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Take Me To Church

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He could remember his Fall. A few snide remarks, whispered under breath, a few too many rude gestures, and he was sent, spiraling downwards. He’d always imagined a Fall from Grace to feel the way a child would, falling from their first time on an a big-kid bike. Only there were no scraped knees, in this business. His Father wasn’t going to scoop him up off the pavement, brush the dirt off of his clothes, and tell him that it would be okay; it wouldn’t be okay. Not for a long time. He rushed through the atmospheres, poked a hole in no less than three fluffy clouds (the kind that he used to lounge on, while he shirked certain duties), and caught a brief glimpse of the world, as the Human saw it. Beautifulehorribledirtymagnificent in all the ways that poetry had been claiming, for so long. Just a flash, and then it was gone, and he was faced with the very real probability that there would be a crater the size of a football stadium, somewhere in Colorado.

Instead, he fell straight through the Earth, past rock and dirt; millennia’s worth of memories, fossils, and bone. He fell, and he fell, until he thought that surely he would pop out on the other side of the planet, and wind up back in Heaven, having learned his lesson. He found, however, that his Father was not so forgiving.

He’d spent years in the Pit, decades of flesh being rendered from bone; of searing heat, and burning cold. He’d spent entire lifetimes repenting his actions, which seemed far too small and insignificant to deserve such punishment. It was during this time, that he’d come up with a Plan of his own; he was going to get out of this place- get out, and never, ever, ever come back. So he talked; bullshitted his way straight to the Powers That Be, and managed, miraculously, to convince them that his sentence was better carried out on Earth, with the humans.

So out he came, ascending through the same spot he’d fallen through, legs shaking. A hysterical, maniacal laugh bubbled from between clenched teeth, because he’d done it- he’d busted out of hell, on the condition that he drag others down, to fill his place. So he called forth some clothing, something sleek that he’d seen rich, successful men wearing, greased his hair back in the grimy mirror of a gas station’s restroom, and started calling himself Craig.

xxxx

The first few were difficult, pulling careful strings, making the innocent dance their way off the cliff of Morality. Once he’d learned the ropes, with some help from other Demons, who had been Topside longer than he had, he found that his job was far too easy. Humans, particularly those who were middle-aged, with families, and homes, and comfortable incomes, they were the ones that took the least effort. They almost wanted to be corrupted. All he would have to do was put a little bit of Tempation into the heart of a man, whose wife had given him a verbal lashing that morning, and he was off with the attractive waitress, who poured his coffee every afternoon. He’d flash some bills in front of a politician, at the exact moment that they were feeling doubt.

So easy, Craig wondered why they needed him here, at all.

And then he’d met the Angels, and for the first time since he’d Fallen, he remembered what he used to have. With their beautiful wings, that ethereal glow that radiated from their bodies, and their easy smiles, it was hard not to be jealous of them. He’d long since gotten used to the bony protrusions on his head, and the spaded tail that flicked nervously whenever one of Them were near, but if Craig were honest with himself (and he was not in the habit of lying, for anyone’s benefit), he missed the wings. It was a common misconception that Angels’ wings simply ceased to exist, when they Fell. On the contrary, they stayed put; there was more surface area for the flames to lick clean, that way. Feathers burnt to ash, as fire tanned the skin black and leathery. They were awful, he thought. Awful, but also kind of cool, in their own right. Craig thought of the Humans; those ones who’d worn leather jackets and sunglasses (even at night time), and thought that maybe this was a style that he could get used to.

Like most other Demons, he kept to his own kind, not paying much attention to the Angels, aside from evening out the balance of influence over the Humans. When they righted a car that nearly flipped, another was wrapped around a light pole. When one person was cured of a terminal illness, another was diagnosed. So was the balance of the world; one that Craig did his part to keep. Of course, it was hard not to bump shoulders with Them, every so often. Sometimes, they would go after the same target, and that was when things got interesting.

He’d all but shoved one Angel- a redhead who called himself Kyle- off of more than one case, with a little bit of morbid satisfaction. They had, it seemed, very similar taste in Humans (in more than one way, he suspected), and in recent years, had developed a very close rivalry. There was one Human in particular, whose soul they fought over the most; a teenager with raging hormones, and a moral compass that couldn’t tell North from South. Kyle would bless him with luck during a football game, and Craig tempted him into drinking, well under the legal age. It was during the Human’s seventeenth Halloween, while Craig was tempting him into taking a hit off of a tightly packed bowl, that he saw him, for the first time.

Lazing atop a roof, next to what seemed to be an absolute mountain of candy, was a boy with bright blue eyes, blonde hair, and a sparkling halo. Craig had paid him no mind, to begin with, writing him off as another one of Them, who’d been sent down to clean up his messes. So he continued on with his night, racking up a list of Sinners, and setting more Humans on the path to Hell than he ever thought possible to achieve in a single night. But that was All Hallows Eve, for you. There wasn’t a single moment, for the rest of the night, that he couldn’t catch a glimpse of gold, trailing him at a distance. He clenched his teeth, and whispered to an already intoxicated woman all the splendors that the busty dancer on stage could show her.

It was nearly morning, before Craig had finally had enough, and turned to tell the Angel to fuck off, already, when he came face-to-face with rounded cheeks, and a toothy grin that melted the scorn right off of his tongue. The boy (teenager? Adult?) floated, inches off the ground, so that he was at eye-level with Craig, one hand clenching a half-empty bag of jelly beans, and the other thrust out to take Craig’s, in a very one-sided handshake.

“Kenny.” He was saying, even before Craig could finish gaping. “My name’s Kenny. Nice to meetchoo.” His teeth were stained green, and he smelled so strongly of sugar that it took all Craig had not to gag, but he was the first of Them to ever willingly touch him in over a century.

Craig shivered.

Before he knew it, Kenny was following him around to nearly all of his jobs, only disappearing for hours at a time, to presumably do some good in the world. Sometimes, he would pop back up by Craig’s side, red-faced and out of breath, bringing with him the distant wail of sirens.

Kenny was not a very Good Angel.

That is not to say that he was an inherently bad one, either. Mostly, his actions were benevolent, bringing out kind traits in those who might have otherwise gone on to be very sour Humans. He once caught sight of Kenny righting a teeter-totter, before a two-year-old could fall off the edge, saving them from a lot of scratches and tears. Little things that added up to the common Good of Man. That was Kenny’s specialty.

It was kind of cute.

Then, there were the times that he’d tried a large act of Kindness, like the time he’d tried to put out a fire (which Craig suspected had been at least partially his own doing, though he kept quiet about it), and instead made it worse, trapping no less than three dozen office workers inside for thirty-seven minutes of smoke inhalation and panic. Nobody had died, but several people were injured, and all of them very, very scared. Scared people did very stupid things, and Craig wound up counting it a victory, on his own behalf.

Still, Kenny’s continued presence in his not-life made him uneasy. Why would something so pure want to hang around a dirty creature like himself? Surely this couldn’t be good for his reputation up in Heaven. When Craig had voiced his questions, though, Kenny had just shrugged him off, and grinned.

“If you don’t have a little Evil around, how do you know what’s really Good?” he’d said, snapping off a piece of licorice, and handing the rest to Craig, who did little more than wrinkle his nose, and banish it from existence. “Besides,” he added, voice going soft with something akin to fondness, “I like watching you do that thing with kids, where you tell them that their music sucks, and that they should listen to Christian Rock.” He looked up at the pale twilight sky, as if making sure that nobody was eavesdropping. “I think that’s pretty funny.” After all, the biggest Sinners came from a religious background. Like that chubby kid who’d started up a band in the Lord’s name, just to make a ton of money. Craig was particularly proud of that one.

There were also times when Kenny would give him this look, like he couldn’t see the horns, or his ruined wings. Like he still thought that Craig was one of Them. Looks like that made Craig squirm- made him look away, because it had been a Very Long Time since he’d felt anything close to Holy. Sometimes, being around Kenny made him think that he could be, again. His casual bumps, meaningful looks, and contagious laughter were hard not to get addicted to; and he drank them up, because he knew, eventually, that he’d get caught. There was only so much fraternizing with Demons that Father would allow; Craig knew this first-hand, and a part of him feared for Kenny’s position in Heaven, even if the Angel himself did not.

“They’re gonna kick you out, you know.” He said, one idle afternoon, when the sun was beating down too harshly for anyone to do much of anything, including the unlikely duo. “From Upstairs, I mean. You keep hanging around, and they’re not gonna be happy.”

Kenny didn’t reply for a while, just kept humming quietly to himself, and running pale fingers over what was left of Craig’s wings in random patterns. He could have fallen asleep like this, stretched atop a barn roof, surrounded by the smell of fresh hay, and lulled by the general Light that was Kenny. He could be up in the clouds, still. With his eyes closed, it was easy to imagine himself an Angel.

When Kenny spoke again, his voice was as soft as his hums, and might have been part of his dream. “I don’t care.” He said, and it might have been a leaf, or a stray lock of hair blowing against his cheek, but he could have sworn that Kenny had kissed his face, as he drifted off to sleep.

Craig never asked Kenny about it; was never sure if he’d imagined the words, the kiss, or if they’d been real, but he dropped it. If Kenny wanted to Fall, there was very little Craig could do to stop him. He made a conscious effort to be careful, especially when he knew that Others were around, but he didn’t question him, again. Kenny seemed to appreciate it, anyway, and showed it by leaning over and kissing him- really kissing him, when he’d pointed out that he might as well enjoy the ride while he could. Kenny had come away from the evening with swollen lips, and a few singed feathers, which he plucked, banished, and decided not to worry about.

It would figure, of course, that the one who did worry about this, the only one that Kenny had confided in, was the very Angel that Craig absolutely did not want to know. Kyle had stormed up to him, green eyes blazing with fury, and very narrowly missed socking Craig in the jaw.

“What do you think you are doing?” he’d fumed, fists clenching, and unclenching, as if he might very much like to take another swing. “You Fell, Craig. You Fell, and that was your own fault. Don’t drag Kenny down to your level, just because he’s naïve enough to think that you’re not all Bad.” Kyle would choose a time that Kenny himself was not there to overhear; wouldn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings. Kyle always was a coward.

“He knows what he’s doing.” Craig growled, tail whipping behind him, like a weapon. “I’ve told him, and he doesn’t want to hear it. Not from me, not from you” His face got ugly (an impressive feat, for someone who’s entire being was beautiful), and he spat.

“You don’t know what he wants.”

Craig laughed, a crackling, humorless sound.

“No,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. “But neither do you.”

Kyle had stormed off, not before throwing out a snarl of “Leave Kenny alone.” And, for good measure: “Leave Stan alone, too.” As if he really believed that Craig would do either.

Kenny had shown up, a day later, sporting unburnt feathers, and his same goofy grin, and Craig had raised his eyebrows, pushing off of the wall he’d been resting against, while he smoked. The Angel had given his wings a careful flap, and tucked them back, so that they would be out of the way, when he reached out for a hug; something that had become a common greeting, for them, as of late. Craig couldn’t say that he minded.

“Kyle told me you two talked yesterday.” He said, giving his cheek a quick nuzzle, and a peck, before pulling away from him. At least he was being a little cautious.

“Yeah, right. Did he happen to mention the part where he tried to punch me? Great friend you got there.”

Kenny just nodded and hummed, not at all concerned. “He’s just being protective. He gets like that with people, sometimes.” Like when someone he cares about is doing something really, really Stupid. Craig rolled his eyes, a trait he’d picked up in the eighties, and hadn’t been able to shake. At least, he figured, between the two of them, they might be able to keep Kenny in Good Graces. With Kyle lending him feathers, and covering for them occasionally, this could work. They could work.

“He’s just bitter because he doesn’t have the balls to show himself to his Human.” He said, and Kenny let out a peal of laughter, like the sound of wind chimes, or waves crashing on a beach.

It was as if he'd heard them-- as if he knew that they were taling about him. Kyle popped back in, taking Kenny's wrist, and pulling. Craig opened his mouth to say something-- to make a snide comment about being able to take a joke, for crying out loud, but stopped short. Kyle's eyes were wide, and pink-rimmed; his lip was bitten nearly bloody.

"I'm sorry," he said, and for once in Craig's entire existence, he knew that he meant it. "I'm so sorry."

And they were gone.