There was no dinner table. There was just one chair. Faust sat on the torn grayish brown carpet floor, as Joachim gently swirled a glass of blood inside his hand, like one would a fine brand of whiskey.
“They used this method in Star Trek,” said Faust. “To find shapeshifters. I remember thinking that if Hell ever watched those episodes I’d be so screwed.”
“That is an incredibly modern reference,” said Joachim, “for somebody so…”
“Old?” said Faust. “Thank you, this seems to be all I do these days. Catching up on culture. Making sure I get the expressions just right. I learned German two hundred years ago. I can’t afford to let it show.”
The test stripes he dipped inside all came back positive, interacting with the blood on a chemical level. In a peak fit of paranoia, Joachim actually put one of them into his mouth and chewed it, just to see if he was really holding a testing strip. He spat it out again when he couldn’t stand the disgusting taste of plastic anymore.
“You could have found a way to fill one of your illusions with blood,” said Joachim.
Faust groaned and the… whatever it was in front of him… face-palmed.
“Your Wifi password is VorfuehreffektIstEinTollerNameFuerEinenKater$$),” she said.
“You could have found that out by torturing the real Carina,” said Joachim. “Or a million other ways.”
“You have a birthmark on your nutsack, right over your left nut,” she said. “Wait. My left. Your right.”
“Again torture,” said Joachim. “Try telling me what her favored episode of Doctor Who was.”
“Don’t Blink by a mile.”
“Or tell me that song was playing when-”
“When you tried to perform a striptease? My Hips don’t lie by Shakira. Or did you mean that stupid song you tortured me with in the car? Five Hundred Miles by whatever that band from How I Met Your Mother is called. Or the song that was playing the last time you whipped me? There was no song. Just you hesitating and fumbling around, trying not to skin me with that riding crop, for which I’m grateful for, actually. You whipped me twenty-seven times, before Andrej showed up.”
Joachim paused in what he hoped was a dramatic way.
“Twenty-nine,” said Joachim.
“Twenty-seven,” said Faust.
“You are good,” said Joachim.
“You are paranoid,” said Faust. “Considering my House allegiance that is actually a huge compliment. That reminds me, Sanft is not working for House Paimon, even though he claimed as much. I went to the register and haven’t found that vessel he was using anywhere. Must be an unlisted recruiter. Naughty, naughty.”
Joachim wanted to vomit. He wasn’t sure if that was his emotional state or just his body rejecting the chemicals he had inadvertently swallowed while chewing on the medical testing strip.
“What room have you been hiding in, back at the hotel?” said Joachim.
“The lobby,” she said. “I stuck inside that pretty Nigerian body, sitting right next to you. You smelled like lemons. Did you change your shampoo?”
Something inside of Joachim clicked. The magical line where the effort to create the lie far outweighed any potential reward it could bring was crossed. Faust had believed Joachim knew anything about Ritter Lothar for about half an hour. There was no way anybody could extract this level of detail from somebody, create this convincing a performance in that amount of time.
He had been standing there, all stiff, all shocked for several seconds and it had not been lost on Faust.
“There you go,” she said.
“Is that your thing?” said Joachim. “Infiltrating my life? Lying to me about-”
“Stop,” said Faust, Carina and Helga who had been the same person from the very beginning. “I have fallen for you from the very beginning. From when you helped out an immigrant just like that. It… fuck.” She looked away for a second. “It stirred something inside of me, okay? It was stupid, but betraying your own makes you kinda lonely. Of course, none of this would have ever become an issue, if you hadn’t be so stubborn.”
“Not an issue?” said Joachim. He couldn’t believe this.
He should kill her right now. Either she was an illusion after all or the world would finally be rid of her. He just needed to work up his anger.
Remember what you felt like on the torturing chair, Joachim thought. The others have not been rescued.
“I have given myself to you,” said Faust. “I have given you my flesh body. My soul. I have not done this in a long time.”
“How old are you, really?” said Joachim.
“Old,” said Faust. “Five hundred years and some change. The birthday on my ID is real. It’s just the first two digits of the year that are wrong.”
“Jesus,” said Joachim. “My girlfriend is a mass-murdering demon-witch.”
“Awww. You said girlfriend.”
Something inside of Joachim was breaking. Something deep. It was as if his brain was crashing and needed to be rebooted. Along with his entire life.
He hadn’t noticed that he had started crying. When he noticed he hated himself for it and suppressed it. He wouldn’t give her the satisfaction. He wouldn’t do something stupid that would get himself killed.
Faust… Carina was standing up and trying to hug him, like she had done a thousand times before. Joachim pushed her away.
“Don’t touch me,” he said.
He was looking at her face now, really looking at her face, and her soft, diminutive features merged inside his head with every psychopath she had personally hand-picked and instructed to do horrible, despicable things.
Carina had lifted her hands and taken three steps back. Joachim couldn’t think straight anymore. And he wasn’t sure he could kill her now. And he hated himself for that because she really, really deserved to die and there was no authority on this earth who would see justice done.
“What I did,” she said, “may seem terrible to you. You are still young. You do not remember what times were like. A hundred and fifty years ago, the authorities did the things that I have done. Ninety years ago-”
“Are you going to compare yourself to Hitler?” said Joachim. “Is that your excuse? I’m a war criminal and hundreds of families grief their dead loved ones but I was better than Hitler so it’s still okay?”
Carina screamed in frustration.
“Of course not. You have to see the moral horizon on this. You can disagree with my methods, but-”
Joachim laughed. He just laughed at her.
“I have heard you speak. You have let your little puppet say what you were too much of a coward to say to my face,” Joachim shouted. He was shouting now. “You didn’t do these things because you thought you were doing good. You didn’t do these things because you had a vision of some utopia that could only be achieved by spilling blood. You felt yourself superior to the ones you captured, to the average person on the street. You believe yourself to be worth more than them and you did it because you thought you could get away with it.”
“I didn’t have a choice!” Carina shouted back.
“You always have a choice!” said Joachim. “You just didn’t want to give up your station and your power. You didn’t want to risk your hide to protect those who can’t protect themselves. That is the difference between you and me.”
Carina… Faust was crying now.
“I know,” she said. “I know. That’s why I love you.”
“Don’t say that,” said Joachim. “Don’t you dare fucking say that. I have fought to the death to put an end to something, you could have ordered shut in the blink of an eye.”
“And someone else would have taken my place,” Faust whispered. “The very next day somebody else would have taken my place. They would have walked over my corpse and they would have laughed. You don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know what I have been through.”
“You had a choice,” said Joachim.
“Yes I had a choice,” said Faust. “When I was fourteen years old and they had told me I would never walk again and a demon came up to me and asked me if I wanted revenge on the man who had raped and mutilated me. I could have turned him down. Those people that we needed, those people that all of us needed, they had a choice too. When we revealed ourselves as demons they could have refused. They could have endured. They would have gone straight to Heaven and there was nothing we could have done about it. A few of them actually did. It was a lifetime of temptation boiled down to a single moment. It was a better chance than I have ever had.”
Joachim couldn’t bear to look at her, but he also didn’t have the luxury of indulging in his pain. There was a chance that all of this was a trap. A trap laid by something that wasn’t even human. Or at least not human by any stretch of the definition. It hurt, but he had to go on. He had to go on with… go on with the plan…
He kept looking into Carina’s eyes. Her lackeys had tortured him and he hadn’t broken. This was different.