The Catalyst (Chapter Six)
"Daria, have you seen Leo and Duke? I put them in charge of guarding the new succubus."
Cain tilted his head to the side, admiring the position the other demon had managed to get herself into with Sam, one of her regulars. It was moments like this Cain was sad they couldn't sleep with their own kind. Daria had her charms. Though she had several men, he suspected Sam was her favorite. If she were going to take a soul, it would be Sam's.
The demon's eyes snapped open, annoyed. "As much as I like to be watched, these interruptions are getting old."
Cain growled and she let out a sigh.
"They went to Golatha Falls. There's a big Halloween frat party. They went in demon form."
"They WHAT?" Cain felt his own form changing, the anger simmering and boiling beneath the surface. Those two were already in trouble for not following his orders, now they were partying in demon form at a frat house? Not on his watch, they weren't.
"Hey, I told them you'd be mad, but I'm not their mommy. Now could you please go? You're distracting my human. I need him to relax so I can feed."
Cain cursed under his breath and left the tent. It took all his self control to maintain his human form when he reached the university. The Halloween party was bigger than Daria had hinted, taking up a whole city block and being crashed by several of the locals. GFU wasn't that big.
He brushed past a witch – a costumed one, not a real one… he hoped – three fairy-tale princesses, a genie, four pirates, and a nondescript monster before he bumped into someone he knew. The woman had a hold on the man's arm and shrank back when she saw him.
"Lucien? Anna?" When Anna had given her soul to his brother, Cain had assumed they were busy globe-trotting. They'd barely been in the demon dimension for months, no doubt avoiding him. "What are you doing here?"
"Anna wanted to come to the party. They do this every year. You should know, after bringing me my meals."
"It wasn't this big last year," Cain said, feeling embarrassed that all these human customs and rituals just bled together for him anymore. He felt more alienated from his own kind every year. He envied what his brother had found, but he'd never say so out loud. Jealousy was what had caused their initial separation to begin with, back when they'd both been human and Luc's name had been Abel.
Anna hid behind Luc.
"Oh for God's sake," Cain said, "I'm not going to hurt you."
"You did try to kill her," Luc said. "It's not as if her fears are irrational."
"Tried and succeeded, in a roundabout way, but that's neither here nor there. She's one of us now. Have you seen Leo and Duke?"
Luc's face turned serious. "Go easy on them, they're young."
"Young, my ass. They're plenty old enough to know better. I'm not grading on a curve. If they can't follow the very few rules I have, they'll learn the hard way. Where?"
Luc pointed to the front lawn of the Phi Beta Sigma house. Leo and Duke were in full demon form, claws and glowing eyes and fangs on full display for drunk co-eds who were too stupid to know what they were seeing. Duke chugged beer out of a funnel, while Leo helped him as the crowd chanted "Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink."
"Excuse me," Cain said, squeezing past the couple. "I hope to see you back home again. It's your home even if you're avoiding it." His gaze shifted to the brunette on his brother's arm. "It's your home too, Anna. I have no interest in harming you now."
The olive branch he extended didn't cause Anna to move from behind her protector. Cain growled in frustration and strode to the demons that needed discipline.
"Leo! Duke!" he shouted. He was sure his face held a paternal look of displeasure.
The two looked up, fear in their glowing eyes. "We can explain," the beer chugger said.
"I'm sure I'll be quite fascinated by your half truths when we get home. Let's go."
The two looked at each other and bolted, running through the crowd, counting on him not making a scene in front of the humans. Good instincts.
"Ow!" "Watch it!" "Asshole!" people shouted as the demons shoved through the costumed throng, Cain hot on their trail.
He bumped into one rather attractive woman and stopped, his gaze scanning over her form before giving her an appreciative wink. "You and I will be meeting again later." He slipped a suggestion in her mind and caught her when she nearly fainted. His mouth pressed against her ear, and he whispered, "You're going to be delicious." He left her disoriented and darted through the crowd after his wayward demons.
Whether it was because they were young or just lumbering idiots, the demons had moved away from the humans and into the forest. Perfect. Cain used his full speed and cornered one of them.
"Where's Leo?" They'd split up. "No matter. I'll deal with you now and find him later. He's got to come home sometime. The longer he's out, the worse it will be for him."
Cain grabbed Duke by the scruff of the neck and dragged his struggling form to the portal point before tossing him through and following him to the other side. The demon broke into a run again, but it was a pointless attempt. He was too young.
"Stop. Running is only pissing me off and lengthening your sentence."
Duke stopped running. Cain wouldn't call him a smart demon, but he wasn't utterly retarded at least.
"Now shift. If you aren't in your human form, by the time your punishment is over you won't be able to shift back to feed. Then I'll have to waste a day hypnotizing a woman into finding you appealing. And believe me, in your demon form it's a near impossibility, even with my power."
The demon's eyes widened. He knew what this meant. "Please, sir, I'm sorry. I was just… I was just having a little fun. I thought demons were supposed to have fun."
"Demons aren't supposed to disregard my direct orders. Jane almost damaged her relationship with her mate because of your stupidity. Then, showing your true form in the human dimension…"
"It's Halloween, they don't know! Do you know how convincing some costumes are now? They almost fool me! A bunch of drunk college kids aren't going to know anything!"
"It doesn't matter. It's not worth the risk. Every faction has agreed to keep the humans in the dark. Humans may not be as strong as us or as old as us, but they are fearful. And they can get the magic users on their side. I'm afraid your foolishness has cost you twenty years. Go." Cain pointed in the direction of the caves where he kept the prison for his kind.
He didn't have to use it often, but he did have a few demons imprisoned at any given time. The original vampire was the one being who would never be freed. He'd challenge Cain for control of the demon dimension, and there was a small chance he could win that fight. He was a wild card the demon didn't want to deal with.
He followed Duke out to the caves. Out here the sand swirled in an angry sandstorm, the only thing close to weather that they had in the dimension. It was darker than normal, not the benign peaceful darkness with brilliant stars overhead, but the darkness of a hopeless abyss.
The young demon made one final attempt. "Please, I'll do anything. I'll never go against your rules again."
"Anything?" Cain asked.
"Anything. I swear."
"Serve your time. That's the anything you need to do. And I'm sure you speak the truth. After twenty years being trapped, bored, and starved, you won't cross me ever again."
The caves didn't require guards. There was no escape from this place until Cain determined it. It was fortified with powerful magic from the man upstairs, the kind of magic that created universes. Cain had been given the caves, and only he could control them. It was yet another boon the man upstairs had granted him when creating this world.
There were times when Cain wondered if he were the devil the humans so feared. How wrong they'd gotten their mythology. Fallen angels were the original demon breed, known as guardians. They were mainly mercenaries and bodyguards for the other preternaturals, since they had no dimension of their own. They weren't usually a direct threat to humans – unless one got in their way. Lucifer was a guardian, and a piss poor one at that, last Cain had heard. There were many other demon breeds with their own dimensions, but they weren't associated with the Hebrew god or earth, and they rarely had cause to cross over.
The only thing any human had to fear from Cain was the least painful death they could imagine – the most merciful exit ramp they had out of here. And yet, they wasted so much energy fearing this nebulous evil being who they thought wanted their soul. They flattered themselves.
Cain would never take a soul. At eight thousand years old, he'd never find a woman who could understand him, so why bother? He'd waited too long. There wasn't a woman alive who would give herself to him forever, knowing everything.
He shook himself out of the brief self-pity and led Duke to his individual pod. He waved a hand and it opened. "In," he commanded.
The demon started to cry. It was unsightly. "Please. It was just a stupid mistake. Twenty years is unjust."
"You're immortal. I have to spend eternity with you in my dimension. And it was direct defiance that could have harmed another of our kind and could have harmed us all if the humans had figured you out. I can't have anarchy in my realm. Don't make me ask you again, or we'll make it thirty years."
The demon went into the pod.
"It'll open automatically when your sentence is up. Use this time to think about what you've done. And pray I catch Leo quickly. The longer it takes me, the worse his punishment will be."
"You bastard. I'll end you. We will rise up and revolt!"
"Sure you will. Twenty-five years. Keep talking."
The demon fell silent and Cain waved a hand to seal him in. He needed to go help Jane. The other fugitive would have to wait until he had time to bother with him.
Jane sighed, feeling strong and content, cuddled in Cole's arms. They were dressed now and snuggled together on top of the collapsed tent. She had no idea how to fix it. Cole nuzzled his mark, squeezing her hard enough he would have broken something if she were human. Good thing she wasn't.
"We'll never have a pup," Cole said, his voice threaded with emotion. "I'm sure Cain won't allow us to reproduce, not after the results the last time a demon and therian reproduced. But either way, it wouldn't be a pup. I wish it didn't bother me so much, but…"
Stupid, Jane. In all the missing him and fighting and feeding, she'd forgotten a very important piece of the puzzle her mate didn't know yet. She took a deep breath and plunged in.
"Our pup is alive."
"What?" The hope in his voice almost unmade her.
"I should have told you. I was going to, and then… you know, all this happened." She gestured at the debris surrounding them.
"How do you know he's alive?"
"When I was in heaven, I had screens that I could watch you and the pup on. I begged them to let me come back to you. I needed you to know our baby was okay and you were killing yourself inside that bottle. He's being cared for by a witch and a panther therian in the Golatha Falls forest. But he needs to be with the pack."
Jane toppled to the ground as Cole got to his feet. He held out a hand to help her up. "Let's go get him."
"Not yet you aren't."
Jane looked up to see Cain standing there, an eyebrow arched in interest at the mess they'd made.
"It must have been some sex to bring down a tent. Those support poles are pretty strong," he said.
Jane felt her face heat.
"My dear, demons do not blush."
"This demon does," she said. "We have to go get the pup now."
"I said, no. I have to teach you how to curb your appetite when you can't feed from mate. You'll wear the poor wolf out, otherwise."
"I'm not opposed to that option," Cole said with a leer, making her blush deeper.
She punched him in the arm and turned back to Cain. "But my pup… "
" … will be fine. I do wish everybody would recognize who I am and stop treating me like the wacky sidekick," Cain groused.
"Well, if you'd stop getting yourself trapped in – "
"Cole!" he roared.
The wolf chuckled. Jane had no idea what that was about, but she didn't care about their inside jokes. She had her mate, now she needed her child. Mama bear was all demoned up now. If Cain thought he was keeping her from her kid, he was insane.
"I can't read your mind, Jane, but if your thoughts are reflective of your facial expressions, we've got a problem. I'm trying to help you. The sooner I teach you how to feed, the sooner you can go to your pup. Cole, go deal with your pack. Reassure them that you're in charge of things again. I'll bring Jane to you when we've got things sorted."
The werewolf and demon growled at each other, neither of them used to deferring to anybody for any reason. After a bit of a standoff, Cole took a portal charm and headed back to the pack. Then it was just Cain and Jane standing on top of the rubble.
"Shall we?" He held his arm out like he was her escort at a debutante ball.
She glared at him.
"I'm sorry, is my teaching you how to not starve without cheating on your mate messing up your day planner?"
"Fine. Let's just get this over with."
Cain gave her a brilliant smile, and they headed for one of the portal points.
An hour later they were standing in an empty alleyway outside a brothel. "I don't like this place," she said. She could sense too many emotions now. The lives of the women inside felt too much like the life she'd had to endure with the vampires before Cole had rescued her.
"I don't care if you like it. I'm going to teach you a practical way to snack in between full meals that won't require you to be unfaithful to your mate. Feeding off Cole is much stronger than feeding from a human. So you'll only need these stopgap methods for a couple of centuries at most."
Jane recoiled at that. "A couple of centuries? No. Oh, no. I can't do this for a couple of centuries. I can't be around this. It's too… ugh. It's…"
Cain placed a steady hand on her shoulder, his expression strangely sincere. "Listen Jane, I get it. I know you've been through a lot, but you aren't the victim here. The world is full of evil, and whatever you think of me, humans are far worse. You can't let everybody else's pain become your own. You can do this. I've always been impressed by your strength."
Her eyes narrowed, not sure she could believe a word out of the demon's mouth. Thinking of Cain as any kind of ally, despite what he'd already done for her, still felt too foreign. "Really?"
"Really. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself wrapped in a clear blanket."
"What?" Airbrushing her form had been one thing, but this was way too esoteric, especially given that she didn't understand what the goal was.
"Watch me." Cain closed his eyes, a serenity coming over his features, then he was gone.
Jane looked behind her. "Cain?"
"I'm still standing where I was. You'll need to be invisible so no one knows you're there. Try it."
It took her several tries before she was able to look down at her hands and not see them anymore. It freaked her out. A hand grasped hers.
"Come with me. We have to be quiet."
Jane felt like a ghost as they moved through the brothel. It wasn't as bad an establishment as she'd thought it would be. It wasn't wonderful, but it was a nicer place than she'd expected. He took her all the way to the back room and they slipped inside the open door, waiting for the next couple to come in.
When they did, Cain shed his invisibility. The woman appeared mesmerized right away, but the man was upset. "This is my time. I paid for it. Get out."
Cain held the man's gaze. "I'm not here. No one is here but you and the whore. You can't hear anybody else or see anybody else."
Cain did the same number on the woman, then both of them were oblivious of his presence. "You can drop the invisibility now, Jane. Normally, I want you to use it. It's easier. But I can't teach you if you can't see me."
He crossed to the door and locked it to make sure they wouldn't be disturbed. By this point the man and woman had stripped out of their clothes and were on the bed. The man was overweight, with squinty eyes and a bald patch. Jane made a blech face.
"Food doesn't have to be pretty to give you what you need. Think of how many ugly chickens you ate when you were human. You won't have to touch him or do anything you'd find gross. Well, aside from having to watch this."
Cain moved closer to the two people fornicating on the bed. "You can use this method anywhere where a man is getting off or is very aroused. X-rated movie houses, strip clubs, brothels, peep shows, kink clubs. Your options are pretty wide." He motioned for Jane to come closer. "Can you feel his sexual energy?"
Her face held disgust, but she nodded.
Cain kept his hand a few inches away from the man. "I can't feed from a man, but this is what you'll do. Try it. You focus just the same way you do when feeding regularly. You're just going to pull the energy up through your hands. You'll need to visualize it to activate the skill."
The demon stepped out of her way and she held her hands out, a few inches from the man's face.
"You find him repulsive, don't you?" Cain said.
"You know I do."
"And not just his looks. You find it grotesque that he's using her like this, paying her to give him pleasure with no regard for her as a human being."
"Yes. I fucking hate this. Okay?"
"So use it. Suck the energy right out of him. Make it vengeance. See it however you need to see it, just get it done. I'm sorry this happened to you, but you have powers now that you can find creative ways to use for your benefit, if you're willing to see it that way. Are you willing to stop being a victim, Jane?"
That was all she needed to hear to motivate her. Jane's eyes glowed red and she focused, feeding off the man and her own rage. The man passed out a few moments later.
"You might have overdone it," Cain said.
"Oh no I didn't," she replied. "I did exactly what I wanted to do."
He smirked in response. "It'll tide you over longer, at least."
"Thank God," the prostitute said, getting off him. She felt for a pulse and seemed satisfied that he had one, then she dressed and left the room.
Jane laughed and looked at Cain. "I'm kind of mad with power right now."
He chuckled. "I knew you would be. Come along. I have a few shape-shifting tricks to show you that you haven't seen yet."