He wasn't back in this place. He couldn't be.
It was over, wasn't it? The pain, the torture,
the darkness...it was all supposed to be over.
The devil had come to save him from this misery
"Save you?" a sickeningly familiar voice
taunted him. "No one's coming to save you, Zeke
Stone. No one's coming for you but Ash."
Laughter. Laughter all around him, drowning out
his own screams as a blade cut into his flesh,
down to bone. Had it all been a dream, a
hallucination? Had he merely imagined his
rescue? His mind rebelled against the thought,
despaired to think that there was in fact no
hope, nothing to wish for but for it all to be
over, for someone to take out his eyes and
return him to Hell.
"You think this is bad now, just wait 'till Ash
gets here. She's got plans for you...you and
that lady friend of yours...what's her name,
Rosalyn? No, not Rosalyn! He couldn't let
anything happen to her. She had to be safe. He
would endure all of this and more if it meant
Ros would be safe. "Leave her...out of this,"
he managed to gasp, each word a struggle to get
past his dry lips.
"Oh, it's too late for that, isn't that right,
Laughter came from all around him, and then--
"Ezekiel! Oh, God, Ezekiel!"
Her voice. That was her voice crying his name.
The sound of it hurt worse than the blade
cutting into his body. He raised his head and
opened his eyes. Immediately he wished he had
kept them closed so he wouldn't have had to see
the horrible sight before him.
"Zeke, please, help me..."
Rosalyn. Chained to the wall, facing him, her
clothes ripped and bloodied, her body, oh god,
the things they'd done to her...
"Rosalyn!" Zeke struggled against his
restraints, rallied the last remnants of his
strength in a fruitless attempt to free
himself. He had to stop them. He had to get to
her, before the demons did anything worse. "Let
her go, please...she doesn't have anything to
do with this!"
"Ezekiel--" His name trailed off in a scream as
the demons gathered around her, laughing, sharp
blades and glass shards flashing in the dull
light of the cavernous room.
"Ezekiel, wake up! Ezekiel!"
Zeke gasped and struggled against his
restraints...hands. Just hands holding him
back, he realized, cold hands grasping his
arms. The devil's hands.
"You were dreaming, Ezekiel. Screaming loud
enough to wake the entire building."
"Dreaming...?" Zeke looked all around him,
blinking to clear away his disorientation. He
felt sick inside, the nightmarish visions
clinging to his thoughts as much as he wished
to shake them off, to forget about them
"Yes, just a dream. Though I gather that it
wasn't a very pleasant one."
"No, it wasn't." Zeke got up from the bed and
went to the window, needing some fresh air.
"Do you...want to talk about it?" the devil
"Why, so you can get your jollies off my
nightmares?" Ezekiel snapped back.
"I was only trying to help."
"Just go back to sleep."
"I can't. I had too much of that damn coffee."
"Then watch TV. Or something." Zeke grabbed his
sweater and put it on, then started hunting
around to find his shoes.
"What are you doing?"
"Getting dressed. Going out." It was nearly
dawn, and Zeke knew he wouldn't be getting any
more sleep for some time. He had to get busy,
think about things other than that nightmare.
He could try to pick up Holland's trail, do a
little more hunting around to figure out where
the demon might show up next.
"Give me a minute and I'll join you."
"If you don't mind, I'd rather work solo
today." Zeke donned his coat and felt his
pockets. Sure enough, his daily allowance of
thirty-six dollars and change was there. He
pulled out the money and tossed twenty-five on
the dresser, figuring that was enough to keep
the devil busy and fed for one day. He
certainly had no appetite. "Try not to spend
this all in one place, all right?"
"So what am I supposed to do with myself all
"I don't know. See the sites. Catch a movie.
Spend a day just...being human. I need some
"And to work on catching Holland."
"Yeah, that too."
Lucifer didn't look pleased, but Zeke didn't
really care. The detective had meant what he
said--he needed some time to himself, to
concentrate on the hunt without having the
devil one step behind him every second, always
with him, day in, day out.
"Just try not to get in trouble, all right?"
Zeke added as he headed for the door.
"What kind of trouble could I possibly get
into, Detective?" Lucifer asked innocently.
Zeke didn't even want to think about an answer
to that one.
* * *
The detective spent most of the day driving and
walking around to the churches that had been
circled in the phone book, the ones marked by
Joseph Holland. Every person he spoke to at the
different locations was quite aware of the
assaults and murders, though none had seen a
man fitting Holland's description. He warned
them all to be extra careful, and he gave out
his phone number to each person he talked to,
just in case they thought of something or saw
something suspicious going on in the future. At
the end of the day, he didn't feel as if he had
accomplished very much. The car's gas tank was
nearing empty and he only had a few bucks left
for the day, so he decided it was time to head
back home and check in on Lucifer.
Their room was empty when he arrived at the
boarding house, at about quarter of five. There
was no note or message indicating where Lucifer
had gone, but Zeke didn't worry much about it.
The devil was certain to show up soon enough.
Zeke crashed out on his bed and decided to take
a nap until then. He feared a repeat of the
morning's nightmare, but felt drained and the
need for a rest won out over his worries.
No dreams haunted his sleep that evening, and
Zeke slept soundly, not awakening until after
ten. Lucifer still wasn't there, and that was
beginning to bother him. Maybe for nothing--
after all, this was the devil he was worrying
about. He ought to be able to take care of
But then again, the devil wasn't exactly his
old self any longer. He could have gotten
himself in some kind of trouble. Which, oddly
enough, was a thought that disturbed Ezekiel. A
few days ago he wouldn't have cared less, but
now he was concerned, at least on some level,
about Lucifer's safety.
But what I am gonna do about it? Zeke asked
himself. He walked over to the window and
looked out at the street. While the sidewalks
had been dead earlier in the day, now they were
alive with activity, people milling about and
moving from one bar to the next. Neon flashed
brightly, tempting those passing by to come
inside with promises of X-rated entertainment.
Maybe Lucifer hadn't wandered far at all, Zeke
wondered hopefully. Checking out the dives on
this block certainly seemed like the first and
most obvious place to look for him, so it was
certainly worth a shot.
Zeke took the elevator downstairs and stepped
out onto the street, taking a quick look around
to decide where to try first. No one place
seemed more of an obvious choice than the next,
so he just started at the end of the block and
worked his way down.
The search didn't end up taking him very long
at all. The third establishment that he tried
proclaimed itself to be a "gentlemans" club,
but judging from the clientele that term was
being very loosely applied. Though the lighting
was dark and the smoke exceptionally thick, he
spotted Lucifer quickly, sitting at one of the
tables close to the stage. He was clearly
enjoying the entertainment being provided by
two topless dancers, and the number of empty
glasses on his table indicated that he had been
enjoying it for quite some time.
A drunk devil. Terrific. That was just what
Zeke needed tonight.
He worked his way through the crowd toward
Lucifer. "Having a good time?" he shouted out
over the noise as he pulled over a chair to
join the devil at his table.
Lucifer's attention was diverted away from the
stage by his presence, though it seemed to take
a moment for the devil to recognize just who
had come to join him. He then broke into a wide
smile and laughed. "Zekie! Why, as a matter of
fact I'm having a very good time. Who
wouldn't have a grand time with all of this--"
he waved at the table full of empty glasses, "-
-and all of that!" He ended by waving and
blowing a kiss at the girls.
"And just how long have you been here, enjoying
this and that?"
"Oh, I don't know. Who cares?" He picked up an
empty shot glass and waved it in Ezekiel's
face. "Did you know, Zekie, that I've never been
drunk before? It's marvelous! Now I can fully
appreciate the appeal of insobriety." He
reached for a half-full glass of beer and
downed the amber liquid, made a brief face, and
then looked back at the scrawny girls on the
stage again. He sighed happily. "I like this
place. It's got real character. Lewd, cheap,
tawdry...a shining example of some of the very
good things I've brought to Earth, don't you
"I think we'd better get you out of here,
that's what I think." Zeke stood and, when the
devil didn't immediately rise with him, grabbed
him by the right arm and yanked him out of his
"Ow! You're just no fun, you know that? No fun
at all," Lucifer complained, stumbling and
colliding with Zeke. "Oh, damn...why is the
"Come on," Zeke sighed, checking the devil's
pants pockets to find out where he'd stashed the
money he'd been given in the morning.
Lucifer giggled and said, "Zekie, if you want
to get into my pants, can't you wait until we
"Don't even think about it," Ezekiel snarled,
finding the crumpled bills and throwing them on
the table, hoping it would be enough to cover
the devil's bill and not wanting to hang around
long enough to find out. He hooked his arm
around the other man's waist and navigated him
as quickly as he could across the room and to the
door. They staggered across the street, dodging
traffic, Ezekiel trying to keep them upright
while Lucifer stumbled and wouldn't shut up,
rambling on and on about the joys of alcohol
consumption. The man on duty at the front desk
of the boarding house didn't say a thing as
Zeke led his drunk companion to the elevator;
he just shook his head, as if he'd seen it all
a few too many times before.
The elevator door opened and Zeke pushed his
companion inside. Zeke let go of his grasp on
the devil for a moment to press the button for
their floor. Lucifer immediately collapsed to
the ground. "Oh, I don't feel so good..." he
moaned, his bubbly mood suddenly turning sour.
He burped and clutched his stomach.
"Take it easy, we're almost there," Zeke said,
just hoping Lucifer would keep it down until he
got them back to their room.
He did--but just barely. Never in Zeke's
wildest, weirdest dreams could he have imagined
that one day he'd be sitting on a cold tile
floor in the bathroom of a fleabag boarding
house, watching Satan himself puke his guts out
down the toilet.
It wasn't a pretty sight.
When he had emptied the contents of his stomach
fully, Lucifer slumped back against the wall,
looking sweaty, pale, and ill. Zeke reached
over him to flush the toilet, and then offered
a cool, damp towel to his companion. Lucifer
looked at Zeke and took the cloth. "Thanks..."
he mumbled, wiping off his mouth, his forehead,
then dropping the towel to the floor with a
groan. "So this is what it means to feel like
"Wait until the morning. You think being drunk
is bad, wait until your first hangover." Zeke
stood up and got a cup of water, which he then
handed to Lucifer. "Here, drink this, as much
as you can. It'll help."
The devil took it and cautiously sipped from
the cup. He sighed and leaned his head back
against the wall. "I just wanted...to forget
for a while, you know, Zekie? That's what they
always say drinking is good for--to forget.
Forget all your troubles...just forget
everything. But you know, I couldn't seem to
drink enough to forget everything I wanted to
Zeke knew the feeling. He was more than a
little familiar with the urge to drown one's
sorrows in alcohol, but he also knew from
experience that it didn't work very well. He
didn't say anything, though, he just sat next
to Lucifer in silence, watching and waiting,
wanting to be certain he wasn't going to
be so ill that he'd need to go to the hospital.
Lucifer gazed mournfully at Zeke. "I was His
favorite, did you know that, Zekie? The most
perfect of all His creations. Except I wasn't.
Perfect, I mean. Not perfectly subservient to
His ideas, at least. No, because I dared to
have a mind of my own." He paused for a
half-hearted laugh. "And look what that got
Zeke almost laughed as well--there was
something about the sight a drunken devil
moaning about his miserable lot in life that
was a little too surreal. Yet the pain he saw
in Lucifer's eyes held Zeke's humor in check.
It left him uncomfortable, too, those eyes
fixed on him, clearly looking to him for some
support, some understanding.
Eventually Zeke had to looked away. "Let's get
you to bed before you pass out here on the
floor," he said hastily. The devil offered no
resistance as Zeke helped him to his feet and
led him to his bed. Lucifer fell on the
mattress with a groan and a barrage of curses.
Zeke went back to the bathroom to refill the
water glass, then brought it out to leave on
the table by the bed in case Lucifer wanted it
later. Ezekiel stood back and noticed that the
devil looked half-asleep already. In a last act
of generosity, Zeke eased the other man's shoes
off and tossed them to the floor. He decided
that was as much assistance in undressing as he
was willing to give, and that he should get
ready himself for a few hours' sleep. Tomorrow
he would be busy hunting and babysitting a
devil who would no doubt be even more of a
grouch than usual.
Zeke stripped down to his shirt and shorts,
brushed his teeth, and stepped back out of the
bathroom. He looked across the room and noticed
Lucifer was actually still awake, watching Zeke
with a strange expression on his face. Zeke
walked over to his bed and kneeled down next to
him. "You gonna to be all right?" Zeke asked,
surprised at the genuine concern he heard in
his own voice.
"No, I don't think so," Lucifer answered,
favoring him with a smile--a genuine one, for
once, that reminded Zeke of his guardian
angel's smile in the fondness it betrayed. "But
that's all right. I'll survive. I always do."
Still holding Zeke's gaze, Lucifer reached out
to touch his face. His touch was light, his
fingers cold and trembling slightly as he ran
them gently down Ezekiel's cheek.
Zeke was frozen, too stunned by the touch and
the look in those eyes to move away. He saw it
then, knew that what he'd been told was true--
the devil really did love him. He could see it
in Lucifer's eyes and his expression. He could
feel it in the soft caress of those fingertips,
which left his skin tingling even after Lucifer
drew his hand back, and gave Zeke a last glance
filled with sorrow and longing before closing
his eyes and falling asleep.
Ezekiel didn't move for a long time. He felt
disoriented, almost a little dizzy, uncertain
of what was going on and what he was feeling.
He hadn't doubted the angel's words before,
about what Lucifer felt for him...but it was
something different to see it with his own
eyes, if only for a second when the alcohol had
lowered the devil's defenses. Zeke found
himself reaching out for the other man's face,
brushing a long strand of hair away from his
cheek as he mirrored the way the devil had
touched him. Revulsion warred with a strange,
inexplicable attraction in Ezekiel's mind as he
studied this other being, this creature he
could call neither angel nor devil, not human
"I don't want to care about you," Zeke
whispered. "And I don't want you to care about
me. I can't love you. I love someone else...I
always will..." he vowed, even as a nagging
voice inside him reminded him of the past, of
how he had nearly violated that "always" with
Ash not so long before. Perhaps his loyalty was
not quite so infallible as he liked to believe.
But to fall in love with the devil? No, never.
Not a chance. Not after the things he'd put
Zeke through. Zeke drew his hand back and shook
his thoughts away from such things. He was
struck with the urge to go out and hunt, his
earlier sleepiness that had brought him back
here having faded away. But he didn't want to
leave Lucifer alone in case he got sick
again, and so instead he went over to his bed,
turned on the TV low and flipped through the
channels until past sunrise.
The days that followed passed slowly,
without event, and without any progress in
the hunt for Joseph Holland. The demon had
seemingly vanished into thin air, perhaps
frightened off by the confrontation with
Ezekiel--either that, or he was simply
laying low, biding his time until his next
Whatever the case, Ezekiel felt as if he was
doing nothing but spinning his wheels,
wasting time until something new happened
that would put him back on the demon's
trail. Zeke didn't want that "something new"
to be another dead priest. Each day he
checked in at churches which had been on
Holland's phone book list, talked with the
clergymen to find out if they had seen or
heard anything suspicious, but that was
getting him nowhere.
Stone's new boss had not made another
appearance since that first night in San
Francisco. Either he was satisfied with what
little progress Zeke had made in the past
few days--which the detective thought was
unlikely--or he had more pressing matters
requiring his attention. Lucifer favored the
latter explanation. "No doubt he thought
running Hell was going to be an easy job. He
had no idea of the intricacies of my work--
no one does! I doubt he'll have any free
moments to waste on you for some time," the
devil had told him.
Zeke supposed he'd just have to wait and
see, but in the meantime he wasn't
complaining about being left alone. When
he'd satisfied his sense of having done what
he could each day to search for Holland,
Zeke spent the rest of his time just trying
to relax and adjust to the changes in his
situation. The nightmares about his
captivity and torture continued, not every
night but often enough to know it would a
long time before he was fully past it,
before he had his confidence back. He knew
he wasn't operating at one hundred percent,
and he knew that might also be why he was
running dry on finding Holland. His focus
was off, his strength still not what he
remembered it being. They hadn't taken his
eyes, but his demonic captures had taken
some of his spirit.
Lucifer's spirit also had become more
subdued than ever. His jibes at Ezekiel had
lost much of their old bite, and he fell
into dark, sullen moods where he barely said
anything, merely responding if asked a
direct question and nothing more. He ate,
and slept, and had apparently adjusted to
the basic needs of mortal existence, but
clearly deeper problems bothered him.
Zeke increasingly found himself thinking and
worrying about Lucifer. The way the devil
had looked at him, that one drunken night,
was stuck in his head and he could not shake
its impact. The love and sadness he had seen
in those eyes had touched something inside
of him, as much as he hated to admit it.
They never spoke of that night, Lucifer
claiming he remembered nothing about his
drunken binge and what may or may not have
happened afterwards. Whether that was a lie
or the truth, Ezekiel didn't know, nor did
he press the matter.
They were faced with a particularly sunny,
beautiful warm morning when Zeke decided he
needed to do something to stir Lucifer out
of his growing depression. "We're taking the
day off," he announced.
"What?" Zeke's companion hadn't even crawled
out of bed yet, even though it was nearly
eleven and Zeke had already showered,
dressed, gone out for food and read the
"I said, we're taking the day off. Just have
some fun, for a change."
"You go have fun. I'm going back to sleep."
Lucifer pulled his bed cover over his head.
Zeke walked over to the bed and yanked the
"Come on. We're gonna go out and find
something fun to do. Something normal,
living, mortal people do for fun."
"Why bother? You're not living, and I'm not
"Because it's better than lying around all
day doing nothing."
"So you say. I beg to differ." Lucifer
rolled over away from the light coming in
the window, and curled up in a fetal
position, leaving Ezekiel faced with the
devil's boxer shorts-covered bottom.
Increasingly annoyed, Zeke slapped his ass.
Lucifer yelped and gave the former detective
a furious look. "What the hell do you think
"Trying to get you moving. I'm sick of
watching you wallowing in self-pity."
The devil's glare turned into an annoyed
scowl, and he finally sat up and asked,
without much enthusiasm, "So exactly what
kind of 'fun' did you have in mind?"
Zeke remembered a listing he saw in the
morning's paper and smiled. "You'll see."
* * *
Zeke sprawled out on the grass at Golden
Gate Park, eyes closed as the sun beat down
and the sweet, sweet sound of skillful blues
guitar washed over him. He couldn't imagine
Heaven being much better than this--except
Heaven would be having Rosalyn lying next to
him, not a grumpy devil.
"So. This is what you call having fun?"
Lucifer asked sourly, his words setting a
jarring note against the music filling the
Zeke opened his eyes and sighed, trying not
to let the devil's foul mood dampen his
spirits. "Yeah. It's called taking it easy--
sitting out in the park on a nice day,
listening to a free concert, eating hot dogs
and popcorn and ice cream...that's what I
"Hmph," was all Lucifer had to say in
response. Still, Zeke thought that the day's
excursion seemed to be having some positive
effect on the devil, as he was acting a
little more like his normal bitchy self for
the first time in days.
Zeke sat up and wondered aloud, "So what
would you consider having fun...or do I even
want to know."
"Oh, I don't know if your little
sanctimonious heart could stand it, Ezekiel.
I mean, if there's no agony, no screams of
despair, no pain and suffering, then as far
as I'm concerned there's simply no fun to be
had at all."
Zeke shook his head and turned his attention
back to the musicians. They started to play
a more up-tempo song, and Zeke watched with
a smile as two young children, not more than
six or seven years old each, got up and
started dancing in front of the stage. What
would it be like to be that young again?
he wondered idly. To be so carefree, to
just be able to get up and dance when the
music moved you, to not have any worries at
Not that his own childhood had ever been
particularly carefree, Zeke recalled more
grimly. His father had made sure he was
miserable most of the time, especially after
his mother had died and there was no one
else around the house to suffer the man's
drunken abuse. Zeke had wanted children of
his own so badly, yet he always had carried
the fear, in the back of his mind, that he'd
be no better father than his own.
Lucifer managed to pick up on Ezekiel's
train of thought, even with his angelic
super-senses gone. "Pining for lost
innocence, lost chances, Ezekiel? It's not
healthy, you know. That kind of stuff just
eats away at a man."
"I know. Believe me, I know." He turned to
Lucifer and added, "Just like it's not
healthy to spend all day hiding in bed,
sulking and wallowing in despair. So you're
mortal now. You don't like it, but you're
going to have to start dealing with it. Try
to make the best of it."
"And if you woke up one day to find yourself
transformed into a slug, is that what you'd
do? Simply 'make the best of it' and not
give a damn about everything you've had
taken away from you? You'd think, 'Ah, well,
I'm a slug now and I'll just have to deal
"If I were a slug, I doubt I'd have the
brain power to think about much of
Lucifer glowered at him. "You understand
what I'm trying to say. You simply have no
concept of what I've lost. You couldn't even
begin to understand. You're like a slug,
Ezekiel, who wouldn't even begin to have a
concept of what it would be like to be a
human being. That's how different the
existence I had before is to the one I have
Zeke shrugged and lay back down on the
grass. After the upbeat song was finished,
the band thanked the audience for listening
and announced a short break before the next
band would be coming on stage. "I'm curious
about something," Zeke remarked. "Just how
did you mess it up with God and end up
getting kicked out of Heaven, anyway?"
"Surely you've heard that story before."
"Plenty of times, but depending on who tells
it, it's always a little different. I'm just
wondering what really happened."
"Some subjects do not make for the best idle
conversation, Ezekiel," Lucifer warned.
Zeke knew it was a touchy subject, but he
was curious to hear the devil's side of
things. He didn't press the matter, though,
and he let the conversation end at that.
Today was supposed to be a day to relax, to
not think about Heaven and Hell and demons
and missions. The next band started up, and
Zeke simply zoned out to the music, and the
sound of the children's laughter.
* * *
Night fell over the city, with no news, no
suspicious incidents to investigate.
Apparently Zeke could take a day off every
so often without having the world come to an
end around him. He was in bed and asleep
before midnight, fully intending to get back
to work the next day and hopefully with a
fresh point of view.
When the nightmare came to him, it began the
same as always, the same as every other
night it had come to haunt him since his
rescue from the demons. He was in that dark,
cavernous place, bound to the wall and in
pain, surrounded by the taunts and laughter
of his captures. They tortured him as they
always did, with words and weapons and
anything they could find.
But then somehow, this time, the nightmare
shifted, changing shape in that incongruous
way that only makes perfect sense in dreams.
Now he was one of the tormentors, lashing
out at the shadowed man chained to the wall.
Rage swirled within him, rage and
satisfaction at finally being able to strike
back at the one who had hurt him so much,
the one who had caused him so much suffering
and anguish. Now it was his turn to
suffer, and at Zeke's hands, to know what it
felt like to be helpless and at the mercy of
those who had no mercy to give. Zeke struck
with his fists, pounding the restrained man
over and over, and then he lashed out with
blades and metal pipes, whatever he could
get his hands on, whatever his fellow
tormentors handed to him.
"That's it, give it to him. He deserves it,"
they urged him on, and they were right. This
one did deserve it, all of this pain and
more. Zeke pierced their prisoner's body
through and twisted the blade until the man
screamed, and damn if it didn't feel good-
-good to be the one in control now, the one
with all of the power.
"How does it feel now, you bastard. Tell
me," Zeke hissed, rage boiling up inside of
him as he leaned in closer, "how does it
His prisoner moaned. Zeke yanked at the
man's hair, pulling his slumped head back so
he could see the pain and fear on his face.
The gray eyes that met Zeke's looked to him
with such shock, anguish, and confusion.
"Ezekiel..." the devil gasped his name,
blood trickling from the corner of his mouth
as his last breath escaped his lips.
Zeke shuddered violently and awoke with a
start--disoriented, as always, uncertain for
a moment where he was. Then he glanced
across the room at the other bed, where
Lucifer lay sleeping, and breathed a shaky
sigh of relief that it had all just been
another nightmare. Another fucking, awful
nightmare, different from the others but no
less horrific. Zeke shuddered, feeling ill
at the memory of the rage that had filled
him, the things he'd done in the nightmare.
"You could do it, you know," a smooth voice
whispered from behind his shoulder,
Zeke twisted around in his bed. The familiar
figure stood in the dark shadows of the
corner of the room. "What would be the harm
in it, Ezekiel? Would the world mourn the
death of the devil? I hardly think so."
Zeke shook his head. "I won't do it. I'm not
The fallen angel laughed. "No? I think
Gilbert Jax would offer a differing opinion
on the subject. And don't tell me the
thought hasn't crossed your mind, about how
easy it would be to just pick up that gun
and..." he trailed off and raised his hand,
curling his long fingers in an approximation
of a gun and pointing it at Lucifer's
Yes, the thought had crossed Zeke's mind--
that first morning, in the shower, while the
devil slept on his bed. But he had pushed
the thought away and never let it cross his
mind again. Speaking each word slowly and
clearly, Zeke repeated, "I. Won't. Do. It."
"He's nothing but a burden to you," the
other persisted. "A hindrance to getting
your job done. I told you before, he's not
your problem. You wasted an entire day
trying to cheer the pathetic creature up
instead of hunting for Joseph Holland. I
notice these things, detective. And I don't
"So help me out. Tell me where to find
Holland, because I'm at a dead end."
"Oh no, we don't play the game that way.
Just mark my words, Mr. Stone. And do take
my suggestion seriously. There might even be
a little...bonus in it, if you were to rid
the universe of this most revolting
"Bonus? What kind of bonus?" Zeke asked.
Someone knocked at the door. Zeke was
startled and looked at the door, wondering
who it could be. By the time he turned back
around, the fallen angel was gone, Zeke's
question unanswered. He reached for his
gun, steadying his hand as he checked the
time--eight in the morning. The person
outside knocked again, more insistently this
time. Lucifer stirred in his bed, opened his
eyes and looked anxiously at Ezekiel.
"This better be good," Zeke muttered under
his breath. He held his gun behind his back
as he cracked open the door with his other
The manager of the boarding house peered
through the crack at him. "Sorry to bother
you, Mr. Stone, but there's someone on the
phone. Says he needs to talk to you, real
"Did he say who he was?"
"A priest, Father somethin' or other.
Somethin' with a B... he was talkin' so fast
I couldn't hardly understand him."
Zeke thought, and then the name came to him
in a flash. "Brenner? Father Brenner?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"I'll be right down, keep him on the line."
Zeke closed the door and dressed as fast as
he could, feeling a mixture of dread and
"Who is it?" Lucifer asked.
"A priest from one the churches on Holland's
list is on the phone. Stay here until I know
what's going on."
Zeke took the elevator downstairs and
grabbed the phone. "Father Brenner? This is
Ezekiel Stone. Are you all right?"
"Detective Stone, I...I'm sorry if I woke
"It's okay, just tell me what's happened."
"I...the suspect in those other murders..."
"Well, I may be paranoid, but I think I may
have just seen him. At least, I was out on
the street, walking to the church, when...a
van passed me by on the street, a white van
with no markings. It was moving very slowly.
It passed me and stopped, briefly. A few
seconds later it started moving again and
drove away. It was...well, I felt quite
unnerved about it." He laughed uneasily.
"I know there are a million vans in the city,
but that was the kind of vehicle the man who
tried to abduct Father Stanton was driving,
"Yes. I'm glad you called me about it. Where
are you now?"
"In my office."
"I'm on my way, I'll be there in...twenty
minutes. Stay there, but call 9-1-1 if
anything else happens before I can get
Lucifer refused to stay behind. Father
Brenner had calmed down by the time they
arrived at his office and was rather eager
to dismiss what had happened as mere
paranoia on his part. "I hope I didn't drag
you out here this morning for nothing,
"You never can be certain, Father," Zeke
told him. Brenner, a tall, thin man who
appeared to be in his mid-fifties, certainly
fit the general profile of Holland's
victims. "I'm glad you called me, whether it
turns out to be for nothing, or not. My
partner and I are going to keep an eye on
things around here today, if that's all
right. If that was the suspect this morning,
he may come back."
"Yes, of course, that's fine." Brenner
glanced at the clock on the wall. "It's
almost time for morning confessions, if I
Zeke nodded. "Go about your business as
usual today. We'll stay close, but
out of your way as much as possible."
"Thank you, gentlemen."
Stone and Lucifer followed Brenner out of
his office, out through the narrow alley
that separated the rectory from the church.
While Brenner went on ahead, Zeke paused in
the alley, taking a good look around. He
looked up and noted that the rectory was a
building four stories high, with a fire
escape leading down into the alley. The
alley itself seemed to be a dead end, with
only an exit onto the street facing the
front of both the rectory and the church.
"You seem quite certain it was Holland this
morning," Lucifer observed while Zeke
continued surveying their surroundings.
"He had to show up again sometime, and this
church was on his 'list'. Even if I spooked
him the other night, he's a man with a
mission. He's not going to stop until his
work is done...and that seems to be
eliminating every priest in this city that
reminds him of the one who abused him as a
"I like a man who sticks to his guns,
finishes what he begins," Lucifer said
with a small smile.
"Figures you would approve."
"I approve in theory, but not in practice.
If Joseph Holland were in fact alive and
working his way, step by step, toward
eternal damnation by killing these men, I'd
be thoroughly pleased with his progress. The
problem is, Ezekiel, he's dead. His soul is
already mine, and he should be in my
kingdom, where he belongs--not traipsing
about Earth still, thinking he's gotten the
better of me."
Zeke was going to make a remark about Hell
no longer being Lucifer's kingdom, but he
thought better of it. Instead he simply
shrugged his shoulders and muttered,
"Whatever." He had a feeling this was going
to be a long day of sitting and waiting,
potentially for nothing, and he didn't want
to start in with it with Lucifer this early
in the morning.
* * *
Hours passed, with Ezekiel and Lucifer
trying to remain discreet as they shadowed
Brenner through his daily schedule of
morning and afternoon prayer services,
confessions, and meetings. Ezekiel saw no
signs of Holland, but he hadn't really
expected the man to make his move--if he was
going to--in the middle of the day. As
evening approached, the former detective
began to grow more alert, more on-guard for
potential trouble. Lucifer merely grew more
irritable and bored.
"I told you, you didn't have to come with me
this morning," Zeke said after Lucifer let
out an exceedingly loud yawn. "You could
have stayed back at the hotel."
"Either way I'd be bored out of my head.
Though maybe I wouldn't be so damn
uncomfortable." With a sigh Lucifer got up
from the pew he'd been trying to lay down
on, and rolled his shoulders and neck to
work out some kinks. He walked over to stand
beside Ezekiel, who had taken a moment to
light a candle for Marta Diamond, the woman
who'd had the misfortune of living in
Holland's former residence. Given that no
one seemed to have noticed her
disappearance, he doubted anyone else was
saying a prayer for her.
"If Holland shows up, stay out of it, stay
out of sight. I don't want to have to worry
about you, on top of worrying about him,"
"I can take care of myself," Lucifer
Zeke wasn't so certain, but he heard the
defensive note in Lucifer's voice and didn't
push the matter. "I still think you
shouldn't have come along. You being here...
it just bothers me."
"What do you mean, Ezekiel?"
Zeke shrugged. "The devil in the house of
God. It somehow doesn't seem...right."
Lucifer chuckled softly. "But you forget,
Ezekiel, I am always here. Where there is
light, there must be darkness. Even the
brightest light must cast a shadow...and
that is what I am, the shadow cast upon this
world by His light." Lucifer held his hand
before the candles, as if by example, his
fingers casting long shadows upon the floor.
"At least, that is what I used to be...but
what am I now? Just another pathetic mortal
human?" He laughed softly again. "First I am
cast from Heaven because I refused to bow
down before mortal man. Now I am transformed
into one of the very creatures I despise...I
suppose it is His final act of vengeance
against me. I must give Him some credit for
the idea--I could not have devised a more
fitting revenge myself."
Zeke studied the fallen angel beside him, a
thought forming in his mind as he reflected
on Lucifer's words and recent events. "Have
you considered the possibility that...maybe
God isn't punishing you by taking away your
powers, making you human? Maybe...I don't
know...maybe this is actually some kind
"Yeah. For saving me, even when you knew you
would have to pay a big price for
interfering." The idea grew clearer in
Ezekiel's mind as he spoke. "Maybe, I'm
thinking, this could finally be your chance
to get back into Heaven--as a mortal human,
who has to live, and then die, and then be
judged for your actions here on Earth."
Lucifer, for a moment, seemed to consider
Ezekiel's idea seriously. But then he shook
his head. "It's an interesting theory,
Ezekiel, I'll give you that much. But He
would never grant me the chance for
redemption after my 'original sin'...just as
He will never, not as long as I exist, no
matter in what form, see me asking for His
forgiveness. I have not changed my opinion
on the proper place of man in this universe.
I will never forgive Him for placing angels
below mankind in His esteem. Never."
"Maybe being just 'a man' for a lifetime
will give you a different outlook on things.
I think you've already begun to care about
mankind more than you want to admit--because
then you'd have to admit that you'd been
wrong about something. And I know how much
you hate doing that."
Lucifer glared at Ezekiel, but before he had
a chance to answer, both men turned at the
sound of approaching footsteps. It was
Brenner. "Good evening, gentlemen. I just
wanted to let you both know, my work is
finished for the day. I was about to retire
to prepare dinner--you both are welcome to
"Thank you for the offer, Father, but we're
"Will you be staying here to watch for this
man all night?"
"If that isn't a problem. I have a feeling
if our suspect is going to try anything, it
will be during the night, or early morning--
it would fit the pattern of the other
attacks, times when his victim was most
likely alone." Stone paused; he'd had an
idea earlier in the day about how he might
be able to set a trap for Holland, and the
time had come to see if Brenner would be up
for putting it into action. "Father, there's
an empty apartment in the rectory, isn't
"Well, yes. I've been awaiting a new cleric
since Father Mathews died, several months
"I think you should stay in that empty room
tonight, instead of your own apartment. It's
an idea I have, to catch the killer, and
hopefully keep you out of harm's way
tonight..." Brenner and Lucifer both stepped
closer as Ezekiel outlined his plan.
* * *
The voices never left him alone.
They were always whispering, crying,
tormenting him--sometimes so loudly he
couldn't think, couldn't do anything but
scream in pain and wait for them to quiet
down again. Most of the time, they were just
there, like an itch could never scratch,
always reminding him of what he had done, of
the sins he had committed.
[--why me why me why why why why--]
[--stop it please I don't want to no--]
[--I want to go home I want my mommy--]
[--stop it NO stop it stop it stop stop
Always there, always, voices that would have
driven a living man insane. But he was dead,
and he couldn't go insane. God had made sure
of that, because insanity would have been an
escape from these eternally tormenting
He knew it was God's fault. All of it. Ashur
had explained it to him once, how wicked and
cruel God was, and her words had made
perfect sense to him. After all, it had been
one of God's servants who had made his
childhood miserable, who had taken away his
innocence and taught him how to fear, how to
hate, how to hurt. And it was God who had
sent him to Hell to suffer for eternity,
alone except for the cries of his victims.
Ashur Badaktu had been the first voice he'd
heard, outside of his victims, for a time he
would later learn had been nearly forty
years. "I will take you with me," she'd
promised, "and eventually I will make the
voices go away. But you have to do one thing
And when she explained what he'd have to do,
he'd only been too happy to agree to it. She
had a plan to destroy God's power on Earth,
and he would help her by destroying those
who spread His word. They deserved to die--
all of them. But he was only one man, so he
would have to start out small, do it one by
one. And he would choose those who were most
like the one who had led him down this
tormented path to begin with.
Joseph Holland stood on the street across
from the church. Father Brenner was going
to die tonight. He had almost grabbed him this
morning off the street, but the priest had
spotted his van, given it a suspicious
glance, and Holland had known he had missed
his window of opportunity. But he had to
move swiftly, now. He couldn't wait too much
longer. Soon he knew he should move on to
another town anyway--there was too much talk
about his work, now, in the media, too much
suspicion and paranoia. And that damned
servant of the devil now, too, trying to
[--Oh God, don't make me, I don't want to--]
[--I promise I won't tell, I promise--]
He would have to take his work elsewhere,
keep moving. This might be his last victim
here in San Francisco, he wasn't certain. It
depended on how satisfactorily things went
this evening. He'd like to be able to purge
this city of every last one of these men,
but he knew Ashur didn't care where he
collected his victims. She just wanted dead
priests; she didn't care about their age or
race, or even what faith they happened to
follow. If they spread the word of the One
God, then they had to die. To her, it was
as simple as that.
But it wasn't quite so simple to Joseph, so
he would do things his own way. He liked to
take his time with his victims, draw
out the suffering for a few days at least.
It wasn't as if Ashur was there, keeping
track of his every victim. Last he'd heard,
she was busy with her own work, burning
churches, finding other ways to destroy
[--please don't you're hurting me please
The voices were hushed now, just a soft buzz
in the back of his brain. He hoped they
would stay quiet until he finished this
business with Father Brenner tonight. He
didn't need the distraction. They had been
too noisy, too bothersome the other morning
when he'd tried to take down Stanton.
Otherwise he wouldn't have botched the job,
lost his van and had to go through the
bother of stealing another vehicle. Between
that, and then that damned soul hunter
sneaking around his place, he was behind
schedule. The need for vengeance was worse
than ever, gnawing at him in the back of his
He'd be more careful this time, he thought,
reassuring himself that all was ready and
just as it should be.
[--help me... help... help... --]
He leapt, his demonic strength giving him
the extra boost he needed to reach the
bottom rung of the fire escape ladder. He
moved swiftly but as quietly as he could,
trying not to make too much noise as he made
his way up to the third floor of the rectory
building. He knew exactly which window
belonged to Brenner's bedroom, for he had
seen the light on inside there previous
evenings. It usually went on at seven, and
went out at ten-thirty. Tonight had been no
different from the priest's usual routine.
He had waited a half-hour after seeing the
lights go out to make sure the man was
asleep before moving ahead with the plan.
He made it to the third floor; so far so
good. He nearly laughed aloud when he looked
at the window and saw that Brenner hadn't
even closed it entirely. This was almost
going to be too easy! Surprise the man,
knock him unconscious, get him outside and
back to the van as quietly as possible.
Holland had it all planned out in his mind,
saw each step in exact detail as he slid the
window all the way up and carefully stepped
In the dark, he could just barely make out
Brenner's figure, lying in his bed. He
approached quietly, clenching his fist,
ready to strike a knock-out blow to the
head, knowing he only had to be careful he
didn't strike so hard that he killed Brenner
before he got to have any fun with him. The
man in the bed didn't even stir.
[--don't please don't hurt me please it
hurts it hurts--]
He paused, suddenly getting the feeling that
something was wrong. Very wrong. The man in
Ezekiel rolled over and flew at Holland just
as the demon realized what was wrong.
Holland shrieked in rage and the two demons
fell to the ground, struggling.
"Your Get Out of Hell Free pass has been
cancelled, Holland," Zeke hissed as he
struggled to keep Joseph pinned to the
ground while he got out his gun. "Time to go
"NO! I won't go, I can't go! They have to
die first, all of them! And you as well!"
Holland's rage turned his grip--his entire
body--burning hot. The heat burned Ezekiel's
flesh; he was forced to loosen his grip and
Holland rolled free, kicked Ezekiel and sent
the detective flying across the room and
into the wall. Zeke heard a crashing noise,
watched as Holland burst through the door
and started rushing down the stairs. Zeke
followed after him as soon as he was
physically able. He prayed that Brenner had
followed his warning not to come out no
matter what he heard happen tonight, not
until Ezekiel or Lucifer told him it was
safe. Lucifer was supposed to be waiting
outside, in the car, ready to trail Holland
should he make a run for it like he had the
Zeke rushed down the stairs, gun in his
hand, trying to catch up with Holland. This
hunt was going to end tonight, one way or
another, of that much Zeke was certain.
Stone burst into the alley, scanning quickly
to see which way Holland gone: into the
church, or out the alley to the main street.
As he looked down the alley toward the
street, he stopped cold, nearly falling as
he halted his momentum so abruptly.
Holland hadn't gone very far. He stood
there, halfway to the street, holding
Lucifer in front of him like a shield. He
held a knife to the devil's throat.
Zeke wanted to scream in frustration. What
the hell was Lucifer doing here?! He was
supposed to be waiting in the car, dammit.
He was supposed to stay OUT of the
"This one's with you, isn't he? Out here
waiting, thinking you could trap me,"
Holland growled. "Another one of the devil's
fucking servants, here to send me home? What
if I send HIM back home to Hell, what would
you say to that? Maybe you wouldn't care,
maybe I should just fucking slit his
throat." Lucifer's already panicked eyes
widened and Zeke heard a whimper of fear as
Holland pressed the blade closer against his
throat. "Oh, but what was it Ashur told us
all? Something about the eyes, watch your
eyes. Do you want to watch me cut his eyes
out of his head?"
"Let him go. He's not involved in this."
"I don't believe you. Now drop the gun, and
stay back, or else this one here gets it."
When Ezekiel didn't immediately react,
Holland screeched, "Drop it!" and raised the
blade to point at the devil's left eye.
Zeke had no choice. He lowered his gun, let
it slip to the ground. "Okay, Holland, let
him go..." he urged gently.
"Not until I'm out of here," Joseph said,
slowly walking backwards toward the street.
"Don't move, I mean it!"
The seconds stretched on as Holland made his
slow escape. Ezekiel stood dead still,
afraid the slightest movement might set
Holland off. He kept his eyes locked on
Lucifer's. As furious as Ezekiel was at the
devil for not sticking to the plan, at that
moment he couldn't think about it. He had to
concentrate on the immediate situation, to
be ready to rush after Holland the instant
he released Lucifer--or if Holland suddenly
decided to not honor his end of the bargain.
They were almost at the street. Joseph was
getting twitchy, still holding Lucifer tight
but his blade wavered. Walking backwards,
Joseph could not see where he was walking.
His heel caught on a cracked section of
pavement. He lost his balance briefly and
his grip loosened as he instinctively
panicked and tried to remain on his feet.
Lucifer reacted swiftly, slipping away from
Holland's grasp as soon as it loosened. From
that moment on Stone focused only on
Holland. With inhuman speed he grabbed his
gun and ran into the street after the
fleeing demon, not about to let him escape
Zeke's determination fueled his pursuit. He
ran after Holland, down the street, around
the corner and then into another alleyway.
For a moment, Zeke panicked and stopped,
remembering the last time he'd followed a
demon blindly into an alley. He shook the
memories off of him, and only took heed of
the warning voice in his head that cautioned
him to remain entirely alert, ready for
anything. He started running again and
finally overtook the fleeing demon, leaping
at him, sending them both flying to the
Joseph struggled to fight him off, kicking,
lashing about, his flesh searing to the
touch but Zeke refused to let go. The pain
meant nothing, did not distract him, and
neither did the ghostly whispers filling his
ears, the sound of children crying and
begging for mercy. As soon as he had Holland
pinned beneath his body, he fired, the first
shot missing but the second landing directly
in his left eye. A third shot took out the
right. Zeke flew backwards, knocked away by
the force of Holland's soul bursting out of
its shattered demonic vessel. Holland's
screams filled Zeke's ears, as the light of
his soul swirled about the air and then
vanished, sucked down into the earth, down
on its way back to Hell.
Pain seared Zeke's right arm. He pulled back
his shirt sleeve to see which mark on his
body was Holland's, to watch it dissolve
away. Soon the tattoo was gone, as was the
Zeke sighed, then got to his feet. One more
down. Seventy-seven to go. He remembered
Lucifer in the alley and started running
back to the church, wanting to be certain
both he and Father Brenner were all right.
Zeke found both Lucifer and Brenner inside
the rectory. Zeke assured Brenner he
wouldn't have to worry about any attempts on
his life now, and skillfully tried to avoid
getting any more specific than that as to
what had happened to his potential
assailant. Lucifer looked fine, but clearly
he was shaken. Zeke didn't say anything about
what had happened until they were in the car
and driving back to their hotel.
Then he exploded.
"What the HELL were you doing in that alley!
I told you to stay in the car."
"I thought I could help."
"By doing what, nearly getting yourself
Lucifer didn't answer at first. After a
while he said, his voice much softer than
usual, "I wanted to be useful. To do
something of slightly more value than sit
and wait in the fucking car."
They reached a stoplight, and Zeke turned to
look at his companion. "This is my job,
remember? Not yours. You want to help, then
you tell me what you can about the rest of
the demons I have to find. And then you let
me do what I have to, which includes
protecting you. Okay?"
Lucifer nodded. The light changed and Zeke
continued driving. The rest of the ride was
spent in silence.
Back at the hotel, Lucifer barely took the
time to kick off his shoes before collapsing
on his bed. He wrapped himself up in the
blankets like a cocoon, complaining about
the cold air, that he was freezing.
Zeke didn't feel tired himself--at least, he
didn't feel as if he could get any sleep at
the moment. He was too wound up and wired
from the night's confrontation. Instead he
wanted a shower, a long one, to try to wash
away the last remnants of Joseph Holland
even if the demon's name no longer marked
He went to the bathroom and ran the water
until it was steaming hot, far hotter than
any human would be able to stand, but he
embraced the heat. If only the scalding
water could burn and wash away the remaining
seventy-seven tattoos from his body, he
Seventy-seven...so damn many of them. Zeke
looked down at his arms and chest, at the
intricate pattern of angelic script marking
him as the devil's servant. There were a
few bare spots where the tattoos were gone
now, but so few, it seemed, and so many
still there to be captured. He had come so
close to failing so many times already; how
could he hope to make it through seventy-
seven more encounters? With the remaining
ones banding together, and learning of his
mission to stop them...never mind his new
duty, protecting the one who had
orchestrated all of their torment for so
Zeke tried not to think of the magnitude of
his task like this, for inevitably it led to
feelings of hopelessness and sorrow. He sunk
to the floor of the shower stall, lost in
his thoughts. The water pelted his body, his
face, but he barely noticed it now, not
until the hot water ran out and turned cold.
The chilly water pounding his skin
eventually startled him out of his brooding
state of mind.
Standing, he finally turned the water off.
'I can't let it get to me,' he said to
himself. 'You can do this. One day, one
demon at a time.' The devil had chosen him
for this mission out of all the billions of
souls in his domain. Lucifer must have
believed he could do it. Ezekiel just had to
remind himself of that, and try to restore
his own confidence that he could.
He dried off and put on his shorts, got
ready for bed. Stepping out of the bathroom,
he looked across the room at Lucifer's bed,
and frowned. The pile of blankets the devil
had buried himself under appeared to be
shaking, and Zeke didn't think it was just
because of the cold.
He'd been expecting this, actually, only
wondered how long it would take until
Lucifer cracked under the strain of recent
events. Zeke had thought he'd enjoy seeing
the devil suffer; now, he found he felt no
joy, no satisfaction because of it. Ezekiel
walked over to Lucifer's bed, and hesitated
only a moment before he sat down on the edge
of it, asking himself what he should do
next--what he was willing to do. Lucifer was
turned away from him, so he reached out and
touched his shoulder, which was just barely
peeking out of the top of the blankets.
"Still cold?" Ezekiel asked.
After a brief pause, Lucifer answered,
Zeke lifted the blankets enough to slide
under them, to rest beside the other man.
Then he moved closer, slipping his arm
around Lucifer's waist and lying close
against his back. He felt Lucifer's body go
stiff in response to the embrace. "Sometimes
body heat works the best," Zeke explained.
Lucifer relaxed, slightly. He didn't say
anything, he barely moved, but slowly Zeke
felt him relax into his embrace. Then he
started shaking again. Ezekiel held him
tighter, waiting for him to be able to let
it go and let the tears fall that he was
obviously fighting back.
Eventually they came--hard and not quietly,
but through desperate sobs that shattered the
silence of the still, early morning hours.
None of it felt real to Ezekiel, even though
he knew he wasn't dreaming. But how did he
wrap his brain around this? He was lying in
bed, nearly naked, with the devil in his
arms...and he wanted to be there, he
wanted to help. He had seen the terror in
Lucifer's eyes that night, when he had been
mere seconds away from losing his suddenly
mortal life. And he had seen Lucifer's love
for him--he was here, still on Earth instead
of back in Hell, because of that love. How
could he turn his back on Lucifer now? He
couldn't; it wasn't in his nature, no matter
who Lucifer was, or had been, or had done in
The torrent of tears passed almost as
quickly as they had begun. The shuddering of
his body slowed and Lucifer's breathing
gradually returned to a more normal, steady
pace. Eventually he let out a deep sigh, and
quietly said, "Thank you."
"It's okay," Zeke answered, his tone of
voice equally soft. He didn't move away,
though. In truth, he hadn't held someone--
anyone--close like this since before his
death, over fifteen years ago, and he'd
almost forgotten how soothing it could feel.
Lucifer found and gripped Zeke's arm,
holding it tight, like a lifeline. "Tonight
I learned what mortality really means,
Ezekiel. To know that one day, you will die-
-that in fact you could die at any moment,
any second. I've never felt so...helpless.
I'm still...scared. Terrified, to be
"Yes, yes, you know, but you can't
understand! Not what it's like to go from
what I was, to this. Even if I tried to
explain it to you, you could never
comprehend." Lucifer drew in a deep breath,
and slowly exhaled, one last shudder passing
They fell silent, then, for some time.
Lucifer's grip on Zeke's arm lessened, but
his hand remained there, letting Zeke know
he still needed him close. "When they caught
you," Lucifer began, "I knew you
had no chance. I hadn't realized what was
going on, that they planned to trap you,
otherwise I would have warned you. I would
have at least done that much, Ezekiel. But
it was too late."
Zeke said nothing, just listened, letting
the devil say what he had to say. "I tried
not to care. After all, I could simply
choose another to finish your task. I tried
to ignore what they were doing to you, but I
couldn't. Every minute...every second that
passed it was getting worse, knowing that I
couldn't help you because it was not
"Finally I couldn't take it any longer. I
was mad with rage, with this...this
impotence forced upon our kind by His
rules while you suffered more than you ever
had deserved. In the end I didn't care what
He did to me for it. I had to stop them."
Lucifer's voice, which had been rising as he
told him story, dropped down once more as he
finished, "Still, I didn't expect this."
"If you'd known what would happen...would
you still have done it? Or would you have
left me there?"
The devil fell silent. "I think...I think I
still would have stopped them," he finally
answered. "I told you before I was a fool. I
suppose my brother is right; I have gone
'soft'." He chucked softly. "Well, Ezekiel,
how does it feel to know you've brought down
the devil? It must give you some sort of
satisfaction after the way I've treated
"Actually, it doesn't. I've never found
other people's misery something to
"No, you haven't, have you? I always thought
that was one of your faults."
Nothing else was said for some time.
"It's come to my attention that you're
rather... well, almost naked."
"You're just noticing this?"
"I had other things on my mind before."
"You want me to get dressed?"
"I want..." Lucifer paused, and finally
turned to face Ezekiel. His eyes met Zeke's,
revealing uncertainty, and his love. "I want
something that I don't think you could ever
give me," he said with a sad smile that got
to Ezekiel more than he wanted to admit.
Zeke was in turmoil, inside. He shouldn't
be able to give Lucifer what he wanted, to
return his love. Not after fifteen years of
Hell. Not after the sick games the devil had
played with Zeke's soul, the way he'd toyed
with Zeke's feelings, taunting him about his
wife. No, he shouldn't be able to return the
devil's love. He didn't.
But he did feel...something, and he realized
that something was far from hatred. He
didn't want to analyze his feelings too
closely, not yet, not now. But there was
certainly sympathy there, and
protectiveness, and a growing sense
of...friendship, of a kind, and maybe
something a little bit more than that.
Zeke reached up, with one hand, to touch the
other man's face. He studied it with his
eyes, and with that hand, touching the
striking features that had once been mere
illusion and now were truly sculpted of
human flesh and bone. Those features somehow
still seemed unreal, somehow inhuman, on
that face etched by centuries of emotions,
eyes that had seen unimaginable things, both
tremendous and terrible. Zeke pulled his
attention back from the details and noted
that expression on Lucifer's face was now
one of confusion, surprise...and perhaps,
a small glimmer of hope.
Before he could think better of what he felt
compelled to do, Zeke leaned in close enough
to meet Lucifer's mouth for a kiss--brief,
light, little more than the slight touch of
their lips. Zeke pulled back before it could
deepen, feeling as if his heart should be
racing, except that he had no pulse, no
heartbeat that could quicken. Still,
something pulsed inside him, whatever energy
or force that gave his body the illusion of
life. Yet Zeke was frozen by indecision and
sudden fear. He knew he could still pull
away completely, let the moment pass. He
could go to his own bed and sleep, forget
this had ever happened, or at least try to.
Or he could give in, and give Lucifer at
least some of what he wanted--Zeke's
comfort, if not his love. It was, Ezekiel
had to admit, what he also wanted, at least
some part of him that had known no comfort
for far too long. To be held, kissed...loved
by someone who understood. And no one,
perhaps, could understand Ezekiel better now
than the devil.
Zeke didn't take long to make his decision,
not under the unblinking, expectant gaze of
the other man's eyes. He leaned back in to
kiss Lucifer again, this time lingering,
allowing himself to really feel it. Lucifer
responded, cautiously at first, as if he too
could not really believe this was happening.
Zeke silenced his own remaining doubts as he
reveled in the feeling of human contact.
Lucifer's lips parted and Zeke ran his
tongue over them, tasting and exploring.
Lucifer tasted like cool, fresh water to
him, water that quenched a thirst that went
down to Ezekiel's soul. The more he tasted,
the more he wanted. The energy pulsing
inside of him grew, spreading, and he could
feel himself getting hard already.
Lucifer moaned against his mouth as Zeke's
touch became more intense, his kisses
harder. Zeke slipped his fingers into the
other man's hair, caressing the long silky
strands that were so inviting to the touch.
He would save worrying about why this felt
so good, so right, for later. Much later. He
needed this, wanted it more with every
second. The devil's hands were all over his
body, stroking his sides, his back, his
stomach. Their touch was so warm. So
alive! Zeke ached for that, to feel the
warmth of someone who was living--not a
pretender like himself, a dead man
inhabiting flesh that no longer truly
belonged to him. He tugged Lucifer's shirt
free from his pants and slipped one hand
inside, stroking the other man's warm,
flat and smooth stomach. Lucifer shuddered
at this touch, breaking their kiss to catch
Zeke kissed his throat, licked and savored
the taste of salt and sweat. Human tastes,
so human. He'd missed that...why hadn't he
noticed their absence, when he'd kissed Ash?
Had he been so blinded by desire and her
disguises to see the truth, to feel what was
missing? Lucifer moaned as Zeke teased the
sensitive skin with his teeth and tongue,
and yes, Zeke had to admit to some dark
thrill to it, knowing this was the devil he
was with, the devil who he could make moan
with need. He moved lower, pushing the shirt
up over Lucifer's head, kissing, tasting,
then circling one dark, erect nipple with his
tongue. He bit it playfully; Lucifer yelped
in surprise. Zeke laughed and teased more
gently, then eventually moved back to
Lucifer's mouth, hungry for another taste.
After a time, Lucifer had enough and urged
Zeke onto his back, forcing him down against
the mattress with a demanding kiss and the
weight of his body. The devil sat up,
straddled Ezekiel's hips and looked down at
him with eyes no longer revealing any
confusion, only passion. His gaze followed
his hands as they ran over Stone's chest and
stomach, a wicked smile crossing his lips.
"You know, Ezekiel, I could have taken you,
at any time. I wanted to, I came so close so
many times to just having my way with you.
But this, this is what I really
wanted. For you to want me, to come to me
without force, of your own free will..."
Zeke arched under his touch as Lucifer's
fingers brushed against his nipples, then
slowly trailed down to his belly, and settled
over his cock, rubbing it through the thin
fabric of Zeke's shorts. Zeke arched as much
as he could into that touch, wanting it,
wanting more. "You do want me, don't you?"
Lucifer asked, even though the answer had to
be quite obvious.
"Yes..." The light teasing touch of those
fingers was not nearly enough. There was no
arguing why he wanted this now; there was
only the warmth of Lucifer's hands, the wet
heat of his mouth against Zeke's lips,
throat, and chest. He pulled at the devil's
pants, wanting to be rid of the clothes that
kept that body from touching his own.
Lucifer took the hint and sat up enough to
strip entirely and take similar care of Zeke.
Then Lucifer was on top of him, kissing him again
as their bodies were at last free of all
clothes, all barriers. In time, the heat
between them grew almost too much to bear--
with every movement, pleasure shot through
Stone's body as his penis rubbed against
Lucifer's sweaty skin. His self control was
slipping fast, especially when Lucifer slid
down the bed and took Zeke's erection in his
mouth. He tried to hold out, but soon he was
thrusting up to meet those wet lips,
desperate for more, for release. "Oh, God!"
he cried before he could stop himself as he
came, trembling and bucking under the
devil's touch. His inhuman body released no
semen or other fluid, no physical residue of
his pleasure, but inside, the energy that
filled him was humming. It wasn't the same
as when he'd been alive, but it was as good
as he'd felt since he'd died, and that was
nothing to complain about. Pleasure and
relief washed over his body, and Lucifer
slid back up against him, a smug smile on
"Seems I haven't lost all of my many
talents, eh, Ezekiel?"
"Oh please, as if I haven't heard that one
"Yeah, but it's true enough, isn't it?" Zeke
ran his hand over the other man's still-hard
erection. Lucifer squirmed as Zeke stroked
it, slowly, watching and enjoying the
way Lucifer responded to him. The devil shuddered
and sighed, making enticing, small noises of
pleasure. Zeke rubbed his thumb over the
damp head, circling it, then eventually went
back to long strokes, harder this time, as
he also leaned in to kiss the man's neck.
"Ezekiel...oh, yes...!" Lucifer clung to
him, fingers of one hand digging into Zeke's
back, nails clawing at him as he kept at it,
not stopping until Lucifer cried out his
name again and his whole body spasmed. Zeke
kept stroking his cock, until the warm,
slippery fluid that coated his hand
began to cool and grow sticky.
Lucifer curled in to Zeke's embrace, kissing
him hard again, hard until the heat between
them finally began to fade. Then the devil
rested his head against Zeke's chest and
sighed; he seemed to have gone completely
slack and boneless, in the aftermath of his
own release. Zeke was convinced that
he'd fallen asleep, until he finally spoke
up and proclaimed, "Well, that was...
"Different?" Zeke repeated, not sure he
would describe what had just happened as
"As a human. And with someone...who actually
meant something," the devil explained
awkwardly. "Everything's so damned different
"Give it time," Ezekiel answered.
"I don't want to give it time! I want to
be myself again." He raised his head and met
Zeke's eyes, fire burning in his own. "I
want to show you how I could have made love
you before, Ezekiel. The things I could have
made you feel...the things we could have
shared..." He shook his head. "You have no
idea what it could have been like."
"Maybe, someday, you'll get the chance to
show me." Lucifer didn't appear at all
convinced. "Look, you don't know you'll be
stuck like this forever; you've got to be
optimistic about things."
"Optimism? Been there, done that, look where
it got me." The devil settled back against
Zeke and yawned.
"Tired?" Zeke asked.
"Then get some sleep." Zeke brushed his hand
gently through Lucifer's hair.
Silence fell over the room, though outside
the city was just beginning to awaken, the
sounds of early morning activity starting
to creep in through the window.
Lucifer was asleep in minutes, his breath
falling steady and warm against Zeke's
chest. Zeke also felt amazingly lethargic
all of a sudden and ready to steal a few
hours rest. Soon enough there would be
another demon to hunt down. Sooner than he
no doubt would want to, he'd have to deal
with Ash. And as soon as he woke up, later
in the day, he'd have to deal with what he'd
started here tonight. For the moment, however,
he was going to forget about these things. He
was going to do the one thing he hadn't done in
years, something he'd never thought he'd do
He was going drift asleep in the arms of someone
who loved him.
* * *
go on to the sequel, "Aftershocks"...