Demons came in all forms. Some of them were like Lilith, exotically humanoid. Others took on the form of monsters--some vaguely humanoid like him while others were the stuff of nightmares. Only a few could transform--moving from demonicos to human and back again with a thought. These were the ones feared most by The Faith as they could easily hide within the human population.
Tracking them down was the work of The Faith, and Anders was impressed by the amount of technological equipment set up for that task, and the resources available to them. It seemed as if The Faith had eyes and ears in every country, sifting through the mess of human existence in search of anomalies that could point to one of the demons who had escaped from Hell.
So far, he and Lilith had banished seven demons--and found the doorway home for Cerberus. The problem was that they did not know how many more were out there, except that there would be one demon for every scream torn from him while in Hell. And he had screamed often while they tortured him day and night without end.
This latest blip on the human radar was a rash of suicides in an apartment block in New York.
The authorities were looking into environmental factors, wondering if it was something in the water supply or air. Finally, they started looking for a virus or bacteria as the problem seemed to follow the evacuation of the residence to temporary accommodation set up in an older building.
The flight to New York took very little time, and it was only on Will's insistence that they took the flight as humans rather than taking demon form and flying. Anders smiled crookedly. The one thing he did not regret was the ability to spread his leathery wings and fly. Often he and Lilith would fly together, soaring across the sky under cover of darkness, playing tag, learning how to increase speed and how to hover. They had battled once, and Lilith had bested him so he knew not to underestimate her smaller form.
She was the mother of all demons--his mother in demonicos form--even though she looked barely out of her teens. Anyone seeing her in human form would never believe the atrocities she had committed over millennia. The Faith had taken most of her memories, hiding them away from her but slowly they were leaking back. Anders saw it in her eyes. An old saying said that the eyes were the windows to the soul, and sometimes her eyes seemed ancient in her young-looking face, but they were filled with compassion and regret these days, rather than fire and wrath.
He looked in the mirror of the tiny washroom on-board the airplane and wondered if his own eyes now seemed as old to those looking into them. He wondered if the days and nights of torture had aged his soul.
Like Lilith, he felt remorse for his past actions--or at least for the innocent deaths he had caused. He knew he would not find true salvation until he had exorcised the demon within himself that had turned his hatred of his former colleagues into the demonicos. He could partially blame Chapel for feeding his desire for revenge, but he knew that--ultimately--he was to blame for his role in almost bringing about the apocalypse.
A banging on the door made him flinch.
"Just checking you're okay."
Anders recognized Will's voice and he sighed, opening the door and shrugging before slipping past the other man. As always, the brush of their bodies sent a lick of desire coursing through him, and he wished he had the strength to resist the temptation to look back. Will was watching him just as Anders suspected from that prickling sensation between his shoulder blades. For a moment he thought he saw the heat of desire in Will's eyes that reflected his own barely concealed need for human touch.
Last night he had thought of Will while he pleasured himself, imagining Will touching him. He hadn't felt so good in a long time, not since before the media had painted him a monster for moving into human trials of his wonder anti-aging drug before he was given official approval. His so-called colleagues had offered him up as a scapegoat before stealing all of his research and profiting from it. They had all paid with their lives. But Anders now realized that his destructive search for revenge had made him the perfect tool for Chapel's own personal vendetta against The Faith.
They landed in New York soon after, and with the night on their side, it was easy for Anders and Lilith to change into their demon form and take flight. Will and a small task force would follow them on the ground to where they suspected a dark-feeder demon lurked.
Anders landed on a balcony twenty floors above a strangely empty street and folded his wings around himself. He watched as Lilith landed on another balcony on the next building, several floors down. Her eyes gleamed yellow in the darkness, making him wonder what he looked like to her. His keen night vision picked up Will and the others as they entered the building, but something else caught Anders attention--movement on the roof high above.
He watched in confusion as a man stepped onto the ledge. Anders felt a powerful blast of despair emanating from above and suddenly the man was falling. Without thought, Anders unwrapped his wings and took to the air, grabbing at the man in mid-fall and clutching him tight against himself. The additional weight was more than his body could hold and he plummeted too, desperately flapping his wings but feeling the boney tips striking brick and metal uselessly. Terror was coming from the man in waves, as if he had awoken from one nightmare only to fall--literally--into another. Without vocal chords, Anders could not reassure the man who was now struggling, further hindering Anders as he tried to gain enough updraft before they both hit the ground. In that split second, he almost let go, let the man fall to his death but it was if he heard the mind scream of the frightened man, recognizing the words
"Please God! Don't let me die!"
Anders couldn't answer but with grim determination he tightened his grip on the man by wrapping both arms and legs around him, preventing him from struggling. The ground was coming up fast and with one final power beat of his leathery wings, Anders managed to slow their descent, taking the brunt of the punishment as they both hit the ground still too fast, protecting the man in his arms with his own body.
Horrific pain lanced through him as parts of his exoskeleton cracked. He let go of the man, unable to move as the man scrambled clear but the panic seem to fade from his eyes, replaced with confusion and awe.
Anders felt it then. He felt his body transform back into his human shape--broken and bloodied--but it did not end there. Heat filled him and he bit back on a scream of agony, terrified that his scream might open a doorway and allow another demon to escape from Hell. The pain rippled through him until it was in his arm, with the Marks of Daggoth--sign of his damnation--burning brightly. One of them raveled through his skin until it burned in his throat. He spat onto the ground, and saw the symbol's glow fade until it dissolved into dust.
Will came rushing up, taking only a moment to glance at the still shocked man before crashing down to his knees beside Anders. His hand cupped Anders' face, and Anders placed his own hand over Will's, shocked to realize that his body had mended instantly.
"The demon?" Anders asked.
"Gone. Lilith took care of it."
Will gently lifted Anders' arm, turning it to reveal one less mark seared into Anders' flesh.
When he leaned in and kissed the spot where there had been a mark only moments earlier, Anders felt a new warmth inside that went deeper than flesh and bone. And when Will leaned in once more and kissed him on the lips, Anders knew God would not see this as a sin.