Chapter 21- ‘Still Semi-Trustworthy’



     Drew woke up grinning like a mad man. Things were going better than he could have hoped with Scott. Who knows, maybe by Christmas they'd-- Drew bolted upright in bed. 'Christmas!' his mind raced. It was tomorrow and he hadn't gotten a present for anyone here. Sure, he'd got his family presents and slipped them all into their luggage before they set off on their Christmas holiday in Colorado. But now he was staying with the Parkers for Christmas, and he hadn't thought to get them anything. He hoped the mall would be open today; otherwise he would be royally screwed. As for Scott... would it seem too forward if he got him a Christmas present after meeting him only two days ago? Maybe... but who said there was anything wrong with being forward?



     Scott rolled onto the cold side of his bed and focused his bleary eyes out the window. His pupils dilated and his eyes widened. Snow! The window was covered in snow! He sat up and spoke aloud to his room. "Snow means Christmas. Christmas means presents. Presents mean... I'm fucked!" He leapt out of bed and began pulling on his clothes, hoping there was somewhere in this town open where he could find appropriate gifts.



     The waking states of Sara, Jason and Matt in their own rooms were along much the same lines. Shock was followed by worry, followed by a mad dash to dress and get downstairs. Jason paused in his dressing to glance at Matt. The angel was standing by the bed on one foot, a thin cloth draped around his waist. Jason briefly wondered how it managed to stay on, but the expression on Matt's face quickly stopped him from asking about it.


     "Something wrong?" he queried.


     Matt hopped onto his other foot. He blushed and cleared his throat nervously. Jason raised an eyebrow and Matt's blush deepened. "Um..." he started. "I er... I need to... 'purge'..."


     Jason blinked, and then realization hit him. He burst into peals of laughter at Matt's predicament.


     "Jason..." Matt growled.


     "Sorry, sorry," Jason apologized, still chuckling as he grabbed Matt's hand and led him into the en suite. He stood him in front of the toilet. "OK, just lift the cloth, spread your legs a bit and aim into the bowl."


     Matt blinked and Jason let out a noise of exasperation. He reached his hand towards Matt's loincloth but Matt's hand playfully slapped his away. "I'm perfectly capable of that part." The angel warned.


     Jason grinned and backed out of the bathroom. "Sorry, I'll leave you to it then." He closed the door behind him and finished getting dressed. He was just pulling on his shirt when he heard a quiet yelp from the bathroom followed by the sound of a stream hitting water and a deep sigh of relief. Jason grinned. This was definitely going to be a source of much mockery. Matt stepped out of the bathroom, looking much relieved. Jason ran in and flushed the toilet for him, before he ran back and out of his bedroom.



     Each of them dashed from their rooms into the hall, colliding and bumping into each other in their rush to get downstairs, wolf a breakfast and then start a desperate Christmas shop. Only Matt moved calmly; his own clothes had flown easily from his wrists without much thought to them and of course, he didn't need to eat. They ran through the living room, past Mr. and Mrs. Parker who were sitting on the sofa, heads pressed together, nursing cups of coffee. The four dashed into the kitchen and raided the basket of muffins that was set on the kitchen table. Matt followed more slowly, waving to the Parkers as he passed and then standing to the side of the kitchen. He got the unsettling feeling that if had he been closer, he would have been in danger of bodily harm. 'A pack of starving dogs seems like an apt analogy,' he chuckled.


     As soon as they had finished, they ran back through the dining room and again past the Parkers. Jason's mom took the opportunity to shout out, "Be good! Drive carefully! AND DON'T SPEND TOO MUCH!"


     Mr. Parker chuckled. "Kids, such amateurs."



     They'd gotten to the door and were about to rush out into the cold when a thundering voice filled the hall.




     Jason turned to find Nan emerging from the cloakroom carrying their coats, scarfs and gloves.


     "You. Wear. Now." She glowered sternly at them.


     The four humans grinned sheepishly and took their individual items of clothing from her. Jason smiled and kissed his Nan on the cheek. "What would we do without you?"


     "Freeze to death and then expect me to thaw you out no doubt," she chuckled and waggled her finger at them. "I'm making apple crumble tonight, so I expect each and every one of you back by dinner time." The aging woman looked at Matt and realized she didn't have a scarf or coat, or in fact anything that belonged to him.


     Matt grinned and reached into his sleeve with one hand, pulling out a long, elegant white scarf that he wrapped around his neck.


     She narrowed her eyes and turned on her heel, marching off to the kitchen muttering. "Bloody magicians. Think they're so cleaver, stuffing things up their sleeves indeed!"


     Matt looked after her in bemusement and Jason giggled, grabbing his arm and leading the way out the door. Again, they piled into the Landrover. The engine purred to life and Sara maneuvered the vehicle down the snow-covered driveway. Paul waved them out the gate with a candy cane protruding from the side of his mouth. He already had a wreath on the door to his booth, and had a pile of yew branches he was getting ready to weave into the wrought iron gate.


* * *


     Sara brought the car to a halt outside the entrance to the Mall to let the others out. "We're meeting just inside the doors no later than four!" She called out. They nodded and hurried inside as she went to park the van.



     For Jason and Drew, the Mall was a haven. Somewhere they could go to escape the world and spend their time shopping, or just pretending to shop while rifling through things and irritating the sales assistants.


     To Scott it was a nightmarish place where any money you had could easily be swallowed up by the beast that was the Mall, in a matter of minutes.


     To Matt, the Mall was... well it simply was. It was just another new experience. After a moment of staring down each length of the crossroads they stood at, Scott, Drew and Jason each took off down a separate one, leaving Matt standing in utter confusion. After a few seconds, Jason ran back and grabbed his arm, leading him down their own route.



     Jason moved around the various stores at blinding pace. Matt had trouble keeping up with him. The other people he observed seemed to be irritable and tired from shopping, but Jason was still as chipper as ever. If anything, he was even more energetic. Shopping, apparently, was ones of Jason's little joys in life.


     By noon though, Jason was beginning to lag. Matt took half of Jason's bags from him as they went in search of sustenance. A nearby Starbucks proved to provide just such a thing. Inside, Jason ordered a white chocolate mocha and looked to Matt for his order. The angel shook his head. This morning's episode had made him want to stay away from liquids and food stuffs for a little while, at least until he'd had a chance to speak to Tobias about the effects of such things on him. Jason led him to the back of the coffee shop where there were several sofas and comfy chairs. Scott and Drew were there already, occupying a sofa. They joined them as Scott and Matt exchanged disparaging glances as Jason and Drew discussed in hushed tones what they had managed to find for various people. Matt's sensitive ears tuned into the music playing over the speakers softly, and picked out the subliminal messaging, encouraging them to "drink more coffee." He also picked out a familiar voice from the crowd of other shoppers and turned to seek it out.


     Jason noticed where he was gazing and looked up towards the front of the store. He waved and called out. "Fiona!" He beckoned her over to come join them.


     She grabbed her drink off of the counter and came over with a middle aged woman who bore clear resemblance to Fi.


     "Hello Mrs. Sutherland," Jason greeted her mother. "Last minute shoppers too?"


     "Tell me about it!" The woman moaned. "We must have walked every inch of this building twice in the last few hours alone!" She slumped down into one of the vacant chairs and smiled at the rest of the gathering.


     Jason took the hint. "Oh sorry! This is Drew, one of my roommates from college," he indicated Drew.


     Mrs. Sutherland smiled and inclined her head to acknowledge the boy.


     "This is one of my sisters er... 'colleagues', Scott." Jason hoped that would pass, he didn't really know what else to call Scott and couldn't very well say 'he's an agent of a secret organization that fights angels and demons for the sake of mankind' and expect to be taken seriously.


     Before Jason could introduce him, Mrs. Sutherland leaned forwards, looking intently at Matt. "So," she began, "this must be the boy Fiona has told me so much about." She extended her hand. "Nice to finally meet you Matt."


     Matt took her hand warmly. She tilted their hands together and seemed to study them carefully. "Firm, but gentle," she murmured much to Fiona's embarrassment.


     Matt arched an eyebrow in surprise and Fiona hid her face behind a hand. Her mother wasn't done yet though. She quickly slid Matt's sleeve up and inspected his forearm for needle marks.


     "Mom!" Fiona gasped.


     "What? Someone has to make sure he's good enough for our Jase."


     Jason lowered his head, trying to hide the crimson color Mrs. Sutherlands words had brought to his face.



     Eventually, Fiona and her mother excused themselves to return to the "mob mentality that was Christmas shoppers" as Fi put it. Scott eyed Jason and Drew's shopping bags.


     "You guys got everything then?" he asked.


     Jason and Drew exchanged glances. Then Jason spoke, "Actually, we each just have one more thing to get." He then looked pointedly at Scott and Matt. Jason stood and collected his bags, quickly followed by Drew. They started to move away together and Matt rose to follow.


     Scott grabbed his arm, having taken the hint from Jason. "Why don't you and I go wander, eh?"


     Matt looked after Jason. "What if Jason needs help?"


     Scott coughed. "I think that's why they went off together."


     Matt still didn't get it. "But--"


     "Dude, they're getting our presents so they don't want us there."


     "Oh." Matt frowned suddenly. "Do I have to present others with purchased gifts as well?"


     Scott's eyes bugged. "You mean you haven't gotten ANYTHING?!"


     The angel shrugged and spread his hands. "No money."


* * *


     Drew and Jason met Fiona a few minutes early, at the arranged location. She'd already gone to get the car when Scott and Matt showed up, looking flushed and cheerful.


     Drew arched an eyebrow at Scott who grinned innocently, making him look all the more guilty of something.


     Jason's eyes darted back and forth between the two larger men. "Did you get my boyfriend drunk?!" He asked Scott incredulously.


     Matt giggled.


     Scott grinned sheepishly. "He said he'd never had vodka before."


     Matt looked at Jason and waved tipsily. His voice suddenly transformed into something more appropriate to that of a Russian mafioso. "I vill take you to Russia!" He giggled and then hiccuped.


     Jason tried to look stern and angry, but frankly the scene was too comical. Drew wasn't helping much as his sniggers were clearly audible in the echoing mall.



     By the time the car pulled in through the gates, now decorated with pine bows and red ribbons, Matt was beginning to sober up and feel the effects of the strong drink. He held his head and moaned at the crunch of tires on icy gravel.


     Jason stroked his brow tenderly. "I hope you've learnt a lesson from all this." He said quietly.


     Matt nodded grimly. "Never again!"


     Jason grinned wryly. "Well, maybe not *never*."



     The rest of the evening passed by quietly and quickly. All five of them retired to their separate rooms to wrap their purchases. Matt followed Jason into their room and then quickly threw open the window. Jason shivered at the cool evening air.


     "I'm going for a walk." Matt informed him before stepping out on the sill. He pulled the sash closed from the outside and stepped off the ledge, drifting gently down to land in the snow. Jason watched him from the window anxiously as Matt staggered a few times, clearly still intoxicated.


     He stood for a few minutes, his nose pressed against the cold glass until Matt disappeared into the darkness of the garden. He sighed and set about the task of wrapping.



     An hour or so later, Jason was just finishing up and happened to glance out the window. A warm glow lit up the end of the garden, throwing the trees into stark relief. It faded quickly and a figure trudged through the snow out of the darkness.


     The light from the house fell on Matt as he approached the house and slipped through the french doors into the kitchen. Jason sighed. Matt seemed to be quite solemn of late. He hoped it was just a phase.


* * *


     Paul stepped out of his booth as the sports car pulled up to the gate. The tinted window rolled down to reveal a young, dark-haired man in sunglasses. Odd since it was winter and getting dark already.


     "Can I help you sir?" He asked politely.


     The driver turned his head to look at Paul through his sunglasses. "I'm Jeff."


     Paul blinked and waited.


     "I'm one of Jason's room mates from college. He should be expecting me." He smiled in an effort to look friendly.


     Paul shivered. The effect was far from warm. It was downright creepy. "All right then, I'll call ahead for you to make sure there's someone to greet you."


     "That won't be necessary." The man's smile twitched. Before Scott could say anything else, the window scrolled up, blocking the guy behind tinted glass. Paul pressed the button to open the gate and allow him in before slipping into his booth. He picked up the phone and rang the main house.


     After a few rings, Jason picked up.


     "Hay Jason, it's Paul." he said.


     "Hi Paul, what's up? You going home soon?"


     "Um, I was gonna head off at about six. I was just calling to let you know to expect one of your friends from college I just admitted."


     "Oh?" Jason was a bit surprised. Who else could be visiting him at home over Christmas? Only a select few of his friends knew where his house was, and most of them were on holiday with their families.


     "He said his name was Jeff."


     Jason grinned over the phone. "Oh right-o then Paul. Thanks."


     "No problem." Paul answered before hanging up. He wasn't sure why, but he had a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. The man hadn't really seemed like the type of guy Jason normally befriended.


* * *


     Jason set down the receiver in the hall and raced into the living room to give Drew the good news, slipping in socked feet across the marble floor of the hall.


     "Drew! Guess what!"


     "What?" Drew asked, poking his head up over the sofa back.


     "Jeff's just about to arrive!" Jason said exuberantly. He hadn't realized he'd missed the old lummox, but his presence always seemed to add a relaxing air to their household. Although, that might have just been the smell of pot he carried around with him wherever he went, infecting those around him with a partial high.


     Drew furrowed his brow. "What's he doing here? I thought he and Cindy were spending Christmas in the Alps with her family's chalet."


     Jason paused. "Um... yeah, I'd forgotten about that. I wonder what's happened?"


     Together they went back into the hall to await Jeff's arrival. After five minutes Jason open the door in puzzlement and looked out.


     "It doesn't take THAT long to get to your house!" Drew muttered, poking his head around the door.


     There was no sign of a car, sports or otherwise. An unsettling thought struck Jason. He closed the door again and picked up the phone in the hall. He pressed the speed dial button for the gate and Paul picked up after just one ring.




     "Paul, it's Jason. I'm just wondering about my friend..."


     "Oh," Paul interrupted. "Isn't he there yet? That's strange."


     "Paul, can you tell me what he looked like?"


     There was a pause on the other end. "It was you're friend Jeff, I--"


     "This is really important." Jason cut him off. "I need you to describe the guy."


     "Well, I couldn't see much of him, he had a pair of sunglasses on so I couldn't see his eyes. But he did have a pretty square-ish chin. Oh, and jet-black hair. Like pitch. And there was something weird about his smile."


     Jason could feel his knees start to tremble. "Weird like he had too many teeth crammed into it?"


     "Yeah! Just like that." Paul's voice crackled over the receiver. "Why, is something wrong?"


     Jason wasn't listening anymore. His hand that held the phone was shaking. "Paul, go home now. Everything's going to be fine."


     "Um... Well, OK. If you're sure."


     "Yes Paul, I'm very sure. Merry Christmas." Jason hung upthe phone with a clang.


     "MATT!" he shouted.


     Matt came sliding out of the living room where he had been building up the fire. "What's it?"


     "Damien's here. He passed by Paul pretending he was Jeff."


     Sara and Scott had overheard and came running into the hall. Sara quickly took command of the situation.


     "All right, everyone make sure the doors and windows are locked." She ordered. "Grab some mistletoe from the wreath over the fireplace and hang a sprig over every window. Matt--"


     She stopped.


     Matt was standing very still, eyes closed, hands at his sides. They could see his eyes moving under his eyelids. He frowned deeply. "He's blocking me somehow. I can't pin his location."


     Sara cursed. "Everyone stay alert tonight. Matt, you stick close to Jason."


     "As if he needs telling." Jason joked.


     Sara shot him a look to be quiet. "Scott, you stick with Drew. I'll stay with mom and dad. No one goes anywhere alone. Understand?"


     They all nodded and then ran off in different directions to ensure the house was locked down.


* * *


     The night had passed without disturbance and so they had all eventually drifted off to bed. Sara went to her parents' room, under the pretense of discussing something with them. Scott took Drew along to his own room and slipped inside. He rifled around in his bag and pulled something out of it before leading Drew on to his own room. Drew climbed onto the bed, sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest. Scott took a seat beside him, leaning against the headboard so he had a clear view of all the windows. Drew noticed something shiny in his hands.


     "What's that?" He asked, already knowing the answer.


     "Protection." Scott stated as he screwed a silencer on to his gun.



     In their own room, Jason had crawled onto his bed. Matt took his place at the window seat, scanning the garden below.


     "Try to get some sleep," the angel said quietly. "I'll watch over you."


     Jason smiled and reluctantly slipped off his clothes before getting under the covers. He lay on his side, watching Matt for over an hour before exhaustion finally took him to the land of nod.



     Barely a minute had passed since Jason's eyes had closed when a pale, bony hand appeared on the window sill. Matt stood silently and summoned energy to his hand. If Damien tried to break in there, he would be in for a nasty surprise. Black hair appeared over the sill as whoever it was hoisted themselves up the wall. Two pits for eyes showed themselves. They widened in surprise.


     "Don't shoot, I'm unarmed!" Mephistopheles whispered, grinning through the glass. He tapped his knuckle softly on the glass and motioned with the hand that had been supporting him to open the window. Matt's eyes narrowed. Mephistopheles rose up, showing his wings were in fact raising him up the wall. He gestured again and Matt relented, lifting the sash just enough for the fallen angel to stick his head through.


     "What do you want?" Matt hissed.


     "A good number of things, including a coup in heaven." Mephistopheles chuckled. "But right now, the same thing you want. Damien."


     Matt's eyes narrowed to slits. "He works for you, why do you want to catch him?"


     The fallen angel propped his elbows on the window sill. He extended his hand and checked his nails. "Actually, Lucifer issued a decree that Damien is no longer in our service. I've been sent to ensure he's 'aware' of that." Mephistopheles crossed his arms on the ledge and laid his head down on them. "So how's your mom?"


     "Fuck you." Matt hissed through clenched teeth.


     The fallen angel grinned. "No thanks. I think your boyfriend would appreciate it much more than me."


     Matt growled. "Why don't you go find Damien then?"


     Mephistopheles looked at him as if he were stupid. "He isn't just blocking you Matty. He's blocking everyone. So I'll just wait where he's most likely to come." He looked up and then glanced around suddenly. "Oh right, that's here!"


     Matt sat down heavily on the window seat. He moved his hand to close the sash again, but Mephistopheles put his own hand up to keep it open.


     "I'd really rather you didn't close it." He said, forcing it open another foot. "I'd hate to be stuck outside when Damien does turn up." He looked at Matt. "You look tired. Why don't you get some rest?" The fallen angel nodded towards Jason's sleeping form.


     "Because you're a fallen angel."


     Mephistopheles gasped and looked hurt. "You know, some of us are still semi-trustworthy."


     "And are you?"


     "When it suits me."



     An hour passed, before Matt relented and took a seat on the bed next to Jason. He leant back against the headboard and closed his eyes as he slipped into the trance-like state of meditation that sustained him. As if sensing his presence on the bed, Jason rolled sideways and curled up, snuggling his head into Matt's side.


     "Hallmark moment or what?" Mephistopheles intoned from his place at the window.


* * *


     The letterbox of the front door creaked open. A pair of beady black eyes peered in through the slot. They flashed red and scanned the hall for body heat. When they found none, the blackness welled up and rushed through like a silent river of ink. It poured out onto the floor and flowed upwards as Damien took form. He leapt up and gripped the wall, skittering up the wall and along the vaulted ceiling like some sort of insect. He darted across the hall, skirting the chandelier in the middle. At the top of the stairs he paused and lowered his head. His eyes flashed red again as he looked both ways.  He dropped a thin strand of black energy that slipped around the doorknob and gently turned it. He reached down and wedged his talon-like nails around the doorframe and eased it open, careful not let it squeak. Once it was open, he skittered down, under the door arch and up onto the ceiling on the other side. He paused and looked down at the sleeping lovers. Oh how perfect it would be to kill Jason right next to the angel; that way he'd wake up next to a cold corpse. He positioned himself over the bed and let go, spinning in the air and readying his claws to dash Jason to pieces.



     From his perch at the window, Mephistopheles knew it was now or never. He tucked his wings into his body and launched himself off the wall with his feet, catapulting himself through the open window. He crashed into Damien's body a meter above Jason and locked his arms and legs around the renegade angel.


     "The Master wants a word with you!" He hissed menacingly into Damien's ear as they careened across the room at an angel towards the floor. Instead of hitting the wood with a crash, they slipped through silently as if it wasn't even there, Damien struggling to break free.



     Matt lurched awake the bed. He sniffed the air and looked to the open door and window. Easing Jason's head off of his lap, he rose and silently closed both firmly. "Hm," he murmured. "I guess it suited him." He turned and gazed at his sleeping love. Assured that he was now safe, Matt phased out and slipped through the wall into the hall. He stepped off the landing at the top of the stairs and drifted slowly to the ground. He had a little over six hours before the household began to stir. Plenty of time, he was sure.


* * *


     Fire blossomed like a flower from the obsidian floor. The tongues of flame blazed higher and higher and then suddenly extinguished themselves. Mephistopheles stepped off the warm floor, holding Damien by his collar and tossed him across the throne room, sending him flying nearly a hundred feet. He came to a jolting halt as his shoulder collided with the foot of the black dais at the far end.


     Damien raised his head weakly as he heard the brisk clip of Mephistopheles' footsteps up the hall. He struggled to push himself up off the floor, but an invisible force was pinning him down. The darkness behind the throne coalesced and flowed forwards gracefully, easing into the chair and bringing midnight with it. Two pinpricks of blazing white formed near the head of the throne and they glared down and the rebellious angel.


     Damien started to tremble. The aura of fear his master exuded made him sick to his stomach. "M-m-my l-lord!" Damien gasped and struggled to reach out a hand.


     Blocks of the floor fell away and jagged chains shot up like vines, spinning around his wrists and legs, lifting him into the air.


     The white eyes flared with anger and then a voice that brought icy daggers to even his cold heart echoed throughout the darkened hall.


     "You have failed us time and time again in your efforts to bring us the boy."


     There was a deafening pause as the echoes died away before the voice began again.


     "And recently, we have heard disturbing rumors of your activities with 'others'." The last word was stressed, almost like a hiss.


     "Master!" Damien pleaded. "I was wounded! I needed to be cleansed and I needed more assistance! I--"


     "One cannot cleanse the wounds of failure." The voice thundered, shaking the walls.


     Mephistopheles raised his eyebrows and glanced about him, before taking a step away from the column he'd been leaning against. Black dust sprinkled down from the ceiling in rivulets.


     "Mephistopheles has now gained access to the boy twice and has at least his partial trust. How can you explain your failure when he has had such success?"


     Damien looked piteously into the darkness, hoping for mercy.


     Mephistopheles looked up from cleaning his nails as the white eyes rounded on him. He shrugged nonchalantly. "Sometime diplomacy is a stronger power than any amount of force."


     Damien struggled against the chains to lash out at the fallen angel. "Diplomacy won't kill him!" He spat.


     The chains jerked taught and tightened on his wrists, digging in and drawing blood. He was whipped around and brought inches from the flaming eyes. This close, the white light burnt into his face and blistered his skin.


     "We gave you an order to capture him, not kill him. You failed." The chains moved backwards, and more of the floor below Damien dropped away. A rush of hot air came up from below. "All trace of your failures will be wiped from our histories, along with any privilages you may have had in hell. You will die, and no one will mourn."


     Damien's eyes widened in horror. His struggled frantically against his bonds, but to no avail. The chains on his ankles dissolved into acid that ate away at his skin and left him hanging by his arms. Then those above him also dissolved, showering his body with brackish acid.  He screamed as he tumbled downwards through the hole. Hot air rushed about him, rising from the boiling magma lake below him. He closed his eyes and prepared himself for a fast death by burning.


     His eyes shot open again and he looked down at his own torso in time to see a thick, barbed black chain sprout from his midriff. It caught him and held him in the air before jerking suddenly and snapping him back towards one of the walls of the massive cavern.


     A hideous laugh filled the crater and the lava below seethed. "You didn't think I'd give you an easy death, now did you?"


     The chain wound Damien's weakening body backwards at lightning pace into one of the many small dark tunnels built into the walls. The walls closed in about him, and he reached out with his hands. He forced the metal claws from his hands and grasped at the walls. Sparks flew, lighting his surroundings, but the chain dragged on. One of his nails caught in a seam of the wall and he howled as it was wrenched from his finger. He dug his claws in further, struggling for purchase. One by one his talons were ripped from his fingers, leaving bloody, ragged wounds.



     Up in the hall, Damien's scream echoed up through the hole before the blocks shifted back into place, once more completing the floor.


     "The boy will come into his full powers shortly and Heaven will realize just what he is." The darkness began to flow silently back from the throne to fill the rear of the room. "Bring him to me before he does."


     Mephistopheles bowed silently and, keeping low backed down the gargantuan hall and out the black marble doors.


     Once outside, he did a little hop down a step, and then skipped down a few more. "Business as usual then." he chuckled. "I wonder what Matt is getting everyone for Christmas?"


* * *


     Several miles below Mephistopheles, Damien's chain still dragged him along, occasionally lashing him against the wall and digging the barbs in deeper. He felt himself rush through a small doorway and then the hall turned into another cavern or room perhaps. His broken body smashed against the wall behind him and the chain ripped out of his stomach cavity. He slid slowly to the ground, leaving a stain of black ichor on the wall behind him. But he still wasn't dead.


     Crawling forwards on his hands and knees, he felt the blood begin to trickle from his mouth. His hand brushed against something smooth in the darkness. He ran his hand up over it, feeling the smoothness of whatever it was. His fingers ran over and clasped into two holes. A skull. Damien raised himself up slowly on, feeling the bone groan under his weight.


     Something clicked in the darkness, sounding like scaly wings sliding over a carapace. He jerked his head towards the sound and tried to focus into the darkness. He'd lost too much of his life giving blood to even summon a flame to light the room.


     The click of claws on stone came from above him and he tried to stand and face the sound. There was a crackle and blue flames dripped down from the wall. They ran in rivulets through cracks in the ground into small pools around the room. Damien's eyes widened in surprise at the succubus that was perched on the wall, defying gravity as if it were nothing. Blue flames continued to dribble from her mouth until she closed her lips and hissed.


     She crawled like a cat, stalking down the wall and onto the ground where she stood and shook her wings gently. Her double-jointed legs carried her steadily towards him, kicking broken bones out of the way. She stepped forwards into the light, her raven black hair cascading down her shoulders and over her ample breasts.


     Damien looked up at her face, a good foot above his own head and chuckled. He was forced to stop by a ragged cough and put a hand to the bloody wound in his torso.


     "Hello Damien." She hissed, displaying row upon row of serrated teeth.


     "Hello again Nodiesha."