Is that why they're cursed, because of their indiscretions, so long ago? Luke had been heartbroken and lonely and Adam had been soft-spoken and sweet, with a devil's silver tongue.
"It doesn't count against your vow, it isn't relations."
"It is an abomination," Luke had replied, but he let Adam curl into his body all the same, the black hole in his heart filled for long moments when the pain could be set aside.
"It is brotherly love," Adam whispered into Luke's neck. "Pure and above the law of the Church."
Blasphemy, Luke thought, but he knew even then there was another rule, one above the Church, a law of God and not men.
Priest is his name now, filthy on the lips of those who fear him, a curse spat as a protection from those who'd saved them all.
"You would have rather fallen, I think," Priest says, remembering Adam's impudent grin as he shovels coal into the engines. It's not true, he knows, just as he knows Adam would never have stayed in the city when uninstated. He would have needed to get away, to live his faith on his own terms.
He stops by the confessional on the way home to tell the monsignor of his dreams once more. Adam, he thinks as he tells the recording. Brother. The one I left behind.
The dream wakes him again, Adam's face dissolving into blackness and Priest's heart trying to beat its way out of his chest to follow. He had doubts even then but he had been a good Priest, a righteous Priest, and he obeyed the monsignors and abided by the law of the Church.
Priestess had been the only comfort to him after Adam's death. A warm, steady presence at his side, a heavy hand on his shoulder to guide him if he faltered. She was God-sent and he would have loved her then, if he had not been drowning in the death of his brother-in-arms.
The brash lawman is his daughter's lover. He can almost smell her on him, something delicate and true. He has failed her, failed his brother and his wife, and this man will be the next to die if he does not deal with the threat.
He knows as soon as he hears she's been taken that it is Adam, the fallen. Black Hat. He cannot bear to think what he will do when he sees Adam again. He follows their trail, blessed still without the monsignors' consecration and he knows for certain now – the law of God is pure and the law of the Church is corrupt as well as blind.
The law of God is vengeful, too, the exacting price taken out of those he loves, the damage to himself largely unseen but deeply felt. Priest. Killer. Savior. It is all nothing, sand falling to Earth as the only two still-living people he loves are entwined in something he cannot unravel, not even when he understands what brought them together.
"Brother," Black Hat says, the wind streaming past and making Priest's eyes sting. Priest stares, a long moment of temptation as in his mind, Adam calls his name after long days of training, their bodies sweaty and pressed together in their only release. Luke, Adam says, his mouth a brand on Luke's skin. Brother, he says, his fingers a weight tying Luke to this world, to keep him from drifting away into purgatory.
Priest has a moment of weakness, a temptation so immense it guts him, the hole in his heart as large as it had been the first day he'd come to the basilica. The day he'd met Adam, who was nearly his age in years but twice his experience in the ring. The day his brother married his wife and adopted his daughter. The day he'd emptied his soul for the church. For humanity.
All is washed away by the sight of his daughter, alive and defiant, and still human. There is still something worth fighting for.
I am sorry, brother, Priest thinks, and attacks again.