(continued from yesterday)
Hunter spun, pulling her to him, and they collapsed together in a fevered embrace that ended in screaming passion there in the sand, before the heavens. The All could watch them make love, as could the stars. Hunter did not care. No words were exchanged, until spent, they lay together, under the voyeuristic sky.
“Why did they release you?” he asked.
Robin stared into his eyes, hers intense sapphire orbs. “You look tired, baby,” she said, brushing hair from his face.
“And you’re avoiding my question.”
She exhaled and buried her face in his chest. “I think they’re hoping I can remind you of the gentle man you once were. You’ve changed, baby. Even I don’t think of you as Charlie anymore.”
He sighed, clenching his eyes against her truth. “They made me like this. All they had to do is let me die.”
She shook her head. “Somebody has to do the work, baby.”
“No, Gabriel told us decades ago, there is always someone else. They could have let me die with you and found another for the hunt.”
Robin was silent for a long time before answering. “They were afraid to let you die … afraid you would …” Her voice trailed off.
“Turn my back on the All?” he asked.
“No, claim it as your own.”
Hunter laughed. It was the first laughter he could remember in years, and the movement caused his diaphragm to ache. “They think I want to be their God?”
Robin sat erect, her naked frame lovely in the starlight. He had forgotten how lovely. “Charlie, the All isn’t God. It’s … it’s just a different …”
“A different shade of evil,” he finished.
She shook her head. “More like a bigger bureaucracy. The interesting thing about that ‘false gods’ stuff is that you don’t need evil. You just need to waste people’s time and energy. People pray instead of learning how to become better people themselves. And the All is there, when they choose to be, like some great co-dependent parent in the sky. In the meantime, nothing ever changes.”
“The All is afraid I will finally rescue people from their gods. And so they meant to keep me stranded like the Omega man, alone, forever. Don Quixote Patterson, tilting at demonic windmills.”
“Yes. But then you somehow realized you could take the fight to them …”
“It wasn’t me. Your daughter sent me a copy of Orpheus and Eurydice.”
Robin shook her head, her dark locks falling below her shoulders. “That girl was always trouble.” She was frowning and grinning simultaneously. “So they let me go.”
“As a bribe.”
“More like a peace offering. We get to be alive again, human again, and live our lives all over if you wish.”
“For how long?”
“As long as you like.”
For the first time in years, Hunter remembered who he was – Charles Robert Spencer Patterson. She made him want to remember, to no longer be The Hunter. He sat up, the glare of the Hunter briefly falling from his visage; then it returned, drawing his lips into a tight line. “And what happens with the people? They keep living hopeless lives, full of pain and evil, all the while praying to their tormentors for salvation? So we play family again, and the All keeps playing puppet master.”
Robin tilted her head to the side, and looked at him for a long while. She said nothing, her expression caught between a smile and a curious frown.
“What?” Charlie asked.
“It’s just been so long since I’ve seen my Dimple Boy. I missed him.”
Charlie felt himself smile. It almost hurt.
“Wanna go find the kids and kick some All ass?” she asked.
Charlie searched her face for a trace of a smile, and finding none, gave her one of his. “Do you think that’s wise?”
“Nope,” she said.
“Good. Never underestimate crazy.”
Somewhere deep in the distance, the heavens shuddered, briefly, as if the universe had been startled. The ground shook and the sky grew dimmer. It made Charlie smile. This time, his wife joined him. “They’re ba-ack,” she said.
“You watch too many movies,” Charlie said, pulling her back to the soft sand, and covering her with kisses … too many to count, too few to make up for time lost.
They were back, and the heavens had reason to fear.