"I'm coming with you." And there is a smile on the mouth that says it, there is joy in the voice beneath the words. The angel is serene, light of heart and utterly without hesitation, a joyous bubbling in a heart dizzy with love and buoyant with relief as he walks across the line, as he walks from Heaven into Hell, and rests his hand upon a demon's heart. There is a smile on the mouth that says the words, as all of Heaven and Hell do stare, and in the face of it, so softly, the demon bows his head.
"No," he says, soft as a whisper, and on his mouth, too, there is a smile, though not of joy. As he lays his hand atop the other, and lets his heart beat steady to an angel's touch. There is a smile. "No," he says, and there is all the knowing in the world in glittering eyes, all the knowing in the world beneath the words.
"None can stop me," the angel says, and he is right, he must be right, for no hand raises a sword, no voice raises a cry. None know what to do, in the face of this, and as he speaks there is silence, as he chooses there is consent. None can stop him. But the demon smiles.
"Angel, will you walk into Hell for me?" he asks, so soft and wry, and there is laughter in the corner of his mouth, and joy in the sorrow of his eyes. "Angel, will you fall for me?"
"I will!" the angel laughs. So rich, so bright, golden on a reddened field, eyes so blue and full of love. His hand is firm on the demon's chest, his love so bright it is as a sword. Beneath it, the demon shudders, quakes, breathless with another's love, but this once, beneath this sword, he is unbowed. Even before this angel. He is unbowed.
"What if I ask you not to?" he asks, threading slender fingers through the other's hand, brushing another's pulse with his own. His voice so soft, and heavy as a sword itself, gentle as a blade, turned against his own heart. "What if I asked you to walk back across the line, angel mine? What if I asked you to let me fall?"
A frown, then, and a faltering in laughing eyes. A fear, uncertainty, but this angel has fought so long, tested against him for so long, he does not bow so easily. Does not give way so softly. "Why would you? Love, why would you ask?"
The demon smiles, and rests that other hand against an angel's cheek, cups his palm around that smiling light. "Because angels do not belong in Hell," he says, and it is a whisper, it has all the weight of stones, a mountain falling between them, and yet he wields it lightly. Yet he smiles so gently. "Because dragons do not ask the knight to fall, nor serpents the shepherds to be slain. You think I will see you in Hell? You think I will see you broken there?"
And then, for that, there is light in the angel's eyes, and it is not gentle, not joyous. It is fierce and hard, a tongue of flame, a spear of light, and the angel's hand turns to seize the demon's tight, the angel's eyes to hold the demon still. "You think I will leave you alone to suffer? You think I will let you fall alone? No demon I, serpent! No callous judge!"
Unbowed, unbowed, the demon faces him down. Not the first hand raised in righteous judgement has he faced, not the first passionate plea he has endured. Is he not a demon? Is he not cruel? Has he not fought, a hundred thousand years, and known an angel's blade? He smiles, and it is not an easy smile, it is a weapon, though no more so than his voice, so soft, so gentle it tears.
"When one must choose between another's happiness and his own, where lies the right choice?" he asks, the gentle dropping of a blade. "When you take what is yours to love at the cost of another's pain, do you serve any other but yourself?" He smiles, a tiny curve, and brushes his thumb against a shaking wrist. "Will you ask me to suffer, angel, for your happiness? Will you take my choice from me?"
There is thunder, now, a storm beneath an angel's eyes, a shaking in his limbs and his heart, a quivering beneath the demon's hand. So long, so long, they have fought across Heaven and Hell, and all that lies between, and not for this will he surrender, not for this will he give way. Though it tears at him. Though it claws, blades the demon has not turned his way in aeons, cruelty he has not been forced to know in years.
"I will keep you safe," the angel whispers fiercely. "I will walk with you into darkness, and remind you of the light, and in all the blood and shadows of Hell, I shall not let you go. I shall not let you fall. While there is strength within me, all my love is for you, all my heart for your joy. Demon. Let me pass. Let me walk into Hell at your side."
There is a crack. So small a break, so tiny, none other may see, but there is a breaking then, inside a demon's heart. A sundering, and suddenly there is love in a demon's eyes, a trembling wall, silent in the thunder between two hearts, unbearable, unbreakable, sincere. There is love, and such sorrow that all the world should cry, if it could but know.
"Will you have me beg, angel mine?" he asks, and this is not a whisper, not a voice. This is a thread, bright and shining, from a black and glistening wall. This is tiny, all he can bear to offer, all he can pull from beneath the shining weight inside his chest. "Will you bow me before you, until I agree to sunder my heart for your sake? Will you show me Hell, and ask me to watch it destroy you?"
"Will you ask the same of me?" Fury, in the angel's voice, and a rising terror, a rising fear. "Speak of sundered hearts, will you ask me for mine, in all cruelty?"
A laugh, stunned and broken, blackly delighted, and the demon strokes an angel's cheek, brushes softly beneath eyes that furiously refute a tear. "Am I not a demon?" he asks, laughing between them, and all their years of fighting, all their years of war, in the curl of his lip and the soft shining of his eyes. "Angel, am I not cruel? Am I not wicked? For a serpent's sake, can I do other than ask this of you? A demon, selfish to the last, can I do other than ask you to choose my happiness over your own?" He smiles, and cups an angel's cheek, leans in and softly tastes an angel's tear. "Angel, you have no choice. For all that you are, all that you have been, you have no choice. You know what is right."
"No," the angel says. "No," he says, his hands now about the demon's shoulders, his knuckles white, and terror in the thrum of his voice. "Demon, no. Serpent. Do not ask! Not this, not of me. Let me come. Let me fall. Demon, do not ask this of me." He bows, he bows, an angel before a demon's sword, and there is no shame in the terror of his words. "Serpent, please."
"I must," the demon says. "I must," he says, soft and heavy as mountains, as he holds an angel close, and lets two hearts fall softly beneath a sword. "Angel, will you walk into Hell for me?" Soft, into an angel's ear, and blackly broken. "Angel, will you walk into Hell for my sake?"
"Yes," the angel says, a word wrung free in fury and in pain, and there is knowing, now, in an angel's eyes. Knowing, and love, and such sorrow that all the world should cry, could they but see. "Yes," he says, and it is the promise of a broken heart. "I will."
The demon smiles, an empty thing, and on its heels presses his lips, just gently, to those of an angel. Tastes the softly falling tears, the thunderous fury of a breaking heart, the wall of glistening silence in the sorrow of an angel's mouth. The demon smiles, and softly kisses him goodbye.
"Then angel," he says, soft as the fall of mountains into Hell, in a voice that crumbles, merciless in the breaking. "Angel, walk back across the line for me. Let me fall. Angel, walk for me, into Hell."
And softly, silently, with a heart as heavy as stone, the angel pulls away. Turns from a demon, turns his face to the light and the promise of salvation, feeling the soft touch of beloved hands fall away, hearing the soft sob fall broken from a demon's mouth.
The angel turns, and walks, across the line. And into Hell.