Posted in Friends For Life, Stories

Chapter 16; Father Daughter Reunite

Out of pure joy, Justine jumped in Timber’s arms before she reexamined herself. “I can’t believe this!” she exclaimed. “I guess Claude’s powers must’ve worn off!” She giggled once again before Timber shushed her. “Oh, right.” The teen giggled a little before shutting up.

With that, the triplet peeked his head around both corners and scanned the area before nodding to Justine, giving her the ‘All Clear’. Quietly and sneakily, the two left the stone vault and proceeded through the halls with much caution. They creaked up the steps from the basement and Timber walked in the kitchen first. Seeing no one else around, he nodded for the teen to follow and he guided her through the royal golden halls of the mansion.

At some point, they passed by the room where the Faustus demons practiced their dancing. The cat demon smiled a little, seeing her friend so happy in her father’s company, until she looked over at the door, causing Claude to look and both demons in the hall to scramble out of sight. “What is it?” the spider asked, still eyeing the door.

“…N-nothing dad.” Angel answered hastily, shaking her head. “I just thought I saw something. It was probably just the triplets.” she stated before smiling at her father. “Back to dancing?”

Justine and Timber continued to sneak around the corners. Once they nearly made it outside, they heard a loud, “Hey!” from behind them. Thinking quickly, Justine shrank into her cat form and leapt into Timber’s arms just before Hannah approached them. “Timber? What are you doing with that feline?”

After a second, the triplet leaned in close to the maid’s ear and whispered, “I’m only taking her back where she belongs.”

“Ah.” she nodded. “She escaped the vault I assume.” With a sigh, she made a move to take the cat from him. “Well then, let me just-” When Timber refused, Hannah looked at him oddly. “…Do you think you can get her in a more secure place?” she asked as the purple haired demon nodded. To this, the woman sighed. “I’ll leave you to it then, just don’t forget to let Claude know.”

He nodded before he continued to leave the manner, the cat still in his arms. “You can probably change back now.” he whispered to her.

“And risk someone catching me? No way. I’ll wait until we’re off this property.” she reasoned back as the demon servant carried her to the woods.

Timber made it to the entrance to the bone path before he put her down as unnoticeably as possible. Justine rushed to the bushes and looked back up at him with a smile. “Thank you.” she stated before going deeper in the woods and gradually returning to her human form.

.   .   .

Angel looked out the window when her dance lessons with Claude were finished. The spider demon couldn’t help but watch her as she gazed at the white fluffy clouds, not enough to block out the sun, but enough to notice their existence. “Angel, are you alright?” he asked, showing rare, genuine concern in his tone.

“It’s just my friend.” she sighed. “I don’t think anyone deserves to be torn from family, not like that. What did she ever do to you?”

Claude thought for a second before he smiled. “If you want, we can visit her.” he stated. “The conditions of the dance competition were only that you cannot free her. I never said you cannot visit with her.”

Angel looked up at him with wide worried eyes. “…v-visit?”

“In fact,” he stated with his smile only growing. “I’ll show you to her vault now. Let you inside, allow you to talk with her, play with her, keep her company for an hour or so,”

The dog demon shrunk in her shoulders. She couldn’t help but wonder if Timber finished helping Justine escape or if he was still working on it. The last thing the teen wanted was to be on her way down there with her father and pass by Timber and Justine going the other way. Not only would that be awkward, but that would be like someone tattooing GUILTY‘ or ‘TRAIDER‘ on both of their foreheads in bold black letters. Before Angel could answer, Claude was already standing by the door and looking back at her, waiting for her to join him. With a deep, nervous breath, she followed him and kept her eyes peeled for the demon and cat.

The whole walk there was nerve wracking. Each step she took was very precise and clear, nowhere close to relaxed and shuffled like she normally would when it was just her and her father. If she were walking on sand, you’d see her foot clean in the sand with no scrape whatsoever; the only way to make it any cleaner, even slightly, was if she simply stood there, and flew straight up without moving her feet an inch.

Her golden brown eyes started to redden from the lack of blinks she allowed. She was afraid of what she could miss in one blink as she spun her head around so fast, her long, brown, slightly curled hair smacked her face.

Angel’s arms were tensely folded in on herself, nearly ripping her tailcoat. Her back and shoulders ached from keeping her arms like that, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t relax them at all. Her neck ached from whipping her head around everywhere, as well as from her spine being so tense; still, she didn’t have the will-power to stretch it out and relax the squashed muscles down the spine.

The teen’s stomach flipped every which way, making her feel sick. She even felt the churning of the organ start to-

Oh, look; they made it to the vault.

Claude smiled as he stepped aside to show the slightly ajar steal door. As Angel pushed it open, her eyes widened when she saw that the room was empty. Raising a brow, she looked up at her still smiling father. “…Dad…” she stated.

The butler only shifted his golden gaze to her, raising his black brows slightly and giving her a little “Hm?” to show she had his attention, but allowed him to bite his cheeks in a failed attempt to keep from smiling wider.

“…Normally, right now, you’d be furious that someone you were keeping prisoner escaped… Why are you smiling like that?” When Claude only bit his lower lip harder and harder, averting his eyes to the ceiling and the floor before returning his eyes to her, it all slowly clicked in place in her head. All the mismatching pieces of the puzzle started to form a picture.

As a reaction, she stomped over to him, ripped off her glove, and slapped him straight across his face, leaving a red mark. Before Claude could react, or even look at her again, she toppled him in a giant hug.

Claude couldn’t remember the last time she hugged him like that, it must’ve been decades at least, but he still hugged her back just as tight, if not tighter. “Why did you do all of that?” Angel asked as a salty dampness grew on the butler’s coat. “Why go through the trouble of helping when you just end up hurting everything, then go back to helping?”

“I had to.” he answered, squeezing her tighter. “I was caught between the master’s orders and your happiness.” She cried happily as she clutched his coat in her fists. “If I had completely and openly helped you help the Michaelis’, then the master might’ve broken our contract, and we’d go another five years, maybe more, without food. I had to act like I was being outsmarted.”

Angel just smiled as she nodded. “I get it now.” she stated. “Thanks…for not choosing a side.”

.   .   .

Justine wandered through the woods until she finally made it to the Phantomhive manner. At the end of the trail, waiting was none other than Sebastian. “Dad!” she called, catching his attention.

He stopped twiddling his thumbs nervously and snapped his head up. “J-Justine?” he called as he got up from the stump and cautiously approached her, slowly reaching his hands out to her, not believing his own eyes and under the belief that it was a hallucination (yes, even demons fall for hallucinogens…even though Sebastian never took any drugs). “How did you change back?” he asked after gripping her shoulders and taking in the sight of her opposable thumbs, straight back, long legs, and round face, accepting that the image before him was truly his daughter.

“It’s really me!” she stated with joy. Hearing that, Sebastian smiled widely and collapsed her in a hug, afraid that if he ever let her go, she’d disappear again. “I changed back this morning.” Justine choked before the crow demon let up a little on his hug…a little. “I guess Claude’s powers must’ve worn off.” she stated.

Sebastian knew better. With powers like his, it doesn’t just wear off; she could’ve been a cat forever had he allowed it. With one more squeeze, the butler released her and lightly pushed her in the manner. “Go inside; let everyone know that you’re fine. I have something I need to do quickly before I resume my butler duties.” Justine smiled and complied with her father’s request.

The crow demon watched as his daughter ran up to the manner. The first thing she did was zoom through the gardens, crashing into Finnie and squeezing him tight before smacking her lips on his. Though it took a while for him to understand what happened, he returned the kiss in full after moving his large straw hat at just the right angle to block off peeping eyes. Sebastian smiled as he started down the road to the Trancy’s.

When he reached his destination, he knocked on the door politely; answered by the very two demons he came to see. “Angel, Claude, there is something I’d like to say to both of you that I doubt you wish for your master to hear.”

“Master Alois is having his snack with Hannah.” Angel stated uptight and properly. “You can say what you want right here.”

The visiting demon nodded before turning to the teen. “I’m sorry I doubted your loyalty to my daughter.” he stated. “I just thought you should know that Justine is now happily safe in the Phantomhive manner.” The dog demon smiled at the success before he continued. “As a reward for your actions, you may come to see her and visit whenever you’d like for as long as you’d like.”

Angel smiled and nodded happily to the butler. “Thank you, sir.”

The crow demon nodded and turned to her father. “Claude, I know it was you who returned her to her human form, giving her all her previous demon and reaper abilities. For that, I thank you.” Sebastian bowed a little in thanks before he sighed. “Unfortunately, all I have to show my gratitude is to wipe the slate clean between us as of now.”

Claude smiled and bowed his head slightly. “That is already more than I could ever ask for.”

As Sebastian began his journey to return to his butler duties, Claude and Angel closed the door with smiling faces. They saw the dawn together as co-workers but watched the dusk as a family. With a smile, Angel looked up at her father. “…Dad,” she called. Claude looked down at her with happy, but questioning eyes. With his attention on her, she bumped into him in a big hug. “You and me against the world.”

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