Devil Masque

Published 08/21/2012 – Amazon

DEVIL MASQUE is a short story about sex, costumes, and dancing with the Devil.

The Masquerade ball is the wildest party on campus, and it’s another fun night out for Angela and her best friend Lily. Nobody knows who anyone else is, and the masks can’t come off until the morning. For Lily, it’s a chance to play around, and Angela’s just along for the ride.

Her night changes for the better when she meets someone very unexpected. He calls himself Lucifer, he’s far more charming than a stranger with fake bat wings really should be, and something about him lights up her world.

The only question on Angela’s mind is who is the man behind the devil mask, but she might never find out.


“Alright,” said Angela, “What’s our game plan for the Masquerade tonight?”

Lily kept looking at herself in the full length mirror, checking her long gown for lost sequins. The mirror was really too small for Angela’s bedroom, but she hadn’t gotten around to buying a new one. Lily didn’t have one at all, so of course she had come to her friend’s place to get changed for the ball. Angela was already dressed in her short, strappy white number, and had nothing to do but wait for Lily to stop obsessing over hers.

“You mean apart from finding someone to take home? I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

She rolled her eyes. “I mean how are we going to do that, Lily. Do you want to hang at the bar? Hit the dance floor? Even – dare I say it – mingle?”

Lily stared at her reflection thoughtfully, and flicked some dust off her waist. “Normally I would say hit the dance floor and choose a target, but we don’t know what the guys will look like under the masks and the costumes. I’m going to say we should start with some mingling, then maybe move to the dance floor later and keep a look out for whoever has the best moves.”

Angela picked up her own mask. She had made it herself out of beautiful white feathers glued onto a plain base. It curved around her head and covered her face down to the end of her nose. “You know they won’t know who we are either.”

“Honey, they’re college boys. They don’t look at our faces even when we’re not wearing masks. Don’t worry about it. Now, do I look like Jessica Rabbit?”

She surveyed her friend. Lily was blessed with wide hips and a big chest, although her waist wasn’t quite as narrow as the cartoon character. The strapless red dress had to be held up with miles of double-sided tape and a thin pink tie that wrapped under her arms, but in all respects she looked very much like a true-to-life version. Her mask was a simple thing with pink fur and little rabbit ears.

“Yes, you do, but I’m warning you right now – if you dance in that, you’ll knock someone over with your boobs.”

Lily grinned evilly. “We can but hope. Are you ready?”

“Yeah, more or less.” Angela stood up and grabbed her wings from the bed. All she had to do was pull them on over her arms. “Tah-dah!”

“Right, let’s move out. From this point on, you must refer to me as Jessica,” Lily said. “It’s absolutely imperative that we maintain the time-honored traditions of the Masquerade ball, no matter how silly they are. So what am I going to call you?”

Angela smiled. “Call me Angel.”

*****

After some debate, they decided to take Lily’s car rather than walk there in high heels. They drove to the big hall on campus where the Masquerade was held every year. It should have been on Halloween, but it had fallen on a Tuesday and the Dean had instantly vetoed the idea of holding the college’s wildest party during the week. It had to be a Friday night, to give every student a chance to recover.

Still, all the decorations were still up, along with pumpkin lanterns scattered along the path to the main door. Plenty of people in colorful costumes were already drifting towards the light and music coming from the hall. Everyone, even the plain black-clad doormen, wore masks.

Lily snagged a good parking spot only a few minutes walk away. “Alright, masks on!” she said.

Angela slipped hers over her face and tied it under her hair. “Do I look like a proper angel?” she asked.

Lily looked her over critically. “Let’s see – long blond hair, feathery wings, white dress… of course you look like an angel, silly. You’re one halo away from the celestial chorus as it is. C’mon, let’s go knock ‘em dead.”

They locked the car and walked to the hall – well, Angela walked. She watched her friend swaying down the sidewalk like she was in a fashion show.

“Li – I mean, Jessica, what are you doing?”

“I’m sashaying. Tell me if I cause any accidents.”

She looked around. There was a complete lack of any loud bangs, explosions, or wheels rolling out of twisted wreckage. There were, however, a couple of frat boys dressed as Roman legionnaires staring at both of them as they walked towards the door. “I hope you got your best comebacks ready,” she murmured.

Lily just smiled. She walked up the pumpkin path with her hips rolling like a ship on the high sea, and gave the legionnaires a sultry look before entering the hall. Angela followed close behind, and they barely got a few more steps before the catcalls and whooping started behind them. Lily turned and posed, letting the dress slit open and show off her legs. “You’ll have to do better than that, boys,” she said. “See you on the dance floor, if you’re man enough.” She walked on with her nose in the air, and Angela barely containing her laughter.

“Damn, you do that so well! You’ll have to fight the guys off by the end of the night,” she said.

“It’s all a game, Angel. Never forget that,” Lily said archly. “Now, let’s see…”

They looked across the hall. The place had already started to fill up, and the DJ was playing some rock ‘n’ roll. It could be a while yet before the party really started. There were pumpkin lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and black and orange streamers draped across the walls. Skeletons, ghosts and witches dangled here and there. The bar had been set up beside the DJ, and it was already mobbed by a crowd three deep.

“I think I want a drink,” she said. “The first one’s on me. You want the usual?”

“Sure, thanks.”

Angela lurked by the bar, waiting for Lily to bludgeon her way through the line up. Many guys had chosen superheroes of some kind for their classic masks – she spotted several Batmans and Spider-mans, as well as other spandex-clad characters she couldn’t identify. Her own costume seemed pretty plain in comparison to other women. She saw one in a full period outfit, complete with giant wig and a mask on a stick.

She huffed to herself gloomily. The guys were too full of themselves. She had no real interest in comics or geeky stuff, and they seemed too caught up in playing the character, like Lily was. That was fine, of course, but she would be damned before she’d spend a night listening to some idiot trying to do a bad impression of Bruce Wayne.

The legionnaires were watching her. She turned away, her arms folded, and tried not to make it obvious that she knew. She didn’t like their attention.

It didn’t work. The most enterprising one approached her, and tapped her on the shoulder. “Uh, hey. Where’s your friend with the bunny ears?”

“She’s getting our drinks,” Angela said quickly, trying to make it clear that she didn’t want to talk to them.

“Cool. You wanna dance with us?”

“No thanks,” she said, still not making eye contact. Of course they wanted to dance with her – that meant they could dance with Lily.

“Aw c’mon, it’ll be fun!” he said in a whiny voice that immediately put her teeth on edge.

“I said no,” she snapped. “Go ask someone else.”

“Shit, you don’t have to be such a bitch, we’re just being friendly,” he said nastily. “I bet if I ask your friend, she’ll want to come hang out with us.”

Angela recoiled from him. She hated crap like this. Lily knew how to flirt and she could play around with men’s egos every day of the week, but Angela just failed at it. Even under a mask, she couldn’t hide her nature.

Someone cleared their voice behind her. She spun around in a sudden panic, and came nose to nose with a brilliant, red, horned mask framed with light brown hair. It belonged to a guy dressed in an understated but well-tailored grey suit, a black shirt and a red tie, and who was holding a glass of wine. A pair of bat wings rose above his shoulders.

“Are we having a problem here?” he asked in a pleasant voice, looking past her towards the legionnaire.

Her erstwhile annoyance did a double-take, looking from her to him. “Uh, no. No, man, it’s cool.” He backed off swiftly, leaving her alone with her new friend.

Angela looked at him, trying to work him out. He seemed completely at ease, in spite of the noisy surroundings. He had one hand in his pocket, and he sipped the wine as if he were at a high class soirée.

“Thanks, I guess,” she said. “He was being kinda pushy.”

“So I noticed. I thought you might need a save. Nice costume, by the way.” He held out his hand amiably. “Please allow me to introduce myself.”

She laughed, and shook it. “I think I can guess your name. Are you sure you should be talking to me?”

“Sure. Even the Prince of Darkness gets days off, and who I talk to when I’m off the clock is my own business. You can call me Lucifer, by the way.”

“Not Satan or Beelzebub then?” She liked this game, in spite of her earlier reservations about getting into character.

He smiled. “Oh, no. So old-fashioned. We have to move with the times, after all. So, what’s your name?”

“It’s -”

“Hey, Angel!” Lily returned in a flash of sequins, carrying a rum and coke for Angela and something pink with a cocktail umbrella in it for herself. “And hell-oo to you too, Mr. Devil.” Lily eyed him up and down, appraising him like a slab of meat. He seemed to take it entirely in his stride.

“This is Lucifer,” Angela said. “And this is… uh, Jessica Rabbit.”

“So pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said, and bowed before her.

Lily exchanged a knowing look with her friend. “Well, I have a few gentlemen that require my presence, so I’ll just give you this,” she handed her friend the drink, “and I’ll be back later. Ciao!”

She vanished into the crowd, leaving Angela alone with him. She tasted her drink, and made a face at the cheap rum.

“So,” she said, “Do you come here often?”

“No, this is my first time. It’s an interesting experience, I have to admit.”

Try as she might, she just couldn’t place the accent. It was mid-western at most, but more than that was a mystery. Either he was disguising his voice, or he had traveled around a lot.

“Why the devil costume then?” she asked.

He grinned slyly at her under the mask. “What makes you think this is a costume?”

They both laughed at that, and Angela couldn’t help liking his easy attitude. Nothing seemed to phase him at all.

“It’s all psychology,” he said, sipping more of his wine. “Everyone cares so much about being judged by other people, all the time. Tonight I wanted to play the one guy you don’t judge if you can help it.”

“Like a confidence thing?”

“Well, not really. It’s more like a principle of identity, and how we adjust our behavior to match the expectations of others.”

Angela hid behind her rum and coke as she tried to parse this. It was rather too philosophical for her. “Are you a Psych student?”

“That, or I read too much Freud.” He flashed a smile at her from under his mask. “Why the angel costume, Angel?”

“I like the feathers,” she said. “And I didn’t have any other ideas.”

He reached up and gently touched the edge of her mask, stroking the soft fringe of it with the back of his fingers. “But no halo, I see. Why would you spend so long on the mask, but forget about that, I wonder?”

Lucifer was suddenly much closer than she thought he was; close enough that she could smell his aftershave. It was pleasantly spicy, like the rum she usually preferred in her drink; alluring and strange at the same time. Angela caught his hand and pulled it down from her face. His palm was warm, his grip gentle.

“I just didn’t have time to make one,” she said. She liked this game, but she wanted to draw it out a little.

“Really,” he said. “Maybe you didn’t want one. Maybe you wanted to be someone else tonight as well.”

“You must say that to all the ladies.”

“Only to the ones I find interesting.” He lifted her hand to his face, kissed her fingers, and smiled oddly. “I can’t believe I’m saying it, though. Would you believe I normally can’t talk to women at all? I’d be terrified at the thought of even saying hello to you, if I was really me right now.”

The touch sent shivers down her spine. Under any normal circumstances, Angela would have leaped away from him like he was on fire, but somehow it didn’t bother her. It was part of the game. They weren’t just playing their characters. Her instincts – brittle and underused as they were – said that she should just follow along for a while, and see where it brought her. That was the whole point of the night, wasn’t it? To have a good time, and, according to Lily, to find someone to take home.

“I propose a test, then,” she said, “to see just how much of a difference your mask makes.”

He cocked his head to one side. “Go on…”

“Dance with me.”

Lucifer laughed. “To this music? Surely you jest. We need something better.”

The DJ was playing one of the more popular dance hits right now, and the floor was crowded even though the night was still young. Angela listened to the beat for a few moments, and bounced on her toes. “What, they don’t have pop music in Hell? Can you dance?”

“Yes, on both counts, but I think something a little more refined is called for.” He finished his wine and left the glass on a nearby table. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Angela watched him melt into the crowd. She hurriedly gulped down the last of her drink and left the glass beside his. The game was still afoot, and she had no idea where it was going, but she planned to be ready for whatever happened.

He was gone for only a minute. He reappeared as suddenly as he had vanished, making her wonder for a moment if the costume wasn’t as fake as hers.

Lucifer held out his hand, with that same odd smile on his face. “Time to find out how good the mask is, Angel. I hope you’re light on your feet.”

The pop song finished. It should have faded into another crash of drums and guitar, from something made in the last year or two, but instead she heard the mellow tones of an orchestra. Most of the dance floor instantly cleared out, with grumbles that the DJ obviously didn’t know what he was doing.

Angela’s jaw dropped. The lights became muted, to match the opening bars of the Swan Lake waltz. And Lucifer still stood there, waiting for her to accept.

She took his hand.

They walked out onto the almost empty floor. It almost couldn’t be real, but it was; the whole room was staring at them, the angel and the devil, as he took her hand and her waist.

“Could you have done this without the mask?” he asked softly. “I know I couldn’t.”

She didn’t have an answer for him. The music swelled, and they began to move. He lead her easily through the turns and twirls of the waltz. Maybe it wasn’t the most magical dance ever, but they kept the rhythm at least, and Lucifer knew the music well enough to put on a show; he picked up the pace or slowed them down just at the right time. A few other couples joined in, but for a few minutes, they owned the floor entirely.

She couldn’t have done it. Angela realized that she wouldn’t have even considered it, if not for the mask. The possibility of tripping over her own feet alone would have kept her off the dance floor. No one noticed, in a crowd, so it didn’t matter – but to dance in front of so many people and then embarrass herself would be too much to bear the day after. Behind the mask, however, was a different story. No one knew who she was, not even her partner. If she made herself look foolish, it would only last as long as she wore the mask.

And now she could dance without care. She hoped he felt the same.

They spun around the floor a few more times, then the music died away and the lights came back up. They stood still on the dance floor as it filled up again, and another pop hit started to play. He didn’t let her go, not yet.

“How did you do that?” she asked.

“I bribed the DJ. I thought Swan Lake was appropriate.” He touched the soft feathers on her mask. “I am very, very interested in you, Angel. I want to know where your halo is.”

They were closer, again, than they should be. Everything he did, from the tone of voice to the way his hand moved around her waist, said that he was offering something more than just a dance. Maybe she would have said no straight away, if they had been somewhere else, but it had been quite a while since Angela had had any male attention that wasn’t at least partially distracted by Lily. A few blind dates in the last six months didn’t really count. The game was still being played, but it seemed that the rules had abruptly changed.

She took his hand and pulled him away from the floor. It was getting too crowded again. With all the tables taken, there was nowhere to sit, and that meant nowhere to talk. The DJ even turned up the music to make up for the brief interlude. Angela finally pointed at the door. “Do you want to take a walk?”

“At night, around a mostly dark campus, with a complete stranger?” he said pointedly.

“Oh, be fair. I’m an angel, I’m not allowed to hurt you.”

He stroked his chin theatrically. “That’s what I mean, actually. An innocent angel wandering around with Lucifer, alone? You’re not seeing anything wrong with that picture?”

“I’m sure if we meet any muggers, you can turn them into frogs or something,” she said cheekily. “Come on.”

He laughed at that. They left the hall and the noise of the Masquerade ball behind, and walked along the lamp and moonlight-lit path of the college’s main quadrangle.

After some deliberation, Angela took his hand.

It was surreal, in a way. She’d always considered herself to be terrible at flirting. That was Lily’s forte, and Angela had been mostly content to watch her at work and let her set her up every once in a while. So they walked, and she realized that she had no idea what to say.

Lucifer broke the silence. “This is a really lovely night,” he said.

“It’s kinda cold,” she replied. Angela hadn’t brought a coat. She had expected to be indoors, and hadn’t really thought about the weather when she suggested a walk.

“I’d give you my jacket, but it’s got the wings attached to it,” he said apologetically. “I can do this much, though.”

They stopped in the center of the big square. Lucifer wrapped his arms around her, instantly warming her up. There was that smell again, of his aftershave, and it could easily go to her head.

“I think I’d like to know you better,” Angela said. This time, she was the one to touch his mask. “I wonder what I’d see, if I asked you to take this off.”

He shook his head. “It’s better if we don’t know.”

“So you’re going to sweep me off my feet and I don’t even get to know your name?”

“I don’t know yours either.” He cradled her face in one hand, his thumb stroking her cheek. “Think about it, Angel. Just for one night, we get to be ourselves. Not our names, that’s just what people know us as. We’re not the places we come from, or the people we know, or who we’re related to. We’re just us. It’s worth keeping the masks, if we get to have that.”

She smiled. “I don’t know, I’m pretty sure you’re a Psych student.”

“I’m still not going to tell you,” he said. Lucifer stared up at the stars, and smiled. “I mean, I still find it a little hard to believe that I’m here, and you’re here, and somehow I haven’t blown it yet.”

Angela leaned her head on his shoulder, breathing in his scent and enjoying the warmth. “That I don’t believe for a second. A mask can’t change someone that much.”

“I’m not nearly this charming in real life, trust me. The ladies don’t exactly line up for strange theories on the nature of identity.”

It was a weird idea. It did make sense, in some way, but she couldn’t change her nature, even while wearing a mask.

“I think maybe, when you’re just being yourself, you’re actually very charming,” she said. “Maybe being whoever you are in real life gets in the way of that.”

She felt his smile rather than saw it. “I don’t know if that’s awesome or just kinda depressing.”

Angela lifted her head as he looked down at her. “I think it’s awesome,” she said quietly.

It seemed like a natural progression to pull his head in close. The masks were a little awkward, but it was worth it for the feeling of dizzy elation. He seemed hesitant, unsure, for only a moment, then he was nothing but passionate; he kissed her like a man who had finally found water in the desert, and didn’t want to waste a drop. His hands had been warm on her back before, but now they were hot as they ranged up as far as her neck and down around her hips.

She would never call herself a romantic, but not many women could say they had been kissed under the stars by a Prince.

“I would like to propose another test,” she said somewhat breathlessly. “If we’re just being ourselves, I mean. Let’s go somewhere private.”

He gave a small laugh. “You’re serious?”

“If all I get is your real self for one night, then I am going to make it good.”

Lucifer pointed at the library.

They sneaked in the side door, and went down into the basement. The stacks down here were dark and deserted even at exam time, and they were mostly movable shelving. Lucifer shoved one set over and pulled Angela into the shadowed space left behind. No security cameras, and only the light from the stairwell cast a faint glow over the end of the shelves. They were as alone as they could get without leaving the campus.

He couldn’t get enough of her, and she loved it. He pushed her up onto an empty shelf, hands under her ass and lifting her dress, and his mouth trailing all over her neck. She had to resist the urge to just tear his jacket off, instead of clutching it. As she leaned back and pulled his body close to hers, the whole unit shifted until it hit the end of its track with a loud crunch.

Quiet, they had to be quiet. Lucifer chuckled under his breath and slid down her body. “As long as we’re just being ourselves…”

He tugged her thong out of the way, and Angela just had enough time to clap a hand over her mouth before he pressed his lips against the most intimate part of her. His mask caught uncomfortably on her thighs, but she was barely aware of it; he had some kind of magic in his tongue that made it hard to breathe, let alone think. He sucked with just the right amount of pressure, and licked in just the right places, but never inside her. All of his attention was on her clit, and she would have gladly died and gone to Hell just to have him keep doing it.

She moaned behind her hand, her legs kicking insensibly and rattling the shelf. He rose and fell on her in waves, and her hips moved with him. Every faint sound from her was mirrored with one from him, though his was muffled by her aching flesh. She felt feverish, delirious; her dress and wings and mask felt constrictive, but much as she wanted to get out of them, she couldn’t move one hand from her mouth or the other from where it was grasping his hair.

He stopped, just before she reached the point of no return. The flush of arousal rolled through every inch of her body. She would have begged for more, but he wasn’t going to disappoint; in the darkness, she could make out his fumbling with his pants and the quick flash of a condom packet. When he came back to her, it was to gather her into his arms and kiss her with the taste of her desire on his tongue.

He was gentle, when he didn’t need to be, until the rush of orgasmic pleasure hit her and her every movement became frantic. Then he responded by throwing her up against the wall, squashing her wings behind her back, and pounding her hard and fast. They hung there, for a moment, thrusting and groaning in unison, and the intense feeling – so good it was close to pain – rippled through her groin and up her spine, lasting far longer than it should and making her whimper against his neck.

“Angel,” he whispered, chest heaving for breath, “lovely Angel…”

She didn’t have the energy to reply, but she would never forget the way he said that name. A surge of regret reminded her that this was all she was going to get from him. One fantastic night and memories she’d be haunted by for months…

“I want to know you,” she said. “Please let me know you.”

His shoulders slumped. “You already do. Just… let go of the rest. You don’t want to see the other mask I wear.”

She held him as tightly as she could, smelling his skin and trying to etch every last detail in her mind. Then they separated, and she tried to rearrange her dress and salvage her wings.

It was hard to say anything as they went back upstairs and ducked into the toilets to clean up. By mutual unspoken agreement, they returned to the party, walking back through the quadrangle hand in hand. The hall was incredibly noisy now, as the party was in full swing.

They stopped at the end of the pumpkin path. Lucifer looked at the hall entrance, and shook his head. “I think the night’s over for me. I’ll leave you here, and you can go find your friend.”

She sighed, then laughed to herself. “I’ve had relationships that lasted months that were less meaningful than tonight. Kinda funny when you think about it.”

He smiled at her, and kissed her fingers. “Maybe we’ll do this again next year.”

“Maybe.” As he let her hand go, she leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Goodbye, Lucifer.”

“Goodbye, Angel,” he said, and his last smile was full of sadness. He turned and walked away from her. She watched him until he disappeared into the darkness of the car park. He didn’t look back.

Angela stared at the ground, the hall, and the stars for a while, thinking about what might have been. Maybe he was right. Maybe it was better that they didn’t know. Not knowing made the night special, and precious. No bad relationship, no heartache, no problems, and no regrets save one, but it didn’t stop her feeling a strange sense of loss.

Every step up the path and into the hall was heavy, even as the thumping dance music washed over her. She looked around for Lily’s distinctive profile, but the mass of bodies was indistinguishable. She struggled around the room, looking for a hint of her friend, before working her way back to the exit with the resolution to wait outside and think a little more. The night felt like it was over for her too.

“Angel! Over here!” She heard Lily shout, and finally spotted her next to the door. She was waving vigorously and arm-in-arm with…

Good grief. Roger Rabbit.

Angela managed to get to them, and Lily pulled her outside along with her new favorite person. He was at least three inches shorter than her, had a grin a mile wide, and was probably on cloud nine just from being around Lily.

“Can you believe this? I totally couldn’t believe it when I saw him, and he couldn’t believe it when he saw me!” she gushed. “Angel, meet Roger! Roger, this is my friend Angel. Where’s your devil?”

Angela deflated. “I’ll tell you in the morning. Can I just take the car and go home?”

“Sure.” Lily passed her the keys. “Is everything okay?”

“Don’t ask, Jessica. Just don’t ask.”

*****

Angela had planned to stay in bed the following day, but her friend was irrepressible and insisted she have a shower, throw on some jeans and a clean top, and come out to do a postmortem on the Masquerade ball. She subsequently found out that Roger’s name was really Adrian. She also learned too much information about the things he liked to do in bed, all of which were very much to Lily’s liking as well, and the fact that she planned to meet him next week for a replay.

Lily heard the full story of what happened with Lucifer over coffee in the campus cafe.

“Honey, I’ve heard some strange hook up stories, but that one is just weird,” she said. “He was probably nuts or something. You’re better off if he doesn’t want to see you again.”

“I don’t think he didn’t want to see me again, but it was just too complicated, or something.” Angela sighed and stared out the window. She couldn’t really explain why it made sense, that he didn’t want them to know each others’ identities. “I think I missed out on something good, Lily.”

“Oh cheer up, there are plenty more attractive men out there who actually want to know you. Do you want to come on a double-date with me and Adrian? I know he’s got some very handsome friends.”

“No, I think I’ll stay away from men for a while,” she said wistfully. “Thanks anyway.”

Lily squeezed her shoulder in sympathy. They paid and left, and walked back across the quadrangle.

Angela only half-listened to Lily chattering about the costumes she had seen. Her mind wandered back to the previous night, walking the same path, with him beside her and the scent of his aftershave still lingering on her skin…

She stopped so suddenly that Lily walked on a few steps without her. That smell. Pleasant, just a little spicy, and unforgettable. She breathed in, and there it was again on the edge of her senses.

“Angela?” Lily asked. “Everything okay?”

“I forgot something. Can I catch you up later? I’ll call you, I promise.” she said, her tongue feeling thick.

Lily looked askance at her, not quite understanding, then nodded. “I’ll call you later myself. See you in a while.” She left Angela and walked on to the edge of the quadrangle.

Angela turned, slowly, and looked back the way she had come. There were very few people out on a Saturday morning. Fifty feet away, on the same path, was another student – and he was also standing still, and staring at her.

Her heart skipped a beat. He was the right height. He wore a white shirt over a dark T-shirt, and jeans and sneakers. The hair was the same, but he wore glasses instead of the mask, and had a backpack slung over his shoulder instead of a pair of bat wings.

She started to walk towards him. He moved towards her as well, after a moment. They met in the center of the quadrangle, where they had stood the night before.

Angela didn’t want to say a word, in case it turned out to be the wrong word and he walked away again. But they had recognized each other, for better or worse, and the only thing left to do was play the game again.

She held out her hand. “Please allow me to introduce myself,” she said. “My name is Angela.”

There was a flicker of a smile on his face. “I’m Luke.” He took her hand. “Pleased to meet you, Angela.”

She didn’t let go. “You look different with glasses,” she said.

He almost smiled again, and seemed to have trouble meeting her gaze. He had said he was different, in real life.

Angela stepped closer to him, and lifted his chin up. “Don’t tell me you need this mask too,” she said softly. “Not for me. We could just be ourselves again, you know? Save it for everyone else, if you want.”

Some of the nervousness faded from his face, and when he smiled properly, he was suddenly just like she remembered. “I propose a test, then,” he said jokingly.

“Go on,” she said, her grin getting wider.

“Would you like to have lunch with me?”

Angela laughed. “Lunch! I thought you were going to suggest the library again.”

He took her hand, weaving their fingers together, then leaned in and whispered in her ear. “Maybe later, Angel.”


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