Art: Written Word

//Devil By The Tail//

Here is, in all its completely un-copyedited glory. Basic spell checking was done, but not to make sure I used the right word in the first place (if I spelled the wrong word correctly, I didn't catch it). I mean it when this is a raw first draft... inconsistent voices, continuity errors, seemingly random shifts in content, all the glory of not planning ahead, not looking back, and not actually thinking about it much. Just the words, and a whole fucking lot of them at that. The story itself is rated a hard R - lots of profanity, sex (though not particularly explicit), and violence (more explicit than the sex). Enjoy.

//First Dawn//

Three A.M. and I forget when I am.

I sit here in this tiny apartment, staring at the door lost in thought. I can feel the strings pulling, the small early dead grey light of dawn through the cracks. Charlie is asleep in bed in the next room. I've moved the chair from his desk to the doorway between bedroom and front room.

For Charlie the door opens to a bland hallway in a bland building. For me it opens, hell, I don't know where it will open this time. It's not like the damn Angels could bother giving us some kind of warning. Something to go on. A fucking year for hell's fires.

I'm not even sure they're angels. Bastards. Manipulative bastards.

I look over at Charlie, I felt the strings pull from sundown. The Bastards can only be felt in the changeover. They open their eyes in the sunsets of the days, and plot. At the dawn they act, pulling us puppets through their schemes, setting us loose on the whens and wheres. I don't even remember what direction time actually goes.

I gave Charlie what he'd been trying to for three months to get. Three months, what a hellishly long time to be stuck somewhen. I realize I left my underwear on the floor at the foot of the bed. Have I been that distracted? I check under the waistline of my jeans, yes I have been. I sigh and contemplate putting them on. Black lace panties, highly impractical for being thrown through the chaos of the reality stream. He can keep them, a memento. We'll probably never see each other again.

Three months.

You can almost fall in love in three months. But puppets don't love.

Correction, aren't supposed to love.

you can almost forget that there's a dawn waiting for you, waiting to tear you out of this when. I can't even remember the name of this city.

I once met a puppet who'd been stuck in a when for three years. He said time moved forward so slowly. so irritatingly slowly. He'd met someone, she wanted a family. But puppets are sterile. Probably just as well he got shunted off somewhen else. Easier to disappear than explain.

I'm sorry honey, we can't have kids. The Bastards that made us left that part out. The Bastards can go to hell. If that isn't the pit that spawned them in the first place.

Hell. A shitty suburb of the Other Place, really. Wrong side of the tracks. Whatever. I've only ever met one man from there, jesus he was a scary son of a bitch.

Charlie stirs, my head turns back to him asleep on the bed.

Four A.M. and I can't remember, how did we meet? I've already forgotten this brief, broken, life.

I should have had sex with him more often, it'd have made him happier. Pretty sure at least. I always forget to try and figure out what their emotions are. Humans are moody things.

I stretch, stand, stretch some more, pace.

Charlie stirs again. I quietly move the chair back to his desk, really a second hand table he found somewhere. One uneven leg, making it wobble a little.

Charlie sits up.

"Sarah," He rubs some sleep from his eyes.

I freeze, fuck. "Go back to sleep." I whisper.

"What're you doing up?"

"Couldn't sleep." I say, why lie. I can't possibly fucking sleep now. Not with The Bastard waiting on the other side of that door. Light is creeping out from under the crack. I always wonder, can the mortals see it? Fuck, can the immortals? Can anyone see that Bastard Dawn besides puppets?

"Come back to bed." He pats the mattress.

I make a squeaking noise.

Almost enough time to fall in love.

"I'm going to go for a walk." I finally whisper, "Gotta clear my head." I tap my skull, which is ringing with the Angel Choir I can hear creeping over the edge of the dawn.

I hate that song. I don't even know how many sunrises. A half a million? A million? How many sunrises have I witnessed? I don't even know how to track how long I've existed. I'm pretty sure I wasn't born. Puppets aren't born.

They're vomited forth, whole and incomplete, alive and undying, in one instant of a Bastard's breath.

"You want some company?" He starts to get up.

"No, honey," I hold out my hands. What would happen if we walked through together? Stupid question. He'd step into a bland hallway, I'd fall into the dawn no one else saw coming. He'd be confused, I'd be screaming with so much rage.

So much rage.

"You have to work in a few hours. I'll be back," I lie. I hate lying. But it comes so easy.

So fucking easy.

Five A.M. and I've lost the plot again.

I sigh, "I'll be back." And I open the door.


You ever dream your falling, and can't stop, and all you know is you have to wake up before you hit the bottom? A Bastard Dawn is just like that. Angels.

I'd spit on them if I didn't think it'd get me so much pain I'd have to laugh or go crazy.

The Angelic Choir echoes. How can music so beautiful be so unpleasant. Right, it's the same song, over and over and over. They never change. No Angel ever things 'Hey, I know, I'll kick a hi-note here, sustain this one a little longer.'

Heaven needs a wa-wa pedal.

"No, I didn't find Michael. Yes I'm sure I looked." How the fuck could you possibly lose a fucking ArchAngel. A Light itself. Whoops! misplaced a chunk of creation, someone go check under the couch cushions.

Idiots.

Wind up and Punt.

That dream where you're falling and can't wake up? Puppets don't wake up before they hit the ground.

And it feels like being slammed into a brick wall. I shake my head clear and realize that's because I just was slammed into a break wall. How the hell does spaceless time have a fucking velocity?

I rub my forehead where it impacted the brick, and examine the little crack it left in the dull red clay. Ouch.

I'm in an alley, and the last little bits of the Angelic Chorus fade away, 'Find Him' is the last note.

"You find him, asshole." I mutter and look around.

Grimy, sounds of traffic. Somewhen with cars. That usually means showers, and hot chocolate. Small blessings.

"You OK?" I hold my hand up against the glare from the all-glass front of a sky-scraper. I blink and sort out the source of the words. And the language.

"Huh?" I stare into the face of a man, round face, black fuzzy beard, slightly unkempt head of hair. A wind kicks up, check that, not unkempt, just windblown.

"Are you OK?" His deep brown eyes look concerned as he peers at me.

"Oh, yeah," I lean against the corner of the building, "Just one of those mornings." I say, "Got the time?"

"About noon." He smiles, You sure? I thought you just cracked your head on the wall there?"

More like the wall cracked a brick on my head. Puppets, we're pretty hard to kill.

"Oh, no, just, you know, I figure if I'm going to bang my head against a wall at work I might as well come down here and do it for real, and get fresh air for my effort." I smile.

He laughs, good sign. He goes to carry on with his day.

"Hey," I call after him, "I'm kinda new in town, know where a coffee shop is?"

He turns, "Two blocks," And points up the street where he came from.

"Thanks, have a good one."

"God bless." He waves and moves on.

Not likely. I find that guy and we'll be having a few words.

Hopefully those words will be begging for mercy from me. I laugh.

What an absurd fantasy. Wanting to hit something that doesn't exist in a where.

Sure enough, two blocks later and I'm at some kind of chain store, logo and everything. Money. Do I have any? Did the Bastards remember?

I reach into a pocket of my jeans, at least I got to keep these, I like jeans. Wallet. Miracles happen every day.

No cards, just ID, I am one Sarah Angels, again. Bastard has no imagination. And a twenty.

I'm going to need that twenty for something important. I can tell.

I go inside and buy myself the largest cup of hot chocolate they sell. Nothing says 'survived trans-temporal dropkick like chocolate melted into a tasty beverage.

"Little puppet." I look up from my drink where I've gotten list in that blissful place of non-thought.

It's something, different. Odd. Off. Not human. Shit, Fae. "What?" I ask with obvious dislike. I hope it's obvious. Their glamor doesn't work on me, I can let it, sometimes that's a blessing. This one is stick thin, might actually be sticks, and holding a latte-something-or-other.

"Hostile." It sits across from me.

"Unless you've seen the Angel Michael, go away."

"But I have." It answers me, taking a sip.

I jerk up, and suddenly realize it's probably lying. "Sure."

"Way back, before you were born."

"I doubt it." I shrug. Born, idiot Fae. They know of puppets, and sometimes they can even see us for what we are. Usually only those that can see, feel, or whatever it is you do to detect a soul. Because we don't have them. Not that they're missing, but that we just never had one. You can always tell when something had a soul, souls leave marks. Puppets, might as well be wood.

I forget I'm supposed to be listening to this twig-fae go on.

"The time of the Pharaoh's."

"That's nice." I shrug. Ramses II, we know all about him. Don't think we didn't get shunted there, looking. I remember that when. Pharaoh-Egypt. Ugh. "I've been then, we need to find him later."

"We?" The twig-fae leans in closer.

I sip my hot chocolate, feel the smooth rich flavor slide over my tongue. "People I work for."

"These people," He licks his lips, I finally notice he's not twigs. He's blood-starved. Carnivorous fae.

"They'd miss me." I stand up and go to leave, my cup is empty anyway, "And you'd find me hard to chew." I comment as I walk out the door, tossing my cup in the trash.

"You misunderstand little puppet."

"Sarah." I say, as long as it follows me. Fae think names hold power. The Fae have never understood how Puppets work. We don't play by the rules, we play outside them. We, the puppets of Angels, children of Bastards, exist outside the where of things, and the when of things is not in a line for us. We appear inside and outside the time stream, slipping through centuries like they were nothing.

Wake up in a Roman encampment one dawn, step through a doorway to a pitched battle in a revolution the next, ram your head into a brick wall after that.

All the same to me, they measure things in years. I measure only in how many times I've seen the sun rise, and I don't divide it up into neat little rotations around a big ball of burning gas. Not like my sunrise has anything to do with planetary spinning. Sure, the Angels are smart asses and like to make 'em match up, but I've hit a sunrise at high noon before. No warning with those.

"You give your name so freely," It cackles.

"State your deal." I roll my eyes, making my way randomly through the city, who knows, maybe I was sent here to meet this psychotic fae so thin it's ligaments and bone. Curiosity gets the better of me and I look at it with the glamor.

A handsome young man, thick black glasses, his hair is definitely unkempt, but meticulously so, red and black scarf casually wrapped around neck and shoulders, over a worn brown coat. It's spring, sort of. He must be wearing it ironically, because suddenly I realize a hipster-fae has been hitting on me.

I laugh.

"You find this offer funny?"

Fuck, wasn't paying attention again. "No no no." I shake my head at its look of annoyance. "I think I suddenly got the joke."

"Joke?"

"Never mind." I wave my hand. "Ok, you said something along the lines of a bargain to get me to a map that will give me a path that will lead me to the thing that knows where Michael is?"

"Uh," It hesitated.

"You know I can see through the glamor, that means the glamor of your words too. You say Po-tay-toh, I hear Poh-tah-toh." I shrug and look in my wallet, "Ten dollar bill cover it? Or, you can go get the twenty back from the coffee place."

The fae looks back.

"It's been Angel-Touched." I offer.

Greed in its eyes.

"You know, I could easily get that back, no fuss, no muss. All part of the Puppet charm." I smile and hold my hands behind my back.

"Angel Touched." It says the words like they're made of gold themselves.

I open my wallet behind my back and quickly empty the bills out into the wind and utter a wish.

Wishes are stupid things to have on hand, really. They all go so horribly horribly wrong. But usually not for Puppets. We just make 'em, and grant 'em. Like that man I met from Hell once. He made all kinds of wishes. But the granter, the granter sets the terms. And I grant my own wish.

"Deal!" It practically jumps at the offer.

I hold out my hand and there's a fresh twenty dollar bill, the same one I started with.

And like that I manipulate all the rules of the game. Obviously I can't short the poor barista her drawer, I can't not make this deal with the hipster-fae, and I most definitely can not pass up any lead, no matter how insipid, that might help me find the missing Light. That twenty will exist for about four hours outside the drawer, then fade back to its resting place. I just borrowed it, after all. My lost money in the wind, that was my price to pay.

There's always a price, however small. I lost about seventeen dollars, the drawer loses a twenty for a short time, the fae loses, well, just loses.

Loss. Wishes like to put a giant sucking void in the fabric of things.

I'm sure that wish won't got unnoticed, as small as it was.

//Second Dawn//

It's been two hours of me wandering around a curio shop, baubles of this and that. A whole shelf of little porcelain cats. How cute. In the back of one shelf I spot a reliquary. Odd little place to find one, a small, well worn, box of ash wood. I run my finger over it and feel the spark of history, it's been around a very long time, certainly not a Christian Reliquary. I leave it, who knows what it does, or contained.

Still, I make a note of the when and where of this little shop, just in case. Bastards are always looking for little chunks of divinity that reality has stashed away. I can use it as a bargaining chip, maybe cop a vacation somewhere, maybe just get to choose the next when.

"Now, my dear," A little old lady Fae comes out from the back. She doesn't use glamor, she's a little old lady no matter how you hold the mirror. One of the faery tale ladies, I'd wager. I just hope she's not actually called Mother Goose. "Darrien says you're looking for the Map Of The Path."

What the fuck, did I step into a damned fantasy adventure when I smashed my forehead into that wall... "Yes." Is says slowly, because I was stupid and forgot to ask the damn hipster what map I wanted.

"The price is a wish." She says matter-of-factly.

This is going to be a very long day.

"Wishes are tricky." I warn her, because quite frankly I would have preferred to at least have had lunch before dealing with the Things Under The Hill. "A small one usually doesn't bother anyone. And it's just a little old map leading me to another bargain at the end... not the treasure." I point out.

She wrinkles her nose.

Faerie Tale Fae are the worst, they bring all kinds of fucking horrors down on you. And that's just damn inconvenient.

"A wish held in reserve." She smiles an evil grin. You can tell it's evil because she has fangs. And not the vampire canine fangs, like some kind of animated fork. No, the full mouth of sharp little needle teeth. Way too many teeth. I weigh my options. She can make her own wishes, but she has laws, she can't make a wish on herself.

It's like the old west, instead of guns we fast draw wishes. Only she has to be the good guy, I get to play the bad guy. I feel the corner of my mouth twitch, I almost smile, almost.

"Alright," I say as reluctantly as I can. So, I owe a wish to a faery. Granted a psychotic evil faerie that probably eats small children. And the best part is I may never see her again. I could open a door and be a thousand years from here. It's like Christmas.

I'm walking out of the store with a little six inch by six inch velvet painting of a car. Some kind of hot rod thing. All I know is if I hold it just right I see the map, and I need to find a way into the Grand Bazaar.

I wish...

Ha, right. Sometimes I wonder how many puppets said I wish and had their entire day completely ruined. The problem with our wishes is that we can't Not make one. We can't joke around with 'I wish...' at all.

"Alright, lunch." I'm talking out loud again I realize. No one notices, no one cares. And I have no money. "Too much to ask for a damn credit card." I mutter as I wander the streets, painting in hand.

"You tricked me!" From behind.

I what?! I turn around and the hipster faery is there, looking mighty pissed off.

Has it been four hours since I left him already? Must have been. I smile, "I granted your wish, not my fault you forgot to ask for permanency." I smile even bigger. I love tricking the faeries.

I take one last look at the painting, as if I'm casually ignoring him. Simple wooden frame, tacked to it.

He's clenching his fists, trying to think of the right answer. Me? I'm getting ready to run. I'm like five two, that psychotic blood sucking parasite is almost six feet, and even if he does look like twigs he's probably got enough strength to slam a car into me. And that just hurts.

Besides, these are clean clothes.

I snap the wood out and rolled the velvet up tight, sometimes you can just tell when you're going to need to run like hell.

"Don't suppose you know where the nearest door to the Grand Bazaar is?" I ask him.

His eye flair red. Was it my timing?

He charges.

I bet it was my timing. I have bad timing.

I run.

Correction, I don't just run, I use a trick I learned from a friend and call up a divine wind to push my precious little ass along at hurricane speeds. Stupid Fae is right on my tail too.

Jump a car, kick off a trash can, roll across the top of a bus stop, leap, and air, kick off a building nice and hard, think I cracked the stone facade, across the street, kick off another, I know I crack that concrete bit, I'm gaining altitude as I criss-cross the street kicking off buildings. I forgot one important thing.

Buildings don't get taller forever. I soar over the roof of one, the apex of the arc brings me down and I roll to a stop with a thud that knocks the wind out of me and lands me right up against the low edge around the roof top. Thank god for that or I'd just roll right off and probably bounce through a fire escape for ten stories.

I bet my jeans are ruined.

I think I lost him. Nope, he goes sailing way over me, flying. Flying? Those fuckers can fly? That one can anyways. Oop, right past me, missed me, missed me. The chant goes off in my head because I still can't figure out why my lungs won't work. No lungs, no air, no out loud words.

I sit up, dust off, jeans are ok, shirt is ruined, oh, rib cage is a little twisted. One uncomfortable pop and everything is back in place. And it hurts like hell.

The upside to being indestructible is you're indestructible. The downside is it is still hurts. I catch my breath and unroll the painting, still in good shape. Only one destroyed shirt. Sorry Charlie, I ruined it. I wonder where you are. It occurs to me I don't remember when we were. As I sit here on this roof top I suddenly get stupidly nostalgic for a yesterday that could have been ages ago.

Think.

Cars, yes there were cars. But Charlie didn't have one. Chain coffee stores? No. None of those. Charlie like to wear... I lean back against the little wall and look up at the clouds. Rolled his jeans. Motorcycle, Charlie owned a motorcycle. Nineteen Fifty Four? Five? Fifty something or other. Yeah. And now is.. now is...

I pull out my wallet and check my ID. Bastards are never as clever as they think they are. Or are more clever than I give them credit for. Either way, if I have some kind of identification one of the years is always the year I get shoved through to. Usually the expiration year, because they're jokers like that.

Nineteen Ninety Four.

Charlie would be sixty something or other. I can't believe I forgot to ask his age. Yeah I can. Who cares when you measure time with people in such short periods. 'Hi, I'll be gone at the next sunrise, how old are you?'

Sounds stupid.

I stand up and dust myself off and look around. The Fae seems to have overflown me. If I can get out of sight before it circles back I can probably avoid a painful, if pointless, beating.

The door to the roof is open, small blessings. The building is old, yellowed with age, cracked paint and peeling wallpaper line the hallway as I walk down it. Dull hallway. Familiar hallway.

It takes me a second to orient myself. This hallway is a little too familiar. I squint, and superimpose an all too recent memory over it.

Underneath one peeling section of wallpaper is some very old wallpaper, the same wallpaper from, what was it, forty years ago?

Well fuck me sideways. You know what you can do with a recently used Sunrise Door? Go anywhere in the Other Place. Including the Grand Bazaar. Fortune my guide.

Now I just have to remember what floor I was on. He was on. Fifth floor.

I make my way down, trying not to crush the painting in my hand, suddenly I'm nervous, sweating.

I've met people from our past before. It's always a bit of a shock. I never age, I look perpetually twenty something or other. They... well, it's always weird meeting a younger version of someone after being with the older one. It's always extra weird for them when I hung out with the younger one and they so much older.

Nineteen Ninety Four. I've been here before. Nice year, I think. Oh who the fuck am I kidding. I have no idea what this year is like. It's like any other year. Last time I remember seeing this date I was in Germany. Am in Germany? Maybe.

I tried not to think about the metaphysical consequences of being in the same place and time more than once. Another puppet, a guy named Marvin, tried to explain it all to me once. It took hours and all I had to show for it was a headache and a look of confusion so profound he just shook his head and walked away.

It took me a while, but I think it's starting to sink in. Time is the bottom dimension, and we can move around in it like it was a big pool of water. Or maybe a better explanation is that time is a disc spinning in reality. And most things are like a needle on the surface, they can only move one direction as the disc spins under them, but we get to scatter ourselves across the whole thing. Back and forth and in and out. Crossing our own paths if we want.

But we can't occupy the same bit of space more than once. So while I can cross myself in time, I can even probably stand across from myself in a room. But I can't go up and shake hands. Or something.

I've been leaning against the wall for five minutes thinking myself in circles with this crap. It's what I do when I'm really nervous. And why am I so nervous?

Because Charlie is still too new for me to just forget him. He probably won't even recognize me, or remember. Three months in a whole lifetime. Even a short lifetime, who'd remember that.

"Sarah?"

I turn my head and stair right into Charlie's eyes.

He would obviously.

"Uh..." My mouth has gone dry. Time has grown thick and heavy. "Charlie." I say hoarsely.

"That can't be you..." He looks on in disbelief.

"It is?" I offer gently, licking my lips. "How have you been?" I try and pass it off casually. Because all your past girlfriends time jump forty years into your future.

"What happened?" He finally says after about two minutes of us just staring at each other.

"I got lost, a bit." I answer, what the fuck am I going to say?

"But..."

"I haven't aged. I know. That's.. a really long story." Actually it's a really short story with a very long explanation. "It's a very weird one. Uh, you know, that last night, that was nice." I say, and I remember leaving my underwear behind, "I left my underwear..." I say as if I'd just casually stopped by to pick up a pair of forlorn panties.

He laughs. His loose cheeks shake, eyes worn with wrinkles from smiling a lot squint, and I can't help but giggle. "I looked everywhere for you."

"I'm sorry." I say, and I kind of am. "Look, er, I'm sorry. You look like you were leaving."

"Oh," He's holding his door half open, "I was, uh, going to go pick up some chinese for dinner."

"I'll go..." I offer to disappear, because when he's gone I'm going to break into his apartment and use that door to disappear. Because for me that door has only been standing there for about six hours. Another eighteen and the magic disappears.

"No!" He holds out his hand, "Join me, it's been a while since I had company." He says, there's just a hint of desperation.

I pause, falter, "Alright." I say.

I follow him downstairs, and we go up the street a bit, I realize that I'm outside where that psycho fae can find me. Hopefully it won't reveal itself to a human. We like to keep the supernatural well out of sight of the humans. Ruins some of the magic. Magic works best in the peripherals.

It's a hole in the wall chinese place, he orders me a thing of fried rice. I'd almost forgotten just how hungry I was.

Back in his apartment and it's changed a lot.

"I ended up back here almost by accident." He's telling me as we set out the take out boxes on a worn formica table. This one doesn't wobble. I find myself looking at the place where a wobbly old table and slightly uncomfortable chair used to be. Right now it's a hutch with a television in front of a worn couch.

We eat in silence for a bit.

"After my wife passed away, and the kids are all out on their own I just needed a small place again. You know, it took me three months to realize I'd lived in this exact apartment before."

"Wife?" I look at him, he's got that smile in his eyes. "I'm glad you got over me."

He shook his head, "Wasn't easy. You were my first."

"First?"

"Lover. Love. Something like that. I had all kinds of romantic notions."

Suddenly my heart floats. He'd fallen in love with me, if I'd stuck around longer he'd never had gotten over it when I did leave. He'd never had married a woman who can have children. Who was around longer. I tell myself this to feel better, I certainly don't let on that I think the Bastards might actually have some sort of kindness. "Sorry." I say again.

"I always wondered exactly what happened, you know."

"So do I sometimes." I lie. I look around, on the walls are some framed pictures, a whole life of wife, kids, grandkids even. "Still ride bikes?"

"Oh hells no." He chuckles, "Knees can't take it, or the rest of this creaky old body."

"You don't look so bad." I smile at him, he doesn't not for some guy pushing seventy. A little soft, some extra weight, but still. Not bad, I can picture the man he was.

"You look amazing." He is looking me over, "And if my faltering memory serves, a lot like you did when you left."

"Er, kind of almost exactly." I say, with the exception of the torn shirt, "You ever heard of getting lost in a moment?" I try and explain this away easily. Fuck the rules.

He looks uncertain.

"I can't explain it, it's so weird," It's not weird, it's just very much not your world, "But I stepped into the street, and I got a little turned around."

"You always had a horrible sense of direction."

Space, I never did get the hang of navigating the where's. "It only felt like several hours, and back here, and things are so... different. Like I was stuck in a fog, down one dark alley and poof, I'm so much later." It's kind of like the truth, only leaving out the part about Angels and Creation and being sent on a mission by the Songs to find a missing Light.

He just stares at me. "You tore your shirt. And you have a painting."

"Yeah," I offer up lamely. I unroll the velvet car, my map. "It's, weird."

"It's a velvet painting for a Corvette Stingray." He says with a look of slight surprise.

"Yes." I offer up, again lamely. I'm so full of eloquence it hurts. "I can't really explain it.

"Need a shirt that's less torn?" He says getting up.

"Only if you have a spare." I say, I'm not actually ready to leave yet.

"I do." He says, and dumbly I follow him into the next room, "Here," He tosses me a large mens' shirt.

Without thinking I just take off the torn blouse, then I remember he's watching, and his cheeks turn red. I look at the blouse in one hand and the shirt in another. "I can stay the night if you want." I say. And even as I say the words they sound stupid. I look up at him, into his eyes. "I'm sorry, that was dumb."

"It's been a while. Lucille passed away seven years ago." He's gotten over the sudden embarrassment of a women stripping in front of him. Especially one who looks so much younger. Looks.

I toss both shirts onto a chair next to the doorway, cross the small room, up on my toes I kiss him. His face is softer, he feels older. I remember the Charlie from yesterday.

Later he's snoring quietly next to me, I'm sitting up in bed staring out at the window. Yesterday it looked out on a building not unlike this one. Now it looks at a much more modern version of the same. All different, all the same.

I remember my mission, the door.

It's Three A.M. and I've been here before. This time I wake him up after I take a shower and pull on my jeans.

"Charlie." I say softly.

He sits up in bed and looks at me, standing there in his bedroom in jeans, one of his old shirts, ancient motorcycle boots.

"Tell me this wasn't a dream." He whispers in the darkened room.

"It wasn't a dream Charlie." I say, and why am I choked up with tears? Fuck. "I have to go again. I wish I could stay..." Shit, I wished. Impossible wishes never come true, but they always have consequences... fuck fuck fuck.

"You didn't just disappear forty years ago."

"Sort of." I explain, exhaling a long slow breath "I was called, by something bigger."

"God?" He offers up.

"No, no." I whisper, "Nothing so grand. Just Angels Of The Choir. I know that doesn't make sense. But trust me when I say they're right Bastards." I shrug, "But right now, I need to use your door again."

"Why my door?"

"I don't know why. I just know that it is, and how." I explain, kind of explain. It's not really his door, it's just any door They choose, and his was recent. "Look, you're a good man Charlie."

"Is there a Heaven?" He asks after a moment of prolonged silence.

"I can say yes, but that isn't the whole truth of it." I put my hands in my pockets and rock back on my heels, chewing on my lower lip, "Let's just say that Heaven isn't exactly all fluffy clouds and happiness. Y'know? But it's there. It's waiting."

"And Hell?" He asks with some hesitation.

"That's even, more complicated. No burning pits of fire. Hell is... well it's kind of a state of being than a destination. Plenty of souls in Heaven are stuck in Hell." I try to explain.

He nods, "I think I get it." He lies back down. "Sarah?"

I've already turned to leave, I turn back. "Yeah?"

"It was good to see you again."

"Goodbye Charlie." I grab my map, and open the door and step through at just the right angle. It's a weird angle. It's the kind of angle H.P. Lovecraft would write about. It's an angle colored a very odd shade of red.


Hustle and Bustle and Shimmy and Shake. Welcome to the Grand Bazaar. The Fae think they own it. Oh shit, I think I've made a tactical error. The Other Place plays by the same rules of Time I do, which is to say none. I bet both those lousy Fae are waiting here. Or at the very least that lousy Fairy Tale Fae. Grandma Nightmares is just licking her chops to get at that wish.

No way around it. Into the crush of alien bodies I go, pushing my little way along. This is where it helps to be indestructible. You can step on me, and I'll yelp, but I won't break or slow down.

Which is good when some seven foot demon looking guy with romance-novel body build steps on my foot.

"Fucker!" I punch him, he glares down on me and I can tell he's made of mean.

I brace for impact, because I just know that I'm about to be belted across the massive causeway of this stupid marketplace, with any luck I can kind of aim myself in the direction I want to go. And his eyes widen, and he does the unexpected. He takes two steps back.

"You!"

This can't possibly be good. "Me?" I ask, because this is quite the opposite of how I expect this to play out.

"You're a puppet?" He peers down at me.

"Uh, yes?" Because all of a sudden I'm questioning my own existence. How existential. Especially since I haven't discorporated yet.

"Where are your strings?" He squints.

Now, now I'm at a complete fucking loss. I must have the stupidest look on my face because suddenly he's next to me and pushing me towards a door. I just go, because I really don't have anything to add to this conversation, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly just what the fuck he meant. Strings?

Demons can see our divine connection, I know that. Does he mean mine's gone?


I think I just might throw up.

//Third Dawn//

"Hey!" I finally get my wits about me and push back. Not that it does much good. I'm strong, at least for a normal human. But compared to some body-builder demon I'm pretty much a twig.

"Shh!" He shuts the door behind him, we're in a, tea shop, coffee shop. A place where they sell non-alcoholic drinks.

"What?!" I glare up at him. I have places to be, and the more it looks like I'm on track the less the Bastards notice me and drop-kick me somewhere random. Because I hate those interrogation room scenes.

"Sit." He pushes me down into a big comfortable chair. I don't want to sit. I bounce up. He pushes me down, harder. I stand. And he shoves me hard enough to shift the chair. It makes a grinding noise on the stone floor and people are starting to look. I go to stand but his hand is on the top of my head. Pushing down. It's starting to hurt.

"Fine." I relent and sink into the cushions. "Son of a bitch." I mutter under my breath as he orders two drinks of some kind from the barista who's just staring at me.

I bet they think I'm his pet or something.

He sits down across from me, I've folded up into the big chair, folded my arms across my chest, clutching my map a little too roughly, and glare. "What?!" I say finally.

"Keep your voice down little puppet."

I hate being called little puppet. Even if it is true. It sounds so.. so... like the the universes errand girl.

Which I am.

Fuck.

"Explain the strings bit?"

"Your divine connection is severed." He explains cooly, "Which is to say, you're a very unique little catch."

Catch? "Oh hell no, I'm already someone's little errand girl. No way I'm your bitch too."

"You do have a mouth on you."

I go to stand.

"I'll just hurt you if I have to chase."

Hesitation... And I sit back down, reaching for my drink, "I'm kind of in the middle of something." I say, releasing my map, but keeping it in my lap just in case. He ordered me hot chocolate. "You were either sent..."

"Desires, I find desires. And you, my dear, have only one actual desire."

I snort, "I desire a lot of things."

"No, I mean, one actual thing that I could possibly use against you."

"Hot chocolate? That's your weapon."

"Puppets are incredibly interesting beings. You are born with missions, goals, but no desires."

"Made. We're made."

"Yes." He nods, "Still, from an emotional point of view you're incredibly simple creatures."

"You're flattering." I mutter, feeling even less valuable by the moment. "So..." Trying to get him back on track.

"Yes, it appears you've been cut loose into the stream of things."

"But, I just used a door." I try to explain.

"Oh, the Angels don't open those, you do. They, well, they have a way of tricking you into going where they want."

"huh?" I remember to shut my mouth instead of letting it hang open like an idiot.

"How'd you get here?"

"I opened the door and told it where I wanted to go. Pretty easy to do with a recent door, they've still got a little magic in them." I try not to sound like I'm actually saying the word 'duh' at the end.

"Exactly." He looks smug. I wonder if smashing this mug on his face would at least cut him.

"Can I go now?" I ask, "Because I'd really like to get back to this. I don't actually believe him when he says my divine connection is gone. He's from the Wrong Side Of Town after all. I bet he'd just love to get into something so close to the Choir.

"Where I you going?" He asks.

"Er," I put down my mug and unroll the map. Tilting it just right, "I'm looking for Tommy's Knick Knacks And Knockers." I say. "Really? Who names their store that?" I say out loud before remembering to engage my internal editor.

He laughs. "I know Tommy."

"Of course you do." I say, because this doesn't smell like a set up. I'm about to just bolt when I see Granny Nightmares outside, shuffling along. I'm next to the door, which is next to a window, I duck down and look askew as she passes by. Dumb fucking luck, her shop sign is hanging next door. Like those old medieval signs...

"Ok, but only if you can get me past that thing," I motion with my chin in Granny's general direction.

"Grandma Westmeer?" He says.

I nod.

"Whatever for?"

"I, kind of owe her a wish." I say, "And those always complicate the day." Because I think I've uttered two today, and that's about one more than I should have, two more than is really necessary. Suddenly that second wish doesn't seem like it was impossible. Or rather the impossible happened. Shit, just what I needed, a miracle.

Divine intervention, and by that I mean Reality Decided To Fuck With You, is always more excitement than you need.

"Done." He stands up, he moves with pure elegance. I've obviously had sex too recently because I'm horny suddenly. Stupid demons, especially one of desire.

"Done? That's it?" I look at him with disbelief.

"I hadn't planned anything for the day. Or week. Or ever," He waves his hand, "It's not like I get to tagalong with a puppet all the time." He holds out his hand, "It'll be fun."

"Doubtful." Stand up after one last swig from my mug. He doesn't take my hand in his, he takes my hand in his tail, wrapping the end around my wrist and then I'm yanked out the door.

"Yipe!" is what escapes my lips instead of 'Hey You Fucker!'

We rush, and by we I mean him, into the crowd, I'm yanked along by a nice strong grip on my wrist, it's a little painful to be honest. He doesn't exactly have to worry about breaking my wrist though, I just put my hard little head down and try to follow closely.

I bump into his back when he stops suddenly, the tail tightens around my wrist. I look up and around. About eight feet of open space, and a ring of, werewolves? Are you kidding me?

We're being attacked by a gang of fuzzy attitudes. Fanged fuzzy attitudes. Frizzy fanged fuzzy attitudes. I giggle at myself. This does not go over well.

"Hi!" I say as cheerily as possible. You can chew and gnaw, but you can't eat me...

"Quiet for a moment." My new friend says.

"I didn't get your name."

"I didn't give it."

"I'm Sarah."

"I didn't ask." He seems annoyed.

"Shut up!" One of the wolves barks. Pun oh so much intended. This day can't possibly get more absurd. "You're on the wrong side of the street demon."

"I'm with her." He yanks me around to the front with his tail and I'm face to face with a rather angry looking maw.

"Hey," I say with a smile, "So, yeah, I needed a guide. He works cheap." I point my thumb back at the demon.

The werewolf looks me up and down and licks its chops.

"I work for the Choir." I explain. I really really hope he knows what that is.

"Who?"

Shit, he doesn't.

"Choir. Angels. You know, the lunatic Bastards with wings, flaming swords, short tempers, and no sense of humor?"

He laughs.

You know, you would think a werewolf, standing in the shadows of the Silver City, because you can see it's gleaming spires from the Grand Bazaar, would not only believe in Angels, but know when he was talking to an agent.

"Everyone knows they don't come out of their ivory towers." He glares at me with eyes glowing oh so slightly.

"Hence agents, like me, who run around, get harassed, and complete any number of insipid tasks. You know, errand girl." Suddenly, I hate that term and I really want to believe Mr Tail here that my strings are cut. Being completely unconnected to the Angels is... it's a fucking dream.

It's also a fucking nightmare. What the hell would I do?

A pit drops into my stomach. I suddenly feel a little woozy... what exactly am I without the choir? We have no souls. We're just, bits of driftwood pulled out of the surf of reality and given life. Not even life, just existence. A kind of meandering, pointless, non-life. There's a reason we got called puppets. You think we'd choose that? My kind doesn't even have a name for itself. We just Are. I can't even remember the last time I met a puppet.

I'm aware that the werewolf is making noise with its face. But the world is kind of fading away.

Without the Angels... can I really open any door I want? Do I have to wait for dawn? What does the in-between place sound like without the Choir? Will they come after me? Can they come after me? What set me free? Surely not that wish? Can I wish myself free?

Has a puppet ever tried that before?

Something sharp smashes into my head. I'm vaguely aware of a pair of large jaws trying to chew on me. A claw is pressed into my stomach. Drool splashes into my eye.

"Ow!" I scream, because it's starting to fucking hurt. I'm not a damn chew toy. I lash out, hitting and whacking the thing on me. It's gnawing and clawing me, shredding my shirt. I bring my knee up into its stomach. I reach my hands around trying to find the things eyes.

It takes me a while, the teeth are really starting to sting as it bites and shakes me like a rag doll. I push my thumbs in hard. I keep pushing up until it literally throws me away and screams.

I hit a wall with a thud and then the ground with a slightly less painful thud. I cough and wipe the drool and slobber off my face. Finally just using the remains of my shirt to wipe it away. Apparently while I got lost in thought the werewolves decided we were lunch.

I'm not particularly edible.

My bra is torn, but still mostly there, so much for modesty. Or just staying warm. I toss the ruined shirt away, and brush some dirt off my jeans. How the hell does that work? Shirt gone, jeans fine. I consider if it isn't just more efficient to go around topless at this point.

Mr. Tails just starts tossing the puppies around like they were rags. He moves so fucking fast. He's a blur, a whirling dervish of muscle. I adjust my belt, still horny. Maybe it's the demon. If he knows desires I bet he's oriented to the physical realm of wishes. Demons don't grant wishes, not like puppets. Demons, and Fae, make events occur so it looks like a wish was granted. Probability and Event manipulation. Puppets, bless our soulless little husks, actually change reality. Wishes make voids though, and voids need to be filled. The bigger the wish, the bigger the void, the bigger the consequences.

I wonder what kind of void wishing for freedom leaves.

Cataclysmic I'd wager. Because that would be just me luck.

I look for the map, it's gone, so much tattered velvet painting litters where I was. Where a werewolf is still clutching its face, waiting for eyeballs to grow back. Which doesn't take long and its looking around for me.

"Shit." I brace for impact as he charges. But it doesn't come. I open one eye and Mr Tail is standing there, and he hasn't even broken a sweat.

Demons, they make violence look so casual.

"Are you hurt?"

I give him a look that can only be interpreted as him being an idiot. "Just my dignity" I mutter and fold my arms across my chest.

"We should replace your shirt." He says and that tail tugs me into a nearby shop. Second, or third, hand clothing. Probably clothing that got lost in the dryer, or the move. Lost items always find their way to the Grand Bazaar.

He hands me a simple t-shirt with some band logo on it. Something garish in bright colors. This was probably lost on purpose. I put it on while he barters with the proprietor. Haggling, a time honored pain in the ass. Rarely do I find the ordeal of striking a bargain entertaining. I sort through the various bits of clothing, there's a shelf of bits and curios near the back. I almost don't notice it, on the shelf, pushed to the back is a little reliquary, small box of ash wood.

"Hey," Mr Tail grabs me around the wrist again. I'm distracted before I can investigate further. He pulls me out the door.

"Wait!"

"I'm out of bargaining power." He wags a finger at me.

"That's not... Oh fuck it." I sigh and let him pull me along. We're going at a slower pace, the crowd is thinner here, we're off the main drag now. A few more turns and we're really away from the main square, a few side streets.

These streets are never empty, but the crowd here is much thinner, less a crowd and more a casual collection of bodies.

"Can you let go now?" I yank my wrist.

"Don't want to lose you." He smiles at me.

"Tell me your name." I plant my feet, his tail jerks straight and he stops, turning to look at me. This is a guy used to getting his way, I bet all the ladies love him. All the mortal ones at least.

"Tell me yours."

"I did."

"That's your real name? You would utter that so casually."

I shrug, apparently they don't know everything about us, "Uh, names don't really hold power over the soulless."

"My experience is the opposite, they hold more power." He peers at me skeptically.

"More?" My turn to look skeptical.

"What else do you have to hold onto? What other sense of self is there?"

Oh, that. "We're a bit too solipsistic to think we need a name." I say, it's kind of the truth. I mean, no soul, no purpose, no culture, no language. Just each individual floating through reality lost in their own little mission.

I'm not even sure other Puppets have the same mission I do. Maybe I was just created to find Michael and another puppet was created to do something else. How many of us are there? I'm not the only one. I've met, two, three, others. But we aren't common, just well known trouble makers.

"Huh." He looks at me differently now. "Well Sarah, you can call me Marius."

"Alright Marius." I say, "At least now I can yell something other than hey asshole."

"You're a bit lippy for someone who's life I just saved." He gave me a look, one of those 'I'm better than you' looks.

"I can't die. Trust me, I've tried. I get hurt. But I don't break." I'm remembering that time a long way back I decided none of this was worth anything, and hurled myself off the tallest cliff I could find. The pain was so bad I couldn't move for three days, body unharmed. When the Bastards made us unbreakable, they really meant unbreakable. Though we can be sort of shut off for a while if you inflict enough pain. Like a fifteen hundred foot free fall.

"I'll keep that in mind." I don't like the way he said that, not at all, one little bit.

"Marius," I ask as his tail takes my hand again. It's like a perverted leash. "What's your angle?"

"My angle?"

"You're helping me, haven't even tried to pry a wish out of me." Wishes, our only real bargaining chip in this strange world.

"Maybe I'm hoping you'll offer one up for free."

I snort, "Not a fucking chance. I don't even like using them for personal gain."

"Oh?" He looks at me, "Then how else did you get free?"

I shake my head, "I don't believe you anyways." I say, "The Choir wouldn't just let me go."

"What if they had no choice."

"Ha! You don't know the Choir very well." They don't give choices, just orders, instructions. Instructions to be carried out with all the sociopathic creativity an indestructible hound dog can apply to a situation. I don't know much about the other puppets, but I'm an inherently single minded being. Even when I'm doing something else it has to be to get me closer to me goal.

If Marius thinks I'm cut free from the Angels, and I have most certainly decided I'm not, then fine. Let him believe. I know I'll wake up one morning and step through a door into a sunrise and have to listen to that fucking song again.

The thought of never having to hear that song though, that makes my little tiny unbreakable heart go pitter-patter with joy. Short lived joy. But joy still.

"Still," he muses as we meander through the back street and finally up to a shop, "It's possible."

I just give him a withering stare and push open the door. For a brief moment I think I hear the song, a quick flash of light in the corner of my eye. But I'm in the shop. A cluttered junk shop. Not an antique store, thrift shop, or curio. Just junk. Lots of it.

"Hey Brachus!" Marius yells out into the depths of the store.

"I thought this was Timmy's or Tommy's..." I wonder.

"Oh, that was the first owner, about a thousand years ago."

"A thousand years?" I do some quick math, "A lot of sunrises." I realize I'm talking out loud.

"Sunrises?"

"I get kicked around the time stream like I was a football," I shrug, "Measuring time in years seems kind of weird."

"Right." Marius shakes his head, "Come on, Brachus is in here somewhere." He leads me deeper into the store, I'm dragged along as he has yet to let go of my wrist.

As we pass by a shelf I notice a small ash box, "I think that reliquary is following me..." I say and point, but it's too late. We're past and as I glance back it's gone.

"What?" Marius asks, only half turning in my direction, I don't think he cares what I actually said.

"Nothing." I wave my hand dismissively, "Just can't get over all this fucking junk."

"It's not junk." A young man standing behind a counter says. There's only one way to describe him - dashing and ready for action. Literally. He's got on a vest with pockets, full of odds and ends, a bandolier with bullets, a holster with a gun, tall boots, and I swear there's a backpack just waiting next to him. Like he's ready for action.

I fold my arms, not the easiest task with a tail attached to my right wrist, but as long as I don't yank too hard it just lets me have my way. "Sure thing action-boy." I say a bit defensively.

"What do you want Marius?" He glares at the demon, "You wear out your last toy already?" He looks angry and the demon, "I'm not making you another leash.

I look startled.

"She's not mine." Marius says, "She belongs to the Angels. Belonged."

I kick him, "I'm a Puppet." I offer up, why sugar coat the shit, or prolong it.

"A Puppet" Brachus peers at me, squinting, "How can you tell."

"Have something that can see souls?" Marius asks.

Hey! I'm about to protest why I decide the whole thing isn't worth it, According to the map this is the guy I need to talk to anyways.

"Of course!" Brachus grins a big old shit eating grin, rummages through a drawer behind the counter and comes up with a monocle. Putting it in his left eye he peers at me, "No soul." He squints, peers again, "Yeah, definitely no soul. Not even the remnants."

I want to clap, maybe offer him a cookie. "Yeah, soulless piece of wood." I say, with an unintentional tone of bitterness to it. Not like I've ever missed a soul, or needed one. You know how many things can't hurt me because I don't have one? How many bargains I can bypass. How much trouble I can't get in. Seriously, souls are a burden. So why does it bother me now that I don't have one. I feel self conscious about it. I put my hands in my pocket and try to look nonchalant about the whole conversation.

Fuck this dick. Screw the Choir. Screw Michael and his disappearing trick.

"So, I was told you have a map that could eventually lead me to a Light." I say. Damn it at to Hell. Even when I make an effort to ignore The Mission I just open my mouth and out it pops. Poof. Like a fucking program.

Sarah, you stupid piece of wood.

"A light?" He asks putting the Monocle away.

"No, Light, Capital L. As in the Angel Michael."

"Oh," He says and looks uncomfortable. "Well," He scratches the back of his head.

"I grant wishes. Not the fake, twisted in lies kind of wishes. But real, mother fucking reality is my bitch kind of wishes." I say. Why sugar coat it. Let's go for a hat trick today. See if I can cause part of reality to cave in on itself.

Marius shrugs, "It's true. Demons and Fae just alter reality in your favor. Her," He tugs my hand free and holds up my arm with his tail, "Real deal. Instant upon delivery."

"I have a mirror someone dropped off a hundred years ago." He says, "To the day. Said it would be important. Said to give it to the first Puppet I see." He is leading us further into the store.

I didn't think it was possible to go further into the store, but we are. It's like a giant bottomless pit of stuff people forgot about.

I can't help but look around at all the stuff on the shelves. Hey, I recognize that tea set. Once belonged to a Chinese warlord, one of the cups from the set is missing because I broke his nose with it. That'll teach him to try and take advantage of a girl. Punk.

Dragon's jawbone, bet that wasn't easy to get.

A little gold Buddha with a wish stuck inside it. I remember putting that there, wondered where that one got off too. No wonder it never got let out, probably been stuck here for what they call hundreds of years.

Monkey's paw! I love those things, it's like giving reality a big old raspberry. Totally wrecked havoc in an ancient Sumerian city with one.

Wyatt Earp's gun, so that's where it ended up.

"Here." Brachus pulls me out of my little tour of this junk shop.

"Wait." I stop him before he can pull the blanket off it. "This shop, how's it work?"

"Work?"

"This stuff, how'd it get here?"

"Oh, well, it's like a magnet of sorts. Things are attracted to it that stopped belonging in the real world." Brachus says, "Things that have been touched in some way, pulled out reality or something.

"I bet," I look around some more, "I bet this is all shit puppets have screwed with." I say, "That's, kind of cool."

"What?"

"Nothing, just let's see this mirror."

He shrugs and pulls the blanket down. And it's a mirror frame. With nothing in it.

"Amazing." Marius says looking at it, "That's, what makes it shimmer?" He looks at Brachus.

"Don't know, but it's kind of liquid like." He runs his hand over the empty air. He and Marius stand amazed. I, am so thoroughly confused.

"What the fuck?" I say in my out loud voice. I really need to learn to shut up sometimes.

"What?" Marius looks at me.

"It's," I close my mouth, "Nothing." I say. "Er, you know everything in this store?" I ask Brachus.

"Yep." He says.

"Ever see a small box made of ash wood?"

He thinks for a second, pulls out a tiny little black book and flips through it, "Nope."

"Thought so." I sigh, "Before we get into this mirror thing," An idea has hit me upside the head like a frying pan. I know what this mirror is. It's not a mirror, it's a portable door. The best kind. "You have a dagger of Yarrow?"

"Two." He says, "they should stay in pairs."

"What're you asking for them?"

"Uh, cost you a secret." He says.

"A secret?"

"Yep. Of my choosing. I ask any question, you answer it. Truthfully."

"How can you tell?"

"It's how the shop works." He says, and leads us back towards the counter. I make note of the path from counter to door. Because I got a plan that involves not being tugged around be a demon.

He puts the two silver daggers on the counter, they're about two inches each, ornate carvings all along them, blade and handle both. They have a leather string that you tie around you and they stay stuck to loops on it. Very peculiar things, Yarrows. Some say they're alive.

What they are is a secret. I know the secret. I can already guess the question.

"The question is,"

"You want to know what they are." I say.

"I have to ask it."

I roll my eyes, Marius looks confused.

"It's said," Brachus explains to Marius, whose thankfully never heard of these things, "That they will only belong to the one who knows what they are, and that they can draw blood from stone."

"Ah, we call those Crying Daggers."

"Crying Daggers?" I can't help but ask why such a stupid name. I should be short cutting this and getting on with it.

"All they do is bring the owners grief."

"Holders," I say, "Owners..." I stop, "So, your question?" I turn back to Brachus.

"What are they?"

"They're devils." I answer without hesitation. Like it was obvious.

"Devils?" Marius and Brachus both say.

I grab the string and tie it quickly around my leg, harder than it sounds with a tail still holding my wrist. The daggers have started to glow a faint blue and red, one color each. "Oh yeah." I straighten up, the string wrapped around my thigh twice before it got the idea and tightened itself up, the daggers hanging neatly off my left leg.

Devils, the meanest of the mean, vicious little soul munching psychos that live only to create as much chaos, havoc, and lunacy as possible. It strikes me that Brachus never thought anyone could answer that question.

I pull the blue dagger and touch it to Marius' tail.

"OW!" He yells, instinctively releasing me and recoiling his tail. Don't want to kill him, just get some freedom. The blue dagger works so nicely against infernal beings. Devils are on no one's side.

Well, these two are on mine. Because I've got no soul to munch.

"Bye bye." I giggle and take off running like the wind for that portable door.

"Hey!" Marius yells.

Too late, I dive through the door, literally. With luck all he'll see is me diving head long into a mirror that looks like its surface is made of mercury.

//Fourth Dawn//

As I pass through I swear I hear the Choir and see a flash of light out of the corner of my eye. Then I hit something hard with a thud. Wood? Wood floor. I'm lying on my back, my hands tentatively feeling the floor-boards.

I feel something crawling up my leg too. SomethingS. I raise my head and see the dagger, check that, two little lizard like things crawling up my leg. Vaguely humanoid, devils. Long pointy tails, thin bony bodies, little clawed hands, the red one has an underbite, the blue one horns on his head.

"The fuck?" is all the comes to mind.

"She speaks!" The blue one rasps, squeaks, squeak-rasps? Fuck, tiny creature with a sandpaper voice.

"It speaks!" I yelp back and sit up. Now they're in my lap.

The red one laughs, sounds like tiny little grave stones rubbing together.

"So, you got us out of that horrid shop!" The blue one stands on its hind legs, the red one clutches my jeans on all fours.

"Yeah! out!" The red one says, "Dusty, dirty, disastrous, deplorable." It spits the words out. The blue one whacks it off the head and it shuts up.

"Names Ix," The blue one points at its chest, "That's Nox."

"Sarah," I offer my hand." Ix takes my index finger and shakes, Nox licks my pinky finger.

"So," Ix climbs up my arm, trying not to dig too hard with his claws I think, and perches on my shoulder, "Not too stacked," He looks down at my chest, "Still, I like 'em!"

"Hey!" I instinctively cover my chest, which is covered by a t-shirt, and he can't see down the collar. "The hell?" I scowl.

"Sorry," Ix shrugs, Nox does that laugh again, "Habit. Yer cute though, Angelic even." He gives me a smile full of tiny little pointy teeth.

"You're an ass."

Ix smiles even wider.

"So, where are we?" He says looking around. I decide to finally check out my surroundings, hoping no one was sitting around just watching that exchange.

I stand up, Nox clambers up to clutch my belt with his hands, legs trying to find perch on my jeans, Ix just stays on my shoulder, deftly balancing as I get up. Small room, some book cases in it. One is full of books, another full of jars all glowing softly, another full of various items used in spells from different religions. The fourth wall contains a door, the room has no windows. I lean out of the doorway tentatively, never know when you're going to get sucked somewhere.

"No need to be cautious," Ix sighs.

"Ever been to see the Choir?"

"Hells no," Nox spits out. Everything from him seems to be half exclamation mark half annoyed disinterest.

"Nope, devils don't get much action. Especially not us."

"Why not you?"

"You mean aside from being stuck in that shop for like two hundred years?" Ix asks, "Because we only work for who we want."

"Work for?"

"Yep, or with. Whatever. You got us now toots." He smiles.

"Thanks." I say and step out of the room, "I think."

"No prob." Ix gives me a thumbs up. This room is a living room, of all things. Ancient record player on a side-table, next to a cabinet of records. Old worn couch, rocking chair.

"It's safe outside." I hear an old man's voice call from the front porch.

The whole house is made of worn wood, like it's stood here for decades, or centuries. I look through the front door, door is wide open, no screen. Outside is a big, wide, empty, brown landscape. Pale blue open sky.

"They can't find you hear." The old man's voice says again, I can't see him, just a pair of worn brown shoes at the end of skinny legs sticking out, he must be sitting right next to the door.

I lean out and look.

An old man, skin so dark it's almost black, sits there. Coal black eyes, worn but well tailored clothes, including a nice suit jacket. One elbow has a patch on it of dark grey.

"Uh," I have this sinking feeling I know exactly who this is.

"Holy shit." Ix says, leaning out with me.

"They can't find you here. I've made sure of that. Though they've been looking. They're mighty angry." He laughs a laughs so hollow, so empty, so old that I swear I can hear the beginning of creation in it.

"Lucifer?" I ask, stepping slowly out onto the porch. The old grey wood creaks with my step.

"One and only!" Nox shouts and bounces from my belt, "Old Nick! First Devil!" He's a little too excited and dragging my pants down. I grab him around his skinny little torso and hold him in my hand. His tail wraps lightly around my wrist has he settles into my palm. Not the same way Marius wrapped his tail around me, but more like a pet. The sharp end slowly, lightly swishes back and forth as it dangles from my arm.

"Indeed little Nox, I see you found her."

"Took us a while." Ix said from my shoulder, "The where was easy, had to wait a while though, when's are always hard with these ones." He pokes the side of my head.

"Found me?" I'm both curious and wary of this turn of events.

"Breaking you out has been a plan in the works for a long time." Lucifer says, "From before you were made, as a matter of fact."

"I... What the fuck are you talking about?"

I don't care if Lucifer is one of the Lights, the first Angels. I don't care if he's powerful enough to actually extinguish me. Because right now my whole day, this whole thing since leaving Charlie, has been completely screwed up.

"I've been following you since the day I put life into that body of yours." He points at me with one crooked old finger, with yellowed finger tips, worn and calloused.

"Life.." I can only think the expression on my face is as slack and stupid as the sudden lack of thoughts in my brain. "What?" I say again.

He chuckles, it's the sound of a cold fall wind. "Child, you don't even know what you really are." He gives me a weird smile, I see his teeth. The cliche pops into my head, teeth like white gravestones on a full moon night.

Nothing about Lucifer is ever what it seems. So I've been warned, and warned, and warned. It's all but genetic that I not trust this Angel, or Devil as Nox called him. First Devil.

I just go stand at the end of the porch, putting my hands on the rail, a smooth worn wood. I stare out into the open space. There's nothing out there.

"The land of the midnight sun." Lucifer says behind me, evidently content to let the conversation pass.

I look up at the sky, there's no sun. It's midday bright, but there's nothing up there but bright empty blue. "Midnight sun?"

Ix is sitting on my shoulder watching the horizon. Nox has untied the leather strap and busy retying it off my belt to give himself some kind of perch to hang from. I let him work.

"Lucifer is a Light." Ix says, "He can't be where there is darkness. Kind of an irony I think, y'know? The Fallen Angel, first Devil, the one supposedly furthest from God or something." He's babbling in my ear.

"God?" Lucifer laughs behind us, that same cold fall wind is what the laugh is. The kind of dead wind that carries leaves and whispers on it. "Well, maybe or maybe not. I am a Light, so this is my Light. The Midnight Sun is my realm." I hear the rocking chair he's in creek, back and forth, very slowly.

"What's out there?" I ask, just to keep conversation going.

"Nothing. The horizon eventually comes back here. It's not a very big place, several hundred miles maybe." He says I turn around and hop up to sit on the railing, back to the empty. Nox grunts and adjusts himself at the sudden change.

"Sorry." I say down to him. Nox shrugs and curls up on my leg like a tiny little dog. "So, you gave me life?" I ask, totally in disbelief.

"I did. The Choir, they could make a vessel. Like no other vessel. Something so solid it can't be broken. But they couldn't make it move. Their dolls are lifeless, soulless, empty husks. But a Light, that's what we do. Give life where this is none. But the Choir wanted perfect puppets, perfect little errand runners. Soulless automatons." He cackles to himself, like there's an inside joke. "But I tricked them. Oh did I ever play the perfect joke." He laughs again.

"You don't make any sense, liar." I say. I probably shouldn't be insulting him.

"Probably not now." He doesn't miss a beat, doesn't even acknowledge I called him a liar. "But you will little Devil."

"I'm not a devil." I say defensively. Devils are, well, they're odd little things. No one knows exactly what a Devil is. It's beholden to nothing and no one. Little pieces of mischief let loose in the machinery of reality.

"Oh, but you are. One of seven Keys. Ix and Nox are two more." He smiles, gravestones flash in the light shining out from the wasteland.

"You know what I am?" I look at him, and without waiting for an answer I plunge into the dialogue that's been running in my head for ages now, "I'm drift wood. I get hungry, but I'll never starve. I get hurt, but I'll never break. I form relationships, but never get meaning from them. I'm a little puppet they wind up and send out into reality to do one thing, and only one thing. Find the Light that is Michael. I fully expect when I do find him I will be wound down, put into a box, and forgotten. Like the little toy I am. A piece of curious object, 'and here's the thing we sent to find the missing Light,'" I pantomime someone showing off a little box with a doll in it. "I don't get a soul, I don't get death, or hope, or anything." I sigh, I've wound myself down. Saying it out loud just hurts deep inside.

And I don't think it's supposed to hurt, to say that revelation. But it does.

Ix touches my cheek, a tear has slid down out of my eye. He wipes away the next tear to fall, "Toys don't cry." He says, and I really think he's concerned for me. Devils, fickle things. His tone, his actions, he's not talking down to me, he's talking with concern in his tiny little voice.

"Yeah sure." I turn away from him.

"Oh, but I did give you a soul little devil of mine." Lucifer chuckles again, this time the noise is a rasping, a pair of stones ground across each other, a laugh of pure deceit. To me, or at his own to the Choir, I can't tell. "I put it in a little box, and hid it away. They'll never find it."

So smug, so sure of himself. Architect of the cracking of a silver tower. Lucifer caused the impossible, he caused one of the Silver Spires to fall. It's ruins crushed a piece of the Place In Between, they still sit there. Like the bones of a forgotten beast, in the barrier between the Grand Bazaar and the Silver City sits the Necropolis. And the Silver Babel Tower's ruins lie there, Lucifer's handiwork. The tallest tower in heaven like so many broken pieces of glass.

Lucifer the great schemer. And here he's telling me I'm just another scheme on his part. I guess I'm still a puppet, I've just switched puppeteers.

"So what do you want me to do?" I ask finally, "Since you obviously have me in your hand. Cut off from the Choir, I still have my mission, my programming locked in." I tap my head.

"Oh, I want you to do what you were doing before. Only now you're totally free to do it however you see fit. Michael hid himself well, it'll take someone very clever, and very persistent, to find him. Someone like a puppet suddenly finding itself without strings being pulled. Without someone directing her across time. It'll take a Devil to find him."

"Why me?" I ask.

"I made you." He says with a shrug, like it was obvious, "This wasn't some whim, you're a very well crafted decision." He leans forward, "It takes a lot of planning to create something with free will and power like yours." He leans back in the chair and resumes rocking. "But first, before I give you a general direction, rest. You have a long, possibly very hard journey coming up." He stands and motions inside, "I insist."

I hesitate, not sure I actually want to do this. And absolutely certain I'll do it any way. Finding Michael, it's all my bones know.


In the dream Marius is sitting on the bed with me, I take my shirt off and he his, his broad shoulders feel good as I run my hands across them. His lips feel like fire as he kisses my cheek, my neck, my collar bone...

I sigh and whimper under his touch. He's so much larger than me, so good. Protective. His lips feel like silk and fire both. He reaches down and undoes my belt, something tugs at the back of my head.

Undoes the button on my jeans, "Wait." I whisper, half hearted plea to stop.

He slowly draws the zipper down, "No, there's something I have to do first," His voice slides across my mind like a cool spring breeze.

"It can wait..." He says.

It can't.


I wake up with a start, inexplicably horny, and a little anxious. Something is on my chest. I left my head, a small six inch devil is sleeping on my chest, tucked under the collar of my shirt like it was a blanket. Suddenly the dream makes sense, his devious little tail is curled around my breast, sharp little tail cut the rip a little wider and the flat slowly caressing my nipple.

I flick him in the back of the head, "Cut that out." I demand.

Ix wakes with a start, "Huh!?" He leaps out from under my shirt, not standing on my head, "Where they at?" He's got his fists up.

I sit up fully and dump him into my lap, "Asshole." I say.

"Huh?" He looks up at me confused.

"Leave my tits alone you little pervert." I point at him.

He holds his hands up defensively, "Honest mistake, things got a life of its own." He points at his little tail.

"Where's Nox?" Suddenly a missing devil worries me. I look around, Nox is standing in a potted plant. Taking a piss and scratching his ass.

"Coffee." Is the word that falls out of his mouth, not quite actually spoken.

"Lovely." I rub the sleep out of my eyes and stand up. Ix deftly jumps out of the way. "I get a bachelor and a pervert for companions." I pull the t-shirt off, turning my back so Ix doesn't get a view. The bra is pretty much ruined.

The room Lucifer gave me is best described as cozy. One bed, one dresser, one table with potted plant, freshly watered, one closet with a change of clothes.

"This place have a bathroom?" I ask, Lucifer is probably still on the porch, sitting in his rocking chair. I toss the bra on the bed and pull out a shirt from the closet, the only shirt actually, and pull it on.

"How much you think we can get for this?" Ix has picked up the torn bra.

Nox whacks him off the back of the head, "Cool it." He grumbles and takes a leap across the room.

"Yipe!" escapes my lips as Nox lands on the back of my calf, claws digging in a little hard.

"Sorry." He mumbles before sliding to the front and clinging to the front of my leg, sitting on my boot really. Ix just jumps off the bed and follows us out of the room.

"You guys suck." I say as I peek out the front door. No Lucifer. The back room of the house is a kitchen, there's a tiny bathroom shoved between it and my room. Opposite that is the knick-knack room I entered in. Small place. "Where does he sleep?" I wonder.

"You think a Light needs to sleep?" Ix asks me, Nox has climbed up onto the counter, via my leg, and started to try and make coffee from the old tin pot and stove.

"More to the point, where's he get the gas to power this stove?" I ask as I help Nox fill the pot and start the stove. He starts pulling mugs across the counter. At six inches tall he isn't much bigger than the coffee mugs. It's almost cute.

"Lights don't got to explain physics." Ix shrugs, he's trying to get a view inside the open shirt I'm wearing. I button the three buttons at the top.

Once I get Nox his coffee I try the shower. It sputters to life, spits brown water for a moment, and finally settles to a nice steam. Ix has followed me in.

"You can leave now."

"Can't, bodyguard." He nods.

I give him a look. "Listen you perverted little blue devil," I lean down so we're eye to eye, "I can't get broken, I don't care if you are a dagger of Yarrow. Get the fuck out." I stand up, "You're not seeing me naked."

"Crap." He hops off the old sink and stomps out of the room. I slam the door and pull off my clothes.

The water is the perfect temperature. I take my time.

When I get out Ix and Nox are on the bed with a deck of cards, it looks comical. They're playing poker, Nox has a tiny little cigar pointed up due to his underbite.

Ix is looking at me as I hesitate.

"Oh fucking hell." I just pull off the towel and finish drying, "You assholes are going to see me naked eventually, I can tell I'm not ditching you two."

Nox just looks over, looks me up and down and nods appreciatively, then goes back to his cards. Ix stares.

"At least I get your approval." I mutter and look in the dresser for underwear.

"You could be bigger upstairs." Ix offers.

"Shut up and play." Nox grumbles, he's slightly less grumpy after coffee. Need to keep that in mind.

"Great ass though." Ix continues his commentary.

"Ix, I will find a way to squish you." I try to keep my back to the little shit as I pull a clean pair of jeans out of the closet. At least Lucifer knows my style. "Where'd you find the cards?"

"Lucifer always has a deck somewhere." Nox says, "These were in the living room." He puffs his tiny little cigar.

I pull on the shirt and roll up the sleeves. "How long you two been working for the great Devil?"

"Long time," Nox says, "Work for you now though." He chuckles.

"Bullshit." I say as I tuck in my shirt, "You still work for him."

"Nah," Ix chimes in, "Not the way it works. Devils work for one master. Or Mistress." He says, "It's part of the package."

"Package?" I look over as I loop my belt.

"Total free will. We could quit, just go." Nox puts down his hand, "Call. Most of us do. After a while, just split."

"Why don't you two?" I ask as Ix makes a face and tosses his cards in the middle, "And what the hell are you playing for?"

"Nothing." Nox says, "Ix doesn't gamble." He collects the cards and his tiny little hands attempt a shuffle.

"Give." I take the deck and shuffle them on top of the dressed, "So why haven't you two split?"

"We're little knives." Ix says, "We can't cut people without a hand. Kinda sucks."

"Your tails," I point out, each one has a diamond sharp little point.

Nox nods, "Just kinda like the company. Need someone to shuffle the deck." He puffs on his tiny little cigar. I don't even ask where he keeps them.

"And fun. Nothing creates havoc like people looking for something." Ix stands up, "You ready to rock and roll?" He looks at me as I toss the deck on the bed and pull on my socks and boots.

"And where are we going to rock and roll?" I ask.

Nox is trying to wrap the leather string around the deck. His little hands can't quite handle the deck as a whole. Again I find myself taking it from him and doing it. I don't wonder if these two pint sized perverts hand around because they're so small. Latching on like parasites. I wrap the deck up in the string, like a little package so the cards don't slip out and toss it in the air, catching it. "You hang out because you need me." I say.

Nox stands up and yawns, "Yeah, yeah." He waves at me and puffs the cigar, "You need us too babe."

"I need you?" I look at him.

"Hold out your wrist." Ix says, "The one you punch people with."

"I don't punch. I'm not a fighter."

Nox squints at me, "Can't get broken, you're like an angelic wrecking ball and you don't fight?"

"Fighting fucking hurts." I say, "I don't like pain."

"Just do it." Ix says exasperated.

I hold out my right arm, in a quick little leap Nox lands on my arm, his hands and feet wrap around my wrist and instantly his red little body shifts into a wide bracelet, the same kind of metal the daggers were made of. His tail, still pointing outwards towards my hand wraps around my hand. I involuntarily make a fist, like a little devil brass knuckle. The top of his tail lies flat against my third knuckles, and then points out. Flat or sharp, I've got a nasty little weapon. I open my hand and his tail unwraps and coils around the top of the little Nox Bracelet and makes a red stone.

"Wow."

"We're shape shifters." Ix says, still standing on the bed, "Dangerous accessories." He giggles.

'Just make a fist and I'll do the rest' I hear Nox's voice in my head.

"Ah! Fuck, I hate telepathy shit." I say out loud, "I always forget to think instead of talk."

"When we're touching you like that we talk into your head." Ix shrugs, "You don't gotta respond."

"So what do you do?" I ask.

"Nipple rings?" He peers at me.

I make a fist and like magic Nox's tail is there, "I will pop you one."

"You wouldn't hit me with my own brother?" Ix looks offended.

"Bet your little blue ass I will." I brandish my fist at him.

Ix holds up his hands in surrender. "Right, fine. Touchy." He scratches his chin and I unclench my hand.

"Well, I can ride free, but that'd cause issue." He peers at me, "Necklace."

"Anything to get near my tits." I sigh heavily.

Ix laughs, a deep belly laugh, strange coming from a tiny little whip thin fucker.

"Fine," I pick him up and put him near my neck. Instantly his little body contorts, I watch it in the mirror over the dresser, and he's a series of chains with a little blue stone at the bottom of my throat. He wisely chose not to hang down into my shirt.

'Grab me and I'll let go and become a knife, or if you remember to think of something else not very complex and let me know.' I hear his little voice in my head.

"Like what? Tiny garrot? chain?" I say.

'Yeah, no moving bits, just metal stuff.' He says.

I slide the deck of cards into the pocket of the shirt and button them in, "Alright boys, let's get back on the trail." I run my hands through my hair and go out into the front room.

On a coat rack I don't remember being there before is a leather jacket. There's a card on the coffee table.

'Take the coat, it's cold out there, his name is Serj. -L' The L is in a fancy script, the rest in a scratched kind of hand writing. like he wrote it by literally scratching the words onto the paper with a sharp claw. Probably did.

I pick up the coat. "Serj huh?" I pull it on.

'Another devil' Ix informs me.

I put up the collar, because for some reason I notice it is very very cold in this room, the cold is seeping in from the outside. The sun is up, but it's that kind of cold december sun that provides no warmth.

I can see my breath suddenly.

'You must be the girl' a gruff voice is in my head, like what I needed was more voices talking to me.

"Sarah." I say out loud, I don't know why I'm talking out loud, I always forget to just think this shit. I fucking hate telepathy. Seriously.

'Sarah' The voice says, I'm trying to think of a description for this voice, it's really deep, in the back, creepy, like you'd expect from a serial killer whose still hiding in the shadows.

"So what do you do?" I don't want to walk through a doorway until I know what it is I just put on.

'Armor, protect.' He says, the collar flips up. I pull my hair free, he's soft, well worn. Like he's been around a while, broken in leather. I sniff the arm, smells ever so faintly of sulfur, brimstone, coal fires. I bet this leather didn't come from a cow.

"Alright Serj, Ix, Nox." I say, "Let's go back into that junk store and see if we can't shake loose some information from a few people. Last lead I had on Michael. I bet that Brachus SOB knows more than he lets on."

'Kick ass.' Ix says in his excited little voice. I simply get feelings of approval from Serj and Nox. Serj strikes me as the quiet strong type. If he were guy shaped I bet he'd have a Five O'Clock shadow, a scar on his chin, and be a hot biker dude.

Serj feels like his smiling. "You guys can hear my thoughts huh?"

'Yes.' Nox answers, 'You're thoughts are all warm and sharp. I'm gonna like you.' He chuckles, I think he'd puff on that cigar if he weren't a piece of jewelry on my wrist right now.

"Yay." I think really hard, I know I can do this, direct the door. I just never have, never needed to. Never dared to even divert one little step from the path the Choir sent me on.

"Totally off the reservation. Shits going to go so wrong." I say and walk through the door.

//Last Dawn//

I nearly fall on my face, the mirror spits me out, it's glass is about six inches above the floor. Takes me a second to get my balance. "Fuck." I mutter as I catch myself on a shelf across from it. There's a lot of dust here.

I dust off my jacket and knee where it hit a rather untouched blanket covering a piece of furniture. "Lovely, I think the place got bigger over night." I mutter and look back at the mirror, if I turn just right out of the corner of my eye it looks like I think Brachus and Marius saw it, a kind of silvery liquid surface.

"You'll stay safe here." I pat the frame and walk towards thee front of the store. The path I remember isn't quite the same. The store has gotten, what, bigger?

"Holy shit..." Brachus is there, he looks older. Still kind of young, but not the fresh something kid.

"What, you age a decade overnight?" I ask.

"You.." He squints, "Yeah, definitely you." He huffs, "You cost me quite a bit." He says. Then I notice, he's not just older, mid thirties I think, but he's missing an ear.

"Cost you?" Alright, I'm confused, but I think I have an idea.

"That demon, Marius? Took an ear in payment for your little trick."

"My little trick?" I lean on the counter.

"Where are they by the way? The daggers of Yarrow?"

"Had to ditch 'em in a deal with the Devil." I say. Ix, in my head, laughs maniacally at that one. It echoes for a moment.

"Devil?" He looks a bit afraid at that.

"Look, just tell me what happened on this side of the glass." I say.

"Well, Marius tried to chase you but the mirror didn't go anywhere. It's, a dead end. He got pissed something evil. Said I was working for the Angels, did this," He points to the scar where his right ear should be, now it's just a hole he can probably on kind of hear through, "Haven't seen him since. But Demons tend to harass me every now and then. To keep 'em off my back I pass messages along." He says. Fair warning that he's going to tell them I'm back out of the mirror.

"And," Because curiosity just got ahold of me. "How long ago was that?"

"About ten years, nine years." He says.

"So," I do some quick math, "The outside world thinks it's, two thousand three?"

"I'm pretty sure. I don't leave the Grand Bazaar much." He says.

"Right." I say, tap the counter with my knuckles "Ok, I originally came here because someone said that you could point me towards someone else who knew where the Angel Michael is."

Brachus swallows. "You, uh, don't know?"

Why do I have a sudden sinking feeling in my stomach.

"About three years ago the Choir had, a, uh, falling out. Michael came back and declared them all traitors to heaven, booted them right to Earth."

"So, in the year two thousand there's no Choir?" I say, suddenly, something clicks into place. I never once visited anything after about nineteen ninety eight.

I always kind of wondered why they used Puppets to sift through the time stream. From where I look, it's all kind of a jumble. I just appear whenever. But the choir, I wonder if they moved forward like all the other beings.

"Huh." I put my hands in the pockets of the jacket, "So, the angels are on earth? And the puppets?"

"You guys were rare before, I haven't even heard a rumor recently. I think you guys still work for the Fallen."

"I bet the demons are all kinds of pissed off at Angels on the ground."

"You have no idea. The wall is all but down."

"So, Michael is back?" I say, the mission, as such, is still inside my head like a nagging thought you can't get rid of. A song stuck in my head.

"Rumor says he lives in New York." Brachus shrugs.

"You've been very helpful for someone who blames me for getting their ear cut off."

"Oh," He smiles, "I was just keeping you distracted.

The door opens and in walk two of the biggest, meanest, looking horned mother fuckers I've ever seen. Just giant slabs of muscle, complete with hooves. They look like reject bikers in jean and leather jackets with no shirts under them.

"Ah, right." I sigh. Nox gives me a little subconscious tug, Serj growls.

"Did your coat just growl?" Brachus looks worried.

"I think so." I say, making a fist in the pocket, Serj's tail wraps around my fist. One of the demons locks the door. Not a little deadbolt kind of mundane lock. But a magical you're not getting out here kind of lock.

'Anyone know how to pick a magic lock?' I ask my brain, making the effort to not talk out loud.

'Yep,' Ix says, 'Need a few minutes though.' He says.

'I'm gonna throw you towards the door, and try to keep my legs in working condition while these guys put a beat down on me,' I think, I can get my body pretty twisted up, but it pops back into place after time, or encouragement.

'Sure boss.' Ix says.

I dash left, ducking low and behind some shelves just as one of the brutes puts his fist into the space I just occupied. I like to dodge.

Grabbed Ix from around my throat I toss the necklace at the door as I run past an aisle. I can just see him shift into that lanky little blue form and run on all fours at the door. The brutes are too concentrated on me to notice him.

"Hi!" I suddenly stop as one of them cuts me off.

"Marius wants a word." He raises his fist. I pull out my other hand, Nox has his little tail out, bless his devilish little heart, just as I put a quick little strike into the demons leg.

He howls. I hit like a girl, seriously, but when you've got a Devils Tail causing all the damage, well, let's just say my fist isn't what's doing the damage. I duck and roll under his legs and get to my feet.

I feel a blow to my back, like a truck running me over. Serj goes rigid as the other demon pounds down on me. I catch myself with my hands, thankfully my back is unbroken.

"Nice." I say as Serj growls some more, I think I can feel him grinning.

I hop to my feet and rush down past some trinkets. The second brute smashes after me, no regard for anything. The first demon is muttering something vile sounding.

I'm about to be hit with magic. Serj zips himself up as I dodge to the left. Brute number one blunders into a shelf, both go tipping over. Brute number two lets loose with a blast of hellfire that follows me as I run low and fast along the store. I've made a circle, and leap the counter, one boot hitting Brachus square in the chest as I tumble down on top of him.

'No spike' I think and brandish my fish in his face, "Alirght asshole. Since I get to run like hell, where's the nearest door to New York?"

"I don't know!" He says in such a panic that I think even if he did know he'd be scared too stupid to say. I smell piss.

"Fuck." I roll off him and away from the counter just as a big two fisted punch smashes down the middle. "You're wrecking the damn merchandise!" I yell, why that comes out of my mouth I don't know.

"Stand still you little bitch." Brute number one grumbles, "I'm gonna fry your ass. Marius can question your charred remains." Hellfire shoots past brute number two, over my head.

"I'm not flammable!" I yell, only one way I'll stop him from burning the place down around us. I charge, because I can be stupid like that. I swear to god Serj is yelling a battle cry as I dodge and weave through shelves, climbing up one and jump.

The brute doesn't see me coming from the side like that, Nox is ready, I smash my fist into the side of his head and smack into his bulk.

I fall to the floor, the wind knocked out of me, because the demon ways about six times what I do and doesn't get knocked over because some short chick rammed him in the head.

But he does wobble, Nox's little spike went right into his temple. I may not hit hard, but I hit where it counts.

I stand up and brandish Nox just as the brute falls down in a heap on the floor. The other Brute is staring at me from down the aisle.

"Got it!" I hear Ix yell from across the store.

I don't hesitate a millisecond, I just bolt towards the door. I fling it open with one hand, and plant my foot right next to Ix, Nox is still ready in my fist. Ix gets the idea and grabs onto my pant leg as I rush out of the store.

He makes a scramble up my leg while I run, up Serj and latches onto my neck, shifting into a necklace as I race through the streets.

I hear a roar behind me, and glance back. The brute is hot in pursuit, and he's got friends now.

"Any ideas guys?" I huff as I rush headlong into the crowd. Maybe they can't find me in the throng of people.

'Find a door, see if you can just will yourself to New York.' Ix suggests. Serj and Nox grunt in agreement.

'Oh, this will end badly.' I head towards one side. The first door I come to is a bar. And in I go, as I pass over the threshold I concentrate desperately on New York City. Anywhere in it.

And I step into a noisy bar. I look out the front window, not the Grand Bazaar, but the city. At night. I release my hand and Nox retreats. Undoing Serj's zipper I run my hand through my hair and exhale.

"You OK?" The bouncer asks me, I look up at him, a normal six foot four.

"Huh? Oh, just, dodging my ex-boyfriend."

He folds his arms.

"Mugger? Cops? A couple asshole who wanted to pound me into paste?" I offer up, "I can just get some whiskey right? I really need some whiskey."

The bouncer looks at me, I look at him. "Go" He motions with his head.

I go.

"Shit," I suddenly remember I'm broke, I rifle quickly through pockets that I know are empty, and sigh heavily.

I'm about to wish myself a couple bucks when the man next to me taps my elbow. I look over into the smiling eyes of Lucifer.

"Fancy meeting you here." I say, not really it isn't.

"You dropped this." He hands me a wallet with a chain on it.

"Huh. Thanks." I pass it off like he didn't just appear out of nowhere and hand me a wallet that really never existed before.

"I bet you're wondering about things, metaphysically."

"Never try and think about the why and how." I reply sliding the wallet into a pocket and snapping the chain around my belt. "Always gives me a headache." I wave the bartender over. "Buy me a drink."

"Do I look rich?" The old man smiles that tombstone smile of his.

"Completely."

He cackles.

"She's out of your league Nick." The bartender says as I order a shot of whiskey.

"Oh, she's not with me like that." He says to the man who pours me a shot of whiskey and a gives me a beer chaser.

"Uh huh." The bartender doesn't believe him as Lucifer puts a twenty on the bar and winks at me.

"Good night sweetheart." Lucifer gives me one of those familiar kisses on the cheek and leaves. I know he never makes the door before he's just gone.

I sigh and put back the shot, it burns like fire in my throat, Nox makes a noise in my head, I can tell he'd rather be drinking whiskey than playing jewelry on my wrist.

I sip the beer, "You guys did good back there." I say quietly in the din of the bar. I just drain the beer and and stand up to go.


I'm walking down the street when I get a weird feeling up my spine, a sort of indescribable fear. Instinctive. Serj feels it too, or my bristling because I feel him become ready, aware. Nox does the same, a warm feeling around my wrist. Ix shifts his little chains around my neck to remind me he's there. I'm not unarmed, they're saying. I feel like they're being protective of me, an odd feeling.

"You, traitor." A hiss comes from the alley, I make a fist, actually I swear to God that Nox made me make a fist, as his tail coils around my fingers, devil's brass knuckles.

A figure, leaning against the corner of the building, dressed in dirty rags, old torn long coat. He looks up at me, perfect white teeth, perfect blue eyes, underneath so much grime and dirt.

"Traitorous little puppet." He hisses, I can smell rank breath from here, despite the perfect teeth its booze and rot.

"What?" I look him over, his voice, despite the rasp, seems otherworldly.

"You heard me, puppet." He spits the word, "Broke us, came back and tossed out like so much trash. And you, puppet, where were you?" He points a dirty finger at me.

I don't know how to answer him, I'm not even sure what he is. Because I can feel he isn't human. Is something else. Serj is bristling, Serj does not like him.

"Devil." The thing spits.

It hits me, that voice, that nearly perfect tone, he's a member of the Choir. "So you really were thrown out of heaven." I say. It sounds so stupid, I didn't think anything could dislodge the Choir. The all powerful Choir. My makers. But Lucifer said he gave me life. And he locked me away in the middle of nowhen while the world kept going for years, and Michael came back. I never found him, that old chorus still sings in my being, even now.

"Devil take you." He sneered.

I'm afraid, still afraid. Because it was just yesterday. I run. I run like the wind. I run like hell. I just run.

And run.

I'm on a bridge when I finally stop. Out of breath, I lean against the railing, facing the sparse traffic, and stare up at the night sky. Obscured by the city lights all around me.

"I was wondering if you'd died in the war." A voice says next to me.

I turn my head, hipster-fae. He looks different, maybe updated by a decade I'd guess. But still, same scrawny little Fae. Just two days ago I was trying to outrun him too.

I do a lot of running. I don't wait for Nox to curl my hand into a fist, because I just don't have it in me to run much more tonight.

"Easy," He holds up his hands, "Ever since the Angels came down I've had to rethink my strategy." He backs up a step, "You don't smell like Angel anymore either." He sniffs the air.

"Yeah?" I step away from the rail and face him fully.

"Devil." He says, "Let's just forget that thing about the tricked wish. It was a twenty. Angel touched isn't worth much these days anyway, so, call it even."

"Sure." I shrug and ease up, still wary. I feel Serj ripple on my back, letting me know he's got it, my back. "You called me a Devil?" I ask.

"You aren't a puppet anymore, that's for sure." He says, "I'm going to walk around you, just go on my way." He says, stepping into the street and doing just that. I follow him, turning to keep facing him. And I watch him go.

"Shit is so strange." I sigh and look down into the black water below me, "What the fuck now?" I mutter.

'Find a bottle of whiskey and a poker game.' Nox offers up.

"That's not a plan, that's a distraction." I say and push off the railing and stroll down the sidewalk, away from the direction the Fae went. "He's going to tell someone I'm back, or around. And that Choir, here on earth, he's pretty pissed at me."

'Daddy's around though.' Ix offers.

"Daddy?"

'Lucifer' Serj answers for him.

"Oh please, I don't believe that lie." I say, "And don't forget I know you still work for him." I put my hands in the pockets of Serj and stroll slowly.

'Work for you.' Serj grumbles, I get the feeling he doesn't actually like Lucifer much. Which surprises me, a little.

"What'd he do to you?"

'Made me a coat.' Serj says.

"What'd you used to be?"

'A grand shadow, the darkness, the thing sliding around the moonlight.' He whispers, in a menacing voice. A serial killer voice.

'Dramatic' Ix remarks.

"Creepy I shudder, so why do this for him," I say, "Protect me."

'He gave me to you, I'm yours, not his.' Serj mumbles, I can tell he'd rather be free to roam, do whatever.

"Fae boy back there thinks I'm a Devil, or was he smelling you three?"

'He thinks you're a Devil,' Nox says.

"Am I?"

They all shrug mentally.

"Great." I say, finally reaching the end of the bridge, I vaguely wonder where I am. "Jersey" I read the sign as I exit the bridge. "Yay."

I wander for a few more hours, it's late when I finally just find a hotel for a place to sit and think. I pull out the wallet, a good amount of cash.

It's a crappy hotel room, but I just need a place to stop and think. I picked up a bottle of whiskey along the way in. I'm not hungry, but Nox is making noises like he wants something to eat, Ix doesn't care and Serj says he eats fear, and he's full.

"Thanks." I mumble as I drape Serj off the back of a chair. Nox hops off my wrist onto the table and lights a cigar. I just don't want to know where he keeps them. I pour Nox a glass of whiskey, and myself one, and toss a bag of french fries on the table. Nox is a vegetarian, go figure.

The little mug is munching on fries and sipping whiskey through a straw. He's got a shit eating grin on his face, I think this is his idea of heaven.

"You not getting down." I tap Ix, whose still on my neck.

'Like it here, nice and warm.'

"Bet you'd like it in my pants better." I mutter.

'That an offer?' He sounds hopeful.

"Not a chance." I flop onto the bed, "You really feed on my fear?" I ask Serj. For a brief moment he shudders and a vague shadow forms, nothing humanoid, just enough to fill out the arms of the jacket.

"No." He says, "I feed on darkness. I was just fucking with you." His voice outside my head sounds softer, like whispers in the dark, vague little threats in the back of the head, the unkind notion.

"You're a creepy bastard." I mutter.

"I know."

"Toss the cards." Nox says, I reach into my pocket and throw the cards at the table. Serj's shadowy hand catches them and unwraps the string. Serj and Nox set about to playing, betting for french fries. I drift off to sleep.

When I wake up Ix is curled up on my chest, under my shirt again, this time he has the decency to keep his tail off my breasts, it's curled up on my stomach instead.

Sun is coming in through the window, I forgot to shut the blinds. Serj is still in the chair, in the sun. I look for Nox, he's curled up like a tiny little dog by the bottle of whiskey.

"Wake up you." I poke Ix, who groggily opens his eyes and smacks his lips.

"Oi." He mutters and holds onto my shirt as I sit up, he scrambles down and drops into my lap.

"Thanks for not feeling me up in my sleep." I say as I stretch, I didn't even get undressed. I pull off my boots and socks and toss them to the side of the bed.

"Anytime." He mutters and yawns.

"Didn't mean to leave you where light could get at you." I say to Serj, and pull him off the back of the chair, I hang him up in the closet.

"Sunlight don't hurt." He grumbles as I leave him in the shadows of the closet.

"You're welcome," I say. Nox opens one eye as I pick up the bottle and takes a swig. I've never been able to get enough of this stuff in me to get drunk. I cough, mostly because this shit burns too much for me to want to take more than a swig.

"Little early to hit that." Ix says from where he stayed on the bed, he's sprawled out.

"It's too fucking early for anything." I mutter and pull the blinds shut.

//Jersey Devil//

A couple hours later and I'm showered, and outside. I left the half empty bottle for the cleaning crew.

'Coffee' I hear Nox grumble from my wrist, he's extra grumpy today.

"Lose all your fries?" I ask.

'Stupid coat can bluff.' He remarks, Serj just makes some kind of half-laughing noise.

"I need sunglasses." I cover my eyes from the extremely bright day.

The nice thing about a big leather jacket is no one notices that the cup of coffee I'm holding in my hand has a straw going up my sleeve where a grumpy devil is busily sucking down his daily caffeine fix. I've got a nice pair of cheap sunglasses against the daylight.

"So, any big ideas?" I ask the crew.

No one has any input on the next move.

"There's got to be some kind of preternatural underworld to get involved in." I'm thinking out loud as I wander the streets.

Finding them isn't going to be hard. I naturally gravitate to the strange, it's how I hunt. But before I was always looking for a specific piece of the puzzle. Now, I had no idea.

"You know what, let's get the lowdown on that little coup Michael pulled. I bet the more details I get the better chance I'll have of finding him."

'And why are we looking for him still?" Ix asks me.

"Because..." Because, it's what I do. I don't know anything else. The entire core of my being is Find The Angel Michael.

I wander around an old neighborhood full of tiny little mom and pop shops. Jersey, a lovely little cesspool the last time I visited it, only older and more rundown now. One thing I didn't count on, cell phones. The latest time I ever visited was the mid nineties. They had them, but they were clunky things. Now, a lot of people have one. The part of me that likes to blend in thinks to get one, the social chameleon I use to get what I need. But then, I have no one to call or get calls from.

I spot an old shop, the name clicks in my head, familiar. I was just in it a couple days ago, or ten years, depending on how you count. Grandma Nightmare has set up shop in Jersey. No fucking way.

"I owe her a wish." I mutter as I contemplate going in. "But then, I bet she can get me into the local Underworld." I sigh, gotta bite the bullet.

I take a deep breath, and push open the door. Inside the shop isn't too cluttered, but it looks like a new age eighties reject store. A shelf of self-help books, tarot decks, a whole rack with little stones. I prop my sunglasses on the top of my head and wander a bit.

If I were a hedge made there are plenty of things in here that I could probably use. But all the crystal necklaces make me kind of cringe.

'Your necklace can totally kick their ass' Ix maniacally laughs in my head.

I roll my eyes and look for the proprietor. She is a young girl, looking bored and on the computer, which isn't nearly as clunky as I remember them being. It's a half circle with a flat screen, very future. Also, very lamp. I look at her without the glamour. Nope, normal girl.

"Hey," I try my nonchalant voice on for size.

She looks up from whatever she's doing, "Yah?" She looks really bored, and has on way too much black, both clothes and make-up.

"I'm looking for," I almost say Grandma, "Miss Westmeer."

"Grandma Westmeer?" She cocks an eyebrow.

She said it first, "Yes." I tap the glass case with my fingers, and glance down into the case, it's full of ankhs, and crosses, and other religious necklaces. I sigh involuntarily.

The girl hops off her stool and leans into a curtain behind the counter, "Someone here asking for you." She says to the dimly lit room beyond. I wait patiently, because I can already picture the conversation unfolding.

Grandma Westmeer comes toddling out, as old and nightmarish as I remember her. She glances at me for a moment before recognition sets in.

"I thought you were dead." She huffs.

"Nope," I say in a pleasant voice. She looks tired, actually tired. Like the last decade has really taken a toll. Somethings rotten in the state of Denmark. "I recall I owe you something." I say as pleasantly as possible.

Grandma Nightmares motions me back, I follow her behind the counter, little miss too-much-mascara watches me with a skeptical eye as I disappear.

"I know you didn't come to repay a wish you didn't want to give up." She fixes me with a rather evil looking glare.

"Not really, but I need a bit of a favor, which will probably cost me another wish I'm sure. Might as well get one of them out of the way."

She sits down in an old swivel chair, the kind you picture in the office of a detective from the nineteen thirties. I sit down in another chair, this one much more plain, but still not uncomfortable. The boys rest uneasily, ready for action, they know what kind of Fae this is.

"You've got The Devils aura." She says after a moment. No mistaking the capital The Devil in that one. And she looks vaguely afraid.

"What the hell happened? The Choir down here? That's the second time I've been called Devil. I've got at least one Demon pissed off enough to send goons my way." He lean back in the chair. She's afraid of me, not me of her anymore. But I have a wish to hold over her head, I think. Normally the bookie holds the power, not the debtor.

"Well, no one but the Angels were there," She starts to explain, "And they ain't talking much these days. Rumor is Michael came back and tossed the lot of them out, right down here. Been causing all kinds of trouble since." She huffs. "Damnable things, Angels."

"Bastards," I offer. It's what I call them after all.

She eyes me, "You wanted a favor, you an agent of them?"

"Not of them any more," I say, "Let's say I'm currently independent. I'd like to avoid the Choir for now."

"Looking to hide?"

"No, just, find out where the locals gather, sort of hide in plain site of the crowd." I say, and if I really do smell like a Devil at least I don't smell like an Angel, or god forbid a Demon. I'd rather smell Fae than Demon.

"Well, that's easy enough." She sighs, "I'm keeping my wish in reserve." She says, I bet she thinks she can hold power that way. I'll grant that wish of hers the second she utters the words.

"Alright," I say, "So, local watering hole?"

"Come back after I close, eight. I'll take you there." She says, "Now shoo, the smell of Devil is getting in all my crystals." She waves her hand, my cue to leave.

I get up and wander back out front, the girl eyes me as I wander to the front. I think I see a little ash box on a shelf, I turn my head and it's gone. I knew that thing was following me, if I ever see it again, and not out of the corner of my eye, I'm grabbing it before it gets away. Little shit.

On my way out I bump into a tall, lanky, man. Contact lets me know he's Fae, forest fae no less. I turn and look at him over my shoulder, I pull my sunglasses down over my eyes and smile at him. I don't have lots of teeth, or fangs, or anything particularly menacing to brandish. But I can give a smirk that'll keep you wondering for hours. He's staring at me as I walk down the block, and around the corner.


Evening, I'm hanging out around the shop. The girl from before comes out and spots me, she walks over.

"You waiting for someone?" She asks, confrontational.

The boys feel defensive, but the realization it's just a girl puts them at ease. "Grandma," I say.

"You better not upset her. Or do anything." She looks a bit angry already.

"She's just introducing me to some people she knows." I say, don't need to piss off the girl. Humans come with all kinds of weird surprises.

She looks me up and down, "I know some people," She points a finger at me, nails painted black. By her tone I think she means Not-People people. But it's hard to tell. It's cute that she's protective I think.

"Don't worry, I owe her one." I say, "We're old friends."

"It's OK Marrian, dear." Grandma Faerytales is locking the door, "I'm just taking her over to George's I'll be fine."

She's more than capable of hurting me anyway, sure I might be able to cut her with some Devil Tail, but all those teeth of hers aren't because she drinks soup all day.

Marrian gives me one more look over and then walks away.

"She means well," Grandma says as she walks down the street. "Dating a werewolf, thinks she's got the whole thing figured out." She sighs like she's been down that road before.

"Not gonna get on her bad side. Werewolves are a pain in the ass." I remark. And they are, pure hunters.

We walk a few blocks, not very far, I get the feeling this neighborhood is predominately preternatural. Like Little Fae or something, the creatures that go bump congregate just like any culture. "I just realized it's more of this is the neighborhood." I say as we walk.

"Finally figured that out, deary?" She eyes me, "You're not used to working with a community."

"I'm not, I had my strings pulled, not like I had any kind of permanence anywhen or where." I shrug.

"Well, you're putting down roots?"

"I can't get yanked randomly through time anymore, so I think I'll try linear living for a bit."

We walk into a bar, a dingy bar that I'm sure is bigger on the inside than the outside. It's full of Fae, and some of them aren't even using glamour in here. A few heads turn as Grandma walks in with me in tow.

She walks up to the bar, behind it a short fat man, he has no glamour, he's an actual shape shifter, I can feel that much.

"Mr. Green." She says, "This is Sarah, she's recently retired from the Choir, and wants to know if she can join the community."

Suddenly, I get a bad feeling about this whole thing, joining a community sounds a bit more than getting introduced. But, it is what it is. This may be my only way to get in enough to get answers, and start putting together a picture of the whole puzzle.

He looks me up and down, appraising me. "She's not alone." He says.

I cock an eyebrow, Serj shuffles in my head. "Oh, right, I have some friends." I explain. "A few Devils that work with me."

"And what do you do?" Mr. Green only nods as I talk.

"Uh, well, I haven't got that down yet. I just got out of the business recently." I explain.

"The Angels have been out of work for a few years."

"Well, the last time we talked they just had kind of kicked me into limbo for a bit before I wormed my way back here. So, I missed some time. About eight years." I do the math in my head, "Nine years."

He only keeps nodding, "Well then Sarah and Devils, the ground rules are no fights in public, no magic in public, and any problems you have you settle the Old Way."

I don't even know what that is, "I don't like fighting, and what is the Old Way, exactly. My last employees kind of had me, well, I've been out of the loop since existence started."

"He means you settle them quietly, and if there are bodies you get rid of them on your own." Grandma says.

"Ah," Of course. "Ok." I shrug, why not. I've played by the rules of the Bastards all my life, might as well just switch out the rule book.

"And there's a one drink minimum." Mr. Green says, Grandma is already walking away and out the door. I sigh.

"Just a beer." I pull out my wallet and put a bill on the bar.

"That's the Devil's money." He looks at it like it might bite him.

"Probably." I say, "He gave me the wallet after all.

Mr. Green puts his hands on the bar on either side of the bill.

"As far as I know, it's good, won't turn to dry leaves in the morning." I try to say with a smile.

"It won't." Lucifer walks up to the bar and sits down next to me. Everyone around him looks completely surprised. I do the only thing I can possibly think to do in this situation.

"Hi daddy." I give him a big smile and sit down on the stool next to him.

Mr. Green blanches at that statement.

We don't look anything alike, superficial racial characteristics aside. Though, recently I don't wonder if he wasn't lying when he said he's the one that put life into me. Everyone else has been calling me a Devil lately. And he is The Devil.

Lucifer doesn't even miss a beat, "Hi pumpkin, settling in well?" He places a second bill on top of mine, "And a scotch on the rocks for me. The money is clean, real money." He says convincingly. For all I know it is.

Mr. Green gets us the drinks, sometimes you just go with the flow.

"Not sure where to start." I say, "But I'll figure it out."

Lucifer drinks in silence, ignoring all the stares we're getting. I think he's sending a message, that I'm with him, not the Angels. I really hope that's the message he's sending at least. Truth be told, I'd rather be associated with Lucifer than the Bastards. I might be biased though.

"You should see Barry over near Cottage and Herbert." He says, leaves a card with an address, and leaves. Like that.

Mr. Green looks at me.

"I don't work for him," I say flatly, "Otherwise I wouldn't be coming here for a place to stay. Know any place I can rent?" I ask him. I'm not taking up Lucifer on the place to live. Even if I am going to go along with the story that he's my dad. Sounds so fucking weird to think.

Mr. Green nods and throws the business card Lucifer handed me out.

//Devil Of A Time//

The phone wakes me up, an annoying buzzing noise next to my head. The bedside table is, like everything in this apartment, salvaged from somewhere cheap. It wobbles as I grab the phone, cheap pay as I go model.

Ix is asleep on my chest, the buzzing never wakes him up. I reach over to get the phone, leaving him there. He's kicked the covers down off my chest again, and his little body is the only thing keeping me remotely warm on a rather chilly fall morning. I look at the clock on the phone before answering, I've only been asleep three hours.

"Yeah?" I answer the cell phone with one hand, rubbing an eye with the other. Ix rolls over, his little hand slides up over my nipple. Which means the little punk is awake.

"A dead what?" I have to hear that again.

"Gotta be an angel," Mervin says in a quiet voice, "That's what you wanted right? Word on the Angels?"

"Right, give me the address." I sit up and catch Ix who makes some kind of disgruntled noise. "Sorry, we have a tip." I place him on my shoulder and head for the pad I keep on my only table, serves as desk and dining room both. Mervin gives me the address, says the cops probably won't be there for a while, if at all. It's a back alley in a bad part of town. Mervin is a security guard for a series of werewolf owned warehouses, lets him get first look at anything wierd. I hang up and head for the shower.

I used to try and shower alone, but Ix and Nox made an excessively annoying game out of trying to get in there with me. Nox did it for the challenge, Ix because he just likes seeing me naked.

Eventually I just gave up, at the very least I get them to wash my back. Serj doesn't like water, unless it's rainfall. He seems to like that just fine.

Twenty minutes later and I'm dressed, Nox grabs onto my wrist, Ix his place as a necklace, and Serj slides over me, I don't even really go through the pretense of putting on a jacket anymore.

I head on down there on foot, I've tried to keep an extremely low profile. No identity at all in this lovely over connected human world. If I exist it's a glitch in the system that Lucifer tried to slide me in under. I use it sparingly, whatever little spell Lucifer weaved into it will get me where I need to be. I do use that wallet of his, lovely bottomless pit of cash. I'm sure he knows every time I use it, I'm sure I don't give a fuck.

The alley is a dead end between a warehouse and a mostly empty office building, the back wall blocks off a junkyard that the local werewolf pack uses, predictably disguised as a motorcycle gang. Mervin, a scrawny guy by werewolf standards, with glasses and a guard's uniform is waiting for me. I hand him the cup of coffee I brought as an offering for the news before the cops get called. We walk to the back of the alley together. Mervin gets the glorious job of guarding the warehouse, and sitting pretty much near the bottom of the pack. In return for the information he gives me, I get him a small wish or two. So far he hasn't copped to the fact that they're related. Mostly his wishes involve sex. If he's happy, I don't care.

Ix and Nox come to life. Ix falls off my neck and hops to the ground, Nox slides out of my sleeve and jumps down next to Ix. Both of the little devils stand up and look at the scene.

"Shit." Ix says.

Against the back of the dead end alley is a body, human looking on the outside. The eyes are gone, dried blood flowing down the cheeks like tears. The kicker is what's seared and blackened into the wall behind him. Wings, unmistakable wing shapes at least. By the position of the body, which is still standing like it was nailed to the wall, the wings appear to have once grown out of his shoulder.

Ix and Nox walk forward and peer at the body. I follow closely.

"Check this out." Mervin pulls aside the guys dirty shirt as we examine the body closely. The guy was nailed to the brick wall by a single large silver nail, or spike, through the heart.

There's something faint, something coming from the guys mouth. I get close and take a good listen.

The guys head jerks up suddenly, unnaturally, like it wasn't done on purpose but a reaction. And out comes this noise, a keening. Everyone covers their ears, coffee cups hit the ground, actually mine was flung way to the side as I stagger back a step.

I recognize the sound, it is part of the Choir. Alone, it sounds broken, lonely, lost, and out of tune. I know it's supposed to sit in concert with a hundred other voices to make the Choir.

But this one dead angel sings its final death song alone, with no one but me to hear it. It's a shattered song, like breaking glass and hands down a chalkboard, a scratching behind the walls. This Angel suffered, badly, at the hands of whatever did this. Something vile and vicious. Something very very cruel.

Something like another angel.

The head slumps forward again, this time the Angel is truly dead. Ix and Nox had run and grabbed my legs. I lean down and let Nox climb up my sleeve and latch onto my wrist. Ix jumps up around my neck and shifts into a necklace, almost a choker, I can feel fear from them. Serj is bristling.

Me, I'm... I can't tell if I'm terrified or satisfied. One of the Bastards got his own.

"What the fuck was that!" Mervin says, it's not so much a question as a demand. He's trying to keep his voice down but the song left a ringing in our ears.

"An Angel." I say, "One of the Angelic Choir. Bastards." I spit on the ground, "This one got done in by another Angel."

"I mean that noise." Mervin corrects his question.

"His last song, kind of like a death rattle, only louder and more annoying." I explain, "Maybe it finally started, the war brought down to earth."

"You gotta be kidding me." Mervin says.

"I don't know much else that knows how to kill an Angel," I say, "Much less make one suffer like this guy did. The nail will be hollow iron."

"What's the significance of his eyes missing?" Mervin is curious now, like he's being let in on a big secret.

"They might even still be usable by someone with the right knowledge."

"Usable how?" Mervin doesn't like the sound of that, neither do I.

"As eyes." Duh. "His wings were burned off, likely he'll be melted to the brick wall too," I carefully lean back in and look at the back of the body. Sure enough, wing stubs come out of his shoulder blades, and where they touch the wall there's seared flesh and feathers, the rest burned away to ash shadows. This crime scene just will not do from a human perspective. It's just too fucking weird for the cops, and I'd rather not the Angels make our presence public. They may be too self centered to care, but there's a lot of supernatural and preternatural creatures on this planet that would like not to be exposed.

I pull out the spike and step to the side. It comes out with a wet squelching noise. Mervin and I watch the body slump down to its knees and then fall forward onto its face. Immediately all signs of anything but some bum disappear. Burnt and broken wing nubs fade away. Now it's a dirty guy who had his eyes torn out and something stabbed into his heart. I look at the spike, some king of pure silver material. No blood has stuck to it at all, which is weird. I don't know what this is, but it can kill an Angel dead. I put it in Serj's pocket, he immediately doesn't like the touch of it. So much so I have to slide it into a back pocket of my jeans instead. The seared wings remain on the wall, nothing more than ash smudges though.

"Well, that's all I'm going to get from this." I tell Mervin, "Want your usual payment?" Mervin nods.

He makes the wish, by nightfall he'll be having sex with two blondes. Werewolves are base creatures almost to the last of them. Adaptable, intelligent, and strong, but still mostly animal. Getting revealed to the world at large would probably do them no good at all. Mervin will make sure the dead guy is dealt with appropriately and that I'm never mentioned.

I'm feeling a little more tired than normal as I crawl back into bed, must be the interruption. I'm barely under the covers when I drift off.


The dream is crazy, I'm flying through the city just below the rooftops, something chasing me. A spike goes through a wing and I fall down into an alley. Standing up I turn to face my attacker, a very tall, unnaturally handsome man stalks forward out of the shadows at me.

Dead end, I can't run. I'm so fucking afraid I can taste it.

Words from me and him feel like weights falling in water. I'm pleading for something, my life? Making a promise to never tell anyone, tell what? Things are moving so slow, and yet so quick. I try to run, I'm hit in the chest and fly back. I light so bright, so fucking bright, comes from him. It burns, my wings are burned off, agony pure and simple.

"Can't have you telling any Puppets." The attackers voice says, so soft, so loving, like a warm summer breeze with the scent of honeysuckle on it. And he tears out my eyes. And the last thing I feel is a spike of pure cold loss pierce my heart.


I wake up, stifling a scream, I feel sick. Scrambling I upset the boys as I rush into the bathroom. Falling to me knees I throw up into the toilet.

White bile and coffee. I can't even remember the last time I actually ate food. It's just so much easier to not deal with the biological. I Puke again, emptying whatever is in my stomach, and then dry heave just for good measure.

That cold hard loss feels so fucking real in my heart. I dry heave one last time and fall back, shaking, crying. Real sobbing heavy tears. I lean back against the bathtub and hug my shoulders.

Ix and Nox wander in, the look of concern on their faces would otherwise be adorable. I just shake.

"Sarah?" Ix's little voice is next to me on the tub, "What's wrong?" I'm trying to focus, trying to make some sense of it. But I can't. I just hear that fucking Angels song in my head, on repeat.

I'm lifted up as hands grab me under the arms, I want to protest, to fight, or whatever. How embarrassing, found in my underwear on the bathroom floor.

I focus a little, I swear to god Serj is there, a leather jacket floating with the body of a shadow holding it up. I try to say something, I didn't know he could do that. But the shadow looks like the personification of cruelty.

This is it, it's what the devil was waiting for. Find me weak, broken, have Serj just do me in.

Instead I'm under the warm stream of the shower, I can barely make sense of things, I can't really feel my limbs. Serj is holding me close, standing behind me, arms around my body preventing me from falling. I cry more, I shake more, eventually I just let the song in my head take me into the black.

The dreams continue, random images. Time with the Choir, shifting through doorways, the same Angel running, dying again and again, that perfect face looking so fucking evil, the conversation with Lucifer, the last several years hiding looking for any sign of the Angels on Earth, nothing particularly pleasant. I try to pull up something comforting, something good. I try to imagine Ix, the little punk isn't so bad, I just want to see his face now. Please God.


I wake up in a cold sweat. I'm in bed. Around my shoulders is Serj, not a humanoid shadow, just an old comfortable leather jacket. He's concerned. Ix and Nox both are curled up next to me, the warmth of all three is the only thing keeping me from shivering right out of my bones.

I open my eyes, the blur of the room recedes into clarity. Lucifer is sitting in the chair Serj normally hangs off the back of.

He's turned it to face me, and smiling that tombstone smile. The room is dim, dusk seems to be seeping in through the cracks in the window.

"I thought I'd lost you." He says.

Ix and Nox are up instantly, between me and him. Bless their deranged little souls. "She's sick." Ix says, his tone accusing.

I try to sit up, doesn't really work. "What?" I croak out, my mouth is dry, my head feels like concrete.

"Did you know that each Angel Of The Choir crafted a Puppet." He's smiling, looking so casual. Nox's little hands are opening and closing into fists. He's beefed out since we first met. As much as a six inch devil can at least, his head no longer oddly large, Nox is all tiny little muscle to Ix's whip-thin physique. Nox can lift a good bit of weight for a tiny little guy, but I doubt he can effectively fight The Devil himself.

I just drop my head onto the pillow, "Spit it out." I croak, cough, lick my lips to try and get some moisture. I feel Serj wrap a little tighter, like a comforting hug.

"When an Angel dies all the things he's invested in directly die with him. Anything he's spent a bit of his own soul on."

I'm beginning to get a picture, but my head just won't make the thoughts solid.

"Your Angel died last night. Were it not for me," He leans forward, "Poof, all gone. No more Sarah. Of course, you found his Dirge. And now you've got it circling in your own little head." He leans back again, "An Angels Dirge, one last song, sung out into the universe when the soul finally simply ceases to be."

I don't say anything.

"And you, my pretty little Devil, you are the only thing that remains of that Angel. A lasting legacy." He laughs, "A very fitting legacy."

"What," I take a deep breath, "The Fuck," It's hard, I try to keep from shaking, "Do," Or throwing up again, "You want?"

"To help, my dear." He isn't smiling anymore. "I can cut that final string that prevents you from being the Devil you should be."

I close my eyes, breath slowly. I'm finally beginning to actually buy into this shit that he gave me life. I didn't even know Angels could really die. Kill a body, that's easy. Kill a soul, that's hard.

I open my eyes, and Ix and Nox are right there, Ix is looking at me. Nox is trying to look at me and Lucifer both. Ix's beady little black eyes look very concerned, if I didn't know better I'd say he really cares for me.

His hand reaches out and touches my cheek, which is wet from tears I didn't know I was shedding. He really is concerned, he really does care.

Fuck.

"Ok," I say, "Ok." Ix's head swivels around to Lucifer instantly.

"Fix her." He demands, funny, a little tiny Devil like that, commanding The Devil.

Lucifer stands up, one hand shakes like a magician about to perform a trick. "Don't forget this one, little Devil." He says to me. Looking me in the eye he makes a scissor motion with his fingers like he cut an imaginary string. I feel a strength come back to my limbs, they no longer feel like lead. I can breathe again.

He picks up the silver spike I left sitting on the table, "And before you ask, I think this is payment enough." He grins that tombstone grin, and he's gone. Not even the decency to give me a fancy exit. No puff of black smoke, or swirling air, or birds, or something. Just empty air.

I roll onto my back, the only thing I'm wearing is Serj. Ix is on my chest, trying to walk lightly, trying to get a view of my face too.

"I'm good." I say, I still feel weak, but my body is returning to normal. I don't know exactly what Lucifer did. This metaphysical shit is way to above me. And I know I owe him a favor, I doubt that spike will cover all the debt. I'm probably Lucifer's own little wish machine.

As my brain spins back up I wonder just how long he'd been planning, waiting, to get a creature like me in his pocket. I owe him.

"I'm good, Ix." I say.

His little lips press against mine for the briefest of moments before he hops down off me.

"Come back here." I say, I'm not sure I want to try moving again, "You're warm." I say. My phone rings. "Fuck, just fuck." I sigh. I reach out for the phone. Nox puts it in my hand, "Yes?" I answer.

"Got something for you," It's Lorin, a seedy little vampire fucker in New York. Another information source, his payments are considerably easier, he just likes things stolen for him. Actual mundane items I don't have to put much effort into.

"Oh yeah?" I try and sound normal, my bones still ache a little.

"You sound like hell."

Not Hell, contrary to popular belief The Devil doesn't much like it there, not to mention that Demons and Devils don't get along. "Just waking up." I answer more or less truthfully.

"Yeah well, I got a dead guys looks an awful lot like he had wings before they were bar-b-queued right off." He says, "Smells, kind of honeysuckle which is weird."

Another dead angel. I get a slightly sick feeling in my stomach. "Any cops or humans involved?"

"Not yet, this one's new, like last few hours if the smell of wet blood is any indicator. This one's inside an old factory, been abandoned for years. Probably days before the cops find him." Or at least long enough for Lorin to relocate some of his stuff to a different hiding hole.

I go take yet another shower to wash the cold sweat off and try and get some warmth into my bones. The reality of four years stuck in a place suddenly comes down on me. Four years walking in this pit and all I have to show for it are a bunch of monsters to give me dead angels.

I can't even explain to the boys why I'm crying as I get dressed. They silently wait around looking awkward, even Serj manages to look a little unsettled as a leather jacket on the bed.

Ix looks like he's going to say something, but stops himself. When he wraps himself around my neck and becomes a necklace he feels almost extra gentle about it. Feels weird.

I wipe the tears out of my eyes, stuff the Devil's Deck into a pocket in Serj, my cell phone and wallet into another pocket, and head out.

//Devil's Daughter//

"Took you long enough." Lorin said as I creep into the factory. Vagrants aren't even around right now.

"Whatever." I'm not in the mood for games or anything assholish tonight. Vampires are all kinds of fucking stupid for etiquette and rules and shit. Go ahead mother fucker, try and bite me, I'll let the most murderous son of a bitch ever hack you to pieces. Serj smiles as I think this.

"Right," He senses my unhappy mood and moves on. We walk a little ways in and to a back wall. Half the windows are boarded up. The other half are broken out. The only light comes from the surrounding city, nothing direct. A fluttering street lamp, and a spot light from the building across the street that's extra bright.

Against the wall, and on his knees, is an angel. Just like previously. Eyes torn out, wings blackened char marks on the wall, silver spike through his heart. This one is looking up, and there's both sorrow and pleading in his face. Like he was asking for forgiveness. And none came.

I sigh and step forward, Lorin stays well back. Coward. I brace for the impact of the Angel's Dirge. Nothing comes. My phone rings, breaking the silence we were in. I just and step back, heart pounding.

"What?" I snap, mostly because my fucking nerves are shot.

"Hey, no need with the 'tude." Mervin says, "Look, something weird I wanted to tell you." He's whispering, "Though you should know real quick."

"Yeah?" Never ever put off information that needs to be told real quick. That's a good way to be dead real quick.

"Like a couple hours ago, not quite, that body just turned to dust. Poof, gone. Made clean up easy, but you know, that's weird."

"Yeah," I follow back the timeline, seems about right for Lucifer's visit. Great. "Thanks." I say. Someone in the background of that call yells and Mervin just hangs up. I put my phone away and look around, Lorin is just plain gone now.

Just me and the body of an Angel, and for no reason, I'm suddenly starving. Not just hungry, but a gnawing kind of hunger you only get after days with no food. I pull out the spike.

The angel's head twists, unnaturally. A long low hiss comes out, like a tea kettle starting to boil.

"Ddddeeeevvvvviiiiillllll......" It hisses at me. And suddenly the whole body shudders and falls forward onto its face. The silver spike clatters to the floor with a rattling bang as I let go of it, the loud noise does not help my nerves.

I back up towards the opposite wall. That was strangely terrifying. Even the boys are unnerved by that one.

"The fucking hell!" I hear someone scream, Lorin did hang around, how brave of him.

And then there's a noise. A very unhappy noise, like metal snapping, an electrical discharge, and the smell of charred coal.

"Demon!" Lorin shrieks at the top of his little undead lungs. Not unlike a very scared five year old.

I focus again on the world and am looking up at a very big, black-skinned, piece of meat. It's the only way to describe the things twisted form.

"In the name of Marius, I call your name Sarah, Puppet Of The Choir." It reaches out and grabs my face with one large meaty hand. "your sentence is death, your crime is existence! "The world goes sideways as I'm hoisted into the air, "Die!" It growls and slams me down onto the floor. The very hard concrete floor.

Which hurts. My head cracks against the concrete. I'm lifted again, the concrete cracks against my head. My eyes fill with stars. Again into the concrete. I can hear the shattering as the back of my skull impacts again.

I try and think straight but I can't, the pain is nearly blacking me out. I try and make a fist. I try and do anything.

I feel for the boys, I just go deep down inside. I pull Serj's murderous intention up around my heart. Nox grabs my hand, I can feel him taking over my fist, the tail wraps around it. A shadow flares, something beyond dark.

I feel something so cold, so bone chillingly malevolent I finally understand the phrase 'too scared to breathe'. Ix is in my mind, we're in a small corner, he's soothing me. I can feel us huddled together as I'm cradled in his lap.

Far far away I feel my fist impact something solid. And hear a howl. Nox has stabbed his tail, that razor sharp tail, deep into the demons wrist. It let's go and the world opens up. I'm seeing it through slit eyes, perfectly clear. The demon's soul is visible in this light, like a broken outline. The world is impossibly bright. There's noises I can't comprehend, screaming, screeching, banging, falling things.

I'm standing up, unharmed, except for the blinding headache I know I'll come out of this with. But for now, for now I am Murder. I am the thing lying in wait. I jump forward and plant Nox's tail deep into the demons belly. Dragging up, the sharp point slices through flesh so easily. Warm blood flows over my hand.

My other hand, covered in the shadow that is Serj, reaches out, and into the Demon. Passing through it's chest, clutching something inside it. Something the living are never meant to touch. I pull out the demon's soul, the charred, bent, nearly tasteless thing. Ix is soothing me in our shared mind space, soft words, I don't understand them, but they feel safe. Serj growls, a deep noise, the night come out to play. The demons body falls backwards, nothing but dust by the time it hits the ground.

Serj's shadow rises up, and flows over the soul clutched in my left hand, devours it whole and retreats into the jacket. Somehow I know the demons soul isn't really satisfying, but a soul is still a soul. Nox lets go of my hand, his tail unwinding and retreating into the bracelet. Serj is back inside the jacket, temporarily sated.

I'm back, the word is exploding in stars, my head is pounding. I drop straight down onto my knees, fall back onto my legs, and wobble there, just for a moment, then slump to the side. My head bounces off the concrete one last, merciless, time and the world is black.

//Devil's Song//

I wake up somewhere bright. A hospital I think. I blink and try to sit up. Bad idea, the world swirls a little bit and I just lie there for a moment. "Fuck," I say out loud, just to make sure my voice still works.

A curtain is pushed aside from to my left, a doctor, or nurse, someone in white, appears. Their uniform is very bright, the lights brighter, the world is just a little too fucking bright.

"You're awake." She says, smiling with her face, showing some measure of concern with her eyes. Or worry. Or something.

"I'm awake." I agree, not happy about it, but I agree to the statement.

"Don't move, let me get the doctor."

Don't move, fucking comedian. I don't want to move. Ok, actually I want to get the hell out of here, but I also really just want to turn off all the lights and let the inside of my skull stop ringing. I take stock, I'm wearing one of those hospital gowns, Ix and Nox are gone. But since their moderately autonomous I don't actually worry they've been taken. I don't know where Serj is, but I bet he's with my cltohes.

It's a few minutes, or a few hours, I don't really count, before a doctor arrives. "Alright miss Lucas," He says to me in that very friendly I don't actually give a fuck about you way. I'm sure to someone who isn't me this is good bedside manner. "Seems you took a pretty good hit." He's checking blood pressure, or something. I think he's trying to look busy. "From the bits of concrete we found in your hair and clothes I assume someone slammed you against the wall or floor pretty hard."

Sure, I nod, that sounds like a vague approximation of what happened.

"The good news is there doesn't appear to be any real damage. You likely have a concussion." I let him drone on, without paying attention. My brain got rattled around like a ping pong ball in a jar and he's talking concussion. I'm thinking give me a few hours and my poor indestructible body will have convinced my brain that it's all cool. I try and focus on exactly what the fuck happened. Where that demon came from? Marius sent it I think. But how'd he know to do that? Unless he killed the Angel? Maybe, but I somehow doubt it. The eyes, that's it. Whomever killed the Angel took the eyes, they were watching me as I arrived. Which means it was killed by someone who knew I'd be there.

Lucifer, the Choir, someone else I don't know about. Lucifer makes sense for the first Angel, assuming he wanted me in his pocket and not theirs. The second Angel not so much. It occurs to me that I really have no idea what's going on. But something is, something's starting up.

At least I'm not waiting around anymore. I have to get out of this hospital. Back to that building, I need the silver spike. That's going to be important, Lucifer wouldn't take the first one if it weren't.

The doctor is done talking. "Alright?" He asks me with that friendly smile. It has to be genuine.

"Yeah, sure." I mutter.

He looks up, "Well, I'll check in later." He stands up and thankfully leaves. I shut my eyes against the light and rub the bridge of my nose. I kind of want to sit up, but I'm pretty sure I'll throw up if I do.

"Sarah Lucas?" A male voice interrupts my personal misery. Now what.

I open my eyes and stare up into a nice cut, decent looking, man. Short blonde hair, brown eyes, grey suit, gold police badge, blue tie. Wait, back up. Police. Fuck, this day just keeps getting better.

"I'm Detective Pierce, this is Detective Adam. Mind if we ask you a few questions?" He points across the bed and I turn my head to look at another detective. Dark hair, longish, but neat, goatee, dark blue suit, smiling like he's my friend.

"Oh, go ahead, make my day better." And how the fuck did they know my name?

Pierce continues, "What were you doing down by the docks at this hour of the night?"

Let's play stupid, "Down where?" I look confused, and I realize I don't know what time it is. I glance at the clock, three in the morning. I met Lorin a little after sundown. Lovely.

"You were found in an abandoned assembly factory down near the docks." He says, "Remember being there?"

"Not really, I was, meeting," Who? What? "Friends," Sure go with that, I'll just let my mouth run, it doesn't need coherent thought, "They were gonna take me to some new club."

"Did you meet them?"

"No, got off the subway, and," I make a face, hopefully a squinchy trying to remember things kind of face, "There were some men, and then, it's all fuzzy." I say. Mugging, body dump. Probably doesn't explain the lack of sexual assault. Maybe I had considerate muggers. Maybe I should just shut the fuck up.

"You got lucky," Pierce says, "No signs of sexual assault, and by all the blood that isn't your that was on your right hand, at least one of them is injured." He says to me, like maybe I'm lying or something.

"Oh." I say softly, the sudden memory of Nox slicing open that Demon, the intense level of absolute joy that Serj got from that act, makes me suddenly sick. I feel the blood drain, and I feel very sick. "I... need..." Point kind of feebly at the bathroom.

I lurch, kind of like a broken animal, and make it to the toilet where I empty out bile. God I'm fucking hungry. I sit back on my legs and push my hair back. "Sorry, kind of squeamish about violence. Or thoughts of it." I say.

I must be convincing because a nurse is summoned and helps me back into bed, after getting me some water. And then makes the Detectives leave. They leave behind a business card and let me know they'll be in touch. The way the hospital is talking I'll be here a few days.

I just lie back and dream of actual food. I get something that must pass for food. I finally understand all those jokes about hospital food. I eat anyway.

I eat breakfast too. Because I can't sleep, I'm still wide awake when they serve it. I keep thinking about the boys. My boys. Where'd they run off to? And more importantly what are they up to? I need to get out of here.

Somewhere around noon I decide I've had enough. I'm feeling much better, fit as I ever was.

"I need to leave." I tell the doctor, he just smiles. "Alright, I am leaving." I say getting up. He tries to push me back down, because I obviously have an head injury. Says so on the chart. I read that. Boring reading, made no sense.

I resist and push back, "Back off asshole." I warn him and grab my clothes out of the little closet in the room.

"Miss Lucas," He says a little put out, "By all indications you were badly beaten."

"Did you find any injuries on me? Any of my own blood?" Let's challenge his assumptions.

"No..." He's hesitating, press the advantage.

I pull my underwear and jeans on under the gown and get my bra out, "None of my own blood. X-Rays show my skull intact." I point out.

"Yes, but," He's going to rally with something stupid, "Your memory loss is indicative of head trauma. Or at the very least Post Traumatic Stress." He looks smug. I put my bra on, toss the hospital gown to one side and pull my shirt over my head.

"Yeah," I say, I don't actually have memory loss. "So, you're going to keep me against my will with no physical damage?" I point at him, I'm sure there's some kind of patients rights. This country I'm in is all about that kind of shit.

He sighs, apparently defeated. Best he can pin on me is trauma. "If I give the name of a therapist will you see him? He's very good with victims of violent crime."

Well, didn't expect that, "Sure," I'll play along. Why the fuck not. Five minutes after I leave this building he'll never see me again.

I'm signing myself out of the hospital, magically they find some kind of super-insurance on record too. Lucifer comes with health coverage.

It's when I'm actually leaving that the Detectives show back up. "Miss Lucas, feeling better I see." Detective Pierce says with a smug smile.

"Yeah, well, seems I gave worse than I got." I make an instinctive move to rub my right hand, so recently covered in blood.

"Mind if we ask you a few more questions?" He says.

Why the fuck not. No need to agitate these guys so close to disappearing completely into the world at large. My only thought is that I'll need a new shitty apartment to live out of. There goes fifteen minutes of my afternoon.

"Ever see this guy?" He shows me a picture of the dead Angel. It looks surreal seeing that eyeless face in a photograph. He didn't turn to dust? Shit, something's up. The first one did. I back up a step and shake my head, play up the fear of blood thing. I might look kind of sick because he puts the photograph away.

"Sorry," I say quietly, "I have no idea who he is." I don't, really. Not a lie, never got his name. Probably couldn't pick his voice out of the Choir either.

"You have someone coming to get you?" Detective Pierce asks. His partner still hasn't said a fucking word to me. And that's making me nervous.

I look up at him and try a smile, because I'm so fucking charming. I don't even remember his name.

"I think you're hiding something." He says in what can only be a rude tone.

I blink, yep sure am. Angels, war in Heaven, Devils cutting down Demons, Vampire informants, oh and there's a second body that turned to dust over in New Jersey. Did I mention the war in Heaven? "What?" I ask, it's the only thing that comes to mind.

"You heard me, you're hiding something." He looks down at me with an rather intense stare.

"Oh." Is all I can manage. I can't get away from these guys fast enough.

"Adams," Pierce says to his partner, like this is old hat routine. That makes me feel better.

"No, I was," What? going to take the subway? bus? I have no cash, no wallet, and no devils. I just have a few well places wishes to use. "Going to walk home."

"Your friends can't get you?" Adams looks at me.

"It's a work day." I say, God I hope it's a work day. Because I realize I have no clue what day of the week it is.

"You and your friends often go out on Sundays?" He asks.

"Not often..." I wish I had some fucking friends suddenly. This asshole is going to grill me until I'm well done. I lean against the back of the elevator.

"Where were you going?"

Pierce is just letting Adams take charge now.

"I don't know." I shrug. You know, a simple wish might shut this guy the fuck up. But I know how that shit will go down, the little vapid wish will fill itself in with a target of opportunity, and these guys will want to come up to my apartment. Such as it is.

"What do you do for a living?" He changes tact.

Living? Right, real people work. Us messengers of doom, not so much. "Courier." I say, close enough to Angelic Bitch I guess.

"So,"

I hold up my hand, "You know, I don't even know how I got where I am. OK? I went out, I got mugged, I woke up next to a dead guy with no fucking eyes. You want my life's fucking story?" I look at him angrily, "I got nothing, I'm going nowhere, and I have almost no fun. Now, I'm dead broke, stuck in New York, I had my rent money in that wallet," Some truth helps sell the lie, "So thanks for the elevator interrogation," The door opens, just like that. I wish I could plan this shit. I storm out and towards the entrance.

"You want a ride?" Pierce calls after me.

"No!" I yell back, then storm out of the hospital. If I do this right, I'll be able to ditch them really quickly. If I do this right.

Around the corner, down the side, find a door, there we go, open and check for followers, in. I step into my apartment, and lean against the closed door.

"You made it back," Ix literally runs off the table and at me, I catch him as he face plants against my chest.

"Hello to you too." I say, giving him a boot so he's sitting on my shoulder.

Nox and Serj are sitting at the table, Serj is doing that creepy solid shadow thing again. "You OK?" Serj asks, he still looks cruel, but he sounds like he cares. Nox is looking at me expetantly.

I sit down in one of the two chairs I have, they don't match, "Yeah." I shrug, "I spent the night in the hospital." I say, "I see you guys made it back here."

"Yeah, took us a bit, but we figured you'd get back here first chance you got. And the less of us around, the easier it might be." Nox explains, "Though we had to drag Ix kicking and screaming."

"Did not." Ix makes a noise.

"Right, look," I take a breath, "I wanted to thank you guys for, you know, taking over last night." I say, it was, if not life saving, certainly more helpful than being caught.

Nox puffs his cigar, "I'm surprised you let us take over like that." He looks up at me.

"I couldn't do it, one more hit and I was out."

Serj shifts in his seat, "Giving me control, that's dangerous." He's giving me a warning. I think we've just reached some kind of mutual trust, in each other.

"That's why you needed it. I couldn't... I don't fight. I just run. And when I can't run." I sigh, "Lucifer knew what he was doing when he put us together." I say. "So, the body of the first Angel is dust. But not the second."

"Not expected," Ix pipes in from my shoulder, he's looking down my shirt, or trying to.

"So the Demon killed the Angel, and lay in wait for us?"

They all shrug, couldn't say. I think the Angels are about to declare New York a battle ground. I really think I don't want to be here for it.

"I had to ditch some cops to get here. We may want to clear out." I say, "They'll probably come looking for me eventually. But they think I'm on foot, we have some time."

"On foot?" My wallet is gone.

Serj just puts my wallet, and the Devil's Deck, on the table from some pocket of his. I pick up the Devil's Deck first and give it a loving little rub. I think it purrs. I change into some clean clothes, forcing Ix off my shoulder, and contemplate the next move.

"We have to go see if that silver spike was left behind." I say, "It's the only clue I've got in years to anything moderately useful."

"And you can kill Angels with it." Serj points out.

And I can kill Angels with it. I pull on a new pair of jeans and slide the Devil's Deck into a pocket, funny how when it's in there the pocket still feels empty. The deck is a strange thing of magic. I slide my wallet into the other pocket after putting my ID back and find a shirt.

"I like the green one." Ix offers, he likes it because the top two buttons are missing. I put on a simple black pullover shirt.

"Alright boys," I say, "Let's go," Ix and Nox literally jump onto me and settle into their usual place as jewelry.

Serj stands and goes behind me, "Power gives me better control, how about a little class." He whispers into my ear, I swear to got it's a seductive whisper. He slides cooly over me, like a night breeze, he settles onto my shoulders. Instead of a beat up old leather jacket I'm wearing a longer suit jacket. Or dinner jacket. Something nice, something that fits so well humans would have to think it was tailored. It is, kind of, when the jacket is a living Devil.

"Nice." I say, "I could like this." I put my hands in the pockets, the jacket comes down to my thighs or so. I walk out the door, take the transit over to New York and find my way back to that building.

It's covered in police tape, so I go carefully, and slowly, around the long way. By now everyone's cleared everything away, but who knows whose watching this. Sneaking in through the roof, and down the broken floors to the bottom where the silver spike should be. Gone. Police probably took it. Hard to miss a perfect shiny object. Smart little fuckers that humans are will immediately match the hole in the Angel to the spike, as amazingly clean of blood as it is. With luck they won't connect me to the body. Hopefully the thing doesn't leave footprints. I leave and take a walk, I have to decide if I want to try and get the silver spike, or let it dwell in police evidence until the end of time.


Central Park, lovely in the evening. So it seems. I can sense the entrances going Under The Hill here. They dug tunnels all over this park, or found them. Either way. I'm walking along the sidewalk at the edge of the park when a limousine pulls up next to me.

The window rolls down as I continue to walk, trying to ignore it.

"Sarah Lucas?" A man says from the window, I can smell the Angel on him.

"Probably." I say, they know who I am, even as a courtesy the question sounds insulting.

"Michael would like to see you."

I stop, the limo stops. I look at the Angel. The song in my bones hums. "What?" I really need that repeated.

"The Angel Michael would like to talk to you. Please get in." The door opens and the Angel slides away from the entrance.

I'll finally find out what happens when I find Michael. All these millennia and I'll know. I'll actually fucking know what it is to complete my reason.

I try to get in casually, I hurry a little bit and slam the door shut. The boys are wary.

"Thank you for not going back to New Jersey. I do so hate going over there." He says.

"Oh?" I need a conversation to distract me from the sudden adrenaline in my body.

"Yes, your chosen neighborhood is quite bothersome to my kind." He says, "Do you have any idea how many Demons lurk in the shadows there?"

No, "A few" I lie.

He smiles, he's handsome, he's gorgeous actually. Ix suddenly perks up, and for no reason at all displays to weird emotions. His lustful side wants to spark that feeling of attraction I momentarily had. And he's really jealous.

'Hush you,' I quiet him, 'I'm never going to fuck an Angel. I don't care how good looking they are.' I say, hopefully with the same kind of cold absolution Serj has. Ix just smiles and, because that's the kind of little shit he is, finds the part of my brain that makes me horny and pokes it. I cross my legs.

'Asshole.'

Ix smiles in my minds eye.

"Why does Michael want to see me?" I ask, I'm really trying to be casual.

"He heard you were looking for him."

"Oh?" What the fuck? Only for like, all of recording fucking time.

"Yes, he's willing to grant you an audience."

I just swallow. I'm racing to figure out what I'm even going to do when we actually meet. They never told me what to do after that.

We ride in silence to one of the really tall buildings New York has. Down into the underground garage. To the back where the parking is private. it's even past a second gate inside the parking garage.

I'm led to an elevator where the Angel puts a key card into a slot and we go up. At the thirtieth floor we stop and get out. It's a reception area, there are four Angels at a table playing cards. Nox can feel the card game going on, in the jacket pocket my wrist twitches as he suddenly sends out a wave of suggestions. I don't know exactly how Nox works his brand of magic, but the four Angels suddenly get very serious about their game. Nox smiles and settles back down.

I get a sudden thought of taking the boys somewhere to just let them cut loose and do what they do. Atlantic City. Though I'm not sure the world deservers a Serj on the loose. He chuckles.

The Angel puts a code into a keypad by a large steel door, opens it and motions me forward. Without a word he goes and sits down at a desk, ignoring the other four Angels.

No one has said a word to me. And I'm beginning to get creeped out. I swallow, lick my lips, and go into the door. It's a large living room looking place that just takes up all kinds of space. To either side are two pure white staircases. Each one heads up to a different side of the building, a different side of the floor above. This rooms ceiling goes up at least three stories.

The door behind me shuts with a thud. I'm pretty god damned sure I'm locked in. Of course, out is always one solid devil-tailed punch to a window and a long free fall away. I don't break, I'll probably bounce, and Serj can whisk me away. Right?

'If need be.' He says.

Sitting on a long marble table halfway across the room is a spread of food. My stomach growls. I'm hungry again. This time I hope nothing comes along to bash the food out of me.

"Think it's safe?" I ask walking forward to examine it.

'Sure,' Serj says.

I pick up a piece of cheese and eat it. Nothing happens.

"So." I say walking along the table, it has to be at least ten feet long, and full of food, "Any guesses? You guys want any of this?" I ask them. Serj doesn't eat food, Ix and Nox do, sometimes.

All three of them don't want to leave contact with me, at all. They've gone all protective. After today I don't blame them entirely, it's kind of cute, kind of annoying. I decide that right now what it is is a gesture of concern and kindness.

'It's because we love you,' Serj pipes in. Ix makes an uncomfortable noise, Nox just snorts.

"Uh what?" Is all I can say, I come to a stop.

Serj doesn't repeat the statement. Serj never says anything twice. I sometimes get the impression he'd like to never say anything once. I'll let that worm it's way into my brain and just move on.

"So, where is he?" I ask after a good twenty minutes. I've grazed on apples, cheeses, grapes, some olives, snuck one of those little wieners up my sleeve for Nox, and poured myself a glass of water to fresh and clear it tastes like divinity itself.

"I'm here." A voice of honey-gold says from the left staircase. I tall blonde man is coming down. As old and worn as Lucifer looks, Michael is the opposite. A body builder, perfect wide shoulders, he's wearing a button down shirt that's tucked into a pair of black slacks. The shirt though, is open almost all the way, showing off her perfect chest.

Why the fuck do I keep using the word perfect. He has eyes that are bright and clear, perfect blue pools. Stop saying perfect!

Ix does not, thankfully, push any buttons that make me want to fuck him. Or anything else. In fact, Ix is quiet. Strangely. Nox is too. Serj is reserved, but he lets me know he's there.

"I found you." I say, the song that's been on a loop my entire existence suddenly stops. Dead silence in the core of my being. Like my muscles suddenly got the rest they've been expecting. I walk slowly and deliberately over to a chair and sit down. Breathing slowly.

"Are you alright?" Michael asks, he's kind of glowing a little bit. Or at least, he just seems brighter than everything around him. He pops a grape into his mouth.

"I'm, I don't know." I say honestly. What else is there besides honesty now.

"You know, it took me a long time to find exactly which member of the Choir owned you." He pointed at me, taking one of the chairs across from me, crossing one ankle over the other knee. Perfectly relaxed.

Stop using the word perfect.

"Oh?" I squeak, I'm really trying to breath more easily. A giant weight has been lifted and I'm feeling light headed about it.

"Yes. I had intended to kill him long before throwing them out of Heaven. But killing a member of the Choir when they're all one voice is all but impossible. Not like a Puppet would ever grant that wish." He smiles. Perfect white teeth. Oh for Fuck's Sake.

"I had to get your strings cut."

"I thought Lucifer cut them?" I say, a full sentence, I can speak.

"He did. I tricked him into using you to get to me." He smiles.

"And killing the Voice?" I say.

"I didn't mean for you to hear that Death Song." He stops smiling but doesn't frown, "Lucifer got me on that move." He shrugs, "You're a free willed Devil now."

"Why?"

"Make you free willed?"

"Did you want to kill the Voice?"

"Oh, because if you found me while still connected to the Choir they would have been able to sing you your second song."

"My second song?" I must have the stupidest look on my face right now.

"Yes, when they made you they wrote two songs. The first one they sung to you and let you loose. When you found me they would have whispered the second song into your ear."

"What, is the second song?" I ask tentatively. I'm curious, kind of.

"To kill me of course." He smiles.

That doesn't make a bit of damned sense. But then I wouldn't put it past the Bastards either. "What?" I ask.

"Killing me is the only way they could get the Keys To The Kingdom back." He's talking so casually. "But now you don't know the song, and your connection to them means they don't know you're here."

"What," I hesitate for a moment, "What if I learn the song and come back?" I ask.

"Oh, I don't think you'll do that. Free will and all, why go back to the abusive parent?"

Because I'm probably overly curious? "I don't know. They'd probably try and uncreate me on sight anyways. Making deals with Lucifer."

"Oh him," Michael waves his hand. "He's played his hand in this. There's no more threat from him."

"So, I don't... none of this makes any fucking sense." The boys all nod vigorously, "And I mean fucking none." I toss my hands up, and with an energy I find invigorating pace for a second then go stand by the very tall windows and look out at the city.

"There was a war in Heaven. Lucifer led an army of the Light against the Kingdom. I led the army of the Kingdom against the Light. The Choir Of The Voice held God's sacred trust. When I cast Lucifer down, the Light followed. I left heaven for my own reasons and closed the Kingdom, leaving behind it's Legions to guard the Throne after I stole it from the Choir." He explains patiently, "The Choir then created the Puppets to walk the world and time to find me. I simply hid in the one place they could never look."

"Where?" I ask, I think I know the answer.

"I sat upon The Throne until I had recovered from the war with Lucifer. Then I threw the Choir out of Heaven and came down here to finish the job they started."

"Why talk to me now?" I get to the real question, "I mean, I could have spent eternity looking for you."

"Because, you're a fascinating Puppet. Did you know all the Puppets were made to find me, but you, only you, have ever come close?" He said.

"I have?" I'm thoroughly confused.

"You're missing some memories. We met once before, very briefly. It's how I learned there was a second song. Because you almost killed me."

I blink, and because I'm looking out through windows I can see my reflection faintly, I really do have a completely stupefied look. "I did what?"

"Pompeii." He says with some amusement, "They gave you the second song, and oh my you are a glorious thing of destruction. But like many weapons made without thought, the Choir did not handle you correctly. You killed nine of them, four Angels of the Light, and a lot of people."

"But not you."

"Oh, I was quick to flee. Lucifer got back to you first." He said.

"I don't remember any of this."

"Of course not. When the Choir got you back they simply removed the memory of the destruction, and sent you back out to try again."

"But if I've heard the song once," I say, "I know it."

"I would hope they would have removed that memory as well, given how blindly you lashed out and destroyed them as well. I'd imagine a second chance to use the song and you'd learn control."

I can only imagine bringing destruction down upon the Bastards. "Yeah, that makes sense. You said Lucifer got back to me first?"

Michael nodded, "I don't know what he did, or didn't do since it seemed he was interrupted. The Choir was quick to secret you away."

I didn't respond, just turned around and walked back to the table with the food and picked up a black olive. I like olives. I like martini's too. With olives in them. I don't know why I think of this. I realize Ix is quietly, carefully, finding memories of things I've enjoyed and just lightly letting them bubble to the surface.

'What the fuck?' I think as I eat another olive.

'He's reading your mind.' Ix says simply. Nox and Serj are unusually silent, not even particularly present.

"Ah, I see your little devil friend has figured out my trick." Michael smiles again. I hate those perfect teeth. He stands up. "It's very unfortunate I have to kill you." He sighs, "You really are a fascinating creature."

"Devil." I say, at least Lucifer hasn't threatened to kill me outright. Yet.

"Yes, so I've heard." He's pulled a silvery dagger from somewhere. "Do you know what this is?"

I shake my head, looking around the room for something. Anything that might get me out of this.

"It's a piece of a silver tower, one of the toppled towers. I had to forge it myself, I'm pretty sure even this will kill you my little puppet."

"Why? How do you know I won't just leave?" I ask. Because that's what I want to do. Leave. The song is gone, the burden lifted, and I think I can just quietly slip away into obscurity.

"I can't take that chance my dear. See, Lucifer has given you several boons. I don't know what deal you made with him," He walks towards me, I'm actually scared. Ix is trying to calm me down, but my heart is hammering in my chest.

"I didn't," I squeak, "He gave, I never said I owed him." I say. A wish, I need a properly worded wish. I try and think, my mind is stuck on that silver blade. Not only will it hurt but it'll actually injure me.

"Still," Michael has me backed up against the table. "And that the Choir is out there. You know where I live. They could still give you that song." He puts the point of the knife under my chin. A cold chill passes through my body.

"Please." I whisper, a tear escapes, "I really just want to leave everyone alone."

"For now I'm sure you do. But I have a very long future to think of. Can't leave any loose ends."

I wish he would drop that knife.

He adjusts the blade and it slips from his hand as I instinctively fall back away from him and it. The tip nicks my skin on the collar bone as it falls and bounces off the carpet.

Nox suddenly brings my fist up into Michael's stomach, he staggers back holding cut slowly turning his perfect white shirt perfectly blood red.

Serj lurches, and my body propels itself forward, he's pushing me, I can tell he isn't controlling. I fall to my knees, and I think I need to stand up and run. I think it but I can't get myself to move, I'm staring at Michael as he makes a face of pure rage.

'SERJ!' I yell, I think, I don't know, but it's a plea. He grabs my body, forcing me to stand, and run, it takes a second for me to register, I realize the escape plan about the same time I smash through the massive plate glass window at thirty floors up.

Michael bellows in rage, screaming incoherently as I fall through the air, glass all around me, reflecting city light, moon light, the black shadow that is Serj cloaking me, I become a hole in the sky.

If I hit the ground, I'll be just as good as dead. I've been through this fall, this much pain. My body shuts down trying to figure out how to tell my mind it isn't broken. This is going to fucking hurt.

Around ten stories up I encounter the building across the street. Serj had launched me across as much as out. He called up a wind that pushed me out of the window, I realize. The same wind I call up when I really need to jump. Like escaping a crazed Fae.

I smash through the window, rolling into, then through, a drywall. I come to a stop some thirty feet inside the building. Offices.

"Fuck." I sputter, I try and move, but it's all a little too, much.

"Stay with me." Ix is standing on my chest, "Holy shit, you're bleeding." He's panicking now.

Serj slides himself off me, I feel that solid shadow of nightmares lift me up and carry me.

"She's.." I hear Ix start to say something.

"Quiet." Nox's voice interrupts, there's a muffled noise. I'm seeing just stars, a blur of office furniture.

A ding, an elevator ding, I know that noise. A trickle of something wet slides down my collar. I try to speak but the body and mind aren't connected right now.

"What the fuck?!" A voice, male, surprised and terrified.

"Lobby." I hear Serj say, the blurry walls feel close, must be in the elevator. His voice is hollow, empty like the space between where you are and the safety you want to be in. I'm scared.

"Ye.. yes." The shaky male voice answers. "Is, she... dead?

"No."

The elevator ride is in silence. I find my tongue. "Can I pass out?" I ask in a whisper.

"Yes." Serj informs me. I feel Ix on my chest, he's on my chest, doing something. I close my eyes and let the world slip away.

//Devil's Due//

I wake up in a bed somewhere. A motel. "So..." I sit up and look over at the boys. All three of them are sitting at a small round table, playing cards.

Ix jumps up, "Careful!" He says pointing at my chest. Aside from the fact that I have no shirt on I don't see what his problem is.

I look down, there's a bandage taped to me, right over where the knife got me. "It will hurt me." I say, "Great."

"That was one well time wish babe." Nox points his cigar at me.

"I suspect the cut is the payment for it." I sigh and sit all the way up, looking for my shirt. It's got some blood on it, but not a lot. I put it on and button it up. "Uh, where are we?"

"Staten Island." Nox grunts. "Some slum hotel. Gotta move soon."

"We do?"

"Murder over here." He thumbs Serj.

"Do I want to know?"

"I took only the souls of evil men and women." Serj says, "I thought that would fit your preferences better."

"I," I think about it, he is a Devil of Murder after all, "Yeah. Probably get us less attention too." I sigh. I don't know what I feel anymore, especially right now. "How'd we get out?" I ask.

"Taxi." Serj says.

I just nod, "I'm going to take a shower." I stand up and go to the bathroom. Ix follows after a few moments, I don't have the energy to argue or stop him. I just let him follow me in.

He just sits on the counter while I turn on the water and strip.

"You OK?" He asks, that's actual concern in his voice.

I nod, then shake me head. "Kind of." I shrug and carefully remove the bandage.

"Serj did that, he knows his way around first aid." Ix says as I look at the tiny little scar that formed. I touch it, doesn't hurt.

"Should avoid getting stabbed with one of those." I say, I get into the shower, "You coming in or what." I say to Ix. "Bring that little bottle of shampoo." I motion. Ix grabs the bottle and hops his tiny little ass into the shower with me.

"I thought you didn't like it when we stared." He said as he jumped up to the soap ledge. For a little guy he's awfully springy.

"I thought you liked seeing me naked." I said as I wash the dried blood off my chest, and then just stood in the stream of hot water for a minute.

"I do," He sighed and opened the shampoo, "It's only a game when you're not hurt."

I lean back so my wet hair is in front of him, "Get my hair?" I say. Ix just soaps up my hair and lets me rinse it. I glance over, he's not watching my body, he's watching my face. "What?" I say.

"You look, tired."

"I am." I reply, and I am. The weight of my life's ambition is gone, but it's left me bone weary. The encounter with Michael, his words, his threats, have left me shaken. I thought Michael was the good Light and Lucifer the evil. There's no doubt in my mind that Lucifer is waiting to use me for something, waiting to call in a marker I hadn't agreed to pay.

That's how he works, trickery, lies and gifts. I don't know what leverage he has beyond playing against my gratitude. But I'm not feeling very gracious towards any kind of Angel these days. Lucifer is obviously manipulating me, Michael wants to kill me, I assume the Choir does to. Demons are after me.

I sigh as I finish rinsing the soap off myself and turn off the water. Ix has been waiting patiently, and quietly while I showered. He followed me out and simply waited as I dried myself off with one of the rough towels. I didn't have anything to comb out my hair with so I just dried it and let it fall into place. I tried to put into some kind of order with my hands and just gave up.

I wandered out into the room, tossed the towel on the end of the bed and climbed under the covers. I shivered for no reason and lay there in the room. Someone turned off the lights. I felt Ix clim in next to me as I curled on my side. He wormed his skinny little body up against my chest, putting his head on my arm. Something warm fell over me, something warm and sinister. Serj. He covered me and I felt him shift into a long jacket on my body. Something soft and comfortable. I saw the orange light from the tip of Nox's cigar make it's way across the bed towards me, he was just an outline in the dim darkness of the room.

"I'll make sure nothing happens while you sleep." His gruff little voice said. And he sat down against the spare pillow, blowing smoke into the air. I feel asleep with the sweet smell of his other worldly cigar in the air.

I don't dream.

When I wake up I'm on my back, one hand is over Ix, who's gently snoring on my chest. Serj, as a warm jacket is still on me, I can feel him radiating a warmth into me, I can feel him half asleep against my skin.. I turn my head and look over at Nox, who fell asleep sitting up against the other pillow, legs crossed, cigar gone now.

I slowly sit up, cradling Ix, putting him down on the bed next to Nox. He doesn't wake up as I quietly get out of bed and pull Serj around me for some warmth.

'Morning' I feel him say, his voice is cold as ice, his body as it is is warm though.

"Hey." I whisper softly and retrieve my clothes from the bathroom. I take Serj off long enough to get my underwear on, and quickly pull him back over my shoulders, he's a sports jacket or something like it now. Something very classy and nice. The nice part about a piece of living clothing is sleeping in him doesn't make him all wrinkled. I pull on my jeans and boots and leave the bloody shirt behind. I just button Serj's two buttons up and go out to the front room. I pick up the deck of Devil's Cards and shuffle. They make a soft noise, they're not made of the same thing normal cards are.

They're a kind of rigid leather feeling substance. I place them out in a tarot fashion, I need a reading. I need to go to ground but somewhere either so obvious they'll never look or so obscure they'll never think to look.

The Devil's Deck. It can do so much, it can be tarot, it can be playing cards. It can be very literal if you know how to focus them. I don't know what magic they hold, but it's old, I can feel that, something so old that it transcends the very idea of good and evil. These are primordial magics that even the Fae have forgotten about.

"Atlantic City." I say after finally getting them to focus on the question. They were showing me a series of images of angels dying, and angels names. I filed them away for later, but for now, I need somewhere to come up with a plan. It's obvious just laying low won't work. Lucifer could likely find me at any time. Michael will come looking, and has probably already solicited the help of both Angels Of The Light and Angels Of The Choir. Possibly other entities.

One of the cards comes up with a liquid like surface on them. That I know, but I'm not ready to go back to where that door leads. But it's a persistent card as I shift and shuffle the magic.

I'm on a bus riding dow the Jersey coast towards Atlantic City, just staring out the window. I had to stop for a t-shirt using the last money from the wallet that Lucifer gave me. I ditched that as soon as I purchased the bus ticket, I spent some time waiting of the bus learning a new card trick.

The Devil's Deck can perform a kinds of illusions on the unsuspecting, and sometimes even the suspecting. Right now I was trying to convince it to provide an ID that would stand up to at least moderate examination. It wasn't until I reached the final stop that I had something useful. The deck liked messing with me as much as it did learning a new trick. I'd swear if it wasn't actually sentient it had an animal cunning to it.

'So, what now?' Ix asks from around my neck. The boys are the only thing on my that look expensive, otherwise I look a bit like someone thrown through a wind tunnel, and rolled around in some dirt for good measure.

"Hotel, shower, clean up. Mayhem." I say.

'Won't the mayhem part attract attention?' I can feel Nox and Serj perk up at Mayhem, even Ix sounds a little excited.

"I need some cash flow, you all need, well, to do what you do."

Serj growls.

"Yes I know what that means." I tell him, "Just, try and keep it... subtle." I'm asking a supernatural serial killer to keep things subtle. I might finally be cracking.

I walk up to the front desk of a respectable looking hotel, or at least one with a large enough gambling hall and a back entrance. "A room." I look at the concierge.

He looks at me, I just hand over my ID and a another card that might be a credit card. This I know the Devil's Deck can do because it involves money, and the Devil's Luck always favors that. A few minutes later and I have a keycard to a room. It occurs to me I could simply have taken a room with the Devil's Deck and possibly a small wish. But the wish would leave a hole, and the hole may attract attention.

Anna Merry has a cozy suite with a large bed, a large shower and a small hot tub, a tiny little kitchenette where I can just hide for a while, and some space to think. The boys hop off to explore, Serj is the one that closes all the curtains, even at noon. The room is dark, in shadows.

"Nox," The little red demon folds his arms across his chest and looks up at from me a glass coffee table in the front room of the suite. "Think you might want to head downstairs and, gamble then?" I offer. I do need some real cash.

He grins a mischievous grin, doesn't answer in words but is gone in a little puff of red smoke. The closer to their element the more power they get, and Nox is about to infect a whole gambling hall, and hopefully bring back some stolen loot.

I just drop onto a couch, "You two can do the same, I know there's places you can ply your craft." I look at Serj and Ix.

"I can stay with you." Ix says, but I can hear the pull in his voice, he can feel the kind of sexual tension that gambling and winning brings, not to mention the strip clubs I know have to be near. He is a lusty little Devil after all.

"Go," I practically demand, "I'm not leaving this room at least until night. Possibly not until tomorrow."

Serj doesn't argue, he just walks through the door, now all shadow, now all menace and murder. Ix frets for a second, looks at me, then gives me this twisted and weird smile, and is gone in a puff of blue smoke.

I'm alone with the Devil's Deck and a strong desire do nothing. I lie, I do leave the room once, to get some things from the over priced shop on the bottom floor. I want a bubble bath, I want stupidly to do something as simple as comb my hair. I just sit back in the hot tub and relax. All I'm hoping for is some reprieve, some break from it for a few hours. With three demons, fully sated from their respective spheres I think I can come up with a plan.

I may not like a fight, but I'm getting backed into a corner. Do I actually hate fighting? Is that it? Or have I just spent countless hundreds of years running and hiding and gathering information. Michael said I caused Pompeii with the Choir's song.

That seems excessive, there has to be a subtler way of killing him. Maybe I should kill Lucifer too. Maybe, I should just go all out and kill all the Angels. Let God start over. Michael said he has the Keys To The Kingdom, that means he knows where the Throne is, God's seat. I have some questions there.

"I could just disappear." I say to the air, now I'm talking just to hear my own voice. The boys have only been gone a few hours and already I miss their subtle hints they're there. Nox's cigar smoke, Ix's comments and even little lears, Serj's presence as unnerving as it is still comforts me. Weird, knowing you have a Devil bent on blood and death completely on your side.

"But then, I'm Devil now aren't I? A Devilish Wish here and there." I snicker, "That's probably His plan then, Devil's are ultimately beholden to The." I close my eyes, "No need to owe him anything specific. He could exert some power, some kind of pull. Just a puppet once again."

Like that I'm depressed all over. Still a puppet, still being pulled this way and that. Lucifer is going use me as a weapon, Michael just wants to kill me outright. They're still at it, their little war over whatever. I'm a little puppet stuck in the middle. One more Pawn.

Pawn. The weakest piece on the chess board. Able only to move forward one space at a time. It can only capture diagonally, I have to come at my enemies sideways. If the pawn reaches the last row it can be promoted. Well, analogy ends there. Still, me, the little pawn in the big game. Expendable, possibly even just a distraction.

I get out of the tub and let the water drain. Maybe I am just a distraction for now. Surely there are bigger, better, and more important, players in this game. Ones that let me be ignore for a while.

I take that into my heart and order up room service. Because I'm very hungry again. What the fuck is it with hunger lately. It's not just the normal kind of hunger I can ignore indefinitely. It's a real gnawing kind. I order like I'm eating for two.

The Devil's Deck cheats at solitaire. That should be noted. I have to scold the thing constantly. The bellhop was obviously looking for a cash tip, fuck. No cash yet. I'll have to repay that one later. Or just have Serj kill him out of spite.

"No," I sit back down on the couch food off to one side. The Devil's Deck has decided to be a tarot deck at the moment, I don't know if it grows and shrinks in number, but it certainly doesn't play by the laws of physics.

"I can't play solitaire with major arcana," I tell it.

Hours later it's getting towards sundown, I'm dozing on the couch. I have the Devil's Deck in one hand, idly shuffling it.

A strange sensation comes over me, I'm feeling... aroused. Not just aroused but suddenly very horny. I put the Devil's Deck down on the table and sit up, looking around. There's a shift in the air, and Ix is there.

Not quite the normal Ix, he's tall, still whip thin, still very devil. But now he's nearly six feet. He looks, aside from devilish, different. There's lust just coming off him in waves.

"I take it," I swallow, the hotel robe I had on fell open, I close it, but almost reluctantly, "Things, went..." I swallow, "Well?"

Ix nods, like he doesn't trust his voice, "Listen," He says, his voice isn't normal either, it's dripping with seduction, but I can tell he's reigning it in. "You're not just another person, another Devil." He steps closer. "What Serj said," He looks at me.

One of my boys really. I stand up and let the robe drop onto the couch, "Want to test the bed?" I put a hand on his chest, a rich shade of blue.

The sex isn't the soft kind lovers do, it's full of desire, lust, heat, passion. Ix, the normally sexless little six inch smartass is replace with a very real specimen of male sex. God I hadn't realized how good sex could feel, how much the body could want it. Or maybe that's Ix. I don't care, I let him take me, I take him. It's a blur of bodies pressed together, of kisses, soft and hard, of tongues, and Devil's do have forked tongues, of sex pressed against sex, fluids of sweat and cum.


Well after sundown I'm lying naked on the bed, very much satisfied, very worn out, very much in a wet spot. I make and effort to roll over to the other half the bed that's less wet and sigh deeply. Ix has gone back to his normal size and finally just curls up on my stomach, little tail dangling between my legs.

"No, too sensitive," I gasp, "I only have so much." I say.

Ix smiles, "Rest." He says to me and I feel his little feet walk up my chest, he plants a caring little kiss on my lips and is gone again.

I rest. The little bastard wore me right out, it's a deep sleep I fall into. The kind you can only get after having no energy left to even worry.

Midnight. A cold, dark, wicked something is in the room. I can feel it. Something from deep in the shadows. Something cold and from before time. Fear.

Total and absolute.

I sit up in bed, still naked from sex with Ix and I see someone in the dark. What I see is someone so black they're a hole in the dark. "Serj?" I ask getting slowly out of bed.

He turns his head towards me, eyes are pinpoints of starlight. "Yes." He says, softly, a whisper across the wind.

I walk over to him where he's staring out the window at the city. He looks like he's contemplating something. His next move. I stand next to him. "You know, before, when," I'm trying to ask the sum total of terror if he loves me.

We don't say anything for a few minutes.

"You said you loved me?" I ask finally.

He puts an arm around my naked shoulders, I'm ready the cold biting chill of a dead winter night. I get a strange warmth. He pulls me close into a hug. "I do not lie." He says, such a cold heartless voice. It doesn't match the actions of him holding me there.

My hand slides down his front, is he clothed? Naked? I can't even tell. He's just a piece of solid shadow, he doesn't even pretend to be a jacket filled with shadow. He's fully real again, fully free from whatever Lucifer made him into. I let him free. Did Lucifer cage him for a reason?

"There is nothing there for that." He says when my hand reaches his crotch, or where his crotch should be. Anatomically incorrect.

"Oh." I say, my hand snakes around his waist, I feel a little embarrassed now.

"Come," He takes my hand and leads me back to the bed, he pulls me down onto it with him. I kiss him, I don't know if he has a mouth, I don't care. His arms wrap around me as me lie down. And I fall back asleep with him holding me.

I wake up at dawn. Serj is back to being a coat that's warm, and comforting, and secure. Ix is curled up against my chest, small little blue Devil snoring slightly.

I sit up, trying not to wake him. He does anyway as I wipe the sleep from my eyes. Something in the other room is snoring softly. I get up, Ix makes a jump for my shoulder and sits there. "Morning babe." He grins at me. A shit eating grin of epic proportions.

It's Nox asleep on the couch. There's an empty bottle of champagne on the floor next to the couch, on the table is a bank bag, open with money in it, another stack of cash sits tipped over next to that. A small stack of gambling chips from the house off to one side, the Devil's Deck is there too.

"You're awesome in the sack." I say to Ix, giving him what he wants to hear. He knows this, he has to know this. My body hums at the thought of fucking him again. "How often can you do that?"

"Not often." He looks dejected, "Have to charge up, kind of. If you like orgies..." He trails off, stops talking when I give him a look.

I lean over the back of the couch and down at Nox, and poke him in the stomach. He snorts and opens his little eyes. "Wot?" He mutters.

"You look like you won a bit." I say, "How'd you get it up here?"

"Devil's magic." He mutters and sits up, belches and goes to find a potted plant to piss in.

"Naturally." I sigh and stretch. Ix has hopped down to count the cash.

"So, what's the game plan?" Serj asks, out loud to my surprise.

"You guys just want to hang out here for a few days?" I ask, "Because I need to think of one."

Nox gives a thumbs up as he lights a cigar and picks up a casino chip, without a thought he takes a bite out of it and chews thoughtfully. I raise an eyebrow, "Gambling, literally as food." He holds the chip up, "I get to taste every game this was in, every win, every loss, every chance taken." He takes another bite.

"How, er, what happens when you get really full?" I ask him.

He grins up at me, "I can start manipulating chance." He takes another bite from the plastic.

Ix just nods, "Oh, I think I could handle that, if you want, you know, a nightly show." He's got that stupid grin again.

I smile, "Maybe," Holy shit yes I do, but no need to let him know that.

Serj just smiles, a very evil kind of pure bone chilling smile. "My craft is not of wholesale slaughter. It will be weeks before they notice."

I do shiver at that, even if he does feel warm to the touch.

"I need a plan, because the only thing I can think of is to go at them. Lucifer and Michael are using me in some game. Only two ways out, die or kill." I sigh.

"You have wishes." Ix points out.

"I have to be careful, wishes are tricky." I say, "You can't just wish for anything, reality doesn't like them. Reality very much dislikes them."

"But, I thought puppets were the only things that really controlled a wishes direction?" Ix asks me.

"I can, and when I direct them at others I can shift the blame. Let the harm follow the wish. I start wishing." I wave a finger, "Shifting the blame is like putting up a big neon sign Puppet Here!" I mimic a giant sign above me head. "So unless you guys want to outrun an army of fucking Angels..."

Nox shakes his head and continues his diet of casino chips. "I don't suppose someone could order room service while I shower? I'm fucking starving." I say. And I am, even more so than normal.

This time I have some cash to tip the bellhop.


Three days, the only time I left the room was to get some new clothes, and get a feel for things. Food doesn't sate my hunger, so I haven't tried in a day or so. I'm lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, I need a next move.

It's only a matter of time before one of them finds me, I wager. I get dressed and pick up the devil's deck. I remember the mirror card, and flip over the top card. I need a door to the Grand Bazaar. I wonder if I can walk through any entrance and go where ever I want. Lucifer certainly implied it. Is escape that easy? Open a door and stop where ever. I wonder if the time stream is still open. Somehow I think that metaphysical aspect of my being was tied to the Choir and their schemes. Schemes I realize I barely understood. Why try and kill Michael in the past? An attempt to stop their own downfall in the future?

Serj is out making people afraid of the dark, so I don't have a jacket to wear. Jeans and a simple dress shirt. I leave a note for whichever the boys gets home first. It's midnight, Ix and I had fooled around much earlier in the evening. The boy is good at sex, horrible at the afterglow. I smile, I'm fucking pure lust and I want to cuddle? There's got to be irony in there.

I pocket the deck and pick up one of the neat little stacks of cash Nox keeps bringing back. He's got a stack of poker chips he munches down. They eat what they're related to.

"So, if I'm a Devil now, what the fuck am I Devil of?" I run my hand through my hair and sigh. Count out a few thousand dollars and slide it into the top of my boot. "God you'd think I'd be able to figure that out." I leave the room, sulking in the elevator down.

A few floors below a guy gets on, he's looking a bit stressed. He looks like he wants to dress nicely, but can't quite pull it off.

He looks at me and smiles, "Ever wish you could just catch a break?" He asks me.

I nod, and feel a weird little pull. Fuck I'm stupid sometimes, "Do you?" I look up at him, he's got a two day growth a beard, shirt is wrinkled like the only sleep he's gotten is a break from gambling for a few hours in his clothes.

"God yes." He sighs, "I really wish I could. I gotta.." He pauses and looks at me. I must be staring.

"Maybe tonight's your lucky night then." I give him my best smile, act friendly and it's pretty easy to get a human on your side. Especially a desperate one. I take a step closer.

"Oh yeah?" He's interested, but skeptical.

"You look like the kind of guy who's about to catch a big break." I say to him.

"Did Jimmy send you to keep tabs?" He says suddenly.

Did what? The momentary look of complete confusion must convince him his guess is wrong. Which it is. Jimmy, Atlantic City, I just picked the guy who probably owes money to the mob. Perfect.

"No, sorry. Just looking for something to do, and I'm tired of the losers," I play to his ego.

He offers his arm when the elevator opens. I take it. "So, you had a wish?" I ask him casually as he leads me out onto the floor.

"I wish I could catch a break, just need five grand before the game starts," He says.

"Game?" Now I'm intrigued. The Devil's Deck in my pocket ripples a little tingle up my leg. It's excited for something.

"Mmhmm," I say, "How much you got now?" I ask him as nonchalantly as possible.

He grunts, "Not enough honey." Then pats my hand, "But I can make it up real quickly. Especially if you're my new luck charm."

Oh you have no idea.

"Don't suppose you have a couple hundred I couple borrow?" He asks, "Just to add to my own," He's starting a con. But I've got the wish in my back pocket and can almost taste it. "The bigger I start the bigger I end," He gives me one of those smiles that could melt a girls heart.

The Devil you say.

"Sure honey," I give him a smile that says I'm all his. He's all mine. We stop for a moment and I slide a few hundred from my boot, not letting him see the full stack. "It's almost all I got, still need to eat." I say, a nice subtle way of saying I have more, and not still completely under his charm, he'll need to work for this one. A little bit at least.

He cashes that in for chips and leads me over to the roulette table. Seriously, no wonder the guy isn't doing well.

"So," I lean in very close, let him feel my body up against his, "What number would you wish for?"

"Oh," He puts half the stack on a number, "I'd wish for twelve." He smiles at me, he likes how close I'm pressed. He smells of desperation.

Just like that, I let the wish slip into the air, and watch the wheel. The moment I let it out I feel a little better, my stomach settles. I feel the vortex of a wish. It's not as bad as I thought, before wishes always left a little hole. This is more like an eddy. A ripple.

This is different. Maybe the wish was too small, no. Definitely not, altering probability like that is no small task. The number lands true. I smile appropriately.

"My luck is changing," He says.

"Mmhmm," I say absently, I'm watching the ripple, I'm feeling where it's going. I realize, the ripple tiny, it takes from the losses of those around it, nothing more. "You're next wish?" I ask him, an arm around his waist. "Make it big," I whisper into his ear as he leans over.

He puts his chips on a series of bets, "I wish to take this all the way to five grand," He says, playing along. He thinks he's got me.

A nice solid wish. One I can work with, I wink at him and let that one out into the world.

I look across the room at something that catches my eye. A black jack table across the way I see a translucent Nox hopping from one persons shoulder to another. A little Devil in the ear. He turns at one point and looks at me. Our eyes me, he's got a huge grin on his face, and salutes with his cigar.

I smile back at him, and wink, and return my attention to the current mark.

We're on a winning streak, I can feel the eddies and waves of the wish working. A subtle shift in the probability of the whole room. I have so much to work with. Nox, I can see him hopping around, he's become suddenly excited, I can tell by the way his tail twitches.

I grab the ebb and flow, wishes aren't the same as probability, you have to reign them in sometimes, let them not quite work. We lose a little, we gain a little more. It's a steady climb, but we only have ten minutes left and pretty boy here is feeling it. He's a gambler through and through. He sees he's winning and doesn't want to tip the house.

Nox is on my shoulder suddenly, I can feel his weight, but he's still not quite real. Just a whisper to the ear. 'You've excited the air,' He says, one hand touching the skin of my neck, contact to share thoughts.

'Wishes.' I think back, 'It's what I do.'

'Aha.' He grins.

'Do me a favor?' I give my own devlish smile, 'Pretty boy here has a big wish riding, won't let it take the plunge.' I motion to the toy.

Nox takes a puff of his cigar, kisses my cheek and he's on the man's shoulder. Whispering something, the payoff.

I let the wish go fully, I actually give it a push. It's so tangible in my hands. So real. So tasty. I lick my lips.

And the boy let's it all ride. I look at the clock, "Didn't you have something to do?" I ask him so casually.

Six thousand four hundred dollars. Four hundred of it mine. He slides two hundred dollar chips into my breast pocket, giving me a quick squeeze he must think is slick. I feel my nipple harden against the palm of his hand, what I feel is that wish filling my being. That's why I'm so hungry, I need to eat a wish or two. Or more.

"You're my good luck charm for sure." He says closely, "Come on."

I take the two chips out of my pocket as he leads me with his arm around my waist away from the table. I let them slide out of my hand to the floor where I see a following Nox pick them up, they disappear quickly to where ever he puts them and he's gone back into the din.

"I didn't catch your name." I say as we enter the elevator to go back up, I'd worry he's trying to get me back to his room, but I can feel the excitement of something completely different from sex on him. Whatever Nox said completely opened up his need to gamble, the last inhibition gone.

"Tommy," He smiles and squeezes my waist, he's excited about something.

"Sarah," I give him mine.

"Well, Sarah," He says, "The nights young," At one in the morning I could agree, "Feel like a little more fun?"

"Sure," I sound hesitant, like maybe I don't know what he has in mind. "What kind of fun?" I ask.

"I know of a private game," He says.

"Really?" I sound very interested, I wonder kind of wishes will be uttered there, "High class then?" I ask.

"Very."

I straighten his collar, "Well, you look a little rumpled for that." I say, time to put on a little charm, "You have something nice to change into."

He looks down at his jacket, I can feel the gambler's urgency in him, I wonder what Nox feels when he gets near someone like this. His desire is there, he wishes so hard for something. He wishes to be one of the big boys in his private little circle.

"Uh,"

"Got a spare jacket?" I ask, "You want to look your best if you're going to beat the best." I run a finger across his unshaven jawline. He's all mine. As long as I'm going to own someone for a night I want them to look nice. The thought seems a little petty, but then, I'm a Devil after all.

He hesitates, then hits another button on the elevator, and we duck out, he rushes us to his room. Once there he quickly takes off his jacket and goes to find another.

"Shower honey," I say, "Shave, the more professional, the better you'll be." He's like butter in my hands, I can feel some energy in me, a little taste of the wishes from downstairs. I just have to push a little bit.

While he's in the shower I unbutton my blouse about halfway down, nothing like a little lust to spur on the desire. That's when Ix appears, a puff of blue smoke.

"Ix," I look startled, he looks both confused and concerned.

"What's going on?" He's his taller self, I can feel raw need on him.

"I'm trying to," I search for the words, "Feed, I guess is what it is."

Ix knits an eyebrow and then smiles, "And what kind of Devil do we have here?" He's behind me, I can feel his body press against mine, he slides one devilish hand inside my blouse and cups a breast.

"Wishes," I lean back into him, "Care to help me out for the night, my mark will be out in a moment."

"Oh, a little rumble beforehand?"

"No," I sigh as he adds pressure, "Ass, he won't be interested in sex until well after the gambler's high is gone. I need a touch of class." I coo, "And a little backup just in case." I say.

"I can do that." He says.

"How'd you find me?" I ask as Ix continues to feel me up with one hand, holding me at the waist with the other, his lips at my neck.

"I'm still inside you."

"What?"

"I do ejaculate." He says, his tongue slides along the edge of my ear.

"How, endearing, and surprisingly unsettling." I say. That took the wind out of my sails a little. He shrugs. "Here he comes." I stand up straight, wouldn't do to have Tommy find me fucking a six foot blue Devil on his bed. Ix is instantly a necklace, several fine silver chain loops, the little blue gem is now many sparkling blue gems with one like an eye resting low, just below my collar bone.

"Where'd that come from?" Tommy asks as he puts on a fresh shirt.

"I keep it just in case I find someone with real class." I let him now, he's admiring the skin I've let out now. "Because class should be next to something with beauty," I sidle up to him and tie a tie for him. He's all mine, and I'm all worked up from Ix. 'Little bastard.' I think playfully. Tommy hasn't shaved, just run one of those trimmers over his face that makes it look like he perpetually has one day of growth. He looks like he's trying too hard.


Back in the elevator Tommy gets nervous as we go up again, not quite the penthouse suite. We stop two floors below and Tommy steps out, starts pacing.

"What's up?" I ask him, he's suddenly nervous, he's pulled a chip out that he didn't cash on the floor.

"Just gotta work myself into the right mind." He smiles, trying to keep in control.

"Where's this game?" I ask, it's obvious now we're going to a back room poker game. What else would we be doing.

"Uh," He pulls a keycard out of his back pocket, "Penthouse." He says.

I take the card, "Let's go honey, you're ready to knock 'em dead." I step back into the elevator, pulling him with me. The Devil's Deck wakes up as we go up, it wants in. Now, how do I slide him into the game, a little distraction? Maybe just a little bit of exertion, I can feel a kind of weird energy in my bones.

'Is this what it feels like to feed off your Devil's Vice?' I ask Ix.

'The more you give, the more you get.' He says. How very altruistic for a Devil. 'It's all very self serving.' He adds, 'Most targets eventually, don't benefit from our actions.'

I smile, Tommy may be a nice guy, but he's falling in with some not so nice people, and I'm sure his little addiction that Nox let loose is more destructive than productive. I never claimed to be one of the good guys.

I whisper into his ear as we go the last two floors, "Just make a wish and all your dreams come true." I say softly, planting the seed.

There's a pair of very large men waiting at the entrance where the elevator let's us off.

"Tommy and guest." Tommy says handing over the keycard to one of them,

One of the body guards grunts while the other examines me, he gives me a pat down, a little too thorough. The wish isn't quite vocal, it's just right there at the top of his thoughts. I realize I can feel a wish now, doesn't need to be vocal.

He wishes he could get a girl like me to fuck a guy like him. Like me? Well, easy enough. It's a very formless wish, since he didn't say it, just thought it, but thought it very strongly. I can twist that a hundred different ways, but it takes a little extra push to make that one true.

Next time he goes down to the bar he'll hook up with a girl. And that twist comes almost without effort, like the wish itself made it. Too bad that girl will be married to a jealous man.

I let that linger, the return is a long time coming.

I'm hungry, very hungry, as Tommy leads me into a room where there's a bar, complete with cocktail waitress in a barely there evening gown. The front goes down almost as far as the back, which doesn't even exist on that dress, does. The rest goes just above the knees, surprisingly conservative for a dress that nearly let's you see her crotch. I must look very underdressed in tight jeans and a white blouse. I'm the mystery here.

"Didn't think you were going to make it Tommy," A large man with a fat cigar and a bald head says. Gives off a get on with it vibe, he's here to play, win or lose he likes the chase.

"Sorry, just had to stop and get a little extra," He smiles as he takes a place at the table.

"Who's your friend?" A thin man, old, smells of overconfidence, he only wants to win. "You a cop?" He points a cigarette at me. The ceiling has a nice little cloud of smoke.

"No." I take look a Tommy, he needs a drink, I can feel it. Your wish is my command. I pout a highball of gin and tonic on the rocks. It doesn't take a lot to figure out what he wants with everything all at the surface. I put the drink down in front of Tommy and sit down on a barstool, leaning back.

Ix twitches, I know he's watching through that eye of his, only thing in this room that feels like sex is the girl in the dress. The rest of the room is bodyguards and gamblers. Two more men, very bored men, are in the other room watching television. You can't quite hear it from in here.

A fourth man with a deck of cards clears his throat, "We've got four." I notice there's room on the table for two more, "They others can buy in later." He says. He's maybe in his forties. Confident, this is his room, that's his girl in the dress that covers almost nothing. The only way it stays up is not having enough clothe to slack from the tie around the back of her neck. I glance over, she's staring a little too intently into Ix's eye. I smile and let it go, the boy wants to have some fun.

The Devil's Deck hums in my pocket. I absently pull it out, and let it hang in my hand, doing a one handed shuffle like this was a nervous tick. Tommy buys in.

"I hope this goes well." He says with a smile.

"Hope?" The bald man says, "If you ain't got enough skill..." They don't like each other.

Make a wish Tommy, just like downstairs. He glances over at me, I wink and smile.

"I wish for nothing less than to take all your money Antonio." He says.

I lick my lips and shuffle. What they don't see, what they don't know, the Devil's Deck, has a mind of its own. Has a magic of it's own. Every shuffle I make puts a little more of it on the table and a little more of the plain deck in my hand. By the time the first hand is done and dealt I have a complete deck of dead plastic and their playing with a Devil's Deck. Another hand and I can feel their wishes in their hearts. Ah, the Devil always wins.

It's on the third hand a fifth man walks in. I have to blink, but I really can't believe it. Nox is sitting on his shoulder, smug and smoking. His ghostly little form looks at the table and he takes a deep breath in, and poof. He's on the bar next to me, next to my outstretched hand that's still absently shuffling the dead deck.

He slides up my wrist under the blouse cuff and wraps himself around my wrist. I can feel him actually fall asleep on my arm. Like he just ate a huge meal and is now sleeping it off.

Another two hands, Tommy is holding his own. Truth is, he's a horrible poker player. These guys are way above his league. I'd have to drag that wish through one hand of cards at a time to get him what he wants. I fix myself a drink, Tommy isn't really touching his, and he's far to nervous. That's when the last gambler walks in, a guy maybe a decade older than Tommy, who Tommy could be.

"Tommy, you made it." He smiles, he's wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, and a white suit jacket that, well no shit, Serj is sitting comfortably on the man's shoulders. It's a horrible look for him. Luckily the first thing he does is take Serj off and put him across the back of the chair.

"Jack," Tommy smiles and they greet each other with a familiar handshake, that's how Tommy got into this place.

They sit down to another hand. The Devil's Deck has a line on the bald man, Antonio. The old man Vernon, and the owner, everyone only calls him Mr. Greene. Tommy I know, Jack and Harold are the new players. The deck works its magic, not doing anything, just whispering into my ear their wants and desires.

The cocktail waitress, nameless, serves drinks while I watch. Tommy is starting to slide down. He's getting reckless, ambitious. I refill his drink between deals. "Relax," I whisper, "We have all night." It's two in the morning.

I return to my seat and to shuffling the deck. The woman is trying to keep her eye on me and on the game. As far as I can tell I'm the only company in here she has, I briefly wonder how she got into Mr. Greene's employ. It briefly crosses my mind she just may be a high price escort. But something tells me otherwise. She is pushing all the right buttons, but she's not angling for a tip, or much else. She looks bored behind the bar when drinks are full.

I glance back briefly, Tommy is up I can let him slide without much concentration. "Fun night." I smile.

She rolls her eyes, "I could be making money." She says very quietly. We're a good ten feet away and they're all talking to each other a little loudly. The television from the other room filters in some late night monster movie. There's enough ambient noise to cover a quiet conversation.

"Oh?" I raise an eyebrow.

She doesn't say anything for a moment, "You're not an escort." She says.

"Did the jeans give it away?" I ask casually, with a smile.

"I don't get paid to wait tables for the boss. He'll make my percentage off the game, but I'll make nothing." She sighs.

I can kind of sympathize with that. Seems Mr. Greene runs the escort service and brought one of his girls up to wait on the game.

"So," She's looking me in the eye and Ix in the eye alternately, "How'd you hook up with a two time loser like Tommy?" She's forward, apparently not taking me for trash hanging on to him. Or she's goading me for information.

"He looked like he might find me a good time." I say, "Too bad it's a boys club." I shrug.

"So why stay?" She asks, obviously the question of someone who wants to be somewhere else. I finally see it, that little touch of lust behind her eyes.

Ix, you little ass.

I look at the game, "I like watching the boys fight over money." Tommy won another hand.

And finally, I hear it, that unspoken little desire. The Devil's Deck is letting me hear their wishes. I wish that fat bastard would put his money where his mouth is. Granted. I take a sip of my drink as I feel the magic take hold. Antonio bets a little heavily, he looks just a bit uncomfortable doing it, but he does it.

I feel another wish, and another. That's when I listen carefully. The Devil's Deck is nudging them, pushing just a little. What would normally be a stray thought becomes a full wish. Do any of them feel it? Oh you clever little deck of cards. Is the Devil's Deck another Devil itself?

No, I would have felt it before, I would have known. It's just a very clever animal, an extension of my own needs. It knows what I want, it provides. The Devil's Deck is closer to a very eager dog than anything else. I find myself liking this kind of animal.

I Can feel the energy in the room now. The more wishes I put in one place the more they interact, the more things get a little weird. But it's all feeling pretty good. I'm getting less bored, more interested in things going on. Less detached, more involved. I make a game of balancing the various wishes that aren't just immediate, like wishing miss waitress would bend over just a little more. We have an ass man. One idle wish wants a peek down her skirt, get a little tit with his drink.

She, on the other hand, is showing more interest in me. She's sharing little bits of information on each man at the table, trying to make small talk, trying to engage me. Finally a little after three I notice it. She refills everyone's drink, even Tommy's, and gives me a very meaningful look, then disappears to the bathroom.

I'm almost too busy with my game to notice. It's Ix that pushes me. 'Go get her.' He whispers.

'Why?' I'm agitated, I was enjoying my game, but Ix has something in mind. I start to line up the little bits of magic floating in the room so I can step away.

'Because, I like her.'

'You mean you want to fuck her.'

'That too' Ix says. That got my attention.

'Best explain,' I put another piece in line, it'll take another second.

'She's scared, you can't feel that?'

'I wasn't paying attention.' I say.

'All this time near Serj and you can't feel the fear in the air?'

Honestly, Serj frightens me a little. I trust him, and I feel comfort with him, but, Fear. That kind of raw Terror is not something you get fully comfortable with, even if he is the one holding me close at night. I think back. She is. 'Of what?' I stand up and quietly shuffle off to the bathroom.

'Mr. Greene, he's not right. He's Serj's kind of monster.' Ix says.

'What did you do to her?' I ask as I pause at the bathroom door.

'What I do, I planted a seed of desire for you.' Ix snickers.

I open the door and the woman is there, looking in the mirror, a bit nervous. "You came." She says, a little huskily.

"You want to go home with someone else tonight maybe?" I ask. How else am I going to get her out of here.

She steps close. Bold girl. She kisses me. What the hell, I kiss back. Ix is practically vibrating he's so excited right now. Could be I just fell into a plot of his to watch two girls kiss.

He hand slides inside my shirt, mine slides inside her dress. It's only a minute or two we make out. Mouths hot with desire. I step back and put my shirt back in place. She adjusts her dress.

"I didn't mean to be so forward." She says apologetically.

"I didn't refuse." I said and smile, "Mr. Greene usually take his girls home after a game." I ask running the water.

"Always." She hesitates, "I just hope he doesn't lose." She stops her shaking, and straightens up.

That's the trick then isn't it. "If he does?" I ask, "Don't tell me he does something particularly stupid."

She just opens the door and quickly leaves, looking back at me.

"I'll make sure he makes his money." I say to her, she walks away. Yeah, nothing nice is going to happen to her when I'm done making Tommy the winner.

I walk back into the room a minute after her, glancing in at the bodyguards in the other room. Something looks weird.

I glance over at the poker table. Between the Devil's Deck and wishes I've weaved into the game the men haven't noticed anything. They haven't even noticed that Serj had slid off the back of Jack's chair and is gone.

Not gone, I look more carefully in the other room. He's a shadow on the wall. I take advantage of the moment and examine the two guards. Throats slit, blood covered the front of their shirts, but otherwise they look undisturbed. I turn off a few lamps, leaving the main overhead light on. More shadow, Serj leans forward from one of the shadows, eyes two twinkling lights, I feel him smile that wicked smile more than anything else.

This place here, this is a strange little killing ground. Something is, off. I roll up the cuffs on my blouse and wake Nox up with a rub on the red gem off the bracelet.

'Mrf?' He makes a noise and yawns in my head, but he's awake now.

'Look sharp, I haven't been looking at this right.' I say.

I return to the bar, the men preoccupied in their game.

"Have you ever wished for anything?" I ask the girl. I don't even know her name.

"Of course." She says, acting like the scene in the bathroom never happened.

"If you could make one wish, right now," I look her in the eye, "What would it be?"

She bites her lip, and looks at me, she still has that lust, but she also has that fear, and now I know Serj is playing that up. She's stuck.

"I wish I could be anywhere but here tonight." She says finally. Granted.

I put my hotel room key on the bar, "Suite ten-fifteen." I say tell her.

She looks at the game, and at the hallway where two more men stand, and at the room with the two dead guards posed like they've been sitting all night.

"Just pick it up, walk to the elevator. And wait for me." I say.

She hesitates, "I can't..."

I give her a very hard stare, "Go," I practically command. Some humans are very easy to push. She picks up the card, she takes a tiny little purse that can't hold more than lipstick and an ID and walks out, almost in a daze. The two guards in the hallway watch her, but say nothing. That's a wish working.

I feel the ripple of that wish, because I'm making it work without explanation, it's going to backlash a little. She gets in the elevator and turns around. For a brief moment we can make eye contact, she looks relieved. I smile, the doors close.

And I watch that backlash go the only place it logically can, it interrupts all my other wishes. Like a stone dropped in a tranquil pond.

Somehow the chaos invigorates me a little bit. I spend almost half an hour sorting it all out, like threads connecting each man. By the end tensions are very high. The room is suddenly feeling dangerous. I look out of the corner of my eye, Serj is slinking in the shadows, blackness with two pinpoints of light, and if I'm not mistaken a glint of steel. I smile. For some reason this whole situation is making me giddy. Like there's a payoff right around the corner.

I haven't been paying attention to anything the five men are saying, just sliding off their emotions and unspoken wishes that the Devil's Deck has given me. Time to close the night down. I start to shuffle the deck in my hand, they haven't noticed their drinks are empty now. I took the place of the girl, I should have gotten her name.

I realize what I've been missing all night long. Mr. Greene is hiding his nature. Well, well. And Angel of Light, secure in his position. He hasn't been paying any attention either. Let's hope I noticed first. I shuffle and a little bit of the Devil's Deck returns. I shuffle, and he deals another hand. I shuffle, the first bet is in. Antonio is betting higher than normal, Jack is losing over all, only winning hands against Mr. Greene, the man he hates the most at the table. Tommy is up, a lot. Harold and Vernnon have their own little power play going on as well. It's a vicious circle of hatred their breeding amongst themselves, a competition going on for years. One I realize had been friendly at first, making rivals next. Tommy is new to the group, he isn't invested like they are. He just wants to prove to Mr. Greene he's got what it takes. To be the big man.

He hasn't got it. The second I take my touch away he's going to lose it all. I don't have the tools to kill an angel. I know how to play this. I'm sorry Tommy. Well, I'm not.

All this in here, and I got one little waitress out of the hands of a Bastard. I smile, for me, that's enough. That's the win. I fold up my wishes, and deal them back out at random. Antonio goes back to his normal betting style, and feels relaxed, Tommy starts to lose as he focuses on Harold. Vernon and Jack pick up a not so friendly kind of rivalry. This feels good, this feels better. Twisting the wish tastes so much more rewarding.

I realize I feel the temptation to twist them more. I resist. I'm not greedy. I'm patient, I can wait, I like to lay low. Just out of sight.

Finally it's coming up on five in the morning.

I pocket the Devil's Deck and go to leave. They almost don't notice me until I've pressed the button to the elevator.

"Hey!" Tommy calls, he looks nervous, annoyed, anxious, "Where're you going?"

"I remembered a date." I call down the short hallway, the two guards look nervous for a moment.

"I thought, But," He looks so confused now. Mr. Greene nods, because he's not winning nearly as much as he should. That's all my fault I suspect. One of his body guards steps forward. I just reach up and let Nox's tail flash, a stab, the man grabs his throat. The other guard just sits down where he was, in a chair next to a shadow. There's a very nice suit jacket sitting on the chair next to me. I pick up Serj and put him on. The whole exchange takes maybe twenty seconds. My reaching out, the guard stepping back, me putting on a coat.

The elevator door opens. I step in, and suddenly, there's noise. The elevator door closes. I just hit the floor below me, because all I need is a doorway.

By the time the elevator is searched I'm walking down my hallway, navigating from one floor on a hotel to another turns out to be an extremely easy task. I pull a card from the Devil's Deck and open the door to my own suite, handy trick like that. Very convenient of modern hotels to use keycards.

I find the escort sitting nervously in a chair in front of the table full of cash. I close the door behind me and walk over to her. I casually, and carefully, place Serj over the back of a chair sitting at the bar near my little kitchenette. He settles in. I place the Devil's Deck on the glass table with the cash and casino chips.

"You didn't tell me your name." I say casually and sit down on the couch.

She's nervous, "I didn't touch any of the money." She's defensive. I can see the scene as it played out. She's had an hour and a half waiting alone in here. With stacks of money. Her first thought was to run, take some money and run. But she didn't give into that temptation.

She doesn't even know where she would run to. "Christine." She says finally, still nervously sitting on the edge of the chair. Though now that I'm actually in the room I can feel some of the fear lose ground to the lust. Serj seems to suck the tension out of the room, like he's gone to sleep. Nox let's her subconscious know its good to take a chance, a gamble. Ix does what he does, the seed of desire and lust.

She smiles at me. I pull off my boots and sit back on the couch, she stands up and comes over to me, she kneels on the couch legs to either side of me, her exposed stomach at eye level. She leans down and we kiss.

Sex with Christine is very unlike sex with Ix, who is still around my neck, feeding off her sudden surge in lust. Ix knows exactly how to fuck, but that's what he is. Christine is softer, there's less emotion with her, but it's more tender. Less hurried. She's softer.


We're lying naked on the bed, I had silently let Nox slide off my wrist at some point, he was over on the glass table, I could feel him, the couch obscured our view of it. I rolled onto my side, propping myself up on one elbow I looked at Christine's long thin body. "So, what is it you really want from things?" I ask her.

She lies there half asleep, very sated. The sex has relaxed her completely at this point, all fear and hesitation gone.

"Things?" She says softly, "I don't know." She whispers.

I reach down and pull the covers up over us, "Think about it." I say and settle us both under the blankets to sleep.

I wake up later with Christine lying against me, her head on my shoulder, body curled up with one leg across mine. Ix is asleep off to one side of me, curled up on the pillow next to my head. I nudge him, and sleepily opens one eye.

'You make her want me?' I ask him.

Ix yawns, 'I just pushed her in a direction she already wanted to go.' He says, 'She's waking,' He gets up and in a puff of blue smoke is gone. Well, across the room. On the couch with Nox.

"Sleep well?" I ask as Christine full wakes up, she just pulls her body closer to mine and nods.

"That question you asked last night? This morning." She corrects herself. I look at the clock on the bedside table. It's after noon. "I don't know where I want to be. I just wish it were anywhere but here."

A wish and I didn't even have to push her. But it's not a very good wish. It's too open. I run fingers through her hair, and then down the side of her body. "Well, what did you want to be?"

"Growing up," She sighed, "I just wanted to be away. My parents," She shudders at the memory.

She's just an aimless soul, nothing and no one ever gave her much direction. I can feel that. She learned quickly to find the bigger fish and follow it. That she made it past street whore to high class hooker is possibly a miracle. Possibly the timely intervention of one Bastard who liked the way she looked.

"I see." I speak to let her know she doesn't have to, "If I could get you from here to somewhere else, what would you do?"

"I'm not good at anything." She says. I sense she's open, vulnerable, to me. Anyone else would get her facade.

"I'm going to give you a chance," I say, "If you walk away from here and start new somewhere far from here, good things will come to you."

She sits up and looks down at me, then turns and looks out at the room with the stacks of cash on the table.

"If you fall back, fall into the temptation of the easy life under someone one else..." I let it linger in the air, then I pull her down to me.

I don't know if what we do is make love, but it's very slow, there's a lot of passion, what I do is weave a wish into her, deep into the soul I feel inside her. I take her words and I twist them, but not in a malicious way. I twist them into a better ending.

As she's getting dressed it's after one in the afternoon. I pick up a stack of cash and slide it into her tiny little purse, taking out the lipstick and the one condom she had in there, leaving her ID.

I press a casino chip into her hand, I've weaved a little wish into that too. "Keep this chip, it's your good luck charm away from here." I tell her. As long as she has it on her the Angel won't see her, will let her walk away.

"Why..." She takes her now much heavier little clutch.

"Because sometimes, a good deed pays back." I tell her, "But you have to leave now. There is no stopping to pick something up. No going home. No goodbye."

"I can't travel dressed like this..." She motions the very revealing cocktail dress.

"Go shopping," I say, "And leave."

She goes to leave, feeling uncertain. She turns back and gives me one last lingering kiss. "Who are you?" She asks, almost whispers.

"I'm The Devil." I say, I don't know why I say that, I don't know what compelled me to call myself by that name, not a title, a name. Like I was the old man who gave me all the chances I have now.

She steps away from me, she looks at the casino chip in her hand, and she walks out on shaky legs. Her fate is in her hands, as long as she does what I told her she'll make it very far away indeed. If she gives into some temptation to not leave immediately, with allowances to buy something other than a dress designed to get laid in, she will simply end up in the clutches of a possibly very angry Angel.

Speaking of very angry Angels, one should be looking for me right about now. I gave Christine about half my money I think, as much would fit, several thousand dollars at least, in that clutch.

I dress quickly, "Boys, wake up." I tell the room as I pull a shirt on and button it up. All three are instantly awake and alert.

"What?" Ix says, Nox looks ready for a fight, Serj looks dangerously ready.

"We're going." I say and pocket the Devil's Deck. Nox grabs a casino chip for the road, I pocket it for him as he jumps onto my wrist, Ix slides in place on my neck settling comfortably against my skin. Serj slides over my shoulders, he's a leather jacket.

"Thought you hated this look."

'I do, but it looks good on you.' He says in the factual way of stating things only he has.

'Where we going?' Nox asks as I pick up a few grand, fold it and stick it in my boot.

"Gotta find someone." I say and open the door. Coming down the hallway is the Angel. He looks angry, he looks like he just found me too. He's maybe ten feet away.

"Where is she? Where's my girl?" He demands as he walks towards me, "You got a lot of explaining to do Puppet." He growls. Good, the little wish worked, putting the consequence on it prevented the normal eddy I feel from them. Maybe that's the real trick to a good wish, conditions of success.

I just step forward through the door and shift through space into the Grand Bazaar. I'm sure he watched me step into thin air. I'm sure he's really fucking pissed off now. Goody, I'll add him to the list.

//A Devil's Deal//

I step into the clutter of Brachus' shop. He has a mirror I need to use. The door chimes like I just stepped through it. I check behind me just in case, but I'm pretty sure that Angel can't follow me.

Brachus looks up, he's older still, his hair grown long to cover up that missing ear.

"Call the Demons and I'll kill you." I say to him as I brush past him. He just watches me go.

I weave my way towards the back, I can feel that mirror, this place has grown into a bigger maze than before. All those little lost bits from all over time and place.

It catches my eye, I'm almost not sure I saw it. I deliberately turn and walk towards it by trying to look like I'm not walking towards it. A small box made of ash wood. It's a little duller than before, but it seems to call to me.

I'm standing in front of it, it's plain, nothing about it says anything in particular. I reach out to pick it up and it fades away. Tease.

I sigh, my shoulders drop. I almost found out what the fuck that thing is. Because I keep seeing it everywhere. Moving on then.

The mirror is stuffed into a corner, behind a few other things. I move a trunk out of the way, I position the mirror so I can get into and out of it, without having to remove the padded cover. Who knows what can happen if it gets broken, I briefly wonder if something can break, and remember that dagger from the Silver City. Yeah, there's always something, I rub the little tiny scar on my skin. Drops, crushing, explosions, bullets, knives, fists, and vehicles, trampled, stomped, thrown, and set on fire. Everything that can be done probably has been done to my poor little body. And one little nick and I find what doesn't just hurt, but injures. Always good to know one's weakness.

I duck behind the padded blanket on the mirror and step through it.


It takes a second to orient myself, but I'm not lying on the ground this time at least. Stepping versus flying. This feels very oddly like home, and very oddly like no one has been here since I last left. But who knows how time works here. Last time I was here almost a decade passed.

Serj just slides off my back and becomes tall, dark, and deadly. His face is still cruelty, but it's not directed. He's just that kind of evil. Ix hops off and to my slight surprise he's the lanky six foot version of himself. Nox doesn't move for now, the rooms crowded enough, it's not very large anyway. The three of us go out to the front room.

"So," Ix starts, that's when Nox hops off my wrist and becomes his normal self. Then she shakes and grows, when he's done he's a nice six and a half feet or brawny red Devil, smoking a cigar.

"That feels better." The rolls his shoulders, "Lucifer can go piss," He mutters, and sits down on the couch, kicking his little hoofed feet up on the old rickety coffee table.

"Holy shit." Is all I think to say, "Did Lucifer trap all of you in broken forms?" I ask.

"Sort of." Serj offers, "Devil's are Angels of Light that were kicked out with Lucifer." He sits comfortably in a chair by the kitchen, there's a knife in his hand, and oddly a piece of wood he starts to whittle.

"After that disaster," Ix offers to finish the story, "Most of us were ready to split. Fuck it, kicked out of the Kingdom, why follow the same guy. That got 'ole Scratch really pissed off. Trapped most of us in some way or another, bargained with others in deals gone bad." He shrugs and takes a seat on the couch opposite Nox.

"Well," I sigh and put my hands in my pocket, the Devil's Deck is there, feeling all cozy.

"What're we doing here?" Ix asks me, always the talkative one him.

"Hiding for a moment, I gotta think." I say. "I know Lucifer helped me out only to try and get something out of me later. Probably some kind of wish I won't want to grant. Michael, and a whole host of Angels Of Light want me dead. Demons want me dead." I run my hands through my hair, I didn't have time to shower this morning. I probably still smell a little like sex, I'm sure Ix is happy with that.

"Why'd you help the girl?" Serj asks from behind me.

I drop my hands, "I dunno, because someone should get a happy ending. And she wasn't actively being an asshole last night." I shrug, "She had a genuine wish too, not something so base and petty."

"Those are the kind Lucifer loved to twist." Nox said.

"Yeah, I know the stories, twisting the innocent." I shake my head, "Kind of a lame hobby if you ask me. There's enough evil around to play with without having to make more." I smirk, "Guess that's his gig."

Nox puffs his cigar, "I think that's just him being angry at God."

"Is there a God?" I ask, I know there are Angels. But God? Never met him, never heard him do anything, never even really heard the Angels talk about him. I got the distinct impression they took orders from no one.

"Supposed to be." Serj says, "On The Throne in the Kingdom. But the Angels Of The Kingdom don't let anyone in. Not even the Lights."

"Didn't Michael say he sat on the Throne?" I ask.

"He's as much a liar as Lucifer." Nox answers, disgust in his voice.

"Right." I pace for a moment, "Three days of rest really hasn't given me a better idea of what to do." I frown, "Fuck. Seriously, what the hell am I supposed to do."

On a whim I stomp into the entry room, or storage room, or whatever. I pull out the Devil's Deck, it seems to whimper a little when I approach the shelf it was sitting on. I absently rub one side with my thumb, then a one handed shuffle. It seems to quiet. It is like an animal, the more I use it the more it opens up to me.

I look around the room. How much of the items in here are like the Deck? I pick up a skull, there's something inside it, someone's soul I think. It acts afraid.

"Is everything alright?" Serj asks from the doorway.

"No," I respond, "Not at all." I walk over to him and put my head against his chest, "Seriously, what the hell am I supposed to do?" I look up into those pin points of light, empty eyes. This is not a being of sympathy, or much beyond terror and murder. "You don't know either." I shrug.

Serj puts an arm around my shoulder, feels like he knows this is what some people do, but isn't sure why. I step back and pat his heart, "I'll be fine. I just have to actually come up with a plan. You know?"

He knows.

"It'll involve murder I'm pretty sure." I think he smiled, "Unless your knife murders Angels."

Serj seems to think, "Michael's knife would."

There's an idea, "Yeah, I just need another blade made from the tower of the Silver City." That sound so easy.

On a whim I grab the skull from the shelf, the Devil's Deck in the other hand and I go out onto the porch. Stomp really. Ix and Nox are being lazy on the couch, not like there's anything for them to do out here. Or Serj either.

"You, in the skull," I look into the things dead bone eyes, "Who or what the fuck are you?"

The skull seems to take a moment to decide to answer. It glows a little, a pale blue light. I let go as it tries to float out of my hand, like I care where it goes. "I am the wizard Merlin."

"The fucking hell." I mutter.

"I was trapped in this matrix by the Devil himself." The voice intones.

Be untrapped I think, grabbing the skull I throw it sidearm out into the desert. It sails outwards, a lot further than I really think it should. Maybe it's decided to fly away. Then the arc ends and it falls. A little puff of dust, I squint, yep shattered.

"Fuck you." I mutter. I'm about to turn around and go back inside and grab another object when something happens.

A halo of fire rises, then it's simply a pillar of light now, some three hundred feet, give or take, high. I'm not really in the presence of mine to get a tape measure.

The voice that issues forth, it's not merely noise.

"I Am Metatron. We Are Legion."

It overcomes me, it goes through and into me. I fall to my knees out of sheer awe of the thing. A pillar of pure white light, wings of fire emanate outwards, the eyes or silver reflections in the light.

This is an Angel Of The Kingdom. I know that the same way I know what air is. I try to open my mouth, issue some kind of noise, some kind of anything. I realize I'm in the middle of the desert, the porch of the house I was just standing on is gone. I squeak in terror.

"You Are The Chosen Hand." The voice continues, I hope it gets to the details soon, my ears might be bleeding.

"Kill Samael, Become The Devil, Find Michael, Take The Key, Unlock Heaven. We Will Guide."

I nod, I might be drooling. My eyes feel like their burning just looking at this thing. This is a fucking Angel? God, how did Michael ever lock them in Heaven?

"How..." I try and form the word, it takes time.

"Take The Black Blade From The Room." It intones. And then gone.

The wood of the porch slams into my head with blinding pain as I fall over. Am I crying? Are those tears on my face or did my eyes start to bleed?

Someone picks me up, the air feels funny. I can see it. I can see fucking everything. I blink, I think I blink. The air is fuzzy again, normal maybe.

I'm put down on something soft. I grab the hand that it retreating, blue, means Ix. Color coded for my incoherence.

"Black Blade," I mutter through a parched throat.

"What?" Ix kneels down, then he's six inches tall in front of my face, he looks so concerned. I want to reach out and touch him, my body doesn't respond.

"Black..." And then it is.


I wake up in bed, Ix is curled up next to me, I can feel his little body against my chest. I roll onto my back and cough. Instantly he's up, standing on me looking down into my face.

"You alright?" He asks me.

"Maybe." I mutter.

"What the fuck happened? One second you're out on the porch talking to a glowing skull, the second gone, then, back, and smoking."

"Smoking?" I ask.

"Or steam, something coming off you. It was... scary."

"Is that concern?" I ask him, because it is.

"Yes." He folds his tiny arms, "Don't act so surprised."

"Sorry," I cover my eyes, they still hurt a little. "I don't suppose anyone has a pair of sunglasses?" I ask.

"We left Atlantic City." He says and goes to get off me.

"Ix?" I stop him, "Hey, thanks. It's weird, having people concerned." I say. It is, it's very weird. And Devil's no less.

"Lucifer was a son of a bitch asshole." He spits the word Lucifer out like it's bad food. "You said you were The Devil," He pokes me in the middle of the chest, "Well I'm taking you for your word."

"Alright." I say, Ix hops off me and off the bed, and he's his taller self again. I turn my head to watch him go, one wonderfully perfect blue ass recedes into the middle room. I roll out of bed, I'm naked. One of them folded my clothes and put them away in the closet and dresser. Everything kind of hurts as I stand up. I grab a shirt out of the closet and pull it on, slowly. Damn my bones ache. I fucking hope every encounter with Legion isn't so painful.

Those monsters make the Choir look like cockroaches.

I try and button the shirt, I only get three buttons on the bottom done before my hands are shaking too much to get that much detail. I stagger out to the doorway and lean against its frame. "Fuck, someone put some shades up, something." I cover my eyes. Fuck it, I wish heavy black curtains onto the windows. Damn the consequences. The room is bathed in deep shadow as the only light comes from the open door. I can live with that.

"Much better." That was Serj from his position between the kitchen and the middle room. "What happened."

"Ever heard of some giant monster called Metatron?" I ask, I have, I know the name, it's hiding in the back of my mind. I just can't focus enough. The only thing I have running trough my mind is the need to get the Black Blade. Life of a Puppet.

"You met Metatron?" Nox sits up, he's playing solitaire with the Devil's Deck. Good, I'd miss that little thing if it were gone.

"I met a very tall, extremely loud, pillar of light with wings of fire." I say.

"You met Metatron's projection into this realm." Ix corrects, "He is the Voice Of God, the Legion Incarnate."

"I thought the Choir was the Voice Of God?" I ask, I need to sit down. I stagger over to a rickety chair next to the record player and more fall into it than sit down.

"Some say Legion is one and many. Metatron is the Angels Of The Kingdom." Ix explains.

"When we were Angels I met him." Serj says, "He is the perfect projection of terror. He is why I chose to be the darkest shadows when I fell." His voice seems full of an odd respect, "He evokes fear. And a strange admiration. If you met Metatron, the task he gave you is one of great importance."

"You guys sound like you don't have much problem with these Angels." I say.

"The Angels Of The Kingdom are not like the Angels of Light or the Choir." Ix says.

"All Devils were Angels Of Light once," Nox says, a bit of nostalgia. "When we fought Michael he had Legion on his side. That alone was enough to turn some of Lucifer's own against him. The Legion are the closest to God anything can be."

"Huh." Is all I can say. I lean back against the cool wood of the wall. "I'm supposed to kill Lucifer. I need something call the Black Blade." I close my eyes and rub them. "And water, I really need something to drink."

Serj stands up and goes into the entrance room. He comes back with a piece of iron, it's vaguely dagger shaped. It has a pointed tip that looks sharp enough to literally draw blood from a stone. "This." He speaks of it with awe. "It was mine when I walked in Light."

"Well, I'm pretty sure we have to stab Lucifer with it." I reach out but my hand passes through the blade. I look confused.

"I was forced to leave this behind, only my hand can hold it."

"Then you need to stab Lucifer with it." I say.

"Gladly." At there's enough menace, malice, pure cold hatred in that word that I shiver.

"We'll leave as soon as I can stand up." I turn my head and look at the old record player. "Don't suppose there's any music worth listening to."

Ix stands up and gently picks me back up, "Back to bed with you."

"Hey, Serj, did your meeting with the Metatron hurt this much?" I ask him.

"It did not." He says, "I do not know why you are so affected." I notice he is examining the blade, iron spike, whatever that is. Ix just takes me back into the bedroom and puts my back in bed.

"Don't go." I hold onto him, "Just, I know you're not really..."

Ix crawls into bed with me and holds me as I let myself fall back into unconsciousness. I'd call it sleep but that'd be saying I was tired and not broken.

As I close my eyes I swear Ix says something caring. Blackness overtakes.

//Kill The Devil//

I wake up and clean myself up in the tiny little bathroom connected to the bedroom and kitchen. Old claw foot bathtub with a pipe sticking out of the floor and an old shower head. A curtain almost reaches all the way around. Ix is in there water with me, he's more caring than groping today. Which is almost weird. As I wash the soap off my body he makes his move. Knew it.

"Not right now," I ask him.

Surprisingly he pauses and just holds me as I let the stream of warm water hit my face. It's that kind of warm water you get when the sun's warmed it up. Not actually hot, but still above air temperature. "What's wrong?"

"Just, still kind of feeling weird from that encounter with Legion." I say. He only nods and gets out of the tub. I sigh and turn off the water.

He's instantly dry, like the water doesn't want to stick to him. I could probably figure out that if I wanted, but I don't because he wraps a big fuzzy towel around me. I have no idea where he got it, and I don't care. He takes his time drying me. I feel better by the time I'm left alone to dress.

Odd behavior, but I think we're past him trying to cop a feel before I slap his hand. I don't understand it, I actually like him, I trust him. I trust all of them. As I get dressed I contemplate what they really are, what each of them means to me. I sigh and drop back onto the bed, my hands reach above my head onto the pillow, where I find the Devil's Deck. It is like a pet now. I stroke it and bring it up over my face to look at it.

"You were his," I say, "But now you're mine." I kiss the top card affectionately and slide the deck into my pocket, I no longer have to tie it to keep the cards in place. They just naturally stay together. Weird little creature.

I pull a shirt on and go out to the front room. "So, I suppose we have to kill Lucifer." I say to the group. Serj smiles, he doesn't even really have a mouth, just a darker shadow of a line where it should be, but he smiles with it. It's a cruel killer's smile.

"I'm your right hand man," Nox says with a puff of his cigar. Ha, funny.

"So," Ix slides up next to me, "Any idea how to find him? He's been scarce for a short bit."

"Finding him is easy." Lucifer says from the doorway, we all look surprised. It occurs to me we're in his house, he's probably heard everything. Or some how knows what goes on here. He's got that tombstone smile, I hate that smile.

"Sorry," I shrug, "Has to be done."

"Killing me?" He steps into the room fully, Ix is around my neck in an instant, a necklace that's as much armor for my throat as it is decoration. "How does one kill the Devil?" He smiles, hands in his pockets.

Serj and Nox are on me in a flash, all three boys move mighty quick when motivated. Serj settles onto my shoulders, the nice black jacket, not the leathers Lucifer forced him to wear.

"I see you've let the boys out to play." He says, rocking back on his heels. "You know I trapped them and starved them for a reason." He won't stop smiling.

"I don't care about your reasons," I say casually. "You put them in my hands, I let them do what they do."

"Did you ever think, my child," Great, he's being condescending, "They I kept them trapped for a reason. What wisdom is murder unchained? Lust unchecked? Chance untied? People want to be tempted, not led into oblivion." He's slowly moving towards me, steady boys...

"What good is all of one's emotions locked in tight?" I say, I circle to a more open space, "Guarded so they do nothing but grow, fester," What the fuck am I saying? "Until one moment, they explode."

"That's the beauty my little fallen Angel." He says so softly, like he cares for me, "When the humans don't learn to control their urges."

"Control is knowing when to stop. Not forgetting to start." I believe myself.

"Control is keeping oneself in check at all times." He says loudly, "Child, you know nothing of Control."

"Nothing?" I actually laugh, "You tell a Puppet she knows nothing of Control? I know nothing but subverting my own thoughts." I hiss, "Imagine a life where you can taste free will, you can see it in the air, but you're being is taken over, subverted. That's Control." I say, "That's the tragedy. Not letting go ever."

He stops and smiles, "So you believe in letting out one's urges to guide your actions?"

"I believe in letting one's urges play, but not guide."

How the fuck did this turn into a philosophical debate? What's his game. We're standing in the middle of the room.

"You are my daughter, true and proud." He says, and takes his hands out of his pocket. He's holding that silver spike. I realize what it is now, what they both are. They're shards of the Silver City.

That can hurt me. That can kill me. Kill The Devil indeed. There's two devils now, one a former Angel of Light, one a former Puppet Of The Choir. Both fallen, cast aside.

He lunges forward, quick as lightening. I move, Serj is a shadow over my eyes, Nox a bard in my fist, Ix is the calming voice as my mind trembles with the sudden intrusion of cruelty and pain.

I blink, Serj has my left fist out, the Black Blade is stuck deep into Lucifer's chest. My right fist is grabbing his right arm. He gasps, I feel a pushing in my stomach. Looking down I see the silver spike in my stomach, a drop of bright red blood falls from its perfect surface. The blood is too bright. Too red. The pressure on my stomach is a sudden searing pain.

"Devil." Lucifer whispers, and dies. His hand goes slack and the silver spike falls out of me with a clatter like glass on the floor.

Serj pulls his hand back as I push away with my other. Nox and Serj both let go, retreat.

"Shit," I manage to say and sink fully to my knees, one hand goes to the wound in my body, the other supports me.

The house around me shivers, and starts to collapse. The table legs give out, it clatters to the ground but disappears before it fully falls apart.

What was that? When an Angel dies all it directly invested in dies with it. This house, it's his. The kitchen walls fall out, and down onto the dust of the endless desert.

Get up Sarah, move. Do something. I can't, I'm frozen still. This is pain. This is real fucking pain.

Blood pouring out of me, I'm going to die right here kind of pain. I want to cry out, I make a choked little noise. I want to move, I barely make it up to my knees. "You bastard." I mutter, "Can't stand to lose." I try and get one leg up, one leg moving.

Serj goes to shift and carry me, "No." I stop him, "We need to go through the door together. I can't, take, anyone with me." It hurts to speak. It hurts so fucking much.

I get to my feet as the bedroom just fades from existence, the collection room caves in on itself. I see a dozen little items scatter on the suddenly exposed desert floor, some break releasing a soul or magic, some roll helpless in the dirt, some just disappear.

I'm on my feet, I stagger towards the front door. The one door most likely to stay standing. If I miss this there is no other way out. I know this instinctively.

Maybe the Metatron wanted me to kill Lucifer and trap me here. No, it gave me more instructions. Legion has other plans. Legion better have a God Damn Plan now. I summon every last bit of energy I have and lurch towards the door, holding my wound tightly, I can feel the wet, red, blood soak my shirt, my hand.

"I wish to be somewhere safe." I mutter the words out loud because I don't trust myself to form the wish whole in my mind. Too much pain. I fall through the opening.

I land on a hard surface, like stone, not desert ground. It's in a cool room, my head turns to one side. Benches, a line of benches, two rows down a central aisle. Not benches, pews. My left hand just flops out flat. My right is still clutching my wound.

My head turns and I look past the pulpit, up at a tall cross. I see the image of Legion there. A pure white light, silver eyes, wings of flame. Not nearly as harmful as before, maybe it's just that I'm dying that makes him less impressive. Or less of a problem.

"You Are Safe, Your Wish Was Granted By My Hand. There Is No Taint To It." Metatron tells me, "Heal. I Will Talk Through The Priest."

"Who?" I try to say, I more cough it out. I blink and it's nothing more than a mundane plaster cross.

There's a man leaning over me, "Are you alright."

Not remotely, "No." I shake my head, does he not see all the fucking blood?

"Don't move." No problem, "Father Vincent!" The man calls, really a boy, young man? Who the fuck cares, just do something about the bleeding.

An older man enters my field of vision, "My child,"

Oh cut the theatrics, and get a fucking bandage. Forget it, I'm not hanging around to watch these two watch me bleed. I'm dying in silence, and pass out.


I'm awake. Possibly even alive. Opening my eyes I'm in a cramped room, the slanted ceiling is really close to me, I should roll over to the edge of the bed before sitting up. I have no shirt on, instead a bandage wraps around my mid-section, and I'm under covers. I can feel the comforting weight of Ix around my neck, he feels good there.

I killed Lucifer, and almost died to do it. I'm the Devil now. Would reality let me die? Can there be a Devil Void? I don't know. Probably not. I think it wants an adversary. I seem destined to perform jobs not of my choosing.

I sigh and stare at the ceiling. Ix immediately stands up, on my collar bone at least, and looks down at me, "You're alive."

"Was there doubt?" I ask softly, there's a general dull pain in my entire torso.

"The priest didn't think you'd stop bleeding, at least not until he used Holy Water to clean the wound out of, I don't know. He was kind of whispering to someone not in the room."

"Great." I say. "Good to see you." I say, it is, strangely, good to see the little blue shit. Fine, I do like him and his company. And not just because when he's all revved up he's awesome in bed. But because... because... They could have just left me anytime and didn't.

"Are you crying?" Ix looks at me.

"Yes." I say, why hide it, I'm still in too much pain to reach up and wipe away the tears, "Get me a glass of water?" I ask. Nicely even.

"Here," Serj leans across from out of my vision. I turn my head, the room is indeed small. Serj is merely a darker point of black in a dark room. I don't even really know what light I'm using to see things by. I just know I can and there's no light source.

I slowly, carefully, sit up. Ix hops off of me onto the tiny little table next to me. It contains an unlit candle and a pitcher of water. I take the water and sip it. It's just tap water. For a moment I was afraid it was Holy Water, though I don't know why.

I put the glass down and slowly ease back down to a less bendy position. Ix is back on my chest. "You gonna sleep all the time?" He asks me.

"Let me stab you in the stomach and we'll compare notes." I poke him. "I'm not really in the mood to sleep, but I'm even less in the mood to move."

Nox loosens himself from my wrist and wanders up the bed, emerging out of the covers and looks at me, "Let's play some cards to wast the time." He says.

"The Deck still around? Or did it disappear with the rest of Lucifer's house?" I ask, it was his deck after all.

"Still here," Serj says pulling the Devil's Deck out of my pants pocket that's folded neatly on the chair he's, occupying kind of. Apparently he's not always perfectly solid. "It seems to like you."

"I got that impression." Nox takes the deck and slides off the bed, he's his large self now, easier to shuffle the deck. Ix is sitting at the end of the bed, the room feels very very small with them all at larger sizes. Feels safer too. I suck at this game, consistently losing to mostly Serj, but Nox as well. Ix doesn't like the game at all, but he plays to stay involved.

It's some hours when there's footsteps outside the door. Nox and Ix are almost instantly jewelry on my body again, Serj just melts back into the shadows, the Devil's Deck ends up in my hand. Out of habit I start to shuffle it with the hand I have above the covers.

I think the man that was leaning over me when I decided to be unconscious is in the door. He's decidedly average, clean cut, brown hair, blue eyes, wearing slacks, shirt, priests collar. All in black. He's holding a tray of food, it smells amazing, I'm hungry for something different. It would be rude to refuse though.

"You're awake," He says smiling, and walks into the room. I struggle to sit up, and trying to cover myself, as much for his modesty as mine. It seems like the thing to do in front of a priest.

"I am," I agree, "Um, thanks." I say.

He smiles and puts the tray on the table next to me and gets another chair from across the room, there's a light coming in from the hallway that provides most of the light in the room, this must be more of a closet shoved well off to one side of the building, in the eaves. "Are you hungry?"

"Yes," Just not saying for what. "Smells good," Why lie all the time.

He just smiles and hands my a small bowl of soup or stew. "So, you seem to have fallen into my care."

You have no idea, "Why not just call a hospital?" I ask, fair question.

"Because, I knew you were coming." He said, "I've been preparing for the last three years." He says.

"Really?" Got my curiosity piqued.

"Would you believe God talks to me?" No, but I do know a few Angels that might.

"After a fashion." I take a bite of the stew. It tastes good, but I know this won't settle my appetite.

"He told me to expect a servant of the Angels, and that she would need caring for."

I nod, I did, after all, simply appear in his church. I note I didn't appear in or near a door. Just on the floor, at the foot of the altar. You have a great sense of humor Metatron, really. Devil at the altar. "This God, he a very tall pillar of light, wings of flame, eyes of purest silver reflection, voice kind of reverberates in your bones?"

The priest ignores the 'this God' part, "He does appear that way."

"Metatron, God's Voice." I say, "Overall, kind of a terrifying Angel." I put the bowl of stew aside and lean back. Third time in a short period I've been incapacitated, I really need to stop that. Or avoid fights. I like option two.

"It would seem you believe me." He smiles, "I had suspicions you might not."

I shrug, a small shrug, "I've heard weirder."

"He said you would help us in the fight against Evil."

Oh, Metatron, you crafty mother fucker. "Oh yeah?" I really do need some strength. But I also need some information. Like where the fuck I am. "Where is this church? I kind of... don't know where I landed exactly." Stranger things indeed.

"You're in Denver." He says.

"Well, somewhere at least. Last I checked I was in New Jersey." That's not true. "Is it still two thousand seven?" I ask, because last time I was in Lucifer's house I came out nine years later.

"No," He looks at me strangely, "It is two thousand eleven." He answers simply, "You remember nothing of the last four years?"

"Sort of," I say, and shuffle the Devil's Deck, "It's a odd story." I'm really hungry, my body needs something for sustenance to heal. The more the faster I'll be up.

"What is your name?" He asks me, his tone is still friendly, but I think behind that he's a little crazy. Metatron has probably caused a little damage.

"Sarah," I say, that's not entirely true.

"I am Father Victor."

"It's good to meet you Father, mind if I ask a question?" I have to try.

"Please," He motions with his hand I should continue.

"Is there anything you've ever wished for?" I'd try and feel him out, but I think I'd pass out from the effort of reading his soul.

"I only wish to live in God's grace." He smiles at me.

My head hits the wall behind me, "I have no idea how to fulfill that one," I mutter, "Anything more mundane?" I ask.

"I need nothing from the Devil."

Well, there's that out in the open then. I raise an eyebrow, pretend surprise, not really. "How do you know I'm the Devil?"

"God told me." He nods slowly.

"And yet, you take care of me. Give me shelter, close my wound."

"I was not afraid when God showed me Holy Water would not burn but heal your wound."

"Well, if I'm on God's side, why turn down a wish?" I'm actually curious, not trying to trap him.

"You won't trap me with trickery."

"No, seriously, why help the Devil?"

"God commanded me."

Fair enough, "Alright," I let it go, "You know," I don't let it go, "I'm not really into corrupting the wishes of a priest, especially not one who helped me, not my style."

"Not your style? Aren't you the one who led the Angels into a great betrayal."

"That," Oh this will be fun to explain, "Wasn't me. I'm not a Fallen Angel," The boys all shuffle a little uneasily in my mind, because they are Fallen Angels. "I'm... I'm his replacement. This," I motion my wound, "Was suffered when I killed him."

Father Victor looks a little surprised.

"Father, I literally feed on wishes," I say, fuck this, I need enough fucking energy in my body to at least stand up, "I have no desire to twist your words, or break a promise, or use anything against you. Make it a simple wish, ask for a few more to attend your next sermon, a couple extra dollars donated to the plate." I try to plead my case. Do I sound desperate yet. I feel desperate.

He doesn't say anything, like he's not even listening to me. "Very well," He sighs heavily, and turns to look me in the eyes, "A simple wish, I wish for nothing more than your speedy recovery." He looks smug.

Well isn't that something. He's turning the wish back on me, but a wish is a wish, and magic is magic. I wonder about the repercussions of this one, then I let it happen. I feel that familiar twist. Reality is bending to my will, but it's not the usual bend and break. My body feels suddenly better, all the pain gone, though the hunger lingers, not as bad as before.

"Much better," I relax a great deal, letting the blanket fall and undo the bandage, he doesn't seem to mind, but he does turn away.

"Are you not able to wish yourself things?" He asks.

"I am," and I am, I can feel that, "But, it doesn't really, satisfy." I shrug and roll the bloody bandage up and put it to the side, then pull the blanket back up over my chest.

"Well," He stands up, "I'll leave you to dress. There's a bathroom down the hallway," He motions, "If you're feeling better," The implication is there.

"Of course." I say, he leaves and I stand up, stretching, there's a tiny little scar where the silver spike entered me, just like where the knife cut. Let's not get nicked by those things too often. Scars aren't really my deal.

"He seems nice, though, I think constant contact with Legion has broken him a little."

"He was possessed," Serj says as I pull on my pants, there's nothing to wrap myself in to go to the bathroom in. I pull the shirt on, and carry my boots down the hall. Speaking of stupid wishes on myself, I wish my wallet back into existence. Which makes me a little hungrier. As long as I'm well, fed I guess, wasting wishes on my own needs won't be a problem. Still, I'll minimize that.

I shower, washing the rest of the dried blood off me. My shirt is ruined, I consider a wish for that, instead I just wish the blood off my jeans, throw the shirt in the trash and feel Serj against my skin directly. He's cool to the touch, but soft, comfortable.

"Well, boys," I look in the mirror, my blue eyes are little more intense now, a little bluer if that is possible. Blue like a big empty sky. "Let's, figure out the last four years and find Michael. The sooner I do what Legion needs the sooner I can just fade for a while."

'I'm thinking,' Nox says, 'When this is done we take a long trip to Vegas and just...' He let's the thought finish itself.

"Good old fashion debauchery." I laugh, I love my boys. I do.


When I come downstairs to the church proper and sit in the front pew, looking up a the cross. I feel a few people in the room with me, just regular people. Only the Devil takes refuge in a church. Angels have heaven. Some of them at least.

I close my eyes and just drift on the energy in the building. Churches always held a kind of energy, they have a hum. It's all that emotion people bring into them. All that hope, and desire, despair they're looking to offload, happiness and sadness, every range is saturating the walls.

I hear the whisper, quiet, and low, in the big open space. I'm sure to someone else it's nothing more than a mere murmur. To me, it's a perfectly clear voice. It's a wish.

What kind of person is in here praying with a wish? I don't turn to look, I just listen to the words. Follow them back to the voice, to the person they come from. The wish itself is moderately selfish, someone wants a promotion at work. But what kind of person? No one particularly good or evil it turns out. Just one of the many millions who have hopes and desires, trying to make it in this world.

I grant the wish, with no particular strings attached. No particular guarantee of success. They'll get the promotion, keeping it is all their own hard work. But it won't cost them anything to get it in the first place. Is that the working of the Devil then? A simple wish, here, have that desire. Do they deserve the promotion?

The thought sits there as I feel the wishes energies swirl around me, diminishing the gnawing hunger a little. It feels good, but still. What if the person isn't qualified? The long term ramifications sit with me for a moment.

Wish for nothing more than you can handle. So says the Devil.

"You're still here?" Father Vincent sits down on the pew next to me.

"I am," I nod, "I like Churches. There's always some interesting memory in them." I say, there is, always.

"Why would God command me to help the Devil?" He asks, the timber of his voice is different now. I realize before that most likely Legion had taken partial control of him. Forced him to help me against his own desires.

"Angels," Oh this is so cliche, "Work in mysterious ways." I say, "They helped me to kill Lucifer, the first Devil. I took his place." I explain, "I don't know if there's a bigger plan. I've never been made aware of it if there is."

"Why you?" He looks me in the eyes, I remember how they looked in the mirror, a purest sky blue. I don't think I ever really thought about my eye color before. I know it wasn't that blue though, it strikes me that I can't remember the exact shade. I look into his eyes, brown, very human looking. Warm.

Unbidden, without effort and definitely without consent, I know him. Know Him. His soul just opens to me and I can see all that parts that he has desires for, all the missed opportunities, all the unspoken wishes, his past.

I blink, that wasn't really what I expected to have happen. "Well," I swallow and try and focus back on his question, "I'm a bit neutral in this fight." I say.

"Neutral?" He looks surprised.

I sigh and lean back, stretching my arms across the back of the long bench. "I just killed the first Devil, Lucifer. Samael." I say, very quietly, "He tried to do the same, it was mostly a case of self defense," I try to explain this in a way that makes sense, "Because he'd become. I don't know, exactly, tired."

"Tired?" Father Michael Victor, his full name in my mind now, he still looks surprised. "I don't understand."

"There's a war in Heaven," I say.

"Yes, Michael through Lucifer and his betraying Angels into Hell."

"Er, not really." I stop him. Human myth is so, what's the word, lost in translation. "They fell to Earth, and they found their way Under The Hill with the Faery. The Fallen are Devils. And they hate Hell."

"Of course they do, without God's Grace..." He's back into Preacher space.

"Yes, about God." I say, "I actually don't know about God. Maybe you're right." I suddenly realize Lucifer's motives, he didn't become tired. He's rather selfish I think. Even if he did tire of his position, death? permanent death? While everyone else, especially those he led, and those he fought to an extent, get to live with the blood? "Lucifer is a coward," I suddenly say, thought I didn't mean it out loud.

"Of course." Father Victor smiles smugly, "I full expect The Devil to be so."

"No," I wave my hand and lean forward, "There's so much more to it." I look up at the large cross, "The war never ended did it."

And there's a bright flash of light, and I'm alone in the church. Where the cross was is Metatron. This time he doesn't hurt my eyes nearly as much as before.

"One down." I say, it's what comes to mind.

"Spare Your Humor Devil." He says. He doesn't like me. He liked me just fine before.

I stand up, "Oh fuck you. Fuck all the Angels." I throw my arms out. "Seriously, I'm what? The Devil? No, I'm still a soulless little Puppet." I shout. I'm screaming actually. Ix tries to calm me down, Serj smiles, Nox snickers to himself.

"You Have A Soul." It says, sounding impatient, like I'm wasting time. "You Must Find Michael And Retrieve The Keys." He says, and is gone.

I'm sitting back on the pew, I catch the last syllable of the priest's sentence. A reply to my statement on the war in Heaven. Metatron's sudden appearance pretty much confirms what I suspected.

Lucifer and Michael have been going at it all this time, dragging the rest of Heaven into their little war. I'm not even sure it's about God. I think it's between them alone.

I sigh, "Father," And stand up, "Thank you for everything, really. You're a good man, may good things happen to you." I give him a warm smile and leave.


Outside it's cold, winter cold. The sudden realization that I have no shirt on, only a coat, hits me. "Fuck, can't I land in summer." I huddle inside Serj, who draws himself a little more closed around me, and look around. Near a downtown area, late afternoon if the sun means anything. "Well, let's get some kind of bearing and go hunting." I say, "I have a feeling I'll only need to poke my head out a little before someone comes along with an axe."

I start walking up the street. I only go maybe five blocks before I see her. Christine is coming out of a restaurant with some take out chinese. She's pushing a stroller. No shit. Four years indeed. Time in that place sucks.

I walk up to her as she finishing putting a little girl into a car seat and folding the stroller up. "Fancy meeting you here." I say.

Christine looks up and stops, I swear for a moment her heart stopped. I look her in her eyes, and every little transgression, every last slip of temptation, comes to me. From a mere thought of using the money I gave her to get back in Mr. Greene's good graces from so long ago, to a few cookies too many after work last week, to stealing a piece of chocolate from her Halloween bowl to give out. But they're all little, all minor everyday temptations. Well, except that money bit, but she didn't do that, she left that and fled I like I told her too.

She even has the casino chip on a necklace around her neck. Which I find funny. But the wish I gave her, literally wove into her bones as we had sex, has kept every part that could even be twisted into breaking the promise.

I realize suddenly, this is how the Devil works. Worked. Lucifer was a cruel son of a bitch that would hold every flaw against a harsh light and use it to break you.

"Hi," She stutters for a moment, and what must be out of habit finishes folding the stroller. "I.." She looks scared, nervous, both.

"Relax," I tell her, "You're safe."

She relaxes, and as she puts the stroller in the trunk of her car stands up and looks at me, really looks. "You told me, once, you were the Devil." She isn't quite sure she wants to be saying this.

I look her over, she's put on some weight, not a lot. Added some curve to her body, had a kid, married if the ring is an indication. "I am the Devil. I made you a deal, you followed through. Life seems to be working out." I say.

She swallows, and I see it, behind the nervous eyes, she still has a bit of lust. "Yeah, it's great. Please," A single tear slips down her cheek, "Please, don't take..." She can't finish it.

I realize what she means and look in at the little girl in the car seat. "I wouldn't think of it." I say, "I'm not that kind of Devil."

"There's kinds?"

"There was," I think Lucifer would definitely have drawn something out of her. "But now there's me, and I see no reason to hurt someone who's worked so hard to be good." I can feel it, she is trying. Sometimes she's not as successful at it as she'd like. She fights with her husband, I can see that too. An imperfect marriage, she kind of loves him, she likes her jobs, she desperately loves her daughter.

She seems to relax, "So, uh,"

"Just passing through." I go to continue on.

"Uh," She turns suddenly and looks at me, "D.. Lu..." She doesn't want to say my name, or at least the name she knows for me.

"Sarah." I say, like I'm reminding her.

"Sarah, you want to, you, have somewhere to stay?" She asks, yep, that little tiny spark of lust is climbing its way back up. Ix gets excited.

"Not yet." I shrug. How hard can it be for the Devil to find a bed.

"Come home, er, have dinner with us. It's the least I can do."

You've already done what I told you to, there's nothing else you owe me, I think. But what the hell. "Alright." I smile and get into her car with her.

We drive in silence for a short while, "You really aren't here to, take anything?" She asks finally.

"No," I say, "I'm really not. You're doing good." I glance back at the small girl, not quite two. Pure innocence. "You've come a long way since that back room poker game." I say.

"Oh, I don't know," She looks in the rear view mirror, "Less glamorous clothes, but much better days." She smiles, "Yeah, I have. Thanks."

"You're doing good. I'd hate to ruin it with some kind of selfish wish." I say to her.

She picks up the casino chip, "I keep it as a reminder," She says, "Of where I climbed out of."

"Some rise, some fall." I smile, "You know there's no magic left in that chip?"

"Yes there is," She smiles, her eyes sparkle now, she's relaxed again, "It lets me know what's really important." Her whole body seems relaxed, I glance into her eyes, window to the soul. No shit, thought that was a lame cliche. But then, I have no soul.

She spent the last four years waiting for me to reappear and take it all away from her, it's right there at the surface. That fear is dissipating.

"Hey," She asks as we drive through a neighborhood of small houses, older, but still, nothing spectacular, "This, is a weird question..."

"Oh, I doubt it'll be the weirdest thing I've seen today." There's that fucking Legion for one. Annoying prat.

"My husband, he's, kind of plain... boring sometimes." She says, I saw the history in her eyes. The marriage is easy, but not particularly adventurous. Especially not when your former life included high class prostitution and high stakes back room poker games.

"You're really with him because he's safe," I say, pointing out what should be the obvious, "I hope you don't regret perfect safety after all that." I say, "You'll drive yourself nuts with the thoughts of what could be." The most dangerous kind, the kind that cause us to make reckless wishes.

"I needed boring for a while," She sighs, "Johnny is very boring sometimes. He's pretty good in bed, but missionary boring. I have to take charge really." She smirks, "And I learned quite a few tricks I haven't even thought about introducing to him."

I nod.

"Otherwise, I'd have just slipped back." She glances sideways, "It's too easy, was too easy." She gives a kind of nervous laugh. She's working her way up to something, "I want an adventure." She says plainly.

"You want me to stay overnight and sleep with you." I say out loud what she's thinking.

She glances back at her daughter, falling asleep in the car. We pull up in front of a small house, "Us. I don't think I could sleep with someone behind Johnny's back. But... You're the Devil. Aren't you supposed to be into kinky stuff, and breaking tradition."

I laugh softly, "I suppose I am. Are you going to ask him, or just jump him with the news?"

"Hadn't thought that far ahead." She blushes.

"Let's have dinner." I say and get out of the car.

Her house is stunningly simple. I can tell she doesn't attach to much. The living room is mostly toys. The focus here is her daughter, who is now being put into a hi-chair. "Hi Honey!" Christine calls out to the house as I put the food on the kitchen counter in the next room.

"Hey," I catch her elbow, "Before we do introductions," I open my coat and flash her, "Maybe borrow a shirt?"

"How, why?" She looks puzzled and at the same time can't keep her eyes off me. I close Serj.

"It's a weird story." I say.

"Come with me, Johnny always takes a minute to get off the computer." She leads me upstairs and and finds a blouse quickly in the back of her closet, "Here."

I just take Serj off and put the shirt on quickly, as I'm sliding Serj back over my shoulders she closes in and kisses me, softly. "Just had to... I remember your taste still." She licks her lips, "God I hope he says yes." She takes me by the hand downstairs.

"He will I think," I wink at her, "Devilish charm and all."

Johnny comes up from a basement room, "Oh," He stops and looks at me.

"Hey," Christine smiles at him, kiss on the cheek. "I ran into an old friend of mine," She motions to me, "Sarah this is my husband Johnny, Johnny this is Sarah."

"Old friend." He smiles and shakes me hand.

"We knew each other back in New Jersey." She says, I let her take lead in the story, I have no idea how much she's told her husband. For fun a make eye contact, just briefly to gauge him.

Boring, he has almost no vices, no real devious desires. Nothing particularly corrupting about him, nothing particularly innocent either. He hides a few things though, like that he wants more from Christine, he just doesn't know how to express it. He's actually a timid soul. I can easily see how Christine might be able to get the better hand of a man like that, even now she's a knock out, or as Ix so politely puts it, she's a hot one. She's no longer too thin, like when she was a high class hooker expected to wear a dress so small it barely had fabric. He's easily dominated, and completely safe.

For a moment I have an Ix thought, I cannot wait to get him into the bedroom with Christine and fuck them both all night.

'That's my girl!' Ix cheers, Oh shut up you little imp.

Dinner is delightfully boring, I make up a considerable number of lies for Johnny. Occasionally I feel Christine's foot slide seductively up my calf, then she retreats and does something domestically boring, like feed her child, or answer a question, something.

After dinner Johnny goes back to his room in the basement, and Christine and I talk.

"Are you going to ask him or surprise him?" I ask as Christine is putting her daughter, Ashley, to sleep.

"I don't know." She says, "I do know, that, er, it's not too selfish to want you by myself first?" She asks.

"I'll make you a deal," I lean close.

"I already made one deal with the Devil." She says, it's only half a joke.

"You and I get some quality time," Because she wasn't that bad, really, "If you not only ask your husband, but make sure he's says yes."

"Can't you, you know, make him? Call it corrupting him?" She asks. She doesn't even know how to start with this conversation.

"I could," I smirk, "But that's not really corrupting if I just wish him into a yes."

She bites her lower lip, she really wants this, I can tell. I'm her only real temptation left. I lean in and kiss her, long and deep.

"Ok." She huffs as I pull away, "Ok, just wait, here. In the bedroom." She points, we leave Ashley's room.

"I'll add some honey to the pot," I tap her daughter's door, "One uninterrupted nights sleep. No harm." I hold up my hands, "The child is not my style. I like adults who know the path they're taking." I say.

"I'll be back." She disappears downstairs.

I wander around her bedroom, draping Serj off the back of a chair next to a bureau. She has three pictures on top of the bureau. One of her wedding, she's smiling in it, almost a laugh really. The second is of her and Ashley when Ashley was newly born, Johnny is just barely in the frame. Christine looks tired, but the smile in her eyes is unmistakable. The last picture is just of Ashley, in a nice little dress, professionally taken. The rest of the room is pretty sparse, uncluttered really. Christine doesn't seem to hang onto much, like she's ready to bolt at any moment.

'Nice.' Ix says as I look around, he is, naturally, referring to the large bed that dominates the room.

"Shush." I admit, our one night together was fun. For me it was only a few days ago. For her, four years. I briefly wonder what it might be like to actually live life without being kicked through time. Without this constant disappearing act. I feel suddenly tired, not the sleepy kind, just a little weary. Murdered Angels, to an attempt on my life, to a fun three days in Atlantic City, to running from one Angel, to be trapped in nowhere space by another Angel, another attempt on my life, killing the Devil. I've bled twice in a week now, which is a very new and very unwelcome experience.

I let out a long slow breath and fall back onto the bed, "I think, this will be the last night I get real rest before things get out of control."

'Oh?' Nox queries me.

"With the Legion pushing I'm going to have to act fast. Not slow and steady like I'm used to." I say. I lie in silence for a moment and hear Christine enter the room, she shuts the door most of the way. "Well?" I ask without sitting up.

She stradles my waist, "We have an hour." She unbuttons the shirt she lent me. "I don't know why I was scared." She said.

"I suppose people are taught to not share." I shrug, it was never really something I thought about. But I've also had precious few relationships at all, and almost none with anyone I actually cared about. The boys are, it slips into my mind as Christine leans down to kiss my bare chst, the only thing I realy love in this reality.

Sex with Christine is slow, passionate, she's savoring it. Drawing it out, almost the full hour of our bodies together.

When we do rest she's curled up with her head on my stomach, one hand resting on my thigh. I gently rub the back of her head as she gets her breath back. "I had to make a deal with Johnny." She says softly, "He, uh, can you see people's desires?" She asks me.

"I wouldn't be a very good Devil if I couldn't."

"Do you know Johnny's?" She asks, there's a little hesitation in her voice. The sex relaxed her enough to talk about this.

"I glimpsed them." A lot of the sex in his fantasies did not involve Christine.

"I suppose it's only fair, him wanting to bring a guy into things." She kisses my stomach, "I've certainly slept with enough girls in my time."

"Doesn't bothe you?"

"I don't know if it should. I just asked him if I could sleep with another woman, before sharing, and it's not like I come from a chaste place." she says, "You know," She sits up and props herself on her elbow next to me, "I've been asked, paid, to do a lot of really weird shit. A threesome is practically mundane."

I just smile, we're kissing when the door opens. Johnny walks in, and stares at us on the bed. Christine looks up and smiles, beckoning him with one finger.

Sex with Christine and Johnny is much more involved, but I can tell when Christine and I aren't in contact, when Johnny is between us, she has an odd professional veil up. She's watching her husband have sex with another woman and his name becomes more of a title. I almost feel for her in this way. But she wanted it, this was her desire.


In the morning I wake to find Christine with her arm across my body, she's sleeping peacefully next to me, her husband is past her, snoring. I get up out of bed and quietly go into the bathroom, it only takes a little trick of a wish to prevent any sound from escaping as I shower and dress.

I find my way to the kitchen and make coffee. It isn't long before Christine comes downstairs, Ashley in her arms. "Hey," She smiles as I pour a cup and hand it over to her.

"Morning." I drink mine black, it's not hot chocolate, but it's keeping me occupied.

"What happens now?" She asks me. Like I have answers.

"With what?" I'm too preoccupied on where to start my search for Michael to track this properly.

"Us, my marriage..." She looks uneasy.

"Us, well, I'll be gone. I'm not really the check-up on you kind of Devil." I shrug, "Well, not in your case." I smile, though part of me kind of does want to come back. "Your marriage, that's up to you. You know what he wants. Explore." I put down my coffee.

"You're leaving." She looks sad.

"I'm leaving, take care." I kiss her quickly and move to the front door. "You're on a good path." I open the door and step out.

//Angel City Tonight//

I'd love to step out into a cold Denver November. But as it so happens I don't. I step into the giant open desert that once held Lucifer's house. Fuck.

My attention is drawn upwards, I swear that I saw the sky smile. Seriously, cheshire cat smile and all. The air wavers, I look down at the dirt, and the weird impossibly unfolding occurs.

Up from below the desert comes a city. A weird kind of crossbreed of modern cities and old cities. Like the nineteen twenties, nineteen fifties, nineteen eighties, and now-ish, merged into one weird unholy bastard.

Or holy city. As I'm at the edge of it and there's a sign that says 'Welcome to Angel City'.

I really wish it meant Los Angeles. But that's not a wish that'll get granted, it feels like a swallowed a bug the second I made that wish. Backlash.

I'm not in blue jeans and a blouse either. I'm in a skirt, the hip hugging, slit up the leg, kind of skirt. If I were five ten instead of five two I'd look stunning, instead I look merely nice. Black stockings, heels, and a much nicer blouse. Ix, Nox and Serj are all gone. Fuck, I panic momentarily. Where the hell are they? Ok, more than momentarily. Shit, shit shit shit.

"Damn it." I mutter and clutch my purse. Purse? Oh come one, fucking pockets, I'd kill for pockets. Transition, I'm wearing a simple brown trench coat over the outfit.

Weird. I slide the slim purse into an inside pocket and do what any slightly panicked, marginally lost, and very confused Devil would do. I walk into the city, and find the nearest bar because only Whiskey will fix this issue, not even Hot Chocolate can fix the kind of fucked up I'm currently standing in.

I walk into the bar, I can't tell if it's a few blocks or a lot of blocks away. Things are very strange in this place. Space doesn't quite fit together right. As step up to the bar I look into the eyes of Ix, sort of.

He's a tall lanky guy, same beady eyes, shifty look with that hint of lusty need. He's wearing a white shirt, bow tie that he looks utterly ridiculous in, but still kind of cute. Boyish features otherwise, very hot in a please-fuck-me kind of way. He just puts a glass in front of me and pours a shot of whiskey.

I sit on the bar stool and drop it back. Goes down like fire. He refills it, puts a cold beer chaser on the bar, and moves on with a smile and a wink.

I look around the bar, small place, dive bar. There's a tiny stage large enough for a four piece band, as long as none of them are overly fat, a bunch of tables.

At the back is Nox, or rather a very large brutish man. Underbite, cigar pointed up because of it, in a cap and short sleeved shirt that's a bit tight on his muscled frame. He's playing solitaire with the Devil's Deck. Good I thought I'd lost the little guy. He looks up and puffs his cigar, a way to acknowledge me.

Off to one corner of the room, sitting alone with a bottle, cleaning a handgun is Serj. Tall, under a fedora, shadows case across him, but his face looks cruel from here, murder like. Sitting with him is a girl, tall, or taller than me, glasses, reading a book. She's dressed similar to me, similar to most women in this little fucked up scenario, she's leaning against the wall next to him, in a we're together obvious kind of way. It enters my head she's the bars regular singer, she takes the glasses off for performances. Serj looks my way and smiles that evil smile of his.

Got my boys, but they're playing it low key, like they know part of the story I don't. I'll play along, when chance isn't taking any, lust doesn't comment on your outfit, and murder just smiles casually, play along.

And right on cue, in walks someone. Ix has placed a much more ladylike martini in front of me, and taken away my beer. Fuck covers. I sit at the bar and look pretty.

Right off the bat I know this asshole is a cop. He's walking like one, dressed like one. And, I can see he's an Angel, of the Light I think.

"Alright," He leans on the bar, in the middle. I'm on the end where I can see the room at large. I realize it's early evening, late afternoon, something like that. The colors and light are all muted here. "I want to talk to your boss." He looks hard at Ix.

Ix cleans a glass, and looks across the room at Serj.

"These idiots work for your ugly mug?" He says to Serj from his perch against the bar.

"We work for Big D." Nox puffs his cigar, "Ain't talkin' to no screw either." He grins and puffs the cigar again before going back to his game. I sip my martini. Doesn't take an idiot to figure out I'm Big D. This is some kind of weird gang-land saga. I just need to figure out the rules and then figure out the why.

Serj looks up at him and tilts his head back. Unlike the rest of his features his eyes are a pale blue, bright like points of star light.

"You tell Big D," He looks around the room, "I'm lookin' for him." He leaves.

You know what just occurs to me, the Angels don't know Lucifer is dead. Holy fuck, I have an edge on them. One little surprise in my pocket I can whip out. One use weapon, sure, but what a doozy if I do it right.

I look at the boys and raise an eyebrow. Ix comes over to me and leans forward, "Seen this set up before." He says, "It's Michael's favorite playground."

I nod. "He'll be in a penthouse at the top of the tallest tower won't he?" I ask.

Ix shrugs, "Probably. Old Scratch never made it out. First war, right? It's gangland guns. Dolls and Private Dicks. Coppers and and all that." He says. Then scratches his chin, I realize this is what he looked like as an Angel. "This time though, feels different. There's more players here."

I motion to the girl hanging off Serj, "Who's she?"

"Another Devil." He says softly, "Haven't seen her in a while. Nina, primarily, lies are her thing. Though she never speaks them." He stands up and goes back to his task at the bar.

So, my front is I'm a gangster, this is my inner circle I'm pretty sure. I'd wager Lucifer had a different inner circle. Which means the rest of my gang may actually... Oh fuck. Power play, I realize. The whole world is slowly seeping into me as I think out different scenarios. Lucifer used to run the docks, had a fleet of trucks too. But we lost the last fight, now we got cut down in two. Lucifer kept the docks, mostly, but Azrael took half the gang and runs the trucks. Bet he doesn't know I took over the top gig either, though.

That's two gangs, who else could be here. The Angelic Choir this time, bunch of thugs, street gang runs numbers and underground gambling. Nothing classy like my back room games, no. Actual casino-clubs. I sight. The cops, naturally, want to shut us all down, but some rule prevents an all out blood bath. I feel like I'm missing something, but I can't place it. I sit my drink and sigh.

"You look amazing, by the way," Ix says as he comes over to me and hands me a fresh drink. I can taste the alcohol, but here I can drink these all day and never get drunk. Not sure if that's a blessing or not.

"What's our next move then?" I ask him, I'm trying to juggle the flood of information my mind is giving me. I'm getting names, faces, past deeds. All the things that Lucifer knew, centuries of information. I don't even know where it came from. His last parting gift. And it's giving me a headache. I blink and rub the bridge of my nose. "Hold on." I hold up a finger.

An actual customer walks in, Ix goes to take care of him while I sit here at the end of the bar, trying to focus my mind into something coherent. Some kind of order. There's just too much fucking knowledge. "Fuck." I get up a go to the back room I know Lucifer spent a lot of time in.

Nox just watches me go, I hold up a hand that he's Ok there, I just need a moment. Really. He just nods and goes back to his game. Not really sure it's solitaire since he's actually playing against the Devil's Deck. I played several against against the little animal in Atlantic City during our down time. It likes to fuck with you.

The back room is a rather nice office. Leather couch against one wall, large mahogany desk with high backed chair opposite that. Another chair for visitors between the two. One wall has a few filing cabinets, the contents force their way into my brain and I stagger for a moment, I need a seat. I slump down onto the couch and hold me head. I hear someone enter the room and look up, it's Nina. The newest Devil in my close knit cadre. Lucifer separated Nina and Serj as some kind of punishment. I still understand why, or what. Maybe he was just an asshole. That I'll go with.

"You're the new boss hug?" She says, still standing in front of me. She's built nearly perfectly for a woman, with soft features. Her face is, and I find this strangely odd for some reason, soft as Serj's is cruel.

"Yeah," I nod and rub the back of my neck with one hand. "That's me."

"Serj says you're much better boss." She puts her hands on her hips and looks at me.

"Lucifer was a fucking asshole." Is all I say, it's all I have to say on the subject. I just want me head to stop throbbing. Seriously, I have had it with pain lately. Every which direction I go something starts to hurt, or tries to kill me. It's getting annoying. I've tried to leave a peaceful, painless life, do what I was told, go when I was told, stay out of everything's way. Fuck 'em.

"You look like you have a headache." She says, small little mouth in a slight frown.

"I do." I lie, I have way more than a headache.

She regards me for a second, "Lie down on the couch," She motions to me.

Sure, why not. I stretch out on the couch, she scoots me in towards the back and perches on the front. I feel her hands on my shoulders, rubbing softly. "Serj says I can trust you." She's talking softly. "So I will."

"Ix says you don't lie, just expose others?"

"I don't feel a need to lie," She pauses, "Because everyone else around me does it so well. I can tell when I'm being lied to, or when someone isn't revealing all the truth. That's my gift, or curse, I see the lies on others lips. I expose their own twists in logic."

"Sounds fun." I say.

"Liar."

"Sarcasm."

"I like you."

"Thank you."

She rubs my shoulders and back in silence for several minutes. "Serj and I were lovers once. Even after the fall. After we became Devils. Lucifer, he..." She almost sounds choked up, upset even, "Made it so we couldn't be together."

"I won't stop you," I'm not the jealous type.

"No, I mean, he took away,"

"Oh, I think I know what you mean." I say, "Uh, give me a second, I just got the job." I close my eyes and try and sort through the mess in my head. Nina's ministrations on my back are helping, at least relieving the tension in my shoulders. "I think, that's it. Yeah, Lucifer was an asshole." I say, I found it, the little curse he put out, floating in the air around Nina, a thread leads back to Serj, I think. I break it, and burn it, and generally undo the magic.

She seems to suddenly feel different in my presence. I turn my head and look back, she has the most serene smile on her face. "I hate to leave you, like this, after..." She can't stop smiling.

"Go," I wave, "Things are about to get ugly, go do what it is you've wanted to do for so long." She stands up and straightens her skirt, "Sarah."

"Hmm?" Just let me melt into this couch.

"Thank you."

"No problem, just don't dull his killer edge." I say.

"Oh no," She smiles wickedly, "That's the part I like most." She turns and leaves the room.

Alone, for a while, at least. Dear God, I know this is going to sound weird, but, thank you, I think. These Devils are much more my friends than the Angels ever were. Also, God, and I mean this one too, Fuck You for making me what I am, or letting them make me. Or whatever.

I sit back up and lean back against the couch, "Alright soulless little puppet Devil." My own voice sounds strange, like it's been give a burden it doesn't want, "Find Michael, I wonder if he'll be open to a truce, now that I've killed his main rival. Or maybe I've become his main rival. I don't know how this works."

I stand up and pace the little office. "I should talk to Gabriel, I did work for him once, and our goals line up again."

Out to the front room again. Serj and Nina are gone.

"What'd you do?" Ix asks.

"Undid, actually. Lucifer was an asshole." I say, Nox snorts from his table. "Hey, I'm going to, uh, I'm going to go talk to Gabriel and the Choir. Both boys look up at me in unison.

"You're not serious." Ix says.

"Perfectly, look, we both want the same thing now. Find Michael, get the Keys, possibly kill the son of a bitch." I say, looking from one to the other. Ix sighs, Nox nods.

"Ix, I need you to stay here for me," I go up to the bar, "Nox, you're coming with me."

"I don't like it." Ix says.

I pull Ix to me by his bow tie. "I know hon," And kiss him long and deep. "But someone needs to mind the shop, and Nox is good in a fight."

Ix just nods, "Alright." He reaches under the bar and pulls out a gun. One of those classic army guns, 1911 I think they are. I pull my coat back on from where I'd left it on the coat rack, and pocket the gun. "Nox, bring the deck."

Nox stands up and folds the cards back into a deck he just tosses at me, it's happy to see me again. Nox puts on a pair of shoulder holsters, each one also has a spare clip, a long coat over that, and grabs a Tommy Gun with a shoulder strap, he slides that under the coat. "Alright." He grunts, puffs his cigar, and follows me out.

A car is waiting outside, one of the many Devils in my employ. Fallen Angels. Whatever. I get into the back seat, Nox gets in next to me. The devil at the wheel turns around and looks at me, then Nox.

"Boss is sending in a new negotiator." Nox says. The devil furrows his brow, he doesn't like me. My mind immediately brings up his name.

"Recruited from the Puppets, now drive Grigori. We need to go negotiate for the boss with the Choir." I say, "Eight street pool hall."

He shrugs, turns around and drives. Thankfully it's a quiet drive, Grigori doesn't seem much for talking, and I can definitely tell he doesn't like me. Whatever, I probably don't like him either. I look for any curses or threads Lucifer left behind. There are none, Grigori was one of the many unfortunate foot soldiers that just followed a good idea. I'm not sure he gets the cause he was fighting for or against. I do get that he loves the fight for the sake of the fight. I wonder how many devils incorporate some kind of violence into their vices. Dozens is the answer. The headache is just lingering at the back of my head.


I follow Nox out of the car, and have to straighten my skirt, I should have figured out how to wear a pants suit or something not this. I looks good on Nina, but on me it just feels silly.

We walk into the pool hall. There are about a dozen Angels here, a few playing pool, one behind the bar, a few at the bar, and a few looking very mean over by a corner booth where I see Gabriel. At one point I would have put at an equal level with Michael and Lucifer. Today, I'm not so sure, the Choir seems so much less here. Like this.

They watch us as I approach Gabriel, carefully. Nox is right at my back. He's much bigger than all these guys. And both of us have more experience in our physical bodies I think. Some of these guys still look uncomfortable being physical instead of metaphysical. Especially the ones drowning their sorrows in liquor.

I remain standing as the two thugs, and they are just thugs to me now, don't move to allow me to sit at the booth with Gabriel. He seems to be reading some papers as he ignores me. I wait patiently. If he thinks ignoring me is some kind of insult, he's an idiot. I spent too much time wanting to be ignore by them that now that it's actually happening I'm kind of, happy. Yeah, happy. I could stand here another hour.

Well, not an hour, the heels are kind of making my feet hurt a little. I'm not really used to them. But I wait, patiently.

"I understand you work for Samael now," Gabriel's deep voice strikes me as at odds with his very thin form, and he's using Lucifer's long shed Angelic name.

"I do." Sure, let's keep up the lie.

"And why would he send a Puppet into the lair of the Choir?" He finally looks up at his papers at me.

"Because I know how you think." I say, which is why I'm here. I know how they think.

He folds his hands in front of him and places his chin on them, "I see." He leans back and places his arms across the back of the booth, "Well, speak little Puppet."

"We're both looking for Michael." I start out with the obvious, because I think they need it, "And I happen to have met him not once, but twice, now." I go back to what Michael told me. Let's see if he was telling me the truth or just making up a reason to stab me to death.

Gabriel cocks an eyebrow, he wasn't lying. I have him on my terms now. "Well, well," He smiles, I'd say it was a cruel smile but it doesn't quite hold up to Serj, it's simply mean. "So, am I to understand that brother Samael is offering you up for bait?"

That makes me uneasy, but it's not a horrible idea. "Not exactly," I say, got to keep this under my control, "But if I can find him twice, then third time's a charm," I say, "I only lack a means to," How to put this next part delicately, "Stop him."

"Stop?" Gabriel leans forward, "We want him dead."

"Dead then." I say, "Either way, Lucifer achieves his goals."

"Intriguing." He says, "Michael has something we want. If I get you the ability to kill him, will you return our stolen property?"

He doesn't think he's dealing with the Devil, he thinks I'm a tool. Before I can answer, he does something and Nox isn't there.

"Don't worry, I just returned your escort to the car." He waves his hand, "Best make these deals without prying ears."

Excellent, he thinks I really do work for Lucifer and not that I'm the Devil now. I look appreciative, and secretly hope Nox has the smarts to just stay the fuck put. Or come barging in after five minutes anyway.

"This item we want, it is not something that should fall into Lucifer's hands. If you return it to us, after killing Michael, we will help you gain your freedom."

"My freedom?" I sound intrigued, I kind of am, actually.

"Out from Lucifer's grasp. We know he killed one of our own to steal you from us. We know he pulls your strings now."

You know fuck all. I just nod.

"If we cut those strings, as a return favor, we will let you live freely." He leans back again, very smug.

I pretend to hem and haw for a second, Nox comes barging back in on cue. "Deal." I say quickly like I only have moments before the hulking brute of a devil is next to me again.

"Very well," Gabriel motions to another Angel sitting off to one side looking bored, or spoiling for a fight. Hard to say which.

The Angel gets up and brings a long wooden box over, he puts it on the table in front of me. He opens it and goes back to his seat.

It's a silver spike. I know these. I wondered where they come from. Since Michael seemed to have crafted his into an ornate dagger, and probably only made one for himself, the Choir must be creating the rather crude spikes. Crude but effective.

"If you can get this into his heart," Gabriel says, "You will kill him."

What happened to that song? I wonder if it doesn't work because I'm not a puppet for them, or because they've been thrown out of Heaven too.

I close the box and pick it up, "I'll die trying." I go to leave, "How do I know you'll keep your word?" A little mistrust, just to annoy them.

"I never lie Puppet," He says, a little annoyed. I've made him angry. Good.

I just nod and leave, Nox in tow, he looks very unhappy with Gabriel, but also looks like he's not stupid enough to start anything outnumbered twelve to one, with a High Angel present no less.

When we get back into the car I open the box again and take out the spike. About halfway back I toss the box out of the car and slid the spike into a pocket, "Well, that's the weapon." I say.

"He doesn't know you're the Devil," Nox says.

"Nope. Thanks for playing that up." I pay Nox on the knee.

"I know a good cover when I see it, we are devils. Trickery is our trade." He grins big and lights up a new cigar. "New boss is better than the old boss Grigori." Nox laughs.

Grigori just looks at me in the rear view and doesn't say anything. Or smile. Nothing. Total blank. Great. He doesn't like a kinder gentler Devil.

Back in the bar it's still just Ix. Nox goes back to his spot, pulling out a regular deck of cards to play with. I pull the Devil's Deck out of my own pocket and just hold it while I sit and think at the bar. Though now I've taken the far side from the door, near Nox. As long as I'm the Devil's little pet, stay in the back.

"So," Ix starts up the conversation, breaking me from my mindless moment of shuffling the Devil's Deck in my hand. "How do we find Michael?"

"Oh, I figure we need to start a bit of a gang war. Then kill some cops." I say absently, "We have to mess up his dream here. Draw him out before he can manipulate things to draw us out. I'm guessing he's going to go about it as a stalkers game. Hunt down his enemies one at a time."

Nox looks at me, "Enemies? Not just plural?"

"If I were his only target, he'd leave us on Earth, not wherever here is." I tap the bar, "He managed to draw everyone in. Choir, Light, Devils, probably even Demons if that really unfortunate feeling in the back of my head is right."

"Demons?" Ix looks concerned.

"Next to Gabriel, Me, Metatron, he has only Satan to rival him in power. Possibly the Fae, but they fight themselves more than anything else."

Ix makes a face, his beautiful mouth scrunches up, "Satan, now there's a real mother fucker."

"Never met him." I say, though knowing Demons he is the real deal when it comes to just plain evil. not ulterior motive, no end game, just evil. The kind of asshole that would end the world because he can, not because it gets him something. "Never want to."

On cue someone comes into the bar. I get the feeling this bar never really entertains anyone, it just is.

The man is definitely no Angel. Maybe a Demon from Azrael. "Word on the street is Lucifer picked himself up a new mouthpiece." He looks pointedly at me.

I sip my martini, Ix makes a good martini.

"Word also is he made a deal with Gabriel."

"I was sent to negotiate terms." I say. I wonder how much these guys buy into the game of this world. I should ask the boys.

"Terms of what?"

"I don't think that's any of Azrael's business." I say, like I know the whole game.

"Lucifer hides behind his puppet, word on the street is also he's running scared from Michael."

I swirl the little spike with the olive and then pull it out. I casually, well, seductively, eat the olive, "He's got a plan, I have my orders." I smile. "Does Azrael have something to put on the table?" I ask casually. Might as well draw everyone close to me. Not a good idea to have a bunch of unknowns out there in the world. I'm going to have enough trouble if the Demons decide to raise their ugly heads.

"He wants a meeting with Lucifer directly." He says to me.

"I'll ask." I say like it won't do much good, but I'll at least extend the courtesy.

"I'll be back tomorrow." He huffs and leaves.

So, that's two parties looking for Lucifer, one party willing to use me and probably figure once they open the Gates the whole Lucifer thing will be a done deal. And the two unknown parties. The Demons, who probably just want to fuck things up for everyone. And the Legion, who definitely want out of the gilded cage and quite frankly, if I'm going to choose a side, it's theirs.

"What time is it?" I ask.

"Ten." Nox says.

"This bar ever get customers?"

Ix shakes his head, "Not really. Nothing but ghosts in this town anyway, during it's daytime. Night is all run by the gangs. Sometimes if you walk into the right joint the ghosts have come in from the cold to pretend they're alive."

"Ghosts?"

"Souls." Ix wipes the bar down, "And none of 'em like this place." He laughs, "Not that here plays by any kind of rules. We smuggle things to and from places that don't exist. It's all a rather elaborate, and amazingly powerful, spell to trap us all in here."

"Interesting." I tap the bar, "Well, daytime sees more interesting things?"

"Sometimes." Nox says, "Night is when all the action takes place. But daytime, well, the Light is out in force and we gotta watch our asses if we want to see nighttime."

"Great." I sigh, "I got a place to stay."

"You can stay with me doll." Ix leans across the bar, I look at him, then back at Nox. Nox shrugs.

"I got a place." He grunts, "Don't mind me."

"Sure." I turn back to Ix, "But if we're going to get any sleep best to leave now." Ix grins like an idiot, I hear Nox give a short laugh behind me.


For once I'm sleeping Ix's chest, his body feels nice in this shape. Like a real person, I didn't much like the Devil form Lucifer trapped him in. The horns really weren't him. I feel him stir, and come back to life inside me. I sigh deeply and just sit back up.

"So," I put my hands on his chest, "How did the war in heaven start?" I slowly, very slowly, fuck him again. I briefly wonder how many times he can perform a night, we're on number three, then I remember he really personifies lust. I should quit before I get hurt.

"There was an argument." He says, "I'm not really sure what," He's not really paying attention to the conversation, his hands on my hips, trying to urge me on. I'm rocking oh so slowly.

"Remember." I lean forward, "Come on."

He looks up into my eyes, "Your eyes are such a bright shade of blue."

"Ix...." I stop. He whines a bit.

"Alright," I start again, "Samael and Michael had an argument on how best to manage the Demons that suddenly appeared. Satan wasn't nearly as powerful then, Samael argued they could be cultivated, rehabilitated, something. Anyway, he wanted to use or save them. Michael wanted only to destroy."

"That's it?" I ask.

"You have to understand, we didn't really know what Demons were. Only that they existed." He says, still trying to get me to up my pace.

"Maybe they could be saved." I say.

"I certainly thought so." He says, "A lot of us did. Michael saw us as siding with them. When we lost, well, he made sure that whatever aspect of his idea of evils were became more."

"You were into sex?" I ask, now I up my pace.

"I enjoyed making love. The body is not a pleasure to be denied." He said, I can sense the part behind, where the body was part of a whole idea. But now, now it's all pure physical sensations. He can't see past his own desires, even if he knows he once had more to it. I just let myself enjoy the sensation, I'll deal with the whole thing later. I let him take over the rhythm, because he feels good.


Light peeks in through drawn curtains, I'm curled up against Ix, feeling so warm and safe. For a moment I feel it, love coming off him, not just lust. But actual loving care, expressed physically. I realize now, last night we made love. It wasn't simply lustful sex. Wasn't just carnal desire.

Ix loves me. I think I love him. I don't know. Do I? Can I? I'm still soulless. Does that remove all hope of higher emotions? Or am I base animal? I can't decide.

I take comfort in the conflict, embrace it. If I know there's a difference I can choose. I just don't know what that difference feels like. Always, it was a means to an end. Sure, kind of pleasurable. But as I lie here, pressed against Ix fully, I realize only two people have made me feel comfortable in bed. Ix and Christine. Both wanted me, just me. Not something from me.

I think, there may have been past encounters like this. But maybe not. There was always an attachment to them, and idea behind them. With Christine it was simply very good sex. With Ix it's not me he wants, it's the feelings he raises in himself.

I momentarily think how selfish he is, how I should punish him. Old Devil shining through. But it's just a moment, I want Ix to take that pleasure he gets from me, take it, and keep it. I yawn and sit up.

Looking out the window the day is also muted. Not quite grey skies, but not blue either. A kind of weird dull in-between space.

"What's up?" Ix rubs my back lightly as I just stare out the window.

"I keep trying to make sense of all this fighting. This war, over, a disagreement like that."

"You have to understand" Ix sits up and wraps his arms around me. "Angels work on concert. They can't follow multiple agendas, especially not on big ideas. In details one Angel can act solo. But he has to fit into the whole agenda. If he works against it discord occurs.

I lean back into Ix, "And Devils?"

"We don't have a concert. We have only individuals. Sometimes we gather in groups and work towards a goal. But often, we're left to our own devices."

"Perfect order, perfect anarchy." I mutter, gently rubbing Ix's arm, his skin is soft. I like him a human shade of pink more than a bright blue. "Ix, if I told you I loved you what would you say?"

"I love you too." He whispers into my ear.

"I always wondered if Devils or Angels could love. Or if they were too stuck in their, I don't know, personal ideal."

"I used to be an Angel of Love. Now I'm a Devil of Lust." He says, he's finally coming back to his truth. "Emotional and Physical." He squeezes me closer, "Connected."

I settle into his arms more, put my weight against his body, "I don't want to kill Michael. But I have to."

Ix doesn't say anything.

"I will, kill him. But the violence seems so, unimportant." So, fucking worthless, "We're split now. Angels and Devils. I keep thinking it's possible to work things out."

"Not with Angels, single minded, straight as arrows." He says. He's lost all his perspective for them, I can feel that from him, he forgot how to be an Angel.

"They are Bastards." I say, "Come on," I tap his arm and sit up, getting out of bed, "Let's shower and go find some hot chocolate for breakfast."

He smiles and follows me into the shower. This old game. Only this time we have sex against the bathroom tiles while the water runs over us. He does feel much more alive in this form, in this place. We're close to Heaven, I can feel it. The Devils have the Fallen Angel in them drawn out here. Pushed closer to the surface. Sex with Ix isn't like before, like in Atlantic City. It's not just the act.

I shudder to think what Serj is capable of here, how could someone with that capacity for violence not come out on top? What's his secret. What's his Angels mission?


At the bar Ix opens up and makes me a cup of hot chocolate. There's a newspaper waiting on the doorstep. I take my seat at the end of the bar and start to read. Why not, I could probably find something of value here if Michael is going through the trouble to produce one.

Nox walks in not much later, yawning, and drops into his seat. He has his own newspaper, and a magazine, he's reading.

Serj and Nina take a little longer to appear, but not much. Nina is smiling, like she finally found happiness again. It's in the daylight I finally see Serj's face in full. The left side has a huge scar on it, one that twists the edge of his mouth and corner of his eye slightly. The twist in his mouth makes his face look very cruel. Not Gabriel's petty mean, or Michael's angry snarl. Just cruel, calm and collected, but without sympathy. It's a bit of a stark contrast to Nina, but she is the ultimate liar, cruelty with a pretty face. They fit well together. Serj greets me with a smile, "Morning," He takes two cups of coffee over to his booth and sits down. One for him, one for Nina, who sits down opposite him and starts to read a book that had been left on the table. Serj just sits back and watches the street.

The paper reads like a laundry list of the front line in Heaven.

Chorietti family kills two police officers in a stand off outside a bank. Police report two of the gang were injured as they made their retreat.

The Demons biker gang roughed up several citizens at a bar on the outskirts of the city today, police are investigating.

Two members of the Devilini family were shot and killed by police last night.

And an op-ed on the Luciani family in talks with the Chorietti family, possibly as a back room deal to handle the Devilini family, police have no comment.

Well, Michael certainly has an interesting way of letting us know he's watching closely. Something strikes me as odd, a few Angels and Devils got killed last night.

"Ix, do the deaths in the paper really mean an Angel went down?"

Ix frowns, "Yeah, unless you're a Boss, all it takes in here is a rather mundane death. You, Michael, Gabriel, Azrael, can't be killed normally." He says.

"That's..." I sigh, "The rules here are fucked up. How does this place exist?"

"It's the City Of Light." Nox says, "Used to be at least."

"So, you all didn't live in the City Of Silver?"

"The Choir did." Nox continues.

I'm not quite sure I have a clear picture of this whole thing actually. Parts I thought were legend may be true, truths may be lies, it's all kind of backwards, and to top it all off I still have a little bit of a headache as information that Lucifer used to know keeps worming into my memory.

I'm actually becoming a little afraid I'll be come him. Like, I sit up straight. "Shit."

All four of them look at me.

"I'm Lucifer's back door. He just wanted a new body." I rub my eyes, "Fuck, fuck, fuck. I need to find his soul."

"What?"

"Little ash box," I hold my hands out, "About this big, I finally figured out what the fucking thing is. His damned soul. He hid it."

The continue to look on in stunned silence. Why do I know this, oh right, the memories sliding into my head. He hid his soul in the box, a long time ago. About the same time he slipped into the room where my lifeless body sat waiting for the Choir to animate me. Little golem with a whispered secret.

What did he say? I can't recall, I can't bring that up. The memories are shifting.

I don't have a lot of time.

"I don't... follow." Ix scratches his chin.

It's Nina who speaks up. "Old Scratch hid his soul, tricked her into killing him, taking the job. When she kills Michael and opens the Gates he'll be reborn into her body." She explains, "That about it?"

"Er, yeah." How did she know that? "How?"

"Did I know that?" She puts her book down, "I helped him break into the room with the golems. He lied to me, naturally. I let him, I had nothing to lose. Or gain."

Nox shifts uneasily, things are about to get ugly for our new Devil. Though Serj perks up but hesitates, he's not sure whose side he's on.

"Alright." I say, "still leaves us with the problem of Michael." I shift my attention back to the problems I can work on.

"You're going to believe the princess of lies?" Ix whispers to me. I thought he said she didn't lie.

"I thought she didn't lie." I whisper back.

He grunts. "First time for everything." He goes over and refills my coffee cup.

"Michael works for the newspaper." I say, "We need to break into the offices and see what his plans are."

"What?" Nox scratches his bald head.

I hold up the paper, and point at the op-ed piece of the deal, "Mr. Michaels. Really?" I drop the newspaper. "Anyway, I'm going to break into it tonight."

"I'm going with you," Nix insists. A little to forcefully.

"Alright," I say. "You three, keep up appearances."

"I got somebody I need to pay a visit to." Serj says in a very unfriendly way, a very I have someone to kill way.

Less competition the better, "Fine, just be careful."


The day, such as it is, passes. There's a lot of messages brought in and given to Ix as he tends bar. During the afternoon I retreat into the back office and go through all the files there. Lucifer was meticulous about keeping tabs on goods moved around. I realize before he was kicked out he used the city of Light to actually smuggle things through the Grand Bazaar. He really was in league with Satan, in a bid to actually tear down Heaven. The notes aren't explicit, really. But they're clear enough. He hated the Legion, with a passion. I know what I'm going to do with his soul, but I can't tell anyone about it.

Nina does come in at one point, knocking respectfully of course, but not actually waiting for me to say enter. I don't hide what I'm looking at, I've got it spread out in the office, sitting on the couch, my shoes kicked off to one side. "Serj says you're a better Devil." She smiles at me.

"Yeah?" I'm reading about a bar that Lucifer took the protection of the Angels off of a few centuries ago. He opened the back door for the Demons to get into the city. I bet that pisses Michael off. He's got plans that are still unfolding themselves. Even after he died he's got things vexing Michael. Of course, he planned to come back to things here.

"Yes." She looks at a folder, I glance up, she puts it down. "Working hard I see."

"Trying to figure out his plan." I say, she knows I'll try and stop Lucifer, that's got to be obvious. If she's smart she'll help me enough to get in on my plan. Oh, but I already have it. She kneels in front of me and takes on leg in her hands. Gentle touch, she slowly rubs the back of my calf and my foot. "Getting in good with the boss."

"You freed Serj, I owe you something." She looks at me.

"Oh." I go back to the file, but her hands are distracting, and it feels so good. "Why'd you help Lucifer." I lean back into the couch and let her give me a foot and leg massage. Why not.

"He was the boss." She says, "Michael and I, let's say I didn't believe in Lucifer's cause so much as I hated Michael's."

"Ah, chose the side you hate least."

"Exactly." She switches legs. "So, I'm assuming you have a plan to stop Lucifer from taking over your body?"

"Yes." I say, not going to lie to the Devil Of Lies, that's just stupid.

She looks at me expectantly.

"I'm going to get a soul." I say, which is mostly the truth. It's enough truth she hopefully can't find the flaw. "He chose me because I'm just a vessel." I say, I'm also not saying whose soul I'm getting. That'd be giving the game away.

"Clever." She smiles at me.

"What time is it?" I suddenly realize it might be late if she's in here, Serj is probably off taking care of his problem.

"After seven," She stands up, "I was just coming in to check on your before helping Serj."

Good, she'll be with him.

"Ok, I gotta go." I put some of the files back in order and drop them on the couch.

"Nox, guard the home base?" I look at him. His answer is to put a tommy gun on the table next to him and go back to his game.

Ix and I go one way, Serj and Nina go another. Perfect little night out of mayhem, I can't wait to read about what they're doing in the paper tomorrow.


In my closet there are nothing but skirts, and blouses, and dress. "Nice." I pull out a slinky evening dress, it's actually classy.

"Mhmm," Ix makes an appreciative noise.

"Down boy," I say and put it back, "Did they think to give me a pair of fucking slacks. I know the fifties had jeans." I mutter and push everything to the side.

"Hon, you're the Devil." He says from his perch on the bed.

I turn around and look at him.

"Wish some fucking clothes into existence." He says.

I'm not used to doing that, it's against my nature to use wishes like that. Against my training, experience, better sense. I wonder how wishes work here. I turn around and pull a pair of nice pants out of the closet. No void, no eddy, no weird feelings.

I strip, which is naturally when Ix comes over.

"You are built well." He says his hands on my hips.

I turn around and face him, "It's easy when you take the genetics out of it. I kiss him, "Later, we have work to do." I pull the pants on, a nice pair of loafers, Nina can pull off the high-heeled thing, not me.

"This one," Ix hands me a red blouse, "Looks good."

I kiss him, "Silly Devil," I whisper. It seems like a really stupid sentiment that he has a preference for which shirt I'm wearing. It seems stupid that I should find it endearing, I think it should. But it doesn't, it's, sweet. I'm not used to it.


Breaking into the newspaper is pretty easy, it's not like there's high tech anything around here. The place seems fairly meticulous in its reconstruction of the era. Or the idea of the era.

Michael's office is a simple corner affair. Name on the door, desk, paper everywhere. Files, note pads, typewriter.

"Organized." I say to myself. Ix waits outside, hand inside his jacket resting on a pistol.

I rummage a bit, I don't even know what I'm looking for. It sit back in his chair and looks at the desk, hoping it will come to me. Out of the corner of my eye I see it. A legal pad off to one side, like it's not quite important. It's writing things down, or words are appearing on it.

The demons have attempted to take over another bar, this one a little further in the city. A strong police presence stopped them this time, luckily a squad car was nearby. Lucky my ass.

Why aren't you something like the police commissioner. The mayor. Someone with authority. Why a reporter.

I read the words, it names dead Angels and Demons. Things normally left out of the papers. I freeze at what I read next.

'Hello little puppet.'

I swallow, good news is he thinks I just work for Lucifer, bad news, he knows I'm here.

'I don't know what Samael sent you to find, but I can assure you it's not here.' Even the writing sounds smug.

I hear a car out the window, unmarked cop car.

I run to the door, "We have to go, he knows we're here." I whisper and grab Ix by the elbow, leading him out. We go to the back stairs, and run into a security guard. Timing. How very dramatic.

"Hey!" He calls out, and actually pulls his gun.

Ix is faster, before I can stop him Ix just shoots the guy. I don't know if that was an Angel, or just some poor soul stuck here to fill in a role. Ix grabs my hand and we run, because gunshots are loud and attract attention.

Out the back door the two plainclothes spot us.

"Stop!" One yells, the other just draws his revolver and fires off a shot. Luckily cops still carry revolvers here. Bad guys carry semiautomatics. Bad guys like us.

Ix fires back as he swings me around the corner, fires two more shots, and runs after me.

A squad car, lights on, sirens going, comes around the corner. The fuck?

Timing. You bitch.

I stop on the sidewalk and assess the situation, "Shit." I push my hair back out of my eyes and put one hand in my coat pocket, feeling the silver spike.

"Come on," Ix grabs me and we run down an alley, "Stashed a car a couple blocks away."

Smart boy, why didn't I think of that. We run, police run after us, a squad car goes around the block, not quite able to fit down the narrow alley. More gunshots fired wildly in the night. Great more attention.

"Stop that, you'll give away where we are." I yelp as we run another block up and down an alley. At the end Ix slows us to a walk and puts the gun away, a glance over my shoulder and I don't see anyone.

"Act natural." He gives me his elbow and I take it, we walk into a light crowd getting out of a late theater show.

"This place is..."

"Dramatic." Ix says, "It likes drama. Whatever this city was, or is, it's not just backdrop. It's got an agenda all its own." He explains and we cross the street to a parking lot. He opens the door for me, another insipidly sweet thing I find endearing. I get in and try not to blush, because I find it endearing, sappy, and kind. And I don't quite know how to handle this. Part of me wants to get angry and tell him I can open my own damn door. Part of me wants to kiss him.

He gets in, we drive off towards the bar. "So," He asks, "Find anything?"

"He's got some weird notepad that literally writes down every altercation that takes place. That's how he knows what's going on." I say.

"So we know the how." Ix shrugs, "Anyway to control it?"

"doubtful, it seems to act on its own." I sit back in the seat. "Still, steal that and we might have something, but I think he also knows what goes on around it."

"Huh?"

"He, kind of wrote to me through it. Then the cops showed up."

"Creepy."

"Yeah." I agree.

"Buy you a late night coffee? I know a nice little diner." He says.

That's not like him, I figured he'd be wanting to get back to the apartment for sex. "Uh, sure."

He smiles and pats my knee affectionately.

"You're not yourself." I say.

"What?" He looks at me.

"This," I put my hands out, "Is kind of like a date, which is kind of the opposite of lust." I say.

He nods, "Well, I said before, I feel closer to what I was before the Fall," He pulls into a parking space, "If you want..."

"No," I stop him, "It's nice, I just wasn't expecting it." I get out of the car, "Coffee sounds nice." I smile.

The diner doesn't have very many people in it, a couple patrons at the bar, two waitresses, a fry cook, and now us.

"What's the pie?" I ask, I'm feeling especially giddy, and want something sweet. Also, it feels more like a date after a movie if I order pie and coffee. Or a date after a break and enter, complete with shoot out.

"We got apple, lemon meringue, and peach cobbler." she says.

"The lemon, and a coffee." I'm smiling, I can't get the smile off my face.

"Coffee," Ix says.

"So," I look at him as the waitress goes off to get the pot of coffee and a slice of pie, "I kind of like this Ix." I put my chin in one hand, "He's nice."

Ix smiles, I lean back when the pie arrives and watch Ix pour sugar into his coffee, "I like everything sweet." He says, an amazingly sappy thing.

I nearly giggle. Oh fuck, I am falling for him. Or in love. I have no idea what this is. "Hey!" I give a false protest when he steals a bit of my pie.

We sip our coffee in silence. Staring into each others eyes. He has nice eyes.

"Our next move?" He asks me.

"I think, I just need to talk to Michael." I say.

"That's a dangerous move."

"Yeah," I nod, "It is."

We sit there for a while more, finish off the piece of pie. It's nice, just sitting with him, nothing to do, no need to talk. There's no uncomfortable silence here. He leaves a nice large tip on the table and we walk outside.

A squeal of car tires let's us know something is up, but just a moment to late. I watch the car come around the corner, leaning out a back window is a Devil, wicked grin and a tommy gun. He opens fire.

Bullets fly past, Ix tries to draw his gun, it almost gets out as he falls back, I'm ducking out of reflex, because bullets hurt. But some miracle of place and time prevents even on round from hitting me. Everything around me is hit. Glass is breaking, concrete chipping, pings off the metal of the car. I go down to the ground with Ix, an instinct makes me pick up his gun and fire at the retreating car. Four shots and all I got for my trouble was one ping off the trunk.

"Ix!" I look down at him, he's bleeding badly. "Oh God." I drop the gun and put my hands on one of his wounds, I can't cover them all. "Come on." I help him up, three bullets got him, "Oh please." There's tears in my eyes.

"Car." He points to the car, I get him in the passenger seat. I have trouble driving, my hands are slick with blood and tears are in my eyes. "Fuck, we need a doc." I say. Nox, he knows one. We gotta have one stashed somewhere. I can't get the thoughts in my head to clear, I can't think.

I pull in front of the bar, half up onto the sidewalk, and rush inside. "Nox!" I yell, he looks up from his table, and his eyes go wide.

"Ix!" I just point outside at the car, I have blood on my hands and shirt.

Nox stands up and goes outside with the gun in one hand, just in case. I stay standing where I am, I can't think of what to do. It's too much. What the fuck.

Nox just walks back inside slowly, looking out the window of the door I see Ix in the passenger seat. He's slumped to the side. No.

No.

I collapse, crying. Hugging myself, I can't believe this. No. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. It was supposed to be simple. Get the keys. Get the soul. Get out. Oh God please not this. I feel Nox put a hand on my shoulder, I grab onto him, cling with all I've got. I don't know what to do next.

I just cry myself out. The whole thing is a blur. Nothing makes sense.


Later, I think it's later. I'm sitting in a booth, my hands around a cup of hot chocolate. I can smell it, it smells good. I look down at my hands, clean, but there's still some blood on my shirt, I can smell that too.

Nox did something, the car is gone. I look out at the empty space where I left it. Left Ix. I didn't say goodbye. I wasn't supposed to have to.

I hear the door open, I look over and it's Serj and Nina.

"What happened?" He asks, seeing me over in a booth, I don't even want to know what I look like.

"Ix." Nox says, he sounds very far away, "I don't know what happened, made a few calls." He sighs, I hear the words, but they aren't making sense. "Drive by as near as I can tell."

Nina sits across the booth from me, and looks into my eyes, "She's upset." She says.

Nox nods, "She lost Ix." He says.

Nina looks over at Serj and Nox, still standing over across the room. "I know he was her second." She says.

Nox shakes his head, "No," He takes a swig from a bottle I didn't know he had on him. I want some. "They were lovers."

"Lovers?" Nina looks at me confused. "But..."

"Not the same Devil." Serj says.

I stand up and walk over to Nox, he seems impossibly huge, or I'm very small. I don't know. I just want some of what's in that bottle. I reach out and take it from his hand.

I want the burn, the clarify only an alcohol haze can bring. I take a long swig. God it hurts, going down. My throat burns. I cough, "Who's side are you on?" I look at Nina, "Are you still helping Lucifer?" I look her in the eye. I can practically feel the mother fucker laughing in the back of my head.

"I..." She looks stunned.

"Just fucking tell me. Chances are I fail at this too and he'll win in the end." I say. Practically spit it out, and take another swing of the bottle. Nox tries to take it, I just pull away and twist around to look at her.

Nina looks at Serj and then me. "Different Devil?" She asks him.

He nods. I'm not clear whose side he's on either.

"My own." She says flatly, "Because I'll die before I let anyone take Serj away from me again." He voice is unsteady, I can see a tear in her eye.

I look at Serj, the perfect model of cruelty, murder. But not hate. He's not spiteful, or even angry. He's just, a certain kind of unspoken terror.

"You love him?" I ask, I don't know why I ask this. Or why it matters. But it does. Right now it does.

"Ye..." She swallows and looks at him, "Yes." She says softly, "I do."

I nod. I'm tired suddenly. Just very very tired. "Does anyone know what the Keys even look like?" I ask, I don't know why this comes to my mind right now but it does.

Serj nods, "I do." He says, in that gravestone voice of his.

I take the silver spike out of my coat pocket, "I'm pretty sure you can make this into something you can shoot at Michael?" I hand it over. He nods.

"I'm... I'm going to go sleep. Or try." I say, my voice feels dead, my limbs feel dead.

It's Nina who stands up and puts an arm around my shoulder, "Come with me." She says.

I nod. I'm still pretty sure she'll turn on me the second it looks like it won't go my way. I'm okay with that right now. Right now, it's in her interest to keep me alive. I'm not Lucifer, the cruel bastard who did something to pull her and Serj apart. She walks me out of the bar, I don't catch what she says to Serj, I'm too tired to ask.


when I wake up the previous night is like some vague nightmare. There's another person in bed with me, maybe it was a nightmare. My hand reaches out and touches soft skin, not Ix.

I fully open my eyes and take in where I am. "You're awake." Nina's voice is soft and close by. It's her leg I have my hand on.

I look over, she's wearing a night-shirt and shorts, I'm curled up in the bed beside her. "Do I have to be." It's the only thing that comes to mind. Maybe if I go back to sleep and try waking up again I'll be with Ix.

"Depends." She rolls completely over and puts an arm around me. I notice Serj is asleep on the far side of the bed. Her solution was to take me to bed with them.

"Why am I here."

"I didn't think you should wake up alone." She strokes me hair gently, "Considering."

I roll onto my bad and stretch out, "Yeah. That." I sigh.

She pulls me into a hug and for whatever reason it feels good. The contact feels good. I start to cry. I doesn't take me long to get the tears under control, when I do Serj has gotten up and is in the shower. I compose myself by the time he gets out. He's got a towel around his waist, he's one of those builds that thin but all muscle. Ix was just kind of a thin scrawny guy, Serj is muscular without being bulky. Nina drags me into the shower, I don't think she wants to leave me alone. Not for a moment. I don't know why.

She hands me clothes to get into, clean and without blood. They're hers so they don't really fit, she's taller, little wider. The skirt I'm wearing probably hits her knees, on me it's mid calf, a belt keeps it on my waist. I pull a blouse on, and realize I just don't want to wear this.

"Come, breakfast." She says.

"Can I have a moment, just to pull myself together." I say, not ask. I'm the fucking Devil, capital D. I'm the boss. She looks me over, then nods.

I want comfortable clothes, I just force my wish through the facade of this place. Jeans, boots, I leave the blouse but don't tuck it in. I can feel the ripple of my will as I pull in what I wanted with brute force. Not as subtle as reaching into the back of the closet.

I join them at the breakfast table. They cook together, Serj is making coffee and freshly squeezed juice, Nina is cooking eggs and bacon. There's a toaster off to one side too. It's very domestic.

I sit at the table and watch them for a moment, I wonder how long they existed in this domestic neutral zone before Lucifer grabbed Serj and made him a leather jacket. "What did Lucifer do?" I ask casually. Nina looks over her shoulder and flips the bacon.

Serj pour juice into the glasses and let's the coffee sit in the press. "He turned us into the perfect couple in a loveless marriage." He said in a voice that cannot possibly come from a normal business man that he appears to be.

"I don't quite get it." I say.

"All the motions, but he did something to drain all our..."

"Joie De Vivre." Nina finish and slid the bacon onto a plate. "We could touch, but never felt anything."

"Is that why," I hesitated, I'm eating breakfast with murder and lies, "Is that why when I asked you to, uh, sleep with me you said you couldn't?" I looked at Serj, then at Nina.

"Yes." He said.

We sat at the table in some weird, muted, simulation of domestic. . . Something. "You still have that silver spike?" I ask Serj.

"Of course," He buttered some toast as Nina pushed the press down on the coffee. Completely in synch.

"It can kill me." I say, "Want to be the new Devil?" I eat a piece of bacon as Nina pours the coffee. They look at each other.

"I'm supposed to keep you alive long enough for Lucifer to take over." Nina sits down opposite each other. I'm in the middle. This is, I imagine, how a child might feel. I'm still numb, the world is still far away.

"You'd stop him?" I ask, and drink some coffee.

"Yes, but for a different reason than you think." He drinks his juice, she takes a bite of eggs. "The longer you're alive the longer we can try and out smart him."

"He can't take any action from where he is." Serj says.

"Oh." I don't have any counter to that. Other than I really just don't want to be alive anymore. I finally found a reason, and it's gone. In a blink. Is this how mortals feel? Hell, is this how anyone else feels? I didn't even know I was capable of these feelings. I had nothing to lose before. At least, nothing besides my own skin.

"If it makes you feel any better, if we can't figure out a way to stop him, we'll kill you." Nina says, over orange juice it sounds so, boring.

Serj looks at her with a frown, but nods.

We finish breakfast in silence. I'm thinking of ways I can either get to Michael or kill myself. It's about that moment I realize that they're the same thing. If Michael wants to kill me, he can kill me, end of issue. If I win, I get the keys, I talk to Legion, I get dead. I'm looking at a win win situation. At least from where I sit.

I help Nina clean up as Serj goes off to do something in the garage. This is the picture of domestic tranquility. "What was it like, before Serj and I met?"

"Like this, times and places changed, because we didn't." She said drying a plate. "A neighborhood full of people, families usually because Lucifer is very cruel."

"You want a family?"

"Oh no," She laughs, "No children, not from Angels. No, but it reeks of domestic happiness. Not all marriages were good, which gave us cold comfort." She put away another dish, "Some neighbors would comment that we didn't seem happy together. We did what we could."

"Serj was, gone for a while." I try to put together the time I had Serj in real world mortal terms. Everything for me, was all kind of blurry.

"Yes, I became, well I was me. I dealt in con games actually. The closer to lies I could get the better. Empty calories kind of thing." She smiled, "Serj did find small ways to let me know he was around during some of those years. The occasional murder in a specific way. Though he was silent other years."

"Probably the ones we were skipping around in, getting stuck in that house, leaving it always meant a different jump forward."

"Lucifer did that." She sighed, "It's that mirror door he built it around. I don't know how he found it, but it fucks with things."

"Yeah." I say, "Apparently."

Serj returns and puts an arrow looking object on the table. A crossbow bolt. I remember those. Not as painful as bullets. The tip is the silver spike. "I can kill from quite a distance with this. Try meeting him outside." He smiles.

"Or save it for me." I say.

"We don't know what will happen if we kill you before Lucifer tries to take over." Nina says, "If we kill you, it will because he did first, and we're just disposing of the body."

Disposing of the body. So normal over breakfast.


The bar is quiet as we enter. Nox is sitting there, quietly snoring from his chair, he spent all night, on the table in front of him is the Devil's Deck. It looks sad for some reason. I pick it up and quietly shuffle with one hand as I sit at the bar. It's Nina who makes the coffee, Serj disappears into the back.

"He'll follow us, from now on he's a shadow." She said pouring me a cup of the coffee, and then Nox. Who wakes with a snort and a start. "Just us honey." She smiles.

He grumbles and rubs his face, "I'm sorry." He looks at me, his eyes are sad.

"I know." I say, the world is still kind of unreal, far away. "We're going to finish this. When we're done the war will be over. I think we're all just very tired of it."

Nina puts the newspaper on the table and goes to her usual spot to read.

"What do you read?" I ask her as she settles in. "Science Fiction." She says, "It's usually very optimistic." she smiles and goes back to her book.

"So what's the plan?" Nox asks me. "Well, we're going to go talk to Michael today." I say, "One way or another." I pick up the newspaper, "Go get some real sleep, meet back here around lunch." I say to Nox.

He nods and stands up, "You sure?" He looks uneasy leaving us.

I read under the bar and pull out a gun, it wasn't there a moment ago, but a wish that seems plausible is easy for reality to deal with. "Yeah." I say.

Nox goes out the door and up the street.

"You've got the Devil's Deck." Nina says to the deck in my hand.

"Yeah, kind of took it from him before we started stabbing each other."

"It likes you."

"I like it, simple creature." I say.

"Like a dog."

"Like a dog." I agree and look at the days headlines.

It mentions the break in at the newspaper. The drive by that killed Ix. The attempted Demon incursion. More of the rival gang was killed in a shoot out with the cops. I just keep reading the article on Ix's death over and over. The car out front is gone. I stand up and walk over to the table, there's still a smudge of blood on the table.

I burst into tears.

Nina is holding me, making calming noises like 'shhh' and 'hush' and other nonsense. There's no calm here. There's just a deep blank hole. I hate this. I hate everything.

As I'm holding onto Nina, blank thoughts flutter through my mind. Little snippets of the past. Christine's face, smiling as I leave her that last time. A long time ago a man named Charlie. Before that there were others. Moments of silence where I'm alone, sitting in a little place drinking hot chocolate. One time I was on top of a mountain looking down at the hard ground, I can't remember if I was trying to actually kill myself then, or testing. What was that time? That place?

The memory has holes in it, because I don't know how I got there. What I was doing before. What... I know why, that's not a real memory. Nina's embrace is warm, comforting. Her fingers are gently rubbing the back of my neck, that sensation comes through the memory, like the memory was made.

The Choir can't take a memory away, they just painted over it. They painted over Pompeii, that's what Michael said. Pompeii. The second song.

I know the song. I remember how to, what? Take it all down. Take everything down. I step back from Nina and wipe my eyes.

"I, can end the war." I say, "But I need to know how to get from here to that desert, where Lucifer built his house."

"I can get us there." Nina nodded, "He took me there a lot, it's where he and I planned his resurrection."

"If you were so close, why did he betray you?" I ask, I have to know. She's playing me, she did say her job was to keep me alive long enough for Lucifer to win.

"After that," She squares her jaw, "That was just after we were thrown from Heaven." She said, "In the beginning that desert was our prison. Lucifer found a way out, it's why the house was built. Eventually he smuggled all the Devils out. In various ways and forms. But I fell in love with Serj in the meantime. He was, well, he's honest." She says, "When you can see the lies behind everything then no one is what they seem." She laughs, "But him, oh he's just so straight and honest. Even as a Devil, he just, is. No excuses." She sits back down, taking my hand to do the same. I sit across from her. "There was something refreshing in his honest brutality." She says.

"So what happened?"

"I saw more and more lies behind Lucifer's schemes, as he planned he brought in me Devils, each one got a different story. I wanted out, so Serj and I just planned to walk through the mirror, to go. He found out." she sighed.

"How do you get there without the mirror?"

"Oh, that's just a way of kind of stepping around reality. You know how you can go anywhere, and anywhere, if you step through a door just right?"

"Yes..." The Choir was just pushing me in the right direction, but it was me who was actually doing it.

"You just, step, kind of up and sideways." She said, "I can't explain it."

"I think," I knit my brow, "I think I can figure it out. The ability to alter things with a Wish and The Devils abilities to make things true kind of, well, it's powerful." I say. "I don't suppose you know what the Keys To The Kingdom look like?" I ask.

She smiles, I still think she plans on letting Lucifer kill me and take my body. Part of me wants to fight. Part of me just wants to wait it out and see. I don't know which side is winning. Without Ix, I just can't decide on anything. "No." She shakes her head. Liar.

Does anyone. Fuck.

I get up and pull the phone on the bar over to me and call up the newspaper. Time to make plans. "Yes, I'd like to talk to Mr. Michaels. Tell him Mrs. Luciani." I say. The phone is silent for a minute.

"Mr.s Luciani." A voice says, Michael sounds so official here, "How can I help you?"

"I'd like to meet, talk about a deal."

"Does Mr. Luciani know you're doing this?" I can almost see that smug smile on his face.

"No." I say, "The park, today, one O'clock." I hang up the phone, not giving him a chance to negotiate or get more information. Hopefully he's curious enough to take the bait. "Think he'll show?" I look at Nina.

"Absolutely." She smiles, "If he thinks you speak for Lucifer, and he wants you dead anyway, he'll show."

"Naturally you'll do what you can to make sure he doesn't kill me. So Lucifer's plan can hatch." I say.

"Naturally. Up to a point." She smiles, "But I do hope it doesn't come to that, I just know Lucifer booby trapped things in case of premature puppet loss."

"Yeah." I nod, "Yeah, you know he did." But what. I need to figure that out first. A wave of nausea overcomes me, along with another flood of memories pours into me. He's getting close. I don't have a lot of tim.

Nina is kneeling next to me, I must have fallen to the floor, "You okay sweety?" She asks.

"No." I speak with Lucifer's voice momentarily. I feel him deep in me, "No, maybe." I regain my own voice. Nina looks startled.

Okay, I changed my mind, now I want to find a way to beat Lucifer because he's just pissing me off. I can't let him win. Ix would tell me to fight. I know he would. I stand up on shaky legs, each time Lucifer pours memories into me, his plans become a little clearer. I just have to hope I can straighten it all out before he wins. I close my eyes against the swirling of the room and let Nina help me back onto the stool, "Wow." He rub my eyes, "Where's the Devil's Deck?" I ask, putting one hand out, I have an idea.

Nina goes and gets it.

I breathe slowly, gaining back some control, my hands are still shaking as I turn around and face the bar. Devil's Deck in hand I ask it the one question I should have asked ages ago. What do the Keys To The Kingdom look like? Silently, Nina can't know what I'm asking. I'm alone with the one person most likely to betray me.

I overturn the top card slowly and look at it. I'm looking at myself. I put the card back. No, seriously, what do they look like? I think, I wish it actually. I turn the card over.

My picture again.

What the hell. None of this makes sense. Nothing makes sense. I'm Lucifer's vessel. I'm the Choirs song of destruction. I'm the Keys To The Kingdom Michael hid somewhere.

Michael wants me dead because that destroys the keys. Lucifer wants me dead because I'm a soulless vessel he can take over. The Choir wants me dead because I sing the final song. Oh you stupid stupid Angels. You put all your eggs in one basket.

Luckily none of them talk to each other. I slide the Devil's Deck into my pocket and pat it, I love this deck. I hate the answers, but I love the deck.

"Nina, have you met any other Puppets?" I ask, something strikes me as funny.

"No," She said, "I mean, you're common knowledge. But, I've never met one."

"Don't you think that's odd?" I ask, "We get pushed everywhere through space and time, and no one has met one."

"Have you?"

"Yes, a couple." I try to reconcile this thought with that, did I really meat other puppets? Maybe. They always seemed inquisitive though, like they were looking to me for answers. And wouldn't it have been more intelligent to ask Devils for information? The ones most likely to try and give up information on Michael's location. I encountered a few here and there. "Actually, I think I'm the only one. The only real one."

"I don't understand."

"Well, it seems they put a lot of effort into making me. When you and Lucifer broke into where I was kept, before they animated, did you see others? Other puppets waiting to be animated?"

"No..." She says slowly, "Oh, my." She looks startled like she just had the same revelation I did.

They only had enough energy to make one actual Puppet. Everyone else was, probably a very short lived golem sent to get a specific bit of information. A projection. Lucifer lied when he said the Angel that created me died. It wasn't one Angel, he had planted the seeds to cut my strings ages before.

What a lovely little game I'm piecing together. And all thanks to these lovely new memories trying to push me out. He's not as clever as he thinks he is, or he assumed that by this point it didn't matter what I knew. Or hoped I wouldn't find out certain things.

//The Devil You Know//

The park is mostly empty, a few business men walking back from late or out for a late lunch. A slightly larger than normal police presence. The colors are still muted, the dull green of the grass bothers me. Everything here seems like it's half a moment away from perpetual pause.

Nox is at my side, bit coat on with big guns under it. Nina at my other side, looks charming, elegant, and very unarmed. The perfect combination of harmful and harmless. Serj is, I don't know where, somewhere. Hopefully somewhere near. If this goes how I think it will I'll need to pull them all out in a hurry. On the other hand, the brute force wish from earlier seems to have settled down, I don't know what happened exactly but it dissipated its general agitation. No sucking void, just a kind of uncomfortableness about things occurred.

Lucifer is still banging away in my head as we wait. I can feel him now, he's very angry with me. Like a shouting monologue telling me how I can't win, whatever I'm planning won't work. I realize now he's fully committed to this maneuver. He's dead, gone. He can't do anything until his soul is free, and it won't be free until he's got my body. That's the suicidal thoughts, him. If I die early, he gets the body right away. No surprises. Too bad he didn't tell Nina.

See Lucifer, you'll have to trust your closest people. But you didn't do that. You trusted no one. Poor little devil, stuck while I do the dance. He rages, he yells, stamps his nonexistent feet.

I look around the park, hands in my pockets. I pull out the Devil's Deck and turn slowly around. One end of the park looks right at a big building labeled City Hall. The doors are big, and closed. No one seems to go in or out. You get the impression it's used all the time, but no one goes near it. There's just something odd about it.

The big doors look different. They're big, and made of wood braced with iron. They're almost just a little bit brighter than the rest of the area. The rest of reality. I look up at a window, and see a man, I see him far too clearly for the distance I'm standing at. I shiver and turn around to see Michael coming down the walkway towards me.

He smiles as he approaches, but he doesn't look happy.

"Little puppet, you've come a long way." He says, he actually looks like he might be a reporter, right down the stupid hat with the words 'press' on a card tucked into a brim.

"I'm sneaky like that." I say.

"So what did Lucifer do to get you in his corner."

I shrug. "Blackmail, threats, all manner of things I don't particularly like." I say.

"And yet he has you chasing all over town running his errands, making his deals." He motions to a bench to the side. We walkover and sit down. Nina stays nearby, looking mostly harmless. No Devil is ever actually harmless. Nox stays in full view, watching us, watching the rest of the Angelic cops in the park.

"If you hadn't tried to kill me I might be doing the same for you." I say as we sit down, "Really."

"Yes, but I needed you dead for a reason." He leans kind of sideways on the bench, putting his elbow on the back so he can face me.

I lean back and stretch my legs out, folding my hands on my stomach, slouching. This is a bad position to get up and run from, oh well. "Can I at least know?" I ask him, I'm curious what he's going to tell me.

"That song, I told you." He said.

Yeah that, "That can't be it. You escaped it once, how harmful can it be?" Kind of a stupid question.

"Harmful enough." He smiles, "So tell me, why are you here?"

"Lucifer wants to kill me too," I say, might as well start with the truth. "I just don't know when, how, or why for that either." I sigh, I sound tired. I am tired. I miss Ix. I miss his stupid little comments, I miss his touch, and the way he would just give me a warm thought every now and then.

"You look sad." He says.

"I lost someone last night. It's all just senseless. I don't know what this war is about." And I don't, I don't think anyone does.

"It's about control. And God."

"God?" I've never met God, I didn't know you could, I don't think you can. Maybe you can.

"He left us instructions." Michael says, "Very specific, if long, instructions. Samael refused to follow them, he said God's instructions make no sense."

"Do they?"

"Of course they do."

"Michael," I look at him, "I don't have a soul, I don't even have a race. I'm a singular thing. Why was I made?" I have no idea why this question comes to mind, but it does.

"You'd have to ask Gabriel, you're his little project."

"Does the Choir follow God's instructions?"

"Yes, to the letter."

"Then why are they fighting you?" Now I don't understand, what I thought I got is unravelling. Shit.

"Because, the one thing Samael I had in common was that we disagreed with those instructions."

The revelation kind of hits me like a brick, I glance at Nina, she looks a little surprised too. Nox lights a cigar and puffs it.

"I remember that conversation." He says suddenly, he'd been listening in to the conversation.

"Ah yes, Nox, that's your Devilish name. Uriel was it?"

Nox nods, "It was." He says.

Nina looks confused, "You were there, when it started?"

Nox smiles a wicked smile. "I was."

"I have a question for you." Michael says, ignoring me for a moment. "Why did you choose Samael's side? As I recall you argued against him for days."

"I did," Nox nods, "And I didn't choose Lucifer's side. What I did was not choose your side." He growls.

I kind of want to retreat, become a fly on the wall for this little drama.

"Lucifer," Nox won't use his Angelic name, "Wanted to tear down the walls, let all of creation blend together." He said, "That is against the purpose set up by God."

"And why didn't you wish to join me?"

"You," He points with his cigar, "You wanted to rule creation as King. There is only one King, and he sits upon the Throne."

"God left the throne empty." Michael spits, "No one sits upon the Throne now. And I no one sits there I will keep it locked away."

Nox nods, "I noticed that. We've spent a long time looking for the keys."

"We?" Michael tilts his head, "Don't tell me that Samael wanted to open the Gates? He stands to lose as much as I do if the Legion is loosened upon us."

Nox smiles, "I told you, I didn't choose his side, I just didn't choose yours."

"But there are only two sides!" Michael almost shouts, checking himself just in time. This little drama is interesting, a little scary. Nox is just way to relaxed. I glance at Nina, she's riveted to the conversation.

"If there are any Angels fit to sit upon the Throne, it is one of Legion."

"Legion is not one. Legion is all."

"Legion is of one mind, one voice, many bodies." Nox puffs his cigar.

"Metatron will never escape. I've seen to that." Michael laughs. "You don't think I haven't planned for this the whole time?"

Nox is smiling, he's smiling that smile that says he's about to do something risky. But he says nothing.

"I hid the Keys in the same place Lucifer hid his little trick." He looks at me and leans in close, "Oh clever little puppet," I'm clever?

"I put them in you just after Lucifer slid that little sliver of his soul into you. You've always been destined to become The Devil. Lucifer's replacement."

I look a little stunned.

"You didn't think I knew?" He laughs, "Oh, what a clever Angel he was. But soon it won't matter. When I kill you, I kill the Keys, and I stop him from returning." He stands up, I just watch him.

There's kind of a flash or movement. Nox has just punch Michael in the side of the head. He topples over the bench, I scramble forward just in time to not get caught up in it.

Nox's other hand is reaching into his coat, "Ambriel, take Sarah out of here, take her back to the Land Of Midnight Sun." He growls at her, and grabs her shirt with the hand that isn't holding an impossibly big gun. Angels are starting to flood into the park. And not just Angels Of Light. The Choir is here too, and Devils of both sides of their own fight. "And do not kill her." He puts his face very close to hers. She just nods and swallows.

"Nox!" I try to shout, but Nina grabs me and the world kind of starts to go in a peculiar direction.

Nox is walking towards the town hall, firing that gun, it's like an oversized tommy gun, the bullets are all colors as they streak into the doors of city hall. Everything starts to erupt in violence.

Michael stands up, having to reach down and grab the silver dagger he dropped. He's screaming something at me but sound is fading away. I feel Serj suddenly next to us, I watched him slide out of a shadow of a tree and just glide right up to us.

My last view is Nox pulling another gun out of his coat and firing at angels as I watch the doors of City Hall buckle, and bend, a light streams out of it and men start to come out. For some reason they strike me as G-Men, because that's exactly what they'd be if they weren't trapped in that building.


I'm in the desert. Nina and Serj are next to me. I drop to my knees and try to reconcile the angle we just passed through, it doesn't make sense to bend like that. "Ow." I mutter.

Next to me Serj is moving, doing something. Nina is on her knees holding herself? Her arm? There's a lot of red blurring in my vision. I try and blink out the fuzz, it doesn't work. My ears buzz a little, that subsides after a few minutes. Finally Serj comes over to me as I try and get my berrings. He's got the same red on his hands and suit jacket.

"You OK?" Serj asks.

"I think I sprained my imagination." I mutter, my head isn't throbbing in pain so much as pulsing with unease.

"We don't have much time." Nina says, "We need to find the mirror." She seems in a bit of a hurry.

"Why? Can they follow us?" I try to stand up, it's not really working, I can actually feel Lucifer worming around in my mind.

"That's the actual entrance," Nina says, "And they have one in the jail, Michael will be sending Angels through it to find us."

"But they can't kill us." I say, finally getting my feet under me, still bent over with my hands on my knees, "Did, did Nox?"

"I don't know." Serj says, "Nina's right. They can't kill us, but that can make us wish we were dead. And wrose, drag us back there."

"Ok," I blink and actually see Lucifer's face laughing in my vision. We need to hurry, but for a completely different reason than that. I stagger and finally stand. "I need a second." And no sooner do I say that than Serj just scoops me up and starts to carry me.

"Do we know where to look?" I ask as the sudden movement tosses my balance off again.

"She does." Nina nods in my direction.

"What did you do stepping sideways?" Serj asked as they walk in a direction.

"Do?" She looks at him, I can kind of barely make out their faces as Nina walks on the side that my head is on.

"Yes." Serj says angrily.

"I..." She looks down on me, "Twisted a little bit when she stepped, I needed to weaken her for Lucifer to come through."

Serj stops walking, "Put me down." I whisper. He does, though I stay leaning on him, he's got an arm around my shoulders as I stand in front of him. "You what?"

Nina stops and faces us, "It's just a matter of time, she can't hold him off, we don't even know how to stop him." She says, "And I'm not risking betrayal." She actually has tears in her eyes, "He promised me he'd lift our curse." She says, "Think about it, just help me..." She's pleading with him. I can't quite make it out, but one sleeve of her blouse is missing, there's a lot of red, blood I think, she's holding her arm close to her body, bent at the elbow.

Serj makes an unhappy noise.

"Serj, please, it's the only way." She does wipe a tear away. I can't see Serj's face, and I really don't want to turn my head to look. I can only imagine it's a very upsetting look, the way Nina is pleading.

"Please don't be mad." She says very quietly. I can imagine she is the world's best liar, or maybe second best. Either that she's really worried about upsetting Serj. She's not looking at me anymore, I might as well not be there. "I love you, please, we can be together." She's looking him in the eye, making a begging motion, winces and puts her arm back.

"If there's a chance, any chance, that we can stop him," Serj's voice is very even, very steady, like a knife edge. "Will you take it?"

Nina finally looks at me and quickly back up at Serj, "Yes." she says, but almost too quietly to hear.

"We need to find that box," I say, "I think, now, I can grab it. He's starting to get inside my head." I try to stand up.

"Here," Nina grabs my shoulder with one hand and something pops, "Now you're twisted all the way in." She says, "Sorry, I just..." Her voice goes tiny, "Scared."

I nod, the world is right, things are normal. "Right, fear." I sigh, "So am I." I finally get a clear look at her, she's got a wound in her arm, Serj had ripped the sleeve off and used it to bind the wound, a line of dried blood runs down her arm to the wrist, her thin belt is off and fashioned into a makeshift sling. Her blouse is red with blood, Serj's suit jacket has some on it as well. Mostly it's dry blood now. I think she might have actually been shot by a stray round just as we passed through. I look around, the mirror has to be around here, how big can this place be.

A beam of light comes out of the sun, Metatron starts to form in it, I can see him, a terrifying Angel coming down. "We really need to hurry." I say. Nina and Serj look up, Nina really does look scared now, Serj doesn't.

I close my eyes and think, feel out actually. It has to be around here, it has to be. I wish Ix were with me. There it is "This way." I run, it's not far but I have a feeling it's only going to be moments to spare.

Legion touches the ground, three hundred feet tall and very angry looking. I reach out my hand, it disappears into thin air, a little magical window in all this nothing. Stands out like a light in the dark. I grab Serj's hand and go through, I don't care if he grabs Nina or not. I don't believe her, the tears can't be real. Just another lie.

We all fall into the junk store. I'm beginning to not like this place. The cover on the mirror comes off as all three of us, damn, pour out. I drop to the floor as Nina falls, Serj manages to keep his feet.

"Sorry," She says, "I, kind of didn't expect that."

"I'm not leaving you." Serj picks her up, "Either of you." He picks me up. "Now, this box?"

"Ash, about this big." I hold out my hands, "You can only really see it out of the corner of your eyes."

I wander a bit, I notice that Serj is staying between me and Nina, keeping an eye on both of us, who are looking for the box. I don't know what will happen if she gets it first.

"What's your plan?" Serj asks me quietly as Nina is a shelf or so away.

"Get back to the Midnight Sun, improvise." I say back. He just nods. "Can we trust her?" I point at Nina.

He seems to take a moment to think and pushes me just another step away, "I trust her to do what she thinks will achieve her goals."

I look at him, I'm not sure what to make of that.

"She'll betray one of you." He shrugs, "Too long with too many tricks." He says, "I'll tell you later."

"You act like there will be one." I say rounding a corner, I catch Nina hurrying to catch up, seeing us talking.

"There will," He ends the conversation as we round a corner and come face to face with a Demon. Nina makes a kind of whimpering noise, Serj just strikes. Absolutely no hesitation. The Demon barely has a moment to register before Serj has shoved that black dagger into it's chest.

The Demon's grotesque face contorts, the mouth opens and closes a few times, then it smokes and falls backwards. Serj wipes the blade off on a nearby clothe.

"Shit." I finally say.

Nina gets very close to Serj and looks around nervously, "Why are there Demons here?" She whispers.

"Long story," I say, "Go, uh, Go wait by the mirror for me. Make sure nothing is blocking our path when I come running back." I push Serj back the way we came.

"No," He doesn't budge when I push.

"One sneaks easier than three." I look at him then Nina, back at him, "Go." I push him again. He seems to hesitate, then complies. Nina doesn't want to leave his side. I don't know if she's pretending fear to look weak and make me underestimate her, or if she's actually afraid. I'm going to assume the Devil Of Lies is lying to me.

I move faster now, trying to find that fucking box. It has to be in here. I see it once, and turn to grab it. Gone.

In my head Lucifer laughs, I can tell he's trying to say something but he's still not in my being enough to do even that. Just that mad cackling laughter. "Fuck you Lucifer, if you win I hope Michael tears this body the fuck apart." I whisper as I round a corner.

'No need for that.' His voice is in my head, close, I can feel him crawling along my being.

Shit, I realize I shouldn't have actually said his name. I bite my tongue to keep from speaking, the pain focuses me. Where is it. I just had it.

Ahead, I see it sitting on a shelf, and just my luck a Demon turns the corner. One chance, I run for it. Keeping my eye squarely on the demon. Person sized, wide though, like a body builder. Ugly face, horns on his had and one on his chin. Eyes are literally smoldering, he snarls and draws a blade. It's not silver so I'm not worried about actually being cut, I just have to work through the pain then.

I see the box, I focus on the Demon, I run, he yells. At the last possible second, with Lucifer laughing in my head, I reach out and grab the box.

It doesn't slip through my fingers, it doesn't disappear, it feels solid in my hands. I don't look down at it, I tuck my arm behind my back to prevent an accidental glance, and tighten my grip, it seems to fit right into my small hand. And I hit the Demon with my shoulder in the stomach. His knife comes up into my own torso, the blade bits, hard. I yelp, not good.

No blood as we topple over. The blade skitters off, it didn't break my skin, though it did cut my shirt nicely, the Demon lost his grip when the blade refused to slide into my torso and his hand kept going. I roll, and scramble. Trying to keep the demon from grabbing me, keep the box in my hand, get to my fight, bite back the pain.

I get to my feet and stagger back into a shelf, it starts to topple, but prevents me from falling right back over. The Demon is recovering, and I want to know why they're are so many here. But later. I push off the toppling shelf and run. That little trick where I run like the wind better work.

I come skidding around a corner and almost run straight into another Demon, I drop and slide between his legs and get back up, only lost a little momentum, luckily he had no idea I was coming and takes a moment to figure out what just happened. Now I have two chasing me.

I dodge down aisles, trying to back track, not worried about losing them, just getting to that mirror as fast as possible. I round a corner, only one turn to go, except that Serj has moved the mirror into the middle of the aisle and is watching, he turns it to face me.

Nina suddenly appears and grabs his arm. Fuck.

Two behind me, one in front, enemies.

"We can't stop him," She's begging Serj, she's not actually concerned with stopping me, just saving her own ass. "She's going to die anyways!" She screams.

Serj does the unexpected, and slaps her. Nina's glasses go flying as she sprawls onto the floor, he doesn't say a word as I come barreling down the aisle. Nina turns to get up, Serj just grabs her good arm, pulls her up to him and throws her over his shoulder. He won't leave her, and he won't help her. He looks at me as I pass by, and tosses Nina into the mirror with me.

"Serj!" She reaches her hand out as we enter the shimmering surface at the same time, Serj draws his knife, I half turn my head to watch him drop his shoulder and flip one demon over and stab the second.

Then we're through.

Nina hits the dirt with a heavy thud, I hear the wind rush out of her lungs in a strangled scream. I barely stop myself from tripping and come to a skidding halt. Dropping to my knees and try and catch my breath. That dagger stab didn't break anything but it sure as fuck feels like there's a spike in my left lung.

I sit up, eyes closed so I don't lose the box. Nine is just lying in the dirt, crying into her arm. I think she's checked out, Serj really was the only reason she was doing any of this. My side, Lucifer's side, didn't matter. She felt Lucifer couldn't stop, and chose. I put a hand on her head, the hand not holding the box.

"He believed," I said, "Why can't you?" I ask her. Provoking her is probably a bad idea. She raises her head and gets to her knees slowly, she grabs my throat and is about to loosen her wounded arm to punch me, but stops. You ever get a feeling something's watching.

We look up and around us. Her hands drop to her sides, "I lose." She whispers, all the fight gone.

We're surrounded by about three dozen Angels Of Light, all in nice bright shiny golden armor, all wielding swords of flame. All looking very very angry.

Michael is in the front line of Angels surrounding us. "This prison was supposed to hold the Fallen for eternity. While I'm curious to know how you got out," He raises his sword, "I'd rather see you dead." His face is a sneer.

My hand starts to burn and ache, there's something in the box trying to crawl and burn its way up my arm, I ignore the pain, I don't look down, I just clench the box harder.

"STOP." The word isn't really spoken. The word itself is a presence. The word comes from a really pissed off sounding Metatron.

"You have to sway here!" Michael yells, pointing with his sword behind me.

I'm not entirely sure how I missed the three hundred foot column of pure light with massive wings of fire. But I did. Maybe it was all the swords pointed at me. I turn and look, behind him I can see a hundred thousand ghostly forms of Legion. Well, maybe not that many, but more seem to appear every moment, around us. They're aren't here, they aren't quite real.

"I Am Legion, I Hold Sway Where I Say." Metatron intones, he looks very pissed off. All of Legion looks pissed off. "Uriel Allowed My Presence." He warns, "Do Not Test Me."

Michael grips his sword and makes a disgusted face. I have one chance, either Michael cuts me down and I die, or Lucifer takes over and I die.

I make a wish, I Wish The Keys To The Kingdom Are This Box, Lucifer's Soul Belongs To Legion.

It's all I have. And I hurl the box at Metatron, with everything I have, and a little more. Michael raises his sword high in the air. I see Nina out of the corner of my eye watch the box sail long, it tumbles, "Serj was right..." She whispers.

The box hits Metatron in a flash. There's a rumble, a sort of deep shaking you can feel underneath everything. Behind everything. Inside everything. The wish is done, between Lucifer's ability to great desires and my ability to make a wish, it's done. Michaels swords never strikes home.

It's not even a flash of light, it's merely a presence of Creation for the briefest of moments.

And we're alone. I drop back onto the dirt and stare up at the sky, bright empty blue sky. "Nina?" I say out loud, looking over at her, she's still unmoving.

"Yeah?" She asks, her voice sounds hoarse, she clears it.

"How did Lucifer have so much power over you?" I'm curious why she was so afraid.

"He owned our souls." She finally moves, looks down where I'm lying in the dirt, "All the Fallen gave them over in the last day of the War In Heaven, before we were tossed out. Our last effort to win. In retrospect." She shrugs, "He knew this would happen. He knew we'd lose. He had power over us outside." She sighed, "So, I... sorry?" She's asking.

"It's OK," I say, "You know, I'd have done the same for Ix if it came down to it," I would, I know, I'd fight harder actually, "And I had less time with him." I look around, "The mirrors gone." I say, dropping my head back into the dirt.

"What did you do?"

"I, well, I wished the Keys To The Kingdom were the box, and not me, then I wished Lucifer's soul belonged to Metatron. It seemed the only way to get him out."

"Is he?" She asks, "Out?"

"I think so, I don't feel him, his memories are kind of like little fragments, broken leaves blowing on the wind." I sit up and lean back on my hands. "So, you gave your soul to that fucker?"

She nods and sits up with some effort, sitting cross-legged next to me, we're both staring off in the same direction, "Gave him power over us, control. It was a little two-way, we got some enhanced power, could draw a little from him. Not enough to break the bond, but more than usual." She gave a half smile, "It's all been about self preservation for so long." She sighs and gently rubs her wound.

"What would you wish for right now?" I ask her, I'm in a giving mood. And she's probably the only friend, liar or not, I have left.

"Serj," She says, there's deep sadness in her tone.

"I wouldn't waste a wish like that." Serj's voice says from behind us. With both jerk our heads around. Nina is on her feet first, practically launches herself at him.

"Serj," Her arm is around him, she presses him close in a tight hug, "I thought you..." She doesn't finish the sentence, just breaks down into a soft sob.

Serj hugs her back, it looks out of character for him, "I'm here. I wouldn't leave you alone with the Devil." He looks down at me.

"No Lucifer in here. Legion has him." I say and get to my feet. I hug Serj, and Nina too who doesn't move. I back off a few paces and look around, I'm not sure what the next move is. Whatever it is, better not involve Angels.

Nina backs off a little, but not more than half an arms length from Serj. His suit looks a little dusty just a little blood on it, I look a little dirty, Nina looks wrecked.

"Here," Serj hands Nina her glasses, she smiles and puts them on, adjusting them for a moment then kissing him on the cheek. "Sorry about that slap."

"It's OK, I," She smiles, "I really didn't think that she could stop him." She was talking to Serj, then she looks at me, "I didn't."

"It's OK, really." I say, and put my hands in my pocket, the Devi's Deck is still there. I pull it out, "Hello there." I smile, "Don't suppose you know a way out?" I ask it, and flip the top card on a whim.

It gives me the picture of a man, wearing an expensive suit. He looks older, not friendly, but not unfriendly the same way Serj does. I put it back and slide the Devil's Deck back in my pocket. "There's a man out there somewhere that can help us." I say, "Come on."

"Wait," Serj says, I stop and look at him, "Our souls,"

"I don't know where they are, or, how to get them." I sigh, "I suppose Lucifer kept them somewhere well hidden." Here we are three beings, two lost souls and one soulless.

Serj nods.

"Let's find this guy, then find your souls. I suspect there are a lot of other souls we can find along the way." I say.

I'm not sure how long we spend walking. At first we trudged quickly. After a while it was more casual, Serj and Nina walked with their arms around each other, I just ambled quietly. It was downtime, which felt odd suddently. Or anxious. I'm not sure.

I want to get out of this desert, but at the same time it's amazingly tranquil here, just quiet space.

I feel a tug, I think it's been about two hours, maybe three. Time is kind of vague, and I'm not rally paying attention.

Veering off in the direction of the tug I see Serj and Nina behind me, going slowly but not getting too far behind. They're talking quietly and I'm making a point to not listen in.

We wander a little further. The man sitting at the desk doesn't really appear on the horizon, we just randomly come upon him without much approach. First he's not there, then we get within fifteen feet and he is. I do the only thing that seems appropriate I walk up to the desk and wait for him to finish writing in the book he has open in front of him.

After a few minutes of his ceaseless scritching with a fountain pen into the large tome I clear my throat. He looks up suddenly, squints, finishes a few words in his book and then puts the pen away. He leaves the book open for the ink to dry, but pushes it away from him, to leave enough space to fold his hands on the edge of the desk.

"Yes?" He looks exactly like you expect an accountant to look, dull grey suit, white shirt, a red tie but not a bright red, just a darker more subtle red. The desk is neatly organized, pen holder, ink bottle, book, a small palque that says 'Howard' on it, and a picture of a dog. Poodle staring up at the cameraman expectantly.

"Howard," I smile, he smiles back, "I was hoping..." What was I hoping for, "What are you doing here?" I ask suddenly. Because he looks perfectly at ease in the middle of nothing.

"Updating the ledger, of course." He says.

Obviously. I blink, sigh, and I have to look confused, "Why here? and what ledger?" I sak.

"The Ledger," Like I should know, "And because this is where my desk it." He smiles, "May I ask who you are?" He looks helpful.

"I..." Who am I? "I'm The Devil, this is Nina, and Serj." I motion to the two behind me.

"Ah!" He looks happy, "Hold on," He opens a drawer on the desk and pulls out a small book, hard bound, green cover, maybe three quarters of an inch thick. "This is for you." He holds it out across the desk for me to take.

I step forward and take it from him, and open it, flipping through the pages. It's densely packed text, symbols, something. Information.

"It's shorthand, but it does contain everything." He says. "I was holding it for Samael." He shakes his head, "Shame, what happened." He sighs, "Well, that's all." He smiles warmly, pulls his ledger back towards him, picks up the pen, and starts writing again.

I turn around and look at Nina and Serj, "So..."

Nina just looks at the book. "That's. . ."

"The Devil's Ledger." Howard says behind us, "Please step away if you have no further needs." He says it in a tone that says he's very busy and doesn't want the distraction.

I motion for them to step away and we walk about ten feet before the desk disappears from view. "Well." I open the book to the first page. There's a note folded there.

Nina is looking at the book a little anxiously, I just unfold the paper and read the note.

'The Duty Is Yours. You Are The New Adversary. -Legion'

I sigh, Serj raises an eyebrow, "Well, Legion just painted me as the enemy." I hand him the note.

He smiles, "Not the enemy, the adversary. Opposing forces." He hands the note back. I fold it and return it to the book.

Nina's hand twitches as she looks at the book.

"Yes?" I look at her.

She keeps her mouth shut, but stands stiffly next to Serj, who just puts an arm around her waist.

I look at the first page, the shorthand doesn't make much sense to me, it's hard to decipher. I snap the book shut, "I can't read the shorthand." I look around and consider going back to bother Howard.

"I... can try?" Nina squeaks, her voice is on the edge of panic.

I consider this for a moment, I'm drained, tired, and hungry. Pluse, we're stuck in the Land Of The Midnight Sun. I hand it to her. Fuck it, worse case scenario I just add her to the list of people trying to kill me.

She grabs the book a little anxiously, it occurs to me the ledger might contain where Lucifer put her soul, which I'm sure she's more than ready to take back.

She makes a heartbreaking whimpering sound when she opens the book and looks like someone just took away her favorite thing. She hands it back to me without a word, and looks completely devestated. "Blank." She looks at Serj, tears actually roll down her face. "It's blank for anyone but The Devil." She just falls into him and cries into his chest.

Serj looks at me.

"Well, then I better figure out how to read this." I say, "And get us the fuck out of here."

Nina turns her head to look at me, sniffs, adjusts her glasses which she just smashed into Serj's chest, and wipes a tear away. "So, what then?"

"I don't want your souls." I shrug, "I don't even know what I'm going to DO as The Devil." I make a sour face, "Fuck the Angels. You want your souls back? As soon as I figure this out, you can have them. I'm tired of these games."

"You're part of them," Serj says.

"Whatever, I don't have a soul, I don't even know what the big fucking deal is." I spit on the groun, "Total bullshit. Anyone know a fucking door out of here? I'm starving, which means I need people to make some fucking wishes." I tap the book in my hand.

"I can try sidestepping back to the City." Nina says quietly. I step in close, she places a hand on my shoulder and an arm around Serj. Reality twists.

//Between A Devil And An Angel//

We're back in the park, only this time the city is very brightly lit. I blink the light out of my eyes and look around. There are more than enough Angels around here to cause problems.

Nina gives a resigned sigh and leans against Serj, "We're done." She says. Nina, I think, is somewhere between broken and forsaken.

A man sitting on the bench I last saw toppled over folds his newspaper. "Well, you three look a little roughed up." He smiles and stands.He's handsome, not quite the perfection that Michael is. But he's also very official looking, he carries authority just in the way he stands, and moves.

I look at us. Serj looks a little dusty, his nornally white shirt is stained with dirt and sweat. I've got dust on me as well, but with the jeans I look less worn out and more worn in. I pat my knee with my free hand and watch the small cloud of dirt settle on the ground. Nina is by far the worst. She has dried blood down one arm, with a torn sleeve as a tourniquette, skirt is dishevled wit a tear in it, blouse is untucked and stained with dirst and sweat as well, eyes are red with makeup running.

"Been a long day." I say.

"I am Metatron," He smiles, this is a much easier representation of him to look at. Still, he speaks as much into you as to you.

"The Adversary." I extended my hand to shake.

He smiles and takes it, "I have instructons to take you in." He says, pointedly looking about the park and its collection of men in suits. These are not Michael's Angels, not cops. These are all dressed too alike Legion.

Nina makes a noise, Serj raises one hand to his jacket, I know he has the silver and black knives in there.

I hold up my hand, "What then?" I ask.

"We are Legion, we do not gun you down in the street. We wish to talk first." He smiles, you really do want to beleive him.

It's probably the only chance I have of getting all three of us out of here. "Come on," I say to both of them, "Let's see what he has to say."

Nina shakes her head and doesn't move when Serj goes to follow me.

I look at Metatron, "If you promise to keep them together, we'll go."

He looks at Serj and at Nina. "Of course. I promise." Nina doesn't really follow so much as let herself be led.

We follow Metatron inside the City Hall building, where the literally dozens of agents follow us inside, like a single mind. Legion actually creeps me out a little bit.

Once inside they start to take up positions in the massive marble building. Everything in here is made of marble. Walls, floor, tables, chairs, which at least have little pillows on them. We go up a wide set of marble stairs, the hallway echoes with our footsteps. Led around a balcony over looking the entance hall, and into a door. Things immediately change into an office environment. Carpeting, boring beige walls, a hallway full of brown doors. I glance back, an Legion Angel has taken up position in front of the door we just came through, which leads to a staircase according to the little plastic sign on the wall next to it.

Metatron puts us in a comfortable conference room, and leaves for a moment. It has a nice long desk, tall leather chairs. Off to one side if a cabinet with a platter that contains a pitcher of water and some glasses. The end of the room has a tinted window that looks out over a city. New York City if my guess is correct. It looks to be winter outside, cold grey sky, some piles of snow that have been plowed off to the side and sit unmelted. We're about twelve stories up the side of a hi-rise.

Nina sits down in one of the chairs and leans back. Serj pours all of us a glass of water and puts one in front of Nina, he hands me mine where I stand watching out the window. No doubt, Earth, The Realm. Those are real people down there.

"Think we could just walk out?" Serj asks me as I stare out the window.

I look at the door, "Maybe. I kind of want to see what he has to say." I lean against the window, it's cool to the touch, "You can go."

Nina looks up at us, "I'll stay," She says, almost too quietly to be heard. I think all the fights been taken out of her. My bst guess is she knows she's lost and is just waiting for the punishment to be handed out. Serj is a kind of cruelty, I don't he cares about kindness, but Nina, I think it's been a long time since she's felt that, and I think she misses it.

Metatron returns after another minute, "Please, have a seat." He sits at the end of the table.

Serj and I go to join him, He sits next to Nina, I sit opposite her, the next chair in from the end, next to Metatron. He places a small folder on the table and opens it. There's nothing in it but some blank paper. "We're buying you some time." He says, "If Michael thinks we have you he won't come after you."

"Time for what?"

"Just time." He smiles, "You'll need a plan if you're going to be The Adversary." He stands up, closes the folder, "I'm going to give you some time to think," He looks at his watch, "In one hour you can walk out the front door and do what you need to do."

He leaves. After a moment I open the door and look down the hallway, there are Angels at both ends. I close the door and go back inside. I sit down at the end of the table near the windows, push the chair back so I can put my feet up on the table and open the Devil's Ledger.

"What should we do?" Nina asks from the other end. I pull the Devil's Deck from my pocket and toss them, they slide across the table and stop in front of her.

"Relax," I say, "If I can figure out some things in here I can get a plan together. All I have right now is run and hide, which won't get us enough time. Try Go Fish." I don't mean to sound impatient, I think it comes out that way despite that.

Serj picks up the deck and shuffles.


I flip through the book, page by page, trying to find a pattern, see if anything makes sense at all. Nothing really seems to be coming out. Every once in a while the symbols almsot coelesce into a meaningful string. I get the idea this is more than a mere ledger, these are his plans. There's two different peoples handwriting in here. One I recognize from the brief glimpse at Howard's Ledger that he had open in front of us. The other appears to be scratched out, that I recognize as Lucifer's. This was his plan book and his Ledger both. he kept notes in here. I feel the book carefully, listening for him. There is something in the book, an energy.

It does have a soul in it, not Lucifer's however. It's not nearly as, I don't really have a word for his soul, maybe Vile. Demons smell evil, Lucifer just smelled impure. His soul was rotted meat. This soul is more, I sniff the book. Paper, with ozone, ink, and something like a flower.

I look up across the table. It's been nearly an hour and Nina is leaning forward, head on her good arm, dozing quietly. Serj is gently rubbing her back with one hand, staring off in to space, the Devil's Deck sits on the table.

I close the book and put it down quietly, walking over to where they are, I put my finger to my lips to let Serj know to keep quiet. He nods. I lean over and gently sniff Nina, more like letting her scent come at me sideways. Like so many things with magic and Angels, it's the indirect approach that gets you there. She smells the same as the book. I smile, "Wake her up." I whisper and go get the Ledger back.

I slid the book into the back of my waistband and untuck my shirt to hide it, I also slide the Devil's Deck into my pocket. Nina wakes up with an unhappy noise and rubs her eyes with her good hand. She moved the injured arm and made a sucking noise like she was trying to not yell out in pain.

"What?" She looks slightly unhappy she was woken up, or very unhappy that she woke up and found recent events to be true.

"We're going." I say,

"It's been an hour?" She asks.

"Almost." I say, I watch the clock above the door tick down the last minute, then open it and go into the hallway. The Angel at the end of the hall looks at his watch, then me, nods, and goes into the stairwell door, he disappears completely. I know if I follow I'll just end up in the stairway. The Angel at the other end of the hallway comes down towards us, Nina tenses up behind me. He just smiles, and hands me a manilla envelope.

"Legion will be in touch." He goes down the hall and disappears into the stairwell door as well.

"We're on our own for now." I say, and open the envelope, a note is inside.

'There Are Many Sides, Choose Wisely In All Actions.' Is all it says. I fold the note back up, put it in the envelope, and leave that on the table in the conference room.

"Come on," I say, "We need to find a place to clean up and check that wound." I motion to Nina.

Nina follows, if slightly reluctantly, "You're not mad at me?" She says.

"Why would I be?" We walk down the hall to the elevator bank around the corner, I hit the button.

"Because I betrayed you." She says, she's been working her way up to have this conversation.

"You had to choose a side," I say, "You chose the one you thought was stronger." I look at her, "I haven't earned your loyalty, Lucifer beat it into with fear." The door opens and we get on, "I assume you will stick around because I can lead you to your soul." I look at her.

She looks hurt, but nods.

"If I do?"

"I don't know," She says softly, "I won't be owned like that again." She looks defiant, jaw set, but she also looks tired, defeated. There's a last little bit of spark, of fight, behind her eyes.

"Fair enough." I say. The rest of the elevator ride down is in silence.

It doesn't take much to make us generally unnoticed by the crowd. Serj is on Nina's injured side, taking care not to bump her, but covering a bit. I walk in front of them and give off an aura of 'Don't Look Here'. People glance at us, we are noticed, but no one comes over to make a fuss. Weather it worked because my magic held out, or because we happened to be leaving the building and people figured it'd just be better off that way, I don't know. That could have been the magic for all I know, magic is funny that way. It takes the path or least resistance. If that means simply reinforcing the 'I don't want to care' emotional state, so be it.

Outside it's a very bitter cold day, the wind whips through the canyons of tall buildings. Nina shivers and huddles close to Serj, who fails to notice, or at least show it. I'm cold but not so bad off I shiver involuntarily.

There's a taxi stop at the end of the block I take us to, a cab pulls up pretty quickly.

"Any hotel recommendations?" I look at them as we get into the cab.

"Mandarin." Nina offers up.

I give him instructions to the driver, he looks back at us, I just glare at him. He turns around and doesn't say anything as we drive.

I look at Serj halfway there, "You have any cash?" I whisper.

Serj pulls a billfold out of his suit pocket and checks it, we're still dressed like we're from Noir Land of the Angels. He pulls out some twenties, not quite two hundred dollars worth, and hands it all to me.

I take it, fold it, and slide it into the pocket with the Devil's Deck.

The cabbie takes the cash, I wave off any change, and we go into the hotel. The Devil's Deck and one hundred and forty dollars cash is what's going to get us a massive hotel suite. Something just utterly uncalled for.

I smile at the man behind the counter, "Presidential Suite." I tell him, no matter what else they call other suites, every one of them has a 'presidential'. That way I don't have to know anything about the hotel.

I give him a card from my pocket, the Devil's Deck knows what to do. I give him the lovely fake name of Sarah Pierce.

"Baggage?" He asks.

"Hasn't arrived yet." I frown, like I've been through a rather unhappy ordeal and would prefer not to talk about it.

He hand me the requested keys and the three of us make it to the elevator.

"What trick did you use?" Nina asks as we ride up to the fifty fourth floor.

"Devil's Deck." I smile, "Handy little guy." I pat my pocket, I think it purred. Nina nods.

Once in the suite I look around, "Take the master room." I tell them both. Serj just looks at me. "Go." I point.

"Some help with the injury." He says as Nina sits down in a chair.

I help him get the shirt off her wound, the blood dried and bits of clothe want to stick to her. I wet a clothe and let Serj wipe down her arm.

"A scratch." He smiles at her.

"Easy for you to say." She says as Serj wraps the wound from a small bandage kit in the master bathroom. He smiles at her and kisses her gently.

"Things will be fine." He says.

I stretch and yawn. "Ok, some rest, then we have a little talk." I say.


I'm in the second bedroom, the shower is still nice and large. I take my time, letting the day wash off me and down the drain. The room has a nice soft terry clothe robe. I sit in front of one of the floor to ceiling windows and look at the Ledger.

I walk into the master bedroom, Serj left the door open and is standing in front of the windows looking out at the city. He's wearing nothing but his pants, I can see how Nina is attracted to him. Though I question her choice in falling in love with murder itself. Or is he fear?

"So, I found something of interest." I say standing next to him.

He looks down at me, "Oh?" The scar on his cheek somehow makes him look both more attractive and more frightening.

I hold up the book, "Take a good long careful look at this." I say, "Don't open it, not that way, look at it, sideways."

He takes the book from my hands and holds it out a bit, then brings it close, sniffs the spine, and turns it over in his hands. "Well, interesting."

"Nina knew all his plans, she was in on everything, he had to bring her in." I say.

"Bring me in to what?" Nina comes out of the bathroom. She looks refreshed, if not fully awake. The makeup and dirt is gone, her eyes are still red, her face holds that same look of loss on it. But she looks healthy again at least.

"His plans. Lucifer, had to tell you." I say holding up the book, "Because he used you to keep track of them all."

"I know he used me." She says, able to muster up a little force, sounding defensive, "Ok, I admit it." She drops onto the bed, "Just, whatever your going to do, fucking do it." She scowls.

I toss the book at her, she barely catches it, and looks at me.

"Really feel that book." I say, "Because it's yours now. You can have it back."

"Back?" She knits her eyebrows in confusion.

Serj covers my eyes, "This will be bright."

And it is, even through Serj's hand, and my instinctively closing my eyes once the light starts up. Luckily it's still daylight out or that burst of light would have attracted everyone's attention. As it is, it probably attracted the wrong kind, but at least not absolutely everyone.

Serj removes his hand and we look at the bed. Nina is standing up now, she's radiating a soft glow, the robe was pushed off her body when wings of pure light unfolded from her.

Standing there, naked, bright, majestic, you can see how someone would find an Angel an impressive force. In her hand is a sword of flame.

"My... I'm..." She looks at herself then up at me, "You gave me back my soul, restored my to an Angel." She whispers softly, her voice is like silk. The wound on her arm gone, she flexes it, then adjusts her glasses, which I find oddly attractive on an Angel.

"How did you know she'd be an Angel again?" I ask Serj.

"I've seen it before." He says, "Without Lucifer's corruption we can revert. Devils are Angels whose souls have been taken."

I nod, "Well, Nina," I look at her, She stretches her wings wide then folds them back and around herself, they disappear into her body, along with the sword, and she's merely a naked woman in front of us.

She rushes forward and presses herself against Serj, "I love you," She whispers, "Even now." She's crying, though I think finally from joy instead of pain and exhaustion.

Serj kisses her in response. I quietly slip out of the room and close the door behind me. I smile and drop down onto the couch in front of the massive television. I snap my fingers and the Devil's Deck is in my hand, "The Adversary indeed." I smile and shuffle the deck.


It's dark when I wake up, silk sheets surround me, warm and soft. I roll over and sit up, the city outside the window sits mostly below, lit up like christmas. I find my jeans and pull them on and wander out to the living room. The other bedroom door is open, Serj and Nina are asleep, wrapped in each other. The Devil's Deck sits on the table, I pick it up and sit at the table, over looking central park. I randomly shuffle and flip over cards.

Looking over at the other two in the bed together my heart suddenly hurts, I miss Ix. I miss the opportunity we didn't get. Part of my wants to destroy everything like that, I want to tear Serj and Nina apart. If I can't have happiness, I want no one else to have it. Selfish, hateful. I sigh and flip one of the cards over. It's a picture of Lucifer's laughing face.

"You don't think that's the right thing to do either." I whisper in the dark. I know it's wrong, it's not a kindness. But am I kindness? I'm the Adversary, so I've been told. Whose Adversary. Every action I choose will put me on someone's side. Do I oppose Nina and Serj?

No, Serj has been with me every step. Even when he was torn between Nina and myself. Why though, what hold did I have over him? I don't know, but I know he took my side, he hurt his own love. The person he is even now holding close. I don't understand how love works.

I'm not their Adversary, I will not do anything to hurt them. I flip another card, it shows two figures, one is a black figure, wings of a raven, the other is a white figure, wings of light. They're holding hands. Not only will I not hurt them, I will viciously guard them, they have what I couldn't, and I'm amazingly happy for them. I only glimpsed that which they know. That glimpse gave me just enough to understand their need.

I shuffle the deck, a tear falls onto the table in front of me. I wipe my eyes, didn't even know I was crying. I sniff and put the deck down. The sun creps up over the horizon as I sit there thinking of nothing. It's beautiful really. I always hated sunrise, it could mean getting tugged out of where I was into the Choir's song. The sense of dread is gone as I watch the sun breach the horizon.

I rest my chin in my hand and just watch it come up. This is creation, this is real. What do I oppose? certainly not this. Angels, Demons, Devils, Faery. All of them work so hard to be on top, or in control. All of them clamoring for a piece of the kingdom.

I know what my role is now, as the sun touches the ocean beyond the island, light creeps across the land. I'm the Adversary to all their games. No sides, no angles. I'll make sure none of them can win this war. Let them all rot.

I hear stirring in the next room, and look over. Serj is sitting up, he wakes Nina in the process. He pulls on his pants and goes into the kitchenette, I hear him start to prepare breakfast. Nina comes out of the bedroom, tying off a silk robe that seems designed to only cover her torso its so short. She sits down next to me at the table and looks out the window where I'm staring.

"What's so interesting?"

"All of it." I smile, "Just watching the sunrise, I never really did that before." I turn my head to look at her. She has a smile she can't get rid of.

She leans in suddenly, taking my face in her hands, and kisses me. Not a chaste kiss, but the gentle kiss of lovers. She lingers for a moment and pulls back. "Thank you." She says, "I really, I never expected you'd let me have my soul back."

I shrug, "I have no reason to hurt you." I say, "Just, please by on my side in the future." I try and give a smile like I'm joking. But I'm not.

Her eyes don't leave mine, "Serj and I talked last night, after putting you to bed. We're with you, whatever it is you do."

"Even if you're fully an Angel again?" Valid question.

"I'm not going back to Michael, he's as much in the wrong as Lucifer was." She shakes her head, a lock of blonde hair falls in front of her eyes, she brushes it back. "And Serj wants to help you, so I will to."

I nod, "I'm not The Devil anymore." I say, "The Devil had a plan, a side. The Adversary, has no such thing. I'll switch sides as needed."

"Needed for what?" Nina glances at the kitchen area where some amazing smells are starting to come out of.

"To keep them all at bay, and out of that." I motion to the world outside the window. "They don't deserve it."

She only nods and turns to look out the window with me, "I wanted to take you to bed with us last night." She says as we listen to Serj in the kitchen.

"Hmm?" I don't turn to look, just glanec sideways for a moment.

"You looked lonely," She says, there's a hint of sadness.

"I am. Sort of." I reply, why lie, she can still sense them. "As long as you two stick around I won't be entirely lonely."

"Not in that sense, just," She glances back at the Devil call murder that's cooking us breakfast, "It's nice to have someone to hold onto you."

I nod, "It is."

"If you ever need, you know, someone. We're here."

"I'll keep that in mind." It feels weird, getting pulled into their little domestic dance. I don't understand these two, and it looks even more complicated now that one is an Angel and the other a Devil. I'm not sure I want to get involved with them like that. I'm not sure it's avoidable either. Nina just seems to radiate a certain level of love, or at least compassion, from her being. Serj is merely cold, but solid, utterly reliable.

Serj brings over a tray with several plates, a regular breakfast. "Where did the food come from exactly?" I ask, out of curiousity.

"Stole it."

"The food or money to buy the food."

"Money to buy it." Serj shrugs, "It involved murder if you're wondering."

"Only out of idle curiousity." I say, "I have a feeling random acts of murder and theft will be our only villainous acts." I look at Nina, "You are Ok with acts of evil?"

"Angels aren't actually Good." She says, "Not in my experience." Fair enough.

"Is there a gameplan?" Serj asks as we start to eat.

"We'll need a home, base of operations or something. And something to work from." I say, "Some kind of power."

"You are, as far as I know, the only thing that create full wishes on Earth." Serj says, "Angels are severely limited. We don't know why."

"Probably to give the Fae a reason to exist." Nina adds.

"Well, that's something. Now we just have to find, and stop, various scemes being hatched." I say, "That's my basic position. No one gets to succeed."

Serj smiles and nods.

"I did glance through the book, you know, after the transformation." Nina says, "I can read it, mostly. He used a strange shorthand, but at least the cypher is gone."

"So, you know some of his plans?"

"Yes, and the full list of souls he owns, just nams. No locations on anything," She frowns, "We don't know where Serj's soul is."

"It doesn't matter." Serj says, "I don't want it back. I've no desire to return to the Light." His face is the usual dark grim expression.

Nina looks a little surprised. "But.. why not?"

"I like who I am now." He says.

Nina nods, I don't think she understands why, but she accepts it. "I still love you." She says suddenly, as if her actions could be interpreted otherwise.

"I know," He smiles, it's a real honest smile, affectionate. It looks odd sitting on his face, but it's very real.

"Anyway, one of the names is a man who wanted wealth and power."

"How, plain." I say.

Nina shrugs, "There are notes about bank accounts, names, and the like."

"We'll look him up." I say, "His money could help us down here. Or at least just make it easier. And he probably doesn't deserver any of it."

When I go to help Serj clear the table after we finish I'm tugged aside by Nina. "If we're going to do this we'll need some better clothes." She says, pulling out a large roll of cash, "From Serj's activities last night."

"Shopping?" I look at her, she just smiles.

"Just a small favor, my clothes are pretty much destroyed."

"Just make a wish." I smile up at her.

"Really?"

"I'm tapped out, verbalizing it will give me something to work with." I say, "Yesterday was rather exhausting."

"I wish for," She thinks for a moment, then pauses, and walks over and grabs the newspapers that had been at our door. She leafs through them for a moment, and finally points to a picture, "That."

Simple dress, shoes, nothing extra. She adjusts the dress, "It'll do for now." She says, "Couldn't give me underwear?"

"Working a bit literally for the moment." I say, "I'll get creative later."


We only stop for once set of clothes. Serj is in a suit, black on black, with white shirt. Nina is in a business suit, white one white with a green shirt. I almost expected her to choose black, even she thinks that's silly.

"Hon," She looks disapprovingly at me over her glasses when I refuse yet another skirt, "You need to look nice for this."

I snarl, "Really?"

"Play to their expectations." She says, "It'll work better."

We're preparing to go in and hijack the entire life of one Paul Gerard. Multi-Millionaire playboy. Source of money is a series of indistinct investments. I'm sure that Lucifer seeded him some money and he made the rest through hook and crook. By some odd design of chance Mr Gerard spends most of his time on a massive yacht that's currently docked in New York.

"Why is he in New York in the winter?" I ask, trying to divert attention from myself.

"Part of the plan, Lucifer was going to use him when he returned to Earth as a place to recuperate after taking over." She said, "How about this one?"

It's a charcoal grey suit, pants at least. I take them from her with an unhappy sigh and go try them on. I come out in the suit, grey pants, grey jackey, white shirt. I keep my boots on, which look stupendously out of place on a five hundred dollar suit, but I'm not budging.

Nina folds her arms.

"Sorry, boots stay." I say, "I'm the boss here."

She wrinkles her nose, as I slide the Devil's Deck into my pocket. Serj carries the bags, Nina carries a briefcase that is currently only full of the Ledger, and I walk between them.

"So, what exactly do we need to do in the bank?" I ask as we walk down the street away from the cab.

"I'll need a moment to access their system." Nina says, "An empty cubicle, something."

"Well, I can mostly provide some cover, make them ignore us for maybe ten minutes." I say, "That enough time?"

"Should be." She smiles.

We walk into the bank, and purposely stride towards the small row of offices off to one side. It's about halfway there when the bank robbers come in.

"Bank robbers?" I say as guns appear, "Who robs banks like this anymore?"

"Alright! Everyone on the ground." The leader yells, mask in place, machine gun in hand. Five more rush the tellers, two take out the guards.

It all happens rather quickly, Serj tugs both of us to the ground next to a pair of chairs. Nina sits on her knees, the briefcase to the side next to the chair, I just sit cross legged on the floor.

There's sounds of yelling, surprise, dismay, pleading.

"Nina, you have thirty seconds to get into an office and do what you're going to do." I say, "These guys will be a much better distraction, and I can get you past them."

She nods, and without a word stands up, and walks straight towards the nearest office. Serj stays with me while I concentrate on making her nearly invisible. As soon as she's inside the office I place the tiniest of glamours - this room already checked and is empty - on the guy pulling people out of the office area. He skips right past Nina who is now hidden behind walls and blinds. As long as she's quiet no one will bother her.

Suddenly I can feel an humming in the room. Desires and wishes are flying through peoples minds with abandon. I sit back against one of the waiting chairs, fold my hands in my lap and wait. I'll be able to get this ball rolling soon. I just need one person here to make a wish out loud, something to latch onto.

Serj sits next to me, but he keeps a constant eye on the door to the office Nina is in.

"Can you hide in the shadows?" I ask him, very quietly, though there's still enough screaming that I could probably talk normally. I'm not paying attention to what's going on around me.

He nods, "Go, we need options in case. Something doesn't feel right here." I say. Serj looks at me with some concern.

"I don't get bullet holes." I hiss, "She does," I point with my eyes towards Nina. Serj just nods once and leans back, his hand snake into the shadow under the chair and suddenly he's gone in what looks like smoke.

"Hey!" I suddenly have a gun in my face, I look up, trying to look afraid. But I'm not, so I just look up.

"Yes?" I say, it comes out quietly.

He looks uncertain for a second, "Weren't you just with someone?" He asks.

I look around, confused, "No...?" I venture.

"Get over there." He motions towards the line of customers they have against the teller windows. I comply by slowly getting up and walking over towards the other people. I sit down in an open space between a guy who looks casually relaxed, and a plump young woman who looks terrified beyond belief.

"It'll be fine." The guy says to me, in this reassuring tone.

"I know," I nod, because I know many things he doesn't. I stretch my legs out and cross them, getting comfortable, and fold my hands back in my lap. I'm enjoying the show. From here I have a slightly better view of the office. It's been five minutes since they entered the bank. Nina needs at least five more.

"I pray the police get here soon." The woman next to me whispers, her hands actually folded in prayer.

That I can work with. That's pretty much exactly like a wish. Pray, Wish, Hope. All three words work with me, because I'm making the rules now. I smile. A little burst of energy.

Granted.

I feel things out, the silent alarm should have been tripped, no it wasn't. That explains it, someone used a tiny bit of magic on it. Well isn't that interesting. One wish fulfilled, the magic fails to that power. Silent alarm tripped, the police should be here very soon indeed, sooner than otherwise.

That little tiny rush of power, and I can not just feel the desires in the room, I can tap into some of them. There's a very strong one coming from a mother over her little boy. 'Please God let him be safe.'

A sudden flash of Christine crosses my mind, I extend just the tiniest bit of power over her, another wish given life. These wishes, there is no eddy, no void, no black hole that must be fulfilled. These are true, and strong, and powered by the strength of the wisher. I just push reality in the right direction, taking a little bit of that energy for myself.

The mother's wish is so strong I take a little more than normal, she'll feel tired when this is done, as much to adrenaline crash as me taking energy. It feels good. Sirens are heard coming up the street. The woman next to me looks upward, mouthing thanks. No up honey, next to you. I smile. Her wish ends, really, and I lose that little tug of energy. But it's enough to get the ball rolling.

One of the robbers makes a silent wish that they get away with this. Tempting... but no. I've chosen my side in this little fight.

One of them goes over to the room with Nina in it, shit, I let that slip. I had to initially, to draw out the energy from that first wish, but I forgot to put it back up. Fuck.

He steps into the room, pointing the gun, I glance around no one notices him for the moment, I put that little drama in a pocket, no one will look that way. Part of me knows Nina can take care of herself, but she'll have to go Full Angel to do it, otherwise she's pretty vulnerable in that form.

There's a sudden gunshot that makes everyone in the room jump, some hostages start to actually cry, some yell, everyone's attention is on the man who is now limping out of the office, screaming in pain. Seems he's managed to shoot himself in the foot. I glance that way, no one else comes out, but I can't cover up the door with magic, direct attention has foiled that. I let it go, hoping the now wounded man is all the distraction it needs.

"Fuck!" He's yelling over and over. One of the other gunmen rushes over and places him in a chair, another glances into the office, I tense up, he comes right back out.

"What the fuck happened?!" Their apparent leader comes out yelling, it's almost a roar he's so loud.

"Fucking Oscar shot himself in the fucking foot!" One of them yells.

"What did I say about names!" The leader yells and without so much as a second thought draws a hand gun and shoots poor Oscar in the head. Now everyone's really terrified, and screaming. Cop cars are pulling up outside. The whole thing has gone very wrong.

The mother off to the end of the row is clutching her son, hunched over his little form, the's crying but trying to keep very quiet. I have her wish, it's become her all-consuming thought. I can really draw energy from it.

"Shut up!" The leader yells, "I wish everyone would just shut the fuck up!" There's a nice strong one.

Granted.

Best way for one person to think everyone's quiet? Suddenly making them deaf. Not quite within the rules of the game, but, hey, I'm just mean that way. I take all the energy of that wish, and I turn half of it back on him. He'll hear a little pop, then nothing.

He clutches his had all of a sudden, and starts to scream.

The man next to me wishes silently for an opening, I glance at him, hey I've got an off duty cop on my side. I smile.

One opening coming up.

Everyone's attention is turned towards the leader, who has dropped his weapons and is now kneeling on the floor trying to figure out what just happened. Enter one hero.

I sit back and close my eyes. There's some violence, many gun shots, and a few minutes later it seems to stop. There are now four dead gunmen, and one bleeding cop, one deaf leader, and two gunmen looking very panicked.

"What now?" One of them turns to the other, they're giving up, I can feel it.

A dozen wishes, or prayers, for safety surround me. I grant them all, I take what I need, or want, from each person. The best course for the two men left is surrender, so says the force of the wishes behind me.

They look at each other, then out at the cops. Almost simutaneously they drop their guns, put hands in the air and exit the bank. The security guard is at the wounded cop in a flash. The leader is still on his knees, disoriented and deaf. I suppose I could have done that without breaking his eardrums, but, this is more fun.

It's another few minutes when the police enter. I hope Nina is done. As the general confusion of police and paramedics and people trying to get out ensues I see Nina walk out of the office with her brief case in hand. I glance across the room and Serj seems to just melt out of the wall next to where the police have cuffed and placed the leader. I wince as he breaks the mans neck and disappears again. That was cruel.

Nina and I wait patiently for a moment, then slip out past everyone through a side door, they aren't looking for us, I make sure of that. Half a block away Serj steps out of a doorway and joins us.

We walk to the nearest taxi stand and wait.

"How much cash do we have left?" I ask while we wait for a taxi that isn't near the crime scene.

"Five hundred and change." Serj says.

Well then, there we go.

"What happened in there exactly?" Nina asks, a taxi pulls up.

"Let's say panicked people make a lot of wishes, prayers, pleas, and general expressions of desire. More so that armed criminals." I smile as Serj opens the door for us. Nina and I get in the back, Serj in the front.

Nina is the one who gives the address for the dock yard that gets us to our brand new boat. "Mind if we stop for lunch?" She asks.

"Not at all." I smile. We find a nice little restaurant near the warf, it's a little after one and it's only about half full. We sit away from the crowd.

"I was able to secure all my the accounts, plus a few others from other former clients." She says, "It will be a while before anyone notices."

"Impressive."

"As a Devil all I had was the negative, lies." She says, "As an Angel, I am many forms of communication." She gives a rather wicked smile, "So, you're worth quite a bit of money electronically."

"Always useful."

"We own a lot property," She says, "But the boat I believe will make a much more interesting base of operations." We pause to order some food. I'm feeling more than full and get only a salad, real food isn't going to help me much anyway. It seems that at least Nina either needs it, or just really wants it.

"I always wanted to live on a boat." She smiles.

I shrug, "Either or. Sounds exotic I suppose." I just like living in linear time. "And the previous client?" I ask. I like that word, client.

"He is, as of this moment, still under the impression he owns everything." She said.

"We'll have to relieve him of that impression." Serj says.

Indeed. "How will the change work, exactly? I mean, records and all? Can he just disappear?" I'm curious how much trouble this will cause.

"I sort of, unraveled things just slightly, unless someone applies a great deal of magic to it, no one will know he existed. Well, his existence is known, just not anything after the deal."

"Let that be a lesson to him." I smile, I kind of like being in charge of something for a change. Even if it only consists of a large boat, imaginary money and an empire of two. I see the allure to the idea of power. But I like small, contained, anything larger and it just becomes a pain in the ass.


We walk up the plank like we own it, because we do. It's a huge yacht, something like four hundred and fifty feet long according to Nina. Nina has decided that as part of this new operation she needs a new accent. I'm not sure what's wrong with the old accent, but she seems to be really enjoying the idea of a whole new identity for herself. At least her accent isn't extremely harsh, it's light like she's been speaking English long enough to lose the hard edge to it.

At the top is a very large man looking uncomfortably cold in a suit. "Who are you?" He stands in front of us and crosses his arms in an effort to look imposing. Naturally, he's not human.

"A werewolf, his bodyguard is a werewolf?" I look at Serj and Nina.

"Files said nothing about his crew." Nina shrugs, and adjusts her glasses.

"I'm the new boss." I smile up at him, way up. Not only am I lower on a ramp, but he has about eighteen inches on me.

He furrows his heavy brow and frowns, "New boss?" He seems only a little unfazed by us outing him, "I didn't get any messages from Lucifer." He's just coming right out with it.

"He's dead. I've taken his place. We're disposing of Mr. ..." I forgot the guys name.

"Mr. Gerard." Nina fills in with a smile. Her disposition since getting her Light back has greatly improved.

The werewolf seems to ponder this for a moment, but doesn't move. Serj slides past us and up to the top of the ramp. I'd like him to hurry up because it is very windy out here on the waterfront, and I'd rather be warm than cold.

"Use your nose." He says in that gravel laced menacing voice of his. I'm not sure which made me shiver, the wind or his tone.

The werewolf sniffs for a moment, his eyes kind of boggle a little and he pulls a radio out of his pocket, "Hold on." He puts up a finger to tell us to hold on. "Brogan, I have a small situation at the gangway." He says in the radio.

"Deal with it." The voice comes back, deep and growly.

"No, you need to, uh, boss, it's kind of big." He sounds nervous now. Caught between a rock and a hard place. He's doing his best I'm sure. It's not easy trying to tell your pack leader that you need him because a Devil is staring you down. Werewolves are strictly earth-bound preternatural. Big, fast, strong, absolutely not equipped to deal with a true supernatural, especially not a Devil. Definitely not this Devil.

It's a few minutes of waiting in the cold wind, I try not to look as cold as a I feel. First order of business when we get this under control is set sail for somewhere way the fuck south of here.

Another werewolf appears, he's much more casually dressed at the moment, meaning he's not wearing a suit jacket. He's still dressed sharply, a little more so than the guard here, nicer pants and shirt. "I'm Captain MacQuin." He snarls, "What's the problem."

Serj just looks at him, "There's a slight change in plans." I say from my perch on the gangway, "And I'd like to discuss it inside out of the cold." I try to give him a charming smile.

"Oh?" He doesn't look pleased, he immediately realizes what we are, or at least what Serj is. "Oh, I see." He motions for the guard to step aside, "Follow me." Mr. Guard looks visibly relieved.

We follow the captain inside to a moderately small room on one of the lower decks of the main living area. It's basically just a bar room. The inside wall has a dart board, there are a few small cocktail tables, a really nice bar, well stocked.

"So, there's been a change in management?" Brogan says from behind the bar, "Drink?"

"Not for me," I turn to Serj who shakes his head, and Nina, who nods.

"Some vodka if you have it, need to warm myself up a bit." She says in that accent that's actually growing on me.

Brogan nods and pours a highball for her. Nina takes a sip, places the briefcase on a table and relaxes in one of the tall chairs. Serj stands nearby, casually with his hands in his pocket.

"Lucifer is dead, I'm taking the operation in a new direction. This will be my new base of operations."

"And Mr. Gerard?" Brogan raises an eyebrow.

"I'll be removing him shortly. Is he around?"

"Still sleeping off last nights party." Brogan says, and checks his watch. He usually makes an appearance around this time. I was going to have the kitchen make him breakfast."

"No need, is all the crew here, and are they all werewolves?" I ask him.

Brogan nods, "Lucifer owns the pack, er, you own the pack. We were put here to ensure Mr. Gerard's needs were met."

"I see." I rub my hands to get the warmth back into them, "Well, get them all together. We'll be leaving soon for somewhere warmer." I say.

"Or course."

"And by own, do you mean he owns all your souls?" I ask.

Brogan looks a little uncomfortable, "After a fashion."

I sigh, "He left a lot of loose ends, mostly because I killed him. Hostile takeover." I say.

"May I ask a question?" He hesitates to leave.

"Please."

"A Devil and an Angel?" He looks at them, "And you smell, completely different, though a bit like him."

"I prefer to diversify my personal staff." I say. "Make sure Mr. Gerard makes it to, oh, is there a main living room?"

"Deck one," Brogan points up, "Wait here, I'll send someone up to escort you and relay your needs." He says, then disappears.

We only have to wait a few minutes before two woman come in, a tall blonde and a small busty latino. they're dressed in short black skirts and white blouses cut to accentuate their chests. I raise an eyebrow.

"Mr. Gerard likes eye candy." The blonde says in an Irish accent.

I roll my eyes, "I can imagine you'd prefer something that is less objectifying." I say.

The two women look at each other, then shrug.

"Well, names at least?"

"Siobahn," The blonde introduces herself.

"Sonia," The latino smiles, "Brogan says you're taking over?"

I nod, "I am. This is Serj and Nina. You can call me Sarah."

The nod, I get the impression they don't talk much, either because Mr. Gerard doesn't like his woman talking, or because they just have nothing to say. I hope it's the second.

We go down the first non-crew deck. the'res a massive living room, so large it's as wide as the ship, it has two home theater setups, one to each side of a hallway leading forward, there's a bar to the port, and a large jacuzzi to starboard. Off to one side is a small catering bar, and a large table.

"I take you normally wait for Mr. Gerard to come out?" Nina asks the two women.

"Sometimes." Siobahn says. "Sometimes we're supposed to go get him, he likes being woken up to," She pauses, "Sex."

I just drop onto one of the large leather couches, "Well, don't bother today." I say, "Unless you really want to."

Sonia shakes her head negative, Siobahn seems to consider it for a moment but stays standing. "Also, you don't have to stand at attention, this isn't a military ship.

Serj has taken a seat at the table where several newspapers sit uuntouch. He pulls one out and starts to read it. Nina joins him at the table and waits patiently.

"Ma'am?" Siobahn says after several minutes of silence, "We could fetch him if you'd prefer not to wait."

I consider this for a moment, "Sure."

Both women walk off together down the hallway, I stand up and watch them go into the double doors at the very end, I see a rather lavish room that takes up the frony portion of this deck. The hallway has only three doors off it, all are achways done in dark wood. The back of the living room has another hallway that has considerably more doors, I assume they're all guest quarters of some kind in the back. A flight of stairs goes up one deck at the back. While waiting for them to return I take a look up the stairs, another hallway of rooms, maybe twenty between both decks. The top deck of rooms has exits out onto the balcony and stairs down to the living room.

Finally I hear them coming back and go to wait, Serj continues to read his paper, "I assume you can handle him?" I asks from around it.

"I think so." I nod, Nina only smiles.

"What's this all about then?" Paul Gerard is a man in his thirties, his currently wearing a bathrobe, looks scruffy and hungover. Siobanh has her arm linked in his as she guides him into the living room. Sonia looks less than please with him and is walking several paces behind.

"Mr. Gerard, you made a deal." I put my hands in my pocket and smile up at him. He's not overly tall, but taller than me. Siobahn releases him and goes to stand with Sonia.

"I did what, love?" He looks off center, listing a little bit.

"With the devil." I say. That sobers his right up.

He straightens, and looks at me, "You've got the wrong man." He says flatly.

"No, I don't." I drop my smile, "Time to pay up."

"I've got more time! The bargain!" He protests.

I shrug, "The Devil is dead, bargain's are forfeit. It seems you've squandered your time on decedance." I raise my hand up in a beconing motion, "Goodbye."

The wish is a simple one, powerful, but simple. I simply undo his deal with the Devil, well, I undo the part where he made it, and take his soul from his body. He is about to yell when it happens.

Suddenly he's nothing more than a puff of smoke and a slightly brimstone after-scent.

"Alright," I run my hands through my hair, taking a soul is an incredibly rush, "Let's clean him out of this place and set sail for somewhere warm." I feel completely electrified.

"I'll strip the bed," Siobahn says to Sonia, "You get Brogan." Sonia nods and goes off down below deck. Another woman silently comes up and assists Siobahn with maid service of cleaning out the master suite.

"Hey, you two want the master? Yes." I nod, Nina is about to say something when I stop her. "No, you two should get the big room, big bed, big bath. I don't need it, really. I'll take one of these suites." I motion to the other two archways in the fore hallway.

"Alright." Serj says, Nina just looks at him, "New boss, new rules." He says to her.

Sonia and Brogan return, "Ma'am." He says.

"Captain, how soon can we leave?"

"I've put in the request to leave with the port master, we can leave any time after eight tonight." He said.

"We're fully stocked?"

"yes ma'am."

"Neat, " I put my hands in my pockets, "So, for dinner, let's get everyone together so we can introduce the new boss." I say, "I take it the entire crew is your pack?"

Brogan nods, "It is, makes it tidy."

"How many crew this ship?"

"Forty three." He says. "Only thirty of us run the ship, the other thirteen are attendance staff."

"Oh,"

"Is that all?" I get the impression he likes to remain anonymous, out of site.

"Yeah," I wave, "Go be captain, I'll be rich owner." I smile, "Though I throw less parties."

//Little Wishes//

/Sarah/

The bed is large, when I wake up it feels too large. Like there's supposed to be someone in it with me. I reach out and touch the empty space next to me, I missed Ix. I missed having someone next to me, a brief taste of that kind of connection and suddenly I'm just too lonely for words. Sighing, I sit up. The cabin is moderately large, I think it's larger than that tiny apartment in New Jersey. Rich woods, everything is brass trimming. The two suites on this side each have their own bathrooms as well, not nearly as large and ostentatious as the master room. Glad I gave that over to Nina and Serj, they can enjoy it. A quick shower later and slip on a long shirt. Nina forced us to stop around Virginia and spend an uncessary amount of money on a wardrobe. About the only thing we agreed on was that the female staff didn't need to wear short skirts all the time. Gerard was a class-A asshole there, only thirteen women in the pack and he pretty much required them all to dress in short skirts and attend him.

The pack seems generally grateful to be in charge of themselves again, for the most part. Brogan prefers the life of a sea captain, and doesn't want to give it up. I can't possibly use the entire ship, and I'd rather have their cooperation than their subservience. As long as they know whose the boss when it comes down to it, I think I'll end up adding some luxuries to the crew decks. Keep them mostly out of my way hopefully. Though running the ship seems to take up a good deal of their time.

I walk to the main living room, the blonde, Siobahn, is there. She jumps up from her seat on a couch and fixes me a cup of coffee. Too fast for me to tell her I don't need to be waited on like that. She seems either too eager to help, or is trying to put herself in a position a little outside the pack. Most of the wolves here do their jobs quietly, unobstrusively. Siobahn goes a little further, and seems to have put herself into a place to attend me personally. I'll have to find out more about her, and why she's doing what she's doing.

We've been at sea for three days. Quietly slipping down the coast, aside from the one stop, and not communicating with everyone. A calm silence where nothing has my attention, nothing is immediately coming after me, and I have nothing specific to do. Which is part of the problem, everything seems so dead without Ix, and Nox, around. I even miss their stupid game of trying to get into the shower with me. Nox's cigar smoke smell. Ix waking up curled up on my chest like some perverted cat.

"Thanks," I sip my coffee, Siobanh is still standing, waiting for something. "You need anything?" I ask her, try a direct approach.

She stutters her response, maybe surprised I asked, "No ma'am." She looks suddenly frightened.

"Then relax, you were sitting before I got out here." I motion to the couch. "Nothing's going anywhere."

She hesitates, and takes her seat again. I sip my coffee in the quiet hum of the ship. On this deck you can hear the engines in the hull, a kind of soft rhythm. Everything on this floor is sound proofed, you could do a fair amount of yelling and noise making in any of the guest rooms or suites and no one would hear a thing. Maybe a muffled moan.

Eventually she goes back to her book, but nervously. I sip my coffee and stretch out in the chair. I just listen to the ship as I sip my coffee and try not to think about anything else.

My cup empty I get up to get dressed, Siobahn stands as soon as I do and takes my mug, "Refill?" She asks me.

"No," I shake my head, "The captain is up in the bridge?" I ask, she nods, "Feel free to stay here," I find the urge to give her something to do, "If you could tidy my room when I'm done." I tell her, she smiles and nods. "Thank you." I return the smile and go find some clothes. Jeans and a sweater for the cold air, the captain likes to keep some windos open the air on the bridge. I think he likes the cold air.

"Captain." I announce myself onto the bridge, the only way up is a rather bland service staircase that goes from the bridge on the top of the boat to the first deck below the living area. It has doors on every deck, I'm pretty sure this is how the crew gets up and down, though I think there are other stairways I haven't found yet. I'm also pretty sure ther's an actual elevator in this boat somewhere leading between a few decks.

Brogan looks at me and straightens up, "Ma'am." They all call me that, possibly because I don't have a last name to make up and give them. I should probably ask Nina what the banks think it is.

"I don't suppose you have a moment I could ask you some questions in?" I look out at the ocean, the land off to the starboard as we sail south. It's on the hoirzon as a thin line, we're not venturing out into international waters yet.

He looks down at me, "This way." A man of few words. He leads me off to a private room, it's a small office just behind the bridge, taking up the center, the actual bridge walks all the way around for a full three hundred and sixty degree view. Four wolves are up where, one at the helm, the other three at stations, or just chairs, at each side.

He closes the door behind us, "What can I do for you?"

"I'm just trying to get a handle on your crew."

"Oh? I wasn't aware there was a handle?" I he looks suspicious, I get the impression he thinks I'm angling for something to hold over their heads.

"More like, how to interact with them, I don't really want to be the asshole boss, or the fear monger." I say, because I'm not used to being a boss at all, "I'll be honest, I feel some tension on the ship. And, I'm at war with at least two factions of Angels, Demons don't like me, Devils are either indifferent or out to get me, but I think they're occupied in a power struggle right now. That leaves earthbound creatures, and the Fae. Neither of whom I've pissed off yet." I take a breath, "I am the Adversary, I'm bound to piss off everyone eventually I'd imagine."

He cocks his head to one side, "Lucifer, I didn't deal with extensively, but I knew his game. Power, control, money. As mundane as those are, he was after them. I don't know the bigger scheme." He shrugs, "What's your game?"

What is my game? "Not a game, I'm opposing the general war over Earth, keep a balance in Heaven and Hell, lovely juggling act I'll have."

He seems to consider this for a moment, "I solicited Lucifer's help once, to end my own fight, but the cost was serving him for as long as he wish." He points at me, "If he's as dead as you say he is, and it certainly appears so, you've done me a great service."

My turn to shrug, "He's dead, you gained some benefit, now I'm asking, will you help me or are you simply mercenaries I've hired to crew my new home?" Up front and out there. I don't want mercenaries, if I have to I'll find another way to make this ship run.

He scratches his beard, "I'll talk with my pack, but I think we can work with you. We've lived on this ship for four years now, it's become a home to us."

I nod, "Well, I don't throw massive parties, so, let me know if there's anything I can do with your part of the ship to, I dunno, make it more of a home." I don't know what else to do with all my damn money yet.

He laughs, "Trying to endear us to you, or keep us off the top half?"

I have to laugh, "Both, neither." I say, "Really, if we're going to work together, let's work together. As for the top half, there's a pool, a lounging deck, most of which I don't use a lot of. Unless I am throwing a party, or function, or some guests, I have no use for them, please, at least someone will use this overly expensive house." I lean forward and give him a smile, "Alright?"

"Alright," He holds out his hand, we shake. It's a deal.

"Oh, just one more thing," I don't stand up, "The blonde, Siobahn, she seems, well, lost I think is the right word."

"Ah, her," His tone says he's not very happy. "She was a member of the pack I was in conflict with. I took her as spoils early on, she's been with me fifteen years now, and has yet to fit in. Most of them don't like her, and have liked her less after I destroyed my enemy."

I raise my eyebrows, not what I was expecting.

"I kept her because she was a good pup to throw at Gerard early on, he likes leggy blondes and it kept him off most of my pack." He folds his hands in front of him, "She isn't causing you trouble? At this point I've no use for her."

I think he's going to throw her to the wolves, literally. I take this in, she's causing strife in the pack, not good to have your closest fighting, or unhappy. Takes their focus off of their real job, keeping this house safe. But, she's spoils, a prize. I wouldn't expect her to be happy, I wouldn't expect them to treat her as anything but a possession. And she's simply now caught in the middle.

"What would you do with her?" I ask, I'm curious.

"Kill her, I want no chances of her coming back as revenge, her pack is dead, lone wolves tend to go insane." He says.

It solves the problem neatly, "If she remained on the ship, but not part of the pack?"

He leaned back, "No pack, she's a lone wolf. I don't think someone like her can handle that. It's dangerous to leave a wolf without a pack." He frowns at me.

"Let me think about it before you execute her." I say, "Talk to your pack about our previous topic, but leave her alone until I decide I have no use for her." I say.

Borgen nods, "Alright, but the pack is becoming increasingly hostile to her. She may not make it very long." He smiles a toothy grin. Pack justice is brutal, and quick, and many wolves take the stance of better to ask forgiveness than permission. How much punishment could come from killing a spoil of war after all.

I leave him to running the ship, I need to talk to Nina when she finally wakes up.

/Siobahn/

Early morning, maybe five or five thirty. Sarah, new boss, likes to rise early. Or randomly rather, I try to stay on hand. I'm on one of the love seats near the back of the living room, or the main living room where all the sleeping quarters were. I'm glad to be rid of the human, I didn't like him or his general attitude. I especially didn't like that he attempted to sleep with the staff. Fucking him wasn't too bad, but Sonia and Caitlin obviously disliked it, aside from the fact that both of them had mates in the pack they just hated him in general. It didn't help that he only liked the women in the pack to be his servants.

The new boss, she was something different. She's attractive, more on the cute side of the scale, but that adult cute. Short, brown hair just below her shoulders, thin build. She doesn't smell like an Angel or a Devil. And she has the brightest blue eyes I have ever seen, pure blue. I've overhead the Devil, Serj, call her The Adversary. Some kind of successor to The Devil, whom she killed as I understand it. That sounds dangerous, which gets me a little curious, a little aroused, a little afraid.

But it's her smile, she's got this lopsided almost smirk, I don't know why but I find it endearing, attractive. I want to be her friend not just her underling. I don't get much chance for friends here, taken as spoils in a war I didn't start they won't even let me fully into the pack, only thing keeping me alive before was that Gerard liked tall blondes. If I can get into her good graces maybe I can keep my status as at least personal attendant. Or maybe that's low status, I don't know. I just know my other choice is basically full time janitor. Or dead.

I jump as I notice Sarah coming out of her suite, she didn't take the master suite. Which confuses me a little. She gave it over to the Devil and Angel, who right now are fast asleep in each others arms. They do look nice together.

I hurry to pour Sarah a cup of coffee, if I'm fast enough she doesn't waive me off and do it herself, letting me be her attendant. She yawns and sits down in a chair near where I was sitting, over on the port side by the bar.

"Thanks." She takes the cup of coffee from my hands, three sugars, no milk, and sips it. That lopsided smile comes up and my stomach does a weird little flip. Just making her smile makes me giddy.

Silly. It seems so. I remain standing, just in case she needs something else.

"You need anything?" She looks up at me, she's wearing a long night-shirt and nothing else.

"Er, no ma'am." I stutter, God I sound stupid.

"Then relax, you were sitting before I got out here." She says and motions at the couch. "Nothing's going anywhere."

I hesitate and sit down, but I do. I pick up my book, and can't concentrate on it. She's just sitting there, stretched out in the chair, sipping her coffee. I read, but the book just isn't holding me, I can't focus. Finally she stands, looking like she's going to put the empty mug down, or get more. I realize I literally jump to my feet to help her, "Refill?"

"No," She shakes her head, "The captain is up in the bridge?"

I nod, I hope she doesn't want me to follow her up, my stomach twists in a knot that I've offended her and she's going to tell the captain. I swallow hard as a I take the empty mug.

"Feel free to stay here, if you could tidy my room when I'm done." I smile, maybe not, she wouldn't let me in her room if she were unhappy I don't think. "Thank you."

I watch her go and release a breath I didn't know I was holding and rinse the mug out in the bars sink. I wait for her to dress and leave the room before going in.

Her room is neat already, the only things out of place are the unmade bed, the night shirt she left on it, and the towel from her shower next to it. I fold the towel and hang it back up in the bathroom to dry. I fold the night shirt, unsure if I should find where it goes or leave it on the dresser. I leave it on the dresser, I don't want her thinking I went through her things. I take the bed down and remake it, it doesn't take long. Maybe ten minutes. Maybe fifteen.

I sit down at the chair in front of her desk. It's empty, I know the Angel Nina does the accounting and paperwork, but I expected something. I guess. They're only been on board for three days. I get up and go to wait in the living room, without her in the room I think I can concentrate on my book.

I stop short as I enter the room, behind the bar is Serj, the Devil. He's shirtless, his body is that kind of rock hard muscle without being bulky that most people find attractive. I can see what Nina sees in him. It's the scar on his face that might turn most people off, I certainly don't find it attractive, but the Angel does.

"Morning." He waves at me with the cup of coffee, he comes around the bar and is thankfully wearing slacks.

"Morning." I manage to get out, in all honesty, he scares me. A lot. Not in the normal fear of harm kind of wat, werewolves are top of the food chain really, I don't fear most things. But Serj, he's a different kind of fear. Primal. I brain fights a fight-or-flight response every time I'm in the room with him. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as he passes by me and goes back down the hallway to his room. I glance back, he's talking to Nina, but at a normal conversation tone sound does not carry in this part of the ship. All the walls are sound proofed, and the carpeting absorbs sound as well. I go back to the couch, curl up on the end of the couch and put my head down.

I don't sleep a lot these days, or sleep well. The pack doesn't trust me, I don't trust them. I miss my pack, but it's been fifteen years, and while I've been with this pack I've not been a part of it. I could live alone, but no were trusts a lone wolf, they say lone wolfs always go crazy. I'm not crazy yet. Maybe I've had just enough pack contact, but I doubt it. Constantly looking over your shoulder at your own supposed pack is worse than no pack at all. I've been down all those roads, but it's not like I can just tell Brogan I was alone once, then actualy adopted into a pack, then kidnapped by a pack that treats me as enemy, or a prize if I play along right. I could go solo again.

I sigh and put my head down, my eyelids close on their own.

I'm woken up by a smack to the head, I jump with a start. Alex is standing there looking angry, he always looks angry, especially with me. "What do you think you're doing?" He growls, leaning low. I glance outside, it's maybe noon. I've been asleep a few hours. A few hours of peace.

"Just, waiting, in case..." I don't know what to tell him, I back away.

"She's waiting on Nina," Serj's voice comes from the hallway. He walks out casually, Nina right behind him. Both are dressed in suits, his all black, hers a dark red skirt, she left the jacket off, he always wears one. Serj sits down in a large chair near a window on the same said as I'm on, and pulls out a newspaper. It's todays paper. I don't know how he got todays newspaper while were eight miles of the coast and moving, but he did. Nina sits down at the table on the opposite side.

"Siobahn," She calls me over. I'm completely thankful and quickly cross over and sit at place she motions to next to her. Alex straightens up and snarls at me.

"Next time stay awake." He huffs and walks off.

"Nevermind him." Nina says, "You can go back to your nap, or book." She smiles at me. I hesitate.

"Thank you," I whisper.

Nina just smiles, her smile is warm, loving. It's, to sound stupid, angelic. She just makes a shooing motion with her hand and opens her laptop up. I return to the couch, "Can I get you something to drink?" I ask, I suddenly need to feel useful.

Nina, without looking up, "Water please."

"No thanks," from behind Serj's newspaper.

I get Nina her glass and go back to reading, not a chance I could get back to sleep now.

I read quietly, the only noise is Serj turning pages on his newsppaer, and the occasionaly rustle or typing from Nina.

About mid afternoon Nina gets up, she turns on the jacuzzi sitting in the back corner. While it fills up she simply goes into the bedroom to undresses, coming back out in a black bikini. "Could you get me a towel Siobahn." She says as she settles down into the warm water.

I get up and go get a towl from the pantry area in the after section of the guest quarters, I hang it on the rack near the jacuzzi and return to my book. I wish I were part of their circle, not the pack. It's not the life of leisure I want, it's the safety of their protection. I can't even begin to imagine what I could do even want them to have me around. Mistress doesn't even sound like a good idea. Nina and Serj are obviously in no need of a partner, and Sarah. . . she could have anyone, I have nothing to offer.

/Sarah/

The wish drifts up through the ship to me. Wishes these days find me like little Sarah Seeking missiles. The Adversary could cause so much trouble. I wonder if Lucifer felt this, it feels like I inherited it from him. This definitely wasn't part of my wish-giving capability before. Maybe it's just part of being elevated above Puppet to Adversary. The right wish fulfilled in the right place could make or break so many schemes.

Lounging in reading room on the third deck. It's decent sized, but obviously just for show. I don't think the previous owner cared about this room. It looks for show, but it does feel like someone has been in here. The wish comes as I'm looking across the shelves.

Siobahn, her thoughts follow with it for a moment before it goes silent. A little temptation for me off to the side. I find a shelf with a missing space, I think this is where Siobahn gets the books she reads. I close my eyes and use a little energy, tap that power I feel, and imagine this room. Gerard liked to have meeting on the sun deck towards the bow. Looking cultured with a backdrop of a library. But it's Siobahn's scent in this place. She may have even been the one who helped stock it.

Well, the wish is interesting. How long has the wolf been out in the cold? Maybe not completely a lone wolf, but certainly not a member of the pack. I think she's playing weak. A wish is like an invitation into someone.

To really make a wish, a big wish, come true, a wish that involves the persons emotional desires, you open yourself up. A wish-giver, weather some parlor trick Fae or something bigger, the giver can crawl around.

Oh, she is a clever little wolf. She's no cowed pup, she simply understands survival. That's a lone-wolf trick, to survive without support. Do what's needed, play the part required. As body guards go a Devil is a good choice, especially my devil, but that tips my hand to extent of my actual power. An Angel doesn't hurt either, but that's much more flashy if Nina wants to be all power and rage she has to unfurl those wings. But a werewolf, a killer like Siobahn, a chameleon of that caliber, one who can play cowed little puppy, she's the perfect door to hide behind. Just enough power to get the job done, not nearly enough to let people know how dangerous I am.

I do, after all, still need to look accessible if people are going to come to me and let me meddle. Especially people of the Other variety.

I go find one of the many little cocktail bars this ship has, Gerard was far too intent on creating the 'bar' anywhere on the ship. Some of these may have to be removed and replaced with something less nightclub oriented.

Sonia is sitting with another wolf, Jack I believe. They're talking pleasantly with each other. I imagine there's a lot of down time on this ship when we're sailing. And of course they need to make themselves available to me, so there is always one or two lingered around one of the decks.

"Tell me about Siobahn." I'm not really the coy type, especially not if they're going to be employees. Or partners in crime.

Jack frowns, "Spoils of war." He says, you can tell he doesn't think much of her, "She doesn't fight back much, does what she's told."

"She's not all submission and begging." Sonia adds, "If you watch her closely, she's," She pauses to find the words, "Vicious. I've met her kind once, the look in their eyes."

"Oh?" I take interest.

"I shouldn't say, Brogan wouldn't like it." Sonia shuts up suddenly.

"She's never broken, not when you took her, she just played dead." I venture a guess.

"She never once gave up anything about her pack." Jack nods, "If I didn't know better I'd say she's really just waiting for the perfect moment."

"Fifteen years is a long time to wait."

"Her packs gone," Sonia continues, "What else does she have to live for?"

To them pack, family, is everything. The average werewolf just can't really make it on their own. It's not that they're not clever, it's more that they're just not wired for that. Not the way some animals are wired for the solo hunt.

Siobahn might be though, she might be that rare breed of wolf that can take care of itself. "Would the pack be better off with her out of it?" Might as well ask.

Both of them look nervous, "That's..." Jack starts.

"You need to talk to Brogan." Sonia says abruptly.

"I'm asking you." I say, possibly a little more forcefully that I need to. But I want an answer from someone who has to live with her presence.

Both of them look nervous, "She needs to be in or out. Brogan keeps her just on the edge, including her enough to make her sort of, honorary." Jack says finally. "She's, not a bad person." He offers up.


Late evening, Nina, Serj and I are sitting around the living room, I have a feeling this is going to become our primary area for working. The rest of the ship I need to tailor to the business of other people. This is the inner sanctuary.

"We don't need both televisions," Nina is saying, I need actual desk space to work in."

"Something that open?" Serj asks.

Nina rolls her eyes, "Upper decks are just going to expose it anyway, this is at least inside the ship, and I like working down here. It feels more quiet, this part feels like private quarters."

"If we have guests," Serj points to the guest rooms towards the aft.

"I'll keep all the important things locked in our room, which has space for a secure office. I just, like it out here." She sighs.

"Not like we're using either television most of the time," I say from my seat at the bar. "Turn that one," I point to the entertainment center in front of us, "Into your desk, and the other we leave." I feel the need to switch tactics, "I was thinking of bring Siobahn up to our level." I say, "She's not really pack."

Serj cocks an eyebrow, it's Nina who speaks, "They don't like her. But are you sure making her your," She searches for the word, "Personal assistant will make it better?"

"Take her out of the pack, I could use a bodyguard whose more visible, and not quite as dangerous as Serj."

"Not as dangerous?" Serj looks at me.

"You know, someone tough, but makes others think I'm not completely invulnerable. Nothing tests defenses like the attempt to get past them. You'd just nearly instantly overcome anything short of Legion itself." I say.

"She's nice, quiet, neat." Nina says, "As long as it doesn't cause problems."

"One way to find out," I say, "Besides, we need a fourth for bridge," I hold up the Devil's Deck. Both of them just look at me like I'm crazy.

/Siobahn/

I wake, maybe one in the morning. I get a room to myself, tiny as it is. Bunk, table, chair. This is not a perk. For a pack being with others is always preferable. Most of the pack sleep in two or four member rooms. Mated pairs sometimes have a third pack member. All snug and warm together.

I pull some shorts and a t-shirt on, without turning on a light, and slide silently out into the hall. The hum of the engines is louder down here, but the sound proofing of the bulk heads still just makes it a dull rhythmic hum. I'm done with my book, I need another. There aren't many left in the library I haven't read, I hope Sarah either likes books or lets me get more. They've helped keep me sane for a long time now. Losing myself in stories, true and fictional both.

I sneak out and up the stairs to the library, moving through a sleeping ship is easy. The night crew, all five of them, usually all hang out in the bridge.

I turn on a light in the library and return my book. I'm looking for another when Alex startles me.

"What're you doing little wolf..." He growls from the outside entrance to the library, coming in from one of the party decks.

I jump, "Alex, I was just... getting a book." I say, "I, couldn't sleep." I want to kill him, I hate him more than any others. Even Brogan is never cruel to me, cold, unkind perhaps, but never cruel. Alex enjoys torture, and I'm a favorite target of abuse.

"I think it's time you go, new boss, new beginning." He grins menacingly, I can feel him calling forth the change, a spark in the air.

Like an electric charge between us.

I back up towards the middle of the room, not that it's a large room, but it'd be a shame to get too much blood sprayed on the books. I can feel my own wolf inside me, it wants out, it wants blood. It's been so long since I had fresh blood on my lips. And Alex would taste... so good.

"Alex..." I put my hands up, I can't kill him, I want to, but I can't. It'd be a death sentence for sure, and I'd like to live more than I'd like revenge. I was never the kind to want blood for blood. My wolf just wants blood, no reason. I feel it rise as Alex shifts. My vision gets suddenly sharper, more real as the wolf shifts me. I can feel Alex in the room, so much rage, I can't help but respond. I try to find a way out, even if killing him is in self defense Brogan would just have me killed. To keep his own pack in line if nothing else. I don't think even the new boss-lady could save me from that.

I go to run, maybe I can beg her mercy. Or Serj and Nina, I can offer all kinds of things up. Mostly myself. I don't make half a step before Alex strikes.

He shifted faster than I anticipated, it's been mere moments, a massive claw takes me in the mid section. My step out is aborted and I stumble to the ground. I pull the t-shirt away, put one hand in the bloody mess, just need to hold my intestines in while my body tries to heal itself.

I make some kind of noise, one hand holding the gaping wound in my gut, one hand holding me up off the floor as I sit on my knees. "I..." Blood trickles out of my mouth. I can taste the copper. Oh God, please don't let me die here.

/Sarah/

I wake up suddenly, the wish doesn't drift, doesn't fly, it hits my mind like a hammer. It's less an wish and more a prayer of desperation, terror, fear. And close. It's Siobahn. I can feel her, bleeding above me, in the library, just wishing she didn't die. Praying for it. To God. God.... funny how they all call out to God, who never answers. But other things do.

And I am here. I pull on a pair of jeans under my nightshirt and run up the stairs to the library. I find the werewolf Alex standing over Siobahn, whose one her hands and knees, or one hand as the other is clutching her midsection which is dripping not an inconsiderable amount of blood. Her eyes are open and she glances up at me as I stride into the room. She's not afraid, she's not angry, she's just very sad, and maybe a little relieved.

They didn't break her, they just never gave her what she wanted.

I look at Alex who appears a little stunned that I'm here.

"Go back to your post, or sleep, or whatever. Wash off the blood, and never ever mention this again." I tell him. "Ever." I say, I let a twitch of power creep into my voice, I force the magic into him, he'll never talk. Alex literally runs from the room.

I kneel in front of Siobahn, "Wish granted." It tell her holding her face in my hands, I let the magic work, it just takes her ability to heal and accelerates it. This one does have a cost, however slight, in making her body work overtime. She looks relieved as her wound knits, heals, the blood stops, she topples to the side, unconscious, worn out.

I wish all the blood everywhere away, it's gone. Just the blood covering Siobahn remains. I pick her up, deceptively heavy, but she is werewolf, very compact muscles. Carrying her down to my room, I strip her and throw away her torn and blood clothes. She's so much taller than me it's a trick to keep her upright while I wash her in the shower, and finally dump her in bed next to me.

I fall back after pulling the covers up over us. "Fuck." I sigh and look over at her, blonde hair has fallen across her face, she looks peaceful like this.

I close my eyes and go back to sleep. I'll figure out what to do with Brogan in the morning, and how she'll work on the ship but not part of the pack. I have a feeling it will be tense for a while. But it'll work out, for their sake.


When light comes in through the porthole I wake up, the beams of light come through the window. Siobahn has drawn one leg out from under the covers, stretched out half under half on top of the covers, I can see the allure, she does have some long legs.

I get out of bed and stretch, pulling my nigh shirt back on I wander out to the bar and make myself coffee.

Serj is awake and comes out to greet me soon afterwards. He and Nina usually sleep in, or at least stay in bed late, normally. "I smell blood." He says.

"Thought I got rid of it all." I pour him a mug of coffee as well. "Siobahn will be my new bodyguard, or personal assistant, or whatever." I say, "One of the pack tried to kill her last night." I inform Serj.

He just sips his coffee, "She's alive?"

"In my bed." I say, "Sleeping off the events, I forced a lot of magic down the throat of her attacker." I say, "I hope we dock soon and I can cause some mayhem to recharge. I need some real energy and power." I say.

Serj just nods, takes his coffee and goes back towards his room, "Did we need to dispose of anyone?"

"No, but if Brogan doesn't cop to my terms I think I'll just demonstrate my lack of pleasure with extreme violence." I say, "I'm not sure I like how werewolves keep power and control." I say.

"They learn from the best." He points up, and gives a short laugh. I watch him go back to his bedroom.

/Siobahn/

I wake up with a warm beam of sunlight on my leg, I'm naked in bed. The bed is large, plush, soft. This is not my bed, my eyes shoot open, where am I? I sit up, suite, Sarah's suite. My stomach!

I check and rub my hand across the perfectly healed skin, I probably should have some tiny scars at least, healing from another werewolf is never so clean. I remember vaguely, Sarah's voice, something about a wish and a feeling of warmth overcoming me.

I find a bathrobe and pull it one, I wander out to the living room, Sarah and Brogan are talking at the table. You can feel it in the air, this is her center of power on the ship, the same way Brogan seems to be a little taller, and little more imposing, on the bridge. Sarah here seems a little more dangerous.

Brogan looks over at me, I stop in the middle of the room, I don't know what to do. He stands up, "She's yours then." He waves at me, "If she does go rogue I will kill her." He says this looking me dead in the eyes, then leaves.

Sarah just turns around, smiles that lopsided smile at me, and goes to pour a cup of coffee. She hands it to me, I take it instinctively.

"You're my new personal bodyguard and assistant." She says cheerily. I sip my coffee and let that sink in.

"You can take the other suite, I'd get your stuff soon, who knows what the puppies will do." She says and goes back to the seat in front of one of the entertainment centers.

"Ok," I squeak, or whisper, something quiet. I sip the coffee, put it down on the bar, and quietly go down below to get what little I own. And I own very little. Several suits, and a couple bathing suits that barely qualify as that, things Gerard got me so I could better suit his needs.

I hang it up in the second suite's closet and sit on the bed.

"We'll need to get you a proper wardrobe." Nina says leaning against the door.

I look over at her, "I, don't know what to say."

"Thank you might be good, or just stay out of the way of the pack at large for a few days." Nina comes into the room and closes the door behind her, "Since I'm Sarah's accountant, and business manager. You should be her bodyguard and personal assistant, which means we'll need to get you up to speed on her schedule." She sits on the bed next to me. "Ever been an assistant before?"

"I've been high enough in a pack to know how to keep someone in the loop, delay access, low level politicking." I shrug, not really sure what they expect of me.

"At some point her schedule will fill up, your job will be primarily to keep it in order." She puts a hand on my knee, under the robe. "I think you'll be fine, the whole lone wolf gone crazy isn't your style." She leans in close, "But if you need contact, if you need the feeling of pack, come to me, or Serj." She whispers softly.

I think she just came on to me, or offered up an opportunity to sleep with her and Serj. "Alright." I nod and swallow.

"You need time to acclimate." She stands up, "How about," She checks her watch, "Lunch? I'll have them bring up something, you look a little pale." She smiles and leaves the room, closing the door behind her as she goes.

I fall back onto the bed, "I don't get it." I say out loud, just hearing myself talk feels a little better, "But, it's what I wished for," It suddenly occurs to me that I made at least a full wish, even if I did think it, and possibly Sarah answered a prayer last night.

She is The Adversary, someone who replaced The Devil. Someone who exists specifically to give you all your desires. My price? Servitude towards her, for her. I'm not just out of the pack, I'm officially not obligated to pretend to play along. They never took me in, and now I'm officially not their problem at all. I smile, and curl up on my new big bed, this probably won't be so bad.

I don't see how it could be worse. I may regret that later. But for now I'm close to Sarah, away from the pack, and I don't even have to fuck some sleezy human to do it.

/Sarah/

Brogan is staring at me with a frown on his face. We're in an game room, billiards table near the middle, in three of the four corners is a card table, poker or blackjack, the fourth corner is, naturally, a bar. Man this guy was all about entertainment.

"I don't like having her onboard the ship." He repeats. Like saying it again changes things.

"Yeah, well, I have a use for her, and you're the one her kept her hostage even after you won your little war." I cross my arms and lean on the pool table, I bet this looks more imposing if you're not five one and your opponent is six seven.

"I told you..."

"You gave me some poor excuse," I cut him off, "Really? Kept her around for Paul Gerard? He could find a tall blonde in any port." It glare, "I'm pretty sure I can find another crew for this ship, I happen to like Siobahn, and I think you're lame excuse on lone werewolves won't hold up."

He growls at me, clenches his fist.

"If she shows signs of problems, or goes after your pack I'll have Serj kill her," I uncross my arms and place them on the table, gesture of peace or at least less hostility.

Brogan nods, "Fine." He huffs, and walks out of the room. I find it amusing he just stormed out of a room on a ship. At least we're almost to Miami, I could use some genuine warm air right now.

/Conversations One/

The man sitting across from me is tall, wide, well built, mostly concealed in a long coat and hat. It's Miami, in December. Not hot, but not exactly cool either. "Metatron," I smile at him, we're sitting on one of the fore decks, lounge chairs, patio furniture, and sunshine. The pool is on the deck above us, where Siobahn is nervously perched. She's taking the whole bodyguard thing seriously. Even after I explain that she doesn't even stand a hope of a chance against Legion should something happen. "Do what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I came to thank you for opening Heaven's Gates." He says, "That was quite a trick." He smiles, his face is an odd golden color, like he can't fully hide that light of his. Funny, the Legion is brighter than the Angels Of Light.

"You're welcome. I thought the clever trick was hiding the Keys inside me." I say. "Had the Devil won you'd be locked away forever."

"Speaking of Lucifer," He shifts, "You didn't keep his soul."

"His soul was trying to kill me." I say, "I don't have one, it would have just filled me up like water in an empty bowl." I say, the analogy sounds stupid when I say it out loud.

He shifts uncomfortably, "Without a soul you won't ever see the Glory Of The Throne, feel the Touch Of God." He says, impossibly white eyes staring into my bright blue. My eyes still aren't even remotely normal, just shades of blue without the same look a human might have, it makes them look remarkably flat sometimes.

"Or," I counter, "I'm also unable to be corrupted, tainted, or otherwise drawn from my path."

He grunts.

"Think of me as a singular sense of purpose." I smile, I hope he takes it as a friendly smile. "Did you have something you wanted? Or is this just a social call?"

"A man will be coming to see you," He said, "He thinks you can lead him to the Book Of Jeremiah."

"The what?" Great, obscure Angelic artifacts.

"A book of power." Legion intoned.

Not very specific, "Ok, and you want me to help or hinder?"

"He's an agent of Michael. A former officer of the law named Pierce."

That name rings a bell, I try to remember, oh yes. He interrogated me when I was in the hospital. Not really very friendly then. "Hinder I'll assume." I smile and lean back in my chair.

He nods.

"Well," I steeple my fingers, "Wha'ts in this book?"

"It contains power, that is all."

"Ah, you're not telling." I nod, fine then, "It'll cost you, this intervention."

Metatrn looks at me disapprovingly, "You are still new, weak, I could,"

"No, not really. I'm the best agent on Earth you could ask for." I say, "And I'm not convinced you can do anything." I laugh, "Really, the price is small."

He looks very unhappy, "I see you are intent on living up to the name Adversary."

"Don't misjude me for a minute," I look him in the eyes, narrowing mine, "I'm not on your side, but I'm not on Michael's either. You want me to hinder him? It'll cost you, because I'm not convinced the power balance is even yet."

"What do you want?" He almost spits the question out at me.

"Make a wish." I smile, this time seductively.

"A wish?" He looks momentarily confused.

"Anything of your hearts desire." I say.

"I desire nothing."

"Now that's not true," I look at him over my steepled fingers, then lean forward, "You came here asking for a favor. That's a desire." I can't stop smiling.

He looks uncomfortable.

"Come now, Legion, I'm not Devil, I make no bargains. I fulfill the wishes and desires of all."

"I wish," Oh I can feel that energy building, seductive power, "For you to stop the human detective Pierce from acquiring the Book Of Jeremiah." He says slowly, like all the words had to be dragged out of him.

"Granted." I feel elated, a suddenly surge, a rush of energy swirls between us, I close my eyes and feel it come. Leaning back in my chair I let the magic work itself up. "You can go." I say with a sigh.

Metatron stands up, I'm not sure he understands what happened. I do, I love it, I got an Angel, a powerful one, to give me a little bit of his energy, I can use that to feed the wish, if I string it along just righ, just long enough, I can take a great deal of power.

He's gone just like that. I slump in my chair and just feel the wishes pull. It's better than sex. Saying no to wishes will be hard, but conflicting wishes will just make them taste sour.

Siobahn touches my shoulder, "Are you alright?" He says in that near singing Irish accent of hers.

"Oh more than," I stretch out, standing up I stretch further, "More than alright." I smile up at her, "I think this is cause for a drink," I wander off inside to find one of the many bars. Siobahn follows close.

"I don't understand?" She asks as I go to find a bottle, it's a champagne. She's the one who pulls out two glasses and takes the bottle, "Sit." She points at a small table off to one side.

As long as I've got an assistant, I'll let her assist, "It's simple, every wish gives me power. Well, every wish I grant. I take the power to make the wish true, but I also take for myself." I drop into a comfortable leather chair.

"And who was that you met with?"

"The Angel Metatron, Voice Of The Throne, Legion." I say, she opens the bottle with a soft pop over a sink and pours two glasses of champagne.

"I know my bible, that was The Voice Of God?" She looks a little disbelieving.

"Not really God, but close enough." I take a glass, "Big, powerful, lots of energy."

"Do they notice you do this?" She asks, sitting down next to me.

"Maybe," I shrug, "But I don't think so." I sip the champagne, "Nice," I say. My body feels electrfied, everything is a little more amplified.

I briefly wonder if I can't use this to wish Ix back. Immediately something feels cold, the mere thought of that brings forth a sense of dred I can't place. I know, without a doubt, that bringing back the dead is a very poor idea. Especially the Angelic Dead. I let the thought go with a little sadness, the modd dampened a little bit. I sip more champagne and let the taste roll over me.

"Siobahn, how do you feel about being around the Captain and his pack?" I ask her.

She swallows the champagne she was sipping and carefully puts the glass aside. It's not a subject we're brought up much, not in the week since I freed her. Or, at least moved her under me. "I don't know. I wish we could just leave each other alone. Not all of them are bad. But." She sighs, "It will cause friction in the future. The longer I'm without a pack the more they'll assume I'm an insane Loner." She gives me a half hearted smile.

"This'll cause problems in the future." I state. I need a solution.

"I don't..." She sighs, "I was hoping not to be the cause of trouble, or them losing this." She motions to the ship.

"They kidnapped you, kept you apart, and destroyed your family, your pack." I states.

Siobahn doesn't say anything, just picks up her drink and takes a long sip. She stands up and refills her glass. "I never liked being a pack," She said, "But they kill you when you're solo." She drains the glass and pours a third, "I don't want revenge, I just want to be alone." She sounds close to tears.

"Alright," I say, "That's fair." I sip my champagne, "Let's just enjoy the afternoon, it's nice and warm." I sip my champagne and feel the ocean breeze coming in through the door.

She seems to relax a little, but not completely. The whole thing is worrying her, I can feel that.

/Conversations Two/

Nina lowered herself from a kneeling position, still panting, and rolled onto her back, sweat glistening on her skin. Serj rolled to the side and lay on his back next to her.

"Always feels good," Nina sighed.

Serj only nodded, "I told you she was the bette choice."

"I know," Nina stretched out on the bed, "I know." They lay in silence for a few moments, "What do you think of the pup Sarah has taken in?"

Serj turned his head to look at Nina, who had a slightly glow to her, a little of the Angel coming out in the afterglow, literally in this case. "She's a loner, I'd wager not even in want of a mate."

Nina nodded, "Wager she likes to fuck at least?" She folded her hands on her stomach, "I made the offer, all but told her she should have sex with us."

"You seem rather focused on the carnal." Serj gave a chuckle.

"Several centuries as a neuter without losing the urge? I'm catching up."

"She may, wolves are very settled in the flesh," Serj folded his hands behind his head. "But it'll take time, she'll need to settle herself in. And possibly fight over some territory with the pack."

"I don't like them," Nina turns to look at Serj, "They seem, uncouth, petty, very small picture."

"Morals," Serj offered, "They have their life, and it ends even without intervention."

"I never understood it." Nina sighs, "I just, it's hard to even remember the bitterness of being a soulless Devil." She rolled over and ran her fingers over Serj's torso. "How do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Live with that empty hole." She put her hand on his heard, "Knowing that out there, somewhere, is part of you making that makes a complete being."

"I feel complete." He said, "I have you," He snaked one arm out and under Nina, pulling her in.

"But, you could be more, with your light back." She let herself be pulled up on top of him, sitting on his stomach, "Imagine it, our glory as Angels united again."

Serj smiled, "You don't think we make a good match now?"

"I do love, I do. But I want you to be more, to be happy again."

Serj reached a hand up and touched Nina's face, "My sweet Ambriel," She titled her head into his palm, "As long as you are with me, and shine your light on me, I will always be happy." She closed her eyes and sighed, "I am the shadow which makes your light that much brighter."

"Mmmm," She hummed, "My Azazel, you are a romantic sap for a Devil." She smiled, "If you are happy, than I am too." She leaned foward and kissed him, a long lingering kiss, pressing their bodies together. She slid off to the side slightly, staying mostly on her stomach, wings of light unfolded in the air above them, she spread one wing over them like a blanket.

"Sleep love." Serj held her in close, the soft warm glow of light dimmed until it was no more than a dim white light.

/Conversations Three/

Private Investigator Pierce, formerly Detective Pierce, is sitting across from me, he's declined the offer of iced tea. This time Siobahn is nearby, he can't instantly vaporize her. She's looking very official standing there in black slacks and a short sleeved white dress shirt. She opted to leave the jacket off, to show she wasn't carrying a gun.

"I'm surprised to find you here." I lie, what I am wondering is how he went from Detective in New York to a Private Eye running around the country.

"I'm almost surprised to find you." He smiles, he's clean shaven, but wrinkled. I can tell he travels light and this is one of his only good suits. "I wondered what happened to you after New York."

"Oh?" I feign interest.

"You pulled quite the disappearing act, I must say. Just gone, poof." He mimics a puff of smoke coming out of his hands, "How did you do it?"

"No all doors lead where you think they do." I smile, "What I find interesting is how a New York Detective ends up here on my boat."

"I heard you were in New York two weeks ago." He says, "Little Wishes, interesting name for a four hundred a fifty foot yacht."

I relax in my chair, this is going to be one of those conversations, still the detective, trying to get information out without giving any away.

"It's the little wishes in life that get us where we are." I shrug, "The big ones rarely get fulfilled as we envision them." I lean forward and pour myself another glass of iced tea from the pitcher Siobahn left on the table.

"And your friend there?" He motions to her, "What is she?"

I look over at Siobahn, wondering if I give away her secret or not.

"My assistant, part time body guard." I say, "She helps me with the paper work. Keeps the schedule on track."

"Of course," He nods. Siobahn is casually sitting next to one of the patio tables out here. It's the same deck I talked to Metatron on. If only Pierce knew how close he was to the Angel he hunted.

"So, how did you come to be talking to me?"

"A priest in Denver." He says, "Said I needed to find the Devil herself." He laughs, "Though he didn't use that exact word. The Adversary I think he called you."

I nod.

"If only how close I'd known I'd come to The Devil back then." He shakes his head, "Turns out that body they found you next to, bona fide Angel." He smiles, of course, it took me a year to believe it. It seems several more bodies turned up, didn't have anything to do with that did you?" He asks. Now he leans forward and pours himself a glass of iced tea.

"I didn't have anything to do with the first one." I say.

"Second," He sips his drink, "You were found next to the second. I wonder, how you came to be there?"

"Long story," I say.

"I have time." He smiles.

I shake me head.

"How about this, I wish you'd tell me how you ended up next to a dead Angel."

Tempting, so tempting. Why not, "Granted" I take that wish, but it's only a tiny amount of power. Still, it connects me to him. A thing little thread for a story, "I was investigating their murders. I found the first body before anyone else did, and the former Devil told me about the second, or pointed me in the right direction at least. A Demon attacked me, I barely won that, but he definitely lost." I smile, a little wish, a tiny tug of power. I have him now.

"Interesting, the former Devil?"

"He's dead." I wave my hand, "Thus the Adversary, it'd be a shame to use such a sullied name." I smile oh so sweetly. "I don't actually know who that Angel was, and soon after I was very occupied with larger problems." I close off the conversation nicely. "Really now, why are you wasting my time?"

"I'll get to that," He says, "I have a feeling I'm getting to the end of the line and I'd really like someone to hear my story."

"Oh please," I say, because I'd like to know it too. Getting information now will be hard, and I'm not exactly the most connection entity yet. Yet.

About a year after that all started things became really strange. Angels were waging a war here on earth. As far as I can tell there are two sides, at first I thought it was the Angels in Heaven versus the Angels in Hell." He sips his tea, "But when actual Demons started to appear here and there, that theory seemed kind of off. Turns out there's two factions of Angel." He pauses.

So he doesn't know about Legion, or isn't letting on he knows.

"Plus you throw in Demons and Devils and you have a three way ware."

"Four." I correct him, I really can't stand having Devils be put in the same category as Demons. It's insulting to the Devils. "Demons and Devils aren't the same."

"They aren't?" I get the feeling he led me into that one, tricky tricky.

"Demons are Hellspawn things, who knows where they come from. Devils are Fallen Angels, souls lost or hidden away." I say.

He smiles, "I thought as much. Where was I, yes, four factions fighting on earth. I got involved with an Angel named Cassiel, though she went by Amy when we first met. It was with her I got really deep into things. She was hunting for a few artifacts. It was two years with her when things went badly." He looks almost sad, he stops talking when Nina and Serj come out onto the deck.

Nina is wearing single tiny blue biki, wet and clinging to her drying skin like she just got out of the pool. Which I assume she did. She lies down on one of the sunning chairs out near the end of the deck, without glancing at us. Serj simply sits down across from Siobahn. He's in a full suit, at least it's a khaki and not his normal black.

"It's alright," I say, "Nina is my accountant, and Serj is her bodyguard and assistant." I wave, "Both are perfectly safe, in my confidence."

Pierce looks nervous, but continues, "She's only missing one last item she needs to find, and our lead is a priest in Denver." I already know this one, "He's got this vacant look in his eyes, like he sees through things, into the heart of the truth." He says with some hidden fear in his voice, or awe. "Made me nervous, just being in the room. His voice sounded like there were two people behind it." He takes a sip of the tea, "Tells me I need to talk to the Adversary, when I ask who that is, well, he sends me off after another angel." He refills his drink, thirsty, nervous. "Finally, Cassiel is gone, but I owe it to her, you know?" He puts the glass down and looks off at the sky, "Finish this out." He laughs, "Don't even know what I'm going to do with the damned thing when I find it. I thought I was going to stop the Devil from causing armageddon or something, right? Like the movies." Now he looks at the ground, lost little soul, "I don't know, turns out the Devil, Adversary, whatever, turns out you may be the only one in creation who knows where it is." He looks me in the eyes, "So if you know, I'm not saving it from you."

Do I know? Maybe.

"That war between Angels." I say, "It's not over. But it is locked away from Earth for now." I think, maybe I'm lying, but I don't think so. I think the Angels are limited in their ability to come down here, in the same way that Demons are limited. Only the Fae have free reign. Agents of the War. I guess to what the book does, "It probably locks them away for fully, or maybe it just helps the side who holds it. I've never read it, personally." I say.

"I just wish to know where it is."

There it is, that wish, that little thing I've been waiting for. I lick my lips, how do I answer this, grant it while still retaining it.

"Well, I think I can find it in me to grant that wish," I sip my own iced tea, "But there's a cost naturally." I smile warmly.

He laughs, "Of course. I'm bargaining with the Devil herself."

"Adversary," I say, "It's a small price. I can tell you where it is, but I have to send Siobahn with you to get it," I motion to my assistant sitting patiently and quietly behind me.

He looks at her, then at me. "Send an agent to retrieve the book?"

"Well, I know where it is," I say, "But I don't want it falling into just anyone's hands, now do I?"

He seems to think this over, frowns.

"Look at it his way, I could find it and get it at any time. Today, I'm offering to help you find it, and you get it."

"And if I give it to the wrong side?" He looks up at me.

"Siobahn makes sure that doesn't happen." I say, "She'll take it back to me from it's safe hiding place until I can find a new one."

"What is the right side?" He asks, preemptive strike.

"Depends on the time it's found." I say, which ever side isn't mine is the wrong side, obviously. But I can't find the book without making this wish. Take the bait little human, take the bait.

We sit in silence for a while, drinking out iced tea, enjoying the Miami sun.

"Alright," He says. He has a plan to keep Siobahn away from it. Well, interesting.

"Granted," I clap my hands together for dramatic effect. I immediately pull the magic out of him, take my share, but cast a good deal of it to the world, I follow the line all the way to the book. It's not hard, it's not guarded particularly well, but it is obscure. "I'll give Siobahn the directions, you can meet her tomorrow morning and be on your way." I say.

"That's it?" He asks me.

That's it, "Yes, Little Wishes get us big rewards." I stand up, "Siobahn, please show Mr. Pierce off the boat, I'll give you instructions when you get back.

She nods, stands, and leads Mr. Pierce off the boat.

Nina waits until they're well out of ear shot. "He's lying, Cassiel isn't dead."

"I know." I say, "Doesn't take too much to figure out he lied there. Where is she?" I ask.

"My guess? That was some actual sadness, she's probably injured and hiding out somewhere. Possibly close by, I wouldn't be surprised if he either tricks Siobahn into thinking the Angel isn't with him, or comes clean and goes with or without our little werewolf friend." She said.

"I'll let Siobahn know. She can act unsurprised." I say, "How hard will it be for her to escape an Angel? Injured or not?"

"Hard." Serj says. "Maybe she needs a special jacket for this one." He smiles wickedly.

"Why honey, are you proposing to wrap your self around another woman?" Nina looks over at Serj.

He just smiles, gets up, "I'll let Siobahn know the plan and let her get used to the idea of a good coat." He laughs a wicked laugh, like a saw going through bone.

Nina just sighs and lies back down to sun herself, with everyone gone she removes her suit, "Be careful when you sleep with Devils hon," She says to me and continues to soak in the sun.

I just lean back in my chair and enjoy the open air. "They'll be fine." I say.

"Of course they will, they can wish for whatever they want."