(Continuing where my Darkness ‘verse left off, after a fun brainstorming session with @weepingredwillow.
Includes trigger warnings for some blood and a little bit of general grossness… which isn’t all that surprising, considering one of the cast members in this fic.
At a truckstop on an empty road near a quiet town, a beaten and ragged 70′s era Chevy waited. The Chevy’s paint was peeling, the body rusting, and its appearance in general suggested that any mechanic worth his paycheck would sooner take it out back and shoot it, rather than fixing any issues it might have. But it fit right into the overall abandoned, forgotten and most likely condemned appearance of the truckstop itself.
The new-model shiny black Lincoln Nautilus that pulled into the forsaken stop a moment later could not have looked more out of place if it had tried. The luxury SUV smoothly parked just a few spots away from the broken-down old Chevy.
Meg stepped out of the driver’s side of the Lincoln, and Dark followed a moment later from the front passenger seat.
As they got out, a tall rail-thin fellow who had been sitting in the Chevy got out in lieu of actually greeting them. The man looked rather pallid and gaunt; like he were still under the weather, after recovering from three weeks of nursing a flu. He sniffled a bit as if he were about to sneeze, but that little explosion fortunately didn’t happen.
The occupants of both vehicles closed the distance between one another, meeting in the dusty middle near an ancient and out of service gas pump.
“You like my new place?” the stranger said. “It’s only temporary, until I move into the city. But I don’t require much space, or need much of anything.”
Dark raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“Ah, that’s right,” the stranger added. “I almost forgot how you like to surround yourself with more impressive structures, art and chairs fit for a king.” He laughed, which was stymied by the beginnings of a cough.
Meg looked to Dark, then leaned over to whisper in His ear, low enough for their third wheel not to hear. “He doesn’t look dangerous. I thought you said…”
“I said to be careful,” Dark replied, His voice lacking the rumble of His concealed aura, and His volume just as low as hers. “Your eyes will deceive you. Don’t underestimate him.”
“We haven’t met before, have we?” the stranger said to Meg, as he wiped away some yellow phlegm he had coughed up with a handkerchief. He was eyeing her with some curiosity now.
The stranger gave a necrotic, skeletal grin. “Nice to meet you, Meg. I’m Pestilence.” When she didn’t react, he looked mildly annoyed. “Don’t tell me your Dad never spoke about me. Or, well, any of your human friends. Not to brag, but the Horsemen are a pretty big deal ‘round these parts.”
“I know. I grew up here,” she replied. “Well, not here, exactly. Not in this town, but…” and she absently made an exaggerated wave, as if encompassing the country (or even the whole of the Earth itself) in her gesture.
“Then you do know. That’ll make this so much easier.” And with that, the stranger seemed to gather himself, his infirmities quietly vanishing.
Meg doubled over in pain, brought down to her knees by the havoc being wreaked within her body. Dark knelt beside her, His expression one of worry. But she didn’t notice His concern when she began to cough up bright red blood.
“Hmmm,” Pestilence mused. “I guess there are some diseases that can hurt demons, after all. Or maybe it’s a cumulative effect; a combination of the scarlet fever, the Stage 3 stomach cancer… and the tuberculosis.”
“Enough!” Dark roared at him. “You’re killing her!”
“Don’t be so dramatic. She’s made of far sterner stuff than most. You saw to that yourself.”
But Meg’s torment, as quick as its onset was, just as quickly vanished. She sat up in disbelief, wiping away the bit of blood that was still clinging to her chin with the back of her hand.
“Not to worry.” Pestilence’s voice was chipper. “I just had to be sure that, after inviting you here, I wasn’t setting myself up for being captured.” He smiled that uncomfortable rictus grin at Meg, as he spoke to Dark. “I don’t know why you’re so attached to them. They’re such flawed, messy creatures.”
Meg got to her feet and stepped forward, her expression full of rage, but Dark restrained her. “Wait in the car,” He told her. When she gave Him a disbelieving glare, He added calmly, “Go.”
She turned on her heel and stormed away, back to their SUV. Shakily sliding into the driver’s seat, she pointedly slammed the door shut to announce her displeasure at the whole damned thing.
“That was hardly necessary,” Dark said finally, His tone relatively calm but still peeved.
“Oh, come on, brother. They’re all going to die one day. That sweet little girl, your favourite boy… your new lover. They’re all slowly rotting away on the inside. It’s just a question of time.”
Dark lunged at Pestilence, grabbing him by the throat to choke him.
Pestilence merely grinned, unperturbed. “Temper, temper!” He then chuckled. “You should stick to your own kind. No matter what happens to our vessels, beings like you and me can never really die. Our wills are too enmeshed into the very fabric of this universe and others far beyond for our family to ever be truly destroyed.”
Dark released him and stepped back. “You’re wasting My time.”
“But you have so much of it, I thought you wouldn’t mind.”
Dark turned away and began to walk back to the SUV. “I have nothing to say to you. You’re nothing more than a glorified torturer.”
“And you’re a murderer. But who’s counting?”
Dark stopped cold in His tracks and turned back. “I take no pleasure in it, as you do.”
“Oh, and most of your little mortal friends don’t realize how many have died at your hands,” Pestilence continued. “Especially that one buddy of yours… Wallace? William? He thinks of you as a… what was it, a ‘sweetheart’?” Pestilence chuckled, his tone dripping with derision now. “Sadly, his brains are far too scrambled to realize otherwise.”
“That was an accident!”
“Awfully convenient one, wouldn’t you say?” Pestilence then shrugged. “In any case, let’s stop pointing fingers and let bygones be bygones.”
Dark glared at Pestilence now and began to crack His knuckles. Barely contained fury coursed through Him, and there was nothing He’d like to do more than wipe the smug grin off the Horseman’s face.
“So, I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’ve heard about how the whole Earth experiment is coming to an end.”
Dark nodded, waiting.
Pestilence’s expression became deadly serious. “I want to make a deal with you to stop the end from happening. To keep this weird, lovely little disease-ridden world spinning on its axis.”
Dark gave a slow exhale of breath. “Why would you care?” He asked tiredly. “They’re your brothers, closer to you than we will ever be. And you wish to betray them.”
“It’s not a betrayal,” Pestilence replied defensively. “We just don’t see eye-to-eye right now. They’ll change their minds eventually.” Pestilence then gave a huff. “The point is, I don’t want this world to end any more than you do. You like the humans, and I like my clever little bugs. They need living flesh to thrive, and many of them were designed only to thrive on this planet.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“A truce. Between you and me. Until I can convince the boys that Earth is still valuable.”
“How do I know you’re not lying to me? That you won’t betray Me?”
Pestilence shifted about on his feet impatiently. “Oh, very well. I’ll send you someone to help you out however you need it. She’s a human but she’s under my protection.” Off Dark’s skeptical expression, Pestilence added, “Some of them are useful for more than just incubators, and she’s pretty clever herself. Hell, she’s already been in your sanctum sanctorum, adopted into your inner circle.”
Dark was momentarily stunned by that. How could one of the Horsemen’s servants have slipped into His court so easily?!
Pestilence was smiling again. “Heterochromatic eyes, loves to write everything down in notebooks, tends to get sassy… Even you can’t miss her, oh great concealer of everyone’s sins.”
And with a quiet groan, Dark realized who Pestilence was talking about. “Amber.”
Pestilence clapped with glee. “That’s right! So, since you know her and get along with her already, it shouldn’t be too hard to work with her in my stead. Just be nice to her, that’s all I ask.”
“We shall see.”