Finally, this time when Ezekiel opened his eyes, he could
see clearly. He couldn't move
his arms or legs, but the trade-off was that he could talk without pain.
Looking around, he realized that the walls were scorched to a crispy-looking black, and
all the furniture had been replaced. Max probably had a fit.
The Devil came into his line of peripheral line of sight, a curious, anxious smile tugging
on one corner of his mouth. "Ezekiel," he whispered, helping the detective to sit up again.
Leaning back, Ezekiel realized just how comfortable he was like this, as if Lucifer's chest had
been made for him to rest against. "Do you feel better?"
"Yeah," Stone managed to
rasp out weakly. "Don't you . . . have souls to torture . . . or
The joke didn't come off
very well; sounding sincerely hurt, the Devil asked, "Do you want
me to leave, then?"
After a minute, Ezekiel
said, "No," very softly. He turned his head, ignoring the pain, to
look in the Devil's dark, shadowed eyes but barely managing to see him at all. "Thanks . . . For
"I-" His eyes averted,
the Devil whispered as quietly as possible without being inaudible,
"It was the least I could do. There is . . . something important I need to tell you . . . I've
been . . . well . . . obsessed . . . with you, ever since I met you. I . . . I . . . love you,
actually. That's why you made me so angry. That's why I risked the wrath of God by using my
powers." Moving to one side slightly, he let Ezekiel see his face, making the detective gasp.
The Devil's face had several long white scars down one side of his face, deep-looking and thick.
"They'll vanish eventually. My entire body was covered in them a few days ago," the Devil
sighed, pulling back self-consciously again.
"I . . . suppose that should
. . . be a compliment," Ezekiel said, his voice sounding more
and more like sandpaper. "You . . . getting mad enough . . . to put yourself at risk, all . . .
because I slept with someone."
The Devil's eyebrows furrowed
as he leaned his chin on the detective's back thoughtfully.
"You didn't just 'sleep with someone', Ezekiel. You fell in love with them." When Ezekiel shook
his head, he amended his words, saying, "Well, a form of love, anyway." Carefully as if the
detective were made out of delicate china, the Devil slipped out from behind him and set him
against the headboard so that they might be face to face. Only then did Ezekiel notice that
perched rakishly on the Devil's head was the fedora from George Snow's apartment. Feebly, unable
to use his voice anymore, Ezekiel pointed his chin towards the hat. Glancing up at it, the Devil
nodded. "Yes, well, about the hat, there's something important I need to tell you. 'Nero' is not
that young man's name, Ezekiel." Suddenly slipping into his old role of antagonist, the Devil
frowned irritably. "He practically gave it away, Ezekiel! 'Nero', the name of the main character
from 'Fer-de-Lance' and Archie Goodwin's empl!
oyer? He mentioned a funeral, a dead 'friend'?! Honestly. Your little fling was with Ezra
Closing his eyes, Ezekiel
shut out the words. He could remember "Nero"'s kiss, the feel of
him, the way he licked his lips when excited, the sound of his voice. "Has- . . . he . . ."
"Has he killed any more
people?" the Devil filled in for him. "Of course he has." His tone
changed once more, back to the loving caregiver that was so incredibly unfamiliar it made
Ezekiel's eyes fly open. "In due time, Ezekiel. All in due time."
The Devil woke him up,
laying one palm across his forehead, the other resting on his
The detective's eyes flew open and he sat up, his heart pounding; he had been having a
nightmare about Nero/Ezra. Again. Touching his face with his fingertips, he realized that tears
were running down his face. Ezra had cried, when they had slept together.
Shaking the thoughts from his head, he wiped the tears from his face without thinking
about them and swung his legs off of the bed. Looking up at the Devil, his own personal
nursemaid for the past two weeks, Ezekiel said, "I'm ready now."
It felt good to be on his
feet again. Looking in the mirror, Ezekiel was shocked to
realize that despite his horrible disfiguring burns, now it simply looked like he had gotten a
tan. Turning around, he smiled at the Devil, who was sitting on the bed, watching the detective.
Putting on his coat, Ezekiel realized just how good he felt. Nothing like being burnt to a crisp
to make a man feel better than ever.
As he slid his gun into the holster, the Devil got up and approached him. "I'm sorry,
"It's okay," The detective
smiled, looking up into the Devil's healing face. "I'm actually
happy this happened. It's the longest you've ever spent with me." Moving slowly as if
underwater, Ezekiel embraced the Devil, burying his face in the other man's hair, inhaling the
pleasant smell of rain that clung to him. Stunned, the Devil placed his hands on either side of
the detective's face, pulling his head back to stare at him.
"Don't do this unless you mean it," the Devil said sternly, frowning.
Smiling slightly, Ezekiel
leaned forward, his lips brushing the Devil's. "I mean it," he
said. They kissed ferociously, bodies pressed so close that, for an instant, it felt as if they
were one. When the Devil broke the connection, Ezekiel found himself instantly missing it, and
"You, my dear detective," the Devil admonished gently, "should be out looking for Ezra
Godwin." Pulling away from his detective, he began to push the other man towards the door,
shooing his out. As Ezekiel made his way wistfully towards the elevator, the Devil called out in
his strange misty voice, "I'll be here when you get back."
Nero . . . Ezra wasn't
hard to find. In fact, the young man was waiting for him at the
funeral home where his latest kill was being displayed.
"It took you long enough,"
Ezra sighed. He was sitting on the concrete steps of the
building, his chin cupped in his hands, dressed once more in the brown suit he had worn when
Ezekiel had first met him. "Do you have my hat?"
Biting his bottom lip,
Ezekiel shook his head. He couldn't help but stare at the young man
on the steps; he was thinner than the detective remembered, and he looked more tired. Other than
that, he was still absolutely beautiful. "It's back at my place. I could go get it-?"
Standing, wiping grime
and gravel off of his pants, Ezra murmured, "Don't bother. I left
so many clues at their homes; I'm suprised that it took you so long."
"Why?" Ezekiel whispered,
taking a step closer to the man he had once touched intimately.
"Why the clues? Why wait for me instead of running?"
The young man, the muse
of so many throughout the centuries, heaved a heart-wrenching sigh
that was dangerously close to a sob. "I'm tired," he replied. "I'm tired of Earth. I'm tired of
this false-life. I didn't want to kill them, you know."
"Who? The parents of your writer, back when you were alive?"
"You know?" Ezra frowned,
his entire face darkening. "No, I was talking about the other
writers. I didn't want to kill them, but . . . they never loved me . . . Did you? Did you love
Ezekiel took a step closer, only a foot away now. "After a fashion, yes."
"The Devil told me he loved
me." Ezra looked up into Ezekiel's eyes, pinning him with his
pained gaze. "He probably didn't mention that we were lovers. But we were. I spent decades just
lounging in his bed, waiting for his limbs, his mouth, his body. He told me he loved me. That's
why he let me go back to Earth for a while." There was a pause, filled only with a glance that
conveyed all the ache, all the longing, all the suffering and love and horror. And then Ezra
flew into Ezekiel's arms, burying his face in the other man's chest for a few tense seconds
before shoving him away. When Ezekiel stopped reeling and took in the current situation, he
realized that Ezra had retrieved the detective's gun, and was holding it expertly in one hand.
"I suppose I should say something meaningful and deep, but I can't think of anything. Just a
poem, and it's one you've heard before. 'Evil comes in many shapes/ And all of them are lovely/
But when the Devil's at your door/ You should deny h!
im entry . . ." He paused long enough for the gun to go off; flinching, Ezekiel was shocked when
the bullet penetrated one of Ezra's eyes and not his own. Gritting his teeth, the young man
ground out the last of the poem as he redirected the gun barrel towards his remaining eye. "'Or
else beware the . . . wrath of God/ . . . The cost . . . of a few moments' . . . passion.'"
With that, the gun went off a final time, and then Ezra's body began to disintegrate as his
screaming soul went back to Hell.
Retrieving his gun uncertainly, unable to assuage the strange guilt that plagued him,
Ezekial left the funeral home to it's weeping, black-clad mourners and went back to his "home",
if that's what you could call it. As the tattoo vanished from his flesh, it didn't even burn.
"You've done it. Congratulations are in order."
"Um," was the only response
Ezekiel could actually muster. Exhausted and feeling empty,
the detective flopped down on the bed. The world had resumed its dreariness as one might resume
wearing an old raincoat; everything was awash in pale shadows and shades of black and gray. It
was tiresome and cold, and Ezekiel almost wished for the warmth and light of Hell, just so that
the days (if you could call them that) would be bright.
A slight creak, and the Devil was sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall, his
back to the detective. Briefly Ezekiel wondered how many times in the past few days he had
actually seen the Devil's back- it seemed like so many. "You're unhappy," he stated simply,
getting the obvious out into the open.
Rolling onto his side to
that he might stare at the Devil's faintly curving back, the
spinal bones visible through the silk of the shirt, Ezekiel rested his head in the crook of his
own elbow and said, "With reason." He paused, then added listlessly, "He killed himself, you
"Ah. Well, then." He sounded
as if it clarified something, to find out Ezra had shot his
own eyes out.
Ezekiel felt a sudden boiling
churning lava flood up his throat- mistaking it for a minute
for vomit- and it exploded, a wail that, for all of it's heat and fury, was suprisingly quiet.
The tears sliding down one side of his face to collect damply in his hair, Ezekiel crawled
across the bed, closer, until his face was buried in the Devil's back, soaking his nice shirt.
The Devil turned slightly, and swept the limp detective up in his suprisingly strong arms and
held him like a child.
"Oh, Ezekiel," the Devil sighed, absentmindedly petting the sobbing man's head, "you
really must learn to remain . . . detached, I supposed. Or unattached, as the case may be."
Looking up, Ezekiel squinted
past his slowing tears. The words sounded cruel, callous, but
he knew they were meant only with his mental and emotional well-being in mind. Still, he
couldn't help but disagree; he couldn't help but get close to the escaped souls, not if he
wanted to be able to retrace their steps exactly, to think ahead as they would to catch them
before they killed again.
Their eyes met, and the Devil smiled, not his mocking smirk but an actual, kind smile, the
kind Ezekiel had only been favored with when he had been in dire need of the Devil's care and
attention, when he had been burned. And, Ezekiel realized, a smile pushing its way through his
misery, things just might be okay now . . .