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First Born

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Breathe in, breathe out. Feel the strength in your center, feel the calm, be the quiet pillar while the universe rages around you. Gather the power, let it slowly seep into your every cell, let it grow, grow – and then strike. Strike in the name of your Father, strike in the name of what is right, strike in the name of what is good and ordained.

Strike.

Amenadiel didn’t quite know what or who Father’s enemies might be, but still he trained: it was what God wanted, and as his first-born he had to show the way of righteous obedience to his siblings – all of them, even the little dark-haired one peeking from behind a tree.

“I know you’re here, Samael.”

“Really?” His loose curls bounced around his face as he ran and slammed into Amenadiel. “You’re so big!”

“Maybe one day if you train hard, you’ll be just as big.”

“But I don’t want to train!”

“What do you want to do?”

Samael giggled. “I want to have fun!”

“Father has a role for you.”

“What if I want to do something else?”

Amenadiel blinked. That had never really crossed his mind. Wasn’t Father’s will the most important thing? Father spoke, and Amenadiel followed. Even when God told his then only son, You will have brothers and sisters, and you will be their example and lodestar. I will rely on you for many things, because I know you are strong enough. And Father had shown him what to learn, and Father had shown him what to teach, and he’d always, always tried to please Father to the best of his ability. “Don’t you want Father to be proud of you?”

Sammy – Samael, his name was Samael, round cheeks and chubby arms notwithstanding; they shouldn’t desecrate their God-given, holy names – grinned. “Look!” He held up a sort of blacker-than-black stone, speckled with the tiniest bright specks. It left a dark smudge in his palm. “Look what I made! Don’t you think Father will be proud? I know I am!”

“What is it, little brother?”

He tilted his head. “I don’t know. But I made it myself, Amenadiel. I made it! And mum said it was very nice.”

“Well then. You should show it to Dad.”

But Samael had already let it fall in the grass to run away to something newer and shinier – splashing water around in a stream, jumping from high stones while flapping madly his small, not-yet-flight-worthy wings to slow his fall, singing and clapping his hands or doing his best to mimic everyone, often annoying them in the process.

And yet, he always got away with it. No one could stay angry with Samael for long, because whenever you tried to scold him he’d look at you with those wide eyes and grab your hand and give you a hug and who could resist that? Amenadiel couldn’t, for all his jealousy at times. No one had ever cut him any slack, Father expected him to be a perfect model and Mother usually ignored him because she was busy with the younger ones, or at least that’s what she said. You're a big boy now, son; you don’t need me anymore.

And sometimes, just sometimes, Amenadiel really didn’t feel like a big boy. He just wanted his mom to give him a hug, too. He just wanted someone to be proud of him.

But he had to be responsible and loyal, and so on he went.

Steady, reliable, obedient. A good son. A good son.

 

“Samael, I can hear you. Come out now,” he said. Up in the tree, he could make out small, hiccuping sobs. “You can’t hide there forever.”

“Why not?” Anger, Amenadiel thought – he had become angry, lately. Restless and discontented.

“Well. Because…” What could he say? “Our Father wouldn’t want that.”

“I don’t care what he wants! He didn’t let me come in his study, so I don’t care!”

“You know no one can, not even Mother.”

“How is that fair? He doesn’t love us anymore. Maybe he never even did!” In a cascade of leaves and small branches, his brother finally landed next to Amenadiel. He was pouting, of course, and Amenadiel was pretty sure the brimming eyes were more for show than because of real hurt. No one could really be as quick to change moods anyway. He, himself, was slow and steady. Faithful to their parents, steadfast and solid. The one to send when one of his siblings behaved badly, to set them on the straight and righteous path again. It was his duty, and one that often involved Samael.

For a very long time, Amenadiel remembered, he’d been a happy if maybe somewhat overactive boy, curious about everything and always trying to make new things. He sang and he danced, he smiled and he played. He created, too, really created; although not from nothing life Father could: he gathered rocks and made a house, he gathered wood and made a fire. He gathered gases, and lit the universe outside of Heaven. Dark it had been, light it became.

But Father – and Mother, soon after – didn't seem to care much. Mother called him her Lightbringer, her Lucifer. He liked the new nickname, just like he always smiled when the Morning Star – the first Night Light he made – appeared on the horizon.

He was still named Samael, and yet he was growing more troubled, more unhappy every light-and-dark cycle.

But why would he be? Father knew what was best, and his time-consuming project of creating new, sentient, intelligent life forms in their image was of course for a greater purpose. His first-born children were only here to assist in the mighty act of creation, weren't they? Samael was only becoming more arrogant because of the pride he took in his own creations, but wasn’t he a creation of Father’s, too? His creations were Father’s, really.

“You should not sulk, brother. You should rejoice in the glory of God.”

Samael shrugged, and didn’t smile, and after a last… longing? was it longing? weary? look at Amenadiel, flew away into the sky. For all his professed love for his siblings, he spent more and more time alone, and his smiles seemed less and less genuine. But maybe that was all in Amenadiel’s imagination, and not something to dwell upon.

They had a greater purpose, hadn’t they? God’s will was above a brother’s tantrum.

 

“What have you done?”

“What I had to, brother. Weren’t they supposed to be free? To decide for themselves? How could they do that without Knowledge?”

“It is not our place to meddle with Father’s creation.”

“Perhaps that’s what he wanted. Perhaps not. But what are we good for, in his plans? What are we? What can we…” His nostrils flared. The anger, at least, was never fake.

“Sam – ” at his brother’s glare, he raised his hands. “Lucifer… Luci. Father might choose not to forgive, this time. Giving them fire was already bad enough.”

“Why was it bad, though? Why? Didn’t they make good use of it? Didn’t they make new, better things with it?”

“Well, because… because…”

That was when a scream rent the air, when the ground moved, when there was a flaming sword and a fight and their Mother, impassive, just looked on and Father only scowled and Lucifer, he then really became only Lucifer, fell.

And Samael died.

It was the lowest point if Amenadiel’s life up until then, because he’d failed in his mission. He hadn’t prevented his brother from falling, he hadn’t managed to set him back on the right path: he’d failed as first among God’s children, he’d failed in his duty, he’d failed Father.

 

But then, their Mother was condemned to Hell too, and Amenadiel took her there himself. He was certain she deserved it, because how could their Father be wrong? Maybe he could redeem himself in Father’s eyes after all, maybe he could show he was trustworthy again, ready to do God’s bidding even if it meant taking his own mom to the Underworld. Maybe Father would love him again.

That was when he met Mazikeen for the first time, and realized how wrath had truly burned his brother’s soul. He could hardly recognize the sweet, energetic little Samael he’d known long ago in all that resentment and bitterness and oh, all the fire and the ash. When he narrowed his eyes and only told him to go away from his Hellish kingdom (whatever he’d meant by “Hellish”), when his voice rose up and his eyes turned red and his face changed too, then, he saw. He saw a new angel, whose still pure wings rose aggressively over almost charred shoulders, and it made something strange happen in his chest, in his throat, in his eyes. But he swallowed it all down.

“I don’t want to fight, Luci.”

“But that’s what you’ll get,” Mazikeen answered. She’d stepped in front of her master, knives in hand, elegant and deadly blades like he could well believe his brother capable of forging. She’d been radiating protectiveness and ire, and he’d flown away – or, perhaps, he’d fled – back to Heaven, promising himself he’d visit again, see his brother, see his mom, grant them the gift of his still untainted grace and show them forgiveness. Prove Father he could show them the way to redemption.

He never could bring himself to do it.

 

Time went by.

He’d never paid much attention to it before, why start now?

He trained, he followed God’s will, did what Father asked him to do. Visited the worthy, answered a prayer, and even once blessed a childless couple. Checked the borders of Hell were still secure and well-guarded, guided his younger siblings, praised Father’s creation.

Good, deserving souls started to fill Heaven, they all got busier as the human population grew on earth, and everything was holy and peaceful in the Silver City. As it should be, ever and always.

They had another brother who spent a few decades on earth with his human mother before joining them – Amenadiel never asked the particulars of his birth, or why he had to be put through so much. It was not his place to question, and Emmanuel seemed happy to have served God’s great and glorious purpose, too. Why stir unrest and discontent with pointless questions?

But then Lucifer left Hell, left his appointed role in the order of the universe, and everything accelerated.

Amenadiel tried not to retch when Mazikeen cut off his brother’s still gorgeous and divine wings, he tried not to feel anything at the pain he could see on his face. He saw him settle in the human world, open a sex club and then Lux, strike deals and seduce humans and fornicate with them. He was shameless, did as he pleased as always; and when he went down to ask Lucifer to go back to Hell, his brother of course ignored both him and their Father’s will.

It all went downhill afterwards.

 

******

Improv was one of those new, confusing and yet exhilarating things he’d discovered while living on earth. It didn’t hurt it usually ended at the bar next door with… a friend. Yes. He’d made friends, here. That, too, was new and confusing and exhilarating. And after a few cosmos, it was easier to talk.

“I just wanted to make Father proud.”

“Don’t we all, buddy. Don’t we all.” Daniel knocked back what was left of his beer, and gestured for another round. “Although given the way you, Lucifer and Charlotte talk about him, he seems… tough.”

“He is fair and just, we simply can’t understand…” His voice petered out when he saw Daniel’s eyebrows rise. “He asks a lot, but he has his reasons.”

“Look, I know about demanding fathers, all right? They’re not always right.”

Amenadiel toyed with his straw for a few seconds before finally asking, “What happened?”

“Ah, well. It’s a long story. All right, fine, stop staring at me, I’ll spill. Just don’t tell Lucifer any of it.” Daniel took a long swallow of his lager before continuing. “I was raised mostly by my grandparents. My abuelo, he’d been living not far from here in the early 30s. He was just a kid then, of course, and when the sheriffs came to repatriate him back to Mexico with his parents he didn’t understand any of it. Just did what he was told, ran away, hid under the hay. The neighbors found him the next day.”

“Repatriate?”

“There was a huge economic crisis then, and they were sending Mexican workers back to Mexico. It wasn’t a good time.” Daniel’s fingers were drawing patterns into the condensation on his pint. “Abuelo was resourceful, though. I’m sure he was a tough little shit. Had to be. He grew up, never saw his parents again. Got married, had two kids.”

“Your father?”

My mom, and my uncle.” He smiled. “Tío Tomás. I adored him. Didn’t see him often, he’d run away to San Francisco as soon as he could. He was gay, and my grandfather… didn’t approve. He was the coolest uncle ever, and whenever he came down to LA he’d drive me around on his bike and take me to the rides and everything. He died 25 years ago.” He made to order again, but Amenadiel stopped him. “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll just have a coke then.”

He died young, then.”

“He did. He died of AIDS. Even after we knew what it was, how it was transmitted, he never changed anything in the way he lived his life. He’d always been… reckless. Never wore a helmet, drove too fast, drank too much. Probably did drugs, too.” Amenadiel must have looked pretty horrified, because he added, “not with me. Never with me. He bought kid’s helmets for me, and he was never drunk or high around me. But I think… I think he never got over abuelo’s disappointment, you know? He did everything right, he had a good job, he was smart and good looking, he… really helped me when I found out, ah, stuff about me. But he was self-destructive, and never careful where he was concerned. It killed him.”

“And you think your grandfather killed him, in a way?”

“Not exactly, but… yeah. Abuelo actually never forgave himself, and I don’t think grandma really forgave him either, but she’d never stood up much to him. Hadn’t been raised like that. They tried to be better with me, though. I had a mostly happy youth.”

“What about your mom?”

“Ah, mom. She always did what was expected. She and uncle Tomás, they were really close as kids, but when he left… I think she was very alone, carrying her parents’ expectations for the future all by herself, you know?” Amenadiel did know. He was starting to realize Daniel was more perceptive than he’d first thought. “She got married, I was born, my father left us.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well. They weren’t well-suited.” He shrugged. “It happens.”

“But you’re here for your daughter, even if you and Chloe are divorced.”

“I try to be. I wasn’t always. I didn’t want to be my father, and… anyway. She got a job that meant she was always in planes around the world, left me with my grandparents, never saw her much. I think between what I reminded her of and abuelo’s expectations… it was easier. She settled back in LA when he died.” Daniel turned on his barstool to look at him. “So you know. He may have been well-meaning, wanting the best for his kids, wanting them not to go through what he’d gone through, but…”

“Rejection for what you are?” It wasn’t quite what drove Father, but still.

“Your father seems hard to please. You and Lucifer took different roads, but because of the same reasons, I guess.”

Maybe. “Luci was never happy with what he got. He always wanted more – more attention, more praise, more everything.”

“And you didn’t?”

“I...” He looked at his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Oh, he’d wanted, too. He’d never asked. Lucifer – Samael – had asked too much, and fallen for it. Lost it all. And so had he, he thought as his wing stumps twitched.

“Hey, buddy, don’t look so grim. Lose some, get some.”

“Some what?”

“Well, you know.” Daniel fidgeted. “Like, we should get free from our parents, yeah? Make our own way, our own family. Um.” He inhaled half his drink much too fast and choked a little, and Amenadiel thumped his back.

“You all right?”

“Yeah. Thanks. Hey, it’s late. Should get back home. Do you need a lift? Where do you live, anyway?”

“I… just drop me at Lux, if it’s not too much of a detour. There’s someone I should talk to.”

“Sure.”

“And… Thank you, Daniel.”

A long-overdue conversation was better than no conversation at all.