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Paradise, Darkly

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ONE: The Silver City

He was fearfully and wonderfully made, as was each one of their Father’s works.

The Seraphim had no words for their mysterious creation, save this: that God had given them six wings — two wings to cover their faces, another two their feet and with the remaining two they were to fly — and had Named the very first one Amenadiel.

In the days before the world was made, there was the Silver City: the province of God the Father and his vast creation. The sky above the City was full of a light that was not purple or azure, neither pearl-white nor golden, but all of these at the same time, a sky that was lit by no sun or star but by the City itself.

Beyond the City, there was the Dark. In those days, even the Seraphim did not know its purpose.

The Seraphim were the first among the nine choirs of angels, pre-eminent amongst the cherubim and the heavenly powers, the angelic dominions and principalities of God. First of the Seraphim, Amenadiel was empowered with Purpose that was the righteousness of the Lord.

Second was the angel Samael, also called the Lightbringer. He was tall and beautiful, his skin like mist, perfect curls upon his forehead and plumage of pure white across his shoulders. The next created, he was the fairest of the Archangels, and for that reason the most beloved of the Father. His Purpose was to captain the Heavenly Host; he wore a breast-plate made of shining bronze over his muscular chest, cloth-of-gold over his loins and thighs. His sword was a double-edged torrent of flame. He was bold and daring and made for command.

It was Commanded of every Angel: to be happy and to love, but to esteem first of all Him whom to love was to obey.

Amenadiel considered that, as the first and eldest of the Seraphim, it was duty to keep that great Command. With brave, brilliant Samael, it often seemed to be a different story.

There was no night or day in the Silver City, there was just the City, and beyond the City, the Dark.

Amenadiel would rise at matins and lead the singing of praises to the Name; he would then oversee the work of the angelic powers tasked to review their Father’s plans for the new earth and heaven, and confer with the Archangels, the designated Voices of God.

Overhead, in the sky that reflected the light of the City, he would see his brother Samael, bright wings outstretched, his sword in his hand, leading battle drills with the Heavenly Host.

Afterwards, Amenadiel would return to his private space at the top of the main spire and still himself in quiet contemplation of the Name, before it was time again to rise and then to work. But before he retired, he would seek out his brother Samael, and spend time in conversation with the Captain of the Host.

Samael, that worthy companion, would regale Amenadiel with his own contemplations of the Name, as well as stories of the angel-warriors and soldiers of the Host. On yet other occasions, they would simply enjoy the silence together.

Then there came a time that Amenadiel found his brother not soaring in the sky as was his usual habit, but on foot, walking along the shoreline between the City and the Dark.

Amenadiel alighted beside Samael and they fell into step together.

"What are you doing, brother?" Amenadiel asked eventually.

Samael said, slowly, "Brother, you know the Host trains for the day the new world is born, so we can protect it against the Dark. And so I want to observe the Dark, so I can be ready to lead the Host when it goes to battle."

Amenadiel mused, "I can see why you may wish to prepare, to see how you might best serve our Father's Purpose for this new world."

Samael was silent for a moment, and then he said, "What's still beyond me is what this new world is for. Why does our Father wish to create humankind? They might have eternal souls, but it seems they won’t have eternal bodies the way we do, nor wings as we have."

Amenadiel spoke admonishingly. "It is not for us to question Our Father's purposes, brother." Samael looked chastised for a moment, and Amenadiel felt a sensation that he realised later was regret. Quickly, he added, "But it may be that our Father's Purpose for humans is that they love and obey Him, the same as we."

Samael said, "Perhaps you’re right, brother. It’s just ... our Father is creating flesh. Unlike the spirit, flesh is said to have its own demands, and mortals would experience hunger, and greed, and desire, that might overcome the purity of their souls."

Amenadiel considered this. "It is true that angels do not know greed or mortal weaknesses. But though we are not flesh, even angels have a hunger for righteousness, and are no stranger to desire, and yet we remain pure."

"That’s true," Samael said. He looked sidelong at Amenadiel, a look that was difficult to decipher. "Do you feel we truly have desire, brother? For I find I desire your goodwill and your companionship, and would feel lost without it."

Amenadiel reached out to clasp his brother's hand. Samael's white skin was as hot as a brazier. Little sparks fired from his fingers to Amenadiel's, as if their touch called light and flame into being.

"Know that you will always have my goodwill," Amenadiel said, hesitant for the first time in his existence, and none moreso than when Sam clasped back.

From that day on Amenadiel would encounter Samael at the edge of the Dark, trying his wings against the outer reaches of the air where the light of the sky did not reach, or pacing against the border of the shadows on the ground. Samael always seemed pleased to see him, and they would take wing or walk together, often brushing their plumage against each other's or clasping hands as they had done that first time they had spoken of the Dark.

On one occasion Amenadiel happened upon Samael unexpectedly, arriving at the edge of the Dark earlier than was his habit. The Captain of the Hosts had left off his armour at that time, and his bared body was luminous in the half-light of the sky, the lean, down-flowing lines of chest and arm and smooth flank flawless as he paced along the shore of the Dark.

As Amenadiel approached he heard his brother say, as if to no one, "How do you know these things? No one knows what the future holds, except our Father."

"To whom are you speaking, Samael?"

The Lightbringer turned and regarded him as if for the first time. His brilliant eyes echoed the shadows around them. “Brother, there are voices that whisper to me from the Dark."

Amenadiel felt cold creep over him like a fine mist. "What do these voices say?"

"We speak about what the new world will be like. The voices say humans will fight each other in self-interest and cruelty and hatred, and that there will be disobedience to the Name. That angers me, for as angels we can’t know how unworthy and ungrateful these mortals would be."

Samael frowned as if he were ready to meet any such disobedience with punishment. Then he continued, "They also say humans will love each other — to put another's interest before their own, to seek to be intimate with that other, to be so close physically that the other's breath and body might as well be theirs."

He paused, and when he spoke again his voice held an edge of longing that Amenadiel had never heard before.

"And that gives me sorrow, for as angels we might never know such love."

Amenadiel did not know what to say to this. At last: "Our Father creates physical love so humans could procreate. Angels do not have flesh, nor the need to procreate; we’re to enjoy a different kind of love."

"Is that so?" Samael stepped closer, and placed a hand on Amenadiel's arm. "Then why do I desire to touch you, my brother? We may not have flesh, and yet I feel the desire to be intimate with you, to be so close physically that your breath and body might as well be mine."

Standing toe to toe with his brother, surrounded by his wings, Amenadiel could see the changing colours in Samael's eyes: purple and azure, silver and gold.

Angels did not need to breathe the air of the City, but Amenadiel had time to draw a single unsteady breath before Samael leaned in and kissed him.

His brother's lips burned like celestial fire, like the hunger and thirst that neither of them would ever know.

When the kiss ended, Samael said, thickly, "Do I still have your goodwill, my brother?

"Yes," Amenadiel said, and allowed Samael to draw him close.

Together they took wing high above the Silver City, higher than Amenadiel had ever flown by himself. At these rarefied heights the sky seemed transparent, an ineffable veil that they could tear apart with their fingers, the City below a small, glittering jewel they could hold in one hand.

They were created pure in spirit and celestial body, and in those bodies they enjoyed each other; they embraced, aroused one for the other, and there was no obstacle or joint or membrane between them, not even the air. The slide of their skin, of their wings, was a source of pleasure, and they came together in a shuddering completion, enjoined as air with air, pure with pure, soul with eternal soul.

In Amenadiel's arms, Samael's marble skin glowed a celestial, ruddy red: the colour of love.

Afterwards, they lay enveloped in each other's outer wings, the dark and white feathers mingling as light as a breeze, cast adrift together upon the surface of the sky.

Amenadiel mused: "I wonder if, despite creating us as spirit, our Father nevertheless meant us to come together in this way."

Samael said, raising an eyebrow slyly, "Do you think this might have gone even better, if we had mortal flesh to join, if you had a manhood to thrust against mine, as humans will?"

Amenadiel had to swallow. Framed in his arms and his plumage, Samael was even more beautiful than the flawless Silver City below them. Their Father had never wrought more skilfully than when He created the Light-bringer, His beloved.

Amenadiel compelled himself to speak briskly. "Don't blaspheme, brother, it's not seemly. As you know, we were created for a different purpose; we weren't created for flesh."

Samael shrugged his perfect shoulders. "Perhaps we’ll still create something from this joining, brother."

"Dear Sam, again you speak blasphemy. Only our Father creates. We are his perfect creation, and we are changeless."

"I wouldn’t be so sure," said Samael, and kissed him again on the lips. "Perhaps you are changing me, my brother, and in so doing are changing yourself."

Two: The Days of the Nephilim

Samael would learn too well of desire. Amenadiel's brilliant, quicksilver brother desired to create, and, soon enough, fatally, fearfully, he coveted the province of their Father.

And so he Fell; so he became Lucifer Morningstar. He cast himself out of Heaven, and the fallen angels of the Host made for themselves instead a fiery Hell.

In the time that followed, Amenadiel had come to realise that the Fall might also have been part of the Divine Plan.

At first, he had been enraged with his brother; had he a heart to break, it would have broken with frustration and sorrow. He had listened as the Lightbringer spoke of lusty rebellion, of not wasting eternity on mewling, pallid service, of instead creating a living, brawling, ferocious destiny for themselves out of the Dark.

The others of the Host had been roused with shouts of acclamation, drunk on pride and greed for power. Amenadiel had tried to reason with them, to no avail.

"You are wrong, all of you," he had finally said; to his most-beloved brother, he had pleaded, "For the love of our Father, Samael, turn from this evil and bend your knee to Him again, beg Him for His forgiveness —"

"Never call me that again," his brother had announced, Lucifer had announced, smiling like a flaming sword, grasping hold of Amenadiel's dorsal wing near the shoulder-blade, fingers digging in. With his other hand he caressed the purity between Amenadiel's thighs in a cruel mockery of their past holy union. "I will never bend, unless it is so you can sheathe yourself within me, brother; I will never beg, unless it’s for your love —"

"— Blasphemy," Amenadiel choked out, plumage askew, flinging himself away and out from Lucifer's lewd clasp. He turned his back on his brother and the scornful laughter of the Host, and the doomed towers of Lucifer's new domain.

When his wings had returned him to the Silver City, he turned and saw that this had been the purpose of the Dark all along, to set up a mirror to pride, and to provide a place for mankind’s punishment.

He saw too that this had been their Father’s Purpose as well: for the proud, unbending Morningstar to rule in Hell in the way that he could not in Heaven.

He wondered when Lucifer would realise that the Divine Plan had been for him to Fall. He suspected that it would only be a matter of time.

After the Fall, their Father created the new earth as well as a new heaven: a rolling canvas of oceans and trees, a tapestry of fertile grass and sands and stone.

Thereafter, the Name created Man, sensitive and innocent and fiercely loving. It created Adam with his gallantry and jutting pride; it created Eve with her reckless courage. They were created from the same mould as the angels, save in one important respect: they were flesh, they wore sex between the join of their thighs, the human blood ran hot in their veins and close to the surfaces of their fine skin, and they loved each other ardently and without shame in Paradise.

Amenadiel watched as the first man and woman cleaved together in their conjugal bed, as God had intended.

He watched, also, as they were slyly tempted by the very new Devil to sin and to pride. Clad in nothing but their shame, they were cast from Paradise in a downfall that he would later understand had been no less momentous nor less planned than Samael's.

"I hope you're happy, brother," he said, sheathing his flaming sword as the sounds of mortal weeping faded into the heat of the afternoon.

Chameleon-eyed, shining-scaled, the Devil slithered out from underneath a nearby rock. His forked tongue flashed redly for a moment, and then the white-skinned, white-feathered aspect of the Lightbringer was standing on the road that led from Paradise.

"Not as happy as our Father is, I'm sure. After all, I'm merely serving His Purpose, the same as you."

"Are you suggesting that those poor children were set up to fail?" Amenadiel began, and then he halted. Their Father's ways were unfathomable, and even the Seraphim could not hope to unravel them.

Lucifer said, with a curl of his red mouth, "Dear brother, I’m suggesting nothing. It's not for me to wonder why; I just go where I'm sent, and take the blame for whatever sin I need to. And it seems as if human flesh is fragile, and human souls are doomed to fail."

"Away with you," Amenadiel said, wrathfully, and his brother laughed and shrugged off his plumage and slithered away again into the dust.

Millennia passed as if in the blink of an angel's eye. Mankind flourished and withered and came up again like a hardy root, like the bloom of desert roses after the rain.

The children of Adam and Eve quarrelled and fought and slew and loved each other in a maelstrom of chaos and emotion that Amenadiel could not believe was part of the Divine Plan... and yet it seemed it was.

Matters did not improve when the Host added themselves to the seething, chaotic mix. Angels might be sexless, but it seemed the new demons did not feel they had to be — they took the forms of human men and went to the daughters of humans and begat children upon them, and so created the Nephilim, who became the heroes of old, men of renown.

On occasion, Amenadiel would descend from Heaven, spreading his plumage and soaring over the Earth. He wondered if Lucifer was enjoying himself amongst the daughters of Eve. Perhaps he was also indulging amongst the sons of Adam, although their Father had not seen fit to permit procreation between men and demons wearing the guise of men. If He had... well. It was not for Amenadiel to speculate on what such a joining might engender.

He would not deny keeping half an eye out for his brother on his travels. He had not, after all, forgotten that Lucifer had been curious about human congress so long ago, before the Fall. Now that Lucifer was finally able to approximate mortal flesh, how might he be using it? But the wily King of Hell kept himself hidden from the searching gaze of the brother whom he had once loved, and who might have loved him most of all.

Soon enough the time of the Nephilim had passed, and with it the age of antiquity. Empires rose and fell like waves on the sea or spiralling dunes in the desert. Dynasties flourished, created wonders, and perished in seas of blood, some even at the same time. Flesh fell on waysides and under rivers and was buried in the ground, and men's spirits either took wing to Paradise or descended to be punished in perpetuity in Lucifer's bleak, eternal domain.

As the demons prowled the earth in mortal guises, so did angels. The Seraphim guarded the living, the principalities and dominions shepherded the worthy to their heavenly rest, and Archangels were despatched to bring the Message of God to His people on occasions of great import.

Amenadiel would not have imagined it, but the next time he set eyes on his brother was during such an occasion, on a hillside in a nondescript rural town called Bethlehem. It was winter, and the air in the small Roman province hung cold and dry. The stars overhead were quiet, hovering like a story on the cusp of a beginning.

"Peace be with you, brother. Fancy meeting you here," the Lightbringer drawled.

The intervening years had been kind to him; the centuries spent overseeing the punishment of the damned had not left a single mark. His skin was pristine, his plumage glowed like the pulsing heart of the Silver City itself. He had resumed his angelic aspect, and he wore his sexlessness like a weapon, or a peace treaty, between his marble thighs.

Amenadiel said, slowly, "I wish I could say I was as surprised to see you." He placed a hand on the hilt of his sword. "I trust I won’t need to use this?"

"No, brother, you won’t. Not on this night, at any rate," said the Morningstar, sombrely, as cattle began to move, circumnavigating the inn and ambling in the direction of the nearby stable.

"Respectfulness from you? You do surprise me," Amenadiel confessed.

Lucifer winked. "The Devil's full of surprises. Is the flesh-is-blasphemy approach still working for you, brother?"

"Of course it is still working." Amenadiel sought to focus on Lucifer's hidden layers of meaning. "Surely you are not suggesting Our Father sanctioned … relations with the girl?"

"She's no mere girl," Lucifer said lazily. "She'll be the salvation of these humans; she'll birth mankind's get-out-of-Hell-free card. You should try a little respect yourself."

Amenadiel glared, and Lucifer raised his hands placatingly. "I jest, brother. There's more than one way to beget a human child, and creation has always been Our Father's bag. At least it wasn't me this time."

"Do I want to know about the times when it was you?" Amenadiel ventured.

Lucifer smirked. "I know you like to watch, brother, but do let me keep some of my secrets."

They stood shoulder to shoulder as a baby's first cry shook the night. Their wingspans touched, the Morningstar's feathers as soft and tempting as sin.

A host of angels — Raphael and their brother Uriel and the Archangel Gabriel — were despatched to watch over the Messiah as the boy grew to manhood. Amenadiel followed, and began to walk the Earth for his own purposes, taking the aspect of a tall human man and hiding his plumage under mortal garb.

Daughters of Eve were drawn to him, not realising his celestial identity. Sons of Adam approached him, also, and there would be the occasional man who would remind him of his brother, of dark hair and eyes that changed colour under different light, a lip that curled with amusement and cruelty.

He did not mention these mortal visitations when he happened to cross paths with the Devil. Such incidents were few and far between: they happened upon each other in Byzantium, and crossed swords during the Crusades. He'd taken the opportunity to draw blood; as an Angel of the Lord he was not permitted to do permanent harm, but it would be a long time before Lucifer would forgive him for the rumour he started during the Reformation regarding the goat.

Amenadiel could not recall when their Father had created the Endless, or whether humans themselves had called those entities into being. Regardless, after the two Great Wars, Dream of the Endless, King Morpheus of the Land of Stories, took it upon himself to attempt to rescue his lost love from Hell.

Lucifer handed Morpheus the key to Hell, and God's Divine Plan veered sharply off-script.

Heaven was thrown into uproar by the Morningstar's abdication; the angels' songs were full of dire outrage, and the spires of the Silver City rang with the Father's disapproval.

Amenadiel was called into the Presence. The last time he had been there, he'd been asked to deal with their Mother, and that had not gone well.

The Father's command was unmistakable. Find Him, the Name of Names said, a torrent of flame. Return Him To His Home.

But Hell is not his home, Amenadiel thought, treacherously, before he bent his knee and bowed his head and told the Lord of Lords that His Will would be done.

When Amenadiel finally caught up with his brother, Lucifer had divested himself of his wings, and had improbably acquired a nightclub called Lux on Sunset Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles, amid the fake financiers and the painted madonnas and the false prophets that called the imitation City of Angels their home.

Lucifer actually looked pleased to see him. He was wearing a well-tailored suit the colour of the Dark. New mortality shimmered from his perfect skin.

The demon Mazikeen had followed him to Los Angeles. She glowered at Amenadiel from the shadows of the polished bar, fatal and lovely between bottles of sin and oblivion. Clearly it had been her knives which had taken Lucifer's wings.

"Brother, your mission has a snowball's chance in Hell," Lucifer said, cheerfully. Not genuinely pleased to see him, then.

"I'm not taking odds from you on anyone's chances in Hell," Amenadiel said. "Your subjects miss you, Luci, and so does Our Father."

Lucifer snorted. "I'll believe that when the old man tells me so himself. Besides, it's remarkably freeing to be answerable to nobody. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, et cetera. I remember chatting with Edward VIII when he was taking his turn in the thumbscrews; he said he'd regretted everything about the Wallis business except for the freedom it brought him."

"Explain this to me," Amenadiel said. "You desired to reign so badly that you left the Silver City because you could never rule in Heaven. I can't believe you'd so easily turn your back on everything you ever wanted just because you needed a little fresh air."

Real anger crossed Lucifer's face before the sardonic mask resettled itself again. "Wrong number, brother mine," he said, smiling with all his teeth. "The only thing I ever wanted to rule was my own destiny. That wasn't happening for me in Hell; not even you can believe I had autonomy in my own kingdom. But now, I can finally have what I desire."

Amenadiel made himself speak calmly. "Look around you, Luci. What you desire is this? You held sway over a host of hellish powers and a multitude of lost souls; principalities and dominions bent their knee to you. You would give that up to serve drinks to humans in a town that's a bargain-basement knock-off of the Silver City?"

Mazikeen said, unexpectedly, "An angel making sense! Never thought I'd see the day."

Amenadiel had not anticipated help from that demonic quarter. He glanced over at her and she winked darkly back.

"Not now, Maze," Lucifer said. His eyes were the red of souls in torment. "Don't knock it until you've tried it, brother. I always had the temperament of an artist, and here I actually get to create. Just cocktails for now, it's true, but, you know, small steps."

He took a rather longer step toward Amenadiel until they stood chest to chest. Amenadiel could feel the thunder of his brother's humanity beating under that Prada-clad breast.

Lucifer whispered, "Mark me, my brother, I will never go back to Hell. Not for you, and definitely not for Our Father."

Amenadiel did not give up, of course. When persuasion didn't work, he tried subterfuge, which failed spectacularly, ending in a blaze of white feathers and a fist-fight between the brothers on California's Long Beach.

As Amenadiel fastened his hands around his brother' throat, he could not help recollecting the last times they had touched — in anger, and before that, in love. This time was different: Lucifer had shed his angelic aspect and demonic power and cloaked himself in mankind's flesh, with all its frustrations and its joys.

Lucifer didn't fight back. He didn't have to.

"Fall as I did, brother," Lucifer whispered, with a tempting, bloodied grin, and as Amenadiel climbed off his brother's unresisting body, he was at once repulsed by and intoxicated by the prospect.

Falling, becoming flesh, living in the world as Lucifer had? It was unthinkable. Yet Lucifer was doing it, and thriving, even; he had surrounded himself with a motley crew of humans that approximated a mortal family. After centuries of meting out punishment to the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, Lucifer was finally learning to understand them.

Foremost amongst Lucifer's new circle was Detective Chloe Decker, who had a child, an estranged husband, and a partner in a coma. It was a small thing for Amenadiel to breathe life into Detective Malcolm and aim him like a bullet at Lucifer. He didn't really believe Malcolm would succeed in sending the Morningstar back to Hell, but he had a celestial sense that the crooked detective was also part of the Divine Plan.

Lucifer had also acquired an actual Stanford-trained psychotherapist, Dr. Linda Martin. Amenadiel did not think that sexual therapy was part of her usual practice, but Lucifer seemed to have that effect on most humans. Amenadiel was not himself above capitalising on the good doctor's susceptibility, posing as the alluring Dr. Canaan in order to discover where Lucifer might be emotionally vulnerable.

Then there was the night a demon showed up in his bed, half of her face in shadow.

He did not know if this had also been part of the Divine Plan or preordained by the Word. How otherwise could he explain his unprecedented welcome of her? But Amenadiel had been alone for millennia, and without love even angels knew no happiness.

She made love to him like a human woman would, pressing her lips to his and wrapping her long legs around his waist. He flexed his wings and the manhood he'd assumed ever since he'd followed Lucifer to Earth in mortal guise, and made love to her like a human man.

He knew, of course, that she'd been sent to him as Lucifer's surrogate, and more, as a weapon: the Devil's counter-attack to Amenadiel's ploys with Linda Martin and Malcolm. Amenadiel told himself that he was capable of matching this new gambit of his brother's, that he could easily bend this weapon to his own hand and use it to strike back at Lucifer himself.

But Amenadiel could not stop seeing his brother's knowing smile as he held Maze down and fucked her, or when she raked her fingers through his wings, stroking him mercilessly, and spread him with her warrior's strength, and made him ride her strap-on until he came.

When he spent himself for the last time between her powerful thighs, it was with Lucifer's name on his lips.

"Knew it," Maze said, smugly, subsiding against the softness of his dark wings like an unsheathed blade, and Amenadiel went cold when he realised that Lucifer's weapon had, after all, slid home.

Three: Lux

After that, it was inevitable. Amenadiel had been tainted by the choices made before and after his tryst with Maze, by each questionable stratagem he had deployed. In the end, he had even rescued his brother from committing suicide by LAPD firing squad, against their Father's express wishes.

He tasted the sin of pride and the sweetness of disobedience; he tasted free will, and soon enough, it was his turn to Fall.

Dark feathers fell with him and around him in a widening gyre of abject shame.

It would have been almost easier to bear if, in Falling, he had been severed entirely from the Name of Names as well as the Silver City. But he still sensed the echoes of the Word and the Presence; despite his Fall, he knew himself still to be his Father's son.

He had always wondered if Lucifer could still hear their Father's voice. Now he knew.

As he stood in the rain among the filth and sinners on Hollywood Boulevard in a sharp suit Lucifer would have worn, he knew he might have also Fallen because of love. He had told his brother so long ago that angels were not made for earthly love, had accused then-Samael of blasphemy. If that was so, then his lust for his brother's demon, for his brother, had condemned him together with his pride.

Their Father knew that humans fell over all kinds of fleshly sins: over coercive sex and infidelity and that pertinent one, incest. Why should angels be any different once they chose to mimic mankind in this respect?

"You want to stalk someone like a jealous boyfriend, don't do it in Armani," said Maze, materialising at his side on the slick, wet streets in her all-purpose leather. "Come indoors before it shrinks off you."

"Are you still angry with me?" Amenadiel asked cautiously, following her inside. His coat dripped torrentially on the luminous plexiglass floors of Lux; clearly he had many things to learn about being human.

She looked at him over one elegant shoulder. "Not as long as you're not still angry with me. You know, he never really wanted me to kill you, same way as you never meant him real harm. You're both just going through the motions."

Amenadiel found the Morningstar on the dance floor of the club, amid cutting-edge LED lights and sweat-slick bodies and old-school bass-led music exhorting sympathy for the Devil. There was a press of hangers-on dancing around him. Amenadiel wondered if the poor souls knew what they were doing. They said if you danced with the Devil, the Devil changed you, something Amenadiel himself could attest to.

Amenadiel shouldered his way into the throng and found his brother hip to hip with a tall, bald, leather-clad African-American man, cheek pressed against one beefy shoulder.

Reacting on pure instinct, he hauled the man out of his brother's arms by the collar of his jacket. The man choked back his protest when he saw Amenadiel's face.

"Save yourself while you can," Amenadiel said, baring his teeth. To Lucifer, he said, "What's this about imitation being a form of flattery?"

"I do hope you're flattered," Lucifer said; he slung his arm around Amenadiel's waist in the same way as he'd been doing with the top-of-the-line angel substitute. He squared his hips to Amenadiel's and moved them in lazy, grinding circles, leaving Amenadiel in no doubt of his state of arousal. "Particularly since you saw fit to do away with my date. What brings you to my domain, brother mine?"

Amenadiel swallowed. If Lucifer kept moving against him in that way, he would not be able to conceal his own sinful lust. He grasped Lucifer's wrist, feeling the bones rasp together. "Where else would I go?" he said, hollowly. "Hell's empty, and the Devil's here."

Lucifer grinned. "The humans called it, brother. Sooner or later, the Devil always wins," he drawled, and Amenadiel experienced a slow, deep-swelling foment that was the deadly sin of anger.

This was their pattern: a moment between them poised on the knife’s edge of battle and uneasy truce, that could go one way or the other — and this time Amenadiel surrendered to glorious violence.

He could no longer wield a flaming sword of righteousness, but his rage blasted through Lux like a hurricane, cracking the shining lacquer walls and smashing the mirrored surfaces and making his brother's kingdom rain broken glass like it was hellfire.

Cursing, Lucifer paused for the bystanders to flee, and then blasted him back with such force that there was a dent in the plexiglass.

The damaged light flickered erratically under Lucifer's feet as he raised his arms to take another shot. "Damn it, what's gotten into you? You were never such a sore loser!"

"Doesn't the Devil have property insurance?" Amenadiel snarled, shrugging off his ruined jacket; he ducked under a vintage bottle of Petrus and heard it shatter against the wall behind him.

"No, as it happens!" Lucifer shouted back. "So this is going to be a very expensive jealousy tantrum for me, brother!"

"That isn't what this is!" Amenadiel dodged another flying bottle and leaped forward, tackling Lucifer around the ribs. His next move was to slam his brother into the nearest wall in a crushing piledriver; Lucifer groaned around the impact and spat out blood.

"Like Hell it isn't. You just keep on lying to yourself." His eyes gleamed redly in the low light. "It's why you sought out humans who look like me — you thought I wouldn't notice? I know all about your desires, like I know everyone's."

"You know nothing about me!" Amenadiel hefted Lucifer from the wall by the lapels and flung him across the room. The Steinway grand piano beside the bar broke Lucifer's fall.

Lucifer clung to its black lacquered edges and drew himself upright. A beat, then he looked over his shoulder seductively at Amenadiel. "I know people crave what they can't have."

Amenadiel grabbed him and spun him around onto his back. Lucifer blocked the punch, and they grappled with each other, Lucifer twisting his hands in Amenadiel's shirt front, Amenadiel pinning him down against the piano's surface.

"Who says I can't have you?" Amenadiel roared, and then he pulled up short when he realised what he'd said.

Lucifer subsided, too; he raised a scraped, sardonic eyebrow. "Actually, according to you, it's what God says," he said, taking in great gulps of air. He began to laugh. "Dear brother, are you finally going to rebel? Give yourself to me at last, and to Hell with dear old Dad?"

Amenadiel cried, from the depths of his too-human heart, "I have rebelled! Thanks to you, I've Fallen!"

Amenadiel ripped off his own tattered shirt; Lucifer let out a low whistle when he saw the state of Amenadiel's back.

"Well, I'll be damned."

Amenadiel said, panting, shaking with the hot current of adrenaline, sick to his stomach with something that wasn't hate: "I Fell; I might as well be damned forever. For my rebellion, and for everything I ever desired to do to you."

Lucifer grinned in triumph, teeth showing bloody and fierce, as if by making this final confession, Amenadiel had served him his own heart.

"Then show me what it is you desire," he murmured, and Amenadiel did — hauling Lucifer up by the front of his shirt as if he was going to punch him again, and kissing him instead.

The last time he had kissed his brother, before the Earth had been created, it had been with the purity of angels, breath mixed with breath, grace with grace. Earlier this year, when he'd kissed Lucifer's demon, his celestial nature had held back the taint of Hell, battling it to a standstill in the eternal balance between dark and light.

Now they were both mortal, and it was a filthy, bloody thing, filled entirely with human darkness.

Amenadiel felt the sharpness of his brother's teeth, the sickly sweetness of his blood, the hot invasion of tongue. He could not help groaning into it, shame and arousal flooding his body. Trust the Devil to kiss like he was eating your heart and making you love it.

He found himself fighting to pull Lucifer up to him while Lucifer tried to drag him down; his fists tightened in the remnants of Lucifer's clothing and the fabric tore apart under his fingers.

Lucifer broke the kiss. The whites of his eyes glittered in the destroyed light. "I lied. This jealousy kick is worth every penny."

Amenadiel looked down: his first proper look at his brother's bared body in centuries. The perfect muscles, their Father's care in creating him evident in the flawless lines of rib and limb and sinew — the most beautiful, the best beloved of God.

Not bare enough. "More," Amenadiel said, hoarsely, "show me," and Lucifer unbuckled his belt and kicked himself out of his trousers.

"You've always liked to watch, brother. Look at this, then — see what we didn't have in the Silver City, when we had to make other ways for love."

And here was perfection, also: the thick, proud lines of manhood, jutting against the lean planes of stomach and flushed a ruddy red, rosy sac hanging below like fruit, a pearl of clear fluid beaded at its slit — as flawless as if God had wrought it Himself. Which He had indeed done, of course: though not for angels, but for mortal men.

"Still think it's blasphemy?"

Amenadiel found his voice. "Not for you, now. Not for us."

"Finally," Lucifer said, and grasped Amenadiel's own belt buckle.

Amenadiel let his brother tug free the erection he had brought to Maze when he'd still worn his wings. It was different now he had Fallen; he had even less control; it was so difficult to think with his brother's hand on his cock, blood pulsing in his veins and filling him with all-consuming desire. He had no idea how humans coped with it. If Adam and Eve had felt this way, no wonder they had Fallen.

"Use me, brother," Lucifer murmured; Amenadiel complied, seizing him by the wrists and throwing him face down onto the piano, the scarred white flesh of back and naked arse bare and defenceless against its shining black surface.

Lucifer repeated, his voice muffled, "Use me, blame me and then be done, as is my Purpose."

Amenadiel could barely form words. His breath came in huge gasps, his cock in rigid agony between his thighs. His brother lay spread-eagled against the Steinway as if he had been crucified there.

"Unless you'd still rather watch," Lucifer said, tauntingly, and Amenadiel raised an inarticulate cry and held his brother down by the neck and hammered his way into Lucifer's body.

The drag of his cock inside Lucifer's tight passage was filthy and perverse and more delicious than anything Amenadiel had ever felt in his eternal life. That was the fatal allure of flesh — sex just felt so damned good.

It wasn't always good for all participants, though. Lucifer was groaning between his teeth as he submitted to Amenadiel's battering punishment.

"Fuck — hurts — damn you, brother —"

The merciless pace Amenadiel had set was causing real pain, and yet Amenadiel couldn't stop himself. Even more shameful was how his brother's agony fed his own monstrous pleasure.

"I can't," Amenadiel gasped; he felt his orgasm seize him in a hideous blaze, stripping away his own name and his celestial destiny.

When he pulled out of his brother's body, all-too-human seed leaked from Lucifer's hole; he saw he'd clawed red marks into his brother's skin like he'd tried to haul Lucifer down into the abyss with him.

Lucifer straightened, rising from his cross on the Steinway. He moved painfully, as he might have moved the night he'd had his wings hacked off. His cock gleamed wetly in the flickering light.

"My turn," he said, grimly, and pressed Amenadiel to his knees with sudden and terrible strength. "Give me your mouth, brother."

Amenadiel opened his mouth, surrendering for the first time in his existence to this unnatural, human act. It, too, was sudden and terrible — the thick, massive girth stuffed down his throat, making him struggle with his newly mortal need to breathe.

Lucifer's hand around his throat tightened as he fucked Amenadiel's mouth. Amenadiel began to choke, saliva drooling from his lips, unable to fight or do anything but yield on his knees to his brother and let Lucifer take his revenge.

It went on for a long time, long enough for Amenadiel to wonder how humans survived this. He listened to the panting, desperate noises his brother made, as if he were still in pain.

When Lucifer finally climaxed, Amenadiel heard himself make an entirely human sound — and then his brother's semen spilled down his face, burning his tongue and skin and throat. Once again, he was Falling, a slow spiral into the pit of despair that was this forsaken world.

From very far away, he heard Lucifer's mocking laughter.

"Free will. How does it taste, brother?"

"Like Hell," he heard himself respond, wrecked and heart-sick and satiated, his own mortality like ashes on his tongue. He realised he was half-hard again, despite everything. "Getting what you desire seems vastly over-rated."

Lux looked different in the morning light, like all places of darkness looked by day. When Amenadiel walked down the stairs from the private lift lobby, he saw that the clean-up crew had done their work — broken glass and bottles and shelves had been cleared away, a temporary bar top had been installed, and Maze was waiting.

"You look like Hell, angel. Rough night?"

"You know exactly how rough," Amenadiel murmured. He let her pour from a tumbler of orange juice that had survived the battle royale.

She shrugged as she handed him the one unbroken glass on the premises. "Human sex can be like that. Seems flesh makes them crazy — the hunger, the crawling jealousy, the confusion, it all comes from being mortal. There's vulnerability too, though, which makes me want to puke, but Linda said it's supposed to help humans bond."

He eyed her warily. "Since when did you become an expert on humankind?"

"Oh, Linda and I discuss the human experience all the time." Maze pushed a strand of hair behind her ear in a modest gesture that wasn't at all like her. "She thinks I would benefit from learning about bonding and interdependence. She recommended a team activity. I suggested group sex, but she said that was usually insufficiently inclusive. Besides, it's clear she doesn't like to share."

Amenadiel found himself staring as Maze smirked and licked her lips, in what looked like fond memory.

He licked his own lips. They tasted like sex and humanity and his brother’s human breath.

Maze asked, "He still asleep?"

"He was when I left him."

They’d gone again in Lucifer’s penthouse upstairs, more slowly this time, Amenadiel pressing his lips to each bruise he’d left. After the third round Lucifer had muttered something about hating him, and then he’d fallen asleep in Amenadiel’s arms.

Maze smirked again. "He's usually up with the dawn. You must've done a real number on him." She leaned across the makeshift bar to pat him on the cheek. "Good for you. He's wanted this forever, even if he was never going to admit it."

Amenadiel wasn't sure what either he or Lucifer would ever admit, to each other or to themselves. Perhaps even the Devil might be able to love, after all; perhaps it took becoming mortal for an angel to love him back. He'd wallowed in fisticuffs and selfish, animalistic sex, and the emptiness of his newly mortal existence, but perhaps he'd just needed to drag himself through humanity's gutter before allowing himself to stand in the light.

He wondered if this had been what their Father intended all along.

He reached across the bar to take her hand.

"I never meant to use you," Amenadiel said. "Maybe Luci did, but he does love you, too."

"No harm done," she said, and kissed him on the mouth. "I hope humanity sticks for you, angel. You might learn to enjoy it after all."

Bells were tolling as they walked down West Adams Boulevard. The cathedral's spires soared overhead, the white marble luminous in moonlight, evoking the spires of the Silver City and the silver and gold of its changing, changeless sky. Familiar stars shone overhead; one, in particular, pointing the way.

Lucifer drawled, "Doesn't this take you back, brother? You and me, side by side, attending the very first midnight mass."

It did take Amenadiel back: the brothers standing wingtip to wingtip, remembering the centuries spent on opposite sides, and before that, when they'd fought on the same team. "Here we are again, two thousand years later, celebrating the birth of the Messiah."

Lucifer paused, frowning. The December chill tousled his dark hair, making him into a carved marble effigy of himself: Joseph Geefs' too-comely Devil perplexed. The bruises from yesterday’s bare-knuckled fight and even more violent coupling had yet to fade from his skin, and it made him even more beautiful to Amenadiel.

Neither of them had apologised to the other, of course. God forbid they would ever need to.

"It almost sounds like a trick of destiny that the Almighty would pull."

"Come, brother," Amenadiel said, soothingly. "Even if Our Father may know what we will for ourselves, that doesn't make that will any less free, does it? Perhaps our Fall was always of our own making — something which we chose with His knowledge and His concurrence."

Lucifer was silent for a long moment. "What about blasphemy?" he asked.

Amenadiel said slowly, "Blasphemy is disobeying Our Father's Will. But if He never Willed how his creations should come together in love and sex, why, then..."

And in the moment, he realised this: that all of them, all creation, angels and demons and humans, had been fearfully and wonderfully made, and made for love.

"Why, indeed," Lucifer murmured. "I for one am glad you managed to find your way back to me, dear brother."

Amenadiel took his brother's fingers in his: scarred, achingly human. "Always. We're blood, our bond is unseverable. To lose you would be to lose myself."

Lucifer smirked, and clasped back, and hand in hand they entered their Father's House.