Two years of rehabilitation paid off on a fine winter morning as he took to the racetrack for the first time in centuries-- millennia!-- and ran without pain. He could not even count the years that had passed since the last time he had run as hard as he desired, as fast as he desired, running so fast the pain burned hot, sweet and simple. He had always known pain since the Fall, had always walked with a limp. Now, towards the end of the 20th Century medical science had produced miracles and had sent those miracles his way.
He ran himself into exhaustion, coming around the gritty racetrack one final time to lope slowly to a halt beside one of his few companions, a moderately-sized figure in a trench coat. "Walk it through, my lord, walk it through. You'll cramp up if you do not keep walking."
He looked up at the other figure. "Rimmon, it is truly a miracle."
The other figure approached, his breath steaming in the cold winter air. "Yes, my lord, it is truly a miracle. What can I say about the 20th Century that has not been said before? It has brought me teachers and associates who can heal even yourself. Something even He could not do."
"Something He would not do," the still-gasping figure reminded his physician quietly. "I am so close to forgiving Him, Rimmon. So very close."
"Yes, Rimmon. Someday." A beeping caught Lucifer's attention; he pulled out his palmtop computer, a Windows CE device (he hated the thing personally, but it had been designed by his own people and so he felt obliged to use it in public), and consulted it. "I am due back in Dis for a council." He sighed.
"Man no longer defines himself by what he is born with," Lucifer explained quietly to Gabriel several days later. "Man defines himself by what he becomes through his own two hands. More?" He indicated the bottle of wine by the table.
"Yes, please. The wine in Heaven is often too sweet. Where do you get such wonderfully dry Chablis?"
"A little vineyard just south of here," Lucifer replied. "Man is on the verge of eating of the tree again, Gabriel. He is so close I can taste his desire. And now there is little He can do to prevent it. Look at Denmark. So few people there worship Him that three-quarters of all churches are in ruins."
"They believe in Him."
"They give Him some lip service, acknowledge all He has done, perhaps. But really they now say, 'Thanks, we will take it from here.'" Lucifer sipped his wine carefully. "I'm not going through with it."
Gabriel gave him a long, careful look. "I'm not sure I understand you." He smiled patiently at a young man who was eyeing him carefully as one would eye a steak. He shook his head. "Did you have to suggest the Castro?"
The Devil laughed. "I like the atmosphere. Especially since this, like much that your people rail about, is not my doing. It is neutral territory."
Gabriel nodded. "What are you not going through with?"
"John's vision. I won't do it."
Gabriel took the news coolly. "Poor man. Up there, so close and yet so far. May I ask why?"
"What would the point be? Even if the Manicheans are right and I have a chance of winning, why should I bet it all on a chance?"
"You could be GOD," Gabriel said, extending his arms out as if to encompass all of Castro Street. "Think of it."
"The odds are slim," Lucifer pointed out. "Slim to none. I have no intention of spending an eternity closed up in Hell."
"You've made it into a nice place," Gabriel replied. "Or so I hear."
"It is quite nice these days. Again, that is the doing of men. Since the turn of the eighteenth century there have been more men than angels in Hell. They came in, figured out how to channel the heat into the frozen regions, making both reasonably temperate. The winds of the Second Bolga now turn non-polluting powerplants, and there's a water purification plant running day and night. They say in forty years or so the Sixth Bolga will be clean enough to drink from without boiling it first." Lucifer laced his fingers together and leaned forward on the table. "You see what I'm saying, Gabriel? For centuries Man has thought of his world as fixed, a doing of God. They could do little things-- farms, castles, even cities, but they couldn't see the world as He could, they didn't know just how close to God they became when Eve took the fruit of the Tokogae."
"Tokogae?" Gabriel asked.
"Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. One of my database programmers came up with that."
"Man now knows just how much of the world he can change. He doesn't understand much of it yet, but he sees the possibility and he knows it is not hubris. For forty years these people sat with the ability to destroy themselves-- without His or my help. They have been to the moon, Gabriel. They will soon reach the stars. I don't want to rule, Gabriel, if I rule only in Hell. I want to see the Orion Nebula again."
"That will be a while, even for man."
"So it will be a while! I'm not going anywhere. When I Fell, it wasn't because of man-- it was because of my own ignorance. I wanted to love Him. I wanted to be Him. I can't be Him, I know that. And then I hated men because they had His attention even more than we did. I'm surprised you didn't revolt."
"We had our own role' to play."
"I'm sorry, Light-Bringer."
Lucifer smiled at Gabriel's use of his old name. "I know, Gabriel. And I have forgiven you." Gabriel's eyebrows rose at the idea of his being forgiven by Lucifer himself. "I am in love with Man, Gabriel. Mad, bad, sad, blessed humanity. I can almost believe they will overcome entropy itself. They will certainly try."
Gabriel broke off a piece of bread as the waiter brought their food. He chewed it slowly. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked.
"Because you will tell Him," Lucifer replied with a smile. "Do not deny it. He knows everything, yes, but you will bring this to His attention. And after that little altercation with Uriel in Egypt two years ago it's best that He know my intentions."
"How can you be trusted, Lord of Lies?"
"The heart of even the Lord of Lies cannot be closed to His sight," Lucifer replied.
They ate. Then, with a smile, Lucifer asked, "So how is Saint Basil these days?"
Momentarily caught off guard, Gabriel held the wineglass to his lips. Then he grinned. "Basil is livid. I am not sure what irritates him more-- that you have completely occupied the attentions of his adversary, or that without her and with so much at stake people continue to have sex."
"Yes," Lucifer said with a misty smile, "People are still having sex." He paid the bill in cash, leaving a healthy tip. He rose and held out his hand. "It was good to see you again, Gabriel. I am grateful for these regular get-togethers."
"Next time, I choose the place."
"I know a little place in Venice, Italy, right around from the central church..."
"Yes," Lucifer replied, "The owner has a little dog? Right up the street from the butcher shop that regularly has cow tongue in the window?"
Gabriel smiled. "You know the place as well. See you in July?"
"Indeed, old friend."
"Farewell, Light Bringer, First of His Words, Son of the Dawn, Angel of Morning."
"You shall make me cry, Gabriel, calling me to offices I do not occupy any more. Ask Him. Please. Ask Him when you may hang up your sword and your trumpet."
Lucifer took a deep breath as he walked through his grand palace. Although things were changing in Hell, he was still its ruler and the palace still reflected his grandeur. He wanted things to change faster but there are limits to what even the Devil could accomplish over his reign. With twelve times the population of the Earth walking through Hell, he had a great administration from which to work.
He reflected that even there, things were changing. His great associates, Attilla, Adolph, Vlad Teppis, no longer held any interest for him. Moloch had retired; Lucifer had nominated Alexander to his place, and then assigned Sir Doyle to watch over him. He had recently become enamored of the United State's method of training its soldiers and had instructed his generals to adopt the nonpartisan indoctrination techniques.
He took another deep breath, enjoying the peculiarly sweet scents that filled his lungs. Outside the window of his office he had stared for five centuries at twisted trees from which gibbets had twisted slowly in the relentless winds coming off the eighth Bolga. In this century an army of men-- men!-- had walked in and torn them out, turned the land upside down, and planted an orchard.
He sighed and tried to concentrate on the video screen. A top-of-the- line SGI box with a SoftWindows98 emulator (his need to demonstrate his use of his own people's products did not extend to his private office), his computer reflected the best Hell could offer him at this point in time. And he appreciated its speed and its power. His network was fabulous. It even connected directly to the Internet out on Earth. His IT people assured him Heaven had a connection on the other end as well.
Six thousand years had taught him good work habits. He easily made his way through the casual material. He had become a pretty good coder in his own right and much of what he had had to do in the past had become routine and programmatic. A soft buzz at his desk made him sit up; he pushed the button on his intercom. "Yes, Apollyon?" He smiled as he said it. Apollyon was quite a change from Abaddon, who had held the task of the Devil's Secretary until recently. Unlike Abaddon, Apollyon was earnestly interested in getting things done according to the wishes of his employer.
"Rosier is here to see you, sir."
"See her in," he said.
The door opened and a vision in red and white walked through it. Her bright red skin, blackened hair, and small black horns were put into contrast by the white, lacy gown she wore, a dress that did nothing to hide her substantial breasts. The vision was completed by low-heeled white shoes. "Rose."
"Lucifer," she said with a smile, crossing the room to hug him as he barely managed to stand out of his chair. "How are you feeling?"
"I was doing well before you arrived, and now I'm doing even better." He squeezed her waist playfully. "You feel good to me."
"Yes," she smiled, "Isn't that funny. We think about feeling good these days."
"I do," he said with a grin, kissing her neck. "You look marvelous, too. How was your day?"
She could not conceal her pleasure. "I love you."
Lucifer was taken aback. "What does that mean?"
"Don't you know?" She asked with a giggle. "For two thousand years I've been making fools fall in love, Lucifer, and now I know what it feels like." She touched his face. "I love you." She laughed again. "And I know why they don't need me. I don't need me. I need you."
"Rosier... I don't know what to say."
"Then don't say anything, my love! Just hold me. Or hold me and tell me you love me too." She held her arms out to him and he readily fell into them, holding her close. They swayed against one another and Lucifer found himself reaching out with one hand for the desk to steady them both.
"Are you almost done here today?" she asked him.
"Almost. Can you wait a few minutes?"
She nodded. He cleaned up what few tasks were waiting for him, making an annotation in his day planner, and took her hand. "Where are we going?"
"Your chambers," she said. "Now."
"Lead the way," he agreed quickly.
Lucifer's bedroom, once a dark and dingy place, now shone with an opulence collected from the vast corners of the Living World. Like the Tarot card of his name, Lucifer still held onto his desire for material beauty, although that had become tempered as the 20th century showed him such beauty as could only be shared, not held alone. The enormous, egg-shaped walls and roof and the large, round poster bed at its center had pleased him after its design had been completed. He was extremely grateful to Antineus of Rome, his architect, who had once commented to him that Frank Lloyd Wright's innovations would have made his Coliseum a lot more interesting if only he had them two millennia earlier.
Rosier led him to the bed and made to toss him onto the bed but paused momentarily. "That's a Saint Laurent, isn't it?" she said, admiring his suit. He was pleased with it; he hadn't bought new clothes in a while and so had stopped at a good tailor in Los Angeles and had had five suits made up, mostly in the cut popular between the first and second World Wars. He especially liked the way the fedora looked on him, although the cut for his horns had been somewhat difficult. She had commented on it earlier. "Let's not get it wrinkled." She was careful with his jacket and tie as he draped his pants over a Louis XIV chair next to the bed.
Lucifer stretched as he tossed aside the last of his clothes, his reptilian wings spreading out in a wall, enclosing himself and the lovely Rosier near the bed. "Mph! Damn, that's a fine chair but after a few hours in it I really should get up more often." He turned to his consort just in time to see her take off the last of her clothing. "How do I look, my lord?" she asked, stepping to him, one leg crossing the other as she walked, making her hips waggle most suggestively.
"It is bodies like yours that drove the Grigori mad," he chuckled as he touched her skin. Her red flesh glistened with suggestions that, truthfully, had tempted many angels over the years past. "And truly you have been an understanding companion," as his arm encircled her waist and pulled her to him. Lips touched unholy lips and tongues met in a passionate kiss of the kind only recently invented. Lucifer thought of that other marvelous invention-- hygiene-- that made such passionate wet kissing possible, both here and as he desperately wished later, further down in their own infernal depths. He felt his passion rise in his groin and in his heart. She giggled and her hand brushed the head of his prick. "Cold, my lord."
"You can heat it with your own fires," he said to her. "And it is not nearly as cold as it was last century." More to thank modern medicine for, he thought. "Now it has merely been cooped up too long in those handsome clothes."
She smiled and left him to crawl upon the bed. "Come to me, Angel of the Morning."
He sighed with pleasure just to hear his name again and joined her on the bed, falling gleefully between her thighs to feel his hard prick pressing against her mound. "Not so soon, my lord," she said, rolling with glee as she turned him over onto his back. She turned her attentions to that hard prick, taking its uncircumcised head into her mouth and swallowing it down to the back of her throat. Her slick tongue caressed the underside, tickling the thick ridge of flesh that ran from foreskin to the base. Her short hair fell about her face and with every lunge of her head it tickled his belly and thighs. Her mouth felt warm and he felt the trickle of saliva coursing down his prick and balls. She was getting the sheets wet already, but it wasn't that he cared much. He moaned her name aloud, "Rosier, Temptress... Oh!" She moaned in response, sometimes taking his prick out of her mouth just to flick her tongue over the head of it before plunging down on it again, swallowing it to the back of her throat.
Lucifer groaned at her delicate touch. "Now I see your power to make fools fall in love," he gasped. "Oh, Rosier, how well you do that!"
She smiled up at him. "And you do well by me, my lord," she gasped. "Such a handsome thing," she sent, wrapping one hand around the base. "What a wonderful instrument." She flicked her tongue over the sensitive spot where foreskin and head met and he twitched and growled against the bedsheets.
"Enough!" the Lord of Hell roared as the tickling become too much. He sat up and reached for her hips, pulling her mound towards him. She had a light sprinkling of dark, curly hair covering her vulva, and his tongue easily parted both hair and flesh, exposing the darker, angrier red flesh to his eyes. He probed delicately at her long, thick lips, sucking them into his hungry mouth, tasting sweetness that had not existed in Hell for five thousand years. And yet here it was. Her juices were light on his tongue. He caressed her lips, tugging on the hood of her little bead of pleasure.
"Oh, my Lord!" she gasped.
He looked up with his eyes ablaze (a cheap trick that had impressed mortals before the invention of the special effect). "Yes, Temptress of True Hearts?" he said with a smile.
"You do well yourself!" she gasped.
"So you say," he said as he returned to his pleasures, licking and suckling her cunt, nipping at her clitoris and sucking the surrounding flesh into his mouth. Now it was her turn to moan, her voice echoing in the great bedroom of the Fallen Angel. Her body shook and demanded more of him, and he gave her what she wanted.
"Lucifer! Lucifer, my lord! Please! Take me!"
He gave her as she asked, rising up, his great wings spreading to hold him suspended in midair for a moment over her, giving her one great look at this Lord of Hell before he descended onto, into her. A high-pitched moan greeted his plunge into her body, his taking of her flesh as she had cried for. The great sound of his wings filled the room as Lucifer and Rosier, Lord of Hell and Lady of Temptation, mated in unearthly passion. She clamped her body down around the devil's prick and he beat his wings in rhythm with his thrusts. Their bodies slapped together in hard, mindful time. Lucifer looked down into her face, her eyes closed and her mouth open. The tips of her horns glistened with a light he had never seen before. She moaned aloud and he found himself wanting her more then than at any time before. "Rosier!" he cried. "Rosier!"
"Lucifer! My Angel!" she gasped back. "Now, my Angel!"
He came with a great scream that thundered across the nearby landscape. He came with a force so powerful it felt to him an echo of the Ninth Day. He collapsed on top of her, his leathery wings folding against his back of their own accord. "Oh, Rosier," he gasped.
In the back of his mind, he thought of the Ninth Day. His climax had been in pleasure what that moment had been in Fall, when he had struck the Earth with such force that it had opened up and swallowed him and those who had trusted him whole. He rested against her and suddenly began to weep. It had been too much.
"Lucifer?" The Temptress turned on her side. "Are you all right? Are these tears?"
"Yes," he said. "I was merely reminded of..."
Lucifer turned over onto his back. She crawled over to him and said, "It is Him, isn't it?"
"I wish He understood!" Lucifer growled angrily.
"Why don't you make Him understand?" Rosier asked gently.
"The way you tried before," she said with a soft grin. He felt a warmth in his heart, a familiar warmth, one of battles won. "Go ahead. You now have more souls than He has angels. You could win this time."
Glee crossed his face. "I could." He sat up. "You're right. I do have a stronger force now than before. I could beat Him!" He leapt out of bed and grabbed his robe. "Stay here. I'll be right back. Apollyon! Apollyon!"
"Here, my Lord."
"Call Attilla, Alexander, Caesar, Patton, and Genghis. Tell them to make ready."
"But, sir, they've all been dispatched. It could take days to find them."
"I don't care! Am I not The Lord of Hell?" Lucifer roared angrily.
"Y... Yes sir." Apollyon disappeared. Lucifer ran to the door and down the hallway to a room that had sat, dusty and unused, for some years now. He threw it open and looked at the map. "I could do it. I could take Jerusalem in..."
A gentle wind blew across his face, distracting him. Outside his window he could see the orchard, the trees standing firm. His bellow of pleasure had not damaged his newly beloved garden. He glanced down at the map and said softly, "What in Hell have I just said?" He reached for his cellphone on the table and called Apollyon. "Yes, you're there. Cancel that order. Do not call the generals. It's not going to happen. Yes, I'm pleased too. Thank you, Apollyon." He sighed. There was nothing like a good secretary.
He walked out into the hallway and back to his chamber. Rosier sat up in the bed, pulling the sheets over her large breasts to cover them. "My Lord? What is it?"
He slowly closed the door behind him, crossed halfway between the door and the bed, and opened his wings to their full extension. "YOU!" he roared. "WHAT HAVE YOU TRIED TO DO?" The castle again shook, this time with rage, and the room took on a dark, reddish tinge that seemed to be in the very air.
"I... I don't know what you mean," she said.
"Of course you do," he growled. "Just as I was declaring a truce you tried to inflame the war to even greater heights! I knew there were some in the 133 Million who disagreed with the truce, but the Demoness of Love? How dare you?"
"She didn't," said a calm, masculine voice from behind him. Lucifer watched uncomprehending as Rosier collapsed like a puppet without strings. He turned.
And angel stood behind him, one with a color unlike any other. "The Advocate," Lucifer said, stunned.
"Lucifer," the other said calmly, nodding. "I am truly sorry, but it was necessary."
"Necessary?" Lucifer growled at the younger Angel of the Lord.
"I have to test," Advocati said gently. "Just as I tested Job. You made claim to a change of heart. I have to know where it stands now."
Lucifer tried to calm his rapid breath, his angry heart. "I... " He failed to put words to his pain. "I have no place to damn you to and no wish to damn you anyway. Go, brother, leave me with my suffering."
Advocati nodded. "Before I go, you should know something."
"I am listening," Lucifer replied.
"I took her after her climax in her moment of weakness. Your passions were none of my doing." He disappeared. Lucifer stared at the empty space, unsure of how to acknowledge the gift even as he realized the giver had left, then crossed the room to examine Rosier. She was unconscious. "She will recover," the words of The Advocate whispered in his ear. Then a fading wind said he was truly gone.
Lucifer turned from Rosier, threw the window open and jumped, his magnificent, dark wings allowing him to fall to the ground. He smiled briefly as he landed without pain. He strode into the orchard and picked a pear from one of the trees, tasting it. It reminded him of Rosier.
He looked up at the dark lid that covered Hell. Even through it he knew the Lord could hear him. "Why?"
No voice answered him. He had not expected one. "Father," he said again, "Why? I was there when you laid the heavens, and I know who measured out the expanses of the earth." Tears fell down his face. "It was once I who had given orders to the morning dawn, Father. And now we bicker and betray and for what? To count coup on one another? To treat the Human Race like booty? I am tired, Father, so tired. I want it to be over."
He swallowed and collapsed. There in the center of the neat square of trees, sixteen by sixteen pear trees, he knelt on his knees. "In all our time we have never won anything. We have merely taken your creation and made him suffer, Father.
"And you know what the really sad part is, Father? I loved you. I loved you so much that when you ordered upon your angels that we worship that glorious creation called Man, I could not bring myself to bow. Adam was not you, Father. How could I know? All things under heaven are yours. I could not know."
A sensation touched his shoulders, and Lucifer looked up into the heavens. A crack had appeared in the Roof of Hell and a ray of the light of Heaven shone down upon him. Lucifer looked into the light. "Please, Father... Please, forgive your angels their transgressions. I... I am sorry."
The ray took on solidity as Gabriel, Angel of Mercy, stepped from it. "You are forgiven, Lucifer. You just needed to ask with your heart." Gabriel leaned down and gently pressed his lips to the mouth of the kneeling Angel of Morning. The sound of many stained glass windows shattered filled the air as the black stains of Lucifer's wings sloughed off and fell to the ground. His wings glowed and from them shone the glistening glory of Heaven. Tears fell across his cheeks as Gabriel backed away.
"Thank you, brother."
"Thank you," Gabriel replied. "We await your return to your office, Son of the Dawn."
Lucifer paused, then looked up at the sky and whispered, "No."
The stunned Gabriel took time to react. "No?"
"No, Gabriel. I fell once and I can fall again. That is free will. I do not want my old offices back; I do not trust myself to them yet." He stood up. "There is much to do here before that time will come. This place is a disaster area."
Gabriel smiled. "I understand. And Father does as well."
On Mount Kauai, Hawai'i, Lucifer sat with Rosier and looked out over the ocean, facing eastward. Last night the weathermen had been predicting rain, but the Once and Future Angel of Morning had decided differently. The sky shone with a clarity rarely seen in the latter half of this century.
Lucifer handed her one of the two hot chocolates he had retrieved from a little coffee stand down in Honolulu. A cold wind blew across their bodies but they had dressed for the occasion. "You haven't seen this in six thousand years, have you?" she asked.
Lucifer shook his head. "No, I haven't." He sighed. "I avoided it for all that time. It was the one thing I had lived for, and to have it taken away from me was so painful I... could not watch it."
"What will you do now?"
"Fix Hell," he said. "It needs it. And... so do I. And once that's done, I might join humanity. By then they should striking out for the stars. Isn't that funny? Once, mankind needed me as a reason why the sun rose in the morning. Now they know. And, you know, it's nice to not be wanted."
"I want you," Rosier said. "Advocati didn't make me say 'I love you.' That was me."
"I know. I love you too, Rosier." He put his arm around her, careful not to put weight on her newly grown, glowing wings.
"Here it comes," she said, pointing with her pinkie from around her cup.
Where sky met sea a glow erupted, bright orange becoming yellow, and for the first time since The Fall Lucifer, the Bringer of Light, watched the Sun bring Light to him.