I know it’s been a while, but here is Hell and Styx #17!
This one picks up where H+S #16 left off, after Hell and Heaven went to the human world. By now this plot line is really long, and I don’t want to repost all the links, so you can link to the rest of it from H+S #16 or from the Hell and Styx page.
Hell and Styx #17: Distracted
Styx woke up the next morning to find that the kitchen was back.
Purgatory couldn’t seem to decide if the gatekeepers needed a kitchen, making it appear and disappear at random. They rarely cooked, when meals could be produced by a simple thought; it was a luxury to have enough time to conjure specific ingredients and then manually combine them. It was more the presence of a shared, neutral room, not either of their bedrooms, that the kitchen seemed to symbolize.
Styx found the door at the lowest flight of stairs before the ballroom, leaning open halfheartedly. A prickling sensation crawled up his spine. Hell never did anything halfhearted unless she was extremely distracted. Doors were either wide open or closed. There was no in between.
But today there was, and Styx, who had noticed a distinct souring of Hell’s moods since Heaven up and left four days back, proceeded with caution, peering into the kitchen, wondering if he should abandon the whole endeavor and skip breakfast.
The thought of dealing Hell, after she had had a few gruesome deaths in her to add to her bad mood, dispelled that notion. Now was the best time to find out what was wrong, before it got any worse.
He steeled himself and entered the kitchen.
He stared for a moment at the scene before him, and then jerked back into the entranceway.
There wasn’t anything wrong. Not unless Hell disliked making out with Heaven, which it really didn’t appear she did.
Styx crept back in and stared at his best friend pushed up against a cabinet, wondering if he felt more like cursing or applauding. He’d seen this coming, of course. Since Heaven left, but really, since he showed up.
Hell meets Heaven—how could this not be the end result?
Styx backed away quietly, suddenly without any desire to eat. Finishing the descent into purgatory proper, Styx wondered if he would mind if Hell had to deal with a few murders’ murders today.
* * *
Hell would have given everything she had to keep every bad person on earth there one day longer. But the voices were already encroaching, whispering, like static from a radio turned all the way down. Purgatory used to leave her alone longer, but it had grown impatient in its old age. Having not dealt with any souls since before meeting Heaven last night, it had been half a day since she had dealt with any of the dead. Hell didn’t have to focus to feel how cramped the ballroom below was growing.
“I—I have to go,” she said, when the voices were louder than the pleasure of kissing and being kissed by Heaven.
Heaven leaned back to watch her face. “Is something wrong?”
“Just purgatory being chatty.” Hell pointed to her head and tried to laugh off her disquiet.
“You’ve haven’t been away a day!”
“Yeah, well, tell the dead guys that,” Hell said, ducking out of Heaven’s grasp and heading toward the door.
“Do you want me to come?”
Hell shrugged, not wanting to turn him down, but not wanting him to watch her work. “I’m going to be really busy.”
“Getting that,” Heaven muttered.
“I’ll get it over with quickly. I won’t get distracted.” Hell couldn’t understand what compelled her to promise that.
Hell nodded in response. “Look—do you want me to tell Styx that you’re back?”
Heaven blinked. “Why wouldn’t you?”
Hell crossed her arms, leaning against the doorway, kicking the door out of the way with her foot so it slammed against the wall. “Are you staying?”
Heaven gaped at Hell. “You’re asking me that question?”
“Better safe than sorry.” Hell gave a wry smile, but Heaven could tell she didn’t find any of this funny.
“Of course I’m staying. What was last night? You think I’m just going to leave after that?”
“The kissing and falling off a building? You got your rush. Are you going to go back to pining over Lily-what’s-her-name? Is the guilt going to stain your angelic soul?” Hell’s voice was laced with sarcasm.
“I’m over Lilith. I wouldn’t be kissing you if I weren’t.”
“Can you stop obsessing over the human world?”
Heaven glared. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I. Live. Here. I can’t up and leave whenever I want to spend time with you. I’ve been gone barley twelve hours and the powers that be are already calling me back. I need you here, if this is every going to be anything.”
Heaven hadn’t meant to get angry, but the next minute, he was. “I like the human world, though, Hell. You can’t ask me to never go back because of your petty issues with it.”
Hell snorted at petty issues. “Fine. Visit your precious world. But if purgatory decides to remove your room, I’m not appealing their decision.”
“I won’t obsess.”
“You’d better not.”
“I’m really happy where I am,” Heaven said, forcing Hell to make eye contact with him. “Really happy.”
Hell knew what he was saying, but didn’t want to deal with it while she was still burning on anger. “I have to go to work.”
* * *
Hell watched Styx gently guide a grandmother through a crack, forcing her smile away as he turned around.
“The kitchen’s back.”
Styx raised his eyebrows. “I noticed.”
Styx noted the flush creeping up Hell’s neck. “Must have just missed him.”
Hell wanted to tell him that she’d been to the human world. He had been badgering her for years over her irrational hatred of the place, and he would be proud that anyone had managed to convince her to go.
What else he would feel at the news, Hell decided she didn’t want to learn this early in the morning.
“Gotta shut the voices up,” she said with a tight-lipped smile.
Styx watched her weave her way through the crowd, abruptly noticing how packed the room was, wondering how distracted Heaven had kept her that the voices were chattering away.