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To Hell and Back

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Prologue

 

 

Since the beginning of time, creation has been the universe’s greatest mystery. How was the universe created? What was there before? Was there a beginning? An end? Infinity? Meaning ? Was the answer to all those questions really 42?

 

If you thought about it too long, it drove you crazy. Which was why Rich didn’t.

 

Rich was just a low level demon, who worked deep in Hell’s hottest pits. He’d never been topside; didn’t even get outside much of what other demons sarcastically referred to as ‘the sauna’. The appropriate term was actually ‘heating room’, but there weren’t many demons that knew the definition of appropriate and those who knew usually didn’t care.

 

Working down here solved one of the mysteries of life, at least. Where did demons come from? There was, of course, a complex answer for such a simple question, because not every demon was the same and there were different origins for all of them.

 

Some emerged from the twisted souls tortured down here in Hell. They took hideous wispy, not quite solid forms in Hell and possessed human bodies topside.

 

Others were bred in Hell. Powerful demonic monsters gave birth to spawn so ugly, not even their parents could look at them. They made up the bulk of Hell’s army, always tied up with the heavenly forces in some skirmish or other.

 

And then, there were Hell’s own minions. Lowly demons, like Rich himself, born out of Hell’s fumes, wrapped in a shell of ash and soot and fertilized by the screams of the tortured. They hatched from egg-shaped cocoons and it was Rich’s job to make sure they were exposed to enough heat and verbalized terror. For this purpose, there was a giant system of noise amplifying pipes from all the torture dungeons down to the heating room.

 

Now, the regulations stated exactly how high the temperature and humidity had to be for ideal demonic growth, which components should make up the torture noise in what proportions — screams of physical pain, for example lead to other outcomes than begging for mercy or sobs of despair — but Rich was a demon. Demons generally didn’t tend to concern themselves much with rules and regulations

 

That wasn’t to say Rich didn’t like his job. He wasn’t bothered much down here, and he didn’t have to deal with a lot of other demons. Demons were, as a rule, unpleasant, rude or downright nasty creatures. Rich might have a mean streak a mile wide and loved to sow mayhem and discord, but he preferred to do that without consequences. So Rich had taken to messing with the eggs. He wasn’t really sure how or when the idea had occurred to him — one day, it was just there — but Rich didn’t think about things like that too much. It just seemed like fun.

 

He never knew how his actions affected the eggs — like what would happen to the one he froze on occasion in a mini fridge he’d liberated from one of the torture dungeons? Did demonic spunk change the outward appearance of the hatchling? What happened if you drilled holes in the shells and put the scrambled content of one egg into ten others?  There was no way to know, since the eggs left his charge before the little hatchlings gnawed through their shells, but Rich amused himself with thinking about the possibilities, imagining the lives of these demons he’d shaped. Yes, Rich thought himself to be quite the storyteller, not that anyone down here would appreciate that. So Rich kept his little stories to himself.

 

Sometimes, he ascended the stairs to the big plateau that overlooked the nine circles of Hell where the souls were tortured. It was ringed by the ragged mountains behind which only the old and retired demons ventured — so powerful they didn’t give a shit about their assignments — to engage in violent fights that only ended when one demon ate the other. This was also the realms of the witches and wizards, plotting and scheming for their own gain, manipulating demons, humans and angels alike.

 

It was not a place where a little worker demon like Rich, or any of the other grunts whose eggs he turned and flipped, should ever go. No, they remained safely within all the land surrounding the plateau; the nine circles, the ancient ruins no one knew the purpose of anymore, and of course, the Factory, where new demons were produced. On top of the Factory, in a glass cube so large it reflected all of Hell’s flames a thousandfold and bathed the whole place in a diffuse red light, sat Administration. Higher demons organized Hell’s regular processes, assigned the sinners to their respective circles winding through Hell’s deepest pit, and appointed newly minted demons to their positions.

 

This was necessary when the other demons had grown too old, too recalcitrant, and too powerful from all the agony and misery they had inhaled from the souls on their racks and had to be ‘retired’. It was Administration's spin to still claim control over the demons but really, everybody knew the old ones were just too annoyed with pit regulations and went off to do their own thing. If they were too much of a nuisance, Administration occasionally had one of them killed — quite the spectacle — but as long as the old ones stayed beyond the mountains, Administration left them alone.

 

Rich didn’t have any contact with the tortured humans, he’d be forever stuck with the eggs. It was why he came up here sometimes, to watch all the other demons milling around, and  listen to the souls’ screams without the distortion of the pipes.

 

Rich’s favorite view to enjoy, with a sulfur margarita spiked with soul gunk, was the old library. It sat atop a giant stair stylobate in the middle of the ancient ruins. Like the rest of the city, it had been burning ever since Rich could remember. Occasionally a building part collapsed, shaking the foundations of Hell, but the ruins itself never seemed to shrink.

 

Two high towers were flanking the library’s sides, their tops covered by onion-shaped roofs. While Rich watched, a giant jet of flame almost as high as the tower itself shot up. The roof of the tower flew off like an explosive device, and then the whole tower started to shake and to wobble to first one side, then the other. Rich stared in fascination, wondering which direction it would fall, until the tower veered towards the main part of the library, and then finally, almost in slow motion, crashed through the library’s roof.

 

The sound of crashing stones on tiles was almost noiseless, considering the magnitude of the tower’s fall. Then, from the gaping hole ripped into the main building, a giant cloud of black smoke emerged, billowing out towards Hell’s dark and stony ceiling so high up it was impossible to see on any but a clear day. (Rich remembered maybe two or three such occasions, usually after someone flooded the pits or a witch conjured up a thunderstorm with hail and monsoon-like rain.)

 

The cloud of smoke emerging from the library filled his sight entirely. For a moment he was surrounded by nothing but tiny floating particles of burnt paper, some entirely charred black, others only lightly singed, the paper yellowish-gray from the heat. Then the shockwave of the collapse hit, and the force of it threw Rich to the ground.

 

When he had recovered and stood again, the air was filled with the dancing pieces of ash until Hell’s natural wind started to disperse them over the entire plateau. In all his existence, Rich had never seen anything so riveting. One might even call it beautiful, but beauty was a vague concept in Hell that few of its inhabitants ever learned to understand.

 

Rich remained up on the plateau for a long time, lost in watching the burnt remains of the library flutter to their final deaths on Hell’s blood and gore covered grounds.

 

While he was still up on the plateau, sticking out his tongue to taste the burnt paper, something peculiar was happening down in the heating room.

 

No one who’d seen it would think it peculiar, would even notice, because every day, soot and ash filled Hell’s air, just like the screams of the souls and the smell of their fear. But this time, the ash cloud from the library expelled within it the remnants of the ancient books, stories old and now forgotten, about the beginning of Hell. About Lucifer’s fall, about the betrayal and the love that had turned to hate. About the creation of the first demon, about creatures loyal and filled with adoration for their creator and master, long before he‘d disappeared. On the pages of these old volumes, the first scribe had captured a myriad of emotions so raw and honest, they had drenched the pages they were written on.

 

It wasn’t the first time this tower had collapsed and it wouldn’t be the last. Time, in Hell, was different than anywhere else. The endless loops of repetition, drawn out hours, and absent time for rest were just a few of its particular tortures.

 

The tower’s collapse and the subsequent spewing of these emotion-drenched pages had happened before. But never before had there been a demon egg laying in wait, embryo already growing into a hatchling, with holes punctured into the shell.

 

Rich’s latest little experiment was down below, a row of small holes poked into the green-brown shell, through which Rich had pressed in some of the ripped out organs he’d collected from the pits. He didn’t know that one of the little red pieces of muscle he’d forced into the shell had come from a human heart. And he never saw how the charred and burnt pieces of the old books slid down the sound pipes, how they exploded in a whirling spiral into the heating room and circled the eggs. He didn’t see how the ash plugged up the holes in the green-brown egg’s shell.

 

It certainly seemed like a giant bout of coincidence was at work here that accidentally influenced the growing of this egg - if one were to believe in such things that is.  But if it came to Heaven and Hell and the celestial plan, was there really such a thing as coincidence? You’d have to ask the philosophers. Rich certainly never thought about that and the little green-brown egg kept on growing as it lay in the glowing embers.

 

And if there was a generation of demons that hatched with a much less developed sense of cruelty and disregard for other existing creatures, no one made the connection, certainly not Rich, who had already forgotten about witnessing the magnificent fall of the library tower.

 

 

 





Chapter Text






 

As a rule, demons were creatures of habit. Despite their disposition towards mayhem, destruction, and chaos their lives weren’t terribly exciting as long as they remained in Hell. As Katie used to say, after you’ve torn out the five thousandth liver with your bare hands, it became boring, no matter how much the souls screamed.

 

Just like all the other demons, Jared had his habits. For example, if a new soul came to him, he liked to stare them in the eyes until they squirmed and started confessing their crimes and apologizing for them before Jared had even lifted a hand. While he liked to mix up the torture instruments, he had his favorites that he went back to — the pear of anguish for example always made such a nice splatter and while Jared really enjoyed the music of Florence Foster Jenkins, most souls begged for forgiveness after just a few minutes. Twelve-tone technique music was even more effective, but then Jared had to work with earplugs, and he really didn’t like the spongy feeling clogging up his ear canals.

 

But Jared also had other habits. Habits he didn’t like to share that no one, not even Chad knew about. (If demons were able to be ‘friends’ Jared thinks Chad would be his. As it was, they probably just stuck together because they’d hatched from the same batch of eggs.)

 

When work was too much, when Jared wasn’t in the mood to listen to one more slimebag making excuses for why they just had to do that one terrible thing or another, he left the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle (Violence, division Against Nature: Sodomy). He took the shortcut and hitched a ride on the backside of one of the countless conveyor belts transporting souls, hopping off right before the soul transport took a right towards the entrance, and then made his way towards the burning ruins.

 

They always burned but never perished. It was Hell’s greatest, and most obvious symbolism. Yes, thank you, we got it. Burning down here for eternity. Jared snorted. Occasionally one of the souls would look at the city and he could see it, the realization dawning behind their eyes. If Jared hadn’t lost all faith in humanity ages ago, he’d lose it all over. He knew there were such things as good humans up there, but Jared didn't know how they could counteract all that he saw in Hell. The heavenly feather brigade probably had something to do with that. But since Jared had never been on earth and would never be, he tried not to think about it too much. Instead, he spent the time he freed up for himself in the library.

 

Jared never minded the strangely dusty smelling smoke and the soot filling the halls of the ancient library. Most demons hated it, but Jared always found comfort in the floating, leaf-like bits of charred paper fluttering through the air, glinting in Hell’s red tinged light. He wasn’t sure why, but it provided him with a pleasantly warm feeling in his chest.

 

The architecture of the library was so elegant; slim pillars carrying marble walls with giant arched windows, delicate decorations lining every stone, every capital and every column. It always seemed out of place to Jared, such a contrast to Hell’s crude ugliness.

 

The true treasures were the books. Most of them had burned, and even those that hadn’t, most demons wouldn’t know what to do with. Reading was not generally a part of Demon School, so only some of the higher-ups could read and write.

 

Jared could read. A long time ago — he didn’t know how long, there was no way to measure time in Hell — one of the souls on Jared’s rack had been different. He’d been arrogant, even in death and the face of Hell. He’d maintained his innocence, it was another’s wrongdoing that got him sent there. (He actually was sent to the wrong place, he should’ve been sent to the Sixth Circle for heresy, not to the Seventh, but by the time Jared figured that out, the man had already taught him how to read.)

 

His name had been Peter Abelard, as if that was supposed to mean something to Jared, and he’d been a scholar. He’d fallen victim to temptations of the flesh, but he’d repented. Not enough, Jared had told him and gotten out his tool box.

 

Peter’s arrogance had prevailed. He’d never stopped proclaiming his own innocence, never quit his disdainful looks, telling Jared just how much better Peter thought he was. One day, Jared snapped, and asked Peter what made him so much better than everyone.

 

Peter told him that he’d extracted all the wonders and the knowledge of the world from the written word. Jared had been so stumped, he’d admitted he couldn’t read. Peter had offered to teach him — for a respite from the torture of course. Since the stay in Hell was endless, Jared hadn’t seen why not. He’d already discovered the beauty of the library and the dark, meandering lines of ink on the unburnt papers and had been fascinated beyond anything he’d ever experienced in his life.

 

So Jared had said yes, and Peter had taught him to read.

 

Peter was a good teacher, if strict. But Jared wanted to learn. A whole new world opened before his eyes and he wanted to know everything. Occasionally, Peter got a faraway look in his eyes, a longing flickering within him that he seemed to viciously push down. Jared came to understand that Peter thought of another student, from his life on earth.

 

“Is there any way to find out if another soul is down here in Hell?” he’d asked one day.

 

Jared shook his head.

 

“Ah well,” Peter said. “She couldn’t be here anyway.”

 

Jared had nodded, then his head had snapped up. “She?”

 

And that was how he found out Peter was indeed in the wrong place. If one were to believe in coincidence, this one would certainly be a strange one. Jared, for his part, didn’t believe in coincidence. That didn't mean that he attempted to understand what was going on. God had had a plan, but it had obviously blown up in his face so badly that he’d left, taking the Morning Star with him. Whoever perpetrated whatever version of that plan or a new one, Jared didn’t know or care. Maybe he should have, but it was doubtful that would have changed anything.

 

As for the mishap with Peter, it was rare that the Administration messed up, but it happened. They usually blamed the conveyor belt maintenance, but really; the Sixth Circle and the Third Ring in the Seventh Circle were nowhere near each other, conveyor belt system-wise. If Peter would be more aptly punished in the Sixth Circle, Jared didn’t know, but he was grateful for the lessons either way.

 

When the order came to relocate Peter, he’d nodded to Jared. “I didn’t think I’d meet someone like you down here. You remind me of her, you know. My inquisitive Heloise.”

 

“Maybe I’ll meet her one day,” Jared had said.

 

Peter had shaken his head. “Until a demon gains entrance to Heaven, I doubt you will.” And then the conveyor belt had taken him away, leaving Jared bereft of a teacher, but armed with a new knowledge that opened an entire universe up to him. Jared started reading in the library.

 

The other demons never caught on to what Jared was doing in the library. But the witches did. The three powerful inhabitants of Witch Tower, the Red, the Green and the White Witch, lived in a tall, spindly construction that stood on the plains behind the mountain range.  They could not enter the burning city. Jared wasn’t sure how they had figured out what he was doing, but on one of his trips to the library one of the witches enslaved raven-demons had come for Jared, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and flown him to Witch Tower. There, the Red Witch had made him an offer he couldn't refuse: Collect scrolls for the witches from the library, and in exchange they would provide him better enchantments for his staff. Jared had already found a few spells on his own and endowed the staff he’d made in Demon School homeroom with them, but the witches’ spells could be more potent. Enchantments were to be added for each additional scroll. Jared had said yes. Demons in Hell had a habit of fighting each other so it was always good to have leverage.

 

Despite living in fear that the witches would try to trick or force him into becoming their slave, like they’d done to other demons before, Jared was pretty satisfied with their arrangement. It could have continued like that forever, superficially soothing Jared’s dissatisfaction, while resentfulness for his life festered deep inside him, had Jared not found a very special type of spell scroll.






“Yo, Jared!”

 

Chad’s voice ripped Jared out of his trance. Absently, he put the bunch of nettles down on his prop table. The soul on the rack whimpered. Jared turned the electro shocks on automatic and turned to Chad.

 

“Dude, where were you yesterday?” Chad asked. “I wanted to tell you all about the orgy I organized with Rosy from the Second Circle. It was awesome! You should have come.”

 

Chad was forever trying to get Jared laid. Jared was sure it was so that Chad could laugh about him, because otherwise Chad would just be nice , and demons didn’t do nice.

 

Chad was still squinting at Jared expectantly and Jared wasn’t sure how to weasel out of this one.

 

“You have that look,” Chad said, squinting harder, his eyes almost disappearing between scrunched up eyelids. “Did you sneak off to the burning city again?”

 

“Well, at least no one’s bothering me with stupid questions when I’m there,” Jared shot back.

 

Chad raised his eyebrows, clearly not impressed. “And what is it that you do there anyway?”

 

Jared tried not to squirm. “I told you a thousand times, none of your business.”

 

Chad waved him off. “I don’t want to know how you get your perv on, but something is different.” He leaned forward, pointing a sharp nailed finger at him. “Spill.”

 

“There’s nothing to spill.”

 

“I don’t think so.” Chad leaned back. “Something about you is different and you’re gonna tell me what.”

 

And well. Actually, if Jared wanted to go through his newly formed, well, half-formed plan, he needed to tell Chad. He just had no idea how Chad would react. As far as Jared knew, Chad enjoyed being a demon and all that came with it very much. Sure, he was maybe a little too invested in Jared’s sex life, but that was Chad. Jared, on the other hand, had always been different. His desire to read was just one thing. He’d always figured, maybe he’d just need to become more powerful, more demon-like to stop detesting his life so much, so much more than any other demon he knew did. And maybe he’d finally found a way to achieve that. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do it alone.

 

“Do I need to poke you with a cattle prod?” Chad wheedled.

 

Jared sighed. “No.”

 

Chad sat down on Jared’s torture tool table, uncaring of the blood-crusted instruments lying around. “So?”

 

Jared sighed again and wiped his hands on his pants. The dark material was already covered in stains that he had no clean water to wash out anyway. Cleanliness, in Hell, wasn’t really a priority. Jared only knew about it because some of his charges had issues with dirt. It was an easy way to torture people. And now his thoughts were wandering.

 

“So, you know how in the burning city, there’s a library, right?” he asked Chad.

 

Chad’s face revealed he had no idea where Jared was going with this.

 

“So, I found a few of the old manuscripts,” Jared said. “They have all kinds of spells and information about Hell and Heaven and I found one scroll that shows you a map of one of the old secret tunnels to Heaven. We just have to perform a spell and then we can actually go up to Heaven.”

 

With baited breath, Jared waited for Chad’s reaction.

 

It was underwhelming, to say the least.

 

“Heaven?” Chad said slowly. “Why would we want to go to Heaven?”

 

“To steal an angel, obviously!”

 

Now, Chad’s face scrunched up in confusion. It wasn’t that much different from his usual squinty resting face, but over time, Jared had learned the differences.

 

“What do you want with an angel? To fuck? Isn’t that a bit risky, just to get laid? And how would you get it here anyway?”

 

“I don’t want to fuck an angel! It’s for the power,” Jared explained, annoyed with Chad’s one track mind. “Don’t you remember the stories we heard in training, right after we hatched? How angels give demons power when you abduct them? No one has done this in like, basically forever.”

 

“Yeah, I know, but —” Chad stopped short. “How do you know all this?”

 

“The same way you do! The Old Beaver told the angel stories.”

 

“No, no the part you got from all the books,” Chad said.

 

“Oh, well.” Jared steeled himself. “I can read.”

 

“How?”

 

“One of the souls taught me.”

 

Chad cocked his head. “But why?”

 

Jared really didn’t want to get into a philosophical debate about why he was bored, frustrated and well, plain unhappy with his life. How torturing souls never really brought him much fun and how escaping into the worlds the written word opened up was more fun than anything else he could ever to do to the souls on his racks.

 

So he just said, “angel power!” Not very eloquent, but for Chad it should be enough.

 

It wasn’t.

 

“But what does that even mean?” Chad asked, still very confused by the whole thing. But then, Chad’s horizon wasn’t broader than five circles of Hell, so…

 

“I don’t know, exactly,” Jared had to admit, “but seriously, angel power. That can only be good, right? I mean, just think about not getting hounded by the Terrible Three again!”

 

Not Jared’s main motivator, but it got through to Chad. The Terrible Three were the bane of their existence. (They had named themselves. Seriously, alliteration names were so eighteenth century.)  A bunch of nasty-ass demons, even by Hell’s standard, who ran around terrorizing the other grunts. Just because one of them was willing to do truly atrocious things to the pit overseer’s feet, they got away with it.

 

Thankfully, Jared’s witch-pimped staff had helped some at keeping the Terrible Three away recently. It hadn’t been enough to get them off their backs forever; just enough to keep them at bay and make them really angry. Jared knew they were just waiting for an opportunity to ambush him and to steal the staff. If you looked at it like that, the witches’ help had kind of backfired. He should have seen that coming.

 

“But only you would get the power?” Chad asked suspiciously.

 

Jared shrugged. “It said only the abductor. But you know I’d totally kick the Terrible Three out and protect you.”

 

Chad batted his eyes at him. “Because you like me so much?”

 

“No, dumbass. Because you’ll help me brew the potion for the spell.”

 

Chad scowled. “Why don’t I get to go angel abducting with you?”

 

“Cause I am the only one who can read the spell.” It was a lie. Jared was sure Chad could do it too, but Jared wasn’t willing to share this.

 

Chad didn’t look convinced.

 

“Okay,” Jared tried, “just think, if you tell all the other demons about what you did, you can totally lie and tell them you abducted the angel yourself. Maybe even fucked it. They’ll all wanna fuck you then.”

 

Chad pursed his lips, thinking.

 

Jared thought back to all their conversations. “Maybe Sophia will finally use her tail on you.”

 

At that, Chad brightened. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s do it.”

 

As it turned out, it wasn’t that easy.

 

Chad was able to brew the potion for the spell but when he asked how Jared would abduct the angel, Jared was stumped. Angels were, in their own way, just as powerful as demons. Depending on their rank, Jared could face an angel he’d easily be able to overwhelm — most angels were bureaucrats, and Jared was well versed in every way to hurt an opponent, tied up or not. Demon School taught you the theories, recess taught you the practical application. But Jared could also run into a seasoned warrior or an angel so high up on the food chain, they’d be able to obliterate him with just the flick of a hand.

 

“Gen,” Chad said gleefully. “You need Gen.”

 

Jared groaned. Chad was right.

 

Gen was a former soldier demoted to torture grunt because she hadn’t followed orders well enough. For a demon, that was quite the statement.

 

Chad and Jared got along with her well enough, but Gen was, on her best days, unpredictable. On her worst, Jared wore earplugs. No one made their charges scream quite like she did. Apart from her occasional violent outbursts, she was a joy to hang out with. If she didn’t find it hilarious to hang back and watch Jared and Chad get their asses kicked by the Terrible Three, she’d be perfect.

 

“Well, let's just hope she’s having a good day.”

 

Chad laughed. “Or maybe, she’ll twist your arms up like a pretzel.”

 

“I’ll tell her it’s your plan,” Jared groused.

 

That shut Chad right up.



They found Gen deep in the Ninth Circle. Save for the one with the soul she was currently preparing to torture, the racks around her were empty, the other demons giving her a wide berth.

 

She was leaning over a clean white tablet propped up on the table.

 

“Almost there,” she mumbled, “almost there.”

 

“What are you doing?” Chad asked curiously.

 

“I’m cutting together a movie out of the soul’s memories. It’ll watch, thinking that everyone they ever loved hated them and conspired against them. It’ll be so real, they’ll accept it as real memories and feel completely desolate.”

 

Chad looked at Jared questioningly. Jared shrugged his shoulders. He’d read about this kind of despair in the stories, about emotional pain worse than any physical feeling, but Jared couldn’t really relate. He knew humans, and so their souls, could feel that way, but he couldn't really understand. After all, demons didn’t have souls.

 

“So, that’s very bad?” Chad guessed.

 

Gen snorted. “The worst. Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna debone him like a dead chicken in a minute.”

 

At that, Chad brightened. Deboning was a finely honed skill. Especially since one could do fun things with a soul’s boneless appearances, like putting their limbs on sticks and playing theatre or practicing knotting skills. And yes, that kind of knotting too. Skin was flexible and a lot of demons had animal features on their human-looking bodies.

 

“So, after you’re done with the deboning,” Jared started, praying to the devil it would work. “I wondered if you wanted to show us how to build sulfur stun bombs.”

 

Lightning fast, Gen’s head whipped around and she focused Jared with her dark eyes. “And pray tell, why do you need a sulfur bomb?”

 

Jared sighed. There was nothing to it. He told her.

 

Gen listened attentively, then went back to making her movie. When she was done, she took two cables with suction cups at the ends and affixed them to the soul’s eyes. As soon as she pressed a button on the tablet, the soul started to sob and spasm uncontrollably.

 

“Impressive,” Chad commented.

 

“Why don’t you just crawl inside my ass and lick it right from the source?” Gen asked.

 

Chad eyed her ass like he was thinking about it, so Jared jumped in before this conversation could devolve in a direction Jared was not comfortable with. Jared was really more a vanilla kind of guy. Chad was, among other things, a vore enthusiast.

 

“So,” Jared turned to Gen. “You wanna help me kick some angel ass?”

 

“I have one condition,” she said, eyes glinting evilly. “You break into the records hall and kidnap an angel from there.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because,” Gen explained, “the safety of the records hall falls to General Morgan. And I’ve wanted to get back at that cloudfucker ever since he cut off one of my toes at the battle for Jeanne D’Arc. You’ll never be able to harm him in Heaven, but if you break into an area under his protection, he’ll be in a shit ton of trouble.”

 

Jared considered, then realized he didn’t have a choice. “Deal,” he said. It stood to reason that the feathery book pushers in the records hall wouldn’t be trained fighters, and possibly even as dull as Hell’s own bureaucrats.

 

Gen’s grin showed a lot of sharp teeth.


 


 

The preparations for the plan were the easiest part. Jared and Chad broke into the Laboratory in the Factory, where new demon forms were cooked up. They stole the necessary ingredients for the spell without anyone caring. It was Hell, what damage could they do that didn’t happen anyway?

 

They also took the ingredients on Gen’s list, and while Chad mixed up the special sticky paste necessary to paint the door to open the passage, Gen mixed up an army regulation Angel Stun Bomb. The scroll in the library had marked several openings and when Jared went back to check, he saw one labeled ‘records’. The entrance was right in the burning libraries’ basement, so they weren’t bothered when they drew the doorway.

 

“Be quick about it,” Gen advised. “Or you’re angel fodder.” It wasn’t like Gen cared about Jared’s personal safety, but she did want him to succeed to stick it to that angel general.

 

Chad nodded like a deranged pet parakeet. Jared rolled his eyes. Then he stepped into the door and said the words from the scroll.

 

Nothing happened.

 

“Did you say it right?” Chad asked.

 

Gen snorted. “You probably messed up the paste recipe.”

 

“I did not! You fucking—”

 

The earth beneath Jared’s feet just broke away and he fell. His stomach lodged up under his ribs and he had to close his eyes against the biting whooshing air. For some reason, Jared had thought he’d ascend. Instead, he plummeted towards a ground he couldn’t see.

 

All of a sudden the darkness around him was illuminated with a soft green glowing light and he was caught up in a whirlwind. When he stopped spinning, he was still moving quickly, but he wasn’t falling anymore, instead he was quickly gliding forward.

 

His surroundings began to take shape then, a greenly lit tunnel, filled with actual grass first sparsely, then more densely growing on the walls.

 

The quality of the air changed, and Jared smelled things he’d only read about and heard souls cry about. The scents were lighter than the air in Hell, tickling his nose instead of thickly clogging up airways. He’d never smelled air like this before and for the first time in his existence, Jared had an idea what ‘heavenly’ could mean.

 

After a bend in the tunnel, where Jared bumped his head on the earth-like walls, he wasn’t alone anymore. Little black-yellow things were buzzing around him, their translucent wings beating quickly to keep their round furry bodies in the air.

 

Bumblebees, those had to be bumblebees. Jared reached out to touch one of them flying next to him, entranced by their fuzzy looking body, when one of them flew into his open mouth. He coughed and sputtered violently, until he could spew the insect out again.

 

Heaven. Pretended to be all nice and fluffy, but was really just an annoying shithole. The buzzing of the bumblebees was grating on Jared’s ears and the little insects kept bumping into his face.

 

When he sped up with a final rush and then was catapulted out of the tunnel into blinding brightness, he was really fucking glad the air ride was finally over. He’d definitely never do that again.

 

Then he noticed the soft texture of the grass beneath him and jumped up. He was in Heaven. He’d made it to fucking Heaven.

 

Quickly, Jared dropped into a crouch and took in his surroundings. The assault on his senses was too much. It was too bright, too airy, the noises too soft and trilling, the breeze too gentle on his skin. Jared felt like he was floating and spinning at the same time.

 

When he caught sight of a solid gray wall, he ran towards it and hid below a balcony protruding from the wall. And just in time too.

 

Next to him, a wooden door opened. It didn’t even creak on its hinges. Of fucking course. In Heaven, everything went smoothly.

 

Jared squeezed deeper into the shadows. Two angels emerged from the building, deep in conversation. Jared couldn’t really comprehend what he was seeing, both angels were so blindingly exquisite. This, Jared realized, was what true beauty had to look like. One of the angels was a red-headed woman, the other a tall, light haired guy — because yes, angels did have genders. He had no idea whoever had started spreading the myth of sexless angels, probably all the kinky priests justifying their worship of them.

 

Before he could process more than the angels’ features, the angels turned to him.

 

The redhead looked at him slightly curious, probably not really understanding what she was seeing, while the other angel’s features pulled into a grimace and he brought up his hands, creating a spinning ball of light between his hands.

 

What the fuck?

 

“Down,” the male angel yelled sharply in a surprisingly deep voice.

 

On instinct, Jared reacted. He threw the sulfur bomb at them and then jumped away from the wall just a moment before the angel’s light ball hit. The force threw him to the ground. When he looked up, the air was filled with the familiar scents of Hell and the two angels were lying unconscious on the ground.

 

For a few precious seconds, Jared could do nothing but stare. Yes, the redhead was beautiful, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the other angel lying sprawled out on the ground. His eyes got stuck on the angel’s long and dark lashes fanning out over the light skin stretched tight over his prominent cheekbones. The bridge of his nose and the slant of his cheeks were covered with tiny golden flecks. Jared imagined pieces of the sun would look like that.

 

Then his eyes trailed over the angel’s body. Dressed in a white belted tunic and dark blue pants, his body looked like one of the statues Jared had seen in the burning city. Jared’s fingers itched to touch, to trail his hands over the graceful lines of the angel’s body, probably perfectly modeled after Da Vinci’s proportions.

 

On his second swipe up, his eyes landed on the angel’s ass. He hadn’t anticipated an angel looking so blatantly sexual. The thought got stuck in his head until the blaring of deep pulsing sirens ripped him out of his thoughts.

 

Panicked, Jared considered taking the redhead, because she was smaller and therefore easier to carry, but there was just no way he could resist the round, perfect ass of the other angel.

 

Jared was a warden in the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, and even with all the naked asses constantly on display around him, the angel’s ass took his breath away. (Though, if you asked him, rounding all gay men up as punishment in the same circle of Hell, well… it was a flawed plan. Then again, what would Hell be without its daily orgies?)

 

Anyway, there was no time to dawdle. Jared grabbed the angel and carried him back to the still open doorway. He reached the opening just as the edges started to flicker and fray and  he threw the angel in first, jumping in after him. Once again, he fell at sickening speed, the angel’s feet occasionally hitting him in the face. While his stomach was threatening to come up through his esophagus, and his nose throbbed from repeated contact with the angel’s feet, he had an inkling that maybe, he’d gotten himself into something slightly out of his control.




 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the ever flickering reddish light emanating from Hell’s fire pits, the angel’s incorporeal, elegantly feathered wings only appeared as shadows on the cave walls. In contrast, Jared’s own wings threw spiky forms littered with holes against the cave’s rough walls. Seeing the angel’s elegant ones, Jared was glad that wings were immaterial and invisible until their owner died — then they were the only thing to remain.

 

The differences between angel and demon wings weren’t really the problem, though. The problem was Jared was at a loss. He had imagined this abduction going very differently.

 

Right now, the angel was glaring at him. Arms crossed as much as the chains would allow, eyebrows drawn together in indignant annoyance, full lips pursed into a dismissive scowl. He was glaring at Jared with an expression that would freeze at least four circles of Hell, if that kind of thing were possible.

 

The actual stealing and escaping Heaven part had gone off smoothly, by comparison. Before Jared had left for the burning city, he’d prepared a cell in this cave to keep the angel locked up. So after falling through the tunnel, Jared had dragged the unconscious angel to his cave, then shackled him up with old hell-fire forged chains that bound the powers of whatever creature they held.

 

So far, so good.

 

Then he’d waited for the angel to wake up. When he did, he’d expected the angel to be scared, terrified maybe. Angels from the record halls were supposed to be dainty creatures, bureaucratic cloud pushers who just managed to pull on a harp string. But instead of cowering like a hapless Cherub, startling green eyes were shooting daggers — metaphorical ones, luckily — and there was not a bit of fear to be detected anywhere.

 

True, Jared looked like a harmless human — mostly, anyway — but he was still a demon of Hell. He was intimidating, even without the fangs and the horns and the spiked tails other demons had.

 

He’d flashed his eyes yellow and told the angel that he was now his prisoner and the angel had honest to satan rolled his eyes.

 

What the fuck?

 

“You,” Jared tried again, making his voice deeper and more menacing, “you are my prisoner, angel, and I will keep you here in the—”

 

“—Seventh Circle of Hell, and you’ll torture me for all eternity in every depraved way I could surely never imagine and I’ll never see the sun again, yada yada yada,” the angel finished Jared’s sentence. “Really? Don’t you demons ever come up with anything original?”

 

Jared closed his mouth, which had been ungainfully hanging open. “I, I mean, we, erm, it’s a, it’s a thing we do! Steal an angel, get more power!”

 

The angel raised an unimpressed eyebrow and made a go on motion with his hand, mouth curved up in a mocking smile. “Well, what are you waiting for then?”

 

Unfortunately, while Jared knew the rumors about the almost uncontainable power capturing an angel could bring, he was not quite sure how to get the actual power. He’d hoped maybe he’d automatically get it, but he didn’t feel any different.

 

If possible, the angel looked even more exasperated. “Oh lord, you have no idea what you’re doing, do you? What kind of incompetent demon are you?”

 

“Hey,” Jared said indignantly. “No one has kidnapped an angel in, like forever, okay? I’d say that makes me quite competent, don’t you think?”

 

The angel looked at him like Jared had completely lost his mind. Then he let his head fall back against the bars of his cage. “Oh god, I was kidnapped by an idiot .”

 

“I am not an idiot!” Jared said, sulfur puffing from his nostrils.

 

The angel took a deep breath, leaned forwards and gave Jared a very sweet, kind smile. It was disturbing in its suddenness. Jared was going to get whiplash.

 

“Listen… demon.”

 

“I have a name,” Jared snapped.

 

“Right,” the angel nodded, still smiling, now softly, kind of inviting really, and, in all honesty, rather distracting. The corners of his eyes were crinkling. Extremely distracting. “We should do introductions. I’m Jensen. What’s your name?”

 

“Jared.”

 

“Right, Jared.” Somehow, Jensen’s smile turned even softer, like he was happy about Jared’s name.

 

It made no sense at all, but when Jared was staring into Jensen’s luminous grass green eyes, nothing made sense anymore. Nothing but the beautiful golden flecks coruscating in Jensen’s irises.

 

“Now, you’ve kidnapped me, the first demon to do so in a very long time. You’re right, that is very impressive.” Jensen stood up, the chains around his hands clinking, and approached the bars, hypnotising eyes still fixed on Jared, like he was everything that had ever mattered in the world. With a sudden, deep longing he’d never felt before, Jared wanted that. Wanted to be the only one who mattered to the angel, wanted to see approval in his eyes, wanted affection. He’d do anything for that.

 

“How about you take me back now?” Jensen asked.

 

“What?” Through the golden dust fogging up his mind, Jared thought that this was not right. This was wrong actually.

 

Jensen made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Or let me go, I can get home on my own.”

 

Like a shattering glass panel revealing reality, Jared could suddenly see clearly. Jensen was still insanely beautiful but his eyes were definitely not luminous and there was no fucking gold dust floating around his head. A wave of red rage washed over Jared. Fucking cloud magic.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me? No!” Jared tried to get his fury under control. Who did this guy think he was? “I am not letting you go! I am not falling for your lame ass, eyelashing batting sorcery.”

 

The angel was completely unrepentant. “Hey, can’t blame me for trying.”

 

Jared glared and viciously pointed a finger at Jensen. “You’re gonna give me power.”

 

Jensen’s angry expression was back. Not that this made him in any way less attractive. Jared should really start to focus on the important things here.

 

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Jensen exclaimed. “You dumb sulfur gurgler. I have a lasagna in the oven and tonight they’re showing The Last Crusade in the open sky cinema.”

 

They showed movies in Heaven! In Hell he’d only seen sequences in his Human World 201 class, so he’d understand pop culture references. He’d had to sneak into Administration with Chad to see whole movies and he’d only managed that a few times. Transformers had definitely been one of the times they’d picked wrong.

 

“Did you not hear me?” Jensen yelled at him. “I am not missing movie night because some dumb little demon thinks he needs to prove himself!”

 

Jared didn’t even know where to start with that. He kind of wanted to point out that Jensen was in no position to make demands and that he really needed to behave appropriately seeing as he was a captive, and shouldn’t complain if he got to watch whole movies all the time anyway, but instead what came out of Jared’s traitorous mouth was, “You cook?”

 

Jensen’s nostrils flared. It was a very endearing look. Jared shook his head quickly to clear his mind.

 

“Yes, I cook,” Jensen said, condescension dripping from every word.

 

“I just thought in Heaven food would just be available whenever you wanted it,” Jared defended himself. He was not an idiot.

 

Jensen snorted. “Just because we have the most luscious gardens doesn’t mean an angel can't cook himself a good meal.”

 

A vision of Jensen in front of a stove, covered in sauce splatter and nothing else flashed through Jared’s mind. Dammit. He needed to focus. Except, he came to realize his awesome plan maybe had a fatal flaw. Now that he had Jensen, he had no idea what to do with him.

 

Instantly, his mind provided him with several, very graphic ideas of what to do with Jensen, but they had nothing to do with extracting power from him, unless an angel’s power was stored in their spunk, which Jared highly doubted.

 

“You really have no idea what to do with me now, do you?” Jensen asked, and he seemed honestly curious.

 

“That part of the book was burnt,” Jared mumbled.

 

Jensen laughed. It was a beautiful sound, clear and deep, reverberating off the walls of Jared’s cave. It was a sound so unlike anything Jared had ever heard in Hell, free of malice and darkness.

 

“Okay, look—” Jensen started, but whatever he wanted to day was cut off when the Terrible Three entered Jared’s cave.

 

“Well, well, well, you really did it,” James said. He was the leader of the bunch, an ugly demon with too many teeth, spewing black slime everywhere when he talked.

 

“With more luck than smarts, no doubt,” the demon next to him said. He was a short, unassuming guy with a pig’s nose and a twitchy puke-green tail. Jared could never remember his name, maybe something like Klyde or Corey?

 

“And now he has no idea what to do with him,” the third one said. Amanda’s little red horns were poking up from her slicked back hair and she was swinging her tail in her hand.

 

James stepped forward. “Thank Satan, we’re here to relieve you of him.” He licked his lips. “I’m sure angel meat is still tasty after we’ve had some fun with him.”

 

Clearly alarmed, Jensen gripped the bars. “Jared, you don’t really want to hand me over, do you? I know you’re kinda clueless-”

 

“Not helping,” Jared interjected.

 

“But I can help you out,” Jensen continued hurriedly. “You want power? No problem.”

 

Jared had no intention of handing Jensen over. The only problem was he might not have another option. The Terrible Three were rather nasty. And outnumbering Jared three to one. Jared reached to the side and picked up his staff. He’d never give up without a fight.

 

James yanked his mouth open, extra teeth growing and black goo flying everywhere, Kevin or Carl hissed and crouched down ready to attack and Amanda’s tail swished around until the long pointy tip was aimed at Jared.

 

“Fire in the hole,” a voice suddenly yelled from outside the cave and Jared just had time to melt the cage bars and throw himself on Jensen, covering both their heads when a giant explosion went off.

 

Even through his closed eyelids, Jared saw the flash of light and the Terrible Three’s shouts told him that they hadn’t closed their eyes.

 

“What the...” Jensen mumbled under him, sounding way too indignant for someone who just got his eyesight saved.

 

Over the shrieking cries of the trio, Jared said, “no time to explain, come on,” stood up, grabbed his staff, and dragged Jensen up by the shackles around his wrists and out of the cave.

 

Outside, Chad and Gen were waiting for them.

 

“You don’t have a lot of time,” Gen said with a glint in her eyes. “Others have noticed. We can hold them off, but if you want to keep the angel you should go now.” She was already cracking her knuckles, obviously pleased with the prospect of a big fight.

 

“I don’t know how you’re gonna get out of here, maybe your girlfriends will help you out, but you better not forget what you promised me, douchebag,” Chad said, then squinted at Jensen. “Huh. Guess it’s true what they say about angels.”

 

Jared rolled his eyes. He did not want to know. Even with all his centuries surrounded by nothing but depravity, Chad still managed to surprise him, usually not in a good way. Then again, Jared was just not kinky enough for a demon. He blamed it on an overexposure to the orgies Rosey always threw, never mind the tales of some of his own charges.

 

Jensen raised his still shackled hands. “If you take these off, I’ll be faster.”

 

Now it was Jared’s turn to roll his eyes. “I told you, I am not an idiot. Now let’s go.”

 

Jensen scowled, but Jared ignored it in favor of dragging the angel down the hill into the valley where pedophiles’ dicks were getting cooked in the hot sulfur springs. The noises were grating, but it was good cover. They needed to get out of the Seventh Circle and to a quiet place where Jared could figure out how to get the angel’s power. The Terrible Three knew that Jared went to the library occasionally, so while Chad was completely wrong about the nature of their relationship there was only one other place Jared could go.

 

He had a really bad feeling about this, but he didn’t see another way. He dragged Jensen harder, when the angel didn’t hurry.

 

“Holy gardens of heaven,” Jensen breathed out when they passed Katie’s work station. She had a thing for using live props, like crabs and scarabs. Jared picked up one of the severed legs lying around, told Katie he’d owe her a favor and then they were off again.

 

Jensen was eyeing the severed leg like it personally offended him while simultaneously telling Jared via his eyebrows that he was insane. “Do you really need to eat now?”

 

For a moment, Jared didn’t know what Jensen meant, then— “Ew. I don’t eat soul pieces, that’s disgusting.”

 

“Then why did you take that leg?”

 

“You’ll see,” Jared said grimly and dragged Jensen along to the gates leading to the Third Circle of Hell.


 

 


 

Jared had always been a dog-demon. It was why he had personally overseen all the torture devices used on people who sodomized animals. He was particularly proud of his spiked humbler with an attached chili covered radish.

 

“Oh sweet baby Jesus.” Jensen voice sounded kind of breathy, a little scared actually, for the first time.

 

Taking his lord’s name in vain? What was wrong with this angel? Not that Jared minded his filthy mouth in the least… And, sure, fear was a natural reaction to seeing Cerberus’ looming heads for the first time, but really, he was just a big puppy who wanted to play. The trick was to give him something at least two heads could wrestle for.

 

“Here boy,” Jared yelled and threw the leg up to him. “Good boy,” he said when Cerberus caught it, and then he dragged a stunned Jensen along with him.

 

“How is it that Cerberus is more intimidating than getting kidnapped by a demon?” Jared asked, trying, and probably failing, not to sound petulant.

 

Jensen stared at him incredulously. “Legendary three-headed monster dog, kinda beats run of the mill idiot demon.”

 

Not an idiot!” Jared snapped. “And Cerby is a total puppy.”

 

Jensen just shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he mumbled quietly.

 

Jared decided to take the high road this time. “C’mon, this way. We’re gonna take a shortcut.”

 

“Taking a short cut is what kills you in a horror movie, you do know that, right?”

 

“How about you shut your smart mouth and hurry before the Terrible Three catch up with us. That Clint guy does weird things to feet, even for a demon.”

 

Jensen snorted again, but when Jared tugged on his chains, Jensen followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tell me how this is a shortcut,” Jensen grumbled when they had climbed up the rugged side of one of the bare, rock-covered hills.

 

Jared batted away one of Hell’s oversized mosquitos. Unchecked, a little swarm could suck someone — soul or demon, and probably an angel —  dry in a few minutes. Their blood would of course replenish so the torture could continue, but it still was an unpleasant affair.

 

“Well,” Jared hedged when Jensen was still looking at him expectantly. “It’s not a shortcut in the way that it’s less distance to walk, but unless you want to cross the river…”

 

Jensen made his disgusted face. In the few hours they’d spent together, Jared had seen it often enough to be able to immediately identify it.

 

“I thought so,” Jared said, not even trying to hide his smugness.

 

Even in Hell, the Styx had a nasty reputation. It was over crowded with the putrefying souls of the wrathful and the lethargic. While most demons despised the incessant angry yelling of the former, Jared found the latter far worse with how their limp bodies broke the water’s surface, their hollow eyes staring unseeingly and their gloomy mumblings rising from the sluggish waves.

 

As they moved deeper into the rutted hills, Jensen continued to mumble complaints and even though it was quite endearing, Jared had to tell him to shut up. The Terrible Three were not the only reason he was trying to fly under the radar.

 

Up here, the old demons resided. Most of them didn’t take much interest in Hell’s regular life, but they were unpredictable if crossed.

 

When Jared rounded a big boulder, he came face to face with a resting demon. Jensen bumped into his back with an ompf , but Jared only had eyes for the demon in front of him. It was big, shaped like a fairy-tale dragon with a giant snout, spikes winding down its back to a hook-tipped tail. Gray scales camouflaged it well against the dusty rocks and its giant wings were resting along its bulky body.

 

It was well known amongst demons, that the older a demon was, the more it lost of its human appearance.

 

Jared spun around, covered Jensen’s mouth with his hand and then nodded towards the sleeping demon.

 

“Quiet,” Jared hissed.

 

Jensen leaned around him to see, paled slightly under his freckles and then nodded in understanding. It was a bit disconcerting to see that there were things that could intimidate Jensen, Jared just wasn’t one of them. Then again, Jensen would be insane not to be scared of the demon behind them.

 

“Who has disturbed me in my slumber?” a deep voice behind them asked.

 

Jared’s heart skipped a beat and he slowly turned to face the dragon-demon.

 

“Oh, no one,” Jared tried to say lightly. “Just two demons out and about.”

 

The dragon-demon snorted. It had opened its eyes, sparkling ruby-red. “I can smell the angel. Do not lie to me, young one.”

 

“Eh, right.” Jared floundered, unsure how to proceed. Sometimes groveling was appreciated, other times it made the consequences worse.

 

“He’s terrible at the whole demon-thing, isn’t he?” Jensen asked the dragon-demon, as if he was informing him of an annoying nuisance.

 

Jared sputtered, but the dragon-demon was already laughing. “The young ones,” he said conspiratory to Jensen, “are impossible. They think they know what it’s all about, more pain, more misery, who can design the nastiest iron maiden, but really, they do not understand their insignificance as pawns in the cosmic game.”

 

Jensen nodded along, face expressing concerned sympathy. “The educational system in Hell must be terrible. Then again, Heaven isn’t what it used to be either.”

 

The demon-dragon shook its head. “Damn anti-authoritarian education. In the days of the Spartans this never would have happened.” A dreamy expression stole across its features, as if remembering an era long past.

 

“Doubtlessly,” Jensen said dryly. “Trust me, things were done very differently when the Inquisition ran the place.”

 

“Indeed,” the demon-dragon replied. “Very effective system. And so versatile.”

 

Jensen hmmed. “It’s not like they’re the only ones who played both sides though.”

 

“Quite the contrary,” the demon dragon replied, sitting up on his front legs. “It’s in the nature of the world that those starting with good intentions inevitably descend into the deepest corners of Hell. Just think of—”

 

“Listen,” Jared interrupted. “As much as I’d love a lesson in world history, Jensen and I really need to get going.”

 

Behind them, through the distant screams and the ever present cackling of the flames and the steady blow of hot wind, Jared had heard a strange clicking sound. Something in the mountains was watching them and he didn’t want to wait around for it.

 

“Well now,” the demon-dragon said with a sardonic smile. “You can’t expect me to let you go on just like that. You are traveling with an angel after all.”

 

“You can’t eat him,” Jared said although he wasn’t quite sure how he’d prevent that.

 

“Eat him?” the dragon-demon asked indignantly. “What do you take me for, a mindless, bloodthirsty creature?” It shook its head, then his giant snout curled up into a too friendly smile. “No, I have something much better in mind.”

 

Jensen steeled his back. “What do you want?”

 

Jared had to hand it to him; the angel was not a coward. In a weak moment, Jared might think of him as brave. Especially when the demon-dragon smiled a sharp toothed smile and made its demand.


 


 

“Oh great heavens, I am never doing that again,” Jensen spit out while they were trekking on through the hills.

 

“Come on, it wasn’t that bad,” Jared said, trying to suppress a laughter.

 

Jensen glared at him, which just made Jared laugh harder. It was really just an intensified expression of the constipated look Jensen had worn the whole time he’d fulfilled the demon-dragon’s demand.

 

“Let’s just get out of these damned mountains,” Jensen said. “I have a bad feeling about them.”

 

Jared had to agree; he still thought they were being followed. He could taunt Jensen later about feather bathing a demon. It certainly wasn’t something he’d forget any time soon, Jensen walking up and down the dragon, dragging his wings along the rough and partially oozing skin. At one point, the dragon had even turned on his back like a wanton cat and Jensen had very carefully avoided the place between his legs.

 

Jensen had even flat out offered the demon a feather from his wings. But the demon had shaken its head, mumbling something about how much more life-force was imbued when the feathers were attached to the angel. So Jensen had to rub his wings against the demon for a while longer. Jared had tried valiantly not to get jealous.


The next part of their journey continued almost uneventfully. The clicking sound Jared had heard before had disappeared into Hell’s background noise of fire, torment, and destruction.

 

When a bat-winged demon circled the air above them, Jared dragged a sputtering Jensen to shelter under a large rock, and got an elbow in his face for his efforts. Despite the pain, Jared had to admire the angel’s spunk. To avoid more physical harm, he held a finger to his lips and pointed towards the sky. Immediately, Jensen stilled and scooted further under the rock.

 

Pressed closely together in the still air under the rock, Jared could smell Jensen for the first time. It was a clean, inviting scent; fresh and yet powerful. Jared imagined a waterfall would smell like that. Not that he’d know, he’d never made it to the demon ranks that were allowed topside. Jared was just a low level torture grunt.

 

Even with the dissatisfaction he felt every moment of his life, he hadn’t thought that an angel’s proximity would wake a whole other set of longings inside of him.

 

That undefined power the lore promised paled in comparison to Jensen’s body next to his own, Jensen’s scent filling his nose. Jared had never really taken part in that kind of torture but he’d never been tempted so strongly by another being, demon or human soul. Maybe Jared was just predominantly angel-sexual? Then again, Jensen didn’t seem like a typical angel.

 

He was so much snarkier and tougher than Jared had expected a servant of Heaven to be — certainly more than the stories about the mindless bureaucratic cloud pushers Jared had learned in Demon School. And while Jensen did have an unearthly beauty about him, his nose had a tiny bump, his ears were sticking out a bit too far from his head and there was a reddish stubble growing on his cheeks. They were imperfections — imperfections for Heaven — and they made him all the more breathtaking. Plus, his mouth was nothing short of obscene. Really, Jared could get lost staring at that mouth. Could write odes to that mouth, just wanted to touch it, press his thumb against that plush bottom limp, press his—

 

“Hey!” Jensen hit him over the head. “Stop poking me with your dick!”

 

Jared recoiled, realizing too late he was hard. And since he was pressed front to side to Jensen he was pressing his dick against Jensen's hip. Dammit.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbled, and pulled back.

 

Jensen stared at him like he’d spontaneously grown horns and a tail. “What kind of demon are you?”

 

One that didn’t really fit. Jared had always been too positive, too uninterested in the misery permeating this place and too fascinated by the stories in the library. He’d hoped the additional power would change that. He didn’t tell Jensen that though.

 

“One that has manners,” he replied haughtily, then he leaned forwards to check their surroundings. “It’s all clear. C’mon, let’s go.”

 

Jensen shook his head but followed Jared out of their shelter.

 

They hadn’t taken five steps before Jared heard the ominous clicking again, this time much louder, and he spun around in time to see a giant black spider coming towards them.

 

“Really?” Jensen asked flatly.

 

Jared shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a classic. Tolkien knew his stuff.”

 

Jensen opened his mouth, face scrunched up in confusion — and really, did angels not know about literary classics? Then again, angels weren’t supposed to be terribly creative or inventive so it made sense they wouldn’t be able to appreciate a well spun fantastic tale and Jared really needed to stop thinking about that — when the spider-demon lunged for them and they had to jump aside.

 

“Jared, untie me!” Jensen stretched his still shackled hands out to Jared.

 

“I’m not falling for that trick,” Jared said. Besides, what could a little cloud pusher do in a fight against a huge spider-demon?

 

Jared twirled his staff. He hoped the spells on his staff would hold against an ancient demon. The spells provided by the witches should be powerful. It should be enough. He hoped. Just to be safe, he sent a prayer to the Morning Star. Couldn’t hurt at least.

 

He shot a bolt of power at the spider-demon, hitting it square in the face. It screeched and stumbled to the ground.

 

“Ha!” Jared yelled and fist pumped the air. He knew his research would pay off eventually. He turned to Jensen with a smug grin. “I don’t need your help, angel, I am perfectly capable…”

 

Jensen was raising one eyebrow sardonically and was pointing behind Jared. The clicking was back and this time, it sounded really pissed.

 

Jaed allowed himself a moment to close his eyes and breathed out a heartfelt fuck , before he spun around again.

 

The spider-demon was crawling towards him again and it didn’t seem to have sustained any lasting injuries. So Jared fired his staff again and again until the spider-demon was upon him and he had to duck to the side.

 

He rolled out of range of the spider-demon's claw-tipped front legs and hid behind a giant boulder. Jensen was already there. Quietly, mouth pursed in annoyance, he held out his bound hands again.

 

Fuck.

 

The heavy iron cuffs did more than bind Jensen's hands, they damped his powers. There was no telling what Jensen would do to him, but without Jensen’s help, Jared would get eaten quicker than he could make a soul beg on the rack (just because he didn’t enjoy it, didn't mean he wasn’t good at his job).  Even if Jensen couldn’t do much, Jared needed all the help he could get. And Jensen had shot a light bolt at him in Heaven, so maybe he wasn’t entirely useless.

 

Jared gripped Jensen’s shackles until they melted away.

 

For a moment, Jensen stared, disbelief and something else that Jared couldn’t identify in his expressive eyes, but Jared had no time to examine that further because a shadow fell over them and when he looked up, there was the spider-demon, positioning its fat hindquarters with gross green slime dripping from a wicked looking stinger. It was probably poisonous. Hell was charming like that.

 

“Watch out!” Jared yelled.

 

They jumped in opposite directions and the spike drove into the ground a moment later. Quickly, Jared picked himself up, twirled his staff and sent several fireballs at the spider which all ineffectively dissipated when they hit its body.

 

A bright jolt of light hit the spider and its body spasmed in pain.

 

“You idiot !” Jensen’s voice came from the other side of the spider-demon. “You can’t fight a demon with fire, Jesus fucking Christ!”

 

“Should you really constantly take your lord’s name in vain?” Jared yelled back, changing tactic and using the sharpened end of the staff to attack the spider-demon’s legs. He half-severed one of them and since the spider-demon was still occupied with writhing under Jensen’s light bolt attacks — and seriously, could all angels do that? — , he only had to hop out of the way and hit whatever leg he could reach.

 

“Jesus curses worse than a sailer, he’d be fucking proud,” Jensen yelled back.

 

Jared managed to sever one leg, and wanted to ask what God thought about the whole thing, but Jensen cried out in obvious pain while the spider-demon lost its balance, furious clicking intensifying.

 

Jared jumped over it, landing next to Jensen who was clutching his arm, bright red blood welling from a nasty cut in his arm.

 

“Ayyyynnnn-gellllll bloooooood,” the spider-demon hissed. Contrary to a real spider, it only had two eyes, both of them glinting bright red.

 

“Yeah, sorry,” Jared said and darted forward again, “bar’s closed today.”

 

He ran along under the spider, dragging his blade along its legs, but the spider-demon was still mobile and Jared got hit by a leg. Slightly disoriented he landed in the dirt and when he looked up, green poison dripped onto his chest, burning through his shirt.

 

He raised his staff, determined to take the fucker with him if he had to die (because yes, demons could die, obviously, and no, no one knew what happened to them after which was why it was so fucking terrifying). Only when the stinger rushed towards him, a jolt went through the spider-demon’s body, and the stinger hit the ground to Jared’s left while his staff sank into the creature's underbelly, spraying him with stinking yellow demon blood.

 

Then the spider-demon's body wobbled, and Jared just managed to grip his staff and roll out from under it before it collapsed to the ground.

 

From somewhere on top of the corpse came Jensen’s shaky voice. “I am never, ever doing that again.”

 

Jared pulled himself to his feet, and peered around the corpse to where Jensen was standing next to the spider’s bashed in head, drenched in yellow blood, saliva and other fluids Jared didn’t want to contemplate.

 

“How the hell did you…” he began, but Jensen’s blazing eyes cut him off.

 

“Never again! Next time we meet a fucking demon that wants to eat me, you get to bash its head in and bathe in its brain.”

 

“Okay,” Jared just said, feeling weirdly floaty. Light. Relieved. Happy .

 

He stopped short. He had never felt like this, almost giddy. Laughter bubbled up in his throat and he couldn’t contain it, it just burst out of him.

 

Jensen looked even more furious now, wiped reddish chunks of... something off his shirt and flicked them away. “Do you think this is funny?”

 

Jared couldn't help himself, he doubled over in laughter. Because yes, this was hilarious. The whole situation was hilarious. Jensen was hilarious. He was feeling honest to God (pun intended) joy and happiness because Jensen was not dead. It was bizarre. Frightening. Oh Morning Star, he was feeling happiness. What the fuck was happening to him?

 

Something warm and slimy hit him right in the face and he straightened up, wiping the spider-demon’s innards away to see Jensen’s satisfied expression.

 

“Did you just throw demon goo at me?” Jared asked, torn between more laughter and wanting to kiss Jensen. Which was a fucking weird thought to have, but he didn’t have any time to contemplate that because Jensen crossed his arms in front of his chest and dared Jared to do something about it with his sharply raised eyebrows. Oh, it was on . Jared had been king of the mud fights in Demon School.

 

Apparently, Jensen must have ruled the angel school yard in a similar fashion because he was a mean fighter.



 


 

When they were done with their gore fight, they were both covered in decaying demon tissue, they stank worse than the Third Circle’s cesspit and they were laughing like mad men. (Jared had seen this stage in many of the tortured. It wasn’t pretty. It often led to hair pulling and eye-gouging.)

 

Contrary to most of Jared’s charges, their laughter ebbed off again and he realized how close they were standing to each other. He froze when Jensen raised his arm, slowly moving his fingers to Jared’s face and wiping a splotch of something off Jared’s cheek, dragging his calloused palm to the corner of Jared’s eye where it lingered for a moment.

 

A strange buzzing caught hold of Jared’s body, vibrating along under his skin.

 

Then Jensen pulled his hand back quickly, as if burned and cleared his throat.

 

“Thank you,” Jared blurted out into the tense silence. “For saving me, I mean.”

 

Jensen nodded woodenly. “Well, I mean, if I let you die, who knows who’d try to capture me next? The evil you know, yada yada yada.”

 

“Of course,” Jared said and tried not to read anything into it, but Jensen was still looking at him strangely, as if he could not quite understand what he was seeing.

 

“So,” he said finally, raising his unbound hands, “you freed me.”

 

Jared grimaced. He hadn’t thought this one through.

 

“Yeah.” He rubbed his neck. “I mean, I could fight you and put them back on you.”

 

“You’d lose,” Jensen said confidently.

 

“I got you last time,” Jared shot back, with more bravado than he felt. Jensen was turning out to be a surprisingly good fighter.

 

“You snuck into Heaven and were lying in ambush. That’s cheating.”

 

Jared nodded. “A time honored demonic war tactic.”

 

Jensen’s lips twitched, but Jared couldn’t say if in amusement or in disdain. “You really want to try again? Here? In the no man’s land mountains of Hell?”

 

“Do you?”

 

For a few moments they stared at each other. Jared had a dilemma. Even if he let Jensen go — or rather, Jensen escaped — the Terrible Three were still waiting for him and by now every torture grunt in the Seventh Circle, had heard of Jared’s angel kidnapping. They’d never leave him alone. He might even be called into Administration for disciplinary action. Jared shuddered. The best torturers in Hell sooner or later moved into Administration. After all, for keeping demons in line, you needed the best.

 

Jensen was still looking at Jared challengingly.

 

“Okay, look,” Jared huffed, “if we want to make it, we need to work together. You’ll never find your way out of Hell without me and in return, you’ll give me the power once we figure out how.”

 

“You’ll help me get out of here after?” Jensen asked skeptically.

 

Jared nodded. The Terrible Three knew he had Jensen, so they’d never stop hounding them. But if Jared was powerful and Jensen gone, they’d have no reason to go after him. Well, maybe out of revenge. Which was actually a pretty big motivator, but if Jared had more power he’d be able to fight them, so really. It would all work out. Somehow. Jared studiously ignored that the thought of letting Jensen go made his stomach feel all tied up in knots. That was probably just residual pain from the fight.

 

Yeah, he really hadn’t thought this one through at all.

 

“You help me, I help you.”

 

Jensen pursed his lips, then he nodded. “Alright. But we swear on it.”

 

Taking a step back, Jared raised his hands. “Do we have to? Can’t we just, I don't know, promise with our hands on the bible?”

 

Jensen gave him a flat look, and reached for Jared’s staff. “Blood oath or no deal.”

 

Great. Blood oaths were binding for every creature of Heaven or Hell and if broken, they’d lead to unimaginable suffering and a direct spot in the lake next to Tantalus (it used to be a puddle, what Tantalus was standing in. Now it was a lake. A big lake. Like Lake Superior big. Or the Caspian Sea even. And no, there weren’t only demons in there. Angels could be cheating liars too.)

 

It wasn’t that Jared didn’t want to help Jensen — except for maybe how he wanted to keep him forever — but as a demon, he was inherently distrustful of blood oaths. It just wasn’t something you were taught, keeping promises. Besides, most of his charges at some point either bemoaned having broken a promise or raged about promises broken to them. Most of the time it was both. Seriously, humanity. Jared had no idea why demons were the ones with the bad reputation.

 

Jensen was still waiting, hand outstretched, holding Jared’s staff with the sharp side raised. Reluctantly, Jared reached for Jensen’s wrist.  A jolt went through him at the touch. He’d never realized what it meant to touch someone with intent. Jensen’s skin was smooth on the inside of his wrist, rougher and covered in soft hairs on the outside. Under Jensen’s skin, his muscles and tendons tensed as his hand gripped Jared’s wrist in a firm grip.

 

A warm, reassuring feeling started spreading through Jared.

 

“Well?”

 

Jensen’s voice ripped Jared out of his daze. He looked up into the angel’s green eyes, golden dots dancing in the irises.

 

Almost on autopilot, Jared gripped his staff and together they cut a line over both their wrists. Blood welled up, Jensen’s bright red and Jared’s a dirty yellow-brown, and they rubbed their wrists against each other.

 

“I swear I will not attack you as long as we’re here in Hell and you help me escape,” Jensen said. “And you’ll receive power through me.”

 

“I swear to protect you and help you escape from Hell as soon as you’ve given me power,” Jared answered, his voice hoarse.

 

For a moment, they continued to hold each other’s wrist, then Jared pulled back.

 

“Did it work?” he asked, because he hadn’t felt anything.

 

“Of course,” Jensen said, but he didn’t look one hundred percent sure.

 

Jared rubbed his wrist, where the cut was slowly scabbing over. Thank Satan, he had put an activator spell on his staff so the truly nasty stuff could not be used against him. If the other demons ever realized what treasures were still hiding in the library, he might get in real trouble, but the constant burning and the thick sulfuric clouds of smoke permeating the ancient halls of the building put most demons off. Those who didn’t mind still saw no reason to go inside. Reading, as Jared had been told numerous times by the few who could, was for the heavenly feathery cloud fuckers.

 

“Okay, we should really get going.”

 

Jensen nodded. “Lead the way.”

 

Jared looked out over the mountain landscape until he saw the tip of a darkly glinting spiraling tower to his left. “That way.”

 

Witch Tower was a strange fixture in Hell. It protruded all the way out of dead forests behind the mountains, up into the sulfur clouded sky. The witches living there weren’t demons, but they weren’t human either. They were free to walk between earth and Hell, but the more time they spent in Hell, the more powerful they became. Apparently, earth was draining on a witch’s power. One of the things that could sustain a witch topside were angel feathers. Jared really hoped Jensen’s wings were bargaining chips enough to get Jensen out of Hell. From earth, he could get to Heaven on his own.

 

“So, that creepy, spindly tower we’re walking towards,” Jensen said in a conversational tone, “you mind telling me which one of Hell’s delightful occupants lives there and why we’re going there?”

 

Jared cringed. This would not go over well. “Witches,” he blurted out, trying to get it over with quicker.

 

“Witches,” Jensen repeated, voice flat and emotionless.

 

“Well, you’re not in Kansas anymore,” Jared snapped.

 

Jensen shot him a startled look.

 

“Look, they’re not as bad as they sound,” Jared said, which was a flat out lie, but Jensen’s eyes had started to get that diamond hard glint that meant Jared was a hair’s breadth away from getting a verbal beat-down again, and he’d really come to despise that.

 

“You want to go to the witches.” Ah, there was the bite in the words Jared had been dreading.

 

He stopped walking and turned to Jensen. “I know this sounds insane, but—”

 

“Insane?” Jensen hissed. “How about suicidal?”

 

“Hey, now, the witches like me, okay, and—”  

 

“Really?” Jensen asked scathingly. “Because witches are such warm and fuzzy creatures, right? Listen up, Toto, every witch is wicked and whatever deal you have in mind, it’s going to get us both killed.”

 

Jared glared. “Have you ever even talked to a witch before? Because I doubt they just pop into Heaven for a little tea party.”

 

“Tea?” Jensen asked snidely. “You have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, do you?”

 

“Yes, I do,” Jared shot back on impulse.

 

The problem was, that actually, Jared didn’t. But hey, lying was a time honored demonic crisis management tactic, and really, the last time he’d seen her, Ruth had totally pinched his cheek — painfully, but still — and Alaina had offered to do things to his dick other demons probably would have enjoyed a whole lot. The point was, they always told him to come back after a successful scroll-spell exchange. So there.

 

It didn’t look like Jensen believed him either, but it wasn't like he’d have any choice but to follow him.

 

So they trudged onwards again, descending the gashed mountainside. It was only then that Jared realized that Jensen had seen the Wizard of Oz at some point in his existence, maybe even read it. Huh. He wouldn’t have thought that Heaven’s libraries would contain the same volumes as the one in the burning city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

They came to the big rock spur only a little while later.

 

“Jared,” Jensen said and his voice conveyed that he’d lost what little faith in Jared’s competencies he’d had. (Jared firmly believed that Jensen had to have seen a little bit of his prowess when they’d taken out the spider-demon). “Why are we standing on a giant ledge?”

 

Ever since Jared had taken them down this path, he’d dreaded this conversation and the argument they were sure to have. He didn’t know why he was so averse to Jensen hating him, demons all hated each other, but the thought of Jensen despising him… No. It was probably because Jensen had such an impressively abrasive mouth on him. That had to be it.

 

“It’s the quickest way,” Jared explained.

 

“Falling to our certain deaths?” Jensen asked scathingly.

 

Case in point. Jared had never heard anyone do so much damage just with their intonation.

 

“No,” Jared said curtly. “We fly.”

 

His suggestion had the anticipated reaction. Jensen recoiled and took a step back. “No. No way.”

 

“Jensen,” Jared tried, but Jensen was stepping to the side, peering down the mountain.

 

“I’m sure there’s a path I can walk. Or climb. I’m a good climber.”

 

Jared thought this might happen. Demons and angels had wings and could fly, but only in their respective homes. Jared’s wings would get him nowhere in Heaven, just like Jensen’s were useless in Hell. However, this was really the only feasible way and it wouldn’t be that bad to fly with Jared.

 

He crossed his arms in front of his chest, because really. “I’m not going to drop you.”

 

Jensen gave him a bitch-please look. “First, yes, you totally might and second, so not the point.”

 

“Then what is the point?”

 

Jensen huffed, his nostrils flaring adorably. “The point is, so far all of your plans have led to disaster.”

 

Jared grinned. “That’s not a valid argument. Because one, you’re here, and two, we’re still alive. C’mon, I swore I’d protect you.”

 

Disdainfully, Jensen eyed Jared, lingering on Jared’s arms until he finally threw his hands up. “Fine. But I swear if you touch me anywhere inappropriate, I am going to cut your hands off.”

 

If by inappropriate Jensen meant enticing, that would be impossible, because the angel’s whole body was alluring, inviting inappropriateness everywhere. Even his fucking eyelashes were inappropriate . Jared decided not to inform Jensen of this. Instead he walked over to him, pressed his staff into Jensen’s hand with a muttered “hold this” and then scooped Jensen up into his arms.

 

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jensen asked and this close, his green eyes were blindingly bright and beautiful.

 

It took Jared three tries to get out an answer. “Easiest to carry,” he said because full sentences were still way out of reach. In Hell, colors just weren’t that luminous.

 

Jensen snorted, a gush of hot air hitting Jared’s cheek. He had no idea why that made goosebumps break out on his arms.

 

“Fine. Just make it quick.”

 

Jared took a deep breath, attempting to regain his equilibrium and really, this was going to end in a disaster, because inhaling a lungful of Jensen's fresh, soft and just fucking pleasant scent was not helping with his wing coordination.

 

Since he couldn’t drop Jensen to adjust himself, Jared was also stuck with his hardening dick uncomfortably pushing against his pants. He just hoped he wouldn’t accidentally poke Jensen in the ass. Again. That would be awkward. And possibly lead to another verbal tirade from the angel. No thanks. Jared was not a masochist. (He wasn’t a sadist either, but that wasn’t something to advertise in Hell, so Jared just kept all sorts of statements about any -ists concerning his personality to himself.)

 

“Is there any reason we’re not in the air yet?” Jensen’s scathing voice pulled Jared’s attention away from his body’s dilemma.

 

“You’re heavy,” Jared grumbled out defensively, before he stretched out his wings, and swung himself into the air.

 

Jensen’s arms came around and gripped him tight. “Maybe you’re just weak,” he groused.

 

Jared wasn’t, of course, and he was gripped by a vindictive desire to prove it to Jensen, so he flapped his wings harshly, propelling him up high into the air, then dipping down in a corkscrew before looping up again.

 

Jensen screamed into his ear. Jared just laughed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Oh god, you’re insane,” Jensen yelled. “Do you want to attract even more attention?”

 

Unfortunately, Jensen was right.

 

“Hey, it’s not my fault,” Jared started but was able to stop himself before he finished the sentence, telling Jensen that it was Jensen’s fault alone that Jared couldn’t think straight.

 

“How is your idiocy my fault?” Jensen asked.

 

To avoid having to answer, Jared went into dive mode. The ground below them was a forest — well, the kind of forest that could grow in Hell. Mostly, it consisted of dark, dead trees and thorny vines winding around moss-covered boulders. It wasn't a pleasant walk through the forest, but up in the air, they were exposed, and Jared had seen a few demons flying around at the edge of his vision. So he targeted a spot free of trees and mostly free of vines, and made to land.

 

He almost ripped his left wing on a protruding thorn branch before he landed on sandy ground. Oh no.

 

He threw Jensen as far away from him as possible, and started flapping his wings as hard as he could, but he could already feel his feet and legs sinking into the sandy ground. He strained towards the sky, moving his wings quicker than ever before, but the quicksand was not releasing him. Jared would bet his left hand that the sand was actually a demon. Or was at least inhabited by one.

 

Jensen yelled an insult at him from where he’d landed in a nest of thorny branches, but Jared had to focus on his own predicament. He tried to jump out again, but there was no leverage on the ground. He looked around wildly, trying to see the edge of this sand trap and threw himself towards the next boulder with his upper body. His arm was several inches too short to reach.

 

“Fuck.” He stilled, and his sinking body came to a stop. He was now chest deep in the sand. He just hoped there weren’t any bloodthirsty worms about to gnaw on his legs anytime soon.

 

In the sudden stillness, Jensen’s cussing was really loud.

 

“... fucking demon, I swear to God and the apostles, I’m going to rip out your intestines, blood oath or not,” Jensen muttered violently from within the branches.

 

There were the sounds of dry branches splintering, more cursing, a scream of pain and then Jensen emerged dishevelled, scratched up, bloody and white tunic half torn off from the thorns.

 

Jensen was almost half-naked. Half-naked, why was he half-naked?

 

Distantly, in the analytical part of his brain, Jared realized that getting hung up on Jensen’s naked arm and shoulder was not ideal in his current situation, but the rest of his brain was stuck on the light skin, sprinkled with tiny, golden flecks. Freckles, his mind helpfully supplied, Jensen had freckles everywhere .

 

“Did you hear me Jared, I am going to—” Jensen broke off abruptly, eyeing the parts of Jared’s body that were still above the sand.

 

“Don’t say it,” Jared croaked out because he’d caught the glint in Jensen’s eyes.

 

Jensen shook his head. “No, this is just bad luck.”

 

“Thank you,” Jared said heartfelt. “Now help me out?”

 

Instead of doing just that, Jensen walked over to the edge of the quicksand hole and sat down cross-legged. “You know,” he said conversationally, “a situation like this is not covered by our bloodoath.”

 

Jared’s mouth fell open. He couldn’t believe that an angel was trying to weasel his way out of a deal. Then again, Jensen was nothing like he’d thought an angel would be.

 

“You swore to protect me!”

 

Jensen nodded thoughtfully. “And I would, protect you from quicksand that is, but since you’re already in there…” Jensen pulled a regretful grimace so fake, Jared was viciously reminded of when Chad talked about all the tasty chocolate he’d stolen from the white-eyed demon, but unfortunately had to eat them all on his escape to have his hands free, so sorry Jared and I really wanted to bring you some of your favorite treat instead of taunting you with it.

 

“I swore nothing about rescuing you,” Jensen added.

 

“You’re part demon, aren’t you?” Jared asked, squinting at Jensen.

 

Jensen glared. “How dare you!”

 

“Well, you’re the one trying to welch on our deal!”

 

“I’m not welching on anything,” Jensen threw out derisively and then got up and turned towards the thick underbrush.

 

“Yes, you are, you two-faced lying son of a cloud fucker!” Jared yelled after him. “You pretend to be all high and mighty, oh, I’m an angel, I’m sooo much better than you are—” the quick sand bubbled and Jared sank in up to his neck.

 

Jensen came back from the thorny scrub, carrying Jared’s staff and stretched it out towards him. “How about you shut your fucking cakehole and get out of there instead?”

 

“But you, you just said,” Jared sputtered.

 

Enervated, Jensen rolled his eyes. “I was making a joke and enjoying your misery.”

 

“Enjoying someone’s misery and taunting them with certain doom is not very celestial.”

 

Jensen gave him a sour look. “Hell must be rubbing off on me.”

 

In answer, Jared gave him a face splitting grin. He didn’t think that was the case at all. He wasn’t sure if all angels had the same asshole tendencies Jensen displayed or if Jensen was a special case. Either way, Jared liked it. A lot. More than he should probably.

 

Jensen poked him with his staff. “Now, do you want to get out or do you want to spend the rest of eternity in quicksand?”

 

Jared grabbed the stick. Jensen pulled. Nothing happened.

 

“Story of my life,” Jared grumbled, already anticipating the worst.

 

“Fuck,” Jensen ground out, then he let go of the staff with one hand and shot a bright ball of light at the sand the same moment he pulled. Impressive coordination.

 

The sand around Jared quivered and then let out a giant, stinking bubble, expelling Jared. He flew in a big arc out of the sand and landed directly on top of Jensen.

 

Jensen’s eyes really were unbelievably beautiful. And his lips looked so soft, so—

 

Jared was flying back through the air and landed in the thorns this time.

 

Ow . Mean,” he complained at Jensen, otherwise he’d have admitted how unbelievably attractive he found Jensen right now.

 

The angel just stood and wiped random specks of brown dirt off his blue pants. He looked supremely pissed.

 

“Let’s go. This forest gives me the creeps.”

 

Ungracefully, Jared detangled himself from the thorns. “Fine, but you gotta watch where you step, that quicksand is not the only nasty thing out here.”

 

“Really?” Jensen asked big-eyed. “I wouldn’t have guessed.”

 

Jared stepped over to him, grumbling the whole time and ripped his staff out of Jensen’s hand. “You know, all that snark? Really unbecoming for an angel.”

 

Jensen snorted. “You clearly don't know the first things about angels.”

 

“And the more I get to know you, the less I want to meet the rest of you.”

 

“Well, now you know how I feel in your company.”

 

“Oh, please, I’m a ray of sunshine. Besides, I saved you from all the other demons.”

 

“After you kidnapped me,” Jensen hissed. “For someone so insurmountably stupid, I have no idea how you manage to tie your shoes in the morning.” He looked down at Jared’ irregularly laced up boots pointedly.  

 

Jared ignored the insult. Instead he said, “You might be happy being a brainless book pusher all of your existence, but I want more, okay? So excuse me for trying to find a way to get out of my job.”

 

Jensen’s face, sour from Jared’s jab at his profession, turned into an expression of surprise. “You don’t like your job?”

 

Jared kicked over a rock on the ground. “No.”

 

Jensen evaded a thick vine, but stepped on a smaller one, making it curl in on itself. Oh no .

 

“How can you not like your job?” Jensen asked.

 

Jared raised his staff, trying to follow the netting of vines and see where they came from. He couldn’t be sure, but this was Hell. He had a bad feeling about moving vegetation.

 

“You’re a demon,” Jensen continued. “You get to torture souls all the time.”

 

“Yeah, well, torture is not all that it’s cracked up to be,” Jared replied absently, while his eyes tracked the movements of the vines.

 

“What else do you want?” Jensen asked incredulously.

 

“More time to read for one thing,” Jared said and then his eyes found the thick stem the vines emerged from. “For you to shut up for another, because we have a problem.”

 

Before Jared could explain, they were attacked by thick green vines from all sides. Fuck. Jared hated when he walked into an ambush.

 

He managed to fire of a shot with his staff and then cut off two long vines, before they completely wrapped him up, staff pressed uselessly against his body.

 

Jensen was still battling the vines, shooting rays of bright light against them, but more and more tendrils emerged from the ground. Shooting a circle of light away from him, Jensen got himself a breather, but then he looked over to Jared and in that one moment of inattentiveness a thick vine shot up from the ground, winding around Jensen before he could defend himself. He ended up wrapped in vines from head to toe, only his head remained unbound just like Jared’s. Then the vines tightened even more and constricted until they were both completely immobilized and pressed up against each other.

 

Jensen was still trying to wiggle around, Jared craned his head to see if there was some kind of teeth-filled mouth coming for them. There wasn’t. At least not yet.

 

“Great,” Jensen finally panted out, clearly out of breath from the exertion. “Now what?”

 

“Not sure,” Jared said. “Usually I fly when I go see the witches, so I have no idea who we just met.”

 

“You should have just flown out of here.”

 

Jared wanted to say something about their protection pact, but no words came out. He hadn’t even thought about leaving without Jensen.

 

“Unbelievable,” Jensen muttered.

 

“What, you wanted me to abandon you here? And break the oath along the way?”

 

Jensen opened his mouth to answer, but closed it again when the vines started vibrating. Jared wasn’t sure how he understood, it wasn’t like the vines spoke actual words, but somehow he understood that the vine was pleased about the angel and the energy he radiated.

 

A smaller vine emerged from the cocoons and glided up the side of Jensen's face. Jensen tried to move out of it’s way but the vine just followed. It looked almost like it was petting Jensen.

 

“I think it likes you,” Jared said, unable to suppress smirk.

 

Jensen pulled a face. “Awesome.”

 

With a sigh-like sound, the small vine wrapped itself around the top of Jensen’s head like a crown. Then slowly, a single bud started to grow. Jared watched in fascination as the light green bud grew from a small round nub into an oval shape. Then the green leaves popped open to reveal a bright white blossom. The spiky petals grew long and elegant with a golden line down the middle. When it stopped growing it was a majestically beautiful blossom, unlike anything Jared had ever seen in Hell.

 

The vines heaved out another sigh and then another bud started to grow right next to the first blossom.

 

Jensen was looking cross-eyed in his attempt to see what was going on above his head.

 

“I think it just wants to grow some pretty flowers,” Jared said.

 

“With my energy,” Jensen grumbled.

 

“Do you feel weaker?” Jared asked in alarm.

 

Jensen shook his head. “No, not really. But how long do you think this will last? And will it let us go at some point?”

 

The vine squeezed them tight for a moment, almost reassuringly.

 

“Aww see,” Jared said, “it’s a nice vine.”

 

In answer, the second bud opened into a blossom, this one a glowing red.

 

“Did you just aww a monster-vine?” Jensen asked incredulously.

 

Jared shrugged, as much as he could. “What? It’s cute.”

 

Jensen let out the sigh of the long-suffering, and really, it could be so much worse. But then Jared realized that they were face to face, only a hand span between them and they’d be here for a while. Okay, this was definitely worse.

 

Looking into Jensen’s face was nothing short of a mindfuck. This close, Jared could count every single freckle.

 

Paired with the fact that Jensen was pretty kick-ass for an angel and Jared had — despite being on the receiving end of it — an unholy glee listening to Jensen bitch, Jared was having feelings about this.

 

It was not a completely new experience, to have feelings. Demons did have feelings, all kinds of them. Anger, hate, jealousy, glee, the works. But what Jared was feeling, was new. It was like a swelling in his chest, a tugging deep within him, that made something inside of him jump whenever he looked at Jensen, that made his stomach feel aflutter and his head light.

 

Theoretically, Jared knew what that meant. He’d read the scrolls and the books in the library, read about humans and creatures alike who felt like that. Whose palms started to sweat and whose throats dried up when they saw that one person that made their heart beat faster. But it was impossible. Jared was a demon. He was a creation of Hell, hatched from an egg of misery and pain. He wasn’t capable of feeling this .

 

And yet, tied up in a bunch of angel-thirsty vines and staring right into Jensen’s face, he was certain he was falling for the angel.

 

Fuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How was this happening to him? Maybe he shouldn’t have read all those books after all…

 

“You okay?” Jensen asked, startling Jared out of his epiphany.

 

“Huh?”

 

“You kinda looked like you got punched in the gut for a moment,” Jensen explained. “Or, squeezed a bit too tightly.”

 

Jared shook his head. “No. No, it’s all good. Yeah, totally fine.”

 

Jensen eyed him strangely.

 

“I swear.” Jared laughed nervously. “Everything’s okay. Well, not okay okay, but you know, considering the circumstances.” What if Jensen figured it out? He’d never hear the end of it. Because Jensen didn't return his feelings.

 

Oh cursed Morningstar. Jensen didn't return his feelings. Now Jared did feel like he had been punched in the gut.

 

“You,” Jensen said slowly, face filled with a kind of reluctant curiosity, “are the strangest demon I’ve ever met.”

 

“Me?” Jared croaked out. “No, I’m just a regular, hell-hatched Circle Seven torture demon. Passed Demon School reasonably bad and even invented a couple of new torture devices.”

 

If Jared thought that would get Jensen off whatever train of thought he was on, he was sorely mistaken. If anything, Jensen just eyed him more intently.

 

“Yeah, about that. You said torture isn’t really your thing.”

 

“What? No, I love it!” Jared protested, panicking even more. This was his best kept secret. He was sure he’d get thrown in demonic prison if anyone ever found out he didn’t like torturing souls.

 

Jensen leaned back as much as he could. “That’s just a blatant lie. I mean I know that demons lie, that’s your thing, but before, you told me: Torture is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Your exact words.” Jensen’s eyes widened. “And then you said you liked to read!”

 

“You say that like it’s a crime,” Jared said defensively, but glad the conversation was shifting.

 

“You are a demon!” Jensen enunciated every word carefully.

 

“And what do you know about demons anyway?” Jared shot back, because it was time to go on the offensive and shift the focus of this conversation. “You pretend like you know all about demons but you don’t know shit.”

 

“I know demons,” Jensen spat out. “I fought enough of your kind in the wars for human souls.”

 

That brought Jared up short. If Jensen was a warrior that would explain how he’d fought the spider demon. “But why were you in the record halls?”

 

“Because that’s where I work now.”

 

“Why?” Jared asked. He wanted to, no, needed to puzzle Jensen out.

 

Jensen made a sour face. “None of your business.”

 

That stung. In a really unexpectedly painful way.

 

“And we’re not talking about me anyway,” Jensen continued. “We're talking about why you read and hate torture.”

 

“Hate is a very strong word,” Jared hedged. “And you’re the one who got demoted from warrior to records keeper.”

 

Jensen glared. Jared glared right back.

 

Again, Jared cracked first. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours?”

 

Jensen was taken aback. Then he scowled. “No. I’m not discussing my life with you. You’re not that interesting anyway.”

 

Ouch. Jensen was really mean. Jared loved it.

 

They fell into a tense silence. Jared tried to shift around a bit because there was still sand lodged in a lot of places under his clothes, were no sand should ever go. Hmm, sand baths could be a new torture technique. Very annoying and with minimal effort on his part. Just let the souls stew sand covered while Jared went off to the library.  

 

The vine was still busy growing flowers on Jensen’s head — so far, a purple, a polka-dotted one and a blue one had joined the first two — and the forest around them was reasonably silent. Jared figured this was probably the vines hunting ground and other demons gave it a wide berth. There was no guessing what the vine would have done to Jared if he’d been alone. (Eat him, probably, so Jared really didn’t want to think about that.)

 

Instead, Jared pondered how to weasel more information out of Jensen. The techniques from his interrogation lessons wouldn't work here, but maybe he could just annoy it out of Jensen? So Jared thought back to Being a Pain in the Ass 101.

 

“So…” he started, dragging the word out. “You really don’t want to know why I can read? Me, a low level torture grunt.”

 

Jensen scowled. “No.”

 

“Who doesn’t even like torture, I mean think about that.”

 

Jensen turned his head away.

 

“So you also don’t want to know about all the books I read in the burning city.”

 

A muscle in Jensen’s jaw twitched — Jared wanted to bite it — but he remained silent.

 

“You’re not even a little bit curious, how we both know the same books?”

 

“What do you mean?” Jensen asked and then pressed his lips together.

 

But it was too late. Jared had cracked him, now he’d pry him apart like a clam. In a very gentle way of course. Unless Jensen liked it rough. With his disposition, Jared thought that was quite reasonably true, but if he didn’t want to give the vines a close up show, he really needed to quit that line of thought. Instead he focused back on getting information out of Jensen.

 

“The Wizard of Oz?” Jared asked.

 

Again, that delicious muscle in Jensen's cheek spasmed while he worked his jaw. “No,” he finally said. “You just heard that from a soul.”

 

With a gleeful grin, Jared shook his head so quickly, his hair flew around a bit. “Nope.” Then he intoned, “ Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.

 

Jensen stared bug-eyed at him. Jared gave him his smuggest grin.

 

“You read the — no.” Jensen cut himself off. “Still don’t care.”

 

Jared chewed on his lower lip, trying to think. Jensen’s eyes were still on him. Tracking his mouth’s movement. Heat flushed to Jared’s cheeks and he stopped. He wondered why he got so hot, almost like he was — he was. He was blushing. Shit.

 

Of course, Jensen saw it.

 

“I didn’t know demons could blush,” he remarked.

 

Jared jumped on the opportunity. “Wanna know why?” Not that he’d tell him. But lying was a time honored demonic stalling technique. And if Jensen wanted to know about Jared, he’d have to give something about himself in return.

 

“No,” Jensen glared.

 

“C’mon, I know you’re dying of curiousity,” Jared wheedled. If this strategy failed, pure annoyance was always a plausible solution. It had worked before. “You wanna know, you wanna know, you wanna—”

 

“Oh god, shut up!” Jensen roared into his face.

 

Jared’s physical reaction was not appropriate. He tried to convey that to his dick, but it didn’t listen. The vines around them shook, and Jared could hear their mirthful laughter.

 

“You’re one to talk, fucking flower grower,” he mumbled.

 

“What the—” Jensen said but then the vines briefly squeezed them, hard, clearly a warning.

 

“Can you please not antagonize the giant vines we’re wrapped up in?” Jensen asked exasperatedly.  

 

“They started it,” Jared said petulantly.

 

Jensen rolled his eyes. “Oh lord, give me strength.”

 

“I read he’s not around anymore,” Jared said. “Is that true?”

 

Now, Jensen looked truly startled. “Where did you read that?”

 

Ha! Now he got him. Slowly, Jared grinned. “You know the deal.”

 

Instead of talking, Jensen’s expression turned mulish and he turned away from Jared once more.

 

Dammit.

 

 

 

 

Time passed. Jared closed his eyes to avoid staring at Jensen. Almost immediately, he opened them again. If they made it out of the vines, Jared would have to fulfill his oath and help Jensen escape and then he’d never see him again. The thought throttled his throat like an iron band and for a moment Jared couldn’t breathe.

 

Falling in love, Jared decided, sucked. He had no idea why so many heroes in the stories he’d read wanted to do that.

 

“Alright, you go first,” Jensen said apropos of nothing.

 

“Huh?”

 

Jensen made an annoyed flip with his head. “You tell me yours, I tell you mine, that’s what you said, wasn’t it?”

 

“Can’t take a little bit of boredom?” Jared couldn’t help but needle.

 

“A little bit of boredom?” Jensen asked indignantly. “We’ve been staring at each other in silence for who even knows how long!”

 

“Well, you know, in Hell time doesn’t pass. It just exists.”

 

“Yeah, I thought as much,” Jensen admitted, looking supremely uncomfortable. “It feels like it’s been forever, and yet like no time has passed at all. I just… I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

 

Jared was hit with a wave of feelings that made him want to cuddle and pet Jensen and tell him it would all be alright. Compassion, maybe? Or was this just another weird facet of this fucking love thing?

 

“Well, it’s one of Hell’s many charming features,” Jared said breezily, trying to shake off all these weird feelings. “You get used to it.”

 

Jensen’s eyes widened in disbelief, then he shrugged, as best as he could in the vines. “Yeah I guess.”

 

Then Jared remembered that Jensen actually wanted to play his game and divulge information about himself, and he couldn’t stop himself from blurting out. “So, record's hall. How did that happen?”

 

“Oh no.” Jensen shook his head rigorously. “You first!”

 

“Why do I have to go first?”

 

“Because you’re a demon,” Jensen said matter-of-factly. “You lie and cheat by nature.”

 

Jared grumbled, but Jensen had a point. The angel wasn’t stupid. Weirdly, this thought filled Jared with pride, which was just ridiculous. To distract himself from it, he started talking, carefully thinking about what he should say. He didn’t want Jensen to think even worse of him than he probably already did. And wasn’t that thought depressing?

 

“What do you want to know?” he asked when he wasn’t sure how to start.

 

“Tell me where you read about God,” Jensen said.

 

“Oh.” Jared hadn’t expected that. He’d assumed Jensen would ask him about himself, just as Jared was curious about Jensen, but apparently that feeling wasn’t mutual.

 

Through the new wave of sadness — seriously, fucking love — Jared tried to remember.

 

“It was in a bunch of old books,” he said, trying to recall what he’d read exactly. “Belial, I think was the scribe. I don’t know, there were a bunch of stories about Lucifer and how he built Hell. In the beginning Belial was really excited about all of it, but the fourth book just cut off and there was only a short appendix about how he raged about God taking Lucifer away with him and how the angels covered it up in Heaven and Abbadon covered it up in Hell, and he didn’t want anything to do with it.” Jared shrugged. “I never heard of a demon named Belial though, so I thought it was maybe just fiction. Then again, no one has seen either God or Lucifer in a while, I think, so….”

 

Jensen looked gobsmacked. “You read the Chronicles of Belial?”

 

“Yeah?” It came out more like a question.

 

Jensen shook his head. “But that’s impossible. They were recovered from the hellish archives in the last celestial invasion of Hell and there are no copies.”

 

“There’s one in the library.”

 

“Library,” Jensen repeated, and his eyes had a slightly manic glint to them now. “Hell has a fucking library ?”

 

Now Jared was getting worried. Maybe all the sulfur fumes weren’t good for Jensen?

 

“Well yeah. It’s in the burning city.”

 

“What’s the burning city?” Jensen asked.

 

“It’s just these old city ruins, just off the pit. It burns, but it doesn’t burn, you know? There’s a library in it, a giant building with two slim towers with these weird domed roofs.”

 

Jensen slowly opened his mouth and wet his lips. Oh.

 

“And when you enter,” Jensen said in a rough voice, “there’s a giant hall with a wide staircase that leads up through a sun flooded reading hall with high-arched windows.”

 

“How do you know?” Jared asked. “I mean, there’s no sunlight, but yeah.”

 

Jensen still looked at him glassy eyed. “And if you cross the reading hall you can follow the winding staircases up the walls that are lined with books everywhere but the windows. And the Belial chronicles are kept in one of the basement reading rooms…”

 

“... the octogonal one with the geometric floor covering,” Jared finished. “So, you’ve been to Hell before?”

 

Jensen shook his head. “The place you just described is the old library up in Heaven. Except that it’s not burning, but overgrown with the thickest moss, plants and trees and no one ever goes there.”

 

“So what, there are two versions of the same place in Heaven and Hell?”

 

Jensen huffed. “Well, God created the world in contrasts, but on one line, one beam that connects everything. Maybe… but I don’t know.”

 

“Hmm.” Jared pondered this, but then he realized what Jensen just had said. “If no one goes to your ancient city either, why do you go there?”

 

Jensen looked caught. “Well, why were you there?”

 

“Oh no. I told you where I read about God, now you have to tell me something.”

 

“Fine.” Jensen spit out. “It’s peaceful there. And I like to read. I go crazy in the records hall, it’s all just numbers, birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, how many kids, how many sins, how many good deeds, how many confessions.” He cut himself off, clearly annoyed with himself for going on a little rant.

 

Jared loved it. “Sounds terrible,” he said, because it did and he never wanted Jensen to stop talking. “See, that’s why I go there to read too.”

 

“You torture souls,” Jensen said disdainfully. “That’s nothing like copying and archiving boring numbers.”

 

“Oh please,” Jared said. “It’s always the same. I get a soul, I ask them what they did wrong and if they don’t say it, I just read it on the toe tag and then I torture them. They scream and beg and I keep on torturing. Do you think I like listening to their pathetic excuses? Or their begging? And it’s always the same. Like, there are five different stages of torture before you wipe their memory and start over.”

 

Clearly, Jensen didn’t know what to do with this information. “Five stages of torture?” he eventually asked.

 

“Yes,” Jared said. “First is denial, like oh no, this can’t be happening to me, then it’s anger, where they yell insults at me, which by the way, best way to tell what earth year they’re from. Then it’s bargaining, as if they have anything to offer. Like, most offer sexual favors and I’m just like, no? Do I look like I get off on this? Then comes the depression phase where they just cry and then at some point they accept. Then you put them back on the belt, where their memory gets wiped and another demon starts it all over.”

 

“Those are the five stages of grief,” Jensen said.

 

“Pff, torture, grief, same thing.”

 

Jensen shook his head. “That’s insane.”

 

“Nope. I might do the same thing over and over again, but I don’t expect a different outcome. Hence the reading.”

 

“No, I mean, grief and torture are not the same thing!”

 

“How are they not?” Jared asked, honestly curious. He’d started to get the feeling he didn’t know much about emotions, and was probably in for a rude awakening.

 

“Because,” Jensen started, then stopped. “I’m not discussing emotions with a fucking demon.”

 

“Again on the high horse,” Jared complained. “Angels aren’t any better. Everyone knows, only a human soul can feel the full range of emotions!”

 

“Yeah, well, I read,” Jensen snapped.

 

“So do I!” Jared shot back.

 

Again, they glared at each other.

 

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Jared sighed.

 

Jensen looked pointedly at the vines. By now, his head was covered half way around with flowers. It was really a pretty sight. Jared really needed to stop indulging in these thoughts. Maybe if he fought more with Jensen the whole love thing would stop? Or maybe if he knew more about him. After all, angels were supposed to be arrogant assholes.

 

Jared ignored that Jensen’s asshole personality really seemed to be doing it for him.

 

“Who taught you to read anyway?” Jensen asked. “I didn’t think demons learned that.”

 

“We don’t,” Jared said. “One of the souls on my rack taught me. He was a giant ass, but a good teacher.”

 

“So what, you just decided you wanted to learn how to read all of a sudden?”

 

Jared squirmed around in the vines. This was really personal, something he’d never told anyone. But the thing was, he wanted to tell Jensen. He wanted to share his secrets with Jensen, wanted to talk about this amazing city in both their homes that they both clearly liked. Maybe it was even a sign. Maybe Jensen would come to like him after all. Stranger things could happen.

 

“I always liked the city,” Jared admitted. “I don't really like my job, and other demons don’t go there. Don’t like all the fumes from the fire and the ash from the books. But to me… I don’t know, I always felt kinda safe there. I mean from other demons. And it was just… relaxing to be there. I felt better there.”

 

Jared hadn’t thought it would be so difficult to put into words but Jensen looked at him like he understood.

 

“It’s called comfort,” Jensen said quietly. “The library was your place of comfort. The place where you didn’t have to be who you were made to be. Where no one judged you and scolded you, where you didn’t have to pretend to fit in.”

 

“Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like.”

 

That had to mean something, right? Maybe meeting Jensen was even some kind of fucked up destiny.

 

Jensen smiled wistfully. It made Jared’s chest constrict with a kind of longing he didn’t know how to handle.

 

“But I don’t understand. Why would you feel like that?” he asked, because he didn’t want Jensen to look like that, like he was sad .

 

Jensen’s expression hardened. “I can’t talk about it.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because I can’t discuss heavenly business with the enemy.”

 

Jared recoiled like he’d been hit in the face. “Yeah, well, I don’t see your heavenly friends anywhere here,” he spit out. “Not like they’re coming to your rescue or anything.”

 

“You don’t break into Hell for just one angel,” Jensen said haughtily, but it sounded forced.

 

Jared snorted. “You know where I found the spell to open the door? In the library. So I’m sure there’s a bunch of angels up in Heaven who have to know it too. But I don’t see a rescue mission anywhere.”

 

Jensen’s face hardened. “We fight for the greater good, not for one angel’s life.”

 

“But leaving people behind is a bad thing,” Jared exclaimed. “It’s what demons do! When you fight and can’t win, flee! If the other’s stay back to cover up your escape, even better. Going back and saving others, that’s a good thing. You’re an angel — aren’t you supposed to be the good guys?”

 

Jensen laughed, a harsh and unpleasant sound. It made Jared cringe.

 

“You really read too many of those books,” he bit out. “Angels aren’t good or bad. We’re soldiers. Workers. Heaven is like a giant beehive. We work to keep Heaven running and we protect earth. We follow orders. We don’t… care .”

 

SIlence followed Jensen’s outburst, and Jared cast his eyes down, staring at the mesh of vines.

 

“That’s not really a good sales pitch,” he finally said.

 

“No,” Jensen said, voice strangled, “it’s really not.”

 

Then he barked out a laugh, shook his head and blinked his eyes furiously. “It’s a fucking terrible sales pitch.”

 

“So, it wasn’t better when you were a warrior?” Jared asked, eager to dig up all of Jensen’s secret.

 

“Yes and no.” Jensen said. “I was on earth, mostly. It’s, it’s nice there. I mean, humans are terrible. There are a few good ones, of course, but humanity as a whole….”Jensen shuddered. “They do more harm to each other than an army of demons ever could. And the few good ones, it makes their losses so much worse. I had the chance to protect them, to save them and help them make the world a better place, but it wasn’t my call where I fought.” Jensen got a far-away look in his eyes. “She was so young. She could have changed the world.”

 

“Who?”

 

“A peasant girl. She was… it doesn’t matter,” Jensen said. “I wanted to help her, but I wasn’t allowed. Words were said. After, they sent me back to Heaven.”

 

“Wait, did you rebel ?” Jared asked incredulously. “That’s awesome!”

 

This was amazing. Jensen was amazing! A rebellious angel and a rebellious — sort of — demon. That had to mean something, right?

 

“I didn’t rebel,” Jensen said disdainfully. “Then I would have fallen. I was just… put on leave.”

 

Jared snorted. “Nice euphemism.”

 

Jensen shot him an almost appreciative look that Jared would cherish if Jensen also didn’t look so surprised about that.

 

Then Jensen's face softened, his eyes crinkled endearingly at the corners and he said, “that’s one way to put it.”

 

The air around them changed, suddenly feeling like it was charged with an electric current. Jared’s vision tunneled, focused on Jensen’s softly smiling face, the glint in his eyes, the shadows of distantly burning fires dancing over his face.

 

As if pulled by an invisible string, Jared leaned forward. He’d never met anyone he’d wanted to do this with, but right that moment the desire to kiss Jensen was stronger than any impulse he’d ever had.

 

Jensen didn’t move, frozen and wide-eyed as Jared slowly leaned forward. But he didn’t draw back, he didn’t, and maybe Jensen had felt it too. Didn’t the scrolls and books talk about that, the unexplainable pull of love? This was what Jared had read and never understood.

 

When their lips finally touched, a tingling broke out over Jared’s skin and spread over his whole body. Jensen’s eyes fluttered closed and Jared’s followed suit. He was unable to concentrate on anything but the pillowy softness if Jensen's lips, their warmth, the infinitesimal movements with every breath Jensen took and then the soft exhale through his nose.

 

It was the best feeling Jared had ever experienced.

 

He had no idea what to do next. They were suspended in timelessness, lips pressed against each other and Jared had read descriptions of kisses but he just couldn’t think.

 

Then Jensen tilted his head and his lips slid closer to Jared’s, and it made everything hotter. Jared leaned forward, driven by the simple desire to be closer, to feel more, and underneath his mouth, Jensen’s lips parted, wrapped around Jared’s bottom lip and oh fuck, that was what kissing was like.

 

He moved his lips together with Jensen’s and when Jensen’s tongue flicked hot and wet against Jared’s lip, he greeted it with his own.

 

For the first time in his existence, Jared didn’t care that time didn’t move. He could kiss Jensen forever.

 

Unfortunately, Jensen pulled back suddenly. “What was that?” he asked, disbelief coloring his voice.

 

Jared flicked out his tongue, showing off the forked tip. “I am a demon, you know.”

 

For a moment, Jensen looked at him with glassy eyes, then he shook his head vigorously. Interesting. Possibly kinky. Well, for Jensen, Jared would definitely break his vanilla rule. He leaned in again, and judging by the little pleased sound Jensen made, he did not mind Jared’s demon anatomy at all.

 

The kissing was more than Jared could ever have imagined. A whole range of emotions, some he could identify, like joy, satisfaction, desire. Others were just twirls in the giant storm raging inside of him. At the same time, his body grew hotter and he strained against the vines, couldn’t help the desire to touch Jensen, wrap his hands around Jensen's face to keep him there forever, to pull him out of the vines and touch him everywhere.

 

The vines began to vibrate around them, Jensen violently pulled back again and looked at Jared with a blush high on his cheeks and his lips red and swollen., “What was—” he broke off and looked at the vines.

 

Jared looked up instead, to the now complete flower crown Jensen was wearing, then the vines around Jensen pulled back and he fell to the ground, the flower crown still high up in the air. Jared remained wrapped up. Of fucking course.

 

“Jared,” Jensen called up. “What the fuck is going on?”

 

“I’m not sure,” Jared said, but he eyed the flower crown suspiciously.

 

The biggest bloom, the white one that had formed first, twitched, then the blossoms twirled, grew and Jared had a really bad feeling about this.

 

“Jensen, run!” he yelled, and then the elongated blossoms turned into razor sharp teeth, poised directly towards Jared.

 

It was a small comfort that at least Jensen was free.

 

“Oh no, you don’t,” Jensen’s voice was hard and dangerous and then a light ball shot up right into the vines newly grown teeth.

 

The teeth pulled back and deep from within the vines came a whimpering sound.

 

“You think you can just use my powers to grow some stupid flowers that aren’t even pretty,” Jensen yelled and the vines flinched , “and then eat Jared? Fuck you, you fucking plant-demon, you’re nothing more than a sad, ugly heap of  rotting weeds! You let him go or I will eviscerate you and no one will be able to tell your ashes apart from all the crap that's floating around here anyway!”

 

The teeth turned towards Jensen, hissed at him, but Jensen remained calm.

 

“If that’s what you want,” he said and then he started firing off more light bolts.

 

When the vines turned to attack him, their hold on Jared lessened and Jared slid down to the ground, his staff clattering down next to him.

 

Jared reached for his staff. Time to do some gardening.

 

While Jensen was hurling abuse at the vines and battling it with light bolts, Jared crawled around the vines in search of where all the sounds seemed to originate. After almost getting choked to death two times he finally came to the spot of ground where the vines were coming from.

 

With a grunt, he pushed his staff as deep inside of it, as he could. The vines around him stilled, an ear piercing screech emanated from the cluster and then the vines collapsed lifelessly to the ground. Shit.

 

Jared was buried under a mountain of dead shrubbery.

 

“Help,” he managed to wheeze out but it felt like eternity until Jensen managed to dig him out.

 

“Are you insane?” Jensen yelled at him.

 

What.

 

Jensen gripped the front of Jared’s shirt and shook him. “You could have died!”

 

At first, Jared didn’t understand. Why was Jensen mad? Then he realized, Jensen was mad because Jared almost died. Because Jensen did not want Jared to die.

 

Before Jensen could continue his tirade, Jared smashed his mouth to Jensen’s and kissed him.

 

Finally, Jared’s hands were free to touch. He gripped Jensen’s shoulders, ran his hand down his back, to his ass — which felt exactly as good as it looked, and the demons wept. Jared made an entirely unfamiliar sound when Jensen buried a hand in Jared’s hair and pulled his head where he wanted it.

 

They were chest to chest, almost hip to hip and Jared leaned down, leaned into Jensen, finally got to cup the sharp line of his jaw and feel his warm, stubbled skin.

 

They didn’t stop kissing once, didn’t stop touching and Jared felt like he was going to come in his pants if they didn’t start getting naked soon.

 

Jared had never had sex before, but all of Hell couldn’t stop him now.

 

Unfortunately Jensen could. Violently, Jensen ripped himself away from Jared, stumbled in unfamiliar clumsiness. This was becoming a really annoying pattern.

 

“What?” Jared asked, looking around panicked. “Who’s trying to eat us now?”

 

Jensen let out a short laugh, before he abruptly cut off. “No one. But we can’t do this.”

 

No. No no no no no.

 

“Of course we can,” Jared said and reached out for Jensen. “See, we’re doing it right now.”

 

Jensen batted his hand away. “I mean, I can’t do this.”

 

“Why not?” Jared asked, dread settling in his stomach.

 

“Because I’m an angel and you’re a fucking demon,” Jensen spit out.

 

“So you really care about that?” Jared asked.

 

Jensen straightened up. “Yes.”

 

“But when I kissed you, you kissed me back!” Jared protested, because he had not imagined that, he hadn’t .

 

Jensen made a throwaway hand motion. “The sulfur is messing with my head and I’m not used to all these near-death experiences anymore.”

 

“I don’t believe you,” Jared croaked out, because how could he feel like that if Jensen didn’t?

 

Jensen raised his eyebrows and his mouth curved down in a sneer. “Do you really think I could like you? You? A fucking demon? Then you really are a fucking idiot.”

 

Just like that, Jared deflated. Of course. Of course Jensen would never feel what Jared felt. He’d been lying to himself the whole time. He’d thought the city meant something, that they’d shared some kind of bond. Stupid. Jard had been so stupid, but he’d hoped—

 

He had hoped. Morning fucking Star. Now he was hoping. What was next, would he start crying actual tears? With the way his chest felt too tight and he eyes were burning unfamiliarly, he no longer thought it impossible. Fucking love. Seriously, why would anyone want to love?

 

“Can we go now?” Jensen said hoarsely, breaking the silence between them. “You swore an oath.”

 

Jared nodded. His body moved on autopilot when he turned towards Witch Tower and started walking. He hurt, everything hurt.

 

It wasn’t like getting beaten, like getting poked or bitten. There was no locality to it, no spike, no rise and fall. It was just a feeling of pressure inside every cell in his body. Everything around him seemed duller. He just wanted to curl up in his favorite corner in the library and watch the flames dance over the rest of the city. He never wanted to see another creature again. No torture he’d ever inflicted upon a soul could be worse than the crushing feeling of Jensen's rejection.

 

Silently, they made their way to Witch Tower. The rest of the way was uneventful, as if the other creatures of Hell could sense Jared’s misery and stayed away. And while he would gladly suffer this misery for eternity if it meant being with Jensen, it felt like no time to travel the rest of the way. The passing of time, in Hell, it seemed was truly individualized to maximize torture.

 

When they finally stood in front of the tiny wooden door giving entrance to the high tower, Jensen cleared his throat.

 

“So, what exactly is the plan here?”

 

“We offer the witches a few of your feathers and in exchange, they get you up to earth,” Jared said tonelessly. Now that they were here, Jensen’s departure was imminent.

 

Jensen looked at him skeptically. “Do you really think they’ll just do that? I mean, what if they want to keep me here for an endless feather supply?”

 

Jared shrugged. “All demons of Hell would eventually lay siege to the tower to get you. No, they’ll want you gone.”

 

Jensen didn't look convinced but nodded. Jared opened the door. Privately he thought Jensen might be right, but he didn’t really have a plan B here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

Of course Jensen was right.

 

After climbing the spindly towers until their leg muscles burned, they were received by Ruth, the Red Witch, who ruled all the witches in Hell. Her hair was as red as the cloak that had given her her name. That or the blood of her enemies she liked to bathe in. With her in the room were the White and the Green Witch — also named for the color of their garmets — both of them eyeing Jared and Jensen curiously.

 

Jared explained, and made their offer. Ruth laughed in their faces.

 

“My dear boy,” she said. “You have brought me an angel. Why would I let him go?”

 

To emphasize her point, she shut all the windows with a single flick of her ringed index finger.

 

The Green Witch was standing next to Ruth’s throne, nodding along. The White Witch sat over by one of the windows that she casually opened again and was reading, now seemingly uninterested in the proceedings.

 

“I heard you were a formidable enemy,” Jensen said calmly.

 

Ruth smiled graciously.

 

“I have to say, I'm rather disappointed now.”

 

Immediately, Ruth’s face pinched up in an angry scowl. Jared was torn between admiration and worry.

 

“Do you want me to show you exactly of what I’m capable of, you little feather factory?”

 

Jensen snorted. “Not necessarily. But you do realize that I’m a beacon for every demon in Hell and it’s only a matter of time until they come and try to steal me away.”

 

“Ah, for the fabled angel’s power,” Ruth said and gave Jared a pitying look. “Poor boy.”

 

Jared startled. “What? Why?”

 

Ruth turned back to Jensen. “The old ones still remember. They won’t come for that.”

 

Jared’s stomach sank. What were they talking about?

 

“The old ones,” Jensen said, enjoying every word, “want to eat me up. They’ll come for angel blood, if nothing else. Some of them are even interested in my feathers. There’s an ancient dragon.demon out there who’ll definitely fight you at the chance of another feather bath.”

 

The Green Witch let out a giggle at that, but cut herself off when the Red Witch shot her an icy glare.

 

“And the young ones,” Jensen continued with a wry smile, “will come for the power or my blood. No, you won’t be able to keep me here.”

 

Ruth raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think I can deal with a few pathetic demons? Besides, I have servants. Minions, who’ll throw themselves against every danger at my order.”

 

Jensen looked skeptical. “Even if. That’s not even counting on your higher ups and what they would want with a former soldier of Heaven. I fought in the wars, I know things. Trust me, they’ll want to talk to me.”

 

“Very well,” Ruth said lightly but her expression was pinched. “So, your feathers for our help?”

 

Jensen nodded.

 

Ruth pondered this, then she turned to Jared, a knowing smile on her lips. “I’ll do it. But, in return, you will bring me more of the scrolls.”

 

“I do that anyway,” Jared said.

 

“Without anything in return,” Ruth said coldly.

 

Right now, Jared didn’t think there was anything in Hell he could want anyway. “Fine.”

 

“I want your blood on it,” Ruth said.

 

In the corner, the White Witch rose, but Jared didn’t pay her any attention. If he gave Ruth his blood, he’d forever become her slave. Her minion. Jared saw them around occasionally, the wretched demons the witches had forced or tricked into their service. Being a torture grunt was a thousand times more appealing.

 

“Your blood or no deal,” Ruth repeated.

 

“Jared, you swore an oath to me,” Jensen said. “Why can’t you just swear one to her?”

 

Jensen didn't know what it meant. But why would he? It was a demon thing.

 

Jared looked at him, took in his features that had become so familiar to him, all the freckles, the bump in his nose. He remembered the feel of Jensen’s lips, the rhythm of his breath on his face. Remembered all those snide comments, remembered his fierceness in a fight. And then he realized the change Jensen had undergone. His formerly immaculate clothing was torn and stained, there was a scabbed over scratch on his arm from the demon-vine. Jensen didn’t belong here. Jared couldn’t stand to see him like this.

 

Jared had fallen hopelessly in love. And as much as he hurt, there was only one answer he could give Ruth. He couldn’t let Jensen get eaten by demons or imprisoned by witches.

 

“Deal.”

 

Her laughter tinkered through the room while she clapped her hands. “Excellent.”

 

Jensen’s brow furrowed up in confusion. Perhaps he was realizing that something more than he knew was going on, so Jared turned away from him. He didn’t want to give away what was happening. Jensen didn't need to know what deal Jared had just made. Jared wouldn’t be able to bear Jensen’s lack of reciprocity.

 

So instead Jared looked at the White Witch. Her gaze was resting heavily on him, eyes never straying from his face.

 

“You know what you’re doing?” she asked.

 

Jared didn’t trust himself to speak, so he nodded.

 

The White Witch smiled. “We always do, don’t we?”

 

Jared didn’t understand, but his attention was torn away when Ruth rose from her throne and approached him.

 

Demandingly, she held out her hand. “Give it to me.”

 

Reluctantly, Jared grabbed his staff and cut his palm. He extended his hand and let the blood drop into Ruth’s hand. Smoke rose up when blood and skin made contact. Then Ruth brought her hand to her face and breathed in.

 

“Ah, the lovely smell of desperation.”

 

She turned to Jensen. “Now, for you.”

 

She raised her hands and muttered an incantation under her breath. Almost translucent smoke swirled from her fingertips towards Jensen. It curled around him and in the smoke, Jared could see Jensen’s wings.

 

Jensen squared his shoulders and arched them outwards, the wingspan almost stretching from wall to wall. Ruth walked around him, watching him like prey she was just about to eat and then she pulled a knife from the folds of her red dress. She grinned when she started to cut.

 

Jensen didn't scream, but the pain forced him to his knees. Without thinking, Jared jumped towards him, but he was pulled back by an invisible force. From her place, the Green Witch snarled at him.

 

Hopelessly, Jared had to watch Ruth cut feather after feather from Jensen’s back; had to watch Jensen’s face pulled into a grimace of pain Jared knew all too well from the souls on his rack.

 

He hadn’t known it would hurt Jensen like that. He didn’t know if he would have agreed to it if he had known.

 

Jensen looked up at Jared, and his face was calmer now. “It’s alright,” he said. “It’s not bad.”

 

“Liar,” Jared croaked out.

 

“Time honored angelic dealing mechanism,” Jensen ground out.

 

Despite himself, Jared had to smile.

 

“There, done!” Ruth announced.

 

In the smoke tendrils, Jared could see the wing’s skeletal structure. Not one feather remained. Without them, Jensen wouldn’t be able to fly.

 

“No!”

 

“Don’t worry,” Jensen said. “They’ll grow back as soon as I’m out of this shit hole.”

 

Ruth looked at them. “Well then, a deal’s a deal. You get to go home, angel boy.”

 

Jared looked at Jensen who was smiling sadly at him. “You’re not like any demon I ever met,” he said, “I—”

 

A cloud of black smoke tore through the room and when it was gone, so was Jensen.

 

“Hey,” Jared yelled at Ruth. Jensen’s sudden departure made his mind swim. He hadn't been prepared.

 

“Oh, did you really think I wanted to listen to your pathetic goodbyes? No thanks!” She sneered. “This is not one of your little love stories you like to read.”

 

“We had a deal!” Jared bit out, trying to breathe through the pain in his body. Gone, Jensen was gone.

 

“And I honored it,” Ruth said. “Jensen is back on earth. He’ll crawl his way back to Heaven in no time.”

 

“That’s not what I meant.” Jared had to force out the words past the lump in his throat. “Jensen and I had a deal. A blood oath. For my help, he was to give me power.”

 

“You pathetic little demon,” the Green Witch said. “He already did.”

 

Ruth laughed. The Green Witch followed suit.

 

Jared stared at them, uncomprehending. Jensen hadn’t given him anything.

 

The White Witch walked over to him and took his face into her cold fine-boned fingers. “Love, you fool. An angel grants a demon the power to love. And you fell in love with him.”

 

In horror, Jared shook his head against her hands. “No, that’s impossible. Love isn’t a power. It’s just this terrible, agonizing… feeling!”

 

The White Witch looked at him with something akin to pity. “Why do you think no demon has attempted to steal an angel in so long?”

 

 




 

Time, in Hell, was impossible to pin down. But Jared had found a divider. A turning point. Before Jensen and After Jensen. And yes, he saw the irony in it, thank you very much.

 

He ran the witches’ errands, rooted around every dark and burning corner of the library. Whenever he lingered or picked up a manuscript of his own, his neck burned, like he was wearing an invisible brand or hot choker. So he didn’t stay, didn’t read. He ran his errands.

 

He didn’t go back to the Seventh Circle. No one came looking for him. Administration, it seemed, didn’t interfere with the witches about something so trivial as a low level torture demon.

 

He didn’t see Chad again. He wouldn’t have thought it possible, but sometimes he thought of the other demon, missed their abrasive banter and Chad’s tales of extravagant sexual exploits.

 

Most of all, he missed Jensen. It was a constant ache, deep in his bones that never left. Sometimes, he wanted to cry. Then he wanted to scream with the pain. Once, he threw a shelf in the library down the stairs, tore at the books with his teeth and took a long piece of charred woods to the windows. It didn’t make any difference. It kept hurting.

 

Jared cursed the day he’d gone into the library. Cursed the day he learned to read. If he wasn’t bound to Ruth, he had half a mind to hunt down Peter and torture him all over again. This time, he had a feeling, he’d enjoy it. And he wouldn’t just be satisfied with whipping him or electrocuting him, oh no. He’d find out who the mystery woman was he’d loved so much and with her memory, he’d tear Peter apart until he hurt as much as Jared did.

 

Instead, he ran errands. The pain stayed with him. Instead of fading, it seemed to lodge deeper and deeper inside of him. Jared couldn’t remember how it felt not to long like that, not to miss, not to hurt.

 

It affected everything else. Hell’s air felt more acrid. The lighting was more sombre and Jared actually flinched at the particularly gruesome screams of the souls. Everything seemed a thousand times worse than before, like his love for Jensen acted as a magnifying glass.



On one of Jared’s trips to the library, something was different. The air felt lighter, brighter. Jared brushed it off, continued looking for the scrolls Ruth wanted, when he was startled by a female voice behind him.

 

“Nice. Now I understand what he sees in you.”

 

Jared whirled around. In the ash-filled room stood a woman. She was insanely beautiful. And startlingly familiar. The glowing red hair, the graceful poise of her head… it was the angel that had been with Jensen when he’d abducted him from Heaven.

 

What the fuck?

 

“Who are you?”

 

“The name is Danneel,” she said, “you could say I’m a friend of Jensen’s.”

 

“I wasn't aware angels had friends.”

 

She shrugged. “Jensen is different. So am I.”

 

“I don’t understand.” His throat started to burn, but he ignored it.

 

“I’m an architect.”

 

“An architect?” Jared asked, puzzled

 

“Who do you think built the world, Jared? God?” Danneel shook her head exasperatedly. “He gave the orders, but we carried them out. I am the first builder of Heaven.”

 

Jared had no idea.

 

“I’ve been around for a long time,” she said. “One of the oldest angels. Jensen and I, we met when he admired my finest creation.”

 

It took Jared only a moment to make the connection. “You built the library?” he asked.

 

“The whole city,” she said with a smile and raised her hands. “All this, I built.” She turned on her own axis, a beatific smile on her face. “I’m happy Jensen is not the only one appreciating it.”

 

“How is he?” The words just blurted out of Jared. He had to know. “And why are you here?”

 

Danneel pulled a grimace. “He’s not well. He’s in jail.”

 

“What?” The pain around Jared’s throat was nothing compared to the thought of Jensen rotting away in a jail cell.

 

She nodded. “They locked him up when he got back.”

 

“But why?”

 

Danneel approached him until she stood right in front of him. Then she pressed a hand to Jared’s chest. “Because he broke the rules. Jensen always was difficult, strong-willed for an angel. Happens occasionally, there’s a bad egg in every batch you know?” She winked conspiratorially. “They thought pulling him back from earth and banning him to the archives would help but he wandered into my city. And then what he did, down here with you…”

 

“Because he made me fall in love?” Jared scoffed. “Why would the other angels care about that?”

 

Danneel cocked her head and looked at her hand, still resting over his heart.

 

“You don’t know,” she said, wondrously. “But then, it seems rather new. Not yet finished even.”

 

Jared flinched back. “What are you talking about?”

 

“No time to explain,” she said, “my powers are weak in Hell, the portal won’t stay open long.”

 

It was only then that Jared noticed the shimmering doorway behind her.

 

“But you know how to get into Heaven, don't you?”

 

“Only to the record halls, where I was the last time,” Jared said

 

“Do you remember where you hid from us? Under the balcony?” Danneel asked intently.

 

Jared nodded.

 

“If you go there now, there will be a door. It will lead directly to the prison.”

 

“But how—”

 

“I’m an architect, Jared,” she said with a smile. “I built it.”

 

“You want me to go free Jensen from Heavenly jail,” Jared said, “and then what? Will you help us get out?”

 

“Jensen will know where to go,” Danneel said and looked back over her shoulder where the door was fading. She pulled a collection of old manuscripts from her dress and gave them to Jared. “If you need a bargaining chip, this should do quite nicely. She’ll want them back.”

 

“What—” Jared started to ask but Danneel was already hurrying back to the portal.

 

When she reached it, she turned around. “Trust me, Jared, it will all work out.”

 

With that she stepped into the doorway, which vanished as soon as she was through. Jared was left standing in the burning library, alone, clutching a bunch of faded parchment with no idea what the fuck was going on.

 

Jensen was in jail. Jared should save him. But Jared was stuck in Hell under a blood spell to the witches. Fuck.

 

Now that Danneel was gone and the tension receded, the pain around Jared’s neck came back full force. Quickly, Jared gathered up the scrolls, hid the parchments Danneel had given him in his shirt and hurried back towards Witch Tower. The pain was only completely gone when he reached the tower.

 

The only one in the study was the White Witch. She scrutinized Jared, then sniffed.

 

“And pray tell, who did you meet today?”

 

Jared froze.

 

She smiled benevolently. “I can smell angel feathers. But you don’t seem happy, so it couldn’t have been your angel love.” She tapped her long fingers against her chin. “Still, an angel in Hell. That’s a strange thing to happen.”

 

Jared shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time, now would it?”

 

The White Witch laughed. “I like that you didn’t lose your spunk completely when your angel left. It’s natural to grieve, but at some point, you have to pick up the pieces. Go your own way.”

 

“You sound like you know a lot about that,” Jared said.

 

She smiled at him. “I know a kindred soul when I see one.”

 

“Soul?” Jared asked with his brows arched. Witches didn’t have their souls anymore. Unlike angels or demons, witches did have a soul, but sold them to Hell in exchange for their powers.

 

She waved a hand. “Figure of speech. Then again...” she trailed off and looked at his chest. “Tell me, Jared, was it worth it?”

 

“Worth what?” he asked suspiciously.

 

“Falling in love,” the White Witch explained. “All the pain and misery. The  penance of eternal slavery just for meeting and falling in love with an angel who’ll never love you back the way you love him and then abandoned you.”

 

Each word cut deeper than any knife could, but they were all true. He wanted to say that he wished it had never happened, that nothing was worth this pain he was feeling, but then he remembered Jensen, remembered him yelling insults and kissing Jared breathless.

 

“Yeah, it was worth it.”

 

“And if you had the choice, would you do it again? If you could go back to yourself the day you discovered the way to Heaven, would you tell yourself not to do it?”

 

No pain — but no knowledge of Jensen.

 

“He left you,” the White Witch said, her voice hard. “He knew you loved him and he still wanted to leave, be apart from you. You gave up everything for him.”

 

Jared looked up, surprised at the venom in her voice. “Whoa. Who made you hate love so much?”

 

She looked out the window, towards the pits of Hell as if she hoped to spot him there. “Would you do it again, Jared? Would you go through all this again, just to be with him?”

 

Jared remembered how he felt when he’d kissed Jensen, how in that one singular moment, he’d felt more joy and hope than he knew to be possible.

 

“Yeah. Morning Star help me, but I would.”

 

The White Witch turned around. “So would I,” she said softly.

 

That was unexpected.

 

“See, through my trials I became an incredibly powerful being and now can watch him burn in Hell whenever I want.” She smiled serenely. “All the knowledge I ever wanted, all the power to shape my life like I want to live it, without having to hide beside him .”

 

Jared was confused, “So you don’t love him anymore?”

 

She shook her head. “You still have a lot to learn about love. If it’s strong enough, if it runs so deep through you that it’s part of your soul, it always remains a part of you. Now I get my revenge. What is it that you want?”

 

“I want him back.” The words burst out of Jared, “I want to free him. He’s in jail and he shouldn't be and I want to save him, I want—” He broke off.

 

She regarded him coolly. “He abandoned you.”

 

In his darkest moments, that’s what Jared thought too. But there was this spark of hope, the most evil of all emotions. It whispered to him, about how Jensen had been in danger and had to leave Hell, how it all went so fast, how Jensen had kissed him back. If there was a sliver of a chance, Jensen might feel something for Jared…

 

“I need to save him,” he said stubbornly.

 

The White Witch was quiet for what felt like an eternity. “There was something about him,” she mused finally. “A mirror of what I see in you.”

 

“What?” Jared was getting really fed up with all this half-muttered mystery stuff.

 

She turned back to Jared. “Nothing in life is free, Jared. For everything you have to pay a price.”

 

Danneel’s manuscripts were a heavy weight under his shirt. A bargaining chip . Jared didn’t know how she could have known, but he had to try.

 

“I have something that might interest you,” he said. He’d only glanced at the manuscripts quickly on the way back to the tower. It seemed like a collection of letters between a man and a woman, talking of love and longing. It was a fucking long shot, but Jared would take it.

 

The White Witch seemed vaguely amused by that. “And what is that?”

 

“Your letters.”

 

The White Witch froze. “That’s impossible.”

 

Jared grinned. “You smelled angel on me. The name Danneel ring a bell?”

 

Startled, the White Witch laughed. Then she shook her head. “And in exchange for my letters you want your freedom?”

 

Jared nodded, his throat tight. This was it. He hadn’t thought he’d ever get a chance at freedom, to see Jensen again and it was within reach.

 

“Well,” the White Witch said, “considering that you might actually have found one of the good ones, your life could go differently than mine.”

 

She approached him, her long white dress rustling on the stone floor. She touched a hand to his chest and smiled. “I release you.”

 

Something poured out of Jared, and for a moment he couldn’t breathe. He crumpled to the ground, like a puppet cut from it’s strings. Then it was over and he felt like a weight had lifted from him. He almost missed the White Witch stretching out a hand and with the flick of her fingers, summoning the letters to her hand.

 

“There are powerful emotions drenched into these pages,” she said, carefully holding the manuscripts. “They’ll serve me well.”

 

“You want the letters for power?” Jared asked skeptically.

 

The White Witch shot him a dark look. “Do you think me sentimental, Jared?”

 

“No, no of course not,” Jared hurried to say, even though he had a feeling that was exactly what was going on here. She was still an all powerful witch though, so he’d do well not to anger her.

 

She looked down at the letters again, tracing the lines of ink with one bony finger. “Isn’t it a curious coincidence, that the man who helped me become the woman I am today, also helped you gain the skills to become the demon you are now?”

 

Jared’s thoughts flittered around his brain until they settled on the arrogant man who’d been his teacher. “You’re Heloise,” he said and stared at her in wonder.

 

Her expression turned soft, almost wistful. “I haven’t heard that name in a long time. They used to sing it, you know, in every street, when he still loved me.”

 

“I think he still does,” Jared said. Maybe this would make her happy, to know he’d loved her too. It certainly would make Jared happy to know if Jensen loved him. “He inquired after you. But he thought you’d be in Heaven.”

 

She let out an ugly laugh. “That man. Always too twisted up in himself to understand others. But it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that you are free to go. And I don’t want to see you down here again.”

 

Jared shrugged. “I’m a demon. Where would I go?”

 

The White Witch looked at his chest. “You’d be surprised, Jared, where life can lead you.” Then she disappeared.

 

Jared looked around, but he wasn’t in the Witch Tower anymore. He was, once again, standing in the burning city’s library. He was holding his staff in his hands.

 

Seriously, what the fuck?

 

But there was no time to waste. Jensen was in jail. Chad. Jared needed Chad.



 




 

He found Chad elbow deep in Sophia. It was not a pretty sight.

 

“Dude, I hate to ask this right now, but we need break into Heaven again.”

 

Chad gaped, then glared and then disentangled himself from Sophia.

 

“So you really did go to Heaven?” she said and sounded impressed.

 

“Well yeah!” Chad exclaimed indignantly. Lying was a time honored demonic wooing tactic. “And I can go back anytime. So….. how about I quickly run off with Jared and help him get to Heaven, poor guy would be lost without me and when I get back, you let me crawl all the way inside?” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

 

Jared tried not to gag.

 

Sophia seemed to ponder this, stroking her belly with the tip of a claw. “Fine. Maybe some of that heavenly air will even give me more power.”

 

Chad nodded enthusiastically. “I bet it will! Just look at me!” And he puffed up his chest.

 

Before his blustering could get worse, Jared dragged him off.

 

“Dude,” Chad said when they reached the library. “Where were you? And nice timing with Sophia, she’d never have said yes without you helping me out there.”

 

Chad was, as always, completely insane. Jared was so glad to see him, he hugged him.

 

Chad froze. “Dude. What is wrong with you?”

 

Jared squeezed him tighter. “I missed you, asshole!”

 

Awkwardly, Chad patted him on the back. “Is this your way of telling me you finally wanna fuck around with me? Because I gotta tell you, this is hella strange and I might be a kinky son of a bitch, but not even I’m into cuddling.”

 

With a snort Jared let go. “No sex. I’m just happy.”

 

Chad’s eyes widened and he took a step back.

 

Jared raised his hands. “I’m still me, fuckface. I just… things happened.”

 

Chad squinted. “Do I want to know?”

 

“There’s no nudity involved,” Jared said.

 

“Skip it, then. Why do you want to get back into Heaven?”

 

Jared took a deep breath. “I need to save Jensen from jail.”

 

“Okay, you know what, I think you should tell me.” Chad sat down on a broken bookshelf and looked at him expectantly.

 

Jared sighed. Then he told him. All of it.

 

When he was done, Chad gaped at him like a fish on dry land. When he finally spoke, he settled on, “dude, that’s fucked up.”

 

Jared just nodded.

 

“So what,” Chad asked, “now you go back to Heaven so you can finally fuck the angel?”

 

“This is what you take away from my story?” Jared asked. “Seriously?”

 

Chad shrugged and made a what-did-you-expect face. And well, he was right.

 

“So,” Jared prompted, “will you help me, again?”

 

Chad considered, then grinned slyly. “What do I get out of it?”

 

“You get to crawl inside Sophia?”

 

“She’ll let me do that anyway, now that she thinks I really go to Heaven,” Chad said with a dirty smirk.

 

Jared pointed his staff at Chad. “How about you get to walk away. I blasted ancient mountain demons and killer vines with this staff.”

 

Not alone, of course, but lying was also a time honored demonic scare tactic.

 

“Dude, mean!” Chad yelled. Then he nodded. “Respect.”

 

Jared rolled his eyes, but he still watched Chad like a hawk when they repeated the process of stealing ingredients and mixing the paste for the door.

 

“You know,” Chad said, when they were done, “there’s something different about you.”

 

“How do you mean?”

 

Chad shrugged again. “No idea. It’s just, I don’t know, you’re... brighter maybe?” He leaned forward and sniffed. “And you smell different. You’re more… pungent.”

 

Jared whacked Chad over the head with his stick. “Fuck you,” he said, and almost broke out in tears. Sometimes it snuck up on him and hit him hard. He blinked furiously. “Let’s get on with it.”

 

Chad grumbled, but finished painting the door.

 

“Hey, does Jensen have any hot angel buddies?” Chad yelled when Jared had spoken the incantation.

 

The door opened with a whooshing wind. Jared looked back over his shoulders. “He does,” he said with a grin, then he jumped. Behind him, he heard Chad curse. It was almost like a love declaration. Jared laughed and fell.

 

It felt just as nauseating as the first time, but when he slowed down and reached the green glowing part of the tunnel and flew with the bumblebees — nope, just as annoying as the first time. Jared batted at the little insects. It was kind of a relief that falling in love hadn’t turned him into a complete mush-ball.

 

At least, this time he knew to keep his mouth shut to avoid any unwanted protein intake.  

 

Finally, he fell out of the tunnel, into the same backyard he’d fallen into last time. And when he turned, there was a small wooden door in the alcove he’d hid in the last time. Jared sprinted over, opened it and stepped through.

 

He came out in a sterile looking corridor. The walls, ceiling and floor all were painted eggshell white. It was disgusting.

 

The corridor was lined with doors, each one outfitted with a small barred window. Jared started checking them. Somewhere, behind one of these doors, he knew he’d find Jensen.

 

So far, he had avoided thinking about how Jensen would react, but now he was alone. No Chad to distract him anymore and Jared couldn't push the thoughts off any longer.

 

He was pretty sure Jensen would be grateful to be rescued, but there probably wouldn’t be more. No reunion kiss, no grand declaration of love. Jensen would probably cuss him out, then say a reluctant thank you and then they'd go their separate ways. Jared had to squash the flicker of hope in his chest, because if he’d allow it, the rejection would probably destroy him.

 

At least Jensen would be safe. Jared clung to that thought, because he couldn’t bear to think about getting rejected once more. So he checked cell after cell but in none of them did he see Jensen. As he got closer to the end of the corridor, he heard muted noises.

 

Voices, yelling. One of them was the deep carrying baritone Jared knew all too well. He crept off in that direction.

 

After another bend in the corridor, he came to a room that was closed. Jared carefully inserted the tip of his staff into the lock and it melted away. Carefully, he slithered into the room.

 

“... the fuck do you care anyway?” That was Jensen’s voice.

 

“I care,” a cultivated voice said, “because angels can’t just run around, developing souls .”

 

Jared froze. What the fuck was going on here?

 

“I didn’t develop anything,” Jensen bit out. “I was abducted and then I fought my way back when you left me in Hell to rot.”

 

“And that,” the other angel said, “is a lie. And we can’t have that. So now, you’ll tell me the truth.”

 

There was silence, then Jensen made a noise of suppressed pain.

 

“It’ll work quickly,” the interrogator said. “Don’t try to fight it. Your mouth will speak nothing but the truth. Now, were you really abducted, Jensen? Or did you maybe just want to leave?”

 

“No,” Jensen said scathingly. “I was just minding my own business, when this demon came out of nowhere, threw a sulfur bomb at me, and when I came to again, I was in Hell with Jared.”

 

“Who’s Jared?” the interrogator cut in.

 

A moment of silence in which Jared held his breath, then Jensen reluctantly ground out, “the demon who abducted me.”

 

The fucker had dosed Jensen with some kind of truth serum. Well, this could either go very well or incredibly bad. Jared prepared for the latter.

 

“And you were on first name basis?” the interrogator asked. “How curious. Did you maybe make a deal with him, to abduct you?”

 

“No. We made a deal, but that was later, in Hell, so we’d survive and I could get out of there.”

 

“Why would he do that?”

 

“Because he wanted power. The idiot,” Jensen said and somehow the word had much less bite than when it had been hurled at Jared, “thought he would get power. He didn’t know that the only thing an angel would give a demon was the power to feel.”

 

“Ah yes,” the interrogator mused. “Stupid demons.”

 

“Jared’s not stupid,” Jensen snapped and Jared couldn’t stop himself from peeking around the corner of the desk he hid behind. Had Jensen really just said that?

 

He looked incredibly pissed that he had. And even if Jensen was dressed in an ugly brown colored tunic and bound to a chair, he was still so beautiful for a moment it took Jared’s breath away.

 

The interrogator was dressed in a gray so dark it was almost black but he sat with his back to Jared so Jared only saw his tidy gray hair.

 

The interrogator put his elbows on the table and tapped his fingers against each other. “Tell me more about this Jared demon. How powerful is he?”

 

“He’s just a torture grunt,” Jensen said, eyes scrunched up, clearly trying to hold back. Another moment passed, then his features relaxed and his eyes turned kind of glassy. “That’s what he’d tell you. And maybe that’s what he was bred for, but he’s much more. He’s intelligent and smart and he reads and he’s not cruel. He hates his job and he just wants more, he wants a life and he did something about that, he’s resourceful , you know, he thinks for himself, he’s not just a worker drone. He’s the most fascinating creature I ever met.”

 

“And you love him,” the interrogator said dryly.

 

Jensen’s answer came without any hesitation. “Yes.”

 

Jared thought he’d die. He thought his head would fall off, it was spinning so much.

 

“And that’s the problem,” the interrogator said.

 

Problem? Jared thought hysterically. This wasn’t a problem, this was a miracle!

 

“You love. You care. You left him behind for duty, you made the sacrifice. You gave him up to go back to Heaven, even if you already despised it here. You could have gone to earth with him, could have tried to find a way to hide, and yet, you came back.” The interrogator sounded fascinated by this. “You held on to your celestial duty. You sacrificed what you could have had with Jared for coming back.”

 

“It was a mistake,” Jensen said. “I knew it then, but I didn’t want to accept it. I was so stupid.”

 

“Stupid indeed,” the interrogator said, “because it took.”

 

“What do you mean, it took?”

 

The interrogator stood and slid a longer silver sword from his belt. On autopilot, Jared stood and approached. No one was killing Jensen.

 

“All these feelings, all the love, it festered inside of you while you were in Hell. And when you made the sacrifice to leave him behind, it ripped open the ground, so the feelings could take root. And then they grew into that soul shining so brightly in your chest now.”

 

Jared stopped. Jensen had a soul now? Wait, was that what everyone had been talking about, the White Witch and Danneel. Even Chad had noticed a difference. Did Jared have—

 

“Just like that filthy demon who you gave the ability to love. He let you go, made the same stupid sacrifice you did and now, there’s a monster with a soul crawling around Hell.”

 

“Wrong,” Jared said and raised his staff. The interrogator spun around, right into the blade-end of Jared's staff. “I’m right here, you damned cloudfucker.”

 

The interrogator sputtered, blood dripping from his lips, then slid to the ground. Behind him, Jensen sat, still tied to the table and stared at Jared like he was the second coming of Jesus. It was an awesome feeling.

 

“How are you here?” Jensen asked.

 

“Danneel helped,” Jared said while he jumped over to Jensen and destroyed the chains with his staff.

 

“I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe you came for me,” Jensen said, words bubbling out of him. “I missed you, every day, I regretted leaving you behind, so much.”

 

Jared smirked. “I have a feeling you’ll be so pissed when this truth serum wears off.”

 

Jensen nodded. “I totally will, I’ll probably be so embarrassed. But right now, even with your evil smirk, I just want to kiss you.”

 

So Jared did. When their lips touched, he finally understood what coming home meant. He felt whole and safe and loved. For one perfect moment, there was nothing bad in the entire world, just Jensen, alive and warm against him, kissing him like there was no tomorrow. Which there wouldn’t be if they got caught.

 

“Jensen, we need to go,” Jared mumbled into Jensen’s mouth but couldn’t resist grabbing his ass.

 

Jensen moaned into his mouth and gripped Jared’s hair. “Yeah. The guards will be here any moment.”

 

They crashed into the chair and on his quest to get closer, Jared pushed Jensen up on the table and pressed in between his legs.

 

“Jared, we have to go,” Jensen said and pulled him closer.

 

“Yeah,” Jared agreed and managed to rip his mouth away from Jensen, only to be entranced by the freckles trailing a line down his neck, so he had to lean in to kiss them.

 

Jensen threw his head back. “You’re a bad demon. A bad influence.”

 

“Oh no,” Jared said and bit into Jensen’s neck. “You don’t get to pretend to be all high and mighty anymore. You rebel.”

 

Jensen laughed breathlessly. In the distance, there were shouts and running footsteps.

 

Fuck.

 

“Okay, we really need to go now,” Jensen said and half-heartedly pushed Jared away. Jared stole one more kiss, then he pulled back.

 

“Yeah. I just have no idea where to go.”

 

Jensen rolled his eyes. “Of course you don’t. You and your half-cocked plans.”

 

“Hey!” Jared protested, but Jensen was grinning and so was Jared.

 

Even though they were running for their lives from a mob of angry angels, crashing through walls and stumbling through Heaven only a hair’s breadths away from certain death, Jared didn’t mind. He had no idea where they were going, how they were going to get out of this whole mess and where an angel and a demon could find peace together, but it didn’t matter. He’d found Jensen and once again, they were on the run together. Jensen was cussing worse than Chad and firing lightning bolts at the angels in pursuit. If Jared didn’t fear for his life he’d be so turned on right now. Oh, who was he kidding.

 

Jared wielded his staff, sending hellfire through Heaven’s corridors. It was fucking perfect.