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This story was inspired by [livejournal.com profile] rolodexaspirin, who wanted more of Reverend Alpert.  It was sponsored by the general 'slush fund,' which was so generous that I was able to expand this story!  I think it made the story better; I hope you agree.  Though all of Reverend Alpert's stories are fairly self-contained, this story will make the most sense if you read Exorcism first.  Also, [livejournal.com profile] rolodexaspirin made pre-emptive fanart for it!  Truly, I am blessed with wonderful fans.





The Angel of Joy

It was the happiest town Reverend Alpert had ever been in.

The town market was in full swing, an odd combination of bustling and serene. Something about it bothered him, but it took a moment for Alpert to put his finger on why, until he realized that there were no collisions. Everyone’s steps were smooth and measured, and no one jostled or bumped. Nobody had to unexpectedly change course or scramble, and nobody dropped or fumbled anything. There was something uncanny about it, a whole town’s worth of people moving like carefully calibrated clockwork.

At the same time, none of the people seemed aware they were doing it. They were too busy smiling, talking, and laughing together, going about their business with cheerful, dreamy looks on their faces. However unsettling their behavior seemed to him, they all seemed perfectly content.

An older woman stopped in front of him. Deep smile lines were around her mouth. “Are you here to see the Angel of Joy?” She asked.

Alpert paused. “I’m not sure. I’m only passing by…”

“Oh, nobody just ‘passes by’ here. Everything happens for a reason. Here, I’ll take you to it.” And she took his hand like he was a young man and led him down the lane. Alpert considered resisting, then changed his mind. Perhaps he could at least find out why the town behaved so strangely.

The Angel of Joy lived in a plain little house in the center of town, painted white. The older woman opened the door for him, then let go of his arm, giving him one last pat.

“Don’t be nervous,” she said. “It’s very nice. It loves everyone.”

Alpert walked in.

The Angel of Joy was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his life. Its countenance was so radiant that Alpert had to avert his eyes before he wept, and if asked later, he’d never be able to describe it. It sat on a white throne, a creature of transcendent brilliance, and in a voice filled with all the love of the world, it said, “Reverend Alpert! I’m so glad to see you.”

He hadn’t told anyone his name. “Why? You don’t seem to need an exorcist.”

“Oh, heavens no! Everything’s perfect here. Surely you noticed.”

“I don’t believe in perfection. What is it you do here?”

“The town was suffering. They created me to ease their differences. I think I’ve succeeded, don’t you?”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“Does it matter? I make things run a little smoother, iron out the wrinkles of the tapestry of life. The village has given unanimous consent for me to be here. I have done nothing they disagreed with.”

Alpert remembered the dreamy expressions on the villagers’ faces. “I’m sure. Then what is it you want with me?”

The Angel of Joy tented its perfect fingers. “I need your help to expand.”

“Is that so?”

“I have been extant for four generations here. By the standards of your denomination, I am powerful… within my domain. But no one outside my gates knows of me. I want them to also know joy.”

“If your believers wanted you to expand, I’m sure they would’ve empowered you to do so.”

For a moment, the Angel of Joy stopped smiling, and it was as though the world had gone dark. For a split instant, Alpert saw a glimpse of something terrifying and much more powerful than he was. “Yes, well, I’m afraid that under my care, some of my flock has grown complacent. That is the price of happiness.”

“I’m sure.”

“And, you might notice, they empowered me to summon you.”

He was trying to look away, but the Angel of Joy’s terrific beauty seemed to be drawing him in. In its eyes he saw the promise of rest, of home. No more travel, no more poverty, no more loneliness.

Loneliness?

Reverend Alpert came to himself with a jerk. He hastily reached for his chalk.

“You don’t need that,” the Angel of Joy told him, and its voice seemed to drip honey and gold. It was love, it was peace, it was everything—

Somehow, Alpert managed to slash a chalk line across his arm. The flare of pain helped cut through the bliss, giving him the presence of mind to scrawl a star on the back of his glove. His head cleared, though he could feel the sigil already corroding under the force of the Angel of Joy’s attention.

“No,” Alpert said.

“No?” The Angel of Joy looked momentarily perplexed. No one had refused it for a very long time. “Well, that’s odd. Looking at you, I was sure we could find an accord.”

“You were mistaken.”

“I am never mistaken, Alpert. I know why you travel. I know why you never settled, never married, have no last name…”

“No.”

It smiled that beautiful, terrible smile again, showing slightly serrated teeth. He wished he could find it in himself to be afraid.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.” It said.


With the faint scent of rose petals, the sins-of-flesh demon materialized in the room of an inn. Every inch of the walls, floor, and furniture had been covered in increasingly sloppy chalk lines, all of which were now dull and dead.

“Ah, my dear,” Alpert said where he lay on the bed. “I’ve never been so happy to see you. I was worried you wouldn’t come…”

“Not the way you’ve been living.” She looked around the room, wrinkling her nose. “Ugh, what is this place?”

“I can’t remember. And I’m afraid I can’t quite manage the gumption to leave…”

The sins-of-flesh demon ran her tail testingly over the chalk on the floor. No effect. She sauntered over to his bed and squatted down on her solid haunches, putting him at her eye level. “Hmm. Well, this is nice. You’ve had me at your mercy tons of times. Now you’re the helpless one.”

“I am,” Alpert agreed. “Do you enjoy it?”

She looked at him with dismay. “Not really. Where’s your chalk, Father?”

“Gone.”

“So you can’t exorcise me.” She sat on his side of the bed and her tail coiled around his thigh. “Good. We need to talk.”

“Mmm?”

The sins-of-flesh demon looked at his face and sighed. Then she leaned over and hefted him in her strong arms. “I guess it’ll have to wait until you’re yourself again. C’mon, Reverend, let’s get you out of here.”

In the process of making her exit, the sins-of-flesh demon smashed down three walls, overturned two market carts, and set a midden on fire. Nobody tried to stop her. Indeed, they didn’t even try to run, just stood by and watched in confusion. Their society had been so carefully, gently structured that they couldn’t recognize a force of chaos in their midst, never mind decide what to do about it. Finally, the demon scaled the town wall, Alpert strapped to her back, and bolted into the forest.

Once they were safely surrounded by trees and rocks, the sins-of-flesh demon set him down, feeling his forehead and staring into his eyes.

“Hey, you okay? If you’re still feeling it, I’m good for another twenty miles…”

Alpert stared at her. When he spoke, his voice was shaking.

“Everything…”

Then he clung to his demon and sobbed like a child.

It took three days for the Angel of Joy’s influence to wear off. Alpert cried for most of them. His sins-of-flesh demon sprinted back to the town to retrieve his gear, set up camp, and nursed him like a sick infant, soaking a blanket in the river to bring his fever down.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she kept saying. “You’re tough. You’ll be all right. You know it. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t…”

On the fourth day, Alpert came back to himself, though he looked as though he’d lost a loved one and moved like an old man. Dressed only in his underclothes, he crawled out from under his tarp with a frying pan. The sins-of-flesh demon was devouring fish raw, but she gave him one to fry over the fire, pulping a lemon in her fist to drizzle the juice over it.

“Thank you.” He smiled wanly at her. “I could swear, you look more beautiful every time I see you.”

She dimpled and somehow managed to curtsy while nude and sitting down. “We aims to please, Reverend. How you feeling?”

He grimaced and sat next to her. “Dreadful, but that’s to be expected. I’m afraid you shall have to wait a while before I’m in any condition to exorcise you.”

“Gee, that’s too bad. For you, that is. Because we need to have a serious conversation. How many times have you denied yourself pleasure so you can get me to materialize?”

Alpert sent her a wary look, then went back to seasoning the fish. “I’ve lost count.”

“I’ll bet. But every time it’s the same. You drive me crazy, fuck my brains out, and then slap one of those stars on my back. I get a couple hours here, tops. I want you to stop doing that. I want to be around you more.”

Alpert looked at her suspiciously.

“I won’t cause havoc!”

“I seem to recall you setting a midden on fire.”

“That was an accident! And I didn’t hurt any people.” She looked proud of herself. “I didn’t even tempt them. I just follow you. Isn’t that right?”

Alpert nodded reluctantly.

“But I want to walk the earth with you. I want to see the sights and taste the foods. I want to touch you and make you come. I want a name.”

Alpert’s lips thinned. He knew that this was dangerous territory. The proper thing to do was banish her and stop letting her manifest at all. But he had no chalk, and she had, of her own free will, gotten him away from the Angel of Joy. It had promised him an end to loneliness…

“That sounds more than reasonable,” Alpert admitted. “If you can behave.”

“Haven’t I just proved it? I’ve absorbed a lot from you, all the times we’ve spent. I get stronger every time. Besides, it’s not like you’ve ever had much trouble banishing me.”

Alpert sighed. “I suppose how I feel is irrelevant. You’re going to be on this plane until I make some more chalk.”

“What a shame. Which reminds me, you should check your gear, make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. I’ll watch your fish.”

With a groan of effort, Alpert pulled himself to his feet and shuffled to his pack. As he searched he said, “Thank you, for everything. I see the Angel of Joy had much less effect on you.”

She beamed. “Come on, Father. I’m a bad girl. What could an angel offer me? It’s funny, though.”

“Hm?” Alpert looked up from his chalk belt.

“I think when I smashed out, I changed something. You said everyone there was happy, right? Well, they aren’t anymore. When I went back for your stuff, they were arguing who’d clean up my mess, and they looked pretty mad.”

Alpert paused. He straightened and rubbed his chin. “Is that so?”

The more he thought about it… yes. Yes! An angel of joy who instilled placid passivity, a demon of repressed desire who brought out the worst of people around her… the forces of order versus chaos… and certainly, the angel was strong, but Alpert had help and forewarning now. And hadn’t it said that complacency was the cost of happiness?

He began to laugh.

“Oh, you beautiful creature,” he said, shaking his head. “This is too perfect. You are too perfect…”

“What? What is it?”

He turned and clasped her by the shoulders. “I accept your terms. Now, if you’d spare me some time to make some more chalk, how would you like to give the Angel of Joy some grief?”

She stared at him. She grinned. To his surprise, she leaned in and kissed him, so quick and light that it was over before he could register it or respond.

“Perfection,” she told him. “My name is Perfection.”

“It suits you.”

“Charmer,” she said, and together, they began to plan.

Date: 2013-08-19 01:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolodexaspirin.livejournal.com
...

Well.

He did find happiness. I think a greater happiness than he expected.

I can spend hours psychoanalyzing him. Also he is surprisingly bad at being a Chosen One.

Date: 2013-08-19 02:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
The Angel of Joy is probably kicking itself for that one, it's true.

Date: 2013-08-19 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolodexaspirin.livejournal.com
All like "damn it, how did I manage to pick a sadist?"

Date: 2013-08-19 04:53 pm (UTC)
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