I had trouble with the idea of the intern looking after Peter, of course. The young man entered my house uninvited and plopped down on the couch in an unflattering, beige suit. He said very little and scrolled through the channels of my television set while Peter slept upstairs. It was I who had to fetch him and bring him downstairs. In my many years of existence, I had never violated an angel before, but this man had gotten the better of me and found himself dangling from my hang while I educated him on the proper ways of looking after the child.
Despite how clear I had been with my instructions, something still did not sit right. When the meeting ended, I rushed off as the goodbyes crossed the circle, and stood in my kitchen seconds later.
The house was quiet. I heard the crusty sweep of a flipped page and ran into the lounge where I found Lev resting on the couch with Peter sleeping—God, I hoped he was sleeping—on his breast.
“Lev,” I said, my breath rapid and constrained. “Why are you here?”
He had already spent time in my house earlier that evening as per our agreement and should not have come back until tomorrow.
“Oh, evening,” he said nonchalantly and looked up from the book. “Melissa’s husband is away for the week. She said that I can come more often if I wanted to.”
“She’s speaking to you now?”
“Yeah, quite a lot actually. Great woman.”
“Lev,” I paused, trying to think of the best way to address my concern. I had not been there for his first incident but I remember talks of it starting something like this. “Are you sure she is okay with you staying with her?”
He began to shift on the couch and Peter stirred so he froze and slowly returned to his old position. “Yes, Bael. She says that she enjoys the way I think.”
“Lev . . . this happened before.”
“No, it hasn’t. Not like this.”
“I can’t have you losing it again, Lev. Not in my house, not around Peter and not when the stakes are this high.” I cursed myself for letting it happen in the first place. “We talked about this! You haven’t even given it a month before starring in this shit-show.”
“Look,” this time he stood and cradled Peter when he opened his eyes, and ogled him with sharp suspicion, “you don’t understand the situation. It wasn’t like this with the professor. She enjoys my presence. She likes reading with me and we talk—a lot—before I come here.”
“You have to be fucking kidding me.” I laughed but I wanted to wrap my hands around his throat and squeeze until his eyes popped out. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen in love with the woman you’ve violated.”
“I have not violated her!” His cheeks colored but he did his best to look as frightening as a suburban housewife in a soft pink sweater and white sneakers could.
I tilted my head back, my anger blocking sanity. He had Peter clasped in his grip and still I challenged him. “So you asked then, yeah? You asked before forcing yourself into her.”
“Actually, yes, when she found courage to speak to me, I did and she’s perfectly fine with it. Here, I’ll leave and you can ask her yourself.” His hand flew up to his hips and he leaned forward, wrinkling his face.
“Oh yeah?” I pointed my finger at him, blank on what to say, but too angry to keep my mouth shut. “Good!”
We shared a long awkward look and I walked up to take Peter from him. Kid didn’t have a chance. “Where’d the teenage mutant intern go?” I asked him.
He relaxed a little. “I told him he could take the night.”
My eyes widened. “And he just left?”
“Did you feed him?”
I sighed. “No, the baby.”
“He didn’t tell me to feed it.” He looked down at Peter with his brows furrowed and a shimmer of guilt, as if he’d just damaged him.
I turned to the kitchen and the atmosphere in the room dropped. It was sudden. I turned to Lev and saw that he noticed it too. His demeanor changed and he looked like something between a scared child and a trapped animal. The best he could do for himself was to flee—but that would leave the woman he possessed unprotected. His eyes darted to the front door and a creek sounded on the top of the stair case. His shoulders posture tightened and the two of us turned to the stairs, taking a step back.
“Who told you where I was, Lev?” I asked him while I put Peter on the couch behind us. His little face begged me to rid the house of the demons. A thought crossed my mind that I had already failed him by creating an atmosphere where he could grow accustomed to the damned and learn what it was to fear something. Or worse, to grow immune to this fear.
He did not look at me when he answered. “Kel.”
I closed my eyes for a moment while footsteps neared us. “And did you ever ask yourself why he would do this?” I asked myself the same question.
“I thought he might be trying to work Lucifer out of hell.”
A shadow of winged creature stretched over the floor before Kel came around the corner and smiled at the two of us. “Bael, Lev.” He nodded at each of us. “Good to have my two favorite critters under the same roof.” He winked at me. “Hate what you’ve done with the place.” He did his best impression of a cringe and looked around the room. “So trivially human. Is that a decorative pillow?”
Lily had brought them over a couple of days ago. I did not care for them but she purchased them with her first pay check at the diner and well, it seemed cruel to waste her money by putting them away and they did add a little color to the room which she said was a good thing. “Are you here for decorative tips? Or are you going to get to the point?”
He cocked his head to the side. “Well, Lucifer’s favorite mole has gone missing, and he wants him back.” He spread a wicked smile on his face and cast Lev a sharp glance. “And you know how much I enjoy giving the master what he desires.”
“Good little doggy,” I said and felt Lev’s hand wrapped around my wrist, almost begging me to step in. I was ready to.
Then Kel leaned sideways and scanned the couch where Peter lay defenseless. If he truly intended to aid Lucifer he would not kill him and if even if he did, Peter had already lived a life and a death at a young age guaranteed him entry to heaven and me my victory. But there were things worse than death and one misstep from my side . . . No. My wings opened, challenging him. Kel was not my equal. Before I left hell, he had been my pet. A nonentity that worshiped and envied me.
Kel withdrew a scroll from the inside of his coat and held out his hand. “Calm yourself. If we wanted a fight, we’d send the expendable ones.”
Lev’s hand moved from my arm. He closed his eyes and I could almost hear the conversation going on in his head. He was bidding her farewell. The page in his hand contained words written by Lucifer’s hand and with his blood. No demon in existence could withstand in.
He held it out for Lev but he still had his eyes closed. His lips moved but he did not speak. The scroll faded from Kel’s hand and appeared in Lev’s. His face tightened as he tried to keep his eyes shut, but they were pulled open by the power of Lucifer’s power.
“By the decree of the Master of Hell, I, Lev, am to return to hell where I shall stay until the Master decides otherwise.” His eyes rolled backward and the white darkened until they looked empty. A whirling dark mass surfaced beneath him and his spirit—dark and thick as smoke—separated from the woman’s body, to be sucked into the darkness beneath it.
“I hear it is difficult to lose friends,” Kel said and shrugged. “I am glad that I could be here to witness this separation.”
War and Peace lay open on the couch by Peter’s feet. Kel took a step forward and I summoned the force of wind into my arm and sent it in his direction. It knocked into his stomach and he flew backwards. He looked at me with a blank face filled with confusion, as if I should have been aware of his intension.
The smugness faded from his face. He tried to hide it but failed miserably and realized this when I smiled at him for the first time that evening. Shaking his head, he spread his wings and within second disappeared from the room, fading back to hell.