Note: An old piece from a few years back that I thought I should share. I used to dream quite a lot, about dark places and darker souls. Sometimes I wonder where that whimsical part of me has gone. I'm not like I was before.

~~~

I once dreamt I danced with a demon.

He was a charming gentleman with eyes the color of crimson roses and hair the shade of the darkest night. A single touch from him would be enough to snuff out the fire in a soul.

At least, in this dream of mine.

I met the demon at a masquerade ball. It was one with golden chandeliers sporting flaring black wax candles and a glossy dark floor fit for dancing. Despite the elaborate decorations and beautiful ballroom, the lights were dimmed enough to make me uncomfortable as seemingly hungry eyes followed my every step.

It wasn't a surprise when a hand suddenly shot out from the masses encompassing me and yanked me to the side. A cry immediately came to my lips, but a pair of fiery red eyes rimmed with obsidian jewels encrusted on a mask held mine so intensely that the cry died almost the same instant it came.

Others acted indifferently to the threatening scene displayed in front of them.

Disappointment filled the air with a sickly sweet smell.

My captor grinned at me, eyes still fixed on mine with desire. "What brings you here, love?" He asked in a low voice, almost too low to decipher. "I haven't seen a human here since the Prohibition, especially one who looks unwell."

"I – I..." My voice trailed off in wonder. How did I even come here in the first place?

Fingers tightening around my right wrist and tears sprung to my eyes from the pain.

"I asked you a question, did I not?" My captor tilted his head to one side and studied me for a moment before softening his eyes and loosening his grip. "Are you scared of me? Is that why you won't speak?"

I paused, then shook my head tentatively, slowly. "You don't scare me if that's what you've been wondering. I just don't remember how I got here."

"Then..." He reached out and touched my cheek, cold fingers lingering. I shivered. "Why are you shedding tears?"

"You... you had a tight hold," I said quietly. "That's all."

After hearing my words, my captor immediately freed my wrist before taking it again, but gently, as if I were a porcelain doll who would break.

The skin where he had tightened his fingers around was already starting to bruise a dark violet and blue – the colors a brilliant contrast against my fair skin.

To my surprise, my captor brought the tender skin to his lips, crimson eyes closing like lights being snuffed out. "I've never met a human whose skin would turn colors after I'd barely touched them."

A flush of heat colored my cheeks as I pulled my hand to my chest. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to see if I can find someone who I recognize in this crowd."

My captor opened his eyes. The same twin fires stared back at me. "I have a remedy for the pain and coloring, if you would like it."

I shook my head, offering him a curt bow as thanks. "Thank you for your concern, but I'm alright." I disappeared into the masses before my captor could follow me. Although he didn't have me in his hold anymore, I must say that he as a captor was still true. Somehow the blush that stained my cheeks wouldn't subside and my heart throbbed as if I'd left someone dear to me.

A cloud blurred my thoughts and took my memories away from me. I realized that I wasn't even sure who I was.

Before I could finish my thoughts, someone took a hold of my right wrist again, sending sharp jabs of pain up my arms. "What are you –"

Another grabbed my left wrist.

"A human?" The first pulled me closer to him, piercing blue eyes changing to a bright red that almost bled from his irises.

A gasp escaped my lips as my eyes widened.

"It's rare to see one roaming about with no definite direction or endpoint," the second added, eyes a mundane chocolate brown. "She looks ill. A fever, perhaps. Is that what the humans call it, brother? When the face flushes in color?"

The first nodded, but quickly brushed the statement away, uninterested. "It's been ages since we've had a morsel of something sweet to eat because of the Prohibition. Say, would it be alright if we split her soul amongst ourselves?"

Shrugging, the second let go of my wrist. "Whatever suits your fancy. I don't particularly crave souls right now."

The first grinned devilishly. "So I can have her entire soul?"

"Whose entire soul?" The familiar velvet voice of my first acquaintance startled the other two.

"Azrael!" The first exclaimed, a little too excitedly. "Would you like to eat part of her soul? you haven't fed in years, haven't you?"

"I would like all of her."

The same sickly sweet smell of disappointment reached me. It became dizzying, slowly my senses and making my eyes flutter. I knew I was vulnerable in a place of otherworldly creatures, and now the consequences were catching up to me as I succumbed to it. "You don't wish to share?"

"No." Azrael's tone left no other contradictions. He held out a hand. "Now, if you would allow me."

The first's hands let me go, and I swayed slightly. "As you wish."

After the two merged with the crowd, Azrael pulled me to a darkened corner. He looked more concerned than he should have towards a complete stranger who was of no value to him. Without asking for my permission, he took off my mask and placed a cool hand at my forehead. "So you did have a fever."

"Is that... so?" I started to see two of him, eyes unfocusing on two pairs of crimson eyes. "It does feel a bit warm in here."

"I'm sure I only worsened your fever when I let you wade deeper into the ballroom." Azrael tucked an arm under my knees before swiftly bringing me up. His footfalls were light as the music and chatterings of the masses slowly faded away.

The click of a door opened followed by another click of the door closing. Azrael laid me on a soft bed, and I let out a sigh, half-dazed. "Where are we now?"

"My room."

"Oh." I closed my eyes. The smell of the covers beneath me held a nice scent, contrary to the sickly sweet smell that had permeated through the ballroom. This room felt comfortable, familiar even, but the sudden aching of my body contradicted that idea.

The bed shifted as more weight settled upon it. "Can you sit up for a moment?"

I nodded and forced my pained body to comply with Azrael's request.

Azrael took the top of the vial of liquid off, put it off to the side, and emptied the swirling contents into his mouth.

"Are you ill too, Azrael?"

Wordlessly, he leaned towards me, shifting his weight forward. He tilted my chin up, fingers gentle. His lips touched mine softly and hesitantly before he braced a hand at the small of my back and deepened the kiss, mouth opening against mine. The liquid he had taken from the vial slid down my throat, its excess rolling down my chin and plopping onto my thigh.

My mind was too muddled to think, so any instinctive movement to push him away was gone. His fiery eyes flared across from mine like twin fires licking across a burning landscape.

When he pulled away, lips leaving mine, the fog in my mind thickened, but the fever went away. My lips were numb. "The remedy," I started, words beginning to slur together. I could taste it now and feel as it burned a deliberate path through my veins and to my heart. "It's –"

"Poison." Azrael's eyes fell on my mouth and he brought up a thumb, gingerly brushing it across my lower lip, down my chin where some of the liquid had spilled. "You should be going now."

"Azrael" I breathed. Only moments of meeting and he already wished me dead.

His eyes softened as if he had heard my thoughts clearly. "This is only a dream, and dreams end." He reached over, frigid fingers skimming across the surface of my skin. "You are a dream."

"In a masquerade ball..." I trailed off, thoughts twisting and wavering. The edges of my vision became dark, black dots dancing in it like marionettes putting on their last show. "Could we... could we dance?"

Slipping off the bed, Azrael extended a hand. He wore that same charming smile I remembered, and his crimson eyes glittered amongst the darkness of his encrusted mask of obsidian. "A dance?"

A wisp of a smile came to my face, and I attempted to stand, but my legs faltered. Azrael caught me around the waist, holding me up. "Sorry," I whispered. "I don't think... I can dance in my condition."

"I'll be your guide," Azrael responded, voice soft.

Nodding, I allowed him to take the first step as I followed, cheek against the silky fabric of his shirt. A strange lullaby wafted into the room, lulling me further away from the reality of my dream. "Dance me to my death," I murmured.

"Until the lights dim," Azrael promised.

What a dream that was.

~ e.h.

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