It was mild for late September. A soft breeze stirred the carpet of red-gold leaves, warm sunlight filtering between the harsh, barren branches.
Gabriel sighed, loosening his scarf as he caught sight of the desolate figure hunched on the park bench. "Hello, brother," he whispered apprehensively.
The blond man didn't move except for the muscle that leaped beneath his stubbled jaw. "It's been a long time, Gabriel," he rumbled deep in his chest. His fingers curls around a steaming coffee cup, the weak styrofoam creaking in his grip.
Gabriel nodded, edging onto the bench. "Too long," he admitted, fiddling with the worn tweed of his jacket.
Lucifer scowled at the park from beneath thick brows, his shoulders drawn and tense. "I've missed the sunlight," he said, the low admission barely audible. "The fresh air. The life…" There was a strange, foreign wistfulness in his crimson eyes as he spoke.
Gabriel worried at his lower lip, studying his brother's hawkish profile. He fidgeted his hands in his lap, uncertain. He shouldn't be here, talking to Lucifer of all people…
"There's nothing down there," Lucifer sighed, shifting restlessly. "Barren rock, baking heat. No light. No life. Just torment…"
Something twisted unpleasantly in Gabriel's gut. He shivered despite the balmy breeze that snatched at his dark curls. "I'm not going to apologize for siding with Michael, Lucifer," he said quietly, scrutinizing his folded hands. "I'm sorry, but this time you were in the wrong…"
"You shouldn't have come here," Lucifer snarled, turning his bloodstained gaze toward the cloudless sky. He knew without a doubt that his brothers were watching. Wrong. They'd dared to call him, The Morning Star, wrong, when they knew in their hearts that his words were true. And now they'd poisoned Gabriel, filled his mind with their preaching. He'd heard it from Michael, from Raphael, Uriel, and the rest. He didn't want to hear it from Gabriel too.
"You're right," Gabriel said briskly, straightening his coat. "I shouldn't have come here. The guards are growing ever more watchful… But I did come, because you are still my brother." He made to stand, feeling a bitter pang in his chest as he did so.
Lucifer nodded, considering this. "We're brothers," he said thoughtfully, "so why are you still fighting me?" He fixed Gabriel with his ruby stare. "Do you truly think I'm wrong? Or is that Michael talking?"
Gabriel hesitated, blowing out a weary sigh. "I don't know."
A spark lit Lucifer's eyes. "You agree with me, don't you?" He hissed, his lips curling into a wicked smirk. "Our Father is the only one who deserves our love, the only one we should answer to, not these mud-crawling apes." He waved a dismissive hand at the children that shrieked and squealed, racing across the playgrounds. "You know, I don't want to harm the humans," Lucifer insisted softly, his voice unwaveringly sincere. "I was quite amused by them until Father forced us to answer to their pitiful, mewling cries. It's the Fallen ones who want to destroy His creations. Not me." He shook his head, shanks of blond hair falling into his eyes. A small smile tugged thinly at his lips. "I've missed you Gabriel. Why do we have to fight?"
Gabriel shifted uncomfortably under his brother's fiery scrutiny. Why did they have to fight?
"Am I really so wrong?" Lucifer insisted, splaying his hands in question. "Is what I ask for really so radical? Or is that just what Michael tells you to believe?" He shook his head sadly. "You were always so good about following orders… but how do you know they're the right ones? How do you know Michael isn't wrong?"
The dark-haired angel stiffened visibly. "I have to believe that Father has a plan. An ineffable plan that we couldn't possibly understand, but that will all work out in the end." The words were spoken carefully, as though he'd rehearsed them.
Lucifer leaned closer, the smile curling wide and dangerous on his lips. "But you have doubts, don't you little brother? You question this 'ineffable' plan, don't you?" He grinned as the color drained from Gabriel's face. "You know I'm right, you're just afraid to admit it."
Gabriel lowered his gaze, silent.
"See?" Lucifer grinned. The cat who'd caught the canary. "You doubt, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Gabriel shook his head. "We aren't supposed to doubt."
Lucifer rolled his eyes. "Now that's just Michael talking. What happened to you, Gabriel? Do you even have any original thoughts?"
"What happened to me?" Gabriel cried, color rising in his cheeks. "What happened to you?" He shook his head sadly. "You're not the brother I once knew…"
"I haven't changed," Lucifer insisted. "I'm still your brother. Please don't turn against me, Gabriel. You're the only one who hasn't…"
"I'm not trying to stand against you, Lucifer!" Gabriel exclaimed, exasperated. "But we are on opposite sides here-"
"We don't have to be!" Lucifer hissed. "We don't have to fight. You agree with everything, every word I've said, don't you?" He was so close now, his eyes alight with dancing sparks. "Step out of Michael's shadow, come with me. Together we could rule…"
Gabriel laughed, a bitter, disgusted sound. "You know, you almost had me." He shook his head, sounding treacherously close to tears. "You almost tempted me you snake." He stood abruptly, brushing himself off, his lips curling into a disgusted snarl. "I almost believed you."
The angel's vision blurred. "I'm such a fool," he hissed, laughing at his own stupidity. "I should never have come here." He shook out his jacket with a bitter smile. "You almost had me, Lucifer. For a minute- for a minute I doubted. I wanted to believe you. I wanted to believe I could have my brother back…" A sad smile graced his features. "I thought there was some chance… but this? I'm sorry, Lucifer, but…" He shook his head, turning to go.
"Gabriel!" Lucifer straightened, fixing his little brother with intense ruby eyes.
The angel paused.
"I didn't want to hurt you." And he was sincere. He didn't want to hurt his little brother. "But know that if you walk away now, I will consider you no better than the rest of our 'brothers'. I made sure you were protected from the Fallen ones. You walk away…" He let the threat go unfinished.
Gabriel's squared his shoulders. "So be it," he whispered, stepping back from Lucifer. And then he was gone.
Lucifer stood, dropping the coffee cup to the ground, forgotten. "So be it," he echoed.
You snake! The words had pierced him like a white-hot poker, leaving a gaping, throbbing wound.
Heaven would go down in a rain of blood and fire. And Gabriel, the one he'd held most dear, the only one to hold hope for him when the others had turned their backs, Gabriel would be the first to fall.