"It appears that your partner is running out of time, Mr. Slingby." The demon's voice was a smug purr, echoing off of the abandoned street. "Have you reconsidered my offer?" The smile that accompanied the question made Eric's stomach turn.

In any other situation, Eric would have pumped the abomination full of salt, sent him back to hell with extreme prejudice.

But, it was the erratic acceleration of a heart monitor and the nervous glances of doctors when he'd left that stayed his hand.

"My soul," Eric growled, his voice a razor's edge. "and you'd save Alan?"

The demon's grin only grew, changing to a languid cat-like smile, as he brought a gloved hand to his face. "That was what I last offered, but-." His eyes narrowed wisely. "That was a year ago."

If he'd still been in the hospital, perhaps Eric would have heard the panic in the doctor's voices as they bustled around Alan Humphries, who's eyes had long since closed.

"Now, Mr. Slingby, I can see that letting you off with a simple soul loss is far to generous."

The air in the hospital room was thick, panic sloughing through the oxygen as a heart beat began to jerk.

"And when have I been known to be generous?" A light laugh, flighty, made Eric's skull feel tight and his fist clench.

The cries for nurses, for equipment, for time came hurriedly with bullets of sweat.

"You see, a recent...employment opportunity has arisen." The demon's red irises were alight. "And you seem like a perfect candidate for the job."

"What would I 'ave to do?" He bit back the words he wanted to say, held back his itching hands that craved to go for the gun that he'd dropped.

"It's rather simple, and I'd love to go into the more...graphic details. But, unless I'm wrong, you don't have the time to listen."

Eric felt his stomach give out, as the gravity of the demon's words washed over him.

"Alan Humphries has begun to die."

The heart beat was too fast, rarely pausing in between, as a nurse went back to retrieve the man who'd brought him in.

A man who was no longer there.

"The way this works Mr. Slingby, is simple." He said, tugging at one of his black gloves. The demon's voice was cool, calm, and the exact opposite of everything Eric felt. "You say yes, here and now, and he lives."

A brief hope, a small light in the dark tunnel that Eric had been trapped in for a year.

"Or you refuse, and he dies."

The words that Eric had been hearing for a year, the words that he'd been racing for a year, the words that he would do anything not to hear.

And he meant anything, and everything.

The demon extended his arm, his glove removed, the dark symbol embedded in the skin at the top of his hand now fully exposed.

"Eric Slingby, do you wish," the demon stated, as more of a formality than anything. He could smell the desperation coming off of Eric in waves. "To make a contract with me?"

The hand was posed in the air, and Eric stared at it.

As the frantic heartbeat monitor wailed.

Before Eric took the demon's hand, with a combination of anger, despair, and true fear knotted in his stomach.

And a heart beat stopped.