Posted in Friends For Life, Stories

Chapter 24; Search Party Begins

Claude sighed as he gazed out the front window of the toy store he stayed at the whole next morning, unsure if he should leave the rest of the ‘missing’ fathers (and Bard and Grell) to rot, or just sing the song to restore them. If he left them, then he’d have plenty guilt trips from his developing conscience, but if he restored them, Angel might be lost to him forever. For all he knew, Ash could’ve had some bug on him or was supernaturally spying on him to be sure he wasn’t foiling the angel’s plan. “So now, I think to myself, what is a spider willing to do for his lost puppy?”

“You grow less and less amusing by the minute. Why Cordelia took a liking to you, I’ll never know. Then again, she probably thought the same about me and Angela.” the demon sighed to the puppet. “If you want to help so bad, then why didn’t you turn everyone back? Why just me?”

“A puppet can only do as he is told from the one pulling the strings.” Drocell stated emotionlessly. “The angels hold my strings and sticks; I cannot do as you say.”

The spider looked over at the purple-eyed ginger. “That still begs the question, why me?” he asked, causing the doll to tilt his head of fiery hair. “Why was I even a target to begin with? And why would you and the angels give me up so easily?”

The sack of straw pulled a smile. “Angels are odd in their ways, especially those fallen from grace in search of redemption.” he stated flatly. “Ash and Angela might be two halves of one whole, but their goals are complete and separate. If Ash would have had complete control, I guess to myself, you and your daughter would have been untouched. But had it been the other way around, you and your daughter would have been the only targets, possibly with a different outcome.”

The golden eyes of the demon looked at him in question. “What do you mean?”

“The one who tugged my strings at the Trancy’s was Angela with Ash over her shoulder like a child watched closely by a parent.” he answered. “Had Ash not been present, I believe to myself, she would have found no use for me.” Claude averted his eyes in thought, trying to process what was told to him. “And so, I ask again.” Drocell stated, tipping his hat jerkily. “…What is a spider willing to do for his lost puppy?”

.   .   .

Pluto bounded down the street, his tongue flopping in the passing wind as he ran. “Hey! There’s someone on our tail!” Jeremy called from the back. When the three teens looked back, they saw the figure of a man galloping up beside them on a horse black as ebony. On the horse’s back was none other than…

“CLAUDE?!” Justine shouted as she kicked Pluto’s side harder. “Come on boy! Faster! I know you can do it!” The large long legs of the white beast worked harder and faster until they were a blur.

Claude looked up at the dog he galloped beside and snapped the reigns harder, causing the black beauty stallion to pick up speeds. With deep, heavy, quickened breaths, he shot a thick sticky line of a web at the hound. When the web reached him, he yanked back, giving him the momentum to fly through the air and land on his back.

At the feeling of a new passenger, Pluto slid to a stop, his legs and paws digging into the dirt and mud. Huffing and puffing from the adrenaline, Claude jumped off the hell-hound with the four teens, receiving four sets of horrid, mean looking glares from the blue, brown, and green eyes of the human, and reapers.

“…First off,” he huffed with a little chuckle, pointing behind him happily. “…I’ve always wanted to do that! WOW! What a rush!” The teens raised their brows as Claude chuckled and looked back down the path he came from, his hands planted on his hips.

After some laughs, the spider’s attention was brought back to the quartet he came to see. “…Not the reason why I’m here… Sorry, got a little distracted…” he grumbled before clearing his throat and returning his expression from one of a rebellious teen to one of the desperate father he truly was.

“…Look.” he started, not completely sure what to say, but making it up as he went as he turned to the only teen in the current group with a drop of demon blood running through her veins. “You were right back in the shop.” he stated. “I’m not trustworthy, and you have every right to suspect me of your families’ disappearances after how I lied, scammed, betrayed, and cheated.” After a moment’s silence to recollect his thoughts, Claude added, “But I love Angel more than anything. She is literally my whole world. It was always hard to lie to and disappoint her. I only want my daughter back, in return…I’ll do everything I can to help you get the others back where they belong, exactly how they belong.”

The teens eyed him skeptically before eyeing each other. “…Don’t look at me, I hardly know him.” Jeremy stated. “…But if he can help, nothing else is working, so let’s give this a shot.”

“The more the merrier.” Rachel stated before she pulled out a huge cannon from seemingly nowhere. “I’ve been waiting to use this bad boy! Now it’ll only be a matter of time before-” she was cut off from the questioning (frightened) looks of her friends (and Claude). “…I-I mean…worst case scenario, he’s only good for scaring people off with his badassness.”

“Meh, why not?” Paul shrugged passively. “If he doesn’t help or he betrays us, I can always straighten him out with this!” he then pulled out a large sickle as tall as him with a blade half the length of the handle.

“…Isn’t that Uncle Undy’s?” Justine asked.

The reaper slumped. “Well, dad’s not using it, and I know he’s not using it because he left it at home, so that fact plus the small fact that he grounded me from my machete, I need a weapon! Especially if we’re working with someone as badass as him!” he exclaimed, pointing a finger at the spider demon.

Justine took longer to reply to the spider’s proposal. She looked at each of the members of the group, even Pluto (who barked in approval) before just staring at him up and down. She took in every detail, from the slight curls in his jet black hair, to the small fact that his dark trousers were a quarter inch too short for him. From the specks of dirt that collected on his silver glasses down to the single black button on his coat just below his breast pocket, straining to stay connected to the black fabric by the three thin strands of thread it hung on.

She didn’t miss a single detail about him, yet caught no hint that even suggested a liar. His pulse wasn’t accelerating enough to tell, his hands weren’t shaky, which could’ve suggested clammy palms, but none were spotted. He did have a damp hairline, with sweat beading his face, but he would’ve been a fool if he felt no nervousness at that current moment after what happened. Claude Faustus was many things, but he wasn’t under any circumstance a fool. What convinced her most were his golden eyes. Had he been lying, they would’ve twitched to the left, but instead, they were locked tightly to look her dead in the eye. He only shifted his gaze to gain eye contact with the speaking teen.

The demon reaper sighed, accepting what she saw. “…If you guys are okay with it…then…I guess I can be okay with it too.”

Claude smiled as he joined the teens. “You have no idea how much this means to me.” he stated happily as he joined them on Pluto’s back. “I’ll be sure to be trustworthy, and helpful. I won’t let you down.”

Ash watched from a distance and sighed. “…I warned you, Claude Faustus.” he stated as he flew away to rejoin the girls. “You cannot say I never warned you.”

When Ash made it to his destination, he was confused when he heard laughter. His confusion didn’t cease when he saw Angel and Angela flying around, getting caught in a girly giggle fit after every flight fail (which was every two minutes…an improvement). She still had her collar on, but he left her in her kennel with her wings clipped and stuck in dog form. Seeing her with two legs, hands, and stretched wings was a shock to him. “Angel!” he called, causing her to lose concentration on her flying and crash on the hard ground. “Follow me.” he stated. “There’s something I need to do, and your presence is crucial.”

“No!” the teen cried. “I’m not going anywhere with you! MOM!”

Angela was quick to respond. “Angel, sweetie, Ash probably just wants to give you some medicine.”

“What do you mean ‘medicine’?” she asked. “I’m not sick!”

“Angel, I still need you to-”

“I don’t care what you need, Ash, I’m not going anywhere with you!” the teen crossed her arms before turning to the woman. “…Well…not without mom at least.”

With Angela believing that it was time to cleanse her daughter, she smiled. “Alright, I’ll go with you.”

The three of them walked inside the home and down to the basement. Angel looked around in wonder and curiosity, feeling the need to touch everything now that she was calm and comfortable around Angela, who was currently talking with Ash about something oblivious to the teen. “Hey! Mom! What’s this thing do?”

“Don’t touch that!” she shouted. “That’s a dangerous acid Ash uses to cleanse people who are unclean if they don’t respond to other methods.”

Angel nodded in understanding before her golden brown eyes sparkled at another object that sparked her curiosity. “What’s this thingy?” And so it continued that Angel would get distracted by some interestingly shaped or colored object, and Angela would explain to her just how dangerous it was before another object would strike her interest.

Soon, Ash took in a deep breath and started to grab a bunch of thingamabobs and whatchamacallits. When he set them down on a table, he glanced over at the teen. “Angel!” he called. “Come here!”

With a nod from Angela, she complied. “…Yeah?”

“Lay on this table.” he instructed. She did as she was told, getting approving comments from Angela saying it would be alright and it was all for her own good. When he picked up a needle, that was when Angel leaped from the table and hid behind Angela’s skirt. “I need you to be asleep as this happens, otherwise, you’d feel much more pain than necessary.”

“Get that needle away from me!” the teen cried, opening her wings to make a small tent out of them as she crouched down on the floor. “Last time you poked me with a needle, I woke up in a kennel with my wings clipped and a collar on my neck!”

“Angel, please.” The sweet voice of her mother soothed as she rubbed her palm on the teen’s back. “This needle is much different, and you’ll feel much better when it’s all over.” Angel poked her eye out of her wings before sighing and folding the large white appendages, giving Ash clearance.

The needle in the man’s hand was much smaller and shorter, so it didn’t hurt as much. She still felt the pinch when the needle pricked her arm, but it only lasted a second. She was fine afterward, but only for a few moments.

Suddenly, she clutched her head and howled in pain. A memory of Claude and her baking sweets and laughing flashed before her eyes as it melted into a vision of him bashing her head with a rolling pin that was sitting on the counter, calling her a mutt, runt, and useless stray.

As this new vision settled itself in the place of the past baking memory, a single tear trickled down Angel’s cheek like the first drop of rain on a dusty, dry, glass window. It wasn’t long before a tear did the same on the other cheek, and those small paths of the salty water grew wider and wider to make room for the new tears that paraded down her face.

Angela looked at her in concern and confusion. Angel wasn’t supposed to react that way to cleansing, which was still what she believed Ash was planning to do with her. The said man simply smiled victoriously. “Let’s see what Claude shall do now.”

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