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a million degrees of pain

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He buries his first wife near the end of his second century alive.

30 years, the longest he had stayed with any being, mortal or immortal. 30 long years to her, a blink of an eye to him.

When he’s asked by others to recall her; the words that spill from behind his teeth are dosed in loving melancholy. He details the auburn shine of her hair and the sparkle of mischief in her eyes flawlessly. His eyes filled with love but voice falling flat on the wall his grief has built. She was beautiful, he would stress to the point of manic, a dancer of the highest caliber. Beautiful, he would say again and again; so, so beautiful.

(He repeats it like a mantra. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. As if the words will banish the memories of how brutally slow her demise was. Skin melting away until all she was was bone wrapped in tissue paper skin, bruised yellow and purple and green. She was beautiful; but death and decay is never pretty.)

*

He wanders the earth wrapped in expensive silks and fine jewellery. He falls in love, over and over, with heated intensity or with quiet reverence; and only one thing remains the same:

They all leave him.

Whether by choice or not, he is always left alone.

*

He wanders the earth, and watches everything from civilizations to country villages rise and fall. He usually helps save children. Occasionally he is too late, and just watches.

(On one such occasion he stands on a hilltop at sunrise, just as the fire is dying and the cries waning. Stories say he saved no one because he had been called a monster a hundred times too many. Some of the stories say he smiled as the village burned, some say he cackled.

A god, they whisper, a god who feels nothing.

He passes the burnt corpse of a child no older than five, and wishes he didn’t feel anything)

*

A king with a thorn woven crown and a bubbling bloodied mouth tries to drag him to Hell.

He runs, clothed in ripped silk and battered jewelry, he runs and the King follows. Tears though innocents like a rabid dog with a bone. Men, women, children, elderly. Blood runs down the streets in a river and a father wails over the grotesque, undefinable pieces that he knows were once his children.

The King disappears is a swirl of red smog, and his son screams bloody murder at the sky.

(It would be too easy to simply kill him. It would be too kind.)

*

He falls in love with a musician. Falls in love with rumpled hair and crinkled eyes and the twang of a charango. Falls in love with a boy who loves to dance and has a voice like the sunset.

The Prince of Hell is immortal, seemingly immovable, unshakeable. And the musician boy leaves him; says he is too distant, too ephemeral.

*

A local tailor in the town goes to throw a litter of kittens in the river. The tailor doesn’t want to dispose of the creatures, but he cannot afford to keep them. Can barely afford their mother. It’s sad, but it is simply life.

The Prince isn’t sure why he stops the him, why he pays the stuttering tailor forty dollars for the runts. He’s never been one for pets. But one of them gazes up at him with wide blue eyes, like it knows he had saved them from a watery grave, and the Prince finds a soft smile making its way across his face for the first time in years.

*

He falls in love with a woman more destructive than any of the natural disasters his father ever caused. Falls in love with a waterfall of dark curls and fangs behind painted lips. Falls in love with another immortal. And for the first time since he buried his first (and only) wife two centuries ago, he allows himself the delusion that she won’t leave. That they will be happy, forever.

(He whispers as much as he fastens the necklace around her neck. Forever, he whispers as he turns her to face him. Forever, he whispers again, and she grins.

He pulls her in even closer, and she doesn’t stop grinning, even when he softly crushes his lips to hers.)

*

She’s different, the Prince of Hell thinks wildly. Finally, finally, finally he won’t be alone.

Forever, he’s giddy with the idea of it

*

She cuts him open.

Not physically, but heaven above does it feel like it. For the first time in centuries (maybe ever) he feels like a victim. Feels like he’s been gutted and the last 400 years of his life are his entrails, spread out and oozing across the floor.

A dalliance, she called it. A dalliance with a short lived and baby faced Russian boy who didn’t know any better. Who now won’t even be able to have an open casket because of what she did to him.

He should’ve know better, she purrs and her fangs flash, wandering home so late. Didn’t somebody tell him what I do to pretty tourists? He should’ve known better.

(No, the Prince of Hell says aloud to an empty living room with liquor tripping off his breath, I should have.)

*

He’s always refused to let go of love. Figured that loving and losing was better than not loving at all. Becoming a shell forged by grief and infinity the way so many warlocks he knows have. But the vampiress breaks something in him. And he spends 20 years, nothing in the grand scheme of things but in the moment an eternity, in a pit of despair. He’d once laid in a forest of breathing roots bleeding fast and staining black but this is the closest he’s felt to death. He feels like he might welcome the release. It had been so long, longer than he feels he had deserved.

His friend’s pull him back. Blue and green hands grasping him tight and pulling him back into the light. Maybe he could try again but would it ever be the same?

He supposes he can only try.

*

He watches a woman with gold woven hair and stormy grey eyes trip and fall as she runs through the park. There are flowers in her hair and blood on her knees as he helps her to her feet. Her teeth are crooked as she grins at him.

He doesn’t cry when she leaves. He doesn’t even blink.

*

He goes about his work after that. Loses himself in it. He doesn’t deny himself the physical pleasure both immortals and mortals provide but he does deny himself anything approaching an emotional connection. It’s lonely. He’s strong enough to admit that, but others scoff at him and call him weak for not having the courage to try again. But he is a Prince of Hell itself and he can live without love. He closes himself off, and thrives. Makes even more of a name for himself than before. He opens Pandemonium, builds something he is truly proud of for the first time in decades.

If only he had someone to share it with.

*

A soldier helps him to his feet in a windy desert during one of his many business excursions. Separated from his unit, the boy says, and welcomes the Prince of Hell into the shelter he had found even though he has no reason to share. They sit across from each other in the cave and talk for hours. The soldier has eyes like honey and a voice just as smooth. He speaks of his family back home with undeniable love, and talks of his unit with incredible pride. He’s kind and daring and brave and he stutters when the Prince looks at him a moment too long. He makes the immortal feel like he isn’t a monster. Like he could live again.

The Prince of Hell has lived for so long, he knows fate when he sees it.

He leaves in the early morning; as the sky is turning from black to cobalt. He leaves no footprints behind him. And he doesn’t look back

(If the Prince is glad for one thing, it’s that the soldier does not wake as he leaves. He has a voice like honey, after all. And the Prince is afraid that the sound of his ancient name rolling off that tongue would make him want to stay.)

*

The soldier wakes when buttery sunlight paints the inside of the cavern golden. He feels more well rested for the first time in months, maybe even years. His pack is filled with new rations, as well as some cans of peaches that make his dry mouth water. There’s a path outlined on his map in shimmery pen, and if it weren’t for these things, Alec would think that the man from last night was just a dream. He had been ethereal, glimmering like the distance does in the extreme heat. But there’s no other trace of…Magnus. That’s what he said his name was. Alec feels sad in a way he hasn’t felt before, more melancholic than anything. Longing for something that he barely and now will never have.

Sighing, he packs his things. And with Magnus Bane on his mind, he sets back off into the desert.