A/N: Just some good old fashioned, unadulterated Laharl/Etna fluff, seeing as you can never have too much. Well, you possibly could... I just wanted to even it out a bit! There seems to be a distinct absence of the pairing on this site, so I decided to take matters into my own hands! Very sorry, Laharl/Flonne fans, but the idea of those two together just doesn't sit right with me, seeing as the Love Freak is almost a carbon copy of the boy's mother, so I can't see them as anything other than platonic. You have been suitably warned! Don't like Laharl/Etna? Don't read! Easy, ne? BUT, for those of you who DO, go right on ahead, and heck, if we're going all out, why not review? It makes me feel shiny...
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, or its characters, so please don't sue me... I'm just... borrowing it... for a while... I'll give them back, I swear!
All the King's Horses
I swear to whichever deity deigns my prayer worthy of notice; that if Flonne implores me with those saucer-like baby blues of hers to put my faith in a Golem ever again, and I listen to her, I will stab myself in the forehead with a blunt piece of cutlery repeatedly; shortly after relieving said optimistic angel of her ability to partake of oxygen.
After stomping back into my rather shabby quarters, and slamming the heavy oaken door shut with a force that made the rusted hinges wail out in agony; which was a fair warning to even the exceptionally stupid that I did not want to be disturbed, I flung myself onto my dilapidated pallet and muffled my issuing screams by clamping my face down into my pillow.
Somehow, the Prince was to blame for all of this.
I'd spent the last four hours with the Dark Assembly; delivering His Majesty's proposals with all the spin and dramatic flair any demon ever possessed, whilst whittling down the number of Senators participating in the latest majority vote debacle. I'd done damned well to bully the committee from twenty-eight to a sweet sixteen, and I'd hand-selected as many supporters as I could get away with, hoping that the other embittered half of the haphazard gathering would at least be shit-scared of going against their Overlord.
Flonne had eagerly decided to be my wing-man, forgive the atrocious pun, and had delightedly squealed over the apparently 'super-cute' Senator Winney, and demanded that he be added to the ranks. This probably should have been where the warning bells went off in my head, seeing as this Senator was almost as wide as he was tall, and he was 15 feet high, give or take a few inches. The fact that he had been forged from clay like soot, with burning embers for eyes also should have clued me in; but alas, no, I didn't notice until it was FAR too late.
Winney, curse his hide, had graciously accepted Flonne's backing and pledged his eternal allegiance to King Laharl the Terrible, even though I could have sworn he was trying not to giggle when he uttered the 'Terrible'. I didn't really have the heart to blame him though, because I was in much the same state. It might have been something to do with the fact that I had seen the fearsome Overlord not five minutes prior to the gathering; skipping merrily down the hallways shrieking: OVERLORD! At the top of his helium infused lungs.
On any other day I might have deliberated on how adorable or puerile this was, which would of course lead to a stern talking to from the voice of common sense in the wee bit scary recesses of my mind, but today was important, and I needed my wits about me, to deal with the enemy, as opposed to my supposed allies…
Anyways, the initial stages had gone fine, peachy keen, or whatever. The congress had all looked over the proposal to open up the Dimensional Gateway to the Cave of Ordeal, and surprisingly, most of them weren't muttering in a fearful, xenophobic manner, which of course was too good to be true.
Senator Heinrich, a Balrog of some sort with a cringe-worthy fake tan in a not-so-fetching shade of Oompa Loompa; looked ready to pledge his undying love to me in exchange for any bribe of any kind. Even though he thought he hid it well, and I wasn't going to burst his bubble and dispel any illusions of grandeur on his part, it was kind of obvious that Heinrich hadn't sat in on any Assembly sessions before; seeing as he appeared eager enough to fight any other senate member for a piece of lint, let alone something actually 'useful'. However, Senator James rather cancelled out the ecstatic 'Yea' of Heinrich, as always, seeing as, in my humble opinion, the Nosferatu had a giant stick up his arse and therefore felt vindicated to share his suffering with the Netherworld in its entirety.
The Succubae had stuck to solidarity in horrific chest sizes, and therefore also rewarded my efforts with a snotty: 'Nay'. I'm not sure if they were still holding a grudge because of the first meeting, well over a month beforehand, but Laharl hadn't endeared himself any to the freakishly proportioned demons by rocking back and forth on his throne, crimson eyes screwed shut as he sang a truly random little ditty about a Prinny and a black pretzel rather loudly and badly enough to make me wish my ears were bloodied stumps, after I was done blushing at the vocabulary used.
At this point it was rather apparent that the situation was quickly going to displace all nuances of etiquette and quickly devolve into glorified fisticuffs, which was going to be made a heck of a lot worse without the passive support of the hulking great Golem sitting front row centre. Which would lead us neatly the magical moment when Senator Winney, the bastard, really let me down; with not one iota of a jot of repentance, he cheerily announced 'Nay' to the Assembly; and that would be the exact moment when the belated alarms and sirens went off in my skull.
A split second later I had taken a flying leap from the podium, landing atop the ebon and highly iniquitous, backstabbing golem, where I proceeded to stab at his bald, earthen head like I was trying to de-shell a hard-boiled egg. Heinrich, bless his heart, came to my aid immediately, lobbing one of the fast-approaching enemy Senators out of my path and into an unfortunate Nekomata, who proceeded to kick the crap out of the equally unfortunate, yet ill-informed Galactic Demon, who took the beating of its un-life with all of its many eyes open in unblinking incomprehension. What appeared to be a Jack O' Lantern in drag decided that war had been irrefutably waged, and therefore felt validated to leap atop a beyond creepy possessed tree stump in order to carve revolutionary slogans into its bark.
Flonne was meanwhile attempting to restore order, her pacifistic preaching falling on deaf ears when it wasn't drowned out by the screams of Senators locked in mortal combat. During all of this, I was still perched precariously atop the flailing Senator Winney, shrieking all manner of curses that no doubt traumatised the Angel Trainee further, jabbing down with my spear into the growing cracks appearing in the clay vessel.
Everyone was steering clear of the horrendously humongous Sea Dragon, who appeared to be quite upset by this development, as she was solemnly sprawled across the floor like a beached whale, moaning that not everyone could look like a bloody Succubus. Proceeding to fall off the wagon spectacularly, a feeding frenzy took place, with an Alp devoured as comfort food; tail feebly swaying in the dragon's humongous maw like a limp stick of celery…
Just before the climactic end to the melee, and the well-deserved end of Senator Winney, the Prince happened to pay attention to his surroundings for once and discovered the remnants of his Treaty meeting. I was summarily scolded for not listening to the oh-so-responsible Flonne, and then booted from the committee shortly after, with Flonne shedding copious tears for the newly dubbed Humpty Dumpty all the while.
Hence, I was sitting alone in my room after a twenty hour shift without the slightest bit of encouragement for my efforts, cursing the day the Angel had ever been reincarnated. She'd been so very eager to point out every one of my shortcomings before spouting some nonsense about love and tolerance, thankfully at which stage I managed to tune her out. It was just so damned unfair! One thousand years ago I'd lost out to a Love Freak, and now history was repeating itself and there was not one sodding thing I could do about it, seeing as I rather forfeited my right to be a rival when I kinda POISONED my own love interest! Not even saying that I even LIKE the stubborn little brat, because most of the time he's vying with Flonne for the top position of most eligible strangulation victim. And terrific, with my homicidal intent, emotional schizophrenia and general confusion, I've become the poster girl for the mentally unstable. Whoop-dee-doo…
I hate evenings… It's like I'm the antithesis of a night owl… Not saying I'm a morning person by any stretch of the imagination either; there's actually very little in a day that I actually… enjoy. In the evenings, when I'm not being worked into the ground by a narcissistic little twerp, I'm just too tired to do anything but think, and I'm definitely too exhausted to physically prevent myself from doing so. And when I start thinking, I start wishing that my shifts were four hours longer. Because four long hours of pondering the answers to all of the meaningless little questions that I wish to pose, just to clarify whether I'm valued if at all, is enough to drive a girl around the bend and back again.
My treacherous memory keeps taking me back to the hostile expanses of Jotunheim, regardless of my nurturing input to the contrary. It's perfectly understandable to be so utterly flummoxed, but my subconscious seems much more focussed on reliving a certain moment that the Angel Trainee wasn't privy to; pure, undiluted, Prince and Etna interaction.
Up until that very moment, all of my loyalties had been dedicated to retrieving my stolen memories; I hadn't bargained for Maderas to turn on the slimy sycophancy to full volume, and I definitely wouldn't have put any money on a forgiving Laharl; my target was to unabashedly wrench back what had been taken, and random interlopers be damned. I had never expected the Prince to actually fight for me, almost deaf and completely blind at that; and I wasn't even aware that fairytale reconciliations happened outside of Flonne's beloved Celestia.
But in some small, barely sentient part of my consciousness, I wasn't all that surprised. Even though for the majority, the Prince was a spoilt, whiny brat, he was still his father's son, and that on some level, they both shared more than a harrowing level of concern for their hair. King Krichevskoy would have forgiven me, even though I broke the only vow I had ever made. Although honour means little to a demon, I have my pride, and the late Overlord had earned my respect and adulation, maybe to the extent of Flonne's view of love. The King believed in kindness, a trait almost suicidal in demons; even though he could still be just as petty as the rest of the masses, and was deranged enough to think that facial hair was a good idea; but he clung to the little things that separated him so massively from the rest. He was chivalrous, unable to condescend; he actually had table-manners! But most of all, he cared for every individual.
Of course, with life going so perfectly, irony decided to herald the arrival of a human witch, or, under the friendly moniker I mentally gave her: Love Freak, the first. She was utterly incompetent, chirpy beyond belief and with more than a few screws loose, and the King was all over her like a particularly nasty rash.
Justifiably, I despised her.
She just waltzed into the King's life, leaving a destructive wake through my own. Faster than I thought was morally possible for Madame Holier-Than-Thou, she'd gotten knocked up, and then I was greeted by a dilemma with adorable, if slightly wonky, tufts of blue hair and luminous crimson eyes.
Baby Laharl was impossibly even more of a handful than he is now, having developed a penchant for harebrained schemes with frightening ramifications at about ten months of age. He'd developed his triumphant cackle a few weeks beforehand, which was kind of incriminating when you heard the splintering of a recently emptied cookie jar shortly before a giggle reminiscent of a squirrel on some sort of hallucinogen. However, when you managed to catch up to the small, irritating half-blood child, who for all intents and purposes moved faster than the speed of sound, which should've been impossible due to the fact that he'd only been walking for three weeks, he turned on the puppy face and conveniently legged it when the discipliner was firmly entranced by his lamp-like, liquid eyes. Sometimes, if I'm feeling pathetic or just nostalgic, I'm still suckered in one thousand years later, because the boy's still willing to try his luck.
But history repeats itself in endless spirals; each descending tendril just leading me to further despair. Because even if I know the Prince so implicitly, so completely that I can tell he's up to no good just from a slightly malicious twinkle in one vermillion iris; Love Freak, mark two, is just going to stroll onto the scene with her lame-ass, non-existent ninja skills and take the last person I will ever care for away from me.
Did I mention that I HATE evenings?
"Etna, open up…" Came a gruff, exhausted voice, muffled through the heavy oak. Rolling my eyes at the expense of my bossy employer, I heaved the door open and ushered in my Prince with a bow and a flourish. "How nice to see that your humour hasn't deserted you, I thought your brain might have taken it along for the ride." He snarked, storming past me like a little pent up ball of rage. Pulling a disturbing face and adding to the mix with a rude gesture was the only response I deigned him worthy of receiving. Laharl decided to retort with a glare that could melt glass, so I sighed and gave in with at least some good grace.
"I hope Senator Winney learnt his lesson…" I muttered angrily, entertaining a thought that he'd probably have enough time to reflect on his actions in intensive care.
"I'm sure he did, seeing as Flonne's still attempting to patch him up with inch long band-aids and you've been gone over half an hour." He delivered in an almost sombre monotone, but the hint of a smirk on display meant I wasn't fooled for a second.
"Meh, democracy failed, the bill was passed though, wasn't it?" I more announced than asked, topping off my nonchalance with a shrug.
"You're lucky Flonne can't keep her mouth shut for longer than two seconds or you'd be in a lot of trouble with me." He warned abruptly. I shot him a sardonic look for attempting to play the 'disappointed' card before smirking.
"She told you she backed the wrong horse?" I asked knowingly. Laharl grinned softly and nodded acquiescence.
"I kinda caught on when she started cooing to her 'Sweet Mr. Winney' that ally murder was wrong…" He chuckled. "Whatever possessed you to back a Golem?" He added as an afterthought, brows furrowed in consternation.
"By mutual consensus; by which I mean: Flonne thought a homunculus as black as pitch looked trustworthy…" I stated ruefully. Laharl snorted in amusement at this and I joined in with a small smile. "The good thing is that after I was done with him, all the Senators and Vassals in the palace…" I trailed off, eyes gleaming with amusement and a desperate need for inside understanding.
"Don't stand much chance of putting Humpty together again." Laharl concluded amusedly, before turning back to the door.
I stood up awkwardly, like a dog wanting to follow its master, but torn with the conflicting need to show just how much I DIDN'T need him, when he pivoted back to face me.
"Tomorrow morning I need you to extort some 'military funding' from the Assembly; they're so scared of you at the moment that you could knock their collective resistance down with a feather." He said; tone business-like and professional once again. I nodded respectfully and this time my bow wasn't laced with sarcasm.
"Yes; Your Highness." I replied sincerely, heart fluttering madly against the confines of my ribcage at the new development. Laharl made to leave again, but thought better of it and continued to pierce through all of the edifices I had built up to hide the emotions in my eyes with his own crimson gaze.
"One more thing… I'm sorry, Etna; I should have believed in you." He mumbled embarrassedly, before fleeing from my chambers.
For approximately the next five minutes, I stared in stunned silence at the equally mute, inanimate door, before coming rapidly to my senses. I flung myself back onto my bed for the second time, implementing my pillow for a different use as I squealed in delight.