DISCLAIMER:  The basic underlying idea is not mine. The characters and initiating situation(s) are owned by Neil Gaiman, Warner Bros., Netflix and DC Comics, et al. I’m just digging holes in their sandbox while I can. If they like anything I’ve come up with, it’s theirs. I do not want or expect any kind of compensation or notice for it. Really. Contact me at [email protected] for clarification and direct contact information.

 

That said, this is not a grant to other fan fiction authors. Any new characters created by me for this fan fiction are mine (except in the case specifically noted above) and I do not grant permission for anyone else to use them.

One

“My King, it is good to see you back on your throne.”

The voice was something that could never have been mistaken for ever having even once been human. While it could speak, the language it used was incapable of being processed by human vocal cords.

Regardless, the Devil understood all spoken and gestured languages. He left the reading of them to others.

The black-haired fallen angel turned and glared at the newcomer. The tentative smile on the diminutive demon’s face faltered and he averted his eyes, bowing his head in submission.

Lucifer’s nostrils flared and his eyes changed, flashing a fiery glowing red. It was clear the King of Hell was irritated at the unexpected interruption.

Irritated? No, disgusted, if one were to be completely honest.

Part of the reason the throne sat so high on its pedestal was to prevent unwanted visitors. It was almost a Herculean effort to make one’s way up the half-mile stone column to the small shelf that extended beyond the base of the throne. The innumerable ten-foot-tall stalagmites that littered the base of the pedestal promised agony if one were to fall upon one or more of them. Had he cared to look, he would have seen a few unlucky creatures in varying stages of freeing themselves or crawling away to nurse wounds that would never heal without the direct intervention of the King of Hell, himself.

“Scio. Of course, it’s you,” he addressed the demon with a sneer. “You have always been an obsequious little shit. What makes you think it’s good?”

Scio was a minor demon, about the size of a large housecat, standing on its hind legs. Four-legged, two-armed, with a serpent-like torso and tail covered in a pebble-like scaled hide of mottled green, he looked like something dreamed up by HP Lovecraft during an acid-induced nightmare. The demon’s humanoid head was topped with numerous writhing green and gray tentacles of varying lengths, that moved about, it seemed, under some command other than that of the body beneath them.

“I was told that certain things had occurred that brought you back,” Scio replied. The unexpected sincerity in the demon’s golden eyes surprised Lucifer. Demons weren’t known for their honesty, after all. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

The Devil’s expression became momentarily startled, but he regained control of himself and grabbed the demon by the tentacles, forcing his face upward. Scio tried keeping his eyes averted, but Lucifer yanked the demon’s head around until they locked eyes. Lucifer’s expression was not at all friendly.

“What would you know about anything,” he demanded. “What would a worthless demon like you know about humanity? Who told you a single word about what I have been experiencing?”

“One of the demons who came back after --,” the demon’s voice trailed off. The Devil could see Scio wished he had never opened his mouth in the first place.

“I can guess who that might be,” Lucifer growled in a voice that could peel paint. “I will have to think of a way to thank that bastard Dromos for his thoughtfulness.”

The idea of several centuries in solitary confinement seemed attractive right now. There were plenty of places in Hell where a demon could be conveniently entombed and possibly even forgotten about for eternity.

“Anyhow, I know there is someone up there who you care about,” Scio explained quickly. In for a penny, in for a pound, after all! “That happened to me a few centuries ago, when you were more – open – to your demons being out and about in the world. During my time in Rome, selling religious icons to gullible pilgrims.”

Somehow, Hell managed to grow silent, which should not have been possible. One could almost touch the blanket of preternatural quiet that draped their conversation.

“My Lord,” Scio added after an uncomfortable pause, doing his best to look away from his master’s burning hot gaze.

Lucifer released the demon’s tentacles, which moved back as though to avoid further contact, and then leaned in. His expression had changed to one of genuine curiosity.

“Why did I never know about this?” He cocked his head sideways and stared into Scio’s eyes with his customary piercing expression.

The demon was uncomfortable and even a bit terrified, but he was unable to keep from answering. When the King of Hell asks a demon a question, it is impossible to keep from doing so. His tentacles twitched and twisted in an echo of his emotional discomfort.

“I was afraid you might do something – unpleasant – to him, and I couldn’t allow that to happen,” Scio mumbled. “I – I loved him.”

Lucifer sat back on his throne; his expression thoughtful. The demon’s expression went from terror to simple fright. The Devil was quiet as he considered the scrawny demon’s words.

“I believe I understand, Scio,” he said, several minutes later, his voice silky and almost insinuating something. “I do. Relationships with mortals can be intriguing.”

The demon began to relax in the face of his King’s calm demeanor, but then screamed with visceral terror as the Devil morphed into his demonic Aspect and grabbed him up by his throat. Lucifer stood and leaned in again, his fanged mouth not two inches from Scio’s face. Lucifer’s expression was twisted with fury.

“If you ever keep things secret from me again, little demon, there will not be a chance for you to even apologize!” Lucifer roared, then threw the demon down into the depths of the ashen Underworld, Scio’s high-pitched shrieks of terror and despair echoing behind him as he descended. “This is Hell, after all! Happiness is not part of the job description here!”

The King of Hell slammed himself back down into his hard stone seat, staring out over the dark expanse of his domain. His immortal heart ached, and despair filled him. His tailbone ached a bit as well from the impact of his arse against the stone.

Lucifer looked down at the shredded remains of what had once been a tailored suit and let loose a pungent string of profanity, some of which was in no language ever heard by human ears. Pulling the ruined shirt off his shoulder, he allowed it to drop into the depths below his throne.

This much was certain, if he wanted to keep a decent wardrobe, he would have to avoid changing while he was wearing something that could not be easily repaired.

Taking a moment to consider things, it had been a thoughtful gesture from Scio to assay the imposing pedestal and then speak with him. Of course, he could never tell the demon that he appreciated the kindness, but in the hidden places of his immortal heart, he did.

When one is the King of Hell, one must keep oneself apart from his subjects. It was the only way to maintain any sense of order. Even Maze, with whom he had his most amicable relationship, needing reminding of her place, every so often.

Not for the first time since he’d returned, he mentally kicked himself for allowing himself to become so close with a human being. Why had he allowed himself to be so taken by her immunity to his wiles? Why had she intrigued him so very much?

For the millionth time, why?

A mortal. Doomed to the short existence to which humans were sentenced. Playing with them because one was fond of them was one thing. Creating a real and continuing connection to them was something else entirely.

Overhead, Hell’s already perpetually-overcast sky grew even darker. The circle of pure white light that shone over Lucifer’s throne, the only outside source of light in the entirety of the realm, narrowed its focus to only illuminate the King of Hell.

Long, loud thunder shook the entire region for a good half minute, and everyone, tortured souls and demons alike, paused in whatever they were doing and shuddered in terror. This could have no good result.

While Dear Old Dad might have thought condemning Lucifer to an eternity ruling Hell was a satisfactory punishment, He may not have considered how much more terrible His son’s current punishment would be.

A single tear ran down Lucifer’s cheek, unheeded, and his despair and quiet rage grew.