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This story was prompted by Megan Rupe, who wanted shadow animals, and [ profile] aldersprig, who wanted whispers in the dark.  It was sponsored by cloudiah of Manboobz!  It is a Reverend Alpert fic, and all the context you need is that Perfection is a demon who also personifies lust.  Happy Shadowthon, everyone!

The Black Dog

It was always dark when the whispers came.

“Master… Master…”

The boy shivered.  He pulled the blankets over his head.

“I’m here, Master.  I smell you.”

He curled into a ball, covered his ears, and screwed his eyes shut. “Shut up, shut up, shut up…”

“I love you, Master.”

“Shut up!” The boy shouted, and sat up to hurl his pillow at the wall.

“A haunting?” Perfection asked.

Alpert frowned and held the letter up to the light. “Possibly?  It’s not very clear…”

“Just once, I’d like to run into a happy kid in your line of work,” Perfection said, and crawled into the bed to snuggle to his side.

“Mm.” Alpert pulled away and reached for his traveling clothes.

“Where you going?”

Alpert looked up.  Perfection was sprawled on the bed, all curves and claws and softness.

“You haven’t touched me since the last exorcism,” she purred. “And you’ve finally kicked that cold…”

Alpert swallowed and turned away. “Work before pleasure, sweet.  We have a house to clean.”

The house was a homey stone and slate cottage with a Brazilian restaurant on the bottom story, but the client was less welcoming.  One look at Alpert’s face, and the boy hurled a plate at him.

“Get out!  Get out!  I don’t need you!”

The door slammed in their faces.

“We’ll interview the parents,” Alpert suggested, and Perfection agreed.

Like their home, the parents seemed friendly and prosaic, though worried for their teenage son.

“We… aren’t exactly sure what’s haunting him,” the mother confessed. “It only comes to him at night, when he’s alone.  Whenever we come, it disappears too fast for us to get a good look at it.”

“It’s looks like a shadow,” father mother said. “A blob.  He won’t tell us what it’s doing.  He won’t tell us anything…”

His voice cracked, and the mother put an arm around him.  He continued, “I think it’s his dog.  She died last week.”

Perfection blinked. “But—”

Alpert shot her a glance, and she hushed. “Why do you think that?” he asked.

The parents exchanged nervous looks.

“Because.  Well…” and they explained.

“Oh dear,” Alpert said.

“You think it’s true?” Perfection asked once they were shut in their room.

Alpert paused from the chalk swirl he was drawing around her ear. “It’d be a first, but so was everything, once.”

“Just… sure, that’d make the kid moody, but haunt him?  Can dogs even do that?”

“I’ve seen dogs guard their masters after death.  I suppose they could haunt one.”

“Humph.  I didn’t smell any hate…”

“It doesn’t matter, really,” Alpert said, sweeping a line down her neck and connecting it to her ear on the other side. “Because you’re going to find out exactly what it is we’re dealing with.  I can’t exorcise something I can’t identify, and if the boy won’t tell us, we need it to.  Will you be all right up there in the dark?”

“Oh, like I’m scared of the dark,” she retorted, then arched against him. “Mm.  That feels good.”

Alpert continued working on her other ear.  This chalk was sticky, intended to cling to the skin, and would take a good hard scrubbing to come off. “Shimmying up drain pipes in the dead of night is rather athletic, I’m afraid, and I’m past my prime.”

“No you’re not.  You’re just right,” she purred.

Alpert looked up and saw her eyes gleaming like coals.  He looked away.

The chalk tickled and teased against Perfection’s skin and she shifted against the slate roof uncomfortably.  She didn’t want to be sitting on slate shingles.  She wanted to be in bed.  This seemed to be a basic house cleaning, common as possessed produce.  What was the big deal?

Then she heard the whispers.  The chalk on her ears went warm, then almost uncomfortably hot.  Her eyes widened as she listened.

“Huh,” she said.

Then she slid down the roof to go wake Alpert.

The sky was just starting to go lavender-gold when the boy slipped out of his room and down the stairs to the kitchen.  As he was digging in the icebox, the door shut behind him, and he spun to see Alpert at the door.

“Ah good,” Alpert said. “I thought that was a food dish you threw at me.”

The boy turned to the back door, only to find Perfection in front of it.  She smiled, showing pointy teeth.  For a moment, the boy looked frightened, but then he slapped on a look of sullen nonchalance and turned back to Alpert, crossing his arms.

“Are you here to clean my room?  Is that it?” He asked.

Alpert yawned and lowered himself into a chair in front of the door. “I hardly think that’s necessary.  Anyway, it wouldn’t solve the problem, since your dog isn’t haunting you.  Your guilt is, and no exorcism will cure that.”

The boy froze.  The anger bled from his face, and he hid his face behind his dark, curly hair.

“I should’ve watched closer,” he whispered. “I thought I locked the gate.  I always lock the gate.”

Alpert’s face softened. “These things happen.”

“Everyone’s been acting so sorry for me.  I hate it.  I hate them.”

“I don’t think it’s them you hate.”

The boy was silent.

Alpert sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I won’t charge your family for this.  The dog will probably continue to visit you until you’re ready to let go.  That is something only you can do.”

“She must hate me,” the boy said, and his shoulders were shaking. “Why doesn’t she hate me?”

“She’s a dog,” Perfection said. “Dogs don’t hate anyone enough to haunt them.  Trust me, I know these things.  That dog adores you.”

The boy was silent.  A tear slid down his chin and hit the floor.

“At least think about it, okay?” Perfection said.

“Okay,” he said, and sat down next to Alpert, and they waited for his parents to wake up, so they could explain what had happened and why Alpert would not be getting paid.

“Poor kid,” Perfection said as they left. “And poor dog too, stuck between planes… he really should let her go.”

Alpert said nothing.

Perfection looked at him.  She ran her finger down the chalk swirls on her neck. “You know I can smell how much you want me, right?”


“And you know how much I want you.”



Alpert sighed and looked up at the sky, still a peachy pink. “Just because I want something doesn’t mean I should have it.”

She shook her head and took his arm. “Ah well.  Guess I’ll have to try harder.”

He smiled, patted her arm, and they walked on.  Another day, another job.
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