Creatures like Michael shouldn't exist. He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't smile like he’s offering Adam the world, but neither of them know their future will extend until the end of time below after he and Michael are yanked into the dark where rock, bones and ice shatter beneath his hands and his voice will bleed black from his throat.
He doesn't know and he doesn't have a choice.
"All right." He barely gets the words out and has to clear his throat before trying again. "Let's... just - don't draw it out."
The skies are rust and the chain link fence sighs when you lean back to exhale a long breath of smoke. It catches at the back of your throat. You cough, and the fence rattles.
The wind is turning cold and you can smell the storm even before you see the clouds roll in over the city.
Loose gravel scrapes under your boots and sirens wail in the maze of grey, mottled skyscrapers.
You sniff, crushing the spent cigarette under your heel. The knife feels too light when it dances in your hands. It's pocketed, you linger on the cool ivory handle, and cock the gun instead. It clicks and your jaw clenches against the shiver of relief.
You wonder how far you’ll have to hunt today.
You wonder if your muscles will still obey you when you break to run.
You wonder if today is the day you’ll find all the pieces and the world can finally end.
You search the high street, but the skies are rust and the impression of autumn is thick on the ground.
Every corner looks like the same wall of chrome and glass. You learn not to trust your eyes.
You don’t look because the shade at the corner of your gaze is never there when you turn to witness its shape stalking you through the skyscrapers. You don’t look because every window is shattered and every metal pane glows with the setting sun, so you close your eyes and smell the rain, the rot of leaves in the gutter, and the whole world’s acrid decay mattes thickly at the back of your throat.
He isn’t here.
Metal beams groan and when the windows shatter it sounds like bells and a sigh from above, but the skyscraper buckles to the ground and its death is like an explosion in the graveyard.
The city trembles, and stills. And is quiet once again.
The shadow wisps like a lash at the corner of your eye, and you almost catch it when you look this time.
Towards the freeway, towards suburbia, its chain linked fences and wrecks of cars on barren lawns.
You don’t venture that way for a reason and you don’t like to. But sometimes it’s not about what you like, what you want, or even what you need.
This isn’t about you anymore.
Age, purpose and destiny have cracked and withered like old, old dust; ground down and breathed away with the final shards of those broken buildings.
The bodies are still fresh when you cross the bridge and step into the territory where memories lived and pulsed and sprawled in the grass. It doesn’t make sense because there are other corpses sharing the same stains of earth, as though they fell together, but time only came for one of them.
The character of death is different at every doorstep.
These ones look like they lay themselves down to perfect slumber.
The next appear to have fallen and found death waiting peaceably at their knees.
Then there are the set huddled against the garden’s bench, their faces hidden from the end.
With every home, the nature becomes more overt as though Death had searched for something, his patience thinned, his hand falling heavier each time, and the last bodies at the end of the neighbourhood give you the final clue you need.
Glazed eyes, chrome tears and their slashed throats are still wet under your fingertips.
The breath of warning is warm, but when you look back to the streets, the shadow is gone once again.
It’s the closest you’ve come. It won’t be far now.
The city calls to you like a gnarled, familiar cradle; it will always, always let you rest within its walls, though they crumble and shatter around you, of this graveyard you can always be sure. At least those graves don’t yawn and stare back from the void with blackened disappointment and quiet rage.
But you aren’t afraid anymore. So, you take the corner, turn right, and bow against the wind.
Street lamps line the road ahead and, unlike the rest of the city, they still burn bright.
The man standing at the end of the street is nothing like you remember; he’s unlike a man at all. He is limbo in a three piece suit and war lies in the grey film of eyes, but you haven’t come here to fight a battle you’d certainly lose.
The shade coils up the street lamp at your side and the bulb bursts in a rain of sparks.
You don’t look at the shapeless dark this time and your approach is careful.
“I’m sorry,” you say, praying he can hear you above the wind’s howl, “You were waiting a long time, weren’t you?”
The man tilts his head to the side, his hands resting in his jacket, like he’s choosing which of your arteries to address first, but you don’t stop.
“I got your message. I was looking for you, too,” you say.
I won’t fight you. I won’t fight.
“I found the pieces. I hope you’re the last one because you begged me to come to war. We lost. It’s over. And I've been looking for you... god, I've been searching so long.”
You unsheathe your gun and the knife. They shift to black vapour as soon as he sets eyes on them. A dark smile curves his mouth, but then you point to the dark form curling around the head of the street lamp, and the amusement dies on his lips.
“I brought all the pieces of you. It’s time to come home, Michael.”
The surprise is just the moment you need to reach forward and take his face in your hands.
The grey film leaves his eyes like dark, oily tears and when you wipe them away, you can’t help smiling because the light behind his eyes is glory and honour and might, but for this one moment he will wonder and falter, and it’s the only chance you’ll have.
“There you are,” you murmur, and you kiss him to say this is the way home, I found you and I forgive you.
You gasp as the shadow surges through you into the mouth of the angel with his arms wrapped around you, because these creatures are both darkness and light, they are opposites made single and whole.
Michael thought he would survive, that he would win the final battle clad only in his Father's purest shades among this wasteland, but he had lost himself instead, and he has to remember who he was; all the parts of who he was, even the vile and selfish pride that shame him.
You'll bear some of that for him now, beside the rare warmth of Lucifer's true desire for life to continue.
Lucifer had found you first and he had parts of himself to share as well. But that was a long time ago. You've both been searching to opposite ends of this dimension for Michael ever since.
Michael's hand rests on your chest and you know he feels the moment you call Lucifer to you, like a rope thrown across the sands and seas of debris. His fingers curl in your shirt, staying there, and you know you'll wait together.
“Come home with me,” you say, and you feel the arms around you hold tighter.
He doesn’t say anything, but his nod is enough.
A door opens.