TWELVE

He told himself he was simply being paranoid. But when he entered the apartment and listened for a minute, his blood ran cold. His gut instinct was right. Something was horribly wrong. And, Command of God, panicked. It was quite a comical sight had the situation not been so serious.

"Michael, Gabriel, Uriel," He yelled at the top of his lungs, not caring if the neighbours thought he was likely to be on the substance mortals called crack cocaine, "Pandora's gone, someone fucking took her!"

Instead of either of the aforementioned three, a sombre looking Zadkiel flashed himself into the room.

"Mammon has her."

"Who the fig is that and why didn't you anything to protect her?" Sariel demanded. He felt like puking. He needed to punch something. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs and shatter a few eardrums. Imagine a nuclear explosion, times it by ten then compress it into a little glass jar. That was precisely the intensity Sariel was operating at.

"We kinda figured that since she was your uh, girlfriend, it was your duty. You've already been relieved of the task guarding Laura Blackman. You didn't have anything to distract you from guarding Pandora."

"You said Mammon took her. Who is he, how does he know Pandora and how do you know that he's taken her?"

"Well, think about it. She's powerful. Other than a handful, not many can control her. Mammon's her brother. Did she not tell you?"

"She said something about hating her siblings and the little time we spent together chatting, family wasn't a topic raised often. Where has Mammon taken her? What does he want with her? We need to get her!"

"You need to get her."

"Alone?"

"You have a bond with her. It will protect you from the forces in hell should you venture underground."

"Great. Leave a man fending for himself."

"Remember, if the baby is lost, the human fate –"

"– Damn humanity, I need Pandora alive, baby or no baby."

"You better pray those words are just words, good luck."

"How the Heavens do I get into the underworld? It's not exactly printed on MapQuest."

"I'll take you there."

And before Sariel could utter a word, they both blinked before the entrance to hell.

-

The smell of putrefying flesh, faeces and inconsolable despair pummelled Sariel as he staggered backwards, eyes watering. Gagging and choking at the stench, he gazed around and plunged into the misty fog where Limbo beckoned.

Wails of heart rendering sorrow drifted among the vapour, as lost souls cried for forgiveness, remembrance, deliverance.

Venturing steadily, the ground became mushy. To his horror, Sariel realized that it was blood, not water that moistened the clumps of dirt paving the ground onward.

It seemed hours as he sluggish trudged through the slime. Safe behind his shield of light, most inhabitants avoided him as the rays inflicted some sense of affliction upon any unholy creature that stood in his way.

-

She was in hell.

Pandora laughed weakly, as she realized the irony of the statement. Her body throbbed, as if subjected to the force and pain behind every single gun shot wound put together. It didn't simply just hurt, it was excruciating. She doubted that Christ himself felt this much pain. Raw whip marks criss-crossed her back. Unmentionable objects protruded from various parts of her body.

Worse than the physical torment, was the mental assault.

You can't fucking break me, she thought, eyes rolling inside the back of her head, I was never whole to start with, assholes.

-

Screams started distantly, growing louder and louder as the temperature became unbearably hot. Blisters formed upon his skin as his magic instantly sought to heal his injuries. Sweat drenched him before a few minutes was up and he pictured his Pandora bound and captive, needing him. Ignoring all the physical discomforts, he trudged on. The sights he saw during the next few hours made him glad that he did not dwell down here. Skulls, broken bones, bloody raw innards strewn carelessly all over the place as creatures flittered between the mountains of rotting carcasses and shadow, scavenging, for what, he truly could not even guess.

In the distance, he suddenly saw an army of demons forming a thick wall coming straight for him.

The demon leading the pack would be Mammon, he realized with a flare of dislike, was leading them.

No, don't give into the negative feelings, it shall empower them. You need all the advantage you can get down here. Forcing himself to calm down, he slipped into the cool, apathetic mask that he usually wore before battles.

"Hello lover boy, did you know that she loves it in the ass?" Mammon greeted him, while his minions snickered and jeered.

He could feel her, her presence, her aura, her suffocation. Her misery wafted towards him, dangerously tempting Wrath, which he was, at all costs, trying to prevent unleashing.

"Seventy two men had her before you showed up, even now she's still being serviced," Mammon threw at him, barb sinking deeply beneath his skin.

"I've broken the unbreakable down here, ones tougher than her, too many times to count. Mark my words, she's not coming out of this, alive, if at all." As Mammon kept talking, Sariel concentrated on his precious Pandora's aura and upon locating it, poured his spirit energy into her being.

Shrieks of distress and roars of rage sounded as Mammon and his cronies advanced.

Sending deadly beams of light at them, he swept them row by row, reducing them into burning cinders, the smell of charred flesh perfuming the air.

He pressed on, towards his Pandora, who was chained to a wall on her knees. Flooding the room with holy intention, the inhabitants scrambled as his Pandora's body absorbed the glow without any pain.

Breaking open her cuffs with another blast of energy, he swept her into his arms and unfolded his wings. More and more demons were approaching and he was losing power, fast. It took an enormous amount of energy to deter so many of those demons now mangled, but this was hell, it was their territory and they had the initiative, the numbers, the resources.

"Hold on tight," his Pandora rasped, and before he could even voice an alarm, they tumbled limbs flying, awkwardly onto the bed in her apartment.

"Sweetheart," he looked at her, heart breaking at the wreckage he saw.

Pandora had no energy left, certainly not enough to even try to mask her true feelings.

Shying away from judging eyes, she swallowed a dry sob. She had no tears to cry. Her brother just fucking raped her. After six hundred years of eluding him, here she was, as pathetic and defenceless as she was all those years ago, only this time, her angel knows that she was disgraced.

"I came as soon as I could," the words fell meaningless at his lips.

What have they done to you? He cried silently, as he attempted to hold her flinching body. One look into her eyes and he knew she had retreated behind a wall that even he could not breach. She was inside the shell that she had sought refuge in when they'd first met. She was hiding back behind the cloak that had been her haven before she sought peace and comfort in his arms.

He sat there, jaw clenched, pouring healing ray after ray into her body. But her spirit, he knew, could not be fixed by magic or words.

Pandora screamed inside her head, screamed loud and long. Now that she was violated, now that she was corrupted, he wouldn't want her anymore. He hadn't noticed the blood trickling from between her legs but he would. And then, he would realize it was over. Their chance. She blew it. No more Sariel. No more kisses. No more happiness simply being held inside his arms. A blood droplet slid down her cheek. She trembled, as more followed soon after. She was going to die. Demons cried blood before their death. And this time, her succubus genetic makeup could not save her to chance a return.

As Sariel felt the dampness trickle down his arms, he let out a strangled moan. No. His Pandora couldn't be dying.

"Don't you dare give up on me," he held her precious face between his hands desperately.

"The baby," she croaked, "The baby."

"I don't care about the baby," he sought her eyes urgently, as if attempting to force her to see reason, to see the truth through his eyes.

"Angels can't lie and I'm telling you Pandora, I don't care about the baby but you better live!"

A hopeless smile graced her mouth, never reaching her beautiful green eyes.

"I'm dirty," she whispered, no longer caring about weakness, about pride, about anything. She was nearly dead. What was the point in fighting any longer?