It has been one day since I returned to the Earth and yet I feel that I should never have returned. Lucifer had offered me an out, a chance to start over with him, and I had turned it down. At the time I thought the volumes I had read would be lies. I know now that every ounce of knowledge that I had gained during my stint in Hell was truth. Not that I was expecting to come home and find Wesley still pining over a long lost love. Still, I hoped that I wouldn’t have walked in on probably the most important day of his life.
My mother had kindly allowed me to stay in her lavish apartment on the first floor of their underground city. The amount of magic and manpower that had been used was beyond mesmerizing. The Allied Force had managed to create perfect, comfortable homes for the humans. There was no need for any of them to want for anything. This was far more than I could have managed if I had remained on Earth during the start of the war.
Adam was off with Rose catching up on what had happened over the last year. Wesley and Krista were probably off celebrating their engagement, as they should. I, on the other hand, was lying on a comfortable mattress in my mother’s home counting the tiles on the ceiling. It did make me feel a little awkward to be back on top again. I was happy for both my boys. Sure, neither of them wound up with me but I think the Creators have something else planned altogether.
My intentions were never clear with Adam. What we had was most likely on a tryst that manifested after my broken heart. I tried to heal the wound with the first being that I felt worthy. However, when it came to the present I would offer him one of two options. He could stay here at the underground dwelling or he could follow for a time, but once we got to the point of no return I would force him to leave. He had Rose to care for now, I had nobody. I wasn’t going to wander through eternity with his blood on my hands.
I put my arms behind my head and stared at the ceiling for a bit longer. Sleep didn’t come easy right now and, my whole world had changed in the last year. I had grown older without ever being here for it, even if my face was no more changed than it was this time two years earlier. Adam never graduated high school, not that the high school still stood. Jeremy missed out on some pretty rad parts of history. Still, this is how it was supposed to be. Fate had found a way to make life far more interesting than it was before.
I had placed a call to the Incubus headquarters in New Mexico shortly after arriving at my mother's. I was informed that Aaron was in Dallas running a camp and they would see that he gets in touch with me quickly. Of course, I knew that meant they would avoid telling him until he found out on his own that I was back. When that point came there would be a good chance that I was already be gone.
My very first order of business was putting Prudence on the task of tracking down Miranda and her conniving mother. Both Adam and Victoriana had mentioned that they had heard both were in the area as of the moment I was pulled from the Bunker of Kings. The original plan was to return to Harrisville and request warriors to fight at my side. I had sense figured another path was my calling after learning the Army’s major force had been annihilated the first night they were attacked. I sent word to Edmund requesting his alliance in searching for the redheaded bitch that had kept me locked first in Purgatory. He had accepted my offer and was making his way across a thousand miles of war-torn land. We would meet at some point whether it was here or another stop along the way.
El Paso was shambles of what it used to be. The border town had taken a hard hit at the start of the war. Few buildings still stood others under construction. Still, the underground city was far more magnificent than the above ground ruins ever were before the war began. The human race had woke up to the idea that their fantasy novels and paranormal horror movies had truth to their backings. The incident had been upsetting at first but they had grown to understand and accept there were two sides to the story.
I rolled to my right and stared at the white walls of the large room. I felt out of place in this world now. I knew that I had my tasks ahead of me but I didn’t feel that I should be a part of it. I had watched the world slowly start to burn on my enchanted TV in Hell. I had shared my thoughts and fears with Lucifer himself who had told me that even if there was something I could have done it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I closed my eyes and took in the warmth of darkness.
“Dawn?” A voice as sweet as any memory blessed my ears.
I opened my eyes and looked at Marshall as he stood in the doorway. His hair was longer and his face scarred. He still looked the same as he had when I left them all in the trailer a year earlier. I wondered in that moment if he had given up hope on me. If I understood correctly he would have felt me if the Claim had been severed. I sat up slowly and smiled softly at the boy as he came into the room his hands secured in his back pockets.
“I knew you were alive.” He whimpered as he stood before me. “I knew that there was no way that you had died in Purgatory.”
“You look well,” I replied to him as he took a seat next to me. Conversations had been pretty one-sided while I was gone. I didn’t know how to respond to the self-pity or the confessions. So I chose to ignore them the best that I could. I would get back to the humanity I possessed once, for now, I was still relearning who I once was.
“It’s been hard, this last year. We lost many friends and allies throughout the battles. I’m glad that I was able to remain as you had seen me before you left. The hospitals were full of wounded and dead.” He placed his arm around me and pulled me close.
“Where’s Kelly?” I asked relishing in the warmth.
“She’s at our home taking care of the children.” He laughed and I looked up at him with a blank expression.
“Children?” I slowly asked.
“It’s not what you think it is.” He laughed. “She’s become a mother to several of the ones that lost their parents during the battles within the city walls.”
“How wonderful for her,” I replied. I felt a blush settle on my cheeks, I knew this was not the response that he would expect from me.
“She said she would catch up with you soon.” Marshall rubbed my back in a friendly manner and I smiled to myself.
My concerns about him giving up hope had been realized. This man had never given up on the idea that I was still living, breathing, and coming home at some point. As I previously stated, he would have felt it if I had perished in Purgatory.
“I’m sorry you had to find out about Wesley this way.” He said soothingly and I felt my muscles tense.
“I am happy that he found a purpose in this whole ordeal. They will be happy together.” I forced the words from my mouth but still questioned the truth to them.
“You are taking this so well.” He laughed again and rubbed my shoulder.
“In Hell there are volumes of life paths. I had read several of the books about the world that I lived in. A year ago I found out that I was not the chosen path. I was merely a key that would bring him to his one love. Sure, I didn’t know who that would be until I walked through those doors yesterday but I’m glad it’s her and not someone else.” Again the words came out but I questioned their truth.
“That must have been hard to do knowing you couldn’t intervene.” He said softly.
“To be honest I didn’t want to. When I think back to the last two years and all the things that had happened I had already told myself that it wasn’t meant to be on so many occasions. I knew then what has been affirmed now.” I sighed smelling his sweet shifter scent.
“It took a while to get used to on our end. Kelly fought tooth and nail against the pair’s idea of being together until one day she just gave up. Fate chooses where it wants us to be.” Marshall pushed me up to a sitting position. “We will follow you to the ends of the world.”
“I know,” I answered softly touching his face.
“Well, as much as I would hate for this reunion to be cut short I have some errands to run above ground. We are working on encasing the city in protection spells so the humans can return to their homes.” He winked at me as he stood up.
“Sounds exciting,” I mumbled. I didn’t want him to go but I understood his need to complete his work.
“They are flourishing here but many of them still long for the sun.” He shrugged and turned to leave the room.
“Thank you for coming to see me,” I called after him.
He stopped at the door and turned to look at me one last time.
“I am so grateful that you are home.” He gave me a wave and exited the white room.
Several more hours passed. I continued to sit in my solitary room staring at the walls and remembering my conversations and training within Hell’s realm. Lucifer had taught me so much over the time I had been there. Blessed me with so many new abilities, and shared with me his wishes for me to not leave. Still, he had welcomed the release of my soul and promised that he would always be a call away.
My stomach began to growl fiercely. This was not a feeling that I had missed while the two of us had been detached. I got up from my resting place and left the room. Padding down the hallway in my bare feet looking for the room that kept the food. I was saddened to learn this place did not have a kitchen.
“There was no need at the time I built it. We have kitchens in the human households but the Army still eats as one. There is a large kitchen and tables on the third level. I can take you there if you like.” My mother’s eyes were red rimmed and her lips were white as she held them tightly against her teeth.
I gave her a grin and nodded my head agreeing to the escort. She took my hand in hers and searched my eyes. Nobody had thought I would exit Hell in the state that I was in. I hadn’t even realized that while I was there the iris had slowly changed from its chocolate brown to a ruby red. It must be a fright for her to see me in this state. Far less holy than I had been when I left in the first place.
“I’m sorry mother.” I squeezed out the apology and she bit her bottom lip still observing the noticeable changes.
“I will forever be in debt to the Morning Star. He kept you safe when I could not.” Her lip quivered.
“Please don’t blame yourself for this mother.” I pleaded with her.
“I know that the prophecy had its reason for not coming to fruition. I know that this all was part of the plan. Still, wish it had been God that pulled you from Purgatory and not him.” She touched my face.
“We both know that my pull has always been to the darker side of my being. Yes, I am balanced in power but my heart… my heart with always be black.” I frowned at her.
“Let’s get you fed. Your father is coming in from the North.” She pushed our conversation aside.
“Has he found her?” I asked softly. One of the first things I had learned was that my stepmother, Mona, had been lost in the battle that had destroyed most of El Paso.
“No, Lucifer tracked her life spark at one point and then it fell off the map. Only thoughts now are she was taken and nobody from Sheridan’s Army wants to share the details.” My mother’s concern for Mona was evident.
“What benefit would they gain by having Mona trapped in prison?” I asked trying to figure out the possible reasons.
“She’s a wish demon Dawn. Why wouldn’t they benefit from having her?” My mother sighed.
“I forget just how important she’s been to everything.” My stomach growled again and I grabbed it in protest.
“We can talk about this later. Let’s get you to the cafeteria and get you fed.” She shook her head violently and motioned for me to follow.
I was grateful the moment my mother allowed me to wander the underground fortress alone after dinner. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her company I had just grown accustomed to having my time alone. The structural work was amazing with its white marble walls and intricate etchings of the battle that had raged above. It wasn’t at all what I had expected as I walked down the long hallways. I admit I missed the idea of having windows but I understood. The view outside would only bring depression and dread to the human inhabitants that had taken refuge within these very walls.
I was enjoying the moment of solitude when a voice that I had hoped I would not hear rang out behind me. I turned to see Wesley running my way. His brown hair was longer, reaching just below his eyes yet his face remained the same as it had been the last night we had spent together. I personally was not ready for the conversation that was about to take place. However, there was nothing that I could do to stop it from happening. One thing that Lucifer had taught me was that I had to face my fears head on.
“Dawn.” He breathed coming to a stop in front of me. I stared at him as he searched my face for any emotion.
“Wesley,” I answered monotone.
“We need to talk about earlier.” He placed his hands behind his back and shifted his weight from left to right.
“No need. I understand.” I replied hoping it would end our conversation.
“I don’t think that you do.” He retaliated and I felt my jaw go tense.
“I am fine with it.” I sighed and looked at the walls trying to find an escape if I needed one.
“I’m not.” He growled. The tone of his voice startled me and I looked at him with narrow eyes.
“You made your choice. Krista is a good woman she will make you a good wife.” I decided it was in my best interest to not interact with him when he was unstable.
“I thought you were dead.” He explained.
“As you can see I am not.”
“If I had known none of this would have happened.” He looked at the ground.
“It was fate. Your mother saw a future with an unknown face. I saw the drawing. We were never meant to be.” I let out the air that I had been holding in my lungs and rubbed my forehead.
“I love her. I’m going to marry her.” He was becoming defensive as if I was fighting his choice.
“Good.” I retorted still waiting for the real point of this conversation.
“Don’t hate her for what happened. She feels that she broke your trust somehow.” There it was, the purpose of this conversation.
“That is ridiculous. Krista will always be my greatest friend.” I let a little emotion fall through my lips.
“She will be pleased to know this.” He answered. The awkwardness of our conversation had set in.
“Well, you should probably get back to her.” I pushed.
“Yeah, we have a lot of planning to do.” He gave me a smile.
“Of course. Weddings don’t plan themselves.” I tried to smile but I knew that it failed.
Staring at him in this moment didn’t bring back previous emotions. I wasn’t upset with him for moving on. If the roles had been reversed I most likely would have done the same. Still, I could see how much it pained him to see me again. He was a ball of emotional frustration. Yet no comfort came from seeing him torn.
“I will see you again before you leave.” He promised as he turned to go.
“We will see. I’m still not sure when the best time to sneak away will be. Don’t want the royal pain in the ass on me the moment I walk out the door. I’m sure it’s got back to her the prodigal child has returned.” I winked.
“I miss your eyes.” He suddenly said as he turned towards the wall.
I blinked remembering how red they were. There was nothing I could do to balance out the iris. I was going to always have the red hue no matter what happened now.
Once he was gone I continued on my walk. Back in my zone of contemplation and planning. I had made my way another a hundred yards when another set of footsteps were heard behind me. I nearly lost it on the space invader until I turned and saw the eyes of my father staring back at me. The next moment was a bit of a blur as the Demon flew at me and flung me in circles.
“You’re back.” He cried into my hair.
“Yes,” I answered him simply.
“When I went back to make sure you had made it through Lucifer was concerned. I had him track your aura but he couldn’t find you.” My father was weeping like a child.
“I’m fine father.” I pulled away from him and looked up into his chocolate eyes.
He grabbed my face fiercely and turned it from left to right.
“What?” I asked.
“You’re marked.” He stopped and leaned in his eyes centimeters from mine.
“What are you talking about?” I tried to pull my face from his grasp but he held on fast.
“I should have known you being down there for so long would have a residual effect on you.” He let me go and took a step back from me biting his lower lip.
“Again, what are you talking about?”
“Your eyes. I thought your mother was just exaggerating when she told me.” He leaned his head to the right and stared at me from another angle.
“Not you too.” I groaned. “I am tired of everyone making comments about my eyes. Prudence already made it loud and clear that they would not change.”
“No, they won’t. You saw too much while in Perdition. Your balance is still there but your appearance is more Demon than it ever will be Angelic.” My father’s face dropped.
I looked at him confused. Isn’t this something that he would want?
“No, Dawn. This is not what I wanted for you. If I would have known that Hell’s fires would do this to you I would never have pleaded for him to take care of you.”
“I hate when you do that.” I sighed.
“Then stop thinking things where I can hear them.” He replied pointing at his head.
“I will work on that.”
My conversation with my father, odd as it was, was something that I needed. The one being that could understand every emotion tearing through me past and present, he was feeling at that moment. His own wife had been plucked from the ranks and taken from him. His tie to my mother had already been severed when my stepfather returned promising his loyalties had changed. Now he was going through another loss, one that he did not want to go through. I felt pity for him which made my emotional attachment to the Demon even stronger than before.
My mother had instilled morals and values up on me that kept me balanced but my father’s never-ending influence inevitably created me into the creature I have become. Emotionless, careless, and bloodthirsty. I completed my walk when I stopped in front of the apartment door belonging to my mother. I didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the wooden apparatus with its intricate angelic ruins. Would I find her with Chase living happily ever after as she had dreamed for so long?
“Rough night?” I heard Adam’s voice and I clenched my eyes shut. The last thing I needed was a third awkward conversation.
“You have no idea,” I spoke in a single tone.
“I heard that Wesley hunted you down. Sorry about that. I told him that now was not the time to look for forgiveness.” I turned to look at my best friend.
He was clean, his hair freshly cut short, and his clothes well-tailored. My father had obviously had something to do with the man’s new wardrobe. Though a year had passed since he had rescued me from my prison cell he hadn’t aged past his nearly nineteen years of age. He ran his hands over his short hair and gave me a sweet smile.
“It was odd but he had a point,” I answered softly. “How are you?”
“I was thinking of staying here for a while. You know let you do some of this on your own. When you need me you just call me.” He was already reading my mind on the plans that I had already placed in order.
I had no intentions of taking companions with me while I searched for my Army. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something ever happened to any of the creatures that I had grown to love. Sure I had pondered the idea of taking Adam with me for the first half of the stretch, but even that had changed. The other part of my intricate plan was to send him back when I neared the finale. Looks like I didn’t have to worry about that anymore.
“I understand,” I answered his request sweetly reaching out and running my pale fingers across his cheek.
“They need me here, is all.” He tried to make an excuse for his reasoning to stay.
“No reason to apologize. I promise I will call you when I need you.” I lied.
This could very well be the last time that I ever laid eyes upon my best friend. Maybe I would come back again once my mission had been completed. Maybe I would return in time for his wedding. I already knew that was inevitable. His attachment to me in any romantic sense had been severed the moment I had returned from Hell. I had a feeling Prudence had something to do with it.
“Well, I will let you get some rest. I’m sure you are tired after everything that happened today.” He grabbed my hand and placed it to his lips. Not even a flicker of romance lingered in his eyes as he dropped my discarded appendage to my side.
“Thank you.” I breathed.
“No, thank you.”
With his final words Adam turned and walked away from me. I watched him go with a longing in my heart. Glancing back at the door I willed the hardening of my core to commence. I was never going to love again. I turned towards the door and reached for the knob. Before I could turn it I dropped my hand to my side. I couldn’t enter this home, it was not mine to make. Instead, I turned and walked away. Down the marble hall and into the elevator that led me to the surface. There was no sun in the sky as I began to walk down the battered El Paso roads.Before I knew it I had reached the mountains. Turning I looked back the direction I had just come.With a sigh, I spun around and left El Paso in the rubble behind me.So much for the plans I was making, I had bigger fish to fry.