An original story by
Characters, situations, and settings copyright © 2002-2003 Jennifer Poulos.
Day One: Fallen Angels
She closed the door to the apartment in which she had lived all her life and sighed. The door locked with a click that echoed in her ears with a finality that bespoke doom. Picking up the single bag that carried all the possessions she owned after a lifetime of service, a life now fallen into ruin, she walked down the brightly-lit hall to the elevator. She pressed the button, and almost instantly, the doors opened. Stepping inside the roomy interior, she ignored the cheerful voices of the choruses coming through the speakers as the elevator descended. Today, the usually upbeat music seemed a false promise of heaven.
As the elevator descended, she looked at herself in the mirrored walls, glumly noting the redness of her eyes from crying, the disheveled mass of her flaming red hair. She pushed her glasses back up her pert nose, the gold frames settling in front of her eyes where the oval lenses of pink glass hid some of the redness. Better perhaps to take them off and not be able to see the world she was leaving behind, but she hated her nearsightedness without them too much.
The doors opened out to the enormous lobby and she walked across the vast, echoing room to the front doors. She stepped out into the eternal sunshine, the bright sunlight seeming dimmer, though she was the only one who seemed to notice. She flagged down a taxi, watching as it turned to retrieve her. The golden chariot dipped down to the street, the hooves of the pegasus pulling it chiming on the cool metal of the gold surface. The gorgeous blond Adonis driving the taxi leaned down to help her up.
"Where to, miss?" he asked, the musical sound of his voice grating on her ears.
"Pearly Gates Complex," she answered.
As the taxi transported her to her destination, she sourly reflected on the overdose of pleasantness that was part of her daily life. Rather… had been a part of her daily life. Bright, eternal sunlight, unvarying temperature, sweet scented breezes, and angelic choruses; Heaven was everything one could want and more…
Unless you wanted something forbidden.
She shoved her way through the crowds of incoming souls, heavenly agents, and waiting loved ones she found when arriving at the complex. Finally, she arrived at a desk she had always shunned before, as all good angels did. The black marble counter exuded a chill aura that made her shiver. The clerk behind it only added to her foreboding, his black glasses matching his suit and wings. His face was blandly anonymous, as only a bureaucrat's could be, and the expression of official dislike could have been painted on.
"Papers?" he asked in a monotone, oddly contrasting to the typical musical voice of most angels. She sighed and handed over the end of her life's work.
The clerk eyed the pink paper emotionlessly. "Name?"
"Harteriel Serafina, Virtue, First Class."
"Not anymore." Emotion colored his voice finally, a vicious, gleeful tone. He reached up and Heart felt a wrenching sensation as the golden circlet was pulled free and dropped with a clatter on the desk. Only the silver circlet of light, innate to all angels, remained hovering over her head. The clerk glared at it as though he wished he could take that away, too, but only Heart could choose to remove it, and a glance into her eyes confirmed her unwillingness to do so. The clerk changed tactics.
"This is the Exiles' Gate, girl. You come here, you don't work in Heaven anymore!" he crowed licentiously, a nasty smile on his face.
"I know," Heart said, the jibe hitting home and chilling her all the more.
"I don't think you do," the clerk laughed, enjoying the opportunity to rub the salt in. "You messed up, girl." He tapped the pink slip of paper. "Exiled by orders of the Cupid." He stepped out from behind the counter. "An Angel of Love, a Virtue, no less, and you had to be exiled? That's a major screw-up, girl. Takes a major violation of the rules. You little stuck-up prisses in the Office of Love are usually too good to wind up here. What'd you do? Screw a demon?" He laughed maliciously at his supposed joke as he grabbed the front of her robe of office. "Haven't gotten to exile a Virtue since Valentiniel." He yanked, ripping the robe from her unresisting form and leaving her nude.
Heart stood impassively, too numb to respond to the clerk's bullying until he grabbed her handbag and threw it into a scanner. She let out a small mew of protest as her sole possessions disappeared. The clerk laughed at her distress then pushed her through an arch next to the desk, his shove sprawling her awkwardly on the floor, her glasses nearly flying away. She desperately pushed them back over her eyes.
"So long, traitor! If I had my way, you'd fall a lot farther than the mortal plane!" His ominously gleeful laugh was cut off as a door closed over the arch.
Heart tried to orient herself in the blank circular room, her passage though the arch having left her dizzy. She was shaking her head to clear it as a beep sounded and her bag dropped on top of her. She clutched it to her chest, but had no chance to check it as the floor opened beneath her and she fell into space.
She clenched her teeth to keep from screaming, and tried to extend her wings, but only a numb feeling existed between her shoulders. She cried out in misery at the loss, but her grief did not change her punishment, nor would it make her beg forgiveness.
She had done nothing wrong! Only loved…
She fell, a tiny speck in the wide shaft of open air that the giant golden stairway defined, a fleeting spectacle for the mortal souls ascending. Below her, a crystal sphere drew closer and closer. She gave one last look to the blazing glory of her lost home before she struck the surface and passed through.
She landed in a heap on a gritty sidewalk, her ears assaulted with noise. She slowly rolled and climbed to shaky feet, taking stock after the rough landing.
She stood on a familiar sidewalk in New York City, lightly trafficked at this time of day. Across from her, a small row of shops quietly stood, their glassy faces blankly staring at the empty street. A small cafe stood almost directly across from her, a lone waiter cleaning tables left by the last of the late lunch crowed. The entire street stood in shadow, overhung by tall buildings on either side.
She turned to the store behind her, not noticing the strange look she was getting from the owner of the flower shop next door. Her eyes sought out the sign along the music store's weathered faÁade, which proudly proclaimed its name to be Celestial Sounds. The windows were covered with an assortment of garish music posters, among which two stood out most prominently. Many passersby had noted the irony of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" poster being right next to AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," but only a few knew the truth.
She stepped forward to place a hand on the poster of the golden stair, but only smooth glass met her hand. She collapsed in tears, falling to her knees at the base of the wall.
"Well, well, what have we here?" a cruel voice asked.
"Why, it's a little slut, so eager to get fucked, she couldn't wait for us to strip her," another voice laughed.
She looked around, her sight blurred with tears. Six men surrounded her, dressed like a gang of typical punks; but they wavered in her vision, looking one moment like a group of deliberately-bald teenagers from a neo-Nazi gang, then shifting into the semblance of lower-level demons. She pressed her back to the wall behind her, fumbling through her bag, hoping, praying, they hadnít removed everything from it…
"Leave me alone!" she said, her frustrated efforts in vain.
The tallest one leered. "Now why would we do that, when it's obvious you're dying for us to fuck you?" The cruel malice in his eyes shifting between merely human to diabolical. Hands grabbed her from either side. She screamed as she struggled, but it was no use. Her sight finally cleared, revealing the group to be truly demonic. Frantically, she glanced around. The street was clear of would-be saviors, and all of her angelic protections seemed to be gone.
The tall leader grinned, his sharp teeth glittering in the light from her halo. "Into the alley, boys. We get to enjoy some angelic pussy before we deliver her!"
She fought, screaming and kicking, as she was dragged by the two brawniest of the demons into the alley and draped over a trash bin. Her legs were forced apart by massive hands. She struggled with futility as the first demon made to step between her legs, his hand reaching for the swastika-emblazoned buckle of his belt.
In a squeal of tortured rubber, a midnight-black Corvette convertible fishtailed around the corner of the alley and braked, the headlights illuminating the shadowed corridor. A blur launched from the car into the air, then flipped before slamming into the concrete, shattering it. The demons froze in shock at the sight before them, but Heart sighed with relief.
An Amazonian woman crouched before them, her feet buried to the ankles in the shattered cement. One hand was also buried in a third hole, her fingers puncturing the pseudo-rock as though it were clay. Long legs met under a short black leather mini, and the skintight halter-top barely contained oversized breasts. Her eyes blazed out of a heart-shaped face under a long, white pageboy haircut, ebony lashes framing their violet fire. Oversized silver hoops dangled from her ears, glinting softly in the light from the Corvette. A slight smile graced her blood red lips.
Her free right hand bore a double-ended trident in a grip that held the weapon parallel to the ground. The larger end extended in front of her, a long leaf-bladed spearpoint forming the central tine. Just below the blade, circular blade breakers curled outward, sharpened along their outer edges. From either side of the central tine large side blades sprang, shaped like an oversized headsman's axe, their razor sharp edges curled into a shallow S, giving them an appearance like stylized bat wings. Cutouts in the central blade and the flats of the axe blades gave the weapon a lethal, even vicious look while reducing the mass of the larger blade to match its smaller twin on the opposite end of the haft. Rounded conical pieces joined the trident blades to the shaft, large rubies shining redly from their centers. A twisted copper shaft continued down to a gold ring that sported small purple horns. From the ring a hardwood haft mirrored the shape of the blade as it descended to a flared gold cap carved like a stylized papyrus flower. The long shaft that connected the two ends was covered in a heavy braid of soft red leather. For all its ornateness, there was no doubt it was a weapon the woman was lethally familiar with.
For a long moment, no one moved. Then the intruder spoke in a warm contralto that carried more menace than the gravelly voices of the demons.
"Care to try someone your own size?" A wicked grin revealed inch-long canines.
For a second, the leader seemed nonplussed, but then he grinned again. "How sweet, twice the meat!" He motioned to the two closest to the strange newcomer. "Get her!"
The two demons separated to come at her from both sides, but the stranger didn't move. Still smiling that venomous grin, she waited till they had aligned on either side and began to rush her, then she shrugged.
With blinding speed and the power of a piledriver, bat wings caught the two demons and slammed them into the walls on either side, crushing the bricks nearly a foot and a half back and turning the pair into mangled carcasses.
The leader blinked in shock at the altered appearance of his foe. Her crimson lips still framed those extended canines, but now two purple horns just poked through the sides of her bangs, and her skirt had been pushed up far beyond the bounds of modesty by a muscular tail that ended in a large spaded tip. Delicate points had appeared on her ears, while her legs now terminated in an elongated foot that suggested hooves. The hand holding the axe-bladed trident had five-inch nails of the same purple as her horns, her grip having shifted slightly to accommodate their length. Violet light burned around her weapon, wisps of glowing vapor rising like smoke. Her wings completely spanned the wide alley.
"What the fuck!" Surprise was evident in the gang leader's gravelly voice. "You're a goddamned succubus?"
"Let her go," she commanded, and ice was warmer than that eerie tone.
"Mephistopheles will have your horns for this, bitch! You're interfering with a sanctioned operation!"
"If you don't let her go, I plan to do more than interfere." The violet glow around the trident's head grew larger, brighter.
"Fuck this." The leader nodded at the demons holding Heart. "Kill this bitch."
The two larger demons grinned and moved toward the succubus, drawing long, curved swords out of their long coats. The last demon drew out a 9mm.
The two swordsmen charged as the succubus launched herself upwards, revealing that she did, indeed, have a pair of sharp hooves. Her double-ended trident swung in a tight circle as she deflected three bullets and landed between the swordsmen and the gunman. Her trident intercepted the gunman's wrist as he tried to re-aim, his hand flying away with the gun still in it. He jumped back with a shout of pain and shock as the two swordsmen swung.
Heart cried out in fear, the leader's arm choked tight around her throat. But the succubus caught the swords with either end of her trident and spun, throwing the two demons in opposite directions as the gunman came up behind her with a large knife…
…Then he was looking down in disbelief at the spaded tail that had penetrated his ribcage. The succubus pulled her tail free and made two passes with her trident, the larger of the two ends separating first the head, then the upper and lower torso, sending them flying in all directions.
The larger of the two swordsmen charged her from the rear. She reached up with her wings, their powerful thumbs latching on to an overhead fire escape as she launched herself into a backwards kick. Her sharp hooves smashed off the top of the demon's skull as he vainly tried to swing his blade at a target that had so suddenly gone from forward to up. His eyes rolled into their sockets as black blood gushed from the mangled remains of his head. Then the succubus landed behind him with a wing flap and gave his torso a permanent vacation from the rest of his body with her large blade.
The remaining demon closed warily, drawing a second sword. He assumed a Chinese sword stance and his blades began an intricate dance as bloody light crawled along them. The succubus answered this with a light show of her own from the trident, her wings and nails shrinking to a fraction of their normal size to accommodate the spinning weapon.
Heart watched fearfully as the two combatants met in a spectacular whirl, blades flashing too fast to follow. For long seconds, the sound of steel against steel rang in the air. Then the demon's right arm, still clutching its sword, flew theatrically away. A still-whirling trident caught the second arm at the elbow. In a few more whirls, the demon lay in nearly a dozen pieces at her feet.
Heart found herself flung back down onto the trash bin, and she screamed as the leader pulled out a large knife and moved to stab her. For a long frozen second, her eyes focused on the dagger tip as it descended towards her breast, then a streak of purple fire burned across her vision, and she felt the restraining hand ripped free.
The succubus-flung trident carried the leader nearly ten feet before pinning him to a brick wall. He screamed as he tried to pull the triple-bladed spear free.
"You goddamned slut! Bitch! Bhaalor will gut you for this!"
The succubus sauntered up to the impaled demon as Heart's eyes followed her. She laid her hands on the haft of the trident.
"I could care less what Bhaalor thinks." The white-haired demon's eyes glittered as she wrenched the trident upwards, the axe blades shearing through brick, flesh and bone alike. The leader fell to the ground, his upper torso splitting wide as black blood poured in a flood from his carcass.
Heart turned at a sudden crackle and watched as the demonic blades flared and burned, leaving not even scorches where they had fallen. Only the 9mm remained, still clutched in a demonic hand. She turned wide, relieved eyes to her savior, who was approaching her with a warm smile.
"Are you okay, Heart? I'm so sorry I didn't get here faster. They didn't hurt you, did they?"
Heart flung herself into the tall demoness's arms, her short frame nestling into the succubus's as she laid her head against the base of the demoness's chest, relief washing away the fear as the succubus's arms closed around her in a hug. "No, Beloved, you arrived before they could do more than frighten me."
Tension flowed out of the succubus as relief showed in her face. "I'm so glad, Love. If they had hurt you…"
"I'm fine, Seraph, just a little shaken," Heart said, looking up and assaying a small smile. "They caught me off-guard, and I was so rattled I couldn't remember a single spell." She looked around at the remains of the six demons. "You handled that magnificently. You moved so beautifully. Have I ever told you how pretty you are when you fight?"
Seraph blushed, and wiggled suggestively as she pulled her skirt back down from her hips to where it belonged. "Really?"
Heart gave her a rib-crushing hug. "Yes! You were wonderful!"
"I just wanted to make sure you were safe, Love," She returned the hug with equal force, the looked down the alley, past her Corvette, and spied the little sidewalk cafe. "Hey, let's go to that place across the street. Fighting makes me so hungry."
Heart appraised Seraph's blood-spattered state, then looked down at her own voluptuous figure and gave a small chuckle. "Um, I'd love to, Beloved, but you're a mess, and I haven't a thing to wear."
Seraph looked down. "Well, um, I have a spare tube dress in the car…" She answered.
Heart smiled. "Then let me deal with the blood," She spoke a few musical syllables of a simple charm as the blood shimmered and vanished from Seraph's form.
Seraph giggled. "That tickled." She turned to lead the way to the car.
Heart smiled as she watched the demoness's swaying walk, then followed, not wanting her beloved to get too far away.
It had taken nearly ten minutes for the two to move the 'vette and get seats on the sidewalk patio, but the conversation still consisted of reassurances that Heart was unharmed. For long seconds after the waiter left, they simply gazed at one another before they simultaneously spoke:
"I love you."
They both giggled. "We keep doing that," Heart noted. "I think it's wonderful."
Seraph smiled. "I think you're wonderful." Then a look of concern crossed her face. "Oh, Heart, I heard what they did to you! I'm so sorry."
"It's not your fault, Seraph," Heart sighed. "If nothing else, at least it will help your job."
The demoness couldnít meet her eyes. "I know. Mephie gave me a raise and a promotion right before I resigned."
"Then some good came… You what?!?"
"I quit. I resigned from the Department of Corruption."
"But Seraph, you showed me how necessary your job is to the balance of nature! You make so many people happy, and you don't have to hurt a single soul doing it!"
"Yeah, and then they go to Hell because I damned them with lust… and I caused your exile… All I did was ruin your life!"
Heart reached out to cup the succubus's chin, making her meet the kind, heavenly green eyes of the angel. "That's not true, Seraph. You've made my life complete. You showed me the side of love I've always missed, the passion I've always believed was corrupt, but is really so pure. You showed me that, Seraph. You showed me the lies for what they were, showed me what love is supposed to be!"
"I seduced you…"
Heart laughed. "If I remember correctly, Iím the one who crawled into your blankets."
"Oh, Heart, if only I—"
"If only what?" Heart cut her off, a note of sadness creeping into her voice. "Please don't say if only you hadn't challenged me to our duel. I love you, Seraph. I don't regret losing the duel." She kissed Seraph on the cheek. "Losing it won me so much more. You, for example."
"But you belong in Heaven." The anguish in Seraph's voice was plain. "And you didn't lose our duel. You won it. You're an angel of Love, here to show mortals what love is. And you showed me."
Heart was silent for a moment, pain in her eyes. Then she spoke with a voice that was alien and cold, even to her. "Theliel said I have no concept of what true love is." She shrugged. "You'd think if anyone would have understood about us, it would be the angel who holds the office of Cupid." She looked into Seraph's agonized face. "But he seemed to get violently angry about it. He wouldn't even listen to me, just called me a whore and threw me out of his office. Then, when I got home, I found my exile papers."
"I just can't believe Theliel could be so unfair. He's punishing me because I'm fulfilling my oath of duty! I am being an angel of Love! Nowhere does my oath conflict with our feelings!" Heart gripped her teacup with white knuckles, frustration strong in her voice.
"I'm so sorry, Love. He's doing this to you because of me," Seraph hung her head over her tea.
Heart was instantly contrite. She put her teacup down and slid her chair over by Seraph's. "Beloved, I love you. There is no law in Heaven against my loving you. As an Angel of Love it is my sworn duty to bring love into everyone's heart, especially those who are unloved. My oath demands it, Seraph, and I'm not capable of otherwise." She hugged the succubus tight. "And when we met, you were unloved and alone, yet you fulfilled your duties as best you could without ever lowering yourself to the viciousness so common in Hell. I've dealt with other succubae, Seraph, and most of them fed indiscriminately, sowing only chaos and pain. In all the time I've watched you, I've never seen you feed without giving so much happiness in return. I've brought the gift of love to humans who've descended to the depravity of demons. How could I not give the gift of my love to a demon that has such a caring heart?"
"But Heart, all I've brought you is pain. I got you kicked out of Heaven. I've cost you your job. And… And…" She broke off, sobbing.
Heart held Seraphís head to her breast and stroked her long white hair. "And you quit your job and saved me from those other demons. You chose me over everything else you had in your life, Seraph. You sacrificed. I can think of no greater testament to our love than that." She lifted Seraphís face to look into her eyes for a moment. "Iíll bet you never even thought of it that way, did you," she said, more a statement than a question.
Seraph shook her head, her eyes still bright with tears.
Heart hugged her tightly. "Oh Seraph, you are such a treasure! Now I know, without any hint of a doubt, that I love you, and no matter what Theliel thinks, I know I'm doing the right thing." She kissed Seraph lightly on the lips. "Because you love me, too."
"More than life," Seraph whispered, burrowing her head against Heart's breast again.
The waiter came and set down their food as quietly as possible, not disturbing their moment of quiet as the two women comforted one another with nothing more than mutual presence. Finally, Seraph looked at Heart.
"You really don't think I'm silly for quitting?"
Heart looked at her with loving eyes. "Beloved, I know you must have had a good reason." She grinned. "Old Mephistopheles must have been angry, though. I know you were his best agent."
Seraph nodded, not going into the details. She was afraid to tell Heart why the demon squad had been waiting. Her boss had been very angry that she'd refused to lead Heart into a trap. He'd looked forward to raping and breaking her. He'd kept Seraph tied up for hours eluding the agents of the Infernal Revenue Service. All of the demoness's assets had been seized, along with her official papers. Except for her car and her private bank account, she was destitute, and probably about to be declared a renegade and banned from Hell.
But the look of Heartís eyes made it all worth it and more, and in that loving gaze she abandoned all regrets.
Sometimes, love flies on fragile demon wings.
They ate between bouts of blissful gazing and many "I love you's," much of the conversation revolving around how wonderful the other was or how happy each made the other, but eventually, they got around to the ultimate question: what next?
"Well, I guess we have to go down to Central Admin to get assigned a residence and be evaluated for new jobs," Heart said brightly.
Seraph raised an eyebrow, then shook her head. "Love, I keep forgetting how new this will be to you." She looked at Heart and smiled. "Darling, there isn't a Central Admin. We're going to have to find a place to live on our own, and find jobs on our own. Plus, we're on the mortal plane, which means we both have to feed to keep up our strength and powers, as well as eat to nourish our physical bodies, and not just for the pleasure of the tastes of mortal cuisine. All that takes money. I know you angels rarely deal with such mundane trivia, but it's gonna be part of our lives, now. I do have some resources, but they aren't unlimited."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I've always just called into being anything I needed."
"You don't have your angelic lifeline anymore, Love. Your link to Heaven's been severed. You don't have that thin beam of light in your aura that kept you fed, and your aura's definitely weaker. I'd say you have a week before we have to find you a source of energy to feed from." Seraph looked worried. "And I have no idea what you feed on."
Heart laughed. "Beloved, we've spent all this time together and you never realized where my energy comes from?"
Seraph shook her head.
"You, Beloved. Your love feeds me. And you have spoiled me with a feast so abundant and pure that I have no need or desire for any other source."
Seraph looked at her, wide-eyed. "But — I've never felt you draw anything from me!"
"I don't draw, Beloved; I only take in what you give me, and you give me so much love, I have a fear of growing fat." Heart chuckled. "Have no fear of me starving for energy, Beloved."
Seraph fairly glowed with happiness at the sound of Heart's laugh. She leaned to give Heart a hug, and Heart drew her lips up to give her a long and passionate kiss.
"Nor should you need to fear for your own needs, Beloved," Heart whispered when they broke. "The flames of desire you have woken in me are yours to feed on as you wish. You will find in me a hunger to match your own."
Seraph breathed heavily a few times. "Stop, Love, or you will have me begging you to take me right here!" She shifted in her seat. "And I'll wet this seat cushion beyond its ability to soak!"
Heart giggled. "I love you."
"I love you too, but I'm serious! I had a hard enough time not throwing you down on that trash bin and making wild passionate love to you right then!" Seraph whispered fiercely. "Another kiss like that, and I won't be able to stop myself!"
Heart smiled, very pleased with herself. Seraph took a few seconds to compose herself, then drained her tea. She gave Heart a wicked look.
"You just wait till I get you in a hotel tonight, Love!"
"Promise?" Heart's canary grin grew wider.
"Damn right!" Seraph nodded. They both fell to giggling.
"I love you," they both said simultaneously, and broke out in laughter yet again. Then Seraph reached out a hand to grasp Heart's tightly. "We're going to make it, Love. I have faith."
Heartís face crumpled, and Seraph was afraid she had made Heart cry. However, her heart soared when her angel spoke again.
"I do, too, Beloved. I love you." And while there were tears in Heart's eyes, Seraph could tell by her ecstatic gaze that Heart was not in the least bit upset.
Seraph threw a fifty from her cleavage to the table and rose. "First thing's first, though, Love. If we're going job and apartment hunting tomorrow, we've got to get us both some clothes!"
They walked out of the small cafe over to Seraph's 'Vette. A myriad of N.Y.P.D. crime units and several police cars had gathered across the street.
"Hmm, when did they arrive, Beloved?"
Seraph shrugged. "Don't know. I wasn't paying attention to anything but you."
Heart stopped to look over at Seraph lovingly. "I love you. You always say the sweetest things."
Seraph blushed as she unlocked the car and held the door for Heart before getting in, her tall frame barely fitting in the sports car. She looked at the units in the rearview mirror. "I don't think they're gonna be too happy over the mess I left. Just as well we were just leaving." She started the car and smoothly merged into traffic. "First stop, Sak's!"
They accelerated away into the tangled traffic, neither one noticing the man with the tan trench coat who'd tried to flag them down…
When it was first called in, the old lady who owned the flower shop had called it a gang rape. But by the time the N.Y.P.D made it through the holiday traffic to the scene, it was a homicide, and most brutal to boot.
The two officers who were first on the scene couldn't even line it themselves. The crime scene investigators had had to, because one of the two beat cops was a rookie, and his more seasoned partner was helping him gag up the hero he'd had for lunch. All the older cop could think was, what a waste of good pastrami… And the younger cop's ongoing whining "I'm so sorry, man, I'm sorry…" was beginning to get on his nerves.
New York — in some ways, the greatest city ever, in others, Hell. The numerous dismembered parts of an as yet unknown number of corpses certainly proved that here was a slice of the latter. The older cop continued to pat the rookie on the back as he looked around. What the fuck did the killer use, he wondered, a fucking chainsaw? He shuddered as he watched a forensics expert mark chalk around a severed head, then turned back to studiously look at the brick wall his partner was vomiting against. The vomit was normal and sane; the carnage surreal and terrible.
After almost thirty minutes of continual retching, the younger cop finally sat back and gasped for some air.
"Wow… I mean, Jesus H. Christ! Who the hell could do that to someone?"
The older cop shrugged. "Eh, you get used to it after awhile. Work traffic division for a while, kid, you'll see worse." He looked around and added to himself: Not much worse, though.
The rookie gave him a disbelieving look. "Yeah, right."
The older cop decided to forgive him; after all, he'd been young and dumb, once. He turned and stepped out to where he could see the hustle and bustle of the crime scene, and noted sarcastically, what a surprise. The coroner is here before Homicide. He walked to the mouth of the alley and nabbed the officer who'd taken the statement from the old lady.
"So, what the hell happened here?" he asked.
The other officer, another long-time beat cop, shrugged. "Not sure. The old coot claims it was the Devil bearing a pitchfork." He tapped his forehead and rolled his eyes. "From the old country, you know."
"Jeez. Another religious nut. She say what the perp used besides a pitchfork?"
The older cop shook his head. "Ask her. Makes about as much sense as anything at this point."
"Yeah, in this town, I suppose anything is possible,"
The two cops looked down the alley at the crime scene, reflecting for a moment on all the evils man can inflict upon itself, and on the idealistic flame that brings guys like the two of them in as rookies, only to flicker and die with time. The older cop's eyes fell on the rookie, his face still pale. He'd been like his partner, once. They all were, but so many grew out of it after seeing scenes like this one all over the city.
The statement cop looked at the older cop and his partner. "Stick around. Lipton's gonna wanna talk to you," he said as he strode away.
The rookie, who was still within earshot, asked, "Lipton?"
A sour look crossed the older cop's face. "Lipton. The Ghoul. Homicide," he said, like that should explain everything.
His partner stayed confused. "Why do they call him that? And what do you have against him?"
"He's a freak," the older cop said. "He thinks he's chasing demons, shit like that. He gets all the weird cases, cases like this one. Occult murders, bumps in the night, Freddy Krueger shit. He's the department's expert on the occult, but he's one scary fuck, I'll tell you that."
"Yeah, that Lipton; what a weirdo," a voice from behind him proclaimed brightly.
The older cop turned, freeing the rookie's line of sight. Before them, standing nearly six-foot-two, was a man in a tan trench coat that was open enough to reveal a pair of jeans and a navy blue T-shirt labeled "N.Y.P.D." His badge, mobile phone, pager, and gun all hung off his simple brown belt, and the pools of clotting blood on the pavement hardly affected his N.Y.P.D.-issued combat boots. His chest was a bit broader than it should have been, hinting at a Kevlar vest under his shirt, and his black hair was slicked back impeccably. His face was severe and stern as his dark eyes blazed at the beat cops. He had the air of someone who had stared Evil in the face and laughed at it, or like someone who would cut off his own right hand with a chainsaw if it was possessed…
"Is it true that he believes in demons?" the rookie asked, much to the chagrin of his partner.
The tall man appraised him coolly before replying. "You're on the streets every day. Tell me — don't you?"
Before the rookie had a chance to respond, the man turned, his trench coat flaring with a flourish worthy of Superman as he strode away.
"Don't go anywhere," he told the two over his shoulder as he began threading his way across the charnel ground of the alley.
When he was out of earshot, the veteran turned to the rookie.
"And that," he said, "was The Ghoul."
Detective Bruce Lipton made his way across the crime scene, looking for the coroner. He'd always considered it ironic that he should be called "The Ghoul" when, often enough, the New York City coroners not only reveled in their terrible duty, but also looked the part. Young or old, they all seemed to resemble the Tall Man from Phantasm.
However, the coroner for this particular scene was the exception that proved the rule. Terry Shaw was a vivacious blonde who looked like she'd stepped right out of a porno movie, but whose intelligence should have been honed by the Ivy League. Lipton had always thought she was wasted among the dead. She was far too alive.
He waited a few moments until she noticed him, then she bounced up.
"Bruce!" she said, her voice a cheery contrast to the grisly atmosphere of the alley. "I'm so glad you could make it so quickly!"
Surveying the carnage, Lipton replied, "Yeah, this is one of those cases, all right." Turning to face Shaw, he asked, "Okay, Terry. Whatcha got?"
"Humph! Tell me you don't love this." She reached down with a gloved hand into the tangle of body parts she'd been studying and withdrew a hand and lower arm. She wiped the severed end with a blood soaked cloth to reveal the bone as she explained. "Whatever our perp used was very sharp. Cut through both bones like they were melted butter. No grooves, chips or marks, just one clean sweep. And it was apparently hot enough to cauterize the cut without searing the surrounding tissue." She turned bright eyes on Lipton. "Any idea what kind of weapon would have done something like that, outside of a medical laser?"
Lipton didnít answer, though he could have. Heíd seen weapons that did that before, not that Terry would believe him if he told her.
She looked at a black smudge on the hand, then dusted some off on her finger. She smelled it and rubbed it between her fingers. Lipton winced.
Didnít she see what she was holding? Scratch that. He knew better from long experience.
Terry peered at the dark mark on her glove. "Gunpowder."
No, Lipton mentally corrected. Brimstone…
"Judging by the powder burns, this guy got off some rounds," she said in amazement. "Quite a few. And now, he's chop suey." She looked at the detective. "What could have survived that?"
"Maybe our victims were lousy shots." Bruce quipped. Or maybe bullets didnít matter to what they were shooting at, he added mentally.
"Well, given the ribbons I'm seeing all over, I'd have to say that even these guys couldn't have missed someone who got close enough to do precision work like this. On four people!"
"Still, I don't see why you consider that so unusual. Maybe our perp wore Kevlar." He averted his eyes from the vicious looking thing she was holding, and a momentary glint of silver caught his gaze for a second. He eyed the cafť across the street for a moment, then dismissed it as a passing car. "So we get four sliced-up skinheads. You said this one was extra special. And I'm not real impressed by what I was told of Mrs. Loggiabrazzia's testimony either. Anyone dicing up four people Yojimbo-style in an alley looks like the Devil."
Terry gave a little disappointed frown then brightened. "Ah! Wait. Follow me." She beckoned him with the severed hand, the long claws nearly raking his chin. He dodged out of the way as Shaw continued. "You haven't seen the best part yet!"
She led Lipton towards the front of the alley, where about thirty feet in, two clusters of forensics personnel were gathered. They parted like the Red Sea when Shaw pushed through their ranks, followed by a bemused Lipton.
When he beheld the grotesque sight they had concealed, he admitted, "Okay. Now Iím impressed."
Crumbs of brick were still falling from the edges of the depression and blood still seeped slowly to pool at the base of the wall, where the forensics team had been trying to take care not to track it everywhere. The corpse was embedded among the bricks; its ribcage and the back of its skull crushed in from the force of impact. The face was distorted, but Lipton thought that he'd categorize the expression as shock. It held no weapon, but it was dressed in the semi-uniform of a local skinhead gang, this being its only real resemblance to having once been human.
Of course, it never had been human. It just looked that way to the evidence collectors. To Shaw. To the beat cops.
Not to Lipton.
Every single feature, from the horns on its head to claws on its hands or the talons on its feet, all of it was readily apparent to him. Each scaled or leathery limb, each bloodstained fang imprinted itself on his memory, just as it had the first time…
He shook his head. "Hmm… Is there any chance Mrs. Loggiabrazzia could identify the bulldozer that cruised through here?"
"Damn," Terry said, her mouth forming a pretty moue. "I thought for sure this time I'd shock you speechless."
Giving her a sidelong glance, Lipton said, "Yeah, right."
He couldnít look again… heíd be too gleeful about the demonsí demise. He looked around the alley. Six demons. He would dance for joy if something werenít bugging him about this.
He dug out the notes heíd collected from the beat cop when heíd arrived. The call had come in as a rape, six guys against one girl. Then when the first units had arrived, twelve minutes later, it had been a multiple homicide.
He looked around again, trying to lay out how the fight might have happened. He moved toward the center of the alley to get a better view, and stumbled. He glanced briefly at the pothole and dismissed it, looking instead at the chalk outlines of where bodies had been.
There was nowhere to hide, no cover. It had been a stand up fight. Some…thing powerful had waded through six demons in minutes, and saved the girl they had been trying to rape.
He looked at the corpse embedded in the wall, then its mate, noting that they were exactly opposite. He looked down and stepped back from the cracked pavement, his mind not registering for a second exactly what it was seeing, then not wanting to believe what it saw. He stared until he realized that Shaw was calling his name.
"Bruce! Bruce! Are you okay?"
"Hmm? Oh yeah, I'm fine, Terry. Just lost in thought. Trying to figure out the logistics of this fight." He gave her his standard grin. "Anyway, I think it's time I took a crack at the witness."
Shaw nodded. "Don't worry, Bruce. I'll get you a souvenir."
Lipton winced. "I'm sure you will." He wandered into the flower shop.
Behind him, Terry looked down at the strange potholes Lipton had been staring at. For a second, she stared in confusion, then her eyes widened. She reached out and grabbed a passing technician. Pointing to the holes, she said, "Get a plaster team over here at once."
Mrs. Loggiabrazzia was an elderly Italian lady who now, if not always, vehemently believed in God. In her hands she held a prayer book and a rosary. Her portly body was perched on a small stool precariously, looking like she would fall off if she shifted even slightly. Her perfume was strong enough to overpower the fragrances of her stock, and the flower-print dress she was wearing combined with the tiny stool made her look like an oversized bouquet. Her weathered face was dried and cracked with wrinkles, her weary eyes fixedly staring out the front of the shop. Lipton shook his head. He'd seen that stare before.
He pulled up a stool and seated himself before her. Before he could speak, she told him in a hushed and weary tone, "I already told them what I saw."
Lipton nodded. "I know. But I do need you to go over it with me again," he said gently.
"You won't believe me any more than they did."
"You might be surprised at what I would believe Mrs. L." He'd decided to give up on the full name. Like most surnames in New York, he would run out of air just trying to say it. "I'm here because of what you saw. They don't know what to believe, but I believe you. I specialize in these cases. Cases involving the supernatural. I want to know what happened to those demons out there, Mrs. L."
He let the statement hang in the air, and was pleased to note that she stopped staring into space and looked at him. Most people who could see the "others", as he thought of them, didn't know what they were, or what to think of their visions. Some were driven mad.
At times, Lipton even thought he might be one of those.
Unfortunately, the existence of so many others who could see angels and demons was simply proof that he was all too sane.
Her eyes sought out his. "You can see them too?"
He nodded, and relief was apparent on her face. "Thank merciful God." She closed her eyes for a second, and when she opened them, they were clear again. "Where should I begin?"
"At the beginning, hopefully," Lipton smiled.
The old woman nodded. "Well, I was watering my flowers at the front of the store. The angel appeared in front of the music store next door. She just appeared, as though out of nowhere." A pair of huge, fearful eyes gazed up at Lipton, warily gauging his reaction.
"An angel?" Lipton asked, raising an eyebrow. "What makes you think she was an angel?"
"See? No one believes; I am going Luna! They asked me about the skinheads and wouldn't believe me about the demons."
"Please, Mrs. L., continue," Lipton begged. "I believe you, I told you, I can see the things you say you saw. You just have to trust me."
Skeptically, she said, "I knew it was an angel because she had a halo, like the Madonna." She crossed herself with her rosary.
Lipton smiled. "I see. So what did the angel do?"
"She was naked, very upset. That's when the demons came out of the alley. They surrounded her and dragged her back into the alley. So I called. I thought maybe the police would scare them off."
Lipton jotted that down. "I take it that when they got into the alley, the angel killed them?"
"Oh no. It was Il Diablo." She crossed herself again.
"The Devil?" Lipton raised an eyebrow.
The old lady nodded. "It had to have been. I was on the phone with the precinct when a black car, like the kids drive around in these days, it whipped around the corner and screeched to a halt."
"And Satan got out?"
"No. A girl. She jumped out of the car and landed hard enough to bury her feet in the street."
His eyes hadn't been lying, then. He nodded.
"I knew then that something was strange about her besides the pitchfork."
"Pitchfork? Like a three-pronged spear?"
"No. Fancier. Like a big axe, but it had heads at both ends. When the demons saw her, they were surprised, but they went to grab her. And she changed into a demon and killed them."
Lipton nodded. "How?"
"She grew bat wings and a spaded tail, and her pitchfork exploded with Hell's fire. She used her wings to slam the two demons into the walls. That's when the other demons drew their swords and tried to kill her. But Lucifer killed them instead."
"Why do you think she was Lucifer?"
"Well, who else could kill demons so easily?"
Lipton raised an eyebrow. It made a certain kind of sense from her viewpoint. He refrained from listing any of the other creatures who could have wreaked similar chaos. "So what did the demoness do to the angel afterwards?"
"They hugged one another, and left."
"Wait a minute. Are you saying the demoness rescued the angel? She didn't kill her or drag her off or anything like that? Just let her go?"
"No, they left together. They looked like young lovers."
"And you're sure the girl was an angel?"
"I told you already."
"And the demoness chopped up the other demons to save her?"
Mrs. Loggiabrazzia nodded. Lipton rubbed his temples. This was getting too weird even for him.
"And the angel didn't try to kill her or anything?"
"I told you! They were like lovers. Like me and my Sal, God rest his soul." She crossed herself again, then went back to looking out the store front. "Detective. Can you really see them?"
Lipton spun and followed her gaze.
Just leaving the cafe across the street was a female couple, both in black. A tall white-haired looker was just closing the door of a black Corvette for a stunning redhead.
A redhead with a silver halo.
Shock froze him for a second too long. He jumped from his stool and ran from the flower shop just as the 'vette pulled into traffic. All he got was a glimpse of the tag, SE2 YOU. He cursed his rotten luck as he punched a light pole. They'd been across the fucking street!
Back in the flower shop, Mrs. Loggiabrazzia watched the frustrated detective, then, satisfied that everyone was done asking her questions, she went to make herself a cup of espresso. As she passed the open door to the alley, she looked out at the evidence team pouring plaster into the holes in the pavement and shook her head.
"What is the world coming to when Lucifer saves an angel from his own demons? Only in this place."
…When Lucifer saves an angel…
Far, far below the surface of the mortal plane, an ancient and powerful being stirred and awakened from a long slumber filled with dreams of the world above. His sharp ears caught and held that phrase from among the infinite number of whispers that echoed in his bedchamber. Curiosity prompted further listening, but there was little else to be gleaned. That was disappointing. The little tidbit had been so… interesting.
Ha! He thought. Why would I save an angel? I was one, once. It was a worthless existence and I'm glad to be done with it. Little ants with no thoughts of their own. Leaving Heaven was the wisest action I've ever taken.
Finally, hearing nothing further, he opened his eyes. A dim glow suffused the chamber, provided by the molten lava of the walls of his castle. His gaze traveled around the room, noting that nothing unusual awaited. He sat up, the tangled quilt that had covered him during his centuries-long sleep laying tangled around his legs; he had to unwrap it before he could rise. As he stood and stretched, the lava walls began to glow brighter. A scent of burning sulfur wafted to him from the breeze disturbing the curtains, and he opened them to step onto the balcony overlooking his vast kingdom.
His castle dominated the central island of the Lake of Fire, a vast bubbling cauldron of liquid and burning sulfur stirred by howling hot winds. A wide bridge of bone sprang from the castle's entrance to cross that vast gulf, its far end meeting the broad highway that meandered through the various levels and disappear beyond a massive gate far off at the edge of the infinite plane of Hell. Beyond the lake's shore stood a tangled wilderness of iron buildings piled with brambles and shards of bone and skulls. The occasional stream of lava flowed here and there among the streets of the city, carrying stinking masses of burning excrement. Even in Hell, the rivers were used as sewage dumps.
He smiled at the sight of all the masses of souls wandering along the highway. Almost, he wished he could be one of them. Hell was going to be such a surprise.
Out there, in his wonderful kingdom, was corruption, hedonism, ego. In Hell, there was very little suffering. The souls on that highway would receive everything they had ever wanted in life. For all eternity, addicts could experience the perfect high, suicides could slay themselves over and over; combat junkies could fight wars endlessly; sadists and masochists could join and live out their fantasies of blood and pain strained in orgasm…
And if anyone knew how boring that was, he did. Lucifer, Lord of the Morning, Father of Lies; once an Archangel, now Lord of Hell.
As he stood on the balcony and peered out over his domain, all he could think about was that for those souls, this place would be more heaven than Heaven. So much letting go, so much self indulgence, it was a huge playground for the deranged.
"If Heaven is a piano bar," he said to no one in particular, "Then Hell is an S&M Goth club." He grinned at himself for the analogy.
But as it had countless times before, thinking of the pleasures awaiting the damned souls reminded him of the dullness of his own existence. One could only do anything so many times before it became monotonous and boring. It had been that unending sameness that had finally prompted him to sleep the last few centuries, dreaming of the world above.
A noise from behind him made him turn. A sleek demoness with dark purple hair stood before him. She stood about five and a half feet tall, and her oval face looked up at him expectantly. Her hair was pulled back tightly into a crest raised high by several collars of polished bone set with smooth cabochons of amethyst the same shade as her hair. The flowing topknot cascaded to nearly her ankles, and her sharp widow's peak combined with her delicately upswept eyebrows to give her a deliciously diabolical look. Her wide, slightly slanted eyes were a deep amethyst color that matched the gems set in the jewelry, and the smile in them matched the one on her sensuous violet lips, her lower lip moued into a slight pout. Her delicately pointed ears, bearing large bone hoops set with more amethysts, set off the rest of her features to give her a luminous beauty that mixed all the races of the earth.
Her body was sleekly muscular, full of curves and grace, like a cross between a gymnast and a belly dancer, and her massive breasts rose and fell softly with her breathing. Hoops like those in her ears dangled from her large velvety purple nipples, matching a smaller ring that was just visible through the soft violet curls that crowned her sex. A wide collar of bone set with amethyst circled her sleek neck, with a chain of bone beads falling between her breasts to curve up underneath them. They connected to the rings in her nipples before falling to join the ring between her legs. Bracelets of gem-studded bone encircled both ankles and wrists. Her shapely hands, tipped with long tapering nails painted purple, were holding apart the curtains between the balcony and Lucifer's bed chamber, the light of the molten walls playing along the soft charcoal grey of her skin, shadows accentuating her alluring figure.
Confident of Luciferís eyes upon her, she turned and swayed to the bed in a lithe saunter that was reminiscent of a tigress, though no feline could have matched her grace. She lay on the bed sprawled in a lush invitation for debauchery.
"Master," she said in a throaty voice full of promises of infinite carnal pleasures. "I'm so glad that you are awake."
Lucifer studied her for long seconds, drinking in her exotic beauty. It was one of the few pleasures he had left. Then he strode to the bedside and sat down next to her, absently playing with one of her nipple rings.
"I heard a whisper that awoke me." He tugged gently on the ring as the demoness purred and groaned. "Something about me saving an angel. Do you know anything about this, my lovely Lily?"
"Everyone knows, Master," she breathed, pleasure titillating her every pore as she looked lustily at him through lowered eyes. "It wasn't you. It was a minion of— " She cut off with a gasp of pain as Lucifer jerked upright, nearly tearing her ring free.
"A minion saved an angel? And I wasn't told immediately?" Anger colored his voice slightly.
"Mephistopheles just now asked me to tell you," she pouted as she rubbed her nipple, frustration and pain in her eyes. "He's down in the throne room."
Lucifer nodded and rose distractedly, approaching a large free-standing mirror to appraise himself. His gaze swept over his muscular frame, a body that Michelangelo would have wept to carve, and focused on his face. Blue eyes gazed back at him from a softly masculine visage that could only be described as beautiful. Soft, slightly curled locks of golden blonde hair framed that perfect face, so fine it appeared spun from liquid sunlight. Long muscular legs descended from a trim waist to perfect ankles and golden curls framed his powerful manhood. Perched jauntily above his head was a Halo darkened to a black so pure that light seemed to fall into it, defined only by the faint purple glow of ultraviolet.
He frowned in irritation, then sighed. "I'm tired of being this beautiful, Lily. It's such a bore." Slight despair tinted his words. "But my hideous demonic form is equally bland. Male, female, ugly, beautiful. It's all the same! Where is the dynamic tendency for change? Where does relief come in? When?" He swatted at the mirror in irritation and watched as it shattered into a million shards, each reflecting a tiny Lucifer, then strode to the wardrobe in disgust.
Lily waved her hand in the direction of the mirror and with a glassy tinkle it popped to attention, fully formed. Not a single crack or flaw marred its smooth surface.
"The G.O.D. has made everything far too predictable!" Lucifer continued as he dressed, various articles of clothing floating around him awaiting his attention. "They've done so much to make humanity fear their wrath! Condemning every wonderful vice! Every beautiful seduction! Every tantalizing fit of anger and mayhem! Lily, these are the things man is made of! Mankind is awesome, one of His greatest creations, and it's because of its flaws! Perfection is but a paradox of virtue and vice, and the G.O.D. is destroying that perfect equilibrium. They want to grind everyone down to one thought, one way of life, one perfect anthill!" Lucifer looked over his shoulder at the demoness. "That's what I'm up against Lily. The ultimate anthill. Man isn't an ant. He's life, and lust and greed and… Every sin wrapped into one! Man's vices are treasures to be enjoyed, and the G.O.D. just wants to eliminate them." Bitter laughter rang softly. "And I try to keep them alive. A neverending no-win battle. Pointless isn't it?"
Lily made no comment as she watched the single tear roll down his perfect cheek, but inside she felt her heart wrench. It was so rare to see him express any emotion at all.
Lucifer sighed and fastened the cuff links on the white silk shirt, the golden pitchforks shining in the ruddy light like fresh blood. He slid into the black silk jacket, shrugging to set the shoulders, then buttoning the front. He glanced down to check the crease of the black slacks and the shine on his shoes, then reached out to snag his tie from midair. With a deft series of flips, he knotted the yellow silk and pulled it tight. Tucking it into his jacket, he turned to survey himself in the restored mirror. A slight smile came to him at the figure he cut. Of all the outfits he'd dreamed of in his long slumber, this was his favorite.
He turned to Lily, neither noticing nor commenting on the restored mirror. She had left the bed and was standing by the door, her shoulders back and her breasts proffered for hopeful attention. Lucifer smiled and gave her nipples a playful tweak. She smiled in pleasure. "You look wonderful, Master."
"Oh, Lilith. You can stop calling me that. It was all the rage a few centuries ago, but it's passť. We are married after all, and it's the age of equality of the sexes, no?" He laughed. "As if they ever were…" He bowed and motioned for her to precede him. "Shall we?"
She smiled, and turned to step into the vortex beyond with a last suggestive wiggle.
"Ah, well," Lucifer said to the empty room. "Maybe this time…" He stepped through the door as well.
Time and Space shifted to accommodate his desires and he reappeared in his grandiose throne room fourteen floors below. It was empty of souls and only one demon awaited. Around them massive pillars of twisted flesh supported the cavernous ceiling, the myriad human arms they bore holding candles made of the fat of newborns. The flickering light from the candles illuminated the vast room with a peculiar shadowy light that made distances deceptive, and it was hard to tell if the outer wall was a hundred yards away or a thousand miles. The same light also illuminated the massive doors carved with succubae and demons and damned souls in an obscene orgy, and a wide gallery of impaled skeletons bordering the walk to the throne. Not all the bodies so displayed were human.
Before the throne, a massive seal of iron was set into the floor. An icon of a double-headed serpent was carved into its surface, and Mephistopheles stood upon this. Before him rose the vast black skeleton of a dragon, its tangled and scorched bone forming the body of the throne. Of the entire room, only the throne stood in shadow.
As Lucifer appeared out of the shadowy vortex behind the throne, Mephistopheles bowed deeply, his long horsetail flipping idly at the flies that buzzed around him. His sturdy cloven hooves were planted shoulder-width apart, and black fur covered him from the waist down. His torso was strong and muscular, especially around his chest and shoulders, from the occasional flight on his bat-like wings. His long mane of black hair coiled around the base of his curling ram's horns and sparkling eyes glittered from deep sockets, between which an aquiline nose sprung. His thin mustache curled around the sides of his mouth to a sharply pointed goatee. He was, quite literally, devilishly handsome.
With a wide grin, he strode forward to lift Lilith's hand to his lips. "Lilith, my dear, you are looking exceptionally delightful to—" he began in a smooth silky voice.
"Can the used car salesman crap, Mephistopheles," Lucifer said impatiently as he plopped carelessly on his throne with an expression of extreme boredom. "I want to know why a minion is saving angels, and from whom."
"I see you have been dreaming well, My Lord Lucifer. Even in slumber, knowledge of the world does not escape you," Mephistopheles said wryly.
Lucifer rolled his eyes. "Drop the flattery and get ON with it!"
"One of my officers has caused the fall of a Virtue First Class," the Lord of Corruptions responded.
Lucifer made a little "whoop-de-do" motion with one hand as he rested his head on the other. "Gee. That's great," he said completely half-heartedly. "Who's her Arch?"
"She's one of Theliel's, but there's—"
"How sweet," Lucifer interrupted, the boredom in his voice heavier than a black hole. "Another Cupidite to fall into your tender graces. I trust your agent got a suitable reward?" he asked, not interested in an answer.
"She quit," Mephistopheles said darkly, bracing for the tirade, but instead, Lucifer's eyes glittered and a faint hint of a smile formed on his lips as he furrowed his brow in thought.
"Quit?" Animation threatened to enter his voice. "Why?"
"The bitch thinks she's in love with the angel in question," Mephistopheles said vehemently.
Lilith laughed. "I see the colors of your jealousy, Mephistopheles. All of us know of your fondness for buggering angels," she said, casually stretching out on her cushion at Lucifer's feet.
"You brazen whore! I do not—" the demon lord thundered before Lucifer cut him off.
"SILENCE!" Lucifer roared, his voice shaking the castle. It the stillness that followed, he spoke softly, but there was no way to doubt the menace in his voice. "You will never speak to Lilith that way again. She is the Mother of all that exists here and you WILL have a little respect for your creator."
A deep rumbling sounded from the floor.
The Demon Lord fell on his knees before the throne, his face a mask of terror. "No, Master… I beg of you…" he pleaded.
Lucifer gazed at him for a long moment, the rumbling getting worse. When he was sure his point had been made, he spoke authoritatively. "Baal. Heel!"
The slow rumble quieted slowly as the room stopped shaking. Mephistopheles, however, remained prostrate on the floor.
"You know how Baal gets. He always gets… hungry… when I'm angry." Lucifer stated.
Mephistopheles could only give a terrified nod, unable to control his knees shaking.
Lucifer contemplated for several minutes before continuing. "So, your operative quit." He jumped up to pace back and forth along the edge of the dais, finally asking, "Which one?"
"Seraph Darkfell. A succubus," Mephistopheles managed after a moan of fear.
"Ah, yes… Your best operative. How amusing," Lucifer chuckled. "And…" he stopped as a sudden thought struck him. "Oh… how… interesting… And the angel?"
"Harteriel Serafina." Mephistopheles voice sounded meek and tired. "She was exiled from Heaven for having sex with Seraph."
Lucifer paused. "Exiled?" He looked at the demon lord, one eyebrow raised. "You mean Fell."
Mephistopheles shook his head. "No, Master. She was exiled by order of Theliel, but she has not Fallen."
Lucifer gazed at Mephistopheles, seeming to be not so much looking at him as through him. The Demon Lord found it to be very disconcerting and frightening.
Lilith was looking at Lucifer, concerned. "My Lord?" she asked uncertainly. Lucifer hadn't acted like this in a long time…
"An angel…" he finally said. "And a succubus… In love…" A faint smile played around his lips as traces of wonder danced in his eyes. Then they locked on Mephistopheles. "I take it that when she refused to lead her lover into a trap and leave her to your tender mercies, you arranged a 'welcoming committee'?"
"Yes," the Demon Lord said glumly. "Seraph killed them."
Luciferís eyes danced as a slow smile grew on his face. "Do either of them know about the G.O.D.ís glamour on the Angel?"
Mephistopheles looked confused. "Glamours, Master? The G.O.D. removed her glamours when they removed her wings."
Lucifer was now grinning fully. "Thank you, Mephistopheles. You are free to go." He turned to return to his throne.
"But, Master, do you not wish me to send a retrieval team? Another Virtue would be beneficial to our cause…"
Lucifer sat, and said sarcastically, "And to your bed." He shook his head. "No. I will deal with this matter personally." Then he gave the Demon Lord an amused look. "Besides, I remember what happened to the last Virtue to fall to your charms." Lucifer chuckled. "Oh, the irony!"
Mephistopheles bowed, hiding his humiliation and rage. "As you wish, Master," he forced through grinding teeth, then turned to leave, feeling Lucifer's eyes upon him all the way to the door.
As Lucifer watched him leave, the Lord of Hell could no longer contain himself. "And I was just saying the G.O.D had made everything so boring!"
All of Hell rang with its Master's laughter.
Mephistopheles stomped his way across the bridge of bone from Lucifer's castle, his wrath a fiery corona around him. The sounds of Lucifer's laughter rang in his ears bitterly. He paused at one of the many skeletal cadavers impaled along the bridge and smashed his fist through its dry skull.
"First that bitch Seraph screws me out of that slut angel, then she kills Bhaalor's ambushers, and now Lucifer's laughing at me!" he screamed at the silent corpse. "How could it possibly get any worse?"
In answer to his question a shadow fell across him and he turned to face a nightmare.
The demon before him stood ten feet tall — both ways. Muscle piled on muscle in such profusion as to make him appear almost dwarflike in his proportions. His face was grim, his one blood-red eye glaring at Mephistopheles from under a cliff-like brow. Two tall and massive horns sprang from his bullet-like head, arching upwards in a slight spiral that added almost three more feet to his height, the massive muscles of his almost nonexistent neck supporting the weight effortlessly.
That neck trailed into a pair of shoulders nearly as broad as he was tall, the massively corded braid of his muscles straining against his red skin. One hand was tucked into the heavy iron belt, carved with scenes of Armageddon, Celtic knotwork dividing the panels. Below it, his brown fur glistened from his sweat, small droplets falling beside his cloven hooves and steaming on the heated bone.
Mephistopheles backed up, feeling his anger slide once more into fear as he eyed the massive morningstar resting lightly against the giant's shoulder, its iron head larger than his chest.
"B… B… Bhaalor!" he finally stuttered.
The Demon Lord of Battles leaned down, the silver death's head on his black eye patch gleaming ominously.
"You and me are gonna to talk," he rumbled in a tone which left no room for argument. "Now!"
Mephistopheles turned to run, but one massive ham hand locked around the Lord of Corruptions' tail and halted him. Bhaalor hefted the protesting Mephistopheles casually and tossed him over his shoulder as he turned and marched back down the bridge to the iron city, ignoring the smaller demons cries, pleas, begging and bluster.
Bhaalor trudged deep into the city, finally arriving at a restaurant displaying a sign of a cauldron filled with body parts. Bhaalor dragged the reluctant Mephistopheles into the restaurant, past cannibals feasting on human flesh, to the kitchen, where more cannibals were being butchered by imps for the diners out front…
"It's too noisy to talk in here!" Mephistopheles screamed above the cries of the butchered, ducking as a spray of blood flew from a newly beheaded body. The head in the imp's hands looked down at its body in fear oddly mixed with a strange anticipation. Its tongue licked its lips hungrily.
Bhaalor ignored the carnage, his head turning to scan the room until he found what he sought, then he moved to the red door partially hidden behind a row of writhing bodies awaiting preparation, the cannibals suspended from hooks in their backs. He stepped past the soon-to-be dinners and turned the knob on the blood slicked door, having to try several times before getting enough traction.
Beyond was an aging room where already prepared bodies hung, stuffed with various flavorings. Bhaalor walked around the edge until he reached a clear spot near the back and swung his burden around. He grabbed Mephistopheles' arms and lifted him to impale his wings on a pair of hooks. Mephistopheles howled as Bhaalor left him to hang.
"Shut up!" Bhaalor thundered. "Or I'll leave you there minus your head. I lost six good agents in that ambush! They'd been keeping Alphabet City at war for ten years now!"
Mephistopheles grew pale. "B-B-Bhaalor! I-I can ex—" he stammered before the Warlord cut him off.
"And why is one of your officers killing off my agents?!" Anger crackled in his voice like thunder. He swatted at a fly circling the writhing entrees around them, then continued. "And where in the Name of our Master did a goddamned SUCCUBUS learn how to fight!" His one good eye glowed crimson fire.
"My officer?" Mephistopheles tried to look innocent. "But Seraph resigned! Surely you aren't blaming me for her actions?"
The huge morning star slashed downwards between the Lord of Corruptions dangling legs, the vicious spikes just missing his manhood.
"That's not the answer to the question I asked," Bhaalor said softly and dangerously.
"S-she was rescuing the angel!" Mephistopheles stuttered, trying to angle his lower body further away from the spikes. "And where do you think she learned how to fight?"
Bhaalor leaned down till he was face to face and growled. "That's what I'm asking you."
In desperation, Mephistopheles put on his best smile. It was a trifle weak, but it would have to do.
"Bhaalor, old buddy. You're forgetting what Seraph once was. I made her. I handpicked her for her spirit and focus. She was a warrior as fine as any of your men, even if she lacked the bloodlust you prize so highly, until I turned her into the cute slut she is today."
The giant demon considered that and nodded, accepting the answer. "Yeah. Well, your 'cute slut' is about to suffer terminal iron poisoning." He stepped back. "She owes me for six agents."
"You're going to kill her?" Mephistopheles cried in dismay. "She's my best agent!"
"Not anymore. She resigned, right? I'll just deliver her termination notice." Bhaalor laughed at his own joke. Somehow, Mephistopheles was not reassured.
"But— but she could still be brought back. A few weeks of my personal attention would remind her of her place!"
"Save it for her next reincarnation." Bhaalor said as he turned and walked towards the door. "I had an SS officer and two Mongols in that squad, all very valuable to me. Now they're reincarnates and there's no guarantee they'll grow up into the mean, vicious bastards they were!" His morningstar swung through the air angrily and turned several of the hanging corpses into bloody ruin. "Your bitch wasted them, and now she's going to be toast!"
Mephistopheles sighed. Arguing with the ten-foot-tall Warlord was a lost cause. Seraph was doomed…
But maybe something was salvageable…
The Warlord paused at the door. "What?"
"Perhaps we could strike a bargain?" The Master of Deals oozed, the wheels in his mind churning. "About the angel, Harteriel?"
"I don't care about the angel." Bhaalor turned to leave.
Mephistopheles rubbed his hands together, back in his element.
"Good. That was exactly what I was hoping you'd say…"
After Mephistopheles had wormed a promise from Bhaalor to deliver the Angel to him and he had finally wriggled his way off the hooks and left, the purple-eyed grey fly that had been circling the carcass nearest them grew and shimmered into the form of Lilith.
"How interesting," she said softly.
She had decided to follow Mephistopheles after he had left the throne room, sensing he would cause trouble, and she had been right. Against Lucifer's orders, he was still trying to arrange the angel's capture solely for the pleasure of raping her…
But still… there where parts of what she had heard that perked more than just casual interest, just as it had with her husband.
"An angel-besotted Succubus, who can best trained warriors of Bhaalor…" she whispered to herself.
It was no use… she was going to have to give this Seraph Darkfell and her angelic lover a visit…
The gentleman behind the desk looked up from his work at the crackling intercom. He sighed. All this technology and his assistant still sounded like she was talking through a tin can.
He reached out and hit the button. "Yes, Maggie?"
"There are two gentlemen to see you, sir. A Mr. Horne and a Mr. Wright."
"Ah yes, send them in, please,"
The door to the luxurious office opened silently, allowing the two gentlemen entrance. They looked around the tastefully earth-toned decor, then advanced to two low-backed chairs before the oak desk. They sat down, their wings just clearing the tops.
Both of them were handsome men, almost to the point of being called beautiful. Mr. Wright had a thick crop of medium brown hair that crowned a boyish, blue-eyed face. His grey Armani suit had been tailor-fitted to accommodate his trim muscular figure and his ivory white wings.
Mr. Horne stood just a few inches taller than Mr. Wright's six feet, and was similarly attired in navy blue. His blond, shoulder length hair accented an Adonis-like body, and his piercing eyes were an iron grey. He waited till Mr. Fish looked at him before speaking.
"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, sir,"
Mr. Fish nodded, the golden light from his visitors' halos making strange shadows on his face. "This situation is very sensitive. I can see many potential consequences." His face was grave.
Mr. Horne spoke. "The Council has outlined many possible scenarios. We've stopped looking for a minimum-impact solution. In all cases, the butterfly effect curved off the scale. This situation is more extreme than I believe anyone realizes. For better or for worse, a chain of events has been set in motion by these two that cannot be predicted with any certainty. All forecasts show it will ripple across the globe and through all of the other worlds. Heaven, the Olympus complex, Asgard, The Summerlands, Arcadia and most other regions will be affected, as will the Nine Circles. Nor will we be able to contain the effect within the western realms. Projections show massive overlap into the Celestial Bureaucracy, the Seven Realms, the Garden of Allah, even the Dreamlands."
Mr. Wright added, "The Council is becoming worried. I especially am concerned."
Mr. Fish nodded. "Yes, I can understand that. Believe me, I share in your apprehension. My attention will be solely devoted to this affair." He tapped a spot on his desk and a concealed monitor lit up. "My contacts have informed me the G.O.D. has declared Harteriel Serafina Exiled and Fallen, but there is a discrepancy. Despite the declaration, it appears Miss Serafina has not Fallen. I would like this investigated."
Mr. Wright nodded.
"Also, I have been made aware that the Department of Corruptions has compiled a dossier on her. I would like to know what that dossier contains." He tapped another spot on his desk and the information on the monitor changed. "I have also been informed that the D.O.C. has lost one of its best agents in this Seraph Darkfell. Infernal Affairs has her on Terminate status. Have you been able to assemble a dossier?"
"Actually, yes." Mr. Wright held up a small silver disc. He handed it to Mr. Fish, who placed it in a slot at the side of his desk. For a long moment his eyes scanned the data scrolling across his monitor. His face was expressionless as it finished and he leaned back, lost in thought for a minute.
Finally, he looked at the two angels. "I take it you are both familiar with the information in this file?"
"Good. I have your assignments, gentlemen." He turned to the grey-suited angel. "Mr. Horne, I would like you to study Miss Darkfell on a logical level. She has strengths and weaknesses. Find them. Monitor the use of her powers. She's a Succubus, she feeds on desire and lust, is she feeding? And is she feeding off Harteriel? Most importantly, how much of her… previous history… does she remember? Secondly, I need an evaluation of Miss Serafina. If she has not Fallen, find out why. Also, she feeds on love. Is she feeding?"
Mr. Wright nodded. Mr. Fish turned to his companion.
"Mr. Wright, I need you to study them on an intuitive level. How ingrained are Seraph's demonic reflexes? How does she think? Is she really in love? The same goes for Harteriel. I need to know their intentions before we make any further moves. They are both their respective offices' best agents; is this defection real? Or an elaborate gambit?" Mr. Fish fixed them both with a stern look. "Neither of you are to have any contact with them until I give the command. I do not wish them to know they are being observed."
They nodded and rose to go.
"Oh," Mr. Fish added as an afterthought. "I would like one of you to bring Raphael in. He may be needed later, providing Miss Serafina truly has not Fallen." He nodded. "That is all."
They nodded again and headed for the door. At the threshold, Mr. Wright turned back. "Mr. Fish?"
"Should we send in a Guardian?"
Mr. Fish smiled. "I already have that taken care of, Michael. But, I'm glad to see you're giving them the benefit of the doubt."
Mr. Wright nodded in acknowledgement and exited the office after Mr. Horne. Mr. Fish settled back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. The scars on his forehead throbbed with his headache. Playing guessing games with the G.O.D. was bad enough. Now, Chaos threatened to take a hand in affairs. At times like this, he almost wished there was someone else to do his job, but he'd gotten his answer to that particular wish in a garden on a hill a long, long time ago.
With a sigh, he pressed the button on the intercom.
"Yes?" his executive assistant called brightly, as she had always done, from the day he'd married her.
"Maggie, my love, would you be so kind as to get me Valentine? And you'd better put out the notice that my mother is likely to arrive in town soon…" Another headache he could do without, but couldn't avoid.
"Right away. Would you like a cup of coffee, dear? I just made a fresh pot."
After all these years, she knew exactly how to make him smile. "Yes, dear, I would love some…"
The Old Man sat down at the head of the table, his long flowing mane of grey hair blending into the tangle of his beard. Iron grey eyes gazed out of a weathered face which could be at times kindly, at others stern beyond belief, but at present just looked tired. He looked around the room to ensure all his key players were present, then called the meeting to order.
He waited until they were all seated before speaking again. "Well, gentlemen, we know going in that all projects have risks, but this minor matter seems to have gotten out of hand."
"I am not pleased at losing my best agent," one of those congregated said sourly. His heavy-lidded dark eyes sat in an androgynous face whose beauty was renowned almost as much as that of the First Fallen. However, there was an angry curl to his lips as he awaited the Old Man's explanation.
"No one told you to Exile her, Theliel," one of the others said. His mane of thick red hair hung down his back in waves, contrasting with his dark red wings. His eyes met Theliel's and they stared one another down.
"Theliel was justified in exiling his agent, Cherubiel. She had been… compromised," said the lone woman in their midst. She sat across from the two antagonists, her dark clothing covering even her wings. A veil covered her face so that only her eyes could be seen, and her hard gaze made Cherubiel turn to give a dust mote a careful inspection. "Sex is forbidden by the Code, save between married couples. Sex with a demon doubly so."
"Thank you, Temporiel. That will be enough." The Old Man interrupted before a shouting match could ensue. "The loss of Harteriel is a setback, but it proves we seriously underestimated the skills of Seraph Darkfell. However, the project has not failed entirely. The Department of Corruptions no longer has her services. In the capacity of Mephistopheles' agent, Seraph has been neutralized, and there remains a possibility she may be purified and turned to our cause. The situation must be analyzed."
A light breeze blew through the meeting room, carrying the faint sound of a choir singing. As it passed, it left a neatly rolled scroll before each of the five members of the committee. They took a few moments to read through them.
After a long moment of silence, Barakiel, the Warlord, whistled.
"Houston, we have a problem."
The Old Man nodded. "This report was just forwarded to me."
"Six of Bhaalor's men? I would not care to be Mephistopheles when the Warlord of Hell catches him." Theliel burst out through uncontrolled giggles. This was met with chuckles by all the others, save one.
"Disturbing," Uziel said suddenly, his voice killing the laughter. The Master of Purgatory was by all appearances a young boy, but one look in his eyes spoke of millennia devoted to learning. Uziel spoke rarely, but when he did, the others listened.
Into the silence, Uziel continued, "Based on this report, there are two probabilities. The first is beneficial to our cause. There still exists a possibility that our original objective may be accomplished and we may yet win Seraph to Heaven's cause, thereby dealing the Office of Corruptions a major blow and crippling its current effectiveness. Despite the major error Theliel made by Exiling Heart, there is still a small percent chance this may yet be accomplished."
"However, this is the least likely case. Heart's Exile makes this resolution highly improbable. I fear that this situation is more likely to escalate into catastrophe."
The Old Man nodded. "Elaborate," he commanded.
Uziel steepled his fingers, noting the glare Theliel was giving him. "The pivot point is Seraph's actions following Heart's Exile. As an agent of Hell, she was predictable to a point. Her actions could be expected to fall within those normally performed by Mephistopheles' agents, though she could be very ingenious within those limits. Heart's Exile seems to have provided a catalyst which has changed that. Her resignation from the Department of Corruptions was unexpected. She is now a renegade free agent. Her motivations seem to revolve around her relationship with the angel, but is she really in love — "
"Never!" Theliel hissed.
Uziel ignored the outburst and continued as if he hadn't been interrupted. "—or does she have ulterior motives? If so, how has she fooled an Angel of Love into believing she truly loves her? Beyond this, there is the matter of Seraph's performance while in battle with Bhaalor's troops. Seraph is a Succubus First Class, not a combat demon. Against Bhaalor's agents she should have been overmatched, yet she bested them easily." His eyes bored into Theliel's. "There is a discrepancy, therefore, between her demonstrated abilities and her reported ones."
Theliel glanced at the Old Man, but otherwise stared fixedly at the table.
Uziel continued. "From this evidence, it seems possible that Seraph might have found some method of drawing upon Heart in ways that enhance her own powers. There is a danger in this. Seraph was previously Mephistopheles' best agent. Her powers were nearly as strong as the Demon Lord's. If Seraph has found a way to feed off Heart in a manner that increases her personal powers, it is possible her 'retirement' is a first step for a plan to replace the Demon Lord as head of the D.O.C. Seraph may teach other demons these methods and create a power imbalance that could disrupt the present order. This must be investigated and Seraph's true motives must be discovered."
The Old Man nodded. "Go on."
"As Seraph is a Demon, I would theorize this is a more likely possibility than that she is actually in love with Heart. Demons are not capable of the higher emotions. How she has managed to delude Heart is unknown, but the evidence is plain that Harteriel truly believes Seraph loves her — "
"Evidence?" Temporiel interrupted.
"Yes. Harteriel has not Fallen. This could only occur if she truly believed Seraph loved her."
"That's impossible!" Temporiel stormed. "She broke the Code and slept with her!"
"Yes. Despite your well-known hatred for sex, Temporiel, the Code is for Mortals. Harteriel vowed her love to Seraph. While I do not believe Seraph could return that love, the fact remains that by the act of giving herself to Seraph she is guilty only of consummation of her vows."
Temporiel looked angrily at Theliel for support, but found none. "Uziel's right," Theliel sighed. "She believes she's in love with the Succubus, and in accordance with her Oaths. The Exile clerk could only take her Robes and Halo of Office. She has managed to fall into a loophole and she has retained her status as an angel. She is at present under glamour and unaware of this, but there are those who can see through the glamour, and once she becomes aware of it, she can break it."
"Let's get someone on that," the Old Man said. "We want to prevent that as long as possible." He tapped his fingers on the table as he thought. "Uziel. You stated that there existed a possibility of successfully finishing our original plan?"
He nodded. "Yes, however, as I stated, it carries a low probability of success."
"As I stated, the likelihood of Seraph truly returning Heart's love is small, but if she does in fact care for Heart, then there is a possibility of exploiting that. Heart is likely very emotionally distressed over her Exile. If she were to be approached with an offer of a pardon and the opportunity to return, she would likely consider it. Once she is lured to Heaven, it is possible Seraph would attempt to follow her. In any case, it is likely she will be weaker if her link to Heart is nullified, something that cannot be done so long as they are both on the Mortal Plane."
Temporiel glared. "Pardon her! After what she's done?!"
"Settle down, Temporiel," the Old Man commanded. Her eyes burned hot over her veil, but she held her tongue. "What's your final analysis, Uziel?"
The young looking angel steepled his fingers again. "They must either be brought in and controlled, or neutralized. They are too dangerous to allow free. This 'minor matter' could jeopardize far more important projects."
The Old Man nodded. "Very well. Does anyone wish to add anything?" His look indicated that no one should. "Good. Barakiel, make arrangements to put the pair under surveillance. I want to know everything they do, from what food they eat to what lingerie they wear. Temporiel, put together an Official Pardon, and a committee to deliver it if I give the word."
The Angel of Celibacy and Moderation glared, but wisely made no protest.
"I think we shall at least make an attempt to salvage our losses. We will give them seven Earth days. We should have the data needed to make a final decision by then. Meeting adjourned." He rose, ignoring the mutters around the table. At the door, he paused. "Oh, and if we can't salvage this, Cherubiel, will you put together an executioners' committee?"
He didn't wait for an answer.
Uziel stopped Theliel at the door as the others exited, then turned to the Cupid.
"You are running a game, Theliel. I wish to know what it is."
A guarded look came to Theliel's eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said flatly.
"Don't make the mistake of assuming my appearance means I'm naive. I have my own sources of information, Theliel. I know what was so carefully excluded from that report."
"I don't have anything to hide," Theliel evaded.
"Really." Uziel reached out and pulled Theliel's robe off his shoulder, revealing a long scar along his shoulder blade. "Nothing at all?"
Theliel pulled his robe back. "Stay out of my business, Uziel."
Uzielís eyes narrowed. Theliel was too confident. He was sure of some protection from the Old Man. That would bear investigating.
"I will find out your game, Theliel," Uziel finally said.
"You're welcome to try." Theliel's grin was mocking. "Am I dismissed now?" Without waiting for an answer, he turned and left.
"I'll be watching you," Uziel promised to his back.
As meetings were had, investigations launched, and spies set in motion, the subjects of all the fuss were obliviously finishing out their day.
Lilith had grown bored quickly as she had watched the pair shop for clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue, then go to Times Square and catch a new release. They had gone out for fondue for dinner, feeding each other strawberries dipped in chocolate for dessert, then had gotten a room in a nice hotel downtown.
Lilith had thought it wise to hide when Seraphs kisses brought forth soft moans from Heart. Seraph's powers would be at a peak during and just after intercourse, and the risk she might sense Lilith had been too great. Still, Lilith hadn't wanted to miss anything, so she had tucked one of her amethysts into a corner of the ceiling and hidden in a dimensional pocket as she watched the angel and succubus make love.
I don't believe it. She thought to herself two hours later, the cries of ecstasy never quieting the entire time. Seraph never had to use any of her powers to seduce her?
Could it be… no… Demons couldn't… fall in love?
Even more intriguing, she'd watched as Heart's blue-white aura had intertwined with Seraph's red-black one to create a pale lavender aura that had surrounded them both. Lilith had never seen anything like it. She watched as it wrapped itself around them like a blanket as they finally collapsed into an exhausted heap.
Lilith sighed. That was incredible…
Heart curled herself into Seraph's embrace as they lay looking out the window that opened onto the city, and pulled one of the demoness's wings around her. Seraph's tail idly stroked up and down along her leg as she exuded an aura of utter contentment. Lilith couldn't believe what her own eyes were telling her. She leaned forward, straining to hear the last words Seraph whispered into Heart's ear as the angel drifted off to sleep.
"I almost forgot, Beloved… Happy Valentine's Day…"
Even in her sleep, Heart smiled.
To be continued.
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