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Not even the millennia he had spent in the cage could prepare him for this sweet torture. He could feel the blades of grass against his nose, the cool breeze on his hot cheek, smell the heavy scent of flowers on the evening air.

He didn’t want to open his eyes. He wanted to live in this moment until time stood still. With his eyes closed, the setting sun turning the inside of his eyelids to gold, he could pretend he was in some corner of heaven, or Earth before his Father had polluted it with humans. A glade somewhere. Napping. Wings intact. Michael next to him, arms wrapped around each other, his honeyed breath blowing sweet in his face.

But he knew that something would make him open his eyes. The cage was never kind for long- he may as well do it on his own terms.

He opened them slowly, expecting some horror to be before him. His throat tightened when he saw a robin. They were one of Michael’s creations. The General created plains of grass and sand that would see countless battles, volcanos that would swallow entire cities whole with one fiery blast, and robins.

“Look at her,” Michael had whispered when Lucifer found him that day. He had been sat in the corner of their bedroom, cross-legged at the edge of the stream that flowed through. “Isn’t she lovely?”

“You gave her armor.” Lucifer had reached out to touch the soft red feathers that looked like a breastplate, smiling as the little bird chirped.

“Of course I did.” Michael held it up to his cheek, and Lucifer closed his eyes as he felt the thrumming heartbeat.  

“Does she sing?”

Michael set the bird down, letting it drink from the stream. He turned to face Lucifer more completely, letting a hand drift down his cheek, down his neck. “Nearly as sweetly as you, little bird,” he’d murmured.

Lucifer blinked, bringing himself back to the present. He crawled slowly towards the bird. They didn’t seem to like humans much- that they shared in common with himself- and he had no reason to believe that his current vessel would be an exception.

The robin caught on to his stealthy moves, flying away before he could reach out a finger. But he could see now why it had been sent. An archangel blade glinted in the golden sun.

He swallowed, reaching out to grasp the handle. They were beautiful- much more beautiful than the regular angel blades. It would be a crime for them to be killed by something so plain. But with that beauty came danger. If he was being given an archangel blade, surely that meant there was an archangel near.

He looked around the clearing he was in, still on his hands and knees. Sure enough, Michael sat beneath a dark tree, arms hugging his knees. His dark eyes were on him, mouth hidden. How long had he been watching him?

Lucifer stood up, blade firmly in hand. He’d taken no more than two steps when he stumbled forward, falling headlong into the waving grass. He swore loudly as he clambered back up- only to fall again.

“What the fuck!”

He fell forward whilst on his knees, too, and so settled for having his hands planted in the grass before him, blade pushing into his palm uncomfortably, trapped between it and the soil. He scowled up at Michael, who sat watching him as serene and vacant as a small angel on some faded fresco.

“What have you done do me!” he shouted. “Have you cursed me? Do you think I deserve any more curses?”

Something in Michael’s face twitched. Still, he said nothing.

Lucifer tried to stand once more but didn’t get his hands off the ground before he was back face down in the soil.

“You have! You fucking cursed me, you treacherous little-” He took one hand from the ground to fling the blade at Michael. It landed several paces in front of him, disappearing into the long grass. He spat out another insult before crawling, crawling on his hands and knees to retrieve it.

“Go on,” he panted. “Go on, Michael, curse me one more time and make me limbless, why don’t you? Make me into the snake Father made me become, the snake you helped create.”

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Michael stand, and he quickened his crawling, painfully aware that he must look like some weird bug. He stopped once he saw the bare feet of Michael’s vessel in front of him. How typical of his brother to be so weirdly endearing- he was neatly dressed otherwise, but shoes hadn’t occurred to him.

“Luce,” Michael murmured. The air felt electric with him so close. Every particle around them seemed to hum with his energy, ready to burst into flame. Even with his essence muffled by his vessel, his brother was still brighter than anything he could imagine.

Strong arms pulled him up. Lucifer lurched into him unwillingly- Michael took another step back, hands on his shoulders, keeping him upright.

“You’re not cursed,” Michael said. “It’s your wings. I don’t have mine, either- we’re too used to leaning forward to counteract their weight. Now shift your weight to the middle of your feet.”

Lucifer did as he was told, adjusting his stance slightly. It felt unnatural, leaning back so much. His cheeks burned brightly- how was Michael already standing with military-perfect posture?

“Now… let’s-” the strong hands were gone from his shoulders, and he felt himself fall forward again. But Michael’s hands came up again, and he tried to roll his weight back.

“How do you always know what to do?” he spat. Michael just smiled, one hand still at his shoulder while he walked around him to correct his back posture gently.

“I taught you how to fly, Luce. I’m used to learning quickly so I can help you.”

“I thought you’d be pretty used to letting me fall at this point.”

He felt Michael’s eyes burning into the side of his face. Michael let go of his shoulder, and Lucifer leaned back as though he was leaning against a wall. After swaying a bit, he began to tilt backwards, until he started falling that way.

Michael grabbed his wrist, pulling him forward in an attempt to stop him from falling. Idiot, he thought, as Michael’s strong pull sent them both flying towards the floor. An arm wrapped around his head, as though Michael thought they were in a fucking warzone or something, and after landing in a tangle of limbs he was pulled back up onto his knees, chest-to-chest.

“There,” Michael breathed. Lucifer barely had time to grumble before cold, twisted metal was pressed into his hand. With the same serene detachment- but not without a glimmer of fear- his brother pressed Lucifer’s hand against his heart, the knife tip against his throat.

“Do it,” Michael said, releasing Lucifer’s hand and bringing it to his cheek instead. It was like a cool stone against his burning skin.

“Do it, Luce.” His thumb washed backwards and forwards over his cheek. His other hand was at his waist, keeping him steady. Keeping them both steady. “Come on. I’m nothing without you.”

He flinched. Here was his brother, on his knees, Lucifer’s knife against his throat. He mustered all his thoughts and memories of the cage, of his fall- all those millennia alone, screaming until his throat was raw, pleading and begging and praying to be let out. All those unanswered prayers while his brother listened to humans instead, breathing life into soldiers and giving strength to the weak when they found themselves up against the strong. All the while he let his own brother rot in hell.

And yet-

And yet it all seemed to disappear with that hand on his cheek.

He lowered his hand, letting the blade fall from his fingers into the grass before he lurched at Michael once more, this time on purpose. Michael fell on his back- Lucifer fell on top of him- and he crawled on him like he was a fledgling again, pawing at him and crying on him, tucking his head under Michael’s chin while Michael rubbed his back, murmuring softly. When tears were no longer falling and Lucifer turned his face to make their lips meet, Michael didn’t push him away. He kissed him back, and Lucifer could feel the lust rising in him, in the way he pulled at his clothes and his hair and his skin, pulling him closer until they were impossibly closed, limbs tangled. If it wasn’t for the damn skin between them, the damn natural laws that forbid two objects existing in the same place, he was sure that they would become one.

Lucifer kept gasping like some pathetic human being kissed for the first time. It wasn’t like either of them were unfamiliar with the other’s touch. It had just been so long.

Luce,” Michael moaned as Lucifer tilted his head back to kiss his throat, breathy and desperate, hands reaching up past his clothes to grab at his bare hips. Lucifer attacked his neck, as desperate as Michael, and it was overwhelming, all of it was overwhelming, he had his brother beneath him and his cheeks were burning and it felt like nothing they did would ever be enough, nothing could dampen the lustful flame that had taken over him. The smell of flowers around them was overwhelming too, and he was gasping for air, feeling it tear down his throat like a knife.

He lifted his face from Michael’s neck, worry troubling his features. Michael smiled up at him, flushed and dazed and then filled with concern as he lifted a hand to Lucifer’s cheek again. “Luce,” he murmured, “what’s wrong?”

“I…” he couldn’t form the words.

“We don’t have to-”

“I want to,” he said, childlike neediness slipping into his voice. “I want to- I want you- but I’m- I’m so…”

“Luce,” Michael said again, soothingly this time. He rolled them over gently so Lucifer was on his back, the swaying grass and Michael above him. They looked at each other for a few moments before he leant down to kiss him, soft and gentle and sweet. It filled the hunger within him, untied the knots that had formed in his chest, and when their lips broke apart he could breathe again.

“Better?” Michael mumbled against his lips.

“Better.” He wrapped his arms around his neck, and Michael smiled lazily down at him as they went to kiss again. As their lips touched, something sharper touched his ribs, plunging in and piercing his heart. Michael’s mouth swallowed his gasp, and they kissed still, even as blood pooled within their mouths. When they broke apart Michael smiled down at him, blood staining his teeth.

“I’m sorry, little bird,” he whispered, and took the blade out. Lucifer choked, blood splashing lightly on Michael’s stony face. “But once a monster, always a monster.”

Lucifer cried out as Michael kissed him again, rough and hard and impersonal, all the softness gone as Lucifer felt his lifeblood and what was left of his grace drain out, and Michael’s fingers, sticky with his blood, stroked the side of his face with a lover’s touch. He couldn’t smell the flowers anymore. He couldn’t smell anything but the hard metal of his own blood.

A scream startled him awake, and it took him a while to realize it was coming from him. He stopped with some difficulty. Black all around him. Foul, foul smell. From what dim light there was he could make out Michael curled in the corner, small and weak and pathetic, lying on his side like he had done for centuries.

A trick. Another cruel, cruel trick. His side was burning with his phantom wound, and when he closed his eyes he could still see Michael above him, as beautiful and strong and whole as he’d been in heaven. And, god, touching him, holding him, helping him.

It really was just the two of them here, he realized. The two of them in the whole universe. Or it might as well have been. And he wanted to chase that dream before it had become a nightmare. That soft, sweet, perfect dream.

He crawled over to him now, through the muck that lined the floor of the cage. They both still had their wings. Michael’s lay crumpled behind him, patches of feathers burned away, the rest covered with dirt.

He touched his brother’s face. Michael just stared ahead at the wall of the cage, eyes unseeing. Just like he had for centuries.

“Micha,” Lucifer whispered. He pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. Michael didn’t even blink. He’d probably break Lucifer’s neck if he knew he was so close. Once a monster always a monster, after all.

“We’re going to get out,” he whispered, pushing Michael’s hair off his damp forehead. “Imagine-” he stopped, throat tightening as he remembered that cruel trick, the feeling of Michael holding him like he wanted him as much as Lucifer wanted him. He swallowed. “Imagine we’re in a meadow, Micha. Long grass. Flowers. No one but us for miles around.”

A soft sound escaped his brother’s lips. It was the first noise he’d made in years.

Lucifer lay down beside him, their faces just inches apart. Michael’s eyes stared through him, miles away, but that was alright. He lifted Michael’s heavy arm and dropped it so his hand was resting on his hip. He rested his own hand on his waist. God, what would their siblings say if they could see them. The catatonic General and the Serpent seeking comfort from him like he was a fledgling again.

“We’re in the meadow,” he continued. “Pretend we love each other. Pretend we forgive each other.”

“Haven’t we?” Michael breathed. He blinked, and for a second Michael was back. He smiled softly, thumb rubbing on his hip once before settling again. Then the smile grew softer and the eyes slid a thousand miles away again. He was gone as quickly as he’d returned.

Lucifer’s throat tightened. He gripped Michael a little harder, breath trembling. Michael’s breath was soft and warm as it washed over his face, but apart from that, he might as well have been holding a dead body.