This is the second chapter of a double post! If you haven't checked out Ch 27 yet, back up and enjoy that one first! We looove reviews, they make us super happy! Hint hint, wink wink! ;) Enjoy!
Content warning: Self-harm mention, injury
Jinx was blushing and Mavka was smiling happily as they made their way into the dining room with damp hair. Thanatos, Nyklas, Belial, and Ezekiel were already there, talking comfortably together. Mavka giggled, seeing how Than and Nyk were sitting closer than before and Belial seemed determined to get the angel into his lap.
"Sorry to make everyone wait," Mavka said as he slid into his chair.
"The boss said he didn't mind," Belial said with a wicked grin. "I told him you guys made a little magic and weren't thinking about food."
Jinx scampered over to Thanatos and threw his arms around the big man's shoulders in an excited hug.
"Mavka grew two new trees, Master!" He told the man happily, looking back at the dryad.
"I heard," the big incubus said, smiling affectionately at his little neko.
"And a flower that I'm not sure exists in nature," Mavka added, sitting at the table. "I've never done anything like it before." The dryad shook his head. "And my heart tree is still growing fast. I can feel the growing things much farther than before. Even beyond the forests of our land. I'm still sorting everything in my head, but it's definitely there. I'm not sure how far out I can feel, yet. It's amazing."
"Nyklas healing you must have made your powers stronger," Ezekiel commented, smiling at the brunet. "I know my head feels clearer than it has in a very long time. I almost feel like he cured me in a strange way," the angel admitted softly, his cheeks blushing a light pink.
"I'm feeling pretty damn good, too," Belial admitted. "Now we just have to figure out how to deal with those assholes chasing Nyk and we'll be set."
The door opened, interrupting them. Bettina bustled in with a massive tray of food she set on a long side table and began serving them, as she usually did. As the silver-haired woman was dishing some sliced fruit onto Ezekiel's plate, she paused. Her lips dropped into a frowned as she got a look at the side of the sweet angel's neck that was facing away from Lord Thanatos.
It looked like a nasty bite mark, with some tearing where longer fangs had dug into the flesh. The servant glanced at Belial wolfing down a hunk of venison, flashing sharp white teeth. Bettina sucked in an angry breath, yanking the big wooden spoon out of the bowl and cracking the demon across the head with it.
Belial yelped, jerking away from Bettina, who looked ready to smack him a second time.
"Dammit, woman! What was that for?" the demon demanded.
"Shame on you!" the woman scolded, waving her weapon at Belial. "I saw how he was feeling so poorly, before. What are you doing being cruel to him? You can't tell me he started a fight with you when I couldn't even get him to eat last I saw him!" The servant shook her head in disappointment. "I thought better of you than this, Bel."
"Bettina, what's the problem?" Thanatos asked, standing and moving swiftly to the agitated woman.
"Poor boy's got a big nasty bite on him that matches a certain red-skinned demon," Bettina said crossly. "And it looks deep and painful."
"Leave us, Bettina." Thanatos commanded. "I'll take care of everything. Thank you."
"No more special liver for you, Mister Chompy," Bettina told a cringing Belial as she stomped from the room, making the demon whine sadly.
"Show me, Ezekiel," Thanatos said, trying to keep his voice from becoming threatening.
Ezekiel's eyes were wide when he looked up to meet Thanatos' steady gaze. His hand had instinctively gone up to his shoulder, hiding the bite mark. His eyes darted to Belial's worried gaze, then back to Thanatos.
"It-it's not what you think, Lord," he spoke hesitantly, obediently removing his hand to show Thanatos the wound.
"It's alright, my light," Thanatos soothed as he placed himself between Ezekiel and Belial. "It looks painful. Let me heal you and we'll figure all this out."
"No!" Ezekiel said quickly, shaking his head. "I-I want it to heal on its own..." he mumbled, glancing at Belial. "So it will scar," he finished quietly, looking back up at Thanatos.
"Zeke," Belial said softly, touched by the angel's sentiment.
The other occupants of the room were more bothered by the angel's words. Jinx crawled into Mavka's lap, letting himself be hugged.
"I thought you were doing better," Thanatos said, stroking his angel's cheek. "Getting someone else to make you bleed and become damaged is no better than bringing that harm on yourself with your own hands." The incubus looked a little desperate as his golden eyes found Nyklas. "Could you do it again? Maybe he just needs more?"
"I-I don't think that's what Ezekiel meant," Nyklas spoke softly, looking between the angel and demon before looking back up at Thanatos.
"He's right," Ezekiel nodded, smiling gratefully at Nyklas. "I can't explain it like he does though... Bel?" He looked to the demon for help.
"Me and Zeke bonded," the demon said, his face split in a wide smile. "He's my Aisaro, now. It's a demon thing. I still can't believe he wanted it, wanted me." His dark wings flapped, betraying his strong feelings. "It pretty much means I get to do everything I can to keep him all warm and fuzzy, safe and happy. And Zeke doesn't push happiness away." Bel's daffodil yellow eyes nearly glowed as he looked at the angel with nothing short of adoration. "And he looks out for anything that might hurt my heart. It's not my heart anymore. It's his, even though it's thumping in my chest." Belial's wings ruffled the air again. "And then he let me make him feel real nice. It was kind of a lot to take in and I got a little too excited and gave him a rougher nip than I meant to. I promised I wouldn't draw blood anymore." Belial drew an X over his heart.
"See?" Ezekiel told Thanatos, unable to hide his smile. "I wasn't trying to hurt myself. Like I said, I'm feeling a lot better now. All thanks to Nyklas. And Belial," the angel murmured, reaching across the table to grasp the demon's hand. "For showing me that I can still love someone even after everything that happened..."
Ezekiel found himself suddenly engulfed in strong arms and tucked under the incubus' chin. The angel returned the embrace, his wings rising to surround them both in velvet white. "My sweet light," Thanatos said gently, his tone making Ezekiel feel warm and cared for. "I can't tell you how this pleases me. It's what I've wanted for you for so long." The incubus pulled back, tipping the smaller man's chin up to meet his gaze. "Your eyes have always been lovely, bluer than a summer's sky." Than's thumb traced the smooth curve of a fair cheek. "But now, they are simply stunning. I see it there, in you. There's the start of something in your heart that's pulling you away from the despair and loss of hope that seemed to bind iron weights to your heart."
Ezekiel smiled, making his eyes shine brighter.
"Thank you, my Lord. For never giving up on me and for being the first one to truly love me; even with all of my flaws," he spoke softly, tears of happiness gathering in the corners of his eyes.
"Flaws," the incubus said gruffly, always feeling a bit lost and inadequate when dealing with any of his lovers' tears. "I've always seen you as you are and as you could be, perfect. It's how I've always seen all of you," he added, looking at the other men. "I was a bit slow realizing it with Nyklas, thinking he was something he wasn't, which is a regret I'll forever carry."
"It's okay," Nyklas responded softly, giving the incubus a forgiving smile. "I understand why you were so mistrusting of me. You were only protecting your family." Nyklas glanced around the table at the men he had already began to love even after the short amount of time he had been with them. "I don't blame you at all for what you did," he finished quietly, giving Thanatos another smile.
"Well, good," Mavka said with a smile. "And now you're part of the family."
The dryad giggled and looked at their demon, who had insinuated himself into the hug with Thanatos and Ezekiel, his ruby arms wrapping around the other men's waists.
"Do you need me to talk to Bettina for you, Bel?" the dryad asked. "Not sure she'll listen to you before threatening you with kitchen implements."
"Ugh," the demon groaned pulling away from the embrace and flopping into his chair. "Would you? She's always been a softy for you. Says she loves the little potted flowers and shit you put everywhere and make everything all pretty and nice."
Mavka nodded, letting Jinx off his lap to let the neko join Than in his seat at the head of the table. The dryad nearly cooed at the sight of Ezekiel taking Belial's hand as the angel sat down, as well.
Nyklas let out a soft sigh of happiness as he began to eat, glancing around the table at his new family. He chuckled softly as Belial began talking about his and Ezekiel's fun in the bedroom earlier, not ashamed to give every detail which made the angel blush and shush the demon. The young demigod still couldn't believe that he was a part of a real family now, and a wonderful one at that. It all seemed too good to be true.
Harrowing thoughts of the cult were still in the back of Nyklas' mind though, making him feel weary. He tried to push the thoughts away as memories flooded his head, but he couldn't...
It seemed too good to be true when a man named Silas offered to adopt him from the orphanage he had been raised in. He was half a year shy of his eighteenth birthday. The caretakers at the orphanage had already begun to prepare him for leaving, to set off in the world as an adult, even though Nyklas still felt like a child.
Silas had been very kind to him the first few days he was with him. He told Nyklas that he needed an apprentice, someone to help him in his shop. He wanted a boy that he could finish raising, someone he could take under his wing and teach. Nyklas went with Silas willingly, feeling more excited than he could ever remember feeling in his boring life. The man had taken him far away from his hometown, their travel leading them down winding roads and through dense forests. They stopped at several lodgings where Nyklas ate delicious food and slept in a warm bed, curled up next to the man he would now call Master. Everything seemed to finally be perfect in his life, until they arrived at their destination.
It had been late. Nyklas had his head leaned against Silas' arm where he rode next to the man in the front seat of the wagon they were traveling in. Silas pulled the wagon to a stop at the edge of a densely wooded area and roused Nyklas, letting him know that they had arrived at his new home. Nyklas looked around in confusion, remembering that the man had said he lived above the shop he worked at, in a bustling town. When Nyklas questioned Silas, the man simply smiled at him and grabbed his arm.
Nyklas remembered the cold fear he had felt crawl up his spine as Silas dragged him into the dark woods. He remembered the terror he felt when he began to hear chanting and could make out a large bonfire in a clearing up ahead, surrounded by men clothed in dark robes. Time had seemed to move in slow motion when he was roughly yanked into the center of the group's circle. A deafening cheer had left the men's mouths as Silas announced that their Chosen One had finally arrived.
Nyklas could only remember pain after that. The realization that he had been tricked and lied to had come quickly and the thoughts left just as fast because then Silas had been on top of him, pressing him into the cold, hard ground. The man who had said he was going to take care of him and teach him a trade had betrayed him and was now raping him. Nyklas screamed and fought, desperately calling out for help to the men surrounding them, but they only laughed.
That horrible, agony-filled night had dragged on for the boy, his mind struggling to hold onto consciousness after he was violated over and over again by so many cruel men. It had finally ended when the sun began to rise over the tops of the tall trees. The man who had started it all stood over him, grinning down at him with a manic look in his once kind eyes. Silas had ordered them to take Nyklas to the "hide out" and his damaged body had been dragged over to a cemetery he hadn't noticed in the dark. He was tossed into an open grave, the smell of earth and decay quickly suffocating him as he watched in horror as a large stone was moved to cover the hole he was trapped in. The panic of being buried alive had been too much for his broken mind to comprehend and he had quickly lost consciousness.
He had woken in the same hole, the darkness pressing in on him when he came to and realized he was somehow still alive. He could feel the bugs and worms crawling through the soil beneath him, wondering why a still living body was invading their earth. His screams and cries for mercy had gone unheard, hours passing into days before he had finally heard a sound other than his frantic gasps of air.
The men were back. He was pulled from the grave after the heavy rock was moved. The light from their fire had been too bright for Nyklas' eyes after being trapped in the dark for so long. Pathetic, hoarse pleas for mercy fell from his chapped lips, begging his captors not to put him back into that hole again.
The man who had betrayed him stood over him and laughed, letting his followers know that the "spawn of Nyx" was begging to be made a whore again. Nyklas remembered shaking his head frantically, struggling to get to his feet to try to run, only to be thrown to the ground by unforgiving hands. His begging fell on deaf ears as he was horribly violated once again...
Hearing his name being called pulled him from his thoughts. Nyklas shook his head hard to rid himself of the memories that plagued his troubled mind. A soothing feeling suddenly swept over him, making him let out a shuddering breath. He looked down at his hand to see Jinx's fingers entwined with his.
"Nyk, are you okay?" the neko asked softly, gazing into his eyes with worry.
Nyklas looked up at Jinx's face, then glanced around the table to see all of the men watching him with concern creasing their brows. He realized he had stopped eating and that his plate was mostly full while the others' plates were almost empty. He looked back to Jinx's face and couldn't stop the tears from spilling down his cheeks.
"I-I'm sorry," he whispered, reaching up to brush the tears away. "I-I guess I got a little lost in my thoughts," he murmured, trying to push away the painful memories that clung to his brain like tar.
"What were you thinking about?" Jinx asked hesitantly, his own eyes looking close to brimming with tears as well.
Nyklas glanced around the table once again before lowering his gaze to his lap.
"Th-this just seems too good to be true. Just like... It-it was too good to be true when he adopted me..." the boy's voice trailed off flatly, a dark look spreading through his downcast eyes.
"We aren't going to turn on you like that odious man, little god," Thanatos said gently. "Tell me what you need to help you believe this."
"I don't know..." Nyklas murmured weakly, looking up at the others helplessly. "I'm not worried about any of you turning on me... I-I'm worried about them finding me again," he whispered, unable to shake the horrible feeling of dread that sat heavy in his stomach.
"We're not without defenses," the incubus told him. "The whole of our lands are protected with both magic and more earthly things. Everything is warded against intruders, Belial's wolves are fierce and patrol both day and night, Mavka's plants confuse and deter in many ways, Ezekiel's spells are on every path and possible entrance, and Jinx has scouted extensively for areas of weakness that an enemy could sneak through." Thanatos stood, moving to Nyk's side and stroking his warm cheek. "This place is a fortress that you'd never have penetrated without divine guidance and protection. Never think that because you were able to get in that others will. There's no safer place for you or us." Than leaned down, pressing a kiss to the boy's forehead. "If they come, we'll be ready. But they will never even make it to the walls. They'll fall in the forest, one by one until they are nothing but a feast for the crows."
Nyklas let out a heavy sigh.
"I'm more worried about him," he spoke quietly, as if he were afraid speaking of the man would summon him.
"The necromancer?" Ezekiel asked from across the table.
Nyklas nodded weakly.
"I could sense his magic upon you the moment he entered your head when the others were gone, Nyklas," the angel spoke in a reassuring tone. "Even if he does manage to get close to the castle, I'll know it. Together, I think we'll be able to take him down before he reaches you," Ezekiel looked to the others hopefully.
"My kind has a little resistance to their brand of shitty magic," Belial added. "It's not immunity or nothin', but it'd give me time to get close enough to punch the fucker out if he's stupid enough to show up."
"He seems so powerful though," Nyklas murmured, looking up at the men. "What if he hurts any of you? I would never forgive myself if he managed to do that..." the boy's voice trailed off weakly, a haunted look in his eyes.
"All of us, except for Jinxie, are pretty hard to hurt or kill," Mavka said gently. "And between his excellent ability to hide and the rest of us protecting him, he's safe, too. There's a thousand nooks and crannies around this place and even more in our forest. Jinxie knows them all. He's like a little shadow, when he wants to be, one that knows how to use his claws when he needs to." Mavka smiled. "We're not human, Nyk. Even one of us is stronger and more powerful than a group of those cultists, even with the Necromancer helping them."
"That lover of the dead is the only one who could give us any difficulty," Thanatos added. "And he is only one, one human who drank power he shouldn't have. But he's still human. We aren't, not even you, Nyklas. Think of the gifts of the beings around you, who love and care for you, and tell me how he can stand against us when we stand together?"
Nyklas let out another soft sigh, but this one was closer to one of relief. He knew Thanatos and the others were right. As long as they stayed within the walls of the castle no harm should come upon any of them. The demigod tried to relax, forcing the dark thoughts of pain and death from his head.
"You're all right. I guess... I've just never had a family to worry about before. Even though I only just met all of you a few days ago, it would break my heart to lose one of you. That feeling is very new to me and it's hard keeping the bad thoughts away," he admitted hesitantly, trying to share his feelings with the ones he loved.
Jinx's fingers squeezed his own comfortingly and Nyklas looked over to see the neko's sweet smile.
"It's going to take time for the bad thoughts to go away, Nyk," he told the other boy gently. "I've been with Master for years and I still get them every once in a while," he said quietly, glancing up at Thanatos.
"And when they come, we comfort you," Thanatos said, reaching down to rub behind his little neko's ears. "And remind you of all the truths you know, so you can feel safe again."
"And then, cuddle party!" Mavka said happily. "We take all the blankets and make a warm little fort that feels all safe and close. Then we all crawl in and cuddle Jinxie until he feels better." The dryad leaned toward Nyklas. "We just need to figure out what you need to make you feel better. Than is a big ol' softie and he'd give any of us anything to keep us from being sad or scared. Especially if we cry. He gets all adorable and desperate when one of us cries."
A small smile spread across Nyklas' lips, making him relax more.
"Cuddling with all of you sounds nice," he said softly, unable to stop a blush from darkening his fair cheeks.
"Yay!" Mavka's smile widened. "We could go and climb in Than's big bed since everyone's done eating."
Nyklas nodded and let out another soft sigh as he followed his new family out of the dining hall and toward Thanatos' chambers. The big incubus closed the doors behind them once they were all in the room and the simple action somehow made Nyklas feel even better. He felt so safe with his new family. But he could still feel that nagging dread still in his gut that something bad was going to happen.
He struggled to push it away as he climbed into the massive bed with the other men. Jinx pressed himself close to his side, bringing him some form of comfort from his tumultuous thoughts.
Thanatos slid in on the other side of Nyklas, his strong arm reaching around both Jinx and the demigod to hold the pair of them. The neko giggled softly as he shifted, snuggling into a comfortable position against Nyklas. Belial flopped next to Than's free side, pulling Ezekiel with him. The demon kept his wings tight to his back so no one accidentally lost an eye as he rolled around, finding the best spot. The ruby-skinned demon ended up using Than's arm as a pillow with Ezekiel curled with his head of blond curls resting on Bel's chest.
Nyklas was worried about Mavka, for a moment. There seemed to be no spot for him against Thanatos, who was touching all of them in some way. He'd even managed to sneak a hand over Belial's shoulder to stroke Ezekiel's hair. He needn't have worried. The dryad crawled right between Thanatos' legs. Mavka laid on his side, letting out a happy sigh as he curled with his upper half on Than's stomach.
Being effectively covered by his boys, the incubus looked quite content.
"I'm glad you came to us, little god," Thanatos said, his deep voice rumbling through his chest against Nyk's side. "I didn't know our family wasn't complete until you came and made it whole."
"Yeah," Mavka said sleepily. "Welcome to the family, Nyk."
"Mmmhmm," Belial agreed with a fang-flashing yawn. "Gotta admit things have been pretty great having you here. Love you, man."
Ezekiel nodded in agreement, tracing his fingers across the raised patterns on Belial's chest.
"I agree. I wasn't sure about having you in our family at first, but now I can see that you fit in like a missing puzzle piece," the angel murmured sleepily.
"He's right," Jinx whispered, his mouth close to Nyklas' ear. "We love you, Nyk."
Nyklas' breath caught in his throat from the sweet words from the men surrounding him. He felt so safe and secure in that moment, surrounded by people who truly loved him. It couldn't get any better than this...
"I love you all too," Nyklas whispered to darkness as they all fell asleep.