This is an unnamed short story, so the placeholder name is just the two characters’ names. So it’s about Damen and Cecil (duh) and also Damen’s nightmare-self (Dusk) makes an appearance and sends Damen into a fit of anxiety. Content Warning: During the nightmare scene there’s some gore and just unpleasant imagery, and there’s also some strong profanity near the end. If you are uncomfortable with any of this, I suggest you not read.
All characters belong to me.
The moment I stepped up to the door and heard shouts and laughter from inside, I had the feeling that what I would find wouldn’t be good. I narrowed my eyes and opened the door, bracing myself for what I might see. The squeals of laughter grew louder as I stepped inside. I could see what looked like popcorn lying on the floor. I frowned and slammed the door deliberately, and the noise instantly stopped.
“Shh, I think you’re father’s home,” came a whisper from the living room. I stalked forward and went in, and the sight that met me wasn’t much better than what I had pictured.
Cecil lie flat on his back on the floor with Eryn in his arms, seeming to be wrestling with him. There was popcorn everywhere on the floor. They both gazed up at me with a look of unease. I frowned. “What is going on here?”
“Oh, uh, well,” Cecil stuttered, but Eryn rolled off of him and broke in.
“We were having a popcorn war, Daddy!”
“I see.” I leaned down and and pulled Eryn into my arms, lifting her up off the floor. “Have you had dinner?”
She nodded her head. “We got pizza!”
“I see. Well, Eryn, it’s time for you to go to bed now. Say goodnight to Cecil, okay?”
“Okay.” Eryn turned in my arms and waved her hand down at Cecil, who was still lying on the floor. “Goodnight, Uncle Cecil.”
He smiled and sat up, reaching his long skinny arm out and patting her on the head. “Night, kiddo. See you tomorrow.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You. Clean up this mess while I put her to bed. I’ll have a talk with you when I get back.”
He swallowed and pushed himself to his feet, then whispered to Eryn, “I think I’m in trouble.”
She drew in her breath and I turned away and carried her up the stairs. “Are you mad at Uncle Cecil?” she asked me.
“No, just irritated.”
“How come you’re so mean to him?”
I glanced down at her. “How am I mean to him?”
“You make mean faces at him a lot and talk to him in a growly voice. And he looks scared of you a lot.”
I chuckled a little and took her into her room, setting her on her bed and helping her pull her shoes off. “He’s just irritating. I have to be firm with him or else he’ll misbehave. I would do the same with you if you misbehaved. But you don’t. You’re a good girl.” I leaned forward and kissed her forehead. She smiled and kissed my cheek in return.
“Will you be home tomorrow, Daddy?”
I sighed softly and patted her head, helping her undress to get into her pajamas. “I’m afraid not. Sunday I shouldn’t be working, though. I can spend the whole day with you then. We can do something special, okay?”
“Okay. Does that mean Uncle Cecil will be here tomorrow?”
“Yes, he will.” Unfortunately, I thought with a small frown. I picked her up after she was in her pajamas and set her in her bed, tucking the covers snugly around her. I leaned down and kissed her forehead, whispering, “I love you, Eryn.”
“I love you, too, Daddy.” She kissed me on the nose and hugged my neck. I smiled and kissed her cheek, then stood and turned the went to the door, opening a small music box and winding it up before turning off the light and closing the door.
I went back downstairs to find Cecil sitting on the couch; the mess had been cleaned up and the living room looked spotless. I frowned at him. “Use your magic to do that, did you?”
“Magic?” Cecil blinked at me and pushed his glasses further up his nose. “I don’t have magic.”
“It’s magic. You have inhuman powers, so no matter what you call it, it’s magic to us.”
He shook his head with a smile on his face. “All right, whatever you say. Is Eryn asleep?”
“I put her to bed, that doesn’t mean she’s asleep necessarily. Anyway, it’s been a long night. I’m going to sleep too. You can leave.”
“You realize I never really actually leave, right?”
I scowled at him. “So you’re some sort of stalker, is that it?”
“Why does everyone accuse me of being a stalker?”
“Maybe it’s because you often act like one.”
He sighed and stood up, taking a few steps away from the couch. I glanced toward him and saw a large pair of gray wings on his back, which hadn’t been there a moment before. I frowned and crossed my arms.
“Why is it that you’ll show your true nature to me but no one else?”
“You’re the only one who’s allowed to know about it,” he said with a faint chuckle. “I am your guardian angel, after all.”
“I’m sure Eryn would love to know her babysitter is an angel. She is a child, it’s not like she could tell people your secret.”
“That’s not the reason I don’t tell her. It’s just that no one but the person I am assigned to is supposed to know what I am.”
“You’re essentially her guardian too, you know. Being her babysitter, being the daughter of the person you’re ‘assigned to’.”
He tilted his head to the side and his wings twitched. “Why do you care whether she knows or not?”
I paused and thought for a moment, then shook my head. “I don’t know. I’m tired. I need to get some sleep, it’s been a long day. It’ll be another long day tomorrow.”
Cecil sighed and took a step toward me. “Have you ever thought of taking more days off? You’re a single parent, after all. You need to be there for your daughter.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s not that simple. I’m a doctor on twenty-four hour call. It isn’t ideal, but I have to provide.”
“I… suppose so.” He rubbed his arm slightly, turning his head away. “I just think that sometimes you should put her before your job. I mean, I know your job is helping people, and that’s important too, but still-”
“It isn’t your place to be questioning my life decisions. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed.” I turned and went up the stairs without another look at the ash-winged angel in my living room. I had no more time to waste on him.
Sleep came to me as I settled into my bed, though it felt cold and still too empty for my liking. Even though it had been several months since Caroline died, I still wasn’t used to sleeping alone. Sometimes I could hardly bear it. I would roll over and reach out to wrap my arms around her only to find that she wasn’t there. It was a horrible feeling.
The nightmares only made things worse.
He stood over me, gazing down into my eyes, and I was unable to move. A grin spread over his face. “What a sight you are,” he said, leaning in closer. “The Damen I knew wouldn’t be crying for comfort from someone dead. In fact, the Damen I knew would’ve been the one to kill her.”
I opened my mouth to retort, but no sound would come out. He pressed a gloved hand over it and shushed me even though I was unable to speak at all.
“Yes, yes, I know. You aren’t the Damen I knew. It really is a pity. You had so much potential. You could have become him. Butt you tossed that chance aside. Instead you decided to have a normal life. A family. You wanted to be happy. But your happiness didn’t work out so well, did it? Sure, you still have your daughter, but you would be so much happier with your wife by your side. But that’s always how it’s been. You have your daughter and nothing else.”
“She’s enough,” I managed to say, though the words came out muffled as his hand was still pressed against my mouth. “She’s all I need.”
“Yes, that’s all you ever say on the matter. You devote your entire life to her. She is your sole reason for living. But your old self had a very different relationship with her, you know.”
A piercing scream resounded in my ears. He was gone, and I was standing over an operating table with a scalpel in my hand. I felt warm blood soaking my arms and face. I started to shake all over and glanced down at the table. Eryn lie there, covered in bleeding cuts and gashes, old scars covering her body, some reopened. The scalpel dripped with her own blood.
“D-daddy,” she said through sobs. “Please stop… it hurts…”
I stumbled away from her, my eyes wide with horror, but he appeared behind me and grabbed me to keep me steady. He started whispering in my ear again. “You took your daughter and you would do this to her every day of her life. Do you know why? You served a god of shadows that commanded you to do this. Because her suffering fed him and made him more powerful, and you were all too happy to do it. You enjoyed it. Even after you came out of his service, you sought her out again to continue your work.”
“I would never,” I whispered, feeling my eyes welling with tears at the sight of my child lying there mangled, supposedly by my own hands. “I would never do such a thing!”
“You already have,” he said with a chuckle. “In several other lives, you did this. This life you are living now is the first one you’ve been ‘normal’. But you still have that potential to live out that life that you once lived.”
“I don’t!” I hissed, shoving my elbow back into his stomach. “I am not as you claim I am!” I spun around and slashed the scalpel at his throat, but he stepped out of the way before it could touch him.
“Aren’t you? How can you be so sure?”
“Damen, stop!” Caroline was suddenly in front of me with Eryn behind her. She looked terrified. I’ve never seen her look that way before. I walked toward her with the knife in my hand, unable to control myself, more like watching a movie playing out before my eyes, though I felt everything I was doing.
“Give her to me, Caroline,” I rasped, tightening my grip on the knife. “Don’t make me do something you’ll regret.”
“Damen, please, stop…” There were tears in her eyes. I made her cry. I only made her cry once in her life; when I asked her to marry me. God, what was I doing?
The knife came down and stabbed into her stomach. She didn’t even scream. She fell and looked up at me with a mix of horror, betrayal, and disappointment in her eyes. She fell to the floor and Eryn gazed up at me, her eyes streaming with tears. “D-daddy…”
“Stop!” I screamed until my throat was raw. His terrible cackles resounded around me until I opened my eyes and woke in my own bed. I couldn’t move, so I just lie there for a few moments, staring up at the ceiling through the dark. The only sounds were those of my own heavy breathing. I was covered in sweat and my eyes were filled with tears.
“Dammit,” I whispered, squeezing my moist hands into fists. “Dammit, dammit, dammit… Goddammit!”
“What’s the matter?” I went still at the sound of the voice so close to me. I turned my head and saw Cecil sitting there on the bed, gazing down at me.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I hissed. I would have punched him, except my body was still unresponsive.
“I’m your guardian angel, remember? You were in distress, so I came.” He tilted his head and murmured, “Was it another nightmare?”
“I don’t have to answer you. Get out of here.”
“Damen…” He reached toward me and pulled me up into a sitting position. “Come on, can’t you just accept help from someone once in a while? You’re crying…”
“I am not… crying…” I hadn’t been crying. There’s a difference between crying and having tears in your eyes. But now… now I was. More tears stung in my eyes and I began to shake. My breathing was more strained as I tried to suppress my sobs, but once they started they wouldn’t stop.
“Hey, Damen, c’mon, it’s okay. Don’t cry…”
God, I wished he’d just leave. His attempts at comforting me were making things worse. I buried my face in my hands and heaved in my breaths, tears burning my eyes. My whole body ached. Crying is supposed to make you feel better, but this felt terrible.
“Damen, please!” His arms wrapped around me and I felt him pulling me against him to support my weight. His wings wrapped around my shoulders like a soft blanket.
I glanced up at him slowly and muttered, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Comforting you like a guardian angel is supposed to…?” he offered lamely. I scowled, but I didn’t have the strength to pull away from him or protest. I soon forgot all about my anger toward him as a fresh batch of sobs attacked my body.
I don’t know how long it lasted. By the time it was over, I felt more exhausted than ever before. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to lie in bed forever. And Cecil held me the entire time. He said nothing, he just held onto me, to support me. I hated it, but at the same time, deep down, I was grateful he was there. I didn’t want to be alone, and I didn’t want Eryn to see me this way.
At some point, I drifted back to sleep. I didn’t wake until the morning’s light shone in on me through the window. I still felt exhausted, but emotionally, I felt a lot better. To my relief, Cecil was gone.
It was Saturday. I had to go into the office today. Then again, I didn’t have any scheduled appointments. I was allowed to take a day off now and then. I reached over to the phone and decided to call in and tell them I wasn’t coming today. Eryn deserved a day with her daddy. I deserved a day with my daughter.
I crept into her room and kissed the top of her head, then whispered in her ear, “Cecil isn’t coming today. You’ll be spending the day with me, because I’m not going to work. We can do whatever you’d like.”
“Ah, I’m not allowed to join in?” Cecil said from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder at him and saw his wings; he wasn’t visible to Eryn at the moment then. He smiled at me and waved his hand. “No, it really is okay. You need this. You both do.”
“Hmmph. Thanks, Cecil,” I murmured. He nodded and walked away.
Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. But he was still an idiot.