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Common Grace

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When Diego had decided to turn vigilante, he’d foreseen that he’d likely be shot at, stabbed, punched, and/or assaulted with any number of blunt weapons, often during the same night. He never imagined that’d he’d ever run the possibility of being kidnapped by a skinny priest in order to be sacrificed to some God of Death—

“And Misfortune,” said the priest, “but we don’t advertise that. You’d be surprised how many people are OK with death but Not OK with a teeny bit of bad luck.”

Diego winced as the priest tightened the rope around his wrists and bound it professionally behind the back of the chair. To think he’d started off the day normally. Toast, black coffee, Apple News. Now he was going to die in a basement somewhere that smelled virulently like lavender—

“Oh sor-ry, that’s the air freshener, I know, it’s a cheap brand but we go through a lot of it. Given the circumstances.”

The priest finished messing with the knots and scuttled back into Diego’s line of sight with a roguish grin. If he wasn’t clearly batshit he would’ve been pretty. Gorgeous, even. The priest was tall and pale and effortlessly graceful in a way very few people were, even dressed in a mismatched ensemble of a faux-fur coat and tight leather pants laced up open seams, military boots. He was so beautiful that Diego had stared instead of keeping his guard up when the priest had ambled out of a dark alley with a smile and a taser—

“That? First time.” The priest pulled a face. “But soooo much easier than chloroform. Though, can I say, I’m really glad you didn’t pee yourself when you were zapped. I Googled it, and apparently, it’s possible? You don’t see that in the movies.”

“Stop reading my fucking mind,” Diego growled.

The priest looked hurt. “I can’t just turn it off. You’re projecting really loudly. Ooh, am I interrupting your brooding or something? Because. Okay, it’s quite on brand I guess.” The priest gestured vaguely at Diego. “What with the really tragic turtleneck and the spandex pants and the lots and lots of knives and the domino mask… I’d say that you’re straight or you scene but—“ he tsked, “—you’re not really wearing that much leather and, that turtleneck. Is really tragic.”

Diego closed his eyes. “Just kill me already.”

“Enthusiasm, that’s it. I like that.” The priest stepped back a few steps and took a squished cardboard box out from inside his coat, setting it carefully on the floor. He opened it and fished in his pockets.

Diego stared at the box and its contents. “McNuggets?”

“Fast food is a physical embodiment of the divine aspect of my God,” the priest said, patting himself down. “The death of a chicken that leads, through various disgusting industrial means, to an end product that brings misfortune on its consumer.”


The priest shivered. “Ugh, well, eat enough of it and you’d find out. Let that be a lesson to you. A short one, admittedly, but life does tend to be short for everyone, right? Don’t worry. It’ll all be over soon, the longest part is the cleanup and that won’t be your problem. Isn’t that nice.”

“Wait!” Diego flinched as the priest found a lighter and lit up, dropping it onto the McNuggets. The box burst into flame, lighter and all, bright blue at first, then turning impossibly dark as the tongues grew taller, reaching toward indigo, arching to form a flickering door. Something slammed against it from behind. Diego yelped. He twisted at his bonds wildly as a guttural sound echoed off the walls, ringing through his bones and making his teeth rattle.

The priest breathed in deeply, pressing his palms together before his eyes and saying a long and garbled word. The door cracked down its centre and split into fragments, each darkening into windows to different stars. There was a stink of ozone and mildew and dust, then something behind the shards began to nudge them aside.

Lord, Diego thought wildly, I know I haven’t been going to church since I left home, but if you’re there, please—

The thing behind the door stepped through. Diego gaped, his fear momentarily consumed by surprise. The God of Death and Misfortune was a slender person in a hooded black leather jacket and jeans, shorter than their own priest. They glanced at the priest, shadows hiding their features save for their jaw. “Klaus. You can just call me Ben. I’ve told you this.”

“It’s not really right for the God of Death to be called Ben,” Klaus protested, pouting. “Normal people are called Ben. Like… like florists and accountants. Gods aren’t called Ben.”

“I like the name,” Ben said, with a light lift of his shoulder. He pulled back the hood, glancing at Diego as the door of stars winked out behind him.

“That’s… somehow not what I was expecting,” Diego said weakly. ‘Ben’ was a young-looking Asian man with delicate features, his black hair slicked back. He looked human but for his eyes, which were unsettling dark pits, filled with stars.

Ben studied him for a long moment, then looked at Klaus. “Really?”

Klaus looked puzzled. “What?”

“He isn’t appropriate,” Ben said.

“Why not?” Klaus said, surprised. “You said you only want to eat bad people, right? I caught him beating up some young people.”

“They were robbing Mr. Visaggio’s store,” Diego pointed out.

“Pretty sure you put at least one of them in hospital,” Klaus shot back, “and I don’t think any of them are insured.”

“They were robbing a store!”

“Violent assault isn’t a healthy or moral response to petty theft! Especially in a country without universal healthcare.”

“That’s funny coming from a guy who thinks human sacrifice is okay,” Diego growled.

“All right, enough.” Ben didn’t raise his voice, but the air in the warehouse dropped several degrees. Klaus scowled, but shut up, looking away. Ben walked over, curling a possessive arm around Klaus’ waist, mouthing at his throat. Klaus melted against him, closing his eyes with a low and breathy sound.

Given Diego’s current situation, that really shouldn’t have looked as hot as it did.

“He doesn’t have the right sort of shadow in his soul,” Ben told Klaus, kissing his cheek. “I know you tried your best, but. Just give him the means to free himself.” Ben looked over at Diego appraisingly. “I’m sure he can be persuaded to forget this ever happened.”

“Kind of doubt that, since I summoned you from a box of McNuggets right in front of him. That kinda thing’s probably been seared into his eyeballs,” Klaus said brightly. At Ben’s sigh, Klaus said, “What? I seriously thought you were going to eat him, so the initial impression wouldn’t matter. Nevermind. I’ll just see what I can rustle up. He can sit there for a while longer, I’ll let him go in the morning.”

“I can’t stay manifest in this realm for that long without sustenance. Try again in a week,” Ben said. He kissed Klaus on the mouth as Klaus started to protest, and Klaus’ eyes squeezed shut as he shivered in pleasure. He was panting as Ben pulled back, his eyes wet.

“I guess I fucked up,” Klaus said. He looked angry with himself. “Sorry.”

“Hey. Hey, uh, Klaus, right? And Ben?” Diego tried not to flinch back as they both stared at him. “You uh. You want to go after some really evil people? The scum of the earth sort? I know where you could get to that. They’re pretty close by if we’re where I think we are.”

“Why are you suddenly being so helpful?” Klaus asked, surprised. “Or are you one of those people who actually like being tied up and threatened? I mean, more power to you if so.”

Diego grit his teeth. “No. For fuck’s sake. You think I dress up like this for fun?”

“The thought did occur to me,” Ben said, though he smiled.

“We’re close to a major mafia pipeline. Cosa Nostra. They use the abandoned port sections as a funnel for fentanyl into the mainland. You let me go, I’ll take you there,” Diego offered. He’d known of the pipeline for years, but it had too much security for him to handle by himself, and the police didn’t care.

“Really don’t know if we can trust a guy in a turtleneck,” Klaus said, nuzzling Ben’s throat, “but he’s telling the truth.”

“I know,” Ben said. He brushed another kiss over Klaus’ mouth. Shadows flicked up around Diego’s feet, curling up like vines. As Diego froze, the shadows flicked through the knots, cutting him free. “Lead on.”


“Jesus!” Diego fumbled the towel he was holding.

“Not quite,” Ben said, with a faint smirk. He was perched on the safety rail at the bottom of the stairs in the boxing gym’s storage room that Diego had repurposed into a bedroom. There was a lingering scent of mildew and a new sooty stain on the concrete.

Klaus was sprawled into the dinged-up old couch Diego had found by a skip, one leg slung over an armrest, the other stretched out over concrete. He looked as though he’d just come out of a losing battle against an op-shop, dressed as he was in a faded sleeveless NASA shirt, a patchwork boho skirt, and scuffed old Dr. Martens boots. Klaus gave Diego a little wave. “Used the eggs in your ‘fridge for the summoning. They were starting to go off so, you can thank me later.”

Diego slowly closed the door behind him and picked up the towel. “How’d you guys get in?” The little paper tells he’d left wedged into the door hadn’t looked disturbed.

Ben shot him a mildly disappointed look. "You'd accept that a God can be summoned into this world by setting fire to some McNuggets but you don't think that I can replace a few little pieces of paper?"

Diego was glad he’d pulled on a clean shirt after his shower, but he wasn’t sure that he liked the way Ben and Klaus were both looking him slowly over. “What do you want?” Diego settled for asking.

“I was hoping we could continue the arrangement from the other day,” Ben said. He didn’t look visibly different, but Diego could sense a sort of weight to the air, like humidity. It hadn’t been there before. “I haven’t fed that well in centuries.”

“The other day,” Diego said slowly, “where I took you two to that place. What you did in there, I…” He took in a shaky breath. The window he’d looked through had been cloudy with neglect and he’d ended up desperately glad for that, glad that he couldn’t see the horrors that erupted out of the doorway that Ben became, things that squirmed and crawled and slithered, all of them hungry.

“We told you not to peek, so we’re not liable for any therapy you may now need,” Klaus said. He sank deeper into the couch and glanced over at Ben. “This is a waste of time.”

“I’m not so sure.” Ben slid off his perch and was no longer there. Diego blinked. “I think he likes us.” Diego whirled with a stifled cry at the sound of the voice behind him. Ben was inches away, his unsettling eyes fixed on Diego’s.

“You think he liked being scared within an inch of his life?” Klaus huffed. “Huh. Maybe. He seems masochistic. What kinda vigilante goes around without a gun?”

“One who doesn’t want to kill,” Ben said. He smiled.

Diego tried not to breathe too deeply. “Why do you need me anyway? Why is a God of Death even picky?”

“We don’t need you,” Ben said. He leaned in, bracketing Diego against the rails with his hands on either side of Diego’s hips. “We want you.”

“Speak for yourself,” Klaus said, though there was laughter in his voice.

“I don’t want to help you,” Diego said, picking out each word slowly so that he wouldn’t stutter. Ben smiled. The piercing through Diego’s left nipple started to cool down, turning deliciously chill through his flesh. Diego tried to bite down on a gasp.

“No. You want something else.” Ben tilted his head, amused. “Which vigilante isn’t fascinated by death?”

Diego didn’t lean down to kiss Ben, even though every inch of blood and bone in his body yearned to. He lifted his chin instead, baring his throat. His heart hammered against his ribs as Ben started to chuckle. The laughter of the God felt like it was burrowing into him, embedding its frequency into his soul to hold him fast. When Ben grazed sharp teeth against Diego’s neck, Diego groaned.

He wasn’t really aware of how they got from the top of the stairs to his bed. Diego was swimming against the current, his head sucked underwater into noise and static each time Ben kissed him. He couldn’t feel the tongue pressed past his mouth, if there even was one, but he could feel the God somehow sliding through to every part of his mind that had a handle on pleasure and lighting it all on fire. Diego breathed in sobbing gasps, whining as he clawed at Ben’s not-quite-leather coat, his legs pushed open on the bed by Klaus.

“You’re going to give him a heart attack,” Klaus said. He was pulling off Diego’s boots.

“He can handle it,” Ben promised. His outline was growing murky, a mirage bleeding off into the new humidity in the air. His mouth was surprisingly warm against Diego’s cheek, his fingers icy as he pulled off Diego’s shirt. Klaus gasped. He was staring at the piercing, his cheeks turning pink. Ben smirked, crooking his fingers. “Come on then. I know you want a taste.”

“Did you know that was there?” Klaus gave up on Diego’s belt, scrambling eagerly up, his cock pressed to Diego’s hip through the thin fabric of his skirt.

“From the start.” Ben sounded smug. He licked a slow stripe over Diego’s mouth and chuckled as Diego whined, begging for more, already harder than he’d ever been.

“Keep doing that and he’s going to finish,” Klaus warned. He shivered, shifting against Diego as something moved between them, cool and ropy, coiling against Diego’s thigh and up into Klaus’ clothes.

“Diego will finish when I want him to. As will you,” Ben said. He smiled as both Klaus and Diego groaned.

Klaus’ breath was hot against Diego’s skin as he pushed the tip of his tongue into the loop of the piercing, flicking it before taking it into his mouth. Diego hissed as the piercing grew cold. Klaus let out a muffled and enthusiastic groan and sucked lightly, the heat of his mouth against the chill making Diego push into his mouth with a whimper. Somewhere beside him, Ben was laughing, except it didn’t sound like it was coming from Ben but from all around Diego, from the humid pressure prickling over his skin. Ben kissed him again, his cool fingers tickling over his throat as something cold twisted over his ankles, the last sparks of sensation that registered before the overload.

Diego blinked conscious with a hoarse cough. His throat felt raw, his lips stung, his belly was tacky with fluids. Ben and Klaus were kissing beside him, Ben sitting straight-backed and composed, Klaus squirming in his lap, whining and scrabbling at Ben’s shoulders. Naked, Klaus was long-limbed and picked out in elegant lines, the pale lines of his body slick with sweat. Naked, Ben was perfect in the way only something unnatural could be perfect, his body imagined in achingly exquisite detail. He gave no normal shadow, sitting instead in a rippling sea of indigo ink, melting outward from his skin.

Klaus glanced up as Diego got shakily to his knees. He grinned as Diego shifted over, the shadows warm and alive under his knees. Before Diego kissed Klaus he glanced instinctively at Ben, who smiled and leaned back with a nod. Klaus hummed as Diego took his mouth, in a kiss that was no less breathtaking for being human. Klaus kissed him hungrily as he rode his God, rocking over Ben’s lap with desperate little thrusts, whimpering as Diego spat on his palm and took Klaus in hand to jack him off in urgent tugs. Something cool and far too smooth bumped between his thighs, spreading his legs and rocking under his balls, rubbing against his cock. A thick coil of something nudged against Diego until he was groaning and rocking against it, getting hard again, fuck, wanting more.

“Klaus,” Ben whispered, his voice a skin-deep vibration that shivered through them both, that burned its pleasure through the air, “my friend, my best-beloved.” He said a word of no recognisable language, a susurration of the void between the stars.

Klaus jerked away from Diego with a cry that was choked off as a loop of indigo coiled wetly around his throat, tightening, pulling his graceful back into an arc as Ben fucked harder into him. Klaus wheezed and coughed and choked, his hands twisting into the shadows around his throat, his face flushed bright with ecstasy that was sexual and something more, something ruinous. Klaus’ narrow hips bucked into the tight fist that Diego made of his hand and he mouthed a twisting string of syllables that looked familiar, spurting over Diego’s fingers. Diego had heard that word during the summoning. He knew what it was.

Diego whispered the name of a God without thinking and coughed as it burned his tongue, making him gasp and choke and clutch at his throat until something deliciously cool pressed against his back and shoved him forward. Ben kissed him, the chill on his tongue drenching the pain, taking something in return that Diego could not name, more and more of it until Diego was light-headed and shaking with pleasure and loss. He slumped against Ben with shallow gasps when released, let Ben lick stripes against his pulse and toy with his pierced and unpierced nipples with cold fingers. Something was stretching slickly inside him, curling deeper to prepare him.

Klaus mouthed over Diego’s spine, licked curiously over his scars, nuzzled the ink on his shoulders and arms. He kissed Diego’s ear and murmured, “You’re doing better than I thought.”

Diego let out a shaky laugh. “I don’t… t-the choking, I…”

“We know,” Ben said. His fingers dipped down to Diego’s hips. He turned Diego around and guided Diego over his lap, pressing in with a loud, wet sound.

The intrusion was breathlessly thick and yet painless, an inexorable slide until Diego was as full as he could be and arching into it, moaning, his hands clenched full of shadows and stars. Klaus surged over to kiss him, roughly at first, mauling his lips. He gentled down at some signal from Ben that Diego didn’t see, brushing playful little butterfly kisses over Diego’s mouth. Something cold twisted over Diego’s thighs, pushing them further apart as Ben nipped him over the back of his throat, fucking into him with tiny thrusts.

Diego tried to speak and found his voice long stolen. He moaned his prayers instead into Klaus’ skin, against his neck, whimpered his worship. Ben purred in response, taking him deeper, deeper. Diego was deluged again, this time slowly. Diego let a God take amusement from the warmth of his body until he was fainting from it, his cheek pressed over Klaus’ shoulder, biting sobs against his flesh. “Mercy,” Klaus said in Diego’s stead, only half joking. He kissed a God over Diego’s shoulder and whispered, “Show him.”

Ben howled, a monstrous sound like the dying cry of a hurricane, of the final gasps of some beast beyond name or measure. It strangled the air as it quaked through Diego, this glimpse of what lay right beneath the leashed form of a God, the touch of something divine. Diego was being broken and remade. The paltry spectrum of sensation his human brain was capable of acknowledging was ripped wide, past mere pleasure or pain. It was overwhelming. He could see both the insignificance of his existence and its consequence. Before the awful weight of eternity itself, Diego drowned.


“…so this guy, the son of a mafia boss, shot John Wick’s dog, which is why John retaliated by killing dozens of people through the first film and right into this second one.” Klaus was talking as Diego blinked slowly awake. He was curled on his bed, with Ben and Klaus leaning against his flank, all of them cleaned up and dressed and smelling suspiciously of lavender. “It’s a good film. We should watch it.”

Diego squinted past Klaus’ knee at the secondhand TV that Diego had managed to fix up over a couple of crates. “Pretty sure I don’t have Netflix,” he rasped.

“Oh, you’re back,” Klaus said. He patted Diego’s knee. “Yeah, you didn’t. You don’t even have internet access. You’re a caveman.”

Ben stroked cool fingers over Diego’s hair. He made a gesture, and the movie preview on the TV flickered back to the Netflix landing page. “I like the TV show about the nice woman who tidies up houses. We should watch that instead,” Ben said.

“We’ve already watched the whole season. Twice,” Klaus complained.

“It’s soothing. No one is pretending to die. Except on the inside,” Ben said. He rubbed his thumb over Diego’s throat, pressing lightly over his pulse. “We will watch one of the episodes. Then the two of you should eat something. After that, I want to eat something.”

“Okay,” Diego said, thinking over the cold files he’d been working through. “I know a place.”

Klaus shot him a smirk. “Thought you weren’t going to help.”

“I didn’t want to. But I’m clearly better at it than you are. I don’t want you tying more innocent people to chairs,” Diego told Klaus, who scowled at him.

“You? Innocent? Please. I can read your filthy mind if I want to, remember? I can see all your darkest secrets. Which, I admit, are all rather unimaginative.”

“Enough,” Ben said, amused. “The two of you are going to have to get along from now on. Now that you’re both mine.”

“Am I going to get psychic powers too?” Diego asked curiously. That was going to be weird. And he didn’t feel like he could hear anything more than usual, let alone thoughts.

“Clearly you didn’t,” Klaus said.

“But I’ll get something, right?” Diego pressed.

“Something useless, I hope. Like maybe the ability to hold your breath forever.” Klaus snickered as Ben shook his head slowly and kissed him, a lingering kiss for Klaus, then one for Diego, as the TV hummed to life.