Death's duo did not always hold the position of Lady and Lord Death. Every lifetime was different from the last and every universe unimaginably different. They had never been death before, and they would never be so again. But in this universe, she was.
They were soulmates even in a universe without such a thing. Their love for one another was fierce enough that universes ended upon their separation. One was always immortal while the other reincarnated until such time that they were reunited. Sometimes the years of peaceful togetherness were plenty, but they were always too few.
Regardless of the universe, the lady had never been capable of childbearing. It was amongst her greatest desires, and their waxing and waning of mortality was only the beginning of their curse. Their origin had long been forgotten, but somehow they had offended some great primordial and this was their penance.
Yet even so, there had been one universe in which the unthinkable occured.
There was a king who wanted a special task completed. He wanted a wall built, without rewarding the skillful builder. He who demanded that it be his 'son' who must find a way to prevent it. To wrend the contract from being completed in three days. And the young man was so desperate to succeed, to prove his worth to one who seemed to always overlook, that he magicked himself into a mare and bore a son. This was the beginning of what would someday become the end.
At the end of what would be called Ragnarok, only the lady Sigyn still succeeded her family. But reincarnation existed for their family, and didn't she know it. The cycle continued, and Sigyn watched for her children and her spouse. Loki's children did not have to be hers by blood to be loved. She loved them and considered them her own. In the universes and lifetimes that followed, she would be more likely to find the children than her husband, and in all the universes that followed, save one, their children could never find the person who bore them. That was, perhaps, the catalyst for the end.
In what would later be considered the last universe, Sigyn was Lady Death. She and her husband shared a cottage that existed outside any universe. It was the one thing that remained the same in each and every universe. It was theirs.
It was a sprawling two story house with an assortment of rooms on both floors. The master bedroom belonged to the couple. It was alongside a library, bigger on the inside than the outside. As well as several other bedrooms on that floor. One never knew when one might have company.
The fully furnished kitchen was downstairs. The countertop curved through the room, leaving many places to sit on both sides. Most of the downstairs was devoted to the entryway and living room, though there were also a few bedrooms.
Lady Death did not have a domain in which to live; she was no demon, angel, monster, or mortal. This cottage had ever been their domain. Some of their belongings had been theirs since the beginning, and others were things they'd collected along the way.
Sometimes outside the universe and sometimes within one, their property extended outside the house. In this universe, thestrals ate from Sigyn's pastures and allowed their foals to romp through them. The thestrals were under her protection. They were her horses, and they bred and raised their foals under her watch.
The pasture was bordered by elder and cypress trees. The boundary of her property was Sigyn's flower garden. She grew red calla lilies and black roses. They were her favorites. She also had a regular garden. As an immortal, Sigyn didn't need to eat, but she found some pleasure in it. She had fond memories of lifetimes spent with mortals. Mealtimes were important in every universe. Nevertheless, it made her miss her other half all the more.
The wards around Sigyn's property were ancient. The language they were written in was one she could no longer remember the origin of. She could not be killed or harmed, but she was ever cautious, despite, or perhaps because of her offered protection to those within her lands.
It was the reapers and the thestrals who did most of the soul collecting. She did little of it herself. Those who hung on to life, and children. Sigyn was not a cold primordial. Mothers, especially the protective mothers who would die for their children, held a special place within her heart.
In this world's infancy, a pair of fledgling archangels found Sigyn while exploring. Their father was busy and had left them all alone and they were lonely. Sigyn regaled them with stories of other worlds, though the fledglings were skeptical of their truth, because if their father hadn't created it, it must not exist.
They spent a lot of time with Sigyn, until their father created for them more little brothers to show the wonders of creation and they forgot about her and her stories.
Sigyn had never not been lonely, so she didn't let it bother her that they didn't come to play with her any more. She had been a mother for long enough to know that children were easily distracted. She had all but forgotten about them in favor of her task as Lady Death once mortals were repopulating. So much so, that one managed to surprise her.
Sigyn had spent the morning playing with her thestrals and weeding her garden. There was mud on her hands. When she came inside, she blinked at the uninvited guest. He was sitting at her table eating - is that?- chocolate cake, which the mortals had not yet invented. And he was dressed to look like her Loki.
The resemblance was more than passing. She could tell with little difficulty that this was an archangel, even as he had done his best to hide himself from everyone. There was more, though. Sigyn could see beneath the surface, and even beneath the layer of grace. She knew that psyche, "Slip?"
Gabriel's eyes widened. As a fledgling, he had wondered why it felt wrong to be the youngest, even as he knew there was no way it could have ever been any other way. Father - he's not father, not really - leaving had caused specific memories to resurface, and oh, didn't abandonment hurt.
"Sigyn!" To Sleipnir, Loki had always been Mama. Sigyn hadn't come into his life until much later, but she had always been loving and accepting of Loki's children. Even when their other family thought they were monsters.
The youngest archangel, who was also Loki's eldest child, jumped out of his chair and dashed across the room to hug his stepmother. Sigyn was ready, embracing her son tightly, careful of his wings. She wanted to ask him what was wrong, why he was here, because until just now he hadn't known. But she waited, because this moment was important to her.
"He left," Sleipnir, whimpered.
"Michael cast Lucifer into Hell and He left us."
"It's okay," Sigyn whispered.
After awhile, they sat on a couch in another room. Sigyn knew that Gabriel must have come to her home for a reason, but she waited. He would either tell her why he had originally come, or he would not.
Sigyn's patience paid off, "I didn't know you were the one who lived here. I just thought that maybe…"
"Yes?" Sigyn prodded.
The young archangel fidgitted, wringing his fingers together as he tried to come up with the words necessary to explain, "that maybe you could help me. I don't want to go back to heaven. Michael threw Lucifer out of heaven and He left and Raphael…"
Sigyn watched him patiently as he stood up, pacing the length of the couch as he recollected his thoughts. "They think I'm dead and, well, I'm not ready to tell them otherwise. So I wondered if, maybe I could disguise myself and live among the mortals? I wouldn't go by Gabriel anymore, it'd be too easy for the rest of them to find out, so maybe I could go by something else?"
Sigyn smiled. "My house is open to you, as long as you want it to be. What name do you want me to call you, Slip?"
Gabriel grinned in return, "Well, Sleipnir is the name Mama picked for me. But I probably won't be able to stop answering to Gabriel."
He explained his idea of being a pagan trickster god. Sigyn liked it. Her husband had once been the god of mischief, after all, and serving their just desserts was hardly unsuitable punishment by the archangel of justice. Odin had always been mistaken about Loki and his lies. Loki had been the god of mischief and fire, not the liesmith.
Gabriel spent eons among mortals. He was Coyote, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, and more often than not, he was believed to be Loki. As long as Sigyn didn't mind, Gabriel didn't argue. To be a Trickster was his birthright. Gabriel would deny the possibility that accepting the assumption that he was Loki was more trouble than it was worth, but considering the other pagan deities on Earth, it was true.
Sigyn didn't deal with the other earthen deities. Only Loki and his children held her allegiance to the original Asgard and the current pagans were not one and the same, try as they might to follow the same stories.
Gabriel still had a fling with Kali. Some people were attracted to their self destruction in any and all lifetimes. But 'The Destroyer' wasn't the only person Gabriel met.
Michael and Lucifer were born in the same instant of one other. In some universes there may have been some length of time when Michael was all alone, but that was not the case in this one. They were twins, and where one went, the other was not far behind. Meeting Sigyn had been a surprise for the both of them because, as far as they had known, Father hadn't created anyone or anything else yet. But Sigyn wasn't His creation, no, she was old, so much older.
She was also familiar. Sigyn was familiar in a way that Michael and Lucifer had been unable to understand. While they would have told anyone who asked that they ceased their visits to Sigyn to look after their little brothers, that was not the case. They ceased their visits to Sigyn because of that familiarity. It was deja-vu before anything had occurred repeatedly and it felt wrong to force her to spend time with them without first knowing why this was so important.
Father had created wolves and both of the elder archangels had nightmares despite the fact that neither spent much time asleep. That time diminished, even as they were also plagued by daymares. No animal was violent towards the angels. Yet there was genuine fear there. Muscle memory from two deaths so violent neither fledgling knew which death had been theirs. Claws tearing into flesh and pulling, ripping, shredding, with an anger and hunger that wasn't natural. Even the special bond the two brothers shared was not strong enough to break the magic enchantment cast by he who was supposed to be the father of all.
They never had the opportunity to rectify that miscommunication with Sigyn. The fledglings grew up and first the leviathans and then Amara had to be caged away. Michael knew something was wrong almost the instant before Lucifer was offered the Mark. It was related to the nightmares, Michael thought. One brother must kill the other. It was foresight, and memory, and it was so wrong.
Michael never wanted to cast Lucifer out. He and his brother had always been so close. But the Lucifer with the mark was not the twin he had grown up exploring with, was not the fledgling that sat beside him, their attention rapt as Sigyn told story after story of lifetime after lifetime. But Father said he had to or it would not end well for him and it was only as Lucifer was falling that he knew there was something wrong with this picture. But as soon as Lucifer was gone, so was He.
And Gabriel was dead. Why was Gabriel dead? His baby brother was always getting into trouble, but he never meant any harm. He was Lucifer's shadow, always learning new tricks and pulling pranks on his siblings. He was a mischievous little snot at the best of times, but he was his little brother, and wasn't that a new experience? The twins had once been the youngest in a broken family, but that didn't mean they didn't know about their older siblings and how much their parents loved all of them. Sigyn, wife of Loki, would never run out of room in her heart to love her children. Even after all she'd lost, over, and over, and over again, she always had time for them. Even when they didn't recognize her and she chose not to reveal herself because she could love any wayward child, her own or not, whether they knew her or not.
Raphael locked himself away in his mourning, closing himself off from the rest of heaven. Michael did not begrudge his younger brother his space, even if it did mean he was all alone. All alone for the first time since one brother-turned-wolf killed the other and why, why was fratricide the repetitious act? One brother loved the other brother and betrayed him. One soulmate died for the other who would destroy the universe and remake it anew just to see their loved ones again and oh, oh, did Michael understand in a way that no one else could why Sigyn's self inflicted banishment had felt so familiar even he knew she was Mother.
But Michael, Michael knew how to fix this. He may not know how to talk to Sigyn- Mama, or explain to her exactly what he'd done to his twin, but he knew that maybe if the bloodlines bred true with a little extra prodding, maybe he and Raphael could heal what the mark had done to Lucifer and maybe just maybe he could have his twin back and they could help Sigyn find daddy and maybe, just maybe this universe wouldn't have to end the same way all the others had. Four archangels could protect the two most important immortals in their lives, right?
"You said that no matter the universe, you always find Mama." Gabriel and Sigyn sat on the sofa, sharing a kettle of tea.
Loki would always be Mama to some of the children he had birthed. Sigyn had accepted it from the beginning. She didn't have to be called it for it to be true.
"I have never lived through an end of a universe before I found him, that is correct."
"But none of us have ever found him?" Gabriel asked.
Sigyn shook her head. "You and your siblings have always been reborn as mortals. Until now."
Gabriel looked into his cup. His shoulders pulled closer. "I miss him."
Sigyn didn't respond. Gabriel could have been referring to Loki, whom Sigyn also missed. However, there was another to whom he could be referring. Another whom Sigyn also felt should be held accountable. Sigyn was sure they would have words if she ever met Him.
"And my siblings? Jor, Fen, Hela, and the twins?"
"I do not know what precedent there was for any of you to run into one another. The universe is a very large place."
"I could look for them," Gabriel considered.
Sigyn smiled sadly, "You don't have to. At least, do not get so lost in your search that you forget to live your life. You have ever been able to walk the world tree, but please don't let it control you."
Gabriel promised his stepmother that he wouldn't. To some extent, he even kept his word. He was in witness protection after all. It wouldn't do for him to reveal himself by using his powers too thoughtlessly.
A few centuries later and Sigyn chose to put the physical representation of her house somewhere in what would become Scotland. A few miles away, there was a river. The river was swiftly flowing and it was not uncommon for people trying to cross to die. She had a tendency to fetch their souls herself, as a way of learning who lived in the area.
The Hogwarts founding fathers were born, and the wizarding world started to unify. Merlin was born, and great events occured. The incident of three young wizards crossing the river was, in the beginning, supposed to be nothing more than Gabriel giving them their just desserts.
Sigyn was cooking lunch while Gabriel sat at the counter. His elbows were on the table and his feet were swinging back and forth, occasionally tapping the baseboard of the counter with his feet. Gabriel kicked the table again.
Sigyn looked over at him. "What has you so excited?"
"A village of wizards moved in across the river," Gabriel replied. "They're very interesting individuals. There's this one family…" Gabriel smirked.
"Planning mischief already?" Sigyn raised an eyebrow at her son, but turned back to the kettle when it started boiling.
"They're going to build a bridge across the river. With magic. The eldest is so arrogant that he thinks he could best death."
Sigyn grinned. "Then let's prove them wrong. Shall we?"
Sigyn took the cloak hanging by the door and then the two of them made their way to the river. Gabriel spelled himself invisible with pagan seidr and Sigyn pulled her hood up. This cloak was spelled to make the wearer invisible.
They made their way to the river, arriving just in time to hear the youngest brother attempting to talk his brothers out of their hubris. He failed, and the two older brothers worked magic to conjure themself an unnecessarily elaborate bridge across the river. Gabriel would have a delightful time removing it when this business was complete.
Sigyn moved to block their path, removing the hood of her cloak to reveal herself to them. "Your magic is impressive. Most who try to cross come to me." This was truth. Sigyn didn't especially care, because it was just a river and why should she care whether or not they wanted to cross? In the end, all souls were hers. However, Sigyn did enjoy entertaining Gabriel in such a way, on occasion. Besides, while Sigyn had no gift of foresight, as a death goddess in this universe she could tell when souls were near their time. The souls of these two older brothers, well, neither would survive the month, as far as she could tell.
Instead of telling them that, Sigyn turned to the eldest brother and asked, "What reward would you have?"
Antioch was a combative and arrogant man. "I want a wand better than any other in existence!" he cried. Someone had wronged him and he wanted revenge, she saw from his mind. Gabriel had told her as much.
Sigyn agreed. She walked to a nearby Elder tree and took a branch from the ground. She broke it to a reasonable wand length and used some magic to bond it to a thestral hair from her robes. That's how a wand was made, right? A piece of wood and a core. She cast one more piece of magic on it, a tracking spell. It would be far too much fun to let it wreck havoc on the wizarding world as a just dessert of its own, but it would still be nice to know where it was, just in case.
Cadmus was greedy. He also wanted nothing more than to see his wife again. "I want something to recall another from death," he demanded.
Sigyn selected a random stone from the riverbank. She took her time, pretending to be looking for something specific. Rather, she was casting the necessary spells on the stone. It was illusion magic. The dead couldn't actually be brought back, but if they were dead, then it would show that whom the holder wanted to see most. Cadmus took the stone greedily. Sigyn wondered at how easily fooled he was. He cared only that he would see what he wanted to see. It never occurred to him that it might be a trick.
Sigyn turned to the last brother. His was a humble soul. He had made the attempt to convince his brothers not to take this course of action and it would not have surprised him that their souls would come back to her in a short while. And yet, this soul was not near death. It was a bright, happy young thing, with many a year left.
She would not deny him that. She was the balance, and she would take no soul before its time. Sigyn also found she did not want this soul. This man was blameless, and intelligent, and while not one of her brood, she felt that perhaps there could be a kinship between him and her love. There was mirth, in his expression, not quite mischief.
"And what would you desire?" Sigyn asked.
"I would like to leave," he replied, " and also some guarantee that you wouldn't follow me."
A humble soul, Sigyn decided, but also a mistrustful one. She imagined her Loki would be equally distrustful, after his blood had kidnapped all of his children. It was a trait she could understand, even if she was less than pleased with the best solution.
She unclasped her cloak and handed it over. It had been a gift from Loki in another universe and she was loath to part with it. But as Sigyn let go of it, she realized that this was the best chance she had to locate her husband. Silently, and unbeknownst to Ignotus, Sigyn cast a locating spell on the fabric. Not necessarily so she could break her word, but so that it would, someday, fall into the hands of the one who had given it to her. She believed that it would one day benefit him.
The eldest brother died that night. In a local tavern, he had been bragging about receiving the greatest wand ever made from no less than death himself. (Sigyn was unimpressed with being referred to by the wrong gender. Loki could be whatever gender he wanted to be, literally, and there was no problem there, but she still preferred her own gender for herself. She was not the servant of a greater master, after all.) After he had gone to sleep, someone slit his throat as he slept and stole the wand for himself.
Sigyn reaped his soul personally. The wand was gone. It would have a bloody future, but the wizardkind involved would reap what they sowed. Gabriel had been suitably impressed by that bit of mischief.
The second brother hung himself. He had driven himself insane, or perhaps he had already gone insane. He never realized his wife was just an illusion. He believed she really was there, and that she was so unhappy because she was dead and did not belong in the real world. Her unhappy appearance had, in fact, merely been a reflection of his own grief. He would never know that.
Sigyn also reaped his soul personally. The stone was still there, and as she was leaving, her hand brushed against it. No figures appeared for her, and she wondered at that. Her family reincarnated, yes, but it was never instantaneous. They were usually dead for some length of time.
She put it out of her head, deciding that her own illusions would never work for her. That was okay, Sigyn knew, because even as an immortal it would be unfortunate if she drove herself insane staring at a false summoning of her husband and children. She had more important things to attend to than the past. It never occurred to her that there might be another reason for the stone to fail her.
Castiel and Balthazar were born in the same generation and they were the best friends. They were very different. Nearly opposites. Castiel was a hard worker, who was very eager to please his superiors. He was diligent and thoughtful. Balthazar was not nearly so diligent. He played pranks, told jokes, and otherwise acted impetuously. Yet despite their differences, Balthazar and Castiel were also the best of friends. Where one went, the other often tagged along.
No one really understood how Castiel and Balthazar could get on so well, and none took it harder than the former when the latter was thought to be dead. Balthazar was forgotten about by the rest of the host as just another casualty, and Castiel mourned the loss of his brother. He could not figure out why it felt as though he had lost his closest sibling for the second time.
Castiel suffered from claustrophobia and could not endure anyone near his mouth. He did not understand these inexplicable fears. They were human. He was an angel of the lord, an incorporeal ball of Grace that would not be held unless he took a vessel, how was he claustrophobic? All he could remember as he pondered that question was chains biting into his fur. Chains he could not break, and there was a sword in his mouth. He could not move, and he could not eat, and he was alone, so alone, and Modir! Please come back!"
Sigyn's cloak was passed from parent to child for generations. The Peverell family became the Potter family and one day, a little boy was born. His name was Hadrian, Harry, James Potter. He was a black haired and green eyed baby and while he was the perfect phenotype mixture of his parents, he was also the spitting image of another. He was born in the middle of a war, though he would never be a war casualty.
Little Hadrian had a strange obsession with James' special cloak. "Harry, that's not a toy," and "Harry, don't put that in your mouth, that's dirty," were not uncommon phrases from his parent's mouths in his early childhood. Hadrian was magically adept from very early on, and his first bit of accidental magic was to summon the cloak from wherever it was that his parents were storing it. He laughed, loudly, as it covered him entirely and blocked him from his parents' view.
His parents did try putting an anti-summoning charm on it (there already was one), and they tried putting it in boxes with anti-summoning charms. Yet, whenever their back was turned, and sometimes even when it wasn't, if Harry wanted that cloak it was going to come to him.
That may have been part of why they let Dumbledore borrow it when they had to hide in Godric's Hollow. Anything to keep Harry from summoning it while they were sleeping, and even when they weren't. An invisible baby is not necessarily a safe baby and even when it didn't cover him, what if he tore it? What if he choked on it? Or suffocated himself?
They would never know that the cloak was more likely to kill Sigyn herself than it was to kill their baby, but that's another matter entirely.
When he-who-was-insane killed his parents and tried to kill Harry, Sigyn reaped their souls herself. Holding the Auror and the Lily in her hands, she felt it necessary to give the baby a cursory examination. She knew this soul. He was the spitting image of her Loki, but it was unfair to make assumptions only on appearance. Doing as much had trapped more than one unfortunate mortal into a marriage with an immortal.
No, it was more than just appearance. Sigyn could see this baby's soul and she recognized it. She had spent every day of her life that she had not been with this soul, hoping that today was the day she would see this soul again. This was her Loki.
Sigyn was not a cradle robber, and so she had to leave. But not before the spy found the body, the giant took the baby, and Sigyn saw he who would be the white wizard for herself. She was not impressed it was he-who-carried-her-wand. She had never interfered with it so far, but why did he have said wand and Loki- Harry's- cloak as well?
Samuel Winchester was born with an old soul and the innocent soul of his older brother would catch up far sooner than anyone could have wanted to ask it to. Sigyn was present at Mary's death, arms outstretched to catch the soul of the wailing mother. Mary Winchester was another mother who would give her life trying to protect her child. She would fail in ways Lily Potter could never have imaged.
Some might have blamed her for Samuel's fate, that bargaining with the demon had been her choice and therefore her mistake, but Sigyn knew there was no combatting the will of those angels. The temporal disturbance created by time travel was not unknowable to her. It wasn't her place to judge Mary Winchester.
Before she left, Sigyn admired the baby in his crib. Azazel had come and gone and the nursery was on fire. But John Winchester hadn't arrived just yet, so the moment belonged only to her. She was going to admire the strength of the child, while promising his mother that his time hadn't come yet. Sigyn had been a mother before anything else in this universe.
Sigyn was not a wrathful goddess and her mischief was usually only for the benefit of Gabriel. For the most part, she would have been described as an easygoing individual. She was not, however, pleased that he-who-was-insane who was later called he-who-shall-not-be-named had cleaved his soul into pieces to cheat her. What displeased her even more was the bit of it clinging to her love.
Perhaps she should have tried to intercede, but Sigyn could not. She was not permitted to interfere, despite how unnatural his actions were. That did not mean that she did not keep an eye on the only person she'd ever loved romantically.
The wards around the Dursleys' house were surprisingly thorough. For some reason, they even protected against demons, angels, and all manner of supernatural creatures. This latter fact baffled Sigyn because while they were supposed to protect the kid from danger, he-who-carried-her-wand should not know about any creatures besides that which were considered magical and were therefore kept secret from muggles.
The one thing they did not protect Harry from was from the Dursley's themselves. When Harry was nine and outside gardening with a list of chores far too long, after having eaten far too little, having lost far too much blood and broken far too many bones, Sigyn was not happy.
"Gabriel." Sigyn called for her son silently. Not quite a prayer, as it was a call that none of the angels would be able to overhear. No one could intercept it. She didn't use this form of communication regularly, but she was upset about this.
Gabriel manifested himself at her location. It took seconds to take in the haggard appearance of Sigyn. Some remnant of emotion had been present even in the call of his name.
"Mother? What's wrong?" He wrapped an arm around her, hoping to provide some comfort even as he was unaware of why she was upset. When Sigyn didn't answer right away, Gabriel followed the direction she was looking. He might have wondered if this was one of his siblings, except he could also see souls. "Mama?"
Sigyn nodded. "Isn't there something you could do?" she asked.
Gabriel raised an eyebrow at the warding. He could see the angel proofing. "There's not much I can do about those wards." He considered the boy. "I've smote people for less than what they've done to him."
"You'll have your chance for revenge on Mama's behalf," said a dreamy feminine voice from behind them.
Sigyn and Gabriel turned around to find themselves staring down at a young girl. She was younger than Harry by a year or two, about six or seven, with long locks of blonde and eyes a murky blue green.
"Little sister," Gabriel said. He was certain this was Hela. His little sister had always been one for unnecessary mysteriousness.
"Hela, may I hug you?" Sigyn asked.
"Of course you can, Mother." The little girl scrambled closer, returning the hug almost before Sigyn could initiate it.
"We were trying to decide what to do about these wards," Gabriel said. "Do you have any ideas?"
"Technically speaking, I could get in," Hela said. "But it would be better if we didn't. Our interference would be unwelcome, and possibly dangerous to him."
"Luna!" The shouting came from down the street.
Hela glanced over her shoulder, in the direction of the shouting. "I'm not sure I like being a child again. I'll keep an eye on Mama, but I'll have to be careful about interacting. The Dursley's have everyone around here convinced he's a troublemaker." She saw Gabriel raise an eyebrow at Sigyn. "I know they don't know the half of it. That kid over there, that little orphan, he's really sweet and the only thing he wants in the whole world is for someone to love him. I can't say how much he remembers, but if he remembers anything at all it's that his whole family was taken from him."
"Mama could have us," Gabriel argued.
"Mama needs to gather up the pieces of the broken one's soul and if he's going to do that, he has to go to Hogwarts. He won't be alone there."
"Luna! Time for dinner!"
"I have to go," Hela said. "But I'll see you soon?"
"Just call," Sigyn said. "But showing up unannounced is fine too. My home is always open."
Luna Lovegood was an only child and she was strange from the moment of her birth. Her mother, more so than her father, seemed to understand her desire for solitude and quiet. The girl was a seer, which ran in her blood, but there was more to it than that. She had many a memory that seemed like they should not belong to her, but they did. They were hers. The clearest memory was of another childhood. Sometimes a girl, a wolf, and a snake, going on adventures as they played in the garden under the ever watchful eye of Modir. And other times a girl and her two siblings in human shape. Language barriers did not exist when your ever powerful parents believed them nonexistent.
She remembered being cold and alone. For another it may have killed any desire for solitude, but there had only been one desire ever present in that lifetime. One desire that had not been quelled by all the time that passed. Find Mama. Find Modir. She was Luna Lovegood, daughter of a matrilineage of seers and pre-cogs and she was Hela Lokisdottir, daughter of mischief and fire, wielder of magic.
The wards around Hogwarts did not prevent Sigyn or Gabriel from visiting. However, they did not make visiting a habit. There was not really any reason for them to go. Hadrian had not started yet and even if he had, it would be unwise for them to court trouble.
Sigyn's interest in the historical school stemmed from the fact that two of the Peverell items were housed within her walls. That cloak is not yours, she wanted to tell he-who-had-her-wand. The wand had been a just dessert, but she did not want to consider what it meant, that it would find itself so near where her loved ones would spend so many years. Ever do we find that war is upon us. Ever must we try to stop it. Perhaps she should have left well enough alone. All said, this was kind of her fault. Evil men will always find outlets for evil deeds. If not in the name of this cause, then in the name of a different cause.
They went on with their lives. In no life would Loki ever manage to stay out of trouble. His life as Hadrian was no different.
Sigyn showed up when the teacher attacked and Hadrian killed him. It was self defence and not in a way that would kill anyone else with as much ease. Death by hugs. That's a new one. It wasn't really his murder though, even if he did feel responsible. The means was all Lily Potter. Sigyn didn't allow Harry to see that she was there, it was not time yet and he was just a kid. That doesn't mean he didn't somehow feel her anyway. Later, he would wonder why there was a moment where he felt so loved. Not just his mother, but someone else as well. Something that Harry couldn't remember, but knew something very big was being forgotten.
He left that out when he was debriefed by the headmaster and he didn't argue, even though he was well aware that something was missing. Something important.
The incident with the basilisk could never be so simple as Harry simply slaying it as though the poor thing was an unintelligent beast. In this world, Harry had a slightly greater appreciation for snakes. He would not know for nearly a decade yet that his love of all snakes went beyond the fact that for many years, the only creature that ever treated him as equal or as he deserved were the snakes in the garden.
Luna was a mystery. When she wasn't doing homework, she was exploring every inch of Hogwarts. Nobody noticed, because Luna would never be capable of raising someone's suspicions. If they noticed her at all, they believed her insane. She was the little girl who wandered Hogwarts barefoot.
Hadrian was not the only living person who could get into the chamber of secrets, or hear the awoken Basilisk. Before Ginny ever touched the diary soaked in dark magic, the king of the snakes was perfectly sane. Slytherin's motives and orders had been miscommunicated to the public through the generations. The basilisk's only directive was to protect the students of the school. All students of the school, even from muggles, even from their parents, especially muggle parents who might try to exorcise their children or burn them as witches, and weren't they so, so, correct.
Unlike her siblings, Luna had never forgotten who she was. Hela figured it was likely that Luna had always been a seer. Without the magic, she would have still been precognitive. Some bloodlines were like that. Luna's matrilineality were always seers or precogs.
As the Basilisk slithered through the apipes of the school, Hela followed along in the hallways. She told stories to the snake. Not just from this lifetime, but from all lifetimes. She talked about the Sigyn of this lifetime, and Gabriel the archangel. She talked about Fenrir and the twins. There was one sibling that Hela chose not to speak of. The basilisk did not need to hear stories of the world-eating snake.
This basilisk could have eaten the world if it wanted to. But Jormungandr wasn't like that. He was a creator, a destroyer, but right now he was only a protector of children.
The diary would do what it always wanted to do. But it was not merely Ginny Weasley lying in the chamber. It would never be that simple.
Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood were in the chamber. The basilisk was Luna's friend. In another situation, Ginny's body may have stayed undiscovered in the catacombs, but Luna was there first. A girl, a wolf, and a snake once went on adventures. A language barrier did not exist because Mama wouldn't allow for one.
Tom Riddle was not impressed that the basilisk would not follow the orders of "Listen to me dammit!" A spell in parseltongue was cast, one that Hela had no hope of combatting. An unfortunate glance at Ginny who had been hit with a second, nonverbal spell and was prone on the ground. What to do, what to do, Hela wondered. At this rate, the Basilisk would go insane. It would attack indiscriminately like a rabid beast to be put down. Hela didn't know what would happen if her sibling died now. She didn't want to know.
Hela need never find out. That's when Hadrian showed up. Except he wasn't Hadrian in that moment. Hadrian had always been Loki, but the memories had been deep beneath the surface to give the kid the opportunity to grow up first, unnecessary powers locked away until the proper time. At this moment, the person who was their Mama! was as close to the surface as he would come until he reconnected with Sigyn.
"Who do you think you are, to challenge me?!" Tom Riddle shouted at the boy.
"What makes you think that I'm going to allow a mud-crawling insect like you hurt my children?" Harry's emerald eyes were glowing avada-kedavra green and even Tom Riddle could see the irate deity behind those eyes.
Not that he had the sanity to care. "Attack!" he screamed in Parseltongue.
"Wake up, Jormungandr," Loki whispered.
"Mama!" The massive snake changed direction, instead of lunging for Loki as Tom Riddle desired, the snake instead dove for the nasty book, leeching visible (to the kids) dark magic from its core. The book was the worst tasting thing Jormungandr had ever tried to eat, but he didn't care because he wasn't about to let any old book insult his mama or get away with trying to hurt his sister.
That's when the bird showed up. Book dealt with and this version of Tom Riddle gone, the snake wrapped around Loki. Not in any threatening way, Jormungandr just wanted to give Mama a hug. Even with his sister keeping him company all year, Jormungandr was happier this second than he'd been in eons. So much so that, forgetting himself, he had to lick Mama.
The phoenix screeched, streaking towards the basilisk.
"Fawks! Get away from my son!" Loki shouted.
Hela winced. "Alright, we'd better fix this before the adults show up. I'll do it."
Hela fixed it. She obliviated Harry apologetically when Loki suggested it and went back beneath the surface. Hadrian wasn't ready to be Loki yet. She obliviated Ginny. No one outside the family could ever find out what had occurred and legilimency could present a problem. No one would ever think to use it on Hela and even if they did, Luna was a natural occlumens. It came with being a seer. She rode Jormungandr out another exit of the chamber and conjured an illusion of a dead basilisk. It wouldn't last very long, and it made her sick, but it was necessary.
Hela rode on Jormungandr's back all the way to Sigyn's house. It wasn't that far because Sigyn still lived in Scotland. They saw the thestrals eating the lawn. "I don't know what you've been eating," Hela said, "but Mother is not going to be happy if you start eating her thestrals." If Jor could have rolled his eyes at his sister, he would have. As it was, he slipped into a human form, just slowly enough for Hela to not be thrown to the ground.
Sigyn was in the garden weeding her flowers not far from her children. She felt Hela and the basilisk pass through the wards. Except it wasn't just any basilisk, and as Sigyn closed her eyes to better focus on the signature, she grinned in recognition. "Jormungandr!" she shouted.
The basilisk-turned-human was a young man, with silver hair and a silver beard. He was wearing slytherin green robes cut in an ancient style.
Hela raised an eyebrow. "No way. I don't believe it."
Sigyn pulled her son into a hug. "It's good to see you again." She looked over at Hela. "Hello, Hela. Shouldn't you be at school?"
"Mama got himself into a bit of trouble…. Well, no. He-who-tried-to-cheat-you tried to create some trouble with the basilisk protecting the school. But I made friends with Jor and may have prevented most of the trouble inadvertently."
"A basilisk?" Sigyn took a step away from her son to get a better look at him. "Really?"
He smirked. "It seemed like a reasonable idea. I haven't even been there the whole time. The castle likes to talk to me, so she lets me know when I'm needed and otherwise, I go explore elsewhere. Why, should I have taken a 500 year nap instead?"
Sigyn shook her head, grinning. "Come inside? I can make lunch for you both?"
The kids agreed and followed Sigyn inside.
"Where's Sleipnir?" Hela asked.
"I'm not sure I want to know. Sandwiches good?"
They agreed, so Sigyn made sandwiches. Sigyn didn't each lunch. She sat at the table across from her two kids. She looked away only sporadically, too afraid that if she blinked they would disappear.
"Mom!" Hela whined a few minutes later. "You don't have to stare at us like we're going to vanish."
Sigyn smiled weakly. "It's a mother's prerogative to worry about her children and well, Jor, it's been so long."
"I know, Mum. I don't mind."
Before Hela and Jor could finish their meal, the wards purred in greeting at a new arrival. The purring was irrelevant, because Gabriel appeared in the kitchen. "I…!" Pause. "Hela! Jor!"
Jor dropped the sandwich he had been lifting to his mouth. Jumping out of his seat he shouted, "Sleipnir!"
Gabriel held his arms open to embrace his brother as the younger crashed into him. "What hole did you crawl out of?" he asked, joking.
"Not a hole! It was a chamber that I built myself!"
"So, you're a builder now?"
"Nope! I performed that magic ages ago!"
Hela finished her sandwich. She stood up. "I have to get back to school."
"But you've only just arrived," Gabriel said.
Hela nodded. "I know, but it's important that I get back with no one the wiser. Maybe when time loops don't knock me out. I am only eleven." Hela strolled towards the door, but looked over her shoulder. "Hey, Mom? I love you. I'll come visit soon, promise."
"See you later," Sigyn said, swallowing. Her daughter was a little kid again, but she didn't have much of a claim. The mortals would not be happy if their Luna Lovegood disappeared.
Gabriel crossed the room and started clearing the table. "Mom, Hela will be fine."
And so the second year Hadrian was at Hogwarts finished with only a little hitch and one piece of soul destroyed. Jormungandr would never speak of the nasty tasting book, even as his stay in Sigyn's home turned more permanent than Gabriel's.
Third year was the year of the grim. This universe was no different from any other, and a heartbroken child would return to his relatives at the end of the school year. No promise to any child should ever be broken, but that's the way the cards fell. The tournament happened, a child died, and Sigyn was so very frustrated. He-who-shredded-his-soul should not still live and it killed her inside that he was still murdering innocents.
The next few years passed sedately for Sigyn. Gabriel was busy doing what he always did, bringing punishment to morals who had earned an archangel's wrath. She wondered idly that he was performing his archangel duties with more exuberance than he ever had before the fall. It was not her place to judge though, and it didn't come up in conversation. There was no reason for it to. Sigyn loved all her children unconditionally.
She knew the moment her Loki took up the hunt for the pieces of soul. It was only proper that he would do as he always did, fixing others mistakes one action at a time. Sigyn had long since come to terms with the fact their time together was often shortened by one or the other's need to maintain certain moralities. Sigyn's duty as the Lady of Death was to maintain the balance, but that didn't mean she didn't have some leeway or sympathies. Everyone was a child to someone.
From his childhood, Hadrian Potter knew something was missing. He had nightmares of his mother dying, but he also had nightmares of himself screaming, "No! Stop! They're mine, give them back! They're people too you child-stealing cave-trolls!" He could never remember upon waking exactly who those children were, but that didn't ease the pain of long forgotten separation.
He was eleven before he could remember the faces of the children upon waking. Once upon a time, there was a set of triplets. Sometimes girl, wolf, snake, sometimes two boys and a girl. Harry didn't know that he was speaking parseltongue when he released the boa constrictor at the zoo. All he could wonder was if he could speak to snakes because he was the snake or if he was the one who had ensured that the girl could talk to the wolf and the snake and the snake to the wolf. The children were always under parental supervision. But Hadrian could never see the adult. Harry was the adult.
Hadrian saved the day when Ginny was possessed because of something more than the hero-complex. He did not hear the basilisk in the walls, not because it wasn't speaking, but because the snake didn't spend his time wandering the pipes in search of people to kill. The snake played with Luna and Luna avoided Harry. That day would always be the fuzziest day of his life. The thought that he would have, could have killed the basilisk was genuinely painful.
The incident with the basilisk triggered the second set of nightmares. There was a feral, rabid wolf and a little boy screaming in terror. These were his sons, and at this moment, Loki could only remember that they were his. He had carried them inside his body for all of a year and he couldn't remember which was which. Unacceptable, Odin said, that is unacceptable.
Harry's third through seventh years passed the way they always would. He met and lost his godfather, he was put through a tournament he never asked to be involved with, Dolores Umbridge was out for blood and Sirius had to die, Professor Snape killed Headmaster Dumbledore, and he took Hermione and Ron Horcrux hunting.
There was something important about the horcruxes, but Harry couldn't remember what it was. It prickled at his brain, but it would not present itself. There was something about the Hallows as well that was more easily identifiable.
The cloak smelled of accidental magic. It brought forth feelings of being loved, feelings he had sometimes wondered if he would ever have again. As Harry wrapped the cloak around himself, pocketed the stone, and held the elder wand aloft, he wondered if she was waiting for him somewhere nearby.
As he disarmed he-who-would-not-survive-to-cheat-death-any-longer, Hadrian Potter remembered Loki. He remembered his children, Sleipnir the first born, Jormungandr, Fenrir, and Hela, the triplets, and the twins he'd had with Sigyn, Vali and Nari. The twins he'd carried to term because Sigyn would never be able to carry children herself. The one thing they had always wanted, from the beginning of the first universe and in every universe after, was to have a family and for it to be whole. If it could just be whole and well for the rest of forever.
This Hadrian Potter did not break the elder wand, nor did he toss the ring into the woods. Now that he was himself, he could sense the residual magic on the items. Magic that had never been for Sigyn to find him, but for him to find her.
Luna Lovegood waited at the apparition point at the edge of the wards. Now that he was Loki, he could tell that it wasn't just Luna Lovegood. "Hela!" Unlike his lovely wife, Loki had not seen his children since the universe in which they had been first born. It was some part of the curse that they didn't understand. Who had they offended so badly that it would take tens of universes to meet his children again?
Hela ran at Loki, wrapping her arms around his body and burying her face in his chest. "Mama, I missed you!"
Loki leaned his head into Hela's head of hair. Closing his eyes, he inhaled. "I am so, so, sorry," he whispered. He would have done everything the same, because he would not ever be complete without his children, but he would not have brought them so much pain if he knew how it could have been avoided.
"'S okay, Mama. Not your fault. Come on! Mother's waiting for us at home!"
Hela pulled away from Loki, and before he could react she grabbed his hand and teleported them into Sigyn's home in a way that only Loki's family could.
Hela's statement about her mother waiting had been a little far from the truth. Sigyn was drinking tea in the living room, while Jor and Gabriel played war with a set of conjured cards. It's really easy to cheat with a deck someone conjured, so war was the aptest word for what was really going on.
"I'm going to…!" Jor was shouting.
"If you finish that sentence the way I think you're going to finish that sentence-" Loki warned.
"Mama!" Jor and Sleipnir both shouted. They knocked over the conjured card table in their haste to rush to Loki's side. "You're back!"
Loki blinked. He was in a room, with his wife, and half his children. What changed? he wondered. He was happy, so happy, but he was also worried. Worried that he would lose this permanently when the other shoe dropped. When did the status quo change?
Sigyn didn't move when her children swarmed Loki. Hela was physically the youngest, but they'd been mentally adults since the universe of their birth. Despite their age, they were still very capable of acting like children when they were excited and she wouldn't have it any other way. So while her children clutched at her husband and were held close to him for as long as they needed to be, she poured a second cup of tea and waited. She had waited in this universe for eons. She could wait to embrace her husband. She had seen him more recently than they had, after all. They had eons of parenting and separation they could never hope to make up for. Sigyn would die ever death necessary if only she could someday fix it.
If it had been up to the kids, they may very well have stood there forever. Loki's stomach growling a little while later interrupted that.
"Do you want real food?" Sigyn asked. "Or would tea and cookies be okay for now?" She motioned to the plate next to the second cup and saucer.
Loki wanted real food, but he also wanted to share tea and cookies with his wife.
"Go sit," Hela said. "We have like, an infinite number of missed Mothers' and Fathers' days to make up for. Even if you're both Mom. We'll make dinner."
The trio went to the kitchen and started cooking dinner. Of all of them, Gabriel had the most experience, so he took charge with the other two helping.
Loki sat next to Sigyn on the sofa. He was tense, waiting for a second shoe that might take eons to drop.
She handed him the second teacup. "What next?" Sigyn asked. She thought she had a general idea, but she wanted to see if her husband would tell her what he was thinking. He was clearly wound up about something.
Loki sighed. If the shoe took eons to fall, he was going to enjoy this as much as he could without getting complacent and without letting himself forget that half of what he wanted was missing. "Now?" he repeated. "Now we find our three missing children."
Sigyn and Loki spent the next thirteen years looking for their three missing children. They never let the three already found think that they weren't enough, because it wasn't about any children not being enough, and they understood that. This was about Sigyn having six children, 4 step and 2 by blood, and only knowing the location of three of them. Jormungandr and Hela wanted to find Fenrir as badly as their parents did.
Sleipnir, who could never forget that he was also Gabriel, just wanted all his baby siblings home where they could all be loved.
Gabriel's first encounter with the Winchesters went unnoticed by his parents and he didn't tell them. They, all of them, were very busy looking for Sigyn and Loki's last three children and how had he gotten himself into a mess with hunters his mother had some maternal feelings for? He didn't tell them. His life in this universe, as an archangel, had no import to being Sleipnir, firstborn of Loki.
His second encounter did not go so unnoticed, but Gabriel was unaware of that until Samuel was begging him to reverse Dean's death after six months in a time loop. Sigyn intervened on Sam's behalf. "Loki," she said. Gabriel had tried to avoid being called that since the real Loki had returned, but his cover had to be maintained with the Winchesters at the very least, and Sigyn still held no objections to Gabriel the trickster pagan. Her Loki even got into mischief with Sleipnir sometimes. The stress relief was necessary, everyone too wound up about finding their lost siblings, preferably before the Judeo-Christian apocalypse happened.
Sigyn's interference scared Loki. She had always been supportive of his role as a pagan god of judgement, but at the same time, he could see that there was no way Sam was going to learn this lesson. He and Dean were too codependent. Much like Lucifer and Michael had been in this universe and much like Vali and Nari had been on Asgard. As it was in heaven, so must it be on Earth.
Gabriel might have attempted to stay away from the cottage he called home because of the shame of Sigyn's gentle chiding, but Hela came to him. "You're afraid of this apocalypse," she said. "Why?"
"I like humanity," Gabriel offered. "I know that the five of us, eight if we can find Fen and the twins, can outlive this planet as long as we keep Mother and Mama safe from harm, but don't I have some responsibility to the lifeforms on this planet in the here and now?"
"Are you worried about what'll happen if Lucifer or Michael finds you? Or are you worried about what'll happen if one goes after the other?"
"Two brothers love each other, a lot, and one brother betrays the other. One of them dies. Michael, Lucifer, Raphael, they're my brothers. They're my brothers even if they're not Mother's or Mama's children because when I was a fledgling, they were all I had. But the similarities…."
"Do you think Lucifer and Michael are Vali and Nari?" Hela tilted her head, like she was looking for a specific answer.
"Why would He have made such a huge oversight? But I guess if he made me an archangel, anything's possible. But how do you think Mother or Mama would react if Vali or Nari kills their twin, again?"
"I think you need a little bit more faith. Are you familiar with self-fulfilling prophecies? Maybe this shoe will only fall if you drop it."
Gabriel kept his conversation with Hela to himself. It was good food for thought, but it didn't help relieve his concern over the apocalypse. And then all the seals were broken and he was luring for the Winchesters because having them play their part didn't seem like such a bad idea. They were short lived humans, but if he could use them to find out for sure whether or not Lucifer and Michael were the twins, he would take that chance. It didn't go as well as he would have liked.
"Which one are you? Grumpy, Sneezy, or Douchey?"
"They call me Gabriel." His wings were twitching. The boys couldn't see it, but it was an act. Yes, it was his own witness protection. His corner of the world was Sigyn, and Loki, and his siblings, but half of them were missing and he needed to find them so they could hide away and avoid the apocalypse.
"You don't know anything about my family. I loved my father. My brothers. Loved them! But watching them turn on each other? Tear at each other's throats? I couldn't bear it. Okay? So I left. And now it's happening all over again.
"It can't be stopped. - I want it to be over. I have to sit back and watch my brothers kill each other all over again. - Heaven, Hell, I don't care who wins. I just want it to be over! What you guys call the Apocalypse? I called Sunday dinner! That's why this isn't over. It's not about stopping a war. It's about two brothers that loved each other and betrayed each other. You'd think you'd be able to relate!"
"This is about you being too afraid to stand up to your brothers!"
They left him standing there. Sure, they'd turned on the fire alarm and sprayed him with a bunch of water, but he didn't leave right away. Gabriel stood there as the sprinkles continued spraying, washing him off and eventually putting out the holy oil and releasing him.
He continued standing there, thinking hard about the choice he'd have to make. He'd tried standing up to his brothers before, but it had only led to more pain, and so he'd left. Interfering didn't help, it only made it worse. If he confronted them, Lucifer and Michael would tear him apart! Unless they were Vali and Nari, in which case they would probably end up at each other's throats, which might happen anyway, and he couldn't put Sigyn and Loki through that. He couldn't!
Gabriel glanced at Castiel. He hadn't really given his angelic little brother much of a glance because he'd needed to keep him away from the Winchesters so he could finish what he'd started, but now that he was looking, really looking, it was decades of acting that stopped him from gasping.
There had been a reason Castiel hadn't left the warehouse right away. At first he'd just wanted a word with the archangel, maybe get some advice or some help looking for god, but the memories of the wolf and the sword were ever present, but not just the wolf that was chained up, but also the wolf that played with the snake and the girl under the ever watchful eye of Modir and he remembered other universes that came later. "Sleipnir."
Gabriel smiled. At the very least, this hadn't been a total bust, even if it had dredged up far too many things better left unthought about. "Fen! We've been looking everywhere for you!"
"You, have?" Cas asked.
Gabriel nodded. "Come on! They'll love to see you again!" He teleported Castiel and himself through the wards of Sigyn's cottage, aiming such that would ensure he triggered the wards enough to tell everyone keyed to them that family that had been away for a long time had arrived.
Sigyn was out of the house doing stuff, but everyone else was home. Jor and Hela were roughhousing in the living room while Loki cooked in the kitchen.
"Modir," Castiel breathed as they entered the kitchen. "Modir." He was excited, but he was afraid that if he created too much of a disturbance, that all this would disappear. He didn't want that. He hadn't seen Loki in eons, and what if this wasn't real? What if this was another one of Gabriel's tricks?
"Hey, Fenrir," Loki replied. "It's good to see you again." He moved towards Castiel, moving at a sedate pace out of concern that he might scare the youngest triplet from his home.
When Loki was two feet from Castiel, he was about to ask if it would be alright for him to hug him because he looked terrified and Loki didn't want to contribute any further to that fear. But it was unnecessary because that was the moment when Fenrir launched himself at Loki.
For the next few weeks, Castiel spent every second he wasn't helping the Winchesters staying with Sigyn and Loki. There was still a lot he couldn't remember, but spending time with Hela and Jor was refreshing. Jor was as often as archaic as it seemed he himself was, modern English slang often escaping them both. Hela was no longer physically a child, but she'd spent the longest recent time as a human so while the most modern tech was unfamiliar to her, language was not as confusing as it could have been. However, she'd grown up in Ottery St. Catchpole, so the American slang was unfamiliar to her.
They were waiting for the storm to finish brewing. Lucifer and Michael would make their moves eventually. Gabriel was ready for them all to hide away for the rest of forever, but only if Michael and Lucifer did not turn out to be the twins they were all still looking for. Their family was so close to complete and whole again and even if it was Michael and Lucifer, none of the siblings were willing to give up on Sigyn's children by blood. Not even on Lucifer.
And then, only all too soon, there was a pagan gathering. Dean and Sam were being held hostage by the pagans to lure Michael and Lucifer in hopes that offering up the vessels would prevent their ultimate demise. Gabriel knew that this was going to be his only chance to intervene. If Lucifer was not one of the twins, he could tell them how to put Lucifer back in the cage. That would be his contribution. If Lucifer was one of the twins, well, Gabriel hadn't really planned for that eventuality. But maybe he and Lucifer and Michael could have the necessary heart to heart. As long as Sigyn and Loki didn't lose any more children, all would be well.
Except, that wasn't true. Gabriel threw himself into distracting Lucifer before he could kill Kali and the Winchesters. If they said yes, that would only exacerbate the problem. He may not need a true vessel because he could make himself a vessel, but if Michael and Lucifer were both in their true vessels, he would be no match for them. If he could be a match for either one now. He wasn't a match for either of his brothers, even with his pagan magic and his Seidr from being Lokison, and with all his archangel Grace. He was just Modir's heir and the youngest archangel.
And yet, even as he danced around Lucifer with his copies, he knew the truth. Lucifer was Vali or Nari, and the corruption from the Mark had corrupted his grace so badly. So that's why Cain killed Abel. Sam's soul had been so pure, and even the little bit of Azazel's blood had only tainted it so much. One brother must kill the other brother, and it wouldn't be Michael killing anyone. Not the Michael Gabriel remembered from his childhood.
Gabriel's copy had the true angel blade. He was sure this was a bad idea, but Lucifer was mocking him, and what was he supposed to do? And then Lucifer knew the copy was there, and was lunging to pierce him with it. Oh, father, I've failed, but the instant before it connected, there was a cry of grief and a shove that knocked him off his feet.
"Sigyn!" someone was shouting, Gabriel couldn't remember who, too lost in this moment. He wasn't dead, but if that shout was anything to go by, someone had to act quickly. "This is why we don't play with sharp things, Little Brother. It could easily turn deadly." He could remember Raphael healing some stupid injury he'd tried to hide as a fledgling. He may have learned everything he knew from Lucifer, but Raphael had always had the most time for him. If anyone knew what to do, it'd be Raphy. Gabriel could see that Sigyn was injured, but not dead, even a glancing wound can be lethal from the wrong weapon, but all of Loki's children were capable to at least a small extent, some healing magic. They could tend Sigyn for a few minutes at least. "Angel blades don't just cut the surface of a vessel, Little Brother. They cut the Grace, the living essence. Any wound, no matter how small, can continue weeping if it isn't healed right away. Promise me, Gabe, that you won't leave it this long again. Promise me that you'll always come get healed right away, please?" And he'd made Raphy's promise. Anything to make his big brother happy! Maybe, maybe Raphy could save Sigyn.
"Raphael!" Gabriel screamed in Enochian, through the angel network of communication. This was not happening, could not be happening. "Raphael!" He was flying, almost subconsciously, following the grace that would lead him straight back to the one person he wanted to, needed to find. If anyone at all could fix this, it was Raphael.
The Angel Radio, as the Winchesters called it, had gone completely silent. Gabriel's cries had been easily heard by everyone, and everyone stopped to listen. The youngest archangel had been believed dead for so long, the silence was that of surprise and shock, and a moment to make sure they hadn't misheard.
"Gabriel?" The answering voice was quieter, a tentative question posed in response to the call.
Gabriel crashed into a pillar in the throne room, a few feet from the Grace he'd been honing for. "Raph, please, I need your help."
Raphael had been a good big brother. For all that he had sat idly by and planned to help the world end, he'd missed his brother. With his father believed to be dead and his little brother, his troublesome little hummingbird, also thought dead, there'd seemed to be no reason not to end the world. His apathy had gotten his brothers and sisters killed and he hoped, now that he could see his little brother here in front of him, that he could somehow make up for those mistakes.
If he'd been Michael, he might have shouted at his reckless younger brother. He still might. But for all his desire that the world should end, he could still be a good big brother. "What's the matter, Little Brother?"
Gabriel swallowed around the lump in his throat, wings quivering. What if they were too late? What if Raphy couldn't save Mother? Father, please- please let Mother be okay. "She can't die," he gasped out, "she can't. Please, Raph, can you fix it? Lucifer- Luci stabbed her, he was going to kill me, but she intervened. Oh, Raphael, Raphael, please."
Raphael didn't need more than a second to see Gabriel's disheveled wings shivering, his whole body quivering from the weight of his terror. He stepped close to the younger archangel, wrapping his arms around him as he hadn't done in eons. Raphael ran a finger against his little brother's spine, tension lessening from his wings just slightly as he did so. "Show me," he whispered in enochian, rubbing small circles on his brother's shoulder.
The younger archangel did as asked, memories and emotions passing to his older brother as he followed the command. It was more efficient that way. "Raph…"
"I'll help Sigyn," Raphael said after a moment. He continued holding his brother tight. Father- he had missed this. "Show me where?"
Without asking or waiting for Raphael to release him, Gabriel flew. He flew straight to the wards of his parents' home and stopped. They approached the house from outside the universe. Raphael wouldn't need a vessel here.
"I, Gabriel, Archangel of Judgement, trust Raphael, Archangel of Healing, within these wards. No harm shall come to Sigyn or Loki or their children." The wards flashed in greeting. Gabriel looked over at his brother, then nodded towards the property. He led the way into the cottage and up the stairs.
Sigyn was lying on her side on the bed in the master bedroom, eyes closed. Loki stood over her, hands glowing yellow as he tried futilely to heal the wound in her side. The injury was to her side, ichor seeping from the wound. Hearing the people approaching, he looked over his shoulder. "Sleipnir…"
"I brought help," Gabriel replied, quietly. "This is my brother, Raphael, Archangel of Healing."
Loki tensed at Raphael's name, but the healer made a placating gesture. "I mean you and yours no harm. I'm a healer." He was a healer before he'd ever been anything else. He approached the bed, examining the injury and Sigyn herself as he did so.
Sigyn had neither a soul or grace and she wasn't Pagan, not like Kali or Ganesh or the others. Raphael wasn't sure he could name it off the top of his head, research at a later time would be required.
Loki stepped to the side to allow Raphael access, but he didn't move his hands. Raphael put his own hands on the injury. "What happened?" he asked. He'd seen in Gabriel's memories as Lucifer had tried to stab him with Gabriel's blade, but even viewing them as he had, they weren't clear. Loki hadn't seen Lucifer actually stab Sigyn, after all. Raphael would never tell anyone this, but he was a little bit surprised Sigyn had survived.
"Lucifer was about to stab me with my angel blade," Gabriel explained. "Sigyn pushed me out of the way. You saw that."
Raphael owed her for that. They'd all believed Gabriel dead. If not for her, he would be. And now the whole host knew Gabriel was around. Gabriel would be less pleased about that when matters settled. But there was something else Raphael wanted to know. Questions nagged in his mind. Since when was Gabriel actually Sleipnir? And why in father's name did Gabriel think Michael and Lucifer were Sleipnir's littlest brothers? But those questions could wait. First he needed to heal this woman to whom he owed a debt.
Raphael sat on the edge of the bed. "Is it okay if I examine your injury?" he asked. It was one thing for Gabriel and Loki to ask him to on her behalf, but since she was still conscious and aware, he wanted to reassure her and make sure that she was okay with this. Sigyn nodded, which in her state of almost shock was about the best she could do.
He examined her injury, trying to determine where Lucifer's blade had struck her. As he closed his eyes to look deeper, he saw that there were other similar scars littered along the same general vicinity. They were countless scars, battle wounds from lifetimes long forgotten. Not torture, necessarily, or at least that wasn't the intention. Each old scar was different. Different enough to have been caused by a unique weapon wielded in a unique way. Raphael could not determine the age of any scar other than the wound he was healing. How old was Sigyn? he wondered.
As Raphael used his grace to repair the damage to the tissue that did not want to let him repair it, he told her a story. "Did you know Gabriel was the most curious fledgling ever? He used to sneak inside father's office, tiny hands touching everywhere, big innocent whiskey eyes taking upon everything.
"Father had told him more than once that he was now banned from creating new animals after the disaster he made with the sloth." Raph smiled. "It's my favorite animal, you know?
"But Gabe, bless him, was having none of it. It was then that I found him creating the strangest little animal, later to be called a platypus.
"You see, too much imagination had him giving this new creature, a duck beak, a mammals body, and the ability to lay eggs and produce venom for protection, amongst a lot of other things. You would think it was useless.
But there he was, all curls and chubby smiles, hugging the small creature to his chest. I had no heart to tell him father wouldn't be pleased. So, on a night when no one was watching, I took the creature and sent it to a strange human land.
I have noticed that it has been a favorite for a long time."
The others watched him work. Sigyn's children worried for their mother, but smiled at the Healer's memory.
By the time he had finished, Sigyn had drifted off into a healing sleep. The wound was closed and she would eventually heal without any scars, but Raphael had done all that he could do for now.
Raphael noticed that Loki was still touching Sigyn and he wondered momentarily if he would have ever moved of his own volition. Why had anyone seen to press these two deities into such an endless existence? Who was it? Raphael was a healer. He'd healed more physical wounds than mental ones, but he was not unfamiliar with the latter. An existence as endless as this one could cause mental unrest.
Curiosity took the better of him and he glanced beneath the surface of Loki's form. He wasn't looking to invade Loki's privacy, but he wanted to see if he could find scarring like Sigyn's. It was there, just as visible if not even more extensive. What in Father's name have these two been up to?
"Sigyn's going to be fine," Raphael whispered to Loki, hoping to avoid waking Sigyn. "She'll probably sleep until morning, and she needs to take it easy for the next few days." He wondered if he could heal the scars he had seen or if she would even accept his offer to try.
Loki moved, just a little. "Thank you," he mumbled. It was heartfelt, and Raphael could tell that it was, but it was also quiet. He wasn't going to risk waking Sigyn. Not now. "Raphael? Is there anything I could get for you?"
Raphael shook his head and backed up. "I think Gabriel can help me if I need anything, right? I'll just leave you to your rest."
"With four ancient but rambunctious immortals who often act like children running around, restful is not usually how I would describe it. But we'll see. Thank you," Loki repeated.
Raphael nodded and left the room. Gabriel, bouncing on his toes, exclaimed, "Thank you for healing Mother!"
Raphael raised an eyebrow. He reached forward to grip Gabriel's forearm. "Let's have a conversation, Little Brother."
Gabriel swallowed, but led Raphael to an unused guest bedroom. His shoulders were slouched and his wings were folded in a wilted, defeated, position.
"Don't look at me like that," Raphael grumbled. "I spent the last few eons thinking that you and dad were both dead." He frowned. "Sit on the bed, your wings are a mess. When was the last time they were groomed?"
"Sigyn grooms them sometimes." Gabriel moved to the bed, sitting cross legged on the mattress with his back to Raphael. "We've been busy the last few days."
Raphael shook his head, running his fingers gently through Gabriel's wings. "I missed you, Monkey. Will you tell me about being Sleipnir Lokison?" In Gabriel's earlier haste, he hadn't only shown Raphael when Lucifer attacked him, but also memories about being Sleipnir, Sigyn and Loki's son, and seeing Lucifer not only as the archangel, but also as one of his twin siblings of Sigyn's blood.
Gabriel regaled Raphael with story after story of past lifetimes. He talked about being Sleipnir, and teaching Loki to walk the branches of Yggdrasil as a young foal with eight legs. He talked about Sigyn and some of the mischief the two of them had gotten into.
Raphael allowed his hands to fall gently across his brother's disheveled wings, taking little time to engross himself into his new task. Gabriel relaxed lightly, starting a tale from a time Sigyn had thought to prank these two uppity wizards who thought they could best death. His brother's sweet tone reminded him of long times past, when they were but mere fledglings. He had taken great pleasure in spending hours upon hours studying each and every one of father's creations, and if there was any trouble to be had, Gabriel would be right there - and no matter what, the little Monkey always managed to drag him right in.
Lucifer might have taught everything Gabriel had ever known about tricks and mischief, but the boy's choice of playmate had always been the Healer. Raphael never quite understood why, but he loved Gabriel with all his being and had never questioned it.
As the healer soothed a particularly rough spot in Gabriel's wings, the younger archangel hummed drowsily, cutting off his own story. It reminded Raphael that even thought Gabriel was now the eldest child of Loki, had always been his heir, there was still a part of his little brother inside of him. Nothing would change that.
"Raphael?!" The only warning he had for the shout from Michael was the quiet murmur of the angel choir fading long enough for the shout to be the only thing he could hear. The shout was private, between Michael and him, so no one else would overhear it. Unlike what Gabriel had done earlier, Which may have been better for us both in the short term, Raphael decided, because eventually he would have told Michael that Gabriel was alive. Raphael waited. Michael was not the most patient of the archangels and would get to the point sooner or later. He could wait. "Is Gabriel okay?"
Raphael looked at the heap that was his brother. "Lucifer…" What was he supposed to tell his older brother? That Lucifer was not only their older brother, but Gabriel's younger brother and that said brother had almost killed Gabriel and the only reason he wasn't dead- that would have been lethal- was because his mother had stopped Lucifer from killing Gabriel? But he'd also have to explain that Lucifer was Sleipnir's little brother reincarnated and that Sigyn was his mother by blood. Like that would go over very well.
"I can hear you musing, Little Brother. What did Lucifer do?"
"He almost killed Gabriel, but Sigyn intervened. He asked me to heal her and I did." Would Michael know of Sigyn? Raphael wondered. Michael wouldn't expect him to know who Sigyn was, so it wouldn't sound like he was being misinformative. Maybe he would make an assumption about their relationship, or at the very least wouldn't ask him to explain it. He wasn't sure he was willing to explain that one to Michael.
"He almost killed Sigyn?!" was not the reaction Raphael was anticipating.
"Do you know Sigyn?" Raphael asked. Gabriel may not have had the opportunity to find out if Michael was the other twin, but how hard could it be to find out for himself? He owed Sigyn for saving his monkey. Sure, he'd healed her, but he would have healed her anyway and he wanted to do this for them.
Raphael's hands had fallen away from Gabriel's wings as he carried the conversation with Michael. The younger archangel whimpered, wings twitching at the lack of attention. He shook his head in amazement. "Sorry Gabriel, Michael wanted to know if you were okay."
"Luci almost killed Mother."
So, in other words, uninjured, but not okay. Raphael didn't blame him. At least his brother was admitting that much. "Why would Lucifer attack you?"
"Did you ever see how much the Mark corrupted his Grace?" Gabriel asked. "It was so dark."
Raphael remembered how poorly Michael had reacted when Lucifer had first been offered the Mark, and how close he had come to rebelling when he was ordered to put Lucifer in the cage. He sighed, considering for the first time that maybe other options could have existed. Was a cage really the best punishment for that crime? And why hadn't anyone made sure Lucifer was examined for injuries when the Mark first came off?
"How'd you meet Sigyn?" Raphael knew that if he was looking for stories about Sigyn, Gabriel would be the better source. However, it wasn't stories from Michael that he was after.
"When Lucifer and I were fledglings, before father created you and Gabriel, father left us alone to explore the empty world. We met someone who was older than this universe, but we didn't truly believe her, even as she told us story after story."
If Michael and Lucifer were the twins, Sigyn would have recognized them, wouldn't she have? Raphael wondered, but then he realized that she might not have, not if the twins hadn't surfaced from beneath archangel Grace. "Gabriel? When did you know you were Sleipnir?"
"Hela's the only one that knew who she was from the beginning," Gabriel said. "I've always remembered bits and pieces, but when I ran away, I remembered a cottage and a woman who would help me, but I didn't remember who Sigyn was to me until she called me 'Slip'."
"Michael says that he and Lucifer spent time with Sigyn before you or I were created. You're sure Lucifer is one of the twins?"
Gabriel considered. "I'm sure. It's possible that Mother can only identify us when our memories start surfacing. If she had been able to identify them, she may not have told them, but she might have mentioned it to us when we were searching for the twins."
"Is that it?" Raphael wondered if Michael would realize he was fishing, or if he was even asking the right question. Would Michael even answer if he asked the right question?
"If you're trying to ask me about the reincarnating of her family, which you probably already know about, if you've spent this long at Sigyn's house, then you already know the answer to that question. What is it you really want to know?"
"Loki and Sigyn's last born children were a set of twins, and Gabriel is sure that Lucifer is one of them."
"And he thinks I'm the other twin. He's not wrong." There was a long sigh from the other end. "I didn't know for sure until Lucifer was falling and by then there was nothing I could do. Raph, I can't kill Lucifer."
"Lucifer isn't exactly sane. Gabriel thinks it's the corruption from the Mark."
"That would make too much sense," Michael replied. "I knew that mark was a bad idea." He sighed. "Father seemed inclined to insist that Lucifer and I should fight to the death. Cain killed Abel. John Winchester's last words to Dean were that he either had to save Sam or kill him. The corruption of demons is a little different than that of the Mark, but you know where demons came from."
There was silence, but Raphael didn't answer. Michael hadn't said it, but even knowing as little as he did, he knew that one of the twins had killed the other. Or at least, they did in the human version of the Norse lore, but he could see where the theme of fratricide was going to go next. It always did. Fratricide applied to killing a sister, and for a moment, Raphael wondered why Father had chosen to lock Amara away instead of killing her. But no, that wasn't important. What was important was that Lucifer had been fine until he was given the Mark. It wasn't about humans, as Gabriel had insinuated, not at all.
"A long time ago, I had an idea. We don't know much about the mark, but do you think if we worked together, maybe we could be able to heal the corruption it caused Lucifer?"
Raphael considered the question. It was a good one, because he didn't want to cause Sigyn any more pain. There ways of curing demons. They were time consuming and they were used for specific purposes, but it was possible. But Lucifer wasn't a demon, he was an archangel, and there was no way a demon curing ritual would fix Lucifer. There was also no way Lucifer was going to sit there and let them perform one on him. Had anyone groomed Lucifer after Father had given him the mark? Raphael couldn't remember. If Grace was burned, then one had to carefully remove the dead bits without injuring it further. But they were talking about corruption of some kind, not burns.
"It's a good idea," Raphael replied. "But I'm not sure how. I'm pretty sure that in this state, he's not going to sit still and let us groom him. If they were burns, not corruption, then we would tend it carefully until the burned part was gone."
"What if we did that? Something like siphoning off the corruption? Would that fix Lucifer?"
"The Mark changed Lucifer. I mean, I guess if we siphoned all of it, that could work, but would there be any unaffected Grace left and even if the answer is yes, would his regenerating Grace be as unaffected?"
"Will it regenerate?" Michael asked.
"I don't know. I mean, assuming there's still uncorrupted grace in there somewhere, then yes."
"And if Lucifer doesn't have any uncorrupted grace?"
Raphael considered the question. He understood why Michael would ask, but the idea concerned him. What was plan B? "We could trick the grace into thinking it's from before the Mark was taken."
"Raph…. That'd make Lucifer a fledgling."
Was that really so bad of an idea? He could raise Luci by himself if Sigyn's family wanted nothing to do with them after this. But after what Lucifer did to Sigyn and tried to do to Gabriel, something had to be done. Raphael didn't want Lucifer dead any more than his brothers did, but things couldn't stay the way they were because then something bad really would happen. No one else could die over this. Not any more.
"Maybe you should talk to Sigyn before deaging my brother," Gabriel cut in, audible to both Michael and Raphael, but not to anyone else.
"I know it's not ideal," Raphael said. "But either course of action should work." He sighed. "I like Sigyn. I haven't met her for real yet, but I like her. And if I can help you two and the rest of your family become whole and complete, I'm going to do this. Michael, you want your twin back. Gabriel, you want your baby twin brothers home where they belong. You two are about as subtle as a volcano and possibly more tumultuous. I think it's my turn."
Raphael blinked. Gabriel was still sitting cross legged on the bed. "I'll come back later." Gabriel made no effort to respond, so Raphael turned around and walked back through the hallway and down the stairs.
The house was quiet, but a young blonde woman was sitting on the kitchen table, looking at him with eyes of murky blue-green. "Do you genuinely think it'll work?" she asked.
Raphael chose not to question how she could know what he was planning. He shrugged. "I'd like to think it will." He considered asking if she thought Sigyn would object, but he couldn't see why she would. As far as he knew, she wanted all her children back. Lucifer as he was, that was out of the question, but he could heal his brother. That would be his repayment to Sigyn for saving his little monkey.
"You owe her no debt," the young woman said. "She'd have done that for any of us. She's done it plenty of times for Mama. And Raphael? Mother's not going to object. But you needn't be so hasty. We'd love to have you here."
Raphael gave her a shy smile. "Wouldn't it be a nice surprise for her to wake up to? I'll come back, but someone has to run heaven if three archangels come live here."
Hela nodded a knowing smile gracing her lips as he left the house the same way Gabriel had brought him here. Have a heart to heart with Lucifer it was, but to do so without burning any mortal eyes up or ruining the mortals unfortunate enough to be his vessel. He'd have to heal his last one on his way back, he shouldn't have left him like that.
It wasn't difficult for Raphael to find Lucifer. His vessel was not doing very well, apparently his attempts to get his true vessel to submit had not been successful as of yet. Raphael wasn't sure whether or not that was beneficial or a hindrance for what he was going to do. If Lucifer's vessel exploded, it could prove difficult to finish what he was going to try to do.
"Another little brother. Why are you here?" Lucifer asked. "Going to pick a side?"
"Why did you hurt Sigyn?" Raphael asked. "She loves you, you know." At least, he thought she did. The twins were the only children of Sigyn's by blood, right? She probably loved them just as much as she loved her other children and she'd almost died for Gabriel.
"She got in the way!" Lucifer shouted. "She wasn't even supposed to be there!"
"You were about to hurt one of her children. She wouldn't allow that." Raphael considered that.
"One brother must kill the other brother. Isn't that the way the story goes? That's how it went the first time around. That's how it went for Cain and Abel. That's what Father wanted Michael to do to me."
"And you're okay with the status quo?" Raphael asked. "Maybe it's time to write a new story. How would it go if you wrote it?"
"I did try to write it! And look what it got me! That cage was alive, it was sentient, and I had to spend so long down there. I was so alone, just me and my memories of one brother killing the other brother, a wolf and his defenseless twin. Which do you think I was? Did I kill my twin? Rip him to shreds with my claws and have feast of his bones? Or was I the little boy? The one who laid there and took it because I thought I'd done something to deserve it? What do you think?!"
"I think it doesn't matter," Raphael whispered. He didn't have hands here, didn't have a vessel, but there was also no eyes of mortals that he might burn out in the process. No innocents here. "It doesn't matter because it wasn't the wolf's choice and it wasn't the boy's fault. It was a position neither should have ever been in because they were inseparable in their love and their trust for one another and no one, no one should have ever tried to use that against them."
He was glowing in the other plane, but Lucifer wasn't looking and that was the only reason they were still here. Gabriel may have learned all his tricks from Lucifer, in such a way that he could never pull a stunt over on the latter, but Lucifer had taught Raphael little. The studious archangel had expressed little interest in pranks or tricks or shenanigans, but he'd been the rock capable of healing every wound, and to see every wound even when his siblings thought it was better to leave them untreated in favor of more exciting things than cuddling.
Raphael could see the taint of Lucifer's Grace. It was oily black and sticky like tar, covering every surface that he could see and dripping as to spread in any way that it could. It wasn't spreading away from Lucifer though, for which was one thing Raphael could be glad for. Whatever the corruption was, it didn't appear to spread elsewhere. That didn't mean it wouldn't spread if it found a suitable host. But did it need Grace, or was this where demons had come from?
"Sometimes you can't have one thing without its opposite as a reminder of what could be." Why had Father suffered Amara to a caged existence, the same as his favorite son? Why were Sigyn, Loki, and their children forced to live an endless series of universes and reincarnations that didn't appear to have a final destination? His forgiveness was supposedly endless, and yet no one had ever offered Lucifer a chance at redemption. No one had offered Cain, or Abel, for that matter, their own chances at redemption and look at where they'd ended up. With knights of hell and demons. How many of the actions would have been Lucifer's idea if the Mark had never been given to him? Father would say that the Mark wasn't capable of changing a person, only strengthening what was already there. Raphael didn't buy the lesson there. Lucifer had been the Morningstar, his Grace the brightest of all the angels. Was the moral that all bright things to look at were really terrible and evil on the inside? No. Lucifer had never been evil. Perhaps not as held responsible for his actions as he should have been, and someone definitely overdid it on the punishment. How was Lucifer supposed to learn from his actions if he was in time out for so long he forgot the reason he was there in the first place?
"Lucifer?" Raphael didn't wait for his brother to look at him. This was important. He started gathering his Grace, preparing for a healing spell that could cure the Darkness in his brother. "I love you. We all love you." He could picture the fledgling dogging Michael's footsteps and being dogged by Michael. "I don't think Sigyn could ever stop loving you," he prayed he was right. "I'm sure she can forgive you for your lapse in judgement. That's what Mothers are for. I think- I guess. I never had one. But you did. Don't take this for jealousy- but your Mother, she's kind of awesome. I hope I get to meet her for real someday."
"Don't speak about my mother!"
Lucifer lunged for Raphael the moment after Raphael leapt, putting Lucifer where Raphael had been and Raphael behind him long enough to jab his hands onto Lucifer's wings. The texture was by far the most unpleasant thing Raphael could remember touching, and he was a healer. They were sticky, tar still oozing from them. Perhaps it wasn't the corruption itself that he had seen falling, but whatever it was that was clinging to each tuft of grace.
"Let go of me!" Lucifer shouted.
"Hang on a second, Luci, I seem to be stuck." Raphael may have been exaggerating, but he wasn't going to 'free' himself before he could find what he was looking for. What Lucifer needed was a bath. Seriously. But he didn't really have time for that. If plan A worked, Lucifer could give himself a bath. If not, well, he'd better give Lucifer a bath before he showed up on Sigyn's doorstep.
Spell already prepared, Raphael made the attempt at the strongest healing he'd ever attempted. Sure, Lucifer wasn't deadly injured or anything, but there was more than one kind of injury. He imagined that whatever corruption the Mark had left behind was more than just superficial grime.
Raphael's Grace searched for anything wrong with Lucifer's. It scrubbed, softly, along the feathers of his wings, scraping off the congealed wing oils and caked sulfur glued to them. How had Lucifer flown in this condition? Raphael wondered as he found singed Grace. So he had been wrong, Lucifer's grace had burned.
As the cleaning of Lucifer's wings continued, Raphael searched deeper into his brother's grace. It wasn't the same as it had been when his brother was a fledgling, but that was a surprise. There were scars in Lucifer's grace. Disregarding any possible outcomes, Raphael tried to heal them. He could tell the age of each and every one of them, a stark contrast to any scars Sigyn and Loki bore. It would be a good trial run, he decided, in case he could ever heal theirs. If Sigyn would take him back after this.
"What are you doing, Little Brother?" Lucifer communicated easily this way. He merely had to think in Raphael's direction to be heard. Raphael wondered with some amusement at the idea that Lucifer could probably hear his random musings. But it didn't matter. He just wanted his older brother back. Not the one that had been put in the cage, but theone that had on occasion sat with him as he studied each of Father's creations. With no hint of jealousy, none at all, he wondered what Sigyn had done to end up with such a wonderful brood of children. Could he aspire to that? "Why would Sigyn want me after all this?" Lucifer asked.
Raphael didn't bother to answer. He wasn't sure he could understand a parent's unconditional love for their children. Father's hadn't been entirely unconditional, if this was how Lucifer's disagreement had ended.
The scars healed. Not quickly, but Raphael's healing magic was working, or seemed to be doing something. And then he found the taint in his brother's grace. Now that he could see it, he could see that it did spread across everything it came into contact with. As the scars healed, the oily sludge rolled across the now unmarred patches, coating them with the sticky substance as it passed. Had the scars been protecting some untouched pieces of Lucifer's Grace? Raphael stopped, watching in horror as the substance threatened to ruin all of his hard work. This was not acceptable.
Raphael's grace pulsed as he pushed it towards dealing with the oily mess. If he did siphon it away as Michael had suggested, what would he do with it? In the end, it would still belong to Lucifer and even if all of it was gone, how could he trust that it wouldn't come back? He wasn't about to let anything jeopardize the goal he was aiming for. If he was going to make Sigyn's family whole again, he sure wasn't going to do it so haphazardly as to put it even more at risk.
So he pushed. He pushed his grace as far as it would go to fix whatever this was that was wrong with Lucifer. He pushed until it felt like he was burning, like his Grace was on fire. But whatever it was he was doing was working, which meant that as long as he finished, it was a success and that was all that mattered. All that mattered until every lightbulb in the room exploded and the light was bright enough for Raphael to see it through his eyelids.
"Raph? Are you okay?" the voice that was not Lucifer was barely a whisper in the back of Raphael's mind. His grace was still pulsing slightly even as he knew that whatever he had been trying to do had been a success. But why was he so tired? Angels didn't need to sleep. But he was curling up next to his brother on instinct, surrounded by the warmth of another's Grace, and any thoughts that came after didn't matter.
"Raphy! Wake up!"
Raphael woke slowly, choosing to neither open his eyes or move as he tried to remember what had happened and why he felt like he'd been trampled by an elephant. Someone was poking him in the side and it was decidedly unpleasant.
"Stop bothering your brother, Luci. That was an extensive bit of spellwork that he did and he's probably going to be feeling it for awhile. Especially if the apparent results are anything to go by." The voice was feminine, and not one that Raphael remembered off the top of his head.
Sigyn and Lucifer, then, Raphael decided. Where was he anyway?
He shifted slightly, unprepared for the fresh wave of pain it sent up his spine. What in Father's name had he done? He blinked, also unprepared for light that was far too bright. He squeezed his eyes shut again, not ready to try that again.
"Mommy! He's awake!" The voice was much too close to his ears and he was not ready for all of his senses to be so rudely assaulted.
Raphael winced. Tears were pooling in his eyes, but he wasn't entirely sure why. What had he done? Had it been worth it?
"Is Raphael awake yet?" The voice was quiet and from some distance. Quiet, but not so quiet that Raphael had trouble making it out.
"Mica!" he exclaimed. Or tried to. It came out quietly. He was so tired and his grace felt like it had been put through a shredder. Maybe he should go back to sleep. Lucifer could go find someone else to play with, Raphael was certain he couldn't move.
Raphael could hear the footsteps approaching. That excited him because that meant Mica was approaching. Would his older brother hold him? He couldn't remember the last time someone had held him and his grace was sad now.
"Hey, Lucifer. Why don't you go see if Gabriel will play with you?" Michael suggested. "That should be more entertaining than watching Raph sleep."
"Okay!" Small footsteps patterned away on the floor, moving away from Raph.
"How are you feeling?" Michael asked softly, close to his face but not so loudly in his ear.
Raphael tried moving his arms towards Michael. The pain was less, but this exhaustion was unexplained. His hands found the edge of Michael's grace. Warm. Mica wanted to know how he was feeling? He was exhausted, some lost elephant had trampled him twice, and he wanted to be held. What in Father's name had he done?!
"Whoa there, Kiddo. What do you want?"
There a small laugh. "Don't you know anything about children, Michael? That's the universal sign for, 'up!'"
"Up." Raphael repeated. He was glad Sigyn had said that because yes, that's what he wanted.
Hands wrapped around him and soon he was being held. It was nowhere near as bad as Luci poking him. His eyes were wetter. Why was he leaking? "What happened?"
"You should have told us what you were planning and you should have waited and let me help you. Raph, you almost exploded yourself."
That…. Explained the elephant. Exploding would have been painful and trying to reach that point was exhausting work. "''S okay," he told Michael. "Sigyn needed Luci okay again and I fixed it. Right?"
There was a sigh. "Raphael, I know I haven't had the opportunity to meet you yet, but Hela told me about the conversation the two of you had. You don't owe me for saving Slip. You didn't need to almost kill yourself over a debt that doesn't exist."
"But…. You should have all your children back. Isn't that what you want?"
"Yes! It is, Raph. It's what Loki and I have wanted since forever. But you're missing the point. We were so close to having all our children back, but it wouldn't have been worth the cost of any more lives. Not even yours."
"Especially not yours," Michael cut in. "And someone will bend you over their lap if you try something like that again."
"I's not your kid," Raphael mumbled to Sigyn. "Why does it matter?"
"Mortals these days seem to think I was the goddess of fidelity because they think I ended up in a marriage I didn't want. I did want to marry Loki, and what he did stopped me from being trapped in the marriage I really didn't want. I'd like to think I was the goddess of children or motherhood. Sure, I stood beside Loki for millennia holding a bowl between him and the serpent, but that's unconditional love. It matters, Raph. It matters because my children would have been devastated if you'd sacrificed yourself for our greatest desire. Even if that wasn't true, I would have been devastated, Raph. Even after millenia, you came at a seconds notice to help me just because Gabriel asked you to. They tell me that you may have done it regardless of who was asking, but Michael also says you've been withdrawn since Gabriel left, so I'm not convinced."
"Would have," he whispered. "I like you."
"Yes. And see, that's the conundrum. Because believe it or not, we all like you too."
"I may have left out the other half of what happened. You almost exploded yourself. You didn't, but you did manage to expend enough grace blowing up what was left of the Mark to turn you and Luci both into fledglings. So you'll have to stick around for awhile because I already lost Gabriel and Lucifer once. I'm not losing any of my siblings ever again if I can help it and you're going to need someone to keep you out of trouble." Michael was smiling, Raphael was sure. And honestly, as long as he was welcome, he didn't want to leave. "Please don't send me away," he said. "I don't want to leave." He wanted to be here. Sure, he didn't want them to think they could keep him against his will, but he also wouldn't stay where he wasn't wanted.
"Oh, Kiddo," Michael said. "We want you here. We won't keep you against your will, but we'll never push you out of the nest before you're ready, either."
"Okay." Raphael yawned, leaning his head into Michael's warmth. This conversation was too emotional. He was suddenly too exhausted for this nonsense.
Michael gently rubbed Raphael's back. His brother had fallen asleep again and he wondered why Raphael had never answered his first question. He looked over at Sigyn. "Do you think he's okay?"
Sigyn smiled. "I'm sure he's fine physically. I'm also sure that I don't know what I'll do if I ever meet the person who cast Lucifer out of heaven and made Raphael feel like other people's dreams were more important than his own safety. I love all you munchkins, Raph included."
Michael nodded. "He was ready to raise a fledgling Lucifer by himself if you didn't react positively to his solution."
"It was a surprise, sure. But if there was no other way to heal Lucifer, then I'm not going to argue with it. Besides, maybe this time I get to actually raise some of my children to adulthood."
Michael smiled. This was good, he decided. He and his siblings could keep their parents and the fledglings safe forever. This universe need not end. Not now.
It took awhile, but Sigyn eventually ran into Him. She was mildly unimpressed with the alcoholic prophet, but it was what it was.
"I have spent eons considering what I would say to you if we ever met face to face. Your neglect and mistreatment of your firstborns is unfathomable, and I am astonished that you failed to realize it. I will spend countless more eons rectifying your mistakes with them."
"I had wondered if I could somehow explain to you the severity of your mistakes and the consequences that became of them. I would kill you here and now if I thought for an instant that it would fix anything. But it won't, because the damage your manipulations caused runs so much deeper than that. Now that I'm here, I realize that I don't have anything to say to you on that account. I don't have to. Your children, they're mine. They're mine in a way you will never be capable of comprehending. They're my adopted children, my step children, and my blood and I love each and every one of them unconditionally and unfathomably. And what revenge could be better than that? This multiverse that you created to be my personal cage because I had dared to love your children more than you did? Newsflash, it didn't have the outcome you desired. I'll let you live, you're no danger to a family of eight immortal godlings, but if you even think about coming anywhere near them, I will smite you where you stand."