admiring it’s sparkle.

In the large vanity, she catches the anxious grimace that crosses Copia’s face as he finishes swiping on the black paint. “Yeah…there’s a bit more to it than just that. There hasn’t been one in my lifetime but from what I understand PMs have a considerable amount of responsibility.”

Lilly dabs a bit of the shimmer on her cheekbones. “Is it like a pact for birthing a demon or something?” She jokes. “I doubt either of us anxiety-ridden nerds could create something infernally devious like you guys.”

Silence greets her.

That was a good joke! These f*ckers loved good jokes.

Copia shakes his head, guilt-ridden. His eyes stay on the setting powder puff in his hands. “Sister Imperator can explain better than I can.” He pats the puff against his closed eyes and brushes it off, standing. “We shouldn’t keep her waiting.”

-

Lilly can honestly say Sister Imperator has warmed up to her. The woman smiles at them as their group filters into her office. Most of the Ghouls seat themselves on the floor between the guest loveseat and the Sister’s desk, perfectly comfortable to lean against Lilly and Copia’s legs. Mountain and Cirrus stand against the side wall.

Sister Imperator has a very large, very scary looking book on the desk in front of her. She opens it to wipe away dust. “There has not been a Prime Mover for nearly forty years. Meaning, no one has had to look at this book for almost as long.”

The inside cover is a print of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. She flips to the first page and in incredibly intricate calligraphy reads, “Infernal Guide for Prime Movers of the United International Clergy of the Unholy Ghost.”

“That’s quite a mouthful.” Copia murmurs in wonder.

“And that is precisely why we shortened it to United Clergy of Ghost.” She flips the next page, and as soon as she sees it (she’s turned the book so they can read it, so she is reading upside down) she quickly changes the page.

“Wait,” Lilly stops her, and changes the page back to where the author’s name is written in the same curled handwriting. “Who is Bernadette Emeritus? Was that the Papa’s wife?”

The woman just turns the page, brushing off the question. “She’s just the previous Prime Mover. Now, for this book to be correctly interpreted-“

Copia co*cks his head. “I’ve heard that name before. Not with that last name but people where always talking about a woman like that in the Abbey I grew up in. I never got to meet her though.”

“Bernadette is a common name Sisters can take up.” Imperator argues.

Cumulus taps her chin. “There aren’t any here.”

Something clenches in Sister Imperator’s jaw. “Let’s move on. She died many years ago and is only important because she wrote down her daily duties in here.” She huffs and turns to a page filled with an initial list of duties.

“Prime Movers are the main female representatives of the Siblings, advocating for their safety, well-being, and education. Prime Movers are considered Head Sisters until they are formally Bonded in a ritual meant to be performed on Walpurgisnacht.” She takes a breath, “Initial duties before taking up the significant title of Mama [Insert Papal Name] [Number] include:

  • Preparing Clergy community meals
  • Deciding on decorations for Black Mass
  • Supporting weekly Blessings
  • Creating a weekly practice schedule
  • Handling cloister decorations for all Holidays

After becoming Mama and in addition to duties stated before:

  • Handling all Ghoul Banishments and Summoning
  • Organizing and collecting objects within the Veneration of Relics Archive
  • Giving sermon during Black Mass and in the Blessings
  • Conferencing with other Head Sisters/Mamas from other Clergy branches
  • Keep an active shrine with the Papal Apse
  • Serve as Living Altar during All Hallow’s Eve Mass

Though these are just what is the current regulations, each Papa has the discretion to change/add/remove duties as He sees fit.” She finishes.

Swiss whistles tiredly. “Damn, that’s a lot. Aren’t Prime Movers supposed to be these old, witchy, retired women?”

“I refuse to see that many wrinkles on a Living altar.” Sodo rests his cheek against Lilly’s exposed, fishnet-clad thighs. “The living altars in the chapel with His Excellency are some of the hottest f*cking people you’ve ever seen.”

“I’m intrigued by the Veneration of Relics. That’s the artifact display you bring on tour, right?” Lilly rereads the list, trying not to think about what a Living Altar means.

Sister Imperator nods, a stray ash-blonde strand falling over her forehead. “It’s a crucial part to spreading the Dark Gospel. Right now, all of it is stored in the archives by the Ghoul Den. I’m sure the Ghouls have done a fabulous job unpacking and cleaning them.”

The Ghouls refuse to meet the woman’s gaze. Swiss even starts whistling nonchalantly.

Next page has pictures scrapbooked into different sections. None of them had people in it, but were landscapes showing decorations for the yearly Satanic holidays. Lilly recognizes the main sanctuary, the outside of Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil’s outbuilding, and the columns that make up the cloister arcade.

Phantom, a ever-curious demon, can’t help himself as he reaches to gently grab one of the loose photographs-

Sister Imperator snaps the book shut before he gets too close. A closed-off expression overtakes her entire body. “That’s enough for now. I’ll make you a typed list of initial duties by Mass tonight. You don’t need to say or participate tonight, but you will be introduced to the Abbey and sit in the quire box with the Papas and I.”

What was in the rest of the scrapbook? Copia thinks but doesn’t verbalize it, taking one last longing look at the book before standing carefully with the Ghouls at his feet. “Thank you, Sister. This was helpful for me, I’m sure it was for Lilly too.”

Lilly glances up at him but panics as the responsibility of the situation fades when the scrapbook closes. There’s still so many questions she has! “Hold on, what do I wear? Am I supposed to wear this as a uniform? My job?”

Sister Imperator shakes her head. “The rule on religious dress is not enforced. Siblings are allowed to wear whatever they wish, but many wear the dress because it shows devotion and gives them the opportunity to decide who gets to see them at their true, vulnerable selves. When you become Mama, you would have to wear something closer to what you wear to the Museum daily.”

“That’s a nice rule.” Lilly smiles in relief. “Can I wear this tonight?”

“Of course. This will be your new formal Mass habit. I’ll notify our seamstress to make more of them. I’ll get your measurements tomorrow night.”

-

When they step out of the woman’s office and close the door, Lilly doesn’t know what to do with herself. Copia goes into his office and sits at his desk with Cirrus and a tablet she seemingly produces from thin air. The other Ghouls murmur to each other in their strange language, with the exception that she can now understand them. They’re concerned about something, but whatever word they use for the problem doesn’t translate in her head.

Suddenly, Lilly’s stomach grumbles to the tune of a 8.0 earthquake on the Richter scale. The Ghouls look back over at her, reminding her of a litter of cats spooked in a dark hallway.

“Sorry. I’m going to go get something to eat.” She nods to herself and walks back to the papal kitchen.

She should’ve ignored her desire to eat when she spots the two figures snogging in front of the open refrigerator. “Hey! Pick something before you try to eat each other’s faces off.”

Andie messily pulls away from Terzo’s mouth with a love-drunk expression. Their eyes widen over the drastic outfit she’s wearing. “Lillypad! You finally have a sexy Halloween costume!”

Lilly laughs and pushes them away from the fridge so she can grab eggs and cheese for breakfast. “I don’t think Sister Imperator will like you calling is a costume.” She cracks the eggs, seeing the two eggs she usually makes not seem like enough. She could make some for Copia.

Andie separates themselves from Terzo’s wandering hands and comes to stand with Lilly at the counter, taking the job of whisking the yolks and whites together. “This is a massive omelet. Are you making some for me?”

“No, I did that yesterday, remember?” Lilly cracks the last out of six eggs into the bowl. “I thought I would make something for Copia.”

Terzo fake gags from where he’s sat on a stool at the kitchen island. “You’ve been Prime Mover for what, an hour and a half, and you’re already making him breakfast in bed?”

Andie’s hazel eyes widen into saucers so big they could have been found in Roswell, New Mexico. “YOU’RE HIS PRIME MOVER?! WHY THE f*ck DID YOU NOT SAY ANYTHING EARLIER?!” They yell.

Lilly flinches at the loud yell, fear seizing her. She has to hold the countertop to keep her balance as her knees buckle. She knows Andie is loud and expects it but something about how close and how loud made her brain connect the noise to Adam. Confessing to Copia had stirred up memories of his fits of anger last night to the point where she stayed up until four in the morning with insomnia.

“f*ck, Lilly, you look like you’re going to pass out again.” Terzo is on his feet and rounding the island quickly.

If she opens her mouth she’s pretty sure bile will rise in her throat. She shakes her head when Terzo tries to carry her, fearing she would pass out at the change of positioning. After a few stretched moments of her reassuring herself that Adam is nowhere near her, Lilly feels good enough to cracked open her eyes. “Sorry.”

“He would do that to you.” It isn’t a question. Andie has that odd, guilty, perceptive look on their face again.

Lilly’s stomach rumbles again, spurred on by the adrenaline rush. “I shouldn’t have that reaction to you, though.”

Andie pours the whisked eggs into the sizzling pan, giving her friend a moment to recalibrate her extremities and fend off Terzo’s need to help her sit down.

“Maybe it’s a sign that my T-shots are working.” Andie lightens the air a bit.

“I think it’s just been a long morning for you,” Terzo still hovers like a mama bear, watching for any more distress to show itself. He makes himself useful pulling out plates and cutlery, arranging them close the stove so Andie can lay the two delicate breakfast omelets on each plate. He makes Lilly wash and cut fruit, explaining how his younger brother has a secret love for grapes and apples.

In a few minutes of quiet conversation they have two picture-perfect portions of omelet, fruit salad, and orange juice arranged on a serving platter. “Mademoiselle, if you would me to your breakfast date.” Terzo picks up the silver platter with a cheeky grin and leads Andie and Lilly to Copia’s office.

Notes:

hmm...wonder what's in that scrapbook...it's a mouskatool that will help us later

also i promise there will be a ghoul orgy next chapter

Chapter 15: Mary On A Cross

Notes:

i gave yall a treat so i can do more angst lmao

Chapter Text

In a few minutes of quiet conversation they have two picture-perfect portions of omelet, fruit salad, and orange juice arranged on a serving platter. “Mademoiselle, if you would follow me to your breakfast date.” Terzo picks up the silver platter with a cheeky grin and leads Andie and Lilly to Copia’s office.

“…Is that too on the head? I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.” They hear Copia say.

Aurora speaks up inside, “You’re talking about psychic vampires-that’s the whole point is to withstand guilty conscience.”

The man makes a thoughtful noise, “I need to reread my own sermon, huh?”

The two Ghoulettes giggle. “I’ll go print this for you, Papa. I’ll be back in a few.” Cirrus rounds the doorway with Aurora and jumps at the sight of the three waiting in the hallway with a covered tray. “Oh, hi!”

Lilly beams at her, letting Terzo go inside first to set the tray on the empty part of Copia’s desk. Andie follows the two inside and distributes the two cloth napkins.

Copia watches Terzo set up the tray with shocked confusion at the whirlwind the three bring in. “What is this?”

“Lilly wanted to make you breakfast, so Terzo and I set up a little date.” Andie gently moves some of Copia books to the side and pulls one of the office chairs closer to the desk for Lilly to sit in, pushing the woman into it.

Terzo unveils the food with a dramatic flourish, delight filling Copia’s face.

“This, this is beautiful! I couldn’t possibly eat-“ A glare from both Andie and Terzo makes his jaw click shut. “It smells really good.”

Lilly laughs as Andie tucks the cloth napkin over her habit’s white collar. “Can’t have my bestie ruin her new career outfit.” They whisper.

“You should probably clean the cum stain off your collar, then.” Lilly giggles back.

Andie pulls the collar of their t-shirt out and gasps at the very obvious freshly-dried stain, tugging a confused Terzo out the room quickly. “Enjoy, lovebirds!” He calls.

“Dig in,” Lilly assures Copia, picking up a fork for her eggs. “I know this is closer to lunch, but Terzo said you wouldn’t have eaten yet.”

“I would eat anything you made for me, even if I had.” Copia pops a honey-coated grape in his mouth, humming at the burst of flavor. "We should make these for the rats, I think they would enjoy them."

Both of them dig in heartily as they remember neither of them had eaten yet this morning. Quiet reigns over them for a few hungry moments.

Lilly’s brown eyes take in Copia’s quiet happiness with each bite, warmth filling her. This is still so new, and she doesn’t necessarily know what all of this Prime Mover stuff means but being tied to Copia feels comfortable already. It probably helps that she’s had a major crush on him for the past couple years after Andie introduced her to Ghost. It feels like she’s won the lottery.

The man across from her finishes his omelet, energized from finally eating something healthy. Lilly remembers the large amount of spaghetti sauce and pasta in the cabinet labeled with Copia’s name.

“We should pay you to be the Abbey private chef,” Copia jokes nervously, waiting for it to fall flat as most of his jokes usually do.

She munches on apple slices, “Be careful, my mom might take you up on that offer. She’s constantly looking for new culinary victims.” Chelsea Warren may seem pretty tame with her calm demeanor, but once she steps into a kitchen she turns into a mad scientist.

Copia finishes the grapes in his mouth before speaking, thoughtful and genuine. “Your parents were very nice.” He compliments.

Lilly laughs, “They’re nice, but insane. They argue about everything so much that I think it’s some form of weird old person foreplay. I do owe them a lot for how they gave me the choice for whatever religion I wanted. I doubt I would be here to be a Prime Mover without them.”

“I’ll need to thank them, then.” He matches her smile.

“So…what does all of this really mean? I am your wife, Courtesan, concubine?”

Copia flushes brightly. “A Prime Mover, as I was taught growing up, is an infernal soulmate to the reigning Papa. I’ve never seen or met one, but it was always touted as being romantic as well as spiritual.” A panicked look comes over him. “I never want to uh, force you into anything. I’d be perfectly happy as we are right now if you never want to have anything to do with me. Please don't ever call yourself my concubine.”

Lilly purposefully scoots her chair forward so she can touch his gloved hand. “Copia, I would like something with you. If anything, this only makes my decision of us together more real. Especially since the Devil is our matchmaker and he gave me such a good deal.”

“I cannot believe you!” He grins. “I know the Ghouls are extremely impressed by something like that as am I. Dealing with Lucifer after becoming a clergy member takes a lot of balls."

She pretends to be bashful and flutters her eyes at him, “It’s easy when the Devil is so handsome.”

Copia groans playfully, “I know. I can’t remember what form he chooses to visit us in, and I always forget how hot he is.” Suddenly, he straightens. “I understand if you’re uncomfortable with me voicing something like that.”

“Why would I be uncomfortable? I feel the same way.” She co*cks her head, holding his hand still as it tries to skitter away.

“Just…if we are trying to be together, me talking about other people like that-I don’t want to bring up bad memories of Adam or if you're not into guys like me.”

Lilly squeezes his gloved hand, the Grucifix sewn on the top of his glove cool in her grasp. “Copia, I hate to tell you this, but the Ghouls and I might’ve…done something together. You thinking the Devil is hot is not a worry for me.”

Relief spreads over his face. “Oh, that’s great, because I have as well.”

“Are they just…like that, then? Polyamorous?”

Copia leans back in his chair to think about it. “I think they’re only supposed to do it with themselves and the Papa that summoned them. It doesn’t make me jealous if you want to continue with them.” It only made the thought of her hotter being surrounded by the Ghouls’ velvety blue-grey skin. Not now, boner! He thinks frantically.

Hopefully Lilly can’t see over his desk.

“Good, because Swiss keeps mumbling dirty things to me when I walk past him.” She flushes. “You can as well. With the Ghouls, I mean. There’s a lot of rumors that you all were together based how you acted on stage, so I’m surprised it isn’t more of a thing.”

Copia blushes now. He rambles on, “N-No. We hadn’t done anything. I always walked in on them and they asked me to join but I never took them up on their offer until now.”

Lilly watches him with raised eyebrows when he doesn’t continue. “…and the reason why?”

He thinks it was pretty obvious though he’s trying to start this off right and decides to tell her anyway. “Because of you. They were so wired after meeting you.”

She tries to shift so her legs cross, but all it does it make her aware of the lace decorating her underneath the black and blue habit. The seam of her panties presses against her cl*t and she immediately has to shift back into her previous position. “Oh r-really?”

Now, Copia is a bit oblivious sometimes.

But the way Lilly’s face falters as she crosses and uncrosses her legs is a gesture he’s more than familiar with. His mismatched eyes latch onto the flashes of fish-net clad thighs. “Yeah,” He says dumbly.

C’mon, Lilly, go ride that man! A voice that sounds like Andie’s rings in her head.

“Can I sit in your lap?” She blurts out, standing quickly before she can regret anything.

Copia nods frantically and pushes away from the desk so she can straddle him. He has to guide her thighs so she doesn’t fall off, chest filling with butterflies at her inexperience and her being so close to him. Thankfully his office chair has a deep seat so that Lilly fits perfectly.

The knee-length hem of her habit slides up her thighs, giving Copia a beautiful view of light stretch marks and soft skin. He doesn’t have much more than a moment before Lilly manages to find the sweet spot to slot herself against him.

Lilly catches his mouth with a desperate hum and there’s too much teeth, but the prick of pain on his lower lip only sends more blood rushing south. If Lilly knew how to bite him where it counted, he would truly be a goner.

It’s a bit fumbly as she has to grab his shoulders to get enough leverage to shift downward and she swallows his light laugh eagerly. She pulls away to catch her breath. “I’m not too heavy, right?” Her cheeks are flushed with both arousal and embarrassment at an answer she anticipates.

Copia’s gloved hands slide over the outside of her legs to cup the meat of her ass. He needs to taste her again before his voice will work. Her mouth tastes like the honey-coated grapes and apple slices, but the skin of her neck is smoky, closer to the savory tang of the Ghouls’ skin. Perhaps when Satan had blessed her with her new title, His magic had left a lasting impression on her.

“Never. You’ll never be too much for me.” Copia says into her the crux of her jaw and neck like a prayer.

He'll need to explore every part of her to see how far his Lord has touched her.

Lilly’s spiked veil and Serre-tete are nearly halfway down the back of her hair, some of the wavy strands springing free. He swears her hair has gotten darker in color since yesterday, the ombre brown roots to dyed ash-blonde seeming more vibrant now.

Yet again, no time to think as Lilly finds a comfortable stretch of her thighs to properly press down in a rolling rhythm. His hands guide her hips part of the way, the thin leather of his gloves finding the hem of lace covering her.

Copia doesn’t care about the black smear he leaves as he mouths at her neck, overwhelmed with the mere thought of what she could be wearing underneath the somewhat familiar clergy dress.

“He originally h-had me wearing, f*ck, nothing.” She sighs shakily, hips already stuttering.

And with that, the damp heat of her through his pants, and how she grips the nape of his neck, he c*ms hard into his trackpants with a low moan.

Lilly slows her pace but she’s too desperate to stop fully. “Copia, I need…”

He stills feels the fire in his veins, but he’s satisfied. “What do you need, Lilly?”

She guides his hand until it slips under the raised hem of her habit. He finds the soft nub of her cl*t and he massages it with the pad of his thumb.

Lilly jerks in his lap, electric. “f*ck, f*ck, f*ck,” She gasps, her habit losing the battle of staying on her head. It falls onto his desk, barely out of range of the sticky, empty plates.

An idea pops into his head when she can’t quite seem to fall over the edge of her org*sm. “After Wednesday Mass, the Ghouls have a massive orgy in their den. Invoking their elements sends them into a frenzy, eager to please anyone.” He mumbles. “I wonder how they would react to having both of us there at their mercy. Last time I wasn’t able to do much more than f*ck Aurora, but many hands make light work.”

Lilly chokes on her gasp, pressing harder against his hand until she’s c*ms with something between a whine and sob that he swallows greedily.

-

“How long does it take to eat an omelet and a bowl of f*cking fruit?” Dew complains from Copia’s bed, watching Cumulus organize the vanity’s makeup for the fifth time. Rigatoni sleeps curled up on Dewdrop’s chest while clutching a piece of cheese in his tiny claws.

“Well, Lilly was in there with him apparently.” Rain reminds them. His dark blue eyes remain closed even as he reprimands the smaller Ghoul.

Dew scoffs, the noise disturbing the sleeping creature. He apologizes and Rigatoni nibbles the cheese before going back to sleep. “Those two aren’t going to do anything. Both are so anxious it cancels out the horniness. It’s like two chihuahuas in a snowstorm.”

“Hey, they’re trying their best. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lilly freaks out over this Prime Mover crap and wants to bow out for a bit. She went from pre-Mormon to Demon Princess in a month.” Cumulus finally steps away from vanity. She sits on the floor next to the cat bed where Fusilli and her babies nurse quietly.

A knock resounds on the wall next to the curtain, Sister Imperator pushing the blue fabric out of her way. “Cardi, I have the paper for Lilly-wait, where is he?” She stops short at the sight of only Ghouls lounging in his bedroom.

“He hasn’t come back from lunch yet, Sister. He should be in his office.” Cumulus responds.

“But it’s almost three! He’s been at lunch for two hours and none of you checked on him?” She huffs. “I’ll go get him so you can start preparing for Mass.”

Dew rolls his red eyes as the older woman leaves with a huffy attitude. “He’s a grown ass man. He probably fell asleep after actually eating something for once.”

Sister Imperator ignores the bratty fire Ghoul’s antics and heads to the papal offices. At least she can hand off one of the reports to Secondo on the way to the lazy current Papa.

After explaining what she needed reviewed to the diligent retired Papa, Sister goes to knock on the closed door of Copia’s office when it suddenly opens. Lilly and Copia nearly smack into her, stumbling back into the office. She takes in the wretched state of them: sweaty, habit veil missing, Copia’s lip paint smeared over his mouth and up to his nose, and the small, dulled paint pressed against Lilly’s lips and dotted down her neck.

“Oh, sister, hello. Lilly and I were, um…” Copia fumbles. It felt like he was a teenager caught sneaking his girlfriend in through his bedroom window. “We were discussing being a Prime Mover.”

Lilly nods along, trying to nonchalantly wipe some of the black paint off her lips. “He has some good advice.”

Sister Imperator smirks, “Well, I’m you two are discussing His Excellency’s decision so in-depth. Here is the report on the Prime Mover duties from earlier.”

“Oh, that was fast! Thank you,” Lilly takes the stapled pack of papers. “Do I need to meet with everyone before Mass?”

“Yes, we meet around 6pm in the apse, behind the mural of Lucifer.” She replies. “I would…take care of your makeup before coming, not that we don’t promote sexual gratification, but you will be introduced to the entire community.” And with that, the woman goes into her own office next door.

Lilly and Copia let out a sigh of relief. “Man, she’s scary sometimes. It’s like my mom.”

Copia nods his head, then his eyes widen at the smudged paint on her neck. “Oh sh*t, I got paint on your neck. No wonder she was looking at us like that.” He tries to use his thumb to wipe it off but it only makes it worse. “I have some makeup remover on my vanity. Sorry, this stuff is super-stay stage makeup.”

The two hurry to Copia’s room, successfully avoiding anyone else to witness their embarrassment. They laugh as they can stop tiptoeing like secret agents, walking into his room without noticing the voices inside.

“Oh my f*cking unholy Lord!” Dewdrop gasps as the two wear the smudged makeup, showcasing their tryst front-and-center. “I owe Rain $20…How am I supposed to get a job in retail?” He whines.

Lilly puts her hands on her hips. “You made bets on us already?”

“I’ll take a blowj*b instead,” Rain winks at the fire Ghoul. Dew immediately hands Rigatoni the rat to Cumulus and crawls to the water Ghoul’s lap.

Copia scruffs him and puts Dew on the other side of the room. “Please don’t give each other blowj*bs with the babies in the room. That’s like having sex with SpongeBob on.” He ignores the puppy-dog eyes the two Ghouls give him. He goes into the bathroom and gets the bottle of makeup remover and a small washcloth, handing it to Lilly.

“I don’t want to get your nice white towel all gross.” She complains.

“We use white towels so we can bleach them,” Cumulus smiles. “It’s really great.”

Lilly’s brown eyes glance at her then to Copia, sensing sincerity and pours a small amount of the solution on the cloth and goes to the mirror to wipe off her neck and mouth. Sure enough, it comes off quickly.

“So how was lunch?” Rain smirks, taking up all of Copia’s bedroom loveseat with his long legs.

Copia takes off his own makeup, including his eyes, “It was delicious. We should have honey and grapes more often. I think we should hire Lilly and Andie as chefs.” He takes her cloth and his to place in the laundry hamper by the foot of his bed.

“It does look mighty tasty,” Dew flutters his eyelashes at Lilly.

Emboldened by her tryst with Copia, she scoffs. “You can’t afford this.”

“I could get a job in retail! I’ll work at some crappy store!” He tries, spaded tail wrapping around her thigh.

Lilly kisses the top of his blonde head, between his short, white horns. “I’ll give you a discount tonight after Mass.”

The fire Ghoul matches her lusty smirk.

-

After a change into normal underwear (Lilly went with a pair that had a heart cutout on the butt, because if she’s going to a Ghoul orgy, she’s not showing up in granny panties again), Andie comes to her room to do a glam makeup look for Mass.

“What is your introduction going to be like?” Andie uses their fingers to melt the foundation into Lilly’s skin. They apply setting powder and begin to pat on the dark blue eyeshadow.

“Aren’t you the one who’s been to Mass before?”

Andie sasses her and jerks her head to the side. “There hasn’t been a Prime Mover in half a century. The only thing we know about her is that people said she was hot as f*ck.”

“There aren’t any pictures?” The archivist part of Lilly’s mind goes into overdrive digging through old records.

“Well, there are reddit posts from forever ago with alleged pictures of this hot blonde with young Papa Nihil, but no one has confirmed it. I don’t want to make things weird asking.”

Lilly has to keep her mouth shut as Andie brushes away the setting powder and applies eyeliner to her lash line. “Sister Imperator showed us a scrapbook from the Prime Mover, it said her name was Bernadette Emeritus.”

Andie nods very seriously, “That’s part of the post. I’ll have to find the post and I can show you what she looked like. Maybe she’s still kicking around.”

“Imperator said she died years ago but got really testy. Maybe it was her sister?”

“Ooh,” Andie looks impressed. “That’s really good! That might explain why things are so strained with her and Papa Nihil?”

Lilly scrunches her eyebrows and is quickly reprimanded about the delicate makeup. “Imperator is sleeping with her dead sister’s husband?” Both of them share a grimace.

“Ouch. Asshole move, Sister.”

Lilly holds back a laugh. “I mean, if she is dead…is there really anything stopping her?”

Andie swats her shoulder and sprays facial setting mist over her. “You’re horrible! Sister Imperator seems nice in a Grandma-from-Hansel-and-Gretel way. But I’d let you hit Terzo up if I were to go down in a blaze of glory.”

Lilly laughs now that she’s free from Andie’s makeup application. “Copia and the Ghouls are on the table as well.”

“Don’t make me murder you for a piece of that Ghoul orgy.” Andie swats her butt as Lilly laughs and leaves to meet with the Clergy before Mass.

The group is mostly there, a few Ghouls inside the sanctuary helping some of the Siblings light candles and place fresh flowers around the large room. Lilly immediately notices that Tom/Lucifer/Satan is standing amongst them, a familiar snake coiled around his neck.

“You let Crowley come!” Lilly beams, taking the snake as Tom offers it. “Thank you.”

Tom’s smile is sincere, running a hand over the vibrant stripes. “I didn’t want him to miss out on this. Plus, he’s already completed a lot of the paperwork. He’s a good worker when he shows up. I will be taking him back after Mass, however.”

Crowley coils around her neck, taking advantage of the black veil to trap in her body heat at her collar. She uses two fingers to stroke the black and yellow head as he pokes it out to look around. “That’s okay. Thank you for coming, I’m honestly a little nervous.”

The handsome man lays a comforting hand on her shoulder. “All we’re doing is introducing you as Prime Mover. You stand there, look stunning like right now, and then go sit back down again. There are more things to do at the Blessing, which since I’m here doesn’t need to happen, but I’ll walk everyone through their roles. You’ll do great.”

Lilly nods, puffing herself up inside. It’s hard to argue with the King of Hell’s confidence in you.

Tom grins and pats her shoulder before calling the group to order. “Hello again, everyone! I do apologize for interrupting the scheduled Mass tonight, but I think it’s good for everyone to have a refresher of the Blessings and a reason to behave tonight for our special new clergy member.”

Lilly spies Papa Nihil scoff silently at the back of the group of Papas and Ghouls. Sister Imperator smacks his arm hard enough that he curls in on himself to sulk.

“As such, there will be no Siblings chosen for tonight. I leave how to distribute the chosen for next week to Papa Emeritus IV. Our Prime Mover, Sister Lilly Imperium, will be introduced to the Clergy and Siblings before the main sermon. Nothing special, and it’s already noted on Sister Imperator’s notes for tonight.”

The woman nods. “Lilly, you will enter after Terzo and before Copia in the procession tonight. One of the Ghouls can walk you down if you wish.”

Lilly gives her a grateful smile, “I’d like that.”

Dew, Swiss, and Rain immediately start scrambling to get to Lilly first but get so caught up in fighting each other back they don’t notice Mountain calmly bowing and offering the woman his hand.

The group restrains laughter as the three Ghouls notice they’ve been beaten to their prize. Swiss’ tail flops to the ground dramatically.

Crowley the snake slithers deeper into Lilly’s habit collar, deciding it was too cold for him to pretend to care any longer. Lilly tries not to think about how much she’ll miss Crowley’s cool scales and weight for the rest of the winter season. Mountain’s larger hand is warm against her palm and his claws barely touch the back of her hand. It grounds her from the reality that threatens to nauseate her.

Sister Imperator and Copia beckon the missing Ghoulettes and Phantom from their various places around the main sanctuary to make them aware of the slight changes to the Mass schedule. They would add a hymn to the processional of the Clergy.

Phantom slides up next to Lilly’s free side, a curl of jealousy in his stomach that he wasn’t aware of the chance to guide her. Since Lilly’s accidental assault on him, the Quintessence Ghoul has been in a dazed state only felt during the early stages of the Ghouls’ tri-yearly Heat. Phantom was summoned only a year ago when the previous Quintessence Ghoul, Aether, was transferred to the Swedish Ministry Abbey.

It was difficult to be a Ghoul during the wintertime. These lower demons blessed with elemental affinities didn’t need much to sustain their forms beyond the veil, but three times a year [Litha Solstice (June 21), Samhain (Oct. 31-Nov. 1), and Yule (Dec. 21-Jan.1)] the Ghouls are forced into a frenzy by the changing seasons. Their elements are reinvigorated by basking in self and group pleasure. Copia was supposed to be indulging them during these three weeks of orgy, but he was too insecure about his orphaned heritage to find himself worthy of the Ghouls’ attention.

Now, as Copia sees the flush on Phantom’s lavender vitiligo-covered cheeks and the way Mountain calmly holds Lilly’s hands, he feels intensely impatient for Halloween/Samhain’s week of hedonism. He calls the meeting to a close as Siblings and the high-ranking heads of each branch of Sibling filter into sanctuary.

“I like your habit, Lilly,” Phantom compliments, using the hypnotizing purple of his eyes to grab her attention.

Lilly smooths down a part of the blue fabric that was creased from her earlier breakfast with Copia. “Thanks, I wish I could say I picked it out. I like how shiny your boots are.”

Phantom brightens at the praise. He had taken extra time this afternoon to make sure his uniform was at its best with His Excellency in attendance. The Quintessence Ghoul thanks her and shyly wave as he leaves with the six Ghouls forming the opening choir.

Tom leads the leftover group of the upper clergy down past the papal offices and into the narthex. From there, he’s yet again disappeared into the crowd of mingling community members before she can blink.

“This is really happening?” She mumbles to Mountain.

He squeezes her hand, tips of his claws acting as pressure points against her white knuckles. “Believe me, Sister Imperator is much more nervous than you are right now.”

The woman is downing a small cup of spiced (and probably spiked) apple cider rather quickly. Papa Nihil is ranting about something to her, the low rasp of his voice carrying through the people between them.

“You’re going to be fine,” Mountain reiterates when she’s still tense. “Everyone is going to be super excited, if they don’t already know. Swiss likes to gossip with the Siblings and Sisters. And you still can’t calm yourself down, I have some edibles.”

“Wait, you do?” It’s been years since she was able to do anything fun! Maybe it’s not best that she does one at this moment, though. “Where do you get them?”

The tall Ghoul blinks his bright green eyes at her. “Have you not explored the greenhouse? There’s where we grow the marijuana for the edibles we make.”

This whole time there were edibles? Did Andie know? “I’ll definitely take you up on the offer after Mass.” She agrees.

Mountain makes her drink a cup of cider to calm her nerves before the Siblings head inside for the processional of Papas to begin. He then guides her to the back of the line with Terzo ahead of them.

Copia was talking quickly with a Brother of Blasphemy a few feet behind them, but stopped as the Ghouls began the Gregorian chant of Infestissumam.

He shuffles up to her and Mountain as the doors are opened by Brothers Jacob and Thomas. His bat-wing cornette headpiece is tipped with gold metal. She can see the delicate stitching on his skull-motif stole scarf as the embedded bronze thread catches the light.

“You ready?” Copia whispers.

“I should’ve eaten an edible,” Lilly squeaks as she sees all followers stand and turn to watch them enter.

“You’ll be with the Papas the whole time,” Mountain offers his elbow, smiling softly as her arm links with his. He leads her a few paces behind Terzo’s sparkling robes.

Andie is at the end of a pew halfway down, beaming up at Terzo then watching Lilly with a suggestive waggle of eyebrows. All of the Siblings, Sisters, and Brothers they pass smile with a healthy amount of recognition and shock as they take in Lilly’s new outfit.

Lilly honestly wants to run away even if nobody seems weirded out. And just as it reaches a boiling point of overstimulation, Mountain begins humming along with his pack and reverberates the low tone until it’s all Lilly focuses on.

The earth Ghoul walks with her until they reach the box of pews reserved for the Papas, holding her hand aloft as she steps inside to take her place next to the retired Papa Emeritus III. Papa Nihil and Sister Imperator sit behind them on a slightly raised pew.

Mountain bows to Copia at the podium and takes his place amongst the Ghouls in the choir box.

Copia looks to make sure Lilly is settled comfortably before starting. “Welcome, Brothers, Sisters, Siblings, Clergy, and Ghouls. Tonight’s Blessing of our grounds will be a bit different than usual as our Clergy welcomes a special addition to our community. But before that,” He laughs and opens his Unholy Bible on the podium, “With the next week’s special All Hallow’s Eve upon us, the veil between our sacred grounds and our divine Hell are thin. I want to issue a caution that even as we rejoice in our Ghouls’ reinvigoration,” He coughs, a bit flustered, “There will be people who disagree with us. We have always had protestors, even when the Ghost Project was in its infancy. Please be aware of your surroundings when not inside our Blessed grounds from All Hallow’s Eve to the end of Samhain.”

He grins out at the crowd, “I now ask for Sister Imperator to introduce the next part of our service tonight.”

Copia leaves open the book, but takes his smaller journal into his arms. Sister Imperator stands and steps over to the podium, waving a hand when Lilly doesn’t immediately follow her.

“Go stand next to Copia,” Terzo whispers. “You’ll be okay.”

Lilly nods and nervously comes to stand next to Copia on the side of the podium, one of his hands coming to rest on her lower back. Crowley is jostled at her sudden movement and pokes his black and yellow head out from where he was snuggled in her collar.

A few Siblings ooh at the sight of the reptile. Andie flashes a thumbs-up as they recognize the subtle panic in Lilly’s stoic expression.

Sister Imperator looks like a proud mother as she watches them before opening a folder and taking out her small speech. “Greetings, devoted family and clergy.”

They echo a welcome chant back.

Unfortunately, she seems to go off script by the look of subtle disappointment on Tom’s face in the front row.

“I have been head Matriarch of this community for the past two decades, and there is nothing I love more than growing our close-knit community. Yesterday morning the Upper Clergy and I were Blessed to convene with Lord Satan in a special meeting to discuss recent happenings around the Abbey. As many of you have met and welcomed her, Lilly Warren began living with us due to an unfortunate situation and has quickly become a friend to all of us. Lilly’s kind soul has been recognized by our Ghouls, her kinship with Papa Emeritus IV, and her willingness to understand our values and embrace them in her own way has culminated with Lucifer designating her our first Prime Mover in nearly forty years. I am extremely proud to introduce Head Sister Imperium, Prime Mover to Papa Emeritus IV and new Matriarch of the United Clergy of Ghost.”

The pews erupt in applause, Sister Martha whistling from her seat next to Andie. Sister Imperator lets them go for a moment before reigning the crowd back in.

“I am sure she values your warm reception,” Lilly knows her cheeks and tips of her ears are bright red as she smiles and waves to the rows of followers. This wasn’t nearly as horrible as she thought it would be. Everyone looks excited for her and Andie and Martha are chattering quietly to each other. It’s just like receiving her Master’s degree.

Sister Imperator goes a step further than Tom thought she would. She sees his eyes widen and make a cutting motion with his hand to the older woman at the podium.

“And though it is up to our Infernal Lord’s discretion, our community should raise their prayers that Lilly will finally be the Prime Mover to accomplish the prophecy of birthing the Anti-Christ, and reigning over a family of Papal children that will carry on our messages for generations.”

Andie looks just as horrified as Lilly feels and it probably shows on her face as well. An invisible hand tightens around Lilly’s throat and forces her to stay silent.

Chapter 16: Jigolo Har Megiddo

Notes:

I forgot to say until now, but I will be using Dewdrop from now on.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Copia can’t see her that well from where he stands beside her but he ducks his head down. “What’s wrong?”

“I…” Lilly can’t speak. Can’t even get a breath out, as the followers erupt yet again into applause, most now rising to their feet in an ovation.

Andie disappears in the crowd of moving bodies and all Lilly can do to not pass out is focus on Tom’s dark eyes in the front row. He looks like he’s projecting a multitude of emotions; empathy for her shock, a disappointment for Sister Imperator going off script, and something she can’t put a finger on but it feels directed more at himself than her.

Sister Imperator doesn’t recognize Lilly’s shell-shock and leads her back to the Papas.

Terzo and Secondo meet her with concerned gazes, Terzo’s bronze-tipped gloves a new feeling for her to feel as he holds her hand when she sits down. “It’s just a rumor, you don’t need to worry about that right now.” He reassures to no avail. Hearing Copia’s voice is both a blessing and a curse. It soothes her to know that he’s still in control of the world around her, but it terrifies her that this could be the last time her presence is welcome in the Abbey.

Lilly zones out for the rest of Mass, internally spiraling with the vibrant memories of her past that overwhelm her and her uncertain future. Crowley senses this and slithers down her shoulder until he’s coiled in her lap. His forked tongue flits out against her free hand and keeps her from getting too carried away. Whenever she drifts off into a bad memory, his tail vibrates to mimic a rattlesnake and the vibrations ground her. Her thumb strokes his tiny head until Copia finally, finally ends Mass and releases the Siblings.

Andie and Tom are suddenly standing in front of the quire box when Crowley shakes her from a memory again. She latches onto Andie’s voice, “Hey Lillypad, let’s go somewhere a bit quieter. Tom says you can take Crowley with you.”

The milk snake wraps around her forearm and squeezes firmly until Lilly has the cognitive function to stand and numbly follow Andie out the side door to the papal hallway.

“You like Copia’s office, right? We can go sit there for a bit.” Andie opens the door and turns on the ancient lamp on Copia’s desk, bathing them in a warm, green-tinted light. Lilly doesn’t sit any of the chairs but curls on the floor behind Copia’s desk.

Andie sits down and faces her, their toes touching. “Are you thinking about something spooky?” Spooky is their code word for anything relating to Lilly’s clairvoyance and her grandparents.

Lilly realizes that she’s crying when she goes to wipe her eyes and Andie’s blue eyeshadow comes off wet. “Yeah,” She answers. “I knew this was too good to be true. I thought I was finally rid of these horrible times where I have to disappoint someone I love and he seems so understanding but I can’t give him that.” She rambles, wavering until she gets so choked up she can’t take a deep breath.

“Lillypad, look at me,” Andie says firmly. “Imperator is talking about some stupid-ass rumor from decades ago. The literal Devil himself says that he doesn’t care about that. Do you think Copia cares about a rumored prophecy?”

She watches them with teary, black and blue smudged brown eyes. “What if he does?”

“And what if he doesn’t? You’ve spent your life thinking about all the possibilities and outcomes because of some bitchy grandparents and you’re ignoring what really matters: that Copia wouldn’t be upset about anything like this.” Andie softens at the end, joining Lilly in petting Crowley’s striped scales.

“Can I have a few minutes alone?”

Andie nods and gets to their feet. “Do you want to keep Crowley?”

Lilly nods, sniffling from holding back a flood of tears that was about to come out.

Andie places a tissue box beside her before kissing her forehead. “I’ll be right outside if you need me.” They leave and close the door quietly, jumping at the amount of people waiting in the hallway.

“How is she?” Copia is missing his crazy headwear but he looks just as wild with the worry in his face. The Ghouls are pressed around him, Cumulus and Phantom holding his arms tightly. Terzo and Primo are next to him.

“Not great.” Andie grimaces as they hear a heart-wrenching sob from inside. “Crowley and her parents are what she needs right now.”

Terzo’s mismatched eyes are sad, “She knows Imperator is going on a rumor, right?”

They nod. “Yes, but it’s the expectation of having children that’s the real issue. I don’t know if she’s told you yet and I don’t know if it’s my place to say.” They wring their hands as they think about, but their heart breaks as another sob comes from behind the door and Copia looks close to crying himself. “Okay, you and me. We need to talk. Can we use your office, Terzo?” Andie sees the Ghouls move with the current Papa and sighs. “Ghouls can come too.”

Terzo quickly unlocks his office and lets them in, leaving with Primo to wait outside in case Lilly comes out.

Andie sits in Terzo’s office chair while Copia and the Ghouls sit around the man’s other seats. “What I tell you does not leave this room, got it?”

“Got it,” Copia affirms and the Ghouls chorus it.

“Terzo told me you found the picture with the exorcism note. Has she told you about it?” Andie begins.

Phantom clings to Copia’s hand, vibrating with anxiety. “She said it was just a nice family photo. We had gotten upset when we found out she was related to Ed and Lorraine Warren and then about her performing an exorcism.”

That’s the issue. The exorcism, yes?”

Swiss nods, the most vocal of the Ghouls when finding the written note.

Andie swings a few box braids over their shoulder. “What if I told you Lilly wasn’t performing the exorcism but was the exorcism.”

“I would jump off a bridge.” Swiss immediately replies.

Copia sighs, “Swiss, you’re not jumping off a bridge. You freaked out, and I think you’ve apologized enough to Lilly.”

Andie surveys them then continues. “Lorraine Warren was plagued with visions of Lilly becoming an ‘Unholy Mary’ before she was born, citing this divine set of visions as proof that Joshua had strayed from the path of God. Which, technically, has just come true, but they got so bad they started interfering with NESPR’s investigations. This made Ed upset, so all these stupid family arguments began between Josh (Lilly’s Dad) and Ed. Blah, blah, blah…” Andie takes a breath. “Lilly is born and apparently Ed said that Chelsea was a succubus, so Joshua named Lilly ‘Lillith’ to get back at him.”

“Spite is an interesting emotion for humans,” Rain agrees.

“Exactly. Lilly, her parents, and the Warrens traveled around in this old camper doing investigations until she was about seven, when Edgar Cayce (Lilly’s maternal grandfather) had a heart attack in Virginia. Chelsea was the sole inheritor of the A.R.E. Foundation and had to leave Lilly in the care of her father and grandparents for a year. Josh had to go do engineer stuff in the city, and Lilly was left in the care of the Warrens.”

“They left her alone with them? After all those visions?” Copia asks.

Andie bites their lip. “The way Josh described it, there wasn’t much of a choice. NESPR was bleeding, A.R.E. was in turmoil, they had to work to support both of their parents’ dreams. After she was born, Lorraine never really talked about the visions.” They wring their hands.

“Lilly says her only thing she liked to do was hide in the Warrens’ Museum storage room. The one with Annabelle. She didn’t know she had clairvoyance, but she knew that the souls trapped in these artifacts were nicer to her because she listened to them. As Lilly showed resistance to the Catholic traditions Lorraine abided by, she spent more time in the basem*nt with Annabelle.”

A look of guilt comes over the shadows of Andie’s androgynous face. “Lorraine had a vision of Lilly releasing the demon Farrassis from the Annabelle doll, so she goes to check on Lilly in bed and finds that she was in fact trying to erase the sigils binding the doll to the cage. Lorraine panicked as Lilly took the doll out and talked to it, calling Ed and Catholic priests to perform an exorcism immediately. Lilly doesn’t talk about what happened after that.” They finish, seeing the looks of horror and shock on the eight Ghouls and Papa’s faces. “But, whatever happened, caused her to make a deal for protection with Crowley.”

Copia pleads, “But, that wasn’t her fault! I wouldn’t be upset at all if we couldn’t have children. f*ck any of the sh*tty prophecies.”

“f*ck the prophecies!” The Ghouls echo, restless with this change in emotions.

“Can I go talk to her?” The Papa asks.

Andie thinks on it. “I think so. But she’s probably still very upset.”

Copia and the Ghouls stand outside his office door while he knocks.

“I’m okay, Andie,” Comes a watery voice from inside.

He smiles softly, “It’s Copia and I know you’re not. Can I come in?”

A sniffle and pause, then, “It’s your office.”

“Yes or no.”

“…Yes.”

Copia turns the knob and enters, leaving the concerned Ghouls out in the hallway. He doesn’t see her sitting anywhere, looking around until he basically stumbles overtop of her curled up under his desk. “Hi,” He crouches down. Crowley flicks forked tongue out at him. “Hello, Mr. Crowley the snake. Please don’t bite me.”

“He doesn’t freak you out?” Lilly says quietly. “And milk snakes don’t really have big enough teeth to do a lot of damage. He chose a very docile form because he’s a sweetie.”

“I mean of course I’m nervous, he’s one of my bosses and he’s a snake, so yeah, but he protects you so I’m working on it. Just, he’s not allowed near the babies, no matter how small his teeth are.”

Lilly gives him a watery smile, “I don’t think Crowley likes babies of any kind anyway.” The snake nods his tiny head.

“Andie told us about what happened before the incident with the Warrens.” Copia tries his best to put it gently.

She doesn’t look surprised or upset so he’s calls it a success. “That’s why I was so upset over Adam. It’s same sh*t all over again! But now I have Crowley and you guys. If you’ll have me without being able to bear any demons.” She tries to joke.

“Can I be honest about something?” Copia asks.

She wipes the rest of her makeup off and nods.

“I used to help in the infirmary in the Swedish Abbey, and I was always the one who cleaned off the babies. It’s really gross. I think I only like rat kittens.”

Lilly bites back a large smile. “Please tell me those infants didn’t come into the world with your 70s p*rn-stache as the first thing they saw.”

Copia huffs dramatically. “My moustache was impeccable, you should know. But I didn’t grow it until I moved here, so all of those babies grew up without being scarred by it.”

Lilly lets Crowley coil on top of the Papa’s desk so she can scoot out from under the desk. “You’re really not upset about not having children?”

He rolls his eyes. “There are two pregnant Sisters and one pregnant Sibling. There will be plenty of babies for Lucifer to choose an heir from.”

“I have something called Venereal Agenesis; it’s a rare condition where some women are born with a deformed uterus. I don’t have any fallopian tubes.”

“…And that’s not good, right?” Copia trails off, his limited education on internal female anatomy running low.

Lilly leans on his shoulder, closing her eyes. “It’s the connection point from the ovaries that hold the eggs to the uterus. My parents had my eggs frozen in case I wanted to use them later but they probably aren’t viable anymore.”

“Are the Ghouls doing okay?” She huddles close to him as she gets back in control of her breathing.

“They’re worried about you,” He answers.

“Sorry I ruined tonight’s orgy.”

Copia scoffs lightly. “You think this will stop them? I’ve walked in on Sodo and Rain arguing about the decorations for Yule while f*cking.”

Lilly raises her eyebrows, “…Why is that kind of hot?”

“Because they’re passionate about each other. Elemental opposites that push and pull. Plus, you never know who will end up on top.”

“For as awkward as you in interviews, you always talk so well to me.” She says, glancing at him in the corner of her eyes.

Copia leans back against the drawers of his desk. “Maybe it’s because I actually care about you. Reporters can be ruthless and the camera flashes always make me forget what I was going to say. With you, it’s like I have the headspace to actually think.”

She shifts until she’s kneeling next to him. Her hands pull his face closer until they’re breathing in the same air. After a brief hesitating breath, she leans in all the way.

Her lips are salty from tears but there’s a remnant of some fruit-flavored lip-gloss that overpowers it. He has to pull away before he loses himself in her again.

“Lilly, I want this…but are you sure you’re not forcing yourself?”

Lilly nods, “I know we’ve been taking it slow, but I’ve waited too long to let my body express itself. Let’s go to the Ghouls. Make me forget about this prophecy, Copia.”

“Of course,” He mumbles and dives into her. She sighs into his mouth, relaxing when his arms come up to rest on her waist. He goes to drag her into his lap when a loud hiss from above them makes them jump apart.

“Oops, sorry Crowley.” Lilly flushes brightly.

The milk snake slithers over the papers left out on Copia’s desk until it can slide down the front and under the door.

“Ooh! Hello, Crowley,” Mountain says, muffled through the door.

Lilly sighs, a neutral expression that he wants to twist positively. A tinge in his lower back does away with any sexy thoughts about continuing here on the floor.

“What do we do about the Blessing?” Lilly asks, helping him to his feet.

He shrugs. “They might’ve already done it. If you’re uncomfortable at all, I can stay away for tonight.”

Lilly shakes her head, “No. I’d like to experience this with you.”

She uses a tissue to wipe at the tear tracks on her cheeks before she gets up enough courage to have him open the door. Outside the eight Ghouls and Tom stand impatiently, perking up when Copia and Lilly step out into the lit hallway.

The Devil takes Lilly’s hands into his own, a parallel of when he reassured her before Mass. “I apologize for the rogue speech, Lillith. I didn’t choose you for that and there was never an expectation for it.”

Crowley hisses in agreement from Mountain’s arms.

“Since it is the Mass before All Hallow’s Eve and Samhain, I’ve already taken care of Blessing for tonight. All of you can go and forget about this until Sister Imperator apologizes tomorrow.” Tom pats her hands and turns to the Ghouls.

“Unfortunately, you all know what it is like when we use a bit more power than usual. And as we can tell by poor Phantom,” They look to the anxious, quivering Quintessence Ghoul clinging to Rain, “Your Cycles will be a bit early. It just means all of you can trick-or-treat properly this year.”

The Ghouls all perk like cats at the words of the special Halloween activity. Phantom makes a soft noise, halfway between a huff and whine.

“Go take the night to indulge in the sins of the flesh. Allow me to take back our helpful reptilian friend and I’ll be on my way. Wonderful service tonight, Copia.” Tom carefully takes back the red, yellow, and black striped snake then disappeared into the bubbling ooze on the floor.

With the man gone, all of them stare at each other for an awkward moment that forces a hysterical laugh out of Lilly. It passes and she smiles ruefully to herself. “I think I need a distraction from all this.”

Nine pairs of eyes latch onto her. Some stare at her face or meet her gaze while others watch different parts of her body. Copia is the least subtle about staring at her thighs.

“Ghoul den?” She prompts.

Swiss is next to her in a blink, swooping all 243 pounds of her off her feet. Even Copia looks startled as the group briskly makes their way to the Ghoul Den’s entrance. “Wait, I have to talk to the head Siblings! I’ll be there as soon as possible!” He calls.

Lilly gives him a thumbs up from her place in Swiss’s capable arms.

The whole time Lilly feels like she’s floating, and she can’t even really feel him going down the stairs until she’s being placed at the edge of the Ghoul’s shared sleeping pit/hole? (Why does it all sound kinky?)

Rain successfully fights off Sodo and Swiss to unlace Lilly’s new platform boots.

She tries to wave them off when it begins to feel like they are servants undressing her, but they plead until she lets them take off her veil and collar. She stops them there. “I know I seem like a pro, but this is my first orgy. What are the rules?”

“Who said there were rules?” Sodo pipes up from behind her, scrutinizing the corset lacing of her habit.

“I mean, like do Copia and I have to do something? Are there couples to worry about?” Her logical, academic brain doesn’t get the basic concept of the Ghouls’ relationships just yet.

“This is meant as an exercise in getting the excess energy out of our system. No rules, not much is off-limits. We’ll start slow to get you into it. Want to put on a movie like last time?” Phantom is eager as he sits beside her, clawed hand so close to the open spread of her fishnet stockings.

“I think I’m okay without it,” She says before a hand on her jaw makes her turn the other direction to meet Rain’s mouth.

“Rain!” Phantom whines, “You’re not even in Rut yet!”

The water Ghoul’s mouth Is cool, bordering chilly as he deepens it immediately. He lets her go after a heart-stopping moment, looking extremely satisfied with himself. “Poor Bug, so weak he’s already a bitch in heat.” He taunts the smaller Ghoul.

Lilly pushes Rain’s chest until he backs up. “Go pick on someone your own size. Come here, Phantom.” She slides down into the pillows as the Quintessence Ghouls crawls into her lap. He’s so desperate that he nearly falls onto her rather than his proposed sultry climb onto her. She takes in the purple flush of his white and lavender speckled face, how his eyes track over her face in tandem. “Rain pokes fun at you a lot, doesn’t he?”

Phantom nods, frantic. “All the time.”

“We’ll let the other Ghouls deal with him for right now.” She pulls him in for a kiss as Rain is tackled by Sodo and Aurora beside them. Phantom overwhelms all of her senses with the smell of lavender and fresh linen that reminds her of the rare days in Seattle it wasn’t pouring.

He's velvety soft against her tongue, but he presses forward a bit faster than she would like and she has to break the kiss before he’s able to push her onto her back.

“Hey, a little too fast,” She says.

Phantom is immediately lifted off her by the scruff of his collar by Mountain. He whimpers as he’s dangled like a wayward kitten from the tall Ghoul’s arm.

“He’s not in trouble. Just…I should set some boundaries I guess.” Lilly sits back up. “I don’t want to take everything off or do any like, real, penetration tonight.”

The Ghouls nod from their various positions. Cumulus and Swiss are tangled together, Aurora is being impaled by Rain with Sodo thumbing at her nipples, and Cirrus who sits alone where Mountain was in her lap before getting Phantom.

Sodo knee-walks over to her. “I can treat you right, Lilly…Let a mature Ghoul show you a good time.” He lays his head in her lap, long blonde hair cascading over her knees.

She strokes the silky strands. “How do you keep this from getting tangled under the helmets?”

The fire Ghouls exhales with a purr. “Lussy and Rainy braid it for me.” He relaxes under her light scratching, his arms wrapping around her waist.

After a moment of watching him carefully, Lilly carefully collects the hair into her hand and pulls the Ghoul’s hair.

Sodo’s throat is stretched wide over her lap, a loud moan drawn out of him like he was a perfectly-tuned instrument.

“You’ve really done it now. He won’t want you to stop.” Cumulus says breathily from Swiss’ lap.

Lilly watches as Dewdrop’s eyes roll back at another pull of blonde strands. A tent in his jeans forms and the blunted end of his claws press into the meat of her hips. “Lilly…”

“What do you want, Sodo?” She snakes a hand down to the hem of his pants but she gets distracted by the scene around her.

Cumulus exhales loudly, clenching around Swiss as she org*sms. The Multi-Ghoul shoots over her lower back, taking a swipe of his cum to feed to Aurora between Rain’s thrusts. The small multi-Ghoulette’s purple eyes flutter from the pleasure below her and the taste of Cumulus’s sweat and Swiss’ spend.

“Go help our little lamb and firefly, Lussy,” Swiss taps the Air Ghoulette’s hind with a smirk.

Cumulus obeys and is by their side in moments. “Dewey really likes fingers.” She says, pulling the fire Ghoul’s jeans down to reveal a dripping entrance. “See, he’s so ready for you.”

Now, Lilly’s fingered herself before. She had fumbly-awkward High School teenager sex with Matt, and she has a small assortment of toys she was able to keep secret from Adam. Fingering a Ghoul was a new frontier.

The Air Ghoulette smiles encouragingly at her as she slips her middle digit inside Dew. He’s tight then relaxes quickly, hips bucking for more.

“He’s good at adapting, it won’t take long at all to open him up,” Cumulus pulls back her white fluffy hair into a bun.

Lilly slips another finger inside, then another, and another until almost her whole hand fits inside the Ghoul’s relaxed c*nt. “Oh sh*t,” She breathes.

Cumulus takes over Lilly’s pulling of Sodo’s hair, letting the woman kneels between the fire Ghoul’s thighs. “Heats are meant for the knot or the swelling at the base of a Ghoul’s co*ck to lock into place inside their puss*. It makes the sub Ghouls secrete excess elements. Form your hand into a fist, and watch what happens when he c*ms.”

She takes a quick second to carefully curl her fingers inside Dew into a fist. Sodo cries out in pleasure, mouth dropping open to release a hazy curl of smoke. She thrusts shallowly until he clenches around her hand, drawing it deeper until the walls clamp down on her hand. It gets unbearably hot, like a flashbang, and warm liquid seeps out around her wrist. Dew arches up into Lilly’s chest and keens wildly, as she pushes deeper a few times.

Lilly is mesmerized by the pure pleasure that thrums through every fiber of Sodo, she can feel it vibrate the air around her like she was a fish in a plastic bag of water. She needs to cum, now.

“Someone better come f*ck me, right now.” She gasps out.

“But you said-“ Mountain starts.

“f*ck that, I need something inside me that makes me cum right now.” She orders.

It disrupts every occupied tangle of Ghouls, all of them snapping at each other until Sodo’s inner walls unclench from around Lilly’s fist. Rain comes out victorious, the consensus of a medium-sized Ghoul the best solution.

The Water Ghoul approaches her with more humility than before. He’s stripped down all the way, his nice-sized co*ck already back to nearly-full hardness even after his very recent org*sm inside Aurora. He helps her take her fist out of Sodo’s sensitive c*nt and sucks on one of her fingers to lick off the slick. She’s a bit grossed out when he gently presses her index to her own lips, but the slick tastes like diluted Fireball Whiskey. Figures.

Rain uses that distraction to lift her and lay her down in the softest middle of the Ghoul Den. She shifts to get comfortable under him, reaching until she can hike up her dress to her waist. Was she really nervous about being naked in front of them? Maybe it was just the amount of eyes watching and not the actual viewers.

Rain takes her form in with lidded dark blue eyes. His hands caress the silk lace of her panties and after a forked lick of his lips, he tugs them down and off her. Her reaction is to clench her thighs together but two Ghouls appear on either side and gently hold them open.

“Oh, little lamb…This is a prize worthy of our Papa.” Rain coos. His fingers press against her cl*t in a circular motion, making her gasp and squirm at finally being touched.

It’s been so long…So long since anyone saw her in this state. So long since anyone had seen her as worthy of touch. The nickname spurs another moan out of her.

Cirrus lays her cheek against Lilly’s thigh and watches with rapt attention. “Would you rather Rainy eat you out? He’s always made me feel so wonderful.”

Lilly can’t think as Rain continues the torturous circular motion. “I…I-“ She moans.

“Lotus, stop for a moment and let her think.” Mountain chides, Phantom quietly whining and riding him beside them.

Rain pulls his hand away. Lilly groans at the loss of stimulation but uses the moment of clarity to think on what she wants. She usually is able to cum faster from the small bullet vibe from Andie, but she isn’t sure if she’s just not hitting her G-spot with her fingers. “Mouth.”

There will be more Wednesday nights to try other things.

The water Ghoul is bending down quickly to stick his lips around her cl*t, chilled mouth surprising against her heated, damp skin. “f*ck!” She cries.

Cirrus’s light blue eyes are a stark contrast to her straight, dark hair as she leaves wet kisses along her stocking-free thighs. Cumulus’s nails dance along her left thigh, tickling and her jerking her body against Rain’s roaming tongue. Aurora is latched to her collarbone with a hand that creeps under the collar of her under-habit dress.

A finger enters under Rain’s tongue.

Suddenly there are footsteps coming down the stairs. Rain presses deeper into her folds, not stopping at the intrusion, but Lilly feels her heart falter in its fast-paced rhythm. Far to the right, she sees Copia walk around the corner and freeze like a deer in headlights.

Notes:

I wonder how Copia will like seeing his precious water Ghoul eating out his Prime Mover?

Chapter 17: Hunter's Moon

Notes:

Here we go, people! Ghoul orgy in full swing!

And of course, our favorite Papa gets some reassurance from his eldest sibling.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Copia is mesmerized at the scene unfolding in front of him.

Lilly’s thighs are spread by Cirrus and Cumulus for Rain’s head to continue its bobbing between them. Swiss and Aurora are near the curator’s chest, hands splaying over her stomach and chest. It makes his mouth water. The Ghouls are in various states of undress; Copia can see that Aurora is topless from her place across Lilly’s barely covered breasts.

Phantom is seated on Mountain’s knot just out of reach of the gathered Ghouls. He brightens when he sees the antipope and waves him over eagerly. Copia quickly toes off his loafers to come stand at the edge of the cushioned den.

He wishes he could see her eyes but Swiss’ muscular back obscures her as he leans down to mouth at her collarbone.

“Papa,” Phantom sighs and pulls him down to his knees. The Ghoul’s hands unbutton his under robes deftly, roaming over his white under-tank top and the belly pudge he’s never been able to get rid off.

This is the first time he’s been stripped this much in front of them. (There were times on tour where they changed in the same room or on the bus but this was intentional now).

The Quintessence Ghoul is able to slide off of Mountain’s large co*ck with a lewd noise, climbing into Copia’s lap with a happy, Ghoulish trill.

Another lewd noise, makes Copia’s co*ck chub up even more is the broken moan that is forced from Lilly. Even as Phantom grinds himself down on him, Copia watches the small part of Lilly’s face he can see as her org*sm washes over her.

Rain pulls away with a satisfied smirk, “So sensitive down here. Have you been neglecting yourself?”

Lilly is out of breath, head laying back against lap as the Ghoul cards hands through her hair. “Not since…last time I was here.” Sodo’s claws scratch at her scalp to the point where she shivers in pleasant overstimulation.

“I think we need to catch up with all of the org*sms you’ve missed in the past two weeks.” Aurora gently pulls up habit up until the blue lace of Lucifer’s chosen bra is revealed. “Now look at how pretty she is, Papa. All wrapped up for us.”

Copia shudders and c*ms over Phantom’s curled fist.

Cumulus licks a hot stripe up to the meat of Lilly’s thigh, “I think Papa likes it, too.”

Sodo turns Lilly’s head to face Copia as Phantom sinks down onto the antipope’s still-hard co*ck. She stares openly as the pleasure takes over both men’s faces, sweat beading over Copia’s papal paint.

Swiss has decided he’s been patient enough for everyone and kicks Rain out of the space of Lilly’s thighs. The movement forces Rain to extract his fingers, prompting a whine from the woman. Swiss’s fingers quickly replace Rain’s and he adds a third finger after a few thrusts.

“Tell us what you want, Applesauce.” He curls them and relishes the electric jerk her back does. Dew’s steady hands keep her view on the Quintessence Ghoul’s rolling hips. They wait, quiet even as some of the Ghouls have fingers that wander over their own bodies.

What did she want?

She wanted all of them.

But honestly, was it too early to get f*cked like this in an orgy? It’s been six years since she really had sex, and even then, Jeff didn’t have a big dick. (He hit his growth spurt the next school year and Lilly was a bit jealous as the cheerleaders kept talking about his bigger dick).

Phantom leans forward to sloppily snog Copia and she makes up her mind. Does this count as cuckolding him?

“f*ck me,” She orders, voice clear and calm for a moment. Her left wrist tingles as if it were asleep.

Swiss and the Ghouls holding her all make a layered version of a growl, vibrating her skin as the Multi-Ghoul scissors his fingers inside her. Mountain joins the central group, but stays on the periphery to cling to Cumulus’s back like a barnacle.

It must be great being a Ghoul, Lilly thinks hazily. None them seem to need any prep work; Mountain’s large co*ck fits inside Cumulus with one thrust, the only discomfort on the Air Ghoulette’s face being that her bra was still on.

The Earth Ghoul deftly undoes the contraption and her breasts spill over Lilly’s thighs. They have a similar size, and the human woman’s mouth waters at the soft blue-grey skin against her own.

“Do you wanna know the best part about human-Ghoul relations, Lilly?” Cirrus grabs her attention. Her hand is idly dancing up to the lace over Lilly’s peaked nipples.

She nods, gasping as Swiss adds a fourth finger for good measure. He pulls it out and the thick, blunt head of his co*ck sits right at the rim of her puss*.

“We can’t get you pregnant. Even without your condition,” Cirrus kisses down her calf, sneaking a kiss from the Multi-Ghoul almost inside her. “We can fill you up all you want.”

Lilly’s curtain bangs are stuck to her forehead with sweat and Aurora and Sodo braid it up into the rest of her hair. “We want to see how it feels when Swiss pushes his fat co*ck inside you for the first time.”

Aurora’s hand grasps hers as Swiss pushes the head inside, Dew and Rain whispering filthy praise in her ears as the multi-Ghoul slowly bottoms out.

It felt like he would never fit in, every millimeter stretching her to the brim until he’s leering haughtily overtop of her. “One day…” He breathes, “We’re going to watch as Mountain absolutely destroys this tiny c*nt of yours.”

Cumulus is being jostled by Mountain’s thrusts, one of her blunt clawed hands holding Aurora’s neck as the two sloppily meet each other’s mouths overtop of Lilly.

Lilly doesn’t know where to look. Between the gorgeous vision above her, the slow beginning thrusts of Swiss inside her, the praise her in ears, or the soft noises of Copia and Phantom beyond her view.

Swiss distracts her by pulling almost all the way out and thrusting back in deeply. He holds her thighs up until she’s more exposed, watching her lips stretch around his co*ck. Rain has been extra thorough when he was eating her out, the slide wet from both Lilly’s own excitement and the water Ghoul’s special slick saliva.

Most of the adjustment pain fades into tingling pleasure in Lilly’s face and Swiss takes that as a sign to start an actual rhythm. It punches moans out of the human underneath him, forming a melody to his ears.

“Swiss,” Is all she can jumble out through the waves of pleasure.

Sodo breaks away from where he was planting deep bites against Rain’s neck. “I want a piece of this next,” He purrs and crawls over to Swiss’s side, sitting on his haunches to take in how exposed the human woman is. His thumb grazes over her cl*t and he laughs at the arch it causes.

“sh*t, do that again. She got even tighter,” Swiss pants. His firmly grasps the meat of Lilly’s hips to f*ck into her.

Cumulus nearly falls onto of Lilly with the force of Mountain’s knot and her own org*sm, Phantom helping her back upwards with equally unsteady hands.

He’s flushed and somewhat sated from his ride with Copia, but the Quintessence in his corporal form will take another two dozen org*sms to be fully satisfied. Thankfully, he has the longest Heat out of all them but it still requires just under a week’s time to settle his pheromones gradually.

Copia has never had a level of stamina like this. He’s cum twice in the past hour inside Phantom’s c*nt and his mouth, and still feels like he could f*ck his fist for several more hours. Maybe the Ghoul’s Heat also affects him. He takes a breather of air that isn’t filled with the lavender and fresh linen of Phantom’s slick and manages to catch the moment Swiss pushes Lilly’s thighs up until he’s able to slam inside her.

Copia is absolutely smitten.

Lilly’s gasping, all broken syllables of the Ghouls’ names as they lave attention on different flushed areas of her body. From this angle he can see where the Multi-Ghoul stretches her lips wide enough that it makes him jealous: both to be the one f*cking her and the one being impaled by him.

The Antipope is spurred into action when he hears his name (distorted by moans, but his name nonetheless) and Lilly’s hand is clawing at the blankets in his direction. Copia waddles until he can see every drop of sweat on her face, stripping himself of his undertank and final pieces of clothing.

Claws begin to caress him but his attention is laser-focused on the jostling image of Lilly reaching for him.

“C-Co….pia,” She cries. He holds her hand but she slaps it away until she grabs at his co*ck. A whiplash of emotions runs through him as the top of his hand stings but renewed pleasure licks up his groin.

Cirrus is pressed up against Copia’s side, white claws tracing down his back. “What a treat this is, to see our Prime Mover and Papa indulging their Ghouls after being denied for so long…”

Lilly’s fist squeezes involuntarily with every press of her G-Spot by Swiss. Copia goes to use some of Phantom’s slick to make it slide better when Cirrus leans down and takes off Lilly’s hand, licking a long stripe down the woman’s inside palm. She wraps the fist back around Copia and he almost loses himself right then.

Lilly probably feels it as well because her fist is curled tightly around her as the swelling knot on Swiss’ co*ck catches on her rim. “f*ck! Swiss! What….the Hell?” She groans, craning her neck up at him.

“You’re going to take my damned knot,” Swiss growls with each thrust until it’s fully inflated. “You’re going to clench this wet puss* around me and cum like a good girl.” Aurora takes one of her nipples into her mouth at the command.

Lilly sees stars dance over where Swiss and Copia hover above her. As the thickened length pops inside her, she loses control of her voice and body in a starburst of pain and pleasure.

-

Lilly’s alarm sounds a lot more human than she remembers.

Her bed is also incredibly warm like she had walked into a sauna wearing a winter coat. Why was it so hot? It’s nearly November.

As the parish sighs in smoke, enter lady, revealed in cloak;

to the haunting sound of the Monstrance Clock.

Singing; Come together, together as one…”

The voice is barely audible but she can feel the words and voice pressed into her back shoulder blade. Its accompanied by kisses and mumbled words of a language she doesn’t know. Cracking her crusted eyelashes reveals the smooth swell of Cumulus’ exposed breasts. The Ghoulette continues breathing deeply, undisturbed.

The person behind her shifts at Lilly’s change in breathing and snuggles impossibly closer to her back. “Tesoro…

Oh. It’s Copia. She should’ve known from the voice.

Moving her eyes shows that she’s in the middle of a nine-demon cuddle pile.

Lilly then realizes she is also naked except for the Grucifix Era IV rosary squished between her neck. Copia mumbles again into her shoulder. It tickles the already raised goosebumps and forces a shiver out of her. The man yawns, jaw clicking and bare hands roaming.

Wait.

Bare hands?

“…Lilly?” He whispers.

And with that one whisper, the entire consciousness of the Ghouls around them awakens. It feels like the room has been turned on its side and she can tell the difference in energies with both her clairvoyant connection and something much darker that has seemingly slotted into place.

“Good morning,” The greetings echoes around them in various renditions of morning moods from grumpy to happy.

Someone claws rake through her hair, prompting another shiver.

“What time is it?” Lily asks.

“About 6:45,” Mountain rumbles from where he’s spooning Copia.

Lilly yawns, stretching her jaw and sore throat. “I have to get ready for work soon.” She will definitely need a coffee and a gallon of water to get over this ache in her throat.

Cumulus makes a soft disappointed noise. “But you’re so warm and cuddly. Can’t you stay home today?”

As much as Lilly would want nothing more than to stay curled with Copia as her big spoon and her face in between Cumulus’ breasts, she’s itching for a shower and getting a start on rebuilding her office. “I don’t think Dr. Myers will be too excited about that. Plus I want to work on your museum display.”

“I can’t believe our Prime Mover likes paperwork. I guess opposites attract.” Sodo teases.

Copia’s warm arms retract from around her waist. She marvels at the olive skin as it disappears. He sighs, “I have no idea where your habit ended up.”

“It’s over here!” Sodo dangles the wrinkled black and blue dress over the pile until she can grab it, even though there’s no room to actually put it on.

Slowly the Ghoul pile-on is dismantled around her and Copia. Both of them are left naked as the Ghouls recuddle on the other side of the den.

Copia fully pulls away and a rush of cool air hits her back. She slides on the dress and tugs it down so she can get up without further exposing. “I’m guessing I’m going to my room sans underwear?”

All of the Ghouls avoid eye contact.

“Which one of you has it?” Copia rolls his eyes after a moment, covering himself with one of the cleaner quilts, laying back down.

Still, none of them speak up.

Lilly crosses her arms to hide the obvious sag of her breasts without any support. “Well, I guess I won’t wear pretty underwear if it’s going to disappear…”

Mountain slowly reaches out, the two lacy garments gripped in his claws. “Sorry,” He says quietly. It continues to amaze her how quiet the massive Ghoul is.

“Thank you. It’s okay, just I’ve never had to do a morning after walk like this before.” She slips on the underwear and immediately regrets it at the crustiness that meets her sensitive areas. She forgoes the bra and tries to stuff it in her pocket but it is clearly visible. She holds it under her arm and just hopes no one is up this early on a Thursday morning.

“You might want to put some concealer on today,” Cumulus calls just before Lilly can climb the first stair.

Uh oh, Lilly thinks. That sounds like an issue to worry about after she makes her sore pelvis climb these steps.

After a large amount of concealer, setting powder, and a turtleneck, Lilly heads into New York City traffic. This commute’s typical to her now. She knows it will take two hours if she leaves after 8am but only one and a quarter if she leaves the Abbey at 7am. She’s managed to hit a sweet spot this morning and listens to a few songs on her liked playlist as she inches over the Madison Avenue Bridge.

Arriving her marked parking spot, Lilly heads inside to the front desk. The security personnel are different than the ones she knows but they’re extremely friendly and the small group and desk attendant, Daniel, head up to the office level.

Dr. Myers is trying not to show she was waiting on them, but no one ever sits at the breakfast table closest to the elevators. She stands with relief at the sight of Lilly in good spirits with a steaming coffee and bagel.

“Good morning,” She greets them. The small group stays in the elevator and the Curator steps out to join her boss.

“Good morning,” Lilly grins, caffeine finally kicking in. “Used some of my traffic time to think about what furniture I could get.”

The tall Director walks with her to her office. It’s empty and painted a pale white with a basic grey tile floor. The smell of fresh paint hits Lilly like a brick wall. She will definitely be purchasing an oil diffuser.

“I don’t want to push anything on you and I have no idea how much you’ve already thought of, but Dr. Callahan and I wanted to see if you were going to use any money for buying a car.”

Lilly co*cks her head. “But my car is fine?”

“It’s eleven years old. Didn’t it break down last month?”

The plump woman thinks back to that awful day. Her cute, reliable little CR-X had overheated and sprung a leak (of what she’s still not sure) during rush hour traffic and during a rare downpour. The amount of horn honks and angry yelling still ruffles her when she thinks too hard about it. Adam couldn’t even bother to come get her, so she huddled under a Starbucks awning until a tow truck could pull her little blue friend out of the way.

“Well…yes, but she’s all fixed now. I haven’t had a problem since.” Lilly lies, remembering the check engine light currently lit on her dashboard.

Dr. Myers hides an amused smile. “Just know that $120,000 is given by the Board for strictly office use, but the other $80,000 is from us without any requirements in the expense reports.”

“I’d probably just buy another CR-X.”

“How about you talk with your father who is obsessed with cars?” Her boss says in closing. “Just a thought. Oh, and there’s a desk over by the archives for you until you order things.”

Lilly heads over to the quiet room of shelves, reveling in the familiar smell of old books and leather--a scent that reminds her of the corridors of the Abbey.

-

Copia and the Ghouls share a bliss-filled morning of sleeping in, the rats being taken under the care of Terzo for the time being. By the time Copia makes it up into the cloister, it’s close to noon. Primo is kneeling by his garden on the north wall, pruning the explosion of dark kale plants. “Good afternoon, dormiglioni.” He greets Copia’s disheveled form.

“It’s afternoon?” The current Antipope groans.

“I assume you and Miss Lilly have had a busy night. She was quite skittish this morning, nearly ran into a column in fright when I said hello.”

Copia rubs the back of his neck and feels the teeth marks embedded there. “Yeah…we, uh, had a nice night in after she was feeling better.”

Primo’s crow’s feet crinkle as he finds himself basking in memories of the few lovers he took in during his own Papacy. “Congratulations on having a Prime Mover.” Seeing the youngest Emeritus wasn’t leaving, he holds out a pair of pruning shears and points them at the swiss chard plants next to him.

Copia settles delicately on the grass and gets to work on the tough stems. “I don’t know how to feel about it.” He admits quietly.

“You should be proud! Puff out that skinny chest of yours in celebration. This is an incredible honor from our Lord.” Primo grins.

“But is it fair to Lilly?” Copia questions, pulling out the leaves with more strength than he ought to. “Is it fair to you? Why couldn’t it have been you? You, Secondo, and Terzo spent your lives underneath Nihil and I’m the one who gets this? The one Papa not in the bloodline and who only came as a Cardinal trainer?”

The nearly sixty-year old Papa takes in the self-depreciation of his adopted brother. “Do you believe you’re not worthy of this?”

Copia pulls another plant out. “Just…that you three deserve it more.”

“Copia, how many times will Terzo and I need to tell you we don’t care about you being blood-related? You are il mio Fratello, through and through. There are times where you’re my favorite brother because I remember I didn’t have to potty-train you. You’re Papa Emeritus IV for a reason.”

The current Papa prunes another thick bundle of stems. “I’ve always felt as if I was riding your coattails.”

Primo wipes a bit of sweat from under his sunhat, finishing the kale. “Without you, it would have been impossible for the Ghost Project to win the award. You are integral to this.”

“Thank you, Fratello,” Copia says sincerely.

“Anytime,” Primo shuffles to the left side of the now harvested kale to the bountiful cauliflower. “Now, go pick the snow peas, Copia.” He orders, a fond smile on his face.

“It’s Papa, remember?” Copia hefts the swiss chard bundles into the man’s trolley.

Notes:

Bonus points if you can guess what kind of car Lilly would buy to replace her small Honda hatchback.

@steamyearlgray isn't allowed to vote >:)

Chapter 18: Secular Haze

Notes:

i love writing orgy scenes but never know how to end them

feat. eepy prive mover

Chapter Text

Lilly likes the little space carved out for her in the archive room. She was productive on filling out initial forms for purchasing new furniture and established a basic color scheme for paint.

Unlike her old office, Lilly went with a more muted blue color for the walls to contrast the bright windows across from where her new desk would be. A bit of the gothic romanticism of the Abbey’s Cathedral has snuck to into every bit of her world, and she finds herself wishing for a bit of the comfort here in this new, Adam-free office.

Paint is ordered, a design is crafted for basic bookshelves to line the back wall, and Lilly makes a spreadsheet of general guidelines of furniture. She’ll need a desk, office chair, a loveseat and armchair for meetings, and a set of waist-high filing cabinets for storage of documents. Lilly settles on a soft whimsigoth style of brown, white, gold, with a sepia wood tone. It will take at least a week to process the request, then another to have it built and another to have it shipped.

It's a good thing she likes this temporary space.

After a lunchtime goodbye call with her parents as they get ready to fly back to Washington, Lilly finishes reports she’s missed for the museum’s new acquisitions. The clock hits 4:00pm before she knows it and she’s ready to head home to the Ghouls, Copia, and her new extended family.

Her reliable little 2010 Honda CR-X she’s had since the first year of undergraduate university (almost a decade now), starts up in its usual manner in the parking garage. She sighs at the check engine light but ignores it, having had the entire engine checked over when it overheated last month. The screwy mechanic she was towed to probably just forgot to turn off the sensor on the dashboard.

Lilly is blissfully unaware of the trouble in her future as she turns onto the less busy highway of Route 1.

Three miles in and turning onto the actual forested road of the suburbs, most cars have turned off into the Bronx’s many neighborhoods and the sun sets to her left in the west.

Lilly continues driving until she’s five miles away from the Abbey’s sprawled neighborhood when her reliable car kicks back at her with a large plume of smoke out from under the hood.

“Really?” She sighs and gently pulls the car to the right shoulder lane. There, the blue car gives a final rattle and shuts down. “Dr. Myers jinxed me. We were doing so well!”

Lilly rifles through her purse for her phone and dials the nonemergency police and then AAA for towing. After that, she has a choice:

She can have one of the officers drive her to the Abbey or she can call one of the Papas to come get her. Deciding it would be easier to let the tow truck take her car to the AAA service center in the next town over, Lilly presses the profile picture for Copia in her contacts.

It rings five times before someone picks up.

“Lilly!” A voice that is definitely not Copia answers, masculine but higher and softer: meaning, Phantom, “Are you on your way home yet?”

“Actually, I’m close to the Abbey already. My car broke down about 10 minutes up the highway.”

Phantom’s voice speeds up as he begins to panic. “Are you okay? Were you in an accident? I can grab Sister Imperator to get you a lawyer.”

Lilly smiles as how worried he sounds. “Not in an accident. I think the mechanic guy from last time this happened didn’t really fix anything and my car just gave up. Is it possible for Copia or someone to come pick me up? I have to wait an hour for the tow truck but it’s really cold out.” Blue and red flashing lights crest over the hill in the distance behind her.

Of course! We’ll be there in a few. Do you want me to stay on the phone with you?” A crescendo of voices rises in the background of wherever Phantom picked up the Papa’s iPhone.

“No, the police officer is here, I’ll call back if the tow truck gets here before you somehow.”

The police officer is kind and offers her an emergency blanket as they wait. Officer Kirby talks with her about how he used to be a mechanic for his dad, and he points out that the issue with Lilly’s car may be bigger than she thought. “Hate to say it, but you may be looking for new transmission with this.” The police officer shuts the hood even as a curl of smoke still rises out.

Lilly pulls the silver foil blanket more around herself with a sigh. “It’s not worth fixing.” She finishes his sentence from gathering the graveness of his tone.

He nods and they sit in his Ford Explorer cop car talking about random things while he creates the report. Copia’s Buick LaSabre pulls in behind the police officer.

“Those people picking you up?” Kirby asks.

“Yeah, thank you for staying with me.” She smiles and hops out, letting the police officer be on his way.

As soon as Officer Kirby is driving off, nine bodies collide with her and almost send her to the ground. “Guys, I’m okay!” She grins.

“We were so worried! You sounded like you were calm but what if someone was holding you hostage and you couldn’t tell us?!” Phantom clings to her side, nose buried in her neck.

She pats his human-form’s white-streaked black hair. “Thank you for being concerned about me, but it seems it’s just my car’s time to go to the junkyard in the sky.”

“What would God do with a junkyard?” Swiss murmurs.

The Ghouls and Copia release her after another moment. Copia is dressed in a black Ghost shirt overtop of a red, long-sleeve shirt. It’s a different look than his usual tracksuit and it de-ages him by a few years.

Suddenly, there’s a warmer-than-normal body pressed up against Lilly’s blanket-wrapped form. Sodo’s hands snake around to her front, radiating a pleasant heat.

“That’s nice,” She sighs happily.

The Fire Ghoul begins a small huddle for warmth with Copia and Rain joining them. Another half-hour passes then the tow truck arrives, giving her the same death-knell diagnosis just from a quick look under the hood of the car.

With a number of the car center in hand, the group piles in to Copia’s car while they watch Lilly’s car get pulled onto the flatbed and towed away. A few tears escape her eyes as the truck turns off onto the main highway, leaving their view.

“I really loved that car…I had her for ten years.” Lilly sniffles when reality sets in. Everyone in the car is reverent for her loss and they sit until Lilly has regained a bit of control over her tears. Copia, Lilly, Dew, Cirrus, and Aurora squished into the front bench seat while Mountain, Phantom, Cumulus, Swiss, and Rain squeezed into the back seat. Phantom very excitedly volunteered to sit in Swiss’ lap for the short way home, his Heat still very in control of him.

All of them seemed strung tightly now that she takes a few meditative breaths. The tell-tale timid whine of a certain Quintessence Ghoul rings through her ears.

“Bug, you can wait until we get home then we can take care of this.” Swiss says quietly.

Guilt strikes Lilly. She forced all of them to come rescue her when they were all in the beginning stages of Heat and Rut and needed each other.

Dewdrop’s warm hands have slipped under the hem of her slacks to rest comfortably on her lower belly pooch, spreading the heat of temperature and desire.

Copia pulls into the Abbey’s paved driveway and into the still-open portion of the four-car garage. She looks with awe at the two cars that shine in the low light.

“Whose cars are these?” She asks as they all slide out.

“The pink Coupe DeVille is Secondo’s, and the red antique Alfa Romeo is Primo’s, I think. The Maserati GranTurismo is Terzo’s, and as you can see, we don’t let him drive it much.” Copia swipes a finger along the ‘gray’ car and thick dust coats his glove to reveal a hidden glossy black paint.

Lilly can see why Terzo wouldn’t be allowed to drive a fast luxury car. Maybe one day she’ll see it in action if he gets medicated for his ADHD. “My boss suggested I use some of the money for a new car and then this happens. I guess I’ll need to ask you four for car advice.”

Copia holds the door open into the Papal common area for Swiss to carry Phantom through. “If you need someone who knows the industry, Secondo is the one to go to. He found this baby for me.” He pats the hood of his cream-colored car before guiding her in behind the Ghouls.

Lilly has only peeked into the open lounging space a few times. Copia’s room is the last one in the hallway before the living area but a half-wall blocks most of the room.

Terzo is sprawled across a leather couch, laptop open on his stomach. “Welcome home from work,” He greets, unaware of the nature of Lilly’s rescue. He’s idly browsing what looks like a pet store for reptiles.

“Yeah, except I don’t have a car.”

“Did someone steal it? I’ve tried to steal a CR-X and it’s difficult, but I guess if you’re determined enough-” Terzo sits up straighter.

She shakes her head. “No. It broke down a few miles away. The cop who came to check it out thinks it’s unsalvageable-but I do have the freedom with some of the money from work to buy a new car. I’ll ask Secondo for an opinion after looking at some used car sites-“

Terzo holds up a finger. “Absolutely not! La nostra principessa oscura will not drive a used car. What kind of religious institution would we be without all of our clergy having nice cars? Protestants? How much money are you allowed to use to get you a car worthy of you?”

Lilly runs through the spreadsheet she had created at work to keep her flush at a minimum. She had put about $50,000 away for a possible car and insurance but that could fluctuate. “$40,000.”

“We can find a perfect new Italian car for you,” He types furiously into his laptop. Then sits back with a smug grin.

A moment later, Secondo is skidding into the room dressed in a set of dark emerald silk pajamas. “What’s the emergency?! Is Nihil dead again?” He says the last part with a bit more glee than he probably realizes.

Terzo relaxes into the arm of the couch like a pillow. “Lilly here needs some car advice.”

Secondo swats Terzo’s legs off the other end of the couch and sits, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Stronzellino, you could have just said that! I would have come just as quickly. You are having car troubles?”

Copia bites back a rueful smile, “It broke down. The Ghouls and I just picked up her up.”

“So, you’re in need of a new car. We cannot have you driving a car that is unreliable.” The bald man hums thoughtfully. He steals Terzo’s laptop, making the man gasp dramatically and grapple for it back. “What’s your budget? I can arrange a meeting with my friend who is a Ferrari dealer tomorrow-“

“No, no, no. I only have about $40,000 and I can’t imagine driving one of those into downtown New York. Something more practical.” She stops him, with pleading brown eyes.

Secondo purses his lips and types more into the computer. “You could take Terzo’s GranTurismo.”

Terzo presses a hand to his heart. “Never! And this is nothing against you, Lilly, but you touch, stare too long, or even think about selling Omega’s car and I will kill you. No one is allowed to touch that car but me.” He hisses to his older brother.

Chills run up Lilly’s spine at the tone of the usually jovial man’s voice. Omega was a Nameless Ghoul, her research-addled brain supplies as the tense moment passes.

Secondo continues nonchalantly searching the internet from his brother’s laptop. “You want something more practical than a sports car?”

“I need something I can haul display cases in but is efficient for me driving into the city.” He moves over a bit and she sits beside him, looking at the different Italian car brands on his screen.

“Then Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani are out,” Terzo says. He points to the familiar Fiat logo. “Fiat is too small for vitrines, Abarth also.”

“De Tomaso?” Secondo hums under his breath. He scans their website’s lineup of cars and shakes his head.

Terzo shrugs, “Maserati has the Levante. You’d look so sexy in Maserati. I know I did.” He leers across the couch at her when she flushes.

Lilly nearly has a heart attack as the price of the shiny SUV comes up. “sh*t, people pay this much for cars? My colleague drives one of these. How much did your Maserati cost?”

“Oh, we didn’t even look at the Ferrari website,” Secondo smirks, “I should show you pictures of my Tesstarossa Spider. She was Bellissima though after retiring I found love in working on classic American cars after my retirement. Let’s try Primo’s favorite: Alfa Romeo.”

Terzo whistles at the car selection, grinning. “Now that’s a good Italian car for Lilly. It’s bigger than a sedan but still fancy enough for a Prime Mover.” He points to the Stelvio, a sleek SUV that was only $44,000.

Secondo types in auto dealers specializing with the Italian luxury car brand and one pops up just outside of Manhattan. “Isn’t this where Primo bought his back then?” He asks.

The retired, younger Emeritus shrugs but seems to agree. “Probably. Now, you two lovebirds go help your Ghoulehs. I saw how your little Quintessence Ghoul was squirming. We’ll handle the Principessa’s car troubles.” He waves for the two to leave.

Copia looks eternally grateful at his brothers and quickly pulls Lilly through the corridors and down into the Ghoul Den. Before they reach the bottom stair however, Lilly stops him. He turns, concerned that he’s forced her down here.

“I know last night I was okay with something more intense but tonight…is there a way for me to stay a bit out of the middle?”

He blinks, relieved. “Of course. I can go get Cirrus, she’s pretty much the one in charge.” He disappears around the corner and Lilly steps down onto the floor just as Cirrus and Copia appear.

The Air Ghoulette is still fully dressed in her sweater and jeans from the car ride, but her dark hair is a bit frizzy from someone running their hands through it. “Hey, Papa said you were concerned about something?” She asks, gently taking Lilly’s hand.

This is the first time Lilly has made an effort to tell someone about her limits, even if yesterday she was okay with going back on them. “Could I just stay…out of the spotlight? I don’t think I could handle something as intense tonight.”

It's so easy to talk to Cirrus when she has those expressive, comforting crystal blue eyes. “Yes. We all have rooms if you want just one of us tonight?”

“No, I want to watch,” Lilly shakes her head, “But not be in front of everyone.”

“I think I have the perfect idea for that.” Cirrus leans forward to whisper in her ear. “Some of the Ghouls want to do what they did to you with Papa. You and I can spend some time together watching them take him apart?”

Lips feather-touch the shell of Lilly’s ear. She shivers in the demon’s arms, managing to croak, “That sounds really good.”

Cirrus drapes an arm around her shoulders to lead her to the free third of the den that was unoccupied. “Hey boys, I think Papa is waiting for someone to include him.” She calls to the writhing group next to them.

All of them pause and look at the startled man, who anxiously looks at the group of hungry demons suddenly zeroing in on him.

“Come join us, Papa. We just want a taste.” Aurora says, pushing Swiss’s face back against the floor so she can continue riding his mouth.

Mountain extends a hand out to the Papa and helps him step into the nest of pillows and bodies. Copia exudes the same energy as a blushing maiden being lead into a waltz at a fancy ball. The absurdity of her thoughts and the slow roam of Cirrus’ fingers over her cheek makes Lilly laugh.

“What’s got you all giggly?” Cirrus is brushing away tangles from Lilly’s hair, laying down on an elbow next to the human.

“Papa looks like some period movie blushing maiden,” She answers. “Mountain is his strong prince.”

The two women watch as Mountain and Cumulus descend on the Antipope with teasing fingers and open mouths.

Lilly sighs into Cirrus’ comforting hold. A warmth was stirring in her belly at the closeness of the Ghoulette and the scene unfolding in front of them, but the mere tracing of Cirrus’ claws satisfies her for the moment.

Copia’s mismatched eyes flutter in pleasure under Mountain’s unrushed digits inside him. It reminds her of the times she saw him take in the roar of a crowd during Rituals with the pleasure amplified here by the physical touch of the Ghouls. Becoming an outsider to the scene gives Lilly time to survey Copia unabashedly. Though the third tallest of the five Papas, an inch or so under both Papa Nihil and Primo, Mountain’s form dwarfs him. Copia has a healthy amount of salt-and-pepper chest hair that points to some of the same Italian heritage as his brothers. Over the left side of his chest is a tattoo of three 6’s arranged to form a sigil close to the biohazard symbol.

Cirrus’ hand isn’t rushing Lilly but does begin to undo her slacks and play with the top hem of her underwear.

Before she loses all coherent thought with the Ghoulette’s skilled fingers or Copia’s length being swallowed by an eager Phantom above Mountain’s digits, Lilly has a burning question. “What did He mean by your cycles?”

The Air Ghoulette takes a moment to think of how to answer, using a gasping moan from Copia as filler. Cirrus has been topside of Hell for a few years now but has never had to explain the purpose of their Heat Cycles to humans. When she was Summoned by Cardinal/Papa Copia, Sister Imperator handled that conversation once Aether’s Cycle began. She did know one thing from Cumulus and Aurora’s love for human feminine fashion.

“It’s a bit like human menstruation. There’s a build up of elemental energy with the changing of Topside seasons and the rejuvenation of Satan’s power over Hell. We all get a bit crazy trying to expel the energy, resulting in about five days where this is pretty non-stop.” She gestures to the writhing group in front of the two of them.

“How many times a year does this happen?” Lilly sighs in pleasure when Cirrus teases the skin right above her cl*t.

“Right now, three times: Spring, All Hallow’s Eve, and New Year. This will be the first time Papa has joined us for any of it so we’re all very eager.”

Copia (seemingly at the mention of his title), arches against Phantom’s mouth with a groan and fists the Ghoul’s-streaked wavy hair to pull his mouth off. “f*ck…”

The Quintessence Ghoul tries to swallow his softening co*ck again, but Copia holds his head up at an angle that forces Phantom to stare up at him with a desperate, half-lidded expression and a lolling mouth.

Cirrus puts a bit more pressure on Lilly’s cl*t to get the woman’s attention. “Quintessence is the most powerful of the elements, so poor Phantom gets the brunt of the Cycle symptoms.”

“I’ve been so good, Papa...please, can I?” The Ghoul pleads.

“I-I need some time to-“

Before the man can finish, Phantom reaches out a hand to hover over the man’s co*ck, but he is pulled away by Mountain just as a purple glow begins to envelop his hand.

Mountain pushes Phantom into Sodo and Rain’s waiting arms. “You are never allowed to use your Cycle elements on Papa.” He growls.

Phantom looks ready to burst into tears when the two Ghouls keep him away from Copia’s guilty form.

“We’ll take care of you, Bug, but you have to restrain yourself from using any Quintessence on Papa since this is his first Heat cycle with us, okay?” Sodo says in a softer tone. He strokes a clawed hand through the tangles Copia caused in the Quintessence Ghoul’s hair.

Phantom presses into the touch for a moment then looks back up at Copia with clearer eyes, “Sorry, Papa.”

“Good boy, Phantom. Rainy and Mountain will take the edge off for you.” Sodo kisses the Ghoul’s forehead before moving to Copia’s side.

Lilly wants to see what Sodo does to draw out such a nice sound from Copia but Cirrus’ talented fingers push her over the lowered edge of bliss. It isn’t the world-ending org*sm like she’s experienced with them before and now the pleasure just tingles lightly in her extremities. Cirrus holds her close through the small shivers.

Recovering and falling into the warmth of the Ghoulette’s arms and exhaustion from the day, Lilly takes initiative to capture Cirrus’ mouth as a show of returned affections. Lilly tries to reach for Cirrus’ own clothed crotch but she’s stopped with a calm shake of the head. “I’m okay, Lilly.”

The woman watches her genuine expression and rests her head on Cirrus’ chest below her. Both of them turn to watch the reheated group beside them from the comfort of cuddling under a clean, thick quilt.

Lilly would love to stop falling asleep in the middle of these scenes to see what causes the rise in octave of Dew’s voice, but Cirrus whispers permission for her to let go, and she listens.

Chapter 19: Dominion

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

One of the things about Lilly that Andie appreciates and despises at the same time is that the curator is always early to things. Lilly plans her day around her meetings, dinners, and her passion for researching late into the night. But when Lilly is a no-show to their regularly bi-weekly coffee and bagel meet-up, they grow extremely concerned. Not a text, call, or snapchat from the phone-addicted woman.

Andie rings Lilly’s cell phone once more before dialing the number for their blossoming relationship partner. Terzo won’t like being awakened at 8:30am but he can be a big boy for once.

It takes two calls for the retired man to answer. “…Ciao?” He mumbles.

“Terzo, my darling Raven, please wake the f*ck up and go find Lilly.” Andie says, and has to shuffle out of the way of speedy New York pedestrians.

Terzo lets out a whine at the nickname before his brain realizes what they’ve said. He yawns then answers with his own question. “Don’t you have a bagel date with her? I’m not driving to Manhattan this early.”

“She’s not here. She’s always early. Go find your brother and find her because she’s going to be late for work.”

That certainly lights a fire under the man’s ass. He stumbles out of bed, naked, and hastily remembers to throw on a pair of underwear before he’s outside in the papal wing. Copia’s curtain door is closed and he peeks around the blue fabric to find the quarters empty.

“Where the Hell is he?” He grumbles and blearily makes his way out into the cloister.

Primo is already hard at work with an apple picker at the central tree. “Wine is not a healthy breakfast choice, Fratelino.” He chides.

Terzo holds a hand over his eyes to squint at his eldest brother. “Andie said Lilly didn’t meet up with them, do you know where she is?”

“Have you checked her room? She may be sleeping in today.” Primo picks a few apples from the top of the tree with the extended tool.

The younger man has the decency to flush at not thinking of that. “No, I’ll go look there.” He knocks on the door, fighting off sleep at the warm sunrays from the hallway.

No answer. It’s now 8:45. Lilly has fifteen minutes before she’s late. He knocks louder this time.

The door behind him opens instead, revealing a cheery Sister Rebecca and Brother Thomas. “Good morning, Papa.” They greet.

Terzo spins to face them, not embarrassed of his body but because of how his balls are definitely hanging out of his short briefs.

Sister Rebecca holds back a giggle at his state of dress, a wrinkled hand covering her mouth. “If you are looking for Lilly, Mountain said she spent the night in the Ghoul Den.”

Of course! The Ghouls!

He thanks them profusely and quickly makes his way to the Den. His feet sting at the hot stones of the Cloister so he sighs in relief at the coolness of the basem*nt stairs.

f*ck! It’s 8:50!

Terzo stumbles as fast as possible to the bottom and runs around the corner to see the mostly intact cuddle pit of Ghouls, Papa, and Lilly.

A sigh of relief flows through him. He’s found her but now she’ll definitely be late for work.

“Lilly!” He hisses and shakes her shoulder from where he’s carefully stepped down into the pile.

Dew raises his head at the sound of his voice, cheeks flushed high with Heat symptoms, “Papa….”

Terzo lets his former Ghoul cling to him like a cat as he focuses on waking up the woman. “Lilly, Andie says you’re going to be late for work!”

The stress in his tone rouses the pile around him, including Lilly and Copia. She gasps awake in Cirrus’ arms, brown eyes blurry with sleep. “What…time is it?”

“8:55am,” Terzo checks his iPhone.

Lilly starts to hyperventilate and struggles to her feet and makes her way out of the Ghoul pile. “Oh my f*cking god, I’ve never been this late before!”

Terzo picks up Sodo’s small form and exits the Den to take the Ghoul to the separated bedroom corridor. “That’s why Andie was so concerned.”

“Damn, I also missed our date! Andie’s gonna kill me.” She struggles to yank on her jeans (which were removed while she was asleep by Cirrus for her to be comfortable) and accidentally grabs Copia’s t-shirt rather than her blouse and rushes up the stairs.

She only gets a few steps up before Copia is shouting out to her, “You don’t have a car! I can drive you!” He’s tangled in the blankets with Cumulus and Swiss but they all get to their feet.

Lilly steps back down in frustration. “I forgot.”

Copia emerges from the pile and tries not to look at Lilly wearing his shirt. Meanwhile her eyes flicker around as she realizes that he and all of the Ghouls are completely naked. He relishes the curl of pleasure at how Lilly’s eyes keep glancing at him as he pulls on his jeans and undershirt.

Rain breaks off from their journey to the city to catch up on his greenhouse and gardening duties that he overslept on.

Copia and the six remaining Ghouls all pile into his LaSabre and take off towards downtown. Lilly calls Dr. Myers, who immediately assures her everyone is late sometimes, and not to rush carelessly to the Museum.

Lilly relaxes back against the seat after hanging up. “We’re okay. Dr. Myers did joke that she wanted me to get coffee for her to make up for this.” As relaxed as she feels, Phantom beside her notices how her hands shake.

“Did you think she would be that upset? She seemed pretty nice.” He scoots closer to her and leans his head on her shoulder, proud of how comfortable with physical touch she’s become.

She sighs, “Just anxious, I guess.”

All of them in the car knows she’s lying, including herself. Cirrus, perched on the bench seat on Phantom’s right, prods a bit after their comfortable night together as a group. “Would she have done something because of this?”

“Not her-but you never know how some people will react to stuff like being late.” She shrugs a bit helplessly.

“Like Adam,” Copia amends quietly, mismatched eyes focused on the stretch of traffic ahead of them.

Lilly looks relieved at someone else airing it out. “Yeah, like Adam.” She whispers.

After an admission like that, the car ride passes quietly with the only noises being the city and the low volume of car radio. They make it to the street with the bagel shop and Museum and Copia manages to squeeze his giant car on the side of the curb. A few storefronts away, Andie and a slim figure cloaked in tech-ware black clothing.

“Oh! There’s Andie and Silas!” Lilly brightens immediately. The two now-glamored Ghouls in the front seat begin to climb out onto the sidewalk. Before Lilly moves, she turns Copia’s face with a finger and kisses him chastely. “Thanks Copia.”

The Papa flushes, barefaced in public for once in a long time. “Of course. Call me when you want us to pick you up.”

“5:30pm would be incredible. I’ll text you if I need anything earlier.” Lilly smiles and scooches across the bench seat and out of the car.

Andie has dragged their adopted older brother to Cirrus and Phantom. “Well, if you hadn’t overslept we could’ve had breakfast with Mr. ‘I’m too busy with my Parsons schoolwork.’”

Silas’ black side-swept hair nearly hides his bright blue eyes that are lined with smudged kohl. He’s taller than all of them except Cirrus, a wispy 30-year old of a man straight out of the emo landscape of Myspace.

“We still got you your usual coffee and bagel, because we still love you,” Andie holds out a wrapped round item and a steaming travel cup of coffee.

Lilly takes a sip and sighs happily. “Thank you. I’ll still need to get Dr. Myers a coffee but this is a great start.

Someone honks at Copia to move out of the loading zone. Cirrus and Phantom press kisses to Lilly’s cheek, getting back in to the large beige vehicle. The rest of the Ghouls in the back seat wave as Copia pulls the car out into the busy Manhattan streets.

“Sorry guys. I really didn’t mean to miss this.” Lilly drinks from her coffee again to settle the nerves of this morning.

“Andie says you’ve been busy with your new polycule. Judging by how they look, I’d call in to work too.” Silas smirks at her over his own coffee cup.

Lilly hides the embarrassment by punching the man’s shoulder. “I just overslept.”

“Because you were up all night?” Andie joins in.

“Thank you for my breakfast, I’ll be going to get my boss’ coffee now.” Lilly rolls her eyes and moves around them to the bagel stand. They chat as they wait for the coffee and sandwich and part once Lilly has them in hand.

-

Lilly’s day goes smoothly after the morning’s hiccup. She gets a license for using the Ghost Project’s font and orders archival boxes for the new Ministry objects that are coming into the museum’s collection. Sister Imperator has sent her a list of the different Papa’s measurements for mannequins.

At 4:00pm, Lilly’s phone lights up with a text from Copia.

‘Secondo and Terzo have an appointment w a car dealer at Alfa Romeo for u, Can i pick u up @5?’

Good thing she deposited the check online already. She sighs and rifles through her bag to make sure she has a few empty checks in her ancient checkbook. ‘That works.’ She texts back.

‘:>’ He types back.

The bird-like smiley emoticon warms her heart and she imagines Copia’s smile blossoming just like that. She’s packed up at ten minutes ‘til and is downstairs in the lobby waiting eagerly for Copia and his brothers to arrive.

A pearly-pink Cadillac Coupe DeVille pulls in with its roof down, showing off two familiar black haired men and one bald driver. Lilly says goodbye to security and the front desk and bounces outside. Even though she’s scared about spending all this money, there’s something thrilling about seeing all of the fancy cars.

Terzo steps out of the passenger side and climbs into the back seat where Copia beams at her. Lilly straps herself into the white leather passenger seat. Secondo drives them into traffic and turns down the music that had been playing on the radio. “So, Tony specializes in Alfa Romeo after his grandfather but it’s become an Italian import shop for all of the luxury brands. Terzo gets his car fixed here, I got mine here, and Primo gets his worked on here, so this guy gives us incredible discounts.”

“Tony’s the best!” Terzo has to almost yell as they make it out onto the highway.

Big Tony’s Italian Auto Showcase is a gleaming glass and steel dealership along a row of other name-brand luxury dealers, but manages to not seem snobby and a bit homey.

“Oh, and by the way, we told Tony you were Copia’s fiancée,” Secondo pulls into a customer parking spot. He reaches into the glove compartment and hands her a small green velvet pouch.

Lilly looks at him confused. “What is this?”

“A future wedding present. Open it.” He says calmly.

She unties the small pouch and slides out the tissue paper wrapped gift. Inside the white paper is a blue Alexandrite ovular gem set in a ring of small diamonds and a thin band. “Wow…this is beautiful, Secondo.”

The bald man smiles, “It’s just a welcome present for joining the Clergy. So you don’t feel obligated to wear one of Terzo’s horribly bedazzled Grucifixes. Today you can use it to act as an engagement ring.”

Terzo punches Secondo’s shoulder. “Maybe if you had gotten me a more expensive bedazzler machine for Yule it wouldn’t look so bad!”

Lilly is nervous to put the gorgeous ring on her left hand, worried that as usual rings would be too small for her. Thankfully it nestles perfectly on her left ring finger, cementing a warm feeling in her gut.

“La mia band di fratelli preferita è finalmente arrivata! Finally, my favorite brothers have come!” A strong Brooklyn accent calls.

Big Tony’s name is well-given. Large and Italian, the man towers over Copia’s six-foot form easily. He jogs over to the car from the front entrance and opens the door for her, holding out a large hand for Lilly to use getting out.

“This must be the blushing bride of young Copia. I’m Big Tony.” He introduces heartily, kissing the knuckles of her left hand.

“Lilly Warren, soon to be Emeritus.” She grins.

Copia scampers out and around the car and is swept up into a big hug from the man.

Big Tony puts the two of them side by side and scrutinizes their look as a couple. “You’ve found a perfect, hearty wife here. If my old girl wasn’t such a goddess herself I might give you competition. I’m glad she’s finally able to get you in a good Italian car.”

Terzo and Secondo distract the man with rapid-fire Italian greetings.

“Do you speak Italian?” Lilly whispers to Copia when the group gestures at them.

Copia shrugs. “A bit. I grew up in the Abbey branch in Sweden, unlike the Emeritus brothers in Italy.”

Lilly co*cks her head, excited by this piece of information about her pseudo-husband. “I’d love to hear more about it. I’ve always wanted to travel to Scandinavia. All my colleagues just want to visit central Europe.”

He gives her a genuine smile, one that truly reaches his mismatched eyes. “I’ll definitely ask.”

“Look at these lovebirds, it makes me sick.” Terzo groans beside them.

“Leave the man alone. I still make googly eyes at Cassandra,” Big Tony laughs and ushers them into the main showroom. “What is our lovely lady looking for today?”

Lilly is stunned at the sparkling cars sitting in the giant open room. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Paganis are lined up along the far wall in array of neon and shimmering metallic colors. In the center of the room was a space dedicated to the new lineup of Alfa Romeos, a familiar shape of the Stelvio SUV front and center.

“I need an SUV that is small enough to travel from the Ministry to Manhattan, but has enough room to haul equipment.” She offers.

Big Tony leads her and the group to the main showcase. “I can see you’ve already done your research. Stelvio here would be perfecto for a growing family or toting around these fools.” He grabs a key from the front desk associate and unlocks the metallic green SUV, holding open the door for her to climb inside.

“Brand-new model. Got it in a week ago, all the latest finery from Italy, just for a special lady.”

Copia gets in the passenger seat beside her, eyes wide in awe (matching hers) as the car’s interior lights up with matching green accent lights.

Lilly feels the steering wheel and Tony helps her adjust the seat. “I like it a lot.”

Terzo sighs in contentment from the backseat. “I could do a road trip in this.”

“You could fit a few Ghouls back there. I think Mountain can even sit comfortably,” Copia says, looking at his brother behind him.

Tony, Lilly, and Secondo go to the trunk, measuring the space. “I can fit a bunch in here! Especially since the seats fold down.” She says excitedly.

Big Tony claps a hand on her shoulder, “I’m glad you like this, but my rule is to never go just by first impressions. Let me have Louisa bring this out to drive and we can look at some other cars while she does that.”

The four of them move outside at the large lot of cars. She’s amazed by the cars and looks over the endless rows as massive car dealer talks them through other brands’ models. They’re walking to the Maserati section when Lilly’s eyes fall upon the cutest car she’s ever seen.

She’s drawn to it like a moth to a flame, slipping away from the chatty Italians as they discuss horsepower. The 2022 Fiat Panda is a small, boxy little thing that reminds her of the reliable Honda CR-X she just lost. It has terrible trunk space but it’s so cute and cozy that it calls to her to buy it.

“Lilly,” Copia is a few steps behind her. He’s noticed she was gone from the group.

She quickly maneuvers back to them, but her eyes fall on the blue-grey car more than she thinks is appropriate. “Sorry.”

“That one reminds me of your old car, too.” He says. “I don’t think it’s big enough though.”

Lilly nods, excitement fading a bit as they wait for the test driving cars. However, as soon as she got back in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, her excitement came back at the fun test drive. “I think this is the one!” She grins over at the large Italian in the passenger seat.

“Bellisima, let’s go inside and talk price.” He says.

In the ten years Lilly had her old car, she had forgotten how many forms were required for buying a car. The model of Stelvio she had driven and wanted was one of the limited editions, costing well over $50,000 without the specialty sea foam green metallic paint. But after some haggling between Secondo and Big Tony, the man agreed to a solid $44,600.

The two men continued chatting in their native language off to the side as Terzo and Copia helped her fill out the correct places. Striking a final comment, the two shook hands that evolved in a big hug just as Lilly signed the check for the car.

“Cassandra says there’s a new place over in the Bronx that’s run by one of Giulio’s sons, we should all meet there one night to celebrate this union.”

Terzo perks up. “Which son? I know some of them were in school.”

“Salvatore. Married this cute Mexican guy and decided to pursue a fusion restaurant. Wedding was family only-they were nervous how Giulio’s parents would react.” Tony shrugs. “So many Italian men disregard the beauty of our own gender.”

Lilly hands him the papers, shaking the man’s hand.

Big Tony places the two sets of keys in her palm, giving her a wink. “Louisa filled her up, so she’s ready to get taken home with you.”

“Wait, I can get the car now? I thought you had to wait for the check to clear?” She asks.

The large Italian waves off her confusion. “Your brothers-in-law are good for it until it clears. If it doesn’t I know how to find them.” He laughs and nudges the group out to the sparkling car.

Lilly drags Copia out to it, using her new key to unlock and climb in. “We just bought a f*cking new car!” She yells once both of them are inside.

“No, you just bought a new car.” He corrects happily.

She huffs good-naturedly and grabs his left hand. “No, silly. We just bought a new car.”

Copia stares at her in awe before he’s leaning across the console and kissing her desperately.

Notes:

Lilly's Stelvio is the green one: https://www.alfaromeousa.com/suvs/stelvio/quadrifoglio/gallery

Here's the Fiat Panda
https://archive.izmostock.com/image/I0000xjYPVMe_UtM

Chapter 20: Waiting for the Night

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Lilly’s new Alfa Romeo drives like a dream and is much more fun to sit in traffic with than her old Honda hatchback. She’s higher off the ground and can bully people to move faster since they assume she’s a celebrity with how shiny the green car wrap is. Dr. Myers is very excited by her purchase, taking her interns and some of the staff who chipped in to go see the new vehicle. Lilly only hears a few negative murmurs around the office about her ‘flashy’ purchase and finds it’s easier to ignore when she thinks of the discount the Emeritus Brothers were able to get for her.

Time passes blissfully until suddenly Lilly finds herself dressing in her Sister habit for Sunday night Black Mass. It’s been a week since becoming a blessed Prime Mover for Copia, and Sister Imperator hasn’t had her do any of Bernadette’s duties for the church, so she feels a bit blind at what she’s supposed to do tonight during the ceremony.

She will start her Prime Mover duties tonight; it could make or break her position and trust from the upper clergy. A wave of apprehension comes over her as she takes in her decorated form in the full-length bedroom mirror. Deep down, she knows the Papas (and Sister Imperator most likely) aren’t going to put that much pressure on her tonight with decorations, but internally Lilly feels like she’s facing down her final exams yet again.

An angry, desperate part of her mind has front and center attention in this moment of moral apprehension.

What’s the difference between putting these clothes on and your LDS dress? Nothing. Just because your underwear is skimpier doesn’t make you less of a slave to a church. You’ve only traded one prison for another.

Wrong. Copia, the Ghouls, and absolutely everyone in the community of the Abbey have shown her extreme kindness and were welcoming of her before she even got this position. Yes she didn’t exactly like being told she was destined to be tied to Copia, but there was already a bond between them from when she learned about Ghost.

But what if they’re lying? How many times did you lie to Adam to make him happy? I seem to remember a time where

Lilly dabs at her eyes with a tissue, unwilling to let any welling tears of frustration ruin the makeup Andie worked so hard on. Her older brother Silas was coming tonight, and she wanted to show him that there was no need for him to go brother-bear over her again.

Then why hasn’t Copia said he loves you?

Oh, please. She can confidently wave that doubt away. Its been two months! According to Silas, Lilly is still in the manic rebound phase of a breakup. The steady level of her love for Copia and the Ghouls has stayed warm and continuous from even before she met them in person. She has a whole two-year advantage on them.

Doubt mostly assuaged, Lilly takes one last look over her outfit and walks out of her room. It’s almost four hours before Mass, so Siblings are just getting to their rooms after a late community lunch. She waves at a gaggle of Brothers and Siblings chatting about joining one of the local rec-league baseball teams and continues to the papal corridor.

Copia, Sister Imperator, and Papa Nihil and two small, long blonde haired children are waiting for Lilly outside of the woman’s office. In her arms is Bernadette Emeritus’ Prime Mover scrapbook.

“Good evening, Sister.” Sister Imperator greets her with a small smile.

“Good evening, Sister, Papa, Papa Nihil and…” She trails off when she gets to the unknown twin children.

“Arioch,” Papa Nihil rasps with a hand on the slightly taller child, “and Abaddon.” He says for the one holding the ancient man’s oxygen tank.

“Salutations,” They echo together.

Lilly is suddenly very grateful she grew up around Lorraine and Ed Warren’s antics so her unease doesn’t show in her expression. ”Hello,” She says back.

Papa Nihil beams and pats both of their heads.

Sister Imperator looks used to the twins’ behavior and continues on as if nothing had occurred. “Tonight will be your first assignment as Prime Mover. Decorating for Sunday Black Mass,” She opens the scrapbook and pulls out a few already-chosen pictures from different eras. “Here are a few examples from Bernadette’s time as Prime Mover. The Ghouls, the Twins, and a few Siblings are waiting in the main sanctuary to help and show you where the supply closets are if you find you wish to create new decorations. It will also give you a chance to peek at the Halloween/Samhain items that are available.”

“Is there a certain look I have to keep?” Lilly takes in the photographs with her exhibition designing eyes.

Copia grins, “As you saw last time, go wild with it. Indulge in using as much of the decorations as you wish. Mountain is particularly good with any dried or fresh floral arrangements and Sister Lorelai makes excellent votive candle displays.”

Seeing the three of them side-by-side, Lilly can see the different ways Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil’s features fit into Copia. His nose is different from both of theirs, straighter and more buttonish, but it amazes her that everyone calls him adopted when it’s a pretty striking match.

“This seems fun. Usually installation of exhibitions is incredibly stressful. I might actually enjoy the decoration part of this.” She matches Copia’s smile.

Sister Imperator gives her an approving nod, “We look forward to what you achieve for tonight.”

Abaddon hands the rolling oxygen tank to Sister Imperator and the twins come to stand in front of Lilly.

“Wait, one question. Can Andie and Silas come help? Silas is a fashion student at Parsons.” Lilly asks.

The woman gives her a unsure expression. “As long as the design is mostly your doing-this is a Prime Mover’s duty.”

“Of course.” She answers and gives them a final smile before she and the twins are heading down the hallway.

The hallway feels much longer than usual once she’s left alone with the two demonic children. “I like your hair, I’ve always wanted straight hair.” She begins.

“Thank you. Sister Imperator brushes it daily.” Arioch answers, monotone in the way a distracted child would talk. They flank her rather than walk together, their straight blonde hair barely moving.

Lilly relaxes a bit at the nice image that produces. “Do you two live with them in their house?” She guides them up the small stairs to the apse and sanctuary dais.

“Yes.” Both answer.

Based on the double-vision of their forms that Lilly can see, she knows they’re not human but also not Ghoulish. “Do you have any favorite decorations?”

“I like when Dewdrop uses his magic to light the candles.” Abaddon says.

Arioch steps in front of her to go around the large mosaic stained glass mural wall. “I like when Cirrus and Cumulus make a low cloud around the altar. It’s always warm despite looking cold.”

“Those are really cool. I didn’t know they could do the fog thing.” Lilly’s mind begins turning at she looks over the undecorated sanctuary. There’s so much space to hang garlands, add candles, place pumpkins. This was going to be fun.

The Ghouls are sprawled in states of boredom across the front rows of pews, Sister Lorelai, Sibling Tor and Wren wait much more patiently next to Mountain.

Swiss catcall whistles at Lilly as she descends the three large steps to the aisle floor. “Looking delectable, Sister. Wanna come sit on my pew cushion?”

Lilly rolls her eyes playfully and smacks the back of his head to stop lounging. “Time to get to work, cheese man. You, Mountain, and Cirrus are going to carve Jack-o-lanterns,” She pauses when she sees the sly grin on his face, “without them being penises. Scary faces or symbols, please.”

“But Lilly!” He whines. “What’s the point of Halloween without scary dicks?”

“Fine. One can be a penis. I need at least ten of the pumpkins in total.” She gives in to his big, lavender puppy eyes.

Lilly turns to the largest Ghoul, fingernails still caked with dirt from where Rain had to remind him of their duty with Lilly just a few minutes ago. “Is there enough time to have you do a few garlands with carving?”

Mountain nods an affirmative. “How many and how long?”

-

The next four hours are a whirlwind. Lilly get inundated with scarily-good jack-o-lanterns, beautiful mixed dried and fresh autumn floral garlands, matte-painted skulls, large (fake but still pretty) gemstones, and ornate gothic accents. She feels bad for not having Andie and Silas help out, but there were a lot of helpers and it was difficult enough handling all the Ghouls.

The balcony with the organ was sparkling with its railing twirled with Mountain’s dreamy orange and red arrangements. Lit jack-o-lanterns sat at the corners of the ledge with black-matte painted candelabras bracketing them.

Around the large main sanctuary there were bundles of orange Chrysanthemums, dark purple Iris, burgundy Celosia, and fiery red Salvias are tied to the end board of each pew row. Thankfully the middle aisle is spacious enough for smaller jack-o-lanterns carved with the intricate symbols of important demon sigils. Garlands were also placed on the front of both the Ghouls’ choir box and the Papa’s quire, with the main centerpiece wreath laid at the base of the stone altar.

Black, burgundy, and deep purple candles were placed in niches of the sanctuary’s ornate walls, along with the glittery and matte fake skulls that were in the Abbey’s supply closet. It gives the room different bursts of color contrasting to the shimmer of the candle’s placements.

Instead of Copia’s usual desk lamp on his podium, Lilly had Sodo light a grouping of three black candles. The twins were especially helpful at tying on the garlands and arranging flowers with Mountain’s guidance.

There was a quiet moment near the end where Lilly and the twins were dusting on glitter to cover up some worn spots on a few skulls, all three of them in a quiet corner away from where the other group called to each other to place things at her direction.

“This is fun,” Abaddon says quietly. To keep glitter off their pressed white robes, Sodo and Rain gave them their sweaters to wear as aprons. It dwarfs the small demon children as if they were dressing in their parents clothes.

“Glitter is always a good time. Except when you find it six months later in your hair.”

Her joke makes the twins giggle near silently.

Arioch finishes their silver skull and places it on the newspaper to dry. “I hope you let us help decorate for the All Hallow’s Eve Mass.”

Lilly’s heart warms. “Of course. I didn’t know if this was too boring for you two. Doing decorations for my grandparents is what made me realize I wanted to design museum displays for a living.”

“Papa says you’re doing a museum display for the Ghost Project.” Arioch asks.

She nods and finishes her own skull, leaving Abaddon with a cute look of concentration as they place the small glittery rhinestones on. “I’m really glad I took the job for it, even if it was rough at first. I’m really happy here.”

“Sister says she likes having you here,” The child says, not understanding how much of an effect it would have on Lilly.

Don’t ruin your makeup! Lilly scolds herself mentally as she tears up. “That means a lot, Arioch, Thank you. ” She pulls herself together.

Sister Lorelai was placing the last arrangements around the altar as Lilly looked around with a critical eye. They had five minutes before they needed to open the doors to the rest of the community and Abbey clergy.

“Is this enough?” Lilly asks rhetorically, setting the twin’s skulls in the last niche.

“I think it’s beautiful,” The older woman beams and has Sodo light her candles with a fiery fingertip. “They did only give you four hours. Usually it takes all day.”

“Really?” No wonder Sister Imperator seemed so extra-nice. This was truly a test of her quick decision making skills. Lilly adjusts a black glitter skull to face out and steps back. “Okay, let’s do it. No turning back.” All of her helpers go sit in their usual places and the majority of Ghouls go to the choir box.

Mountain and Rain pull open the heavy wooden doors to the narthex, and a large ‘oooh’ fills the room. At the front of the crowd are Copia, Andie and Silas, and Sister Imperator.

As people filter in, Copia and Sister gives her a respective thumbs-up and approving nod as they stay back for their own entrance. Andie and Silas beeline for Lilly at the far wall, hugging her tightly.

“Lillypad, this is so gorgeous! You did this in four hours?” Andie’s burgundy draped dress compliments the décor and cathedral’s cherry wood walls.

“I had a lot of help,” She answers.

Silas holds her by the shoulders, big brother instinct taking over. He’s dressed in a bespoke matching burgundy suit, meaning he probably designed Andie’s dress as well. “Lillith, I design runway couture and have a team of interns and it still takes me forever to decorate for a show. You’ve got a skill, man.”

Lilly flushes, “Thanks guys.”

“Papa Secondo is so hot in person,” Silas says under his breath, glancing out at the Papas talking in the outside corridor.

“Silas, he’s over 50. That’s like 20 years older than you,” Lilly chides. She doesn’t admit they would make a cute couple. If, you look past the fact that Secondo would be mistaken as Silas’ middle-aged father.

“And? Copia is over 45 and I don’t hear any complaints about ED.” Andie fires back playfully. “Don’t talk smack if you’re guilty. Let big bro have his celebrity grandpa crush too.”

“I need to kiss him just once. Then I can die fulfilled,” He says dreamily.

Lilly sighs and pushes them towards a pew as Terzo gestures for her to come over. “I’ll see you guys after.” She pointedly ignores the waggling eyebrows both of them give her.

She joins the Papas and gets in line, Mountain at her side in front of Copia.

Bellisima, principessa!” Terzo whispers to her. He turns and pulls her habit straighter, and tucks a strand of her ombre blonde-brown hair into the veil. It’s the big brother moment she’s always wished for.

The Infestissumam hymn begins and chills tingle through her body at the Ghouls’ overlapping voices. Mountain’s warm hands ground her throughout their walk down the aisle, up to her seat beside Terzo in the quire box. She relaxes against the plush pew cushions as the Ghouls’ voices fade harmonically.

“No more surprises today, I hope.” Terzo whispers, pressing a peppermint into her palm while pretending to listen to Copia’s staff invocation.

Her ‘Hail Satan’ is a bit jumbled at the candy in her mouth, but she hears Terzo do the same and feels better. He holds out his own hymnal (the margins of which are covered with doodles of his Ghouls’ masks and Grucifxes, and caricatures of his family) and leads her through the music staff lyrics of Satan Prayer.

Glancing up, she meets Copia’s fond gaze, missing some of the lyrics much to Terzo’s smugness.

Across the dais from the Papas, Lilly notices how fidgety the Ghouls are. Something she only seems to notice is whenever Sodo shifts in his seat, how the candles around the room brightens just the tiniest bit. By seeing how their Heat cycle was before they got the symptoms, surely sitting still for a few hours was maddening. Maybe that’s why they were able to decorate so much-the Ghouls used it to burn off some of their physical energy, which meant…they were probably ready to jump each others’ bones.

That’s probably why Sodo keeps shifting, Aurora is ogling Cumulus’ cleavage next to her, Phantom twirling a lock of his hair nervously, and Rain is gazing lovingly at the back of Mountain’s head. She’s sure it’s torture to sit there and listen as their powers are called upon.

Copia’s sermon about the dangers of unconscious personal sabotage and the peppermint candy keep Lilly laser-focused until the last hymn, where Secondo and Terzo gather the trays for unholy Communion.

She thinks of Tom’s dismissal of the communion as the ultimate sign of faith. Still, she feels no compulsion against or for it. However, would it be odd if she was not present with the other Papas at the front of the communion line? She decides, just like many times in the past few weeks, to go ahead and take the dive.

Secondo stands with Copia on the bottom step with the large platters. In the current Papa’s golden tray, the unholy rye wafers of last week are replaced with similar discs of dark chocolate. The juice boxes are still grape though. Lilly follows behind Sister Imperator after the Terzo goes.

Copia looks a bit shocked when Lilly is next, but he picks up a wafer and his eyes widen when she sinks to her knees before him as Andie had told her before. He stammers out a quiet, “Hail Satan,” as he lays the bittersweet chocolate on her waiting tongue. She flushes and lets the treat melt in her mouth and grabs a juice box from Secondo with a closed-lipped smile.

Terzo stands to the side, where she joins him. He pokes the straw through the small premade foil hole then removes it and sucks the small beverage down in a scene of unhinged fury. The Ghouls cheer him on like they’re at a football game. Lilly laughs at their antics as she drinks her own Unholy Communion juice box.

After a few minutes, Silas and Andie come through the line. Secondo quickly thrusts the tray of juice into Copia’s hands and snatches the current Papa’s tray to dole out the dark chocolate wafers.

Silas takes his chocolate wafer in the same way Lilly did, kneeling at the feet of his celebrity crush with sparkling blue eyes. Secondo looks just as enthralled, saying his invocation in his native Italian rather than the English version. The tall fashion designer gets back to his feet and winks, moving next to where Copia is struck with the same confused expression at being shoved out of wafer duty for the second week in a row. Maybe he’s glad he didn’t grow up with the older boys if they shoved each other around this much.

Lilly hides her sly grin at Silas’ blissed expression. Andie joins them moments after, moving to take one of Terzo’s metal-claw embellished gloves in her hand.

“Whoa, I’ve never seen these up close,” Silas breathes, looking at his sibling’s and Terzo’s entwined hands. “How do these claws stay on so tightly? Do you sew them on by hand?”

Terzo preens at the high praise. “They’re sewn on by Primo and me along with most of the papal robes. Andie said you were a fashion student?”

“Yes, but this is a different level of tailoring. I focus on conceptual fashion and how to create 3D modelled clothing to life,” He says. “Parsons is tough work, but it will be worth it one day. These two have been the best supporters of that.”

“Primo is beginning to have problems with arthritis in his hands and I could use another set of hands once its too painful for him. Do you have a portfolio I can look over?” Terzo offers.

Silas scrambles to pull his iPad out from the quilted tote bag slung over his shoulder. He turns it on and taps on his set of photoshoots from the most recent set of critiques. The task was to create fashion based on the Victorian Gothic themes of symmetry, structured forms, and bold contrasts. One model wore a cream-colored, structured dress that was stitched to resemble a Gothic cathedral with glittery black thread. The small looping video of her catwalk was mesmerizing to the retired Emeritus brother.

“You’re hired,” He proclaims immediately.

“I haven’t even showed you the rest of the collection,” Silas doesn’t want to ruin this moment, but that was considered his best work and Terzo may not like the other designs featured. He flipped to the next video of a dark-skinned man dressed in a ombre-black to white suit that was dispersed pieces of gothic architecture on the lapels.

Terzo gasps and has him zoom in on a photo from the final critique shoot. “You do all of this?”

“I have two assistants that are undergraduates, but they mostly seamstress and create templates for me, then help with critique days. Everything else I do with a machine and by hand. Poor Andie, I’ve really taken over the little space in our apartment to have room for sewing.”

Terzo shakes his head. “That will simply not do! Andie can live here with me and you can become a designer with me and Samara, our outside wardrobe warehouser.”

“Samara Rubenstein?” Silas goes paler than his makeup already makes him look. “I’ve been dreaming about working with her since I was a little kid.”

“Well, consider this an open offer, then. I’ll talk with Sister Imperator about a budget we can offer you and look into getting a schedule with you around your classes.”

Silas rubs the back of his neck, sheepish. “I’m actually supposed to be graduating at the same time as Lilly, in about eight months. I wouldn’t be able to do anything here until after that hopefully happens.”

Andie gets in her adopted brother’s face, “Not you too! You and Lilly are two of the most intelligent and creative people I know, and if you don’t graduate then it’s the school’s fault for not fostering your education well enough. Terzo has seen two of your designs and loves them already.”

Terzo nods firmly, “It will take a while to even introduce the thought of stopping sewing the amount we do to Primo, so you have plenty of time. I wouldn’t jeopardize your education either. Then we can talk about wardrobe for Copia’s next full-scale tour.”

Lilly rubs Silas’ back as the man looks ready to burst into grateful tears.

“Aww, you make the stoic emo cry!” Andie smiles and piles into a hug of the taller man.

Silas huffs, “I’m scene, not emo for the last time, Andie.”

-

Secondo spies the friendly group out of the corner of his eye as he and Copia pass out the last of the Communion. “Who is that incredibly beautiful twink?”

Copia shrugs a shoulder, “I’m not sure. Lilly said he was a fashion student at something called Parsons, but never who he was.” He smiles as the last couple Siblings file through the line. They finish and he can see that Secondo is itching to go talk to the man, so he lets the older man leave and cleans up the trays himself.

Just as Secondo leaves, Lilly appears at Copia’s side. “Need some help, Papa?” She grins.

He matches her expression and moves over so she can grab a stack of the empty trays to carry back to the Siblings’ communal kitchen. “No one forced you to take Unholy Communion tonight, yes?” He asks once they are out of earshot of the community’s mingling around dessert tables.

“Of course not. I wanted to,” She responds. “Besides, the switch to dark chocolate seemed impossible to pass up.”

He shakes the empty covered tray on top, hearing the soft rustle of some leftover pieces still inside. “Feel free to take as many of these leftover ones, I think Terzo will eat them all if you don’t. Then, he’ll complain about the weight he’s gained in his thighs.”

“It’s too bad all of you were blessed with such beautiful thighs already. Seeing them grow would be such a travesty,” She jokes. They set down the trays on the large kitchen island, pulling out a small snack bag so Lilly can take a handful of the unholy treats with her to work tomorrow.

“My mom would kill for a kitchen this huge,” She sighs and leans her back against the counter. Her brown eyes track Copia as he comes to stand beside her.

“This used to be the youth playroom before we converted it to a cooking and gathering space.”

“Why was it changed?”

Copia’s forehead furrows. “I’m actually not sure. It was long before I came to live here. It was the Prime Mover’s duty to look after the creche, so it probably died when another Prime Mover wasn’t chosen. This is the first time more than one Sibling is pregnant at the same time, so I may make some of the room into a play area.” He shrugs.

She looks guilty at the incoming expectation she knew he was thinking about. “I’m horrible with children, that’s why I work in the design aspect of the museum system.”

For once, Copia’s braincells clack together at the right moment, “I would never force you to take on something like that, Lilly! The Ministry internationally seems to grow by adults or families that are already established. I think there was a breeding kink orgy after the tour ended…” He touches his dimpled chin thoughtfully.

“That feels like all the sex I’ve had with the Ghouls.” She smirks at him, and the remembers the previous night in the Ghoul Den where she was watching him get railed on Cirrus’ strap while she and Phantom were tangled up sweetly outside of the main event. “Sore after last night?”

He reaches out a gloved hand and she takes it, letting herself be reeled into his chest. “I’ve gotten my ass pounded every night for the past four days while you got to have soft sex with the Ghouls. I think I should be the watcher tonight,” Copia is keyed up from Mass, heart beating fast as he feels up Lilly’s thighs to the Grucifix belt around her waist. He unbuckles it and it falls to the floor with a clatter that neither of them hears as Lilly’s tongue pushes into his mouth.

Notes:

WHO'S READY FOR MOUNTAIN X LILLY?????????

Chapter 21: Phantom of the Opera

Notes:

really proud of the first parts!

however-

*drops the end of the chapter and runs away*

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Andie sighs as Lilly disappears out into the cloister with Copia and doesn’t return quickly. “f*ck, where’d she go?” They sigh. Watching their brother awkwardly flirt with a retired Satanic Pope twenty years his senior was much less amusing without Lilly there to gossip with.

Terzo presses an assuring kiss to their cheek. “I’m sure they’re just talking.” He gets them and himself in line for apple dumpling and a cup of spiced mulled wine with some other members of the community pulling them into conversations.

Andie would forget about Lilly as soon as the two could retreat to Terzo’s chambers.

And by the looks of how love-struck his older brother is with Andie’s brother, Silas would forget as well.

-

Lilly gasps as Copia lifts her onto the countertop of the island with surprising strength, pushing her habit dress under he can reach up to tug down her lace panties. “We have ten minutes until people finish dessert and start walking past those windows.” Copia mumbles against her lips.

The granite is freezing to her fishnet-covered ass, so she makes him palm at her ass in appeasem*nt. Both of them haven’t broken contact with each other’s mouths, forcing the kiss to become deeper and sloppier than she had thought it would.

Not that she’s complaining, even when he spreads her thighs to pull her closer and slide off his gloves. His hands are so hot compared to everything else that she wants them all over her. Being caught by a stray Sibling coming to clean up was not even a thought in her mind, tasting Copia’s own dark chocolate wafer on his tongue.

“sh*t, you’re so wet already,” He breaks the heated kiss as his right hand comes to nudge at her exposed c*nt. “You like taking the Dark Lord into your mouth, huh?”

Lilly lets out a relieved sigh as he prods deeper. “Dark chocolate has always been a weakness of mine. Getting on my knees for Satan just took some getting used to-oh,” She gasps as two fingers fit snugly inside her, a leftover looseness from the previous night with Phantom.

Copia’s left hand is weighed heavily against her hip while his right curls inside her just like in all of the videos of Rituals she’s watched to prepare for the museum exhibition. She wonders if he learned this from the Ghouls or another previous lover, who appreciated how he was able to know the line between too much and not enough.

It’s difficult to roll her hips comfortably on the counter’s unforgiving surface, but he gets her message to move along. His left arm helps her lean back on her elbows to give him a better angle to thrust his now-three fingers inside her puss*.

“Lilly, watching you sit in my pews, next to my brothers, dripping in my papal colors; do you know hard I got when you dropped to your knees for me?” He says lowly as if it’s a carefully guarded secret.

Her habit and veil that were pinned so nicely to her two toned hair now hung on by a single bobby pin. She’s so close already it’s a bit embarrassing. “Copia,” She “Copia,” She moans and uses a hand to drag him overtop of her by the front of his blue chausable vestment.

Thankfully Copia is mostly long legs, and is able to indulge her demand for intimacy. He gathers up the hem of his robe and lets it land on the countertop beside them in a heap. The clang of jewels hitting the granite are ignored as Copia undoes the laces to his familiar shredded pants.

Lilly takes a moment to look over Copia with this situation: charming in the way he’s so excited to be with her that his hands shake a little, suave in bedroom speak but stutters when asking her about her favorite color, and whines in frustrations when he accidentally knots the laces rather than untie them deftly.

“Here,” She holds back the laughter and sits up a little to use her nails to help. The overhead island light shows off the spread growth of her natural nails. “Man, I need to get a manicure soon,” It slips out of her mouth before she can stop it, breaking Copia’s anxious tension at not being swift for her.

“Sodo is really good at nail polish. We would do spa days on tour where he would paint my nails.” Copia remarks, taking her hands into his own. Lilly is about to make a move by pulling out the man’s co*ck when they hear footsteps on the other side of the kitchen.

Andie crosses their arms from where they and Terzo walked in from the meeting hall on the way back to the retired Papa’s room. “Is this what it’s like watching undiagnosed ADHD people have sex?”

Lilly barks out a laugh, forehead falling on an embarrassed Copia’s shoulder. She recovers once something snags her memory. Most of the sexyiness of having sex in the Siblings’ kitchen evaporating and she gets off the counter and pulls down the hem of her dress. “Why don’t you and your boyfriend go cat roleplay some more? I don’t think Terzo meows loud enough.”

Terzo goes such a bright red it peers through his white papal paint. “W-We don’t do that-“

Andie looks scandalized. “How the f*ck do you know?!” They blubber at the same time.

“Copia’s bathroom isn’t soundproofed. Thanks for ruining my hot sex,” Lilly lets the pair scurry away, Andie probably planning revenge. “Sorry they walked in on that,” She apologizes.

He’s still mostly hard and the eased laces of his crotch strain to contain his co*ck. He pulls his chasuble over his head but there’s a very obvious tent to the front part. His black cope is next but doesn’t meet in the middle to cover the tenting. “You don’t need to apologize for what I started. We can probably make it to the Ghoul Den in a few minutes once everyone is back in their rooms-“

Copia doesn’t finish as Lilly sinks to her knees, lifting the blue chasuble’s rounded hem over her to disguise her pulling out his co*ck from the groups of people that walk past the kitchen windows. He leans forward to grab onto the countertop when his own knees buckle at the warmth of her hand around his co*ck.

“I haven’t done this in a while, so give me some grace if it’s not mind-blowing,” Lilly’s muffled voice reaches his short-circuiting brain.

“I could probably come right now,” He groans as she pumps him a few times.

Lilly smirks, an idea forming. “Really?” She runs the edge of her acrylic down the length of his co*ck. She can’t see much with how pitch-black it is under the thick vestments, but she can feel how he twitches in her hand. She exhales on what she thinks is the tip of his co*ck.

A strangled moan falls from his open mouth. She wishes she could see how the papal paint accentuates his pleasure-filled expression but feeling him move is enough…for now. Lilly uses the pre-cum leaking from him to smooth of his shaft with a movement she remembers seeing Swiss use on Copia last night and she’s rewarded with a salty strings of cum landing across her nose.

“f*ck!” Copia yelps, sagging against the counter, caging her in under him.

Lilly uses hand to try and get some of the cum off her cheek and nose, but doesn’t know if she’s missed any. It’s bitter and salty, but its better than wiping it on Copia’s pants and it being noticed.

After a drawn out moment, Copia moves back to allow her up. Her knees protest but between a helping hand from Copia and the counter, she makes it to her feet. She leaves Copia’s slowly deflating co*ck out of his pants, and stops him when he goes to tuck himself in.

“No; where we’re going there’s no reason to put it away.” Lilly rounds the kitchen island. Copia follows without hesitation out into the chilly cloister air, neither noticing Lilly’s black panties stuck hanging from one of the upper cabinet’s door handles.

-

According to Cirrus’ initial lesson on the Ghoul’s Heat cycle, tonight and tomorrow should be the last effects of the energy expellment. So tonight would be the last frenzy of sex she would witness.

And Copia seemed to want her to be center of attention.

Passing siblings tipsy on mulled wine and apple dumplings bolsters Lilly’s confidence at having the secret of not wearing underwear under her habit, and she wonders at the amount of wandering Sibling hands if she’s not alone in this. Copia walks behind her with a stiffer gait than normal, probably thinking along the same lines and refilling his erection again.

When the two of them begin descending the stairs they can detect the hallmark moans of the Ghouls’ already pleasuring each other.

Lilly has gotten used to the way the Ghouls all turn to watch as she and Copia enter a room, but this time the dark energy of the end of their cycle forces them to continue with only a few glances to the new particpants.

Phantom, his Quintessence energy being the first to be expelled, sits a bit out of the main group as he did the last night. “Hi!” He chirps as Lilly joins him in the cushy nest. His slim form is attached to her immediately, cold hands slipping up to her waist under her habit.

“Hey! Your hands are cold,” She complains but they quickly warm up from her exertion earlier in the kitchen. “Geez, what a greeting,” She teases as Phantom purrs happily against her chest.

Phantom noses more into her jaw within a few minutes, hips shifting against her thigh. “You smell like Papa…”

She glances over to see Copia finally down to his black under shirt and unlaced pants and making his way to the edge of the den. “Well we took the Unholy Communion trays back to the Siblings’ kitchen together.”

“No,” The small Ghoul says firmly, “you smell like Papa.”

The small emphasis makes her low level of arousal flare to life. “We may have done something.”

Phantom sits up and surveys her face with large, curious purple eyes. He zeroes in on her left eyebrow, then does something weird.

He leans forward and licks her face-like a cat. The Quintessence Ghouls pulls away with a extremely dilated pupils. “I knew it! Something must’ve been really good if Papa did that.”

Lilly exhales shakily as Phantom’s claws tickle along the fat over her ribs. They were close to the underwire of her bra and she knew once the offending torture device was unhooked, she would have everyone’s undivided focus.

She isn’t worried about the Ghouls hurting her, more so she’s concerned about how overwhelming it will be.

Phantom likes her small resistance and plays his ultimate puppy eyes when she doesn’t let his hands under her bra. He’s not as desperate as he was earlier this week but she can still feel the urgency and possessiveness in the way he holds her.

Lilly turns to the writhing group of Ghouls that Copia is actively fighting against enveloping him into their hold. Swiss has managed to get the Papa’s shirt unbuttoned and hanging off a shoulder, but Copia makes a desperate plea: “All of you have f*cked me into the floor for the past week! I’m too sore for this! I think Lilly should be your victim tonight.”

That certainly gets their attention.

Phantom presses against Lilly with a possessive hiss, eyes flaring lavender at his packmates’ advances. He growls louder when Rain tries to extend a hand to the Ghoul.

Aurora, who was Summoned with Phantom, shuffles a bit closer with an understanding expression. “This is overwhelming for me too, Phantom. This is our first Heat with both a Papa and a human though you have to understand that we share in this pack even when it’s difficult.”

Lilly brings up a hand to caress the Ghoul’s two-color waves. A voice from yesterday rings in her head. “Can you be a good boy for me? You know they aren’t going to leave you out.”

Phantom relaxes in her hold reluctantly. “Okay,” He whispers. His grip doesn’t loosen but he stays quiet as Rain and Aurora approach. The Ghoulette presses a kiss to Phantom’s cheek as a reward. Noticing how much Phantom appreciates the physical affection has Aurora keeping a hand in the Ghoul’s hand as a redirection as the other Ghouls slowly descend on the woman.

Lilly can feel the rapidly reinflating frenzy of the remaining Ghouls, especially as Rain’s claws touch the outside of her let thigh. She wants to move further into the center of the den because the carpeted step of the outer edge is beginning to dig in her shoulder blades in a not-so-pleasureful way. Her neck hurts from where they had tangled awkwardly last night and it’s slowly overwhelming any other sensation.

None of them notice how she shifts uncomfortably with each starting touch except for one normally stoic and quiet Ghoul.

“Hands off,” Mountain’s voice cuts through the lusty chatter of Ghoulish and English surrounding her. His tall form appears through the crowd of his brethren like an avenging (demonic) angel.

“We just went over this! You can’t have her all to yourself,” Sodo huffs, sitting back on his haunches from where he was about to undo the last pin keeping her veil on her head.

The Earth Ghouls shakes his head and bats all of them away from Lilly, giving her space to sit up and rub where there’s a blooming redness on her back and neck. She takes his offered hand for support.

“Are you okay?” Copia’s head pops up from behind Cirrus. She can tell by how sad his puppy dog eyes are that he thinks its his fault for not seeing how she wasn’t feeling comfortable.

She nods, “Yeah, just the step was digging into my back, and I think I slept on my neck wrong last night. After this, I kind of want to sleep in an actual bed,” She says, then realizes how that sounds. “Not that sleeping in the den is that bad! I love it- “

Mountain shushes her and carefully lifts her into his arms as he rises. Phantom lets out a whine as she’s carried out of his reach, getting to his feet to follow, as do the other Ghouls and Copia.

Lilly has only been inside Swiss and Aurora’s shared room, so when Mountain carries her through the door next to it, she doesn’t know what to expect the Earth Ghoul’s separated bedroom to look like.

Mountain’s room has a small staircase upwards and away from the other Ghouls’ rooms. She had thought it was because of the Ghoul’s introverted nature, but it turns out its because the left wall of his room is actually half above ground. Glass enclosed, a door leads into a green and flower-filled area that must be the Greenhouse he had mentioned a while ago that she hadn’t explored yet. Draped around the room as if they were truly part of the walls were dark vines of Ivy interspersed with the waterfall-esque columns of lavender wisteria. Twinkling lights dance between different ceramic planters around the edge of the space, but Lilly notices that they are actually moving and she’s not in some Heat cycle-induced hallucination when one of the lights buzzes above her head.

“Go somewhere else, Gerald,” Mountain chastises the curious lightning bug.

Sodo, who Lilly has learned is nicknamed the same species of insect, puts aside his lust and holds out a hand for the long beetle to rest on. It does obediently with a flutter of its “Hey, don’t be mean to my boy Gerald. I would also be curious when a good smelling human was brought in here.” He strokes the synchronous firefly’s antennas then lets it fly back up into the vines with the other beetles.

Mountain rolls eyes, but Lilly sees a fondness in how the Earth Ghoul’s green eyes follow the insect upwards until it’s out of reach. He lays her down on the massive central platform bed. Rather than directly on the floor like Copia’s sad mattress, Mountain’s California King bed is on a set of wood pallets. It’s firm but has some cushiness that immediately eases where Lilly’s upper back was uncomfortable. The Ghouls and Copia take places around the outer parts of the bed, submitting to where Mountain has saved her from something none of them noticed.

By this time Lilly’s pleasure has been interrupted twice, and if Mountain doesn’t touch her right now, she’s going to scream. All of Lilly’s senses zero in on the Earth Ghoul when he gets onto the bed, his cautious and careful demeanor shifting into something dark when he begins to stalk on his hands and knees to her. His eyes are typically a more forest green when in his human form but now his irises are illuminated with a brilliant emerald green that puts the Emeritus’ brother’s eyes to shame.

Her eyes are glued to him as he approaches her with the intensity and musculature of a predator finding the perfect moment to kill.

It’s good she’s terrified and horny. She’s more exposed here in this room with the people she knows than she ever was on the kitchen counter with Copia.

And she almost c*ms just by how his larger hand gently but firmly presses on the inside of her thigh to have it fall to the bed, revealing her glossiness from his display she can no longer hide. “All of this is for me?” He asks, trailing a hand up until his palm is overtop of the extra fat on her lower stomach.

She can’t speak because the sound will be an embarrassing moan, so she nods and flutters her brown eyes up at him.

“I might be too big for you,” The Earth Ghul warns, taking her opposite thigh and grasping under her knee to push it into the air.

Lilly can feel herself leak with the doubled sensation and her nipple pebble through the front of her black habit.

Mountain lets out a low laugh at the visceral response, “I’ve been thinking about this since Swiss talked about how tight you were. And, since I rescued you from their clutches, I think I deserve the reward.”

Oh man is she f*cked. Quite literally.

His free hand moves from the soft brown curls above Lilly cl*t to the skin around her outer labia. After she twitches from that he slides two fingers into her “Do you think you can open up enough for me? Seems like Papa has already had some fun with you—I might need him to shove his whole fist up here if this tight c*nt is going to take all of me in.”

There’s a chorus of noises around her but she can’t hear them over the rushing of blood in her veins. She doesn’t know what part of that is hotter.

Mountain adds a third digit without another word, punching a moan from Lilly when they crook upwards against a soft numb inside her. “Does Papa reach this spot? I bet his talented hands make you feel so good.”

His large form is still draped overtop of her but to her lower right she can see where Copia is facing her, on his hands and knees as Swiss is lining himself up behind the man. His papal paint is sufficiently smeared beyond recognition and his beginning grey-streaked bangs are loose from their gelled-back style over his forehead. She probably doesn’t look any less debauched.

They lock eyes just as the multi-Ghoul pushes in and Mountain adds a final fourth digit. Electricity pulses through her entire being at she watches how his expression morphs a razor edge of pleasure of pain.

“The best thing about us Ghouls is Quintessence, meaning that Phantom can use a magic hand to solve any issues of pain relatively quickly for Papa. His complaint about earlier has no standing with us.” Mountain says, fingers matching Swiss’ starting pace. “Swiss, bring him over here so he can watch me worship his Prime Mover.”

It’s honestly a divine intervention that Lilly’s org*sm doesn’t debilitate her. She clenches around his fingers and more slick escapes around where they’ve held her c*nt open. She moans as Copia is pushed towards her until she grasps at his head and pull him down for a messy kiss.

“Three taps for stop, two for slow down,” Mountain reminds her, using the bottle Cumulus hands him to slick up his now-exposed co*ck.

She’s kind of upset she doesn’t see Mountain’s length before it’s going in, because it feels like he’s trying to shove a baseball bat inside her. “What…the hell? How big is your dick?” She gasps, unable to catch her breath and pulling away from the Papa in her grasp. Her forehead is beading with sweat. The Earth Ghoul lets her head fall back onto Mountain’s mountain of pillows shaped like flowers and succulents.

Mountain laughs. It’s breathy and raspy and straight out of those sexy voice audios Lilly used to listen to once Adam had disappeared into his separated bedroom at night. To distract her, Cumulus and Cirrus, the Air Ghoulette twins of ultimate femme fatale fame, appear to Lilly’s free side with pets and whispers as Mountain slowly inches all the way to the hilt.

“’Built like a Sequoia and just as full of seeds’ is how I like to describe it,” Cumulus grazes a claw along the still invisible inch of Mountain’s co*ck. He groans in response, hips twitching forward until he’s buried fully inside Lilly.

“Not the tree puns again,” Rain mutters off to the far end of the bed. Sodo quickly distracts him. Loudly.

If Lilly had any capacity for coherent thought, she would have laughed. However, her guts are currently rearranging themselves to make way for the infernal appendage invading her c*nt. All she can do is relax as best she can by focusing on the deep thrusts of Swiss into Copia and the way the Air Ghoulettes begin tweaking her nipples.

All of that changes when Mountain moves.

There’s no reason for the Earth Ghoul to have such a big dick. Lilly cannot think of a single reason…but maybe because she can’t think at all. All she knows in this moment are four things,

-Yes

-f*ck

-Copia

-Mountain

Scratch that, five:

More.

Mountain’s mountainous hands hold onto Lilly’s hip dips and make her meet his thrusts with a smugness that he knows he’s ruined her for anyone else except the Ghouls and their Papa.

“f*ck, Mountain!” She croaks. Her sweaty blonde bangs are in her eyes but she can’t think enough to move her arms to push them away. They’re tangled somewhere in the Ghoulette’s and Copia’s shirt.

He must not be going that fast, because he speeds up a bit at her whine. Finally she adjusts to him. She still feels stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey but least now the stretch is part of the pleasure. Her left thigh is being pushed up until her lower back is angled up to sheath Mountain even deeper.

“She’s so pretty when getting f*cked, right, Papa?” Cirrus coos, reaching across Lilly’s chest to grab a handful of Copia’s sweaty bangs and makes him watch where Lilly and Mountain are connected.

“Y-Yeah,” Swiss brutal pace on Copia only becomes more erratic at the sight. The Multi-Ghoul slides a hand to Copia unlaced pants and pumps him. It only takes five strokes for Copia to spill over Lilly’s chest.

Swiss pulls Copia to his chest by a clawed hand wrapped around the front of his throat, forcing his swelling knot into the Antipope’s abused ass. “There we go, Papa…Nice and snug on your favorite Ghoul’s knot.”

Copia is whimpering. It’s a beautiful sound that rings in Lilly’s head around her own whines. “I…I don’t have fav-favorites,” He squeaks.

Swiss responds by grinding his knot deeper. “I don’t hear you crying like this on Rain’s knot.”

Lilly loses track of the petty Ghoul posturing, the pleasure fully taking over her brain as she relaxes into Mountain’s fast and firm, but always hitting her G-Spot carefully thrusts. His claws are the most blunt out of all Ghouls and trace abstract paths on her inner thighs.

She’s getting extremely close when Mountain takes her bent right leg and moves it to match her other one pressed to her chest. It opens her c*nt completely to the Earth Ghoul, reduces her ability to take a deep breath, and allows him to absolutely rail her into the mattress.

In fact, Mountain is bruising the back of her knees that he uses one hand to hold onto the wood headboard for the best depth. Tears escape Lilly’s eyes to fall into her hair and the pillows. Cumulus sneakily slips a hand in between the two when she sees how Lilly couldn’t get over the edge of bliss.

“Lilly, my sweet Stargazer flower. I’m going to plant them in our garden and think of these beautiful, slick puss* every time I see the matching petals,” He growls, bending down to steal her breath. After a punishing kiss, he speaks again, “And I’m going to make sure that when you see it you’ll only be able to think of my co*ck pounding inside you, unable to focus until I’m inside you again.”

Cumulus’ talented fingers massage her cl*t in time with Mountain’s now erratic pace.

Lilly doesn’t hear the hoarse scream that falls out of her mouth as her org*sm explodes across her vision. At the same time, Mountain places both of his hands on the low headboard and shoves his forming knot into her. It triggers a second, wetter org*sm in Lilly that has her crying out in overstimulation.

Mountain’s hips don’t still immediately. Aftershocks ripple through him and his hips flex against the onslaught. It only prolongs Lilly’s org*sms.

Cumulus retracts her hand, dripping with where Lilly had gushed around Mountain’s knot. She takes the slick and feeds it to where Copia is still held against Swiss’ chest.

The man’s eyes flutter shut at the first taste, sucking her two fingers.

“Hail Satan,” Cumulus says and pulls her now clean fingers away.

“Hail Satan,” They all echo, their own Unholy Communion complete.

-

Before Andie disappears into Terzo’s Victorian Gothic themed chambers, the couple sneaks to Lilly’s bedroom to prank her by switching her shampoo and conditioner. It was mostly harmless, they knew it wouldn’t do anything, but it would undoubtedly make them giggle when Lilly’s pristine hair was frizzy and out of order.

“Why’s her phone blowing up?” Terzo asks, finished refilling the shampoo and out by her bed. Lilly’s week-old new iPhone was buzzing consistently, nearly bouncing itself off the nightstand. It would be a shame for her new phone to be destroyed because of some asshole who was too impatiently to wait for a callback. Maybe the number she was just given was owned by someone being stalked?

“Who is it? I’m the only one who spams her like that.” Andie calls from the bathroom.

Terzo can’t unlock the device but he can see the notifications. It’s an unknown number calling until it reaches her voicemail, then immediately begins ringing again. “It’s a number from Atlanta. It’s not a contact but it’s calling continuously.”

Andie pokes their head out and looks at the screen he holds up. “I don’t think she knows anyone from there. Could be a museum person. Go ahead and answer, politely.” They say and come to stand next to Terzo.

On the next continuous call, Terzo picks up. “Hello?”

Who the f*ck is this? Lilly’s cheating on me with some new f*cker?” An angry and familiar voice sounds from the other end of the phone. Andie’s face must parallel the horror on his own.

“I want my whor* of a fiancée back. Tell her she can come to my parent’s house willingly or I’ll drag her back by her neck. Whoever you are, if you get between us, I’ll kill you too.” Adam Pollack snarls and hangs up.

Notes:

welcome back, angst!

Chapter 22: Bible

Notes:

Hey y'all! Excited for this chapter to get the ball rolling again.

*****TW*****
I describe what happened during Lilly's exorcism in more detail. If you're uncomfortable with the more detailed parts of it, feel free to skip from the first line of asterisks to the second line. Joshua Warren does say sexual abuse, but doesn't go into more detail. At the end note is a tldr

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Lilly had forgotten how nice a mattress could feel. A fluffy, velvet pillow shaped like a rose perfectly supported her sore neck while she was wrapped with blankets and being snuggled by a pile of warm demonic bodies. She’ll never be able to sleep alone again.

She doesn’t know who is directly around her but she does hear Cirrus say, “Someone is coming down the stairs. I’ll be right back.” The Air Ghoulette disappears from the pile, the Ghouls curling closer to stop any large loss of warmth. She steals Swiss’ hoodie and a pair of Mountain’s clean boxers from the top of his dresser and presses a kiss to Lilly’s forehead when she sees the woman’s concerned look. “It’s probably just a Sibling. Go back to sleep.”

Sodo wraps his arm tighter around her waist unconsciously. Lilly nods, closes her eyes again, and fades blissfully back into sleep.

Cirrus silently steps down into the bedroom corridor, using the corner of the wall to use her wind to blow the smell of whoever was creeping in towards her. She relaxes at the sound of voices and their aura.

“They’re probably sleeping,” Terzo’s whisper is no match for the carrier status of a small breeze.

Andie’s voice echoes down the stairs next, “We need to tell her though. We should have found her last night and told her.”

Cirrus steps around the corner just as the couple comes around the stairs’ adjacent wall.

Andie yelps and jumps halfway into Terzo’s chest, then has to hold a hand over their heart as it tries to slow down.

“Sorry. I couldn’t smell you from Mountain’s room with all of us in there,” Cirrus apologizes. She takes in their sleep-rumpled appearance. She’s rarely seen the retired Papa without some sort of makeup. Seeing him barefaced and so early in the morning rings alarm bells in her head that she projects to Mountain and Swiss.

“We need to talk to Lilly,” Terzo stresses. “She left her phone in her room.”

Before Cirrus can offer to go wake up the woman, Mountain and Swiss are appearing in the hallway. “What’s happened?” Both are bare-chested and had the coherency to put on pants.

Terzo’s mouth opens to respond but his eyes are glued to the morning chub of Swiss’ grey-sweatpants clad body.

“What Terzo was going to say before Swiss’ dick made him short-circuit, was that we need to talk to Lilly.” Andie steps in. “We found her phone blowing up messages and she needs to know about them.”

“Is her family okay?” Swiss asks.

Andie gives an exasperated shrug. “I don’t know. I had thought with this new phone number would cut off all ties with Adam, but he somehow got it and was calling continuously.” Their hazel eyes are lined with the beginning wetness of frustration.

Mountain takes the phone with the notifications:

45 Missed Call(s) from UNKNOWN

100 New Text Message(s) from UNKNOWN

The Earth Ghoul presses on the notification to bring up the last few messages.

>

10/24

4:27 A.M.

UNKNOWN: I am ready to forgive you for your sins

UNKNOWN: lilly I am going to make you regret the day you ever met me if you don’t call me back soon

UNKNOWN: I miss you and love you so much.

4:28 A.M.

UNKNOWN: if you think what I did to your stupid office was bad wait until you see what I’m going to do you.

UNKNOWN: its time for you to meet your new family. We need you in our lives

UNKNOWN: if you don’t listen to me, I’ll expose what happened with your grandparents to your parents. Then you’ll have no one but me who loves you.

4:29 A.M.

UNKNOWN: I’ll always love you lilly. Stop hiding your feelings.

>

“This last one just came in,” Cirrus feels an overwhelming amount of unease engulf her senses.

“I’ll kill that bastard!” Swiss snarls, his voice bouncing off the marble flooring. Cirrus shushes him, glancing down the hallway. However, it’s too late as Lilly, Copia, and the five other Ghouls sleepily pad out into the den living space.

Lilly sees Andie and Terzo and perks up a bit but freezes when tears fall from Andie’s eyes. “Did someone die?”

Even half-asleep, Copia’s ironic huff makes Terzo smile just a bit.

Andie takes their best friend into their arms and blubbers out as best they can, “Terzo and I changed the bottles for your shampoo and conditioner to get you back for the cat comment, but your phone was blowing up with this unsaved number so I had Terzo answer it because I thought it would be a museum person but when he answered it was Adam and he was threatening to kill Terzo and you if you didn’t go to his parent’s house in Utah-“

Lilly’s now wide awake, hanging on to their friends’ fast-paces yet meandering story. “Okay, okay. Let me see my phone.” She takes it from Mountain and inputs the four-digit code. Once open, her phone lights up with the still continuous notifications. “How did he get my number?” She whispers in horror.

Adam’s bipolar love bombing finally seems to stop with the last declaration of his toxic love.

“Just ignore this. I’ll trade this in for a new number today. Let’s all go back to bed.”

Andie holds her face when the woman’s face falls into a familiar mask of neutrality. Was Adam always this threatening to Lilly and Andie never looked deeper?

“No, you’re not going out today. We have to figure this out or keep someone with you in case he does come after you. I promised you that he will not hurt you anymore.” Copia declares.

Lilly shrugs. It shows how used to this she is. “Adam’s a coward. I’ll be okay.” And if it isn’t, then that’s her fault for letting the rugby player into her life after all the warning visions she had in college.

She tries to make Andie let go of her, but they don’t let go. “You’re not alone in this anymore, Lilly. We can go to the police-“

“No!” Lilly yells, “I know him. He is going to forget about this. He has his new wife, new baby, and a new house on the other side of the country. When I don’t come back, he’ll find someone else to take my place. Just like with Eve.” Copia steers the two friends to the edge of the Ghoul den so they can breathe without the Ghoul’s making them claustrophobic.

Sodo’s claws brush against Terzo’s thigh, a shared memory projected between them. Terzo watches his old water Ghoul’s new crimson eyes before nodding silently. The Ghoul slips from between his brethren and slinks up the stairs like a shadow.

“Lilly, he sounded serious! He threatened Terzo without even knowing who he was!” Andie pleads to have Lilly open up about talking this out. “He’s shown that he can get past security and can wreck your sh*t before anyone notices. You’ve seen him on the field.”

Lilly deflates with her head falling forward against Andie’s shoulder. She hopes Copia cannot see “There’s not a good way around this, Andie. I’ve dragged you into this for too long and I refuse to drag everyone else anymore. I am going to ignore it and he will forget about me. Let’s just back to bed, change the number in the morning, and get on with our lives.” Lilly says firmly.

Andie knows this rhetorical anger is meant more for herself than for anyone else, but it still makes them feel like a horrible friend. “For once, I think you should use the police. Use your white pretty privilege for your safety. We’ll glam you up and make their boners pop at the thought of protecting such a beautiful woman. We know Adam’s a dumb, stupid, white man but he’s a white man and people don’t notice how dangerous they are until someone says something; and you need to say something.”

The woman sighs after meeting Andie’s hazel eyes and everyone’s concerned expressions. “…Okay. But I just want to go back to sleep and deal with this in the morning.” She wipes a sleeve across her eyes and cheeks.

Andie agrees, the adrenaline from getting the messages and debating whether to wait to tell Lilly in the or not, finally fading from their system. They stand and look confused when Lilly doesn’t immediately stand with them.

Lilly flushes brightly in the dimly lighted room, “I…I can’t really get up on my own right now.”

“Oh, good lord, now you’re the one complaining about a sore vagin*. No sympathy.” They snark playfully.

Mountain and Swiss rush to her side. Copia follows them but has a bit of his own limp, which makes Terzo clap his younger brother’s back with waggling eyebrows.

Mountain’s careful hands lift Lilly as if she weighs nothing, an arm under her knees and her lower back. Being carried by these princely demons like their damsel in distress does improve her mood a significant amount. She’s laid back in the massive and rumpled bed, the tall Earth Ghoul helping Copia into the pile beside her.

“I promised you that I would keep you safe,” Copia affirms while he pulls her closer so Mountain can spoon her from behind.

“I don’t want you to risk anything.”

The tired but affectionate man kisses her forehead. “From now on you will never walk alone, you can always reach me. We’re on this journey together; you, me, the Ghouls, everyone.”

“This sounds suspiciously like a proposal,” Lilly grins, delirious with the rush of emotions.

“One day I’ll ask you for real.”

-

The next morning Lilly insists that she will go to the police station during her lunch break, but her pleading doesn’t fully convince Sister Imperator and the Papas. Even before the two sides can agree on which Papa/and or Ghouls can accompany her throughout her day, Lilly’s phone is ringing with a number under a known contact.

Hey, Lilly, it’s Evelyn.” Dr. Myers sounds distracted and frazzled, with lots of background noise.

“Hi, Dr. Myers, I’m able to come in on time today-“

“Lilly, you need to stay away from the museum for a while. We’ve had an angry mob blockading outside of the building for the past few hours about the Museum’s involved with Ghost. Dr. Collins has called for us to work remotely for the next few weeks.” The woman says.

Lilly now recognizes the background noise not to be the coworkers of the museum, but the chanting of an angry crowd. “Are you and the rest of the employees safe?”

Dr. Myers mumbles something indistinct to the person next to her. “Yes. We’re all still in the parking garage. The Police are able to get part of the crowd to move out of the way but it looks as if things may escalate.”

She ignores the concerned looks from the crowd of people around her and walks to the stained-glass window of Primo for better reception. “What exactly do they want? Are they just upset about the exhibition?”

“They aren’t very good at chanting-but your boyfriend is screaming something about you in the megaphone. Officer Wythe says it’s a mix of threats against you and boycotting the museum for partnering with Satanists. Which is a crock of sh*t. Have they seen the size of Samuel from accounting’s crucifix necklace? Even that zealot doesn’t feel uncomfortable around you.”

“I was going to file for a protective order from Adam on my lunch break today, though I might be able to file it in the courthouse uptown.” Lilly pinches the bridge of her nose.

Dr. Myers sounds relieved, “I would do your best to avoid the area surrounding the Museum. I’ll send you the officers’ names and they can help facilitate the order for you. I’m sorry this keeps happening to you.”

Lilly sighs, guilt crushing her shoulders. “It’s no one’s but my fault. Let me know when you are able to get home safely.” The woman hangs up after a quick goodbye.

Lilly doesn’t turn around to tell the group that couldn’t hear all of the details. She dials her father, who is probably just waking up to start his routine of feeding their dogs, Cujo, Duke, and Marlowe.

Joshua Warren, ever the late-night owl, answers with a raspy, “Hey sweetheart, what’s going on in Satan’s World of Wonders?”

Lilly smiles at his attempt at humor. Cujo the St. Bernard chuffs as the man answers the phone instead of continuing to pet him. “Things at the actual Abbey are great but Adam and DeFroque are leading a blockade outside of the Museum. We’re going to be remote for a while until Adam does something stupid enough to get his ass arrested.”

Why is he all of a sudden picketing the museum?”

“He somehow got this number and blew it up with threats all yesterday afternoon.”

“Do you have them recorded or screenshotted? Your mother can do something with her connections in Manhattan to get a restraining order.”

Lilly comes to a point where she wonders if she should tell her parents everything that has led up to Adam and Lilly’s engagement and issues afterward. She had never lied to her parents, but there was a lot she has omitted in the journey to make the man seems like the poster-boy for a walking red flag. She can take away Adam’s leverage by facing this issue head-on.

However, it wouldn’t be right to tell her father the world-ending news over the phone.

“Is there a way for you to come back out to the Abbey?” She asks quietly.

Marlowe the Corgi yips in excitement as the man dumps the cup of kibble into his bowl. Joshua’s voice takes on the typical “worried dad voice” she’s heard from Terzo and Copia all night. “Of course. There’s probably one tomorrow I can catch with our flight points.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Lilly sighs shakily.

You’re safe, though, right? Do I need to buy a gun in Manhattan before meeting you somewhere safe?”

Lilly imagines how angry he’ll be once she admits everything. “Yeah, it’s just something I’ve needed to tell you for a long time.”

Her father laughs, “Oh please. Is this you coming out? Did Andie finally get you into that tuxedo and it’s changed somethings around in that overthinking mind of yours? You know your mother and I would never see you as anything but the child we love.”

“I mean if you already know about those,” Joshua’s laughter was always infectious and she’s cracks a smile. “I know you guys love me. But for this, I need you to listen. And I can’t tell you over the phone.”

“I’ll tell you as soon as I have a ticket. See you soon, Lillypad.”

Lilly takes a deep breath to calm her nerves before she turns to see how all of the group is probably eavesdropping. “Adam and DeFroque have blockaded the museum, so I have to work remotely for a bit. I’m going to go head to the public library and set up for today then.”

Sister Imperator furrows her manicured brows. “Why would you go there? We have space in the archives for a desk set-up. Cardi and Ghouls, please go help move some of the boxes off the desk down there.”

“Archive?” Now, Lilly understands there are still parts of the Abbey she hasn’t fully explored, but she has heard of an archive location listed on the documentation given to the museum for the display. Surely this just means an empty bishop or Sibling office?

“Down past the Ghoul bedrooms. It’s connected to the library underneath the main sanctuary of the Abbey.” Primo says. He puts a hand on her shoulder and points across the dais of the altar to where the Ghoul choir box and hidden confessional are. A doorway with a set of stairs is sitting there right next to the confessional in plain sight.

Lily sighs, “This place is a maze.”

-

When Primo had said that the library and archives were underneath the sanctuary, he had failed to mention that it takes up the entire footprint of the sanctuary. Rows and shelves, stacks and fallen-over stacks stretch as far as Lilly can see. This would explain where Siblings were when she thought the Abbey was empty-they were down here in the library.

Sister Martha is sitting on a plush armchair surrounded by books on pregnancy; a strong testament to the beginning roundness of her belly under her tightly-fitted habit dress. She grins and waves at the small group accompanying Lilly, but quickly gets re-engrossed in her large textbook.

Primo, Copia, some Ghouls, Terzo and Andie (now having woken up), lead Lilly through the rows of multi-sized books to the west wall where a large separated room sits dark. Primo turns on the light, revealing filing cabinets along each wall, a large desk with boxes indeed stacked on top, and a central table with some old architecture plans laid out.

“This is where Sister works sometimes, like when she had sent you the documents for the award,” Primo has the Ghouls move a few boxes from the desk onto the table. Beneath the stack is a scanner and printer, which are delightfully in working order.

Rain pulls out the office chair for her, and bows dramatically when she sits in it and pushes her in. Lilly opens her laptop, as Cumulus and Aurora unpack her bag of office supplies neatly around her. In a few minutes the desk is transformed into an organized space for Lilly to work surrounded by the very documents she needed to use.

Copia grins brightly as Lilly plugs in the table’s desk lamp. It bathes all of them in a warm yellow glow.

“You could use some plants in here, they would help control the humidity,” Cumulus muses about the dusty shelves above the filing cabinets. The Air Ghoulette and Mountain dissolve into a quiet discussion of the best plants for low light that eventually ropes Rain into for a watering schedule.

“You’ve given those three a hearty excuse to come hang around,” Primo chuckles, opening a box and peeking inside. “Sister must have pulled these out for a reason. This looks like a collection of surplus concert CD’s.” He pulls out Ceremony and Devotion, Terzo’s live album of Ghost’s greatest hits.

“Would she let me have some for the display?” Lily stands and sees that there are discs from the other Papas too.

Copia pulls out one that doesn’t have a fancy label, “Look, it’s one of your first concerts, Fratello.” On the silver CD is a scrawled label that says ‘OPVS EP HAMMER 23-10.’

Primo groans, taking the CD with a sour look on his face. “This was the first concert. Everything was so chaotic, and I hadn’t had enough time to rehearse enough with the Ghouls that were basically abandoned by Nihil. I thought I had ruined everything by how dead the crowd was. We should destroy this.”

“No! This is extra special, then. Obviously, you did not ruin anything--look at how full this box is just of other live CDs. So the crowd was dead, what’s wrong with that?” Lilly says.

“I was sixteen and I think it had a profound effect on how I went about looking at myself, I guess. Secondo and Terzo were terrible child menaces who kept trying to come on-stage. I think at one point I even miss a cue because I was holding Secondo back from getting too close to the drummer Ghoul.”

Lily grins at the image of the two mischievous men being equally crazy kids and wanting to play rockstar with their older brother. “How old were they?”

“It was 1975…I think Secondo was 9 and Terzo was probably 6. Enough to not being acting stupid but not old enough to know how to use their brain cells.” Primo cracks a smile but it fades quickly.

“You performed that young with them? Where was Nihil and Imperator?” She asks.

The oldest brother gives her a weathered-down look of fondness. “I took over Ghost after Nihil almost overdosed on stage the year before. Thankfully he already wanted me to start touring soon, so we had the album ready, but I had no idea if I was right for keeping up the band and taking care of a withdrawing Nihil and kids. It was rough until Sister came back from Sweden.”

“Wait, why was Sister in Sweden?” Copia blinks, taken aback.

Primo rubs a thumb over his undimpled chin in thought. “You know, I never asked. I hated her at that point. She f*cked off to a different Ministry right around 1970 and I hadn’t had much dealing with her before, but I knew she could make better decisions about what to do with a drug-withdrawing Nihil than I did. Eventually she came back and began to help. I’ve long forgiven her; it was probably difficult to be around him as a wife.”

Lily co*cks her head, “They were married?”

“Have been since ’65 I believe,” Copia muses. “I didn’t come to the States until the ‘90s when Secondo was just about to be replaced with Terzo.”

Primo nods, “Having the young, dashing new Cardinal Copia at the Abbey certainly took away most animosity between the two. ‘United against a common enemy’ we like to say. Though you and Terzo were thick as thieves very quickly,”

Copia matches his smile, “We’re only a year apart. You, on the other hand, were almost in your forties and acted like a geezer.”

Lilly’s phone rings with the bell-tone of a new message.

SETH MACFARLANE IMPERSONATOR (DAD): Heading 2 airport now. ETA 8 hours to KLGA. Love u.

“Damn, he’s already getting on a plane,” Anxiety roils in her stomach. At least she wouldn’t have to try to sleep while waiting for him to fly in.

“Who is?” Copia asks.

“I asked my dad to come so I can talk to him. I’m going to try and take away Adam’s power by admitting something to my parents.”

Primo looks concerned, “Is everything alright? We aren’t making you uncomfortable, are we?”

Lilly shakes her head quickly. “Of course not. This is about something that happened a long time before I met all of you.”

Copia sees how her hands tremble and tangle in the hem of her sweater. He holds one carefully, “Do you want someone to go with you?”

For the first time in a while, Lilly hesitates at the thought of letting any of them listen to the horrible secret was going to reveal. “I…It’s a difficult conversation.” Her throat threatens to seize with burgeoning tears.

“We don’t want to make feel pressured or anything, but perhaps Copia could just wait out in the car while you and your father speak? La Guardia is large, and Adam may know if you are going to be alone.”

“No, it’s okay. I was planning to bring him straight back here to talk. The airport is barely thirty minutes across the river.” She says. “I’ll keep in touch with you guys the whole time until I get there and back, I promise.”

*********TW

Joshua Warren embraces his daughter soon after stepping off the last-minute flight. It’s now dark outside, most people taking the weeknight to cook in their own homes. They pass through a McDonald’s drive thru on the way back to the Abbey, reminiscing about how they would share chicken McNuggets when she was a child.

Chatting with her dad has been her favorite pastime. His engineer mind never stopped inventing and she vividly remembers how he would explain absolutely anything she could point to on tv or as he took her to school. It was one of the few things that allowed to know that he was different than Ed and Lorraine Warren. He gave her factual answers, unlike some of the metaphysical training the Warrens used.

Lilly parks her chrome green Alfa Romeo in the driveway beside Copia’s LaSabre.

“You’ve certainly brightened up their car inventory.” He laughs.

“Oh, you should have seen Sister Imperator’s old Continental. That was the definition of a hooptie.” Lilly leads him through the garage, unable to focus on any small car talk with the impending conversation.

Her father seems to recognize how upset she has progressively been getting throughout their quiet drive here. “Okay, we can talk about the cars after.”

Lilly nods, letting out a sigh of relief. They enter the door into the papal sitting room, which is blissfully empty. She would love to talk here, but it’s too open for others to accidentally overhear. She doesn’t want to do it in the main sanctuary or in her new office and possibly taint the warm feeling she gets in both places. When was the last time she slept in her own dorm room? She leads her father to the sister wing.

Joshua Warren does the exact “dad” thing by sitting in her vanity chair backwards. It must be something he heard about from their neighbor’s younger teen son as a joke. “So, Lilly, I love visiting you at your counterculture-teen-rebellion-playhouse, but what has you so upset I needed to come in person?”

She gets onto her bed, curling knees up to her chin. It flashes back to the very position of the event, and she quickly lets her feet hang off the bed, almost touching her dad’s knee.

When she doesn’t begin speaking, he tries to find her gaze for reassurance. “You can tell us anything, Lilly. It’s not going to change how much we love you-“

“But it will ruin everything! You don’t need to hate your parents because of me, and I’m the one who’s still hanging onto it!” She blurts out. Years of hiding and frustration snap any gentleness she had for going into this smoothly.

“Lilly, I’ve always hated my parents.” He scoots closer to the edge of the bed. “Catholic mass is not fun even back in the 60s when they were very obviously on drugs during sermons. They abandoned me multiple times to investigate and then dragged my new family around on a sh*tty camper for their business. You hating them is not going to hurt me at all.”

Tears roll down her cheeks, she can barely wipe them away with the sleeve of Mountain’s stolen sweatshirt she’s wearing. “I hate them…so much, Dad. I have to tell you about their ‘exorcism.’ I’ve kept it in too long and Adam is using it as blackmail against me.”

Joshua sits up straighter. This was the one conversation he never expected to have with his daughter. Lilly was so traumatized from the religious ordeal that she was mute for two years afterward, but thankfully the therapist they found in Seattle was able to break their sunshine out of her shell yet again.

“It wasn’t an exorcism,” Lilly begins slowly. “That was a lie made up by Lorraine. She egged him on and never told Ed to stop.”

He listens intently, letting her talk at her own pace.

Lilly takes a deep breath, “It started when we first went to stay with them for Christmas when I was three. That night where you and Mom went out on a date to the skating rink?”

Her father nods. “Yeah, it was the day after Christmas, right?”

“Yeah. After you two left, I started playing with the new Barbies in the living room. I made them sing and dance and talk, and wanted to get out their other outfits but couldn’t open the plastic so I went into the kitchen where Ed was listening to the hockey game on the radio. He opened the package and was upset I had interrupted the game, so I ran back into the living room to play.”

She takes another moment to collect herself, “I had stripped all my Barbies to give them the new outfits when he stormed into the room, complaining that I had caused him to miss the final score that made his team lose the championship. He saw me playing and got more upset. Ed sat on the couch and told me to go sit on his lap, that it was the only way he would forgive me for what I had done.”

Joshua’s expression of dawning horror is barely veiled by neutrality.

“He didn’t do anything but touch me over my pajamas, but it started a cycle where it would happen every time I was with him. He would make up excuses to have me change into different clothes and snuck into my bedroom while I was asleep. I woke up once to where he was...touching himself overtop of me. He said I was dreaming and I went back to sleep. But there was a stain on the blanket right by my head in the morning. Eventually, that wasn't enough for him.” Lilly is full-on crying by now, but the words haven’t slowed down at all. She needs to get this out before it destroys her and everything she loves. She can’t look at her father’s face, knowing that her admittance of things becoming worse under Ed’ molestation would have caused him to also become emotional.

“After Grandpa Cayce died and mom left for Virginia, you went to work for most of the day. This is by no means your fault because you had to work and NESPR was failing, but it gave Ed plenty of time to keep me within arm’s length. That summer I began to sneak into the basem*nt museum and play with the dolls since I threw away the ones Ed and Lorraine gave me. I had gotten curious about the whispering Annabelle doll and would sit and talk to it to avoid Ed touching me more. One day the demon inside told me he would be able to stop Ed from touching me if I let him out of the Warrens’ blessed box.”

“I asked him not to kill Ed because he was still your dad and he said he wouldn’t…So I found the key on Lorraine’s desk and opened it. Holding Annabelle wasn’t enough, I needed to reverse the hex binding him here. But I didn’t really know how to read Latin and I tried my best but only got halfway through it.”

Lilly begins to shake for real. “Lorraine came to get me for lunch and interrupted me. She yelled for Ed to get holy water, then threw Annabelle back into the box and locked it. I was so scared of what he would do I didn’t say the rest of the hex. Ed came into the basem*nt and he…” Her throat decides to fully close up.

Joshua Warren cannot believe all of the trauma he let happen to his daughter. He wants to reassure her that she’s still his little girl and hug her and tell her how sorry he is but he doesn’t know if he can touch her. Or if all of the physical affection he’s given her has constantly retraumatized her over the years.

“Ed made me swallow some of the holy water but since it’s just salt water I threw it up. When he saw that wasn’t working he decided the only way for the Lord to forgive me was if I carried a holy man’s seed. He knew I had that disease, but he said he would keep trying until there was no reason for the Lord not to make me pregnant. Lorraine watched. She encouraged him when I would cry for her to help me. At one point she even got him lube when he said I was too dry.”

“Lilly…” He starts.

She stops him with a shaky hand. “I need to finish this. After the first time, I had enough sense to finish the reversal hex. Except I must’ve said something wrong because Farrassis wasn’t released; I had actually summoned the Demon Lord Crowley. Ed was able to…”

She can’t say it out loud, but it’s clear what she meant.

“Crowley appeared after the continuous third time Ed did that to me and got him off me. He wasn’t able to touch them because of the holy water they were splashing everywhere, but he formed a blood oath with me that no one would touch me without my consent because he wasn’t able to stop Ed from the other two times after I summoned him. Lorraine called you before I could tell you what happened, making up the story of the exorcism.”

Her father feels like the worst parent in the entire universe. “…She encouraged him?”

Lilly nods, not caring if she was ruining the grey sweatshirt with her tears. “She said I told absolutely anyone, even the Police, she would make sure you and Mom never loved me, and I would be locked in their bedroom for the rest of my life with Ed.”

“What did Crowley do?”

She sighs. “He can’t really meddle with humans unless specified. I was scared to lose you and mom, so I told him just to keep Ed away from me. You came back from work, and we left the next day in the car for Philadelphia and then on to Virginia Beach.”

********

Joshua Warren holds his head in his hands. “I’m going to kill them.”

“Dad, please, I’ve worked through therapy and I have Crowley and the Abbey-“

“You shouldn’t have needed therapy! I should have noticed something, Lilly! What kind of father am I when I can’t tell my own father was sexually abusing my daughter?!” He shouts then runs a hand through his short hair when it only makes Lilly clam up. “I hated them. I didn’t trust them. So why did I leave you alone with them?”

“This isn’t your fault, Dad, I should’ve said something years ago.” Lilly pleads.

He gives her a look of pure bewilderment. “Lilly, this is in no way your fault either. You are not to blame for any amount of abuse and pain that pedophile put you through. Do you hear me? Even if you had said something, it would have never made your mother or me stop loving you any less. I will always believe you over anything anyone else says.”

She nods, but the tears make it hard to see his face. “Can I hug you?”

Joshua stands up so quickly the chair is knocked backwards. She clings to her father and allows herself to process the grief that had led to her fear of intimacy, that would lead to her meeting a boy involved in a religion where sex was saved for after marriage. But of course, her curiosity was bolstered by underage alcohol, and she tried one blowj*b and cursed herself to yet another abuser.

Fifteen years later, Lilly is free to hug her father and doesn’t think about how he’s related to the grandparents who traumatized her.

Neither of them see the snow owl perched in the tree of the cloister, the branch close to the cracked window of Lilly’s bedroom as the hazel eyes watch carefully.

Notes:

TLDR: Lilly describes that Ed Warren began sexually abusing her as a child, which escalated until she was seven when Lorraine found her trying to free Farrassis the demon from Annabelle the Doll. Lilly never finished reversing the binding spell as Ed tried to cleanse her 'sins' by assaulting her. As Lilly tries to remember the Latin, she accidentally summons Demon Lord Crowley, but he cannot intervene until after the assaults because of Lorraine's interference. He makes a blood pact with Lilly that no one can sexually touch her without her consent again.

Adam has lost his leverage...whatever shall he do?

Chapter 23: Spirit

Notes:

I can FINALLY use the confessional sex tag!

Please be gentle with my Crowley/Azira characterization-I'm trying my goshdarn best. if yall have tips for writing them, i would be very appreciative!

Chapter Text

Cumulus was trying not to eavesdrop on Lilly and her father. It was so easy to think that she would just ‘happen’ to walk past her bedroom to make sure she was doing okay. Cirrus had held the smaller Air Ghoulette back with a disappointed frown. However, that goes out the window the moment Cumulus spies a snowy owl perched in the cloister’s apple tree.

“What the Hell? You’re standing right here? How is there a snow owl over there?” Phantom puts his hands on his hips.

“There are things called actual snow owls, spider-lily,” Cirrus chides.

Phantom pouts, unbelieving animals could exist outside of the animal forms the Ghouls sometimes could take on. He has never seen another bat before.

“I do have a funny feeling about that owl though. It’s not late enough for one to be out-especially one to be so close to so many humans,” Mountain co*cks his head to the side.

Rain turns to go down the stairs to the Ghoul Den from where the Ghouls are peering through the doorway out across the cloister.

“Mountain, go touch it. See if it’s real or not.” Phantom dares.

The Earth Ghoul rolls his green eyes. “Bug, it’s a real owl. Look, it just flapped its wings.”

The white owl does instead settle down onto the large branch, flapping its speckled wings in a flutter of brown and cream. Golden-hazel eyes peer around the cloister until the head swivels 180 degrees until they meet the suspicious Ghouls. With a terrified squawk it takes off into the air where it smacks against the roof of the cathedral and falls into a shrub.

“Aw sh*t!” Rain yelps.

All of the Ghouls, except for Sodo, run over to the fallen bird. Its wings have been caught in some of the thorny branches of the holly bush. It stares up at them, terrified to death and screeching at them.

Mountain waves his brethren away. After the Ghouls back away, the owl slowly stops its death screeching to watch him with a guarded gaze.

“Hey there, little guy. You’re in quite a predicament. Can I touch your wing to get you free?” He asks.

The owl ceases all struggle, closing its’ large eyes. Mountain reaches in and uses his calloused fingers to pluck away the thorned leaves from the delicate feathers. One of the branches comes away from blood, but instead of it being the usual red, its drips a liquid the color of a shiny bronze medal. He plucks the last few leaves and backs away so it can get its bearings back.

The unusual owl rights itself on top of the shrub. Preening for a moment reminds Mountain of the posh way Terzo would straighten his outfits before rituals and it makes him smile at the bird’s human-like mannerisms. It looks back up at the Earth Ghoul with two rapid blinks of its translucent third eyelid.

“You’re welcome, strange owl.” Mountain replies cautiously. Usually he can feel the energy of all Earth’s animals. This would be one of the very rare exceptions he’s come across in his millennia of carbon-based life.

It seems to nod then bursts upwards into the air. The Ghouls watch as it nests comfortably inside a nest built towards the very top of the tree’s canopy.

“Did you know it had a nest up there?” Mountain calls to Rain.

The Water Ghoul shakes his head fervently. “No. That has to be recent-Rory and I were up there getting some apples just last week; we didn’t see anything like that.”

“Should we make it go away?” Aurora gestures to the shed that holds the ladders and tools by the greenhouse out back.

Mountain purses his lips. “As long as it doesn’t know how to open rat tunnels, I think it’s okay to nest here for the winter. I’ll ask Papa just in case.” He leaves the curious Ghouls to ponder the strange creature, trusting Cirrus to keep them in line.

Copia is pacing in his bedroom, Rigatoni perched carefully on his shoulder as he rambles. “…I mean, I try my best to make sure she feels welcome here, but what if she’s secretly afraid to speak up? People call me scary and you know how the press gets about anything that even implies something with the Devil, so how am I supposed to make a human woman comfortable around this whacky family? Is she going to leave? Is being Prime Mover too much for her? I can always ask His Excellency about…” Mountain watches him dissolve back into a strange mix of English, Italian, and Swedish. His Ghoul hearing does its best to translate but he’s speaking so quickly he decides just to interrupt.

“Papa?”

The man freezes, “Jo?”

“The Ghouls and I just discovered a strange owl nesting in the top of the Eden tree. I think its harmless but would you want me to relocate it?”

Rigatoni squeaks his own damning verdict. Copia glances at the plump rodent. “Does it eat rats?”

Mountain shrugs. “Dunno.”

“Let us see for ourselves, yes?” Copia gestures for him to lead him outside.

Rigatoni is understandably afraid of the white predator once they’re out in the cloister; especially once it flies down to a lower branch to stare at the newcomers.

Copia holds his dear pet close to his chest, scared of a sudden attack that never comes. In fact the snowy owl mimics a gag, and turns its head away in disgust with a squawk.

“Well, that’s great! A vegan owl.” Phantom smiles.

“Oh, please. Owls can’t be vegan. What would they eat; tofu burgers?” Aurora huffs.

Rigatoni relaxes in Copia’s palms as he realizes he’s not the bird’s next meal.

“Or maybe its not a fan of overweight rats,” Swiss snickers.

“Hey! Rigatoni has just put on some happy weight! I feed him according to national standards of care for Fancy Rats.” The Antipope gripes.

“What are you guys talking about?” Lilly asks, standing by her now-open window. Her brown eyes are still rimmed red from crying, but they all feel a visible tension lifted from her shoulders.

“There’s this crazy owl and it thinks Rigatoni is too fat to eat!” Aurora calls.

“Dad, c’mon,” They hear her say.

The two Warrens come out of her room to see the mystery bird. It’s a good thing Lilly is there because she goes, “Aziraphale!”

Aziraphale the snowy owl tries to fly away, as if it was caught in a game of hide-and-seek.

Lilly reaches out to catch one of the bird’s feet, successfully keeping it from flapping off. “Hey, don’t you run from me. Why are you acting like I’m chopped liver?” She scolds.

The owl adjusts its posture to sit up straighter, golden eyes flickering to her father beside her. Chirp!

“That’s rude,” Joshua Warren puts his hands on hips. “I haven’t seen you in a decade and you try to run at the sight of us when you were eavesdropping?”

Lilly drops her arm, forcing the owl to fall towards the ground.

Mountain and Rain go to catch it but a golden light washes over the bird into the form a stout, white haired man.

“I was not supposed to be caught!” The stranger hisses. “I’m on a secret mission!”

“Caught by us?”

Aziraphale the Angel nods enthusiastically. “Yes! I’m not allowed to be here unless it’s one of Crowley’s visitation days.”

“So why are you here?” Lilly asks.

He tries to keep a neutral face but after a moment of watching the two Warrens, he breaks into a deflated sigh. “Crowley told me to look after you. He said he was worried that you might not express your feelings with all this going on.”

The woman crosses her arms, “How long have you been around?”

“I…I might’ve been here a…week or so…” He admits, hazel eyes looking away innocently. “I restarted my bookshop in London!” He tries to change the subject.

Lilly gives him a withering look. “Aziraphale, spying on me is exactly what I hated about Adam and caused this all in the first place.”

The Angel straightens his pale cream waistcoat in the same way the owl preened its feathers, “I’m sorry, but he asked very nicely and said His um…Unholy Excellency would allow me to come to your monthly visits if I kept an eye on you between missions for them.”

“I thought Angels couldn’t stand on consecrated ground?” Phantom steps up to Lilly’s side, large lavender eyes taking in the man’s peculiar British and angelic figure.

Aziraphale laughs nervously and scoots a bit closer to the tree’s trunk. “It’s-It’s a bit different for me. Most can’t.”

“You have the scent of Hell on you,” Swiss snickers. “Boss has a penchant for Brits, I take it? Indulging in a bit of mixed black magic, looks like.”

The Angel’s flush is enough of an answer.

“Okay, just don’t watch when I have sex.” Lilly appeases him.

Joshua Warren groans playfully, “Now, one thing I do not need to know is your adult sex life. Aziraphale, it was good to see you again. Come to Seattle and Chelsea will cook you something incredible.” To everyone but Lilly’s surprise, the Angel and man embrace. The Angel then embraces Lilly and transforms back into an owl, flapping up to cuddle into his nest above.

“Do we have to whisper in the cloister now?” Aurora whispers loudly to Lilly.

“No. Let him find a quiet place in the woods if our home is too noisy for him.” She grins.

The Ghouls and Copia are understandably baffled by Lilly having not only a connection to a demon, but also to an angel.

“There are so many things about you that fascinate me,” Copia says after they leave Joshua Warren to stay in a spare Sibling room for the night.

Both of them are left alone outside of Lily’s bedroom door, most Sisters have a large slumber party in the meeting hall. Originally Lilly had wanted to go, but she’s drained from the roller-coaster ride of a day.

She bats her eyelashes up at him. “Flattery will get you everywhere, except tonight. I’m exhausted.”

He can see the bags appearing under eyes, seemingly growing with each moment. “Yes, well, have a good night, Lilly.” His awkwardness comes back full force when this reminds him of the very few first dates he went on.

Physical affection with Copia feels more natural; whether that is because she’s finally begun to reconcile the guilt over her childhood with her father, or if she just enjoys being intimate with him and the Ghouls. “I’d love to cuddle next to the babies.”

His mismatched eyes light up. “Really? Sometimes Penne runs on the wheel at night…And my bed isn’t the biggest.”

“I can grab the mattress topper from my bed.” She goes in and quickly is able to slide the floppy foam out in just a few minutes. He helps her carry it to his room, both of them laughing at the sound of the Siblings getting spooked by some random horror movie in the meeting hall.

They form a large bed with the new mattress, and sloppily redo the sheets from Lilly’s room. It’s messy and mismatched, but when has anything in the last part of her life lined up correctly?

Copia grabs the extra blankets and lays them out on the wide ‘bed,’ when an idea strikes him with something he’s wanted to do for years again. He pulls the plush chair over to the bed and hangs one of the quilts from the backrest.

“Are we making a blanket fort?!” Lilly questions in awe.

“Yeah-if you’re c-cool with that?” Hope fills him that he made the right move.

Both of them fly into a frenzy of gathering blankets, placing them off the cushions of the loveseat and the vanity chair. They stand back to admire the shifting colors and textures of their creation. Lilly grabs some of the fake LED candles from his fireplace mantel and place them in some of the dark corners, timing them so they’ll turn off in an hour or so.

“I think it’s perfecto,” He says proudly. There are a few creatures that would love exploring the fort however.

She grins but it falls when she notices the longing look he gives the softly squeaking network of wall tunnels. “Are they potty-trained?”

“Yes actually. They’re very food-motivated, but I’ve been able to train them.” He goes over to one of the end tunnels and takes out a flat pan. “This tunnel is closed off but they’re very good at using the bathroom here when out of their web.”

She steps up next to the wall and opens one of the hatches to let Fusilli sniff her hand. The nursing mother rat seems to approve of Lilly when she begins shuffling her still mostly helpless babies in the palm of her hand.

“She’s giving you her kittens?” Copia’s hand is at her lower back. While he doesn’t believe she’ll freak out, he’s ready to step in the moment she’s uncomfortable handling them.

Fusilli places the last wiggly baby then plops herself in with the same mannerisms of an exhausted mother. “They’re so adorable this close.”

“I think the person holding them is even cuter.”

Lilly grins pecks his cheek., “Thanks Copia. Where should I put them?”

He sets their black cat bed up one side of the fort with a heated blanket on low in the middle. She places them in it, letting them settle as they get the other three pets out.

Fancy rats out and a small setup for them to use the bathroom and sip water and munch some pellets on a towel near the entrance, the two humans quickly change into pajamas (or, Lilly steals some of Mountain’s sleepover shirts and boxers, and Copia slides on sweatpants and a henley).

“I’m so excited for this,” She whispers.

Copia lifts up the ‘entrance’ blanket for her to crawl through? Then follows to far end of his bed where the small rodents have created a cuddle pile together. It seems as though the mattresses were well-suited together and there isn’t too noticeable of a seam between them.

Lilly lays on her back, looking up at the flickering fake candlelight on the ceiling blankets. “This is crazy romantic. We should be in a Hallmark movie.”

He turns to look at her, taking in her soft jawline and the way her slowly-growing out ombre bangs fan out on her forehead. “I think for us it’s closer to ‘Hell’mark.”

She matches his tired giggle. “Thank you for showing me that someone can love me for me.” Her hand slowly moves from it’s position on her stomach to the blanket beside his, letting her pinky curl around his own.

Copia’s heart is going to burst if he doesn’t say what’s been ringing in his brain for the past month. “I love you.”

For a heart-stopping, silent moment, he believes she’s going to sit up and walk out of their lives forever.

“I can’t say that yet,” Lilly begins.

Oh f*ck. He’s probably still screwed up. Does he need to apologize? He should look at her and wipe the quiver from his lip.

“…but I’m definitely speeding down the Highway to Hell towards it.” She fully holds his hand and intertwines all of their fingers.

He could spontaneously combust happily now. “Let’s hope you’re not driving your CR-X.”

Lilly shakes her head as best she can while tangled in blankets with him. “No, I think I’m riding shotgun in a restored Buick LaSabre.”

-

Lilly’s f*cked.

Well, getting f*cked by the man still asleep beside would be nice right now, but there are adorable baby rat kittens snuggling on her chest and she doesn’t want to scar them at three weeks old.

Every beat of her racing heart calms the rodents but reminds her of how fast she’s fallen for Copia and the Ghouls. They built a fort and cuddled with rats and kissed like they were the stars of some sappy childhood friends-to-lovers movie.

Copia doesn’t know of what she spoke of yesterday, but is willing to trust her and love her enough to do anything to cheer her up.

It’s early and her father is probably enjoying sleeping-in, so she allows her mind to drift to the happy memories she’s formed since meeting Ghost. It becomes increasing difficult not to spiral into what could be waiting for her if Adam gets her alone.

A snuffle-snore outside the blanket fort dissipates any thoughts of Adam but ignites the anxiety even more.

Carefully putting the rat babies beck in the cat bed with Fusilli and Sedani, Lilly reaches over and parts a small section of blanket wall to peer outside.

Cobbled together just outside the blanket fort is a snoring-purring-mumbling group of slumbering Ghouls. She can tell seven of them between blankets from their den (because all of Copia’s are in use right now) and Mountain is probably buried underneath them all.

“Lilly…” Aurora whispers. When Lilly spies the small Multi-Ghoulette’s sparkling lavender eyes, the demon grins. “Hi.” She giggles.

“Good morning,” Lilly whispers back.

Aurora rubs her cheek against the exposed grey skin on Swiss’ chest. “The fort you and Papa built in really cool.”

The woman grins. She glances back to see that Copia is still asleep curled on his left side facing her, but there’s still plenty of room for someone of Aurora’s size. “Do you want to come inside? We have the rats in here but there’s lots of space.”

Aurora successfully extracts herself from the pile without waking any of them up. It’s probably that the Ghouls are finally sleeping off the last dredges of their Heat Cycle and Aurora is simply the first to bounce back. She crawls into the open wall and seals back all the warmth from the couple sleeping overnight.

Lilly holds her arm up for Aurora to cuddle up to her chest, letting the Multi-Ghoulette sling an arm around her chest. “Comfy?” Lilly asks quietly.

Aurora doesn’t respond except for a small nod, already on her way back to whatever strange things corporeal demons dream about. It settles the raised spikes of anxiety running through Lilly’s brain. Aurora and Copia are furnaces around her. Usually it would cause her body to sweat under the covers and body heat, but she must be getting used to being surrounded by sleeping bodies at night.

-

When the gaggle of demons (and human woman) decide to rise for the day, they find Joshua Warren, Andie, Terzo, and Secondo eating breakfast in the papal kitchen at the breakfast table.

“Good morning!” Lilly’s father stands and hugs her.

As she hugs him tightly, she’s so grateful that Copia suggest they get dressed in actual clothes before going to breakfast, even though Lilly was sure her dad wouldn’t be awake before 9am.

The man’s smiley disposition does not wean as he holds out a hand for Copia to shake, then pulls him into an embrace. He leads the couple to the stove where a half-eaten tray of sausage and egg casserole is covered with tin foil.

“How did you get Mom’s casserole?” Lilly takes a large square and portions one out for Copia on a different plate.

“Your mother turns out to be a wonderful instructional chef. When you couldn’t do the trial recipes, I volunteered to be her guinea pig. I thought you could use a piece of home after last night.” He says the last part a bit quieter, then rubs her back as he goes back to sit at the table. There are still two spots at the table, meant for mornings with Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil to join the four brothers. It rarely happened.

Secondo and her father sit across the round table from each other and while she doesn’t feel any outright animosity from the retired Papa, she can tell he’s quieter than normal. Whether that’s from sitting by a descendent of the Warrens or just because he’s not a morning person is still to be determined.

As soon as they sit, Lilly sees the smirk on Andie’s face and groans.

“So how did you and Papa sleep last night? You weren’t in your room when we knocked this morning,” They say innocently.

Joshua rolls his eyes, “Andie be nice to your sister. Lilly, you don’t have to answer.”

Andie pouts and crosses their arms, “I just asked a simple question! Can I not be concerned when my sister is not in her room?”

“Perhaps because I was in the shower?” Lilly shoots back.

“Your hair is frizzy!”

Lilly’s lips crack into a grin at their little game. “My hair is always frizzy. It’s called ‘not wearing a silk bonnet to bed because it makes a line on my forehead like it does on Andie’ syndrome. Quite a terrible disease.”

Andie gasps and turns to Terzo’s thinly veiled amused expression. “Do I have a line on my forehead?”

“Do I have to answer that?”

Joshua shakes his head.

Andie grumbles and picks up a forkful of casserole.

“Well I hate to say this, Lilly, but I have a flight at noon to go back to Seattle.”

“What, you’re leaving already?” Lilly asks, disappointed.

He nods. “I didn’t pack for a long trip. Your mother and I have a date night tomorrow and I can’t miss a day-off with her insane schedule.”

“Can I at least show you my new remote office in the archives?” She pleads. He looks at the watch on his wrist. “I think so. I have basically nothing to pack.”

“Can I come to the airport with you? I haven’t ridden in Lilly’s new car yet.” Andie asks.

Lilly nods. “Sure.”

-

When the trio are off happily singing to ABBA down the street, Copia takes the opportunity to just breathe in the crisp autumn air. Andie and Lilly would return in an hour or so after dropping off the older man, so the Abbey would be devoid of their sunshine for a while.

Just as he opens his eyes, Aziraphale the owl flies overhead, trailing the green car out of sight. He watches for a few quiet moments. In times like this he wishes he was on the terrace of Mr. Saltarian’s beach house rather than the front steps of the Abbey. He idly wonders if Lilly likes the beach.

Sister Imperator is the one to find him twenty minutes later, his eyes stuck on the fluffy clouds. “Earth to Cardi,” She calls.

“Sister, hello, good afternoon,” Copia looks over his shoulder. “How are you?”

She waves away the pleasantries as he comes back up the front steps. “What was Lilly’s important discussion about?”

“I don’t know,” He shrugs.

“Didn’t you two talk last night?” Her whole atmosphere reeks of concern.

Copia wiggles his hand, “I told her I loved her? But I don’t know if that’s what her father and her talked about.”

Sister Imperator looks taken aback at his confession. “You really love her? Well what did she say? Can I begin planning a ceremony to promote her to Mama?” Concern shifts to a motherly joy that lights up her clear eyes.

He gulps and rubs the back of his neck. “She said she wasn’t quite there yet. This situation is probably taking up most of her time. I’m willing to take any amount of trust and love she is willing to share.”

“You’re very smitten with her. I can see why.” She pauses for a moment then plucks a stack of documents from the ones in her hands, neatly organized in a binder. “Now, here are some preliminary tax forms and charts I need you to look over for this upcoming tour.”

Copia takes them and sees his happy thoughts drain out into the storm drain. “Sister, isn’t this a bit early? We don’t leave until February.”

For a second time in the last few minutes, she has a look of pure bewilderment. “Where the Hell did you hear that? The tour bus arrives to pick you and the equipment up on December 15th. Your first Ritual in Chicago is December 20th! Have you not read my emails or listened at any of my meetings?”

Oops. He was probably daydreaming about Lilly.

“I’m not spending Yule on the road again! The Ghouls were so unhappy last time and this will be Lilly and Andie’s first.”

“Cardi, dear, this tour is being demanded by the very fans you recruited. This could help the Abbey so much! We can build a new, larger practice area for you, expand the lake, help out the other branches…you will have many more chances to make memories with your Prime Mover after the Phantomime Tour.”

He sighs heavily. “Can we give it a better name at least?”

“I think the name is strong! It is your album’s title.”

Copia picks the hem of his shirt, “Well we got so many comments about how stupid Re-Imperatour sounded. I miss when we were awesome like Popestar or A Pale Tour Named Death, something that will really rev the audience’s sexual engines!” He holds up a declarative fist.

She co*cks her head and watches him with a fond, exasperated look. “Do you have any ideas?”

“Well, n-not right now,” He babbles.

“Fill out those forms and tell me what you come up with.” She deadpans.

-

Lilly and Andie arrive back at the Abbey a few hours later, cheeks flushed from excitement at how hard they were singing alongside the car stereo system. “This car is so incredible! Nothing’s broken or falling down, you don’t need a Bluetooth transmitter, and your tire alignment is normal!”

“I know right! I still feel a bit weird driving it, like it isn’t really my car. Everything is too shiny and new.”

Andie grabs the woman’s hand on the center console. “You deserve this. Your car was at least six years older than mine, and mine is already five years old. You are worthy of nice things, Lillypad. And a nice boyfriend.” They add.

That I am starting to believe I deserve,” Lilly turns off the car and they sit in the driveway to calm their racing hearts. “We built a pillow fort and cuddled with some fake candles and kissed like teenagers…”

Andie gestures for her to continue, “And…You made ABC soap opera-level love?”

Lilly shakes her head and flushes, “No, no, Copia confessed that he was in love with me.”

She’s glad for the new soundproofing in the car because Andie lets out a squeal worthy of a decibel-breaking world record. “Lilly! This cannot be happening!! He LOVES you?! You’ve bagged the hottest new rockstar in the heavy metal world and made him love you within a month?! What did you tell him?”

“Well,” She gulps. “I told him the truth; that I wasn’t ready to say it back just yet.”

That shuts up any overexuberance in her adoptive sibling. “Oh.”

Lilly lays her head back against the headrest and stares up through the now closed moon roof. “I feel good about it. He did look guilty for a moment, then he gave me this smile that lit up his entire face. He’s so f*cking sweet that times I feel I’m making him sin by touching me. And yes, I know he’s a devil worshipper.” She grins when she catches Andie’s mouth already open to retort.

“Are you happy with him?”

“Happier than I’ve ever felt, all things currently happening with Adam considered.” She answers immediately.

Andie nods, “This is the happiest I think I’ve seen you. You’re glowing whenever you’re around him or the Ghouls.”

Lilly beams a large smile, “It’s hard not to be happy around any of them. Speaking of, it’s not Terzo’s night, but Copia has Confession duties tonight if you want to do it.”

“I did have a successful confession last night with Terzo, but I’ve always wanted to try the actual thing. They had those booths on tour a while ago where you could do sort of a confessional.” They tap their chin in thought.

“I’ll meet you by the sanctuary entrance doors around 7?” The two friends exit Lilly’s car and head inside the large garage and into the Abbey.

-

Andie is dressed very nicely for Confession, meanwhile Lilly has learned that Copia wears sweatpants and slippers under his robe for his Tuesday night duties.

Sodo sits alone at one of the front pews, reclined and mostly asleep. Lilly ‘accidentally’ drops her Unholy Bible on the pew next to him, grinning when the Fire Ghouls jolts awake. “Sleeping on the job?”

“Hey, if you had to sit here for three hours on a Tuesday night, you’d be asleep too. There’s only been a couple people here. Papa might be asleep too.” He stands and stretches like a cat then saunters over to peer inside the confessional booth.

“Tell me why I’m suddenly nervous.” Andie whispers.

Lilly makes them sit with her on Sodo’s vacated pew. “I was also scared when I first came to do this, but honestly, I felt safe the whole time. Copia wears fluffy slippers with bats on them and sweatpants and even knits tiny sweaters for his pet rats. The only weird part is the script, but he didn’t even make me say all of it.”

Andie’s hazel eyes read through the few lines of text in the Unholy Bible. “Is it weird if I ask him about sexual things about Terzo?”

She shrugs, “I don’t think so, but you can ask him pretty much anything. I talked about Adam the first time, and last week I believe we chatted about ways for me to fulfill my duty as Prime Mover even with my busy work schedule.”

“What do I call myself? I’m not a consecrated member of the clergy.”

Lilly looks at the list of titles on the previous page. “There is the term of ‘Unholy companion.’ I’ve been using Sister even before I got the new position from Lucifer. I wouldn’t stress. It’s literally just Copia.”

Sodo returns to lazily resprawl next to them. “Who wants to go first?”

Andie stands up, excited and anxious but nerves much lower than when they first came in. “I want to go first!”

The fire Ghoul points them to the door on the right for the empty booth. As soon as Andie disappears into the wooden booth, Lilly settles back against the wooden pew backrest. “Would you be upset if I asked you a question about sex?”

He smirks, swiveling his head lazily in her direction. “Need a helping hand before confession?”

“I wanted to ask if you had orgies when you were with Terzo.”

Dew laughs, “Of course we did. Papa Primo is the only one I know of who didn’t sleep with all of his Ghouls. Now, Omega was Papa Terzo’s favorite by far, but I had Ifrit, Mist, and Zephyr during the times when Papa needed some extra coddling. Quintessence Ghouls bond closely with whoever their Papa is, something that even Papa Primo seemed to abide by.”

Lilly stays quiet for a moment to let that information sink in before asking what she really wanted to know. “What happened to Aether?”

“He was just…gone one day. We were about to go on the second part of the Imperatour when we came back to the Abbey for a week as a break. All of us Ghouls were sleeping in the Den together as normal. I woke up when I felt him moving in the middle of the night and he told me to go back to sleep, then Sister Imperator told us Phantom was his new replacement at the morning meeting the next day.”

“Does Copia know what happened?”

Sodo shrugs helplessly. “I begged him to tell me anything about it, but he claims he doesn’t know why Aether was called back to the Pits. I didn’t believe him for a long time. When it began to show in the Rituals, we had a serious talk and I believe him now.” Those crimson eyes seem so lost in memories of the Quintessence Ghoul that she feels horrible bringing it up.

“But, Phantom’s been a good Ghoul for Ghost and our pack as a whole. I just wish Aeth could have met him. Those two would have really hit it off like a bunch of geeks at a New York ComiCon.” He jokes and some of the hurt leaves his expression.

“Fire Ghouls seem close with Quintessence Ghouls too,” She muses.

Sodo nods, silver-blonde hair bobbing in a wave of silk. “I used to be a water Ghoul, but even then, when I was remade, I had a stronger attraction to anything that involved Quintessence. Even now, with feeling the loss of Aether, there’s a level of understanding that Phantom has I haven’t felt since Aether. Ifrit and Omega were closely bonded as well.”

Lilly plucks some stray lint from the knee of her sweatpants. “Do you resent Phantom at all?”

“No,” The response is not hesitant at all. “Bug was in a bad way when Sister Imperator shoved him into our pack. The Pits of Hell were not nice to him, he hadn’t been told how to take care of himself in these human forms, so he deteriorated quickly. I got my head out of my wallowing ass by speaking to Papa and helping Phantom learn how to thrive up here.”

She nods along with his explanation, “Do you have a favorite Papa?”

He laughs, loudly. “I am not answering that! They’re my favorites in different ways: Terzo was an incredible stage presence and it enthralled all of us, but he could be arrogant and got stuck rebelling against the Clergy to pursue sex. Copia has some of the same presence, but he’s more involved with us. His anxiety can sometimes be too much for me to handle, and it kept us from doing some fun excursions on tour. I love them for the memories and things I got to see from each of them, but neither is considered better than the other.”

It makes sense. How much Phantom clings to Copia on a daily basis and the interplay between Aether and Copia during Ritual recordings.

“I’ve always thought of Quintessence as being like the Force.” She grins.

Dew mimics the sound of a lightsaber while waving his hands around. “Papa Nihil should play Darth Vader.”

“Only if Terzo is Luke Skywalker. We need to cater to how pretty Like is.”

“Oh, please,” He scrunches his brows, “Terzo is definitely more suited to Han Solo. Papa would be the perfect Luke. A sad orphan whose heart is too big for his twink body.”

“Who’s Princess Leia, then? I was going to make Copia her.” Lilly muses, hand on her chin. It hits her-

“Secondo!” They say together and dissolve into a fit of giggles that lasts until Andie is looming over their shaking, teary, laughing forms.

“Your turn, gigglepus,” Andie’s eyes are rimmed red but they seem to be in high spirits.

Lilly is helped to her feet, wiping at her eyes. “How did it go?” She takes her Unholy Bible from her friend.

Andie adjusts the sweater beautifully draped over their purple blouse. “I talked about some of my insecurities with Terzo, and Papa thinks I’m scared of not measuring up to what he and Omega had.”

Sodo pats Lilly’s vacated purple pew cushion. “Here, I can help with that while Lilly is in confession.”

They give Lilly a look to see if the Ghoul was not trying to lead them astray.

“No, Sodo will actually have good advice. I promise.” She says, walking towards the open booth.

Lilly steps into the warm little booth and settles onto the small pew. “Good evening, Papa.”

Tink-tink-tink. “Good evening, Sister. How has this day been treating you?”

She can hear the smile in his voice as his knitting needles clink together. “It’s been a really good day. I don’t have any sins to confess but I would like some advice.”

Copia’s silhouette nods. “What can Papa help you with?”

A naughty idea crosses her mind. She does have questions about this, but Copia’s slow night on duty could probably use some spicing up. She’s been talking about her religious trauma recently, so why not try out one of the most taboo tropes out there?

“I have some questions about sex.”

He inhales quietly. “Sex is very important to how we view our bodies.”

Lilly crosses her legs. “I agree. I have a set of incredible partners and a perfect boyfriend, but I want to make sure I satisfy all of them.”

“I’m sure they all would communicate if they were not happy.” It sounds genuine.

“Me too…Though there’s always the chance I haven’t picked up on some of Papa’s cues.” Okay, Andie said she was supposed to lower her voice when talking to sound more sultry. She has to clear her throat before continuing but it doesn’t seem to take away from her little game. “And I was wondering if you could show me how to pleasure a Papa correctly.”

Lilly is gifted with a shaky sigh and the clank of knitting needles hitting the floor.

“Do you feel you’re not doing it correctly? Has he given you signs?”

She plucks at a few of Andie’s hair strands that have transferred to her sweatshirt. “No, I just want to know just in case.”

“Just in case,” He echoes quietly. “How would you like to start?”

“Describe how I should touch you.” All of those romance films she and Andie snuck out to watch with Silas in college are coming in handy.

Copia’s cheekbones are most likely dusted with that beautiful pink flush. “I would want you to touch my face and see that my paint smears across your fingers.”

Lilly is so glad her sweatpants are loose enough for her push down without much noise. “You have the prettiest eyelashes up close, Papa.”

“Then I want you to run your hands through my hair.”

“Wouldn’t that mess up the gel? I don’t want you to ruin your hard work.” She says.

“What if I want you to ruin me?”

Lilly’s fingers are hastily pressing on the latch for the dividing wall, sliding open the pocket door until she can meet where Copia was moving the door as well. Their mouths meet, a tangle of yellow yarn caught on the Grucifix of his gloves keeping him from getting out of his chair.

The pew for the Papas’ booth is a bit deeper and allows her to move across the small threshold to join him on the seat.

Copia shakes off his gloves and uses a hands to hike one of her thighs over his, pulling her body onto of his lap in his favorite straddle. “Your Papa is not displeased by anything you’ve done for him. He worships you as much as you worship him.”

“Well, that’s good,” She laughs into his mouth. “Papa and I haven’t gotten proper alone time together and I guess it worried me he may want more personal devotion.”

He realizes her sweatpants are already down to her ankles when his bare palms touch her thighs. “Were you touching yourself in the confessional booth?”

“Perhaps,” She teases.

Copia’s fingers dig into the meat of her hips. “One thing I will always crave more of is seeing your thighs; especially when you’re sitting so nicely on my lap.”

Lilly meets his lips again. “I used to be able to split a watermelon with these.”

“Man, that is so hot,” He moans lowly, genuinely confessing between breaths. “I love strong women.”

It spurs a laugh out of her so loud she’s sure it echoes out into the main sanctuary.

“Don’t laugh at me,” He pouts. He pinches the curve of her thigh, relishing her sharp gasp.

“I’m laughing because of what a paradox you are. Big man in a big robe likes being underneath big women. You could have any of these Sisters bowing at your feet, but you’re the one wanting to be on his knees. It’s like you were made to make me rethink everything I thought I knew.”

Copia’s green and white gaze softens for a moment as his hand comes up to hold her jaw. “I was created only to venerate those that are worthy. Besides our Dark Lord, the only altar I will pray to sits here in my lap.”

She’s speechless at that. After a long moment of restructuring her entire thought process, one thing comes to the forefront of her mind to claim autopilot status: “I need you to f*ck me right now. Screw everyone else for confession.”

“It’s been a slow night anyway,” He smirks, sultry yet goofy in a way that melts her heart (and opens her thighs) different than his elder brethren. The cushion of his seat is comfortable on her knees as she straddles him, but there’s not enough space for him to thrust upwards or does she have enough endurance to do it all herself.

She’s getting f*cked on the floor, she decides, and stands, tugging off Mountain’s ABBA sweatshirt and laying it on the ground.

His eyes bulge as she makes herself comfortable on the pseudo-carpet. “…You weren’t even wearing a bra? How often do you do that because I will be feeling you up more often.” He hastily hands her the two cushions from both pews which she stuffs underneath the hoodie to somewhat protect them from their deed.

“Thank Satanas for Terzo being a nymphomaniac,” He mutters and grabs the half-used vial of lube under the Papa pew.

She makes a face at the thought of how many things have probably happened right where they are. “I’m not going to think about that.”

“We’ve soundproofed a lot of things since Terzo started doing confession.” Copia distracts her by uncapping the small bottle. He doesn’t pour any onto his fingers immediately, simply setting the open bottle to the side so he can take in the scene under him. He gets her sweatpants off her entirely, leaving her just in a plan pair of underwear.

“Sorry they’re not sexy,” She thinks to how she had always had some sort of surprise for him and the Ghouls over the past weeks, and how she craved to wear simple cotton briefs after wearing lace for so long.

He tsks at that and pulls them down. “Anything that touches you is sexy, Tesoro. As much as I love your fun panties, this is you being comfortable in my home…and that’s what turns me on the most.”

Lilly lets out a blushing, teenage-sounding giggle at that and lifts her hips for him. He himself strips of his plain chasuble to reveal his familiar VVLGARI black shirt but he forgets about it in his haste to undo the ties of his black sweatpants. She could tell even before he pulled the waistband under his co*ck that he wasn’t wearing anything underneath.

“Last night you were so beautiful,” He slicks up two fingers and warms up the cold gel by teasing around her folds. After a moment, he slides them inside her, “Then I wake up to see one of my Ghouls has chosen to sleep with you, in the nest we built together…It is the ultimate sign of a bond between their pack; to know that they trust you enough to be vulnerable in our own creation means more to me than I can ever express.”

She sighs at the pleasure building from his words and touch. It doesn’t take much relaxing for him to slip in a third finger, finally slicking himself up. He looks a bit nervous for a moment, “Are you sure you want to do this here?”

Lilly rolls her hips upwards and manages to brush against the back of his hand. “C’mon, Papa, show me how to please you.”

Copia shivers, pressing the head of his co*ck against her until he’s able to slide slowly to the hilt. With the slick walls pressing against him, he realizes this is the first time they have had intimacy without the presence of someone else. Her plump legs are splayed over his thighs and contrast to the slightly darker olive of his skin. Lilly is bigger than the average woman though the roundedness of her curves hides muscles that tighten around his lower back like her pet snake.

“I finally have you to myself,” He hikes up her lower back and pushes the cushion to keep her hips arched upwards.

Lilly moans as he pulls out almost all the way before pushing back in quicker, “You, ah, like sharing me. Don’t deny it.” Her breasts has spilled to the over her solar plexus, untamed from their somewhat support of the sweatshirt.

The Antipope pinches a pale pink areola with a warning look, “If you had studied your, um, Unholy Bible more, you would have seen that one our tenets is to prioritize your own pleasure. I’ve been disregarding it because you look so good under my Ghouls.” He finds a steady rhythm, knowing that though his co*ck isn’t as long as Mountain’s or Swiss’, he has the girth to stretch her out on the floor of the confessional.

Copia, you feel so good,” She’s finally adjusted to him and melts into the sweatshirt cushioning her head from the wood floor. It’s a softer side of sex than what she has with the Ghouls, and it brightens the hearth of endearment inside her as she notices that a bit of bright yellow yarn fuzz is stuck to his bangs.

Both of them always seem to laugh together. She doesn’t remember a time between now and when she met Andie that she’s felt such closeness to someone that they can be free during intimacy. The fuzz falls into Copia’s mouth and he tries to spit it out, but it just makes it easier to adhere to his plush bottom lip.

Lilly’s arm is shaky from where he’s still (slower now) thrusting into her and she plucks it off and flicks it away. As a sign of gratitude Copia pushes the back of her thighs closer to her chest, hitting an angle that makes her moans echo through the small cabinet and the sanctuary beyond.

She grasps at his shirt but is unable to have him meet her lips and her increasingly higher-pitched moans are free to spill from her lips.

“Sodo is sitting out there half-asleep, and probably can now hear your moans. Would you like it if he were-f*ck-to open the door and see you here, naked…naked on the floor with me?” He can’t get through his dirty talk without his own cries of pleasure leaking through. It still strengthens the crest of her org*sm.

“I’d,” She can barely speak now as his right hand braces against the floor beside her head, “I’d let him i-in.”

“There’s not enough space for all three of us.” He pants, his rhythm becoming sloppy and noisier. “sh*t. Would he take over?”

Lilly shakes her head frantically, “He’d watch, a-and you would suck his,” Just the very thought has her crying out with whines. She keeps trying to form the words but Copia doesn’t give her the space to even breathe, “…his, his, his, co*ck!” She gasps like a skipping CD that someone hit to play, her c*nt gripping around his co*ck with a vice-like hold.

Copia can’t hold back any longer at the beautiful woman spread out in front of him. His hips grind against her cl*t when he empties himself inside her. It spurs on a series of aftershocks that has Lilly slicking his co*ck up with additional wetness. “Papa…”

They can’t hear Sodo or Andie, but it’s possible they wouldn’t be able to anyway. His forehead rests against her sternum and he takes in the fluttering of her heart that begins to calm. Hopefully one day, onone of them will beat for Adam.

“We’re doing this every Tuesday night,” She breathes heavily.

He grins into her chest at the thought of her wanting more, sighing happily into the soft skin between her breasts.

Chapter 24: Ritual

Notes:

BTWs never written Special before, constructive criticism is appreciated, but pls don't be too mean I cry easily

Chapter Text

Andie bursts into Lilly’s archival office the next day, both to rub in her face that they know about the confessional sex, and something written on paper in their grasp. “Lillypad!” The library isn’t necessarily a quiet space, but most Siblings are using it to study and talk quietly for the reverence of some of the unholy material. Andie’s volume does gather a shushing by a passing brother, however. They wave the younger man off with an apologetic smile and go into Lilly’s office, shutting the door.

Cirrus, who is on a stepstool watering the new plants on top of the bookshelf, watches as Andie comes in. “Lilly went to go get a document from Sister Imperator and said she would be right back.”

They nod and plop into the vacated office chair. “Did you know Lilly and Papa had sex in the confessional last night?”

The Air Ghoulette nearly drops the small watering can. Sodo did not mention anything like that when he sauntered back into the Den after his confession duty was over. He said it was boring, and when Lilly didn’t come out after a few minutes, he and Andie went their separate ways for the night. “How do you know?”

“Well, I went back to Terzo’s room, but realized I had the bookmarks from Lilly’s Unholy Bible from when I used it. When I got back to the sanctuary and didn’t see anyone, I got closer to the booth and could hear them.”

Cirrus steps off her stool, light grey cheeks flushing mauve. After Terzo was adamant that Andie and he were together, the Clergy agreed the Ghouls could be unglamored around the ‘Papal Consort.’ She waters the small flower on Lilly’s desk and decides to go interrogate the fire Ghoul.

Andie hears Lilly greet the Ghoulette in the hallway and is vibrating at the thought of what they had to share. They pose as if Lilly was an unlucky employee getting called into their boss’s office, fingers steepled and posture ramrod straight.

The woman rounds the door and stops, laughing at the dramaticism displayed behind her desk.

“Associate Lilly Warren, it seems as if you have earned a strike on your permanent record with our company, Corporate Framing Services. Please have a seat.” They gesture to the two chairs pushed into the archival table in the middle of the room.

“Whatever I did, Mr. Corporate, please don’t fire me, I have a family of nine to feed!” Lilly plays into it with an anguished tone that makes Andie almost break character.

They’re able to control their laughter and recreates a serious tone, “It seems as if you were caught having relations with the CEO, Mister-Doctor Copia Emeritus, in the work confession booth last night.”

Lilly groans and puts her head in her hands. This is the second time Andie has walked in on them. “Oh f*ck, how much did you hear?”

“He’d watch and you would suck his co*ck~” Andie mimics the breathiness of Lilly’s voice in the throes of passion with unnerving accuracy. “Some of us actually get advice in that booth!” They gripe and point an accusing finger at her.

Lilly playfully smacks their hand away, “I didn’t go in wanting to get f*cked on the floor. I asked him for some advice and things escalated from there. Get out of my chair so I can work.”

Andie relinquishes the nice office chair and takes Lilly’s spot at the table. “I did come hear to tell you something very interesting other than your second exhibitionist tryst. Terzo and I had a good talk last night and to show me how much he’s committed to me he showed me these.” They set the three pieces of parchment in front of her.

Lilly blinks at the ornamented blue border and official seal of California. “Birth certificates?”

“Look at the names,” They urge excitedly.

On the three sheets are the records for three male babies, born

Dante Lorenzo Emeritus

Cosimo Adriano Emeritus

Luigi Romeo Emeritus

“Who the f*ck is Luigi?” She snorts at the last certificate. She can immediately tell who the first two are, but she can’t decide if it’s funnier to imagine Copia or Terzo being named like the Super Mario character. “Please tell me that’s Secondo’s name.”

Andie has dissolved into laughter and is doubled over in the chair. “No! that’s Terzo!”

Lilly laughs with them, tears blurring her view of the parchment. After an extended moment of giddiness passes between them, they sober up. “They have cool names, why are they now named diminutives like Primo, Secondo, and Terzo?”

“He said it’s because Nihil didn’t care to learn their actual names, so he called them that from their birth order.” Andie recalls, a sour twist to their plush lips. “Terzo said if we wanted to know more, Primo is the one to talk to.”

Lilly stares at the hopefulness for the boys’ futures contained in their now unused names. She wonders if Copia was his real name as well, the current Papa’s birth certificate no where within the small stack.

“Poor Luigi…” As much as Lilly wanted that be a serious sigh, it makes both of them burst into laughter once again.

-

Because of the upcoming All Hallow’s Eve Mass, the usual midweek Blessing doesn’t occur to give Lilly time to shop and make any special decorations for the holiday. Instead of going to Sister Imperator for inspiration, she turns to the second-eldest Emeritus brother after noticing how much the man enjoyed her last decorations.

Secondo is still a bit wary of her but gives her a bigger quirk of his lips than she expected. “Si, come inside, Sister.” He waves her into his office, pushing aside the paperwork he was writing.

Knowing the man’s birth name fits. Cosimo Emeritus was extremely spot on to his personality and dramatics. Dressed down in a white pressed shirt and black paint around his eyes, it was strange to see him without his Aviator glasses or full paint. He looks like a normal Italian man.

“I would like your help with planning decorations for Mass,” Lilly begins. She hands him a folder of images of different altar centerpieces and red fabric she would drape along the walls.

He takes a moment to flip through them. “You should go with a deeper red to match the wood panels of the windows.” He suggests, pulling out a leather notebook to give her an idea of the deep burgundy he was thinking of. “This would look wonderful with the candleholders you have here.”

She grins, “Would you want to come to Mood with me and Aurora, fabric-master?”

Secondo’s green and white eyes light up, “It would be an honor.”

-

Copia hadn’t seen much of Lilly in the days leading up to All Hallow’s Eve Mass, catching kisses when they wake up before she’s off working or putting in time for decorations. He busies himself with expense reports, tax forms, and itinerary planning for the upcoming tour so he would have somewhat of a normal life before he had to break the news of his six-month absence from her.

Is she happy she’s been told to plan Mass? Does she feel forced and that’s why she’s avoided him for the past week? Questions about how Lilly truly feels about being Prime Mover and connected to him makes his head spin until a migraine forms.

The Ghouls are in and out of the Abbey as well. Copia does get a bit lonely without a constant presence of someone, but creating his sermon for Mass gives him a bit of relief. He decides the day before Mass to kneel at his personal altar for advice.

Siamo con clavi

Siamo con Dio

Siamo con il Nostro Dio Scuro

The freshly cut apple slices sitting innocently on the offering plate disappear through the fog of incense that surrounds him.

What has you so conflicted, Copia Leviathan? The inquiring tone of the King of Hell surrounds him in a comforting embrace. Lucifer has been there for him since he first formed the capacity for memories.

“I’m concerned that Lilly feels she’s being forced to conform to our beliefs.” He plays idly with some dried flower petals on the stone altar.

If she wasn’t willing to be a part of the Church, I would not have chosen her for Prime Mover. Crowley knows this as well.

Copia worries at his lip. “Adam’s threats…is there any real danger you see in her future?”

You know I can’t tell you what will happen.

“Surely there’s some shred of information I can know to keep her safe!” He loses his cool a bit, stress eating away inside him. “She doesn’t seem to understand that these are threats to her life.”

There’s a pause where he panics and opens his mouth to pour apologies out, but the Unholy voice speaks, She knows him better than you do. Perhaps she knows these may not be really be what they seem. Crowley says this appears to be a part of his typical behavior.

“Typical?” He sighs. “How can I get her away from this abuse?”

That’s for her to tell you. I’m sorry I can’t help.

Copia thinks of one more burning question. “Who is Bernadette Emeritus? The last Prime Mover.”

Another pregnant beat of silence. What do you want to know?

“Who was she? Was she one of the mothers of one of us?” He’s thought of the timeline surrounding Sister Imperator’s statement of the Prime Mover dying forty years ago.

Yes.

His heart falters. This could change how his brothers felt about Papa Nihil if they knew. Was she Primo’s mother? He remembered his mother being around somewhat before cancer took her life, but doesn’t remember when that was in the whirl of beginning his career as Papa Emeritus I.

“Which one of them?”

That is for you to ask.

Copia holds back his frustration. “I am asking.”

Copia, I can’t tell you. This is part of the universe’s knowledge that you must figure out on your own.

“Why is it such a big deal for you to just tell me?!” He snaps. “I feel like I’m not in control of absolutely anything anymore! The Ghouls are busy, Lilly’s busy, my brothers are busy, and I’m just sitting here spinning in circles because no one tells me anything!” He cuts himself off, panting from his tirade. “I’m s-sorry. I don’t mean t-to show any sign of disobedience “

No, your feelings are valid. Even if I did not agree, you are allowed to express yourself to me. If I punished you for asking accountability, what kind of trust could I have expected from you? That would make me God. The fog lifts a bit. What I can tell you is that you are loved by your Ghouls, brothers, Siblings, and by Lilly. This tour will answer many of your questions but I hope you find moments to enjoy the love of your followers and the pleasure of performing in these exciting places.

Relief floods his senses with the scent of incense and spiced apples. “I just want to be worthy.” He admits finally.

You have always been worthy. Allow Lilly to help you see that. I must go attend to infernal matters, but remember to not let your worries take away from your life.

-

Sister Imperator finds Lilly, Primo, Rain, and Mountain in the cloister making the final floral garlands for the altar. “Sister Imperium,” She calls, standing on the edge of the stone pathway with Copia and the rest of the Ghouls assembled behind her.

A sudden rise of anxiety arises in Lilly’s throat at the sight of the woman’s somewhat downturned expression.

Mountain and Rain jump to their feet, acting as if they were caught doing something bad in front of the principal. Primo continues his carving of a cat on his pumpkin, uncaring of the woman’s presence. Rain helps Lilly to her feet and undo the apron covering her habit.

“We have a important ritual for you to perform before Mass tomorrow night,” The older woman begins. Her red heels click against the stone as she leads the large group to the sanctuary and up to the altar. It was cleared earlier that morning so Mountain and Primo could measure it, but now it held a full ceremonial dress-up of candles, glasses of wine, a strange small vial of white substance other offerings, and a large dagger.

The Ghouls form a circle around the raised stone like they have done for all of the Blessings while Copia and Sister Imperator face Lilly from one side of the stone. “Today, we need to summon a new Ghoul to handle some of our administrative affairs. They will serve under you and Papa, becoming a special Ghoul that will be responsible for the home affairs while they are on tour.”

“This will teach you how to use the Summoning brand on your wrist correctly,” Copia says. “Now, this normally wouldn’t be an issue, but since you are fully human, it may be a bit overwhelming for you since we’re only doing one demon.”

She tries not to let the anxiety show on her face, but Copia’s eyes grow concerned anyway.

“For the Summoning, there are three things required: a Prime Mover with the Summoning Brand, a blessed altar, a candle, and a sample of Unholy Seed. The first step is to light the candle of the five elements with a fire given by Dewdrop.”

The Fire Ghoul steps up beside her with an upturned palm, a small ball of fire hovering above his hand. Sister Imperator hands her a long, thin black candle. Lilly gently puts the trimmed wick in the plasma ball and pulls it away with a perfectly burning flame.

“Drip wax on the five corners of the pentagram’s points to represent the elements, saying each one aloud.”

Lilly hesitates, holding the candle steady. “Do I need to say them in a specific order?”

Copia shakes his head.

“Quintessence,” She begins at the bottom-most point then goes counterclockwise, “air, water, fire, earth.” All of the Ghouls have disappeared from their standing positions and have sunk down to rest on one knee. Phantom, next to Sodo beside her, gives her an encouraging smile.

“Pour wax into the circle and stick the candle into it so it’ll sit upright,” Copia instructs. “Good, now recite the text here while pressing a piece of warm wax to the brand on your arm. Here, take this piece,” His gloved hand holds out a small goop of wax from the center pile.

It’s incredibly warm from its freshly dripped life but it doesn’t burn like she thought it would when she presses it against her wrist with her right thumb.

Come forth, Oh great spawn of the abyss and make thy presence manifest. I have

set my thoughts upon the blazing pinnacle which glows with the chosen lust of

the moments of increase and grow fervent in the turgid swell.”

Sister Imperator looks on proudly, “Next verse.”

“I have gathered forth my symbols and prepare my garnishing of the is to be, and

the image of my creation lurketh as a seething basilisk awaiting his release.

The vision shall become as reality and through the nourishment that my sacrifice

giveth, the angles of the first dimension shall become the substance of the third.”

Lilly recites. She feels the hair on the back of her neck stand up, energy fizzling around her.

A strong wind fills the sanctuary, rustling the pages of Copia’s Unholy bible on the podium near them. Copia’s bangs whip into his eyes and he has to carefully hold them back so they don’t stick to his

Sister Imperator’s light eyes are bright with a twisted giddiness, “Now drink from the vial!” She presses the open vial of white liquid in Lilly’s palm.

A look of pure disgust takes over Copia’s face as he glances at her. “No! Just pour it around the middle pile, really. It’s not needed.” He shouts over the wind.

Lilly looks between the two of them and decides to take Copia’s word and slowly pours the cum around the central candle. Her mind spins with the thought of how Copia got his cum into a vial this small; did he have to hold it close to the head of his co*ck to catch it, or did he have to purposefully scoop his spilled cum into the small opening? Thankfully the wind swirling around them distracts her from the dirty thoughts.

Lilly reads the last piece of text on the paper next to the pentagram. “Oh, great brothers of the night, thou who makest my place of comfort, who rideth out upon the hot winds of Hell, who dwelleth in the devil's fane; Move and appear, Special Ghoul, tamer of Chaos, ruler of Time, and keeper of Unholy Desires.”

The candles brighten to an unnatural level, making the three of them close their eyes against the light and incense-filled wind. A shadow rises and blocks the blinding light from until darkness and shadows fill the very air she tries to breathe. It’s like trying to swallow through gelatin made from blood.

It tastes like burnt flesh, stinging her eyes and nose with a sudden chill that attacks her exposed face and legs. She can’t help the wounded noise ripped from her throat as everything compounds until her knees are too shaky to hold her anymore, sinking to the floor where the onslaught barely dampens. Visions of a cold, barren land being engulfed in flames as the sounds of screams fill the air.

“…Lilly!” Someone is yelling in the whirlwind around her. Hands that are thousands of degrees too hot wrap around her wrists and she thrashes to be rid of the pain and memories of her grandfather holding her down that threaten to take over.

Suddenly, as soon as the onslaught appears, it fades when cool leather replaces the stinging touch. Her sweaty head falls back against a solid chest, taking in much needed gulps of cold air.

“…You did so well, Lilly,” Lilly hears from above her and vibrating through the chest touching her head.

The words of praise soothe her racing mind and she lets them slowly sink into her being.

“Are you back with us?” Copia asks, gloves nice and cool against her cheek.

Lilly nods and smiles tiredly when she cracks an eye to find his face relaxing a few notches. “That was…a lot.” She croaks.

“You did it so beautifully, but I’m sorry for what you went through. I didn’t think it would be as bad as it seems it was.” He kisses her forehead. “The Ghouls say he’s doing perfect while adjusting.”

She doesn’t know what that means, but she’s happy it seems to be good whatever it is. She leans into Copia’s embrace until she has the strength to get to her feet again.

-

The Special Ghoul she summoned reminds Lilly of Aziraphale. An infernal mirror of Copia’s stature, the Ghoul is very proper and very upset at being summoned from where he was doing paperwork in Hell.

“I was two-thirds through my final stack of work orders for office equipment when I was rudely ripped from my desk!” She can hear from the top of the stairs down into the Ghoul Den. Copia had lead her back to her bedroom where she could get rid of some aftereffects with a lukewarm shower and sleep. Now, three hours later, she has been searching for Copia or any of the Ghouls to see what happened during and after the ritual.

Guilt wracks her still tired mind. The Special Ghoul is already this upset from being summoned, then how were they going to handle staying up here for a long time?

Suddenly, Rain appears at the bottom of the stairs, surprised to find Lilly hesitating just inside the threshold. “Hey, are you feeling better?” He watches as she steps down to meet him.

“A shower helped a lot,” She admits. “I wanted to make sure everything worked out after Copia brought me back.”

Rain looks guilty for a quick second, slapping on his usual calm expression. “Everything’s going well.”

Lilly levels him with an unbelieving look.

“Okay, so Special is just a bit upset because he was the one who covered for Crowley’s absence, and we interrupted him just before he filed his final reports from that time.” He explains. “He’s really chill though! He was here years ago doing PR for us, so he needs some time to readjust his schedule.”

Just as Lilly is about to head back upstairs, the Special Ghoul rounds the corner of the corridor. “You! You’re the human that was letting Crowley slack off! Do you have any idea how much work I’ve had to add on top of my duties because of that?” He accuses.

Lilly realizes she has seen this Ghoul before in interviews. She takes a step back at the aggressiveness, Rain getting between them.

“Back the f*ck off her! She’s the one who got him to go back and summoned you. I think you owe her thanks for bringing you here.” The Water Ghoul says firmly.

“Oh, and what’s my job here? More paperwork? PR for a Papa I don’t know? Not have my pack? At least in Hell I had them!”

Lilly tears up at the hurt that underlines all of the Special Ghoul’s words. Rain wraps a comforting arm around her waist. “I just did what Sister wanted me to. I didn’t know it would be so horrible for you here.”

Seeing her cry makes the hazel-green eyes of the Ghoul soften, and he sighs. “I was a Ghoul for the Abbey for nearly a decade when they cast me back down to Hell one random morning. Forgive me if I have no love for the upper clergy other than the Papas. I’m sure you’re an okay human if Crowley was using you to slack off work.”

She gives him a watery smile, “Yeah, he was pretending to be my pet milk snake.”

“That’s very on-brand,” He holds out a pale-grey hand, “Let’s start over. I’m Phil.”

-

Copia says that the Ghouls might need some time alone to reform their pack, so he and Lilly cuddle up in their blanket fort together, breathing quietly in sync. Despite being comfortable, Lilly still feels some of the wind’s lingering burnt smell lingering in her hair. It isn’t that late yet, both decided to retreat to the Papal wing because there was barely anything left to prepare for the next day’s Mass.

“I think I might shower,” She muses.

He leans over from where he was writing something in that leather journal he brings up to the podium for Mass. “There should be plenty of stuff in there that you’re welcome to use.”

As wonderful as the man smells all the time, the thought of using Copia’s 4-1 shampoo on her hair makes her shiver. She ruffles her tangled blonde and brown hair, a testament to her much-needed shower. “No offense, but I’ll go shower in my room and come back with fresh pajamas.”

Copia gives her an encouraging smile, “Of course. Have fun, Tesoro.” He meets her chaste kiss then goes back to his pensive writing as she crawls out to the rest of the bedroom.

Lilly has to wear one of Copia’s red tracksuit jackets to cover the fact that she is definitely not wearing a bra under her tank top. She grins at the sight of her wonderful shampoo and conditioner sitting on her bathroom vanity. She does indeed make sure that the liquids weren’t switched by troublemakers Andie and Terzo. As she busies herself with grabbing new pajamas, she decides to use this time to relax a bit after today and for tomorrow’s big celebration by lighting one of the large Yankee Candles Andie gifted her for her birthday last year.

The smell of pumpkin pie fills the bathroom as the shower steam begins to pour into the air. Making sure, it won’t catch anything alight, Lilly slips the jacket off when she feels something sticky drying on one of the sleeve cuffs.

“Copia…” She groans and throws the jacket stained with cum to the far end of the bathroom. Basking in the warm shower for the second time today, she cycles through all the events of the day. “Speaking of Unholy seed, what the hell was that earlier? I hope I don’t have to recite that every time they need a new Ghoul.”

She begins to lather her hair, ”I mean, are they going to make me start summoning all the old Ghouls? Oh, great brothers of the Night, move and appear…um, Aether!” She mocks from earlier.

The shower water shoots from a reasonable warmth to a shocking cold that douses any relaxation she had.

“sh*t! What the f*ck!?” She hollers, soap from her hair falling into her eyes as she scrambles for the temperature knob. By the time the water levels back out, she’s thoroughly chilled and frustrated that she only stays long enough to rinse her hair. “f*ck this, I’m going back to Copia.” She growls to herself and blindly reaches out for the towel that she’s positive she hung next to the shower curtain.

Only, her hand doesn’t touch the soft towel, it touches the Hell-hot skin of a mysterious dark, grey-skinned figure.

Chapter 25: Watcher in the Sky

Notes:

everyone's comments are truly keeping me going! i've been struggling lately and writing this has been one of the few things ive been able to enjoy still

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“f*ck!” Lilly yelps and pulls her burned hand back, blinking away water to frantically recognize the Ghoul awkwardly standing in her bathroom.

She snatches her towel and wraps it around herself. At first she thinks it’s Swiss, who definitely was capable of picking the lock on her door or windows to surprise her, but this Ghoul’s shoulders are too wide.

“Who in the absolute f*ck are you?!” Swiss and Sodo have had a bad influence on her and Andie’s swearing.

The Ghoul blinks its purple eyes owlishly, looking quite unsure of itself. She realizes that the demon is completely naked, and she hurriedly steps out of the tub to throw a towel at them so she wouldn’t get any thoughts about the massive co*ck hanging between their legs.

“…Aether, I think? What’s yours? You look human.” Their eyebrows furrow and they wrap the towel around their waist.

“You’re joking,” She breathes, staring at the Ghoul from her bedroom, putting space between them so she could run if the Ghoul charged her. “My name is Lilly, and I am human.”

They shake their head in disbelief, their silver hair pulled up in a style similar to the Prequelle masks. “What year is it here?”

Lilly’s eyes fall to her phone sitting innocently on her nightstand, “2023.”

“Oh, so it hasn’t been very long. In the Pits, it felt like years had passed since I was Topside, but it appears to have only been two human years.” Aether brings up a contemplative hand to rub at his chin, a thoughtful habit she’s noticed in Mountain and Swiss. “You said Copia! Is he still Papa?”

She nods, fear of being found out that she summoned an extra Ghoul on one of the biggest holidays overtaking her.

“That’s great! His room is still in the papal wing, right-“He goes to leave and Lilly shoves herself between his thick chest and the door.

“I didn’t mean to summon you,” She says.

Those purple eyes (that she’s already falling for) crease with hurt and unshed tears, “What?”

Lilly rakes a hand through her still-dripping curls while she tries to think of how to break this to the retired Ghoul. “I was tasked with summoning a Special Ghoul earlier today, and I was mocking all the sh*t Imperator made me do and I guess I somehow replicated the ritual while getting in the shower and now you’re here. I’m sorry, Aether.”

“Can I at least see my pack? I know they’ve moved on with the new Quintessence Ghoul-“

“No!” She says a bit too fast and too loudly. “I mean, I need to speak with Copia and Sister first-“

This time, Aether cuts her off. “Listen here, Lilly whoever the f*ck you are, I’m Topside for the moment and all I want before you banish me back to the fighting Pits is to see my family she cast me from.” He says, anger, desperation, and longing all wrapped in with the sight of a wounded animal asking for mercy.

Lilly doesn’t need to think of a reply.

A drowsy voice from the other side of her door shocks them both, “Lilly? One of the sisters said they heard you yell a few minutes ago. Are you okay?” Copia yawns, probably having fallen asleep after she left.

“Papa-“ Aether begins to yelp when Lilly slaps a hand over the Ghoul’s mouth.

“I’m okay, Copia!” She says louder.

Aether uses his size advantage to push her away but she manages to twist him against the wall next to the door and use her towel to muffle his mouth.

“Are you sure? I can have Sister Rebecca get the keys if you’ve fallen and can’t get up.” The too-helpful man suggests. The soft squeaking of a rat means she’s in more danger than she thought, because if he has Sedani, then the rodent will be able to squeeze under the door.

Clawed hands are grasping at her hips and scratch delicious scorch marks into her skin. She’s busy trying to keep the towel stuffed in the Ghoul’s sharp canines that she barely takes into account how her breasts shift and peak against his abdomen.

“f*ck,” Lilly can hear him groan through the cotton fabric. Something solid is pressing against her thigh.

She tries valiantlyto keep the breathiness out of her voice as she responds to Copia.

“No, really, I’m fine-ah!“ She gasps as Aether’s hands cup her ass to bodily pick her up off him. She tries to fight back, but he’s tossed her on the bed with her towel and unlocks the door before she can reach him.

Copia looks up from where he was bending down to let the albino rat slip under the locked threshold. His eyes widen to an impossible size as he straightens. “…Aether?” He asks shakily, extending a hand to touch at the Quintessence Ghoul’s cheek.

Lilly scrambles to the two men, hastily throwing her towel around her form. “Copia, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t think I was replicating the ritual-“

He uses his left hand to wave her off. “You did this…by yourself?”

She nods, waiting for him to become furious at her, to cast her out, to drag her to Sister’s apartment and have her expelled for Adam to snatch her up.

Copia instead begins to cry with joy. “Aether…I’ve missed you so much,” He hugs the large Ghoul tightly, arms barely reaching completely around him. Both of them have a prolonged moment of shared happiness that Lilly can’t find herself relishing. Sedani nibbles at the stubble along Aether’s jaw, prompting their own mini reunion.

“I can’t believe you’re here once again. Dew and Mountain and everyone will be so overjoyed at having you back, even Special will be excited. This is the best Halloween ever,” Copia carefully dabs at his eyes.

Lilly knows she looks extremely distressed. “Copia, Sister Imperator will probably make me banish him. I wasn’t supposed to summon anything by myself.”

Copia tugs her into a tight hug, “I’m tired of letting her take away our Ghouls. I’m Papa, it’s about time I defend my Ghouls and now my Prime Mover.”

“Wait, you’re his Prime Mover?” Aether asks, startled. His eyes rove over her with renewed appreciation. His hands had felt perfect as they touched her…

The Antipope gives Lilly a look of pure adoration. “Yes, she is. Let’s go get you resituated with the pack, Aether.”

“Can I at least put on some clothes?” Lilly resigns herself to the men’s ministrations.

Copia huffs a laugh, “You know they won’t care.” He lets her go to her dresser anyway, trying not to openly stare when her towel drops.

Aether arches a dark grey eyebrow at the man’s comment and subsequent voyeurism, “You finally joined the pack?”

A quiet noise escapes the shorter man, “Oh, yes, we did. I’m sorry I was too much of a coward while you were here.”

“Everything was so hectic for you. We wanted to help you relax but I understand that you weren’t ready yet. I hope you allow me to take part in the pack.”

Copia bobs his head in agreement, “Aeth, a lot of things have changed. Phil was summoned earlier this morning and he’s taking things a bit hard so I’m not sure where the pack is emotionally right now. Dewdrop may punch you if Swiss wasn’t able to calm him from earlier.”

“Why was he upset?” Lilly calls, tugging on some sweatpants and t-shirt, then shuffling back to them with her phone.

“Because we summoned Phil instead of Aether,” Copia confesses. “He was under the impression that Sister would bring back a Quintessence and not a Multi-Ghoul. I do want to warn you that he thinks you were part of the planning.” He rubs the back of his neck uneasily.

“Well, I’ll straighten the little guy back into shape. Besides, you’ve fixed everything, it appears,” Aether grins sharply. His claw finds the back of the elastic waistband of her sweatpants and snaps it, eliciting a gasp from her when she jumps away.

-

Aether makes Copia and Lilly go down the stairs to the Ghoul Den first to throw off the rest of the pack’s sense of smell. She tries to act like she isn’t fantasizing about having Aether overtop of her with the other Ghouls around her, but it makes all of the Ghouls roaming around the room suspicious.

Sodo is barreling towards her from his seat in the den, scrutinizing areas that she knows Aether touched her bare skin with his red-amber eyes. “You smell like Hell,” He says, suspicious.

Copia lets out a nervous laugh, “That does tend to happen when you sleep with a Papa.”

The fire Ghoul looks completely unconvinced. He turns on the bratty-puppy dog charm that has worked on Lilly so many times before, “Lilly, why can’t you tell me…Do you hate me?”

Immediately her resolve begins crumbling, “Sodo-I can’t say-“

Swiss is suddenly behind her, warmth and arms covering the cold areas Sodo wasn’t touching. He takes in a deep breath of her wet hair. “Even with a shower I can still smell it. You can tell us, Applesauce. Were you fantasizing about us?”

Footsteps climb down the flight two-at-a-time with practiced ease.

“No, she was fantasizing about me,” Aether grins, arms stretched wide.

“No f*cking way…” Cumulus whispers, echoing in the silence of the room.

Lilly feels all the energy in the room explode with different emotions as seven Ghouls, excluding Aurora and Phantom but including Phil, collectively drop what they’re doing and tackle their old but new packmate.

Sodo is the first to cry. His skinny form curls into Aether’s chest as the Ghoul is knocked to the tile floor, and he sobs openly into the crook of his neck.

Swiss huddles over Sodo, then Cirrus and Cumulus on Aether’s left, Mountain around his head, Phil basically on top of Aether’s shoulder, and Rain in the crook of Aether’s right arm. All are kissing, touching, and chattering Ghoulish words of praise to their missing member.

Lilly sits with Copia on the edge of the Den. Aurora and Phantom look untethered as they watch the happy scene unfolding in front of them. After worrying his bottom lip with his fangs, Phantom carefully kneels before the human(ish) couple.

Her hands find his white and black curls when he lays his head on her lap. “Does this mean Rory and I are getting replaced?” He asks nearly silently.

Lilly isn’t sure how to answer because she doesn’t know the answer.

Copia takes Aurora’s hands away from where she was digging her claws into the palm of her hands. “Of course not.”

“Then why is Aether back? We have ten Ghouls now. Sister said eight was sometimes too much.” She blinks back tears from her lavender eyes.

The man gets that shiny, fond glint in his green and white eyes that Lilly loves. “Like I said to Lilly, I’m tired of seeing you all treated like garbage around here. If I am Papa, then I have the authority over my Ghouls. What happened to Aether was completely preventable and my fault.”

“But if we have a better Quint, what’s the point of me still being here? Rory plays the tambourine but Aether could outplay me.” Phantom croaks through his tears.

“Phantom, you’re just as worthy as Aether to be in the Ghost project. We’ll figure out something. Perhaps on this tour Aether could give you or Sodo a night to relax? He’s not going to replace you.” Copa says gently. The Ghoul pile has slowly disbanded and most of the demons begin to come settle into the central den.

Aether and Sodo are the last to step down, the new Ghoul pausing when he notices the two young Ghouls. “Hi,” He pulls away from Dew to sit by Lilly.

Phantom hides his face in Lilly’s chest like a timid child. “Hello.”

“You’re the Quint Ghoul, right?” Aether asks carefully. He tries to make himself look less threatening by moving until he level on the floor with the scared demon.

“Yeah. My name is Phantom,” He replies, uncurling from Lilly’s lap with encouraging circles rubbed on his back.

His tears have made two thin trails on his vitiligo-speckled lavender and white cheeks. He scrubs at them with the collar of his shirt, which Aether stops and wipes the tears away with the pad of his clawed thumb. “I’m Aether, and who are you?” He asks the multi-Ghoulette.

“Aurora, I’m a multi-Ghoulette with air and earth,” she says.

Aether does his best to give them affectionate smiles, grinning as the two scared Ghouls then cling to him with happy purrs.

Lilly is surprised when there isn’t any rush for reunion sex between Sodo and Aether. As all of them settle in, Cumulus takes Sedani back to Copia’s room, returning quickly to join the sleepy pile.

Phil stays attached to Mountain, falling asleep the quickest from his rough day of being dragged Topside. Everyone else settles into a typical pattern of Copia and Lilly in the middle, and the small-to-big Ghoul layering.

Cumulus has to step over Aether and Rain, wedging herself between the bassist and the woman’s chest. She’s mostly incoherent with sleep pulling her under, but she lifts an arm for the Ghoulette to cuddle up to her with.

-

One would think that with two grandparents that were talented clairvoyants, Lilly would experience frequent visions and supernatural phenomena. Instead, these rare occurrences take on a level of realism that shakes her to her very core.

Even in the safest cuddle pile this vision is able to steal away the dreamless sleep she was enjoying and replace it with a terrifying prophecy.

Lilly’s mind eye explodes of out the void of sleep into a familiar place. She’s standing in the narthex corridor outside of the Abbey’s main sanctuary. The three tables normally filled with pastries, cookies, or apple dumplings for after Black Mass are present along the far wall as usual.

Lilly-but-not-Lilly’s footsteps echo in the empty room as she is pulled towards the tables to peruse the odd selection of snacks. Her stomach growls when she reaches the edge and she looks down to see that her belly has protruded with the roundness of late-term pregnancy. All of sudden she can feel the added weight of the child she’s carrying and it winds her imaginary body to where she has to lean on the wall next to table.

“Mama?” A familiar voice asks from behind her. She whips her head around to see that the narthex is immediately filled with milling Siblings and community followers gathered in three large groups in the center of the hallway. “You should sit down, you’ve been working too hard preparing the Exhibition. Is there a snack you’d like?” Cumulus is setting up a folding chair for her to sit in.

“I’d like a cookie, please,” Not-Lilly says.

The short Ghoulette is draped in a rich, black velvet dress that sparkles in the lights of the drinking and merry crowds. She brings Not-Lilly a plate piled with three different cookies.

Her metaphysical body doesn’t react as viscerally as her mind does to the baked goods. Oval in shape with a small stem made to look like a neck, the three stacks of cookies are iced to realistically depict the three eldest Emeritus brothers’ severed heads.

Blood red royal icing is piped along the neck, dripping over the side of Cumulus’ plate to land on the tile floor.

“What the Hell are these?” Lilly gasps. The glossy frosting of the their mismatched eyes evoke the same response in her that she had when she visited the morgue for Grandpa Edgar. She’ll vomit if she has to look at their corpse heads any longer.

Cookies untouched, the plate disappears into thin air from the Ghoulette’s hand. Cumulus’ bright blue eyes are as dead as the cookies’, but at least the rest of her face emotes normally. “These were specifically made to celebrate the Exhibition, Mama Imperium. Have the twins given you an illness or amnesia?”

“What exhibition?” Lilly has seemed to grasp back control of the dreamlike body she’s been stuffed into and is able to pull herself out of the chair despite the extra pregnancy weight. “But we’re not at the Museum.”

“No, for the Abbey. You gave up working when you bonded with Papa. Here, maybe seeing your fantastic work will jog your memory.” Cumulus takes her arm carefully and leads her through the clearing crowd. The Ghouls, sans Aether, are the last to move out of her view of the three display vitrines. “Papa was so proud when you took those mortuary classes. It helped ease the transition of power.”

Instead all threes are the perfectly dressed, embalmed bodies of the eldest Emeritus brothers. As Lilly lurches forward to press a hand to the cold glass, she can smell the formaldehyde that is keeping Secondo’s body rigidly posed. Terzo lays to her right, just as still. His papal paint is crisp and uncreased as a sign of how dead the beloved man is.

Where is Andie? Are they on display here too?

Lilly moves to Primo’s display, noting how his paint is splotchy.

These aren’t display cases; they’re glass coffins with her name etched on to the label as the artist.

Lilly was the one to put them on display.

She killed them, to make them pieces of art for people to oggle like they were Nick Cave mannequins at the Guggenheim Museum.

A scent of rich cologne and wood shavings fills the air when a presence steps up next to her. “You’ve done such a beautiful job, Prime Mover. They look so at ease even with rough treatment the Ghouls gave them.”

She’s terrified to move. If she looks, will Copia be a moving corpse as well? One that somehow made her pregnant with the undead?

Lilly uses the coffin’s surface to peek at the man next to her and all she sees is Copia. “Why are they calling me Mama?”

Pre-facelift and mustachioed Copia, but the same soft expression nonetheless. She swivels her head to see him, taking in the fond turn of his lips and the more protruding slope of his nose. “That’s your title, now. I know you keep going behind my back to tell them to stop, but they need to respect you. I am Papa and my decision is final.”

He's a bit younger than she remembers, bright and unwavering like he was as Cardinal. She forgets how handsome his face was (it still is) and if he looked like this then she wouldn’t mind going through the tribulations of getting the surgery to replace her uterus.

“Copia-“ Lilly tries. She needs to ask him where they are, what year it is…If this is her future maybe there’s something she can do to prevent it.

He tuts, gently, holding her hands with rough, tattered gloves. “No, no, remember that when I allow you out of bed you need to call me Papa. We should be getting you back to our rooms if you’ve become this distressed, right? No need to stress out our children.”

“I really don’t think we should leave, Papa. The party has just started!” She pleads but her body is so heavy with pregnancy and there’s an ache building in her arm where he touches her.

Lilly-but-not-Lilly takes over her again and follows Copia’s red leather-suit clad form into the bowels of an Abbey she’s never seen before. As they walk closer to the pitch-black hallway, she sees multiple pots of bell-shaped white flowers that spell certain doom.

The poisonous Lily-of-the-Valley is the last thing she sees before Copia pulls her into darkness.

-

“…Lillypad, if you don’t wake up right now, I’m going to publish your Fall Out Boy fanfiction on your Facebook.”

Snapping awake out of her deep trance, Lilly hyperventilates into awareness in Andie’s arms. Is she in another vision? If she looks out from the safety of her best friend’s arms, will there be more glass coffins?

“You didn’t need to scare her awake,” Copia chides.

The sight of him startles her and Lilly presses her face into Andie’s chest, both to hear their heartbeat and hide the effects of the vision while she recollects what she witnessed.

“You were having quite the spooky dreams,” They say, feeling how Lilly can control the trembles of her body.

“T…Terzo…” Lilly gasps through crying.

“What about him? Did you foresee him farting so loud in his sleep he wakes himself up?”

The joke does take her mind off of the realistic vision, for a moment. “Is he alive?”

Andie’s playful tone disappears. “Copia, go make sure he and the Papas are okay.”

“What’s going on?” He asks, worried but gets to his feet.

“Lilly just had a vision of the future.”

-

Halloween, All Hallow’s, or the first day of Samhain was Sister Imperator’s favorite day for the entire year, Yule included. Some would say it’s the only she is justified to act like a witch (mostly Terzo says that) but only one person knows why she loves it so much, because it’s her birthday.

Since she became a Satanic priestess with Anton LaVey when she was 18, Imperator had devoted her life to the Dark Arts. Her house parties in the TransiLvAnia section of Beverly Hills were true devotional rituals to a darker entity than the man who created the Church of Satan.

At 25, she threw the most elaborate house party she could afford in the hopes of attracting the long lost heir to the infernal Emeritus lineage, Gabriel Emory. The suave, dark-haired man was currently in L.A. filming some 1960’s thriller Sister Imperator would never remember the name of. When his bad influence of a best friend dragged him to this cool ‘satanic’ house party, all of her carefully laid plans fell into place.

Now, if only she could see that charming grin again, rather than the one of accelerated wrinkles from too much cocaine and alcohol. Over the years he had embraced his unknown heritage a bit too much, perhaps.

Sister Imperator looked out of her small shared house’s bay window, taking in the early morning fog that set the perfect scene for today’s macabre definition. Her coffee was perfectly hot in her mug, her hair was perfectly styled, and her new Prime Mover had accomplished every task with ease.

“Happy birthday, Sister,” Nihil rasps from the door of his separated bedroom. In his hands is a sloppily wrapped box with a massive bow on top. The twins poke their heads out from behind the man’s alb, each holding a small present of their own.

And as Sister Imperator unwraps the diamond tennis bracelet from Arioch, matching diamond earrings from Abaddon, and a new pair of black Louboutin heels from Papa Nihil, she knows this was truly going to be a good day.

All of that ends once she steps in the Abbey.

The small stone path from her and Nihil’s little house leads past the greenhouse and into the cloister, making her walk past the doors down to the Ghoul Den. She leaves Nihil to do his usual lazy morning routine and steps into the corridor with papal offices, when she spots the guilty looking Lilly and gathered group of Papas.

“Nice shoes, Sister,” Terzo seems off-kilter but seems genuine in his appreciation of her new heels.

“Thank you, Terzo. Papa Nihil actually picked them out,” She unlocks her office, using the moment to survey the group. “Are all of you here to help me this morning?”

Lilly’s mouth opens but she quickly shuts it. Sister notices how Copia’s arm is tight against the younger woman’s lower back protectively. After another silent moment, Lilly speaks up, “I accidentally summoned Aether last night.”

Sister Imperator nearly drops her mug of coffee. “You what? Well banish him!” She gets the door to her office open and hurries inside to set her mug on her desk. “How the Hell did you manage to do that on your own?”

“I was getting in the shower, and wanted to relax so I lit one of the candles from Andie, and Copia had let me wear his sweater which was covered in…that, then I was talking to myself about if I had to do this again and suddenly Aether was standing naked by my shower.” The woman blurts out in one breath.

“Out of all the days you could have f*cked-up, why today?” Sister huffs. “Today has been wonderful until this. Someone please call Phil so he and I can handle this before any of the community shows up for Mass”

Sister Imperator does feel guilty when Lilly’s expression dissolves into one on the edge of tears.

“Aether is staying. This is not a f*ck-up but a blessing in disguise, ” Terzo states firmly, stepping in front of Lilly. “I’m not letting another Ghoul suffer.”

The older woman looks up at him with blazing eyes as she settles into her office chair. “Aether cannot stay. If he does, then Phantom must be banished.”

“No!” Lilly gasps, “I’d rather leave then have either of them forced to go back to the Pits. They told me what it was like there-how they had to fight for scraps-they’re treated worse than I could’ve ever imagined.”

“This counts as grounds for expulsion from the Clergy-“ Sister Imperator is cut off by Copia slamming a hand on her desk, rattling her mug enough so that it spills over the documentation she would need for a clergy-wide tribunal.

“If you lay a hand on Lilly or any of my Ghouls, I will expel you and Papa Nihil,” He hisses, angrier than she’s ever seen him, even when he interrupted her and Nihil banishing Terzo’s Ghouls. “Yes, Lilly made a mistake, but why can’t we have ten? There aren’t any written rules against the number of Ghouls a Papa can have. Aether is staying.”

She clenches her jaw, unnerved but stays firm in her decision. “These are not written down because a Papa hasn’t tried to break them! These infernal rules are older than all of us combined, and I will not be the one to bring the wrath of His Dark Majesty upon us. Either Aether goes or Phantom does.”

“Why would he have a problem with this?” Secondo argues back, “If anything, Lilly would be the one exception to this rule with how he’s had a personal role in her life here! What harm could Aether realistically do? Have some of the Ghouls get a day off on this next tour?”

“There is no way around this. Lilly, pick a Ghoul or I will do it myself.”

Lilly is shaking as Primo envelops her into an embrace, “I won’t.”

Copia is blocking Sister Imperator’s path around her desk, using his height against her. “Do not forget that I am Papa. My word is final in this unholy and consecrated cathedral. My Prime Mover, hand-chosen by our Creator, ranks above you, and if she had done this willfully, her decision is also final.”

He takes a threatening step into her personal space, white eye burning so brightly Sister can barely look at him. “Do not bring my wrath upon you, because I promise that it will be worse than any circle of Hell Satan can find for you.” He steps back, taking Lilly’s hand and leaving, the other Papas following while shooting her angry looks.

The Ghouls are anxiously crowded in the cloister garden, Mountain and Rain trying to get them all to make flower crowns, though having little luck as all of them wait for the Papas pleading their case to Sister Imperator.

When Aether sees Lilly wiping her eyes, he scrambles to his feet. “I promise that it’s okay for me to go back to the Pits.”

Lilly gives him a watery laugh, “No, these are happy tears. Copia and the Papas stood up to her.”

Copia looks rightfully proud of himself, “No one is going anywhere.”

Phantom tackles Lilly, Aether, and Copia, a flying mess of snot and happy trills.

“Damnit! We didn’t talk about the vision,” Lilly groans after the happy moment settles down.

“Let’s give her some time to stop being a bitch, first,” Copia says.

-

Despite the morning’s argument, everyone succumbs to the festive mood. Sister Imperator is wary of them but offer Lilly, Aether, and Phantom a sincere apology. Lilly accepts it, though she feels like the woman was too willing to throw her out to forgive so recently.

Lilly busies herself with decorating, noticing that some of the Ghouls are setting up a reduced stage set on the dais, in front of the altar. Excitement builds within her at the prospect of going to a private concert now that’s demonically linked to Copia and the Ghouls.

“Are you playing a set tonight for Mass?” She snags Cirrus’ arm as she walks past with three microphone stands.

Cirrus gives her a sly grin, “You’ll have to wait and see,” she winks a sky-blue eye and continues towards the center of the dais.

Lilly has an idea for the central microphone most likely for Copia and hurriedly finishes placing the jack-o-lanterns at each end of the pews so she can find their resident Earth Ghoul.

-

Andie and Silas arrive at the Abbey around 3:00 after going to their respective workplaces. Silas carries three garment bags, one of which he hands to a very excited Lilly by the garage.

“This is going to get you f*cked by Papa so fast,” He grins. “You had better give me a good gift card as thanks for incredible outfit.”

Lilly unzips a small part and peeks in, eyes lighting up. “I’m so excited for my first sexy costume! I haven’t really lost the weight I wanted by now, though.” She complains at the sight of the tailoring.”

Andie takes their garment bag out of their brother’s arms, groaning at the substantial weight difference. “Lilly, I’m going to puff like a balloon in this thing, and I promise you that Copia is going to love how Silas is able to tailor the clothes to you, not you to the clothes.”

Silas moves into the garage, past Lilly, “I need to make sure it’s adjusted correctly, let’s go get you in it.”

The three of them hole themselves up in Lilly’s room for the couple hours until right before the meet-up for Mass.

-

Copia has been performing for the Ghost project for a little over three years now, yet right now he feels pre-show nerves for only the second time since his first performance as cardinal. He looks into his vanity mirror and adjusts the blue satin hood on his head.

He feels cool. Testing out his speed, he shadowboxes the coat rack in the corner of his room while glancing back at the mirror to check his form. Mr. Saltarian will be impressed by his costume.

This year, after learning some boxing and MMA to build up his conditioning for tours, the Ghouls and him thought that he should create a boxing outfit worthy of going into the octagon. A loose black tank top hangs over his body, accentuating his toned physique that is softened by his love for eating spaghetti. Blue satin shorts swish around his lower thighs, snug to his waist but relax closer to his knees. Over everything, Terzo and Aurora have created a silky coverup robe adorned with the same black and gold embroidery of his ceremonial round-hem chasuble. On his back is an oversized stitching of his golden Grucifix, shining as he allows the fabric to flow around him. His boxing gloves are black with the same royal blue accents and bedazzled standard Grucifxes adorn the top of his hands.

Lilly is going to go crazy for him like this. He marches himself out to the corridor with the other Papas dressed up.

Terzo is dressed as the Phantom from the Phantom of the Opera, hair slicked back in Copia’s usual style and a heavy cape adorning his all black silk suit. His papal paint is only on the right side of his face.

Primo is dressed quite simply in a black pea coat and grey striped scarf, his long silver hair tied tight to give the illusion that’s he’s bald. Copia doesn’t recognize whoever he is supposed to be.

Secondo is the most elaborately dressed. Behind his head is a nimbus colored to look like the earth, aviators perched on his nose, and a goatee drawn under his lower lip. He wears a flowing white alb and chasuble dotted with small portraits of Pitbull, the singer, surrounded by cascading gold beadwork and embroidery.

“…Are you supposed to be someone famous?” Secondo raises a darkened eyebrow over his sunglasses.

Copia does a small 360° turn to show them the skillful stitching.

“He’s himself,” Terzo answers. “Aurora and I made the costume for him.”

“And I’m very grateful for it,” Copia is a bit disappointed Secondo doesn’t like it, but he’ll get over it. “Where’s Lilly and Sister?”

“Andie said Lilly and they were helping the Ghouls with finishing touches and would be here soon.” Terzo checks his phone.

A yellow and blue swarm of people pile out of the Ghoul Den’s doors, followed by a person in a large ballroom gown, one dressed in svelte black with spiky hair, and one in a tight dress with black wings.

“They’re glorious!” Primo says loudly and runs to the window, “Come to your Papa!”

To Copia’s horror, the group stops dead and all ten turn in their direction. All are wearing the goggles of the Ghouls’ helmets, jean overalls, and entire bodies painted neon yellow. They all begin to rush to the hallway.

Copia hides behind Secondo with Terzo as the ten Ghouls overwhelm the small hallway with the Ghoulish variations of the movie creatures’ chattering. Aether, the largest bodied one, holds a stuffed banana that Dew had given him back when he was in the band.

“Oh my f*ck,” Terzo whispers. “They didn’t tell me they were gonna be f*cking Minions.”

“Oh, don’t be scared, big bitch-babies,” Andie teases and pulls Terzo out of their hiding spot.

Dressed as Christine Da’ae, Andie was glowing in their massive, sparkling cream-colored ballgown. Sunbursts were pinned like a crown in their ringlet-curled hair. Terzo makes a breathy-almost-a-whimper noise at the sight and pulls them into the pose for a waltz.

“My angel of music has arrived~!” He sings, sweeping them in a hummed version of a waltz.

Silas’ costume looks familiar to Copia. He’s shaved his dyed black hair into a grown-out mohawk. His face is messily painted grey with smudged black around his eyes. Red paint is splattered at his forehead and it trails across his cheek to pool under his jaw. A ripped leather vest over a tattered Repugnant tanktop makes it click for Copia.

“Mary Goore; awesome, right? I made everything to perfectly match,” Silas grins, the red trails making it more sinister than usual.

Secondo has the same hungry look and Copia rolls his eyes as the two begin to viciously make out right beside him.

“Copia, I really like your costume,” He hears Lilly to his left and turns.

And has to hold onto the wall so he won’t pass out.

He knows that showing skin is something Lilly has never really done before meeting him. The amount of trust and confidence she’s probably gained to wear this outfit, stuns him and makes him pop a boner so hard there’s no blood left in his body.

She’s dressed as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, his biggest childhood celebrity crush.

Lilly’s plump form is draped in smooth black fabric that hugs her so perfectly it’s become her second skin. A low neckline enhances her cleavage his eyes are trying to glue themselves to what he finds hottest, but it keeps getting better the most he takes in. Instead one slit of the skirt, there’s two, so he can see more luscious skin as she walks to him. The ruby dagger on her belt was one displayed in his office from when he conducted his first Unholy Communion.

Lilly’s hair is teased and dyed entirely black, her pale skin contrasting the exquisite goth makeup and red lipstick.

She looks a bit nervous but when she gets in his personal space and feels his erection hit her exposed thigh, she smirks up at him. “Oh, Papa…you can’t conduct Mass like this.”

He probably looks like a teenager who just discovered boobs in their father’s playboy magazine, because he’s gulping and stammering like a dying fish.

“We have some time, yes? Let your Mistress take care of you,” She says lowly and takes him into his office, shutting and locking the door behind them.

Notes:

let me know if there needs to be any clarifications on costumes! i'm gonna try to put links in the fic but its gonna take a bit

copia's boxing outfit is inspired by the gorgeous work of @iiredescente on X https://twitter.com/iiredescente/status/1721547679556051002?t=-8BVerzTMXPeFVljjDrDxQ&s=19

also i know lilly is scared after the vision but seeing cardi be so dashing in his suit and then be a slu*tty boxer does somethin to a girl, you know

Chapter 26: Spooky, Scary Skeletons

Notes:

This is a bit of a bonus chapter! After this, we hurdle straight towards the 'climax' of this fic.

I just wanted to say how thankful I am for everyone that has gone on this journey with me-I didn't mean to write a Harry Potter sized book with this AU, but it's been so rewarding to become a part of this community and see that my ramblings mean something to someone else <3

Chapter Text

“I like the easy access,” She pushes him into his chair and arranges her dress so she can kneel between his legs. Since the shorts were loose around his thighs and snug at his waist, Lilly’s hand snakes up through the leg and grasp his co*ck.

Copia’s knees spread wider at her touch. Man, he’s so love-drunk with her in front of him, dressed as the unattainable goth Mommy he's always dreamed of.

Lilly tugs down the elastic waistband of his shorts, suppressing a laugh at how his co*ck springs up towards his belly. “Terzo made this, right?” She ignores his member to snag a black acrylic nail on the tank top hem.

“Y-Yeah, why?”

She moves off her knees to stand in front of him. “We shouldn’t take any chance of dirtying it.” The front panel of her dress created by the large slits is pulled aside to reveal the thinnest black thong he’s ever seen.

Copia’s eyes practically roll back in his head when she makes herself comfortable on his bare lap. His hands are still strapped into the gloves and he brings one up to his lips to rip the velcro off with his teeth.

“Let me take care of you. A little surprise for Halloween. No hands,” Lilly bats them away.

He can’t grip those gorgeous curves, the armrests, or even keep his hood from falling over his face. He’s completely at her mercy while she’s dressed as his wet dream. “I’m not gonna last,” He chokes out as she slides onto his co*ck with little issue, simply pulling the inner thongs’ string of pearls to the side.

“Good,” Lilly carefully moves some of his hair out of his eyes, “because I got f*cked by Swiss so I’d ready for you.”

Copia does his best to rock his hips upwards as she starts a steady rhythm. He craves kissing her-wondering in the haze of their quick and dirty sex if her lip gloss is the same cherry one she wore a few days ago.

She’s much more confident in how she coerces so much from him and after only a couple moments, he’s crying out with release. Her hands dig into his shoulders and he looks forward to seeing them in the mirror later.

Lilly’s newly dyed dark hair still smells a bit like the dye as she presses a quick kiss to his own painted lips. She chases her own org*sm and revels in his whispered, overstimulated pleas. “I really needed that,” She pants.

Copia grins as she undoes the Velcro straps for his gloves, “Did you have sex while he was painted yellow?” A sloppy laugh leaves him.

She fake gags, “Never. That costume was Primo’s idea, there’s yellow body paint all over the den downstairs. We might need to call professional marble cleaners.” She says and enjoys being connected to him for another moment before she pulls away from him.

“Don’t those pearls…hurt?” He levels out his breathing.

Lilly glances at him from the mirror hanging on the wall, checking her makeup. “No. It actually feels good. They’re meant to keep you stimulated.”

Copia pulls his shorts up, trying not to fill out again as Lilly adjusts the strapless bra under her low-cut dress. “You look so beautiful,” He means to keep it in his head with how pathetic it sounds, but the answering flush of Lilly’s ears lets him know he was unsuccessful.

“I wanted to go all out,” She applies a small touch up of gloss to her lower lip and then does a slow twirl. “Adam never let me celebrate Halloween. Silas really outdid himself on tailoring this for me.”

The man finds that his legs are only a little weak and hold him up. He comes up behind Lilly in the mirror and feels the buttery fabric under his palms. “We look hot together. We wouldn’t gone viral on Tumblr as goth couple goals.” She reaches a clawed hand to tilt his jaw so the shadows made the white of his papal paint sharper.

He hums, wracking his brain for when Aurora and Phantom tried to teach him about social media. “I want to try some paint on you sometime.” Her hand hovers over his, and he imagines how nice a wedding band would look nestled on her finger.

Her brown eyes light up at his request, “Definitely. I’d let you do it now if Andie hadn’t spend almost two hours on this. I want to know how it doesn’t smear when you get sweaty jumping around on stage. Even now after sex, it’s still perfect.”

“Trade secret. Elvira’s look perfectly adapted for you, though wasn’t expecting you to dye your hair black just for a holiday.”

“I wanted a change,” She shrugs, “Now we match.”

Copia picks at a few silver strands swept back at his temples, “You might need some silver hairspray and a co*ck to completely nail my aesthetic.”

Lilly gives him a wink, “Dirty old man.” She kisses his hand, leaving a bright red, glossy tattoo behind.

-

Lilly learns that ‘Halloween Mass’ is nothing like the other Mass she’s been to. Sister Imperator is very impressed with Lilly’s decorations, a genuine smile forming as the older woman takes in the red roses, purple basil leaves, black Satin Dahlias, and burgundy Calla Lilies spread throughout the large sanctuary.

“This is beautiful, Sister. This adds such a romantic aspect to the holiday’s meaning.” Imperator says and moves down the aisle to look closer at the microphone stand’s special arrangement. Interspersed between the rich reds and deep violets of the other arrangements, vibrant royal purple orchids snakes down the garland like a vine.

“Thank you. I had Papa Primo, Rain, and Mountain working very hard this past week to find all the flowers,” Lilly feels pride in the flowers, pumpkins, glistening pieces of red glass hung to look as if the walls were dewy drops of with fresh blood. “They’ve taught me a lot.”

Sister Imperator’s impeccably styled white-blond hair looks softer and closer to a typical sunny blonde as she passes some of the lit candles and glass panels. For a moment, she looks decades younger; her eyes are lined with thicker kohl and her black pantsuit transforms into a mirror of Lilly’s habit but with scarlet and gold accents.

“I know you’ll be an incredible Mama one day,” The young version of the woman remarks. Her forms glitches like in an 8-bit video game before solidifying for a heart-stopping moment, “One better than I ever was.” Her forms blurs back into Sister Imperator’s sixty-nine-year-old form.

Lilly snaps out of the trance memory at the sound of the woman’s voice. “Sister, are you alright? I want to apologize if I’ve made you uncomfortable after this morning.”

Well, yes, but that’s not the current issue. Lilly’s knows the woman just wants what is best for her church community, but this cryptic statement sticks out. “Just taking in the smell of the flowers before the performance,” Lilly responds.

“It is almost time to open the doors for Mass, we should go find the Papas.”

Lilly nods and follows after her, anxiety about how the Papas will like her work and how Sister Imperator fits into Copia’s life.

-

It’s difficult to take the Ghouls seriously while they’re dressed as Minions from Despicable Me. Especially when Aether holds the massive stuffed banana like it’s a baby. “Sister Imperator says you can’t bring that on stage.” Copia sighs.

All of the upper Clergy is lined up outside in the narthex, all of the excited fans, Siblings, and close community followers already inside with their seats and dancing room spots.

“Because, human babies don’t smoke blunts and wear sunglasses,” Cumulus explains the woman’s ruling as Aether gives his attention to the carnival-won prize he had gotten when he was a part of Ghost.

Aether cradles the strange stuffed animal, turning his nose up at the small Ghoulette. “Well, it’s my child. It’s never too early to start them on the Devil’s favorite drug.”

“No, that’s ecstasy. I’ll hold your friend in the pews with me.” Lilly rolls her eyes. She takes the reluctantly handed over stuffie and walks to the back of the procession where the Papas are. Since tonight is more of a concert than Mass, the first couple rows of pews have been pushed to the far walls to create a space for dancing. “Which of you is performing tonight?”

“All of us,” Copia answers. “We each play three songs then Terzo and I play an encore. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it, there’s a lottery ticket system for people not involved in the church.”

Lilly is taken aback at the large scale of people she can see inside the sanctuary. “It must be kept low by some of the deeper fans, so only a few know about it.”

He shrugs, “Probably. We do this on the last day of Yule as well but with a different set.”

“So, you’ll do this on my first Yule with you? My own dedicated concert,” She winks, lowering her voice as the doors are swept open by Sister Imperator and Sister Rebecca.

Copia opens his mouth to respond but the cheering of fans and Siblings overwhelm anything he was hoping to say. Now would be a horrible time to tell her about the tour anyway, he justifies to himself.

The procession moves forward, Lilly standing to the side of the Papas’ entering to stay near Sister Imperator with the other Sibling heads. Despite wearing silly costumes, the Papas enter the small cleared aisle with an air of royalty, but gracefully touch hands or greet the fans and siblings they can reach.

Imperator, for once, doesn’t have a document folder in her hands as she snakes Lilly through the crowd to the one less-filled front-most pew. Andie and Silas are chatting with some fans that are dressed in their own homemade Sister habits on the far side of the dancefloor. A pang of jealousy flits through Lilly but she squashes it. She and Andie spend so much time together already and rituals are Andie’s territory. Lilly should be happy enough that she’s a part of the Clergy.

Most of the crowd sits (the dancefloor fans are able to sit in the pews on the far side or choose to sit directly on the floor) as the Ghouls take up their instruments and the Papas get up to the single microphone.

Surprisingly, Secondo takes the mic first. “I know I speak for my brothers on how joyous tonight’s ritual will be with all of our most devoted followers here!”

A loud cheer goes up and Lilly joins in.

“For anyone that has not attended a Halloween Mass with us here at the Abbey; all four of us Papas will be performing three songs each, then we have surprise encores at the end.”

Terzo takes the mic, “So do not be disappointed if your favorite song is not played immediately,” He says pointedly, eyes pointing toward Andie’s sheepish form. “Before we begin, I want all of us to say what our costumes are. Moi, I am the lascivious Phantom from the Broadway musical, accompanied by my angel of Music! Please stand and be recognized by your beauty, Andie!”

Andie unfolds the hoop skirt as a soft spotlight falls on them, making the gold jewels and stars sparkle like sunbursts. Oohs and Aahs along with clapping fills the hall.

Lilly glances at Sister Imperator beside her. A wave of anxiety runs through her. “Am I going to be introduced?”

The older woman shrugs, “I wasn’t aware of Terzo doing that for Andie, so I’m not sure. We can edit you out of the footage if you would like.”

“Footage?”

“Yes, we’re recording up by the organ. Phil is playing tonight.” She points up to where Lilly had once set up her own recorder in the organ balcony. Phil waves from his seat on the instrument bench.

Lilly waves back, uneasy smile twisting her lips. She sees his expression change and quickly turns back to face the stage as Primo is introducing him and the Ghoul’s costumes. She holds the banana stuffie to her chest as Secondo takes back the mic.

“Unlike my brothers who have gone for otherworldly outfits, I have chosen to pay homage to my celebrity twin and cherished friend, Pitbull, in what regalia would look like if he ever decided to join us.” He holds out his arms and the crowd goes wild, making Terzo pout at how the cheers are louder than his were. “This was crafted by my own talented partner, Silas.” The younger man stands, the light making his smeared makeup look even more menacing.

Copia takes the mic and strides to the front of the Papas, “I know why everyone is really here, eh?” The answering cry is the loudest of them all, and Copia’s grin is something smug and sultry that Lilly’s stomach flips. “During the Re-Imperatour, many of you were present for my LA ritual, and saw a working version of this outfit. Now, it has finally been completed, just in time for me to wipe the floor with these guys.”

He shadowboxes two punches, much to the fans’ delight. For as timid and mild Copia may be everyday, as soon as he stepped on the dais, a darker side of him emerged.

Lilly regrets wearing the pearl thong Andie jokingly got her because the small stimulation from the beads doesn’t help her calm down. She had thought having sex twice in one day would be more than enough, but maybe she’s been repressed for so long that her body can’t get enough of Copia or the Ghouls.

“Let’s get tonight’s ritual started, with the Papa that reignited the flames of Hell!” He dramatically bows and hands over the device to Primo, leaving with the three Papas to come sit with Lilly and Sister Imperator.

She won’t deny that not being introduced makes her feel a bit ignored, but Copia probably got wrapped up in the attentions of the fans cheering him on. True to her intuition, Copia’s face is flushed even through his papal paint. “I’m so sorry I forgot to talk about you,” He says loudly over the starting percussion of Stand By Him.

Lilly shakes her head, “It’s okay; let’s enjoy the performance.”

He gives her a guilty puppy-dog look that he definitely learned from Sodo but turns to join in the singing of his eldest brother.

In the man’s almost nearly thirty years of retirement, Primo’s voice has only become more soulful and deeper. Lilly becomes entranced by the lyrics that she had listened to over and over again when she first became aware of the Ghost project.

‘Tis the night of the Witch, tonight

And the vengeance is hers for as long as she stands by Him

Primo sweeps around the dais, touching the hands of those who reach out. The opening chords of Con Clavi con Dio begin to play. He steps back to the microphone stand and Aether walks from his place at the side of the altar with a beginning-to-burn thurible. Chants fill the crowd as the beloved song fades into the softer beginning of Ritual.

Our Father who art in Hell

Unhallowed be Thy name

Cursed be the sons and daughters

Of Thine nemesis whom are to blame

Thy kingdom come, NEMA

She chants with the crowd, a tingle up her spine at how these lyrics were based off the opening invocation of the Abbey’s Mass.

Secondo lines up near the bottom of the stairs. His costume looks just as regal as his actual papal robes, striding up the few stairs when the song begins its last verses. The Ghouls transition to the opening of Jigolo Har Megiddo. After that comes his seductive Monstrance Clock, and then the invocation of the Infernal names in Year Zero.

That really makes Lilly’s heart pound to the rhythm of Mountain’s drumming.

Lilly spares a glance at Copia who is doing his goofy stage dance beside her. At least he’s good at singing, she laughs to herself. He catches her eye and pulls her into the dance as the bridge modulates as Sodo riffs his guitar.

Victim to fall for temptations

A daughter to fall for a son

The ancient serpent Deceiver

The masses standing in awe

He will ascend to the heavens

Above the stars of God

Copia sings with the crowd and snatches a kiss from her lips during the last couple ‘Hell Satan’s.

Instead of the usual fading of the music at the end of the song, Terzo appears next to his brother and leads the Ghouls immediately into the fast-paced beats of Mummy Dust. Having inhuman bandmates must make it easy to have marathon performances like this. As much as Lilly likes Terzo, her mind keeps thinking of all of the ritual footage with both Cardinal Copia and him as Papa performing the lewd song. She can probably ask for a private encore later.

Lilly can see how Silas, Andie, and others dance in the crowd to the lights and incense in the air.

“You can go with them,” Copia has to shout over the music.

She shakes her head despite craving to be with her friends. “I’m not going to leave you alone,” she calls back. Sister Imperator and Sister Rebecca are the only ones in the small pew with them, seated but watching the concert.

The man gives her a nudge with a hand at her lower back. “Go be with your friends, you’re not leaving me alone. Besides I do have to perform next.”

Terzo’s second song of From the Pinnacle to the Pit begins. Lilly squeezes Copia’s hand once more before sliding through the pit to where Andie and Silas are near the front. Aether comes up behind Lilly and twirls her to the guitar riffs.

She laughs and sings along with everyone around her, Andie, Aether, and Silas air guitar battling with Phantom on the stage. As the high energy fades with the small break Terzo can chug some water. As the retired Papa finishes the bottle of water, Cirrus starts playing her keyboards for Ghuleh and Zombie Queen.

Andie jumps up and down in excitement, rushing to the very front of the crowd. Lilly grins at the giddiness of her friend but stays back with Aether and Silas. It quickly becomes just her and Aether among the Siblings and fans when Secondo snatches Silas into the crowd with a hungry glint in his eyes.

Even though the familiar song is still heavy, it’s a rolling pace that Aether gathers Lilly into a slow dance. His broad shoulders are perfect for Lilly to hold onto as the two rock together to Cirrus’ keyboards.

After a moment, she settles her cheek against his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“You were the most beautiful thing I could have seen first after being summoned,” He says roughly against her ear. It makes her breath catch and she wants to kiss him in front of everyone, something she’s been craving since he appeared in her bathroom yesterday.

All of the intimacy fades as Terzo pulls out his bright yellow kazoo. He uses it to stoically play the main tune along with Cirrus and Cumulus’ backing piano.

Everyone pauses their swaying around them, waiting to see if this was a joke from the mischievous Papa. When he continues the rock ballad with no hesitation, the crowd around Lilly and Aether slowly go back to their couples’ dance.

She can feel Aether’s rumbling laughter through his chest. “I didn’t think he had the balls to continue when everybody looked at him like that,” He says.

Lilly breathes in the smell of the body paint and the underlying smokiness of freshly-summoned Ghoul as Terzo croons on the platform.

“How long have you been Prime Mover?” Aether asks quietly.

“Two months,” Lilly answers. This would only be more romantic if he was painted such a ghastly yellow. She thinks of his hands adorned with his typical silver rings at they guide her by the waist. “Best two months ever.”

“I’m grateful you stood up for me.”

She snorts, “Of course. What would I be if summoned a Ghoul then immediately banished them again? None of you deserve that. Besides…I know Copia will be excited to have another Ghoul that can bend him over.”

Just as she says that, Ghuleh’s pace quickens into Zombie Queen.

“Not much of a slow-dancing song,” She grumbles in disappointment.

He lets go of her waist, adding to her dropping mood. “Oh, c’mon Applesauce, get pumped with me,” He says over the music, joining the excited crowds’ new jumping.

“I’m wearing heels!” Lilly shouts back, pointing to the shiny black platform shoes adorning her feet. It was hard enough standing and dancing this long-Sister Imperator has incredible stamina for her shoes if Lilly is this tired already.

He looks at them then his purple eyes brighten, “I have an idea, stay here!” Aether yelps then disappears.

Lilly sighs, left alone, but a pregnant Sister Martha accidentally bumps into her and the two shimmy until Aether slides back next to them.

He has a large pair of Ghoul boots in his hands.

“What are these?” Lilly takes them. Did he steal one of the performing Ghouls’ shoes from the stage.

“Mountain doesn’t wear shoes while drumming! Put them on!” Aether grins, pleased with himself for coming up with the solution.

She holds onto Aether’s thick forearm as she zips up the tall Ghoul’s boots. They aren’t as large on her as she thought, and are immediately more comfortable than the heels in her arms. He takes them, but Lilly is enraptured by the lights flickering with the arrival of Copia onto the makeshift stage.

Lilly scrambles to the front where Andie is bursting with cheers. They embrace Lilly before they turn to the Papa speaking with the Ghouls in a huddle. He steps away and up to the microphone, stage swagger rolling off his shoulders.

She’s regretting getting f*cked earlier; because now, she can feel the mixture of her own arousal, then Swiss and Copia’s beginning to wet the inside of her thighs. She’ll need to get Andie back for the thong.

“Are you motherf*ckers ready to dance?” Copia calls through the microphone. He’s had to put it on the stand so he could keep both boxing gloves on.

Dew starts off Dance Macabre and Lilly gets enthralled by Copia’s goofy dance, falling in love with him more after every shimmy. He makes eye contact with her and fist bumps the entire front row with his glove (he does take one off to hold the microphone, which only adds to his charm).

The set passes quicker than she hoped and went through Rats! to end with Faith, Lilly’s voice nearly gone from shouting the lyrics. She knows there’s an encore, but her heart bursts as Respite on the Spitalfields’ melody begins. Great, now she’s going to cry.

A warm, smaller body nudges against Lilly. She looks to see Phantom’s yellow painted form. His hair is up in a small bun and his smile is as blinding as the stage lights. “Aether’s going to do the solo!” He beams, intertwining their hands.

We will make our way together

I’ll be the Shadow, you’ll be the Light

Copia is on one knee in front of Lilly, both gloves removed so he can reach out to her with his free hand. He looks so ethereal bathed in stage lights, rich colors of her flower arrangements, and the silky blue of his robe.

Nothing ever lasts forever

We will go softly into the Night

It spellbinds her like an oath and she can’t find it in herself to be bothered that there are happy tears rolling down her face. This was her Cirice, much more intimate than any stadium ritual there ever was.

Copia reluctantly pulls away as Aether takes center stage, the fans noticing the retired Ghoul’s presence with the symbolic guitar solo. She blows both the Ghoul and Copia a kiss as the Papa and Sodo proudly watch Aether play his heart out.

It all ends too fast.

Copia is thanking the crowd, the Ghouls are throwing picks and drumsticks, and Lilly is left with an adrenaline rush that threatens to tear her apart if she isn’t getting f*cked again in the next ten minutes.

Terzo sweeps away Andie from the trickling crowd and Phantom bounces next to Lilly, impatiently waiting for the band to finish packing up their instruments so they can bound off to the Den.

“Let’s get a head start,” He pleads to Lilly. “They won’t mind.” His goggles are staring deliberately at her cleavage, she can see it reflected in the black lenses.

The small Quintessence Ghoul was always so eager to please her whenever she fell into their den, that she doesn’t think of how the other Ghouls will react as she leaves with Phantom. His form waivers once they’re jogging down the staircase, the flashy yellow dissolving into the lavender-grey and splotchy white of his bared demonic skin.

“Thank f*ck that’s gone,” She breathes when he can’t stand it anymore and pushes her up against the wall that divides the Ghoul bedrooms and the stairwell.

“You chose it,” He laughs in between kisses. It was technically Primo’s idea, but Lilly was the one that said it would be funny. His clawed hands are grasping at her waist, in danger of ripping the beautifully crafted dress.

Lilly pushes off the wall to force him backwards and stumbling over the edge of the cushioned den on his ass.

“I overheard you with Swiss earlier,” Phantom teases even from where he’s sprawled on the blanket below her. “Are those Mountain’s?!” His lavender eyes find the boots on her feet.

She lifts one foot to show the leftover polished spots shine in the crypt’s warm lighting. An unintended side effect is how his eyes become glued to the peek of her thong she gives him. In any case, he gets a longer look as she pulls off the dress in one continuous line, exposing the black lace and pearl thong, and the strapless bra that was barely able to support the weight of her chest. She bends down and unzips the boots.

“f*ck, that’s all you had on underneath that?”

She steps down into the pit, feet rejoicing at the cushioning, “Andie picked it out.”

Phantom’s eyes flash a blazing purple and all of a sudden her bra is flung off her body, undone from the back and thrown as if someone had snuck up behind her.

“You little sneak!” She grins and straddles his bare lap. “I should tell Papa you used Quintessence on me.”

The Ghoul’s mischievous demeanor doesn’t falter, “I’d like to see you try to tell him when you’re on my dick.” His thumb is moving the slick string of pearls out of her folds to tease where Copia and Swiss had left her wet and loose.

“You smell like Swiss and Papa down here,” Phantom’s eyes narrow.

Lilly flips part of her black hair away from her face, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He tests how stretched she is with one digit before he’s pressing inside her in one smooth motion. “Just Swiss, my ass.”

She moans greedily as he doesn’t hesitate to start at a rough pace, “I had to give an offering to His Dark Excellency for Mass.” To her frustration, the earlier straddle-f*ck with Copia means her knees are already aching, likely to become painful if she keeps on riding the Ghoul. “Maybe you should show me how much better you are then them. Put on a show for Aether and Papa.”

Phantom’s eyes are flashing again, moving upwards and over until Lilly is on her back, still connected with him. As soon as he can tell she’s adjusted, he reignites the frantic pace of before.

-

Copia is a bit upset when he doesn’t see Lilly waiting after they had done the bare minimum of packing up. Sister Imperator had already told him that the performance was a success, and they could have the day off from paperwork tomorrow, so Copia was ready to spend the night with his Ghouls and his Prime Mover rejoicing over the holiday.

“Did someone steal my f*cking shoes?” Mountain calls from behind his drumkit.

Aether’s guilty look doesn’t disappear before he meets Copia’s inquiring gaze. “Look, Lilly’s heels were hurting her.”

“So you stole my boots?” The Earth Ghoul questions, not that upset but tired from the marathon performance.

Aether holds up his hands, Phantom’s (it was Aether’s before the new Ghoul) guitar already packed away. “She couldn’t dance in them. I’m sure she’ll put them in the den or hand them back.”

Rain snorts at the two of them, “Like it will be hard to find Mountain’s ogre-sized shoes.”

Mountain points a broken drumstick at the bassist. “Keep telling yourself that with your delicate baby-feet.”

He rears back dramatically, “I do not have small feet!”

Copia sighs, headache forming. All of their elemental attributes are fired up from performing so long without a rest like at rituals. Some snapping at each other was typical, but the unexpected addition of Aether did not help.

Soon the argument involves Swiss and then Dewdrop when Rain accuses him of having the smallest feet, squabbling at each other in Ghoulish up by Mountain’s setup.

“I’m going to go find Lilly,” He says to Cumulus.

She looks hopeful, helmet off and crystal blue eyes pleading. “You all can come, but no arguing.” He says to the Ghoulettes.

Just as Copia and the girls make it to the side door to the offices, the Ghouls come to a conclusion, “Phantom!”

“What about Phantom?” He takes the bait, hoping this will be the end of it.

“He wins for smallest feet because he’s not here,” Rain says proudly.

Copia counts all of the Ghouls around him. There are only eight, technically missing Phil (who left with Imperator for something paperwork related) and Phantom. “Oh. He might know where Lilly went.”

Cirrus and Cumulus share a look.

“I know that look, what am I not getting?” He accuses them. Cumulus just begins walking out into the hallway, the Ghoulettes following obediently. Even the male-oriented Ghouls walk past his clueless form. “Guys, where are you going?”

“Phantom decided to start the main course without us,” Aurora calls.

Finally, it clicks. “Oh,” Copia nods and follows with them, Swiss patting his shoulder in sympathy.

Chapter 27: La Mantra Mori

Notes:

Oops.

Mention of Ed Warren's assault on Lilly in one of the last sentences

Chapter Text

Phantom’s knot is just beginning to swell to fullness when the first footfall sounds from the staircase. “sh*t,” He gasps, popping it inside of the woman in his arms. His co*ck kicks as he empties himself inside her but it the filling knot doesn’t allow him to move more than shallow grinds against her cl*t.

Her sweaty hands are scratching delicious marks down the lean fat of his ribs as she’s nearing the close edge of her own org*sm. “Touch me, please,” She begs, so close but her hands aren’t enough.

He dives in for one of the soft pink buds on her chest, back flexing as he grinds his hips into her to reach her tit. One of his thumbs finds where the two of them are joined and presses beside his knot, throwing her over the edge just as Copia and the Ghouls round the corner.

“f*ck, f*ck, f*ck!” Lilly whimpers, eyes rolling back in bliss. She’s so overcome by her org*sm that she doesn’t see the nine pairs of feet by her head on the edge of the den.

Phantom does, however. “Hi,” He pants, sheepishly releasing Lilly’s nipple from his lips.

Lilly’s eyebrows scrunch and she laughs breathily, “Hello to you, too?” Her eyes don’t reopen until a different voice speaks from right beside her ear.

“Hiya,” Swiss grins sharply, squatting next to her head. “Did you have fun starting without us?”

Lilly jumps, but groans when the stretch from Phantom’s does not catch on her entrance. “Damn! How did I not hear you come in?”

“Because you were too busy getting cum in,” Aether retorts, taking a parallel crouch on her other side, “by this greedy little Ghoul.”

Phantom growls at them, “You were taking too long to pack up!”

“Well, as soon as your knot goes down, you’re getting your hole stretched out as punishment,” Mountain crosses his arms.

Phantom whines a bit at that, much to Lilly’s returning pleasure. His softening knot threatens to rebuild with his arousal.

“Don’t make him horny again,” She warns.

The small Quintessence pulls out of her, eyes following the spend that leaks out with his co*ck. “Oh, man…” He moans.

“Grab him,” Mountain orders, stepping into the pit, knowing that Phantom would dive back into Lilly if he had the chance to.

“Little cum whor*,” Swiss taunts as he snatches Phantom under his armpits when he does indeed try to slip his co*ck back inside her. “Go get that ass pounded.” He hands him off to Mountain like a disobedient kitten.

“I say I should get next,” Rain says. “For all of the name-calling I endured.”

“No,” Swiss, Sodo, Aether, Copia, and Cirrus say.

Rain throws up his hands and pouts, stomping away.

“Go f*ck your fist like usual, waterboy,” Sodo calls after him, as if he isn’t the one scrambling to get on Rain’s dick every night.

Lilly sits up on her elbows, “Don’t be mean to Rain. Baby, come here.” She knows that Rain is one of the calmest of the group, behind Mountain and Cumulus.

The water Ghoul’s eyes light up and he smirks as he walks past the stunned group to kneel in between Lilly’s legs. The yellow body paint disappears from him as he settles hands on her knees. “What can your favorite Ghoul do for you, Sister?”

Sodo growls in warning. Phantom’s growl is adorably broken between his moans.

Lilly threads a hand through Rain’s midnight blue hair and pushes his head down, away from where he had wanted to bite at her neck. The first spark of pleasure from the Ghoul’s cool and wet mouth has her moaning.

The sloppy noises begin to affect the Ghouls and Papa almost instantly.

“Lilly, please, can I f*ck your mouth, please, please?” Sodo is dropping to his knees by her head, desperation overriding any desire to be a brat.

She denies him, even though would love nothing more than to have him over her, “You were being mean. Go grovel to someone else.”

The Fire Ghoul whines, Aurora taking pity on him when he runs his puppy-eyes on her.

Before the other Ghouls could finish their argument, Cumulus catches Lilly’s attention with a blue-painted claw tilting her chin towards her and swallowing all of the moans Rain wrings from her.

What Lilly wanted was to feel Aether, but Rain and Cumulus’ combined efforts wrench one last org*sm from her. Her body shivers in the Water Ghoul’s hold and it’s difficult to keep her eyes open as he presses sloppy kisses to the pudgy fat above her groin.

Cumulus’ milky way-white curls are blurry in edges of Lilly’s f*cked-out vision.

“Sorry, can’t do more,” She mumbles to the Ghoulette.

“It’s okay, sweetheart, we’ll let the boys fight within themselves,” Cumulus shifts to lay parallel with her, hand disappearing out of her limited vision while something taped but filling slips inside her. The Ghoulette purrs above her, “Just something to keep everything inside for the night.”

Lilly smiles and focuses on the feeling of the plug, a clean blanket pulled over top of the two.

-

Lilly was sore as hell the next morning. Her lower back ached from where Copia had shoved his arm underneath her and Swiss had bent Lilly over her desk, her thighs burned with the prickle of fanged kisses, and most importantly, her puss* was completely stretched out and sore.

“Copia,” She whispers to the sleeping man to her right. Surely his arm is asleep where it’s under her back?

He mumbles something about pasta as he comes to, blinking his blurry eyes open. “Is it morning?”

She shrugs, “We’re underground and I don’t know where my phone went. It feels like it’s morning-“

“RISE AND SHINE, slu*tS!” Terzo calls from the stairwell, “It’s 12:55pm and all of you are about to be late for Sister’s afternoon meeting about how last night went!”

That forces everyone except Lilly into a scrabble for their rooms.

“f*ck!” Copia is pulling on his boxing shorts and silk boxing robe like a bathrobe. “Lilly, we need to go.”

Lilly sits up and wraps the blanket around her naked body, unsure where her Elvira dress ended up. “I thought everyone had today off?” It’s extremely difficult to rise to her feet with how sore she is, but Copia is so busy with panicking he doesn’t notice. He has his own limp as he paces.

“I mean, well, yes,” His stuttering always comes back with his anxiety, “but she always holds meetings to talk more in-depth about what we could have done better. She’s probably also going to, well, talk about the upcoming tour. I hope I did all of those forms correctly.”

Cumulus and the Ghoulettes are the first to reappear, then the other Ghouls following with groggy demeanors.

Lilly must have missed a lot of last night.

“Lilly, do you need some clothes?” The short Air Ghoulette asks.

She looks down at herself, still sitting naked in the covers, and nods.

Cumulus returns a few moments later with some clothes that make her feel decent enough to meet with the head Sister and is helped to her feet-one they reach the bottom of the stairs, Lilly’s hopefulness of the day going well plummets.

“I can’t do the stairs,” Lilly’s lower lip wobbles as just doing one stair stretches all of her sore muscles.

Copia is already at the top, despite his pained look, warring over whether or not to redo the stairs with her when he’s also in the same position.

Thankfully, Aether steps over to her and sweeps her into his arms like a knight in shining armor, ascending the staircase with ease.

“Show off, much?” Swiss grumbles, upset that he didn’t have the chance to redo the time when he did that for Lilly.

“I can do much more than just show off,” Aether smirks over his shoulder. A tingly, vibrating warmth fills her and takes away the harsh edge of the aches of her body without taking them away completely. She sighs happily as her back can relax without cramping up

They make it to the cloister and the Ghoul continues to nonchalantly carry Lilly through the garden and into the main sanctuary. The decorations from last night are in a bit of a disarray but not as bad as Lilly thought with how hard some people were partying. This meeting was probably also meant to have them clean up.

Sister Imperator looks perfect as usual. The Papas are at varying stages of hangover, the worst being Secondo and the best being Terzo. Even Primo seems a bit tired.

“Glad all of you could join us…ten minutes late,” Sister raises an eyebrow at their sloppy state.

“I didn’t have my phone, Sister, it’s my fault,” Lilly apologizes profusely as Aether sets her down on a pew in between Copia and Phantom.

The woman does relax some, but all of them can see that she’s still upset with them. “Let’s move past this and begin, shall we? I am very proud to say that all of the outside fans that attended have given us incredible feedback on the performance. Terzo, your inclusion of the kazoo was the fan favorite of the night.”

“Yes!” He fists pumps.

“However, there was one issue that kept being brought up, Sister Imperium.”

Lilly jolts at the mention of her title, “I didn’t think I did anything!”

“Many fans brought up the fact that you were seen becoming close to the Ghouls and felt confused by your presence. We need to decide when we should put out a PR story about having found Papa IV’s Prime Mover.”

Instantly, Lilly feels what the decision should be, “No.”

“No?” Copia and the Papa’s echo. Hurt flashes across Copia’s face.

“I’m not saying that I don’t want to be introduced with the Ghost project or anything-I’m not ashamed at all-, but I’m worried the Museum will see that I’ve become too biased to continue on the exhibition.” Her heart beats like a hummingbird’s wings, making the room spin.

She doesn’t say that she’s worried about if Adam will then know where she is, but many of those in the room hear those unspoken words.

Sister Imperator is not one of those people, “We will need to do this before the tour begins, and preferably now instead of at the last minute in December.”

“December? The tour doesn’t start until February,” Lilly questions.

The silence of those around her lets her know she’s missing an incredibly critical detail.

“Copia and the Ghouls will be leaving on December 15th to begin the tour schedule.” Sister says.

Lilly balks at that, “No! You guys are missing Yule? What about the opening of the exhibition in April? You’ll be in Europe if the schedule shifts the same way!”

“We’re not missing the opening,” Copia assures her, “I’ll contact the venues and make sure we’re able to come back to New York for that.” He looks so guilty and sincere that it mends a part of Lilly that was broken by the news. Originally, the Ghost project was scheduled to perform in New York three times in the two weeks around the opening of the exhibition (a few days before her birthday) and if the tour began earlier than she thought then they would be in New York around early March instead.

“I’m not going to be able to go on the road with them, so can the announcement wait until after the tour?” Lilly pleads.

“I appreciate your concern, but the whole point of having a Prime Mover is to inspire the masses to join us as a female figurehead for the Abbey,” Sister Imperator states.

Primo waves her off, “The whole point of our religion is to spread the word to those that want to hear it, not to make people convert. I say we keep it quiet. Put it to a vote, I motion to keep Lilly’s position as Prime Mover quiet until after Papa IV returns from touring.”

“Seconded,” Terzo grins at his pun.

Secondo rolls his eyes. “I think it would be good for publicity to show off Lilly, but I understand the risks. I agree with my brothers.”

“Motion approved by 4/5s of the Upper Clergy,” Copia smiles.

Imperator sighs but writes something down on her clipboard. “Fine. Next topic is Aether on tour. Does anyone have suggestions?”

“Aeth and I can switch out on the multiple ritual schedules,” Dew stretches his arms above his head, waking up from his dozing. “I gotta admit performing consecutively is a lot sometimes.” Mountain bobs his head in agreement.

The woman shakes her head, “No, you’re too important to the image of Ghost, Dewdrop. Next suggestion.”

“Aether and Phantom switch out?” Primo asks.

Phantom smiles as the larger Quintessence Ghoul squeezes his hand reassuringly.

“This is why having Aether back is an issue, Sister. Both Phantom and Dewdrop are established within the fandom, and if either of them is switched out, there will be disappointed followers at Rituals who may decide not to come.”

“If there are people willing to miss a ritual because of one person missing, then they aren’t a true fan.” Copia declares. “I appreciate their dedication to the Ghouls, but I think that’s a silly thing to worry over, Sister Imperator.”

The use of the woman’s full title as a subtle scolding sends shivers up Lilly’s spine. An idea hits her, “What if Aether stayed here? I will eventually have to go back to the museum for installation, and I would feel better if I had someone with me that didn’t have duties keeping them in the Abbey.”

Aether perks up at the suggestion, nodding quickly.

“I like that,” Terzo adds. “Because once Copia’s gone, I have to take over the expense reports…So I couldn’t help you, Lilly,” He whines.

The two other retired Papas put in their agreement on the subject.

“It’s decided. Aether will become Lilly’s ward while we are on tour,” Copia states and leaves no room for Sister Imperator to argue.

She flattens another frustrated noise and writes it down on her docket. “Last topic, ritual practice. I say we start with three times a week.”

The Ghouls groan in unison. “That’s so much! We all know the cues and music in our sleep!” Sodo complains.

“But it’s been four months since any of you have played a full set.”

Terzo furrows his eyebrows, “They played last night…for the entire time.”

Sister tucks an invisible strand of her hair behind her ear, “You know what I mean.”

“Let’s do twice this week then three the next. We’ll count yesterday as the first one,” Copia says.

“Good,” Sister Imperator snaps shut the clipboard and folio in her hands, “I expect a spotless sanctuary by dinnertime.” She walks up the dais steps and then over into the papal office corridor.

“Damn it! She lured us here!” Secondo groans into his hands.

Lilly tries to not think of the woman’s continuous somewhat-downturned mood that began yesterday. “It’ll be quick. I came up with a storage plan that will make it easy.”

-

They are able to clean up easily. In fact, there are so many of them helping Lilly that they finish in a little under three hours. Now that they have a few hours until the dinnertime deadline, the retired papas leave to their own spaces.

“We should go to the candy store! They have a ton of sales for Halloween stuff!” Phantom pulls up the website for It’Sugar, a large candy shop by Times Square.

Lilly grins, “That sounds like fun. Can we go, Copia?”

The man looks equally excited. “Of course, but I don’t think we should take my car in case we have to rush back for dinner.”

“Duh, we’ll take mine. But that means I can only take three Ghouls.”

Mountain, Cirrus, Aurora, and Cumulus all bow out of going.

“I can text what I want to one of you,” The small multi-Ghoulette shrugs. “Not a big fan of how tight it gets in Times Square.”

“She gets lost in the crowd,” Phantom whisper-yells with a grin.

Aurora blows a raspberry at him.

Lilly looks at the five Ghouls still wanting to go. “I can’t fit all of you guys,” She says sadly.

Rain steps out of the lineup and over with the Ghouls staying, “I’m gonna beat someone’s ass if they forget my gummy frogs and worms.” He makes a pointed look at Sodo, who dramatically salutes him.

“Can we put one of us in the trunk?” Sodo says after another beat of silence and none of them volunteer not to go.

“That’s irresponsible,” Copia sighs.

Lilly shakes her head, “And illegal. If we can’t solve this, then I guess Papa and I will go.”

Phantom’s lavender eyes are starting to get teary. “I really wanna go,” He says.

To prevent more tears, Swiss’ humanoid form transforms into a dog-sized grey wolf, barking up at Lilly.

“That works!” She kneels and pets the Ghoul’s new charcoal-colored fur.

“Text us what all of you want,” Copia says to the staying Ghouls, who nod, and disperse into their own activities.

-

The drive was fun despite the afternoon traffic. Surprisingly they listened to Lilly’s own personal playlist, which only had a few Ghost songs. By the time they park and walk to Times Square, they have about two hours before they need to head back to the Abbey.

The group of six (with Swiss back as a human) make their way into the glittering store full of sweets. Sodo, Copia, and Lilly immediately head for the gummy section, Phantom to the chocolate, Aether to the sour, and Swiss to the fill-a-bag section.

Sodo plucks both sour gummy worms and the colorful gummy frogs into his basket. “Rainy accomplished. Mountain wants orange slices…” He scans the colorful packages before finding what he wants on the upper shelves. Lilly tries to reach for it, but she’s only an inch taller than the Ghouls, so her fingers just graze the plastic.

Copia looks over from where he’s mesmerized by the display of giant gummy snakes to see both of them looking forlornly up at the bag of gummy fruit. “Need help?” He walks around some other customers and easily reaches up to the treat.

“Our Hero!” Dew beams, adding it to our basket.

Lilly has him pull down the cherry slices for herself next to them. “Thanks, Copia.”

He bows and leads her to his discovery of the giant snakes, quickly adding a green one to her own basket.

Eventually, the crowded store gets a bit too much for Lilly, “I’m going to go checkout, but keep looking around,” she holds up her basket and to get the caramel apple she eyed on the way in.

Copia gives her a worried look, “We won’t be more than a few minutes, I promise. Be safe.”

She leans over and kisses his unpainted cheek, “Of course I will.”

She’s second in line when she glances out the window to see there’s a target right across the street. This would be the perfect time for her to get a present for Andie’s upcoming birthday. They were eyeing some of the collective felt birds that were released for each season. Knowing the corporate world never sleeps, it’s possible there may be some for Christmas out already. Lilly checks out and is halfway out the glass doors when someone calls out to her from inside.

It's Aether. He must’ve been just a couple people in front of her in line since his purchases are already packaged. “Where’re you going?”

“I was just going to check if something was at Target. Did you want to come?”

The tall Ghoul meets her and they weave through the crowded street of tourists and locals alike. In the store is less crowded, but with her mission, Lilly can easily handle a crowd.

“I want to get these decorative birds for Andie. They sell out really fast since it blew up on TikTok, so I’m hoping the store is already putting out ones for Thanksgiving or Christmas.” She explains as they walk to the picked-through aisles of the Halloween section. To her disappointment, there’s no sign of Christmas decorations or birds.

“Sorry, Lilly,” Aether says as they stand in the nearly empty aisle.

She shrugs, “I just thought to check since we were here, but maybe I can order them online. Can we check one other part of the store for a present?”

He nods and follows her, his blue-glamoured eyes taking in the store’s festive decorations with awe.

“So Andie is obsessed with puzzles,” Lilly leads him into the toy section where the board games are along the long wall. “But can I remember if they already have one of these…” She takes in the pictures with squinted eyes.

Aether co*cks his head at the different puzzles. “What’s a puzzle?”

She gasps and stares at him with wide eyes, “You’ve never done a puzzle? The thing where you get a bunch of pre-cut pieces, and you have to fit them together to form a picture?” She holds out a box.

He takes it, shaking it to hear the different pieces rattle around. “I might have played a game on my phone like this, but not like this. Can we get one to try?”

“Of course! Andie is going to freak out worse than me, so be warned,” Lilly nods. “Are there any you like the pictures of?”

Despite having the whole wall to pick from, Aether can’t find one. But as he’s scanning around them, he looks across the aisle. “What are those?!” He asks excitedly.

Lilly turns to see the Lego section. “Those are Lego puzzles! They’re the 3D version of these puzzles with little bricks.”

“Can I go look at those? Dew said something about wanting something Lego.” He’s vibrating with excitement.

She grins, “Go ahead. I’ll come over in a few minutes after I pick something out.” She watches him leave then moves down the wall towards the end of the aisle. Behind her the aisle turns into toys for smaller children and babies, but this is surprisingly where the most difficult puzzles are. Finally seeing a 1500-piece puzzle of the Manhattan skyline, Lilly grabs it with a large smile. This is the perfect amount of touristy cheesiness for her best friend.

Lilly doesn’t immediately see Aether across the walkway from the aisle she’s in, so she walks over one more and her heart stops at the people standing in the aisle.

“…I think we should make it jungle/Noah’s ark themed. Animals are good for development.” Eve Strauss, or now Eve Pollack, holds up a stuffed lion over her extremely pregnant stomach. “Besides look at how snuggly he is!”

Sister Eve was honestly one of the nicest girls Lilly had ever met. When Lilly joined the LDS study group at Brigham Young University with Adam, she was terrified that the girls were going to be the cliquey, judgmental ones she had met in some of her classes. However, when she arrived with Adam, Eve met them at the door to the quaint co-ed sorority house with a genuine smile and a hug.

Andie had dropped out of BYU by their second year, so Lilly’s new relationship (one that was already beginning to escalate into threats of violence) isolated and stressed her. Lilly never really told Eve what had begun to happen with Adam, but the slightly-older girl and her formed a close friendship due to faith and similar classes.

Lilly would not have joined the LDS church if Eve hadn’t taken her in.

Maybe a part of Lilly blames her for that.

Eve was the unattainable kind of blonde you see in magazines. A cheerleader, worship group lead, and soccer star, she and Adam seemed much better together than Lilly’s unathletic, plus sized form. But what Eve lacked in creativity, Lilly had in the humanities and academics. Graduating valedictorian was a massive deal and Adam had said that was a sweet prize he had when he was invited to the special gala held for the academically gifted students.

Now, Lilly stands frozen to the scuffed tiles of the Times Square Target, watching the man she fought to have love her for six years, decide on nursery decorations for the baby and the woman he cheated on her with. The very woman that helped Lilly mostly believe in religion.

Adam hasn’t seen her yet, too involved in picking out baby books about Noah’s Ark.

Eve, however, turns to see if there are more stuffed animals and recognizes Lilly despite her freshly dyed black hair. “Is that my absolute best sister wife, Lilly Warren?” She beams that perfect, sisterly, cheerleader smile at her.

Lilly needs to run before Adam can see her, but her shoes are melting into the tile.

Adam’s head snaps up, blue eyes blazing. “Eve, go look at the hot wheels.”

Eve waves the man’s anger off, “I know my girl. She’s past all that occult stuff and returned to Jesus,” She has to waddle to Lilly because of her stomach, but she does her best to bring Lilly in for a hug. “He’s been so stressed because one of the pipes broke and flooded the new house in Utah. We both know he can be a real hothead.”

“Y-Yeah,” Lilly croaks. “So, uh, congrats on the…”

“Oh, yes! Adam probably forgot to tell you about that. We’re having a little boy-I was thinking something ending strong like Cayden, Aiden, Brayden. His parents want something Biblical, but we can still be children of God with fun names, right?”

It’s so innocently said that Lilly can’t help but believe her. She nods, “Look, I’m late, I need to go check this out-“

Eve wraps her arm around her shoulders. “Please, just one more minute! Adam needs to apologize to you. I’ve been helping him manage his anger.”

Adam looks just as furious as the day Lilly saw him last. She can’t meet his eyes, so she stares at his perfectly blonde widow’s peak instead.

“I’m sorry,” He grinds out.

“Oh, c’mon, Adam. That’s horrible. You called her such mean names. If you want this to work between the three of us, you need to actually feel your apologies-oh sh*t, I have to pee.” Eve rambles. “You two have a heartfelt apology session while I run to the ladies’ room, okay?”

Lilly desperately tries to communicate with her eyes not to leave her alone, but the pregnant woman is already waddling out of the aisle. In the next blink, a hand is dragging her towards the maternity dressing rooms. The puzzles slips out of her grip and collides with the floor.

The attendant passes over a key without looking up from their phone, ruining any chance Lilly has to escape whatever Adam is planning to do.

She should scream for help, kick him away, or just say something back to him, but all struggle left her the minute his hand wrapped around her wrist in his familiar hold. He pushes her into the empty row of dressing rooms, picking a random one and shoving her inside as the door locks behind them.

“Adam, please-“

“Shut the f*ck up,” He says lowly. “I told you if you didn’t come to my parent’s house that I was going to expose what your pedophile grandfather did to you, and I find out you’re just lollygagging around here without a care in the world? Ignoring me? Me? And now you’ve dyed your hair this ugly color and you’re acting like you did nothing wrong?” He interrogates her, forcing her against the mirror.

She knows her phone is in her pocket. If she holds down the home button long enough it will send a notification to her emergency contacts to call police. “I’ve repented! This is so that as my hair grows back, I’ve been reborn!” She lies.

She does a horrible job apparently, “I could kill you right here. Do you know how much sh*t I’ve had to put up with because of you? My parents were upset you couldn’t get pregnant, but they gave you another chance anyway. I dismissed the assault case with you. I got a nice apartment and then you stole all of my furniture that was in your bedroom and the kitchen! What right do you have to take anything from me?”

Lilly tears up, memories of all the times when she believed Adam had truly snapped, his right hand coming up to grasp at her throat like before.

“Are you going to come quietly and be a family?” He asks. His blue eyes are staring into her very core and know she’s not going to. He gives her a final moment to give an answer

“If you aren’t going to be my wife, then you might as well be dead.”

One of her hands claws at his forearms, slicing the perfect skin. Her right-hand slips down to frantically press the button on her phone, reciting under her breath the Latin spell that she had summoned Crowley with.

All it does it make him squeeze harder to stop her from making noise. “I should have killed you at that party. You were drunk enough for them to believe you had fallen out of the frat house’s third floor window. I give you another chance here with my pregnant wife forgiving you, and you still even dare to speak those demonic words in my presence. Where did saying sh*t like that get you last time? Raped by your grandfather?”

Lilly is very, very quickly losing the ability to take in any breaths, any precious molecule of air ripped from her as the palm of his hand presses her windpipe closed. She makes one last attempt at yanking his hand away with both of her sharps sets of black nails, but his extreme strength doesn’t falter.

At least Sister Imperator won’t have to worry about the press release anymore. It’s the last thing she gets out before her eyes roll closed.

Chapter 28: Rats!

Notes:

Hey guys! Sorry but not sorry for leaving y'all on a cliffhanger but I hope this longer chapter lives up to it!

I highly recommend refreshing your mind to catch some hints of what's to come in here.

Enjoy!!

Chapter Text

“Is this too cheesy?” Copia holds up his purchased package of Ring Pops for the Ghouls to scrutinize.

Sodo pops a fireball candy into his mouth, “Are you going to propose , propose with that? Does she like strawberry?”

The Papa shifts on the bench they’ve commandeered in between Target and It’Sugar, waiting for Lilly and Aether to return from their quick Target trip. “Uh…I don’t know. Could this be some sort of pre-engagement ring? A courting ring? Is that a thing people do?” He rambles.

The three Ghouls shrug in unison.

“Either way, it’s candy, she’ll probably think it was a sweet move.” Swiss grins brightly for his great pun. Sodo meets his high-five with a loud slap.

Phantom wants to eat his candy, but if he does, he’ll probably get carsick on the way home in traffic. “Where are they? I’m hungry…” He whines, looking longingly down at his wrapped pieces of peanut butter fudge.

“Cumulus said it’s easy to wander through Target, so they might have gotten lost, like in IKEA.” Copia sighs and breaks off another small piece of his chocolate bar to munch on. He offers a piece to the Quintessence Ghoul, who takes it with a happy smile.

“Can we go to IKEA next?” Swiss asks hopefully.

The Antipope goes on to answer that they do not need anything from IKEA and last time they bought a whole living room set last time they were left alone when his ancient iPhone begins ringing in his pocket.

Instead of it being a call from Lilly, it’s one from Andie. He picks up with a smile, “Ciao-“

“Copia, where the f*ck is Lilly?! I just got her emergency notification.” They ask frantically. "Terzo and I are going to get in the car and head to where you all are."

He blinks at the harsh and scared tone, “No, no, don't trouble with traffic. She and Aether are in Target right across from us. Maybe it’s a false alarm?” Even though he says that, he stands and gestures for the Ghouls to follow him into the department store.

“No. You would have to press down the home button of her phone for like 15 seconds and not answer the connecting call to the police. Her dad just called right as I got the notification. Where is she?”

“I don’t know, hold on,” He looks over at the concerned human/demon faces. “Swiss, Phantom, find Lilly. Dew, find Aether; go.” He orders.

They don’t run away, but all of them walk fast but slow enough to not arouse suspicion, all heading in the direction of the back left corner of the store. He keeps Andie on the phone as he follows them. He ignores the couple that walks past him, the woman round with pregnancy and the man calmly guiding her out of the store with their purchased stuffed lion.

-

Aether was very excited to give Sodo the volcano Lego set he had picked out. He walked out from the crowding aisle to the barren puzzle wall. Looking up and down the long aisle, he doesn’t see any sign of Lilly. He walks past the baby aisle when he smells her. He’s only been gone like two minutes!

Aether is still very overwhelmed by being Topside still, but there are things that have a cemented place in his mind now. One of them is Lilly.

There’s a dented puzzle of the New York skyline laying on the floor by his feet. He picks it up and takes it with him as he continues following the familiar spiced honey and apples smell to the maternity section. There’s a few pregnant women looking through the various racks but again no sign of Lilly. He spots the dressing room attendant.

“Excuse me, have you seen a woman with black hair and a brown sweater around here?”

The attendant looks up from her phone and jerks a thumb over their shoulder. “Went in with a blonde guy a few minutes ago. He just left. Haven’t seen her come out yet.”

Aether nods and walks into the corridor, finding only one of the stalls somewhat closed. “Lilly?” He calls, pushing open the door.

Lilly is crumpled against the mirrored wall, unconscious with wheezing gasps as her breathing slows. Her lips are pale with a blossoming blue tint. Speckles of red dot her face like someone has spit blood at her, and her neck is purpling more by the second. He has no idea what’s happened but all he can think is that this is his fault.

Aether’s not going to let Lilly or Papa down, because she’s part of his Pack. If he fails, he’ll make sure he is the one who carries her soul to lay at the feet of their Dark Lord and take his punishment for eternity.

The stocky Ghoul sinks to his knees on the carpeted floor, ignoring how his knees ache at the sudden strain, and frantically feels under the soft roundness of her jaw for a pulse. If she still has one, he can save her with Quintessence. Thankfully he finds it and removes his hand, lifting up the bottom hem of her sweater so his palm can touch the skin over her heart. Except his Quintessence tells him it’s not her heart that’s in trouble-it’s her throat. He moves the trajectory of his power to focus on the damaged section of Lilly’s airway, coaxing the muscles to heal faster and the blood in her veins to refill where they couldn’t reach moments ago. Aether wishes to touch the purple tenderness and heal the broken blood vessels that will most likely stay after he’s done his best work with his still-developing Topside powers.

He hears footsteps behind him and panics that whoever did this was back before Aether could get Lilly stable, but he smells tobacco and lavender and relaxes. His pack has arrived just in time for them to witness that Aether does not have enough power to fully save their human packmate.

Phantom is squishing into the stall behind the exhausted Ghoul. “What happened?” His very presence renews part of the flow of Quintessence but it won’t be enough until Phantom actually helps him.

“I don’t know! She disappeared and I followed her scent to here. It looks like she was strangled. I don’t…have enough energy to stabilize her,” Aether tries to keep his head above the fuzziness rising in his ears.

Phantom puts his hand over where Aether’s is under her shirt and closes his dark eyes. After a moment, both of them feel the last veins fill with infernally boosted blood and exhales as Lilly’s pulse stabilizes. “There. She had extreme damage to her airway and her heart had almost stopped, but she’s healing. You saved her, Aether.” Phantom is offering up some of his own Quintessence to replenish Aether’s loss, and it tingles through his body down to his toes.

Aether scoffs tiredly, unwilling to admit that he did do it, even with help, “Where’s Papa?”

“Right outside in the baby section. I’ll go tell him you and her are okay. Swiss is going to stay here and help you.” Swiss helps Aether sit on the dressing room stool and position Lilly’s still-unconscious form, so she looks like she’s sleeping and not like she’s dead.

Lilly wakes up a few moments later, voice hoarse and crackly, “Where am I?” Sparkling purple Quintessence swirls within the brown of her irises

“Don’t speak just yet,” Aether warns. “You’re in the dressing rooms at Target. I found you slumped against the wall and barely breathing. Do you know who did this to you?”

She slowly nods, but grunts when the ache in her throat is still there.

“I can’t heal you all the way. There will be some bruising still, so we’ll have you text or write down what you want to say.”

Swiss digs out his phone and opens the notes app. She takes it and uses a single finger to type four letters

ADAM

“f*ck, he’s here?” Swiss hisses.

YES

The multi-Ghoul runs a hand through his dark, coiled hair. Surprisingly perceptive, Swiss puts together a general timeline of what happened, “He choked you until you passed out?”

YES

“How did he get you alone?”

Aether takes part offense to the question. “I was across the walkway looking at Legos and she was looking at puzzles.”

TOO LONG TO TYPE, She answers. After a moment, she types more, GO HOME?

“Yeah, can you walk at all?” Swiss takes back his phone to give them space for her stand.

Outside of the maternity section on the main walkway is Copia, Phantom, and Sodo. Sodo holds out a cold bottle of water that Aether opens for Lilly to sip open. She cracks a grateful smile. The small group walks slowly to the checkout counters; one, to give Lilly time to regain her coordination, and two, so they can find Adam and beat his ass.

They are unsuccessful with the latter, but Lilly feels a bit better by the time they walk out of Target, sans puzzle. She doesn’t say anything and the silence between all of them is filled with anxiety.

“Lilly, is it okay if I drive back?” Copia says.

“Yeah,” She gets out before her mouth shuts firmly again.

They’re three blocks from her car but only halfway there when the adrenaline in Lilly’s system gives out completely. She’s able to catch Swiss’ shoulder before her knees buckle. Aether is too tired from his pull of energy bringing Lilly back from the brink of death that Swiss carries her the rest of the way back. Even though, she doesn’t say it, Swiss can feel that she’s grateful.

-

Practically all of the upper Clergy is waiting for them outside the Abbey. Andie is openly crying after Swiss texted them what happened. Lilly is able to get out of the car on her own with Aether holding out a hand when she wobbles.

“Lillypad,” Andie opens their arms to hug her, but she flinches and almost loses her balance.

Lilly regains her balance and hugs herself, anxiously walking past everyone into the garage and into the Abbey silently.

Terzo rubs Andie’s back as they break down into sobs all over again.

Mountain looks over the wall of the cloister to the top of central apple tree’s canopy to see the white owl fly away from its nest. “Is it safe to leave her alone like this?”

Andie shrugs helplessly. “I don’t know. She typically asks to be alone when going through emotional stuff. But then again, I didn’t know the extent of what he was doing to her.” They blubber.

“Not that I think she would, but should one of us stay near in case she does something? She hurt herself with the picture frames that one time…” Phantom speaks up.

Copia had forgotten about that, “I’ll take first shift, and I’ll tell the Sisters and Brothers to be aware of anything that could happen at night.”

“Can someone please tell me what’s going on? Who is Adam?” Aether crosses his arms.

“We’ll explain,” Cirrus assures the tired Quintessence Ghoul and leads him and the Ghoulettes to the Den.

The Papas huddle for a few quiet minutes, speaking hurriedly before they appear to come up with a plan. Andie, Rain, Sodo, Swiss, and Mountain watch them.

Terzo lets Andie re-cling to his side, “We believe that Aziraphale and Crowley will be present for the next while, so just a warning that though Crowley is your boss, you know how Lilly has been dealing with the fallout from Adam.”

“We’ll stick up for you all if you disagree with something they do. This is a fragile time for Lilly and she is all of your priorities.” Copia adds, “We’ll switch every three or so hours and I will put a chair in the hallway.”

-

“I don’t want to talk,” Lilly says hoarsely to the Owl pecking at her windowsill.

Whoo, Aziraphale coos through the glass with his golden eyes watching her carefully.

She pulls the covers over her head, leaving only a small hole for the crisp air of her room to filter in. She had stripped all of her clothes like they were covered in invisible flames and didn’t bother to put on anything else, lest they become consumed in the same embers of shame that covered her.

“Lilly, please let me in,” Aziraphale pleads, transforming from his owl form since it wasn’t getting him anywhere. He’s been trying for nearly twenty minutes.

She doesn’t answer him.

He looks around to see some of the Ghouls watching him from the doors to the Ghoul den, much like before. Of course those demons are probably also worried about her. Maybe they knew how he could get her to open the window or door. “You don’t need to say anything, I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m okay!” She calls and shuts her eyes tightly. Even in the pitch black of her eyelids, Adam still hovers in front of her as if he’s still holding her down.

Aziraphale could just open the window and climb inside, but he would be invading her space. He wished Crowley was here, he would know how to handle this. “What if I said I brought a book for you?”

He can see the lump of her under the covers perk up a bit at the words. In his hands, he conjures up the large stack of books from the shelves of his rebuilt bookstore in London.

“It’s the full series of Outlander, including the newest book that she released last week. Crowley had said you were wanting to get them for Christmas last year, but didn’t receive it.”

Lilly is throwing on a sweater and hurrying over to the window. Her eyes are stained red from crying but she brightens at the sight of the books in his arms. “All of them?”

“All 23. Well, of course, book 10 she’s still writing but I can set that aside for you when I get it into the store.”

She tries to take some of them through the window, but her vanity is in the way. “Can you meet me at my door?”

His smile is as soft as the white curls on his head. He trots around the corner of the dormitory when he runs into Copia sitting on the floor by the woman’s door.

Copia jolts and looks up at him, “Is she alright?” He struggles to get to his feet because his legs had fallen numb from sitting against the wall.

Aziraphale feels a bit strange being in the man’s presence, but he doesn’t appear to be a threat. “I’m not sure. I brought her some books and she seemed to perk up a bit.”

Just then, Lilly opens the door, dressed in a grey sweater that has old paint splatters all over the front. She looks shocked that Copia is standing with the angel. She looks at the pile in the angel’s arms and takes about half of the large stack, letting him in but not Copia.

He tries not to look too upset when she closes the door without gesturing for him to come in. The Antipope slumps back down against the wall and hangs his head in his hands. Another two hours to go…

-

Lilly goes about quietly stacking the books in order on her vanity, seemingly far away with how robotic her movements have become.

“Lilly, dear, I overheard a bit about what happened-“

“I don’t want to talk about it,” She cuts him off, not rudely, but firmer than he would’ve liked to hear.

He twiddles his thumbs while standing in the middle of her bedroom. “I know but I just think it would help some. I’ve put in a request for an exception for Crowley, but you know how things are down there. Things are always on fire it seems.”

“Why can’t you and everyone else just move on from this? I’m okay now and it’ll probably not happen again so…let’s just forget about this.”

Aziraphale takes a step closer to her when he realizes that she’s begun to cry. “Why do you want us not to talk about it? He hurt you quite badly.”

She sighs shakily and plops into her vanity chair. He can see part of her face reflected in the mirror, lit by the natural light of the setting afternoon. “Because if I bring this up to my parents, then it makes them look like bad parents because I keep making these sh*tty life decisions! I couldn’t tell them about Ed, and if I have to admit that something was happening with Adam and then this, my father’s going to explode with guilt that he never saw any of it.”

He finally sees a place to get her to open up, “Ed, that’s your grandfather-“

She gives him the most furious look he’s ever received. “Don’t ever call that monster my grandfather.”

His hands fly up in surrender, “I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry!” He watches as her anger immediately dissolves into depression and self-loathing.

“I guess Crowley never told you,” She swivels back to her mirror and the pile of colorful books.

“Told who what?” A third voice interrupts whatever was on the tip of Aziraphale’s tongue as a familiar black sludge appears from the floor until it forms Crowley’s slouched stance. “I wasn’t aware I was supposed to be a foot-messenger for anyone except maybe His Excellency.”

Lilly swiftly turns to see the demon standing next to Aziraphale and jolts out of her chair to barrel into his chest. Thankfully, despite Crowley’s lanky stature, he stands unaffected by catching the majority of her weight.

“Something terrible happened,” Aziraphale mouths to him as those golden snake eyes furrow.

Cowley rubs Lilly back as she begins to sob into his expensive silk shirt. “Who?”

“Adam,” Lilly’s muffled answer.

“I’m going to go full demon on his ass-“

She shakes her head, “He’s not worth it. I don’t want to talk about it.”

-

Aether felt awful. Guilt is writhing like a tapeworm through his veins.

His black clawed hands that he marveled could shred on his guitar so well, now are coated with the preventable catastrophe he allowed happen to Lilly.

Terzo and Andie had joined the Ghoulettes and Aether down in the den to explain all there was to know about Adam’s stalking and harassment.

“Aether, there was no way any of us could have known that Lilly was in proximity to Adam like that there,” Terzo lays a hand on the Ghoul’s shoulder. “Yeah, okay, you can moan all you want that you should’ve stayed closer to her, but you really weren’t that far away if I remember that part of the store correctly.”

Aurora pipes up from beside him, “And you saved her. You knew her for what, two days, and still did everything to bring her back.” Her small hand rubs at his back, painted claws scratching in places that relax him involuntarily.

“How am I supposed to keep her safe when all of you leave, when I’ve already f*cked up like this? Papa is probably horribly upset with me,” He hangs his head in his hands.

“It’s partly our fault for not telling you what to watch out for. And if I know Copia, he’s just worried about Lilly. I doubt he’s upset with you,” Terzo’s mismatched eyes remind Aether of the antipope he loves so dearly.

“I need to speak with Papa,” The Quintessence Ghoul wobbles to his feet.

Andie watches him with concerned hazel eyes, “Aether, you need to rest. Phantom says you’ve expended a lot of energy today. You’re barely able to stand upright!”

Aether shakes his head, borderline panicking, “I need to make sure I haven’t disappointed him or Lilly.” He struggles for two steps before he’s forced to fall to his knees from how exhausted he is. Terzo and Cirrus appear at his side immediately.

“You and Lilly need to take it easy for the rest of the night and even tomorrow.”

“I need…” Aether tries but he loses steam quickly. Damn, he’s so tired.

The raven-haired man is carding a hand through Aether’s short blonde hair, much like how Copia would do when they were relaxing on the tour bus during their many nights of travel. “It’s only been three days since you summoned, and you’ve already performed a miracle. I’ll get Copia to talk to you as soon as you wake back up okay?”

Aether scoots back to the cushioned pit where he reluctantly relaxes his head on Cumulus’ lap.

-

By the time Aziraphale opens Lilly’s bedroom door, Copia has been joined on the floor by Swiss, Phantom, and Aurora. All four sets of teary eyes stare up at him with unanswered questions.

The angel startles at so many people silently sitting right by the door and accidentally backs up into Crowley.

“Eavesdroppers, eh?” Crowley says, almost a growl at the potential of having his ward’s secret exposed due to nosiness.

Copia is quick to get to his feet, “We were just waiting to see if she needed anything! We couldn’t hear anything.” He’s confused on how Crowley got into the locked room while all of them were sitting at the door.

“Good,” Crowley grunts, “Let’s go, Angel.”

Whatever the two had found out about the situation with Adam wasn’t good because of the crystalline tears that line Aziraphale’s ever-changing but underlying hazel eyes. Copia’s heart drops further into the pit of his stomach. They’ve all let Lilly down, possibly backsliding all of the effort they’ve made to help her feel comfortable with them.

“Please make sure she eats and gets out of bed. Sometimes she doesn’t take care of herself,” Aziraphale says to Copia, lowly.

The antipope nods, “Of course.”

“I said let’s go , Aziraphale,” Crowley pulls the teary Angel down the hallway and out of sight.

Copia looks at the expressions of his Ghouls and prepares himself to do anything to right things with Lilly, even if that includes her leaving them forever. The door is ajar, and he knocks on it, hearing a muffled voice.

It’s dim inside her normally lamplit bedroom, adding to the darkness of the situation. All he can see of Lilly is a few strands of black hair spread out on her pillow. The blanket covering her is thin enough that he can see the contours of her curled up form underneath it.

Copia trips on the edge of the rug trying not to make too much noise and flails forward until he catches himself with the edge of her bed. Her face peeks out, eyes rimmed red as she watches him get back to his feet.

Damn, he’s such a failure. He can’t even walk into a low-lit room without tripping on something.

“Did you hurt your foot?” She asks hoarsely. Crying probably has made her mostly repaired throat worsen and he gestures for one of the watching Ghouls to get some water.

“No, no, well, maybe a little, but that doesn’t matter,” His foot does hurt, probably he twinged his ankle, but nothing hurts more than the scene in front of him. “I’m sorry this happened, we should’ve been there with you.”

Lilly’s brown eyes are black in the lowlight of her desk lamp. Her eyes move away from his and she curled back into the covers. “I didn’t know he would be at the busiest Target in New York City. I could’ve fought back instead of freezing like a wimp.”

“You are not a wimp!” He declares. Perhaps a bit too loudly because she jumps a little. “I don’t know everything you’ve been through because of him, but the fact that you’re still here and living and breathing and being a kind person to everyone you meet shows how strong you are! Everyone needs to rely on someone else sometimes.”

“I’ve been relying on you for three months straight. It’s time for me to just stop mooching.”

Copia can’t believe what he’s hearing. The same woman that has become the glue between him and his Ghouls, become a member of their community, sacrifices her time to take on religious duties she was otherworldly forced into, and still has the capacity to work full-time!

“Copia…” She whispers, tears rolling down her cheek.

Oops. Did he say that all out loud?

“Yes, you did,” Swiss says from beside him, handing Lilly a large water bottle.

She drinks, replacing the tears on her face, before she reaches out to hold Copia’s gloved hand. “For Satanists, all of you are hopeless romantics.”

“Look at our boss, Mr. Hopeless Romantic, Anthony J. Crowley,” The multi-Ghoul snickers.

Lilly sits up and takes another set of big gulps, “He really is. Have we missed dinner?”

Copia now can see the purpling handprints that wrap around her neck like a Victorian high collar. “Um no, I don’t think so…are you sure you’re okay? It’s perfectly okay if we bring you stuff to eat here.”

“Yeah, I’m good,” She slides off the bed and turns to Swiss, “Gimme your shirt.”

Both of the men pray that she won’t notice how their eyes are glued to her bare breasts.

“Huh?” Swiss responds dumbly, making Copia smack his own forehead. Leave it to a Ghoul to get horny when Lilly has had a near-death experience.

“Give me your shirt,” She repeats firmly.

Finally, his brain comes back online, and he strips his black henley off to hold out to her.

Lilly tugs it on and moves in between them to pull on underwear and a pair of sweatpants. “I’m hungry.”

Copia nods, cautious but also hungry. “Okay.”

-

To the parallel relief and anxiety of everyone, nothing happens.

Lilly doesn’t press charges on Adam for what happened (despite Sister Imperator and Secondo urging her to) and she doesn’t find any mention of her past appearing on the news like Adam said he would.

Maybe he thought he had killed her.

Good.

Lilly tries not to think about it and throws herself head-first into the exhibition planning. Every day, even on the weekends, Lilly buries herself in her office in the archives, on the phone with Dr. Myers or her intern group, or typing and sketching out designs and panels.

Copia gets roped into tour planning as mid-November rolls around . Sister Imperator has him filling out so many forms that his hand starts to cramp.

Only one thing changes in the three weeks that pass: Lilly doesn’t participate in any sexual activity with them.

Copia feels incredibly selfish whenever he’s f*cking or getting f*cked, because he honestly doesn’t feel satisfied without seeing Lilly in the throes of her own pleasure somewhere beside him.

The Ghouls are not as affected as Copia is because of the reintegration of Aether into the pack. They have lost heats, lost kisses, and lost cuddles to make up for, so they are distracted from Lilly’s absence in the den for the most part.

When Lilly was within their pack intimacy, Copia hates to say it, but presence of intimacy became the normal evening ritual for all of them. None of them want to push, but they all miss their partner, and are worried she’s bottling everything up.

One crisp November afternoon finds Copia cooped up in his office leaning over a fresh stack of forms for the itinerary. His office door is open as always, and he doesn’t glance up when he hears voices in the hallway.

“Papa?” Lilly is standing in the doorway of his office with Aurora, Rain, and Dew behind her.

“Oh! Lilly, hi,” He sets down his pen, “yes?”

She looks tired but seems more alive than the last time he saw her outside of her office. “We were going to get presents for Andie’s birthday and were wondering if you wanted to come with us?”

Copia is taken aback by the news. Birthdays are a serious party within the Abbey and he had no idea there was one so close. “When is their birthday?”

“Next week, but it’s always better to get it earlier so they don’t expect it.”

He stands and sets aside his already cold coffee, walking around to meet them at the door, “Is it just us?”

The bundle spills out into the hallway so he can shut and lock his office. “No, Papa Terzo is coming. He’s distracting Andie so we can go shopping.” She shows him a cheeky grin and he sees a flash of her old self slowly blossoming through again.

Copia’s missed her so much. She’s eaten most meals with everyone, but is quick to recede back to the archives and then back to her bedroom. The last time he was able to hold her hand, kiss her, wake up next to her was nearly a month ago.

He could use this to rekindle something between them! Copia smiles to himself, settling into the front passenger seat and readying himself to woo his Prime Mover all over again.

“What’s got you all smiley?” Lilly asks, glancing at him while they get on the highway towards Manhattan.

He doesn’t want her to catch on to his plan for her, “I’m excited to celebrate Andie’s birthday. Phil will actually enjoy the paperwork for once, Secondo told me those were his favorite events to plan.”

Terzo stretches his arms behind his back, using Aurora’s smaller stature to his advantage beside him. “I was thinking of creating a co*cktail in honor of my beautiful partner. Something that makes your mouth sparkle with bursts of sweet and spicy.” He ruminates.

Lilly cracks a grin in the rearview mirror, “Have fun not being able to walk after they’re done with you.”

The man’s smirk only widens.

It takes a bit to find parking on the street and when they do, they all step out onto a crowded, but beautiful afternoon. They’re a while away from their destinations and head down into the subway station.

Copia becomes more giddy with each step down into the dirty bowels of the city. It’s before the afternoon rush hour, so they get tickets and head to their platform to stand amongst the mingling people.

“I’ve never seen subway rats in person before!” Copia whispers to Lilly.

She co*cks her head, “Really? They can be cute at times, like when they drag a giant slice of pizza around.”

He looks out over the empty subway rails. It’s too dark on the tracks but a train comes rumbling down the tunnel a few moments later and scurrying little bodies swarm closer to their platform’s tracks.

Terzo tries to look uninterested but she can see that his mismatched eyes keep roaming over Copia’s crouching form.

“Okay, back it up, big guy. Train’s coming,” Lilly pulls the excited man back just as the subway train blasts its horn at the entrance of the tunnel.

“That was incredible! There were so many of them! I would run out of pasta species to name them all, not to mention the vast array of babies!” He chatters as they push onto the railcar.

“They would probably beat up your rats. City rats versus spoiled rotten rats, you tell me who wins.” Dew’s human form says, flicking a strand of ash-blonde hair out of his face.

“You’re probably right…” Copia sighs. He’s standing next to Lilly and Terzo by one of the car’s middle poles, the train jolting his body into hers. “Oh, um, hi.”

Lilly helps him grab ahold of the metal again but doesn’t move even though they’re chest to chest. She shyly smiles up at him, steady despite the rocking of the floor. “You have to brace your knees. I learned that very quickly or you get thrown like that.”

Copia gets lost in the feeling of being so close to her again. He doesn’t hear her what she say next, “Huh?”

“I said, we’re getting off on the next stop,” She rolls her eyes, but it’s fond and soft and makes his heart do flips in his chest. “I should take you on more field trips to the city if you’re going to be this cute.”

He stammers and gives up his denial when the train stops at the station.

Their little group comes up the steps to Washington Square Park. “We got off early for a park?” Dew crosses his arms.

“It’s a special park,” Lilly walks past him to the Arch where a woman is standing behind a makeshift market stand. As the group lags behind her, they notice the lumpy figurines on her colorful blankets are plush animals shaped like pigeons and rats.

“Lillith!” The woman bellows from across the square. “You’re just in time, I was going to pack up and head home.” She says as the group approaches.

Lilly hugs her tightly, “Sorry! We got sidetracked and almost missed the station.”

The dark-haired woman waves a hand and busies herself with the large bag beside her. She pulls out four of the rat plushies-all with their own familiar fur colors and patterns. “Here you go! Some old ladies on my street dumped a bunch of baskets and since you’re one of my best adopters, I’ll throw in the basket to hold ‘em for you.”

“Actually, they’re his,” Lilly nudges Copia forward to take the stuffed animals nestled in the wicker basket.

Copia takes the precious gift with shaking hands, “They’re perfect replicas of them…”

The woman grins cheekily, “It was a very fun commission. Your wife really loves you a lot.”

His eyes flicker over to Lilly beside him, “You had these made for me?”

“They were supposed to be your presents for Yule, but since you won’t be here, I thought I could give them to you now so you can pack them to take with you.” Lilly says nonchalantly as if she hasn’t just given him the most thoughtful gift he’s ever received.

“I’ll get working on your other commission of the pigeons,” The bird-maker woman tells Lilly, then moves to chat with another interested customer.

They all move to go back down into the subway tunnels. Once on the train, Copia looks more closely at his gift. “Lilly, these are so adorable. How did you find out about her work?”

Lilly tucks a strand of her ever-so-slightly lightening black hair behind her ear. “I found her one day when I took a walk after an argument with Adam. She saw that I was crying and made me a small pigeon to cheer me up. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was destroyed when Adam ruined my office.”

He caressed the wire whispers of the rat stuffie that looks like Penne. “Thank you for them. They are definitely coming on tour with us.”

“I’m glad,” She looks out the window as the train moves from underground to over a bridge.

“Where are we going?”

Lilly points to a bunch of buildings maybe three blocks from their upcoming station. “Terzo suggested we go to Purple Passion .”

His eyebrows crinkle at the unfamiliar store name, “What kind of store has a name like that?”

“A sex store, duh,” Terzo smirks from his spot next to Copia.

Chapter 29: Death Knell

Notes:

sex, sex, sex, receive the beast of EEEEVVVVIIILLLL.....

Chapter Text

The Purple Passion barely had a storefront, just a door and a window with two mannequins dressed in leather body harnesses. Their group files through the singular door into a jam-packed store of colorful stilettos and boots. Terzo and Dew take off towards the stairway on the far wall, leaving Aurora to speak with a staff person about the latest shoe line from Demonias.

“Andie used to work here,” Lilly starts to explain and grabs a basket. “But Silas had to move to an apartment closer to Parsons, so they had to quit.”

“It does remind me of them,” He looks around the large stacks of shoeboxes and displays.

She nods and leads him towards the stairway, up the flight into a more regular-looking retail floor. “I’ve been neglecting you and the Ghouls, so pick anything out.”

He takes the empty basket but doesn’t move from his spot. “You don’t have to do something with us if you still need space. I’m not going to stop loving you because you’re still healing. I know the Ghouls feel the same way.”

“How the f*ck are you so suave and awkward at the same time?” She huffs, the beginnings of tears forming on her bottom lashes. “Okay, but I’m lonely so we’re getting something to ease me back into the pack.”

Copia follows along behind her as she steps through the displays to the section with the largest dild*s he’s ever seen. “These are considered easy?” He could take most of them, but only after being sufficiently stretched for a while.

Some of them would be like getting f*cked by two dicks at once. He shivers as the thought crosses his mind. Is it weird to get horny in a sex shop?

Lilly laughs at his cute confusion, “This is for Andie, we have a joke of buying each other the cringiest items for our birthdays. I think I’d tear in half if I tried one of these, I could barely handle Mountain.”

“It gets easier after a while,” He admits, cheeks reddening.

She watches him with a sly grin and plucks out an obnoxiously vibrant Pride flag 10” dild* to place in her basket. “Aether must be adjusting well to being here again,” She muses and moves to the more reasonable section.

He doesn’t answer, because she’s absolutely correct, and he tells himself that he’s simply electing to watch her pick different items quietly because he wants to. He waits until she’s stuck deciding between two items to speak again, “I thought you wouldn’t be comfortable in a store like this? Like, when we met you...you were, uh, not the most comfortable around the ideas of sex.”

Lilly puts one item back and the other in her filling basket. “I know, it’s odd. I think it’s because Andie used to work here, so it isn’t as intimidating. There’s a level of awkwardness I feel around anything related to intimacy, but with all of you, it’s easy to work through that. At BYU, I would sneak out when Adam was at practice or in games to go to the mall where there was a Spencer’s . I had some exposure. I went wild when I moved into the Abbey, and I used part of this time isolating myself to see if I really wanted what I had with you and the Ghouls.”

He needs her to continue. He needs to hear that she’s decided she wants to be in their lives.

“Stop looking so worried; I was planning on using this strap on you tonight,” Lilly winks and walks away with her full basket, the harness set dangling over the side teasingly.

-

Copia can’t stop thinking about the promised reunion of the coming evening as they wait for Terzo to pay for whatever he was getting. His eyes kept flickering down to the large bag in Lilly’s hand where he knew something was waiting for him.

Lilly makes them stop at a consignment store after seeing something through the window, which excites Aurora, and both disappear inside. Copia sips on his steaming cup of coffee to distract himself when Lilly makes him hold the large bag from Purple Passion .

He wonders if she knows how much this is affecting him.

By the wink she sends over her shoulder as the door to the shop closes behind her, she definitely does.

After a long trip on the subway, the group finally are on their car ride back to the Abbey. “What did you buy, Terzo?” Lilly asks when he doesn’t have anything to put in the trunk with the other presents.

“It’s a surprise for everyone~” He says dramatically and gets into the car.

Dew rolls his eyes and shoves Terzo into the middle of the backseats, Aurora climbing in to sandwich the retired Papa, “Surprise middle seat time, shortie.”

Andie waits for them in the papal living area, barely containing their excitement. It’s good that they took Lilly’s advice to leave their bags in the car until later in the evening.

“What’d you get me? Boba gift cards? Earrings? Those stuffed pigeons from that lady in Washington Square?” They rattle off, hazel eyes bright with hope.

Lilly walks past them with the unmarked bag containing the strap for Copia to head towards his room, “You know we can’t tell you what we got,” she calls.

Andie turns her hopeful eyes to the two Ghouls and two Papas, “You guys can give me a hint, right? I’m sure I forget in the next few days and then it will be a surprise again!”

Terzo looks incredibly close to spilling his guts at the look of pleading, but Copia speaks for him. “Terzo spent a lot of time researching and it wouldn’t be fair to him to spoil it now.”

The pleading look dissolves into one of happy tears, “Really?”

Copia hopes Andie can’t tell that he has no idea what Terzo actually got them, “Of course. He really loves you.”

“Get the f*ck out of here, you hopeless romantic,” Terzo grumbles and plops down on the couch next to his partner.

“Your name is literally Romeo,” Copia grins.

“Get f*cked,” The retired Papa flips him off as Copia saunters over to his room to find Lilly.

He’s fully planning on that.

-

Lilly is over near the network of rat tunnels, petting Rigatoni’s back through one of the windows. “She did an incredible job with them, better than I thought she would.”

He takes out the plump rodent and holds it up to the plush version, grinning when Rigatoni leans over to sniff at his counterpart. “It was always difficult on tour without them. When we decided to do the Re-Impera Tour, we were only here for a week before leaving again. Terzo and Primo are the only ones willing to take care of them when none of us are here.”

“Aether and I can help this time. Hell, even Andie will beg to help I bet.”

Something cold curls in his gut. He had forgotten about some of the conditions of this limited run tour. “Has Andie talked to you about the tour?”

She puts away the rat plushie into the basket on his bed, “No, why? Are they becoming a groupie for Ghost ?”

“Terzo is doing a performance in LA and Las Vegas, so both of them are coming with us.”

Lilly’s brown eyes don’t meet his, “So both of them will be gone for the entire six-month tour schedule?”

Copia can’t answer her, biting his lip at how she’ll react. His silence is enough of an answer. When she doesn’t say anything, he starts rambling off things to make her feel better, “Aether’s staying here, though! And Secondo and Primo! Nihil and Sister may fly out for a couple shows, but then they’ll stay here after! Some of the Siblings are coming with us…but…that’s beside the point,” He finishes lamely.

“All of you are going to miss the exhibition opening?” She asks, timid and scared and all wrong for the exuberance he finally saw again today. He just keeps f*cking this up.

“Of course we won’t! For one, the exhibition is about us, and two I’m not going to miss it because, well, I love you, and I’m proud of what you’re doing, and I’m going to shout it out when I see your beautiful work.”

Lilly’s sadness cracks into something assured and happy, “Okay, fine. You won me over; I can’t stay upset when you use those pretty eyes on me. I guess flattery can get you everything.”

He sets Rigatoni back in the tunnels, then guides Lilly closer by her waist so he can kiss her for the first time in a month. He lets her make the first move even if he’s starving for it, “It’s easy to flatter when it’s the truth.”

Her hand comes up to rest on the sensitive cut of his jaw by his ear, “You’re such a strange, adorable old man, Copia.”

“I’m only 4-…” Copia complains but it transforms into a throaty moan when she pulls his face down to meet hers. Her mouth is so inviting, much less timid than he remembers and he’s finding that kissing anyone has never been half this intimate.

Lilly’s chest is pushed against his and if he looked down at this moment, he would be greeted by a sight that could cure a blind man. It really is a shame so many beautiful women are covered up because of modesty for a god that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them.

Copia wants to lay her down and taste her right now, but the curtain to his papal rooms is partly open and he knows that Terzo and Andie will not hesitate to interrupt them if they overhear them again.

“We should, um, go somewhere more private,” He says lowly when they break for air.

Lilly snaps him for another deep kiss; one that nearly changes his mind about doing anything but getting f*cked right here, “Scared your brother’s going to hear you whimper?”

As hot as that statement is, she’s correct. He can keep his boner in line while they flee to somewhere with a real door.

“I’m not in the mood to get f*cked over your desk,” Lilly says.

“I thought I was the one getting f*cked?” His eyebrows furrow.

She quirks an eyebrow, “I know how to solve both of us getting f*cked.”

-

Dew was battling Terzo in Mario Party on the common room’s tv when he hears Copia and Lilly comes out from the heavily curtained doorway. Aurora smells it too, by the way she picks up her head from where she and Andie were watching videos on their phone.

The game is paused as Dew drops the remote to the couch cushion, and Andie complains as Aurora leaps up and out of the room after the fire Ghoul.

“What the hell?” Andie yelps.

Terzo clicks a button on the dropped remote, unpausing the game and very quickly winning the game. “Lilly and Copia are probably going to go f*ck.”

They scooch over into Dew’s vacated spot, “Did Ghouls do that with you?”

“Yeah. You would’ve been obsessed with the way Omega liked to mark me up,” He drops his own remote this time, leaning over to press Andie against the leather seat.

“Maybe Lilly can conjure up another Quint Ghoul…just to straighten an argument out,” Andie says against his lips.

Terzo’s skilled hands are already undoing their jeans, “Or five…Seeing you stuffed full by my darling Ghouls…would be better than any infernal paradise Satan could offer me. Andie uses a firm grip on his hair to start a bruising kiss.

They become so involved in snogging that they don’t notice Secondo rolling his eyes and going out to the garage.

-

Aurora and Dew are hot on Lilly and Copia’s heels as the four of them quickly descend the Den’s staircase.

Aether and Rain, who weren’t doing anything more than gentle petting, glance up at the hurried footfalls. Rain doesn’t pay it any mind as he hears Dew’s always-just-under-yelling voice and resumes where his mouth was leaving chaste kisses along the larger Ghoul’s jaw. He does take note when Aether’s languid posture freezes as the footfalls cease.

“Baby, it’s just Dew and Aurora…don’t let them distract you,” Rain mouths into his neck, so badly wanting to bite until there’s a blooming mark that will show everyone that he owned him.

Aether’s grip is tight in Rain’s midnight-blue locks, and it pulls a moan from the water Ghoul as he’s led away from Aether’s neck.

“Baby-“ Rain begins but stops when he sees Lilly standing between Copia and his two packmates. In her hands is a tangle of black straps and a seven-inch bright pink dild*. “Lilly, you’ve come back?”

She’s a bit flushed as she nods. Her melted chocolate brown eyes take in the two Ghouls’ intimate position, reclined on the near edge of the colorful den, two masses of grey intertwined. “I’m sorry I isolated myself for so long. I took some time to think through what I wanted, and it was so tortuous without any of you.”

Aether’s amethyst eyes watch her approach them, wary. “I can leave…” He doesn’t really know if Lilly is upset with him but her isolation has certainly made his head fill with what-ifs despite what the other Ghouls have said.

Lilly slides off her sneakers and steps into firmer cushions of the terraced edge. “Aether, please don’t leave,” she says hurriedly as the Quintessence Ghoul gets ready to flee.

Rain scooches over so Lilly can sit next to them and feel the lust-longing-guilt that rolls off of Aether’s broad shoulders.

“From what I heard from Phantom, you and him saved me. I was so terrified that Adam is always right around the corner that holed myself up in my work and haven’t taken care or myself or all of you,” She confesses.

His amethyst eyes rove over the toy in her hand, “You don’t owe us anything, but I’m excited to see you’re willing to come to us.”

Lilly leans forward and presses a chaste kiss to Aether’s lips. “My hero, I do have a request.”

“Of course,” Aether says readily.

“You’re going to watch me f*ck Papa,” He shivers at her tone, “while not touching yourself. As penance for your already-forgiven misstep.”

Copia is so hard in his pants when Aether’s eyes flicker over to him. Aether is a Ghoul. Sure, he wasn’t meant to be Topside ever again, but he’s here now and this pack has re-slotted him in the leadership position. Lilly has no standing to him yet. He could eat that man up, throw her aside and take what he wants.

But the thought of seeing her dominating their leader, their shining Moonlight, come undone underneath her is too tempting to listen to his pride.

“Anything for you, Lilly,” The Quintessence Ghoul whispers. He’ll rock her world sometime. He’ll show her that he’s the one in charge when she steps down into their den.

She kisses him again, deeper this time. When she rudely pulls herself away from his grasp, he tries to chase her. His lips are met with the silicone head of the strap’s dild*.

“Slick it up for him,” Lilly says simply and drops the contraption into his now-empty lap. She turns from the flabbergasted Ghoul to crook a finger at a flushed Copia.

He obeys quickly, stepping into her personal space. She’s come so far in her dirty talk in the short time they’ve been apart, relying on dirty videos and small conservations with Andie to hold herself over until her anxieties lessened around intimacy.

Once Copia is within her grasp, Lilly is tugging him into a bruising kiss that makes stars burst behind his eyelids. Both of them can feel the weight of the four Ghouls’ eyes on them as the center of a debauched den, then feel the movements of Rain, Dew, and Aurora closing in on each other. Aether still sits next to the human couple, hands tightly gripping black fabric and purple silicone.

Lilly breaks the kiss to snag a glance at the misbehaving Quintessence Ghoul. “Didn’t I give you instructions?”

“There’s no incentive to follow them,” He sniffs. “I want to do more than watch you two have fun.”

“It’s your penance.”

Aether shrugs, “I’m a demon; why should I repent a sin?”

Lilly can tell that the activity from the trio of Ghouls has slowed to watch their fight for dominance. “Because I said so,” She tries confidently, her novice experience with this amount of dirty talk starting to falter.

“You’re not Mama yet. You may have summoned me, but that does not mean you control me,” He smoothly rocks onto his knees and forces her to begin moving back much like when they were first within her bedroom.

Copia shifts out of the way with a hungry expression. He’s eager to see where this goes. He’s missed Aether’s dominant brattiness and never got to fully experience it with how timid he was around the Ghouls’ intimacy and then Aether’s banishing.

Lilly can’t back up anymore or else she’ll be on the cold marble of the regular floor. Aether doesn’t stop his advance when her hands meet the vertical side of the den’s stairs.

A memory of Adam cornering her in the dressing stall overtakes Aether’s form for a moment but fades around the ethereal amethyst eyes watching her.

She’s prey yet again, but this time she wants to be under the predator.

Aether’s black-tipped claws tap up her thigh until they reach under her t-shirt to rip the middle connection of the cups of her bra.

“Aether!” She gasps, torn between upset and horny, “This is a $60 bra from Kohl’s. I have to get my size ordered online!”

“I’ll keep you barefoot and stuffed full here in the den so much you won’t need a bra.” He promises. He shifts forward and tugs her knees over his thighs. “Would you like that? Always open and ready for any of us?”

Boy, does that sound like heaven. She knows she would become restless and plead to go back to work, but to be protected and only focus on giving all of them pleasure becomes a glimpse of a parallel reality for a flash.

“Let me show you what a pack leader is really like,” Aether rasps, claw now running a jagged rip down the front of her shirt to expose her ruined bra.

Her heart is fluttering as Aether takes her in. His claws dull into normal human-sized hands, two of his digits entering her without ceremony. The tension between them slowly dissipates as her eyes fall closed in pleasure.

“Hey!” Swiss calls from the hallway of the Ghoul bedrooms, “how come no one told me we were f*cking? I was sitting alone in my room eating a burrito like a dumbass!”

“Come over here and munch on my burrito ,” Dew purrs with a crooked finger.

“You don’t even have a dick!” Swiss complains even as he’s striding quickly over to the entangled group of Ghouls.

Lilly groans quietly, “Please f*ck me so I don’t have to listen to more puns; he’s been doing that all day.”

Aether laughs, something tangible in how it rumbles through his chest and through her palms placed over his shoulders. “Swiss will shut him up, but I’ll make sure you don’t think about anything else but me.”

The Quintessence Ghouls pauses before his lips finally reach hers.

“C’mon,” Lilly whispers.

“Papa?” Aether pulls his head out of her personal space, though his hands and thighs hold her still under his large form.

Copia has been watching eagerly from a couple feet away. He shuffles on his knees toward them at the beckon. “Yeah?”

“Sit on the step,” Aether says. When the man is settled against the cushioned but firm terraced step, Aether flips Lilly onto her hands and knees without warning.

Her black hair gets stuck in her somewhat messy lip gloss and she tries to push it out of her mouth as she’s nudged forward into the open v of Copia’s thighs.

Aether, ever the gentleman, takes the topmost waves into his grip, using them to flex Lilly’s neck into an arch. One of her hands scrabbles for purchase on Copia. She manages to sink her nails into the meat of his thigh, earning Aether an echoed moan of masoch*stic pleasure.

“f*ck!” Copia hisses. Of course his sweatpants are too thin to withstand Lilly’s acrylic nails. She managed to also find the spot where Dew had sunk his fangs into him from the night before. The thought of Lilly being present in front of him, clothes shredded by Aether’s claws, and her nails dug into the bruise from Dew’s love bites makes him scramble to pull out his co*ck. Please let this be part of Aether’s positioning or else Copia’s dick is going to explode.

The Quintessence Ghoul throws Copia a salacious smirk, “Papa’s a quick learner, isn’t he, Lilly?” He relaxes his hold so she can stretch her neck for a moment, and he can tear off her jeans. A teasing finger traces the blossoming wet patch of her cotton panties.

“Should I just strip at the staircase next time; or are you going to buy me a new wardrobe each week?” Lilly snarks and readjusts her hand on Copia’s thigh.

Copia sighs at the relief and disappointment at the pain leaving him. Now that her hand is off he can slide his pants all the way down to his ankles.

Aether pushes two thick digits inside her. “I think you should walk around in nothing but your habit, like a good Sister,” He doesn’t need to wait long before he’s able to add a third finger; Lilly is slick and fluttering around him, mouth hanging open, hovering above Copia’s eagerly waiting co*ck.

“You should’ve seen her when His Excellency first introduced her,” Phantom is nuzzling against the side of Aether’s neck. “He put her in the habit with nothing else in front of everyone…Then after Mass she was wearing this gorgeous little blue number.”

Aether’s hand retracts. He reaches a hand down to Phantom’s c*nt, using the wetness collecting there to slick up his co*ck.

Lilly looks up at Copia with pleading brown eyes. “Please can I, Papa?” This is the one intimate thing she had practice with. It was able to charm Matt back in high school, and Adam during that fateful night.

The raven-haired man’s hands are immediately moving to guide her close enough that she can comfortably take him into her mouth. At the same time, Aether slides into her one thrust, jostling Lilly to take Copia all the way down to the hilt.

The antipope apologizes quickly as he stifles the loud moan that threatens to erupt from him. He helps her pull off for a breath-taking moment when Aether’s hips begin to steadily rock against her. He’s terrified that this move could end everything and bring back horrible memories of whatever Adam did to her, but she doesn’t squirm away or speak their safe word.

Lilly gulps in air, trying valiantly to breathe through the adjustment of the large Ghoul’s co*ck. One of her hands lifts from the floor to pull Copia back into her personal space and he hesitates for a moment.

“I trust you,” She croaks, and uses the momentum of Aether’s thrusts to swallow the leaking head of his co*ck. She thinks back to how the Ghouls would pay special attention to the thick vein under the head and carefully presses the edge of her teeth against it. She knows she’s doing something right when Copia head falls back against the marble floor with moan ripped from his throat.

Aether’s broad stature is mirrored in his girth. Mountain was the most blessed in both length and girth, but the way that Aether absolutely spreads her folds open wide causes her knees to tremble with the prickle of org*sm. The same feeling of cloudy fluff envelops her mind when Aether’s claws bite into her hips as when she was numbly walking out of that fateful dressing room stall.

Except now it’s a good clouding of her mind, closing off her racing mind to anything but Copia’s weight on her tongue and the way Aether is spearing her wide. Her knees are screaming in protest, though.

Copia hides his disappointment as she slides off his co*ck with lewd noise.

“Knees…hurt,” Lilly moans. She’s so close, however her knees are ready to crumble to dust. It’s close to taking away most of her pleasure.

Copia shoves away his own pleasure to focus on getting Aether’s attention. He’s focused entirely on the jostling expanse of Lilly’s back. “Aether,” Copia says. It gets drowned out in the noises from the entangled Ghouls behind them.

The Ghoul doesn’t really respond more than a grunt.

The antipope scoots out from Lilly’s reach, ignoring the longing-yet-grateful look in her brown eyes to kneel next to Aether.

He doesn’t notice Copia next to him. So, Copia does the next best thing he can think of. He grasps the soft roundness of Aether’s jaw and forces his head to the side where Copia can devour his mouth.

Lilly sighs in relief when Aether’s hands release her and she can move to rest her knees.

The Quintessence Ghoul breaks away when the wet warmth leaves his co*ck.

“Her knees hurt and you couldn’t hear me,” Copia explains, chest heaving from the wildness of experiencing his first kiss with the Ghoul.

Aether looks dumbly at Lilly, who’s now facing him and shedding her ripped clothes. “Oh. I’m sorry,” He palm glows an inky, royal purple as he massages one of her reddened and bruised knees.

“It’s okay,” Lilly smiles, “just needed to give my knees a break.” She opens her arms, and Copia can’t stand himself standing by anymore.

All of Aether’s possessive smack talk and watching her get railed in his lap has made him as desperate as Dewdrop is while in heat. He drags Lilly close to him.

Her brown eyes light up when he settles himself between her sweat-slick thighs, running an appreciative hand over what skin she can reach.

“You snooze you lose,” He teases Aether over his shoulder, even if it’s shaky from how Lilly clenches around him.

It seems all of the Ghouls have picked up Dew’s (cute most times) habit of whining, “You can’t just steal puss* away from someone!” Aether crosses his muscled arms.Cumulus and Phantom are already taking advantage of the Quintessence Ghoul’s available skin.

“Feel free to watch,” Lilly gasps between moans. If she wasn’t so occupied with trying to breathe through the pleasure, she might’ve thrown him a smirk.

Aether’s greedy amethyst eyes watch the two of them f*ck. He doesn’t get that much of a view because ofhow fast Lilly is gasping out Copia’s name like a prayer. Just as always, the overstimulation whites out her vision until she drifts away.

-

The Sibling meeting hall became the backdrop of Andie’s party; balloons of purple and green were clustered around the three long tables that were covered with tablecloths that looked like flowing water. On top of that were paper lily pads and pale pink lotus flowers, and origami frogs that all of them had made in different sizes and colors.

The morning of, Lilly had asked Terzo to keep their lover distracted by going out to eat At noon of Andie’s birthday, Terzo leads a blind-folded Andie to the hall and surprised them with the large three-tier cake covered with fondant shaped in a flowing waterfall. A frog figurine dressed with a tiara and tastefully done black lipstick sat atop it.

“Happy birthday!” Everyone jumps out and shouts from the kitchen.

Andie blinks away tears at the joy that fills the room. A pile of presents sits on the end of one table. A box that is nearly two feet tall sits innocently under the table, innocuous except for its oversized red bow.

Terzo wheezes happily as Andie hugs him with all their might.

“This is insane! How the Hell did you get a cake like this?” They take in the semi-professional icing job and fondant work.

“Lilly and Copia made it.”

Their head whips around to the couple, taken aback at the sudden head swivel in their direction. “You two made my cake?”

Both nod, a proud glint in Copia’s mismatched eyes. “We had to redo some of the frosting because I put on too thick, but I think it’s turned out okay.”

Lilly nudges him with an elbow, “You did a good job, give yourself credit.”

“It’s perfect, guys,’ Andie cries and pulls them into a bear hug. “I don’t think I’ve seen a cake that represents me more than this one. I wanna dig in!”

Lilly gently takes the cake cutter spatula out of Andie’s grasp. “We have actual food first.” She lifts the lid of one of the covered cloches set on the tables, revealing a spread of Taco Bell Crunchwraps and Tacos. Siblings and Ghouls lift the lids of the five other large platters to reveal much of the same food.

“No one is going to top this birthday,” Andie beams as everyone finds a seat to dig in.

Cake is cut and devoured after fast food, then comes the pile of presents. The way that the Abbey usually operated with birthdays is that each branch gets the person two presents each then the Papa who was the persons’ mentor is also obligated to get presents. It might seem strange to outsiders, but it works for those in the Abbey.

Andie and Lilly’s newfound place within the Ministry has stirred things up and caused many of the Siblings to ask to buy more for them to properly welcome the consort. Sister Imperator begrudgingly lifted the rule.

Andie starts off with the Sisters’ presents: a habit for when they feel more feminine, a personalized rosary with both Terzo and Copia’s symbols, and a pair of slippers shaped like frogs. The Brothers and Siblings chipped in together to get travel supplies for the upcoming tour for them as well as a Sibling habit outfit with Copia’s colors in case they were included in PR images.

Sister Imperator gifted Andie with a perfume set that Terzo had told her they liked and was way out of their retail store budget.

Primo, Secondo, and Copia presented Andie with a full array of signed limited-run vinyls, completing their life-long collection. Lilly and the Ghouls gifted them with a box full of cringey sex toys: Lilly’s vibrant and oversized Pride flag dild*, Dew’s choice of the Clone-A-Willy (where you can make a realistic silicone copy of an actual dick), chocolate flavored lube from Phantom and Aurora, a rainbow unicorn-horn themed dild* from the Air Ghoulettes, and a massive pack of Hello Kitty condoms from the rest of the snickering male Ghouls.

Only the large red bow topped box is left. Judging by how their lover is vibrating with excitement, the present must be from Terzo.

Andie grins as Mountain and Aether heft the box up onto the table. It covers most of their view of the group watching them eagerly. They flip some hanging box braids over their shoulder to get a better look at the shiny, heart-patterned paper.

To my Andie: May this bring you heavenly pleasure in case I am ever unavailable (or we can both use it lol) ~Terzo’

Lilly notices the scrunch between Andie’s brows when they read the small letter attached to the box. “What is it?”

Andie sneaks a look at Terzo who waggles his eyebrows. “It better not be a giant box of those gummy dicks.” They warn.

The raven-haired man shrugs, “Those are delicious, you’re missing out on a good treat.”

“Open it!” Dew encourages, nearly as excited as Terzo seems.

Andie rolls their hazel eyes and rips the paper open on their side, leaving those watching hanging on with the front paper staying intact.

“Oh my f*cking Lord…. ” Andie curses quietly. “You have got to be kidding me.”

Andie’s typical reaction to things they like is to scream. If their reaction was quiet, Lilly knows that it’s either something really bad or really good. “Andie?” She asks, trying to peer around the large box.

Terzo’s smirk is the widest any of them have ever seen, Chesire cat bright. “You love it?”

“More than anything. You got this from Purple Passion ? How much was this?” Andie responds, not unwrapping the box anymore.

“Yo! What is it?” Swiss calls, halfway through a third slice of cake.

Lilly has rarely seen Andie stuck like this.

“It’s a present for you, that doesn’t matter,” Terzo says matter-of-factly.

Lilly scoots to the other side of the table, feeling her eyes bulge at the sight of the present’s box. “Unholy f*ck, Terzo.”

“Do you even know what that is, Mormon Princess?” He teases.

She rolls her eyes, “I have watched p*rn before, asshole.”

“Stop stalling and tell us what it is!” Sister Imperator huffs good-naturedly. She did have things to do, even though it was someone’s birthday. Phil nods beside her, clipboard clutched in his hand and waiting to return to work.

Andie reaches around the box and tears off the paper.

THE COWGIRL* PREMIUM SEX MACHINE

The Ghoulettes let out an interested ooh.

All of the Sisters’ eyes light up with fascination and Copia’s face blooms a bright red. Everyone takes in the images of the saddle-shaped machine with its erect vibrating attachment. Even Sister Imperator looks on with thinly veiled fascination.

Lilly’s mind is consumed with the images of seeing any of the three Ghoulettes riding the machine, imagining how lovely each of them would be.

Terzo’s expensive gift comes with an accessory pack of swappable toys for the seat.

“Okay, thanks for all the great presents, everyone; respectfully, I will be retiring to Terzo’s rooms now,” Andie throws the wrapping paper into Aether’s open trash bag and tries to lift the machine off the tabletop. They barely get it to move, spurring some of the Ghouls and Terzo to move it out of the room. Andie follows them out of the room, giving side hugs to the siblings and remaining Ghouls, and a kiss to Lilly’s cheek.

Lilly rolls her eyes at their antics, knowing they probably won’t be seen again until they get hungry at 1am.

Copia sidles up behind her. “You know, I dressed up as a cowboy for Halloween once,” He’s trying to look sexy while licking off the icing from his fork, yet it only makes her laugh.

Chapter 30: Square Hammer

Chapter Text

Lilly’s prediction was correct. In fact, she was so sure of her prediction that she made sure to stand at the papal kitchen island with two plates of leftover dinner roast and birthday cake at 1am sharp.

Copia was groggily sitting on a stool across from her. His fork was nearly falling out of his lax hand as he sleepily brought another spoonful of blue-colored cake upwards. Lilly wouldn’t let them retire to their makeshift shared bed until she saw Andie and Terzo get food.

“They’re probably sleeping,” Copia mumbles, “They f*cked a lot, and then they went to sleep. Like we should be doing.”

“We’ve already f*cked,” Lilly says matter-of-factly. So much for easing herself back into the fray of sex. As soon as she and Copia were able to sneak back to his rooms, they were rutting against each other like they were in the back row of a movie theater. “And I know how Andie operates; they’ll be here.”

Copia rests his chin in his hand and closes his eyes. If Lilly is going to keep him here, then he’ll at least get some shut eye.

True to her word, Andie’s face pops around the corner of the open doorway. “sh*t, why the hell are you two still awake?” They hiss, hiding behind the wall.

Lilly holds up one of the plates, knowing that they can smell the reheated roasted chicken with the cloister’s late breeze.

Andie’s eyes flicker to Copia’s dozing form.

“He’s mostly asleep,” she says. Copia mumbles something and his head lolls to rest on his folded arms.

After another second of seeing that he doesn’t move, Andie quickly strides to the island. Lilly can see why they were so worried about Copia; they’re only dressed in a pair of Terzo’s boxers, arms crossed to cover their exposed chest. Once they take the two plates, it’ll be a dash back to the retired Papa’s room.

Lilly watches them go with a knowing grin.

Andie doesn’t have a limp.

-

Andie becomes such a regular presence within the Abbey that Lilly is almost 100% they either got fired from calling out so much or quit.

It’s nice having such a familiar face around when Lilly is still learning a lot of the different rotating bishops, archbishops, and cardinals that flow in and out of the Abbey from the other Ministries.

Adam and LDS Priest Jim DeFroque eventually give up their protesting outside of the Music Hall of Fame Museum, dispersing to their various lairs scattered throughout Hell’s Kitchen. Lilly isn’t sure if Adam knows she survived his attack or if he’s truly moved on, but she doesn’t get the chance to think about him when she’s being pounded into the cushions of the Ghoul Den every night.

Lilly has never been happier. Even when Adam had actually taken her out to a park and proposed with a nice ring.

It ends as soon as she remembers the upcoming tour. Andie’s birthday on November 20th only gave Lilly about a week of this blissful ignorance about the rest of the world.

Then all of a sudden, Lilly is standing on the driveway as the Ghouls move suitcases and garment bags onto a tour bus. Sister Imperator and Phil titter amongst themselves over a large clipboard beside her. It’s all white noise as Lilly numbly comes to terms that she most likely won’t see Copia, the Ghouls, Terzo, or Andie until mid-May, which is a solid six months away.

Her birthday is April 30th. The exhibition reception is the following day, May 1st.

Ghost is scheduled to play in Stockholm on April 29th.

She won’t be upset if they miss her birthday, but she will be if they don’t make it to the opening reception. Not only would it be bad for Ghost and the Abbey, but it would look as if the Ministry as a whole was unsatisfied with the one project her job was created to do.

She’s been willing to cross a lot of boundaries for Sister Imperator. Now she needs her to do the same by making sure all of them get back in time for the museum.

All of the suitcases get stowed away under the bus. Aether gives all eight of the performing Ghouls large hugs.

That’s right, Aether is staying behind with her. Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil don’t leave until March for the European leg of the tour. Phil will be her tour ringmaster while she stays at the Abbey.

Lilly shivers in the chill of the overcast December morning. Why did she think to wear her habit? It has a large slit and is made of breathable fabric! Maybe she wants Copia to remember her when he’s going to be bombarded with fans dressed exactly like her. She shoves down the jealous flush highlighting the tops of her ears.

Andie holds their large suitcases out to Aether to put them on the bus. Before they can make their way to Lilly, Copia appears beside her with moist, guilty eyes.

“Stop feeling bad. This is what you were born to do.”

Copia takes her hand and presses his lips to her knuckles. “I should be able to stand up for myself and told her we would tour later. The Ghouls and I desperately want to stay here with you.”

Lilly smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes, “Then your fans will be disappointed, and I won’t get any work done. I’ll be fine if you text or call me.”

“I’ll send you the link to my Doom account as soon as the bus takes off.” Copia promises sincerely. He hasn’t let her hand leave his lips. She can feel every word whispered into her skin. “I already miss you.”

“Sap. I’m still here,” She says. “You’ll have the Ghouls.”

“It’s not a complete pack without you.”

Lilly wills away the tremble of her bottom lip. “Get on the f*cking bus before I ruin my makeup.” She pushes him towards the stairs, ignoring his fond laughter.

The Ghouls see that Lilly is free for goodbye hugs and swoops her into a huddle.

“We’ll miss you lots, Applesauce.” Swiss coos against her forehead.

“I can’t keep everyone in check without you,” Cirrus sighs.

Dew’s claws knead at Lilly’s ass, “How will we survive without this great puss*?”

Lilly’s head drops to rest on Mountain’s chest, “…And the moment’s gone.”

Mountain kisses the crown of her veil, his hand smoothing out the pleats that were ruffled by their pile-on, “Have fun with Aether. I know what happened was complicated, but he’ll keep you safe.”

She leans her head back so the drummer can press a chaste kiss to her lips. “I know. Have fun listening to Andie and Terzo.”

Aurora licks her lip, “It will be quite the sound barrier battle I think. We have to make sure Papa gets his beauty sleep.”

“How is that working? Is there even room for everyone on here?” Lilly asks as the huddle disperses.

Mountain helps her up the tall steps of the tour bus and into the living room area. There’s two couches on either side of the roomy space, then a booth with a table, and a small kitchenette to the left. On the right is a room that appears to be the bathroom. Walking through the space then are eight bunks on both sides of the hallway, and finally a bedroom with a queen sized bed.

“Guys, this only fits you and Copia,” Lilly says slowly, looking at the bedroom.

Copia hops on the bus, grinning when he sees Lilly there, “Quick lock the doors so she can’t leave us,” He intertwines their hands.

She rolls her eyes, “I’m just wondering how all of you are going to sleep.”

“The couches fold out together to form a large bed; look,” He goes over to the kitchenette and grabs a remote strapped to the countertop. At the push of a button, the couch seats move across the space to meet in the middle, just as he’s said.

“Is it comfortable enough? You’ll be on tour for three months before you fly to Europe,” She inspects the cushions that do indeed look like a firm mattress. Even she couldn’t imagine bumming it out on a couch between rituals-ghoul pile or not.

Swiss spreads himself out on the connected couches, lewd grin pulling at his lips. “Wanna test her out?”

Lilly lets herself be pulled down, ready to fight off any wandering hands, but the Multi-Ghoul doesn’t do more than run an appreciative claw up her side. “It is comfortable,” She admits.

“We have some nights in hotels. It’s not fun to drive from Chicago to Seattle,” Copia sits down by her feet.

“Mom and Dad might go to that ritual. I know Mom has some culinary students that are big Ghesties.”

“What?” All of them say.

Lilly sits up, “I can tell them not to go if you’re uncomfortable-“

Copia waves that thought away, “No. What does that word mean? Ghestie?”

Andie appears from the back bedroom, bags of snacks bundled in their hands to put within the kitchenette cabinets. “Ghestie is a name for when fans of Ghost are friends with each other.”

“I thought fans were named Ghouls or Ghulehs?” Copia murmurs.

Andie stows a large pack of Oreos under the sink, “No, that’s also a thing. Ghesties are for more…obsessed fans? Probably closer to Believers. I can speak for most of the fans we are friends with that fans don’t care what you call them.”

He nods as if Andie has just given him a critical piece of information, “Of course. I’ll inform Phil for PR.”

“I’m so glad I won’t be here for Andie teaching all of you slang.” Lilly laughs. If she stays any longer within the bus, she won’t want to leave. She already doesn’t want to. “I should let you all leave. Get this thing on the road.”

All of them watch her stand. They rise from their various positions and huddle around her like she’s seen in pre-Ritual photos. She expected them to say something or do some sort of lewd chant, but there’s only barely audible sound coming from Copia’s lips as if he’s been muted.

A ripple of Nema echoes through the small breathing space. She follows, unaware that was a prayer.

They break, but Copia surges across the circle to hug her tightly. “Be safe. Have Aether call us through the bond, and we’ll be on the first jet back here.”

Lilly revels in the closeness; the smell of whatever cologne he wears filling her head, his hands come up to hold the back of her neck as he kisses her forehead. “I love you,” He whispers.

She knows he isn’t expecting anything back. He isn’t like that.

But it’s time for her to get over herself.

“Love you too.”

His body sags against her, “Lilly…”

“Go rock those stadiums, Copia. Aether and I’ll be here when you get back.” She promises. She is a bit excited to get Aether to herself for a bit and pick his brain about what it was like working for Copia as a cardinal.

Copia releases her to let her walk down the stairs and out into the mid-morning sun. When Lilly is back by Aether and Sister Imperator’s side, she gives a thumbs up to Phil and Brother Tobias sitting in the front two seats as the drivers.

The three of them wave as the black, nondescript RV starts and pulls away from the curb.

“Let’s hope the cargo plane doesn’t get into an accident.” Sister mutters under her breath.

Lilly can somewhat see all of them watching and waving from the tinted windows. At the back, she can make out Andie and Terzo.

The RV disappears down the street and into the wooded, winding road that will carry them to the freeway and eventually towards Chicago.

Sister Imperator seems to watch wistfully. “You know, it never gets easier.”

If she’s talking about the sting that’s building in Lilly’s throat, then f*ck. Even though Lilly had scolded herself while in the ghoul pile last night that under no circ*mstances would she cry about this, there’s a wetness in her eyes that threatens her attempts at eyeliner.

Aether stretches his arms wide to distract himself from becoming upset as well. “I think Primo wanted some help in the greenhouse.”

-

Lilly does indeed receive a friend request on the app Doom from both Terzo and Copia. She has yet to meet with them over the Skype-esque app, but every night she receives a phone call with everyone piled together to speak to her and Aether on speakerphone.

It’s difficult for her. She went from being isolated with only Adam and her Museum coworkers to the Abbey’s warm community, and now she’s back to holing herself up in her office because it distracts her from the fact that all of them aren't there. She doesn’t even have Andie.

Silas makes an appearance every couple days, but he’s quick to get dragged back to Secondo’s room. She really only sees him at meals.

The Siblings that were not taken on tour to help with equipment are busy with the tasks left by their brethren.

Aether falls into a routine with Primo; they rise with the sun for the garden, work until lunch, break, then work until sunset. If the actual plants do not need tending to, the two of them are in the greenhouse harvesting cannabis oil for the Abbey’s small batch edibles.

Lilly works most of the day in her archival office. Aether or one of the Siblings brings her something when she doesn’t appear in the meeting hall for meals. It’s become a bad habit according to the Quintessence Ghoul.

She doesn’t want to admit that she’s been slacking off while forming her relationship with Copia and she’s about a week behind. Sleeping has been just as difficult as keeping track of meals. The first night she and Aether had no idea where they would sleep.

Would they sleep together in the den? Or apart?

They tried apart. Aether was down in the ghoul den while Lilly laid silently in her bedroom. They lasted a week before both were rushing to meet in the cloister.

“The den is too big,” He breathes. He doesn’t need to justify; she feels the same way.

“Where do we go, then? We can’t both fit on my bed.”

His amethyst eyes flicker to the papal hallway on the other side of the cloister garden.

“Will he get weirded out we slept in his room without him?” Lilly asks quietly.

Aether shrugs, “Do you have a better idea?”

She stays silent then offers a hand.

His claws gently take hers and they pad quietly over the steppingstones embedded in the grass of the cloister garden. When they meet the navy-blue curtain of Copia’s bedroom, they stop. Aether has only been inside briefly to play and feed the rats twice a day.

Once inside the room, Lilly is overwhelmed by the nostalgia of spending nights here with Copia and the occasional pileup of Ghouls. It’s almost as worse as the oppressive loneliness of her bedroom.

Aether moves to the network of plastic and glass tunnels on the wall, “Hi babies,” He greets them with pats to their heads. By now all of the litter are fully grown and separated into their own tangle of channels.

Lilly pets Orzo, Pastina, and Macaroni for a few quiet moments. “They seem sad.”

“They miss their Papa, just like us.” Aether steps away. He looks at the single mattress on the floor with hands on his hips. “I can’t believe he still sleeps like this.”

A selfish idea pops into her head, “What if we buy him a new bed?”

“A new mattress or an actual bed?” Aether questions.

She looks around the space of the man’s bedroom, “A bedframe, bigger mattress, put in a door, move some of these couches and chairs so it feels more like a suite and not a storage area.”

He mulls over it, watching her take the tape measure from Copia’s junk nightstand drawer and begin to take general measurements of things. “What if he doesn’t like it?”

“We can put the mattress and stuff in my room and bring it back, but I think he might like it. He wakes up with a lot of aches.” She says, measuring parts of the rat tunnels. “We can move these to that long wall so the rats can have a bigger space and put the new bed sticking out from this wall across from the fireplace.”

Aether’s eyes light up as he visualizes the new space. “That would work perfectly! When they get back, Dew and I can get the fireplace working too.”

Lilly smiles widely for the first time in a week. “I’ll go get my laptop.”

Aether moves Lilly’s bedroom mattress to Copia’s room while she goes to her office. It’s late at this point, but the two of them curl up at the head of their combined beds around the device. They search hardware stores, mattress shops, and Amazon for sheets and tools. After a few hours, it’s now 4 o’clock in the morning and Lilly’s typing has resulted in every word misspelled for the past few minutes.

“Time for bed,” Aether says. He waits for her to shut down the device and set it aside.

Lilly is tired; however, she’s worried about the fitful rest that’s typically waiting for her when she closes her eyes. Maybe Aether will keep them at bay.

Both of them shift to lay flat, unsure how close they should be.

She stares up at the blank cream-colored ceiling. He watches Macaroni groom herself in one of the red bubble chambers.

A shiver has built up Lilly’s arms-whether that’s from the mid-December draftiness or being close to Aether while alone, she isn’t sure.

“I’m cold.”

Aether’s short bleach-blonde hair is mussed when he looks at her. “I’m comfortable if you want to get closer.”

She scoots to roll of her side, facing the open space between his arm and side.

“You do feel cold,” He mutters. His arm wraps around her tighter until she’s guided to lay her head on his shoulder.

Lilly tugs Copia’s weighted blanket up to her neck and Aether’s sternum. She notices a difference immediately and her eyes refuse to stay open any longer. “G’night.”

“Goodnight,” He whispers.

-

Lilly wakes up incredibly refreshed. Aether’s shoulder and chest were wonderful pillows, but she has an inkling that he might have slipped her a tiny thread of Quintessence to get her to sleep. She tackles the online meetings and spreadsheet plans for the exhibition with a clear mind. She’s so productive that she is in the Sibling kitchen just as some of the Brothers are plating today’s lunch.

“Sister! You’re joining us for lunch today?” Brother Ares hands her plate of steaming vegetables and fresh-cut roast.

Lilly was still getting used to having everyone address her with her title. “I finally was able to get a good night’s sleep. I’ve stayed up too late worrying about things.”

Ares’ dark blue eyes are also ringed with black bags similar to hers. “I feel that. Martha is going into labor any day now and I’m terrified of becoming a father.”

So, this is Sister Martha’s husband. Lilly is embarrassed she has barely spent any time with a lot of the Siblings because of her work for and now she’s nearly done with the pregnancy Lilly had rarely heard about. “How is she doing?”

“Really well. Aether says the baby is healthy and we’re on track for her due date next week.” He plates the last few dishes to be handed out and grabs two for himself and Martha. He leads Lilly through the three tables until he comes to stop at the middle of the last one where Sister Martha and a few other Siblings are leaning over an iPad.

Martha’s dark curly hair is free of her habit veil, and she’s dressed down in comfortable clothes. “We’re watching the Ritual from last night if you want to scooch in over here,” She puts her bag on the floor, so she clears the chair for Lilly.

They’re only a few minutes into the recording taken from a camcorder near stage left of the pit. It has a clear view of Dew, Aurora’s platform, Cirrus and Cumulus’ keyboards, and Copia. They must have just begun Kaisarion judging by the soft melody she can hear.

“I’m obsessed with Papa’s sequined outfits,” Sibling Tor gushes. “He sparkles just like his eyes!”

Lilly laughs, “There’s been many times I thought he would work well in an anime.”

“It would need to have his rats as his little companions,” Sister Martha giggles.

Lilly watches the concert recording while eating and chatting. She feels the warmth of other bodies moving, hugging, laughing, eating around her and it almost feels like she’s back in the middle of a Ghoul cuddle pile.

A sense of belonging.

That night, Lilly floats from her office to Copia’s bedroom. Aether is already showered and sitting on top of their dual-blanketed bed. The room smells of ozone and vanilla, heightened by the freshly changed sheets’ fragrance. There are only a few things better than the warmth that grows inside her when she cuddles up underneath Aether’s arm. His eyes are glued to a Kindle in his left hand.

“You know how to read on a Kindle but don’t know what a jigsaw puzzle is?” She scans the smutty Fabio-esque romance book on screen.

“It’s a romance novel. Anything with sex us Ghouls understand.” He clicks off the device and slides it off the mattress edge. “I can show you what I’ve learned in it…”

Lilly’s hand moves upwards from where it rests on Aether’s knee. A large hand cups her ass. It’s impossible to resist pushing back against his broad palm, pinpricks of claws kneading through her sleep pants. She retaliates by using the damp cotton of his boxers to squeeze the filling hardness under her hand. There’s not enough friction, however nice their fondling is.

From here she can easily slot their mouths together. She keeps forgetting the Ghouls’ have fangs. It pricks at her bottom lip and rips a guttural moan from Aether’s chest.

“Lay on your back,” He orders and rolls to Copia’s nightstand to rifle through the drawer.

Lilly shimmies her pants down, uncaring as her cell phone still sits in the discarded pants’ pocket.

Aether’s broad form covers her like Copia’s weighted blanket—a welcome weight that reminds her of being tucked in at night by her parents on the rickety RV they called home for Ed and Lorraine’s touring.

Aether’s scent of heady vanilla brushes away the smell of dust and Ed Warren’s cheap cologne. His mouth tastes like toothpaste (what kind did demons use? Colgate of Hell) and it’s strange yet nice. The Quintessence Ghoul doesn’t waste much time in slicking up two digits to push into her fluttering hole.

“So eager. Couldn’t wait to get me alone, huh?” He leers.

If she wasn’t focused on squeezing his fingers, she would have a comeback. She’s getting one later anyway.

He can see how desperate she becomes with each digit and quickly gives in to his urge to shove his co*ck in as soon as she’s taking three fingers.

Lilly releases a deep exhale of an emotion close to relief. She’s missed this connection with someone. Her left wrist tingles. The desperation dissipates into a continuous pulse of pleasure. If she was a Ghoulette, she’d probably be purring.

“Damn,” Aether’s moving his hips. He leans forward to plant a forearm next to her head so he can catch her mouth as she’s rocked with each thrust. Aether doesn’t speed up, much to Lilly’s relief. He stays at this languid pace that lets them breathe each other in.

“Gunter, glieben, glauten, globin~”

“sh*t,” Lilly groans, “That’s Copia.”

Aether doesn’t stop moving. He tugs Lilly’s pants over and pulls out her lit-up cellphone, “Answer it.”

She clenches around him, making him hiss. She sets it aside, “I’ll call him back later.”

“He’ll get worried. Answer the phone; or are you afraid that you can’t control your voice?” He says firmly.

“Stop moving!” Her hands slide down from where they were on his neck to his chest.

Aether dices down to mouth at her neck. “Answer him. Don’t let them know we’re doing this.”

Lilly knows she has one more ring before Copia will get sent to voicemail and she answers just before the worried man hangs up. “Hello?”

Lilly!” Great, they’re on speakerphone. That means Andie and Terzo are probably listening.

“Hey guys,” Aether’s sucking bruises into her collarbone, wet kisses at the border of being audible over the phone. His hips are slower but deeper.

“We’re finally on the road out of Chicago,” Cumulus says.

Lilly can feel Copia’s relieved smile, “Three shows in a week is a lot. I’m really proud of how the rituals turned out, though. Terzo’s encore was spectacular as usual.”

Lilly has to pull the phone away so she can disguise a moan when Aether’s mouth catches one of her nipples. “What…songs did he do?”

Tonight I thought He Is fit the mood; and everyone went crazy! I got a huge bra thrown at me. Andie says it was close to your size.” The retired man laughs.

Andie’s infectious laugh joins his, “I was hopeful for a bit that you were in the audience somehow. But it was too sexy of a bra to be something you would buy for yourself. I haven’t been able to get you to break that habit yet.”

Aether’s rumbling in agreement from his bent position on her chest. He doesn’t think she’s struggling enough to speak so he turns it up a notch by picking up the pace of his hips.

How are things going? It’s officially been a week without your favorite people.” Andie grins.

“Things,” f*ck, she can’t take a full breath before Aether’s f*cking into her again, “Things are going well. Um, I had lunch with Sis…” She bats at Aether’s hands as they come up to knead her chest.

“Sister Imperator? Did she work you too hard you forgot her name?” Copia’s voice becomes concerned.

“No! No, it was Sister Martha; She’s going to give birth soon and I-“ She yanks the phone away from her ear as Aether rips a gasp from her throat with a pace closer to slamming than thrusting. Surely they can hear something.

Lilly, if something is going on, you can tell any of us. This tour can be rescheduled.” Phil’s voice pipes up.

Oh no. “Guys, seriously, I was just coming in from walk around the A-Abbey and I’m a bit out of breath from how far I went.” She lies, trying not to meet Aether’s amused gaze. The pad of his claw lightly brushes against a peaked nipple.

sh*t, she forgot Andie was listening in. “You went on a walk,” They deadpan.

“Y-Yeah,” Damn, Aether really knows how to f*ck. She was created specifically to take all of the Ghouls’ co*cks, internal pleasure centers placed perfectly for them to abuse. “I walked by t-the, the house, the house with the p-plants, wherever Primo works, I think?”

Lilly’s eyes close against the onslaught of pleasure. She bites onto her hand to stifle the moans that want to fall out of her with every fast thrust.

…The Greenhouse?” Rain asks, confused as to why she’s having so much trouble remembering the simple name.

She’s going to org*sm on the phone with everyone listening. At least she’s done okay at being quiet.

Aether, get your greedy little claws off her.” Dewdrop says.

Damn.

You interrupted us. Call this late and get what you get,” The Quintessence Ghouls laughs into her throat.

We call you at the same time every night. You can f*ck at 10:30.” Cirrus says, exasperated but fond.

There’s a mixture of distorted voices and crackling static. “Lilly?” Dew answers, his voice more isolated. He might’ve stolen Copia’s phone for himself when he figured the two of them weren’t slowing down.

“Y-Yeah?” Her voice is higher than normal.

Tell me what Aeth’s doing to you.”

She blinks up at the Ghoul, face hot at the thought of saying the sinful acts out loud. “Are you sure?”

Dew’s voice is raspy from where he probably had finished a jeeb pull. “It’s so f*ckin’ hot to think of you two. Swiss and I have been jerking for half-an-hour but can’t get off.”

“Stop smoking so much and your dick will get hard again,” Aether calls.

Stop being so responsible,” Swiss fires back.

Aether plucks the phone from Lilly’s ear and puts it on speakerphone, setting it on the exposed space between her breasts. Now that their voices are louder, Lilly can make out the wet shlup-shlup-shlup pattern and heavy breathing.

“Are you two in one of the bunks?” Aether barely sounds affected by the sweat and effort of f*cking her into Copia’s mattress.

“Where the hell else could we go? We’re on a bus.” Dew growls.

Aether’s hands travels from her breast, past her phone, and down to rub at her cl*t. “Because I want Swiss to f*ck Dew.”

Lilly’s back arches sharply under the Quintessence Ghoul, her puss* strangling him with the force of her org*sm. “f*ck!”

sh*t, Aeth, was that?” Swiss’ voice is tinged with the rasp of heavy breathing.

As the zaps of pleasure continue to run rampant through her body, Lilly’s mind imagines the two far-away Ghouls: Swiss clinging to Dew’s sweaty back while he’s lifting the smaller Ghoul’s leg up so he can f*ck into his c*nt, facing the closed curtain, ready to put on a show for those they left in the living area.

“Yeah,” Aether answers, “got anything left?” His hand leaves her cl*t.

Lilly can finally breathe as he returns to a slow pace. She’s gone more than one round only a few times. The fire is still lit. “Make me go blind on the next one.”

-

The next week was Yule. Sister Imperator had said that since the tour was going on, the decorations for this holiday can be more minimal than Lilly had planned for.

Since the freezing temperatures made Primo’s arthritis flare up, Lilly and the twin demons followed his guidance and did the garland creating themselves. The three of them made a few centerpieces for the Siblings’ tables and the altar. Stout, red candles, pinecones, and juicy boughs of cranberries from a farm next door do a lot of the work to bring ambiance to the main sanctuary.

There’s only about thirty people left in the Abbey between the tour and some Siblings going to spend with their outside families. As such, Sister Imperator lets them hold Yule Mass around a large bonfire in the back clearing of the woods.

All of them are huddled around the roaring fireplace on blankets, lawn chairs, and inflatable mattresses just before dusk. The highlight of everyone (other than seeing Arioch and Abaddon dressed in matching black puffer outfits) is the tightly swaddled baby girl in Sister Martha’s arms.

Lilly specifically sidles up by her to get her first glimpse at rosy-cheeked Venus. “Gosh, she’s so cute,” Lilly gushes.

Martha looks exhausted, but is simultaneously the most thriving she’s ever seen her be. She bounces the infant much to the baby's delight. “The Dark Lord has truly blessed us with her. I only wish she would stop exploding in her diapers.”

Brother Ares nods, rubbing at his eyes with mittened hands, “Crying for the past two weeks hasn’t been great either, but she’s a baby, and I’m sure everything is incredibly scary for her pea brain.” He says fondly.

“I’m both envious and relieved that I’m not you.” Lilly caresses the infant’s wispy brown hair. It's almost hilarious how Lilly is surrounded by good and evil parallel situations. Martha is so much like Eve, it's as if they're related.

Venus’ mouth opens wide in the beginnings of a smile. She gurgles happily as Lilly tickles under her chin.

“I think she’s picked a future baby sitter.” The dark-haired woman laughs. "Lillith and Venus."

The circle of followers are called to order by Sister Imperator, “I am pleased that Yule this year has blessed us in many ways. We have a devoted and generous couple that were given a gift from our Dark Lord in the form of Venus, the happy infant. Let us rejoice with them!”

They all cheer as Ares holds Lucy’s bundled form up so everyone can see her gummy smile.

“Papa Emeritus IV continues to carry on our Ministry’s mission not only by being so loved he has done a third world tour, but has found a Prime Mover to carry the next generation of papacy.”

Another cheer goes up. Lilly tries not to look upset.

Aether’s amethyst eyes across the bonfire are creased in apology. At least she knows Copia will chew Sister out over the phone.

To get Sister’s continued ignorance out of her mind, Lilly thinks of Cirrus’ discussion on Heat Cycles. Aether should be going into a cycle around Yule, right?

Lilly’s brown eyes flicker to Abaddon and Arioch sitting on a log next to Papa Nihil and Sister Imperator.

That’s grotesque. Please spare her any detail of Papa Nihil’s possible pedophilic ways. Maybe she can ask them-the three of them have formed a friendship.

“Tonight we rejoice around this example of Lucifer’s Light of Wisdom to show our gratitude and hopes for what is still to come,” She holds her arms out and the fire explodes upwards to lick at the canopy of trees. It dies (thankfully) without catching the woods around then on fire.

Primo sits in a chair beside Lilly and hands her a hot dog and s’mores on a plate that were cooked while Sister was speaking.

“Satanic hot dogs?” She grins.

“Well, nothing cooks flesh better than the fires of Hell,” The older man winks, "Ketchup or mustard?"

Chapter 31: From the Pinnacle to the Pit

Notes:

TW! It's dubious consent between Adam and Lilly in a flashback but it doesn't describe any sexual encounters

Here's the link to the deviantart page where I posted the fake instragram post: https://www.deviantart.com/nihil-gaiman/art/Untitled-1036415987

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Aw, look at how cute they are!” Lilly smiles and turns the phone so Aether can see it from across her desk.

The two of them are sitting in her office in the Abbey’s archives, lounging by her computer while Lilly is waiting to hear back from one of the exhibition planners. Though, it already past 8pm and neither of then are very hopeful about a reply today anymore. On her phone is a picture of her parents posing with the tangle of Copia, Terzo, Andie, and the Ghouls backstage after the Seattle ritual. Her mother is dressed in a dress version of Copia’s ceremonial robes while her dad is dressed head-to-toe in Ghost memorabilia: beanie, T-shirt, bat-wing hoodie, pajama pants, socks, shoes, and a Cardinal Plushia in the crook of his arm.

“Your dad is adorable,” He zooms in on the group, no doubt missing his packmates as much as Lilly was. “I’m glad they were able to get those tickets.”

Lilly takes back her phone and scrolls through some of her mother’s other photos. “I bet they were headbanging pretty hard to Mummy Dust.”

“Do they have a favorite band member?” Aether goes back to his Kindle romance novel.

“My dad is definitely a Cirrus fan…I think Phantom and you are Mom’s favorite Ghouls, but she loves Copia the most.” She muses, scrolling on the homepage of her Instagram.

Aether relishes the happy quiet, soft melodies from some Siblings playing piano in one of the rooms down the hall.

“I bet they were all exhausted last night, I never got a call from anyone,” Lilly says. “Andie texted me saying that Copia was asleep as soon as they got to the hotel.”

“It’s been what, four rituals in two weeks? He’s usually dead tired after one.”

She nods. “I hope he’s getting enough sleep. I know I wouldn’t be getting any sleep if I was back in school. Moving back my graduation date actually feels refreshing rather than like a disappointment.”

“I made sure Mountain had some different things to help with that and gave Phantom some tricks; they’ll make sure he’s okay,” Aether clicks to flip the page on his Kindle.

“That’s good.”

He gets through a couple chapters then notices that the energy in the air has gradually changed into a nauseating depression. He looks up over his tablet to where Lilly’s face is obscured by her monitor. “Did the Ghouls flash someone in the audience? Swiss did that once.”

“No,” She mumbles, “Adam is officially a father.”

“You still follow him on there? Lilly, you need to block him-“

“I have. This is from some of our old college classmates I forgot I was following. At least they can’t say he was born on Christmas.” Lilly sighs.

Aether stands and goes around her desk to peer at her phone.

“Oh…” He sees a blonde woman looking happily onto her newborn infant’s sleeping face from her position in a hospital bed.

Lilly tries to wipe at her eyes with her sleeve, but it only draws his attention to her silent tears. “It’s so hard-because I’m legitimately so excited for Eve to be a mom. She’s going to love that child so damn much…but why did she have to do it with Adam? Why couldn’t she have come to me and tell me that she and him wanted to be together?”

Aether isn’t sure how to respond so he places a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“If she had Cayden now, then he’s been cheating on me since at least April. I didn’t even meet all of you until the end of August. I mean, how was I that blind to not notice anything for six months?” Anger and despair boil inside of her like never before. All of the emotions she’s shoved down to focus on building a relationship with Copia and the Ghouls that she never faced the reality of how deeply Adam carved himself into her being. “What did I do to deserve this?” She whispers into his chest.

“It’s not your fault.”

Lilly’s chest heaves as she tries to calm her stuttering tears, “If I hadn’t gone to that stupid party none of this would’ve happened but I was so starved for a relationship that I went!”

Aether pulls a chair forward so he can sit next to her. The Ghouls filled him in on what they all had gathered from Andie about the fateful night Lilly and Adam were introduced.

He doesn’t always realize that he’s using his Quintessence. It’s so intertwined with the air and atoms around him that when he touches Lilly’s left hand, over the Summoning brand, he’s sucked into Lilly’s spiraling memory.

>

Aether is suddenly standing in a college dorm room, the sky outside the room’s window looking out over a green quad surrounded by historic buildings and large sandy mountains. On one of the twin beds sits a much, much younger looking Lilly Warren. Her hair is a natural mousy brown and styled with a headband that makes her look much more naïve.

“So, I have a scoop on a pretty hot party, Lillypad.”

He sees her talking on an iPhone old enough to rival Copia’s, and he recognizes that the voice on the other line is Andie’s.

“I’m not sneaking out past curfew; it hasn’t even been a week into the new semester!” Lilly hisses lowly.

It has all the hot rugby guys there…You remember that blonde guy, Adam? It’s hosted by his elder in the frat in the red house by 7-11.”

The younger Lilly looks incredibly tempted, and Aether wishes he could do something to stop them from meeting. He’s glued to the low-pile carpet of BYU’s girl’s dorm. “No way Adam would go to a party.”

“And I’m telling you that he’s a bad boy! This is your chance to get noticed by him if you think he’s hot. He’s not going to be attracted to because you handed him a pencil in class.” Andie says. “Rhett and I will be passing by in a car behind your building in 15 minutes, and we’re not gonna come back if you change your mind.”

“Andie, I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“If you get caught, we’ll say this was a bible study group celebration or some sh*t. Adam’s also just posted on his Myspace that he’s freshly broken up with Angela…”

Lilly stands and rifles through her dresser drawers, “I’ll be there.”

Aether is flash transported to the sticky and humid basem*nt of an old house. He’s incorporeal still, the pressing bodies of frat athletes, scantily clad girls, and laser lights immediately overwhelming him. He remembers that one time on tour Copia and the ghouls went to an EDM rave and only lasted a few minutes.

Beside him is Andie dancing and shimmying with two muscled rugby players, their straightened hair jumping with each movement.

Lilly is practically dancing in Aether’s incorporeal arms, facing away from towards a blonde athlete with unnaturally blue eyes.

Angel.

Aether’s quintessence flares angrily in recognition of a heavenly spirit. This angel, a low-ranking, rogue mass of ‘righteousness’ is the asshole who’s been behind all of Lilly’s abuse? Adam was breaking several holy laws about interacting with humans.

Aether is forced to watch as Adam’s heavenly crafted human form pulls Lilly into a passionate kiss—gathering hoots and hollers from those dancing around them. Lilly’s face flushes the same bright red that Aether has caused and seen his pack create.

Then, the scene changes. Aether still feels the cloying humidity of being around too many sweaty bodies, but he’s been transported into a small, messy bedroom. The walls are concrete and covered with band posters of obscure ones he’s never encountered before. It’s dark, but Aether’s Quintessence and infernal power allows him to spot a twin-sized bed shoved in the corner of the room, with two bodies entangled on it.

“I’ve been watching you…from across the classroom, all this time,” He can hear Adam’s voice between heavy breathing and kissing. “Angela was such a mistake.”

Lilly’s hands are in his short golden-blond hair, but tries to pull away with a sour expression, “Angela’s nice, don’t bad-talk my lab partner or I’ll leave.”

“Sorry baby, just thinking about what I’ve been missing with you.” He sweet talks and half-slurs, capturing her lips again. In the dark, Aether can feel the electricity between them grow as Adam purposefully guides Lilly’s hand from his head down to the fly of his jeans. “One thing Angela never did…”

“It’s against the rules, Adam,” Lilly’s tugs from his grip, beginning to scoot backwards to get off the bed. “I didn’t come in here to soak with you.”

Adam huffs, “Then why the f*ck are you in here with me? Are you scared or something?”

Lilly’s face twists with anger. “I came in here to make out and maybe let you grope me, but you’re too drunk for this anyway.” She sits up on the edge of the bed, ready to stand up and leave as soon as she can find her phone in her pocket.

Adam’s blue eyes narrow with anger and he sits up to face the messy nightstand on his side. On top of it, sits a half-empty beer bottle he had been taking swigs from when they tumbled in here together. Next to it is a travel-size bottle of Everclear. He makes sure she isn’t looking and dumps the high-proof grain alcohol into the beer bottle, the dark glass covering the discrepancy of alcohol colors.

“Lilly, I’m sorry and I should stop drinking, here, have the rest of it. You can tell Justin out at the kitchen that I said you could have another if you wanted one.” He holds out the bottle, knowing she had never drunk anything more than a few sips, but this would be enough to loosen her up just enough.

She’s entranced by the pathetic look in his hypnotizing eyes and takes the disguised peace offering. Checking the label, she takes a swig, almost spitting it out after the burning liquid hits her throat. “I’ve never had a beer taste this horrible!”

Adam leans back against the ratty pillows, eyes roving over the way Lilly’s cleavage is still on full display. ”It’s a home brew-Justin’s dad makes it out in Salt Lake City.”

“I think it’s gone bad,” Lilly shakes her head and tries to hand it back to him.

“It gets better with each sip, I promise. Plus, it’s a low percentage, just try some more.”

She takes another painful drink, ignoring how it tastes like bad memories of Lorraine Warren forcing her to drink holy water. After another few sips, the burn eases a bit into the familiar taste of beer and hops. He was right then.

Adam grins in victory as he encourages Lilly to down the rest of the bottle, and she does. “C’mon over baby, we won’t do anything too risky. I just wanna see you.” He croons. He unbuttons part of his shirt, watching as her brown eyes follow the perfect, pale skin being exposed.

Lilly drops the empty beer bottle on the end of the bed and crawls back into his arms. She accidentally elbows him, but it just makes him laugh. The alcohol is already taking effect and he can taste it on her tongue.

All of the memory’s feedback is layered between Aether’s quintessence transporting him back to the actual moment with Adam’s intentions as well as Lilly’s memories.

It was too much to bear; especially when Adam manages to coerce a drunk Lilly into unzipping his fly.

Aether…” He hears his name fall from this ether-state Lilly’s lips in place of what’s was meant to be Adam’s name. “Aether…!”

>

The force of his Quintessence tugging him out of the ether propels him back into the wall of filing cabinets.

“sh*t…” He groans, slumping from the force of the impact.

Lilly wildly stares at him with swirling amethyst and brown eyes. She’s still curled up in the office chair, the world a gelatinous whirlpool around her.

Aether gulps down the ethereal bile that rises in his throat from the pulsing ache of his head. He looks up to see if Lilly was affected by the blast, but she’s still in the chair.

He tries to get up when he spies her frantically look around, lunging out of the chair to her knees on the floor, and retches purple bile into her office trashcan. He isn’t able to get to her until she’s dry-heaving. Aether carefully holds back her slowly-fading black hair as she lets out a few more heaves.

“What…the hell…” Lilly gasps.

“Quintessence poisoning; I’m sorry I forgot you weren’t half-Infernal like Papa.”

She flinches a bit when his hand moves from her hand to her back.

When he feels how much she’s trembling, Aether knows that he needs to get her to Rain’s bedroom immediately. He picks her shaking form up and hurries through the stacks to the Water Ghoul’s oasis. Inside, he lays Lilly on the soft, SpongeBob-themed duvet and rifles through the under-bed drawers to plug in Rain’s backup heated blanket.

Once it’s on, he drapes it over her, sighing when the trembling begins to subside. Quintessence Poisoning was dangerous because it could trap the mind in the Ether and froze the body until it consumed the living molecules to recycle back into the universe. It’s what made Quintessence Ghouls so terrifying in the Pits.

He tries to lay next to her but she cowers backwards into the corner. “Hey, hey, I’m not going to do that again, I’m sorry.”

Lilly’s head shakes side-to-side frantically. He’s never seen her look at him with such a terrified expression.

“I have to make sure you’re alright,” Aether pleads.

She doesn’t move from her curled up position. It’s quite the contrast of her sitting in between a pile of ocean-themed Squishmallows. Lilly looks like a scared little girl relying on her blanket and stuffed animals to protect her from a predator, not Aether.

“What if I call Papa? Or Andie? They can tell you I won’t hurt you.”

Lilly’s wide brown eyes watch as Aether pulls out his cell phone and dials Copia’s number. It rings--Straight to voicemail.

“Damnit, Papa,” Aether hisses. Copia doesn’t always pick up his phone. He may have even lost it in a bag somewhere. Aether dials Terzo--No answer again.

“Let me try one of the pack, okay?” He tries to reassure Lilly. He could rush upstairs and find Primo or Secondo to bring down, but he may not have enough time with how Lilly’s outright shivering now.

Aether realizes that he doesn’t have Andie’s number. So he dials Dew, Cumulus, Rain, Swiss, Cirrus, Phantom; all going straight to their various voicemails. Is he being ignored?!

“Lilly, you saw that they won’t pick up, but I swear that I need to make sure that you aren’t going to freeze,” Aether says cautiously. “Please can you just take my hand?”

She stares at his open palm and recedes further into the pile of plushies.

I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away~ Mountain’s ringtone erupts from Aether’s cellphone.

“Mount,” Aether could sob in relief.

We’re in a movie theater, Aeth. What’s goin’ on?” The Earth Ghouls hushes. He must’ve ducked out when the other Ghoul’s silent phones lit up.

“I accidentally Quintessence poisoned Lilly and scared her so bad she won’t let me check on her.”

“Aether! That could kill a human!” Mountain admonishes quietly. “Can you still see her?”

Aether puts looks over to where Lilly’s curled up with the blanket turned up to the highest setting but she’s still shaking. “Yes.”

“Where are you?”

“In Rain’s room, I got her in a heating blanket, but it’s not doing a lot.”

He hears Mountain exhale quickly and there’s loud rustling and hushed voices. Suddenly Copia’s voice comes from the small device, “Lilly?”

She looks at the phone in Aether’s hand but doesn’t speak or move.

“Aether, can she hear me?” Copia asks.

“Yeah,” he replies.

“Okay. Lilly, when I first met Omega, I had never met a Quintessence Ghoul before. I was a naive little Cardinal who thought that I could handle help him train his powers by being a guinea pig for him rifling through people’s memories. I was uh, very wrong.”

Hearing the antipope’s voice slowly uncurls Lilly’s form so that Aether can see how a dark purple has begun to spread from her fingertips.

Omega didn’t mean to, but he got stuck in my memories in this thing called the Ether, funnily enough is what Aether is named after. To get out, Omega had to overload my own reserve of Quintessence to float himself out. I was so sick, even Nihil visited my bedside as I recovered. Omega didn’t know how to help me get better, but Aether does. I know he didn’t mean to do that to you, but you need to trust me that he can get you out of it.” Copia explains, calmer than either of them has heard him in an emergency.

“I’m so-so cold…” Lilly says quietly.

“Aether knows how to warm you up, Lilly, If he doesn’t you’re only going to feel more chilled. You don’t want to be as cold a person as Sister Imperator, right?” Copia giggles a bit at his own joke.

It loosens Lilly’s posture enough for her to reach out a hand to take Aether’s.

“I miss you,” She says.

“We all miss you too. Andie’s been explaining Star Wars to all of us, so we can watch them together when we come back. Can you let Aether help you? It would be terribly boring to have to keep you in a freezer.”

The joke brings a small smile to her lips. Lilly’s brown eyes flicker upwards from the darkened cellphone to meet Aether’s pleading gaze. “Okay,” she says. Her fingertips brush against Aether’s palm and instantly she feels a surge of warmth shoot up her arm.

Copia sounds worried, “You got her?”

“Yeah, thanks Papa.” He goes to hang up, but Lilly makes a wounded sound. “Could you keep talking?”

“Of course, il mio Etere. I hate to say this, but Terzo picked a horrible movie to watch tonight. I mean, we’re in Seattle and it’s spooky here, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch a horror movie. I mean, they just killed off this poor reanimated cat! Why would I want to see the fourth movie in a series about violence against animals?”

Aether cracks a grin as he works to slowly piece together Lilly’s inner reserve of life Quintessence, “They took you to see Pet Semetary?”

“That’s what Mountain said before we went in for tickets…but I got a little co*cky and said I could handle it. I’m actually glad you guys pulled me out, heh.”

Mountain pipes up from the phone as well, “I’m not high enough to enjoy gore like that, either. By the way, Primo texted me saying that the crop is doing well right now. I expect some joints when we get back.”

The Quintessence Ghoul catches Lilly as she passes out from exhaustion of Quintessence Poisoning and getting reinfused with the life source. Being human and getting an infusion takes a massive toll on the body and Aether determined that she had calmed enough to put her to sleep without causing more stress. “She’s down, she was a few minutes away from getting absorbed forever.”

I’m both mad and proud of you, Aether. What caused you to go into her memories?” Copia says.

“Her ex-boyfriend had his baby, and she found the post online.”

“sh*t, I’ll need to tell Andie about that. They said that there wasn’t anyway for him to contact her again.”

Aether repositions Lilly to lay more comfortably on Rain’s bed. “It wasn’t from him. She forgot she was following one of his buddies that posted about it. I saw her memories of when she met Adam…he’s an angel.”

We would’ve felt something on her f she was in that close proximity to a heavenly being for six years.”

Aether can see the way Mountain would shake his head at that, “She had Crowley there, remember? They lived in separate rooms and Lilly was always working while Adam went on conference trips. He could also be a demi-angel or not even know what he is.”

“It seemed obvious he knew what he was doing. Besides, halflings of both heaven and hell only have one glowing eye, like Papa, while Adam had both.” Aether shifts to sit up against the headboard and look out at Rain’s tropical aquarium on the wall across from the bed. “If he’s willing broken the fraternization rules and then tried to kill her, then there’s really no stopping him without getting a Principality or higher involved.”

“I’ll try my best to contact Crowley, but you may need to ask Lilly to contact him for you. Everything is really busy in Hell with our tour gaining new followers. We’ll talk about this more when we come back, Aether.”

“Of course, Papa.”

“I still love you, Etere, give Lilly my love as well.” Copia says,

“Love you too, Papa, and Mountain.” The phone call ends.

-

Things are shaky for two months after the incident.

Aether locks himself in the empty Ghoul den and rides out his rut alone, tears and cum flowing freely. It hurts. He’s on the phone with the pack as much as he can, though there isn’t much they can do to ease the energized powers in his veins. By the time he emerges, he’s exhausted and he’s ruined several blankets that carried his pack’s smells.

Lilly doesn’t act that much differently, but the physicality both had enjoyed in just regular touches is far from what it was before. She doesn’t hold his hand, lean her head on his shoulder at lunch, or octopus-wrap herself to his side at night.

He should apologize more, probably. But he doesn’t want to retraumatize her by bringing it up again.

Lilly, Aether, and the twins Abaddon and Arioch stand on the paved driveway to help Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil pack Lilly’s car to drive the ancient couple to the airport. The two of them would link with Ghost in London to accompany them for the rest of the touring cycle that takes place in Europe.

Aether shoves Papa Nihil’s suitcase and oxygen tanks into the trunk, shutting it with a final thud. He’ll be surprised if the man can even move his own luggage. “That’s everything.”

Lilly opens the back driver’s door for Sister Imperator to climb in.

“Thank you for taking us, Sister,” She replies

“I’m glad I could help; parking is so expensive these days.” Lilly says, eyeing the black waterproof mats she and Aether installed before the old man and woman got in. Hopefully they don’t realize it’s because of the horror stories from Copia cleaning sh*t from Nihil’s seat in his car.

Aether gets into the passenger seat after helping Nihil in. With everyone settled, they take off.

“So, Sister, Phil said his plane already grounded, so you can pick him up after we get out.” Imperator notes, her sleek cellphone a contrast to the old man beside her.

“Special is good Ghoul, wish I had one like that all those years ago.” Nihil rasps, blind eyes looking out the window.

Lilly watches the man through the rearview mirror, “What happened to your Ghouls, Papa?”

Nihil waves a wrinkled hand, dismissive, “I gave them to Dante to use and after that, I’m not sure. I’m sure he did something to make them all leave so we had to Summon new ones for Secondo.”

“Why do you refer to Primo by his name and not Secondo?” Lilly asks.

“Dante was the only planned kid, the others were accidents,” He says. “Hard to keep track of all the kids when you’re focused on your career.”

Sister Imperator looks guilty for a flash moment, “Or maybe it’s because you’re just generally dull.”

Nihil looks affronted, “I was smart as a whip! I taught you ceramics, I helped you decorate for holidays, and keep up the housework in our house! And besides, look at my lyrics, I was a poet; Mary On A Cross, that was pure artistry.”

She rolls her eyes, “Yes, yes; a wonderful metaphor about that blowj*b I gave you.”

Lilly is very glad for such a technologically smart car, because she would’ve drifted into another lane with how shocked she was, “That’s what that song is about?”

“Sister’s mouth is both cruel and divine,” The man grins lecherously.

Aether shivers in disgust.

Thankfully traffic is light and Lilly and Aether are waving goodbye to the couple from the other side of the TSA gates.

“Thank f*ck, they’re gone,” Lilly breathes.

“I can’t believe he went on a car ride without sharting his brains out. You could’ve driven Copia’s car to not sacrifice your new one.” Aether crosses his arms.

Lilly gives him a smile, the first genuine one in nearly two months. He could cry with happiness. “Sister would get madder at him for doing it in my car.”

“Smart girl,” Aether pulls out his phone to see Phil’s contact ringing him. “Let’s go get our Special Ghoul.”

-

The dust settles.

Phil, Aether, and Lilly get into a routine in taking care of the Abbey.

Copia’s new bedroom set arrives! A king size bedframe is eagerly assembled by Secondo, Phil, and some Brothers. The mattress takes 24 hours to inflate out of the box, so Aether and Lilly spend a fitful night in the empty-feeling Ghoul den. Rigatoni squeaks in protest as he and his family are separated into small cages while Sibling Erza, Aether, and Secondo install a new (and somehow more colorful) larger series of wall tunnels along the long wall where Copia’s sad little bed was. They take a week to finish it and swear everyone to secrecy until the Ghost project returns.

At night, in the new and extremely soft bed, Lilly and Aether don’t always become physical. They were able to f*ck their feelings out the few nights after coming back from the airport, and now both of them have a rhythm (Lilly absolutely denies it’s scheduled sex, but Aether is delighted in any time she touches him, intimate or not).

The exhibition technician calls one day for Lilly to begin the process of installing the displays in the Museum’s gallery. With three months left, it’s a tight schedule, and there’s little room for her to take days off in case Adam decides to pop up again. So, Aether tags along to work.

Dr. Myers envelopes Lilly into a tight hug when they reunite. Even though they are boss and employee, the older woman has always been more of a colleague and friend than manager. Hearing that Lilly was okay after ‘an incident’ with Adam brought her relief.

“Who is this strapping young man?” Dr. Myers eyes as Aether shuts the car door behind him.

“Oh! U-Um, this is…” Lilly’s mind blanks. She can’t say his name is f*cking Aether, “-Arthur. He’s my new boyfriend.”

“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” Aether takes it in stride, sending Lilly a confused look behind her boss’ back. All Lilly can do is shrug helplessly.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Arthur. I’m Dr. Myers. Let me tell you though; if you are anything like Adam Pollack, I will use every cent of my million dollar paycheck to hunt you down, got it?” Dr. Myer’s kind blue eyes are hard, and her manicured fingers grip the disguised demon’s hand with the strength of a powerlifter.

“I would never, ma’am.”

The woman’s bob haircut sways as she nods her approval. “Tell me, have you ever used table saw?”

Vitrines are built. Deep purple damask wallpaper is installed. Mannequins arrive with the Papas’ measurements, fitted perfectly with freshly ironed papal robes and adorned with sparkling miters. Vinyl signs are delivered and hung on the wall.

Lilly feels like it’s an eternal ‘bring-your-puppy-to-work’ with how Aether is always so helpful and watching her with those pretty eyes. She deals with delegating where things go and framing pictures of this beautiful family she’s found. She relishes the joy she gets as pictures of Rituals throughout the past fifty years are chronologically hung throughout the large, two-room gallery hall.

She gives Copia and the Ghouls small sneak peeks of different parts of the exhibit. They’re always exhausted when they call her and Aether at night, but they swear it’s a good tired. The European Memento Vivere tour is almost as successful as the American leg. Cumulus shows off her incredibly intricate crochet projects, and Mountain shows off the small tulips bulbs they picked up in Amsterdam…as well as the bag of weed.

Copia’s has to start wearing a brace on his right hand between shows to keep aches away.

“I’m glad other people can jack me off since I can’t,” The antipope grins cheekily on one of their facetime calls.

Rain and Dew are pressing into view, forcing Copia to try to push them back. “Lilly, can you please tell Rain to stop making fun of how short I am?” Dew whines.

“Papa called him, ‘Little Man’ last night and I may have been using the term some! I’m only using what Papa said,” Rain fires back.

“Stop fighting you two. Dew, you are short. Rain, make those comments towards Terzo and not Dew.” Lilly puts a stop to it with a fond expression. It’s good to know that a grueling tour isn’t stopping the Ghouls from being themselves.

“Lilly! Did you get the cat video I sent you?” Phantom pops up at the bottom of the screen.

“Yes I did, Phantom. I love Scottish Folds too,” She sees the sparkle in his eyes from being so close to the screen.

Lilly places her head on Aether’s peck and moves the camera so the pack can see the Ghoul’s sleeping face.

Aw, I forgot how cute he was while sleeping,” Copia coos.

Dew snorts, “He looks like a Victorian maiden dying of consumption.”

Lilly can’t contain her laughter and Aether rouses, amethyst eyes blinking at the bright screen overtop of his face.

“Firefly?” He mumbles.

Lilly lets him rub at his eyes then take the phone to see his pack, “I miss you guys so much.”

We’ll be home soon, then we can all have a massive pile-on in the den,” Cirrus says from over Copia’s shoulder.

“Two more weeks; We love you, guys,” Lilly replies, a uneasy feeling overcoming her even as she sees the genuine look on all of their faces.

Only two more weeks. We love you too,” Copia affirms. The Ghouls echo their own farewells.

-

The final push of installation, wondering if Copia and everyone will make it back in time for the opening, and the buzz of the Abbey for the opening has Lilly being pulled in thousands of different directions. Aether does his best to take some tasks off her plate, but an early spring snow has taken up most of his time helping Primo cover and check plants that died.

Because of the frenzy, the Abbey forgets about Lilly’s birthday.

She does too. It was never really celebrated while she was with Adam, so with Andie gone, she focuses on her work and late days screwing in panels and ironing papal robes.

April 30th is Walpurgisnacht. This springtime feast was doubly important with the exhibition opening in a couple days, and not having the main cast of Clergy to celebrate with. Those left in the Abbey only take up one long table in the Sibling meeting hall.

They lay it with smoked fish that some Sisters caught down by the Abbey’s lake, fruits, vegetables that were rescued in the surprise snowstorm, and small tarts. Primo presides over them as leading Papa; holding a moment of silence for those that perished as a part of Witch hunts, lowly whispering a prayer for those souls to find their eternal peace.

Lilly watches as a now six-month-old Venus tries her first taste of the flaky meat, whining for another piece as soon as she nibbled it away.

Martha laughs and gives her child another small piece, “She was so content to watch as the girls and I fished! Maybe Rain can help teach her how to swim in the lake.”

“I need some lessons as well. Hopefully he can teach both toddlers and adults,” Lilly takes a bite of the sweetened apricot tart.

“Lessons? Lilly, you should have come with us yesterday to swim! We could’ve taught you easily.”

Lilly’s smile turns a bit strained, “I try to stay away from water, but I think I need to get over my fear. The lake is always so beautiful that I’d hate to miss out on a hot summer afternoon.”

Martha pulls a strand of her dark curls out of Venus’ slobbery grip. “We’ll get you all comfy with the lake—then we can go to beach during the summer, and make sandcastles, have picnics…spy on the hot Ghouls in swimsuits…” She says lowly.

The dark-haired Curator winks, “You have to see Copia’s ass in tight-ass boxers, a swimsuit would be divine on him.”

Both of them laugh together, joined by the peals of belly laughter from Venus the infant. Lilly goes to take another bite when her phone pings!

“Is that something about the Museum?” Martha unclips the front of her habit so her child can nurse as Lilly checks her phone.

She nods, “Yeah, actually. I need to go confirm something with Sister Imperator. Make sure Venus doesn’t eat all my fish.” She teases.

Lilly goes out to cloister, dialing the elder Sister’s phone number as she heads out into the greenhouse for privacy. Primo and Aether were back in the meeting hall, so she isn’t that concerned about being overheard.

“Sister Imperator,” The woman picks up after two rings, punctual as ever.

“Hi, Sister, it’s Lilly,”

“Unholy Hexennacht to you, Lilly, how is the celebration?” Imperator sounds like she’s somewhere with a big room, with lots of voices speaking.

“It’s been really nice,” Lilly tries not to seem pushy but she does have a deadline, “Sister, I know this isn’t my place to push for this, but I have to finalize the wall text that describes the Emeritus lineage. As of right now I don’t have Copia listed as part of the bloodline…but I think this would be a good time to talk to him about this.”

There’s a tense pause. She can imagine the sour twist to her Imperator’s always perfectly lined lips, as the woman moves somewhere quitter to speak on the phone, “I…I don’t know that I can. It’s very complicated. Not even Papa Nihil knows about it.”

“Is there a specific reason you don’t want him to know?”

“No, not other than the fact that it’s been so long. When I left him at the Swedish Ministry, I wanted to come back after a year of slowly breaking it to Nihil…but things became complicated and the us here at the American branch nearly went broke. Nihil moved to Italy for a few years, Primo was forced to go on tour, so I went with Primo to take care of Secondo and Terzo. And before I knew it, Sister Anna was contacting me about Cardinal Copia. He deserves to know…but I’m ashamed of myself.”

Lilly feels heartbroken. She didn’t expect the woman to open up like this after being so careful any other time it came up, “Maybe since all of us will be there and it’s a big event, he’ll take in stride better? He seems to have confidence on stage that he normally doesn’t have. I’ll be with you when he first sees it. Aether and Phil will be there too.”

A slight sniffle is all Lilly has to tell that Sister Imperator was emotional, “Do it. You’re right. He deserves to know. Thank you for listening to how horrible I was as a mother.”

“You had reasons for what you did, but all that matters now is that you tell him the true story as soon as possible.”

“I can’t believe I doubted you at first, Lilly Warren,” Sister Imperator says. “It’s like you’ve given me my son back and a daughter. We’ll see in another day at the Museum.”

Lilly walks out of the glass house with a watery smile, not that upset everyone forgot about her birthday when she’s made so much progress with this new family of hers.

Lilly and Aether head to the Museum the next day to install the final panel. She’d kept it covered because of the delicate print job but when she unveils it to hang, Aether’s glamoured eyes bulge.

“All this time? All this time that both of us have listened to him and you knew about this?” He’s angry, frustrated, relieved, overjoyed, nervous--all about how the years he spent with Copia, the man was constantly upset about how he was a fraudulent Papa.

The two of them are far enough away from Dr. Myers and some of Lilly’s interns that she’s not upset about how loud he was. “Terzo also knows. I called her yesterday and she decided it was the best time to tell him,” She takes the offered drill from him, “I know this is a lot, but I need you to be there with me when he sees it tomorrow night.”

Aether sighs, “Lilly, this is big. I don’t know if this is a good idea. He’s going to be really upset.”

Lilly finishes the last screw and stares at the colorful timeline with all of the Papas and their tour dates. Copia’s eyes stare back at her and she feels the weight of immense guilt fall on her shoulders. But she thinks of how Adam led her on for all that time while he was apparently cheating with Eve, and she knows that if he had been honest with her earlier, it wouldn’t have hurt nearly as much in the long run. “She needs to tell him. It will hurt a lot now, but it gives them time to rebuilt a bond. I don’t know if she would ever tell him if I didn’t reason with her.”

The disguised Quintessence Ghoul helps her down the tall ladder, “Okay…but don’t get upset when he stress-chugs all the Museum’s champagne.”

-

It hadn’t been a good morning. Visions of Copia reacting to the news of his parentage ripped through any semblance of peaceful dreams Lilly could have. One time he walked away from everyone, including the Ghouls; he walked away and had forsaken Lucifer on his way out of their lives.

Another time, he broke down in front of everyone, relieved and overjoyed.

Another time, his tears were of blistering anger aimed towards Sister Imperator and Papa Nihil, cursing them to Hell, where they were swallowed by the familiar black ooze.

These what-ifs made her toss and turn in Copia’s new bed, wondering if one of these was the true reality she would face in the next 24 hours. She could handle it if he got angry with her, but she wouldn’t handle if this caused him to hurt the Ghouls and Sister Imperator.

Aether went off to fetch some of the celebratory pancakes being made in the Papal kitchen by Secondo and Primo for the Abbey community. Siblings dressed in their best habits and paint walked past Lilly’s bedroom window as she sat down to do her own makeup. She decided against wearing her own habit, but the black and white dress she planned to wear looked similar enough that Phil thought it was a good compromise.

Then Aether comes back empty-handed, without even a drop of coffee. “It was mad in there, Lilly. I barely got out of there without one of the Siblings grappling for mugs. Sorry they ran out.”

“Of both coffee and pancakes?”

He nods, amethyst eyes creased in apology. “Primo said they forgot to plan for the Siblings coming back from the tour today.”

Lilly brightens at the thought, “Does that mean all of them are back?”

Aether’s mouth opens then closed, a distressed look taking over his handsome face. “I…I don’t know how to say this but-“

How come every time Lilly tries to have a meaningful conversation, it gets interrupted by something? Her phone nearly vibrates off the vanity with an incoming call. She grins when she sees Andie’s contact--

Lillypad, I’m so sorry but our flight got canceled because of a large storm! We’re stranded in Heathrow,” Andie immediately rambles on speakerphone.

“Are you f*cking kidding me? The gala starts in twelve hours! You’re going to miss it!” She knows none of this is Andie’s, Copia’s, or even Sister Imperator’s fault, but the sudden rush of anger at the one thing all of the last two years of her life has led up to is now crumbling beneath her feet.

“Sister, Copia, and Terzo are at the counter trying to book us a new flight but there’s thirteen of us so…”

“My parents aren’t coming, a majority of the people I love and who are literally receiving the award aren’t coming,” Her freshly glossed lower lip trembles, “Andie…this is the biggest night of my life…I need you and everyone there.”

Andie sounds like they’re also on the verge of tears. “I’m so sorry, Lilly-“ Static cuts through their Wi-Fi-reliant phone call and Lilly’s depressed mood plunges as the line fails.

“sh*t, sh*t, sh*t!” She cries out.

Aether rushes to her side to console her, but it’s feels like there’s nothing left to keep her grounded.

“Aether, I can’t do this-I gave up everything for tonight and no one is going to be there for me,” She blubbers into her hands and doesn’t care about how she’s ruining all of the makeup she had just done. “f*ck, that sounds horrible, I didn’t mean it against you and Phil and…”

He rubs her back, pressing a kiss to her forehead, “I completely understand. This is a big night, but Papa and Andie, and the pack would want you to go and have a good time with your colleagues and Dr. Myers, watch Secondo and Silas try not to make-out in public…”

That does make her feel better. She’s also doing this for the Museum. Her intern partners, Dr. Myers, and the people of New York deserve to see what she’s been creating. The world deserves to see Ghost get their recognition, even if only a third of the band is present.

“I love you,” She whispers into Aether’s chest.

“Love you too,” He replies.

Notes:

*90s announcer voice*
will Copia and the Gang make it in time?

how will Copia react to learning about his heritage?

and why is there a mystery guest list?

find out next weekend on STAND. BY. HIM.

Chapter 32: Zenith

Notes:

I promise we're near the end! I'm planning for three chapters, but we'll see how it pans out!

TW**********
Roofies and kidnapping!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(I can say that there isn't any sexual assault going to happen now or after this, the tag only refers to the Warren situation and Adam's meeting with Lilly)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It takes a bit for her to redo her makeup, but there’s still plenty of time before the gala so she’s able to reconstruct the makeup look Andie was going to do for her all over again. She steps into the leftover chaos of the papal kitchen two hours later, in her formal dress but no shoes.

“Put on your heels, we need to go,” The Quintessence Ghoul says from where he’s washing dishes with Phil.

If they leave now, they’ll get there four hours before the opening—which is a bit ridiculous even by Lilly’s typical early habit. “You’re all going to get bored if we leave this early. Dr. Myers won’t even be there until like 5:00.”

“I just want to make sure you have enough time to take a last look through of the exhibition.”

“Did you notice something wrong yesterday?” She questions, becoming lost in thought at the possibility of something being amiss that she hadn’t noticed.

He shakes his head, short blonde hair perfectly slicked back, “No, but you never know. I think we should go in a few minutes, just in case.” He scrubs at the last dish and hands it off into Phil’s towel-ready hands.

“I really don’t think-“ She puts in the diamond earrings she received from Sister Imperator for Christmas (or rather Yule) this year.

Aether gently takes her by the shoulders and turns her around to leave the kitchen, “Trust me. Go put on your shoes. Oh! And grab a pair of comfy shoes, you know your feet will hurt.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll be right back, Mr. Pushy,” She playfully complains and heads back to her room.

Her phone doesn’t show any new iMessages from any of them stuck in London, and she resists a deep sigh. She’ll have the chance to show Copia and them the exhibition in a more intimate setting at least. They won’t have to wait as she’s bounced around the gala like a tennis ball to all of the donors, assuaging them that the museum hasn’t fallen victim to a demonic possession by a bunch of perverted rock musicians.

Aether doesn’t tell Lilly they’re going in a rented car until Lilly is nearly all the way into her car.

“What do you mean? I can drive the four of us just fine in my car,” She gets back out where Secondo, Primo, and Aether are gathered outside the garage. “There’s no need to be more flashy tonight with all the money that will be thrown around at the party.”

“You forgot to factor in Phil riding with us,” Primo says gently, hand on her shoulder as she walks over.

She guiltily looks at the suit-clad Special Ghoul, “f*ck, I’m so sorry Phil. I thought you had already left with the Siblings.”

“They play too much Repugnant for me,” He waves her off and opens the door to the sleek, awaiting limo. When she gets inside, she sees the label on the seat cover and nearly faints.

“You rented a Maserati limo?” She hisses at Secondo.

The papal-painted man smirks, “Why would we ride in anything but the finest Italian car available? Now take a glass of champagne and let us celebrate tonight!”

Lilly takes the offered flute with roll of her eyes, “You’re all going to be so sick of champagne after tonight. Cindy from Catering said there was nearly thirty cases of twelve bottles each.” As she sips, she notices how tinted the windows are. It’s nice because then the sparkling accents and the luxurious leather stand out, as if they were stargazing.

Aether leans back and wraps an arm around her shoulders. He’s warm in the chill of the night, so she gratefully (but careful not to mess up her hair) leans into his touch.

“Well, isn’t that sweet,” Primo grins. He pulls out his phone and snaps a flash picture from his seat adjacent to them, “That’s going in the scrapbook.”

She sits up a bit, excited, “You have a scrapbook?”

“Way to go, stronzo!” Secondo hisses.

Primo shrugs nervously, “What scrapbook-there’s nothing like that…”

Secondo huffs and pinches the bridge of his nose, “Tonight, after the party, we were going to give you a scrapbook of your time here so far and this stronzissmo just ruined the surprise.”

“She wouldn’t have known it was a present if you didn’t say anything about the slip-up,” Phil says.

Primo fist-bumps him, “You’ve always been my favorite Ghoul.”

Lilly sips on her drink and relishes the feeling of belonging as the two brothers bicker quietly. Without realizing, she’s closed her eyes while leaning on Aether’s shoulder.

-

She doesn’t know how much time has passed since she blinked (ahem, dozed off) and the limo had stopped moving. “Oops, sorry. Guess I haven’t been sleeping that well,” She hurriedly peels herself off of Aether’s side.

The two retired Papas and Phil are gone. Aether moves to get out of the car before her, holding open the door. When she sees greenery rather than the shiny grey of the Music Hall of Fame Museum, she pauses. “Are you sure we’re here?”

Aether has a mischievous look in his glamoured blue eyes. “I may have planned a bit of a surprise tour somewhere to make up for Papa and them missing out on tonight.”

As she steps out onto Central Park’s 79th Transverse Road, the stunning Belvidere Castle towers over them. “We’re going on a tour of the Castle?!” She nearly jumps at him in delight. It’s always been closed because of weddings or events whenever she tried to tour.

The retired Papas and Phil are waiting by the entrance, beckoning her over so the limo can pull away. She and Aether hurriedly change her shoes and join them.

“I’ve been in person! Adam said he tried to book a spot to propose here, but with the way he ended doing it…I don’t think he ever tried.” Lilly remarks as they enter into the grand reception foyer.

Their guide for the tour is a bubbly 50-something year old New Jersey woman, immediately taking Lilly under her wing to explain all the intricacies of the Castle that many don’t hear. She doesn’t notice how all of the men are checking their phone intermittently. They’re whisked through breath-taking ornately decorated ballrooms with views of the rest of the park.

Primo asks about the flower arrangements on the antique tables, Secondo admires himself in the gilded wall mirrors, and Aether takes pictures of Lilly in front of some of the large works of Baroque art.

Diane, as her nametag says, stops them at a pair of frosted glass doors. Lilly’s seen photos of the lake, she knows that the best view in all of Central Park is right through those doors and she’s nearly vibrating with excitement.

“Now, Sweetheart, I know you’re so excited to see the view of Belvidere Lake, but I want these boys to get their fill so they’re not photobombing any of your pictures. It happens so many times around here.”

Lilly thinks that’s a strange request but moves back so the four men slip through the slightly opened doors.

“You ready, sugar? Close your eyes, it makes it all the more magical,” Diane winks.

Once again, Lilly thinks it’s odd, but the woman has just given her the best 45 architectural tour she’s ever had, so she steadies herself and closes her eyes.

After Lilly takes a calming, deep breath, Diane takes a hold of the door handles and pushes the doors outward, “And open.”

Lilly is momentarily blinded by the high afternoon sunlight reflecting off the lake. When she looks out, a mass of color assaults her senses until her eyes focus, and she sees:

Autumn flowers that she knows she saw in the greenhouse just the other day, gathered in bouquets and held by everyone standing on the terrace: Andie, Silas, Terzo, Sister Imperator, Papa Nihil, all the Siblings. As Lilly beams at seeing everyone had indeed made it for the gala, Including Sister Martha and baby Venus and-

Lilly’s terribly glad she was already down the few steps, or else she would’ve tripped and messed this surprise up because-

Copia, in the middle of all the flowers, friends, loved ones, dressed in his Taylor Swift-level sparkly blue jacket; is down on one knee.

“Oh my f*cking god!” Lilly yells, tears choking her. She nearly falls to her own knees as she approaches kneeling man. “This can’t f*cking be happening-You were in London, there was a thunderstorm and, and-“ She stammers through the part of her that thinks this is some god-awful delusion.

Copia’s hand that isn’t busy holding the black velvet ring box that showcases the most stunning engagement ring she’s ever seen, extends to take her left hand with the same gentleness he’s always had. If she wasn’t shaking, she would feel how he was just as nervous.

“Lillith Warren, we came together-”

A snicker erupts from the group of Ghouls to their right.

He shoots them a glare, Swiss, Dew, and Aether straightening and quieting, “-because of your work at the Museum, giving us the highest honor we could achieve as part of our legacy, and I thought was only fitting that I ask you for another honor on the day of your greatest achievement so far. After all you’ve been through, I want to offer you my lasting commitment to being an equal life partner. Will you marry me?”

She can’t control the tears clogging her eyes, but she can control how she says, “Yes! More than anything.”

He barely has enough to put the ring on her finger before she bullying her way into his arms. Then, suddenly she smacks him. “You motherf*cker! I thought you were going to miss tonight! Now my makeup’s been ruined twice,” She yelps, half-delirious with joy and fury.

Copia’s so taken aback by the sudden slap that the Ghouls behind him have to dive to hold him up from falling on his ass by the force of it. He grins when she makes up for it by grabbing his lapels and kissing him deeply.

Cheers go up around them, a few further-away sounding than just their group and-

-from around the corner come her parents.

That gains another waves of tears from Lilly and she reluctantly breaks from Copia’s arms to fling herself into her parents’. Her mother is just as blurry eyed, not having shown this much emotion since Lilly graduated from college, “Our Lillith, I think you’ve finally found a good one,” She whispers.

Joshua Warren hugs her tightly, then releases her, “Go hug your fiancée again.”

Many hugs, kisses, and flowers are tossed around the large group. Diane leads them out to the lake where she gives Lilly one last knowing wink.

Down at Belvidere Lake, the group splits; the Siblings get into various vehicles parked along the road, and the inner circle of Copia, Lilly, the Ghouls and all the Papas climb into a newer, larger limo. Lilly is wedged between Andie and Copia on the ride to the Museum, but she couldn’t be happier.

Inside the limo, she tries to look closer at her ring. She was actually excited that it wasn’t a plain gold ring like the one that adorned her hand for the better part of six years. The unique snake design on her left hand was that of two snakes: their head curling around a circle cut blue sapphire. To her art history hind brain, it reminds her of the Ouroboros serpent that swallowed its own tail in the Norse tradition of destruction being the creator of all.

That was extremely fitting.

She takes it off to shine under Andie’s very helpful cellphone flashlight. The blue stone shimmers like an ocean against the engraved gold bodies of the snakes. As Lilly looks at the ring in the light, she sees that each of the snakes have small gemstone eyes-their left being a diamond and their right being emeralds.

“You’re such a nerd,” Lilly says in awe as she makes the connection. She slips it back on, wondering how they guessed her ring size.

Andie slips Lilly’s college class ring into her hand, “Might want to put a lock on that beautiful jewelry box on your desk.

Copia presses a kiss to her cheek, glad he had put on extra setting spray with how much they’ve kissed, “And you’re not a nerd? The fact that you like snakes so much that all of us thought of the exact same style of ring?”

“There’s no way all of you had the same idea for something this unique,” All of the Ghouls, Papas, and Andie give her various deadpan expressions.

The group arrives outside of the Museum’s parking garage, security ushering them past the flashes of reporters. Once inside, Lilly releases a deep breath, “I forgot about this was a big event.”

“They’re all excited to see your work,” Cirrus smiles.

Lilly leads them through the empty lobby and past the covered doors of the exhibition gallery. She shoos away a curious Phantom from the heavy drapes, “You’ll see it soon, bug.”

“But Lilly…” He whines.

She leads them to the private suites for donor relations that she arranged for all of them to get ready in. They have maybe two hours until people really start arriving and Lilly leaves the group to find Dr. Myers to do a final look through.

“Hye, Lilly! Long time no see, huh?” Daniel, the cheerful front desk attendant, is perched faithfully at the visitor desk. He’s dressed in a black and yellow polo shirt that the other volunteers are wearing.

He must be in charge of opening the doors. Lilly thinks it’s a bit strange he isn’t with the other employees that were scheduled around the museum as docents in their pre-event meeting.

“Yeah! It’s been a crazy ride to the gala,” She smiles.

Daniel laughs, “Especially since this was my last internship session here. I hated how I could barely scrape any hours from us not being here. Clerical work is so boring remotely.”

Lilly remembers the paperwork she did for this exhibition and doesn’t necessarily agree, but for someone still in college like Daniel, it must be really boring, “Sorry, you were here so much I forgot you were in school still.”

“I’m almost done. You’re still in school too, right. NYU Doctorate?”

Someone’s been checking the museum’s LinkedIn. “I actually took this last semester off—too much going on. It’s hard to focus on the exhibition when you have professors complaining about papers.”

Daniel rubs the back of his neck, “Yeah, I feel that. I’ve been bad about turning in assignments to Dr. Fox’s economics class.”

Lilly’s mind erupts into alarm bells. “Dr. Frank Fox? Are you enrolled at BYU?”

The younger man puffs his chest proudly, “Cougars class of 2024! I leave to head back to Provo tomorrow.”

So, he graduates soon. But that also means he was there when Lilly and Adam graduated. “Congrats. It was fun working with you,” Lilly says as genuinely as she can through her nerves.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other again-don’t act like this is goodbye,” Daniel rolls his brown eyes playfully.

“I doubt I’ll ever step foot in Utah again, but feel free to email me if you’re in Manhattan again.” Lilly turns to leave.

Daniel catches her wrist. In a panic, she snatches it back at the burn that explodes over her Ghoul Summoning brand. “Sorry! Didn’t mean to give you static shock—just, did you get engaged?”

She holds her wrist to her chest, watching him cautiously, “Yeah, they surprised me earlier today.”

“It wasn’t to that asshole that I accidentally let destroy your office, right?”

Lilly shakes her head. At least Daniel agrees with that. After this she won’t have to go through anymore of these strained small talks he always does with her. “No, it’s actually someone from Ghost. It’s funny how this brought us together. Listen, I have to go, it was nice working with you these past months, Daniel.”

“So that rock ’n roll Pope boyfriend of yours has finally popped the question,” Dr. Myers barely looks up from her clipboard, a parallel of Sister Imperator. She wonders if they’re related somehow.

Lilly blushes and ducks through the heavy curtained doors, “Yeah, I wasn’t expecting it at all. They surprised me at Belvidere Castle this afternoon, after lying and saying they were stuck in Heathrow. I didn’t know whether to be mad or excited.” What she does know is that she’s glad to be away from Daniel.

The Director checks off something on her list and follows Lilly around the large gallery space. “It look incredible, no need to be nervous,” She says when she notices how hyperattentive Lilly is being towards straightening wall panels.

“I want everything to be perfect—this is massive for both the Museum and Ghost, even one thing out of place will get noticed by those nit-picky journalists at ArtForum. I want to make you and Dr. Dodd proud.” Lilly opens the large case that holds Copia’s red cardinal cassock and smooths down the button pleating. “I need an iron-“

“Lilly, slow down, everything looks perfect! I’ve never had a last run through go this smoothly on an exhibition before.” Dr. Myers puts a hand on her shoulder. “Dr. Dodd and I are already so pleased, proud, satisfied, gratified and every other word that means we are in awe of what you’ve created through the horrible situations you’ve been through during this. I have nothing to fix right now! Nothing is missed or backordered, there aren’t any glaring typos, all of the mannequins are dressed and ironed; I want you to see that your hard work is complete for right now. You deserve to enjoy this moment.”

Lilly steps away from the display case and closes it. She sees her reflection in the glass, tinted red by the vibrant papal vestment in front of her.

Here she stands, at the moment that will catapult her into the museum spotlight, something she’s wanted for her entire life. She’s admitted to her father about what Ed Warren did to her. There’s a different ring on her hand. She did her own makeup instead of relying on Andie’s skill. Her dress is tailored by Primo’s expert hands to fit her curves in a way that would have Adam screaming about insubordination. Lilly’s opened herself up to loving others.

So many things have changed in about ten months. She needs to realize that she can love herself.

“I’m proud of myself,” She murmurs.

“Exactly.” Dr. Myers grins, “Now let’s go open the doors and have a pre-show margarita.”

-

Copia is uncomfortable. There’s too many people trying to ask him too many things in too small of a space.

The only comfort is that he’s flanked by his Ghouls. Aether is closest at his right shoulder, glamoured hand placed casually on his back. Aurora and Swiss pose for one of the photographers next to Copia. He can see his brothers talking to other people somewhere to his left.

Finally, the great doors to the museum lobby open, spilling warmth and light on the crowd of people standing on the museum steps. Copia uses it to his advantage to have Aether lead him and the Ghouls through the doorway into the decorated lobby.

It’s been dressed in white, black, and red decorations. It’s sophisticated like the award ceremony except for the crowning part: an array balloons painted to match each of the Papas’ papal paint.

Dew barely stifles his laugh at the display, echoing around the room as if fills.

Lilly is turned away from them as she finishes tying a silky ribbon to the pen of the large guest book.

Copia takes a moment to appreciate how in-her-element she seems as she straightens up and surveys her work. He sneaks up beside her, hand on her lower back, “Does that display mean you see me as airhead?”

She bursts out in a startled laugh and turns to hug him tightly, “Mostly Terzo but Aether said he might get too pissy at being singled out.”

He feels something cold when they embrace, “When did you get this necklace?” He uses a finger to lift the gold necklace nestled on her chest to see that it’s a small charm of a rat hanging from its tail.

“A little engagement present from my parents. You missed them giving it to me because Terzo was trying to take those tacky photos with you proposing to each of the Ghouls.” She digs in her small purse and pulls out a small sachet. “They got one for you but weren’t sure if you would wear a necklace like this.”

“I wear a Grucifix every day,” He undoes the small pouch and takes out the chain and small pendant.

Lilly stops him when he goes to put it on, “It clashes with your blue tie. Put it in your pocket for tonight.”

“I want to wear it though,” He whines, similar to Phantom.

“I’ll have plenty of time to see you wearing it. Now, I have to go talk to thirsty reporters.”

Copia presses a small kiss to her lips, pulling away after he feels some of her lip gloss transfer. “I’m not too sparkly because of kissing you, right?”

Lilly gives him a deadpan look up and down, “No. Could use some more glitter I think.”

Both of them are called in different directions and they part with a longing look to each other.

-

An hour of schmoozing and countless questions about how honored he is to receive the Award, Copia sees Dr. Myers pulls Lilly towards the small platform and podium set up by the gallery doors. He gathers the Ghouls that were hogging the chocolate fountain and pushes them towards the podium. The crowd immediately parts for them, the celebrities both trying to avoid them and let them through.

Already at the front is Sister Imperator and Phil, the former looking uneasy.

“Is something wrong?” Copia whispers to her.

She shakes her head, “No. There’s just a lot riding on this.”

“I trust Lilly. I’m sure it’s incredible—the sneaks she gave us were already so much better than I imagined.” His gloved hand slips into his pocket and finds the rat pendant, swiping his thumb over it like a worry stone.

“Sure, sure,” Sister replies, unconvinced.

Did she not have faith in Lilly? He furrowed his eyebrows but is aware of the cameras rolling around them. He wants to question further but the Museum Board President takes the podium.

A boring speech that Copia barely listens to. His eyes rove over Lilly standing just behind the stout man’s shoulder. She looks as nervous as Sister Imperator and Copia wracks his brain if he missed something happen between the two women.

He knows who he would side with in a heartbeat, and it’s not the woman standing beside him, despite the nine years he’s known her. It seems like one of the dramatic soap opera situations between the groom’s mother and the bride.

The Board President finishes and Dr. Myers takes a step forward. “Usually at this point in the night, I’m not able to speak because something has gone horribly wrong with the exhibition and I’m calling other museums for something replace parts that didn’t come in time,” The crowd laughs, “But tonight, I was able to have some of the delicious catering and talk freely to my colleagues because of how Lilly Warren has gone above and beyond to get everything ready for tonight.”

Another cheer and Copia relishes the flush on the mentioned woman’s cheeks.

“Lilly’s position here at the Museum Hall of Fame was only supposed to last until the permanent part of this exhibition was installed in two years, but because of her expertise and dedication through several obstacles and delays, myself and the Museum would like to offer Lilly Warren the position of permanent Curator of Exhibitions, if she’ll have us.”

Lilly’s brown eyes go as wide as a deer in headlights and her mouth drops open. The Board President steps back onto the podium with a large bouquet of flowers. She takes the flowers gratefully and steps up to the mic.

“I would love to accept this offer, and not just because this means I get a mini fridge in my office,” She has to hand the flowers back to him to hold while she speaks, but she glances at them again. “I’ve cried so much today, oh man,” She sniffles and takes a tissue to dab at the happy tears in her eyes.

“Okay. Thank you so much, Dr. Myers, Board President Franklin. This has been an incredible experience and I’m elated to do more work with the museum.”

Copia beams up at her when her eyes flicker to him to settle her breathing. Dew beside him flashes her a thumbs-up.

Lilly flips open her notebook quickly, “Tonight is the opening viewing of The Legacy of the Devil: The Ghost Project from 1965-2023, an exhibition formed to celebrate religious rock ‘n roll band, Ghost’s contributions to music history for nearly sixty years. This is part of a larger display that will be housed in the permanent Hall of Fame gallery within the next two years. When I first applied for this job two years ago, I only knew snippets about this band because of my schooling in Utah,” Everyone in the crowd huffs a laugh at that,

“And I had learned of them from my best friend going to their rituals, or concerts. My own first ritual was actually in another country, where I snuck away from Missionary duty in Mexico to attend alone.”

Everyone from the Abbey is surprised, not knowing how Lilly was able to go. Not even Copia had thought to ask how she was able to go.

“My best friend found this job and I jumped on it, dragging my Mormon ex-fiancé with me from Provo to New York. A lot has happened since then, including becoming close to the community and members of Ghost. We are here in-person even after weeks of protesting, including a group tonight, to show that rock ‘n roll can be made by anyone. I feel indebted to everyone who helped me accomplish this exhibition, because it’s not just my display. Tonight is an exploration of these wacky but loveable Satanists and how they’ve taken all of us by storm.”

The crowd erupts into applause. Lilly takes back the large bouquet of flowers and heads to the curtained entrance, where Dr. Myers pulls back the heavy curtains easily.

Reporters are allowed in first, then those in the Abbey, then Ghost and Lilly, and everyone else. The massive room fills up fast. Copia and the Papas ignore people that try to talk to them as they look at the first panel.

It’s a general overview of the history of the band. Lilly slips in next to him, dabbing away happy tears still.

“You snuck out of missionary training?” He laughs.

“It was so boring. All we could watch was Disney Princess movies. We were in a hostel only a few miles away from the venue, so I told them I didn’t feel good and had to go to the hospital,” She says it like that’s an excuse anyone would use.

Copia finishes reading the text and they move on to a display of Papa Nihil’s papal vestments, “You made him shorter.”

“It’s not like he’s here to dispute it,” Lilly smirks. “Andie wanted me to make Terzo’s a foot shorter.”

“I doubt there is enough cheesecake in New York City for him to forgive you if you did,” He says. The two of them are absorbed in talking about the exhibitions, the Ghouls pressing in to overhear them.

“So Aether, what was it like working at the Museum?” Cumulus takes in a display of Primo’s staff.

Aether has moved on to the vitrine with Terzo’s mannequin, “It would’ve been nicer if traffic wasn’t insane.”

Lilly rolls her eyes. “He’s lying. We did karaoke, and he did it much more than I did,” She pats his broad shoulder.

Aether flushes under his Impera helmet, “I thought we had an agreement-“

“I said I wouldn’t say it unless someone brought it up, not that I wouldn’t say it at all.”

“You’re embarrassed about car karaoke? Nihil has literally sh*t in my car, Aether,” Copia relishes the embarrassed look the Quintessence Ghoul shoots him. “Was it country music or something?”

“Just some Mily Cyrus, that he knew all the words to. Wrecking Ball was especially good,” Lilly says.

Swiss cackles loudly, prompting some looks from those around the group.

“Swiss weren’t you listening to CBAT in the shower last night in the hotel? Don’t make fun of him,” Cirrus scolds.

That shuts the Multi-Ghoul up immediately.

Lilly fist bumps the Air Ghoulette and moves the group to the last part of the exhibition focused on Copia’s dual reign as Cardinal and Papa. Her stomach drops when she realizes that this were Copia will find out about Nihil and Imperator, and the woman is nowhere to be found, “Actually, before you all look at this, where’s Sister?”

“What, did you make a mistake? Everything’s been so good. You don’t need her approval,” Aurora says.

“It’s not her approval, just—I want all the Papas together for the end, I guess,” Lilly’s nerves have reignited into a stomach-churning mess.

Copia waves that off, “They’re big boys.” He tries to look around where Lilly is standing in front of the blue wall text about himself. He gently tries to pull her away. “There’s not much you can do to make me upset.”

“Copia, really, I think we should find her before-“

It’s too late. The nine Ghouls and Copia can see the text that reads:

Carmine Samael Emeritus

“Cardinal Copia” 2018-2020

“Papa Emeritus IV” 2020-Present

Born 1970 to parents:

Papa Nihil V, Neil Emeritus

and

Sister Imperator, Bernadette Emeritus

“How’d you f*ck up his name? Did Aether give you a concussion or something?” Dew’s confused expression is palpable through his goggle helmet.

Guilt washes over Lilly’s entire being, “It’s not, it’s not a mistake.”

“…My name isn’t Copia?” That’s the first thing Copia can get out through the overwhelming shock that has pulled him under. If he was in the right frame of mind, he would see how guilty Aether looks as well.

“No,” Lilly admits.

“And-And…Nihil is my father? I’m a part of the…bloodline? This whole time?” He stumbles through the goo that’s clogging his throat.

Lilly nods, “He didn’t know she was pregnant.”

That makes him turn to meet her meek gaze. “So he doesn’t know either?”

Her mouth opens then she rethinks it and changes it, “She said she was probably going to tell him before this, but I’m not sure.”

Something hot broils in his blood as he reads more about the life he always thought happened because he was an orphan abandoned on the steps of the Linkoping Abbey.

Betrayal sears through him. At those who knew, Sister for her abandonment of him as a child, the Sisters of the Abbey for lying about how they found him, and at Lilly for knowing this for however long and never f*cking telling him.

“How many times have I cried to you about this? How long have you known this about me?” He can feel the emotions welling up inside him like a volcano. Was the last year of his life a lie?

That night of the award ceremony, did she know?

Lilly looks worried at how loud his voice is becoming and tries to placate him, “Copia, please, I haven’t known that long. If we find Sister, she can explain easier.”

He’s been pushed around enough. “No.”

“No?”

“Explain it to me right now.”

Aether tries to intervene, “Papa, it’s not her fault. We didn’t know until two weeks ago.”

That hits Copia like a slap in the face, “Both of you knew? And neither of you even had the f*cking inkling to tell me that my entire life has been a lie?!”

Thank goodness there’s a ton of noise in the room or else that would have drawn the attention of reporters.

“Papa, let’s go discuss this somewhere else where people won’t get it recorded,” Rain, cool as ever, touches Copia’s wrist.

“f*ck; fine, whatever.” He gestures for Lilly to lead them somewhere.

She guides them back to the donor relations suite, spending the whole time scanning for the tall clergywoman with no luck. She has Aether, at least.

Surely Copia will be as understanding as ever.

-

When the doors close to the insulated suite behind them, Copia practically explodes with a mix of despair, frustration, and anger.

“I’ve let you into my life with the understanding that we were being honest with each other after all the lying and bullsh*t Adam did; and here you are, waiting until the biggest f*cking night of my life to tell me that my entire life has been one big, orchestrated lie?!”

Lilly and Aether are between Copia and the door, the other Ghouls behind the Antipope. It feels like they’re on opposing sides of a battlefield.

“Lucifer knows, you couldn’t have called me up using the phone plan that my family pays for to tell me anything before tonight. Did you think I was going to just take this in stride and be happy about it?” He’s close to yelling, and Phantom has covered his ears behind the Ghouls.

Lilly’s eyes flicker to the smaller Quintessence Ghoul as she tries to formulate a response.

“No, no-you don’t get to try to convince them that you’re innocent!” Copia growls. “Give me some f*cking reason for why you didn’t tell me.”

Copia is terrifying when he’s angry like this (as would anyone much taller than her and wearing skull papal paint) and he shifts towards her, her immediate reaction is to overlay Adam’s face over his.

“I’m sorry, with the Tour, it didn’t seem-“

“You’re blaming this on the tour?! The part of the Tour where I was in Sweden and could have gotten an explanation from Imperator, Nihil, and the Sisters at that Abbey? Where I could’ve resolved every question I had?”

He feels a small tendril at seeing the color drain from her face at the realization. The sour feeling of how much he loves her and despises her wars inside him.

“It wasn’t like that-“ Aether tries.

Copia actually holds out a hand, black tendril covering the Ghoul’s mouth in a gag. “Shut up. She’s going to tell me, now.”

The Ghouls growl at him in warning, but he ignores them. He’s going to get answer from Lilly.

Lilly’s gaping at him like a fish, unable to form any coherent sentences.

“Give me a f*cking reason, Lillith!” He thunders when she doesn’t answer him.

Aether fights the black goo but can’t shake it off.

“She said not to say anything,” Lilly blubbers.

Copia is taken aback, “That’s it? She said not to and you listened to her?”

Lilly looks at him helplessly, “She’s Head Sister-“

“No, you’re Head Sister. You’re a f*cking Prime Mover; you outrank them all. I outrank them all. You just went with whatever bullsh*t she fed you?” He interrupts her. He takes a step towards her and she flinches back against the door.

He tries to reign himself in, but there’s too many questions he doesn’t have answers to, there’s so many times in his life where he’s pleaded to Satan to take him because he’s a fraud and an imposter, and here Lilly can’t even stand up for herself?

“You don’t deserve to be my Prime Mover.”

Lilly’s heart stops, “Copia-“

“That’s not my f*cking name, right? You above anyone else should know that, apparently,” He spits. He releases Aether, who’s been fighting him the whole time.

“Leave her the hell alone! I didn’t tell you either! You’re not going to blame this on her when I’m just as guilty!”

Copia turns his furious gaze to the large Quintessence Ghoul, “So, then what’s your reason?”

“Because you would act like this! You would nuts and not be able to finish the tour!”

The antipope wants to shriek in frustration, “Do neither of you have faith that I could’ve handled this?”

Aether gives him an incredulous look up and down, “Look at how you’re acting now! You used magic against me! If we had told over the phone, how would it have been any better? At least Lilly is here, telling you to your face while Imperator is off avoiding you here!”

“What I’m getting from all this is that there was some miscommunication between everyone,” Cirrus says carefully. She moves to stand in between the two fighting parties, “But Papa, shouldn’t we focus on how this is a good thing?”

“Good thing? Good? Nothing good comes from this!” Copia paces furiously. “My mother abandoned me, my father is the most hated person in the entire religion, and my wife and Ghoul have kept it a secret from me!”

“It’s only been two weeks!” Lilly finds her voice for a valiant last fight, “She wasn’t even going to tell you!”

Six steps left, turn, six steps right, turn, He paces.

When only mutters under breath in his native tongue, Lilly takes a careful step forward. “I know this hurts to do it this way, but she was resistant to telling you at all—this was the only way I thought she would own up to it, but even now she’s avoiding it. I’m sorry I kept it from you. I should’ve realized how important this was to you.”

Copia slows his steps, facing away from her. “I’d like a minute alone.”

Aether’s hand comes to rest on Lilly’s hip and pulls her to the door. The Ghouls and Lilly exit the double doors and file out into the side corridor. There’s a few museum staff milling at the end where the lobby and gallery is, but other than that the group of nine is alone.

“I know he’ll be okay,” Cumulus reassures the museum curator as the Ghoulette dabs carefully at Lilly’s almost completely ruined makeup with Mountain’s handkerchief, “He’s probably just praying.”

“That’s what Adam would do after arguments,” Lilly hiccups. “Such a great start to my second marriage.”

Dew squeezes Aether’s hand, “It wasn’t the best plan, but now that it’s out, I think he’ll feel a lot better.”

“Like ripping off a bandage!” Aurora nods.

“I’m sorry, guys.” Lilly pulls away from Cumulus as the Ghoulette is able to save some of her makeup. “I didn’t mean to pull any of you into this. I think I might crash with Silas for a night or two until Copia and I can work this out.”

“Are you sure? How will you get there?” Rain crosses his arms, uneasy.

Lilly shrugs, “His place is like seven subway stops from the station two blocks away from the museum. I’m going to go out there and do my best; I’ll see you all sometime soon.” Her right hand comes up to twist the gold snake ring on her left hand as she turns and leaves, head held high.

“I don’t like this,” Phantom whispers.

All of them agree.

Dr. Myers is near the hallway entrance when Lilly reappears, “Oh, thank goodness, I thought you had gotten lost or something.”

Lilly does her best to seem normal, “Some of the Ghouls did get lost trying to find the DR suite so I had to track them down. How are things out here?”

The directress surveys the slowly emptying lobby. “Total success. We’re actually winding down operations in the next hour if you are okay with having Ghost leave in like 45.”

“Oh, um, I’m not leaving with them anymore,” She replies.

Dr. Myers and her say goodbyes to some of the guests and return to their conversation, “You were all so chummy earlier!”

Lilly’s eyes flicker to the gallery where, through the doors, she can see the wall panel of text that started everything. “They pre-gamed too hard. Some of them are falling asleep upright.”

“Maybe we did order too much champagne…” The older woman muses as they come upon the almost clear refreshment table. There’s only three bottle of the expensive champagne left from the overwhelming amount of empty crates.

“They’ll be okay, but Sister Imperator can handle calling their ride tonight,” Lilly says. They walk into the main gallery room to see if there are any guests left over. There’s low-volume angry sounding Italian coming from the side room and Lilly lets Dr. Myers tell the group of retired Papas that the Museum was closing soon while she stood out in the large room.

She’s not hiding.

Eventually, the pair of museum woman end up by the visitor desk, surveying people as they leave out into the warm May night. Lilly is sorting some left over pamphlets when she hears—

Psst! Lilly, over here!

Lilly’s eyebrows furrow as she looks around for the sound of the playful hiss, expecting to see a Ghoul crouching somewhere impossible.

Instead, she spots Daniel in the ajar doorway to the visitor desk breakroom, an open bottle of champagne in his one hand, and two empty glass flutes in his other. “Come on!”

She gives him a polite smile, “I’ve had enough for tonight, thanks. You enjoy the bottle to yourself.”

His usually sunny demeanor dampens. “Hey, I’m not really supposed to drink this, can’t you break my virgin alcoholism for a quick second?”

Lilly looks around the nearly empty lobby and sets down her purse behind the visitor desk. If Daniel wants to rebel against Mormon ideals, then Lilly really is the best person for him to share it with; and it’s the kid’s last night here, she really has no reason to say no. “Okay,” She meets him at the door and he lets her in.

Inside the plain but cozy breakroom, Daniel goes to the kitchenette and fills both glasses halfway with the bubbling drink.

At least it’s not cheap Champagne.

Lilly takes her offered flute and waits for him to join her near the table, “To new beginnings,” She toasts.

He clinks against her glass a little clumsily, “To new sealings, children, and wealth!”

She smiles through his painfully obvious sheltered perspective on her new engagement and they both take a large swig of their drinks. He didn’t give her that much, so both of them are able to finish it with ease.

It seems to take effect on her quicker than normal, the ground below her shifting like she’s been placed in a zero gravity chamber. She’s only had two glasses of the roughly same amount over the long course of the evening, with food, so why is she suddenly so drunk? She hasn’t felt like this since she and Adam met that night at the party.

Daniel watches her, his typically kind eyes lighting up with joy as he grabs her by shoulders to push her down into a chair, “Adam said you would be easy, guess I owe him $100.”

Lilly hears something rip!, but her tunneling vision barely allows her to see what he’s doing until the sticky adhesive of duct tape seals her mouth shut. A door opens somewhere around her and she fights towards where Daniel’s skinny body probably is, but she’s getting woozier more by the second and two pairs of arms fly out of the void around her to pin her back against the chair. She loses the battle for consciousness when duct tape wraps around her wrists.

Notes:

Thank you to everyone who has been following along with this! I'm super busy and can't reply to comments, but I get the notifs about them and read them over and over again, I love yall!

Chapter 33: Ghuleh

Notes:

a bit shorter than normal while i figure out some of the last parts of this fic--i promise yall wont be cliffhangered for that long

Chapter Text

Andie’s hand tenses within Terzo’s hold. The couple and Silas were soaking in the sight of the third Emeritus brother’s set of glass cases and trying to distract themselves from the quiet arguing between Sister Imperator and his brothers they could hear from the other room. They’ve been at it for a bit, and Terzo has no idea where Lilly, Copia and the Ghouls went, so there’s little he can do to calm down the situation.

Mostly because he’s angry at himself for not telling the soft-hearted Copia earlier. Terzo had some inkling that Copia wasn’t his real name—because who the f*ck names their kid ‘copy’—but he could have at least said that Imperator told Lilly at their first round of interviews.

Hopefully they weren’t fighting.

Terzo’s attention goes from the turmoil inside him to the visible churning emotion displayed across Andie’s beautiful face, “It’s nice that you’re getting so emotional over how handsome I was,” He tries to lighten the mood.

Andie’s face still has the edge of anxiety, like they’re thinking so hard they no longer have control of their body.

“Is there a typo?” He asks.

“No, no,” Their hazel eyes focus again, “Just…has anyone seen Lilly or Copia?”

Silas shrugs and takes off his suit jacket, fishing out his cell phone, “I can text her.”

Terzo takes a proper look around the large room, only seeing the group of arguing clergy and some of the catering staff beginning to clear the refreshment tables at the far wall. He hears the argument cease with a huff from Sister Imperator, the three of them exiting the side room.

“The car is puling up outside in a few minutes; where’s Copia and the Ghouls?”

Both Andie and Terzo shrug.

Silas dials Lilly’s number but it rings a few times and then goes to a message about her voicemail box being full. “She’s not picking up and her voicemail is full.”

Sister smooths her perfectly styled hair that is becoming more frazzled by the second. “Let’s find her and go back to the Abbey to talk about this more.”

The group head out into the lobby where Dr. Myers is talking with a group of museum volunteers about cleaning up.

“Dr. Myers,” Sister says politely, “We were wondering if you knew where Copia, Lilly, and the Ghouls went off to.”

She looks a bit confused and turns towards the museum visitor desk, “She was just here a few minutes ago, but she may have left already. As for the them, I believe they’re gathered over by the donor relations suite down that hallway.”

Just as the woman points it out, the group of Ghouls emerges from the hallway, a stony-faced Copia in tow.

“Good, everyone’s here, let’s leave.” Copia brushes past Sister Imperator and his brothers to shake Dr. Myers’ hand, “Thank you for a wonderful event.”

“Whoa, whoa, Copia! Slow down, the car isn’t even here yet.” Terzo says, “Besides, Lilly is still not here.”

“Lilly is going to stay at Silas’s apartment,” Mountain rumbles.

Silas’ eyebrows scrunch, “I mean, I guess she could. I have no problem with it, but I’m not sure if she still has a key.”

Andie nods, “It was on her keyring earlier; she had both the fob and apartment key.”

The fashion student shrugs, “Okay. I definitely did not get groceries so I hope she can stomach ham and blue cheese sandwiches.”

Secondo’s lips twist in disgust.

“Great, the car’s here.” Copia is bee-lining for the limo that was just pulling up to the busy city street curb.

Phantom and Aether hang back, the smaller Ghoul tugging at the sleeve of Andie’s dark green suit jacket.

“Andie, something isn’t right,” Phantom says quietly. “When we walked past the visitor desk, I saw Lilly’s keys on it.”

Andie pulls away from the group as well. It would take a bit for the group to cram themselves into the large limo. The three of them go to the desk and pull up Lilly’s abandoned keyring. The set is neatly laid on the desk surface as if she had meant to set them down for only a moment.

“So, she’s still here. She could just be looking at her office upstairs.”

Aether shakes his head, “The whole floor is closed for the construction. She wouldn’t be able to get up there, we tried a few days ago and her access badge didn’t work in the elevator.”

Dr. Myers passes by them on her own way out of the museum a moment later, “Oh, did you find Lilly?”

“No, her keys are here,” Andie says.

The directress hums and goes around the desk to open the breakroom door. It’s empty except for two freshly washed champagne flutes sitting by the sink. The four of them go inside to check in case there’s someplace where Lilly could have gone.

“There’s another exit out of here but it leads into the janitorial corridor. I could have them check around there if she decided to explore for some reason.”

Aether nods, “We’re a little worried about her.”

“I’ll have security look over camera footage, but unfortunately I do need to meet some of the donors at a reservation. I’ll contact Sister Imperator and you, Andie, with any findings,” Dr. Myers agrees and heads out into the warm night.

“What do we do?” Phantom whispers forlornly.

Aether rubs at his chin under his helmet and sits down on the couch to think for a moment, “Ow! Something sharp just f*cking chewed into my ass.” He stands, spreading a hand over the beige cushion to find a gold necklace with the charm of a rat wedged between the cushions. The rat’s little legs were what pricked at Aether. As he pulls out the necklace, a folded note pops out with it.

“That’s the necklace she got this afternoon,” Andie breathes.

Aether hands them the jewelry and unfolds the note to see that it’s a letter, written in Lilly’s rushed cursive. In his hands, it seemingly spells out a monologue of despair that he felt in every word:

I should have never come here. What did I think would change? Nothing. I waited so long for him, then he treats me like sh*t over a small misunderstanding after not seeing him for almost half a year? He goes off around the world and leaves me to play wifey to his family.

My faith is completely destroyed in everyone around me. Andie was right there-why couldn’t they see what was going on all this time? I’ve remodeled his room out of money from my stupid job while dealing with his annoying family. I know this will destroy any semblance of good in how people view me, but I’m so tired. I just want to disappear.

Maybe if I’m dead then his mother can have grandkids to carry on the stupid-ass bloodline. Don’t bother coming to look for me.

“…What?” Andie’s tearing up as Aether reads it aloud. “She really feels that strongly? What happened with her and Copia?”

“He said she didn’t deserve to be his Prime Mover,” Phantom whimpers.

Aether’s speechless. Sure, he knew it was hard with Ghost being on tour, had he been so involved in his own emotions that he hadn’t noticed how far Lilly had spiraled? He thought that after today, after their first fight, the couple would take a moment to think about the new life they were starting and could come together after Copia got an explanation from Imperator.

“Does this mean she’s suicidal?” Aether asks.

Andie shrugs hopelessly. “I remember a couple times where she was close to it, but I was always able to pull her out of it…Now I’m part of the problem?” They cry into Phantom’s shoulder.

“We need to tell Dr. Myers and Papa,” Aether says.

“You saw how he treated her! Look at the letter, Aether! He’s part of this problem! We all are.” Phantom meets his eyes.

Andie holds the necklace to their heart, “Let’s just collect all of her stuff and call her parents. If she’s not with them, we’ll submit a police report with one of the police officers down at the parking garage. This could just mean she’s moving back to Seattle.”

When the three come out of the museum and walk down the steps, the limo driver reopens the door to let them in. However, Aether says something quietly to the driver and he closes it without them.

Terzo rolls down the window, “Guys, get in the car!”

Andie can’t respond, crying into the phone to Chelsea and Joshua Warren. They turn away as Phantom hugs them tightly.

Aether shakes his head, “We’ll get another ride back.”

Terzo can barely hear him as the limo pulls away into the busy street.

Inside the limo is tense. Copia wants to squirm at the anger, betrayal, and hurt that is threatening to explode inside him. He got in first and claimed what would be the furthest seat from Sister, but it just made him face her across the long car.

Primo sits next to him. A picture of calm, the retired man’s hands are simply sitting on his knees. When the car moves without anyone getting in, Primo’s hand goes into his lapel and pulls out a wrapped strawberry sweet. It’s a candy that Primo’s snuck him during Black Mass when he was a cardinal and Nihil still gave long-winded sermons.

A large part of Copia is ready to lash out at anything. The brotherly gesture both upsets and reignites a fire of admiration in him.

Primo places the candy on the furl of Copia’s clenched fists.

Copia stares down at it, then relaxes his hand so he can unwrap the sweet. The artificial strawberry flavor bursts onto his tongue and he closes his eyes to focus on the fond memories it drags out.

He feels himself sitting in the rows of pews. His back hurts from sitting up straight. He’s only been at the Abbey for a few weeks, but he and Primo have formed an okay relationship right from the get-go.

Papa Nihil is droning on about something, but he can’t focus because of how warm the sanctuary is in the summer. Primo, Secondo, and Terzo are sitting with him in the front row rather than the quire box, reserved just for the aging man and Sister Imperator.

Suddenly, Copia is no longer watching the dais—he’s standing on it. He replaces Nihil’s tall form and Copia is the one speaking out across the pews. He can taste the sermon he was giving: a lesson on gratification. His head is swiveled to his left towards the quire box, now filled with the aging clergy couple (his biological parents), his brothers (his real, blood brothers), and a blurry form to Terzo’s right (his wife). His mind echoes the titles from all around him, an unholy reminder of his new reality

His hurt is smothering the very memory of her.

It scares him enough that he watches the condensation on the limo’s untouched champagne bottle for the rest of the drive.

-

Primo is gently moving his knee to rouse Copia from his hour-long trance. Everyone climbs out, the solemn air of the limo’s group clashing with the excited but tired faces of the Abbey’s community members. Even Papa Nihil was smiling.

It made the hairs on the back of his neck rise. How dare that man act like nothing’s wrong?

“She was able to get my good side in the display, yes?” He asks a solemn Sister Imperator.

“Of course,” She replies absently, then tries to move towards Copia when he gets out of the limo. “Copia-“

“That’s not my name, remember! I’m going to my rooms, and no one is allowed to disturb me until I say so, got it? I don’t care what happens,” Copia snarls at her. He strides through the group of Ghouls that part easily for him.

Dew, Swiss, and Mountain chatter at each other before the tall Earth Ghoul follows after the retreating antipope.

Everyone slowly disperses until it’s just Sister Imperator and Terzo standing on the Abbey’s front steps.

“Carmine is a strong Italian name for a baby raised in Linkoping,” He muses and lights a cigarette. Andie will probably give him sh*t for it later, but he went from three a day to only one when stressed since meeting them.

Against his better judgement, he offers one to the woman. She takes it easily, pulling out a lighter from the purse at her shoulder.

Sister Imperator sits on the porch bench with a heavy drag of her cigarette. “I named him after Carmine Infantino.”

Terzo chokes, “The comic artist?”

She nods through a puff of smoke, slightly embarrassed. “I had just snuck off to Sweden while I was seven months pregnant and was in a café where a man in the booth beside me was reading a Marvel comic of The Flash. The bright colors reminded me so much of Nihil that I thought naming the baby would bring a part of Nihil into his life, in some stupid way.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell him?”

“As I said to your brothers at the museum, things were complicated. The Sisters at the Abbey were supposed to tell him that I was coming back, but by the time Primo’s tour was finished and I went to Sweden, they had gotten in his head that was abandoned there.”

Terzo hums and her eyes narrow at the implication.

“I was coming back for him! You and Secondo wouldn’t have been safe with Nihil constantly on the brink of overdose.”

The retired Emeritus takes a long drag, holding the smoke in until it made his eyes water. “Why couldn’t you bring the baby with us? I would have loved to have another friend on the horrible road trips.”

“It was too dangerous for a newborn to inhale that much pot smoke.” She says.

“But it wasn’t too dangerous for a six- and nine-year-olds?” He hisses, “Secondo and I were children too. We didn’t like being cooped up in a beat-up van with you and Nihil, but we had to, because the Ministry used their touring budget for you to f*ck off to Sweden!” He stomps his foot, a lifetime of frustration pouring out.

He shouldn’t be doing this—she’s been through a lot today with keeping their arrival a secret, making sure the proposal went smoothly, the exhibition, and now dealing with Copia’s secret. However, Terzo has never expressed this to her and feels like he can’t stop himself.

Imperator glares at him, “I did what I needed to do.”

“It doesn’t seem like it.” He stubs his cigarette butt on the trashcan’s ashtray and strides inside, heading for the peaceful realm of his apse altar.

-

Andie, Aether, and Phantom don’t return to the Abbey until after midnight. Terzo was sitting in the papal common room, staring out at the full moon still after spending a few hours cleaning and redoing his altar.

He hears the garage door open and in walks the three exhausted and teary friends. Just as the garage door is shutting he can see a black car he doesn’t recognize parked on the curb.

“We had to rent a car,” Aether says. “We’ll return it tomorrow.”

Terzo shrugs, “Okay. What ended up keeping you guys from getting in the car? If you were going to a party, I would’ve liked an invite.”

Andie’s face is lined with exhaustion and sadness, “Lilly’s gone. We found a note where she was last seen on security cameras.”

He’s on his feet in an instant, “What?”

Phantom bursts into tears again, clinging to Aether’s side.

“It’s pretty bad,” Aether strokes the small Ghoul’s black and white hair, “She lists some things that I should’ve picked up on, but I was too busy feeling bad for not going on tour. We were calling her parents and reporting her disappearance.”

“There’s no camera footage of her anywhere? That museum was crawling with surveillance and police.”

Andie shakes their head, “They went through it all. The only thing they saw was the catering crew leaving since there weren’t cameras in the janitor tunnels. They’re sweeping the entire building and parking garage as we speak. In the morning, we'll go to the police station and meet with our parents.”

“What can we do?” Terzo asks.

“Nothing except be ready to respond to sightings or contact with her. I gave the police everyone’s number, so we should all be prepared in case she tries to contact any of us,” They check their cell phone, but there’s not any new messages from anyone.

Aether takes a calming deep breath, “There’s something else.”

Terzo looks up from where he was checking his own iPhone.

“In the note…Lilly had mentioned suicide. The police are concerned because of her history of taking anti-depressant medication, Adam's behavior, and I hadn’t noticed anything that serious while everyone was gone, but the police want us to warn people that…it may be a possibility if they can’t find her in 48 hours.”

He feels his hands begin to shake, “…She would do something like that?”

“I’ve seen her go that direction before,” Andie says solemnly, “but I thought she had worked on it enough after leaving Adam. Copia yelled at her.”

“He blamed her for Imperator not telling him, when we only knew for the past two weeks.” Aether rubs Phantom’s back as he gradually calms down.

Terzo doesn’t want to believe that his little brother would do something so close to Adam’s actions, though he did just blow up at Sister Imperator for basically the same thing. “She’s known the whole time that he was part of the bloodline.”

Aether was halfway across the room when he stops dead, “No, she didn’t. I was there when Imperator told her over the phone on tour.”

He shakes his head, “No. Imperator, Cirrus, Mountain, and I met with Lilly right after the award ceremony and Imperator told Lilly that Copia was her and Nihil’s kid. I yelled at her on the ride back for never telling him and she promised she was going to do it soon. Lilly probably didn’t know about Copia’s name until two weeks ago, but she’s known about the Sweden thing for the whole time.”

What?!” Comes an angry voice from the papal hallway.

All of them turn to see Copia standing in the hallway, a basket of apples in his arms. He must have been taking them to put on his altar when he overheard them talking in the common room close to his bedrooms.

“So she was lying to me? You knew as well?!” They can see the hurt explode across his face all over again. He drops the basket of fruit and goes into his bedroom, slamming the door.

He steps back out a moment later, more upset, “Who the f*ck remodeled my room without permission?! My curtains have been replaced, my bed is gone, my gaming setup is f*cked up, and half my closet is missing. When I find out who the f*cking asshole is that decided to do this--”

“I did it,” Aether answers calmly. He’s too tired to deal with Copia’s tantrum about saying it was Lilly’s idea. “Your bed is stored in the dorms, we moved your setup because a new console is being shipped out in a few days, and we sent part of your closet out to get dry cleaned.”

Copia stares at him with an impossible expression then tears start flowing down his cheeks. It smears the last semblance of skull design from his paints. “Oh,” He says pathetically. He looks at the apples at his feet, hangs his head, and flees into his new room without another word.

-

It no longer feels like his room.

Better yet, nothing feels like his anymore.

Copia-no, wait, it’s Carmine- leans against his new door and stares at the entirely transformed bedroom through the opening of the living area. Thankfully the living area hasn’t changed too drastically: there’s a newer TV (but his vintage console is gone), the couch looks like there’s a removable cover over the cushions, some of his chairs are neatly placed around a new café table to his left, his closet doors open to reveal only half of his clothes are still hanging.

He moves past it all because his mind is still spinning over how his bedroom has changed. The fireplace is still there to the left when you walk in, but his votive candles are missing in favor of a sleek television mounted just above it. He strides to the bathroom and blinks at the two sets of towels neatly hung on the wall hooks. Both are black, with blue Initials of “L” and “C” embroidered at the hems. There’s a cup with two toothbrushes on the sink (a purple one that he just knows is Aether’s) and the vanity mirror’s lightbulbs are a warm yellow rather than the harsh fluorescent he remembers.

Copia retreats to his bedroom, but it only makes his headache worse. Hearing the squeaks of his beloved pets does soothe him some. The wall is taken over by a new set up of colorful plastic tunnels and hides. He sees how the babies are now fully grown and separated into their own tangle of passageways and tears up because he missed all of their growth.

He's missed a lot in his life, he now knows.

Rigatoni scratches at the enclosure seal. Copia carefully unlatches and takes the plump patriarch rat into his cupped hands.

“Oh, Rigatoni…so much is different! How will I get through this?” Copia hiccups. He plops down on the large bed. It’s so soft under his body that he sinks into it—but he doesn’t hear the springs groaning against his weight like in his old mattress.

Rigatoni’s grey