(X is For) X Marks The Spot

Warnings: Lucifer POV, language warning, lack of editing warning. Probably blasphemy.

It’s a tickle at the consciousness. A nudge , invisible to the universe unless she includes the Host in her prayer. Thankfully, she’s too well-versed in the act of prayer to make so foolish a mistake.

It’s been a long, long time since someone prayed to me. Not to Satan- uppity little tweens do that shit far too often, and it’s easy to ignore even if it’s more fun to show up and terrorise them into better life choices. No, she prays to Lucifer. To the angel, not the devil.

Her inner voice is shaky and pained, breathless in a way that shouldn’t be possibly unless she’s very, very hurt. She wouldn’t be calling me for help, not unless her little band of monkeys couldn’t get to her.

Fuck.

Gabriel has taught her well. Unlike the monkeys, she rolls through the message twice more to make sure I get it. Oh, sure, we could easily turn back a few moments, repeat it ourselves, but it’s the politeness of the gesture, of assuming that she’s not the most pressing issue in my focus at any given moment. Right now, her voice is my entire world.

Half way through the third prayer, the words become screams. It’s easy to snatch onto the thread of her emotions- that’s what prayer is, after all, an emotional moment sent out into the universe in hopes someone can help- to follow it back to wherever she is.

I can smell the stench of my brother’s self-righteous well before I see the actual building. I’d thought, perhaps, the monkeys had rebelled. Not this. Never this.

Much as I hate my brother, I’d never expected him to allow his brother’s child to be harmed in his care. That girl is Gabriel’s kin, there’s no doubt. They’re too alike not to share a bond. Hurting her would be like looking into Gabriel’s face and causing him harm. How can Michael stand it? There’s pain in my knuckles, white hot. It takes far too long to realise I’ve balled my hands into fists, that I’m fighting the urge to slam into attack. I can’t. Not like this. I’d never get through in time, and this, more than anything else tells me I have to win this war.

I’ve got to be smart. Even if it kills me.

*

The good thing about being the ruler of Hell? Minions. Utterly disposable minions you can point at a location and tell them to have fun. No explanations required.Tell them they’re going angel hunting, and the idiots will snatch at the weaponry and rush into the fray without a single care about the reasons behind it. Or the realisation that they’re probably being sent in to die.

They’re not used to fighting alongside me. It makes them skittish, the way well-trained horses are skittish. My demons know to hide that fear, to keep it to themselves. You can feel it, though. They fidget and dart their glances my way. They shake in a way they can almost, almost pretend is adrenaline. But the stench of brimstone and sulfur is lessened by the rank acrid fear they’re sending out like those rotting corpse stinking ‘flowers’ Gabe made as a joke and snuck onto the Earth while Father wasn’t watching.

The demons know the plan, though I remind them one more time. Demons aren’t always the sharpest of tools. Thankfully, even a dulled blade can kill someone if you’ve got motivation enough. I point to the first four battalions, gesture for them to take their places. It’s a simple strategy (demons don’t do complex, not really, not without getting confused and ad-libbing, but then again, angels aren’t so great with complexities either): four battalions attack, each led by one of my siblings. Weaken the shields, weaken the wards and the sigils, and let the specialist teams do their work.

Kill as many angels as possible.

Angels are big picture kinds of beings. It’s always been Michael’s downfall. They think that reading the headline tells them the whole story, and forget to read the rest. The angels will go to defend those four attack points. They’ll maybe send a tiny team to the roof, just in case, but it’s unlikely.

They’ll focus on the threats, and forget the bigger picture.

It’s taken two days for Michael to leave, two days of her screams in my ears so I can’t lose her again. They could move her. But then, either they don’t know she speaks with me, or they’ve forgotten that I was an angel, and can be prayed to just like the rest.

I’m not losing her to idiots.

I look to the final three teams, led by Azazel. He’s grinning, all teeth and madness, eyes blown wide as he takes in the slaughter before him. His foot taps impatiently, waiting for the word to attack. As taken as he is by the scenery, I know he knows I’m watching. He won’t look to me, though. He’s a good enough leader to know it’s more important to watch the battle than your boss telling you to go fight in it.

They know what I look like. They don’t need to look away from their duties just because I deign to speak. It’s hard not to smile at my brother, even knowing he won’t see it. Instead, I look to the demon’s, harden my expression. ‘Azazel tells me that you are the best of your kind. You will not fail me in this. Destroy the fortress, claim as many angel blades as you can. Keep those winged bastards good and distracted, no matter the cost. Do you understand me?’ They nod, too afraid to speak. Azazel shoots them a quick, cold glance, his amusement there in the fluttering of his hidden wings. ‘Then go.’ They move as one, focus shifting to Azazel as their leader launches himself upward and leads them into the fray. They run below him, drawing their blades.

There are three of us left. Samael and Gressil keep their focus on the battle, too, waiting for word. ‘Let’s go.’ While the stealth teams sneak into the fortress, we slam into it from above. The warding is so damaged it’s basically dead anyway, glowing a sickly green to my sight instead of the vibrant blue it should be. It’s easy to slam ourselves through the energy barrier. Gressil laughs as it shatters like the most fragile of glass, the cracking shatter echoing loudly.

There are five angels, low ranking, waiting for us. I draw my blade, watch them stagger backwards, terrified to recognise me. ‘You will have one chance for mercy. Lay your weapons down, and you will not be harmed by us. You have till the count of three.’ Samael does the counting, but the angels do not budge. I respect that. Perhaps eventually I’ll mourn their passing.

‘As you wish.’ The nearest is decapitated in a heartbeat, too foolish to run while he had the chance, or at least to back away. It’s easy to move onto the next, a shaking girl too young to be on active duty. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t kill children unless there’s no other choice. ‘You don’t have to die today, little one. Drop your weapon.’ She eyes me for a moment before obeying, raising her hands meekly. ‘Clever girl. Stand in the corner there.’ She’s in motion, turning and watching Samael shatter the spine of her sibling with barely contained sobs of terror. Gressil slams his blade into the remainder’s throat.

The young angel is hugging herself, biting her lip to stifle her crying. ‘You will show me where my niece is.’

‘Your niece?’ She tilts her head, baffled. So Michael had hidden that little gem of information.

‘The halfling. Gabriel’s daughter, created by God himself. You captured her and a rogue angel in a battle three weeks ago. Take me to her.’ She nods, violently fast and hard, and hurries to obey. Her grace stutters with horror: if Mya was created by God, not by an angel, torturing her? Not the best plan ever.

It’s easy to ignore the sounds of battle. Either my demons win, or they die, and honestly neither option matters overly much. There are always more souls to turn. The angel moves through the carnage with barely a whimper, focusing on her job rather than her siblings, the guilt at her cowardice gnawing at her grace.

At least the attack means that Mya is alone when the angel opens the cell door- thick metal, machine operated, passwords- Michael has gotten tech savvy, it seems. Gressil grabs the littlest angel, drags her away as I storm the room.

Mya is curled, barely conscious, on the floor, barely visible behind the holy fire keeping her trapped. ‘Douse it.’ Samael nods, rushes to obey. There’s no change to his expression, but angel’s don’t show emotion on their faces. It’s all in the wings, carefully hidden from the rest of the world. He’s angry to see his niece so broken, worried to know what my reaction will be. It takes barely moments for the sprinklers to start working, but time crawls to a standstill until the space of a blink feels eternal. Everything takes too long.

Her breathing is shallow, too shallow, and the spaces between breaths feels like a human lifetime. Her face is bloodied and bruised, the only clear skin left by her tears. She’s shaking, curled as though trying to keep herself warm. As though if she tries hard enough she can protect her body from the harm being wrought.

Her wings are visible, burned and blackened, feathers torn out to reveal the leathery skin beneath. Her voice is barely there, scratchy from all the screaming, but it breaks my fucking heart anyway.

‘Please, no.’ She struggles to move, to crawl away, but her limbs can barely move, let alone support her weight.

‘You’re safe, Mya. It’s me. It’s Lucifer.’ She tries, fails, to shake her head, like she can’t wrap her brain around the idea of me being here. But her grace is as shredded as her body, and I don’t doubt it’s a struggle to keep up with what’s going on.

‘Luce?’

‘Yeah, kiddo. It’s me. I’ve spent a long time looking for you, you know.’

‘Where’s Haddy?’ Hadraniel. Right. Her little angel friend. Samael sighs as he moves to question the littlest angel about our wayward tree-topper.

‘We’re rescuing him now. Samael is already taking care of it. I’m going to come over to you now, alright?’ It hurts to ask, rather than to rush to her side. But it’s clear she can’t see right now. The bruising around her eyes is too severe, even for someone carrying grace within them. Besides, Michael always did have a cruel streak. And making sure she knew he was coming but couldn’t see to protect herself? It sounded like the sort of thing he’d do.

Universes are born and die in the time it takes her to nod, a quick jerk of her head, barely there at all, but enough. I can’t run, it’ll only scare her, but it feels wrong to walk slowly, loudly, towards her, keeping up the chatter until I’m crouched beside her, hand hovering over her but unwilling to touch.

‘We need to go, pet.’

‘Not without Haddy.’ It’s the strongest I’ve heard her voice, the closest she’s come to being the spitfire hellion I know and love. Judging by the little angel’s gasp, I don’t quite hide my smile.

‘He’ll be along soon. Listen to me. I’m going to pick you up when he arrives, and it’s probably going to hurt like Hell. But once Hadraniel is here, we need to leave immediately. I’ll heal you as soon as we’re safe, but we can’t stay here long enough to heal you now. Do you understand?’

‘In for a world of hurt. Got it.’ The slightest smile, and her hand moves towards me. It’s only a little gesture, a few millimeters of movement, but I clasp her hand gently anyway, hearing the soft sigh as her grace realises it’s actually me.

She’d been scared, then, that this was another rouse. That my face, my voice, had been stolen and used against her. Michael knows about her contact with me, then, certainly. That he’s used me against her? My brother will pay for his crimes against my family. ‘It’s me, little one. I swear on my grace, you’re safe with me.’

‘I know.’ She slips in and out of consciousness, struggles to stay but falls into darkness anyway. I settle in beside her, run a hand through her hair, and watch as the shaking gradually fades. Her grace, terrified and pained, stills as it huddles against my own for protection. I don’t care that there’s an audience- Gressil won’t care, and the angel doesn’t matter- simply whisper comforts to Mya and hope she can hear them. When Samael arrives, Hadraniel’s bloodied arm slung over his shoulder, she doesn’t even stir. Nor when I lift her, preparing for flight.

She wakes as I heal her though, her scream echoing through the cavern we hide in, bouncing and growing and reflected back and around until it becomes a high, wailing kind of roll of thunder. Her hand grips mine, painfully tight, but she doesn’t try and stop me. When she passes out again, and the echoes begin to fade away, I find myself praying to my Father for mercy on her behalf before I force myself to be silent.

My Father doesn’t care about her. How could He care and leave her to torture? How could Gabriel? Besides, begging Father for mercy just gives Him even more power.

I won’t give Him any more power over me, or my family.

 

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