Brendan's tires screeched as he backed up at full speed and then tore down the street toward the precinct. His heart was hammering so hard, he could hear it pounding his ears.
No, god, no. The slimy little son of a bitch.
He had to stop a block and a half away. Cops from the other stations in town had sealed off the area and the ambulances were littered everywhere. Brendan flashed his badge as he shoved his way through.
The firemen were still struggling to put out the fire. Cops, CSI and paramedics were milling about the area they could get to, putting people in body bags. Brendan gagged and fell to his knees.
"You all right?" said a cop at his right. "You shouldn't be in here, sir. Police and paramedics only."
Brendan looked up at him and gave him his badge. The man looked at it and winced.
"God, buddy, I'm sorry."
He crouched down beside Brendan.
"Detective, do you know what happened here?"
"No," Brendan croaked. "But I have a good idea..."
"Well, feel free to share it. Our only survivor doesn't look like he'll be able to talk any time soon. He inhaled a lot of smoke. It's a miracle he survived. He's badly hurt."
Brendan stood up and grabbed the cop by his lapels.
"Where is he? Who? Tell me!"
"All right, sir. Come on, I'll take you to him."
The cop led him to an ambulance, where Mike good old Mike was plugged up and already had a respirator on him. The paramedics shook their head, indicating that Mike was unconscious.
Brendan squeezed his eyes shut, hands clenched into fists.
"That little bastard is going to pay for this," he growled out. Before the cop could ask, Brendan was walking away. He pushed his way through the crowd, walked passed his car and found a dark alley couple blocks down.
His scream roared out of him. He beat the hell out of the walls around him until his knuckles were bloody. He punched a hole in the brick of on wall and slumped down to his knees.
Gentle footsteps clicked from the back of the alley as a familiar voice told him softly, "I'm sorry."
Lemuel stood in the shadows, almost tucking himself into them, ashamed of what had happened. He was just coming out of his true form, and the markings on his face were still fading away.
"Mike will be alright. I made sure of it..."
Brendan slowly looked up. His vision was blurry, but he knew who it was. His voice cracked when he spoke.
"Weren't you ordered to kill them all?"
Lemuel lowered his head, shaking it slowly.
"All but one. He told me to choose."
He removed his glasses, turning away from the detective.
"He was the first to show up, so I chose him. I didn't know Ashton was going to set a fire too..."
Brendan shook. He had... He had half hoped that Malone had saved Mike out of his own choice. His nails dug into his hands drawing blood.
"Rick, Tom, Jackson, Phillip, Gilly... The chief. All gone. People I joked with, had coffee with, saved lives with. People who readily believed you were manipulated because they couldn't believe you were guilty. Lenny, Harris, Maria, Zoey the Rookie."
Brendan slowly stood up, bracing himself on the wall.
"Victor, Sabrina, Thorne, Bertrand and Chavez."
He faced Malone.
"You killed them all. People you worked with, people who cared about you, people with families, and lives and who weren't supposed to die. Not like this."
He turned away from Malone and began to stumble deeper into the alley, his shoulders slumped. All of them. God all of them were dead in just minutes. And there had been nothing he could do to save a single one of them.
"You're going to have plenty to atone for Charon when you're free of that contract," Brendan whispered, his voice hoarse with agony.
Lemuel sunk down against the wall, burying his face in his hands.
"You ac' like they weren' my friends too!" he cried. "God! You ac' like I wan'ed to do this! I shouldn' have done this... but I had to..."
He sobbed softly for a moment before looking up again.
"You aren' the only one who los' a lot tonight, Brendan. I know..."
Brendan stiffened and then whirled on him, trying to hold back his anger and his agony and his loss.
"Had to? HAD TO? You didn't have to do any of it! You could've just been a cop without worrying about that stupid scythe! You could've been helping people, and laughing and joking around with everyone you will never see again because you let your ambition and your pride get to your head. They didn't mean enough to you! You had to have known that you signed your soul to the Devil when you made that contract. The scythe was more important to you than every life you took tonight. You forgot about them when you signed that contract. You killed them all that day, and you did it knowingly."
The anger left him then, and he slumped down beside Malone. He covered his face with his hands.
"You have to fight it. I don't care if it's impossible. You have to try. If you accept it and do not fight it, then your loss and your apology mean nothing. We've lost everything, Malone. Our home away from home. Our brothers and sisters in the good fight. The station is nothing but a pile of ashes, and you have your masters to blame. If you have any fight in you at all, fight them. It's their fault as much as it is yours. Lay blame where it belongs. And," he turned to Malone when he growled, his cheeks and eyes bright with tears. "FIX IT."
Brendan dragged himself up again.
"You're not going to get any sympathy out of me, Lemuel. Station 63 doesn't exist anymore and all the good men and women who were on the afternoon and night shift are dead. Except you, me, and Mike. Mike is safer in the hospital, so it's up to you and me. So you either help me," he growled. "Or you accept the fact that you far worse than any angel or demon could ever be."
His words struck something unexpected in Lemuel, and he suddenly burst into tears.
"I cannot help anyone I wan' to anymore," he cried. "I cannot even do my own job right..."
Something in the shadows around him shifted, as if the darkness were alive. Lemuel didn't seem to notice.
"What have I done?"
Brendan noticed the shadows, but figured they were just a reaction from Malone's pain. He grabbed Lemuel's arm and pulled him up.
"You might have a higher purpose than us humans whatever 'higher' means but you killed every person who fought evil on the beat with you. That's what you've done. And you did it because you thought you deserved more than your due. You killed them, because you wanted a weapon that can kill us all anyway."
He shook him.
"So fix it, Malone!" he shouted at him. "I can't stop them by myself! I can't help you unless you try to help yourself! I can't save you unless you make an effort so you're worth saving!"
"Don' touch me!" Lemuel shouted back, his voice echoing with a viciousness Brendan had never heard from him before as he pulled away. He quickly sank back to the ground.
"I cannot be saved now..."
The shadows again. They had seemed to thicken when Lemuel had shouted and were again shifting unnaturally around him. The young man sighed.
"I am no better than a monster..."
"Does that mean you're going to give up and become evil like those who control you?" Brendan asked, his voice harsh. Lemuel's whole body began to shake as he tried to regain control of his emotions.
"You don' understan'," he said as calmly as he could. "I didn' do my job right, an' so this... this jus'..."
The shadows grew thick as he began to take on his true form, but this wasn't the one they had seen at the funeral. Charon's wings were stained a deep crimson red, and its eyes became solid black. Its nails darkened and grew almost claw-like while horns curled from its forehead. It reeled on Brendan, frowning as it growled, "Jus' look at me!"
Brendan stared hard at him. He guessed Charon had just been demoted.
"If your form reflects your crime, then you have a lot to fix, my friend. But your form doesn't dictate who you are. Just what you've done. Do you want redemption or don't you?"
The newly fallen demon closed its eyes, nodding, and folded its wings around itself.
"I'm not sure I know how," it sighed. "I'm sure you noticed, but it's harder to control my emotions now."
It began to change back into Lemuel.
"And if I was so bad before... God, I jus' don' know what to do. I've ruined things so badly, I don' know how I'm going to fix it."
"Well, use that to you advantage. Wait... Is the contract for the 'angel' Charon? Because if it is, it no longer applies as you're not an angel. However, if it still does apply then make them believe you're not as controllable. Practice your free will muscle. Fight them. Openly defy them."
"Hate them for what they did to you and made you do. Use your emotions to give you energy to fight them, but do not give in."
Lemuel frowned, leaning back against the wall.
"The contrac' uses my Name, so it's binding regardless of my status."
He paused, glancing back towards Brendan.
"Ashton told me to kill you too, you know."
Brendan froze. He stared at Malone, his body rigid. His voice was hoarse when he spoke.
"Then why aren't I dead yet?"
A twinge of hope edged sharply on these words. Lemuel shrugged, almost with the same nonchalance he used to.
"He didn't say when."
Brendan's grin was feral.
"That's what I'm talking about. Finding ways around it."
A plan hatched in his mind.
"If Ashton thinks I'm dead, then this will be to our advantage. I'm going to rip the little fuck apart for what he did."
His fists clenched, he whirled around and slammed a fist into the wall behind him.
"He doesn't know I'm alive, and he won't until I'm ready for him to know."
There was a moment when all they could hear were the sirens and the firefighters battling the slowly dying blaze. Lemuel spoke first.
"Was... was I included in that 'our'?" he asked hesitantly. Brendan slowly turned around.
"Do you want to be? I already promised you your freedom. I intend to grant it, Malone. As far as I'm concerned you want to be free, and we want to free you. That makes it 'our' to me. The question is, do you or don't you want to be a cop again? Is 'our advantage' for you, or isn't it?"
Fervently, he nodded, but still frowned as he stood.
"Unfortunately, I doubt I'll be able to be a cop again; I killed everyone who understood what was happening..."
"You never know. Did you kill them as Malone or Charon? Only Mike could point you out as the murderer if you killed them as Malone. But if you did it as Charon... Then Malone could very easily be another casualty."
Brendan crossed his arms.
"It was in my true form... well, my former true form. Still, as Malone, I'm still considered a dirty cop, despite the reasoning behin' everything."
He folded his arms around his waist.
"An' I'm supposed to be imprisoned right now, if anyone fin's out I survived. There's no where I can go but back to prison."
"Do you have to take on Malone's form?" Brendan asked. "I mean... is it more important to be Malone or to be a cop? Because if Malone is dead too," Brendan winced and looked away. "You could always be a cop again as long as you're someone else."
He shook his head.
"I guess it doesn't matter now. When you're free of that stupid contract, I'll figure out a way to get you back on the force. After all, you need to find a way to redeem yourself."
Lemuel nodded in agreement, but still shrugged.
"Creating a new identity can take time. I've had this one for nearly twenty-five years. Who can I be now?"
"We'll figure it out later. Right now the priority is to get rid of that contract and stop these bastards."
Brendan clenched his fists, drawing blood again, rage gleaming in his eyes.
"Ashton is going to wish he was never born when I'm through with him."
"I would help you do it if I could," the demon offered with a pout. "But the contract explicitly prevents me from directly harming any of them."
He almost laughed.
"Unless, of course, Carmilla orders me to kill one of the other two. Then that'd be different."
"Let's hope she doesn't," Brendan growled. "I want that pleasure."
His eyes glowed bright gold.
Lemuel eyed Brendan cautiously, rocking on his heels a bit.
"Until I can figure out a new form, and while Ashton and his lot think you're dead..."
He began to chew on his lip.
"Would you mind if I stayed with you?"
Brendan blinked and looked up at him.
"Can you do that?" he asked. "Don't you have to report back to them?"
He didn't want to risk the chance that they would find out about him before he could use his 'death' to his advantage.
"It isn't like they check in on me, and they always call me with my Name when they have some order to give. Besides, I can't go back to my place; I'm supposed to be dead to everyone."
Lemuel had dropped his accent again, perhaps in practice for the new identity he would adopt.
Brendan stilled, thinking about this. Having Charon in his home would be too dangerous. Even if summoned, they could ask him where he was, and god knows what else. It wasn't that the new demon couldn't be trusted but then, he couldn't be, could he, under the enemies control? And while he hadn't wanted to kill everyone... The fact remained that every single person he had left behind at the precinct had died tonight by Charon's hands.
Tears stung in the back of his eyes. He wasn't that forgiving. At least... Not yet. Keeping Brendan alive wasn't enough redemption for the horror already done.
"You can stay at my place," Brendan said stiffly. He would grab some clothes and his cat and ask Will, Evey, Ju or Cei if he could stay with them. He just couldn't be expected to be so ready to forgive the creature that had the blood of his fellow cops on his hands. Even if it had been forced on him.
His tone was enough; Lemuel knew that he would be staying alone, but it was the least he could have hoped for, given all than had happened. He nodded and offered a small, "Thank you," ready to leave the alley for someplace safer... if not someplace far away from the precinct.
"You can head to my place now. I'll meet you there so I can show you were everything is."
Brendan stuffed his hands in his pockets and began to walk away. He was going to have to leave his SUV at the apartment too. He didn't want to risk a nasty watching his house. Even if Ashton believed he was dead, he would be suspicious if a random solis or ancillae told him they'd seen Brendan coming out of his place.
He took out his phone. He didn't even know who he could call. Evey? Will?... Cei? He made the decision to call Evey, but ended up dialing Cei's number anyway.
It barely rang once before she answered.
"Brendan? What the fuck? Where are you?"
Lemuel vanished behind him, going directly to his place to wait.
Brendan croaked as he spoke, all the fight going out of him.
"I'm going to my place to grab some of my stuff and Reggie. You mind picking me up? I'm going to have to leave my SUV there."
When he got to his car, he leaned against it.
"I'll explain everything later. Just... Please," he whispered, his voice breaking slightly before he tugged open the door to his car, hung up, and drove back home.
He got there in about ten minutes and headed up. He saw Charon there and told him where everything was that he would need. Then again, he might not really need any of it.
Brendan packed a duffel bag with clothes and necessities, and with cat food. He dumped out the litter and put the litter box in a case, along with the bag of litter. He did everything woodenly, as if he wasn't even completely conscious of doing it.
Lemuel was waiting by the door while Brendan packed, wanting to stay out of his way as best as he could when Reggie caught his eye. For the first few seconds, they just stared at each other, the young man eying the cat suspiciously. When it strutted towards him for some love, however, Lemuel practically climbed up the wall.
"Brendan! Your cat's trying to attack me!"
Brendan looked up.
"No, it isn't, Malone. Reggie just wants to be petted. Or do you not like cats?"
Reggie continued to move toward Lemuel, meowing up at the demon and already arching its back in anticipation of being petted. A rumbling purr that sounded like a motor came from the large beast.
The purring seemed to frighten him more.
"You never met Bastet, one of the angels in charge of felines. Figures it would turn out that cats like me anyway..."
Lemuel shivered, trying to get as far away from Reggie as he could. Brendan smirked slightly.
"I'm sure I'd get along with her. I may be a werewolf, but cats seem to like me just fine. Probably helps that Reggie is a big... cat."
He headed over to Lemuel and Reggie and picked up the cat, who released a squeaky mewl.
"Into the box, Reg. I know you hate it, but you can't stay here with ol' Malone."
Reggie struggled, but Brendan was by far stronger than the cat and managed to get it into its cage without too much trouble. Carrying the cat case, the duffel bag and the box, Brendan headed to the door.
"Good luck, Malone. I'll try to get you free as soon as I can. And thanks. For... not killing me."
Lemuel offered him a soft smile, both to acknowledge his thanks and give his own back for removing the cat.
"I'll be sure to take care of your place while you're dead to them."
Cei pulled up outside, simply waiting in the car for Brendan. She wanted to know what was going on, but more than anything, she wanted to know if he was alright.
Brendan nodded and left the apartment, heading down the stairs and toward Cei's car. He opened the back seat door and put down his bag, cat and box, before getting into the passenger seat. He didn't say anything, just slumped in his chair and closed his eyes.
The strain and exhaustion on his face was evident. The dark circles were more pronounced around his eyes, and there was a stiffness to the lines on his face. He looked gaunt, as if the hours and stress and lack of taking care of himself had finally caught up with him.
He looked... defeated.
Cei watched him, silently waiting for something, anything, from him. When he simply loaded his gear and climbed in without a word (and the expression that followed), her brows furrowed and she reached to take his hand.
"Brendan," she said softly. "Please... tell me what happened. I can't help if I don't know."
His fingers touched hers gently.
"The station is gone. Burned to the ground. Everybody who was there when I left excepting Mike is dead."
His voice was flat. Empty.
Cei's mouth dropped open, but she couldn't find any words of comfort. Squeezing his hand, all she was able to say as they drove away was, "I'm so sorry."