Lucifer is used to the confines of the cage. He knows its ever-shifting dimensions, the heaving, confining blankness of its walls, which are not walls at all, but serve the same purpose. The way this place simply exists. Not constructed, not built, not grown. It just exists, as it's always existed. To contain him, to punish him.
It took him a thousand years to stop fighting the first time. A thousand more to learn how to see outside. To influence things beyond the walls. Time, when you are forced to live in it, forced to wear it like skin, divide it into pieces. It's a frightening thing, and it seems endless.
Lucifer expects the rage again. It had poured through him so quickly last time, burning him all the way through over and over. Until it frayed and tore and turned to something like madness. Left to cool into something sharper, something hard and bright. But there's no rage this time. Instead, there's nothing but silence.
Michael fights, Michael tears at the edges in stubborn righteous fury, pours his anger into the darkness like he can split it apart. Like he can tear it at the seams and leave them in empty space. As if they are just beyond the edge of everything else, just past the darkness. When Lucifer knows they're not. He won't escape. Lucifer knows because he's tried, so many times, for years upon endless years. Lucifer knows that if left to his rage Michael will burn himself out and leave nothing but the silence and his own muted glow. A banked fury left to build and start the cycle anew.
"There is nothing out there Michael," he tells him. Though he expects little response. Michael is loyal and stubborn and persistent, pedantic even. Though it seems demeaning to call him such.
"He will free me," Michael's voice, for all its power, is lacking the certainty it usually carries.
"He doesn't care," Lucifer says quietly, staring into nothing, refusing to turn and look at his brother. "We both know he has left his creation to run as it will. To see its way to the end no matter what."
"We must still fight," Michael insists. "I must still fight." His tone low and focused, like he has a mission and he intends to see it through to the end if it kills him. He sounds almost as if he has accepted that it will. For what is Michael after all without a mission?
Lucifer can feel Michael now, looming behind him, all folded grace and glory like a star, shivering across his own. He's bright and strange and desperate. It's been a long time since Lucifer was this close to him. But he will not give Michael the satisfaction of feeling the strange ache that it leaves. There are some betrayals that stay raw, no matter how long they're given to heal. And this is a wound that bled for far, far too long.
"We fought," Lucifer says flatly. "We did all that we were supposed to do. We finished the story. The book has closed. There is no more. Whatever happens now is your choice, Michael. Your choice, if you are capable of making choices of your own."
Michael digs in and pushes at him. Until Lucifer can feel the solid line of the cages exterior, ice cold all the way through, and he feels it like he is a creature of flesh. Like it's something that must be recoiled from. Michael's energy wavers, strange chords of intensity and desperation and confusion. He was always so bright and so sincere. Even when he cast him into the pit.
Anger comes, finally, though Lucifer resists it. He denies it.
"Shall we fight in here for all eternity then? Is that the future you wish? Is that your choice, Michael?"
Michael draws himself away. "That's no choice at all," he says fiercely.
Lucifer remains impassive.
"You are stuck here too," Michael points out, a sharp reminder, flung like he wants the words to wound.
"But this time I have you," he says.
Michael is all colours of confusion, arcing between the edges and reflecting back. And Lucifer thinks the cage is not as small as it seemed.
"You think that means you've won?"
"It means I have not lost," Lucifer says slowly.
There's a moment of clarity, of connection, briefly unwilling and then Michael - perhaps for the first time - gives. There is too much for words. All of it old and raw and broken. But underneath it there is grief and sorrow and regret.
They drift closer, tangling at the edges in sparks and bursts of light and colour. And Michael doesn't resist it. Wings raised in perfect symmetry. Michael's light and heavy and bright, Lucifer's sharp and jagged and cold.
They meet above them, and touch. Both still bright enough to burn.
They come together in the centre of the cage. With what passes for hands, pressed together in a way that tells them more than skin ever could.
I have missed you brother.