"Geryon? Are you all right?"

The muted darkness of the pit had given way to bright light, fire illuminating every direction. Kadence hovered over him, like the sun he sometimes glimpsed in his dreams, bright and glorious. "I am...fine."

"No, you're not. You're wheezing. What can I do to help?"

He was surprised to note she did not scramble off him, now that they were safe. Well, as safe as a person could be inside hell. "Tell me more about yourself. While I catch my breath."

"Yes, yes, of course." As she spoke, her delicate hands wisped over his brow, his jaw, his shoulders. Searching for injuries? Offering comfort? "What should I tell you?"

"Anything." He was growing stronger by the second, but he did not admit it. Rather, he luxuriated in the sensation of her touch. "Everything. I want to know all about you." Truth.

"All right. I...goodness, this is hard. I guess I'll start at the beginning. My mother is the goddess of Happiness. Odd, I know, that such a woman could give birth to one such as me."

"Why odd?" When looking at Kadence, hearing her voice, breathing in her scent, gave him more joy than he'd ever known?

"Because of what I am," she said, clearly ashamed. "Because of the damage I can cause."

"I have known nothing but - " pleasure, hunger, desperation " - kindness at your hands."

Her ministrations ceased, and he could feel her gaze boring into him. "Truly?"

"Yes, truly." Do not stop touching me. Centuries had passed since he'd last enjoyed even the slightest hint of contact. This was nirvana, paradise and a dream all wrapped into one delightful package. "My head," he found himself saying on a moan.

"Poor baby," she cooed, massaging his temples.

He nearly smiled. Now was not the time for this. They were inside hell, out in the open, possible targets. But he could not help himself, was too desperate, greedy. Just a little longer. "Your story," he prompted.

"Where was I? Oh, yes." Her honeysuckle scent enveloped him, chasing away the odor of rot. "I was a mean little girl. I didn't share my toys, and I frequently made the other children cry, unintentionally compelling them to bend to my will. All right, perhaps a few of those times it was not so unintentional. I think that's one of the reasons I was sent to hell as warden, though it was never said aloud. The gods wanted to be rid of me."

How forlorn she sounded. "Every living creature has made a mistake at one point or another. Besides, you were a child. Not yet sensitized to the feelings of others. Do not blame yourself."

"What of you?" she asked, and this time she sounded more buoyant.

He'd relegated his human memories to a far corner in his mind, never to be considered again. Before, thinking of those days had stung, for he'd known they were forever lost - but he reminded himself that with his wife's desertion, that was a good thing. Today, however, with the essence of Kadence all around him, he experienced only a thrum of sadness for what might have been.

"I was a wild child, untamable, a roamer," he said. "My mother despaired, thinking I would worry her and every member of our family to death." He laughed, her sweetly aged face flashing in his mind. "Then they introduced me to Evangeline. She calmed me, because I wanted to be worthy of her. We married, as both our families desired."

Kadence stiffened. "You"

"No. She left me."

"I am sorry," she said, but there was relief in her tone.

"Don't be." Had he not given his soul for Evangeline, she would have died. And had she not left Geryon, he might have fought Lucifer when the time came to become guardian. And had he fought, he might not have met Kadence.

Suddenly a frenzied snarl echoed through the distance. Giving up all pretense of being winded, Geryon popped to a stand, lifting the goddess with him and searching the distance.

A demon was racing straight for them.