Fury

People like Megaera. They want to see more of her. Since I can do things in short stories that I wouldn’t do in the main manuscripts, I thought, why not write a story from Meg’s perspective? O, now you’ll get to see just what she was up to immediately before reconnecting with Lucy in Blood Hound. But be warned, as fun and flirty and sarcastic as she seems sometimes, Megaera is not human. Her life is as dark as midnight and bloodier than a battlefield. A story from her perspective is just going to be meaner than one starring Lucy.

This story takes place immediately before Blood Hound.

 

I am Megaera.

I am Fury.

The Erinyes were born from the blood of Father Sky when the titans spilled it into the sea. I and my sisters are ancient beyond words. When Rhea gave birth to Zeus, I was already old. I have served Olympus. I have served Karma. I have served Heaven. But always, I have one true task: To find those who Owe, and make them Pay. I am judge, jury, and executioner. No sinner can flee before my righteous judgment.

So naturally, this made me pretty opinionated.

“Look,” I said. “All I’m saying is, Mug is shit, Barq’s ain’t much better, A&W is so-so. Weinhard’s is pretty good, but hard root beer is pointless. It’s a fucking soft drink. Not a hard drink. You know, since Prohibition. If you wanna drink something, drink real booze. Dionysus would be so pissed off at the shit people are doing nowadays.”

“Who?” my date asked.

“Dionysus,” I said.

“Dinosaur?” my date asked.

“Die-Yon-Eh-Suss,” I enunciated, wagging a finger in his face. I had been drinking way more than root beer. “Greek god of wine. Come on, man, didn’t they teach you anything in school?”

He looked at me like a deer in headlights.

It was my fault. Dating sucked when you had to find someone without too many outstanding sins. Bland guys, mousy in-the-closet women – it got really boring really fast. But seeing corruption ooze from a person’s soul was also pretty unattractive, so my options were kind of awful.

“Well, if you won’t agree with me on root beer, I don’t think we can be together,” I told Jeff. Or Jerry. Or Jorge. Or whatever his name was.

“What?” he asked me. “Is this about root beer?”

“I really don’t think this is working out,” I said.

I knew I should’ve felt sorry for him, but eh. Better end it in confusion now than in screaming terror later. Most of my relationships had been with fellow immortals, but I’m Ancient Greek – I couldn’t resist a mortal from time to time. Or two. Three. Four, maybe.

“Look,” I said to Jeff-Jerry-Jorge. “This isn’t going well. There totally won’t be a second date. Wanna go back to my place, anyway?”

He looked at me like I was a spider about to eat his head. I smiled back at him. The stereotype is that men will sleep with anything with tits, but it’s not true. Some guys have a survival instinct. This one didn’t even pay the bill before he fled. Surprisingly, that wasn’t a mortal sin.

I sat back, grumpily, and finished my meal. You know who I missed? This one vampire chick named Lucy. She was delightfully weird. I had known religious vampires before, but this girl was kind of special. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone set herself on fire by praying. I respected her principles… And sense of humor, button nose, sarcasm, surprisingly thorough knowledge of professional wrestling, lots of stuff like that. She was my soulmate, and we pissed it away by arguing like mortals.

My phone rang. I checked the number just in case it was from Heaven – and yes, they used phones. But it wasn’t. It was my nephew. I rolled my eyes and answered.

“Was she married?” I asked.

“Hey, Auntie, c’mon, gimme some cred,” he said.

“You’re trying to sound ‘hip’ and ‘with it.’ It sounds lame,” I said. “So, was she married?”

“You didn’t even let me say hi. Can’t a fellow say hello to his family?”

The thing about Greek deities is, they are all related. Ouranos spawned the Furies, but he also fathered Kronos, who fathered Zeus and the Olympians. So, I was Zeus’s Auntie Meg. It’s complicated.

“Your family’s big enough to fill a football stadium,” I said. “And you keep making more. I’m not bailing you out this time. So, was she already married, or did you at least do a background check before turning into a goose or whatever?”

“I love you too, Auntie,” my nephew muttered. “Anyway, that’s not why I’m calling.”

“What was it? A bull? A duck? Gold rain?”

“Meg, stop it,” Zeus said. “You’re getting cranky. You need to eat something.”

“I’m eating something right now,” I said, and took a bite of my dinner roll. “See?” I talked with my mouth open! Such a sinner.

“I called to check on you,” he said. “I was worried.”

“You’re worried,” I said. “I’m the Daughter of Ouranos, and you’re worried.”

“Someone’s been threatening you,” he said. “Alecto and Tisiphone have gone to ground. I can’t even find them.”

I swallowed my bread. “What?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Do you know if your sisters have been reborn lately?” he asked. “Has anything happened to them?”

There are many grades of immortality. Some, like vampires, live forever or until something kills them. Others, such as many gods or immortal spirits, can’t die at all. But the embodiments of natural forces – the Furies, for example – die, and are then reborn. We reincarnate as the same core being, but encased in different trappings. Changed. Different. Closer to our core purpose, and far less human as a result.

“I haven’t heard or felt anything,” I said. “I’d know if either of them died.”

“Then why would they hide?” he asked. “What could they be afraid of?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Why don’t you ask your new boss?” he asked, and a sudden hint of bitterness tinged my nephew’s voice. “Heaven’s supposed to know everything, right? Why haven’t they been any help?”

I sighed, and decided to cut this train of conversation off with a joke. “You sound cranky. Have you been eating enough? You’re not yourself when you’re hangry.”

“Meg, stop it,” he said. “I’m trying to help you. Somebody’s targeting your sisters, so I thought you might want to know.”

“I do thank you for the information,” I said. “And I’ll keep an eye out. So, what about you? Was she married?”

“Ten years, and her husband’s none the wiser.”

“I will punch you in the mouth” I said. “You know how I feel about that.”

“I’m the god of thunder and lord of Olympus, Meg. I can do what I want.”

“And I’m your aunt, and I can do what I want,” I said.

“Look, Meg, you’d understand if you saw her. Total MILF. Ass that wouldn’t quit, tits like–”

“I’m not listening,” I said.

“–Watermelons, and she did this thing with her tongue where–”

I hung up on Zeus. Sure, he was my nephew, and I loved him, but he was an annoying pervert. He had never hit on me or my sisters, though, but that was because he knew what we really were.

Pretty little Meg, the vivacious redhead that most people knew, wasn’t really me. I wore Glamours, painstakingly constructed from the ground up, to look human. It took years to properly make one, piecing together the body from scratch, an illusion so finely detailed that for all practical purposes it was absolutely real. I loved my default look, even identified with it much of the time, but it wasn’t me. A true Erinyes is a thing of terrible, horrible beauty, the wrath of the heavens incarnate. Kind of stood out in a crowd, what with the wings and bloody tears and everything.

I finished the meal, thinking about my nephew’s warning. It took a lot to kill a Fury, and a lot more to scare one. Even just avoiding one of us was a minor miracle. You had to appeal to the gods, or to heaven, or repent to get us off your tail. Or, alternatively, you could practice black magic and block foreign spirits. That worked surprisingly well. But actually fighting one of us? We were the predators, not prey. I could think of a few things that might scare a Fury, but nothing that had shown its face in a long time.

I just had be careful, that was all.

I left the restaurant and stepped out into a city of sin. Places like Las Vegas were more overtly corrupt, but San Francisco had an undercurrent, a special kind of spiritual energy that was its very own. Not even New Orleans, with its own local shade of Voodoo, could compete. The ground we stood on was holy – not in a deific sense, but in the original meaning of the word. Separate. Set apart. If people knew what laid underneath them out here, this place would no longer be a city. It’d be a crater. But few knew the truth, even among immortals – in all the years I lived with her, Lucy never had a clue about San Francisco’s true nature. I didn’t tell her, either.

I felt his sin, and I knew he was near.

My “List” wasn’t a physical object, but it was real all the same. The Furies each had their domains, their specialties. Alecto hunted those who broke human laws. Tisiphone destroyed murderers. My prey were adulterers, those who broke the contract of marriage. It wasn’t set in stone – I was perfectly capable of eating a murderer if I came across one – but our List, our internal radar telling us when someone’s debts were being called, triggered from those subjects.

Love. Sex. Jealousy. And death. The cycle that they began, and I ended. Dragging adulterers into fiery judgement was my raison d’etre, and the moment I felt my prey enter my List, I knew all I needed about him.

Blake Lasson. Enterpreneur. Would-be tech giant. Self-styled philanthropist. Serial philanderer. Most people would shrug off that last fact, but I am Megaera, The Jealous One. I knew every tear, every broken heart, every shattered vow. Infidelity was my raison d’etre. And he was rank with it. I could feel the weight of Lasson’s sins, the screaming hypocrisy of his supposed good deeds.

I changed shape as I tracked him down. I had spent years creating a new Glamour, a raven-haired beauty, and was itching to try it out. It was fine craftsmanship, too. My other alternates had always resembled my favorite form in some way, but this time I had taken pains to construct something new, piece by piece, from the ground up. I doubted that even Lucy would recognize me, and she knew every inch of me.

Also, Lasson liked them dark and gothy. Makeup was easy enough to add to the Glamour, and I decided to stick with what I was already wearing, dark jeans, a black Metallica t-shirt. I added a studded bracelet to the ensemble, and called it good. It just needed to be good enough for him to drop his guard, and once he was alone I could show him what I really looked like.

I kept my senses up, feeling the atmosphere of the city as I walked. There was a sudden downward shift in spiritual tone, an added pressure to the auras in the air. A feeling of expectancy, tension, potential energy coiled taut like a spring. I had to wonder: What could blacken the air of an already dark city?

I focused, and felt the energy that always permeated the air, the criss-crossing lines of power and potency seething from the ley lines of the earth into the angels and demons who made this place their home. And over that, I felt more – added tension and movement, from different points. I felt a little bit of Hell, and the demonic activity that fed into the tension covering the city. Perhaps a ritual, or minor summoning, or something else was taking place – but I couldn’t get a bead on it. It wasn’t on my List. Was out of my hands. Still, it made me agitated, anxious to find my prey and deal with him. I redoubled myself, and resumed tracking Blake Lasson.

The city’s sins oozed from the souls of the people, radiating out like pollution, wrapping them in a miasma of their own corruption. It was distractingly appetizing. Lasson’s own personal signature functioned as a beacon, directing me to him. I got a mental rundown of his life – the shortcuts, compromises, rationalizations, and the steady slide into outright evil. Although the way he had violated his wife’s trust was what brought him into my purview, I saw further into his soul – the man was a predator. It put two sides of me in conflict – the Erinyes, the Force of Justice, cared only for his betrayal of the marriage contract. But the other side of me, the person with thoughts and opinions and her own moral code, wanted to gut him for the way he stalked and cornered women.

Well, he was going to burn. That much I was sure of. Ostensibly, we Furies allowed our victims the chance to repent, but they very rarely took us up on that – very rarely felt remorse or intended to repair their wretched lives. And I hated it when it happened. I knew that redemption was important and wonderful, and the backbone of Heaven, but it denied me prey.

I found Lasson inside one of the city’s nightclubs – Qube, by name. A place with enough debauchery to send me on a rampage if I weren’t careful, but also with enough of a supernatural clientele that I wouldn’t be the only one hunting prey. But I had a target in mind. I was focused. The pounding beat of the music barely registered as I tracked him down.

Blake Lasson sat in a booth, eyeing up some potential company. Debating which one to offer a drink. I stumbled into his booth, bumping my hip and slumping forward, catching myself against the table. My new black hair fell into my face, and I brushed it away with trained clumsiness.

“I’m so, so sorry,” I said, giggling at him, looking just drunk enough to still have some sense. “Way too many shots tonight.”

“Are you okay?” he asked, and actually looked me in the eye.

“Oh yeah, it’s all cool till I fall down,” I said as I adjusted myself, letting a hint of a bra strap peek out from the t-shirt. He took the bait. “Hey, where’d my friends go?”

“Your friends?” he asked. “What did they look like?”

“Fuck,” I said, and clumsily slid into the booth next to him. “They look like a bunch of girls. Must’ve ditched me again.”

“Again?” Lasson asked. His attention was on me, but he wasn’t looking me in the eyes.

“Yeah, not the first time,” I shrugged. “Gonna have to get an Uber again.”

“Why would they ditch you?” he asked, the concern sounding genuine to anyone who didn’t really listen. “They don’t sound like real friends to me.”

“They think I’m a lightweight, that I can’t keep up,” I said. “But the night’s still young. I’m just getting started!”

“Yeah, you look like you could go all night,” he said.

I leaned in, giving him a bleary, semi-focused look. Then I blinked my eyes and opened my mouth, as if it had just dawned on me.

“Hey, you’re that guy!” I said. “Like, that guy! The Info guy!”

And I had him.

“Yeah, I made InfoChan,” he said, shooting me a friendly grin. “Now a division of Servilius.”

“Oh yeah, yeah, I love tech stuff,” I said, still watching him. “Woo, you’re like, famous! Can I have a drink with you?”

“Sure,” he said. “Whatcha want?”

“Anything, long as you’re buying,” I grinned, and waited for Lasson to go get our drinks. He was like a fish with a hook in its mouth, only he didn’t realize it yet. He was too busy glorying over the worm he thought he could eat.

And man oh man, he doctored my drink. It was amazing, really. A man like him was rich and good-looking enough to convince any number of drunk bar girls to hop into bed with him. And yet, here he was, drugging them. I was going to enjoy making him burn. I snuggled up next to him when he settled back in the booth, and took the drink he offered me.

“Ooh, this is my favorite!” I said, downing about half of it in one sip. “How’d you know?”

“I’m a good guesser,” Lasson said. “So, you never told me your name.”

“Meg,” I said.

“That’s a great name, Meagan,” he said.

I almost suppressed the chuckle, but Lasson heard it.

“Something’s funny?”

“I dunno,” I said, and drank some more. The poison neutralized itself before it had a chance to even touch me. So did the booze, for that matter. The former was because I was an Immortal Fury, the latter because I had a really great tolerance. Hell, I had trained myself on Dionysius’s wine. Served by Herakles’s wife. In the middle of an Olympian bender. Cheap tequila didn’t have shit on me.

He put his arm around my shoulders. No wedding ring, but I spotted the tan line. I held back a shudder at the sensation of his sin-stained flesh against mine, and let myself relax, leaning against him.

“This is so cool,” I said. “Way better than hanging out with those loser friends of mine. Just wait’ll they hear. Can I get a selfie?”

“Sure, whatever you want,” he said.

I took out my phone and took the best drunken, giggling, duck-faced awful selfie imaginable.

“Gonna send this to my sisters,” I said, and then frowned for a second. Reminding myself of Alecto and Tisiphone jarred me a little from my play-acting. They were hiding? From what?

“Hey,” he said. “You feeling all right?”

“Huh?” I blinked, and covered for it. “Oh, hey, sorry. Just kinda felt woozy there for a moment.”

“I guess you’ve had a lot to drink,” he said. Of course, he meant the drugs he had sneaked into my system, but he was pretending to be courteous.

“I stumbled to my feet, gripping the table. “Glad I didn’t drive,” I laughed a little.

Lasson stood, his hand against my lower back, steadying me. “Don’t worry about Uber,” he said. “I’ll take you home.”

Such a kind gesture. You’d almost think he wasn’t roofying me.

“Really?” I asked. “You’d do that? You’re so sweet.”

“Of course I will, Meg,” he said. “I’ll drive you home. You’ll be safe.”

“Thank you,” I agreed. I’d totally be safe leading him to my home, of course. I added another stumble for affect, and leaned against him for better support. “Oh, wow, it’s hitting a little strong,” I teased.

“Yeah,” I said. “Your place.”

“Are you okay?” he asked again, as if he didn’t know.

“I feel dizzy,” I said. “Can we go now? Please?”

His strong arms supported me strongly, firmly. It would be romantic without the drugging and infidelity. I bided my time, keeping my balance unsteady as I let him lead me from the club. We exited into the cool San Francisco air, and I still felt that dark undercurrent. But whatever was going on wasn’t my concern right now – Blake Lasson was.

I thought about the number of people out in the streets at night, and briefly considered taking him to my own home to finish him off. But as we walked to where I assumed Blake Lasson had parked, I noticed a sudden drop-off in passerby. When the supernatural was strong with a place, ordinary people tended to avoid it – they wouldn’t even be sure why, they would just steer clear. This could – and quite possibly was – an aftereffect of my presence. When on the hunt, I rarely had trouble getting my prey alone for that reason. But still, in light of my nephew’s warning, it was worth keeping an eye out.

I spotted the alley before we reached it. Dark, narrow and above all quiet. We could probably stage a kung-fu brawl in there without attracting notice. I tripped and stumbled, rushing over to the alleyway.

“What are you doing?” Lasson asked as he began to follow. I answered him by falling to my knees and retching, making it sound like I was about to vomit.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I said.

I felt his hand on my shoulder, steadying and warm. I could feel his grip tense when he saw the dead end in back of the alley – a natural response for any city dweller, and quite apt tonight. Now was the time to see if he had even a shred of decency. To give him that one tiny chance.

I let him help me up, and looked him in the eyes. I put on an expression of mild fear, a tiny bit of concern. “I’m scared,” I said. “You wouldn’t hurt me, would you?”

His lips sought mine. The kiss was forceful, insistent. I pulled back just a little to see his reaction, but he turned my face toward his again. So much for consent.

“I’m not sure–” I muttered, giving him one last chance, and then his hands found mine and he pushed me against the wall. Not violent, not restraining me, but not giving me much of a choice, either. He indulged, silencing my protests with his lips and tongue, his hands searching my body, indulging. Trying to make me want it.

“You’re so hot,” he said breathlessly against my lips, his hand slipping underneath my shirt.

“You have no idea,” I said, and dropped the Glamour, transforming even as he tried to grope me.

I was Erinyes, Fury made flesh. Tall, terrible, burning with rage and fire and metal, my eyes like dripping pools of blood. My wings were bronze, the metal feathers razor-sharp, and my claws were like knives. My hair fell around my shoulders like thick, bloodstained dreadlocks, framing a monstrous, harpylike form.

Lasson stopped in mid-grope, eyes widening in shock at the monster I had become.

“Blake Clay Lasson,” I said. “You are guilty.”

“What the fuck?” he tried to pull away, but I grabbed him by the wrist, my claws digging into his flesh.

“You have sinned,” I seethed. “Infidelity. Rape. Betrayal. Theft. You drugged women and violated them. You joined with your wife’s soul, and then tore it apart. Your crimes are known from on high. Your debt must be paid. You owe!”

“Help!” he screamed, and tried to wrench his hand from my grasp. “Help me!”

I clamped a hand over his mouth, my claws digging into his cheek. I wrapped my wings around us both, the metal feathers scraping as they slid together.

“If you scream, I will only make it more painful,” I said. The smell of burning sulfur diffused in the air, a hint of his fate. “I am Megaera, the voice of jealousy and justice for the betrayed. I am Fury, and I am your judge. Explain your sins. Choose your words carefully, as they will be your only defense.”

I removed my hand, and he started to cry.

“I’m a man! I can’t help it!” he said.

“Wrong answer,” I said, and flicked my claws across his face, cutting a deep laceration into his cheek.

“They wanted to! I never forced anybody,” he tried.

“Even worse answer,” I said, and lightly cut the side of his neck. He wailed in terror.

“You worthless, raping piece of shit,” I said, leaning to hiss the invective in his ear. My bloody tears dripped onto his shoulder. “You vomit lies. You despoil and corrupt, and laugh in private. The world would be better if your mother had strangled you in your crib. And you want to defend yourself by saying, ‘I can’t help it?’”

He strained a bit against my grasp, and I closed my knife-fingers over his throat.

“I want to tear out your pathetic throat,” I said. “To pierce your flesh and watch you bleed and whimper and die. But that’s not my job. I am going to drag you alive into the eternal fire, where you will suffer for your crimes. You won’t rest. You won’t escape. It will never stop, and a hundred million years from now, you will still deserve every ounce of pain. Do you feel it? Do you feel the agony that you’ve bought for yourself? Do you feel the evil you’ve inflicted on every woman who’s crossed your path? Do you feel the fires you stoked with every worthless breath you have taken?”

I lifted Lasson off the ground, held up by his neck. He weakly grasped at his throat and tried to speak, the effort cutting his throat against my talons.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Kill me,” he said.

I almost laughed.

I deserve it, I know,” he whimpered. “What about redemption?”

And then I did laugh. “My claws are piercing your throat, and you want to discuss theology?”

He strained against my grasp, and still tried to talk. “You’re… you’re a demon. An angel. Something. What about redemption?”

I lowered him enough to the ground that he wouldn’t be in danger of slitting his own throat.

“What makes you think you deserve it?” I asked.

“I’ll change,” he said.

“Everyone says they will change,” I began to squeeze at his throat again. “And when I give them a chance, they never take it. Time to redeem themselves. Time to make amends. They squander it by trying to run. Or worse, they fight. Do you know what happens when they fight back?”

“I swear I’ll do better! I can do a lot of good!”

“You think that you can do good?” I leaned in close, glaring into his eyes. “Everything you touch is filth.”

“I know!” he whimpered. “I know what I did! I’m not innocent! I understand! I deserve all of this, but please, have mercy!”

“You deserve far worse,” I said. The flames of purification began to rise, licking at our feet. So similar to hellfire, yet so different in function.

“I know I don’t have an excuse!” he weakly tried to loosen my grip on his throat. “I knew what I was doing the whole time. I get it, I never had an excuse. But please! Please, forgive me! I’ll make it right! I will!”

I looked deeper than his eyes, into his soul. I didn’t want a man like him redeemed, not after everything he had done. But if the capability was there – if he had true remorse, then I was required to give him a chance. And what could I see in him? His soul was a mess, his thoughts panicked, confused. His present state was so messed up as to be unreadable. But in his life, there was a man who at one point may have been decent – before the fame, and the money. But fame and money do not make people evil, far from it – they simply offer the chance to do what you want, to take what you want. And when he could take, he did. Temptation does not turn us evil, it simply reveals who we really are. The goodness he thought he had was pride, but perhaps there may have been potential in there – tiny, buried within the withered remains of his conscience. Was it enough for me to give him that chance?

A presence filled the alley, only able to come so close because I had been distracted. I felt it at the last second and dropped Lasson, turning to look out toward the street. A realization began to dawn on me as I felt the presence grow near. No wonder the streets were empty. No wonder my sisters had fled.

“Run,” I said to Lasson. Maybe he’d be prey later, maybe he would turn his life around, but I had bigger things to care about.

Blake Lasson stumbled to his feet and ran. He should have backed further into the alley, dead end or not. But he went out to the street.

Blake almost made it to freedom, when a large blade stabbed into his chest and out his back, sending his body into a wracking spasm.

The demon emerged, holding Blake Lasson impaled on his sword.

Arioch, Demon of Vengeance. Embodiment of Hell’s unrighteous revenge. My opposite. Arioch possessed bodies and gradually warped them into his form, fed by the blood of his victims. The body he inhabited was obese and bald, his greasy, bloated flesh corpse-pale, infested with maggots and rot. His eyes were white and cloudy, yet gleamed with cruel sharpness. As Lasson’s blood dripped on Arioch’s arm, his skin rippled and began to split, a thick hide of green reptilian scales emerging from underneath. A pair of leathery black wings unfurled from his back, bursting free, fueled by his new kill.

“No salvation for the wicked,” Arioch said, and grinned at me. “Only revenge.”

Lasson choked, his hands weekly reaching for help. Arioch threw him down, dropping him from the sword into the streets. Although we had the same goal – death of the wicked – the end result was quite different. When I dragged a soul into Hell, it paid a debt, righted a wrong, and ended the cycle of evil. When he killed them, it spread the sin back to the victims, embittering and corrupting them. The difference between justice and revenge.

Arioch licked the blood from the blade, and looked me in the eyes.

“Your sisters had the sense to hide from me,” he said. “But here you are. Cornered in delicious trap.”

I kept my eyes on the sword in his hand. Golden-bladed, an Angel weapon, given to him before he fell and now corrupted in his grasp, There were very few of those even in Heaven, and fewer still in the hands of the Fallen. Arioch was once a mighty and renowned angel, beautiful and glorious, tasked with protecting Eden itself. He conspired with Lucifer to allow the Serpent inside, setting in motion the Hebrew parallel to my Pandora’s Box. When the Heavens first took me and my sisters in, we were set against Arioch. At full power, he was more than a match for the three of us combined. Did I have a chance now that he was only partially emerged, still held in the corpse he had possessed?

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Why now?”

“Why not?” Arioch answered. “The best thing about hunting you is that when you are reborn, I can do it again. As much as I want. I will lick your blood from the street, and send your head to your sisters. And then when you return, I will do it again. Such fun.”

“I’m sending you back to Hell,” I said. “Body and soul.”

Arioch lunged at me, jabbing the sword at my gut. I jumped back, my wings carrying me to the end of the alley, and hurled a blast of sulfuric purifying flame at him. He held up his reptile arm, the armor blocking the flames, and then countered it with a wall of hellfire. The two flames mixed, smelling of sulfur, white and red intertwined.

Arioch powered through the flames and swiped at me, the celestial weapon coming dangerously close to my flesh. My claws extended and I intercepted the blade, metal clanging against metal as they clashed with the sword. He pressed in, forcing me against the wall. I kept his sword locked against the serrated edges of my talons, and tried to push back against him. He forced the weapon closer to my face, so that I could see my eyes reflected in its golden surface.

“Are you afraid?” he asked, grinning. “You should be.”

“You’re not going to intimidate me, Arioch,” I said, straining against the blade, trying to keep him from just sliding it across and cutting through my fingers. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”

“Don’t you feel it?” he asked, altering the pressure enough that I almost lost the lock on his blade. “There is blood in the air. Blood and fire. Hell is coming, and I want to enjoy it while feasting on your flesh.”

“You want blood in the air?” I asked, and brought up my other arm, carving into his gut. His pale flesh parted beneath my claws, releasing a putrid stench into the air. Arioch grunted in pain, but grinned, using the change in my leverage to bring the sword back, out of my grasp, and stab it down at my throat. I pulled to the side, releasing him completely, the weapon nicking my collarbone, and then pushed off from the ground, using my wings to take a leap above the alleyway.

I dropped another fireball as I ascended, letting it explode behind me. With any luck, I could pile on more damage and bring him down before he could recover. Demons, being spiritual by nature, used notoriously durable bodies. They healed at an astounding rate, and banishing one from its physical form was a chore. I could take a lot of punishment, myself, but even my own accelerated healing had nothing on a true demon’s regeneration. I soared into the air, far above the fire I had left behind with Arioch. As I climbed into the sky, I ventured a glance back down to see if he was following me. What I saw instead nearly shocked me out of the air.

The city’s ley lines were burning. Invisible to normal eyes, but to my senses they might as well have been neon, lit by the fires of Hell itself. Was this what I had felt in the air? Was this the blood and fire Arioch was talking about? I had sense that something was going on, but had no idea that it could be at this scale. Someone had begun tracing the seal of a major demon, using the energy flowing through San Francisco as a base. And I hadn’t sensed it.

It distracted me so much that I almost didn’t see Arioch coming after me, aflame, wielding his golden sword like a burning torch. I spotted him at the last second, and threw myself back in the air, giving a strong flick of my wings in his direction. The movement flung several razor feathers at him, and a few embedded themselves in his body. I dropped into a freefall, angling my wings to begin a glide once I had picked up speed.

He fell after me, closing the distance between us in a dive. I lashed out on instinct, parrying his sword with my claws, and again when he circled to strike at my other side. As he came for a third run, I threw more feathers at him and flapped my wings to ascend, taking to the air. He threw up his scaled arm to protect his eyes and blindly swung at me, the sword grazing my knuckles as I parried it. I lashed out with a kick, my taloned foot striking Arioch in his injured gut, and I kicked off him with all my might, sending him falling below as I propelled myself upward. I hurled more purifying fire at him, and flew away at the first glimpse of the explosion, using my momentum to put even more space between us.

He came at me again, outpacing me and closing the distance before I could go far. We clashed over the skyscrapers of the Financial district, darting between buildings, with him pressing on offense as I tried to find a way to cripple him or otherwise put him down before he got in a lucky shot with that sword. We were high up enough in the air to be away from people on the ground, though I could only guess that some pedestrians saw the explosions.

Arioch turned left, cutting off his pursuit to glide down another street, and I lost track of him. I flew upward, gaining altitude as I tried to follow where he could be. This was wrong. I was supposed to be the hunter. Arioch was a pretender – a failed guardian of Eden who seized on bitterness and revenge. He had taken the role, but I was born into it. I couldn’t let him keep me on the defensive.

He had an Angel blade. I hated him for that. They were so rare, seldom-used even in Heaven. And that piece of shit had taken his divine gift and used it to murder innocent people. I couldn’t help but covet it a little bit, but I was also quite aware of what it could do to me if he landed a solid hit with it. The heat from my flames didn’t seem to be doing much damage, but I might be able to injure him with the impact from each explosion.

I felt him coming up from beneath me, a disturbance in the air and the flapping of his leathery wings my only warning. I twisted around to dodge a sword thrust, and clamped my claws onto Arioch’s wrist. He brought up his other arm, and I grabbed it, burying my knifelike claws into his dead, rotting flesh. He struggled in mid-air, trying to pull away from me as we hurtled above the skyline. I twisted my grip on both arms, my claws barely scraping the scales on one while they scythed through muscle and tendons in the other. Suddenly, Arioch leaned in close, his breath hot on my ear as he grinned.

“Are you sure you want to touch me?” he asked. Maggots crawled from his arm and onto my hands. “Feel the rot of the grave.”

I felt necrotic corruption spread from their bites, a decay that would have corroded any mortal human. I responded with appropriate fury, shrieking like a banshee as I exploded in purifying flame, burning the rot away as ignited the air in an aura of fire. Arioch struggled as it engulfed him, ripping my jagged claws through the flesh of his arms and finally letting go of the sword. I took a swipe at his throat as the sword fell, trying to carve into him again.

Arioch twisted away from my claws, and his own hellfire rose up to meet mine, the two flames mixing in a massive explosion. The shockwave sent me hurtling through the air, and Arioch himself careening into the side of a building. I took advantage of the momentum to put more distance between us, and steadied myself by grabbing hold of the top of the Transamerica Building’s spire. I clung to it with my hand, planting my feet against the building, and looked out around the city for Arioch’s return. Disarming him helped, but he wasn’t finished yet, not remotely. The poison may have been gone, but my arm still stung from those cursed maggot bites. I didn’t have a clear picture of how well Arioch was faring, but stabbing him multiple times in the gut had barely slowed him down, if that.

I caught a glimpse of movement, and tracked Arioch approaching me in a wide, silent arc from beneath the skyline. I turned my gaze elsewhere to let him keep the illusion of stealth, and readied myself for the attack. He was still almost faster than I could react, and I was barely able to bring my hand up in time to slash my claws across Arioch’s face and grab him by the scalp, carrying him with me as I threw myself down off the spire. I slammed him face-first into the side of a neighboring office building, forcing his face into the glass as we broke window after window. I pushed with my wings, turning the freefall into a forced charge, and shoved my knee into his back to force his body into the shattering glass as I scraped him down the side of the building.

Arioch’s armored, reptilian arm lashed out, reaching behind himself to grab me by the throat. He blindly hurled me into one of the unbroken windows, sending me hurtling into the office building as he continued to fall past.

I smashed through the window and struck office furniture, my momentum sending me tumbling nearly to the other end of the office inside, smashing through cubicles and computer equipment alike. I landed in a heap of pain and blood, lacerated by the broken glass. An impact trail of debris marked how hard Arioch had thrown me.

I braced a hand on the floor and pushed myself to my knees, feeling pain spike through a dislocated shoulder. I popped it back in the socket with another painful jolt. My blood, hot enough to sizzle on the carpet, dripped down underneath me. I reached into my side and pulled out a shard of glass nearly as long as a knife. My vision swam for a moment from the pain and impact against my head, though it began to clear after a moment.

I tucked my wings behind my back and crouched, making myself as small as I could while I ducked between the cubicles. I heard a thump near the broken widow, followed by the sounds of Arioch’s heavy footsteps.

“I can smell your blood,” he said. “You’re weak. Flagging. It must be painful, isn’t it?”

I stayed silent, focusing on his voice, and carefully began to circle around him, keeping to the shadows.

“Justice is nothing without vengeance,” Arioch said. “You kill men for little sins and bathe in their blood, but allow true evils to live happy and rich. And their victims still suffer. When have you cared? When have you thought of anything but your own bloodlust? I at least provide their victims with the pleasures of vengeance.”

He moved dangerously near, and I sneaked past, catching a glimpse of him between cubicles as I ducked low to stay out of sigh. Arioch’s face was a mangled mess, drenched in a curtain of blood.was now a mangled mess drenched in a curtain of his own blood. He knelt down, running his other hand over one of my bloodstains on the floor.

“I am vengeance,” Arioch said as he drew the hand over his mangled face. His shape began to warp, the remaining skin splitting as his true form began to assert itself more through the corpse body. “You are nothing more than a pretender. An old, forgotten, worthless god. Worshiped by no one. Who prays to you? Who sacrifices for you? You changed your allegiance when you saw your favor leaving, and for what? You simper and serve a god who believes in no one, a Heaven content to remain silent while Hell enjoys the fruits of the Earth. You are a selfish little creature, and although you can be reborn, I am truly eternal. Humanity will always feed me. I am vengeance. I am blood. I am honest hatred.”

Close. He was so close now, just on the other side of the nearest cubicle. I had to move carefully, to get behind him before he found me.

“I remember the glories of Eden,” Arioch said. “And how beautifully it fell. I know the secrets of Creation and beyond. Secrets that are mine alone to know. Do you remember what I told you? The hidden things I shared that day?”

He wasn’t lying. Arioch was privy to one of the deepest, darkest secrets in all creation, in all of the various mythos – and he had told me one once, to taunt me. It was the reason why I moved to California, but I dared not even think about it. And even ow, I couldn’t let it distract me. I tried to pay attention to his position, not his words. Distraction was dangerous.

“Do you know what to do to you?” he asked, closer still. “I will rip the skin from your body. Snap your ribs off one by one. I want to make you scream, to make you squeal. To give you torture more intimate than any lover.”

My grip tightened on the glass shard, cutting into my hand. I bit back a hiss, staying silent.

“And then, when you are reborn, we can do it again,” he said. “And again, and again. I’ll have your sisters, too. A complete family reunion.”

Arioch looked in the wrong direction, and began to move away from me, just out of sight through the crack in the cubicle wall. I held on to the glass shard, ready to pounce as soon as his back was turned.

“I can smell your blood,” Arioch said, his voice suddenly near me. “Thank you for bleeding so much of it.”

The demon burst through the cubicle wall, slamming bodily into me. I jabbed with the glass, digging it into Arioch’s chest and twisting, trying to cut through his heart. His weight pressed up against me, throwing me off-balance and pulling the glass from my bloody grip. I clawed frantically at Arioch as his reptile hand struck me in a backhand, rocking my head back. My vision blurred, and Arioch threw himself on top of me, pinning me to the ground and pressing his sharper claws into my chest.

“You belong underneath me,” he said, his face inches from mine. His eyes had taken on a reptilian yellow shade, and scales began to protrude from the ruined parts of his face. “Whimper and writhe at my touch, little Fury. Cry and Scream.”

A droplet of his blood dripped onto my face, and the stench of putrefaction and filth overwhelmed my senses. I brought my metal wings up in a sudden reflex, slamming the bladed feathers into Arioch’s sides. He grimaced on top of me as I cut into him, and then pulled back, cutting himself further as the feathers scraped over his body. Several stuck in his bulk, stabbing into him like quills. I clawed into his face, my talons scraping against scales and gouging into the softer flesh of his cheek. Arioch pulled away, a blind swing with his reptile hand hitting me in the gut as he stumbled out of my melee range.

I pushed forward, bringing up both hands to cut into him. He flung up his arms to defend, my metal claws cleaving through his defense. He stumbled on one knee, and I lunged at him, fire building in both hands, ready to burn or cut him to pieces. Arioch’s ruined mouth turned up in a grin, and he summoned a wall of unholy flame. The hellfire closed around me as I approached, and I hurled up my purifying fire like a shield to try to counter it. As the waves of heat closed against me, hot enough to feel like physical force, Arioch began to run away. A fire alarm sounded, and sprinklers began to spray all around us.

“No!” I commanded him, and my own flames surged enough to cancel his fire in a burst. Sulfuric smoke scattered around me, and I dove out from the cloud to try to catch him. Arioch smashed through a window and jumped out of the building, dropping out of sight just as I dove after him. I stretched out my wings as he did the same, and tried to follow his flight path.

Arioch flew fast, but I was almost able to catch up to him. I had closed most of the distance in the original dive, but leveled out as he gained control and began flying away. He led me in a wide circle across streets and between buildings, and I ventured a guess downward to the surface below. Even in the middle of the night, there was foot traffic down there – none seemed to be looking up, but it was difficult to tell in the darkness. Arioch seemed to be baiting the humans, steadily dropping lower by inches. I found myself caring less whether or not a few pedestrians saw flying monsters in the air. It wasn’t my concern if they’d need a little bit of therapy. But what was he doing?

Arioch flew just over a low rooftop and slowed, and I swooped in, finally catching up to him. I barely noticed his arm reaching to something on the roof as we passed, and crashed into him, grabbing him with both claws. Arioch struggled as I wrenched at one of his leathery wings, finally hearing the bone snap. Arioch nearly twisted out of my grip but I held on to him, digging my claws deeply into his back as I strained to stay aloft, his weight now no longer supported by his own flight.

Arioch turned his head to grin at me, and the glint of gold made me realize what he had grabbed from the rooftop. He swung his angel sword around, and the blade pierced shallowly into my ribs. I twisted away from it, trying to keep the weapon from stabbing in too deeply, and released Arioch from my grip. Arioch wrapped his arm around my waist, and we tumbled out of control in the air as I desperately grappled him over the sword, feeling it bite deeper into my side. But my hands were slick with blood – his and mine – and I felt my grip loosen.

“Die,” he grinned, beginning to push the blade into me. We were interrupted when we crashed into the side of a building, smashing through a barred window, and everything exploded in pain and agony. My vision blurred as his sword ripped out of me, and I hit the ground in a jarring crash, blacking out for a moment.

I came to on the floor, a shard of glass stabbing me for the second time in the same night. My head swam, my lungs hurting with each breath. One of my metal wings was broken, bent out of shape. Arioch’s sword no longer stabbed into me, but the wound bled heavily, gushing from my side to the carpet below. And yet I still had the strength to stagger to my feet, running off adrenaline in case Arioch was still in a condition to come after me.

Arioch stirred against a far wall, using the sword as a cane to support himself. More scales had burst from his torso and neck, but he was still mostly using the corpse body. His pale flesh was now entirely crimson, covered in steaming, foul blood. One of his eyes was gouged out, a rivulet of gore covering where it used to be in his skull. A piece of metal from the window bars laid lodged in his gut, and he made no move to remove it

We were in some sort of religious sanctuary, standing on a red carpet. Rows of seats flanked one side, with a massive ornate cabinet against the far wall on our other side. I felt a wave of holiness, and realized what it was even before I saw the Hebrew carved into the wood – Aron Kodesh, the Ark of the Torah. We had fallen into a Jewish synagogue.

Arioch wiped his hand on the wall, smearing his foul blood over it. He stood up straight, lifting the sword at his side. More scales began to erupt over his torso, and the remaining portions of his face began to take on a serpentine appearance. I could not afford to let him finish transforming. “I’m going to kill you on holy ground,” he said. “It should be enough to renew me.”

“Don’t vandalize the walls,” I said back to him, gripping the shard of glass in my ribs and tensing, holding my breath as I pulled it out. I held the shard in my hands like a knife, for the second time in one night.

“I’ll paint your blood on their precious little altar if I want,” Arioch said.

“It’s not an altar, it’s an ark,” I retorted, feeling myself begin to stabilize, adjusting to the pain. I was hurting badly, but I still had some fight left in me. But from the looks of things, so did he.

“How would you know that?” Arioch approached slowly, with plodding steps. He held the sword out in front of him, celestial gold glimmering in the dim light.

I smirked, thinking of Lucy. “Old girlfriend. Insisted that I know these things.”

“You? Friends?” Arioch said, and chuckled. “Don’t lie to yourself. The Furies are alone.”

“If you don’t stop pretending that you know me,” I said. “I’ll rip your head off.”

“You can try,” Arioch said, and then sprang for me with surprising speed, striking at me like a serpent despite his injuries. The sword cut at me in an arc.

I brought up the glass, letting him strike it instead of me. It shattered against the blade, and a few shards hit him near his eye. When he blinked, I lunged for him, planting a closed fist into his solar plexus, driving the breath from his lungs. Before he could recover, I brought my other fist up into his chin in an uppercut. When Arioch reeled, I grabbed his arm and hurled him over my shoulder, twisting his wrist so he dropped the sword as he fell.

A jolt of pain shot from my ribs up my side as my wounds reopened, but I strained to remain steady. With Arioch down at my feet, I clawed at his throat again. Just as my claws met flesh, his armored hand struck my chin, knocking my head back. I lost my grip on his other arm, and Arioch tripped me with his elbow, sending me falling to the ground. I landed on the dropped sword, feeling the flat of the blade against my back. Arioch stood over me, grinning, his one remaining eye glinting with gleeful malice.

“I win,” he said. “You are mine.”

I pushed myself to my feet, my good wing brushing the floor and pushing the sword away. I felt a moment of vertigo just as Arioch lunged for me again. I met him feebly, barely able to stumble back enough to avoid being pinned to the ground. He took another swing, punching me in the face, and I almost fell as I backed out of his reach.

Arioch closed the distance in a single step, and backhanded me. The scales on the back of his hand cut my cheek open, blood splattering on the floor as I staggered back again, only weakly catching myself with a hand.

“You can’t fight,” Arioch said as he stood over me. “You can’t even run. You belong to me now, Fury.”

He reached, his hands closing around my neck. Arioch pushed me down, straddling me as he pinned me to the ground.

“Look at me,” Arioch leaned in, his one eye meeting mine, the other a gouged, dripping socket. His putrid breath was now tinged with blood. “Let me see the fear in your bloody eyes.”

My hand closed around the handle of his discarded sword, lying under my wing on the floor. I brought the angel blade up, stabbing him under the rib cage. Arioch’s grin faded, his mouth opening in surprise as the blade parted flesh and fat. I grabbed the handle with both hands as Arioch’s foul blood spilled over me in a torrent, and pushed it further upward into his ribs.

“Look at me,” I gasped, straining to saw the blade into his chest. “Let me see the fear in your eye.”

The corners of Arioch’s mouth turned up in another grin. “Do you really think you’ve won?” he choked. “I will be back.”

“No, I’ve definitely won,” I said, turning the sword like a can opener and carving up from his chest, splitting his throat. Arioch’s mouth and eye flashed, his scales beginning to melt away as the demon’s spirit escaped his body, resembling a glowing mist. The sword in my hands began to waver and melt as it evaporated, vanishing just like his scales and wings. All that was left was the bloated, mangled corpse he had been inhabiting.

I grabbed the head of Arioch’s abandoned body, and tore it free from the tissue still connecting it to his neck. I shoved the dead, fat body off me, and it collapsed at my feet. Rotting meat, no more. Arioch was gone, banished back to wherever he waited between hunts, and he had taken his fallen Angel blade with him.

I looked around the sanctuary, seeing the Hebrew writing, the sacred cabinet, the mosaic in the domed ceiling, the remaining unbroken windows. And the blood he had smeared on the walls in a petty little act of defilement.

I pointed at the stains, and holy flame burned them away, leaving the wall untouched. The blood and gore on the floor lit as well, cleaning his leftover mess. I waved my hand over the corpse, and more purifying fire encircled it, covering it with heat. The ground opened underneath, the stench of sulfur growing strong in the air as Hell swallowed the dead body. And then it sealed itself up, leaving no sign of the fight aside from a single broken window.

I was alone now, surrounded by Jewish holiness. It reminded me again of Lucy. She had been on my mind a lot lately, hadn’t she? Maybe Zeus was right. Maybe I had been a little grouchier than usual – even a Fury needed a sense of humor. Lucy had been good at bringing it out, too, even when we started fighting. Perhaps it was time to see her again. Maybe make up a little. Resume. Rekindle.

And there was something else. That ritual I had sensed and Arioch had talked about, the demonic energy surging through the ley lines. She investigated this kind of thing for a living. Maybe she knew about it, but if she didn’t, then somebody had to tell her, didn’t they?

I needed Lucy December in my life. It just took blood and horror to remind me.

I left the synagogue and went home to heal. As a Fury, I could bounce back from those injuries relatively quickly, and it gave me time to plan. After, I went to visit a nightclub. The Front Line was owned by vampires, staffed by vampires, with a customer base of vampires. I had never really paid vampires much heed until one of them entered my life, but thanks to her I knew all their patterns and hideouts. Including this one. I approached in my usual, favorite Glamour, the one with the red hair.

The doorman looked at me. “You’re not–” he began.

“I’m not fangy enough?” I asked, grinning. I dropped the Glamour, shifting into my true self. “How about now?”

“I can’t let you in,” he said, moving in front of the door. “No matter what you are.”

“I, Megaera the Erinyes, am here on a mission of Peace,” I said, presenting my empty hands – claws and all. “I come openly and without malice, to speak to Cole Spade, your employer. Tell him that it’s about Lucy December.”

“What did she do?” the doorman asked. I grinned, because his assumption meant that he knew her fairly well.

“It’s for your boss’s ears,” I said. “Let me talk to Cole.”

The doorman begrudgingly let me in. I strutted into the Front Line, enjoying both the blues music and the stares I was getting. It had been a rough week, but I enjoyed the moment. Everyone needed some attention some of the time, even if they had to turn into a seven-foot-tall gargoyle to do it.

“You just keep playing,” I said as I passed by the musicians. “Pretend I’m not even here.”

I went on.

Cole Spade came out to greet me. At a glance, nobody would guess that he was one of the most powerful vampires in the nation. But then, how many people could see through one of my Glamours and understand what I was? He looked like a middle-aged half-cowboy blues singer. But then, the leader of the North American Vampire Council looked like a little girl. Appearances were worthless in the supernatural world.

“Just what do you think you’re doin’ in my bar?” Cole drawled, looking me in the eyes.

“I want a job,” I said.

“This is a safe place,” he said. “Nobody in this building is your prey.”

“No one has to be,” I shrugged. “As I said, I want a job.”

He folded his arms. “You’d better explain yourself real fast. And do it as a human, you’re scaring my customers.”

I shrank down into my redhead form, and winked. “I miss Lucy December and want to see her again,” I said.

“So?” he asked. “Then call her. I bet she has the same damn number, same damn apartment, same damn job, same damn everything.”

“The last time we talked, it ended pretty badly,” I said. “And I I just show up, it might turn bad again. So my idea is, I can playfully surprise her with a joke, catch her off-guard, and then smother her with nostalgia. Just put me behind the bar, and see what happens.”

He narrowed his eyes at me.

“Come on, Cole, I know she comes here all the time,” I said. “It’ll just be what, a week, tops?”

“Everyone knows what you look like, Megaera,” he said.

“No, I don’t think they do,” I said, and shifted into my newer Glamour, the one I had used to trap Blake Lasson. “See?”

“Nice work, but I’m still suspicious,” Cole said. “I look out for all my people, and I don’t like lettin’ a snake into my henhouse, even if I’m watchin’ her.”

“That was a terrible and clumsy metaphor,” I said. “Look, I almost died a few days ago. I don’t plan on hunting or chasing anybody in your bar – safe is safe, and I respect that. But I miss my old friend, and I think something really bad is about to go down in this city. She needs a guiding hand, and this is the best opportunity to provide one. Let me in, and I’ll serve a few drinks, fly under the radar, and then sneak my way back into Lucy’s life. That’s all I’m asking.”

“And what’ll I get in return, if I let you do this?” Cole asked.

“Well,” I said. “I used to tend bar back when Dionysus was the boss, and I won’t put up with any of that hard root beer shit. How’s that?”

He chuckled.

“Seriously, I’ll mock them until I order a real drink. An expensive one,” I said. “I’m a divine judge. I can get pretty opinionated sometimes.”

Cole shook his head, and began walking away. “Turn up tomorrow evening,” he said. “And don’t make me regret this. Keep a low profile, no funny business, and I’m your boss.”

“So, that’s a yes?” I asked.

He looked back at me, and winked. “Just let me see her face when she finds out,” he said.

I laughed, and left the Front Line. I still felt pressure from the ley lines, but it seemed easier to ignore.

A light breeze blew, bringing the scent of the sea to my nostrils. I breathed it in, and felt well.  A new beginning. A new beginning, then.  And maybe a rebirth, in its own way – not through death, but through the sight of an old friend.

About a week and a half later, she entered the Front Line, looking the same as ever – a tiny woman in a trench coat, trying to look cool.  I had learned more about what was going on with the city’s ley lines, and telling from her expression, so had she.  She was probably investigating it.  But we could talk about that later.  For now, there was a reunion to manage.  I smiled at Lucy, and it was immediately obvious that she didn’t recognize me through the Glamour.  To be fair, I gave her a chance.  I waited.  I even let her squirm a little.

“Lucy, you really don’t recognize me, do you?”

“‘Course I do,” she obviously lied, trying to cover it with a big, friendly smile.

I laughed.  “Lucy, Lucy, Lucy, babe,” I said.  “You’ve always sucked at lying.”

And as she pondered, I dropped the newer Glamour, turning back into my familiar, redheaded self.  You could have picked her jaw up off the floor.  It was adorable.

“Megaera?” she asked.

“Oh, Lucy,” I said.  “How I’ve missed you.”

She smiled, and I knew that everything was going to be all right.  Just like I had hoped, it was a kind of rebirth, indeed.