Shroud, formally Zack Sullivan, teleported himself to an alley in Gotham City, the same alley he always teleported himself to when he went to go see his girlfriend and comrade of eight months, Rift. He pulled out his phone and checked the time. “A little early. She won't mind though...I hope...” he joked, as he knew the true extent of Loran's power. The two were getting ready for a date, there first one in about three weeks.
He walked up the stairs to her apartment complex and knocked on her door. “It's me, Loran, are you ready yet?” he asked as he leaned back on the balcony railing of the complex.
Rift was the super hero identity of Loran Constantine. She was stitting at her kitchen table drinking a glass of chocolate milk when she heard Livewire. Chugging the last of her milk, she ran out the door and straight into her boyfriend. "Does this tell you anything?" she asked playfully.
Zack laughed as he hugged Loran, bringing her close to him. "Good. I'm glad to see you're all set." he said as something caught his attention. "What's that on your lip? It's brown." he said as he leaned close and looked.
Loran rubbed her thumb across her lip. "Just some chocolate milk. So, where should we go today?" she asked, trying to think of a good place to go on a date.
Zack got off the railing and grabbed Loran by the hand. "I got the perfect spot. Come." he said as the two went into the alley by her apartment. In an instant, Zack teleported to England, right on the edge of the Cliffs of Dover. "Well? What do you think?" he asked as he let go of Loran's hand, letting her take in the view while also respecting her space.
Although not once had she stood upon the Cliffs before, at least not that she could remember, there was a familier feeling about just being there. The breeze coming from the water that stretched out for miles, the salty smell of the air, everything reminded her of a time long past, almost forgotten. "I couldn't ask for better, being here with you."
Zack smiled at her. "Good. I'm glad you like it. I remembered you saying that you grew up in a town near here and since we haven't gone out together in three weeks." he reached over and grabbed her by her hand, both as a spur of the moment action and as a protective action, as he was worried that she may fall. "I thought this would be the best spot."
Loran smiled as she felt Zack's hand close around her own. "You should know by now, just being with you makes it perfect. You didn't have to do anything this special, but I'm glad you did." she said, impressed that Zack remembered what she had said months before.
Zack smiled as he watched Loran on the edge of the cliffs. "You're too nice." he joked as he realized that he had forgotten something important. "I forgot something important. Hang on." he said as he teleported away from Loran. A few seconds later, he teleported back to the cliffs with a picket basket. "Surprise." he said simply as he held the basket out to her.
Loran set the basket on the ground and gave Zack a hug. "You're the nice one. You set up today in a way I can only describe as perfect. I'm thankful I have you, and I hope we stay this way forever."
Zack gripped Loran in his arms, returning her hug. "I hope so too." he said as he kissed her on top of her head. He bent down and laid down a blanket that he got from inside the basket. "Take a seat." he said as he kneeled on the blanket to keep it from blowing away. He reached into the basket and pulled out several different foods, all of which he knew where Loran's favorites. "what do you think?" he asked her as he finished setting up the spread.
Loran sat down across from Zack and smiled. "You made all sorts of food, took me halfway around the world and you help me with homework, and all I've done to say thank you is I got you a job. I thought relationships were supposed to be fair." she said. Truth be told, it was that one trait of his that annoyed her and made her happy at the same time, a paradox of sorts.
Zack smiled as he looked out at the looking cliffs and the ocean below. "Well I did promise you that I would take care of you, didn't I?" he said as he handed her a glass of dark colored liquid. "Grape juice. Want some?"
Loran smiled and accepted the glass and took a Deviled Egg from one of the containers. Although it was something she never would admit out loud, Zack's turned out better than her own. "All I want is for you to be there for me, either as a friend to laugh with, or a comfort to share the hard parts with."
Zack took a sip of his own grape juice as he smiled back at Loran. "Well that is an easy request." he said as he chuckled aloud at her comment. "I want to be there for you too. You're a good person Loran, no matter what people have said before." he said as he places his hand on her shoulder. His grip was strong and confident yet it eminated a kindness, a protective feeling that he hoped would lighten the mood. "After all, you did the impossible. You cheered me up." he said with a smile that seemed to stretch from ear to ear.
Loran laughed. "Cheering you up is impossible? Then I must be a miracle worker, cause I've yet to see you down while you're with me." Every moment she spent with Zack reminded her that he was there for her, that she'd never be alone again.
Zack's smile turned to a grin and then to a frown. "Well that's because you help me forget..." he paused, taking a deep breathe to calm himself. "...my mother." Zack smiled, trying to shake the sadness that had overcome him, but he was unsure if it could really work around Loran.
Loran looked at the ground. "Zack, you shouldn't forget her. All I want to do is make it easier for you to live without her. The past is the way we move to a future. As much as it hurts, we shouldn't forget the people we lost to time, but remember them."
Zack took a deep breathe before changing the subject. "Would you like something else to eat?" he asked with a smile on his face once more. "You look awfully hungry today." he chuckled as he poked her abdomen with his forefinger, this being one of her more ticklish areas.
Loran giggled at the contact. "You know me too well. Obviously, it's one of the millions of reasons I love you. I could fill book upon book of reasons if you asked. But, let's not get sappy right now. Time to eat." she said, happy to be with someone who cared like Zack did. A moment passed before she picked up a slice of pizza and began eating.
Zack chuckled at her response to his teasing and followed her in suit, picking up his own slice of pizza. He began to eat it as he starred at Loran, thinking of how lucky of a man he was to have such a beautiful girl who cared about him. To have someone that he could share his real life with and someone that he could trust completely.
Loran felt her face flush as Zack stared at her. "What? Do I have something on my face?" she asked. Although it was kind of strange, she didn't mind the attention either way. She wondered what was going on in his mind, why he was staring at her, but didn't want to ask.
Zack laughed as he moved closer to Loran; not right up on her, but close enough to touch. "No you don't." he said with a smile as he looked out over the cliffs at the setting sun. "Not at all."
When the two where finished, they packed up their stuff and headed back to Loran's apartment, teleporting to the location via Zack. "I don't really have anything else planned, Loran. Do you want to do something else?" he asked as he looked down at Loran.
"I want to spend time with you. Today is our day, nobody else has to be involved. Even if we just walk around aimlessly, I don't care. I waited for today to come, because I knew I'd be with the only guy I love with my whole heart. Now that it's here, I don't want to let it end." Loran said. "Today's already perfect though. It was the moment I ran into you."
Zack grabbed Loran's hands as he pulled her close to him. "This is the first time that I have heard you say that you love me." he smiled as he looked down at Loran. "And I love you too." he said as he kissed her gently on the forehead.
"There's a first time for everything, right? Although, to be fair, it is only the first time I ever said it out loud." Loran said. "I just wanted to wait until the time was right."
"Well still, that is pretty major. Are you sure?" Zack asked, the air around him serious even though the answer itself was somewhat trivial and the answer was well known to him.
"I thought about it a lot over the past few weeks, and I realized I do love you. I would do anything for you, all you ever need to do is say so." Loran said, deadly serious. "I'm very sure that you're the perfect guy for me."
Zack froze, stunned by what she had said to and about him. "That's great!" he said in an excited tone. "You already know that I have loved you for some time, though." he said as he scratched the back of his head, letting of a slight chuckle. "Kind of takes away from 'the moment'."
"You're wrong. I always knew you loved me, but it still doesn't take away from this moment." Loran said, blushing. She finally worked up the confidence to admit it, but it didn't stop the proverbial butterflies from flittering in her stomach anyway, On the contrary, the feeling became worse.
Zack smiled as he pulled Loran close to him. "You are certainly something special." he said as he cupped Loran's hands in his. "I don't know what I would have done without you in my life." he said as he leaned in to kiss her on the lips, something he had not done in about eight months. He wanted to respect her space and give her time to adjust, but he wanted to show her how much he loved her. He was so nervous that he felt as though he would shake out of his shoes. "Don't mess up!" he thought to himself as he leaned in centimeters from Loran's face.
Loran leaned in close. Her nerves were close to the breaking point. She felt like she was burning up. As soon as she felt their lips touch, she recoiled instinctively, but eased after a moment. It was different from the previous time months before, this time she meant it. After a few seconds, she pulled back and smiled. Behind that innocent smile, her mind was in a uproar. I didn't do something wrong...did I?
Zack smiled also as he pulled back. Zack laughed as hugged her, lifting her a few inches off the ground. "You make me so happy!" he declared, his voice and actions full of glee; he could not shake the "on top of the world" feeling that he had just received.
"I have an idea." he said as he set her down once more. "Let's watch a movie at your house; any movie will do." he said as he grabbed her hand and teleported her inside her own apartment.
"Alright." She said, running to her room. A few minutes later, she was back. "Go sit over on the couch while I get this set up." she walked over to the DVD player and put in the disk for 300. She lost the remote a while back, so she had to power through the previews the hard way.
Zack walked over and grabbed Loran by the waist, hoisting her in the air and placing her down on the couch. "I get this. You sit and relax." he said as he finished powering through the annoying previews. He reached the main menu and started playing the movie.
He walked out to the kitchen and made the two popcorn while the movie was still in the opening credits. He grabbed her and himself a soda and joined her on the couch, handing her her soda as he sat down. "For you." He said as he pulled her close to him, pulling her into an almost cuddle-like position.
"Thanks. I could get used to moments like these. Just us, no one and nothing else." Loran said, cuddling up against Zack. Only him...He's the only one who cares enough not to run, even after knowing what I am supposed to become. God, if You are there, please don't take him from me.
Zack looked down at Loran as she snuggled closer for a second before looking back up at the TV. "Good. I'm glad you are happy." he said as he kissed the top of her head gently. "I hope that this never ends." he thought to himself, the severity of their lives really hitting home to him.
Loran smiled. "I'm only happy because I have someone who makes me that way." she said before taking a handful of popcorn.
Zack laughed at Loran as he rested his hand on her head. "Well I suppose that that is true." he said as he took a sip of the soda and ate some popcorn.
Loran ate a few pieces of her handful of popcorn and laughed. "It is true. If it weren't for you, I'd be insane by now. My life would be stuck in an endless loop from one day to the next. But now, it doesn't feel like a loop. It feels like...I dunno, what life is supposed to feel like I guess."
Zack smiled as he gently set his arm on top of her head. "I think you are right. Without each other, we would be nuts." he said as he began to pat her head and play with her hair, one of his favorite pastimes.
"I love you Zack. I can't imagine my life any other way." Loran said, not caring that Zack was messing up her hair. After all, moments like this, where she could be this close to the guy she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, were the most important she had.
Zack smiled and nodded at Loran as he played with something in his pocket, moving it around in his hand. He took a deep breathe as he began to speak. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you Loran, so I decided to get you something." he pulled a small, velvet box from his pocket and hid it at his side.
"Now I already talked to your father about this and he likes the idea, but he still thought it was still to soon. I did tell him, though, that I wanted to give you it, just so you know how much I actually love you." he said as he got of the couch and sat on his knees in front of Loran. He opened the box, revealing a diamond ring, and set it on Loran's lap. "I love you Loran, now and forever."
Loran was speechless. Just the fact Zack bought the ring for her was a massive shock. After a moment, she placed the box beside her. "I...I love you too, and I will until the end of time. But before you ask the question, we're too young for that. In time, we can take that plunge, but for now, just say that you'll be there for me no matter what. When we're truly ready, we'll know. But, you probably can guess what I'd say. You're the most wonderful guy I know and I want to be with you forever. That's the only upshot to being part Demon, that we honestly have forever and nothing will be able to separate us."
Zack smiled as he took Loran's hand in his own. "I know. That is what I told your father and even he agreed that you would respond this way." Zack chuckled as he looked at the box next to her leg. "But I still wanted to give you that ring there so that you can wear it and that you can know that I am ready whenever you are ready. I just want you to know that I will always be there for you." he said as he took the ring out of the box and handed it to her. "Would you do me the honor of wearing please." he said as he looked her in the eye, his voice resonating with seriousness and kindness, an odd blend indeed.
Loran slid the ring on her left ring finger. "Thank you Zack. Thank you so much. For everything you've done." she said, moving the box so Zack could sit next to her again.
Zack jumped up on the couch, excited as ever. "Thank you Loran. I honestly had a bet going with your father; I thought that you wouldn't wear it." he said as he began to play with her hair again. "I'm just glad that I got the right one. The sales clerks were so pushy." he exclaimed distastefully as he formed a frown.
Loran relaxed and cuddled up against Zack. "I wouldn't have minded if it were a wire wrapped around a rock. All that matters is that you did it for me." she said, smiling. "By the way, you make a good pillow."
Zack laughed as he stopped playing with Loran's hair and rested his arm on her shoulder. "And you make a pretty good arm rest." he joked as the two finished watching their movie.
Once the movie ended, Loran begrudgingly got up and took the DVD out of the player and took the disk back to her room. A minute later, she came back out to the living room. "So, what can we do now?"
"Well I was thinking that we cou..." Zack was interrupted as both of their phones began to vibrate, signaling a text from one person, Papa Midnite. Zack looked at Loran and that at each of their phones. The message was both the same. "Come now. Mission."
Zack exhaled a deep breathe as he got up off the couch, grabbing Loran's hand and teleporting her to Midnite's club. "I thought I got today and tomorrow off for my birthday?" he said as he walked into the office.
Midnite chuckled, although there was no mirth in his eyes. "I know I promised you both time off to be together, but I think something is happening. John recently came across information that there is an object of great importance to our cause of staving off both sides, so at this time, I need to send you both to Hell, as dead souls. I have two reasons for doing such. First, it will force the two of you into your Demon states, allowing you to blend in. And second, the Prophecy has a loophole. Miss Constantine cannot become the mother of the greatest evil unless she is alive. In other words, she is saved by death. Do you both understand? I'm sure you do. Your mission is simple, bring me the actual Demon Bible, Ars Luce Obscura, the Key of Hidden Light. It's somewhere in the city of Dis."
Loran panicked. Not only would she be going to Hell with her boyfriend, but to the city? It was unthinkable, such a treck would take hours on end just to get there, and there was only one way out, going all the way through the remaining layers. It would take at least a day to make it through the whole thing. "You're trusting two kids with this? Are you crazy?"
"Yes. I am. But I can tell you, you won't need to go all the way. I can send you straight there and bring you back. So, all you have to do is avoid being caught and probably executed."
Zack smiled at the idea. "Hell. I have been there a few times, but nothing lower than the second ring." there was excitement in his voice, now of all time, although he did seem to show a level of care for Loran's sake. "Will she be okay?" Zack said as he wrapped his arm around Loran's waist. "She is not as durable as I am in regard to demon DNA."
"I wouldn't send her if I wasn't sure she'd be fine. This mission is the most dangerous one you've been on as a pair, so don't get seperated, and don't draw undue attention to yourselves. Especially within the city walls, although I trust you not to get in too much trouble. Now, anything you don't want to risk losing forever, I suggest you leave them on my desk." Midnite said. "As for the method of how you get there, I have two electric chairs set up, with a personal spell of my design. It will make sure you get to where you need to be." As he spoke, he suddenly stood up and pressed a button on the back wall, causing a section to simply disappear.
Beyond the missing section was a long hallway that seemingly went to nowhere, as if it stretched into a void, where nothing could exist. Midnite slowly walked down that immense hall, waiting for the two children to catch up
Loran slid her ring off and gently placed in on the desk, along with her guns. Human weaponry was next to useless in the darkest reaches of the underworld, so bringing them along would be pointless. "I'm scared. I've never gone to Hell before." her voice was shaking almost as much as her body.
Without saying a word, Zack reached and down and gently took Loran's hand within his own. He locked his fingers with hers and began to walk into the doorway, making sure that he did not let go of her hand.
It had been a long time since Loran had felt so afraid of anything, yet with Zack by her side, she felt at peace. She honestly couldn't tell if he was unafraid of what was coming, or if he was simply being strong for her sake. Either way, just having him there was enough.
Midnite opened another door and waited for the other two Inside the room were two electric chairs, both well used if one could judge by the appearance. Once Loran and Zack were inside the room, he closed the door and cleared his throat. "This is it you two. This is the room where you theoretically die. It won't be permanent death, but until your souls return to your bodies, you will be classified as dead." As he spoke, he walked back out into the hallway. "I'll give you two some privacy so you can talk for a moment. Just knock on the door when you're ready." The door made a heavy click when it closed.
Loran looked up at Zack as if she wanted to say something, but couldn't find the words to say it. After a moment, she just decided to give him a hug.
Zack was slightly surprised by Loran's actions but he hugged her back. "What's on your mind?" he asked calmly as he held his arms wrapped around her.
"For the first time, I fear that I'll lose you. When I go to Hell, you'll see me as a Demon, and to be honest, I hate that side of me. I look like a monster, and I subconsciously produce pheromones that will influence one's mind. I wanted to tell you that I never once used them on you. The way you feel about me, that's natural, not forced. If you don't believe me, that's understandable. I kept this from you for months, afraid you'd think I was just using you." Loran walked away from Zack as she spoke.
Zack quickly yet gently grabbed Loran's arm as she began to walk away. "You have nothing to worry about. I knew about your pheromones for some time now. My nose is very acute to the scent of demons, remember?" he said as he flicked his nose with his index finger. "Regardless, looks are not important to me. You have a sharp mind and a good head on your shoulders." he pulled Loran closer to himself, wrapping his arms around her. "To be honest, you haven't seen my full demon form either, so it will be a little climactic." Zack chuckled as he rested his head on top of hers.
Loran just remained where she was for a moment, enjoying the calm. "I'm sorry I got so worked up. I just was afraid once I told you, you'd leave me."
Zack took Lorn by her shoulders and nudged her back ever so slightly. He bent down and looked her straight in the eyes, making sure to convey all of his emotion. "Don't be crazy. I would never leave you, no matter how gross you think you look." Zack attempted to hold back his tears, which began trickling down the side of his face. "What matters to me the most is what is right here." he said as he set his hand on her heart. "And that's all I will ever need."
Loran smiled. "I think I'm done panicking now. Thanks. How about we get the mission over with?"
Zack smiled as he tapped on the door, signaling that the two were done conversing. "Good idea." he said as he began to walk down the hall, eager to see hell once again.
Midnite was waiting for the door to open. "And where do you think you're going boy? Get back in that room." His voice was calm, yet inductive that he wasn't in the mood for games.
Zack chuckled as he smiled at Midnite. "I don't need a changing room. I can move freely between the surface world and Hell. I will meet Loran down there when she is done." he attempted to sound the least condescending as possible, but it still came off as such as he spoke.
"Go straight to the City. I don't care how, just make sure you're there." Midnite responded. He walked into the room and sighed. "I wish you'd learn how to transform on your own, that way I didn't need to do this. Go sit in one of the chairs."
Loran did as she was told and started tightening the straps that went around her legs and right arm. "Uh...Boss, you need to tighten the other strap. I'm kinda stuck."
Midnite placed the electrode on her head and chuckled. "Well, I can see that." While he was trying down Loran's left arm, he realized which chair she picked, the same John prefered due to the number of successful executions that it caused. Once the strap was secure, he walked over to the switch. "Good luck, and if you can't get the book, at least come back alive." Not waiting for a reply, he pulled the switch, causing a fatal amount of electricity to course through the witch's body, stopping her heart dead.
Loran groaned. Something like that wasn't something she expected to survive. That's when the horror dawned on her. She could feel the muscles in the wings and her tail. Her hands and feet were like claws, a fact she realized when they made a horrid clacking sound on the tiled floor. Great. I didn't luck out and avoid death. After she pushed herself up off the ground, she wrapped her wings around her, forming a thin cloak of membrane and bone.
As if the body alterations weren't proof enough, the music, the walls, everything pointed to this being the infamous City of Dis. Although, calling it a city was a bit of a misnomer. It was a mausoleum, a tomb for the spiritually dead. Unwilling to remain in one place, she decided to walk around, hoping to find the entrance to the so-called city, and hopefully, find her boyfriend.
Zack was on a cliff over looking the city when he began to smell Loran's scent as she approached. "I thought you would never make it." His voice was much darker and more raspier than when he partially transformed on the surface world.
"It has been a long time since I came her last time." he said as he gust of wind blew up and over the cliff, blowing back a long white cloak and revealing a completely white outfit. His hair was also much longer than usual, extending down to below his earlobes and was snow white in appearance. On the right side of his head was a manifestation of bone that was pitch-black in color with a single horn protruding from it. He still refused to turn his face to her though, even in light of the ominous wind rolling over the hills.
Loran found Zack standing on a cliff just outside the city walls. His form may have been different, but she knew it was him, she could tell, even before he spoke, by utilizing her succubus-excusive sixth sense, emotion. "Why are you out here? Of all people, you should know it isn't safe." As she spoke, the wind kicked up again, drowning out whatever she was going to say next.
Zack turned to face Loran, showing her that his eyes have become completely black and that his irises were now red. "You should know of all people how well equipped I am to handle myself." he said as he flashed her a smile, looking at her new and current form. "You look cute. I like the 'wing cloak'." he said as he turned back around, eying the city carefully.
Loran smiled. She was thankful that Zack wasn't afraid of her. "You look cool. It's really interesting to see you like that. But anyway, are you ready to get that book? I'd rather not stay here any longer than we have to."
Zack nodded, the mood now becoming serious between the two. "This is true. I think that we should split up. It would cover more ground and allow us to search more effectively." he said as he pointed toward to the northern part of the city. "I will get that section and you can get the south. We can meet in the middle when we are done canvasing, okay?"
Loran nodded. "Promise me you'll be careful. Please." she unfurled her wings revealing scale-like armor covered her entire body. Not once did she break eye contact with Zack, waiting to hear him say it.
Zack smiled as he looked at her new form. "You look cute. I can't believe that you were nervous about me saying you like that." he said as he looked back at the city below them. "And yes, I promise." he said as he was gone in an instant.
Loran jumped from the cliff, flying into the city. Legends say that if one knocked on one of the many, nearly infinite tombs, you could ask the spirit within any question that he would be forced to answer. She flew into a long hall lined with easily a hundred of such tombs. She knocked on one of the plaques, summoning the spirit within. "I suppose you want to ask me something?" The spirit's voice echoed in the quiet hall.
"Do you know where the Demonic Bible is? I need it for something, something important." Loran scratched the back of her head. No use hiding what she was looking for.
The spirit looked grave. "Good luck finding it. It lies in the very center of this city, where no man or Demon has ever tred, except for the Dark Lord Lucifer. But you, I wish you could find it. Shove a proverbial boot up Satan's ass for all of us. I'll pray for your success."
Zack looked around the city that he designated for himself before feeling a little regretful. "What am I doing? I have no idea where to start looking." he thought as he facepalmed himself in frustration. "I need to stop trying to impress her." he said as he happened to notice a museum to his right. "I wonder if someone in here will know anything." he said as he walked through the doors.
Loran could have sworn she'd been down the same hallway already, each one the exact same white with brass plates marking the various tombs. I'm lost. Lost lost lost! Each turn in the twisted maze only made her more confused. At the rate she was going, she expected to run into David Bowie in one of Jarith's many costumes.