Time: About six months after the end of Shax's War
“Hey, half-kilo sized! Don’t leave those fucking crates in the middle of the corridor.” Verin waved impatiently at the containers Heckle was in the process of stacking outside Verin’s cabin. “Secure them in the damn hold where they belong.”
Heckle flinched and did that annoying thing where he ducked sideways with his shoulder over his ear. “But…these are for you.”
“The fuck’s that supposed to mean?”
“You…” Heckle squeaked and swallowed hard. “Ordered these.”
Verin snorted a cloud of steam, annoyed at having his nap interrupted, annoyed that he was scaring the damn imp, and annoyed that he couldn’t recall asking for anything. Not that he felt bad about scaring Heckle. It just made him harder to talk to.
Clamping his nostrils shut a moment so he wouldn’t snort sparks, Verin clomped over to the nearest crate and tipped his head to read the label. Galactic Phonia, the shipping label read. Big fucking help that is. Long rectangles only a few inches high, the shape itself scratched at his curiosity. He dug his claws under the lid on the top crate and ripped it open.
He blinked stupidly, trying to make sense of what looked like a fancy pregnant banjo’s love child with a giraffe. “What in all sulfurous fuckity fucking pits is this?”
“Your sitars,” Heckle whispered from where he’d crouched on the floor behind the stack of cases. “You…you said you wanted a box of sitars. I didn’t…wasn’t sure how many that was, so I got ten.”
“My…?” Temporarily flummoxed, Verin gaped at the instrument. Finally, he found the right light switch in his brain. “Not sitars, you rat-tailed, pea brained moron! Cigars! I requisitioned a fucking box of fucking cigars!”
Heckle had curled into a whimpering ball with his arms over his head, which, really, if he had any sense, he would’ve known that was even more annoying. Verin lifted the sitar from the open crate, preparing to hurl it down the corridor to end its non-cigar life in a satisfying, splintering crash, when someone caught his wrist.
“Ver, come on now,” Shax purred way too close to Verin’s ear. “Why are you terrorizing our poor Heckle? And what did this instrument ever do to you?”
“Get your donkey-fucking hand off!” Verin roared, smoke replacing steam, sparks shooting out with each breath.
Shax let go but eased the sitar out of Verin’s grip. “Good quality instrument. I suppose we could sell them.”
“But I can’t fucking smoke them, can I?” Verin bellowed. He hadn’t meant to, but his control was slipping fast. “In what shit for brains universe is a sitar any fucking thing like a cigar?”
While he carefully replaced the sitar in its foam packing, Shax shook his head and muttered, “Well, maybe if you enunciated instead of mumbling around a well-chewed stump of stogie—”
Fire shot from Verin’s nostrils. He just had time to hear Shax’s oh, shit before he seized the little bastard’s shirt in both hands and hurled him across the corridor where he hit the metal panels with a beautiful clang. At least he’d gotten to throw something.
By the time the roaring in his ears started to clear, he realized three things. One, Heckle was making little peeping sounds that might have been crying. He frowned at the imp on the floor because, damn it, he really didn’t want to feel bad about that. Two, Ness was striding down the corridor with a huge sigh, so, okay, safe there. No fallen angel vengeance. And three, Mac was stomping toward him from the other direction, and that might be a bit of oh shit right there, too.
Ness surveyed the scene, shaking his head at the crumpled demon prince on the floor. “I’m not even going to ask. Though if all of these crates are sitars, I’d like to keep one.” He crouched down to check on Shax, smoothing the hair from his forehead. “At least the dent matches the other side of the corridor. Aesthetically, it works, I suppose.”
Mac had stopped a few feet away, giant feet spread, arms crossed over his massive chest. “Our Cap all right there?”
Carefully, Ness gathered Shax up, murmuring to him. Shax lifted a hand to pat his angel’s face and managed a slurred, “Maybe jus’ one more, cupcake. Those’ve gotta bit of a kick.”
“Yes. I think he’ll be fine.” Ness shot Verin a hard glare. “Good thing.”
Verin and Mac stared at each other until Ness was out of earshot.
“I didn’t touch him.” Verin pointed to the frightened ball of imp at Mac’s feet.
“Good thing on that count too, Hammer,” Mac said a little too softly. “You ever scare him this bad again, and we’ll have words, you and me. You ever lay a hand on him? There’ll be more than words.”
Mac held out a hand and gently pulled Heckle up from the floor. Once up, Heckle plastered himself to Mac’s side. “Come on, little bit. You’re okay. It was just a mistake.”
“What about the next mistake he makes?” Verin snarled. “What if it’s something important?”
“I’ll do better. I will,” Heckle piped up, braver now with his hand swallowed by Mac’s. “I never forget things.”
“Write it down, Ver. If you have requests, write it down. Cap already said he wants to verify requisitions and he’ll go over it with Heck.”
“Little control freak fucker.”
Some of the hard lines cleared from Mac’s face. “Maybe you should keep one of these for yourself.”
“For what? To break up for toothpicks?”
Mac raised an eyebrow as he steered Heckle toward the galley. “I hear they’re very soothing to play. You could do recordings. Start a class. Anger Management for Demons.”
“Hilarious. Fuck you, MacDougal.”
“Not even with someone else’s dick, Hammer. Not if you were the last demon in the galaxy.”
Verin waved some of the smoke away from his face, his irritation back to normal levels. He would never have thought of fucking Mac either, not really. Weird that being told he wasn’t interested kinda hurt Verin’s feelings. Maybe. A little.
Nah. He closed up the opened crate as best as he could, though he’d bent the lid and it wouldn’t quite latch. Then he walked over to the new dent in the hallway and used his fore claw to scratch the date beside it.
Good to keep track of these things.