Accuser of our Brethren
There was a blinding light, the sound of a distant crash and suddenly he was standing somewhere, with mist swirling around his ankles. It reminded him of a Twilight Zone episode, but that was about a little girl and her dog. He started to walk, for no other reason than it felt right.
Someone was approaching and he paused, then his jaw dropped.
"Ma?" He took a step and another figure stepped from behind her. "Da?"
The next instant he was in their arms, hugging and kissing them. "How I've missed ye!"
"As much as you've missed me?"
He turned, eyes wide open. "Katie? My Katie?" He flung himself at her and they embraced, two lovers never meant to be parted.
Suddenly, Katie gasped and stood back. "No, it's not fair... it's time!"
He was aware of his body suddenly growing translucent. "No, I want to stay."
It's not up to you, but I can help. He looked around and saw a shape, shimmering and faint. Whenever he tried to focus upon it, it would fade from sight. He looked away and it reappeared.
"Don't listen to him, son. We'll wait for you." His father sounded desperate, placing his body between son and shape.
"I don't want to wait!"
Don't listen to them. I can help you stay here.
"What do I have to do?"
That's the glory of it. You do nothing, let me take over. I will return in your stead.
"Why do you want to go back?
"No, sweetheart, it's not worth..."
He opened his eyes and stared up into the startled faces of the doctors. He grinned, sat up, and looked around.
"But you were brain dead..." one doctor sputtered. "You were dead."
"Surprise!" And Vetis laughed. It was good to be back.
"Who's the new git in the corner?"
Lorne shrugged and went back to picking out a melody on the keyboard. "Found wandering and brought in here, I heard. One of the lower types said he was moaning and gnashing and whatnot. I gave him a drink to see if he'd calm down, but he refuses. Won't eat either. I think he got his legends confused or something."
Whistler turned away from the piano and made his way to the table where the new kid was sitting with his head in his hands. Indeed he was moaning and when the demon drew closer he could make out some of the mumbling. The kid was crying about some Kate or Katie or someone. There were occasional mentions of parents and then the boy would start crying again and there would be pleas to his deity.
"Can't hear you on this side, kid."
The boy startled hard, almost falling from his chair. Whistler reached out and caught the boy by the arm, righting the chair and sliding into one next to the boy.
"Not a kid." The boy's sullen tone was almost ruined by the raggedness of his voice that came from too much use. The boy must have screamed for some time after his arrival.
"No, I can see that you are full grown. But at my age, you're all kids to me. So what brings you to our little corner of the between-life?"
The boy really looked at him this time, and then seemed puzzled to find himself sitting next to what seemed to be a young man of his own age. "I don't want to talk to you. I don't want anything from anyone here. I don't..." The boy stopped then, seemed a little confused and then put his head back in his hands.
"Look, kid, you don't belong here. If you had been processed properly, you wouldn't be here. This indicates to me that somewhere along the line someone fucked up. It's not my job to make it right, but it makes my existence easier if I take care of business. So let's start at the top, shall we? What is your name and what is the last thing you remember before finding yourself between engagements, so to speak?"
The boy didn't move nor did he say a word.
"I got all eternity. So do you. So spill it." Whistler waved a hand, and a dark bottle appeared on the table. He used his nails to pry off the cap. He took a sip and thunked the bottle back onto the table.
He ended up drinking the entire bottle and started on another. Lorne abandoned the piano finally and joined them. Once again the boy was startled but stayed silent.
"Your charm is failing you there, buddy."
Whistler gave the green demon a look that would have lesser of their kind scurrying for cover. Lorne just shrugged and called up a bottle of his own.
"So, look, Mack, we could maybe help you if we knew your story, ya know." He took a long drink from the bottle then gently set it on the table.
The young man looked up in horror. "Help is how I got here. I don't want your help. Go away."
"See, that's a good start. Now just keep going, tell us everything."
"Now that's not very friendly. We can get it out of you eventually. It might be better if you just tell us what we want to know."
"Are you threatening to torture the kid's life story out of him?" Whistler almost sounded amused.
"No, you idiot. Mack here, he talks in his sleep."
Lorne turned back to the young man. "'S'true, ya fell asleep there for a bit earlier and talked about missing some girl, Kat, Kate, I'm not sure. I figure if I'm patient I will get the whole story."
Whistler laughed. "Right then, so we just hang out and watch the new guy sleep. Sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry." He emptied the second bottle and disappeared it. "Worth a try though," he looked over at the kid, "unless you want to start by telling us about this Kat or Kate or whatever."
"Did I hear you say cat? Are they serving kittins now? Can I have one? I love kittins."
"Devil Below, Clem, there are no cats or kittens or anything in here. Where'd you come from anyway? You've been gone an age." Whistler waved over a chair and the newcomer sat, looking disappointed.
"I been around." Clem shrugged, setting his ears to swinging. "Here and there, ya know. Heard that Vetis made a break for it, got a mortal to trade him for a body. Been cutting a path across the earth, he has. It's messy."
"It's going to get messier when the boss finds out. Vetis never was very subtle." Lorne finished his drink and set the bottle to floating before he made it vanish.
"I heard the boss was looking for the owner of the body. Can't have strangers wandering around, I guess."
All three of the demons turned toward the newcomer, once again slumped at the table, head in hands and muttering to himself.
"Light dawns," Whistler said.
"Oh, this is not going to be good."
"How come is he here? I thought they made a new place for the self-tortured." Clem said.
"I don't think he's supposed to be there either, Clem. Though he is doing a bang up job of berating himself for whatever he thinks he did." Whistler reached over and took the young man's forearm and forced one hand down off his head. "See here, this is only a waiting room, not actually Hell, so stop yourself. Self pity is not going to help. But we can. Now tell us everything."
"Micah, you have to come with me. Right now, Micah." Had emphasized the second use of the name with a Voice he didn't often have need to use. He wished he didn't now.
Micah left the little table in the corner to follow his coworker into the short hall that led to the restrooms and alley. But when Had opened the door, it wasn't an alley behind a dingy little midnight bar, it was a field of green and yellow and bright sunlight. The door disappeared as they stepped through it.
"Why are we in the waiting room, Had?"
"Because there is a problem and I think we need to be the ones to clean up after it."
In the distance there was a small knot of people making noise, but not the usual kind of peaceful joyful sounds this meadow was accustomed to being filled with. A young woman was crying and an older one held her while an older man paced a short course behind them.
"I'll wait forever! I'll wait all the forevers. I won't leave until he's back here with me. I won't!" The girl was wailing now, making a keening sound that Micah hadn't heard in centuries, not since the tribes had been scrabbling out territories and waging the kind of wars that left womenfolk wandering fields looking for their fallen. He wondered briefly if it was some kind of collective memory that made her remember how to sound like that or if heartbroken sorrow just made all humans reach notes out of the ordinary octave of the merely sad.
"Now can you tell me exactly why you think that there was interference with your son's journey?" asked a young man dressed in a white suit.
The pacing man stopped and glared, then visibly relaxed his stance. "He was talking to someone else, we couldn't see who it was. He said he wanted to stay and then he agreed with something. After that he was just screaming like nothing I've ever heard and was gone. It was chilling." The older man seemed to lose some of his composure for a moment, then shook the horror off and glared again before remembering himself and turning away to his women, gathering them into his arms.
The two newly arrived walked up to the gathering. "We'll take it from here, thank you."
"Hadraniel, I didn't know you were..."
"I'm not, nor is Micah. You didn't see us."
"Of course." The other turned on his heel and was gone in an instant.
Had turned and smiled his kindest smile at the women. He tried to be as reassuring as he knew how to be to the man. Everyone relaxed. Micah hovered in the background; Had knew he was curious and confused but remained blessedly quiet.
"Sir, you are correct. There has been a mistake and we will correct it but we need your assistance. I would like your young friend here to tell my colleague everything she can about your son. I would like for you to tell me your memories of him. Time is of the essence, so let us begin." The small gathering looked confused because Time was not something they had experienced in this place, but this angel's voice was so soothing, so commanding that they agreed.
"So let me see if I got this straight. You died and were in what you thought was heaven surrounded by loved ones and then you got pulled out and sent here. Some voice offered to help you stay dead and you naturally leapt to the conclusion that you'd stay in the nice place with the nice people. Instead you ended up here. He offered to go back in your place, to the body you left behind."
"That's, yeah, pretty much, yeah." The young man sounded tired, his voice again ragged and more thickly accented than it had been at the start.
"You want I can get you some water or something? You sound bad off there, buddy." Clem tried to be helpful. At the look of horror the kid gave him, Clem looked to Lorne and Whistler, "What'd I say?"
"It's not you, Clem. Mack's on a hunger strike, or whatever. You're ok."
"My name is not Mack. It isn't Kid or Buddy either."
"Enough. If it is Vetis that stole this body from you, we are going to have to do some damage control before he gets you damned along with himself. You stay here with Clem. Lorne and I will go track the bastard down. But you realize that you may end up losing the body for good if we can't get Vetis to vacate voluntarily."
"And if he won't leave?"
"If you aren't in the body when it dies again, you might get stuck here."
The young man had nothing to say, only a look of weary horror.
"I hope you have a plan, Had. You do have a plan, right?"
Hadraniel was quiet for so long that Micah had opened his mouth to question again when Had broke his silence. "I have a plan. The plan is to make something up. We know where the boy lived, we start there."
"What do you think happened to him? The records say that it was his time; he should have been happily on his way across the river and into paradise with his family and true love."
"I think he got suckered by a demon."
"Do they even do that anymore?"
"Not for centuries, not since proof is so easily kept. And there was some kind of balance accord made; it was supposed to be keeping the others from direct interaction. Like we have to get three kinds of permission and have a waiting period and all kinds of things, they have some check system as well. But somebody ignored it and the balance is being tipped. That can't happen. It's going to really peeve someone's superiors."
"All of our superiors, more than likely."
"Oh yeah. I wouldn't want to be on the getting end of that fallout. There's going to be a heat wave in Hell. And the demon whose name is on it is going to regret ever being begotten."
Of course, he wasn't Vetis now... Now he was Velon McAllister, son of a minister, wasn't that priceless? And how Vet... no, Velon celebrated his return. The city had never seen such a murder spree and the police could merely shake their heads and puzzle. He was something they'd never encountered before. Oh and how he played with them, it was to die for... literally in some cases.
But eventually, even a demon grows tired of the big city and yearns for some solitude. He wandered from LA to San Francisco, still too big, then headed inland. The mountains were dotted with small communities, with even smaller police forces. For a year, he polished his technique. Velon had watched all 'his' old friends drift away, repulsed by the changes in their friend. Women found him irresistible and there was never a lack of sex. When he tired of them, he found that men weren't hard to entice either. He came to know and recognize the look, knew when to approach, when to avoid. When he had neither man nor woman, he turned to his last target—children. He tended to avoid them, however, as the outrage was always more indignant, the public focus a bit more concentrated.
And all the while, the poor chump he'd tricked out of his body hung in Purgatory. That's what he got for not paying better attention in Sunday School. Of course, Vetis doubted the man's father taught him about demons, about walk-ins; his loss really.
For years he played, took what he wanted, disposed of what became burdensome and then one day, he was aware of a stirring in—to say it was in his soul was just, well, stupid. Never the less, Vetis was aware of a yearning. He wanted to go home. This body was beginning to grow tiresome, plus he wasn't sure all was well. There was pain where there hadn't been before and a little flame licked at the back of his head telling him it was time to think about returning.
Ah, but that would be a trick. His Master, he would not be pleased with Vetis' little journey. Even Lucifer had limits and this one would have been way beyond that. No, Vetis needed an angle, something to pave the way back home. It had to be something so big, so wonderful, Lucifer would applaud him as a hero, perhaps even award him a legion of his own. But what?
"Napoleon, I'm not joking. I won't wear a polyester suit."
"Why not, Illya, this color is perfect on you."
"That color should be banned from the spectrum. Puce is not a color for any article of clothing, much less a suit. I wear ugly polyester pants all day in the kitchen, Napoleon, I will not wear it to dinner as well."
Vetis looked over at the two men arguing and his head began to sing. It was them, the pair the trickster lost. Granted, it looked for awhile as if he'd been successful, then that busybody Micah got involved. Bastard angel! Those two would have been theirs by now if he hadn't. What a perfect souvenir to take home... two sodomites! Vetis was very happy. Lucifer would be blown away... maybe he'd give him two legions...
The day he decided to move, it was raining and cold—a very good sign. He preferred these days for spreading his particular brand of mischief. He lounged on the porch of Vinea, the wine shop of his intended target. Napoleon was on edge around him, both men were really, but neither knew why. Vetis liked it that way.
The blond came out of their house and looked around. Vetis had thought long and hard, heh, very hard, about taking the blond instead, but he looked into those blue eyes and saw something that, well it didn't scare him. He was a frigging demon after all. But the look set him back and made him cautious.
"Did Janice kick you out?" Chef was attempting to be social. Vetis, no, Velon smiled at him.
"No, I like this weather," he said, letting through a trace of Scottish brogue. "It reminds me of home. Do you ever miss home? Russia, I mean."
"Not for a long time." Chef leaned against the railing and studied the sky. "And to use an old cliché, home is where the heart is."
"Aye, that's true. And here you have Napoleon."
"You're lucky. Most of my relationships don't last more than three or four days."
"You'll find someone, probably when you least expect it."
You have no idea, human, he thought, but aloud, he said, "That's what my Da used to say—there's someone for everyone, Vel, and you've got to be patient. Do you believe that?"
"What is the special tonight, Chef?" The blond was studying him again and Vetis dropped his gaze to the planks of the porch. This one bothered him—a lot. It would be good to make him suffer.
"With this weather, I'm thinking Coc au Vin or perhaps a Shepherd's Pie."
"Will Napoleon be coming tonight?" Vetis put heavy emphasis on the word, eyes flicking up to see if there was a reaction.
"He and Matt are pretty busy working on a project, so I doubt it."
"You're very trusting."
"Yes." Then the blond was off and Vetis smiled, chuckling to himself. This was going to be so, so good.
Vetis knocked on the front door, paused and then, as Velon, entered. It was the first time he'd been inside the house and he looked around, noting as much as he could for later. He smiled at the two.
"Can we do something for you, Velon?" That was the redhead, Matt. He was a whiner and Vetis wouldn't dirty his hands with one of those.
"Rocky sent me over to get your plates and to bring dessert. These are for now." He carefully placed a small platter down on the coffee table in front of them. He then placed a second smaller covered tray on the dining room table. "These, I was led to believe, are for later."
"Mmmm, truffles, wonder what Chef filled these with?" Matt grabbed the nearest one and bit into it. "Strawberry," he decided after a moment.
"Nothing like the olden days—white bread, American cheese, orange Jell-o."
"There's always room for Jell-o," Matt quipped and Napoleon chuckled.
"Ah, the good old days." He poured a small measure of port into a glass and offered it to Matt. Neither offered anything to Velon. Why would they, he was just the hired help.
"To the good old days."
"Will that be all?" He purposefully drew their attention back to him, letting them know he felt the slight.
"That's fine, Velon, thank you." Dismissed, just like that, not invited to sit and drink. That might have swung the odds in Napoleon's favor for a speedy death. Now he'd suffer. Excellent...
"We're being followed."
"The Home you say, our disguises are perfect. Did you tell anyone we were coming?"
"No. I don't know that they are following us so much as on the same trail. I've seen them the last three times that we stopped." Whistler checked and saw the two men still where he'd seen them last, talking to the desk clerk.
"Let's follow them and see what happens."
"There's a demon here somewhere."
Micah sniffed and looked around. "Well, we are looking for one."
"Smells fresher than that, the one we're looking for hasn't been back here for at least a month."
Micah sniffed again. "Ok, you're right. That is some current demon I'm getting. Do you think they are part of it? Maybe they're taking turns using the body or something."
"I don't think it works like a timeshare condo." Had smiled but his eyes showed more worry than they had before.
"So now what?"
"We wait and see if they make contact or disappear."
"And we do that how?"
"Let's go have some coffee and do some people watching, shall we?"
Micah suppressed a sigh and followed Had out of the hotel and down to a café where they sat in back, nursing cups of hot milky coffee, until another pair of somethings came in the nearly empty coffee shop and sat at a table nearby.
There was hemming and hawing and posturing and finally the four unearthly beings sat at a table together.
"So if we can find this Vetis in Velon's body, you two can get him out and the proper occupant can take up residence again?"
"Briefly," Lorne explained. "if Vetis won't leave the body we have to wait for the body to die and slip the real Velon in place so he can go on to his reward. Then we can take Vetis into custody."
"It has to be timed perfectly in either case," Whistler added. Both demons nodded.
"Unfortunately, nobody seems to know where he went after leaving the last job he had."
"If I may suggest," Whistler said, "we have a forwarding address card that indicates he is still in the state. I think we should go there."
"How did you find that?"
"Now, Had, I'm not asking you to give away trade secrets. Let's just give it a try, shall we?"
The four made an uneasy group as they left the diner, heading for their cars and then a tiny town in the foothills beyond the city.
"Mr. Morgenstar to see you, sir."
The man behind the desk nodded and watched his secretary leave. When the door opened again and shut behind his visitor, he rose from his chair and reached out a hand. It was taken in a firm shake before the two men sat again on either side of the large desk.
"Could you be a little more obvious?"
"And Gottesdenier is so subtle a surname."
The man behind the desk glowered, "I didn't choose it."
"Of course you didn't, we never do. Not for long at any rate."
"And to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"It's come to my attention that a certain pair of your workers have been targeted by one of my underlings. Under the rules of the original bet, he is out of line and steps have been taken to remove him from the picture. Unfortunately," there was a sigh here, "events are already in motion and free will being what it is..." He let his words trail off, knowing his companion would fill in the blanks.
Raziel was quiet for a long moment. When he finally spoke, it was quietly and with a terrible intent. "Sammael, this has gone too far. It was one thing when they were in their prime and taking out psychopaths was well within their purview, but they are retired. They should have been left in peace." His eyes flashed with an angry light and Sammael remembered why none of his brothers wanted to screw around with the Keeper of Secrets.
"I have only just been made aware of the situation. I don't have the ability to zero in on my charges the way you do, remember."
"You keep your minions under control in future; I am tired of cleaning up after them."
"You and me both, brother."
Raziel got up from his desk and went to the wall of glass behind him, watching the traffic far below the office he occupied and not really seeing it. He stood there for several minutes.
"It's done. Hadraniel doesn't usually handle these things, but he is familiar with this pair and will know what to do. I want you to make sure that your troops know that they are all off limits. Pushing Free Will is one thing, this mess is another think altogether. After this it will be out of my hands and kicked up to another level, and you know that they will not be happy if it goes that far..."
"I know, Raz. That's why I'm here, brother."
The one standing at the window turned, "Sam, do I hear a note of apology?" His smile belied his earlier anger, he moved to take the chair next to his companion's.
Raz watched him, realizing that he was with one of the few beings he could trust to be just what he appeared. "My weariness is showing, I suppose." He shrugged.
"Do you ever regret it, giving them the Spark?"
"What, regret doing my job? I had little choice in the matter, you remember."
"I know, I know. I'm tired as well, I guess."
"How much longer do you have?"
"Two more cycles, and then I will trade out and another will get to run the company for a while."
"Not so long then."
"No. It does have its interesting points, experiencing linear reality as our charges do helps us relate to them. But it is always a relief to go home as well."
Sam was very quiet.
"Sam, I am sorry, I didn't..."
"No, Raz, it's ok, I knew what I was getting into when I signed on. I just didn't realize His experiment would go on for so many thousands of cycles."
There was a pause as both of them thought on that, then Sammael continued, "I will tell you one thing, brother, I no longer envy them their Free Will. So much can go wrong, even the best of ideas can go so awry. I am secure in my purpose now, there is comfort in that."
"You know you could have been done after the first, He only asked you to start that one fire."
"Ah, yes, I could have. But you know that I have always been curious; it was my downfall, that eternal 'what if'. I couldn't give it up."
"You are so like our Father in that."
"Shhhh! If the others hear you the cat will be out of the bag."
They laughed then.
"Yes, I suppose it's best if we don't spread that around. You can trust me with the secret."
"I know that." Sam stood, holding out his hand again, was not surprised when Raz stood as well and pulled him into a hug. "And you can trust that the one at fault today will be taken care of appropriately."
He said it so softly, Raz wondered if he imagined it.
Sam turned away from his brother, then looked back to him when he reached the door. "See ya 'round one of these decades, eh?"
"No, of course you will be done here soon, but still Earthbound for another two hundred years. I will be busy for several myself."
Had pulled the car into the parking lot of the grocery store and parked next to Whistler and his companion. All four exited their cars and stood in a little knot.
"This place is small enough that we should be able to search it quickly, and on foot may be better than... hey, what's eating you?" Whistler asked Micah.
Micah was turning in a small circle as if searching for something.
"Micah, have you found a trail?" Had asked.
"I know this place. I've been here... I have a pairing here." Micah looked at Had and then at the two demons. "Do you suppose it's a coincidence?"
"Don't believe in 'em," And, "There are no coincidences," Lorne and Hadraniel said at once. Whistler just rolled his eyes and took a cell phone from his pocket.
Whistler spoke quietly to someone on the other end of the phone, then turned back to the other three, "I need the names of the couple you know here."
"I don't actually know them, so much, ah," Micah started. Both Had and Whistler glared and he put his hands up either in surrender or supplication. "Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. I first knew, that is encountered them in New York City. Then Kuryakin came here to this little town and I sent, um, that is, I kind of engineered Solo following."
"Can't those two catch a break?"
"Had, it could just be an accident."
"Look at my face. Is this the face of someone who believes that?"
It was true, Had looked like wrath incarnate, and Micah was sure he could see lightning about to flash. This was not going to be good for someone.
Whistler pocketed the phone and rejoined the group. "Our boss says we should find Vetis as fast as possible, and that means yesterday sometime. And he doesn't care how we do it. He has some business to take care of and then he's on his way. Vetis is going to be very sorry. So if we don't want in on the hurt he's bringing with him, we have to get this show on the road."
Had and Micah looked at one another and then at the pair of demons.
"I didn't tell him that you were here. He did say any means necessary, so I guess angels are the means?"
"Got it in one. Let's see what we can do." Had still looked grim. Lorne and Micah were happy to let him and Whistler take the lead.
Vetis watched the blood well around the tip of the knife. He knew how to keep his knives sharp, razor sharp, and perfectly honed for his purpose.
The man beneath him shuddered and responded, if only uncontrollably. He hadn't left much chance for his victim to move at all. Spread eagled, opened for his pleasure and needs. Vetis had to admit that this one was a fighter.
He had thought long and hard about which one to take. The blond, Chef, he would have been a wonderful prize, but there was something in that man's eyes that frightened even a demon like him. Not that Vetis would have confessed the fear of a mere human to anyone. The brunet, he set Vetis' teeth on edge as well. There was something about the pair, dangerous, only half concealed, but he had to admit Napoleon didn't look very dangerous now.
Vetis could hear the man's heart slowing down, a victim of shock, blood loss and dehydration. Humans were such fragile things, not as capable as some other inferior beings though. Weak, pitiful, without reserve.
He got up and retrieved a rag from the table to wipe the blood from his blade. The reality was he was tiring of this human. He couldn't understand what the big thing had been. This human was nothing...
He settled his weight upon the back of Napoleon's thighs and Napoleon groaned. Whether it was from the sheer weight of his body or in pain, Vetis didn't care. The sound was music to his ears. He dropped his hand to cup the bruised and bloodied buttock of his victim. Even now, the man tried to fight him, weak, but still an attempt.
"Now, none of that or Daddy will have to play, but you like that, don't you?" He held a knife carefully so that Napoleon could see the blade as a low-burning kerosene lantern reflected off the steel. "You are tasty, but I find myself growing tired of you. I think perhaps something younger, something fresher now. You and I will be parting ways soon I think, my dear, sweet, Napoleon."
"You can count on it, you son of a bitch."
Vetis' head jerked in the direction of the door and he caught the first bullet in the shoulder. The impact tossed him away from Napoleon and into the wall. The pain was enlightening if not pleasant. So this is what it meant to hurt. There was a second explosion and his knee exploded. He started to scream then, a sound he cherished in others, not so much for himself. He'd never felt such an intensity and even now a small part of his brain set the sensation aside.
Vetis' body seemed to take on a life of its own, twitching and flailing around on the floor. He had to admit that perhaps he'd made a mistake leaving Chef alive. He should have sent him to Hell when he first had the chance.
"Guess where the next one's going?" Velon, no, Vetis now looked imploringly into Chef's face, searching for a modicum of pity or mercy. He wailed when he saw neither.
Then Chef withdrew, back to the bed and his filth covered partner. Vetis couldn't get a handle on his body now. At least now, Vetis would have the satisfaction of watching the last bit of his evilness played out. He'd watch Chef recoil and shun his broken, no longer attractive partner. There was nothing of Napoleon left to love; he'd been defiled, demoralized and destroyed, both physically and mentally. This would make it all so, so sweet. Lucifer would sing Vetis' praises.
Except... not rejection, but... love? Acceptance? How was any of that possible? He wanted to scream at the foolish human, revile him for his compassion as he unbound and kissed the man. Stupid, stupid humans...
Vetis retreated back into his own misery, letting it own him, making him writhe and scream. Then he realized Napoleon was... moving? How was that possible?
"Something—" that urges caution, yes," the human whispered in Vetis' face, one hand braced on the wall and the other pressing the silencer hard against Velon's chest. "Yes. But you should have been afraid of me."
Vetis panicked for a second. In human shape, he could die and that would have very bad consequences back home. He went for another route. "You're going to kill me," he sobbed, "don't kill me, don't kill me..."
"Kill you? Oh no. Much worse. Going to let you live."
The bullet ripped into his groin and Vetis' eyes widened more than he thought possible. The noise he made now he'd once heard a child make as he tortured it to death. What an experience this has been, he thought as he prepared to abandon this shell. But somehow, he lived through it; this body was still not ready to surrender its grip upon this mortal plane.
Hadraniel and Whistler arrived at the abandoned warehouse and found their respective companions already in place. From the sounds, they had not managed to arrive before Kuryakin. The four made no sound as they ran for the back of the building, then shots rang out.
When they got to the dark little room where Vetis had been holding Solo, the two mortals and the demon in human clothing were frozen in a terrible tableau. A broken and bleeding Solo was demanding Kuryakin give him the gun and Vetis was screaming in pain from shots that had already torn his mortal disguise open.
"Give. Me. Your. Gun."
"That's good, Napoleon, don't let your partner do something that will take him away from you." Hadraniel's soothing voice filled the room. The demons Lorne and Whistler both winced. Micah stood beside Illya, tears streaming down his face.
"Don't do it, Illya, don't let Napoleon damn himself. You need each other, you need to be together, you must remember this."
"What He has brought together let no man put asunder, Micah," Hadraniel said, stepping next to him.
"But it's not a man who has tried to sunder them, Had, it's a demon."
"Have you so little faith in your own matchmaking? In His?"
"No, you are right." Micah took a deep breath and wiped his face.
Illya had handed the pistol to Napoleon already, oblivious to the four watchers in the room. Napoleon took aim and Vetis started pleading.
"I wonder if he will cry so prettily when the Master has him strung up?" Whistler mused. "And look at how steadily that one holds the gun, despite his injuries. He has a lot of fight left in him. No wonder the bet was lost. Twice even."
"No kidding. I think Abaddon is still doing time for that little fiasco." Lorne looked both horrified and satisfied at the thought. "Now, it was me, I'd shoot him in the nuts and let him suffer some more." Lorne looked from Napoleon to Vetis and back again. There was the sound of another shot.
"We can't shove Velon back into this body yet, even I admit he doesn't deserve this. Let's go along for the ride and make sure Vetis stays put, shall we?"
"Oh, yeah, I think we can arrange that." Lorne looked over to where the other two were hovering over the pair of mortal lovers. "You two got your end handled?"
"Yes. I have been given instructions. Micah and I can take care of these two. I just hope they send more than one ambulance; even incorporeal we are going to be a tight fit."
"Do they have even one ambulance in this little town?" Lorne looked skeptical.
"We're about to find out," Whistler said as the sound of sirens came closer.
There was an awful glint in his brother's eyes that made Raziel remember that Sammael was also known as the Venom of God, among other things. He did not envy the minion who had stumbled and brought himself under that attention. Sam suppressed a shudder and turned again to the window, willing himself to see what he needed.
The scene before him was two men, one in a hospital bed and another that surely needed one, but refused to leave the side of the other.
"Rest, Napoleon, I've got you."
"Velon is done, Napoleon, arrested and behind bars. He will never harm you again."
It was all that Raziel needed to see.
Vetis had come to at the hospital, chained to his bed, a man with a gun stationed by his side. He was aware, but couldn't quite convince his body to obey him. He couldn't leave it, it refused to die. That was his first indication that other forces might be at play. Vetis started watching the shadows, shying and retreating away from strangers, his eyes distrustful and frantic.
Many, many shadows came to talk to him, whispering in his ears, asking him so many, too many questions. He shouted at some of them, driving them away with his curses. Some screamed back at him, the voices accusatory and angry. He whimpered at others and they petted his head, telling him that all would be taken care of. Those were the ones who concerned him the most.
In time his body healed, although his knee was gone. It was inflexible and he walked with a limp. His shoulder healed better, but even that no longer did as he asked. His penis, he had a strange tube there now. In short, the two men had taken their toll upon him.
The next time he saw them, it was at trial—his trial. He tried to unnerve Napoleon, but he just smiled and looked instead at Chef, his voice strong, his manner unshaken and calm. And their attorney unnerved him—there was something different about the man.
Vetis' attorney tried to paint a picture of Napoleon as a man who wallowed in sin and deserved what vengeance Velon, a poor young man who had been abused and tortured himself as a young child, had unleashed upon him. The attorney, Vetis wasn't entirely sure he wasn't a demon himself, spoke in heart wrenching detail of how horribly both men had treated and tormented Velon with their antagonistic and wanton lifestyle.
Vetis almost choked himself a few times as he listened to the portrait being created. This man, if not a minion of the devil, was certainly one in training. Still he remained calm and serene, a broken shell of what he had been.
And for a few moments, it almost seemed to work. Then he saw them, Raziel, Hadraniel, and Sammael floating vaporous among the living, frightening even in their tremulous state.
He'd come unglued and started screaming, evil vile things, lashing out at the pitiful humans around him. The humans, they were surprised at first and he'd almost reached Napoleon when Sammael, the Venom of God, wrapped himself around the man, protecting him, fiery swords raised to stave Vetis off.
He'd been dragged back to his cell and threatened. He was beyond caring now. His fate was inevitable and he had but one last trick up his sleeve. He had thrown himself into the corner of the room and curled up in as much of a ball as this broken shell permitted.
They left him and he worked quickly, fashioning a noose from his clothes. If nothing else, he was going to make sure that pitiful human, the one who was foolish enough to agree to the exchange in the first place, never got the joy of Paradise. If Vetis was going to Hell, Velon was going with him.
"Change of plan. These lawyers are too damn good, they just might get him out. At the very least they are about to avoid a death penalty for the kidnapping. If they get the murder spree in the city severed, this could drag on for years with more trials."
Lorne watched Whistler pace the hall in front of the cell where Vetis in Velon's body was being held. He felt himself grin as a guard walked right through the incorporeal presence of the demon and shivered. "So what do you suggest? He's not allowed into general pop, we can't get him shivved. You want I should make a guard go batshit and shoot him?"
"I somehow think that if we involve more mortals in this we can expect the same kind of treatment that is being prepared for our jailed charge here." Whistler stopped pacing and gestured toward the cell. "How are you feeling about your powers of persuasion?"
Lorne stood up and rolled his shoulders, then grinned. "Pretty confidant, to tell you the truth."
"Splendid. Late tonight there is going to be an unfortunate lapse in security and the prisoner is going to quietly exit his borrowed mortal coil. With some luck and good timing, the real owner of the body will be in and out again so fast that his head would spin if he were still going to have one."
"Are you going to call Had or shall I?"
"Neither, actually. Someone higher up the food chain is taking care of that business."
Lorne's eyes widened involuntarily. He shook his head and thanked the darkness that he wasn't on that phone tree.
"Hadraniel, I want you to be ready at the gate. You are going to escort this young one and his family across the river yourself. Micah can help you if you think it best. We need to get them across as soon as Velon enters the field, otherwise he will remember too much." Raziel sounded determined in his instructions.
"I understand, sir. We will be ready."
"I want you both to return to the field when you have seen them safely over."
"You've paid your debt, Hadraniel. You are both to report once again to the gate."
"Sir! Thank you. That is, ah..."
Raziel smiled. "You were always good at your job, Had. There was never a doubt about that. The problem with being so close to them, our charges, is just that, we get close. And then we get attached. You will learn to balance it, you and Micah both. Go now. I will send you a message as soon as it is done."
"You will be," Hadraniel failed miserably at hiding his surprise, "there?"
Raziel could see that Hadraniel was surprised and not a little bit dismayed. "Yes, our friends cannot contact you as I can. I will be there." He turned then, looking out the window and Hadraniel understood his dismissal.
"Come on, bud... uh, Velon. It's time. I gotta get you out to the gate, you gotta ticket home, see?" The young man stumbled along as Clem pulled at his arm, cajoling and encouraging him to move a little faster. "It's not far now, see, right there, up ahead."
It seemed to Velon that he'd been listening to the strange little person for a very long time. How long had he been in this place? How long had they been making their way across the featureless plain? Where had the little room gone that they'd been sitting in? Why did he care about any of it? He was never going to see his Katie again, his parents; despair dragged at his heels and still the little man kept pulling him forward.
"Look, see there?" Clem sounded excited, awed and piss-scared all at once.
Indeed, a gate seemed to have appeared, looking like a mirage all wavering and tricking the eye. Clem cowered as the gate seemed to grow larger or nearer; Velon was too dizzy from the vertigo induced by the movement to tell which.
"Come now, it is time." The voice was soothing and huge at the same time, as if it had physical presence in this nightmare landscape. A hand took him by the arm and Velon could no more resist than he could have flown in his old life. The hand drew him through the gate and there was another presence along with the first now, taking his other arm. There was a pause and he heard voices behind him. He recognized Clem, still scared, still trying to gain some coherence in the face of whatever he was seeing.
That same soothing yet disturbing voice spoke again. "You have done well, Clement."
"That's right, Vetis, the Master is awaiting you. It's time to join him. You want to join him. You need to go now, you want to return home now, don't you, Vetis?" Lorne was crooning his patter at the man in the cell, walking back and forth in front of the bars, reluctant still to get too close, though Whistler had no such reticence. Whistler was right up next to Vetis, holding the spirit of the demon in place inside the body of Velon even as the demon used the body he wore to tear the sheets from his bed and his own clothes into strips that he was braiding and fashioning into a noose. Vetis was hearing the tempting incitement, though no humans nearby could, had there been any. The demons had made sure that there would be no aid for the prisoner.
Vetis slipped the knotted cloth over his head and sank to the floor, allowing it to cut off his breathing, then started to struggle, second thoughts running clearly across his face.
"I think he didn't realize that it would hurt." Lorne had finally deigned to enter the cell. He added his strength to that of Whistler, both of them now keeping Vetis in the body that was gasping with lips turning blue and scrabbling for purchase on the concrete floor to push itself up and stop the strangling.
"Oh, no you don't. You don't get out of this so easily." Whistler held Vetis tighter, keeping the demon in check, Lorne on the other side doing the same.
There was a brilliant light and three more incorporeal beings arrived in the cell. Raziel and Sammael held between them a bedraggled looking young man, the real owner of the body that Vetis had taken and used so badly.
"Raz, I can only take parts of the memories away from Velon, if he carries it on..."
"It's okay, Sam. I have Hadraniel in place, Velon will be crossed over before he can own any of the lies that Vetis put in place. Trust me, it's taken care of from here."
"You know what to do next then?"
"It's your show from here. I'll take him now." Raziel held the spirit of Velon as Sammael let go and turned toward the struggling Vetis. Subtle changes started and Sammael's countenance shifted, darkened. He became, if possible, more beautiful than he had first appeared. And the look in his eyes turned away from sadness and became calculating and the cruelty in his gaze shook everyone but Raziel, who knew him well, and Velon, who was unaware of anything at all.
Whistler and Lorne both held fast to the demon they had been struggling with, yet pulled away from their Master, not quite recognizing this facet of his being. Sammael kept his eyes on Vetis, but spoke to the other two. "You have both done as I requested and fulfilled your duty. Go now."
Neither of them needed to be told twice. They tarried not at all as they disappeared from the cell.
"What in the name of all that's unholy was that?" Lorne asked Whistler when they were outside the jail.
"That may be a question we never want to find the answer to, not if we can help it. I think the Master reserves that need to know info for those that deserve to know, and I don't want to."
"Don't want to know?"
"Don't want to deserve to know. Not now, not ever in eternity." Whistler tried not to shiver from the afterimage in his head. "Let's go find a beer."
"Right. I might need something a little stronger."
"You and me both, brother."
Sammael stood over Vetis and held him in place with only a look, pinning him in the suffering body. Vetis tried to speak around the choking of the body he wore but Sammael was allowing none of it. "You are done here, Vetis. Done forevermore. I am here to take you to what you deserve."
Vetis looked up at the shining being, letting hope wash across his pain ravaged face. Here was his Master, come to reward him for his cunning, his works, his suffering. He finally managed to choke out some words, "All for your glory, Master."
"You think so?"
Sammael reached down and took hold of Vetis, who writhed at the touch.
Raziel stood behind his brother, holding the unknowing Velon, not a little awed at the performance. Sammael always was one for a show. He felt it when the memories, as much as Sam could pull out, left his charge, memories of torment and pain and the screaming. How long had the spirit of Velon screamed while lost between heaven and hell? Raziel did not want to contemplate. He could feel his brother's power gathering, knew the moment was close, and readied himself and his charge.
Vetis screamed anew when the power Sammael unleashed hit him with every bit of force that his Master had at his disposal, which was considerable.
"I am more than the Morning Star, I am more than the Lightbringer, I am more than Legion. I am knowledge. And this is knowledge that you deserve, Vetis." Sammael's voice shook everything, including the demon he held in his hands. Every moment of pain that Vetis had wrought upon the humans he encountered, every knife thrust, every scream, every hope lost was thrust upon him, into him, through him. His screaming did not stop as Sammael dragged him from the dying flesh he had been inhabiting.
Raziel stepped close as the two disappeared, pulling Velon with him and then pushing him into the body tied to the bars of the cell. Velon opened the eyes of his body and gasped, his last breath full of pain and fear and bewilderment. Raziel waited as Velon stopped breathing and once again left the shell of his physical form. Velon's spirit joined him, this time under his own power. Velon looked around at the cell and then to Raziel, confused and frightened.
"Come now, there are people waiting." Raziel held out a hand to Velon.
"What... What did I do? How am I..."
"You did nothing. Come now, we must hurry, you've kept them waiting too long as it is."
"But," Velon looked back at the body, his body, but not as he recognized it.
"No. You are no longer there; no need to think on it. Come now."
Velon put his hand in the one offered and they were surrounded by light and there was a field of green and yellow and more figures. He drew closer to them and saw them clearly at last and cried as love surrounded him.
"How much trouble are you two going to get in for meeting us here?"
"None, I hope." Micah answered Lorne's question.
"I have been reassured that there will be no repercussions. Will you all quit worrying?" Had admonished. "I'm here to enjoy a nice steak and visit with friends, stop spoiling my night."
A waiter approached, Hadraniel thought he could hear the young man singing under his breath. Orders were taken and drinks arrived, the four men at the table taking their time enjoying all of it.
About the time the entrees arrived, Micah leaned over and nudged Had. "Looks good, eh?"
Had turned his head just enough to see where Micah was nodding toward and saw Napoleon at the bar, smiling and chatting with the barkeep. A man in a chef's coat joined him at the bar and Had almost didn't recognize Illya.
"They look... brittle. He's struggling."
"It's only been a few months. They are working at it though, making things work again."
"Really, Had. They are. Our Master told us to keep an eye out." Whistler spoke up. "After the way Sammael defended Napoleon during the trial, he said he didn't want his investment to be for nothing. We are keeping the Do Not Disturb sign active around here."
"They really are working at healing, as much as it should choke me to say it," Lorne added. "It would warm my heart if I had one." Lorne took a long drink of the wine he'd ordered with his salmon. "Damn fine meal, wouldn't you say?"
The waiter danced up to the table just then and the rest realized that Lorne's lightning topic change was timely. They all praised the meal and service and Rocky beamed.
Whistler kept watching the two men at the bar, hoping his companions wouldn't see his small smile when the blond chef reached over to squeeze the hand of his lover before going back to his kitchen. It would never do for the angels to know that the demons might have hearts.
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