WRITING Dwindling Glory - Never Regret(Reprise)

Discussion in 'SHOWCASING' started by Malkuthe Highwind, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. Hello there, people of Iwaku! I decided to rewrite this short story of mine to something more up to date with my standards. Hope you like it. I would like some feedback, but would love to keep the thread clean. If you have any comments, click on my profile picture right there <--- and click "start a conversation" and tell me what you thought!

    Disclaimer: This story, particularly the first chapter, contains explicit scenes of M/M love. If that offends you or disgusts you, scram. Right now. Otherwise, enjoy!

    [parsehtml]<div style="float:left;margin-right:8pt;"><img src=http://i185.photobucket.com/albums/x167/goldendercon/JasonCollins.jpg></div>[/parsehtml]Augurs. Clairvoyants. Diviners. Prophets. Psychics. Seers. Soothsayers. Harlots, all of them. Through some mystical power or gift of sight or some profound connection with the metaphysical, they claim to be able to peer into the future. They spout that some people will rise to power, some will be blessed with bountiful plenty, some would fall upon ill intent or lose all that they hold dear. They are fools, each and every one of them. The future cannot be foreseen. It simply does not exist, yet. Knowledge of the unknown and the yet-to-come is a powerful weapon and a masterful temptress. People flock to it like moths to a lamp. This is the sole reason that those harlots make any sort of living. People are so desperate to know what's coming that they are willing to throw away any matter of money. Jason Collins was by no means a harlot. He possessed knowledge of the "future" in a very loose sense of the word. This knowledge, he would carry to the grave.

    He didn't know why or how it was so, but he believed that something, somehow was making time go around in a loop, that for some obscure reason, everything that was happening or was to happen had happened many times before. Early on in his relationship with Alex and his training in the Druidic art, he'd discovered a sigil that allowed him to peer right into the fabric of the world, and it had a terrifying consequence. In that mysterious "fabric" he saw echoes of times long past, of the war that destroyed purgatory, the Fallen being cast into the depths of Hell, and the Fall of Man. He saw glimpses of things yet to come, things that had unfolded many times in the past turnings of the cycle yet to come in this one. He saw things that terrified him, that shook him to the very core of his being. These things troubled him for many years, until, with a heavy heart, he was able to accept what was to come, to resign himself to the tide of fate.

    He looked up, seeing himself reflected in the mirror by the dim light of the single fixture that he had turned on in the bathroom. Lanky. Green-eyed. Messy-haired. Nothing noteworthy, really. He didn't find it difficult at all to imagine that he'd lived countless times past. His life had been less than spectacular until recent years. Much of it had been spent trying to be unnoticeable. Much good it did him; he had still been the object of bullying in school. The dim lighting emphasized his emerald eyes. While they were, in moments of solitude like these, deep and tormented, they still carried a gleam of mischief and stubbornness that he had suppressed for so long. For a moment, he thought about how he was able to survive the past four years burdened with knowledge of what was to come and of what would be his untimely death.

    He had come to accept it but he had to admit that the prospect still utterly terrified him whenever he was alone. The past few times he'd delved into the fabric of the world, he saw a departure of current events from what the echoes told him should be happening. This told him that this time, for some reason, the cycle had been broken. This time would be different. He'd been hopeful for the briefest of moments, to say the least, that he would get to spend the rest of his natural life with his beloved lion, but it was not to be so. He quickly realized that while the rest of the world was deviating from the path preordained by the echoes of the cycle, his life was still following it. He was still going to die before his time. It was almost like someone had stuck a dagger in his chest and twisted it and for the longest time, he'd despaired over how Alex would do without him.

    Then again, he didn't know himself what he would do without Alex. The two of them had spent the last four years so engrossed with each other, so entwined in their lives that they had barely spent any time apart. The only significant amount of time that Alex ever let him out of his sight was when he took a risky trip to the lands of his birth for little less than a week to learn more about the Druids of eld. Even that had taken an insane amount of convincing and more than a little buggery to get Alex to consent.

    He'd fallen in love with this man so quickly. His cute, cuddly were-lion with a heart of gold and a tongue far too smart for his own good, had captured his own heart in a flash. He smiled. If Alex could hear his thoughts, the kitty would have pounced. Alex was the reason he didn't collapse under the weight of the knowledge that burdened his shoulders. The were-lion had taught his battered and hardened heart how to love and be loved in earnest. Yes, he thought, it was because of the sometimes way-too-protective detective that he had been able to live the last four years at all.

    Jason's smile widened. For what it was worth, being able to fall in love with Alex again and again was worth dying before he was ready each time. His eyes glimmered with joy at the prospect, but all too soon, their light was quelled. An ugly monster reared its head inside of him. He realized that this would be the last time, if he was correct. A pang of regret hit him, shook him to his very core; he regretted not being able to spend more time with Alex. The emerald eyes that had been bright just moments ago grew watery with unshed tears.

    He rubbed his eyes on the sleeve of the bathrobe that hung about him and he strode over to where blinds covered the bathroom's high-set windows. He drew them apart, squinting in the bright afternoon light that flooded the bathroom when he did so. For a condominium unit, Alex sure had gotten them one with a spacious bathroom where the shower and the tub were separate. During his childhood, he'd absolutely hated standing in the tub to take a shower. This was one of the small gestures from Alex that Jason appreciated quite a lot, and he loved the were-lion all the more for it.

    Jason undid the knot that held the bathrobe in place and let it slide from his shoulders. The soft rustling of the cloth against his skin reverberated in the dead silence of the bathroom. He hung it up on a rack by the shower enclosure and set down a few accessories on the counter-top by the sink. He slipped his feet out of his sandals and walked into the shower enclosure.

    The air and tiles were chilly against his naked frame and the soles of his feet. He turned on the shower and waited as the water gushing from the shower head warmed to a comfortable temperature. He stepped into the flow and before long the water had soaked his hair thoroughly and was sending hot rivulets down the curve of his back. He brushed his hair back with his hand to get it out of his eyes and just stood there, relishing in the water as steam rose around him and humming a tune to himself softly.

    For a glorious moment, he felt the knot of tension in his stomach loosening, the burden upon his shoulders sliding away in the flow of water. He hadn't told Alex about what he knew of the future, it was knowledge he wouldn't wish on his beloved were-lion. Keeping things from Alex, he felt, was in many ways sinful and it weighed heavily upon his conscience. Despite that, he could not bear it to think how Alex would despair and obsess with keeping him alive if he knew. It was better that way. There, in the warm cascade, he felt its weight being scoured away.

    Jason's respite was not to last. His guilt all came crashing back when he heard the latch on the bathroom door turn. He hadn't quite expected his were-lion to be home so early. He honestly wouldn't have had it any other way for his demise was rapidly approaching, but a selfish part of him couldn't help but wish that he had a bit of a respite from the hauntings of his conscience. He had to admit he'd started to feel lonely, though, and Alex being home early was a welcome surprise.

    [parsehtml]<div style="float:right;margin-left:8pt;margin-right:-30em;"><img src=http://i185.photobucket.com/albums/x167/goldendercon/Guy4b_zps8f3af175.jpg style="width:35%;height:35%;"></div>[/parsehtml]Jason didn't have to open his eyes to know that Alex had already disrobed and laid his clothes on a neat pile right by where he had set down his accessories. He also didn't have to look to know that Alex had walked towards the enclosure slowly, gazing at him lovingly and no doubt appreciating the view before opening the glass and stepping inside. It was just one of the things he'd seen so many times through their years together, and it happened time and time again without fail that he just knew it was what Alex would do. It didn't make the were-lion dull so much as endearing, in Jason's opinion. Alex's predictability was something he liked to exploit quite often in numerous pranks that left him breathless from laughing.

    "I missed you" whispered the detective in Jason's ear while snaking his arms around the not-much-younger man's midriff. The blond were-lion set his head on Jason's shoulder. For a moment, they just stood there, savouring each other's company to the sound of hot water cascading around them. Alex kissed Jason's cheek. "You're beautiful, Jason. I don't know what I would do without you..."

    "I... missed you too." Jason could barely get the words out. There was a lump in his throat. It was as though Alex was getting him back for all the pranks, saying the one thing that he so voraciously hoped that the were-lion would not say. He laid his head on Alex's and whispered softly, "You'll live Alex. That's what you would do..." He rubbed his thumb in circles on the back of Alex's hands.


    Alex chuckled lightheartedly, seemingly oblivious to the sadness in Jason's voice. "Don't be silly. I won't ever have to know that. We'll never be apart." Alex nuzzled Jason's neck and started slowly kissing him up and down the neck. Jason shivered, a pleasurable tingling traveling down his spine. It did little for him, though, still ruled by morose thoughts.

    "Never... Never is too short, Alex..." he thought sadly as Alex's hands roamed down his body. The were-lion's fingers traced burning tracks across his skin, and he could feel himself getting hot and bothered.


    Before he could respond to Alex, and fortunately so, Alex drawled in the most lascivious voice in his ear "Why don't I... show you just how much I missed you...?" Even now, after four years, Alex's "in-the-mood" tone still woke the beast, the carnal desires that rested within him. That low salacious growl from his partner set his veins alight with ecstasy and for the moment, at least, it pushed the weight on his shoulders to the side. "I promise you'll like it..."

    Jason didn't have to look to know that Alex had a lewd grin on his face. Quick, hardly-chaste kisses followed Jason's jaw, sending further bolts of pleasure racing down his body and eliciting a moan wrought with sensual want. He could feel his manhood rising to full tumescence. Alex's wasn't any different. The were-lion's hardness was thickening right by his thigh. Jason clutched Alex's wrists which were still roaming all over his torso, making him squirm, and turned to face Alex. Their gazes met, and the love between the two was unmistakable. They drew closer and closer together, and the passionate kiss they shared was a testament of the love they shared.

    "Alex..." Jason breathed, heavy with need, after they broke apart for air before slamming back together. Alex's finger's danced fleeting and teasing down along the curve of Jason's back. The green-eyed man arched towards the were-lion in pleasure and want. "Alex... please..." The blond would have none of it and those roaming hands cupped his buttocks, pulling him in closer and teasing his pucker, drawing a shuddering groan from the brunet.


    "Please... what... Jason?" Alex drawled in between kisses. He let go of Jason's buttocks and drew his hands up, pinning the brunet to the wall by his wrists. He started grinding their hips together, driving the two of them even harder, and panting with the fire of passion. When Alex let go of Jason's lips, the brunet threw his head back and rested it on the shower wall, mouth agape in pleasure. The were-lion resumed suckling on the flesh of Jason's jaw and neck and the hollow of his clavicle. The sensation drove Jason insane.

    "I... need you..." Jason gasped when Alex decided to suckle particularly hard on his clavicle. "inside me..."

    "So impatient..." teased the were-lion, letting Jason's arms fall to his side and drawing them tantalizingly downwards, making sure to flick and tease the brunet's nipples. "That just won't do... yet." Alex said lecherously as he trailed kisses down the middle of Jason's torso, paying a lot of attention to his navel. The action drew another groan from Jason who ended up thrusting his hips forward and smearing Alex's chest with pre-come.

    "Ohh..." Jason mewled when Alex found his throbbing member and breathed on it. Ever so needy, the brunet thrust his hips forward, but Alex was ready and pursed his lips in time.

    Alex waggled his finger in front of Jason's enraptured face. "No, no, no. Let me do this, dear" he said before diving in and licking the shaft up and down, eliciting quite a few profane exclamations from the brunet. He proceeded to do so for a few, certainly torturous, few seconds before enveloping Jason's cock with his mouth. The sound of water cascading over the two lovers was lost over the sound of Alex slurping on Jason's engorged member and the latter's guttural moans of pleasure.

    "A-Alex!" Jason exclaimed just as the were-lion felt the cock in his mouth get slightly bigger. His partner was close. With a devilish grin, he pulled off, much to Jason's chagrin. The green-eyed man promptly started humping Alex's thigh. Chuckling, Alex went in for another kiss. Jason closed his eyes in pleasure, tasting himself on the were-lion's tongue. His eyes snapped open when simultaneously, Alex's hands found his shaft and began stroking, and a finger found its way into his pulsing hole.


    "Alex... pleaaaseee..." Jason moaned a few minutes of kissing, stroking and fingering later as a second finger found its way inside him. Alex was absolutely driving him up the wall with what he was doing. Alex turned him around and Jason placed his hands on the wall in preparation for what was to come. The two fingers withdrew and he felt something blunt up against his entrance and he breathed a soft sigh of relief, until three fingers replaced it and he made a disgruntled noise.

    "Now, now, love. Don't be so impatient." The were-lion alternated between nibbling on Jason's earlobe and suckling on the tender flesh of his shoulder and clavicle. Alex's other hand found one of Jason's nipples and started flicking and squeezing it, making the brunet thrust back onto Alex's fingers.

    "D-dammit" Jason exclaimed breathlessly, eyes closed in ecstasy.

    "Here... let me just..." The hand playing with his nipple wandered over to where they kept soap and shampoo. He opened his eyes when suddenly he heard the snap of a tube of being opened and saw that it was a tube of KY.

    "W-where did that c-come from?"
    "Well... love, it just... happened to be there," said Alex wickedly.

    "You sly..." Jason gasped when the fingers inside him brushed against his prostate. "s-sly dog..."

    "Hey." Alex chuckled. "I find that offensive." Alex withdrew his fingers and lathered a generous helping of lube on his cock. Jason bucked against him when the tip of his cock brushed Jason's hole, but he just rubbed his member up and down the crack of the brunet's ass, much to Jason's dismay.

    "F-fine! You're not..." Jason gasped when he felt the blunt end of Alex's penis pressed against his hole. "A dog! Y-you're a kitty..." He said, teasingly. When Alex's cock strayed from the promise of penetration, Jason thrust his ass back, hoping to catch it. "I-I'm sorry! Y-you're a lion! M-my lion. P-please..." He begged.


    Catching Jason's mouth in a passionate kiss, Alex slid his member home while simultaneously stroking Jason's cock. Jason gasped into Alex's mouth, who in turn groaned in pleasure as his cock was enveloped by the green-eyed Irishman's velvety warmth. Enraptured, Jason's back arched even more and when Alex began to thrust, the younger of the two began to buck wildly, trying to get as much of the were-lion's manhood inside him as much as possible.

    Sensing his orgasm coming, Alex withdrew his cock and leaned more of his weight on Jason, forcing the green-eyed man to lean more against the wall for support. "Now now, love... Let's not get too excited." Alex grabbed Jason's member and started to stroke it slowly.

    "F-fuck you... Alex..." moaned Jason, feeling empty. No sooner had the words left his lips did Alex slide his whole cock back into Jason in one swift motion, making sure to hit Jason's prostate. Electricity exploded from his prostate, leaving Jason's vision swimming with pleasure. Alex's weight on his back prevented him from thrusting his hips to meet Alex's thrusts, leaving him wanting more and unable to do anything about it. He groaned, wanting more of Alex's cock in him.


    "I-if I recall correctly..." Alex panted, releasing a pleasured moan of his own. "Y-you're the one g-getting f-fucked!" Alex exclaimed as he drove his cock home again, making Jason squirm with pleasure. All too soon, his thrusts were becoming faster and more irregular. Jason tried his best to match the thrusts with violent bucking, but Alex's weight simply didn't allow much of it.

    They carried on for a good ten minutes more, with only the sound of the shower running, skin slapping and the pleasured moans and groans of the lovers reverberating in the otherwise empty bathroom. Just as Alex was getting close, he felt Jason tightening around his length. The brunet was close as well. "A-Alex... I'm cu-cumming!"

    "Cum for me my love..." Alex panted, speeding his stroking of Jason's manhood. With one final thrust, and a shuddering gasp in tandem, Alex emptied his seed into Jason whose ass clenched around his cock, milking it for every single drop. Jason, in turn, spewed sticky strand of white after sticky strand of white all over the shower wall. Short of breath, Alex kissed Jason on the cheek and whispered "Told you, you'd like it..." In a more serious tone, he said "I love you, Jason..." before laying his head on the brunet's shoulder.

    "I love you, too, Alex..." replied the green-eyed man slowly, his heart still racing from the intense fucking he had just received. From where he was still pinned to the shower wall by the larger were-lion, he could see amongst the accessories he'd set down and Alex's clothes, the twin gleams of two platinum bands in the afternoon sunlight. They glimmered of promises, of vows yet to be taken, of love that bound the two of them together, and of the wedding that they both dreamed of that would unify them in the eyes of the law.


    Suddenly thankful for the shower's relentless stream of water that had since turned quite cold, tears began to leak out of Jason's eyes. He tried his best to keep himself from shaking as he wept. When he looked at the engagement rings, he saw the wedding that he would not live to see.
     
    #1 Malkuthe Highwind, Feb 4, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  2. The smells of dinner being prepared drifted throughout the upscale home. The were-lionness wasn't one to slack when it came to dinner preparations. After all, the pack Alpha and his wife were coming that night. She had ended up bullying her only daughter and her Drakkan boyfriend into helping. Upstairs, the patron of the family was busy with email correspondences with packs around the world. He had a secure video conference with the Netherlands packs right before dinner. He'd bid his wife to inform the Alpha in case the pack leader arrived in the middle of his conference.

    The matron of the house, a tall blonde woman with sky-blue eyes, put down the cast iron skillet and commanded the Drakkan to take over. Her husband might have been the one with military training, but she was a force to be reckoned with all the same -- especially -- in her own kitchen. She climbed up the stairs to her husband's study. There was something they needed to talk about before the Alpha arrived. "Honey? Are you busy?"

    "Yes, dear, I am!" he yelled back. "Why?"

    "We need to talk!" The man whistled softly. Oh boy. What had he done now?

    "Uhh... Sure, dear. Give me a second" he said as she entered the room, finishing up the sentence he had been typing. "What did I do this time, Alice?"

    "What do you mean-- Oh! No. It's not you this time. It's Alex." The man straightened up. It wasn't often he heard 'we need to talk' about his only confirmed surviving son. "Gabriel. Are you really that oblivious?"

    "Oblivious to what?" the were-lion asked, still sitting on his office chair as his wife stood by the doorway, one hand on her hip. "If this is something about the precinct or the missing tools from the shed, I know nothing about it."

    "Missing tools from the--Okay, we need to have a different talk later" she replied. She closed the door and walked over to where Gabriel sat. "Don't be coy with me, mister. You have got to have felt it in your blood!"

    "Felt what?" Gabriel wished she wasn't talking about what he was thinking. Alex wasn't really prepared for the responsibility of what he suspected was happening to his son. After all, if Alex truly was what he suspected, he would be the second from the family, and one of the first in over three decades.

    "Oh you know what I mean, dear." Alice took Gabriel's hand. "Our son's a lieutenant Alpha."

    "I was hoping you wouldn't say that..." Gabriel pursed his lips. "Look, Alice, we don't know for sure."

    "Yes, we do, Gabriel. I've felt the call in my blood." The woman rolled up her left sleeve. "He's forming his sub-pack. Look." She knelt in front of the were-lion with her back to him. Sure enough, on her shoulder was a sigil with the Greek glyphs for 'Alexandros.' It was still faint compared to the sigil above it that had the name of their current Alpha, but it seemed to pulse with authority all the same.

    "He's not ready, Alice." Gabriel breathed, pensive. "We never taught him about Lieutenant Alphas. All the packs were pretty sure they'd gone extinct!"

    "We should've, Gabriel. We taught Nathan about them. We even taught Alyssa about them." Alice put her hand on the table in front of Gabriel. "Nathan was one too. Alex deserves to know what he really is, don't you think?"

    "But... dear, look what happened to Nathan."

    "I'm sorry, love. We'll find him one day, one way or another. But we can't deprive Alex of his heritage!"

    "I don't know, Alice. I don't feel good about this."

    "Look, you are not doing anything else until you call him and tell him that we need to have a heart-to-heart conversation."

    Gabriel sighed. There was simply no arguing with his wife. "Fine." He picked up the phone and dialled Alex's landline.
    ---

    Jason and Alex just stood there for a few minutes. Jason was still silently crying. He was trembling ever so slightly, but Alex, whose face was still buried in the crook of Jason's neck, was not oblivious to it. The were-lion sensed that his partner didn't quite want to talk about it, so he said nothing, merely purring comfortably . Jason's eyes were, in turn, transfixed on the twin promise rings that sat on the countertop. The green-eyed man tilted his head up into the flow of water. The now-cold cascade washed away the tears that leaked from the corners of his eyes.

    He had to be strong. He had to do what fate called to him to do. He had to. For Alex. All for Alex. In his mind he asked the gentle were-lion to forgive him for what was about to transpire. He never wanted to keep it from the were-lion but he simply wanted their last few days together to be the happiest they could be. Jason silently bade farewell to the were-lion and told him to remain strong and to never let go even if Jason was no longer by his side.

    Building his resolve, he pushed away the sad thoughts and focused his entire being on the love he and Alex shared. The very notion flooded his mind with warmth. Soon enough, Jason was back to his endearing, annoying, smart-aleck self. He felt the were-lion stir on his back, though Alex's face remained buried in the crook of his neck. As the light of the day faded more and more into the night, they just stood there swaying slowly under the stream of water from the shower.

    Jason smiled as Alex took his hands into his own. The small gesture was very affectionate and made Jason quite happy. He felt a kiss on his neck and felt and heard a low rumble from Alex vibrating through him. He giggled, feeling Alex's manhood still inside him. He felt complete. Despite wanting to stay in that position, Jason pushed away first, squeezing the were-lion's hands and saying "Alex, are we going to stay here all day? The water's getting damn cold."

    Alex groaned appreciatively when Jason shifted. His cock slipped out of Jason's hole with a barely audible pop. "I wouldn't mind at all" drawled the were-lion. Jason groaned. It was that voice again. Well. That, and he didn't really want to stay in the shower while it was cold anymore. "Not if it means getting to see you like this, love." Alex nipped playfully at Jason's earlobe, sending shivers down the young man's back and getting him flustered all over again. Did Alex not know his voice had that effect on Jason? He was now beginning to get aroused again, and knowing his partner, he was sure Alex was well on his way to full mast as well.

    "Damn it." Jason thought, groaning at Alex's ministrations. "He knows what he's doing. And he's playing me like a well-toned instrument." A smile danced about on Jason's lips. It was amazing just how much Alex knew him to be able to have such an effect on him. He had tricks of his own, however, and he could do the same to Alex. When the were-lion grabbed his ass, Jason had to push Alex's head off of his shoulder gently. The were-lion had begun nibbling on the skin there again. "I'd love to, Alex, but I think someone just wants to get some more ass." He said in a smooth, silky, tempting voice while turning around to face the blond detective.
    "Down, kitty" he continued, patting Alex's cock. The were-lion rumbled his annoyance and want but, before he could make any advances, was disarmed by Jason's secret weapon. Jason found his jawline and much like he would do to a cat, began to give Alex scritches. Alex instantly locked up, started tapping his foot, and began purring contentedly like an over-sized housecat.

    "D-damn it, Jason!" Alex protested, unable to contain his mewling at Jason's ministrations. "Y-you're not playing fair!" The were-lion tried to back away from the brunet, but Jason just followed him up until his back met the other shower wall.

    "Hey! You started it!" said Jason, finally stopping and smirking at the flustered Alex. The were-lion breathed a sigh of relief and grinned sheepishly at his partner. "Come on now, let's go finish up and get dressed." Jason playfully tugged at Alex's cock, making the were-lion mewl softly as he was painfully hard again. When Jason took his hand away, Alex grabbed Jason by the waist and kissed him senseless. "Mmph! Mmh!" protested Jason to no avail. Not that he was complaining. With the were-lion kissing him like this, so possessively and protectively, breathing was just about the most overrated thing to his mind.

    Breaking the kiss, but keeping his arms around Jason's waist, Alex said with a predatory gleam in his eyes "Don't ever call me kitty again or I will bend you over and fuuuuuuuuuck you so hard you won't be able to sit down for a week." Alex said the threat with heavy-lidded eyes and a thrust of his hips that made Jason plump up even more and sent shivers down his spine.

    "Promises, promises... kitty" he replied, teasingly. He knew Alex would find it annoying but endearing at the same time. He chuckled at the confusion on Alex's face. He had, after all, seemed to want to get out of the shower mere moments ago.

    "Oh -- Oooh you're really going to get it now" growled the were-lion. The low rumble awakened the beast in Jason again and for a moment, his eyes lit up with the prospect of another round of lovemaking -- hopefully in the bed after showering. "But... I was thinking, we've both been quite busy recently..." Alex put his forehead against Jason's and looked lovingly into his emerald eyes, knowing that the gaze he held reflected that very same love back at him. "...and we haven't been able to go out. Just the two of us. Maybe we could go out for dinner and a movie tonight, love?" Alex took Jason's hand in his own and gave him his best pretty-please look.

    "Well, well, well..." said Jason, removing his hand from Alex's grasp. He smirked at the were-lion, turning around and taking a bottle of shampoo, making note that the bottle of lube was still there. "Are you asking me out on a date?" he continued, snapping open the cap of the bottle. He took a dollop of shampoo and started lathering his hair with it.

    "Why yes, Jason, I am..." said Alex playfully, pulling Jason's hands away from his head and lathering his lover's hair himself. "Why... do you not want to go?" He said, pouting. Jason chuckled, and shampooed Alex's golden locks in turn.

    Slapping Alex's arm, he teased "Now why would you think that?" He waited for a moment, letting the shampoo wash out of their hair before continuing. "Of course I want to go, Alex. It's been too long since our last date." Due to Alex's job and his own obligations at the school and the library, they had spent most of their nights just cozying up to each other in the comfort of their home, far too tired to go out for anything. The thought of going out with Alex after some time set his heart aflutter. "On one condition! You carry me into the bedroom like a princess and make an honest man out of me!" He winked at Alex, knowing the idea would appeal to the were-lion. In the back of his mind, though, some part of him became all the more morose, knowing that their time was about to come to an end.

    He could feel the excitement emanating from Alex. As they soaped each other up, Alex went on a relentless rant about the place they were going to and the movie they were going to see. "Then it's a done deal! Look, dear, I know you aren't really all that fond of Mexican food..." He said while soaping up Jason's back.

    "But...?" Jason raised an eyebrow at the were-lion. "By the way, that I am not really all that fond of Mexican food has got to be the biggest understatement you've made in our years together."

    "Even bigger than 'Love, I have a tiny secret. I'm a were-lion.'? Anyway. There's this new place near the precinct. It's walking distance from here. It opened two months ago... I think." Jason took the bar of soap from Alex and did the were-lion's back, making sure to linger in the crack of his buttocks and teasing the blond's rosebud in the process. "Jason, do you want to go out or should we just shag all night long?"

    "Shut up. Stop invalidating my logic! And don't tempt me, Alex." In revenge, he got a pretty thorough cleaning of his genitalia. He wouldn't have been surprised if he poked Alex's eye out as the were-lion was kneeling there making sure to clean each and every crevice of Jason's groin.

    Alex stood back up and placed a quick chaste peck on Jason's lips. Grinning, he continued on his spiel. "Anyway, as I was saying. There's a new place nearby. Sarah took some of us there after work for her birthday a week or two back, if you remember." Jason nodded. He was still a bit miffed about not being invited. But then again, he had made his distaste for Mexican Food quite clear prior to the event. "Now don't be like that, love. You know she'd have invited you if it wasn't Mexican. Anyway, it wasn't too spicy. But the food was fabulous. I think you'll rea--"

    "Are you turning into a queen on me, Alex?" said Jason, cutting in and snickering at his partner's use of the word fabulous. "I always thought you were a lion... not a lioness" he teased as he traced a spiral into Alex's chest.

    Alex turned a pretty shade of red before smacking Jason on the ass and saying "Shut up." endearingly. "As I was saying before someone interrupted me. I think you'll really like the food there. It's not as scalding as that one unfortunate taco you had at that one place we went to a few years ago." Jason grimaced. Memories of the day, and more painfully, the day after, still haunted him.

    "Ugh. Don't remind me." Jason let the last of the soap studs wash off of his body. "That was horrible. Horrible!"
    Alex chuckled. "Come on now, love, don't tell me you're still not over that." He didn't like seeing Jason in pain, or in reminiscence of pain, but his dramatics made it entertaining and endearing. "After we go eat we'll go see that new movie I know you've been dying to see. That rom-com with Logan Lerman in it." Truth be told, they both had a celebrity crush on the handsome man. "Just, don't be disappointed if it's not like the rom-coms of our parents' days."

    Jason sighed. Alex was right. This movie had been directed in America. If anything, there would be tons of religious references. They tended to keep those out of Canadian trailers because Canada wasn't quite as religiously radicalised as its southern neighbour and people would have thought that the USA was shoving its religious ideals down their throats. "I know, dear. It's just, they used to be so good!" He fondly recalled spending one chilly winter night snuggled up to Alex while they watched Stranger than Fiction. Now that was a proper romantic comedy.

    Together, the two left the shower and dried each other up. It was something that they had just taken to at some point in their relationship. Jason blamed Alex's partly feline instincts. Even big cats weren't immune to grooming each other. His fiancé was no exception. When they were done, Jason walked over to the sink and put on his ring and paused. There was a lump in his throat again. Oh how they'd planned for the wedding. It was still a few months out, so nothing much had been pinned down, but it crushed him that they wouldn't get to celebrate it.

    He felt arms snake around his waist. "You okay, love?" He could hear the concern in his partner's voice. The were-lion must've noticed him stop and pause for a second. Sometimes, Alex's enhanced perceptiveness made him privy to more things than he should be, for his own sake.

    "Yeah, I'm alright. I was just thinking." He looked up at the mirror by the sink. Alex was standing behind him, looking at him with a quizzical expression.
    "Thinking about?"

    "How lucky I am to have you..."
    "I'm lucky to have you too, Jason" The blond kissed him on the temple. "Now come on. We don't want to miss our booking." Alex grabbed Jason's hand and led him, naked, to their bedroom to get dressed.

    "Wait. You booked it before you even knew I was going to say yes?"
    "I did." Alex chuckled.

    "Was the sex just to make me say yes?"

    "Maaaaybe..."

    "One of these days, Alex, you're really going to get what's coming to you." Jason said as they entered the room. He sat on the bed and shook his head as Alex went rummaging in their drawers for underwear. "Sometimes you're too smart for your own goo--oof!" The were-lion cut him off with one of his sexier briefs to the face. "Is this a sign that you want to get laid later?"

    "Yes!" came the muffled response from Alex when he went into the closet to look through clothes. Jason pulled on the briefs, put on pants, and fished out a shirt from his side of the closet after following the were-lion. He was straightening out his shirt when he felt an arm around his neck and a bite on his cheek from the were-lion.

    "Maybe if you behave well tonight, dear" he teased. He sat on the bed while pulling on socks. When he was done he got up and looked at himself in the full-body mirror by the closet door. Alex surprised him by leaving the closet, shucking his underwear and looking for a new pair. "Uhh... Alex?"

    "Shh! I'm trying to find something that works."

    Jason shook his head and sat on their bed. Sometimes Alex was worse than him. This was one of those times. He waited for a good ten minutes before he spoke up again. Alex had gone back and forth between closet and drawers a handful of times in that period. The next time the were-lion walked into the room from the closet, Jason piped up "Alex. I don't see what's so difficult for you to understand! It's a simple concept. Put on some underwear. Throw on a shirt. Pull on some jeans. Wear socks. Get shoes. And then we can go!"

    The were-lion shook his head at Jason and smirked. "You have to find something that matches, love. Also, what if I wanted to go... commando?" he said cheekily. Jason blushed at the comment and threw one of the pillows on their bed at Alex. It fell just short of the were-lion.

    "Just... Get on with it!" Jason complained, exasperated at how finicky Alex was being. "And they say I'm the woman of the relationship" he muttered under his breath.

    Alex straightened from the lowest drawer, having found some socks. Thankfully, the were-lion had finally settled on a pair of jeans and a shirt that went together in a way he was satisfie with. "I heard that, Jason." he said, winking.

    Jason mentally cursed himself for forgetting that his were-lion had an acute sense of hearing. He stood from the bed and breathed an overly-dramatic sigh of relief. He faced Alex, arms crossed, raised an eyebrow and said "Heard what? I didn't say any--"

    "I think we both know who the woman really is in this relationship..." the were-lion cut in with a drawl that promised of less-than-chaste intentions as he passed in front of Jason on the way to grabbing a pair of shoes. He grabbed a handful of the green-eyed Irishman's ass in the process. The brunet blushed, and was left with an erection he had to struggle to hide with the skimpy briefs Alex had found him.

    As Jason was putting on his shoes, he felt Alex's arm get draped around his shoulders. He instinctively moved closer to the were-lion. Alex chuckled. "You always do that."

    "Do what?" Jason asked, having finished with his routine shoe-checks. Can never be too sure that there's no ungodly substance stuck to your shoes, he'd tell Alex whenever the were-lion would ask about it. It always earned him a raised eyebrow and a skeptical look. Although, the were-lion had taken to doing the same whenever he thought Jason wasn't looking.

    "Sidle up to me when I put my arm around you."

    "Oh shut up."

    Alex chuckled as he grabbed their coats and keys and walked out of the condominium unit. He held out Jason's coat for him to slip into, and then put on his own, making sure to pocket the keys securely. "After you" he said in mock gallantry. Jason walked down the hall without waiting for the were-lion. Halfway down the corridor he turned around and stuck his tongue out at Alex who laughed and ran a little to catch up.

    Unbeknownst to the two, the phone was ringing in their condo unit. Without anyone there to pick up, the call was answered by the machine. Clear as day in the darkened apartment, a voice rang out after the beep. "Hey, Alex, call me as soon as possible. It's your dad here. It's urgent. There's something we need to talk about. Call me back as soon as you can, or better yet, drop by the house. Hope to hear from you soon. Love you." Click.
     
    #2 Malkuthe Highwind, Feb 10, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  3. Jason should've known. He should've expected it. After all, he'd made his disdain for Mexican food very apparent. The only reason he'd even considered trying it out again, giving it a redemptive chance, was because Alex had asked him oh so nicely. With his cock. Turns out the were-lion had yet another ulterior motive. He'd convinced Jason they were going to a Mexican restaurant so that he wouldn't bring that much in the way of cash. No one really trusted cards these days, identity fraud was much more prevalent than pickpocketing. Alex had wanted to treat Jason to a night out, and knew that the brunet would have strongly objected to him paying for most of it.

    They went to a nearby sushi bar which while not entirely gourmet-level in terms of pricing, was still quite pricey. Alex ended up laughing at Jason because he was pouting in between bites of sushi. "Lighten up, love. I want to do this for you." He said, picking up a piece and shoveling it into his mouth. "It isn't very gentlemanly to have the woman foot the bill, is it?" he teased, poking Jason's hand with his chopsticks. The brunet scowled at him and ate another piece.

    "You know what, fuck you." Jason said, mouth full of rice, nori and fish. "You're lucky you're cute." Another piece. "Oooh." Jason groaned in rapture. "And you're lucky this food is amazing." The Irishman had already gone through five plates of sushi, an enormous amount for him. It was nothing compared to Alex's conquests, though. The were-lion had eaten eleven and was starting on his twelfth. Where he put it all, Jason had no idea.

    Alex looked up at Jason. He had his mouth full of sushi. "I know I'm cute" he responded almost unintelligibly. He swallowed what he was chewing and beamed brightly at his partner. "Why are you scowling at me like that again?" Alex teased. He reached over and took Jason's free hand in his own, rubbing its back with his thumb. "So, how was your day?"

    "Ugh! The arrogance!" Jason shot back with mock frustration. Alex's hand on his own made him feel warm and tingly. Four years into their relationship and the were-lion still was able to make him feel like a schoolgirl. "Oh you know, the usual. Stupid English Lit professor didn't show up, so I ended up wasting half an hour in the classroom hoping he would." More sushi. Alex laughed. He'd had to deal with that before. Luckily, he was already out of university. "Anyway, since that happened, and I didn't want to just lie around at home doing nothing, I went over to the library to get some volunteer hours in and to help Jessica."

    "Oh, that's nice, Jason. How is she? I haven't seen her in some time. Has she gotten over that flu was it?" More food was being brought over to their table. Jason was beginning to wonder if other tables would start to think they were pigs. Alex seemed perfectly happy with the amount of food they were getting.

    "It was pneumonia, Alex. Far as I can tell, she's good as new. Or at least as new as you can be when you're sixty." There was a moment of silence and suppressed laughter as Jason fumbled for his glass of water. He had mistakenly put too much wasabi in his soy sauce. Alex could barely contain his laughter at the sight of his partner fanning his tongue desperately. "IT. IS. NOT. FUNNY!" Jason protested. "Anyway, after that I went home, thought I'd do some cleaning and ended up doing nothing because I had forgotten that you cleaned up the unit yesterday in an instance of severe OCD."

    "I do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I will have you know." Alex said, putting an obscene amount of wasabi that made Jason's eyes bug out in his sauce. "What?"

    "Oh now you're just showing off!" Jason smacked Alex's hand and chuckled. The were-lion did not like being outdone. "Oof." Jason said, clutching his stomach. He didn't think he could contain anymore. He was bursting at the seams. Alex tilted his head at his partner, almost knocking over the stack of seventeen empty plates he'd accrued through the dinner.

    "You gonna finish that?" Alex gestured at Jason's remaining plates with his chopsticks. Jason violently shook his head 'no.' "Mine." Alex said, scooping them all to his side of the table.

    "Where does it all go, Alex?" Jason asked, groaning.

    "I need energy, dear. You happen to be wild in bed."

    ---

    There was a pleasant humming in the air, the tune of a celestial steel blade as it swung back and forth, guarding one of the greatest of the Celestial Sphere's treasures. The humming of the blade was punctured every now and again by the crackling of fire that ran along its length. It had been placed there at the beginning of this conflict. It would last until Heaven had won, surely.

    In the middle of the vast paradisiacal garden sprawled two massive trees. One of them was split in twain, and where it seemed the tree had been struck, the bark was charred, smoke rose, and sap bubbled out in pustules. The wrath of a scorned God had done this. Yet beside it stood perhaps the most beautiful tree of all creation. Its branches were full and reached to the heavens. It towered above the rest of the garden and its leaves were lush and verdant. From its roots rushed the Celestial headwaters of the Tigris, Euphrates, Ganges and Nile rivers.

    At the foot of the Tree of Life stood one of God's Seraphim. He was simply looking at the tree, contemplating. His hands were clasped behind his back, and his six wings shrouded him in his Blaze of Glory. He examined the tree and picked one of its fruits. They were small things, barely larger than cherries, and golden in colour. They glowed with their own light, and the Tree of Life had so many that it glimmered gold in the perpetual light of the Garden. He took the fruit and ate it, relishing in its bitter sweetness. "Eat once of the Tree of Life and you shall know Life Eternal."

    "Brother." A voice both male and female, man and boy, woman and girl, elder and child, called out from behind him. "Uriel." It called. The Seraphim of Fire, the embodiment of God's Judgment, the Wrath of God, turned and faced the highest of the Seraphim. "It is good to see you, myself for once."

    "And you as well, Metatron." Today seemed to be one of the few days that his brother was not wrapped in the Divine Light of the Father. Metatron's wings were wrapped about him. Only his face was visible. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" Uriel asked, cordially.

    Before being raised to the Highest Choirs they had been quite close, the two of them, but all had changed when they became Seraphim. Uriel was oft away, bringing the fire of God's wrath to heretics. Metatron was often absent for other reasons, as the Father used him as his Voice. When the Father was in Metatron, the Seraphim's mind was elsewhere in the Celestial Realm, roaming, but occasionally listening in to what was being done with his body. He often spoke with Azrael, one of the few other loners of the Heavenly Host.

    "Can one not see his brother before he goes off to do God's will?" Metatron asked, his six wings slowly unfurling. Uriel raised an eyebrow. He'd never seen his brother exposed since he'd become the Voice, and he hoped never to see him so again. Metatron was naked from the waist up. Uriel could see the meticulous, perfectly sculpted shape of his body. The musculature was well-defined, and pleasing to the eye.

    Yet, the skin was abominable to behold. "What happened to you, brother?" asked Uriel, softly. The skin was charred in some places, downright burnt in others. Steam rolled off of Metatron's skin. There were blisters all over his body. It looked as though he was a mortal who had been thrown to the fire.

    "The Light of Divinity is not easy to contain, dear brother. I came to see you because of the quest you are about to partake in." Metatrons wings were now fanned open behind his back, drifting in the wind and glimmering like finely spun silver. "It is perilous."

    The Fire of Judgment scoffed. "Perilous?" Uriel turned to face the tree of life once again. "What threat could a petty Druid possibly pose to Judgment himself?" Uriel's Blaze of Glory grew brighter and its flames crackled with greater intensity. "What mere mortal will not fall to his knees in front of the glory of Wrath?" His Celestial radiance became almost blinding. Uriel was beginning to take on the Light of Judgment.

    "Brother." The light died down. "It would be wise for you to not be so arrogant."

    Uriel scoffed. "If you were not my brother and the Vessel for His Voice, I would strike you." Uriel turned to face his brother and his Blaze of Glory coalesced in his hand to form the Ignis, his Celestial sword of Wrath. Metatron could feel the crackling anger of its fire, could see the warping of the fabric of the world by its unbound wrath. It was a weapon begot of the Light of Judgment and the Light of Wisdom rightly feared it. "No mere mortal can stand against this blade."

    Metatron stepped back warily and laughed at his brother. "Would that you could, brother. No mere mortal indeed. But--" Divinity flooded the Garden of Eden with an animalistic howl that tore through Metatron's throat. A Divine Radiance blazed into existence around the Seraphim, and his wings closed around him to contain it. Uriel fell to his knees, Ignis dissolving back into his Blaze.

    "Hosanna!"

    "Worry not about striking him. I will see to his punishment."

    "Yes, my Lord."

    "Destroy that athame, or I will see to it that you regret ever failing me, Uriel." snarled the Voice that ripped through Metatron, one that Uriel could feel vibrating in the very fabric of his being.

    "Yes, my Lord."

    "Good." With a loud crack like thunder, Metatron disappeared in a swirl of radiance. "Azrael says that Jason Collins is no mere mortal..." said the Seraphim's mind sadly to Uriel. The Light of Judgment's mind was closed to him, though, and his words fell on deaf ears.

    ---

    "Okay, Jason, you have to admit, it was pretty funny." Alex nudged his partner with an elbow. "Oh stop being such a grump." Alex had laughed uproariously at the film, Jason had to shrink back into his seat. Thankfully, they were the only people there. People nowadays tended to avoid American films, if not because of their messages, but because they were so ridiculously overdone they were idiotic. He laughed not because the film was trying to be funny, but because the over-emphasis on religion was so ridiculous, it was funny.

    "Well, I didn't expect it would be that bad of a romance!" Jason pushed Alex away playfully. "We're going to call it a romance, but the characters will always stay at least one Bible's length away from each other!" He said mockingly of the film directors.

    "Exactly! Isn't that hilarious?" Jason had to shake his head as the were-lion threw his arm around Jason's shoulders. "I'm sorry it wasn't what you expected..." Jason looked up at Alex with a raised eyebrow. "...but it was the funniest flick I've seen in a long time."

    Jason threw up his arms in an exasperated sigh. When would someone come up with a good Romantic Comedy again? The last time it happened was a film three years ago, around the time the two were celebrating their first year anniversary. "You know what, I might need a drink to forget that horrible movie."

    "A drink?" Alex stopped in his tracks, dragging Jason with him. "I never thought I'd hear that from you, love."

    "I was thinking more something like coffee..." Jason said, shrugging. "I don't remember anything from the first and last time I got drunk, but if your stories, and the fact that you don't ever let me live it down, are anything to go by, I think it was pretty damn horrible."

    "Yes! It was! I literally couldn't pull you off of me for two seconds of fresh air!" Alex said as they began to walk towards the starbucks down the road. "And, I pride myself on my stamina--" There was that sultry voice again. A blush crept into Jason's cheeks. "--but even I was completely hammered, worn out, at the end of that night."

    "Oh shut up."

    "Seven!" Alex shouted, raising his free fist into the sky.

    "What? Seven? What the fuck, Alex?"

    "Seven times you've told me to shut up tonight." Alex replied with a goofy grin. "Ow! Hey!" He jumped to the side when Jason prodded him with a finger. "Maybe you should be more like Mr. Lerman in that film." Jason scowled but Alex continued. "Oh Jeremy, kiss me!" said the were-lion in a high-pitched mockery of the leading lady's voice. "Oh Lindsay, I would if I could, but I can't! Remember what they said in Sunday school? Keep at least one Bible's distance apart unless you're married!" The were-lion continued, unable to suppress laughter. "Oh Jeremy, you're so Christian! I love you!"

    "Oh shu--" Jason cut himself off and just stared at Alex, eyebrow twitching. He roughly shoved the were-lion into the wall of the building beside them, laughed, and broke into a sprint towards the Starbucks.

    "HEY!" Alex was momentarily dazed, but he dashed after Jason, utilizing his were-creature speed to its fullest potential. He caught up relatively quickly and put his partner into a tender headlock. "What was that for?!"

    "FOR IMPLYING I WAS AN IDIOT CHRISTIAN SCHOOLGIRL!" Jason yelled, laughing. "Can you please let go of me?" Alex let Jason go, but not without ruffling his hair. "Not the ha--you know what. Nevermind." With a chuckle, Alex pecked him on the cheek. Their hands found each other and ended up entwined, Jason's fingers in the gaps between Alex's. "No. Alex. We are not thumb wrestling while we walk."

    "Aww..." Alex said, almost sincerely. "In any case, dear, I was not implying that at all." Jason squeezed his hand as if to say 'good!' "You're hardly an idiot." Alex continued. "You're definitely not a girl." Alex's free hand found its way to Jason's crotch. "Nope. Definitely not." He leaned in and whispered in Jason's ear. "And with the things you do to me, you're definitely not Christian."

    "Oh shut up!" Jason said, flustered and red-faced.

    "EIGHT!"

    "AGH!!"

    ---

    "Nate." Hidden by the shadows of the concealed alleyway, the tall, grey-eyed blond turned at the mention of his name. Naked but for a loincloth, it was a wonder he was not shivering in the crisp night air. The other was similarly dressed. "Is that them again?" Always so innocent. He smiled. His mate was quite the character, but above anything else, he was adorable. "Why don't you ever go say hi?" Blue-green eyes flashed in the darkness, filled with hope. They hadn't really seen the world as Nathan had seen it. Bloodshed. Death. Cruelty. No, these eyes were pure as they could be, and Nathan would give his all to keep them that way for as long as he could.

    "You know why I can't, Aaron" replied the blond sadly. He had wanted to, so badly. He hadn't seen the two together in a while and had been worried sick. Had they separated? Had they had a falling out? Those were questions that haunted him for a good two months. Tonight was a relief, seeing them together again, seeing them happy together again. He didn't know what had happened in the two months, it wasn't his place, but he was glad they still had each other.

    He could feel in his brother that they were the same. He only hoped that Alex would be able to form his pack safely, would be able to settle into his role properly. "I know, Nate." He felt a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I just don't understand why it has to be that way!" He felt arms wrap around him and a head rest on his shoulder blades. "I just don't want to keep seeing you this sad. It's not fair."

    "No, Aaron. It's not fair." Nathan stood still, relishing in the embrace of his mate, but not wanting to take his eyes off of the retreating backs of his brother and his brother's mate. They were holding hands, and holding steaming cups of coffee each. The rough horsing around had subsided, probably because of the threat of scalding coffee being poured all over the place. "It never is fair. But that's the way it has to be. He lives in the Mortal Realm. We live in the Dream. We're of different worlds now, it's not our time to meet again yet."

    "But you have a choice, don't you, Nate? Why can't you just go back for a day, reconcile with your brother, and then come back?" Nathan felt something warm streaming down his back. Aaron was crying again. His mate's sadness made him feel something twist in his gut. He hated to see his mate despondent like this, but he was sure the younger man felt the same way.

    "Do you want to lose me, Aaron?" Nathan felt the younger man begin to shake.

    "No, Nate. I don't want to lose you. But I want you to be happy."

    The blond turned around and knelt before his mate. Alex and Jason had passed beyond his sight already, after all. He wiped away Aaron's tears. "Then I'm staying right here. The Accords forbid me from leaving until the destined time. If I do, then I can't ever return, and I will forget everything that happened in the Dream until the destined time." He grabbed the younger man by the shoulders and pulled him in for a tight hug. "I am happy, Aaron. With you."

    "But won't you be happier with Alex and his mate?"

    "Yeah, but if it means losing you, then they can wait" The were-lion patted the younger man on the back. "Now come on. Cernunnos is waiting." Still a bit sad, Aaron nodded slowly. Nathan took his hand and they walked to the manhole in the alley. With a gesture, a sigil appeared on the manhole cover and it rose seven feet above the ground.

    Nathan lowered his mate into the hole and followed himself. There was a flash of light and both of them were gone. The manhole cover drifted down slowly, and the alleyway fell silent. The only sign that anyone had been there was the stirring of wind that blew about detritus light enough for it to carry.

    ---

    There was a loud thump on the door of Jason and Alex's condominium unit followed by the jingling of someone fumbling for the key to open the lock. There was some barely audible panting, but there was also the unmistakable sound of good passionate kissing. When Alex finally managed to get the door opened, they fell into their home, making the door bang against the wall. Their cups of coffee had long since been discarded. It was halfway down the corridor to their unit that Jason had basically attacked Alex with lustful, needy kisses. Luckily, their irritable asshole of a neighbour was away for the night.

    Breaking apart for a quick second, Alex quipped "Are you sure there was no alcohol in that coffee you got?"

    "Oh shut up!"

    "NINE!" Jason pinched Alex's bottom for the comment. "Ow! You're lucky I've got pants on. That would've left a mark!"

    "Not for long! Now come back here!" Jason said, pulling Alex in for another kiss. "I need you. This may be the last time I ever do this with you." Jason said silently in his mind before the sadness was blown away by the winds of lust.

    They just lay there on the floor for a good minute, having a good snogging before Alex pushed away from Jason again. "Let's take this to the bed. The floor is not a comfortable place to have sex." He got up and helped Jason to his feet as well. He closed the door behind them, making sure to lock it. He wasn't sure how many of his neighbours would enjoy walking in on hot man-on-man action.

    "You know--" Jason went in for another kiss. "--I don't recall you ever complaining when we had our second anniversary and had sex on practically every surface of this unit."

    "Yeah--" Alex said as he separated from Jason to take off his coat and to strip Jason of his. "--but--" Jason put his finger to Alex's lips. "Mmph. Oh. Wait. Love. There's a message on the phone." Alex was about to reach for the phone but he was pushed up to the wall by Jason. "But it might be import--" He was cut off by another kiss from Jason.

    "I don't give a fuck. I want you. And tonight..." Jason said sultrily "You are mine." The message was forgotten as Jason slipped Alex's shirt over his head, and roamed his hands down to the were-lion's chiseled abdomen. "all mine."

    Alex had never experienced a bottom who liked to dominate as much as Jason before, but it definitely set his veins alight with the fires of passion. Jason found the outline of his cock where it strained against the fabric of his jeans and playfully teased and tugged at it, making stars swim in Alex's vision. He guessed this was karma for the shower earlier.

    They made their way to the bedroom, shucking clothes as they went. Alex pushed Jason down on the bed and lay on top of him. Both men were only wearing their underwear. Jason wearing the particularly skimpy pair that Alex had gotten him. As they kissed, Alex ground his groin against Jason's, their erections rubbing against each other through the fabric of their underwear and straining to free themselves from the confines of the cloth.

    Jason wrapped his legs around Alex's midriff, guiding Alex's still-clothed cock into position at the crack of his ass. "I want you to make love to me, Alex" he pleaded. "Please." The words set Alex on fire and he began to lay kisses down Jason's body, dragging the brunet's underwear down as he went. Freed from its confines, Jason's cock sprung up and slapped against his stomach.

    Alex spat on his hand and took Jason's cock and began to stroke it languidly up and down. He watched as his lover began to thrust his hips into Alex's hand, at first almost imperceptibly but with increasing earnestness as he did. Jason's head was thrown backward, his eyes closed, his back lifted off the bed, and his mouth slightly agape in pleasure.

    "Jason." Alex said, insistently as he stroked Jason's member. "Jason." The brunet's eyes slid open slowly, as though shaken from a stupor.

    "mmm?"

    "Let me do this." Jason groaned, exasperated. "You wanted me to make love to you..." Alex stroked Jason's cock up and down slowly once again, drawing Jason's bottom off the bed as he stroked it upwards. "I will make love to you." Up and down. Up and down. Slowly, but just fast enough to be tantalizing and torturous.

    "Ahh!" Jason moaned when Alex took the head of his cock in his mouth. His tongue swirled around the sensitive glans, lapping up the pre-come that streamed copiously from its tip. Alex's own underwear was wet with his want, but his own manhood was willfully neglected for now. Alex fondled Jason's testicles, gently and lovingly massaging them as he suckled on the head of Jason's member.

    "Mmph." Jason slowly arched off the bed as Alex went down his cock slowly and lasciviously up until the hilt. "A-Alex..." he moaned as he felt his entire length surrounded and massaged by the wet warmness of Alex's mouth and throat. He unintentionally bucked when Alex began to move up and down, letting his tongue play on the underside of Jason's cock as he did.

    "A-Alex... I-I'm gonna--ahh" Alex pulled off just as Jason said the words. A single strand of saliva and pre-come trailed from the tip of Jason's cock to Alex's lower lip. Jason made a sound that was both a groan of frustration and a sigh of relief. Alex had to chuckle before he leaned in to kiss Jason slowly and passionately.

    Jason's hands roamed up Alex's side to the curve of his back, his fingers dancing lightly on the were-lion's skin. It was Alex's turn to squirm. Wherever Jason's fingers landed, they left a fiery imprint that felt rapturous for the were-lion. Jason's hands found the elastic band of the jocks that Alex was wearing. He grasped them and flipped Alex over. "My turn..." he drawled as he kissed Alex down from the back of his ear, to the curve of his jaw, and then down the centre of his torso, stopping just short of the blasphemous clothing that stood in the way of his prize.

    In one smooth motion, Jason tore away Alex's jock. "Ah!" The were-lion groaned as his cock caught on it and sprung back up to hit Jason in the chest. The brunet went down on Alex's member, licking the length as he did. With one hand he pumped it slowly as he took Alex's balls one at a time into his mouth, suckling on them and nibbling on the skin between. Alex moaned to Jason's ministrations and couldn't help but buck his own hips to Jason's motions.

    Jason suckled on the head of Alex's member, tasting the sweet nectar that was leaking from its slit. He swallowed it to its root in one swift movement. "Jason..." Alex groaned, involuntarily thrusting his hips towards Jason's waiting mouth. "Don't stop..." Jason moved up the shaft, making sure to lick its underside while fondling Alex's balls.

    He moved off of Alex's cock and lay on top of the were-lion in order to kiss him. As their tongues danced together and they tasted each other, Alex grabbed Jason's ass and flipped their positions again. He moved his hips up to meet Jason's and their members rubbed against each other, drawing a shuddering moan from the brunet. Without releasing their kiss, he took both of their cocks in one hand and began to stroke them.

    Both the were-lion and the Jason moaned into each others' mouths in pleasure. Alex stroked them slowly, up and down the shafts at a torturously slow pace. They moved with each other in tandem, consumed by the passion of the moment. The phone rang and another message was left, but it hardly registered for them. Right now, all that mattered to them was each other, the love they shared, and the consummation of that love.

    "I want you inside me, Alex." Jason pleaded, locking eyes with the were-lion. "Don't even bother with the preparation. I just want you in there."

    "Are you su--" Jason cut him off with a kiss. Blindly, Alex reached for the lube they kept handy and slicked himself up. Jason wrapped his legs around Alex's midsection, presenting his puckered hole to the were-lion. They broke apart for a breath. Green eyes locked onto tawny brown ones. Unbidden, Alex's left hand clasped Jason's right while his right cupped Jason's cheek tenderly. The brunet did the same with his left.

    A spark ignited in the space between their eyes. Alex whispered "I love you, Jason." Their lips came crashing together as Alex pushed his manhood past Jason's waiting entrance. As the velvety warmth of his partner enveloped his entire shaft, Alex moaned into Jason's mouth and the brunet writhed and arched his back as he was made whole by the man he had devoted his whole recent life to. Their tongues danced together in a ballad fueled by the sounds of their passion.

    The phone rang a third time, but this time it was drowned out by the sound of lovemaking and they took no notice. Alex stopped moving when he was fully inside Jason to give his lover a chance to adjust to his length. "Alex, please" pleaded Jason with a voice heavy with need and eyes glazed over with lust. The were-lion nodded and groaned as he began to slowly rock his hips into Jason, his lover's warm channel massaging his cock so perfectly.

    "Alex..." their eyes met a third time. "I love you, too." As though the words empowered him, the were-lion put all his strength into the slow, loving thrusts he made into Jason. Each thrust was at just the right angle to stimulate the brunet's prostate. Jason arched even more into Alex, thrusting his own hips in response to the were-lion.

    Minutes passed, and their lovemaking slowly reached a crescendo, when Alex could no longer hold back and was thrusting in and out of his lover with more gusto and abandon. "A-Alex..." Jason said, mouth opening as his climax built up. "I-I'm close."

    "J-Jason" Alex groaned. "I-I'm cumming!" Unbidden, Jason bit into the flesh of Alex's collar and the were-lion did the same just as they went over the edge of orgasm. Alex felt a searing warmth shooting through his body from his belly where Jason spilled his seed in between the two of them. Jason felt lances of pure electric pleasure coursing through his body with each spurt of Alex's cock inside him.

    Spent, the two lovers rested for a moment before Alex decided to go down on Jason and clean his lover's sticky sweetness off of his stomach. Jason did the same for Alex and they shared a kiss, unknowingly completing a ritual that bonded them as mates until death. They just lay there, looking into the depths of each other's eyes. "That was... intense" The were-lion broke the silence first. "I love you, Jason Collins" He said before giving the brunet a chaste kiss.

    "That was, wasn't it?" said Jason, still starry-eyed from their lovemaking and still leaking his lover's seed from his well-used entrance. "And I, you, Alexandre Ethan White." They shared another kiss and lay there for a further few minutes until the were-lion's eyes slowly slid shut and Jason could feel the soft rumble of him sleeping.

    Jason raised his hand to one of the milky bars of moonlight that streamed into the room, considering with glassy eyes the gleam of the engagement ring that wrapped itself around his ring finger. Jason snatched his hand back, startled, when Alex rolled over onto his back. He propped himself up by his elbow and he looked his naked lover up and down, committing the image of the were-lion sleeping innocently to his memory.

    The night had been memorable, and he would not have had his last night alive any other way. Alex had made him truly happy in the years he'd known the were-lion, and the coupling they had just finished was testament to that. Steeling himself for the next day, he went over to Alex and laid his head on the were-lion's chest. He listened to the strong heart that beat in there, the same heart that loved him to bits. He found comfort in the thought, and before long, he was asleep.

    Feeling the weight on his chest, Alex woke up with a soft purr. The sound made the corners of the sleeping Jason's lips curl up in a smile. Alex stroked the back of his lover's head. Jason never really slept on his chest unless something was bothering him. Usually, Jason would sidle up to him, wanting the were-lion to wrap his arms around his smaller frame. Reliving the events of the night, Alex realized that though Jason had been his usual cheerful, mildly sarcastic, and oftentimes downright unnecessarily dramatic self, his green eyes had betrayed another story. The scent that rolled off of his lover was no different. It told him something was off. It told him Jason was sad.

    He saw no sense in waking Jason, so he just kissed the younger man on the forehead. He put his arm around Jason's shoulders and pulled him in closer. The brunet snuggled into Alex's chest even more. Alex drew the blanket over the both of them, making sure that Jason was comfortable under it. He closed his eyes, still troubled.

    He resolved to talk to Jason about what was on his mind the next day after work.

    Little did he know that by then, it would all be too late.
     

  4. Jason stirred awake, untangling his arms and legs from the pillow that had at some point in the morning replaced Alex. He tried to stifle a yawn, stretched and kicked their blankets off of him. The sheets were caked with dry cum. He would have to take care of that later. He rolled over onto Alex's side of the bed. It was still warm from the were-lion's body heat. He inhaled his lover's scent in the pillow and in the sheets. It filled him with an all-encompassing calmness that made his eyelids slide down. He had almost fallen asleep again when he realized that it was probably well into the morning already. Sure enough a glance at the alarm clock confirmed his suspicions.

    He sat up, wondering where Alex had gone, when he smelled the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting in through the door. The kitchen. Probably making his signature pancakes. The bright sunlight streaming into the room was making it difficult to see since his face had been buried in a pillow for much of the night. His eyes weren't used to the light yet. He rubbed his eyes and squinted at his reflection in the nearby mirror. His hair was sticking up in odd angles and he looked more or less like a porcupine. He was also still naked.

    Jason wished that he had woken up to Alex's face first thing in the morning. Some days it happened, but whenever it did, the were-lion would already be dressed for work and was simply lying there watching him sleep. A creepy proposition, had he not known how the were-lion's mind and affections worked. Although, one of the things he never understood about the were-lion was that for being half one of the laziest domesticated creatures on the planet, he woke up at ungodly hours.

    For a cat, Alex was at times very un-cat-like. Jason couldn't help but snicker to himself, forgetting for a moment the day's gravity. If only Alex knew that Jason always thought of him as a big lovable cat, there would be no leaving the bed for the young Irishman. The were-lion always threatened sex when Jason called him a cat or a kitty or some variation of the sort. He knew deep inside the big lug liked it. Not that Alex would admit to it any time soon.

    Jason tried to stifle another yawn without much success. He felt tired. The fact of horrible things happening that day weighed even heavier on his shoulders. Stretching his right hand above his head and his left to the side he yawned for a third time. Had Alex walked into the room at that moment, he would've chuckled in delight. Jason never understood why Alex found that particular mannerism of his so adorable, but he chalked it up as one of those never-to-be-understood-because-of-differing-biologies things.

    He got off the bed, hissing at the cool morning floor against his bare feet. Why they had gotten hardwood flooring for their bedroom, he didn't know. He was the one that had decided to do so. What the fuck had he been thinking at the time? Nearby he saw one of Alex's shirts. It had either been tossed there when the were-lion was looking for clothes to wear on their date, or when they had been so horny they couldn't wait until they got to the bed to undress. He pulled it on and it hung loosely around his shoulders and went halfway down his buttocks. He loved wearing Alex's shirts. They were larger and more comfortable for more intimate or lazy moments. He also had to put it on in case they had peeping toms in the neighbouring buildings.

    Jason hobbled over to the bathroom through the door that joined it to their suite. He was painfully hard and raring for his morning piss. He did his business in the washroom, emptying his bowels as well. That was a bit more difficult, considering the good rogering he'd received the previous night. He smiled to himself, absentmindedly rubbing his collar where Alex had bitten him and remembering their moments of tenderness and he felt warmth course through his body.

    He returned to their bedroom and pulled on a clean pair of underwear. He considered getting a shirt, but decided to keep Alex's on. It was a poor substitute, but it made him feel like the were-lion had his arms around him. He walked to the kitchen and snuck up behind Alex, hugging the were-lion from behind. He said nothing, instead burying his face between Alex's shoulder blades. He breathed in deeply, inhaling his lover's unique scent and savouring the moment. They wouldn't share any moments of tenderness for some time, so Jason decided to make the most of it.

    He was sure that the were-lion heard and smelled him coming but played along anyway. He found it endearing that Alex didn't let on and allowed Jason to have his fun. "Goodmorning beautiful" purred Alex, enjoying the brunet's early morning attention. He normally prepared breakfast for the two of them as the younger man woke up much later than he did. The pancakes were almost done and Alex was pretty much ready to leave for work.

    The were-lion scented grimness from his partner. He wanted so badly to ask about what was bothering Jason, but he thought that to bring it up at such an ungodly hour -- for Jason, at least -- would only bring them grief. He scraped the pancake off of the pan and added it to a stack of pancakes on a nearby plate. He faced Jason, wrapped his arms around the younger man's waist and kissed him with a pure loving kiss.

    "Now that's a good morning" said Jason, smiling brightly at his were-lion. They sat down to breakfast and one of the first things the Irishman noticed was how much more pancake was on Alex's plate. The stack was about a foot tall. "Alex? Why do you have so much more than I do?" In the middle of cutting the two of them squares of butter, Alex looked up at Jason and tilted his head to the side. "...You're right. I probably can't finish that much." Alex nodded as he poured syrup over both of their stacks, much more on his than on Jason's. The brunet had never really been particularly fond of sweets.

    Looking up from his food, Jason just gazed at his partner and the love of his life. Alex noticed. There was a mischievous glint in his eyes, and Jason knew what was coming next. Alex winked at Jason. Slowly and sensually the were-lion dipped his finger and swirled it around the syrup that pooled on his plate. He then slowly brought it up, dripping, and stuck it in his mouth, swirling his tongue around it and making loud slurping sounds. "Oh. Oh. Is that how it's going to be?" Jason taunted.

    Jason was going to have fun with Alex as well, despite the day's burdens weighing like lead on his shoulders. He took a bite of pancake, making sure to wrap his lips seductively around the fork before slowly pulling it out of his mouth. He could see Alex squirming in his seat. He wasn't done. He began to purr, moan and groan in mock ecstasy at the food. "Ahhh... That's it. Oooh... This is delicious..."

    This wasn't the first time Alex had tried to make him flustered at the breakfast table. Unfortunately for the were-lion, Jason always won. Whenever they weren't having tender moments or having serious talks over breakfast, Alex was fidgeting and trying to hide an erection because of Jason. The brunet judged the were-lion was struggling to hide a boner by the way he was squirming in his seat. "I win!" Jason grinned wickedly at Alex. Something was off, though. Alex's eyes followed him with an intensity that was only ever there when the were-lion was worried for Jason.

    They ate while they talked. Pretty soon, the conversation devolved into both of them taking turns ranting about certain things. Jason, in particular, about the movie they had watched the previous night. After Alex released a belch that had Jason gasping for air, guffawing with laughter, they cleaned up the table. The dishes went in the sink for Jason to wash when he felt like it, while the butter went in the fridge and the syrup in the pantry. "That was delicious, love." Jason said, beaming at Alex.

    "Only the best for you, Jason" Alex said as he straightened his tie and put on his shoes. He placed a kiss on the brunet's cheek and made for the door. Jason was close behind him. Alex couldn't pin the source of it, but his hackles rose and he felt increasingly worried for the man he had spent the last few years of his life with. There was an uncomfortable silence in their condominium as Alex reached out for the doorknob and pulled the door open.

    The were-lion turned around and pulled Jason to him. He tenderly caressed the side of the brunet's face and kissed him one last time before leaving for work. The kiss was long and passionate. There was no lust in it, only the purest love. Their tongues did not dance upon one another, but their lips were bound together like their hearts. Alex scented the growing sadness from Jason and felt the singular tear that streamed down the Irishman's face. The kiss, while tender and loving, also had a sense of longing and finality that confounded the were-lion.

    Looking into those deep green eyes, he brought Jason into a tight embrace and asked him "Jason... What's wrong?" unable to resist the pressing matter anymore. He had not imagined the tear. There glistening on his lover's cheek was its salty trail. "Jason... talk to me. Are you alright?"

    The question struck Jason speechless. Stars swum in his vision. For a moment, he considered telling Alex everything. He considered making the were-lion stay, to accompany him in his final moments. But when he realized that that would mean Alex's death as well, he resisted. He averted his eyes and nodded. His voice was stuck dead in his throat. He did not want this moment of dread to last. He could almost feel the thorns of panic that were beginning to latch onto his were-lion. He absolutely loathed himself for not telling Alex what was about to happen, and he couldn't bear to look the blond in the eyes.

    "Jason..." Alex said, voice cracking slightly. The concern in his voice was palpable. The innocent fun they had last night, their intense meaningful coupling and their banter during breakfast faded into something so inexplicably terrifying for him. His heart began to pound in his chest, and he could feel the concern like lead in the pit of his stomach. "Jason... please. If anything's going on, you know you can tell me..." The brunet remained silent. He didn't want to talk about it. Couldn't talk about it for the were-lion's sake. "Jason... We'll talk after work, okay?"

    The brunet nodded. Now he was lying to Alex. Oh how loathsome he was. With a heavy heart, the were-lion released Jason from his embrace. They looked each other in the eye. Jason saw reflected in those tawny brown eyes concern, bafflement, hurt, panic, but above all, terror. He felt like a dagger had been thrust into his chest and twisted.

    In the Irishman's emerald eyes, the were-lion saw sadness, pain, fear, and the unmistakable sparkle of love. Whatever it was that Jason wasn't saying, he thought, was for his own good. A voice in his head told him that being him being in 'good' condition was not worth risking Jason getting hurt. He agreed. But he knew he would hurt Jason if he pressed too hard, as well. He kissed Jason on the forehead and placed his own forehead against Jason's. "I love you, Jason, always..." he whispered.

    The words made Jason's chest constrict. He had to hold in the sobs. His own heart heavy as lead he took Alex's hands in his own and squeezed them gently. Green-eyes met brown and he whispered so softly only Alex could hear "And I you, Alex, always..." Jason reluctantly let Alex's hands go. "You... should go to work, dear..."

    He felt a strong but gentle hand on his chin. Alex turned his head up to face him and their eyes met again. Alex kissed Jason again, this time with more need, but not of the sexual kind. He needed a promise that things were okay. That things were going to be alright. That Jason would be safe. Jason could almost taste the concern on Alex's tongue, but he couldn't give the were-lion that reassurance. "Be safe..." said the Irishman when they broke apart.

    "You, too, Jason." Alex said, turning away from his beloved with much hesitation. As he walked down the corridor, he looked back at Jason. The brunet had left their unit and was leaning against the wall, watching his retreating back. He wanted to run back and just envelop his beloved in a warm embrace, but something about the way Jason stood told him not to.

    Jason somberly watched as Alex left. The were-lion kept looking back over his shoulder at Jason with the most lost expression that the Irishman had ever seen. It tugged at his heart. He wanted to run up to Alex, to leave the condo with him, but this had to happen. He hated that it had to. He hated what he was willingly doing to Alex. Another tear rolled down his cheek, falling and splattering on the ring he wore. This would be the last he time he would ever see Alex.

    He just wished he could see beyond his death in the fabric of the world. But alas, that future was still beyond his reach. Neither Jason nor Alex noticed the bands on their wrists that had formed there overnight get just a tiny bit darker. Neither had even acknowledged the existence of the bands.

    ---

    Alex looked at the clock in his shared office with David Stark. It was almost 4 PM. He couldn't shake the cold clamminess of fear he felt in his gut. He couldn't concentrate. He couldn't properly process information in the cases he was investigating. He thanked his lucky stars that David had volunteered to go down to the scene of one of the more gruesome crimes that day in Alex's place. He knew they would both have to go at some point, but the were-lion simply wasn't in the right frame of mind to do so.

    There was a pile of forensic evidence on one of the tables in the office. It was the less sensitive kind and could afford being in such a position. Normally, Alex wouldn't stand for such a mess in his sight, but he was too busy worrying about Jason. He couldn't stop fidgeting in his chair. When he picked up his cup of coffee, he could barely get in a sip. His hands were trembling.

    He tapped his fingers on the table. What was Jason doing? Was he alright? What the fuck was going on? The same questions that had plagued his mind since he left their home were still bouncing around in his skull. They left him no respite. He ended up picking at his lunch, and being more cross than usual with the greener cops. He couldn't handle waiting anymore. He picked up the phone and dialed home.

    ---

    Jason could've gone back to bed for a few hours, gotten in some much needed sleep he was sure he wouldn't get in the Inferno, but he was as restless as Alex. As soon as the were-lion had left he went back inside the condo and closed the door behind him. He'd slid down his back on the door, and ended up sobbing inconsolably on the floor for a good fifteen minutes. All he could think of was how devastated Alex would be once he found out. He looked at the phone and wanted so badly to pick it up and call his fiancé, but he couldn't. He shouldn't.

    When the tears and the shaking subsided, he rose to his feet. As though possessed, he was drawn to the kitchen where he washed the dishes and made sure everything was back where it belonged, that the whole place was spotlessly clean. He went into their bedroom, picking up the clothes that were still strewn about and replacing the cum-stained sheets of their bed. Everything was surreal to him, he almost couldn't believe he was about to die.

    It was about three in the afternoon when he finished making the place spotless. Much good that would do when Alex stormed in after he found out what had happened... Jason thought. But he was not going to die without a fight. He was not going to die without dignity. He straightened the picture of the two of them at their engagement party and went on with his preparations.

    Now that their condo unit was pristine, Jason could begin to work the arcane arts. The Irishman approached the wall beside the television. He hesitated for a second, but then he traced his fingers along the walling. He whispered one word to it, concentrating on what he knew was there. The paint on the wall melted away to reveal a wooden panel with a sigil singed into it and inlaid with silver. Inside was a substantial hidden compartment lined with velvet. He had inherited the box from his grandfather and had made sure to install it when they moved to their new home.

    Inside was an assortment of artifacts as well as an old, old book. It was a couple hundred years old, but the preservative magic that bound it was still strong. He removed it reverently and sat down to read it for a few minutes. He read the words that his forefathers had written in the book before him. He read the words that he had written in it about his grandfather. Reading the book and knowing that his family had given their all to protect their most precious heirloom lent strength to his wavering resolve.

    When Christianity had arrived and driven the Druids to the ground in Ireland, his furthest recorded ancestor, Lorcan Ó Cathasaigh had been one of the priests of the order. He was considered one of their least powerful, but it was this that he had thought was ridicule at a time, that allowed him to remain unseen, that allowed him to eventually escape. He had found his way to Scotland and managed to find affection with a pack of were-creatures there. His life was spared, but above all, he had escaped the land of his birth with the most important artifact the druids had ever made. The golden athame was more precious than anyone's life, and he had saved it.

    Lorcan died in Scotland. His female descendants remained with the pack and with their help the pack became one of the most powerful in Scotland. His male descendants managed to arrive in the United States and there they remained until the day that Jason's grandfather decided to move his family to Canada. Jason's mother moved back to Kansas for his father's sake, but they fled when his father became increasingly aggressive. And it was when they returned to Canada that Jason met Alex.

    Jason would not have had it any other way. He got to his feet and returned the tome to its place carefully. Even though he knew full well the protective enchantments on it, he didn't want to risk damaging it. He'd always wondered if the tome had a female counterpart in Scotland... He stroked the book's leather cover. Sadly, he would never find out.

    One of the artifacts in the velvet-lined compartment was a large stone ring that seemed to twist upon itself. It looked like a convoluted möbius strip. Its edge was etched with Celtic runes. The artifact was called a Revealing Light. His grandfather had made it in front of him, and the process intrigued him. He had never been much of an artificer though, and he had been unable to reproduce something of such quality. He removed it from its place, he would need it.

    Jason walked over to the door and put the stone ring to his right eye. He looked at his feet, and the hardwood floor melted away to reveal the sigil he had placed underneath it. It was currently inactive, and even if he activated it, it would not do its duty until he told it to. In his mind's eye, Jason fixed the sigil and willed it to come to life. He chanted the spell's words of power in Old Gaelic and he felt magic course through his body.

    He felt his blood sing the songs of his ancestors and the words of power blazed in his mind in the runes of his forefathers. For the first time in his life, something else happened. Other songs began to sing alongside the Old Gaelic chant. He could roughly pick out Latin from them. He saw runes, hieroglyphs and letters swim in front of his mind's eye, forming the words of power in the other languages of magic. It was strange, but it made him feel powerful.

    He opened his eyes and underneath his feet, the sigil was bright and pulsed with power. The circles of the sigil were moving ever so slowly, and the runes danced to their rotation. He felt some strength drain from him, but the sigil would take no more until it needed more power to do its duty. Inside the wooden compartment was a leather case that held dozens of rolls of parchment. Each leaf had a sigil of protection on it. Jason took them and hung them up about the place with great care.

    Finally there was one last thing in the compartment that his grandfather had made for him, it was an Undying Candle. Its wax was streaked with crimson from the blood that his grandfather had used to consecrate it, but the silvery sigil that was etched into its base was visible. It would be able to keep a dying man alive until its flame burned out. Neither water, sand, nor wind could douse its flame, only death.

    He put the candle in their bedroom. It would be one of the few places in the unit that would remain relatively untouched. He placed it down and drew a sigil on the floor with charcoal. He straightened, eyes watery with tears as he looked over the place he would die that very day. "Goodbye, Alex..." he whispered solemnly.

    He left the room and prepared for one last sigil. He took the white horsehair brush with an ivory handle from the compartment as well as the inkpot of silver paint. He opened his condominium door just as their insufferable neighbour left his unit. The stodgy old man gave him a dirty look when he began to paint the sigil of warding on the door. He closed the door when he was done, satisfied. Justice would not be able to teleport directly into the condo. For once in the Seraphim's life he would have to walk in through the front door.

    He finished at around four in the afternoon. The entire unit was well-protected, or at least as well as Jason could manage. The phone rang. This much he'd seen in the echoes. He didn't pick the phone up. The were-lion would probably just think he was napping. Jason did sleep in the afternoon when he had nothing to do, but not today. Today, he was preparing for his death.

    The machine picked the call up. "Hey love... Are you asleep? I hope you're alright..." Jason swallowed the lump in his throat when the were-lion's voice broke oh so slightly. That only ever happened when Alex was despondent with worry. "I'll only be here for an hour more... It's been a pretty... slow... day." He knew that wasn't really the case. Alex just wanted to go home to Jason. Alex's gulp was audible over the line. Jason opened his lips and recited word for word what Alex said next. "I love you -- Da? ... Alright. -- I love you, Jason. I'll talk to you when I get back..."

    There was one last artifact in that velvet-lined alcove by the television. It was the same one that Lorcan had risked his life to save. Today, Jason would give his life to save it. He cradled the gilded blade with its ivory hilt and golden scabbard reverently. He traced a finger along the silver wire cord that sealed the weapon shut. He would break that seal today and for the first time in centuries the blade would take blood.

    Confident that he was as prepared as he could be, Jason sat in front of the door to the condominium unit. He breathed in and out evenly, meditating, composing himself for what was to come. He focused on the hear and now, letting thoughts of Alex go for the time being. They had their place, but if he was to rebel against the Might of Heaven, he had to focus on the task at hand.

    At the stroke of five thirty, Jason felt it: the indescribably immense surge of power that could only mean that the Seraphim had arrived from the Heavens. He could feel the cosmic might of the Heavens battering at his ward, and he could feel it slowly succumbing. When the back of the door splintered, he knew the ward was gone. It fell in front of Jason.

    Two hulking lycans strode into the room abreast the Fire of Heaven. One of the lycans was his father. Despite seeing the vision countless times and knowing it would do nothing, he reached out to the lycan and whispered to it "dad?" Nothing. Only a menacing growl.

    "Pitiful" said the angel. The Wrath of God himself. The Flame of Judgment. The Fire of Heaven. Uriel. The angel had burnished copper hair and was wreathed from head to toe in sacred fire. His light was radiant and fiery, his Blaze of Glory. "Give it to me, wretch" spat the Seraphim, seeing the dagger in the brunet's hand.

    "Why should I?" said Jason calmly in defiance of the Heavenly Will.

    "Because otherwise I will pry it from your dead hands." The Seraphim's very form came alight with fire and radiance that flooded the entire condo. The lycans fell to their knees, whining at the display of power. It was a show that would reduce most mundane mortals to blubbering wrecks. "By Elohim's will, give me the dagger, sinner, and I will make sure your servitude will be in highest Heaven."

    Jason still sat on the floor, eerily calm. He raised his eyes to meet the Seraphim's glare. "No" he spoke softly, his voice heavy with some unknown authority. "I will not give it to you." Slowly Jason rose, slowly the light flowing from the Seraphim became more and more intense. By the time he stood on his two feet, he had been blinded by the light.

    "You dare defy the Lord God your maker?!" demanded Uriel. He was incredulous. A mere mortal capable of standing his ground against Judgment! Preposterous! The sword Ignis appeared in his hand. The Celestial Steel blade burst into flames and it seemed to gravitate to the lone Irishman who stood in defiance against the Wrath of the Heavenly Host. The blade sought blood.

    "Die!" Jason heard the hum of the sword's blade as it was swung towards his neck.

    ---

    "Da?" Alex said, looking up at his father who had entered the office as he left a message to Jason.

    "We need to talk."

    "Alright." The were-lion was confused. His father had never visited him in his office before. "I love you, Jason. I'll talk to you when I get back" He spoke into the phone. He put down the phone, disconnecting the call with a click. He looked at his dad. "What do we need to talk about? ... I hate to rush you, but can it be quick? I need to go home to Jason..."

    "I can't rush this, son. This is of grave importance."

    Another figure walked into the room and Alex's hackles rose once again. This could not be good. "Bonjour, Monsieur Bonaparte..." the detective began. He strode across the room and kissed the man on the cheek in traditional greeting. "To what do I owe the pleasure, Alpha?"
     

  5. The entire magical world had stopped in its tracks. Few, if any of them, had felt such an immense blaze of power before. All of them knew that it had to have been a Seraphim, and all of them knew that of the four, it was most likely Uriel. Sent to deliver God's judgment upon the living. Sent to sow His wroth. The others rarely left Heaven.

    In Egypt, Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, Ireland and all over the world, the fragments of the magical societies of eld quaked in fear. Over the centuries they had been relentlessly hunted down by the Seraphim and his lieutenants in order to purge the world of magic, leaving it vulnerable to attack from Heaven. In Israel, the vast majority of the Jewish Kabbal rejoiced. They were aligned with the Heavenly Host. Human sympathisers tried their best to remain hidden.

    Yet along with the power that emanated from the Light of Judgment, the magi could feel a different power. It was purer. It was more powerful. It was more human. Around the world, the blood of Old Ireland sang the songs of its children and its children's children after them. The shattered remains of the Druids felt in their blood that this other power belonged to their order.

    One by one, the druids knelt. Those that could pricked themselves and allowed drops of their blood to water the earth. Others, in offices and other mundane jobs stopped what they were doing and knelt, much to the bafflement of their coworkers. Others who did not know their bloodline tried to resist, but the call of the Old Order was primal, was too strong, and so they knelt.

    In its metaphysical bubble, the old ancient site of Druidic Rites thrummed with power. Its age-old guardian rose from its pedestal, filled with new energy. He rose from his stone throne, and waved his spear over the Stone Circle. Time and the absence of care had reduced the Stone Circle to rubble, but for the first time in many, many years, the Druids were unified.

    Their unity filled the guardian with restorative power and as he moved his spear, the Stone Circle rebuilt itself from the rocks strewn randomly about. When the Stone Altar was restored to its former glory, bright sunlight filtered in through the arches of the stones surrounding the Circle, bathing the Altar in radiance.

    A new High Priest had been chosen.

    ---

    The wind howled over the shifting sands of the Egyptian desert. As the magicians of old Egypt continued to watch the dueling powers with rapt attention, other forces were beginning to stir. Deep underneath the shifting sands of the Egyptian desert, far below the pyramids and deeper still than the deepest tombs of the Valley of Kings, an ancient people slumbered. While the sand above was old, predating the Egyptian empire that once sprawled above it, the rock below was more primeval still.

    Wilfully entombed in their nigh-impenetrable fortress, the First Peoples were beginning to stir from their slumber. Cast offs. Prototypes. Mistakes. They came about when God was creating man. He threw them away when he didn't find them beautiful enough. When they didn't satisfy His growing narcissism.

    Early on in the war between Hell and Heaven, the First Peoples had been split right in half. Civil war. Some of them fought for Heaven for the chance to be made whole. For the chance to be made human. They were destroyed. On the other side of the war, were the First Peoples that resented the Lord. They loathed him. Blamed him for how they were incomplete. They were ruthless.

    They knew they could never fully kill a Celestial being, but they were quick to build a reputation that even angels feared. Torturers. Sadists. Angels resorted to killing their mortal forms whenever they faced capture from the First Peoples. But ultimately, the Heavenly Host outnumbered and overran them. When the Fallen lost the Old War, the First Peoples vanished.

    During the war they had enlisted the great Greek architect and secretly, magus, Daedalus. From the island of Crete, he forged an impenetrable citadel for the First Peoples. It was to this, the Labyrinth as he called it, that they descended to slumber until they could rise to battle again. Some of the First Peoples remained on the surface to aid humanity, but most didn't care and only wanted vengeance.

    Daedalus named the fortress Labyrinth, but the First Peoples consecrated it and called it Ouroboros. Primal. Primordial. Primeval. Old as time as they were. Deep in the bowels of the earth, in the heart of the citadel, faceless men and women stirred from their thousand years' slumber. Old enemies roamed the face of the earth. War was on the horizon.

    ---

    The descent of Celestials in their true form from higher being to the mortal plane was something visible only to other Celestials or those with Celestial blood. He was only Progeny, but he had enough Celestial blood in him to see what had happened. From his perch at the high peak of Mt. Ararat, he had seen the incredibly bright streak of light cross the sky into the distance. Other Celestials could simply appear on the mortal plane, but the most powerful of them could not because the impact would shatter part of their Vessel.

    "Who was that?" he asked. "I have never seen such a powerful Celestial enter the mortal plane." He'd felt it before. He was old. Very old. But even the Highest Choirs descended with glamours, hiding their powers. It was rare that Celestials descended in true form. This was something significant.

    Beside the Progeny sat a Grigori. A Watcher. An angel of low order, but of significance all the same. They were tasked with watching the mortal world, but some of them quickly fell in love with the humans they were supposed to watch. They fell in love with the mortals whom they were supposed to keep an eye on, to record every instance of sin, to find those that would make the best slaves for the Highest Heavens. They fell in love with the inferior race, as most other angels would say. They were Unforgivable. And so one by one they left the High Heavens and consigned themselves to live on the mortal plane.

    Few Grigori remained loyal to YHWH, most of them swayed by the human plight. These became the first of the Nephalem. Not angels of the Heavenly Host, but not angels of the Fallen Legions either. They simply lived. They simply loved. But in the war for humanity's freedom, they fought to protect the people they held dear in their hearts.

    "The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him" intoned the Watcher. The once-angel rose, his wings stretching out behind him. "Thus comes the Wrath of God. The Flame of Judgment. The Fire of Heaven. Uriel."

    A Seraphim. The Progeny's eyes widened. The War was coming, just like his father and his father's father before him had said. Sure, this was just the beginning, the first shots fired, but it was also a lit fuse. It was only a matter of time before the earth tumbled headlong into chaos. Uriel coming to earth in full, true form was nothing to be dismissed. The full Wrath of God was about to be unleashed.

    He looked at the Grigori beside him, the Watcher looked back at him and nodded. He rose, fanning his wings out behind him. The wind was cold and biting, but it barely fazed the two Celestials. They shot up into the sky in tandem and did a backflip, plumetting down into the peak of the mountain. They vanished into the rock, entering the city of the Nephalem deep in the heart of the mountain.

    ---

    The door opened and in strode David Stark, smelling of cigarette smoke. The three were-creatures wrinkled their noses in disdain. Alex raised an eyebrow at his crime-solving partner. The gruff detective looked at Alex and growled "Oh don't give me that shit." Alex shrugged. "Goddamned were-creatures and their fucking sense of smell." Alex raised his eyebrow again. David mentally smacked himself. No use muttering under your breath around these people. The detective looked at Alex and glanced at the two other people in the room, and then turned to the younger were-lion "Look, I need to talk to you. You have not been yourself today and I fe--"

    "Mr. Stark. A pleasure to see you again" said Gabriel. Shaking the detective's hand. "I need to talk to Alex, as well. If you'd like you may stay as this might involve you. I'd like to introduce you to Monsieur Francois Bonaparte, Pack Alpha of the Meute d'Ile de Vancouver." The Alpha grabbed Stark by the shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek.

    "A pleasure. Sure" huffed the gruff Kabbalist. David returned the gesture of greeting. Let it never be said that he was uncultured. Though he hated having to be cultured quite a bit. "What I need to tell him is important." The look Gabriel gave him seemed like a dare. Before he could talk, though, the Alpha spoke.

    "Time is of the essence for what we're about to tell our young were-lion." Monsieur Francois said in a no-nonsense voice. "This has to do with his nature."

    "What the fuck is this about?" The Kabbalist smacked Alex on the arm and cocked his head towards the Alpha.

    "I'd like to know too, David" answered Alex, looking expectantly at his dad. The knot of worry at the bottom of his stomach wound tighter with each passing moment. "I have... other places to be." Stark raised an eyebrow at his partner who had managed to do no work all day. Probably relationship problems, but even when the two fought, Alex was not this distraught.

    "Have you and Jason... coupled recently?"

    Alex's jaw dropped. "What the fuck kind of a question is that, da?" A tinge of red flushed his cheeks. He was not going to reveal intimate details of his relationship to these people, no matter how good friends or family they were. "That's a bit uncalled for, don't you think? I promise, we've been safe... If that's all you ca--"

    "It's important, boy" said the Alpha gruffly.

    Alex looked at David for support. The other detective shrugged. He didn't want to hear how Alex and Jason screwed each other's brains out. But from the tone of voice that the Alpha had used, he knew it was way more than a mundane question. He had to be honest, he was a fair bit curious about what the fuck they were getting at.

    For a moment, Alex's mouth worked wordlessly in indignation. A sharp glare from his dad put an end to his hesitation. "Fine." Alex grabbed a chair and sat down. "We have. We did. Last night."

    "What did you do while you coupled?" Alex's eyes bulged at the question. This was getting really uncomfortable really quickly. He could feel David's and the Alpha's eyes on him. He really didn't want to say anything.

    "DA!" protested the younger were-lion.

    "It's important."

    "Well you see I have him a blowjo--" Alex began, red with embarrassment. It was awkward enough having parents that still regularly had sex. Now his dad was asking about his sex life. He could feel his ears were warm. He was sure he looked comical. David's suppressed smile of mirth attested to that.

    "AAAH! No. Son. I do NOT need the sordid details."

    "YOU ASKED!"

    "Did anything unusual happen?" Monsieur Francois cut in. "That's all we need to know. Did anything unusual happen?" Alex thought back to the previous night. Yes. Something strange did happen. At the very end, right as they climaxed, he had felt his animal self take over and he had bitten Jason. He distinctly remembered that Jason bit him as well. He instinctively rubbed his collar where Jason had bitten him.

    Gabriel noticed the action. He looked at Monsieur Francois. "They did." The Alpha grabbed Alex's left wrist. Sure enough, the band was there. Alex stared at it, perplexed. The Alpha showed his arm to Alex, pulling back the sleeve of his coat. There was a similar band on it, but much thicker and darker than Alex's.

    "What is this? What does this mean?" Alex asked, still at a loss. "Do you have one, da?" Gabriel showed his son his wrist. Nothing. The younger were-lion looked at the Alpha, expecting to see anger in those aged eyes, but he didn't find it. Instead he found an expression of pride and joy. The Alpha pulled him to his feet with confounding strength for a man his age and pulled Alex into a tight warm hug.

    "I'm lost" David interjected. He was not sure he followed, but, if he trusted his instincts, the fact that Alex had a band and his father did not either meant that Alex was the Alpha's son or that Alex was himself an Alpha. "Is Alex adopted or is he an Alpha too?"

    Gabriel chuckled. A true detective, this one, he thought. "Alex is not adopted. He is my flesh and blood. Monsieur Francois is a were-leopard of the snowy variety." The old frenchman beamed at David, showing a row of sharp teeth that went away when he closed his mouth and opened it again. "He is an Alpha... but at the same time he isn't. I don't know how to explain this properly."

    "What?" Alex whispered softly, still confused. "An Alpha but not an Alpha? How the fuck does that make sense? And I thought Alphas were always singled out of packs. I've always fit in with you guys..." The terror that wrapped the young were-lions heart grew. "...Do Jason and I have to move? Do we have to leave the pack and make our own?" For the second time that day, Alex looked like a completely lost puppy. Involuntarily, he whimpered at the thought of leaving the pack.

    Gabriel chuckled. Monsieur Francois shook the younger were-lion by the shoulders. "Get a hold of yourself, young one" Alex just looked at the Alpha. "You might want to sit down for this..."

    ---

    Jason felt something inside him shift. There was a buzz that began at his fingers and quickly spread to the rest of his body. He felt powerful. He felt strong. He felt like he could move mountains. As Druids of bloodlines old and new around the world knelt in deference to him, the mantle that was never given to his ancestor was thrust upon his shoulders. The Watcher had become the High Priest. He raised his hand to the swing of the blade and invoked the sigil.

    "Halt." He commanded in Old Gaelic. "By the will of the Celestial Sphere, the Infernal Pit and the Worlds Between, I bind you, Uriel, Flame of Judgment, Wrath of God, Fire of Heaven!" He could feel the power of his ancestors racing out of his blood, feeding the spell that would bind the Seraphim to where he stood. There was a mighty gust of wind and a pearlescent barrier sprung up at the border of the arcane circle underneath Uriel's feet.

    The rising barrier met the Celestial Steel of Ignis and the sword melted away. Where the blade touched the barrier, it began to dissolve. Flecks of light drifted down from the blade and a glowing weblike lattice spread along the blade and down the hilt before it was forcefully flung back to the Sacred Light from whence it came.

    Uriel grunted. His hand had been singed. There, burnt into the flesh of the palm of his hand was the shape of Ignis' hilt as well as the sigil that it bore. The Seraphim's light dimmed, and his fire sputtered but did not die. "What are you?" he demanded, horrified at what this 'mere mortal' had done to him. He raised his burnt palm to his face and touched it with his other hand. He hissed at the pain. A mortal had managed to wound a Celestial. A mortal had managed to wound Uriel's pride. Rage bubbled up in the Seraphim. His hand darted up and quickly drew the Sigil of Summons for Metatron. "Metatr--!"

    Jason opened his eyes and looked in the direction of the Seraphim. His eyes were wholly white, burning with arcane power. Though the light of the Seraphim flooded everything, Jason could see nothing. He was still blind. In front of his mind's eye danced words of power from the different disciplines of magic, but some of them were flickering in and out of existence.

    His power was incomplete, but it was enough. "I am Jason Collins." A wind rose behind him, howling in delight as he spoke in the old Nordic tongue. "I am of the blood of Old Ériu." The ground shook. He spoke in Egyptian. "Protector of the Stone Circle." The sky thundered. Latin flowed from his tongue. "Descendant of Lorcan Ó Cathasaigh, the Watcher of the Isles" Finally, he bellowed in Old Gaelic. "I am High Priest of the Druids!"

    A High Priest. Uriel's eyes widened in surprise. He'd thought that they had sufficiently destroyed all the other disciplines. Now there was another High Priest, one who would and could challenge the High Priest of Jerusalem. "But you are mortal" said the Seraphim smugly. The Voice of God could still compel the most magically adept of mortals. This Jason Collins stood no chance against Metatron's Voice. He finished the Sigil of Summons and bellowed the Name like his Master's.

    "No more mortal than you, Seraphim."

    A loud crack filled the air as the Divine Light began to flood the condominium, drowning out even Uriel's Blaze of Glory. Booming from the heavens, the Voice of God spoke. "By the Everlasting Grace of YHWH, by his Supreme Justice, bequeath the blade to the Fire of Heaven!" it said. The entire condominium building shook. Outside people ran in blind panic thinking the earth was shaking. "I, Elohim, your creator, father, and master; your God, command you. Relinquish it!"

    Jason took a step forward, the Voice ringing in his head, filling his ears, consuming his entire being. Every cell in his body responded joyously to that Voice. Every cell in his body told him to give the dagger to Uriel. He closed his eyes. A cruel smile twisted the corners of Uriel's lips.

    He took another step forward.

    ---

    "I'm what?" asked Alex, incredulous. He'd never heard of such a thing. His dad never told him about it, nor did he ever find any mention of Lieutenant Alphas in pack texts. There was probably a whole section in the Pack library that only the Alphas, Betas and Gammas could access. "What exactly are Lieutenant Alphas?" David looked on, bemused. Not every day you learn new things about the person you've worked with for the past couple of years.

    Gabriel patted his son's shoulder. "Lieutenant Alphas are like Alphas in their own right. You can form your own pack. Create a mating bond that none can break. The only difference is, all of this you can only do under the authority of the Alpha Prime, in this case, Monsieur Francois." The older man smiled at the man who would someday become his full-fledged Lieutenant. He would hold a rank even higher than his father's, who happened to be the Pack Beta. But that would be in the future, when he fully came into his abilities.

    Alex scratched at his wrist, feeling a slight discomfort there. He thought it was simply the bond developing and etching itself onto his skin that was causing it to itch. "Why have I never heard of Lieutenant Alphas, then?"

    "Because it is knowledge only we Alphas Prime, our Omegas Prime and our Betas and Gammas know of, at this time" answered Monsieur Francois. "We thought they were extinct, Lieutenant Alphas, but here you are, living proof that we were wrong. There used to be way more of you out there, helping keep large packs together, organized. But the lack of Lieutenant Omegas would see to the end of that." Lieutenant Omegas? There was such a thing? Alex was still a bit confused, although he was beginning to understand.

    "Yes, Lieutenant Omegas. However, their existence was entirely linked to the Lieutenant Alphas. When the Shadows went underground, we lost contact with the families that carried the sigil that enabled a human to become a Lieutenant Omega" continued the old man. "It seems that Lieutenant Alphas were similarly linked. You found your Lieutenant Omega early on, which was lucky, so you never felt any different. Others aren't so fortunate. Your kind is more emphatic than the other classes of were-creature. As a result, you need, no, crave the love you could only find from your Lieutenant Omega."

    "Without contact with the Lieutenant Omega families, any of us that were born as Lieutenant Alphas vanished or went insane with longing." Gabriel averted his gaze. Alex caught the motion. "Eventually, fewer and fewer Lieutenant Alphas were born. Until at some point a few decades ago, they stopped being born altogether. We don't know why, but they just were. Until your father met your mother."

    "Da... Was Nathan a Lieutenant Alpha?" Alex looked at his dad, a deep sadness in his eyes. Maybe he could find his older brother with Jason. Maybe they could be one big happy family again. He shoved the thought away. The years had changed him. They had probably changed his brother more. But the child in him still wished they could be together again.

    "He was, Alex..." said the older were-lion, his voice cracking. "He wasn't as lucky as you. He didn't find an Omega, so he left to look for one. We never saw him again after that..."

    "Look. I know you have all this shit to talk about, and I was hoping to get Alex alone for this, but something bad is afoot" David piped up, tired of waiting for his turn. "I know you've been worried all day for Jason, Alex, but man the fuck up." The younger were-lion glared at him, offended. "I think a really powerful Angel just came to earth."

    "I felt it. Not too long ago. It couldn't have been anything else. It was so powerful." Monsieur Francois' eyes widened. Gabriel clutched the desk beside him. Alex went pale. The band on his wrist had become almost intolerably itchy, but he could feel, from somewhere, somehow, an intense feeling of calmness.

    "Jason..." he whispered. "FUCK. I should be with Jason!" Alex jumped from his chair and made for the door as fast as he could. His father got up to stop him. Francois moved out of the way so as not to get knocked down by the frantic lover. He took three steps, and then his world became consumed by utter searing pain from the band around his wrist. He fell to the ground, clutching his wrist, convulsing from the pain. Documents, folders and clipboards clattered to the floor when he convulsively kicked over one of the nearby desks.

    "This is bad." Monsieur Francois said as he took of his coat and knelt beside Alex. "Get him water, Mr. Stark." The Alpha tried to peel off Alex's hand from his wrist while pulling him into an upright position, but the younger were-lion's violent shaking made it difficult. "Gabriel. Prop him up."

    The older were-lion did as he was told, sitting his son up as a tear rolled down the younger blond's face. Francois finally managed to pry Alex's fingers from their vice-like grip on his wrist to reveal the band that was etched into the skin there. It was blood red and was pulsing. "No. No. No. This can't happen!" Francois grabbed the nearby phone and dialled the Pack's emergency line as soon as he could.

    ---

    "No..." Jason whispered, stopping in his tracks. "No." He said, regaining his voice. "I will not allow you to leave here with this dagger." The High Priest of Old Ireland spoke calmly, not raising his voice at all. That truly frightened Uriel. Never before had he faced a mortal that did not in some way fear him or the might of the Heavens. Never before had a mortal resisted the command of his Creator. This Jason Collins showed absolutely no fear.

    "What are you?"

    "I am a man who loves and is loved..." Jason said. "I am a man who cares and is cared for..." He unwound the silver wire seal that bound the dagger blade to its sheath. He snapped the wire. "I will not watch you stand triumphant as you burn my love to ashes. I will not stand idly by as you bind me and the people I love with shackles of fire."

    Jason stepped forward and knelt before Uriel. Using the dagger he scratched a single sigil of a discipline that had never before been seen in the world into the floor. The Seraphim's eyes widened. New magic. "You may sear my flesh..." Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. "You may char my bones..." Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. "You may grind me to ashes..." He rose, the sigil complete. "But you will not harm the people I love!"

    "Impertinent fool" spat Uriel, taking a step towards the barrier that separated him from Jason. "I will escape your flimsy prison" The Seraphim's light burned brighter still, and fire rose from his mortal form. "I will smite you." All six of the angel's wings unfurled and his full Blaze of Glory became visible. The two Lycans behind him were instantly incinerated, leaving only shadows on the walls behind them. "And the dagger will be mine."

    The Seraphim strode forward to the barrier. He put a hand up to it and pushed with all his might. Blood trickled down one of Jason's nostrils but the barrier held. Jason's eyes glowed with more power, and the Seraphim was thrown back. "H-how?!" Uriel rose sputtering. Quickly he began to draw a sigil in the air to negate the barrier.

    "I may be blind, Seraphim, but I see you where you stand" Jason began to speak in perfect Latin. "I know what you are doing. Your magicks will do you no good here." Jason waved his hand and the sigil that the Seraphim was drawing dissolved into thin air. "You are bound."

    With an inarticulate scream of rage, the Seraphim charged the barrier, mortal form slowly burning away in the fire that wreathed his body. The impact was so great that it knocked Jason to his knees, and he began to cough blood, but the Seraphim was thrown back out into the corridor outside the condo unit. "You. WILL. DIE!" bellowed Uriel, summoning Ignis once more and charging the barrier with it held forward.

    The blade hit the barrier, but was still no match for the strange magic that Jason was using. The steel began to shatter, pure sacred light streaming through the cracks. And then it broke. It exploded, the pieces disappearing as shards of light that flew outwards. The shattering of the blade produced a shockwave that sent Uriel flying, but it also broke most of the glass in the condo unit. A large crack appeared between Jason and Alex in the framed photo of their engagement.

    "I will die" whispered Jason. "But not by your hand, Seraphim."

    With a hooking motion of his finger, he beckoned the Seraphim to him. An invisible force pushed Uriel towards him, sending the angel stumbling forwards. "But today, this form of yours will die as well." Jason raised the dagger just as the Seraphim passed through the barrier unscathed. The barrier formed a sort of bubble around the Seraphim, limiting his movements. As he was drawn inexorably closer to Jason, he snarled. He reached out with his hands to strangle the life from the mortal, but the barrier stopped him.

    "You want the golden athame of my ancestors?" Jason brought down the dagger, slitting his wrist. He winced in pain, but kept on going, slicing through the vein and allowing his lifeblood to gush through. He wet the length of the blade with his blood and it pulsed, turning a sanguine gold colour. "You want the blade that is humanity's final hope of winning its freedom?" The blade thrummed with the power in Jason's blood. Frozen in place, the Seraphim's eyes widened at what the brunet was doing. No. No. No. He struggled to free himself of his prison to no avail.

    He had faced hordes of demons, slain hundreds of Shadows, destroyed swathes of First Peoples, consigned some of the highest of Heaven's angels to the pit, had faced the very Wrath of God that he represented, but never in his long life had he been truly afraid. Never, that is, until now. He could feel the consecrated, ensanguined blade greedily lap at his Celestial Light. He could feel its hunger. He could feel himself, at least in this form, being unmade.

    "This blade was first consecrated in the flesh and blood of the Morning Star" Jason intoned solemnly. "Today it drinks mine, yet it still thirsts. It seeks the same flesh and blood that it first tasted." He stepped up to Uriel seeing the Seraphim clearly in his mind's eye. "That is why it is anathema to Celestials. This blade's hunger knows no satisfaction." Jason could feel his life draining through the gash in his wrist. He felt lightheaded, but he had to do this.

    Jason stepped up to the Seraphim. "You want this blade?" The angel's fiery eyes trembled. He shook his head, pleading. "Take it. Be destroyed by it." He traced an upside-down pentagram on the Seraphim's chest. The angel watched in horror as the light that pooled out of the gashes turned to blood. "Wrath of God. Flame of Judgment. Fire of Heaven. Return from the Light from whence you came!" Jason plunged the dagger into the Seraphim's heart.

    Uriel screamed. He screamed in rage. He screamed in fury. He screamed in agony. He screamed in fear. Cracks raced along his skin and as blood poured out, his scream intensified, shattering all the glass within earshot. Higher and higher leapt his Blaze of Glory as it consumed him, blackening the Seraphim's skin with char. Blood stopped flowing when the Seraphim's mortal guise died and light began to flood out of the cracks that had formed on his skin.

    The Seraphim's howls of agony reached a crescendo. They were guttural. They were animalistic. The Choirs of Heaven screeched to a halt as they heard the dying cries of Uriel's form. The screams pierced the veil between worlds, and deep in the pits of hell, Lucifer smiled. Uriel's light continued to escape from his form faster and faster until the fragile cage could contain it no more and he exploded. Sacred Light flooded the apartment and it instantly incinerated any organics that it touched. All those who had the misfortune of looking upon it dropped unconscious to the ground.

    All around the world, magic-users felt the light of Uriel flee existence. Some rejoiced. Some grieved. Some pondered. But all of them did not know what happened to that other light that had accompanied it. Had it also been extinguished?
     
    • Love Love x 1
  6. Francois had made a horrible mistake. He almost dropped the phone. He heard the other side of the line ringing but the matter couldn't wait. "Gabriel!" David Stark entered the room with a cup of water. "Restrain him!" He should never have forgotten. Lieutenant Alphas were among the most powerful were-creatures when their Omegas were in danger. That was the only possible explanation for the bond on Alex's wrist reacting so vehemently. Now, especially, while the bond was being nurtured, the young were-lion would react more violently than if the bond had matured. If he lost his Omega at this point in the mating process, it would break him.

    "What?" Gabriel asked, not understanding but following nonetheless. He might have been just a few years younger than Francois but even in their advanced age they had formidable strength. "Why do we need to restrain him?" The younger were-lion had let go of his arm but had now curled up in fetal position. Gabriel took his son's arms and brought them behind the younger were-lion's back, making sure to secure them in place with all his strength.

    "As soon as he regains control of himself and manages to shut out some of the pain he's feeling, he's going to want to go to his Omega as fast as possible, in any way available to him." replied Francois. Dammit. Pick up. Pick up. He demanded silently. He turned to Gabriel "We don't know what's going on. But if he goes, he might find himself in peril. There's not going to be any use reasoning with him, he won't liste--Yes? Bonjour. We have a code Om--!"

    The Alpha jumped out of the way when Gabriel flew clean across the room. Alex had managed to get free. David shrank back into the shadows. He knew he stood no chance against the enraged were-lion, much better that he stayed out of the way and bring less of a risk to himself. "Alex..." Francois began. It was senseless. He was just buying time. "If you rush there now, you might put yourself into danger" He looked at Alex properly. He noted that the were-lion had not even begun to transform yet, but he had managed to hurl his father, the pack Beta, across the room. His strength was impressive. "What would Jason think?"

    Alex growled. It was a deep, throaty, guttural, raw and utterly animalistic growl that made Francois' hackles stand on end. Alex was desperate. Francois had to stop the young were-lion for his own good and the safety of the people in the building. If he could.

    He growled as well, putting as much of his Alpha authority in it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gabriel whimper and shrink away from him. That was the effect of an Alpha's growl on most members of the pack, but it did not faze Alex. He was not thinking straight. The older man's muscles rippled, growing larger, leaner. His bones creaked and cracked and shifted about to accommodate a larger frame. He grew a tail from his tailbone as hair all over his body lengthened to give him a snow-white coat of fur.

    His face contorted and elongated to give him a snout. When the transformation was done, the Alpha stood there, his clothes hanging about him in tatters, sharp teeth bared at Alex. Francois snapped his mouth at Alex, but again, the younger were-lion did not budge, only glared at him with hurt, indignation and fury.

    "Don't stand in my way, Monsieur" threatened the young blond. Francois shook his head. He couldn't stand aside and let Alex leave. It was dangerous. "So be it" The snow leopard moved to block Alex's way. The young were-lion bared his own teeth, still completely in human form, and growled menacingly. The Alpha could feel it in the pit of his stomach. Fear. Intimidation. Alex would indeed be a good Alpha when Francois died, but for now, he had to be contained.

    Alex glared at the Alpha and began to walk towards the door. He took one step. Francois leaned forward threateningly. He took another. Francois clenched his fists, ready to fight. He took another. The Alpha took one more step to completely block Alex's way. The young were-lion snarled and smacked the were-leopard with his forearm, sending the older were-creature flying into the wall, knocking over desks and chairs as he went.

    David considered trying to stop Alex, but when he saw the were-lion glare at him, his blood ran cold in his veins. He didn't know Alex could be this terrifying, but he was. He wasn't even in his were-lion form. Outside, people were beginning to wonder about the commotion in the detectives' office, but pack members that worked for the precinct moved them away in case of danger.

    Alex grabbed his coat and wrenched the door open, clean off its hinges. He threw it behind him. It crashed into the wall a few inches away from David's face. The Kabbalist froze in shock at the unintentional attempt on his life. The were-lion ran out to his car as fast as he could. He had to get to Jason. He had to protect Jason. Jason was in danger. Jason was all he could think about.

    He fumbled with his keys. When he couldn't find them in time, he just punched a hole through his window and opened his car from there. As he got in he found the right key for the ignition and almost instantly, the engine roared to life. The screech of a car taking off at high speed and the smell of singed rubber filled the air.

    Francois stirred from where he had fallen from the force of Alex's shove. He was sprawled over an upturned desk. Blood trickled down his temple and his arm looked badly swollen. It would heal quickly, but Alex had gotten away. The older man was beginning to revert and he hoarsely called for David. "Mr. Stark."

    "David" said the Kabbalist, running over. "I'll prepare a healing sigil."

    "David. No. Follow him" said the older man weakly. "He needs to be protected from himself." Francois hacked. He felt a bruised rib.

    "ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE?!" demanded David. "He threw you across the fucking room. You. The fucking Alpha of the most powerful pack in recent history. And you expect me to go after him?"

    "You've got your magic. Use it."

    David shook his head, sighing. Looked like he had no choice in the matter. "And what about you?" The Kabbalist hastily stood and scribbled sigils onto pieces of parchment. He would need them if what he had seen was anything to go by.

    "Get someone in here to see to Gabriel. He needs help more than I do. I'll heal."

    David ran out and grabbed one of the nearest were-creatures he could find. "Your Alpha and your Beta need help. Go." He got out a fag and lit it as he jogged to his car. No need to hurry, he guessed. If he tried to match what he suspected was Alex's speed he would probably break half a dozen laws in the process. It wasn't long before David had also pulled out of the precinct employee parking lot in pursuit of the young were-lion.

    ---

    Jason lay sprawled at the other side of the room where the expulsion of Uriel's Light had thrown him. The sigil he had drawn on the floor with the dagger protected him from the brunt of the Sacred Light, otherwise he would've been incinerated on the spot.

    His good hand twitched. Jason's eyes opened and he propped himself up with his good arm. He was bruised and battered and bleeding in several different places. He could feel the warm trickle of blood dripping from his temples. He couldn't move his left arm. It was probably dislocated. The young Irishman staggered to his feet, hissing as a result of the pain it caused him.

    Jason looked around, surveying the damage the confrontation had done to his home with Jason. Some of the sigils he'd hung up were sigils of restoration. He lent them some of his strength so that they could begin the process of fixing the place. The entire unit leading to the door was covered in a fine layer of soot, and all of their wooden furniture -- fortunately it wasn't a lot -- had been reduced to ashes.

    The sigils would restore those, but he didn't have the strength to make them do so faster. Remnants of the Seraphim's power still hung around the place, he made the magic draw from the energy of those remnants when he could no longer sustain the spells. The remnants had enough power to finish the restoration, but it would still take hours. He gritted his teeth in a grim facsimile of a smile when he saw the line of soot retreating ever so slowly.

    Jason stumbled into their bedroom, barely making it to the sigil on the floor before he collapsed. He roared in agony when he landed on his bad arm. It hurt. He used the last of his magical energy to activate the candle. As a small tongue of flame flickered into existence on the candle's wick, he felt the pain leave his body. He lay there, his wrist still spilling blood into the floor around him, his hand still clutching the golden athame.

    Something told him his beloved were-lion was on his way.

    ---

    Francois had lost consciousness at some point when David left and one of the pack members at the precinct had gone in to do first aid on Gabriel. His priority were the people he had authority over. When he had seen Gabriel was taken care of, he had let go of his consciousness. Now he was being roused by a gentle hand. "Dad. Oi. Dad??"

    "I-I'm awake" he whispered. It was his son Connor.

    "You look pretty bad..." The younger were-leopard poked his father through the blanket that was covering his mostly-naked form. "What happened? Gabriel's cold out, couldn't get anything from him." Francois looked around. He was in a hospital room. Probably one of the pack-owned hospitals. "I didn't know you could get banged up this badly, dad."

    "I'm an Alpha, son." Francois coughed. "I'm not invincible." He grabbed his son's arm. "Alexandre White has gone berserk." Connor's eyes narrowed, and Francois felt the transformation spasms race along his son's musculature.

    "That fucking son of a bitch. And he did this to his own dad too?" Francois slapped his son's arm gently and shook his head sadly. "Oh don't give me that, dad. He hurt you. The Alpha. I'll make sure he gets hurt too."

    "Has your mother been told yet?" Francois sat up gingerly in the bed. His rib made him hiss in pain. "Please, get her here. And don't you dare do anything to Alex. He'll be your Alpha when I'm gone." Connor's eyes widened.

    "But I'm your son!"

    "It doesn't work that way, Connor. Ownership of the pack with pass on to the next strongest pack member." Francois stroked his son's arm sadly. "Alex is the strongest Lieutenant Alpha we have seen in decades. That's why he was able to do this to me." Connor shook his head, no. He'd always aspired to be just like his dad. "Listen to me, Connor!" Francois said, mustering all his authority. "Alex's Omega, Jason is probably in mortal peril, if not at death's door. That's why he's gone berserk."

    Connor had to suppress a gasp. His dad had told him about Lieutenant Alphas. To have your Omega in such a precarious position, that was terrifying. "He hasn't yet learned to throttle the empathy they share, so he felt every bit of pain that Jason did." Connor averted his eyes. He couldn't imagine losing Melissa, much less losing someone who you shared your heart with. The bond of Alphas was so much stronger than that of mates.

    "Please. We tried to restrain him so he wouldn't go and potentially risk himself." Francois reflected. "Please, go send a team and make sure they're alright."

    Connor nodded. He would go help, but only out of sympathy. "I'll tell mom to come here right away." When the time came that his father passed, he still wanted to take his place as the pack Alpha. He would fight Alex for the position. The pack was part of his father's legacy. He wouldn't let it so easily be taken away from him.

    ---

    The candle sputtered and wept its wax as Jason's life drained slowly from his body. His blood had pooled around him already, and his limbs had gone completely limp. He drew in air in shuddering gasps, but he felt no pain. The magic saw to that. At least he wouldn't be delirious from the pain when Alex came to say their final goodbyes.

    Faintly he could hear stomping coming quickly up the stairs. His lover was coming. He smiled. He heard footsteps thundering down the hallway outside. He could feel the anger and concern and fear radiating from Alex. He didn't know why, but he did. He knew when the were-lion had stopped at the door to their unit because he heard a roar. It was a deep, terrifying roar that shook the walls. He smiled. At least he would die in the arms of his were-lion.

    Alex looked at the damage in their unit and he could hardly believe his eyes. He knew Jason was alive. Barely. He could feel it. But he couldn't move. The walls were charred. All their furniture, ashes. The TV screen was cracked. A wooden compartment he had never seen before hung open, the panel that served to cover it swinging by a single hinge. Creak. Back and forth. Creak. Back and forth.

    "Jason?" Alex called out, fearing the worst. "Jason where the fuck are you?" His voice cracked. The young Irishman could hear the fear in his were-lion's voice. "JASON! Where are you?!" he bellowed. "Please... answer me..." Alex pleaded in a gentler, more vulnerable tone. Jason's breath caught in his throat. He could feel the tears in Alex's voice.

    "I-I'm here, Alex." The were-lion's acute hearing instantly pinpointed Jason's location. Their bedroom. Jason heard the thundering of footsteps as Alex ran towards their room. He heard a dull thud when the were-lion stumbled. Finally, he heard a pained mewl when Alex finally reached him. For a moment, the were-lion just stood there, frozen in shock.

    Jason felt as though a spear had just been thrust into his heart when Alex's face contorted into an expression of pure agony. This was a different kind of pain that the candle couldn't draw away from him, but he somehow he knew that whatever pain he wasn't feeling, Alex was feeling ten times over. "Jason... Jason..." The were-lion sank to his knees and cradled his lover in his arms. "Goddammit, Jason. What the fuck happened to you?" Alex kissed Jason on the forehead. Jason could feel the splattering of tears on his face. The spear that he felt thrust into his chest was twisted. He grimaced.

    "Hush..." He reached up with his good hand as his other arm hung limply by his side. He caressed the side of Alex's face. "It doesn't matter... Not now."

    "Who did this to you?!" Alex demanded, anger bubbling in the pit of his stomach. "I-I-I'll..." Jason shook his head. He took his hand and wiped the tears from Alex's face.

    "You'll what... Alex?" Jason whispered, weakly. "Take revenge on them?" Alex nodded, unable to speak, his voice caught in his throat. His tears still flowed freely. "I don't want you to get hurt when..." Jason almost couldn't say it. He had to force it out of his throat. "When I'm gone..."

    "No..." Alex said, disbelief and grief consuming his being. "No... Jason you can't die... We're--We're getting married. We--We're going to the pack's cabin in the mountains..." He shook his head. Jason wasn't going to die. He knew healers. He knew people who could help. "D-don't leave me, Jason..."

    Jason reached down with his good hand, the gash in its wrist still bleeding, and took the platinum engagement ring from his left ring finger, dropping the dagger on his chest. His blood smeared all over the ring, but he held it in front of his face. He looked at it. Alex's eyes followed. "Alex..." The were-lion nodded and the nape of his neck. "Look at this... What is this?"

    Alex nuzzled Jason's forehead. "It's your engagement ring, Jason..."

    "I know." Jason smiled tenderly, sadly. "But it's also my promise ring." Alex nodded. "What did I tell you when we agreed to get married, Alex?"

    "I will lo--love you and ch-cherish you always..." responded the were-lion, his voice catching in his throat. Jason smiled again. He took Alex's hand and pressed the ring into it. Alex's crying intensified. Jason felt the sobs wracking the were-lion's body. The spear in his chest was twisted yet again.

    "And I always will..." he said weakly to the were-lion. "Always. I won't leave you Alex..." Jason raised a trembling hand to wipe away Alex's tears again. "Please... love... don't cry. I don't want this face to be the last thing I see..."

    "Don't fucking say that, Jason! Don't!" Alex said, pleading, begging. "You're not going to die... You can't." He frantically pressed his hands to Jason's wrist in an effort to stop the bleeding. "Just hold on... Jason... I'm sure there are ambulances coming... Healers... You can live... You can live!" Jason shook his head sadly. No.

    "Fuck... I knew something was bothering you but I didn't want to say anything... I thought you didn't want to talk about it..." Alex said, nuzzling Jason's forehead more. "You knew this was coming, didn't you?" Jason nodded, the pain lancing through his heart from lying to Alex intensifying. "I knew it... I fucking knew it." Alex shook his head. "I should've stayed. It's all my fault!"

    The were-lion felt a gentle tap on the side of his cheek as Jason sympathetically slapped him. "It's not your fault, dear..." Jason's breathed in raggedly and coughed. "Listen to me, please. Listen to me" Jason gestured around the room. Jason gestured in the direction of the rest of their unit. He gestured at himself. "All of this... is just the beginning. You need to be strong."

    Jason grasped Alex's hand with his own with all the strength that remained in him. "This was all a part of a cycle. Time looped. I don't know how... I don't know why... But this time it's different. The cycle's been broken. I don't think I'm coming back to find you again..." Alex sobbed. "There will be no other chances for mankind... Alex... They'll need you to be strong. Pleace, make a difference, for me. Please... Keep this dagger safe..."

    Jason pressed the dagger into Alex's hand. Alex looked at it and back to his dying lover. "I--I don't understand, Jason... Please..." Jason caressed Alex's cheek. "Please... don't talk like this. I--I don't know what I'll do without you..." Alex pressed his head into Jason's chest. He felt his lover's hand stroke the back of his head, as though to assure him.

    "You don't have to understand right now, Alex... Just... Never forget..." The candle's flame sputtered. His time was almost up. He could feel the cold skeletal hands of death clawing at his limbs. "You'll live, Alex... I told you, you'll live." He smiled weakly and brushed away Alex's tears from the were-lion's cheeks.

    Alex's strong grip caught his hand and kept it there. The were-lion's tears were uncontrollable. The gentle beast that held Jason in its arms shook with great shuddering sobs. "Y-you're not going t-to d-die Jason... Y-you're not..." he said, shaking his head vehemently in denial.

    Jason used the last of his strength to bring his lips up to Alex's. They shared one last passionate kiss as the candle's flame sputtered one last time and began to die. Jason felt all the pain rush back into his body. His breath caught in his lungs. He felt Alex tense. But still, they kissed.

    Staring longingly into Alex's tawny, glassy brown-eyes Jason said "I will love you and cherish you always... Always, Alexandre White..." he whispered as he drew one last breath.

    With a final ragged exhalation, Jason released the last breath he would take in his life and accepted death's cold embrace. Before the darkness took him, he heard one last thing. "And I... you... Jason Collins... always..." With a smile Jason closed his eyes and slipped from the world of the living.

    Jason's spirit could see the Gates of Hell. He could feel the Pit pulling him, calling him. He'd known he would be consigned to eternal suffering. For one last time he caressed Alex's jaw with his hand and kissed the were-lion chastely and lovingly on the cheek. Then, the Gates opened and he was sucked into the Pit.

    Alex did not feel what Jason's spirit had done. All he knew was that his lover, his fiancé, his Omega, his soulmate, was dead. He kissed Jason's forehead one last time. Just as David Stark tentatively walked into the room, a primal guttural roar filled with utter agony, grief and loss was ripped from Alex's throat.

    He set Jason's limp body on the floor. He felt his bones pop as the transformation ravaged his body. He felt his legs stretch, his face elongate, his tail grow. Another roar was ripped from his throat. Then another. And another. And another until he could roar no more.

    His voice gone, the were-lion just sat hunched in front of the corpse of his beloved, tears streaming freely from his now-feline face. David walked over, tears fresh in his own eyes. Against his better judgment, the Kabbalist walked over to Alex and placed a hand on the were-lion's shoulder for comfort.

    He'd expected to get mauled. Or at least attacked. He was completely ignored. Minutes later, two fully-transformed snowy were-leopards came into the room. They tried to move Alex, but he would not budged, consumed by a state of catatonia. It took a strong dose of tranquilizer to get the young were-lion to budge. Even so, his hands clutched the ring and the dagger so tightly that the team that had been called in to respond to the situation could not pry them from his hands.

    ---

    Tree leaves stirred in the forest as a cool breeze blew through them. Dim light filtered in through the foliage, casting wild shifting shapes of light and dark on the underbrush below. There was rustle accompanied by the dull thumping of hooves on the forest floor as a large elk rushed through the treeline, trying to evade its hunters.

    Behind it followed two creatures, a lion and a white tiger. The lion growled, preparing to run off after the elk, but the tiger smacked the lion's face with its paw, made a sound like derisive laughter and shot off into the distance. The lion let loose a playful growl before loping after the tiger.

    The white tiger ran through the trees, much nimbler than the lion behind him who was used to the wide open savannahs of the Dream. He caught sight of his quarry, standing in the middle of a clearing, looking around warily for the tiger and the lion. The white tiger transformed silently into a human, trying its best not to startle its prey.

    Aaron had a bow and quiver of arrows hidden nearby. They were slung around a low-lying branch about a quarter of the circumference of the clearing to his left. Quietly, stealthily, he moved towards it. When he was finally able to retrieve his hunting implements, the elk had taken to grazing.

    He lined up the shot, nocking an arrow and drawing the bowstring to his cheek. A loud roar startled Aaron, the Elk and a couple hundred birds that flew out of the foliage in blind panic. Twang. Aaron let the arrow loose, cursing under his breath. It hit the Elk, but not fatally.

    He emerged from the treeline in tiger form, bounding towards the Elk at full speed. The injured animal could not outrun him this time. There was a sickening crunch of bone as he broke the animal's neck and began to feed. He wondered where Nathan was. The were-lion had been just behind him.

    He was halfway through an elk haunch when he felt a stab of sorrow hit him. And then another. And then another. The tiger's eyes widened. Something was wrong. He took the kill and dragged it to the underbrush, hiding it in the hopes that they could come back to it later, before he went loping off into the forest to look for his partner.

    Aaron found the lion, or at least the human that had been the lion, right where he had left him. Nathan was being wracked by inconsolable sobs and Aaron felt every shuddering gasp in his very being. His eyes started to tear up as well. "Nate... Nate what's wrong?"

    The young man ran up to his partner and hugged him. Nathan buried his face in the crook of Aaron's neck and wrapped his arms around the were-tiger. "There, there..." said the younger of the two as he laid them down gently on the forest floor. He kissed Nathan on the temple. "What happened?"

    Nathan shook his head. He didn't want Aaron to be exposed to such sad things. That, and his voice was dead in his throat. It was such a horrible tragedy, one that he had felt through the veil of worlds. "It's okay... Come on, Nate, tell me..."

    Nathan's Omega's gentle voice touched something inside him. It triggered his protective instinct. "Alex..." He embraced Aaron tighter. "Alex's Omega is dead..." he whispered as he sobbed into Aaron even harder.

    Nathan loved his brother and he couldn't imagine the perhaps unbearable pain that the younger were-lion was feeling. He could feel a fraction of it and it was so intense and all-encompassing that he couldn't help but grieve. He wondered how much more intense Alex's grief must be.

    The were-lion felt his Omega's smaller frame begin to tremble. Aaron was crying now too, sharing in the grief that flowed through their bond. "Don't leave me, Aaron..." Nathan kissed his Omega's collar he had bitten Aaron to become mates.

    "Don't leave me, Nathan..." together the two wept in the depths of the forests of the Dream, grieving for love lost.
     
  7. Alex woke up at the break of dawn three days after Jason's death. He was groggy from the sedative that had been given to him in an IV drip, and had little recollection of what had transpired. He looked around, having a slight panic attack when he realized he was in a hospital. His parents were in the room, asleep, but he couldn't see Jason anywhere. He looked at Gabriel. The older were-lion had his arm in a cast. What the fuck had happened?

    Alex wondered where his lover was. The were-lion wondered what had happened. The last thing he remembered was being told he was a Lieutenant Alpha. He tried to sit up, but ended up falling back down on the bed, still weak from all the sedatives in his system. The noise was enough to make his mother stir from her sleep on the chair. She looked at him, a momentary look of panic crossing her face until she realized he was just lying on the bed. Alice White stood up and walked over to Alex's bedside.

    Gabriel snorted once and woke from his sleep, feeling that his wife had left his side. He looked over to where Alice was standing beside his son's bed. "Dear..." he said in a soft voice. He didn't see that Alex was awake. "Come on. He's not supposed to be awake for a few more hours... Then we'll call the nurse." Gabriel patted the space beside him.

    Alex looked up at his mom's eyes, they were watery. Why was his mom tearing up? The were-lioness took Alex's right hand in both of hers. Her voice quivered and caught in her throat. "Oh Alex..." What was wrong? Why? Was he sick with some disease? Were-creatures were immune to all manner of human ailments, so that was unlikely. "Alex... I'm so... so sorry..." She brushed away the hair that had fallen over his forehead and kissed him there. He looked at her, perplexed.

    Alex's throat felt scratchy and raw. He struggled to get the words out. "M-mom?" Gabriel sat upright, electrified by the sound of Alex's hoarse voice. "Wh-what happened? W-what are you sorry about?" His mother's hands had been gently stroking his. They stopped, suddenly. She looked at him in shock and then slowly turned to Gabriel. He'd heard every word.

    "What do you mean what happened, dear?" His mother's hands resumed their gentle stroking of his hand. "Don't you remember?" A single tear rolled down her face. Gabriel staggered across the room and placed a protective arm around his wife's waist, eyes also watery as he looked with sympathy at his son.

    "D-dad?" The younger were-lion's gaze darted between the two. "W-what's going on?" Alex tried to sit up again, but once more ended up falling back down to the bed. "W-where's Jason? I n-need to see him..." His mother's hands fell away as Gabriel physically moved her a step or two away from the bedside. The action distressed Alex. What the fuck was going on?

    "Alex... Calm down..." Gabriel began. Alice made a small choked sound in her throat and her two hands clasped together in front of her mouth as she began to cry. Gabriel's own voice caught in his throat. No father should ever have the duty of telling their son that the love of their life was dead. "Jason... Jason is dead."

    Alex shook his head, a chuckle rippling through his frame. "W-what are you talking about, Dad?" The young were-lion put free hand on his chest. "I saw him this morning..." His dad was ever the joker. When he looked over and saw his dad's grim expression and his mother still crying, it all came rushing back to him. "Oh--Oh God... I-It's true..." he trembled and sobs began to rack his body.

    The hand on his chest shot up to clasp over his mouth as he made small, pitiful, choked sounds. Jason was dead and he'd held his lover in his arms as the life was leached out of him. Everything became blurry with tears. He didn't see his dad press the call button. The last thing he saw was a young nurse entering the room. Through the blur of tears in his eyes, the young man seemed to resemble Jason.

    He reached out his hand as more sedative was pumped into his system.

    And then his world went black.

    ---

    The Guardian of the Stone Circle watched sadly as the brilliant light that flooded the age-old structure receded back into the mist from whence it came. The High Priest was dead, but he'd been alive for long enough that Druids could use the Stone Circle again. The stone Guardian thumped his fist against his chest and slammed the butt of his spear on his pedestal. He brought up two of his fingers to his lips, his index and middle fingers, and raised them in a sign of respect to the final retreating bar of brazen light.

    "Long..." He hadn't spoken in so many years that his own voice sounded alien to him. It rasped. It sounded like the slow grinding of rock against rock. "May your memory live..." The last bar of light vanished, leaving the Stone Circle bathed in dim, misty, ethereal light. "Iásón Ó Cuilliaéan, son of Aoife Mac Aodha, daughter of Nátán Mac Aodha, of the line of Lorcan Ó Cathasaigh..."

    Before the stone figure sat down again, he waved his spear, using the last of the energy that had flooded the Stone Circle to open the gateway to the Isles of the Blest. Perhaps his old friend the Cailleach would visit him now and again. How he'd missed the old hag.

    As the sun dipped below the horizon in the Celestial Sphere, the light of the mists faded. The old Guardian sat down on his stone throne as the last of the day's light faded from the plaque at the foot of the chair. When the Stone Circle was enveloped by the darkness of night, the Guardian had returned to his slumber, forever the Watcher of the Order.

    ---

    The stars were twinkling high above and the moon was shining brightly when Nathan and Aaron finally managed to quell their grief. Part of the problem with Lieutenant Alpha empathy is that it works both ways. Part of what a Lieutenant Alpha has to learn quickly is to throttle or control the amount of emotion that he shares with his Omega. Similarly, the Omega has to learn the same lesson. Nathan and Aaron were never educated by a pack in the proper way to foster a healthy bond.

    When the grief flooded Nathan, he quickly lost grasp of his control on their empathy. Aaron followed almost immediately after, overcome by an unfamiliar emotion. It was in that surreal state of mind that Aodhan had found the mates. Fortunately for the waterhorse he had arrived at a time they could be reasoned with.

    Aaron was exhausted. He'd given his all to try and stem the flow of sorrow that had threatened to fling them into oblivion. It worked, sort of, but he could still feel the dull throb of the pain battering at the edges of his consciousness. He knew that Nathan was in a similar state. He could feel it. When Aodhan helped them stand up, Aaron was barely able to stay upright on two legs.

    The waterhorse clucked and shook his head, spraying the two with water from his shoulder-length jet-black hair. "Tsk." He said, catching Aaron as he tipped over. "That won't do..." The smell of damp earth filled the air and moments later, Aodhan was in his favoured slick black horse form. Nathan tried his best to push Aaron into a comfortable position on Aodhan's back before himself transforming into his lion form.

    Aodhan craned his neck, getting his bearings from the moon before trotting off at a slow comfortable pace towards the cabin their small 'pack' shared. Nathan followed not far behind, barely paying attention to where they were going, brooding, deep in thought. Aaron wrapped his arms around Aodhan's strong neck, clinging on tightly lest he fall off. The waterhorse's rippling musculature and the slow trot lulled the young were-tiger to sleep.

    When Aaron was surely asleep, snoring softly on Aodhan's back. The oldest of the three extended his consciousness and prodded at Nathan's. The were-lion growled. He didn't want to talk about it. Aodhan didn't relent. He wanted to talk about it. Nathan finally gave in to put an end to the irksome mental prodding he was receiving. The moment he did the sensations and images crashed into his consciousness.

    Nathan smelled worry. Concern. An image of a bird pecking curiously at a piece of fallen bark. An image of a fox turning over a stone. Aodhan was asking about what happened.

    Nathan sent his own barrage of scents and images at Aodhan. Hostility. A stone wall. Him in his human form crossing his arms and turning his back. Him putting a finger to his lips. He really didn't want to talk about it.

    Aodhan filled Nathan's consciousness with the image, sound and smell of a woodpecker to such a degree that the were-lion crashed headlong into a sapling. Nathan sent the scent of submission followed quickly by that of exasperation. "Fine. I'll talk about it" he was saying. Aodhan whinnied, satisfied.

    An image of Nathan. An image of Aaron. An image of their wrists with the twin bands. An image of them kissing. An image of them coupling. Aodhan nodded his understanding. Lieutenant Alphas and Omegas. An image of Alex. An image of Nathan. An image of the two playing together as children. Nathan's brother.

    An image of Nathan and Alex side by side. An image of identical bands on their wrists. Nathan's brother was a Lieutenant Alpha too. An image of Alex walking side by side with someone. An image of the two holding hands from afar. Nathan's brother had an Omega as well.

    An image of a cat pawing at a fallen beehive to see if it had bees in it. An image of a turtle walking... slowly. Aodhan was curious as to what Nathan was getting at, and thought he was taking far too long and was explaining things too slowly. The next images and sensations from Nathan came rapidly and Aodhan whinnied his assent.

    An image of Alex and Jason side by side. Jason was blurry. Nathan didn't really know him that well nor did he have a good long look at the Irishman's face. He reinforced the image with faint scents of Jason he'd caught in the wind from afar instead. The smell of death and cloying decay. Blood. The smell of grief. An image of Alex standing alone.

    Aodhan stomped his feet in distress, miraculously not waking Aaron on his back. Aodhan shook his head, flinging his mane from side to side. The smell of concern. The waterhorse wondered how Nathan was doing. The smell of anger. Of sadness.

    Nathan responded. Silence. Aodhan nodded solemnly, understanding the message. A third voice interjected on their conversation. They weren't far from the cabin. Cernunnos was probably there and wanted to check in on them. The message they received was disturbing. White feathers. Radiant light. Nathan running and Aodhan galloping. The message was clear.

    Angels. Come fast.

    Nathan transformed back to human form and jumped on Aodhan's back to make sure Aaron didn't fall off. They galloped into the direction of the cabin. The news was probably not good.

    ---

    Three hours after being put to sleep again, Alex woke up, the memory of Jason fresh in his mind. He sobbed. The bed shook with his grief. Thankfully he'd been taken off the drip, but the drugs were still circulating in his system. At least they held off the brunt of the sorrow that he felt.

    He rolled over to his side, clutching his knees in the fetal position as he let loose another torrent of tears. Every nerve in his body was telling him that Jason not being alive anymore was wrong. He felt numb with grief. They were to be married soon. They were to buy a house. To live the rest of their lives together. Maybe adopt a son or find a surrogate. Celebrate their silver and gold and diamond anniversaries together. It was all too difficult for Alex. All of their dreams as a couple, gone in a flash.

    When Alex's tears subsided, he wiped them out of his eyes with the back of his hand. He looked up at the bed-side table. On it was a bouquet of flowers. Probably from his mother, or his sister. Either woman could've easily demanded that one be put in his room. At the foot of the vase were two items that made Alex's breath catch in his throat.

    The gilded athame was there, but beside it was, to Alex's eyes at least, the most important thing in the room. Beside the dagger was Jason's ring. It glimmered in the dim light, much like Jason's eyes would. Alex had to stifle a sob. He reached out for it and as he did he saw a pair of legs walk over to that side of the bed. The signature trench coat gave away who it was.

    "Hey, kid" To Alex's surprise his detective partner did not smell of cigarette smoke. Although, his voice was still decidedly gruff. Alex rolled over onto his back, examining David's face. The lines there had deepened and his eyes seemed to be sunk into his face. He looked like he hadn't slept in days. A grim smile broke out on his lips. "You look like shit." Alex shook his head.

    He took the ring and brought it in front of his face. He cupped it with his hands and smelled it. The pungent scent of soap was almost overwhelming, but it was there, the unique scent of Jason. He smelled like the faintest mixture of cinammon, oranges and freshly cut grass. It was odd, like his lover, but it was Jason. His scent fit him like a glove.

    Alex tried to sit up to no avail. He ended up propping himself up with his pillows. With a trembling hand he wore Jason's ring on his pinkie. What better place to put a ring that carried with it vows than the finger you used to make promises with as a child? David coughed to clear his throat at the sight of Alex looking sadly at the two rings on his hand like a lost child. It was difficult seeing his partner this despondent.

    "No, David..." said Alex, his voice still hoarse. "You look like shit." The Kabbalist chuckled and sat beside him on the bed.

    "Well, when your partner leaves for an indeterminate amount of time, work for two gets fucking heaped on your shoulders." David joked, his voice surprisingly tender. This was a first for both of them, Alex grieving in front of David and David trying to be a comforting presence. It did not fit his gruff charm. "Don't worry about me, kid. How are you getting by?"

    "Sedatives" Alex said, slowly, looking at his hand again as though he still couldn't quite believe that Jason was gone. On his other hand, the band that signaled he was mated with Jason had faded. He wouldn't have known it was ever there if he didn't have an almost phantom-like sensation where the band was. Maybe they were still bonded... It was a question for another day. "Lots of sedatives."

    David chuckled. "You've been out almost four days now, kid..." Alex's eyes widened in a panic. David knew why. Had they buried Jason without him? How had they buried Jason? Tears threatened to spill out of the were-lion's eyes again. "Calm the fuck down, Alex. No, the Druids are keeping his body in suspended animation... We were just waiting for you to come around again before we performed the rites."

    "Druids? What have they got to do with this?" Alex asked. Talking was difficult. Roaring at the top of his lungs, even if it was almost four days since now, had done enough damage to leave him hoarse for some time. "I know Jason had Druidic blood, but they've never come for him before, not until now..."

    "Well, why don't you ask one of them, kid?" David said. "Look who I found, floating about your room." The Kabbalist cocked his head to the side. There, levitating about an inch above the floor was the ghost of Jason's grandfather.

    ---

    The Fall had not been so bad. In fact it felt more like a harsh shove to the ground than a true fall from the world above. Jason knelt in the dirt of the Vestibule. Around him drifted shades, aimless, emotionless. They terrified him. Charon had not yet come for him. Was he destined to wander the outermost circle of Hell, condemned to stagnation for eternity?

    He covered his naked body as best he could. He didn't really think he would be dropped into Hell naked as the day he was born, but he should've expected it. Nevertheless, ten minutes into the experience, nothing that went on around him mattered, because he finally let loose all the emotions that he had been holding back from Alex.

    He knelt on the dirt at the banks of the River of Woe as shuddering gasps and sobs wracked his body. He wrapped his arms around his stomach and pressed his forehead to his knees as wave after wave of sorrow and crushing grief slammed into him. Whether it was Hell, or whether it was reverberations in the bond that for some reason was still unbroken between him and Alex, Jason didn't know. Nor did he, at the moment, care.

    "Alex..." he whispered, tears muddying the loose dirt he knelt him. "Alex... Oh Alex..." He cried out, his sobs heart-rending and gut-wrenchingly sad. He thought back to their days together and howled with the pain of loss. He could only imagine how Alex felt. He looked at his hand where his engagement ring had once been and he balled it up into a fist and slammed it into the ground.

    Why. Why. Why. The question repeated itself in his head again and again. Why him. Why them. They were young. They were in love. They were ambitious, both of them. They had so much more life to live, so many more experiences to share, but no longer. Jason sobbed, the ground growing even more damp with his tears.

    The young druid put his index finger into the mud and traced a ring of dirt around his ring finger, whispering "I will love you and cherish you always..." as he did.

    The wind gently and lazily tugged at his brown locks of hair. A ghost of a whisper spoke in Jason's ear "And I always will..." That was Alex's voice. Jason's head snapped up, sure that he had heard his were-lion. Had the idiot found some way to get himself killed? He sighed in relief, seeing Alex nowhere nearby and resumed his crying, right hand clasped around the wrist of his left as he willed the mud to dry around his finger.

    Black tattered robes swept into Jason's field of view. He followed them up to the owner's face. Very little of it was visible under the dark hooded cowl. Gray wings fluttered in the breeze behind the figure as he knelt down and gently tipped Jason's chin up to his eye-level. A shroud of thick gray mist surrounded the creature. Facing him was probably the most beautiful but most tired creature he'd ever laid eyes upon.

    One of the Fallen. Fresh tears stained its cheeks but its gaunt, deeply-lined face split into a smile that none had seen since the Fall when the angel saw his eyes. The Fallen looked at his finger. "That will mark you forever, you know?" Jason hoped this was true. "Use it to remember when you fear you will forget..." The Fallen's voice was sympathetic, low and smooth. It washed over Jason, easing the grief somewhat.

    "Who are you...?"

    "Why, my friend..." The Fallen straightened and a lantern glowing with eerie green light materialized from the mist around him. The Fallen looked around quickly. "I am your ferryman." He grabbed Jason's arm and hurried him along, covering the naked Irishman with his cloak and his wings. "The spirits on this side are drawn to any activity, any sort of power, energy. They want to regain some sort of normalcy in their lives..."

    Jason looked at Charon, lost. "They will attack you if they think they can take some of your energy from you to quell their stagnation" the ferryman explained as they approached the shore of the river. The waters rushed by like rapids, silvery-black unlike the whitewaters of the world above. "Hush now, my dear. Hush now. There's someone important we need to ferry" cooed Charon. The river slowed.

    "Quick now. Up you go!" Charon carried Jason by the waist and set him down on his boat. As soon as Jason's bare bottom contacted the wood of the tiny dinghy, the mist surrounding the other side of the Acheron evaporated. Beyond it he saw Hell in its true, terrifying glory. Beyond Limbo, Jason saw the howling winds of Lust and the horrid swamplands of Gluttony. He shivered, thinking that in a few moments' time he would cross into those circles to find what fate awaited him.

    "Back! Back!" He heard Charon shout from the other side of the boat. He looked over and saw Charon fending off a horde of spirits that looked hungrily at the angel and at him in the boat. "You poor creatures..." he heard the angel mutter in pity. "I love you, each of you, but you cannot have him." The lantern had turned into a long torch wreathed in ephemeral flame that he waved back and front in front of the miserable shades.

    An Angel swooped in from further away on Acheron's outer bank to usher the spirits away. Charon glared at the Celestial, but let the choice words he was going to say go. He turned and the torch became a lantern once more as he stepped onto the boat. He turned to Jason and for once, he smiled instead of weeping.

    "Next stop, Damnation."
     

  8. "Next stop, Damnation."

    The words sent a chill down Jason's spine. Ha! And he thought he was prepared for the torments of Hell. He saw the winds. He saw the swamp. He saw the faint outline of the walls of the City of Dis, saw the plumes of smoke and the heard the screams of the heretics damned. He was terrified. His mind swung wildly between heart-rending grief and terror of what he was about to face.

    Jason buried his face in his hands, curling in on himself as much as he could and shook with tears and fear. Around him he heard the rapid flow of the Acheron, the swishing of Charon's oar and the bobbing of the ferry up and down on the waters. He thought about Alex and the days when they would go out to a lake not too far from Vancouver where Alex's family had a cabin. They would spend their days on the lake, or, if they were more courageous, on one of the rivers that fed into the lake.

    Jason's heart ached with longing for the company of his were-lion. He felt bad, thinking that they will eventually be together, because he wouldn't wish Hell on his greatest enemies. He realized with horror that he didn't even know if Alex would be thrown into the same circle as he would be. The thought of being separated from the were-lion for all eternity made him numb. He cried bitter tears into the palm of his hands.

    Charon remained silent. There were no words of comfort that could ease an ailing heart, thought the Fallen. Might as well let them spill their tears than give them false hope. Jason's sobs became more infrequent, then stopped altogether. He was done crying. He had no more tears to shed. Grief's thorns still stabbed into his heart of hearts, but they would bring no more tears to his eyes.

    "I'm gay..." Jason began, weakly. He realized that they had been on the boat for a very long time. He should've been dropped off already and carted off into the storms of Lust, where sexual deviants were thrown to the winds. "Shouldn't I have been thrown into Lust?" he demanded of the silent ferryman. The light of the lantern grew dim and extinguished. The only light was that of the pyres of Heresy and of the river Phlegeton

    "No" The disembodied voice of Charon seemed to get closer and closer to him until he felt the Fallen sit beside him on the tiny craft. "I'm sure you want to know if you will get violently raped for all eternity..." He could almost feel the smile on the Fallen's face.

    Was it jape? Jason could not tell. It was, indeed, however, the question on his mind. He felt surprisingly okay with being burned alive, or submerged in boiling blood, or blown about and pelted by rain and hail. The idea of being used sexually by demons made him squirm and filled him with such revulsion that would not have filled him weeks ago. In fact, weeks ago, he would've chosen the rape over the rest of the torture, but something had changed in those weeks.

    The thought of anyone other than Alex having access to him intimately seemed absolutely disgusting to him. Something had changed. He didn't know what. But he knew that if that was to be his fate, he would rather be annihilated -- erased from existence. The Fallen chuckled in the near-pitch blackness that they rode in. He felt the voice right up near his ear, the warmth of the Fallen's breath on his neck. "Only if Asmodeus finds you, young one"

    There was a tender touch on his shoulder. Jason's stomach turned and he was suddenly acutely aware that he was naked, ripe for the taking. He slid away from the source of the voice and sat on the edge of the ferry. He shivered from the touch and the fear that Charon might have been advancing on him. "Oh don't be silly, child. I was only jesting" The source of the voice had not moved.

    "Asmodeus?" Jason asked, weakly. "You're taking me to Lust, then?"

    Charon chuckled. "I only govern your safe passage across the outer rivers of Hell, young one. It is not my duty to take souls to the circles they were consigned." Jason felt the Fallen's hand on his arm. This time it was a firm grip. "Don't be afraid." he almost thought the gesture said. "And no. Lustful as I am sure you have been in your life, the Lord has decided there awaits a deeper place for you in Hell."

    Jason shook his head, not comprehending. Behind them the fires of the City of Woe shrank. "Violence. Sodomites trudge the burning sands of its lowest level. Elohim considers you more vile than murderers or suicide." The grasp on his arm became more firm. Was it anger? Or was it a sign of solidarity? "But you are also a Heretic, are you not? To Heresy you should go!" The Fallen chuckled. "But did you not also lie to your beloved were-lion? I imagine he must be feeling quite... betrayed." Jason winced, tears spilling unwillingly from his eyes. He loathed himself for that. "Then I suppose you should be taken to Treachery with Lucifer himself!"

    "That doesn't make sense" Jason said as he rubbed the tears from his eyes. "Where are we going, then?"

    "Elsewhere" came the laconic response. The ethereal lamp came back on, casting its dim green light on the river that they traveled. This one was different. On either side, the banks were missing, there was only a drop into oblivion. Steam spiralled from the surface of the river and it languidly lapped at the underside of the boat.

    Jason could feel power radiating from the Fallen in the ferry with him. He looked over the side of the boat. Where the water touched it, the wood was turning into branches, was growing twigs and leaves. It returned to its shape with each pulse of power from the Fallen. He was forcing the boat back into shape. It was almost as if the wood was... forgetting it was a boat.

    "The river Lethe..." Jason said, awe in his voice. "Why did you take me here?!" he demanded. He realized that Charon might want him to forget everything. "You might as well kill me, throw me over the side! I don't want to forget Alex!" he yelled.

    "No, child. We go further." The words weighed heavily on Jason. This was a place that Dante Alighieri had not gone to. There was nothing about it written down. Nothing. "No one knows this place save for few. Not even the majority of the Fallen in Hell or the Angels above. This is a different domain, child. An ancient one. Far older still than myself."

    The words puzzled Jason. Were Celestials not begotten at the beginning and not born? What was this place then that Charon spoke of, older than a Celestial himself? A land from before creation? The thought made Jason wonder, but it also made him afraid.

    He clutched himself, suddenly feeling cold, wishing Alex was with him.

    ---

    "Mr. McCoy" Alex breathed. There was an insistent fear a, a grief that gnawed at the edges of his consciousness. The sedatives still in his system helping keep the emotions away from his conscious mind. "W-why are you here?" The elderly spirit took Alex's hand in his own. The touch felt strange, alien. He could feel the outline of Mr. McCoy's hand on his as areas of chillier air.

    The hand felt solid, but at the same time, wasn't. "Call me Nathan, Alex. You're as good as my grandson now." The old man smiled sadly at Alex. The expression crinkled lines around his eyes and cheeks. This was a man that had led a good happy life. "My duty to the Order was not done..." said the spectre. "I've been watching over you and Jason since my death. I was hoping I would never have to make my presence known..."

    Alex wiped his eyes with his free hand. He could hear the sadness in Nathan's voice. He could hear the loss. The pain. He felt it too, more acutely now, as the sedatives began to lose their control. "I had to see to it that I had an heir" Nathan McCoy said. "I had hoped my heir would live long enough to fulfill his duty to the Order..." The spirit's shoulders shook.

    "Was Jason supposed to be the next priest of the family?" Alex asked, softly. Jason had always shown a proficiency in the Art. Though he was never quite the artificer his grandfather was, he was good enough to get by. Jason had enchanted their rings to never break, tarnish or get lost. They would always find their way back together, the rings. Alex fought back tears. He thought that if Jason could've taken his ring to Hell, that someday, somehow, they would be reunited again.

    "He was. None of my other daughters had sons. My wife passed on her legacy easily. I didn't have sons, and only Aiofe had a son I could call my heir" The spectre drifted towards Alex's face. "I had thought he would be able to continue the family Legacy for longer than he did... But something beyond my power to stop happened that day." The old man shook his head sadly.

    "I'm sorry..." Alex said, voice trembling.

    "What for?" Nathan looked up at him, spectral eyes boring deep into Alex's tawny brown ones.

    "For not being able to give you an heir..."

    Nathan shook his head. "Alex, what Jason is, you can't blame yourself for." The spectre brushed the hair that had fallen over his forehead away. Alex felt a cold breeze move across his temples. "My boy... You made Jason happier than I have ever seen him." There were tears in Nathan's eyes. "Damn the family legacy. Damn it all. Damn it all to hell if it would stand in the way of love that pure." Alex shook, gripping Nathan's hand more tightly.

    "Thank you..." Alex said, tears streaming down his face as well. "Thank you."

    "He loved you."

    "I know..."

    "And you loved him. Our line may be dead, but his memory will live on..." Nathan felt the grief grip his heart. He pulled Alex up and gave the were-lion a full-bodied hug. Alex thought there was something strangely warming about the chilly embrace. Solidarity. Someone who knew to some degree what he felt. "Heir or no heir, you've done the family legacy proud."

    Alex couldn't speak. His lips were sealed by the emotions that threatened to spill forth from them. Instead he returned the embrace, tighter, finding some comfort in closeness to the ghost of the old man. "He became the High Priest, you know, in his final moments..." Nathan beamed at Alex, his eyes shining with pride and unshed tears.

    "We could feel it." David piped up from his seat on the bed. "All over the world we could feel how powerful he was." Alex smiled. He'd always known Jason was special. The unassuming young boy he'd fallen in love with had grown up to be quite the spectacular young man. The fact of it made the tragedy of his death all the more lamentable.

    "As High Priest he deserves the burial of our ancestors." Nathan's smile slipped from his face. "In the basement of my home is a Stone Arch. When Jason became High Priest, the portal reopened. He rebuilt the Stone Circle!" The old man said solemnly with awe. "He should be buried there, in the realm of our forefathers. In the Isles of the Blest... But I do not know if the way to those islands is open."

    Alex did not find the grim irony of the name of the realm funny. "Blest by whom?" he spat, anger beginning to bubble in his stomach. "By the Lord? More like cursed. By Fate? Ha. If a blessing by fate is to be torn from the one you loved, then I'd hate to know what a curse by fate is." Alex felt bitter bile in his throat.

    "Blest to be loved, Alex" said Nathan, trying to calm the were-lion. The words hit Alex like a ton of bricks and he couldn't stop the pathetic sound he made. Jason had indeed been loved by many, but most of all by his were-lion. "The druids are waiting for you... Hell calls to me now." The old man smiled sadly again at Alex as he faded away from the mortal plane, his eyes bearing sadness, but not a touch of fear.

    ---

    Nathan and Aodhan were expecting their cabin to be beset by Celestial beings; Cernunnos hiding in the trees, planning an attack. They came back to nothing of the sort, only a clearly frustrated great white stag stomping his feet and pacing in front of the log cabin.

    Cernunnos was livid. That much was evident the moment the trio got to their cabin. He helped Aaron and Nathan dismount, helped Aaron to a nearby bed and gave the two some space as Nathan helped Aaron relax and get rested. Aodhan shifted back to human form. Cernunnos couldn't help but eye his partner's naked form. Aodhan noticed and posed playfully for him, but Cernunnos scowled and thrust a loincloth his way.

    "Stag. What happened?" Aodhan tapped Cernunnos on the shoulder. The other man had turned his back as the waterhorse donned the loincloth. "That's new" remarked Aodhan in his head. Cernunnos' lips twitched at the nickname. The first time the two had met was when Cernunnos had adopted the form of a stag and the name stuck.

    "Angels, Aodhan." Cernunnos shook his head. "Many of them. Or one immensely powerful one. I felt the surge of power from the mortal realm."

    A disturbing thought, were it true, Aodhan considered. "Are you sure you were not just hallucinating, Stag?" Cernunnos glared at Aodhan and the waterhorse received a less-than-playful swat on the arm. "Alright. Alright. You felt what you felt. We've had this conversation before." Cernunnos scowled at him. "Look, if it was true, why? Why now? There's nothing going on in the mortal world -- no truly powerful resistance against the Heavenly Host..."

    Cernunnos shook his head. He didn't know either. "Stag, unless someone, somehow, managed to slip from the attention of both Hell and Heaven, you know this wouldn't have happened. Are you sure you didn't just feel another nuclear bomb go off?" Aodhan got another smack. This time heavier. "Oh stop it. You know I'm being serious."

    "I know it wasn't a nuclear bomb. This was far more immense. It almost made the two bombs a couple decades ago look like fireflies against the sun." Cernunnos grabbed a chair at the table in the middle of the cabin's rarely-used dining room and sat down. He buried his face in his hands. "I'm dying to find out what happened." Cernunnos looked up. A look of horror crossed Aodhan's face. "What?"

    Nathan walked into the room, looking like shit. "Okay someone care to fill me in?" The were-lion walked over to the small keg in one corner of the room and filled a wooden tankard with their home-brewed ale. They were hunters, all four of them, but they had a garden behind the cabin for things they couldn't reliably find in the Dream.

    "You look worse for wear" Cernunnos commented.

    "Oh shut up." Nathan had cried away all his sadness, and felt little more than numb. He was hoping the alcohol would help. "Well?"

    Aodhan asked Cernunnos urgently. "When did you feel the angel or angels arrive?" Cernunnos and Nathan raised their eyebrows at him. "Answer the question. It's important."

    "Just now, I suppose. Else he would've contacted us earlier" said Nathan, taking a swig of ale. He got a dirty look from Cernunnos.

    The Hunter answered "A few hours ago. Just before sundown." Aodhan's eyes widened. Nathan shrugged, not making the connection. He got a kick in the shin from the waterhorse accompanied by a glare. Nathan's own eyes widened when he put two and two together and ended up spraying the table with the ale he'd just taken a swig of.

    "You don't think...?" Nathan began, trembling with dull grief, but most of all anger. He wasn't unable to finish the thought. A single tear rolled down his eyes and he raised the tankard to his lips and took a good long chug. He spilled a little bit here and there, having drunk with trembling hands.

    "I do thin--" said Aodhan, grimacing at the sight of Nathan trying to deal with the pain. Someone was going to have to clean up, and it was probably going to be him.

    Cernunnos slammed his fist on the table and looked sharply between Nathan and Aodhan. He had no idea what they were talking about. "What am I? A stool?" he demanded.

    Aodhan looked over at Nathan. The were-lion had gotten out of his seat to grab another tankard of ale. He thought it would be best to not give the burden of retelling the story to the young were-lion. "You know Nathan's brother Alex?" Cernunnos nodded, grimly, hoping that Aodhan's next line would not be involving the death of said brother.

    "He is a Lieutenant Alpha as well." Cernunnos nodded, he'd known this. "His Omega" Cernunnos nodded again, the one that smelled faintly of cinnamon and grass. "Died today." Cernunnos' nostrils flared. Nathan had shut the two out and was just staring emptily at the swishing ale inside his tankard.

    "And you think that he was what the angel/angels came for?" Aodhan nodded. "Why?"

    "Now isn't that the question?" The two heard a clatter. Nathan had dozed off on his empty tankard. "Oh joy."

    "You're cleaning this up." Cernunnos said, gesturing at everything. Aodhan's jaw hung open. "Oi. Don't give me that. I tend to the garden." The waterhorse sighed. Housekeeping duties again. "Now come on, help me out with Nathan." The two pulled the were-lion to his feet and helped him into the bed that he and Aaron shared, careful not to wake the younger were-creature.

    "They're so cute together." Cernunnos raised an eyebrow at his partner and smacked him on the arm again. "What?"

    "We're kind of dealing with a crisis here, love." Cernunnos gestured for Aodhan to follow him out of the cabin. There, he turned to Aodhan and said "We're going somewhere. I have to talk to someone."

    "Am I meeting the family again?"

    Cernunnos had shifted into his stag form. The great antlered stag nodded his head. "Oh boy. This can't end well." Aodhan transformed into his horse form and galloped with Cernunnos to the north.

    ---

    The scent of Holly wafted in the soft breeze. The aroma filled Alex's nostrils, giving him a sense of serenity in the face of the ritual that was about to take place. His heart hurt. His head hurt. His very soul hurt. Jason was gone, and he would never see his beloved Irishman again in this life. There was a dull anger in his stomach, and a stabbing sense of loss in his heart. Tears refused to come to his face, he refused to break down in the solemn ritual.

    He was no magus, but he felt the thrum of power as the head druid opened the Stone Arch. An image faded into existence under the arch. It rippled, and shimmered, and it was like staring into another land through the surface of a pool of water. Beyond, a verdant field stretched far into the distance, almost all of it covered in a thick, luminous mist.

    In the middle, at the end of a path clear of the mist was erected a circle of tall stones radiating outwards from a Stone Altar. Some of them were arranged in towering arches. Beyond the stones was a circle of pedestals, the tallest of which was directly opposite of the portal. Upon the pedestals sat men and women, heroes and gods of Old Ireland that had been immortalized in stone. Alex heard a slow, deep drumbeat begin somewhere in the house above them.

    Alex raised his eyes to the platform that six druids bore in front of him. It carried Jason's limp, lifeless body. The platform was made of intricately interwoven yew and oak branches. Right underneath the small of Jason's back was a triquetra woven into the pattern of the branches. His lover was draped in white cloth embroidered with the same symbol above his chest. After a long time, a very long time, the druids were seeing their High Priest to the otherworld again.

    A pan flute keened mournfully in the house above. Moments later, a tin whistle followed in its lament. As they began to walk, bearing the platform on their shoulders, the six druids began to sing a lament for the dead. Others behind him followed their song with a low-pitched hum. Slowly, inexorably, they passed through the portal with Alex not far behind them.

    Behind Alex were his parents and Jason's remaining relatives. His mother had insisted on walking with him, but he'd refused, wanting to pay his last respects to Jason alone. The druids had done well in preserving Jason's body which let them carry it exposed on the bier to the Stone Circle. Behind Alex's parents were druids who carried wood for a funeral pyre. They fanned out and passed in front of the procession with the intent of building the pyre behind the Altar.

    Alex looked up at Jason again. He'd not been able to look at the body for more than a few seconds before tears threatened to spill from his eyes. He wanted Jason to be alive. He wished against all odds that the dead body on the bier would sit up and just tell him it was all an elaborate prank. He frowned. In the depths of his heart he knew that it would not happen.

    The druids that had gone ahead talked amongst themselves when they reached the altar and did not begin to construct the pyre. One of them walked back to the procession, causing it to halt. He walked up to Alex. There was silence. "The door to the Isle of the Blest is open..." Alex looked at the young druid. Jason's grandfather had mentioned the place. "Do you wish to give the High Priest a burial at sea?"

    Alex nodded weakly. The finality of this voyage, this ritual sinking in. The young druid walked back to his companions and together they walked through the portal at the foot of the pedestal of Arawn. The lament resumed and the procession approached the altar before beginning to move to the west.

    There was yet another portal shimmering underneath the pedestal. They entered it and emerged on the other side at the edge of a lake, with a stone arch and a forest behind them. In the distance, partly shrouded by mist was an island. On it sprawled a mighty oak tree. There was a woman at its base, or so Alex saw. He blinked and she was gone.

    There was for some reason a funeral barge waiting for them, as though someone had been expecting them to arrive. The druids that had first come through were waiting beside the barge. They were waist-deep in the cold lakewater. The wood and fuel for the pyre was neatly piled in the small boat. The six pall-bearers lowered Jason reverently onto the barge.

    The were-lion ran past them, wading shoulders-deep into the waters of the lake to stand near Jason's head. He kissed his lover on the forehead. He whispered goodbye one last time. One of the pall-bearers walked up to him with a torch. "We thought you should get the honour." Alex looked at him gratefully and lowered the torch to the barge. The wood caught fire instantly but Alex forced himself to not turn away from it, feeling the heat singe his face. He burned the image of Jason in his head one last time, and let go. The other druids pushed the boat away from the shore.

    "Long is the day..." began the druids beside him. This much, Alex had been told. "...and long is the night..." The second phrase was said louder as the druids on dry land voiced it as well. The tin whistle and the flute's melody reached a crescendo and faded. The drum continued on its slow, sad pace. Alex put his index and middle fingers to his lips and held them out to the barge retreating into the distance.

    "...and long is the waiting of Arawn" he whispered to the wind. The breeze picked up, howling through the trees as though lamenting the death as well. The branches of the oak on the island quivered and shook and leaves rained from its mighty arms. The wind was cold and it chilled Alex to the core, but he felt solace in it. A calm comforting condolence.

    As the barge retreated into the distance, the crackling of the fire carrying across the lake, so too did the beating of the drum fade into silence until all that Alex could hear was the rippling of the water, the howling of the wind, and his own ragged, grief-stricken breaths. He was surprised at the feeling of warm salty tears running down his face. He had not realized he was crying.

    In the distance, the barge began to sink, but its fires did not die even as it sank beneath the water. For a moment, Alex saw Jason sitting on a barge, riding down a strange river, but soon as the image came, it was gone like a fleeting dream. Alex just stood there in the water, staring numbly after the barge as the tears streamed down his face.

    Alex released a pitiful, high-pitched sound of sorrow and pain before turning his back on the now-placid lake. His parents faced him, his mother's face much like his own, streaked with tears. The were-lioness began to walk towards Alex.

    Alex saw the distinctive flash of light of a sigil being activated and his mother froze in her tracks. The wind itself hung motionless, the leaves suspended in midair, branches bent in the unmoving wind. "You poor, poor child..." he heard an old papery voice from behind him. The were-lion spun around and found himself face to face with an old woman.

    Her face was like parchment, yellowed and tattered by age. Her hands were bony and the skin all about her sagged. Yet she stood with the regality of a queen. Her eyes glimmered with ages of experience, but did not seem as old as the rest of her body. She was clothed in a heavy woolen cloak of the deepest midnight purple and her face was partly covered by a frayed cowl of the same cloth.

    "Who... what are you?" Alex asked, surprisingly not fearful of this strange woman with the ability to suspend time.

    "My dear boy, in this world..." The old woman smiled. "You'll soon learn that those two questions are not mutually exclusive." She grasped his arm. "I know your heart aches with loss and worry." He nodded weakly, unbidden, to confirm her words. "I am the Cailleach. The hag, some of them had the audacity to call me" she said, a small smile dancing on her lips as she gestured to the druids.

    "I watch over the spirits of the dead"

    Alex's eyes widened. "Then please, tell me, what has happened to Jason? How is he? Where is he?" Alex swallowed the lump in his throat, unable to bring himself to ask if Jason was being tortured already. "...Is he hurting?"

    The Cailleach smiled sympathetically at him. "I do not know."

    "Then why are you talking to me?!" demanded Alex, anger bubbling in his veins. "Why?! If you can't tell me how Jason is, why do you taunt me with your knowledge of the dead?!" The were-lion fell to his knees, pulling his arm from the old woman's grasp. He sobbed.

    "Because my lack of knowledge about him means something" said the old woman, pulling him to his feet with surprising strength. "Do you not think I would tell you if he was in Hell?" Alex stared at her blankly, confused.

    "All I know is this, young were-lion: Iásón Ó Cuilliaéan is nowhere to be found in the Celestial Sphere. His soul has not been annihilated, I would know that, but he is neither in Heaven, nor Hell, nor the Mortal Plane you call home. He is elsewhere, beyond the sight of gods and men."

    "He is surely not alive in the same way you are young were-lion."

    The Cailleach's last words floated by his ears like a ghost of a whisper on the wind, but they were loud enough for the were-lion to hear as time began to flow once more.

    "But he may yet live somewhere beyond my vision."
     
  9. Cold. Very cold. That was what Alex felt after the Cailleach said those few, but oh so precious words. They didn't fill him with relief as he'd hoped they would. Instead, his blood ran absolutely cold. He was staring into the distance blankly when his mother finally got to him and hugged him tightly. Now his heart was filled with dread and worry for Jason. He wanted so badly to be with his beloved.

    ---

    The stag and the waterhorse stopped at the edge of a large frozen lake. They both shifted back to their human forms. It was hard enough crossing ice with two feet, it was an insurmountable feat with four. Cernunnos grinned at his partner. "Now would be a good time to have some clothes, eh?" Aodhan glared at him, clutching his arms to himself because of the chilly air.

    "Oh sod off" Aodhan snapped. Cernunnos shrugged and walked off towards the middle of the lake where an icy monolith was erected. The ice was not biting cold as one would expect. It was as though the lake itself recognized Cernunnos and Aodhan and was offering them relatively comfortable passage, a much-welcomed courtesy, thought Aodhan who was walking while huddled over because of the cold.

    The lake Aodhan had been born in was never cold. He didn't like the idea of a frozen over lake. He remembered distinctly finding one as a foal, and not understanding, tried to dive in. That had hurt. He was a stubborn little bastard at the time, and had tried again, and again until it was driven -- quite painfully -- into his tiny equine head that it wasn't going to work. Aodhan shuffled faster to catch up to Cernunnos.

    Before long, the two had arrived at the monolith. It was put there by the creator of this realm. Cernunnos smiled tenderly at it, as though in greeting for an old friend, or someone dear to his heart. Etched into the ice was a sigil inlaid with obsidian. The last time they'd been here was when Cernunnos had finally taught Aodhan how to turn into a human -- he'd quite liked the form -- and introduced him to the stag's 'family.'

    "A-aren't you a-afraid of w-what h-he'll say?" Aodhan asked Cernunnos, teeth chattering in the cold. Cernunnos looked at Aodhan, hearing the waterhorse stutter. "D-don't g-give me t-that look. Y-you k-know I d-d-don't like the c-cold!" The stag smiled and wrapped his arms around Aodhan. The waterhorse groaned at the warmth and relaxed into Cernunnos' arms. "Stag, how the fuck are you so warm?"

    "Honestly, I don't know." Aodhan felt a chaste kiss on his cheek. "And yes, I am" said the stag, more grimly this time. "But I would rather know what has transpired than be ignorant of it." Aodhan weighed the stag's words and nodded in assent. Cernunnos had a good point. The stag removed one of his arms from around Aodhan's body to touch the sigil on the monolith.

    Instantly, the cold breeze dropped and the monolith began to glow. Aodhan extracted himself from Cernunnos' embrace to maintain some semblance of respectability in front of the stag's father. The stag frowned at him. Aodhan shrugged. The light from the monolith seemed to fracture and dance, casting different shades and shapes over the icy surface of the lake. An image appeared, a projection of the astral mind of Cernunnos' father.

    Aodhan knelt, hissing at the coldness of the ice. Cernunnos pulled him up. "Will you stop trying to be so formal?" the stag whispered to the waterhorse. "He doesn't care much for formality you know." Aodhan scowled at Cernunnos. It wasn't his fault he'd been taught to kneel in deference to authority like that. Cernunnos had entered the Dream during the Middle Ages when kings still ruled the land. He'd taught Aodhan the ins and outs of society at the time. The projection solidified into a crystalline body. "Father!" cried out Cernunnos, running towards it and embracing it.

    "Morning Star." Aodhan said solemnly, bowing his head in reverence. He raised his eyes to find both Cernunnos and the Morning Star looking at him strangely. He slowly tried to back away, but couldn't escape before the two threw arms around him and pulled him into their embrace as well. Cernunnos giggled.

    "Alright. Alright." The voice of the Morning Star was silky smooth, though seemingly burdened with aeons of sadness and fatigue. He pulled away and grasped Cernunnos by the shoulders and held him at arm's length. "What is this about, Cernunnos? And I know you're not just visiting. I forbade you from using this place unless something serious was going on. We cannot risk Heaven finding out about you four and the others in the Dream."

    "Us four?" Cernunnos asked. "You know about Nathan and Aaron?"

    "Child, I know about all those who live in this realm. Now, let's make this brief. What are you contacting me about?"

    "I felt an immense surge of power from the mortal realm." The projection smiled with pride. The Morning Star had not anticipated that Cernunnos would come into his abilities this quickly. "I think it was a horde of angels, or one particularly powerful one."

    Aodhan glanced at Cernunnos. "At the same time--" he began. The crystalline projection looked at him, curious. "--Nathan's brother, Alex, lost his Omega."

    The Morning Star nodded in understanding. "I know what this is about, now." The crystalline figure turned its back to them and walked back towards the monolith, hands clasped behind its back. It examined the sigil in the ice. "That was not a horde of angels you felt. It was the most powerful angel of the Heavenly Host. My brother. The Light of Judgment. Uriel." Cernunnos instinctively hooked his arm around Aodhan and pulled him in closer protectively.

    "He was after an artifact that belonged to Jason Collins, Alexandre White's Omega, as you called him." The crystalline figure turned to face them, face grim. "Yes. Uriel did confront him, but Jason Collins willfully died by his own hand. However, he succeeded in scattering Uriel's Sacred Light and my brother will not return for a number of years."

    Aodhan looked at the Morning Star. "Then surely Jason must be in Hell?"

    The crystalline figure shook his head, much to the confusion of the stag and the waterhorse. "He is beyond my sight. Moments ago he was on the river Acheron, being ferried across by Charon. But he has vanished, and my friends in the Heavenly Host have sent word that he is beyond the sight of the Above as well. None have seen him since then."

    "The Princes of Hell are as perplexed as I. That is what we are trying to get to the bottom of at this very moment. I assure you, I will try to contact you if we find him. But I must return now, to split my astral mind will simply not do for the amount of searching we have to do." The figure shattered into shards of light that streaked off into the distance. The monolith returned to its natural state.

    Aodhan looked Cernunnos in the eye. They simultaneously mouthed to each other "What the fuck is going on?"

    ---

    "Why are you taking me wherever you're taking me and not to where souls like myself have been condemned?" asked Jason, having regained composure. He felt something inside him shift and for a split-second he saw an image of Alex watching as a funeral barge sank beneath the waters of a lake. Was that his body? It probably was.

    "Ah!" Charon said, feeling the change of burden in his boat. "But you're not a soul like all of the others now are you?" said the Fallen, sitting beside the Irishman again. "You don't belong in Hell. You would get wounded. Maybe even killed, permanently."

    The words sent terrifying chills up Jason's spine. What did Charon mean? He was dead was he not? "What do you mean? I'm here aren't I? I'm pretty sure..." Jason's voice caught in his throat. "I'm pretty sure I saw Alex holding my dead body before I was drawn into this place..." Charon grinned at him. Something about the crookedness of that smile unsettled Jason.

    "Yes, but can you not feel it?" Jason didn't know what he was supposed to feel, but for some reason, he knew the answer. He did. There was a gleam of metal in the dim lamplight and Charon was holding a dagger. Jason's eyes widened and he frantically backed away from the Fallen, almost tipping over the boat. "Calm down. I will not hurt you. Much."

    That did not help, at all. "What are you going to do to me?" Jason said, not willing to move closer to the Fallen. Charon smiled a crooked smile again.

    "I will show you that you do not belong in Hell." Charon reached over and grabbed Jason, dragging him roughly to the Fallen's side. "There is a sigil that permeates all of Hell that allows us to... reset... so to speak the bodies of those souls we torture." Charon pressed the dagger to his arm. Jason hissed at the sting of the cold Phlegeian Iron. The tip of the dagger drew a small amount of blood from his arm.

    "Recreo" Charon whispered. Jason felt the thrum of power wash over him as he noticed a sigil form in front of Charon's lips. It went away almost instantly, but Jason's blood and the tiny wound he'd been afflicted with remained.

    "Now watch this." Charon dipped his hand into the River Lethe for a second. When it came back up it was strangling an unfamiliar soul. The Fallen's hand came up as a brilliant shining light in the outline of a hand, but as he willed its memory back, it turned into creamy skin, and back to the normal grey tones of the Fallen. "Some souls committed such terrible, terrible crimes that instead of torturing them, we have thrown them into the River Lethe so that the world, and they themselves, would forget they ever existed" explained the Ferryman.

    Charon set the soul down on a seat in front of them. The moment the ghastly man touched the wood of the boat, he became flesh and blood. The man made unintelligible sounds. Had he also forgotten how to speak? Charon nodded as though reading his mind. "Here." There was a flash of metal and the next thing Jason knew, the strange spirit's neck was spurting blood. "Recreo" whispered the Fallen.

    The sigil reappeared, but this time, the spectre's blood faded away and the wound knit itself back together. "You do not belong in Hell, Jason Collins. You are much more than you can imagine." Jason's mouth just hung open. What did all of this mean for him? What did all of it mean for Alex?

    Charon shoved the spirit roughly overboard. It did not make a big splash as Jason expected. It simply melted into the current of the River Lethe. "Nasty fate, that is" said Charon, looking pensively at the waters of the Lethe. "But they deserved it, each and every one of them."

    "You said 'we have thrown them into the River Lethe...' Who's we?" asked Jason.

    "Ah. You'll meet him soon enough, child."

    "What am I?"

    "Well, you'll learn that soon enough, as well."

    Ahead of them, from out of nowhere, sprung up an amazing sight. In the distance, the River Lethe split into two, and seemed to run around the land that was there. Beyond the riverbank was an immense rock pillar that stretched to incomprehensible heights before fanning out into a large circular platform. The pillar and the underside of the platform were lit by ethereal fires, much like the torch that Charon had used not too long ago.

    For the first time, Jason began to make out waves far below them, deep underneath the River Lethe, the primordial seas of chaos. "Welcome to Sheol" said Charon as they slowly approached the land at the end of the river. The closer they drew to Sheol, the more Jason could make out a fortress of obsidian and black stone at the foot of the pillar that seemed infinitesimally small compared to the pillar it surrounded.

    Charon noticed that Jason could finally see the fortress, though it was more properly a citadel. He smiled. Jason noticed that the Fallen's crooked grin was becoming more pronounced. He began to feel unsafe. "That" Charon said, gesturing to the citadel "is Damnation."

    The rest of the ride was spent in uncomfortable silence. Jason tried his best to sit away from Charon, something had changed about the Fallen and he didn't like it. Moments later they disembarked and walked up to the gates of the citadel. Jason felt self-conscious of his nakedness. Charon chuckled at him and smacked him on the ass before pushing him through when the gates creaked open.

    The gesture prompted Jason to walk faster in front of the Ferryman to the actual entrance of the structure. The shift in Charon's countenance was disconcerting and he feared for himself. As he ascended the stairs leading up to the large doors of the citadel, he looked back. He could've sworn that Charon was ogling his behind. What was going on?

    When he looked back at Charon, he also realized that there were people wandering aimlessly through the grounds of the citadel. Some of them opened the gates and some helped to close them, but most of them simply wandered with no rhyme or reason. Jason resolved to ask about them when he figured out what was in store for him.

    Inside the citadel, he came across a large open room with tall vaulted ceilings. Ahead of him he could see the pillar rising out of the heart of the citadel. It was hollow, at least in its base. Inside it was an elaborate spiral staircase of what seemed to be black iron that seemed to melt into the black stone floor. Jason saw a light begin to move down the staircase.

    Jason stood frozen in place as an angel descended the steps. He swore loudly. The angel did not seem to be a Fallen -- he was far too clean -- but he didn't seem as pristine and well groomed as the angels of Heaven either. The angel opened his arms to Jason and spoke "I am Pursan. Archmagus of Hell. I am honored, High Priest." The angel held out his left arm and folded his right arm over his stomach in a large sweeping bow.

    Jason felt thin fingers wrap around his midriff. A warm body pressed into his from behind, and he felt a hot breath against his neck. There was a hardness that pressed insistently against his thigh as the fingers wandered down his torso towards his groin. "I've brought you our esteemed guest..." Jason heard Charon's voice from directly behind him. Charon was trying to seduce him!

    He wrenched himself free of Charon's grasp. Jason's voice was strangled when he yelled "Don't touch me!"

    "Pity..." Charon's smooth voice had turned into a deep, gravelly, sensuous rumble. Jason shook, refusing to look back at the Fallen. Pursan approached him, shaking his head. As the Archmagus approached Jason, black soot seeped into his white robes and his light retreated into his body. Creamy skin turned gray. Lush hair became dry and frizzy. The perfectly sculpted face of the Fallen turned gaunt, and then sunken. One thing remained the same, Pursan's eyes. They still glowed with pure arcane power.

    "Afford the High Priest some decency, Charon" snapped the Archmagus. The Ferryman laughed snidely and waved his hand in dismissal of the comment. "But as promised, here is your price. Three days, Charon, you will have it. And then it returns here."

    "Yes, yes. I know the drill" Impatience. Jason had not thought that the Fallen would have such impudence. Pursan walked up to Jason, drawing a complex sigil as he did. Jason's eyes could not follow it nor could he decipher its meaning -- Pursan's hand simply moved far too quickly.

    The Archmagus drew, from deep inside his robes, a single, tiny tongue of white fire and held it up to the sigil. The sigil absorbed the fire and burst into purest white flames. Jason felt the sigil tug at him, at his form. He had to close his eyes, he couldn't bear to look at the fire any longer.

    When he opened them, he was face-to-face with himself. His doppelganger looked every single bit like him, down to the tiniest of hairs, but its eyes were blank. Pursan smiled sympathetically at Jason as his body-double walked past him. Jason looked back and found himself backpedaling into the archmagus when he saw Charon.

    The kindly Ferryman he'd met had become something more... monstrous. His head was adorned with long goat horns and a savage smile twisted his lips. His fingers were long and bony. A barbed tail swayed behind him. His skin had taken on a reddish sheen, and where his hair had been, hung a mane of fire. "I could've shown you... pleasure I'm sure you'd never felt..." The deep bass rumble of the Ferryman's voice stirred something primal in the Irishman.

    Jason felt his member begin to stiffen. His double's was already at full mast. "A pity..." Jason watched, stomach turning, and knotting as one of Charon's hands drifted down and began to stroke his double's cock. He felt a ghost of a sensation on his own body as Charon traced the curve of his doppelganger's buttock and breached its pucker with two fingers.

    His body-double moaned in ecstasy and Jason couldn't help but let loose a whine of his own. He hated seeing what Charon was doing, but he was riveted to the show. "Take it outside." Pursan said sternly. Jason could feel anger radiating from the Fallen. "NOW, CHARON!" he bellowed as the Ferryman slipped his barbed tail into the other Jason's mouth.

    "Very well..." Charon twisted the other Jason's head towards his and aggressively kissed it. "Maybe I'll get to taste you some other time..." The Ferryman walked away, not relenting for once in his sexual assault of the other Jason. The true Jason turned to the side and retched loudly as the ghost sensations from Charon's ministrations continued to play through his body.

    "The ages have changed us..." said Pursan. The Archmagus bit his lip. His voice was heavy, and Jason felt the sadness in it. "Charon is one of the better ones with his problem. I do this only to help him maintain his sanity, I hope you understand." The Archmagus draped a blanket he'd somehow produced over Jason. The Irishman shook his head.

    "I understand if you're angry, but Charon is split between two personas. The one you saw just now is the Malice dwelling deep inside of him. The Lust." Pursan helped Jason up from the floor where he'd fallen, retching violently. As the archmagus led him up the staircase, he continued to explain. "All of us have some evil, some insidious desires, inside of us now. We may have changed humanity all those years ago, but humanity has changed us as well."

    Jason trembled as they climbed the stairs. What Pursan was saying barely registered as his mind kept drifting towards his violation by Charon. He kept thinking about how Alex would feel if he saw what was going on. The thought, even though he knew it wasn't really him being violated, sickened him to his stomach. The sensations were still there. He felt phantom hands roaming all over his body, a foreign, unfamiliar, and unwelcome member inside of him, and a barbed tail on his tongue.

    "Charon, fortunately, has been able to keep his other side at bay, but if he were not able to release his lusts, he would be consumed by them. That's why I allow him to bring some souls here, so that I may create homunculi for him to use for his pleasure."

    "Why me, then?"

    "Because the beast inside him fancied you." Pursan said the words with a sympathetic tone. "Imagine if that were the beast that ferried souls into the City of Woe. The innocent would want to throw themselves to Chaos, to Oblivion." Pursan pushed open a door, inside was a room with a large bed. "If you'd like... I can create for you a homunculus of your beloved, while you stay here."

    Jason felt tempted. He was painfully hard, and he hated it. But he felt like he would be betraying Alex if he gave himself to what amounted to a replica. He shook his head. "Well then... I'll leave you here to rest for now. Maybe take care of yourself--" Pursan gestured to Jason's hardness. "--and get settled. Tomorrow we will talk. I will tell you all you need to know. But for now, my presence is needed in the City of Woe."

    Pursan led him to the bed, and laid him down. "What if Charon comes up here?" asked Jason in a small, terrified, disgusted voice.

    "He cannot. Not without my willing it. Try your best to get settled in." With that Pursan left, closing the door behind him. The sensations Jason was feeling made him even more aroused. He couldn't think straight. It was due primarily to the nature of Charon's other persona that he was feeling such consuming lust. That he was an empath didn't help. He threw the blanket off of himself, and his hand drifted to his engorged cock.

    "Ahh..." Jason groaned as he began to stroke his cock up and down. He tweaked his nipples with his free hand and thrust his hips into his strokes. He imagined Alex wrapping his arms around him, filling him with a finger and then another... He made a tiny sound of need as he began to pick up the strokes.

    Jason imagined Alex kissing him down his jaw, down his neck. He moaned. He imagined kneeling down in front of Alex and taking the were-lion's cock in his mouth, suckling it, milking it. He groaned. He thrust his hips in earnest.

    Alex pulled him up and pinned him with his ass in the air to the bed. In front of them was a mirror that let Jason see what Alex was doing. He'd gotten on his hands and knees in his bedroom in Damnation, stroking his cock even faster. His eyes were closed in pleasure. Alex thrust his cock into Jason and the brunet groaned, bucking his hips into his hand more.

    Jason was lost in the haze of lust. He bucked and moaned and groaned as though Alex really was fucking him, but he was only getting off of the phantom sensations he was getting from his body-double. He felt a barbed tail enter his hole and his entire body shook with pleasure. He opened his eyes in orgasmic rapture and screamed in horror when he saw Alex with a demonic smile, goat horns and a tail fucking him.

    He bucked as he came, spurt after spurt onto the sheets. When he was done he felt dirty. He could feel the demon Charon's hands roaming over his body. He could feel the cock slip out of his body-double, but he could also feel the tail thrusting in and out of its hole slowly.

    Jason leaned over the edge of the bed and retched again. He felt dirty. He felt disgusting. He felt desecrated. He felt like he betrayed Alex. He curled up into a ball, his breath coming in short ragged gasps as he wept in fear, longing, and guilt.
     
  10. "You sure you're alright, kid?" David asked, patting Alex on the shoulder. The were-lion nodded weakly. They both knew he wasn't, but he was more stable than he had been right after Jason had died. He felt numb. Knowing that Jason might be alive, somewhere, somehow, beyond the sight of both Heaven and Hell was terrifying. Was he doing okay? And then, there was always that nagging worm of doubt that hurt so much more than the loss. Would Jason find someone else to replace Alex?

    "Alright. Well. I'll see you tomorrow" Alex nodded again. He knew that whether he went to work, David would find him to make sure that Alex was in decent condition. As he opened the door to the building, Alex thought about how many times he considered taking his own life in the hope of maybe finding Jason again. He knew it was a futile thought. He would probably end up somewhere in Hell far away from his beloved for eternity.

    David walked away to his car, looking at Alex's retreating back as he entered the building. "You're one fucking unlucky man, kid" he whispered. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that the windows in the condo had somehow become whole once again. He shrugged, thinking that perhaps the pack had gone in and repaired everything already. He was wrong.

    Alex ascended the stairs, left hand clutching the rail, right hand tightly gripping the dagger that Jason had left to him. He looked at his hand. He still couldn't quite believe it. He didn't want to believe it. Jason was gone. He felt his chest tighten. He felt the walls around him almost grow larger and more formidable. Never before in his life had he felt so lonely, so small, so powerless.

    The lion cub inside of him had somehow come to the surface. The world around him was cutthroat, ruthless, but he was small and dependent. He felt abandoned. Lost. He felt so absolutely lost that no light could show him the way he had to go... save for the light that had now been forcefully extinguished. "Jason..." he whispered as he got on the first floor landing. "What am I going to do without you?" Alex felt the tears in his eyes again.

    He rubbed them away with the back of his left hand. He had just gone down to the precinct to deliver a statement about the chaos in his office and the whole situation with Jason. It was all formality, the pack would see to it that he wouldn't be jeopardized by the judicial system. Nevertheless, having to relive the day had left him a blubbering mess. Had David not been there to exert a constant, calming and familiar presence, Alex doubted he would've said anything coherent.

    Alex had appreciated that David was there for him. However, even his long-time friend and detective partner could do little to help dull the pain of loss that he felt. Five days. Five. The pain was as sharp as it had been when Jason took his last breath. It was so consuming that he felt it physically. Every part of Alex's body ached and he felt like just curling into a little ball and shutting out the entire world.

    He'd been shaking when he stood, unsteady on his feet, and asked the other detectives if he could go home. They'd shared a glance, they were probably worried about his mental integrity. They beckoned David over and talked to him for a second before giving the go ahead. David drove him home, trying to make sure that Alex didn't lose it. He didn't.

    On the way back to the condo, Alex calmed down. A cold numbness set into his body. He couldn't imagine life without Jason, without his beloved. He couldn't imagine not having those bright green eyes staring up at him. Their sparkle and love, when he left in the mornings and when he came home in the evenings. Not one day would pass when he would run his hands through the tangled mess of locks that birds could probably nest in that was Jason's hair.

    No longer would Alex be able to hold Jason's hands. No longer would he be able to kiss his lips. To hold him. To show him how much he loved him. To make love to him. No longer would he be able to put his forehead against Jason's. No longer would he whisper tender things to him as the brunet whispered back at him before the night took them away to the land of sleep. There would be none of that, now. Alex just couldn't bear the thought of it.

    As he ascended the stairs, memories of his days with Jason crept unbidden into his conscious mind. He and Jason had often poked fun at each other as they walked up those same stairs from a night out. They really enjoyed each other's company, sometimes a bit too much. They'd come home quite drunk on more than one occasion.

    ***

    Alex nuzzled Jason's nose with his own and giggled. "You're cute." He pulled away and giggled more. "I like you." Jason had blushed. "We should go out with each other." The were-lion pulled Jason in to him with an arm around the waist and kissed him.

    Jason hiccoughed and extracted himself from Alex's arms.. The brunet pushed him along the sidewalk. "We're already going out, kitty." Jason swayed from side to side as he walked. "I think I'm drunk." Alex roared with laughter, almost tripping over the stairs in front of the door to the condominium complex. "But you're cute too."

    Alex turned to face Jason, keys in his hand. He winked at the brunet. "Oh I know I am." Jason managed to climb the stairs without accident -- an extraordinary feat in and of itself -- and smacked Alex's ass. "Ooh!" said the were-lion. "Am I getting laid tonight?" he chuckled.

    Jason wrapped his arms around Alex's waist. "Maaaaybe." Alex shook when Jason had another hiccough. "I need water..."

    Alex pushed the door open and the two almost tripped over the small indentation on the floor just after the doorframe. "Or a digital rectal massage..." said Alex. The were-lion grinned and placed a less-than-chaste kiss on Jason's lips. "Oof." Alex groaned when his back hit the wall. Jason was being quite aggressive. The brunet's hand had found its way into the front of his pants and was pulling and stroking his cock. "Love--" They came together with a kiss again. "--let's take this--!" Jason pulled particularly hard on Alex's balls. The were-lion was almost fully erect. "--upstairs!"

    "I'm--" the two were still kissing while they climbed the stairs. They made very little progress, engrossed as they were with each other. "--totally down for a digital rectal massage--" Jason hiccoughed. Alex had managed to remove the brunet's hand from inside his pants. "--but if it doesn't work..." Jason trailed a finger down the middle of Alex's chest and hooked it into his belt. "...maybe I'll need something...
    bigger."

    Alex had growled possessively at Jason at that moment. He remembered feeling the burning need to make Jason his. He remembered the chill that ran up his spine the moment the young Irishman had suggested sex. It was on the second floor landing that he was unable to contain himself anymore. He pinned Jason to the wall, kissing him thoroughly. He could feel Jason's hardness through the younger man's pants.

    He heard a door bang shut somewhere below them and heard thundering footsteps up the stairs, but he didn't really care. He slipped a hand into the back of Jason's pants and cupped and kneaded the brunet's ass, making sure to tease Jason's pucker while he was at it. "Hey!" there was a livid old woman coming up the stairs, from the sound of it. Alex wondered what she was going on about. "Hey! You two!"

    Jason pushed Alex off of him, but the were-lion's hand was still down the back of his pants. "Who? Us?" Jason asked, face red and well-flustered from Alex's rough seduction.

    "Yes, you!" The woman was wielding an umbrella. "How dare you!"

    "How dare we w-aah-what?" Alex had inserted a finger into Jason, frowning and stamping his foot impatiently. Jason smacked him on the arm. The were-lion sheepishly withdrew his hands from Jason. The woman scowled at Alex and jabbed her umbrella at him threateningly.

    "How dare you flaunt your abominable lifestyle!" Jason sighed. Alex rolled his eyes. Another of
    those people. "The Bible states--"

    "Oh the Bible states blah blah blah." Alex scowled back at the woman and deflected her umbrella to the side. "The Bible also says that you should not wear clothes of two different fabrics. And that whomsoever has no sins should throw the first stone!" He pulled Jason closer to his side and kissed him passionately. It left Jason lightheaded, and the already-drunk brunet swayed a bit more as a result. "Go away and leave us be."

    The woman's mouth worked open and closed, sputtering wordlessly at Alex. Jason couldn't help but giggle. He'd not taken Alex as a Bible expert, but he decided that it was hot seeing the were-lion beat down an evangelical Christian. He pulled down Alex to kiss him.

    "HOW DARE YOU?!" she screamed. "You are abominations!" She began to swing her umbrella violently. Alex ushered Jason towards the staircase. "Go to hell faggots!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. Someone from downstairs probably heard the commotion. Alex heard doors opening and people running. "I will pray for you! God loves you but you have to stop being faggots!" Alex and Jason ran up the stairs, being chased by an irate, umbrella-wielding fundamentalist.

    They had both turned to each other on the third floor landing and said at the same time "Well that's a first." They had promptly ended up on the floor, laughing their asses off. As for what happened to the woman? One moment she was screaming and chasing them up the stairs, the next there was the sound of a struggle and then silence. Someone probably detained her and took her back to her unit.

    "Oh... Oh go--*hiccough*--god!" Jason said, tearing up with laughter. His hiccough was back. The fingering Alex had given him had worked momentarily.

    "Oh. It didn't work? Seems like I need to give you a phallic rectal massage..." said Alex just as Jason tried to get up using the wall as support. The brunet slid right back down, roaring in laughter.


    ***

    Alex's face split in an unbidden smile at the vivid memory. They'd been so young and so foolish. He didn't think they were ever that drunk again after that night. Jason for sure hadn't. The brunet had abhorred alcohol since after that night. Alex didn't quite understand as neither of them had woken up with a hangover the next day.

    The smile was brief. It was like a fleeting dream. As soon as it had passed, it was but a distant memory. The pain of loss crashed back into Alex almost twofold, ripping out his breath in a sob. He heard a door open behind him as he climbed up the staircase from the second floor landing. He could hear the rasp of laboured breathing; the shaking that accompanied old age. His acute sense of smell scented lavender, and sourness. The scent old people who were on lots of medication usually smelled like.

    Something inside of him told the were-lion to turn around and look at who was there. He almost fell on his ass when he stumbled backwards at the sight. It was the very same old woman from the memory. Her eyes widened at the sight of him. They seemed to have been glossed over with tears as well like his. She had a cane this time, though he doubted she could swing it as vigorously as she had the first time they'd encountered each other.

    She put a finger to her throat. "I-I-I'm S-sorry... I-I'm g-going t-to go." Alex got a good long look at her. The years had not been kind to her. Sticking out of her throat was a tracheostomy tube. No wonder her breathing had been so raspy. She'd used to have a really strong and full voice. Alex looked at her with horror. She reminded him of just how quickly things could change. The woman winced at the look on his face.

    Alex felt bad. She had not been hostile. Maybe she'd learned. "I... I remember you." She nodded her head. She'd remembered him as well. "You... chased my partner and I up the stairs... with an umbrella." She frowned.

    Alex raised an eyebrow. His dad told him that apologies from fundamentalists were rare in his day. What more now that Christianity dominated the world. "W-where's y-your p-partner? A-are y-you s-s-still together?"

    "He's... no longer with me." The old woman looked crestfallen. "He's no longer with the living..."

    "I-I'm s-so-sorry about t-the t-things I s-said" She began to hobble towards him. "I-I'm s-s-so sorry f-for y-your l-loss... I h-hope y-you can f-find it i-i-in your h-heart to f-forgive m-me."

    Alex didn't know why, but anger bubbled in his stomach. She had dared call their love an abomination. She had dared to condemn them to hell without knowing them. He knew, he scented that she was being honest, sincere, genuine, but he wasn't thinking straight. His hand tightened around the dagger in a white-knuckled grip.

    He turned his back on the woman stiffly and began to walk up the stairs. He could feel her eyes boring into his back, the unspoken why hanging in the air, heavy, stinging. He wiped the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. He said, hoarsely "Your apologies won't bring him back. There's nothing to forgive."

    A raw pitiful noise came from the woman behind him. Deep inside he felt bad for denying her forgiveness. But the anger he felt over Jason's death and what she'd said to them those years ago, ruled his mind. He walked stiffly up the stairs, blocking out the rasping sobs from the woman. He heard the door on the second floor close again behind her.

    The walk up the stairs was a battle. Memories flooded Alex. It was on the fourth floor that he realized that while they had had quite an idyllic relationship, his life with Jason had been far from perfect. They argued every so often, but it was on their second anniversary that they had had their biggest argument.

    ***

    Alex tiptoed into the bedroom, trying his best to make the minimal amount of noise. He'd already stripped down to his underwear, so that Jason wouldn't be awakened by the sound of disrobing. He slowly, quietly lifted the sheets and slid into bed beside Jason. Jason was curled up facing Alex's side of the bed and the moment the were-lion got settled in, he put an arm around Jason's shoulders.

    "I appreciate the thoughtfulness, Alex" said Jason in a low, grim voice. "But I'd appreciate an explanation of where the fuck you've been." Alex opened his mouth to explain. "Let me guess." Jason placed a finger on his lips. It was a stern gesture, rather than a tender one. "You've been at the precinct or some crime-scene and found a new lead and just had to investigate." Alex nodded. Jason's eyes narrowed. The brunet was pissed. "Thought so."

    "Jason." Alex slipped another arm around Jason and pulled him in closer. The brunet felt warm. He nuzzled the Irishman.

    "What?"

    "You know I have to put in extra hours sometimes."

    "But for a fucking week? You've been home after midnight four days the last week." Jason met Alex's eyes. In the dim light of the moon streaming in through the window, Alex could see irritation in the brunet's green eyes. Jason removed Alex's arm from his middle and pushed the were-lion's head away. "I haven't spent any decent time with you recently."

    "But--"

    Jason turned away from Alex, huffing in annoyance. "Happy Anniversary" he said with derision. "Go to sleep." Alex whined and put his arm around Jason again, pulling him closer to spoon. The brunet growled. "
    Don't touch me."

    *

    Alex woke up in the wee hours of morning. Despite his anger a few hours before, Jason had ended up snuggling against his chest. It was probably entirely instinctive, even when he was pissed off at the brunet, Alex would end up waking up wound around his lover. He kissed Jason's forehead and whispered "I love you..."

    The corners of Jason's lips turned up in a small smile, and he let out a soft, satisfied sigh and snuggled in closer to the were-lion. Alex carefully extracted himself from Jason's embrace and replaced himself with a pillow. He was going to try his best to make it up to the brunet that day as it was their anniversary.

    Alex slipped off into the kitchen to make Jason's favorite breakfast: a bacon omelette and vienna sausages. He wondered if Jason would favour tea, coffee or orange juice. As he was rummaging around their pantry, he realized they were out of coffee. The fridge also offered no orange juice. "Looks like you're having tea today, whether you like it or not, Jason" Alex muttered as he put water in a kettle.

    He found the phone handset and dialed home as he beat eggs and put a pan over the stove to heat it. He rang up his dad. Gabriel White was certainly up at this time of day to keep watch on the global pack network. To keep an eye on reports that may be coming in from other countries. To prove him right, his dad picked up the call, greeting Alex a happy anniversary enthusiastically.

    They chatted for a moment as Alex seasoned the eggs and whisked the mixture, making sure to aerate it well. Alex drizzled olive oil into the pan to fry some bacon he'd sliced finely. He asked his dad if it was okay for him and Jason to go up to the family cabin up by Stave Lake. Gabriel was all too eager to give his approval, only stopping to give Alex a reminder that they had to clean up after themselves. After they hung up, Alex finished preparing breakfast.

    It was just as Alex was setting up the tray he was going to bring to the bed, that Jason showed up at the doorway. "Goodmorning. Happy Anniversary..." Alex said, hesitantly. He was sure the brunet had found his way to the kitchen, drawn by the smell of good food. But the were-lion wasn't sure if Jason was still angry at him. There was a faint scent of irritation wafting from the brunet, but it was easy to miss. He probably just picked it up because he was looking for it.

    "Goodmorning..." Jason seemed subdued. "Happy Anniversary. I'm... sorry... about last night." Alex smiled, relieved. He put down the tray on the kitchen counter and walked up to Jason. He embraced the brunet, breathing in his unique scent. He felt Jason do the same thing.

    "It's alright. I understand where you were coming from... Why you were angry." The were-lion brushed away hair that had fallen over Jason's forehead. "I promise I'll try my best to not spend so much time at work..." He took Jason's hands and he pulled the brunet closer. Jason wrapped his arms around Alex's waist as the were-lion brought his hands up and wrapped them around the nape of Jason's neck. They smiled at each other and Alex moved in, placing his lips on Jason's.

    "Happy Anniversary!" quipped Jason, patting Alex's butt.

    "Happy Anniversary" chuckled Alex.

    "Is that a bacon omelette?!" Alex beamed at Jason. "Oh man... I love you! Now let me go and let me at it." Jason was giddy. "I knew I smelled something good." Jason placed another kiss on Alex's lips. They sat down for breakfast and had a good time. It turned out that Jason
    was hankering for some tea, a fortunate coincidence, noted Alex.

    After breakfast the two began packing things for a stay over at the family cabin. Jason was excited. They hadn't been up there in ages, and he'd thoroughly enjoyed the last time they'd stayed there. Alex promised Jason they'd pick up a few DVD's to watch when they got there. With all their things ready, Jason asked Alex if he'd called to take time off of work yet, and the were-lion was mortified. He'd forgotten.

    Just as Alex was about to pick up the phone to call, it rang. He looked at Jason. The brunet shrugged. "Hello?"
    Alex said, hesitantly. It was one of the greener officers. David had probably pressured him into calling Alex. "Yes. Speaking." Jason raised an eyebrow at Alex. The were-lion shrugged.

    "Oh. I see. Well I can't--" Jason frowned. "Look, I know what he said. I can't go--" The frown deepened. Alex looked at his lover, concerned. "Oh for fuck's sake, David. It's our anniversary! I can't go down there." Jason threw up his hands, frustrated.

    "I've been working my ass off the past week!" Alex was scowling now too. "Look, it's my anniversary with Jason and we had things pla--Oh don't you yell at me." Alex raised his hand and gestured "Give me a second" to the brunet. "Okay. Okay. Fine. I'll go down there quickly. But I can't spend all day. Jason and I are going up to the cabin. Hello? Oh for fuck's sake."

    Jason dropped his bags and stomped off into their bedroom. Alex could feel the irritation radiating off of the brunet, he could smell the hostility. He walked carefully into the room. Jason was sitting on the bed, face in his hands. "Just. Go" said the brunet. Alex knew better than to try and argue.

    "I'll be back really quickly"

    "Ha!" Jason looked away. Was he crying? "That's likely." The two words dripped with sarcasm, disappointment, and above all, anger.

    "I--"

    "Go."

    *

    It was pretty late in the evening when Alex finally managed to get off of work. There was a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. He still went and bought coffee and orange juice, thinking if he was going to make it up to Jason, he'd probably start by making food again. He was pretty sullen on the way back, he'd gotten in a shouting match with David. They had both been worked to the brink of exhaustion already. The case demanded a solid prosecution to be made as soon as possible.

    Jason had been understanding, but even Alex knew people had their snapping points. He had been smacking himself internally all day. If Jason had a snapping point, it would be spending virtually no time together with him on their anniversary of all days. He was probably in a truckload of trouble.

    Alex climbed the stairs. The were-lion's heart was pumping quickly. He could hear the thumping of his pulse in the silence of the staircase. He'd called whenever he'd had the chance, but Jason had not picked up a single phone call. He would've understood the brunet not answering his noon phone call but he'd called just three hours ago, to no fruit. The Irishman must be really incensed.

    Alex fumbled for a second with his keys, finding the right one for the door. He looked up at the sky and breathed in deeply before unlocking the door. Part of him was apprehensive. He tensed as he twisted the doorknob, preparing to duck in case anything was thrown his way. He pushed the door open.
    Dead silence.

    "Jason?" Alex called out, dread gnawing at the edges of his conscious. No need to worry, he told himself, Jason might just have decided to turn in for the night early. He set down the essentials he'd bought in the kitchen before walking to the master suite. He pushed open the door to their bedroom. Jason was sitting on a perfectly made bed with a packed bag beside him.

    "Alex." Jason met the were-lion with a flat, stern, annoyed gaze. Alex's breath caught in his throat. His eyes frantically flitted from the bag to Jason and back. "Well. You've noticed." The were-lion scented irritation and anger from the brunet, but the hurt was almost overpowering. "Seems like you don't want to take time off from work. I'm left alone here for most of the day. I've decided I'll take some time off of you."

    The words cut right through Alex. "Jason..." The were-lion made to walk closer. Jason glared at him. Don't come any closer, that look said. "I'm so... so sorry." There was a momentary flash of guilt in Jason's eyes but it was gone as soon as it had appeared. "But this isn't fair!"

    "Sorry just doesn't cut it anymore at this point, Alex" Jason clutched the edge of the bed with white-knuckled fists. "Oh
    this isn't fair?!" Jason gestured at Alex, then out the window at the speckled sky outside. "How about not being able to spend any time with the man you love because he's so absorbed with his work? How is that for not fair?!" Jason stood up, walking threateningly towards Alex.

    "You know I can't just drop these things!" Alex could feel himself getting angry. He thought that after two years, they would have reached an understanding that the young detective would sometimes have to spend long hours at work. Jason wasn't acting rationally, thought Alex. "I'm working on an important case!" He immediately regretted the next words that he spoke. "That kid deserves to know what happened to his brother!"

    Jason's eyes grew wide. Alex could see Jason trembling, furious. "Oh is that what this is about?
    ME not doing my part? Not sacrificing for this kid I don't even know?!" The brunet was standing right in front of Alex. He jabbed his finger at the were-lion's chest. "And don't you for a second think I don't know what's going on in that head of yours." Jason glared at Alex. "I know you're still bitter about your older brother and you think this is your big redemption!"

    Alex took a step back. "Oh that was low..." His chest vibrated with the deep growl that followed. Jason didn't even flinch. "That was uncalled for!" He grabbed Jason's shoulders and shook the brunet. Jason glared at him. "When we entered this... this... I don't even know what the fuck this is right now. I thought we had an understanding that there would be times I would have to work extended hours! What the fuck is this about?!"

    "Let go of me" Jason's laconic response dripped with venom. Alex was all too happy to oblige. "I don't have to deal with this right now." Alex took a step forward. "I don't
    want to deal with this right now!" Jason grabbed the bag on the bed and swung it over his shoulder. He tried to elbow past Alex, but the were-lion grabbed his arm.

    "And where are you going?" Alex said. His grip tightened around Jason's arm. The brunet hissed in pain and discomfort. The grip loosened. Jason grabbed his arm from Alex and strode past the were-lion.

    "What do you care?!" The brunet flung open the door. "Maybe you should go back to your precinct and solve your precious fucking case!" Jason slammed the door behind him, right on Alex's face. The were-lion wrenched it open and walked out into the corridor. "Oh. And by the way." Jason turned and glared at Alex. "Happy fucking anniversary!"

    The were-lion chased after the brunet, finally managing to grab him by the arm on the fourth floor landing. Jason dropped his bag in the scuffle. "Jason!" The brunet glared at him and wrested his arm from Alex's grasp. "What the fuck? Isn't this a little bit selfish?!"

    The sound of skin impacting skin rang up and down the staircase. There were tears in Jason's eyes. Alex's cheek was red. It stung. He lifted his hand gingerly to where Jason's palm had hit it. The skin there was tender. "Am I not allowed to be selfish for one fucking day?!" Jason yelled at Alex and picked up his bag. "It's our fucking anniversary for fuck's--" Jason's voice broke. "sake!"

    Jason glared at Alex and just shook his head before running down the stairs. Alex walked slowly over to the rail. Jason stopped on the third floor landing and narrowed his eyes at the were-lion. "You know what. Fuck this. Fuck today." He flung his hands in the air in frustration. "Fuck you, Alex!"


    ***

    Alex brought his fingers to his cheek, remembering the slap. That had been one of their rockiest times, but they'd made up... eventually. They argued, like everyone else. Very little made Jason mad, but when he was, his temper was explosive. Alex would not often be swung by Jason's moods, preferring instead to approach things logically. It rarely helped.

    Alex did not see Jason for a good two days after the fight. Neither did he go to work, ignoring any and every call that wasn't Jason. Jason seemed to be doing the opposite, ignoring any and every call that was Alex. It was on the third day that they'd reconciled. They both looked like they'd been blown about in a windstorm. Their making up was quite violent and passionate in a good way.Needless to say, some sex was had on every surface of their condo that day.

    Alex continued the climb. His legs felt like lead. The sound of his footfalls on the staircase was slow, measured, and mechanical. It wasn't long before he finally got to his floor. He entered the door and was walking down the carpeted corridor when he remembered one time when he and Jason had gone grocery shopping.

    ***

    For some odd reason, the brunet had insisted on wearing a pair of jeans he'd not worn for years on that day. Alex wasn't about to argue with him about it. While they were out shopping, Jason had looked quite uncomfortable. Alex knew he wasn't saying anything just to save face. It was on their way back to their unit that tragedy, and consequently, hilarity struck.

    Jason opened the door to their condo, carrying just two lighter bags. Alex was inundated with bags behind him. Just as he stepped into the threshold of their unit, one of Jason's bags split and spilled its contents all over the floor. Jason stepped over the mess and set down his other bag while Alex walked past him and set his down.

    Jason bent over to pick up what was on the floor when a horrible ripping sound filled the air. It just so happened that Jason was wearing a jockstrap that day as well. The were-lion was treated to a beautiful view of Jason's ass. The brunet's pants were ripped cleanly in half.

    Alex was instantly aroused. He noticed Jason shiver at the deep, sensual growl that he involuntarily made. When the brunet had picked everything up and set everything down on the table, Alex had gone over to him and ripped off his pants. Needless to say, it wasn't long before Jason was receiving a rough rogering from Alex, partly in revenge for making the were-lion carry the brunt of their groceries.


    ***

    There had been a time, Alex reminisced as he stood in front of the door to his condo, that Jason had been quite dominant over him. That was a fond memory. He'd been pushed up against the door. He'd been kissed and rubbed all over -- possessively, too. That night had been one to remember. Alex had surrendered his posterior's virginity to the brunet that night. He'd liked it, though not as much as being the dominant part of the relationship. Nevertheless, it happened a few more times since then.

    Every memory that surged back into vividness for Alex served to crack the cold numbing ice that had surrounded his heart. The ice had been there to protect him but being here, in this place where his lover had been torn away, was too much. The memories melted through his defenses and he felt small. The pain was raw and he felt absolutely lost.

    Alex placed his forehead against the cold door of his condo unit. His now, not theirs anymore. He didn't think he could bear living in the place, not with the constant, tiny reminders of Jason's presence it would have. The were-lion lifted a trembling hand to the door knob and twisted it. He let out a small stifled gasp when he saw that everything was as it should've been, no char on the walls, their furniture back, nothing broken... with the exception of one or two things.

    Alex sat on the couch. The TV screen in front of him was still fractured in one corner. There were little signs here and there of the struggle that had happened, but they were few. Even so, they kept the memory raw and painful. The were-lion buried his face in his palms. Tears now streamed freely from his eyes. His lower lip quivered. He felt sobs in the back of his throat, threatening to spill forth.

    The were-lion's head snapped upwards when he heard the faintest sound of the shower being turned on. He heard the telltale tenor of Jason's voice. Could it be possible? Was the brunet alive? Was all of this just a cruel, cruel dream? Alex found himself rushing to his feet against his better judgment. He almost slid on the tiled floor when he burst into the bathroom.

    For a split second, Alex could clearly make out the outline of Jason in the shower. Steam was rising all around the brunet. Rivulets of water ran down the curves of his body. His voice, though not the best, was siren song to Alex's ears. Jason looked at the were-lion, those emerald eyes glimmering in the sunlight streaking to the window. The were-lion took a step forward. Then, the vision was gone. Sunlight was replaced with the glare of evening lighting from below, moonlight from above and a star-speckled sky.

    Alex tore his eyes away from the now-empty shower. He left. The door slammed behind him with such strength that the walls shook. His heart had broken just a little bit more. His entire body was now trembling as well.

    The were-lion heard food being made in the kitchen. He rushed over, hope momentarily renewed. Sure enough, there, in broad daylight was Jason, making bacon and eggs. "Jason...?" Alex asked softly, his voice quivering in spite of himself. The sunlight framed the brunet with a molten gold halo. He was beautiful. Jason smiled at Alex. The were-lion smiled back, hesitant. Alex took a deep breath.

    The entire image shattered. Instead of a succulent aroma, Alex picked up an entirely different scent. It cut to his core and ignited the anger that was there. His nostrils flared, taking in the tangy metallic scent of Jason's blood. The smell threw him into a blind fury. There were several loud crashes in the kitchen as Alex knocked over the table. He was bursting with sadness. Rage. He smashed the wineglasses in one cabinet that had come with the unit. He punched a hole into another.

    If there was one thing he didn't touch, however, it was Jason's set of fine china. For some reason, the younger man had been fiercely defensive and protective of the elegant, silver-rimmed porcelain. Alex had made sure to poke fun at him for it, not that he blamed Jason. The make of the things was just absolutely exquisite. They'd also managed to burn a hole in Alex's pocket.

    The were-lion was leaning over one of the granite counter-tops, shaking, hands balled into fists when he heard a soft, stifled yawn. Alex's anger faded. Renewed, vain hope flooded him. He rushed to their bedroom. Sure enough, bathed in bars of sunlight filtering through their blinds, with motes of dust dancing about him, was Jason. The apparition winked at him, beckoned him to come closer.

    Alex took a step forward. Sunlight faded into moonlight, but Jason didn't disappear. Only now, the brunet was spread eagled on the bed, naked, prostrate. The were-lion's blood surged with lust and he instinctively growled possessively. He pounced. The vision of Jason faded away like ashes in the wind.

    The stupid grin that had been plastered on his face at the previous sight slid completely off. The moonlight lost its milky, ethereal quality. The rumpled sheets and strewn-about clothes became neat and perfectly kept. Thud. The were-lion fell to his knees.

    He breathed in. He breathed out. Rapidly. Raggedly. The tears came again, rolling down his cheeks and dripping on the bedroom floor. The metallic scent of blood filled his nostrils. He curled up into a ball, pressing his head against his knees. His body shook in gasps and sobs and broken, pathetic sounds.

    He wept. He wept for the memories they'd shared. He wept for the love they'd had. He wept for the life they would no longer share. He wept. He wept. He wept until the grey of dawn crept up slowly, inexorably from the horizon. Alex's entire world had crumbled. Stopped. The world around him marched tirelessly onward.

    Perhaps time would forget that in the year 2030, right before a wedding they'd planned, Jason Collins had been murdered. That Jason Collins had been torn from Alex's side in a fleeting instant. Maybe time would forget. But the were-lion knew deep inside; He knew in his heart of hearts, that he would never forget.

    As the sun rose in the east, bathing the busy-as-ever streets of the great city of Vancouver in its glory, a golden-maned lion leapt onto the bed that Jason and Alex had once shared. It nuzzled the sheets tenderly. It sniffed. It tried to inhale whatever remnant of Jason's scent was still there.

    The lion walked around and around, trampling the sheets under its feet. It lay on its stomach. Its nose was pressed against the bed. It mewled. It whined. It made broken noises. Above all it mourned for the loss of its beloved, its partner, its mate, its Omega.

    The lion mewled and whined and mourned even as the brazen light of the sun washed over it and exhaustion sank deep into its bones. The lion lamented until it could grieve no more. Then, sleep overtook it. Perhaps fate would be so kind as to give it dreams of the love it had lost, of the life it would never live.

    Yet -- as humanity should never forget -- fate is a cruel mistress.