Ben Wilkinson was in Hell. By his best estimate, he had been there for around six days. Not that there were days down there. Just a constant, murky twilight.
No, Ben guessed that it had been six days because he had been healed from the many and varied tortures he had had to undergo six times. Every day, he'd been tortured in some new fashion. Inbetween the screams, he couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before they repeated themselves.
Today, judging by the creature made entirely of an eldritch green fire, it looked as though he was going to burn.
The creature froze. Literally. The green fire suddenly turned to ice, which shattered. Behind it, stood...
"Xander?" Ben breathed. "What are you doing here?"
Xander dismissed the question with a wave of his hand. "Your backup plan. What was it?" he asked peremptorily.
Perhaps Ben was confused thanks to all the torture and the shock of seeing someone that he knew - had known - but he hadn't the faintest idea of what Xander was talking about, and told him so.
Xander snorted indelicately. "Glory's plan. I doubt she she was relying solely open using the Key on that specific day. Someone like that would have a backup plan."
Ben laughed. He couldn't help himself. "You met Glory. You know
what she's like. What she was like. She never even for a moment considered that she might fail."
Xander cocked his head to one side, eyes narrowing in consideration. If Ben hadn't spent nearly a week in Hell, he might've quailed from such a look. It was certainly nothing like one that he'd ever seen on Xander's face before.
"You're not lying." Xander spat out the words as though they tasted bad. "Damn. Everything in this dimension is so useless
And, in a brief flutter of wings, Xander was gone.
Ben contemplated calling out "Don't leave me here!" but he thought that that would just draw unwanted attention to himself. Besides, Xander had no reason to rescue him, and every reason to leave him there to rot.
Lucifer was being summoned. That hadn't happened for uncounted aoens, not since he'd been in Heaven and God had ruled. It wasn't quite the same summoning that God had usually used. It was less gentle, more abrasive. There was still a great deal of power there, though. And until Lucifer figured a way out of this dimension, he didn't think it would be the best of ideas to offend someone (or something) with the power to summon him, of all people.
So Lucifer flew out of Hell, and landed in a place of light. Not Heaven. At least not the one he knew.
"Greetings, Lucifer." the words appeared in Lucifer's head, because he certainly hadn't heard them with his ears.
"You know who I am?" Lucifer asked suspiciously. As far as he could gather, no one in this dimension did. He was just a myth, a religious story.
"Oh, yes." the voice replied. Although something about the tone suggested that it may be a different speaker. "We know you quite well."
A voice which was certainly a different from the other two added "We are the ones that guard your Cage."
Lucifer considered that, for a moment. He'd always known that God had created... something to guard his Cage. Otherwise he would have been able to break himself out, rather than rely on Azazel and Lilith. But he'd never known exactly what they were.
"What do you want from me?" Lucifer replied. "I was freed. The conditions were met. You cannot force me back."
"Force you back? Oh, no, we don't want to do that." One voice said, surprised.
"We just want you out of this dimension. We don't particularly care what happens to yours."
"But more than that, we want the Slayer back. She is... necessary to our plans for this dimension."
"Unfortunately, we are greatly constrained in your dimension."
Lucifer knew exactly what they were going to say next.
"So we want you to return her to us."
"Gladly." Lucifer said with a shrug. Then he left.
Lucifer reappeared in his host's bedroom in Sunnydale. He was wondering exactly how to get back to his dimension, and that he was definitely not going to bring the Slayer back (she was in the Pit. If Lucifer went in there, he'd never get out again.) when he heard a cough from behind him.
Lucifer turned to see Michael standing behind him.
Lucifer fought the impulse to run away and instead said "No. You're not my brother. I don't know who you are, but you can't be Michael."
Michael shrugged. "You're right. I'm not."
"What are you, then? Tell me, before I obliterate you for your blasphemy." Lucifer snarled.
Not-Michael cocked an eyebrow. "Obliterate me? Good luck with that. Not even the Powers That Be have managed that."
Lucifer frowned. "The Powers That Be?"
"You just met them. Oh, and I'd do what they say, if I were you. They might not be big where you're from, but they're still strong enough to stick you back in the Cage if you don't."
"How do you know about that?" Lucifer asked. He'd sensed the power of the Powers, and he very much doubted that anyone had the capacity to eavesdrop on them. But then, no one in this dimension should have the knowledge to take Michael's form, either. "What are you?"
"Look closer." not-Michael beckoned. "Come on."
So Lucifer did. Not with the ordinary, human senses of his host.
He recoiled violently. "You're - you're like me
!" Lucifer exclaimed. Not-Michael wasn't a fallen angel, not that. But then, Lucifer wasn't only that either. In his dimension, he was origin of almost all evil, besides monsters and Leviathans. Even the Original Sin.
Not-Michael was his equivalent. The First Evil.
The First grinned. "Now you're getting it."
"What do you want?" Lucifer asked suspiciously.
"You see, here, the pesky Powers prevent me from having an actual form. But in your dimension, well, things are different. So, when you go, I'd like to hitch a ride." The First explained.
"And what do I get out of it?" Lucifer asked warily.
"I can break you out of your Cage. Give you the boost to beat Michael. Sound good?"
"Great!" The First said, not waiting for Lucifer to verbalize his reply. Then it was gone.
Lucifer guessed he had to figure out how to get back to his own dimension now. Fortunately, his host had a whole group of friends to help with that. Of course, if they knew who they were helping, all kinds of things could go wrong.
So Lucifer guessed he'd have to be Xander. At least for now.