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.

 

 

Two

 

 A single day on the mortal plane.

A bad day often easily endured until the next one, possibly better, rose the following morning. A mere twenty-four hours in the scheme of things mortal. A hiccup in even the limited lifespan a human would enjoy.

Time, however, moves in a far different way in other planes of existence. Famous mortal physicists and scientists, “sure” that they were right in their calculations, might have argued the point, but once they died and became a part of a plane of existence outside of their experience, their beliefs underwent a radical change. A way that turns accepted human physics on its temporal ear.

That single day of mortal time is a hundred years on the Infernal plane. A mere blip in the grand scheme of things, as it were.

A hundred years of torment and indescribable pain. Tortures fine-tuned and most carefully crafted to achieve only the best results, no matter how long it might take. Having “enough” time to fully impart the lesson would never be an issue for the torturer, but for the damned soul…

For a damned soul, this was Justice, and as it should be, but for an undamned soul steeped in love, it was unbearable and Unjust torture.

Even with the relentless passage of time, the burning desire simply to look upon her living face had never lessened. The cellular telephone that had traveled with him was stored away in a jewel-encrusted chest concealed in the rude, spartan, black stone chamber that served as his quarters. It held candid photographs and voice messages that were now inaccessible, as the device’s battery had long ago lost any and all power.

“To hear your voice, to see your face again, my dear,” he had whispered in one form or another each day over the centuries. “I would give all that I am or could be for that.”

And another day, another hundred years passed. Another hundred years of torture and torment with no torturer present for the Lord of Hell but the passage of Time. Something that even the Devil, himself, had not considered until he was touched by its relentless presence.

A mighty and relentless Torturer, indeed when one can conceivably exist for all Eternity.

“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. He wanted to be alone in his misery, company be damned.

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, in its normal form, he was 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 the scaled 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.”

That creature had already experienced several centuries of creative punishments since his return to Hell after the attempted coup. Weaselly little Squee and fully half of the wayward demons who had participated in Dromos’ rebellion had been blasted into nothingness for their part in the attempted coup.

Dromos, however, required special attention. Ending him would have negated any lesson being given, and Lucifer could not allow that to be the case. He needed to be made an example of.

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 mortal 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. “You should have told me all that you did and experienced while you were on Earth.”

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.

“You did not ask me specifically, although I was afraid that you would. I was concerned that 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 own 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 the hapless creature then screamed with visceral terror as the Devil morphed into his full demonic Aspect and grabbed the quaking demon up by his throat. Lucifer stood and leaned in again, his red and ruined 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! You will never leave anything out again,” Lucifer roared, then threw the little 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!”

“As I have learnt, Father,” he muttered under his breath. “You’ve taught me that lesson so very well, haven’t you.”

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 hot 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 living human ears. Pulling the filthy rag from his shoulders, 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. That also meant sending Mazikeen visit his tailor for replacements.

Whenever she saw fit to pay him a visit, that was. And then he recalled that she could not pass freely between the worlds and roared out his rage.

Hell’s inmates cringed wherever they were and prayed to whatever higher power they embraced to keep them safe. Or as safe as any prisoner could be from the Warden.

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.

Why?

Because she was who she was, and he loved every tiny bit of her, even the parts that could be annoying in a casual relationship. She helped him to be a better person, of that he was completely certain. It tore at him to know that he would no longer be able to be in her orbit.

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.

For a time, he had indulged that rage by paying especial attention to the authors of his current unhappiness.

He had enjoyed fine-tuning the torments that were administered the equivalent of twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. But then he realized where this was taking him, and he stepped away to allow his torturers to do their jobs with as little interference as possible.

Lucifer had been an Angel, first.