When Gabriel comes to, there is fire. Then ice.
"Hello, brother," says a very gentle voice.
Gabriel stirs, rolls his head weakly against the concrete floor and wonders who the hell spiked the punch. Ah, shit, he's naked too, he realises dimly. Trickster parties, never could get out of one without somebody getting--
The words catch up to him in a punch (a sword) to the gut. He snaps to sit upright and nearly falls over again, but through the dizzy veil he caught side of the figure squatting just on the other side of the ring of fire. "Lucifer," Gabriel chokes out, nearly blacking out again at the wave of pain that radiates through him from his chest, from the hole in his--
"Oh, shhh, Gabriel," Lucifer murmurs. "Don't strain yourself."
A force presses Gabriel back down to the concrete, forcing him flat on his back and immobile. He twitches his wings to dislodge it, then slams them out in a panic when this first doesn't work. Nothing works. His wings, where are they, what's been done to them?
"You seemed so enamoured of humankind when we last spoke," says Lucifer casually, as if he's not pinning Gabriel to the floor in what looks like some kind of underground bunker, windowless and bare. "Of course I don't agree with you, but it got me to thinking."
Silently, Lucifer rises to his feet, strolling away a few steps. Gabriel wants to scream-- ah, Lucy, always the dramatic one-- but his chest is being crushed with such pressure that he can barely breathe. Why does he even have to breathe?
"I wondered how you'd like humanity if you were part of it," Lucifer says quietly.
Gabriel scoffs, a struggle to manage even that thin shadow of amusement. "Oh, come on, I'm not--"
"Well, no. Your Grace is intact. But for all intents and purposes, Gabriel, you're just another worthless bag of pus." Lucifer pauses and cocks his head curiously, asking with what looks revulsion and genuine interest, "How does it feel?"
The laughter dies in Gabriel's throat and the stillborn corpse of it comes out as a thin wheeze. "Lucifer. What. How--"
Lucifer is looking at him with such pity.
"How am I even alive?" is all Gabriel can manage. The smoke smells like frankincense and it makes his eyes sting.
"I control Death," Lucifer tells him, and he almost looks hurt. "Gabriel. Brother. Did you really think I would slay you?"
"This is insane," Gabriel says, unable to control the clutching in his chest, the horrible squeeze around his lungs and the urge to vomit rising in his throat. He shuts his stinging eyes and laughs, a splintery sound. "You're insane."
"Oh, brother," Lucifer says, so very gently. "Don't cry for me."
Something crawls over Gabriel's skin, a ripple in the pressure holding him down. He chokes on his own breath, furiously trying to hold onto self-control between his gritted teeth. It feels like the room's getting colder and colder despite the fire burning around Gabriel.
The pressure curls into distinct tendrils around his ankles, tightening for just a second before it drags them apart.
"Okay, now wait just a--"
But then the pressure crushes down on him again, downdowndown until his ribs creak with white-hot pain, forcing the air from Gabriel's lungs. Gabriel strains and gasps until black spots break in his vision... and when they go away again, Gabriel feels the bite of tear tracks across his temples frozen into ice.
"I'm not mad, Gabriel," Lucifer says conversationally. "I haven't gone insane. I'm just... angry."
Agony shoots through Gabriel so suddenly that he can't even breathe, his eyes rolling up in his head-- and if he could only black out again, he'd give anything, anything, if only-- oh god, it's tearing him in two--
Dimly, Gabriel hears himself crying out like an animal as the pain slowly recedes in hot, searing waves. As it does, he realises just where it was centred-- between his legs, inside him-- and wants to laugh, wants to weep at Lucifer's conception of rape. The devil-- Gabriel's finicky, fastidious little brother-- he would never do it with his own two hands, let alone his vessel's cock.
"It doesn't have to be like this," Lucifer tells him mournfully, right before the next pain spikes through Gabriel, sharp like a knife rammed down his throat, inexorable blunt force holding his jaws so widely apart that his skull feels like it's going to crack. When it recedes, he's sobbing out loud.
He can't help it. He's the Messenger of God, the God of Mischief, Gabriel and Loki and Trickster, aeons old, and he just-- he can't. It hurts too much and there's nothing he can do about it.
"No, it doesn't," Gabriel agrees, his voice raw and wrecked. He sounds pathetic. "You could stop."
"I can't stop. I have to do this, Gabriel. But all you have to do is see the truth. See how weak you are, how weak they are."
"And then what, I can join you?" Gabriel spits, savage and hating everything.
Lucifer is silent for a moment. "I can see how you'd resent me for this," he says eventually, a disembodied voice from somewhere out of Gabriel's line of sight.
There's nothing but the crackle of flames for so long that Gabriel becomes genuinely afraid. Then--
--pain, and screaming without end.
When he's through, Lucifer leaves-- not that Gabriel notices, what with being unconscious and all. But he notices when he wakes up again and the cell is empty, nothing but him and the fire. The only evidence that Lucifer was ever there is the frost still sparkling on the concrete walls and floor, unmelted even inches from the holy fire.
An eternity later, Lucifer comes back. It ends much the same way.
He comes and he goes, leaving Gabriel whimpering and broken every time. In between, there's nothing but silence and echoes, and a phantom emptiness inside Gabriel where Lucifer forced him open. Gabriel sits, stands, paces and never sleeps, and in the circle of fire between the four blank walls he starts to go mad.
The pain is bad, but the emptiness-- the emptiness makes him want to die.
It only takes nine weeks, Lucifer tells him proudly one day, for Gabriel to beg Lucifer to stay. His head resting on Lucifer's thigh, Gabriel shuts his eyes tight and feels cold sear the edges of his eyelids as the tears freeze them together.
There's less and less pain when Lucifer visits, as Gabriel learns to do and say what his brother wants. He gets the feeling Lucifer knows what he's doing, and disapproves of it, but Lucifer doesn't do anything more than watch silently with an exquisite grief in his eyes even when Gabriel mouths the exact right words, says everything Lucifer could possibly want to hear. He isn't swayed even when the act becomes real and the words becomes genuine, the apologies, the begging. He just watches as Gabriel cries himself to silence and then leaves, tears glittering in his own eyes.
Sometimes Lucifer cracks Gabriel open and breaks him all over again even when Gabriel hasn't done anything especially wrong. Gabriel thinks-- hating every inch of himself with a savagery that doesn't change anything-- that Lucifer knows Gabriel needs it, needs it badly.
Not the emptiness, no, not the chasm that gapes wider and wider every time the pain recedes-- but the moment where he's stretched and screaming and dying and the emptiness is filled with the white light of pain.
And then there is a long, long wait-- an absence, a silence longer than ever before. Gabriel stares at the blank walls for day upon day, wracked with shivers and phantom aches for so long that he feels it starting to rattle him right apart. Uninterrupted by the merciful white burn of pain, the emptiness finally cracks him. Gabriel screams until his ears ring, until his throat bleeds, until his fragile frost-bitten bones feel like they're about to snap.
The fire burns on and the blood freezes between his teeth.
Lucifer doesn't return.