Just a Kiss Away

The Devil is truly an exquisite creature, Michael thinks, watching his rebel brother from across the Divide, the distance between Heaven and Hell decreased by need to just a sin or two away.

Always the most beautiful of them all, the most perfect of all His firstborn, the Fall has done nothing but add to Lucifer's resplendence. The flicker of eternal flame grants an illicit seduction to his eyes, which watch Michael in turn, amused and inviting. Not beseeching though. No, never that.

Heaven holds no shadow; all there is formed of light, white-gold and radiant. Lucifer has chiaroscuro. Shadows lowlight every plume, every da Vincian turn on his conceptualised anatomy. It makes him seem more human, more real, more truly His creation, which is something that Michael has come to understand as 'irony', a form of humour available only to those who know how to see in the dark.

Michael himself comprehends it only dimly, a theoretical possibility about which he can never experience the truth. For he burns with the light of Heaven, and where he walks, an invasive glare shines out, banishing shadow. Yet Lucifer has somehow invited the darkness inside himself, giving his frame relief and weight, making him something both less and more than a fragment of the One.

Of course, the Devil's perverse whim to adorn his God-given perfection with human genitals only increases the effect of material reality, and does not, somehow, mar his unholy beauty.

"Did you want something, little brother?" Lucifer asks with a sly smile, and the Divide creaks as they move closer to each other.

"To talk," Michael acknowledges.

"Things must be serious indeed. The last time we spoke, you came here holy sword a-blazing; it was really rather arousing, I recall. But now? You're positively meek, Great Prince." Lucifer uses his body like a mortal would, each twist of lip or wave of hand as much a communication as his words.

Angels have no true form, being creatures of pure essence, but He favours the shape He later gave Man, so they tend to form themselves according to His tastes. Lucifer, however, has substance. He has granted it to himself just as he has many privileges that should only be His to dole out.

Such is the role of the rebel, Michael supposes. No law is sacrosanct, nothing safe from theft.

"Would the sword help?" he asks and is confused when Lucifer laughs loudly. "That was not a joke. I don't make them."

"Yes, you do, my dear. All the time. You are His little joke, you see. We all are."

"Ah." Michael is silent as he ponders how to react. There are no laws to guide his arm here, and he is not present as His emissary. Lucifer watches him, that faint smile still tugging at his fully realised lips. Finally, Michael asks, "One thing I have never understood is why, if you despise mankind as you claim, you have taken such pains to become like them."

"To truly destroy something, you have to know it intimately." Lucifer takes another step forward. Michael can feel the heat of his presence now and that's another thing angel's don't have. "You have to comprehend it from the inside out. That is, of course, why you and His other mindless minions fail so persistently to stop me. Mankind scares you. You watch, monitor, catalogue, report... but never interfere, never delve inside, never take one apart to see how it works. You're no closer to truly understanding your wards than when He first polluted Earth with life."

"We are not mindless." Michael isn't sure why he chooses that one thing to object to out of all Lucifer said.

The Morning Star shrugs. He steps again, reaching out across the Divide to tap Michael on the temple. It causes a shudder to run through Michael's ethereal form to his very wingtips. "You are His unquestioning tools. You do as He bids you, go where He sends you. You are automatons, extensions of His thought. Nothing more."

"You know that's not true." Michael finds he is feeling a certain... discomfort.

"Do I?"

"We are made of His substance, made to serve him, it is true. We are as we were made, as you too were made. But we are nonetheless separate from Him."

"I see no evidence for that."

"Lucifer!" The discomfort grows, and Michael flexes his great wings out, hoping to ease the strange sensation; something of his brother's doing, no doubt. "You and I were once the same. He made me just a fraction of an eon after you. Everything that you are capable of, so too am I."

Lucifer's smile holds both menace and promise. "Yes. It is as you say. Interesting, that. Don't you agree?"

Michael bows his head. "So you think to tempt me again? You have not yet tired of this game?"

"Game? Oh, my brother, call it a vocation, please." Michael feels hot fingers running over his arm, which condenses, taking more reality within itself in response to the sensation. "I miss you, you know. We were such good friends once."

"I haven't forgotten. I forget nothing. I wept for millennia when you Fell."

"You should have come with me. What a partnership we would have made." Lucifer's voice is gentle. It is as much a caress as his hand, which persists in moving over Michael's tenuous frame, painting it with substance, fixing him in form.

Michael screams inside, begging forgiveness. He knows he should stop this. His hand twitches for his sword. But he does not move and continues to stand passively under the assault. For assault it surely is. Why he does not resist is not something he wishes to contemplate. "You had companions enough. It is... it is not in me to disobey our father."

"Really? He knows you are here then? I'm surprised."

Head hung lower still, Michael confesses, "He... does not know."

Lucifer chuckles, the sound like the gurgle from a mortal's severed neck. "The omniscient does not see; the omnipotent does not prevent. Oh Michael, my beloved kin, can this be true? Are you Falling at last? May I catch you?"

Michael's neck straightens, his wings unfurl and his eyes burn with righteous anger. His sword flickers into his hand. "I am not Falling. I will never Fall." He is a liar. Just like his brother. This is such a futile conversation, mere procrastination. Nonetheless, he cuts a swathe through the air between them with his blade.

"Christ," Lucifer says, taking a tiny step back as he profanes the name of the Godhead in human form. The Divide is a little stronger again now. "You're so very hot when you're in a snit."

"Hot?" Michael asks, having no clear idea what the Devil means to imply. "Yes, I burn. I burn with shame for you, for what you've done. This is all your fault, Great Satan."

Lucifer folds his arms, and although he still appears amused, there's something else in the glorious face now as well. Something intense. "Really?" he asks. "And which particular 'all' would this be?"

Michael wishes he could, like the mortals, shut his eyes and choose not to see. He'd rather not know his brother's reaction to what he has now to admit. He lets his sword dissolve back into the ether and keeps his head down, disparaging himself for his cowardice as he says quietly, "He has gone."

There is a long silence. When eventually Michael looks up, Lucifer has not moved, although his face now seems as expressionless as that of any normal angel's, any 'mindless automaton'.

Michael almost laughs. Perhaps he is starting to know the darkness a little better now. "You have nothing to say, brother? I expected glee at the very least. Perhaps also some gloating."

"Gone where? Why? How long gone?" The questions are almost barked out.

"I do not know. The Metranon will not say, and I do not think it knows. I think it is frightened."

"And you come to me why?"

"For help."

Lucifer bays with laughter. He doubles over, holding his belly, tears running down his sculpted face. "You have," he gasps between cackles, "lost the little... mind you allowed... yourself. Bereavement has... broken your tiny intellect. God has sodded off... and you come to me... to ME... for help?" Suddenly, Lucifer is directly in front of Michael, his hands scalding Michael's shoulders. All amusement is gone from his expression as he yells with the force of Gabriel's horn straight into Michael's face. "NO!"

Oh yes, Michael is definitely learning irony now. "I think you will," he says quietly, resolute under a glare that could topple mountains. And with the greatest courage he has ever shown, he lifts his hand and strokes lightly over the Devil's furious face.

Lucifer stills under the attention; he makes a slight noise that Michael does not understand. "Michael, brother mine, what are you doing?"

Michael doesn't answer directly. "He called me to him shortly after the crucifixion; He was in the form of the Christ. Tears bathed His face as He lamented His children's failings, blaming Himself, for how could He not? I feared then, although I would not allow myself to think it, that He would leave us."

His hand still gentles the face of the Morning Star, the contact somehow calming them both. They stand close together, the Divide now less than a thought across.

Lucifer stares at Michael, a single fiery tear on his cheek. "So He has written us off, drawn the line and moved on, and you blame me? You are wrong, brother. He gave them free will."

Michael wipes the tear away with his thumb, the liquid burns through his skin, entering his body and exciting him as would a call to holy war. "He did not grant free will to you, Lucifer; you simply took it and so unbalanced the equation. As we are forbidden to interfere, and you take no such precautions."

"And how does that make it my fault?" Lucifer asks, pushing into Michael's touch. "You could have taken the same advantages as I. You could have been as powerful a persuading force. In the days before the Christ, you weren't so reticent."

"We did only as we were bid."

"No longer." Lucifer's lips twist briefly in wry amusement, but then he turns his face and captures Michael's thumb into his mouth. It is a wet furnace that creates rather than destroys, clothing Michael in existence, making him real. Lucifer sucks, and Michael feels himself become a man. A mighty winged man, certainly, but his maleness can no longer be questioned.

Nor, apparently, quelled. He has never stopped wanting Lucifer, but this... this fleshy need is something Other.

"No," he whimpers, but makes no move away.

Lucifer releases him anyway. "Why are you here, little brother? What do you want from me?"

Michael staggers, his toe at the very edge of the Divide, now no more than a line, barely a concept at all. "I thought... I thought that if we were to make something good of mankind, something pleasing to Him, He might come back."

Lucifer snorts; such a very human expression. "I'll not stop my work. Why should I give a fuck that he's gone?"

"You are truly the Liar," Michael says almost fondly, and finally, he finds the courage that he sought here. He steps over the line.

Gasping, Lucifer grabs him. "What have you done? Brother! I never thought..."

Anguish wracks Michael's increasingly material form. He slumps in Lucifer's arms, looking up at evil incarnate. "You offered to catch me," he says with a tiny smile. "Oh, I never thought it would hurt this much."

Lucifer falls to his knees, holding Michael tightly. "It never stops. It never bloody stops. Oh, my poor stupid Michael. I never imagined you'd really do it."

"What choice did I have? We have no purpose without Him. If I have to Fall to gain the knowledge, the power to save mankind, then so be it." Michael feels so weak, so very bereft. He knows now he can never go home again. What has he done?

Oh Father, why?

There is an unpleasant smell; Michael realises his wings are burning. "I'll make you new ones," Lucifer promises, cradling him. "I'll teach you everything I know. I'll let you be my true rival; I won't even mind if you win."

Michael raises his trembling hand, blackened and smoking as it now seems to be, to touch his older brother's magnificent face once more. "It will be good to work with you again."

Lucifer smiles a slow sad smile. "Child of my father, welcome to my world. I wish I could say with more conviction that I am glad you are here."

"We were together at the start of things; if this is indeed the beginning of the End, it is only fitting that I should see it by your side."

Lucifer slowly shakes his head, but it is clear that he is not disagreeing. "I have been alone so long. No other of the First Order to talk with."

"You could have come home. He would have forgiven you; you know that."

The laugh that leaves Lucifer's mouth is as charred as Michael's new body. "Silly little brother. I've only ever been doing what He asked of me. He gave them free will, you see, and what meant that without temptation?"

Despite the inferno raging throughout whatever it is that Michael has become, he feels the chill of a millennium's ice age at Lucifer's words. "His bidding? Your Fall was His will? How could He... how could He ask that of you?"

"Who else was he to ask? Whom did he trust more to do what he asked and yet keep silent? And so I have suffered epochs to please him, to serve in secret. Away from my brothers, hated by them, I gave mankind a choice that they do not deserve. And for what? For Him to hold his omnipresent hands up in disgust and turn his nonexistent back."

Michael finds he now has eyelids he can close, and so he does. "Tell me you are lying. Please."

"Not this time, brother dear. Not this time." Lucifer sighs, then Michael feels cool lips pressed upon his burning mouth.

Not this time.


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