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Arc One: Blackout

Chapter Text

The noise that had drawn him in was the soft whimpers of pain that echoed from the darkness. He had been foolish to follow that sound, but, young and curious as he was, obviously he couldn't resist.

A small light compared to the black that came from the place below. One lone angel, caught in the territory of the damned.

He was now faced with a small boy, quite a bit younger. The demon hissed and whined, facing away on the ground and not quite able to come to terms with the gravity of his situation. The angel was startled and frightful at the sight at first, but slowly he calmed down and watched the other in fascination.

Mercy was a trait in all angels valued greatly, but it could also be their worst flaw; in battle, hesitation was enough to cost a life. But this particular angel had not yet seen the collateral damage of war, and mercy beat very strongly in his heart, typical of the young. With great precaution, he tentatively approached the small, wounded demon.

The demon started violently when he finally noticed the angel, and his big blue eyes went wide with panic. But he could not cry, no, demons could not cry. He gasped instead, and attempted to back away with a snarl.

A single tear fell from the angel's face. His glowing green eyes held nothing but apologies and sorrow for this suffering soul, and he cared not of race or heritage. Bringing a hand up to wipe his face, he slowly knelt by the cornered demon. He was afraid, and his hands shook when he hesitantly reached with his wet hand towards the deepest gash on the demon's chest. Almost immediately the wound began to heal, upon the contact with the angel's tears.

The demon relaxed only slightly, his eyes not holding as much fear. He met eyes with the angel, and that was all the white-winged creature needed to know it was okay. The tears fell freely from his face now, and with both hands, he began to heal the demon.

Once he was finished, his sandals slid slightly on the wet cobblestone as he stood, flexing his beautiful feathered wings. He was going to get ready to leave, when the demon followed suit, and leaned towards the angel with curiosity.

Leaning away, the angel did not know what to make of it. But he didn't let himself be afraid; all the demon was doing was observing him, harmlessly. He even tilted his head a little, iridescent irises flitted over his features, and even the angel couldn't stop himself from doing the same to the other. After all, it wasn't often an angel got to see a demon up close without being attacked, and vice versa.

"Why did you do that?" the demon asked quietly, blinking and meeting eyes with the angel.

The angel took a moment to answer, knowing it was time to go before anything else happened. "Because it was right," he replied, and took off to the golden skies of heaven.

Chapter Text

Prologue

And so, the Prophecy is told.

Angels cannot rage and Demons cannot weep, for the rage would infest and consume the Angel soul from within and the tears would burn down the Demon's cheek to purge the soul from outside. And the Angel would, in a fleeting moment, be destroyed in his own anger. And the Demon would, in an agonising eternity, be scarred to death in his own flaming tears.

This was proclaimed by the ruler of all, as the first half of a prophecy. Long ago in the ashes of their brothers and sisters, the second half was lost in the Flame. Or so the Legends said. A treacherous war had ensued afterwards, declaring the fate of both species over a story told ages before. And it hasn't ended. It won't for quite some time.

Heaven and Hell were at a breaking point; each accused the other pointlessly over knowing the second half and fighting to infiltrate each other's territory to potentially find what wasn't there. Dominion descended to their world, and while in and amongst the supremacy of rancour, the endless generations of Angels and Demons learnt to teach their children to hate, corrupt and brainwash them to hate the other. Enemies for Ever. Fidelity and affection were lost in the minds of them all, and the two kinds were plunged into a dark, malevolent, and bloody time.

That was, until the thought occurred for peace within the skies of the Angels.

But seeing as diplomacy wasn't even an option, they had to keep their idea confidential, their only chance to stop staggering slaughters and hopeless holocausts a secret deep in the depths of their society.

After years of contemplation, it was decided it was a mission. A mission that would take years to complete, mostly to suggest and establish the same idea amongst the enemy in disguise. It would have to be done by one, the fate of all winged-kind pressing down on his shoulders. One Angel to become a Demon.

The Angelicans would have to choose a chosen one, an individual born and bred for the unmatched, unchallenged task. He or she would have to be ready and prepared to face the Demonocracy as a Demon themselves, and still retain everything else that makes them an Angel. Essentially, they would have to send a spy in.

So the Angel government waited, watching their children and people in their past, vying for the One. He, who would not be named for a long time.

Gradually the idea became so vyed for, until the selfishness of peace became something more, something evil. The idea was distorted into something crueller, and the angels would lose themselves in making the ideal utopia for themselves. Some of them lost their mercy in the process. Utopia suddenly was only for the selected few, choice by Unnatural Selection. In order to make it real, a different breed of angels would have to rise up. So the search for the One continued, more frantically by those who had nearly succumbed to their more human desires.

And then he was there. It was magic, seemingly, the Angelicans didn't know how they'd overlooked him. A little boy, daring and unafraid of seemingly anything, yet cynical and distrusting of anyone and everyone. He had no notable friends, no one anyone could say he cared for, really. All in all, he supposedly had nothing left to lose. Not that he ever had, in all honesty. Rogue, yet perfectly disciplined, but also bereft. He was ideal.

"Bereft of what?" questioned one of the higher Angels.

"Bereft of love." answered the Divine, a slight sadness in his tone.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

Change...Everything you are...And everything you were...Your number has been called...

"Urgh..." The angel moaned softly, blinking and trying to shield his eyes from the sudden blinding light. "Wh...What..."

As his luminous green eyes slowly adjusted, he finally tried to look up. All around him were angels of a higher rank, as shown by their uniforms. The boy had only seen a higher angel once, but now he was surrounded by them. And all were looking at him with fear very much evident in their eyes.

"C-careful," one of them said. "Take it easy, child. Wait for your memories to return."

Green eyes slowly slid upwards to meet the gaze of someone, anyone. But none of the valiant warriors seemed to be able to. "What...What has happened?" he asked quietly, his voice slightly hoarse.

The angel nearest to him finally gained enough courage to at least look at him, and, with his strong wings and hands quivering, he reached over to stroke the boy's hair. "Y-you look so different..." he trailed off.

When the bigger angel retracted, some of his hair fell into his eyes, and the boy sat up abruptly. Many of the angels jumped and fluttered a couple of steps away in surprise. They watched with wide eyes as he looked at his hair in shock. "Wh-why is it red?!" he asked in devastation, looking in despair at his formerly blonde hair. The memories were only coming back to him now, but not before something moved behind him and startled him so badly he fell out of the bed.

This made the others back away even further as he bumped into a wall, looking in horror at himself. The tail was what had moved, a sleek black thing that had had a pointed, arrow-like tip. Instinctively, he wanted to fly upwards out of fear, but ascended faster than he expected and nearly hit the high cathedral ceiling. Dropping just as fast, he landed on the floor with a dull thud and panicked again and flew sideways at the opposite wall. Upon striking the hard surface, he cried out, his new and foreign black wings flapping uselessly and his arms flailing.

The higher angels attempted to take action. "Child!" one of them addressed him worriedly, still very reluctant to come near.

"My Child, you are afraid, that much is understandable! All will become clear to you soon. Just allow yourself to breathe!" another one dared to flutter over to him, trying to gather enough courage to kneel next to him. "Shhh, shh, everything will be alright."

The soothing words of the other quickly did its work, and the boy finally was able to take a deep breath. Eyes glistening with tears, he leaned as much as he could against the wall and looked up helplessly at the larger divine being. "Wh...What happened..." he tried to say.

"Shhh, you need not speak. Just breathe," the angel told him soothingly, smiling down at him. Slowly getting braver, he reached out to the boy and gently pulled him into a warm embrace as the tears streamed down the boy's face. The younger immediately surrendered and held on tightly, and the sight of his tears was enough to let the other angels relax; they were proof that he was indeed still an angel, because demons could not cry.

"His heartbeat still elevates," one approached from the boy's other side, and brushed wings with him.

As the others came closer, the boy peeked out from the higher angel's shoulder as his white wings surrounded the small figure. "I believe his memories are making their return. Child, are you alright now?" one leaned downward to look at him with a small, almost fascinated smile.

The boy gave a wide-eyed look to the angel before ducking his head and hiding behind the other angel's chest once more. He could feel soft chuckling coming from the archangel who held him, and he snuggled a little closer, seeking comfort.

"He looks very frightening." he listened to them speak of him as the angel stroked his hair and the warmth was shared with their hearts. "There is no good that could come from allowing Heaven to see him like this."

"We cannot separate him from those of which he is familiar," another disagreed. "He has a little bit of time before he makes his departure. Should we ask if anyone wishes to see him?"

The angels began to settle around him in calm conversation. "You listened to Him, did you not? He made clear His words, this angel has no one who will wish to see him, nor anyone whom he will wish to see. He is bereft."

"He is also a lonely angel who is soon to be dispatched into a world in which none of us know, that he will have to learn. Our kind is very accepting. We should not be afraid to let him walk through our halls once more, because he may never get another chance. What he is about to do is of dangerous parametres, a task none of us could hope to accomplish. He has a mission to save all of winged-kind. He has been ordered by the Divine Himself, in order to bring a halt to the warring parties of Angels and Demons." the one to his right defended quietly.

"We are asking too much of this child." the one holding him agreed sadly, pressing his chin to the top of his soft red hair. "What He asked is completely unfair to this poor soul. But I have no doubt that Arthur will be able to save us. Arthur will be sung about in our songs for centuries to come, and he will be remembered for his sacrifice."

A hand was brushed through his hair as the angel released the boy and stood, surrounding himself with the others. When the demon boy followed suit, they all gave him the Angelican salute. "Arthur, we would like to have the honour of flying with you through heaven one last time." despite their comforting words, there was something that seemed a little off. It appeared as though they were sad, sad about what they were saying, sad about what was going to happen. But for a deeper reason than would be suspected.

Arthur was shocked, to say the least. Five of the most powerful and glorious angels in existence wished to join wings with him, and fly through heaven. If that wasn't a way to remember home, the young angel didn't know what was. Without hesitation, and with a slightly excited smile, Arthur nodded.

The air they flew through was warm and soft, and Arthur enjoyed the feeling of it curling through his hair, his wings, his body. He was not unaware of the various angels that were also enjoying the embrace of the sun that regarded him with fear, but he pretended to be. He did not want to see their reaction if he met eyes with them.

He still had yet to get used to his new wingspan; the strange black contraptions were definitely more dark and gothic in appearance, and to remain at the pace they were going they required a faster wingbeat to keep up. Angel wings were far more powerful and he would remain aloft without so much as a flap with his actual wings. But demon wings were built more for speed and dives, not level and leisurely flight. Ascension vs Descension was the difference, he realised.

The higher angels did not appear to notice how he almost struggled to keep up. His wings were beating way faster than he was used to, and he was tiring quickly; all he could pray for was that his lungs could take it. But then he had to remind himself to concentrate on what he was seeing; the clouds and castles of heaven were not something he would see from here on out. He feared he would never see home again. But he was chosen to do something that no one else can do, and that thought coaxed a little pride in his chest.

Letting his eyes slide closed for a moment, he let his hearing expand beyond and smiled when he heard the choirs and the bells, all the sweet sounds that made heaven so pleasant. He would definitely miss the voices that sang as proud as the sun would shine.

The golden sunset awaited their arrival as they landed before the most glorious palace of them all. At first, the guardian angels reacted by raising their bows, and Arthur stumbled a step backwards, already too fatigued to resist attack. But the higher angels indicated that it was all safe, and Arthur was led down the path that would lead to his place of departure.

Arthur went wide-eyed with wonder, and his breathlessness was forgotten. He looked around the utterly beautiful palace, green eyes practically glowing. But, glancing downwards, he caught sight of himself, and bit his lip. Looking back up, he realised just how out of place he was here. But that was a common revelation he experienced throughout his life, being bereft and lonely and all. But now, with his black uniform and wings and tail, and even his red hair...None of it belonged in a place like this. He didn't belong.

"My Lord," Arthur said, immediately bowing his head when a figure came into view, and the higher angels did the same.

"Arthur, my Child," a smile was heard in the archangel's tone when he approached. "I see you are about to make your departure. You have come to say farewell?"

"Y-yes, Camael." Arthur stuttered, without meaning to. "I leave when the sun dips over the horizon."

He chuckled. "I see. Arthur, my Child. My brave, brave Child. You are a source of inspiration for all angels, and maybe all of winged-kind. I have no doubt that you will be able to succeed in bringing peace to this realm. You are kind, honest, loyal, merciful, and gentle. A model for all angels. But you are also clever and cunning, powerful, and swift. You will find a way to accomplish your mission, and you will do whatever it takes. Even if it means destroying Demonocracy."

Arthur looked up in surprise. "D-destroy Demonocracy?" he asked weakly.

Camael nodded serenely. "Change everything you are, and everything you were..." he murmured quietly, approaching Arthur. "Your number has been called..."

"Fights and battles have begun, revenge will surely come...Your hard times are ahead..." The angels behind him recited

."Best, you've got to be the best, you've got to change the world, and use this chance to be heard! Your time is now...Your time is now...!"

Without warning all of the archangels that surrounded Arthur raised their wings to full span to catch the sunlight.Stumbling backwards and falling on the floor, Arthur watched in a slightly terrified wonder as the angels sang the words to him, emphasising the dangers that were to come. Was this right?

Even when he approached the final cloud he would stand upon, the singing voices of the higher ranked angels behind did not soothe him. Zadkiel, the angel who had held him in the Cathedral of Healing, touched his shoulder reassuringly.

He looked back one last time at the kingdom of Heaven, taking in as much of it as he could. Arthur's eyes were wide with the same fear a child would have being taken from his mother. He did not want to go, that much was clear. But a mission had to be done by someone, and it was his duty and obligation to fulfill that promise for God. After all, as Camael said, his number has been called.

"Don't let yourself down...Don't let yourself go...Your last chance has arrived..." were the last words he heard as he flew from the cloud to the Hell below.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

Rain was still a very new concept to Arthur.

He stood out in it for awhile, perched on the highest reach of a dark building near the city. The sensation was strange, but not unpleasant; in fact, he would almost say he rather liked the feeling of water rolling off his hair, tapping his wings. He also liked the taste and smell of it, combined with the night.

Running a gloved hand through his slick, red hair and accidentally catching his fingers on his small horns, Arthur let out a quiet sigh and lowered himself to a squatting position, imitating the appearance of a gargoyle like he'd seen as a common practice. He narrowed his eyes, peering with his almost glowing green irises over the horizon of the dark town, lit only by the moon reflecting the water. He'd never imagined the night to be so tranquil.

He had been a demon for quite some time now. Maybe a few weeks? Demons didn't keep exact track of time, so he wouldn't know. It could be months. It had been rough at first; angels and demons were truly opposite beings, and Arthur was forced very quickly to learn what common habits and traits he would have to display to blend in. Where angels preferred to be in warmer temperatures, demons felt more comfortable in the cooler degrees. Arthur found it difficult to hide his discomfort and fidgeted a lot.

Another thing was that the sun rarely ever showed itself in demon territory. It could be nighttime or daytime at any time, since the moon was almost always in the sky. And Arthur had noted demons only required approximately two hours of sleep, whereas angels needed at least eight. That explained a lot, at least as to why demons didn't need to mark time.

Arthur had been in the process of planning on going to the Military training for demons, which, since it was directly linked to the war with the angels, would be a primary factor in influence. But the consideration was difficult; he might get into a direct conflict with angels, or he even might have to kill one. He was not yet so familiar with demons to where he knew their nature in an academic or militaristic environment. Other than the fact that they were ruthless.

Nevertheless, he knew he needed to get involved. He was determined to spread the idea of peace as far as he could, and successfully get the ball rolling for order in the realms. That was all he lived for. That was his entire purpose in life.

He would never tell anyone, but his only motivation, for now, was the want to go back to heaven, to be back home. He didn't know if he would ever feel the embrace of the sun again, and that scared him. If there was anything he could hope, it was that he would someday not have to live shivering all the time. The only other option here was to burn.

Arthur was pulled out of his melancholy and wistful thoughts when the rain began beating harder on him and the rooftops. Opening his mouth slightly, he glanced around in near wonder at the flying water that he had never before believed to be so gentle. Holy Water never fell from the sky in heaven. "I suppose I should go..." he murmured aloud to himself.

He stood, and jumped off of the rooftop. Normally he would never dare to do such a thing, but his slow and gradual adjustment into his new wings was making him become a little braver. However, it forced him to think quickly. Drop right, spin this way, sharp turn on your left. It was almost a mind game that Arthur rather enjoyed.

The speed was thrilling to the angel. With his black demon wings, he could make surprising turns and advancements that he could not before. Just before he hit the wall of the building across from the one he'd stood on, he flexed his wings and immediately ascended upwards, chin almost brushing on the wet brick. Just as soon as he was above and lost momentum, he dropped and flew sideways in the alleyway with hardly any effort. He had finally figured out that he couldn't rely on the wind or his feathers to carry him, instead he had to take advantage of gravity to move quickly.

He crossed the city that way. He was headed to a remote place, deep in the heart of the darkness that one could only get to by flying through a maze of dark paths and alleys. Over the short time that he'd been here, he'd quickly mapped out as much as he could of the place and grown used to memorising locations. His sense of direction was becoming very adept, and his body was also getting more used to his anatomy and surroundings; his lungs had expanded a little, and his form naturally went from flamboyant and glorious to sleek and small. He was a smaller target, a stronger fighter, a resilient defender, a sharp thinker, and, most importantly, a will-driven survivor. It was given that no other angel but him could make this drastic a change.

This did not come without mistakes, though. His strange manner of speech had gotten him into many fights with other demons because they thought he was trying to sound more intelligent than they were. Demons had almost a reversed way of talking that Arthur wasn't used to. He was still learning, but at least his accent gave him a small excuse as to why. His strength was also very surprising, but very useful as well. For a small figure such as himself, he could put up an excellent fight. However, he was forced to learn very quickly that retreat was usually the best option when faced with multiple opponents. But he was also held back at times from malnourishment and dehydration, and was barely lucky to even escape.

He was very lucky he was a skilled thinker; his life had been in the balance too many times for his comfort in the past few days, so his resourcefulness was only all the better.

Arthur dove and flew a couple of inches off the ground before returning to flying along the walls and navigating with quick spins for sharp corners. The only trace the few demons around had as he passed was a soft disturbance of air, a slight breeze.

Demons, because of their generally nomadic nature, did not usually keep homes like angels did unless they were very involved with where they were. They did not consider it a need, mostly because two hours of sleep could be done anywhere. They were not very sentimental, and usually could care less about their belongings, if they had any. At this point, all Arthur owned was his clothing; the uniform that was worn like a suit. Dark pants, dark formal jacket with a red dress shirt, dark boots, dark gloves. He felt strange after wearing a short toga for so long.

But he'd decided this little area, deep in the dead end of a disguised alleyway, was a good place for him to catch up on as much sleep as possible. He had not quite been comfortable to let himself sleep for the full eight hours during his time here, since he was so afraid, but he at least could get four or five hours at a time without being disturbed. He hoped desperately that a demon wouldn't stumble upon his still form and bug him because he was a heavy sleeper and would have a difficult time defending himself. Demons were very light sleepers, and it was rare he could so much as walk by without having to wrestle with someone.

With a silent sigh, he circled twice in the air around his little area before landing on the ground, shivering. He shook himself off, starting from his hair to his wings and tail, and then, after flinging water everywhere, he leapt up on top of a couple of empty crates and curled up, concealing himself in the shadow. There was a filthy fabric tarp that had sat there for a while, and, although it was a bit wet, it would have to do. Arthur carefully pulled the tarp over himself, hoping to be fully hidden from view as he slept.

O~o~O

The face he saw was a in a brief flash of light and a loud and alarming crash. He believed they called it lightning and thunder.

He recognised the sensation of rain, but not the smell or taste. He didn't recall the name, but it was dark red and slippery, vile and metallic to the taste. Despite never having seen it before to his memory, the sight was startling; red was everywhere, on the ground and on him.

The face was also someone he didn't remember seeing. Pale, bright blue eyed, and blonde hair that was beginning to get so red that it was black to the roots. The boy had a eerily wide grin, in fact, almost stitched into a wide grin. Was he laughing? Well, he wouldn't have been heard over the pounding-

CRASHHHHHH-!

O~o~O

"Hey! Wake up, you little-!"

Arthur was awoken abruptly, a sharp pain shooting up the side of his head, and being roughly shaken. He let out a small cry in panic and kicked the blanket off, revealing that he was being shoved around by a scruffy and hungry looking demon. Out of immediate annoyance and anger, he grabbed an arm of the poorly dressed demon and hurled him off, sitting up on top of the crate. Rubbing his hurting head, he glared at the offender.

"What the hell was that for?!" he demanded, watching as the demon slowly picked itself up. Arthur shifted so he was balanced on the balls of his feet, still on top of the crate. The tip of his tail twitched impatiently as the demon gave him a drunken smirk and stumbled to his feet.

"Thought you were a lil' girlie," he muttered, wiping drool from his lip with his disgusting hoodie sleeve. At Arthur's snarl, he giggled a little and made a rude hand gesture at him. "'Ain't I wrong! You're just a-"

He was cut off when Arthur lunged from his crate, flew along the ground, and came up just to tackle him. He caught the demon before he could hit the stone, and held him up by his collar, looming over him. "Quite wrong," he hissed, his eyes intensifying in anger. The slight flash of fear in the demon's dark eyes pleased him. "Fool. Think about what exactly you're getting yourself into when you prey on someone in their sleep!" he raised him slightly, and naturally, the demon tried to fly away. But Arthur used the potential energy and the arc of his arm to simply make him fly directly into the ground behind him, and hence knocking him out.

That was taken care of thoroughly, after dragging him far from his small territory, of course. Arthur took off after that, in search of what he would do during his waking hours now. But first things first, he had to find somewhere to cleanse himself; he felt absolutely gross, and, luckily, demons also shared a need with angels, to be clean.

Because of the small percentage of demons that actually owned houses, there were many small buildings that existed as just washrooms inside shops and the like. Arthur quickly spotted one from high up, and dove down towards it without hesitation. He found himself slightly relieved when he glided inside, only to find no one but the owner there.

"Good morning," he greeted absentmindedly, looking for the half of the room that would be the washrooms.

The demon lady, whose face formed a natural snarl from years of harsh stares, let out an annoyed huff and nodded to him, adjusting her black formal wear. "Washroom's in the back, goods in the front," she told him in an extremely nasal voice, with an accent Arthur identified as Northern American.

Arthur glanced at her. "Thank you." with a flap of his wings he was in the air and was quickly around a corner and in privacy, for the first time in too long.

"Aaahhh!" he sighed loudly, even allowing himself to grin a little. He missed not being around tons of demons all the time. He found the mirror and immediately winced at his reflection, startled by his appearance. Every time, he thought. every time. He reached up to unbutton his black military-style jacket and red formal dress shirt underneath, and all the while performing a small spell that made his hands shine while doing so.

When he looked up again, he smiled slightly as his body and clothing began to change. His tail and horns disappeared, his hair went from red to blonde from the roots, and finally, the best part. He flexed his glorious wings once more as the dragon-like limbs on his back were overtaken by smooth white feathers. The halo appeared around the top of his head, and he relaxed for the first time in who-knows-how-long. The black uniform was replaced by the white one, the small tunic he was used to. He wouldn't have known what to do with himself if he couldn't see his angel self; his demon appearance was a complicated spell that changed most of his physical features, which was something that had never been done on an angel before. At least his eyes didn't change colour. And he wasn't sure he would be able to handle being struck with fear every time he so much as glanced at himself.

Despite having changed back, he noticed he retained his adapted form- he was still built with not big, but prominent muscles that outlined his figure, and with a natural defensive stance that had formed out of habit. He felt a little bit of pride as he looked over himself, knowing it might be considered vain. But he was becoming stronger! Wasn't that worth something? Puffing out his feathers a bit, he let out a deep breath as he moved with his powerful muscles, stretching himself from his arms, to his wings, to his legs. A common angelic practice, similar to that of what humans called Tai Chi.

After relaxing for a bit longer, Arthur slid off his tunic and turned, fluttering over to the bath. He could not stand cleaning himself as a demon, but he understood he ran the risk of being caught as an angel. It took about five seconds to switch from angel to demon again, so as long as he had time, he could make do. He pulled the curtain around the small area just for that purpose.

He let out a quiet hiss at the temperature of the water; it was extremely cold. His body disagreed with him greatly as he continued to walk in the water, stepping down along the cold granite. Shivers spiking along his spine, his wings jolted when they made contact with the water and he hugged his arms and shut his eyes tightly. Cold was almost unspeakably unpleasant to angels.

Arthur tried to get this done as quickly as possible. He forced himself to puff out his feathers, getting them wet, and he dunked his head beneath the surface. This didn't make it any better; he gritted his teeth underwater and shakily continued, scrubbing at his hair and his wet skin with what demons called soap. Finally, he came up with a gasp, whipping his hair back and he struggling to breathe for a moment. His eyes were wide, and he was shaking so much he had to use his wings to balance.

He couldn't take it anymore. With one flap of his wings, he tore from the water and let it splash everywhere. It dripped from his feathers and hair onto his back, and he shivered violently with his breath catching. He had to shake himself dry, and did so with a rapid spin in the air that got most of the water out of his wings, at least. Trying to calm himself, he flew back towards the marble floor, careful not to touch it, and toweled himself off before putting the tunic back on. His relief couldn't have been greater.

Upon hearing some demons outside, Arthur panicked slightly in front of the mirror, still in the air. Were they going to fly in on him? What if they had seen him?! With trembling hands, he tried to perform the switching spell as fast as he could. Luckily, he was just adjusting his dark red dress shirt when someone actually came inside.

"Good morning," he said coolly, not even looking up from the mirror as he pretended to mess with his hair, arranging it around his horns. The tip of his tail twitched like usual, and the steady beat of his wings gave him an excuse to be slightly red in the face as he hovered over the floor.

"Mm." the demon let out a grunt in greeting, and flew over to the bath. He immediately opened the curtain and let it close just as fast, and Arthur wasn't at all surprised; demons, he found, were extremely modest.

Flicking one last red lock out of his face, he blinked at himself and made sure he looked presentable before turning and leaving the room. He flew out, through the store, and into the open air that was Hell.

Maybe he'd try going into that military academy today. He'd waited long enough, and there wasn't much else he could learn about demons living in the streets. In this particular city, the majority of the demons were in some way involved with the school, and Arthur guessed it was because of the death toll during war. Demons were reckless and had no problem with risking their lives, and Arthur wished they would at least be more careful. Wait...Did he actually feel sorry for them?

Conflicted, Arthur landed on top of a tall building to sort out his thoughts. He was a spy. He was sent by the Angelicans for a mission of peace, right? So naturally he would want things to work out better for demons, if there was going to be peace at all. But as an angel, he shouldn't be so worried about them. All he was here to do was to suggest the war cease.

But...After living with them for awhile, Arthur had learnt they weren't quite the barbarians he was raised to believe they were. They weren't like angels, that was for certain. But they weren't that evil, just a little rough.

The demon in him wanted to go home. To leave these beings be, and let someone else end the war if that was what it took. But the angel in him was determined to bring this to a stop by himself, certain that he was the only one who understood the true nature of both angels and demons; he had read up quite a bit in both the species' history. The prophecy weighed on his shoulders alone, and he knew it.

But that raised another question. If this war was caused by this prophecy, what if he just went and found the second half? Wouldn't that fix everything? It sounded too simple...He knew for a fact that the angels didn't have it, at least, that was what he was told. But he doubted the demons had it either. It was too important to be a physical thing to hide, so Arthur didn't understand what either side wanted. Wasn't it a truth you had to discover within yourself? Just like the first half, it had been written down but only after God had proclaimed it. If demons cried, they would die. If angels raged, they would die. Everyone knew that.

This got Arthur thinking harder, and he sat down on the edge of the building, resting his chin in the palm of his hand. When angels cried, their tears had the power to heal. In heaven, most of the time angels didn't need to be healed by another angel; they could cry for a little bit, and then let the tears touch their wounds and they would be fine. Did demons have a similar thing? Obviously they couldn't cry to heal themselves. But, if angels and demons were opposites...

Arthur couldn't figure out if demons had some sort of healing trick. Maybe they raged? Well...He'd seen some pretty angry demons over the past few days(mind you nothing compared to the incident of the raging angel he'd once seen...) but it didn't seem to heal. But that was the only logical way it would work! Demon crying would result in death. Angel crying results in perfect health. Angel raging would result in death, but demon raging...

There had to be another way to figure this out. Letting out a rough sigh of irritation, Arthur sat up and looked down, his eyes narrowed and set towards the military academy below.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

O~o~O

"How has he been faring?"

"Quite well, my Lord. He is learning faster than we expected."

"Is that so?"

"Indeed. He is becoming very strong, but his mental state..."

"Yes? What of it?"

"Well, he is beginning to question himself. I am sure all do at some point in time, but he has taken to it so fast...He is beginning to find demons fascinating. I am afraid he will get to the answer he's looking for before we have fulfilled the plan; his determination is astounding."

A screen flickered on, and the soft golden light was only just visible under the light of the sun behind. The holographic form was the demon boy, and all of his troubles were easily written out by the look in his eyes.

"He is confused."

"Affirmative."

"Granted, he does know more already than we expected him to...He really is quite the clever boy." Chuckling. "He is the perfect angel. Unfortunately he is also the exact boy I needed out of my way...Too pure is his heart, sadly."

"'Unfortunately', sir...?"

"Unfortunately indeed...We are looking at his entire life history right now, and you are questioning if it is unfortunate that he is not on our side?"

"He has a very secular mind, my Lord. He would see right through your promises."

"Are you telling me that I am lying to the angels when I promise them peace?"

"N-nothing of the sort, sir! I meant about the eradication of the Demonocracy. He has no wish to harm anyone on either side, just because of the way his mind works. It is almost childish, the way he sees and treasures all life."

"Hmm..."

"My Lord?"

"He truly is a child of God, is he not...?"

"I am not following."

"The power he possesses, and the potential of the power he will one day possess...I admit, I am frightened of this young angel. He has exactly the kind of soul Our Lord wishes in all of us, because it is equal to Himself. That kind of goodness is not something to be trifled with. He has the goodness in him to love everyone, no matter what."

"Then why are you afraid?"

O~o~O

Arthur had to struggle to hide his disgust as he flew past, lest someone see.

He had been directed along a series of hallways by a demon at the front, a woman of proud stature and trained senses, he could tell. He was grateful she didn't have to lead him, because his nervousness would without a doubt be detected by her. He had to remind himself repeatedly to stay strong, even as he glided past classrooms that had merciless and uncomfortably graphic fighting.

The order had been running through his head as he flew around corners, memorising his path and keeping as close as he could to one wall. The school was quite a lot bigger than he'd originally thought. But he was confident he wouldn't get lost, not this time.

He slowed his pace as he took a spinning turn down one particular hall, and he sniffed the air, trying not to wince at the repulsive scent of demons that he had yet to get used to. Angels didn't have nearly as sensitive noses or ears like demons did, but that was because of the way demons lived, which was quite a lot like animals. For an angel such as himself, Arthur did not bear the scent of either kind in particular, and he also had an oddly strong sense of smell and hearing.

Flapping around in a small circle, Arthur tried to make sense of where he was. He was deep in the heart of the school, and he was almost certain he was near where the front lady had told him to go. Apparently this place required no registration of any kind, one would just have to show up to train and learn. How convenient, Arthur had thought, and wrinkled his nose slightly at the mere idea. They think of military training as teaching demons that their lives are expendable.

He reached a door that was tall and black, and, glancing at the ancient symbols in the ancient brick in the wall next to it, Arthur realised this was probably the room he'd been assigned to. He quickly translated the odd inscription in his head, having read up on all sorts of various dialects, and winced at the message. Just when you thought Hell couldn't get any worse, you walked into this room...

Putting on a bravely nonchalant face, he flew upwards and placed his gloved hands on the door. Whatever was beyond here would require all the demon in him, so, with a big breath, he gave a strong push.

Immediately, his mind screamed at him when he was faced with an almost invisible oncoming attacker, and he ducked before he received a fist to the face. Out of instinct, he dropped to the floor, afloat only with his wings by momentum. This would catch the other off guard and he knew it, so he latched onto the nearest wall so he could lash out and kick the offender's feet from under him.

Because of the unexpected speed, the demon did fall to the ground. "AGGH!!" he let out when he struck the hard floor, and, to Arthur's surprise, he did not make a move to get back up. Arthur's eyes were wide, both with panic and surprise, and from crouching sideways on the wall, he righted himself so he could hover just off the ground.

"S-sorry-!" he tried to apologise, but he was drowned out by a small crowd of demons erupting into laughter. He watched as the demon before him, now revealed by a little light from the room, hissed at the ground and was shaking with anger, supported only by his arms.

Looking up to observe the room, Arthur noted stone structures scattered around the room, meant to be benches that the demons sat, stood, or flew on. For a brief moment, he was afraid that everyone was completely uncivilised, even the one who he assumed was the authority figure at the front. But he was hesitant to believe that, once the laughter died down and all of the different demons stared at him with quieted amusement.

He decided it would be best to not say anything. So with a small, wry smile, he stared back at them for a moment before returning his gaze to the bigger demon on the ground before him. Edging a little closer, he peered down at him, only to be met with a fierce glare when the demon whipped his head up towards him. Automatically, Arthur wanted to return it, but instead made a straight but stern face.

"Well, Ivan was supposed to welcome you to this Hell. But I suppose you're already in it! Haha, how humiliating!" The teacher spoke up from the front, on Arthur's left, and he flashed his green eyes towards the chuckling demon. "Funny, Ivan isn't usually taken out by a small demon of your stature...But no matter! What is your name, my wicked?"

At the heavy Italian accent, Arthur blinked pleasantly, having been reminded of an acquaintance from Heaven, a sweet-spirited angel called Feliciano. "Arthur." he replied, raising his chin and pulling his arms behind his back.

"Mm..." The commander nodded thoughtfully, stroking his short beard. "Arthur, you say? You may call me Julius. And from here on out, you will be in this room to obey my orders. You will function under my command, and you will become a fighter in the army of the Demonocracy. If you don't die in here, of course."

Arthur raised a brow, and, from a trick he'd picked up on, he decided to give voice his immediate thoughts on the matter. "Does that mean I will learn to make poorly executed surprise attacks the second someone flies through the door as well?" he asked cheekily, a small grin teasing his lips.

The rest of the demons let out quiet "Oooh!'s" and giggles at the sarcastic remark, and even Julius, though the insult was directed at both him and the demon called Ivan, laughed a bit. "Of course, Arthur, but don't get carried away just yet. This is only the beginning."

His eyelids lowered. "How threatening." Arthur muttered under his breath, grinning mildly to himself. He made a move to flutter further in the room, guessing it was time to take a place within this 'other Hell.' Even he had to admit, he was eager, albeit nervous about learning about how demons handled this particular environment. It was such a transition, but he was confident he could at least survive it...But what if he didn't? He would either be eaten alive, or, based on the rather sadistic designs and sculptures around the school, he would be crushed or even stoned to death. Lovely, he thought with a grimace.

He was alerted by a general noise from the room of excitement, and, not surprisingly, just as he noticed something was happening, he felt a strong grip on both of his ankles.

Arthur glanced downwards with an unimpressed expression, meeting eyes with the violet-eyed, silver-haired demon who thought he had him. Arthur took this time to mentally assess the situation.

So, obviously, Ivan(he hesitated to think his name) thought he had him trapped. Theoretically, he couldn't fly away, because demon wings were not generally strong enough to carry the weight of another person. He wouldn't be able to land either, and they were at a slight stalemate; Ivan was holding him in position while Arthur simply maintained his steady flapping. So, technically he couldn't go anywhere. Ivan was going to yank him downwards very suddenly, judging by the distinct direction and angle he was holding him down from. That would serve as a vengeful comeback to humiliate him. That was the first purpose.

Now, if Ivan decided to take it a step further, he could also drag Arthur further down along the floor and pin him to the ground. A tad more humiliatingly impressive if he could manage it, but one would have to be sure the other couldn't simply throw him off. Arthur already had the feeling the bigger demon underestimated him, and so, with a slightly wicked grin, he thought of exactly how he would reverse their roles. He would have to use speed to his advantage once more.

Ivan merely grinned back up at Arthur, taking it as a challenge. Then, as predicted, without warning he pulled down roughly on Arthur's ankles. But, at the same time, Arthur gave all he had into flying upwards which caught Ivan by surprise when he lifted up off the ground slightly instead of coming down.

As an angel, lifting the weight of another person was nothing special, but that wasn't his aim; instead, he wanted to take advantage of his demon wings and let gravity bring him down. So he arced backwards with a mid-air somersault, and then pressed his hands down with all of his weight into Ivan's lower back. As Arthur thought, Ivan had foolishly kept a tight grip on him, which only resulted in a loud cry of pain at the sharp curve his back now took.

Ivan finally released Arthur's ankles after letting out a startled yelp when Arthur pressed harder into his back. The smaller demon was then supporting his full weight with his hands, balanced on Ivan, and then he used his wings to effortlessly flip his position. With that, his knee replaced his hands digging into Ivan's back, and before the demon beneath him could do anything, he pulled his arms behind his back and then pinned his wings down with his fists.

Arthur realised the small crowd of demons for a class had gone silent, and he glanced up in slight alarm. He realised they were all staring with wide eyes at him. Blinking somewhat cluelessly, he was suddenly afraid he'd done something wrong, and was once again back in square one. With an inward wince, he let himself feel the full force of his displacement, just like in Heaven.

He hesitated to release Ivan, hoping the shaking of his gloved hands went unnoticed; he couldn't seem to justify the way everyone was looking at him, and it frightened him. Did he commit a crime? Did he do something that horribly opposed the rules? He hoped he was the only one who could hear his heartbeat elevate.

"Are you..." began a bigger demon near him, and Arthur's heart jumped in his throat. "Like...A ninja, or something?"

A couple of others nodded in agreement. "Yea, how are you so flexible?" a female asked from his right.

"Did you see the way he flipped himself from that handstand?"

"That was savage, man. No one can destroy Ivan like that."

"How did he lift him up with just his wings?"

Arthur's shaking got worse. As he trembled, his expression went from neutral to worried, and he hugged his arms out of stress. Of course. Of bloody course he had to be the showoff, and now they all thought of him as a monster. And apparently that was a good thing. He cursed himself for his actions, from the minute he entered the room, and he came to his feet, aware of Ivan standing next to him.

The other demons thought his sudden change in attitude was bashful and shy, and that only started a whole new string of commentary. But he didn't hear them anymore, all their jeering comments and jokes and the like...He let out a rough sigh, making a pained face upon realising what he was seeming more and more like to these blithering idiots.

Having nothing better to do, Arthur thought for a moment and pinched the bridge of his nose, resting his elbow in his other hand. How could he somehow magically turn the tables and become the catalyst instead of the beast? Or, if it was required, how could he get out of here?

Arthur could feel Ivan's eyes on him. He couldn't quite tell if he was being glared at, or just observed, but frankly he didn't care. He needed to think his way out of this. But, out of sheer irritation, he finally looked up, not doing very well to hide the frantic annoyance he was desperately holding back.

Ivan looked a little surprised when Arthur actually looked at him, but he didn't say anything. Perhaps he was just curious, like everyone else, and Arthur felt horrible to make him the victim of all of this. "Ivan..." he said his name slowly, and the taller, violet-eyed demon eyed him suspiciously while puffing out his chest. "I...I am truly sorry." Arthur apologised sincerely. "I have no desire to fight anyone, and-" he was cut off when he noticed the unmistakable twitch of the other's tail, and he winced. "A-and I hope this is not the way you will see me as."

The demon shook his head, and then an almost creepy smile crawled across his face. "You have forgotten where we are, comrade. What do you think we exist for?" he hissed darkly.

O~o~O

"He is getting more and more frightened."

"Indeed. He understands his mission completely, but at the same time he is hoping and wishing to find a place he belongs."

"He would look in Hell for such a place?"

"Oh yes, quite. However, he is fearful because he is worried about the inevitable conclusion, that he will never find somewhere he belongs. I almost feel sorry for him at times...We have created the perfect soldier and sent him off to complete a futile task. All he serves to do is to exist in the minds of the rest of the angels so they can have a light to hope for, but in the end that hope will turn to me."

"I have never thought of it that way, my Lord. He exists to be merely an idea."

"Yes...A glorious idea that will lead to a better future for us, even if the cost is the light going out."

O~o~O

Chapter Text

Arthur spent most of his alone time scribbling feverishly a small notebook he kept with him, trying to cram all of this thoughts onto the tiny pages in the few hours he was able to. All the things he'd learnt, all the questions he had, what he believed he needed to do next.

Some of the pages were neatly written out, organised very nicely. Others were not, and had nearly been torn with the speed the writing took. One particular page, one that was flecked with a little bit of his blood, was written in the middle of a fight that he had thought was finished. Sometimes he would get excited about finding something out and would write it down immediately. However, most of the time, he tried to wait until the generally unspecified hours demons dedicated to sleep and free time to write anything down.

The upside about writing everything was Arthur could easily sort out his thoughts, and not have to worry about forgetting anything he had learnt. Just a quick skim of the small book and he could review everything he needed to know.

The downside was that if a demon found it, his whole mission, his whole purpose could be threatened. He had chosen to write in an old angelic dialect, one that only a few beings knew. If a demon found it, they would not be able to read it. But that didn't mean he would not get in trouble; sometimes not being able to read something made it more suspicious than being able to read the content.

Arthur was also repeatedly conflicted when he couldn't collect himself after a difficult day; he would lose himself in fights, in thinking he was taking being a demon too seriously, and in faith and his new and contrasting truths. He had yet to find out who he truly was, and he was beginning to feel lost. The skills he was displaying without meaning too, the genius tactics and knack for getting out of seemingly impossible situations, to everyone around him he was simply amazing. No one could find a way around his impeccable defense, and no one could just walk away without a scratch, either.

The demons who fought Arthur had taken to calling him Paranomia, which, as Arthur understood, meant something along the lines of lawless. The nickname had stuck, since he had a habit of not heeding what anyone told him to do. The commander would say to do something one way, and Arthur would do it completely opposite, and still manage to destroy his opponent.

Despite his rebellious spirit, the higher demons seemed to like him. Various authority figures from around the base would come in simply to observe one of his fights, which was apparently a very rare thing. A few demons he overheard mentioned things like "Looks like Paranomia's getting moved up soon.", and "Paranomia's rising up in the ranks!"

Arthur hated to admit it, but he loved this renegade persona he had. It made him feel mysterious and hard to understand, which was good for his mission. However, he still despised being the one that was respected, just because he could be violent. He decided that would be the first thing he would go about changing, should he ever manage to be successful in this impossible mission.

He had yet to hear how the angels were doing; occasionally he would hear the demons speak of battles won and lost over the past few days, but he never got much about the standings of either side. Arthur could easily use a spell to contact heaven, but he kept stalling until a time where he felt safer. However, each day was beginning to feel more dangerous than the last. He knew he had to do it soon, but he had every doubt that he could manage it without getting seen as an angel.

Arthur had to put his book down when he realised just how dead he felt; he needed sleep, and not just the petty four to six hour half-rest he was getting away with. Sleep was very important, and he was afraid of what would happen if this kept going on. Could he function without proper rest? He had no idea.

He jumped when he absentmindedly stretched his wings, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw white feathers. He hadn't switched without realising, had he?! With a glance over, he touched the bony edge of his demon wings and figured he was just hallucinating. God, he was tired. Tired to the point where he was seeing things. That wasn't good. His angel self seemed like a separate entity suddenly, like he had two sides even though he was one and the same whether he appear as an angel or a demon. Beginning to get slightly creeped out with himself, he flicked his tail in front of him just to make sure his mind wasn't messing with him.

Without meaning to, he felt himself unconsciously tuck the little journal on the inside pocket of his dress-jacket and curl up where he was sitting. Laying down, he didn't even bother with the tarp to hide himself, either out of tiredness or because he knew the effort was futile. He didn't know what he was thinking, and, as his cloudy thoughts gradually became more and more incoherent, he somehow found his way into sleep.

O~o~O

A couple of demons from his rank were being moved up, including himself. Arthur flew nervously in line down the hall, trying his hardest not to shiver at the cool temperature he wished he could get used to. He had to cross his arms just to hide his trembling gloved hands.

Looking around, he realised he was probably among the shortest of the demons around him. He found it slightly annoying because he was used to being average height, but everyone here seemed to be taller than what he was accustomed to. Maybe they were older? Age differentiation in Hell was not something that came easy to Arthur, but he still assumed to be older than at least most of them.

He was adjusting his red dress shirt underneath his jacket as they went when a loud voice came over the incessant chatter. Arthur winced at the volume, and found that despite it he still could not understand a single word being said. He knew it wasn't a different language that he didn't know, but the voice echoed over itself too much to be heard from his position. He could only guess that the voice was telling them all to halt, because the demons in front of him stopped flying forward and instead hovered above the floor.

More instructions were shouted out, and the line began to move again, but a lot more slowly than before. Now the yelling was slightly more understandable, because whoever was shouting was announcing what Arthur could only guess to be names.

It was not long before Arthur was faced with the doorway, a giant silver arch decorated quite grotesquely with lots of sadistic imagery. Arthur winced, and desperately hoped it wasn't noticed by the others surrounding him. For some reason he couldn't take his eyes off the sculpture, each little carving in the dulled metal depicting shrieking angels being ripped apart by demons with insane grins, angels being burned alive, angels scarred beyond recognition, angels hit with their own arrows...Arthur made himself squinch his eyes shut when he saw a particularly disturbing one that looked like a young angel being forced to carry the weight of the Earth, and he was breaking under the pressure with demons below the image waiting to consume his soul.

"Ah, this must be the one everyone is fussing over. Paranomia."

Arthur's eyes flickered open, and he glanced upwards to see two rather big and frightening demons looming over him. Their presence was so imposing and ominous that Arthur couldn't help but feel like he was shrinking under their cold stares. "Y-yes?" he asked quietly, and jolted when they began laughing loudly.

These must be the demons who had given them orders in the first place; he could vaguely recognise the deep, booming voice of the one on the left. "Paranomia," he chuckled. "Such an unruly name! Surely it couldn't fit such a scrawny runt!"

Slightly offended, Arthur crossed his arms with a huff. "Well, it had to have been given to me for a reason," he countered bravely, however not meaning to blurt it out so abruptly.

This caused another fit of laughter, and, glancing inside, Arthur realised it was making demons from in the room to look over curiously. Out of frustration he glared at the two demons before him.

"We'll have to see about that," the demon on his right said, cocking a brow. "You'll be tested far more extensively than you have been. Better hope you can live up to that title!"

He was patted on the back so forcefully that he was practically pushed and made to flutter in the room. He had to flap his wings slightly harder to catch his balance, and let out a low growl in annoyance. He grumbled angrily under his breath, smoothing down the front of his uniform a little roughly. He certainly hoped for a chance to show that demon up and strip him of all honour, even if it meant waiting to prove himself.

Realising he was getting caught up in his demon self again, Arthur finally made a move to go further in the room. He was met with a large variety of looks from the others, ranging from confused, amused, bemused, and even enthused. Letting out a sharp breath, almost a hiss, he met their stares with a snarl. "What are you lot bloody looking at?"

Some of the demons looked excitedly at one another, and others looked genuinely surprised and immediately averted their eyes. He heard a distinct whisper ring out; "That's Paranomia! He's supposed to be super tough."

"Better not bloody forget it," he muttered irritably to himself, flying over to the nearest corner of the room to perch on a bench. He didn't know how the others could be so comfortable; it was very cold. Colder than usual. Shivering and balancing on the edge of his little stone seat, he observed the room as quickly as he could with a fleeting gaze.

The room was very big, bigger than he'd thought. He could barely see the top because it was up so high, in fact, he wasn't sure if there was actually a ceiling or not. The light in the room, just like all the rest of the rooms at the military base, was made by candles. The small flickering flames were arranged in a row of the small wax sticks, spiraling up and around the wide room much like a staircase along the wall. Candles were still a little entrancing to Arthur, he had to admit. Back in heaven there was so much natural light, there wasn't any need for something like a candle. Their tiny but powerful little lights reminded of the stars he used to gaze at, when he could see the sky above the clouds...

He pulled himself out of his reminiscing thoughts when he heard a shout. Looking up, he watched the two authoritative demons from before fly in the centre of the room. It took him a moment to recognise what the words were, and his eyes widened in realisation.

"EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!!"

One of them gave a powerful flap with his wings, and with a rapid breeze that even reached towards the uppermost places of the room, the candles were all put out.

The room was completely black.

Arthur rolled his eyes, crossing his arms when he heard screams of alarm.

"First challenge! Be the last demon standing!" roared the other higher demon. "Good luck on that! Buahahaha!"

Immediately there were shrieks of pain when the other thirty-some-odd demons began to attack one another. There weren't any that Arthur could hear in his vicinity, but he still had to be careful. He didn't do as well as he wanted to in the dark, so he figured his best option was to hide and not make a sound. He refused to take part in a fight. So, with as much grace as he could, he felt around below himself to inch underneath the stone bench he had been perched on top of.

It took a lot of self restraint to prevent himself from using his magic. Angels knew many different spells to produce lots of bright light, but that would be a bad thing if he did that. Demons could use minor spells sometimes as well, but magic took a lot more out of them than it did angels. And he wasn't about to blow his cover.

Something made a scuttling sound to his left and he jumped in surprise, letting out a quiet hiss when he hit his head on the lower part of the bench. At the noise, something growled, and Arthur's eyes widened. He had no idea what to do.

Looking around blindly, he felt around him for something, anything. He wondered if demons had a form of night vision that allowed them to see better in the dark, because everyone else seemed to be navigating around even in the air just fine. From what he could hear, anyways.

Because he couldn't see anything, the sense of panic was making blood roar in his ears. Arthur tried to calm down and remember what the room looked like before the lights had been blown out, slowly feeling his way up along another bench and trying to pinpoint exactly what his position was. He let his eyes slide closed, since sight wasn't really an option, and tried listening to the loud surroundings instead of being continually alarmed by everything he couldn't see.

It was working; he could feel his heart calming in his chest little by little, and he realised he had been holding his breath. Carefully releasing it as quietly as he could, he flicked his tail and continued his path onwards, which was mostly sideways to his right where he thought he remembered the nearest wall, so he could press up against to find some sense of place and balance.

Something brushed against one of his horns, and he reeled back, almost biting himself with his fangs. Luckily it wasn't enough to be heard when he slipped a little, since some demon from across the room screamed at the same time, but the sensation that something was this uncomfortably close made Arthur feel almost nauseous with fear.

"Who's there?" whispered a soft voice directly in front of him. Arthur somehow found consolation in the fact that they sounded about as frightened as he was. He decided against answering; there were too many directions it could go if he did. Instead, he slowly backed away, being very careful to not make a sound. He reached a hand back, delicately stepping away with the utmost care despite how his conscious strongly wished to flee at full speed.

His face twisted in desperation when he heard what he assumed to be a male demon slither closer. Eyes shutting even tighter, he tried to match their movements and disguise himself under the noise they were making. He tried very hard not to breathe too loudly , and concentrated on moving smoothly across the marble floor.

He let out a quiet gasp when his back hit the wall, but it wasn't loud enough to be heard. Then he winced when the movement of the other demon also stopped, and tried creeping noiselessly to his right along the wall. The clawed tip of his left wing almost brushed up against it, so he folded his wings as close to his back as they would go and ignored the tensed muscles in his back at the action. Determined to not let himself be known, he continued as carefully as he could. Luckily, he heard the demon go the other way.

The cries and shouts from various places around the room were beginning to lighten up, and Arthur shuddered when he wondered what had happened to those who were no longer fighting. Gruesome images spotted his mind's eye, and he bit his lip in anxiety, struggling to keep calm.

Arthur was startled badly when there was a shriek not very far from him, and, judging by the direction it came from, it was from the demon that he had been avoiding moments before. His breathing accelerating and his movements sped up a little. He began shaking. The angel knew needed to be able to see if he was going to get out of this.

No. No, he couldn't think that way. Letting his head rest against the wall for a brief moment, he regained his bearings and wracked his brain for what he could do. If he recalled correctly, along the series of candles that spiraled to the ceiling were small podiums that actually supported the arrangement on the wall. They were barely big enough to support someone, and the memory was a little fuzzy with panic. But he couldn't stop now. He quickly caught his breath, and turned his body to face the wall.

Ascension would be...problematic. He knew that he could lift himself easily, but the demon wings forced a lot out of him. There were more wing beats involved and being quiet would make him breathless...more facts and thoughts he couldn't deal with at the time. Brushing away all doubt, he carefully began to scale the smooth marble wall.

He let his fingers slide along the wall as he went up so he wouldn't miss the pedestal, and so he wouldn't stray away from it. Gritting his teeth, he flapped his wings with as much power as he could get through silence.

Arthur's hand danced across something, and he quietly gasped for air to keep up with his wings. Grasping the object cautiously, he recognised the soft cylindrical shape through his gloves was most likely a candle, and below it was the intricate iron designs that it was stuck on. Now he just had to fly along the wall to follow the unlit candles until he found what he was looking for.

It took longer than he expected. He lashed his tail out for balance when his wing nearly got caught on the metal he was clinging to. There was a quiet scraping noise, but it was not heard because there were still active demons making a lot more noise.

At one point he had to stop, or risk falling. So he brought his boots to the wall, resting on the balls of feet, and latched tightly on the iron. His arms burned from having to support his whole weight, but it was just until he was recovered enough to fly. He let his boots slide down the wall, but only brought them back up again, and it managed to distract him while he caught his breath.

When he was finally alright, the room had gotten even quieter, and he was covered only by occasional shouts. It wasn't long after that, despite it. He soon found the shelf.

Letting out a sigh of relief, he hoisted himself on top of it, feeling around the nicked surface and determining just how much room he had when he finally could get to his feet. It wasn't terribly small, and Arthur decided he could crouch on it. So, lowering himself so he balanced like a gargoyle, he decided to remain there for as long as it took.

The room was still echoing with cries of pain, and Arthur, while trying to bring his mind back to a serene state, couldn't help but pity those who were injured, or worse...He didn't dare think anyone was dead. He would panic.

Nevertheless, the room was soon silent. Not even a whimper could be heard, and Arthur didn't know what this meant. Had everyone beaten themselves? What of the last demon that remained? It couldn't possibly be him, could it?

A million questions zoomed around in his mind before anything actually happened. There was dual flapping noises, as if two demons had entered. Guessing it was the two from earlier, he waited. Eyes still closed, he tilted his head towards the noise.

"Who's returned from the dead?" was the strange question that rang around the room. "Who remains?"

Arthur blinked in surprise when there was a powerful burst of light from below, and the candles began lighting up from the bottom. Magic, he realised with his eyes wide in wonder. He ignored the pain in his eyes having to adjust, as well as several groans in protest from everyone else. The room was slowly lit up once more, and, tearing his gaze away from the two big demons, he recoiled in near horror. Blood was everywhere, and the demons had been scattered, thrown, hurled into their position. None of them appeared strong enough to stand, and Arthur had to turn away at the sight of all the injuries. He looked down at his shirt, eyes squinched shut and willed the sight out of his head.

"Ah, so there is one! I suppose you wouldn't have fallen. But I do wonder..." Below, Arthur forced an eye open to see that there was, in fact, one who still stood. He had just been behind a tall pillar. Now he was approaching the front of the room very slowly. Arthur let out a slightly strangled cough, suddenly feeling the urge to vomit. His hands gripped the stone he crouched on tighter, as if he was afraid he was going to lose his balance.

The attention turned to him. "There is a challenger." one confirmed, and the other nodded, beckoning the nauseous angel.

His breath became weaker in terror. Now they were going to make him fight. Doing what he could to swallow the disgusting feeling in his throat, he pulled himself over the front edge of the pedestal and dove downwards. He opened his wings to land when he got close enough, and stumbled to make a not-so-graceful landing.

"Paranomia!" he was greeted when the two authority figures recognised him, and he glanced upwards, brows creased in worry. He met the harsh look of a pretty battered demon he didn't recall seeing before. He had very dark eyes, scratches and deep gashes all over his body, and hair the colour of caramel. Immediately feeling intimidated, Arthur took a step back. "Tell me, Paranomia. How did you manage to remain unscathed? Everyone else is injured and hurt, but not you. Did you heal yourself?" Arthur realised the one who was speaking was genuinely at a loss.

Raising his chin, he shook his head weakly, and drew in a sharp breath. "I did not fight." he spoke through gritted teeth.

He was met now with three separate confused stares. He didn't want to, but Arthur knew he had to clarify. "I...I chose not to fight. The instructions were to be the last demon standing. There is no place in that statement that declares I must fight. So I did not."

"Coward." hissed the demon across from him, and Arthur glared at him.

"We shall see about that," he muttered to him, then turned back to the two large commanders. He hinted at a smirk when they seemed to be thinking over what he'd said, that he was right and they had made a flaw. It didn't matter whether he lost now or not, he was right. He was absolutely right, and they couldn't do a bloody thing about it. Adrenaline was kicking in, finally, and he cracked his knuckles with his smirk widening. The sick feeling was going away, dumbed down over the confident and invincible feeling he was now getting. "Well? What now? Are we going to fight, or are you all spent?" he taunted daringly.

The demon before him growled and got into a defensive position. The commanders were finally able to wrap their minds around what just happened and backed out of the way, waiting for the impending battle with watchful eyes.

Arthur braced himself when the demon charged while yelling loudly and taking flight. Waiting and timing it just right, Arthur simply took a step to the left and the demon completely missed him. In fact, he nearly crashed into the wall far behind him. When he was able to turn around, Arthur flashed him a pleasant grin that only broadened when the demon flew towards him again. He flexed his wings very suddenly and launched himself upwards, catching his opponent off guard. At first the other tried to tackle Arthur, but Arthur twirled around in mid-air so he evaded all attempts to be touched. By then it was a matter of being faster; all it took to bring him down was a sharp turn and a heel to the wing.

Crying out in pain, the other demon was sent spinning and crash landed, skidding aways along the floor. He let out a choked cry of pain because he managed to hit all of the larger injuries in the process.

Arthur couldn't help the concern and regret for what he'd done. But, he knew he couldn't exactly show it. He fluttered to him anyway, crawling over the pained demon and putting a hand under his jaw to check exactly where he'd been hurt. He felt bad when the demon flinched at his touch, and willed himself to keep going and not back down. He couldn't just yet.

Unable to look at what Arthur was doing because of the fingers that gently pressed his chin up, the demon could only hiss and yelp as Arthur prodded him in various places. He might've figured this was punishment, or something along those lines, and Arthur understood that a demon's modesty probably made it very uncomfortable to be touched. Angels didn't have such modesty.

He winced at a particularly deep gash, and was careful not to touch it. The demon was getting restless beneath him, nervous and frightened probably, and he began to squirm weakly. "Relax," Arthur sighed quietly, not caring that everyone's eyes were on him now. "I'm not going to hurt you." it was the angel in him speaking now, and he moved aside, retracting his fingers from the demon's neck, but the hand remained extended towards him.

The demon looked up at his warm smile with fear, and hesitated before taking his hand. He stood and pulled the demon to his feet, letting him stumble into Arthur for support because he could barely hold his weight. Practically carrying the other demon, Arthur started towards the exit of the room, not even looking at the commanders.

"I'm taking him to the infirmary." was all he said. He didn't care that he had no idea where such a place was. But he was going there.

O~o~O

After he was done writing the day's events in his journal, Arthur flung it across to the other wall of the alleyway out of frustration. He had not yet found out anything he really wanted to know, just things that he probably should. And it was grinding on his nerves.

He tugged at his hair, growling lowly to himself and watching the rain hit the wooden crate he was sitting cross legged on. It was fascinating, for some reason that he couldn't quite pin, and he looked up at the sky. He still really liked rain. It seemed to be the only thing that comforted him now, not even the thought of home warmed his heart like it used to. It had become a cold place, not welcoming or inviting to him. It tore him up a little on the inside, and those were wounds that would not heal.

His heritage was in his blood. All his old ideals and beliefs still existed, but they were gradually becoming overwhelmed by what he was discovering about all of winged-kind. He didn't feel like an angel anymore, and he wasn't exactly proud of where he came from. The angel suddenly became a disease, a plague that crawled around inside him, waiting to strike.

His entire world that he knew was tearing apart. He hated it, he never hated something so strongly before. Expanding his horizons was proving to be almost impossible, but he had no choice but to keep going. He had to do this on his own.

Arthur just wanted to be happy again. He leaned forward a little to look down at a puddle below the tall crate. He saw a distorted image of himself; red hair plastered to his head, dulled and sad green eyes, pale skin, jagged wings...Without thinking, he wove his hands together to do the switching spell. He looked at his angel self with a little more hope, and stretched his white wings, flinging blonde hair from his face. He was a more vibrant being when he was an angel. But he had a feeling, a sickening, terrifying, dreadful feeling in his stomach that it wasn't true. Angels weren't what he thought they were.

Discouraged, he switched back and turned to lie on his side. He curled up in a small circle, and sadly gazed at the ground. He suddenly felt inexplicably lonely.

O~o~O

"Sir...You've been observing him for weeks now. I believe you should rest."

"I cannot now, not when my little angel is slowly growing to be more and more...beautiful."

"Beautiful...?"

"You ask many questions. However you must understand that I care not if it may seem that I am...obsessed with this child. He has become so much more than I thought, and I...I hunger for when the morn comes that I can watch his downfall. He invigorates me. I want to know what is next as he continues."

"It is not my place to say so, my Lord, but I am worried about you."

With that, the younger archangel left the dim room, lit only by flickering filmic images of the Bereft scattered around the space.

Who really cares anymore? Who restrains?

O~o~O

Chapter Text

Arthur was beginning to get suspicious.

Something was wrong. So wrong, in fact, he could feel it in his chest when he woke the next morning. The feeling was unfamiliar, but, strangely, he had an idea of what it was. It was like someone had died.

Eyes flickering open, he slowly pushed himself up and ignored the soreness of sleeping on such a hard surface. It had stopped raining, he noticed when he looked up. He rubbed the back of his head and stretched his wings and arms before yawning and sliding off the crate.

He still hadn't gotten enough sleep. He could tell by the intense craving he had for soft, warm clouds, plenty of sunlight, and cute, fluffy sky creatures to cuddle with. Closing his eyes and breathing deeply, Arthur imagined just how nice a gentle touch would feel. He hadn't felt anything of the like for so long...

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he suddenly remembered the events of his previous waking hours. That other demon who he'd fought...Arthur had frightened him badly in trying to help. He remembered very vividly the face of terror he'd made as Arthur observed his wounds, and had waited for the worst. But he did not expect an act of kindness, and Arthur wondered if he himself only behaved that way because it was truly what he would have wanted. He would have wanted help.

Arthur smiled wryly at himself. Of course he was thinking that. He was an angel, after all. It was the defining rule of all religions; "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," "Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful," "Do not do unto others whatever is injurous to yourself..." he could go on, because he was taught every single golden rule. They were all the same.

He sighed. However much it hurt his conscious, he knew he couldn't do anything like that anymore. The demons were probably already suspecting things about him. He had to wait until he had a bigger influence on the city.

Something caught Arthur's gaze, and, looking over, Arthur realised it was the journal he'd hurled last night. It had fallen in between the grey brick wall and another crate, which was probably why it didn't look like anyone had been through it. Stalking over to it, Arthur snatched it from the ground and dusted it off thoroughly before putting it back in its rightful place in the inside pocket of his black military jacket. Then, after doing one last survey of his little space, he spread his black bat-like wings and took off towards the base.

As he flew along the weaving and complicated alleyways, he actually gave a little bit of thought to his wings. After looking at some of the ghastly pairs some of the others had, he realised his didn't look too grotesque. Compared to those with extremely knobby joints, jagged bones, and sharp claws, at least. Some demons were lucky to have symmetrical wings at all, and Arthur had to wonder if it was because it was how they were born or if they had just been mauled in harsh battles. Shuddering a little, Arthur fluttered a little closer to the ground. These violent thoughts were making him nervous.

After he swerved neatly past a group of demons headed elsewhere, Arthur's stomach growled a little, and the angel remembered he had not eaten in a couple of days. But he couldn't exactly do anything about it; the only food he'd managed to get at all was purely off of fighting bets because he had no way of getting the money, nor the guts and right of mind to steal. Great, not only was he under rested, but now he was malnourished as well. Just lovely.

He looked guiltily ahead and clutched weakly at his stomach as he went. 'In heaven, no one ever knew what hunger was or what fatigue felt like,' he thought miserably.

Before he got to the base, he took a quick detour to wash off at the same bath he'd been going to for awhile, but got done quickly and kept going. He didn't know whether to look forward to it or not, and he wondered if that demon from earlier would come after him. After all, he did just carry him to the infirmary, set him down, and leave. Arthur had no idea if it was what he should have done at all. In fact, he hardly knew if anything he did was right, considering the fact he was completely new to everything that was demon. With a sigh, he came to the conclusion that he might never assimilate and be able to blend in.

It didn't seem like that long when he finally glided into the large cylindrical room again, mostly because he was lost in thought. There were more demons than there were yesterday, and it appeared as if no one had noticed him. So he snuck back to the bench he had chosen before, and sat himself neatly down to wait for something to happen.

He found the demon with the caramel hair rather quickly. Spying him from across the room, Arthur smiled slightly when he realised he didn't look angry at all, rather, he was laughing with a couple of what Arthur assumed were friends. That was good, at least he was enjoying himself. And no one was wounded anymore, much to the angel's relief. Although for the life of him, he could not seem to figure out how demons healed themselves.

Arthur stared at the floor in thought, wondering how he would react if anyone tried to talk to him about their previous encounter. He was sat comfortably on top of the bench, one knee up with his arm resting on it, and despite how cold it was, he felt oddly at ease here.

There was suddenly a presence next to him.

"Ivan," he muttered out loud without thinking. Eyes flickering up, he caught the stare of the demon, who flashed him a creepy grin. "You got moved up as well, I see."

"Yes, I did, Paranomia." Ivan nodded to him. "Aside from that, I have heard a lot about your little feat yesterday, and normally I would not consider such a thing. But I wanted to warn you that the commanders will not so easily be taken for fools next time."

Arthur immediately sat upright and turned to face Ivan, eyes wide. At his reaction, the demon let out a wry chuckle and sat down on the bench across from him. He took Arthur's silence as a cue to continue, and brought his fist up to rest his chin on. "They will do everything they can to break you. I have heard them speaking of it, and it does not ring well with the ears, comrade. They do not like your kind, only because everyone else does. Phobos and Deimos do not take well to..." he looked Arthur over. "...Prodigies."

Taken slightly aback, Arthur frowned at the taller demon. "...Why are you telling me this?" it was the only sensible question out of many that flew about his mind. If anything, the only thing he could guess was that Phobos and Deimos were the two commander's names. Perhaps they were brothers...Arthur recalled the two names in a human myth, and they meant Fear and Panic. Ah. Lovely.

Ivan's stare was unreadable. It appeared caught somewhere between cold and apathetic. But there was something about his manner, something about all his little movements and even just his posture that suggested he didn't feel so. "You make for a peculiar one, Paranomia. But you are powerful, I will give you that. I would rather stand beside you than against you." the demon looked off to the side as if irritated, and crossed his arms.

Arthur, however, was unable to keep back a small smile. Perhaps he was getting somewhere after all? He had no idea, but if anything, Ivan had offered hope.

"Pathetic little deilόs! I bring news!" announced a loud voice, and Arthur recognised it as one of the two commanders. He turned to face the two, looking at their military uniforms and their faces to try and distinguish one from the other.

Of all times, he got that feeling again. The same dread he'd felt earlier when he had woken up. Eyes widening, Arthur leaned forward a bit and gripped the hem of his uniform tightly, training his gaze on the demon who spoke. He felt an overwhelming grief like someone had died, only he had somehow forgotten who and the sadness had lost its purpose...He recalled seeing angels in this state after losing someone close to them.

"The angels have attacked! They came in without warning when all was silent and ravaged our sleeping army! There is no time to wait, we must train every demon at this base to be ready for war!" Arthur's eyes widened in shock. It couldn't be..."They are growing in numbers and power and another attack is imminent! From here on, training is to be taken seriously!"

Arthur had covered his head with his hands without realising. They have no reason to attack, not while I'm here! Camael said he would halt all offensive war efforts to not risk my getting in the way! What is going on?! Arthur began mumbling quiet questions to himself, not realising he was shaking.

"Paranomia." said a soft voice. Arthur gave a nod to acknowledge that he'd heard, and was unable to do much else. "Paranomia, are you alright? You do not look so good, comrade." It was Ivan, of course. Strangely, genuine concern laced his voice.

Trying to ignore the clenching of his heart that nearly brought tears to his eyes, Arthur licked his lips and tried to come up with a plausible story to explain himself. "S-someone I knew was involved in the attack," he said weakly. Still as angelic as ever, he couldn't bring himself to lie.

"Ah, I see." Arthur almost jumped when Ivan suddenly patted his back. "I feel for your loss. But this is not the time for grief, Paranomia. We must prepare so we can fight the angelicans."

Arthur couldn't be sure if that was an act of kindness or not. Regardless, he sheepishly straightened himself out and pulled himself together with a brave breath. "Indeed," he agreed, unable to hide the shame in his expression.

The demons in the room were soon all called close to the commanders. In a circle around them, they both explained the exercise they would be doing, how it was expected to be done, and what it could be used for. It was quite an unoriginal tactic in Arthur's eyes, at least, from how it would theoretically play out. It was a simple way of disabling an enemy, but Arthur had to hold back many tuts and scoffs at their idea of restraining an angel by its wings. He seemed to be the only one that understood that the span and strength of their wings were too much to immobilise his kind.

The idea and way of pulling it off were simple enough. Although Arthur wanted to add his own little spin on some of the mechanics of it, he felt it could be rather effective on a demon. Which happened to be exactly how they were going to practice; sparring between a couple of demons each. Immediately, the others began to break off into groups, and Arthur thought he should probably do that too.

Without even looking, he knew Ivan had appeared by his side. "You ready to have some fun?" he asked tauntingly.

"This time it will be you on the floor writhing in pain." Ivan hissed back with a good-natured grin.

The two turned and were about to head back towards Arthur's now apparently designated spot. It seemed so, since none of the others seemed to even want to go near either of them. Arthur was about to voice that thought out loud when another demon fluttered in front of them. Arthur recognised him as the one he'd fought yesterday.

"Oh! Uh...You are..." Arthur began awkwardly, noting the shamed look the other one seemed to have and how he refused to meet Arthur's eyes.

After a small moment of silence, Ivan elbowed Arthur a little roughly. "He is requesting Opia, Paranomia." At Arthur's obviously confused look, he rolled his eyes. "Permission to look you in the eye? Acknowledgement of respect? What, do you live under a rock?"

"Maybe I do," Arthur defended. "I'm not from around here."

Ivan looked genuinely surprised. "Ah-Y-you..." he decided not to question it further and let out a small sigh. "Opia is a sign of respect and trust. It is something earned and not easy to come by. If I were you, I wouldn't miss this chance." Ivan had no trace of a lie in his voice. Arthur knew well that demons did not hesitate to lie, but it did not appear that there was much reason to lie to one of their own kind.

He was still thinking over Ivan's words. Did that mean this demon wanted to be friends with him? Arthur wouldn't want to pass up that either, considering that he needed allies. Maybe this was the key to the mission the angels had put on him, to get others on his side. Arthur had to force down all of the questions he had regarding which side he was actually on, and focus on what was at hand. "Alright," he said slowly. "How do I, um..." he gestured awkwardly in front of him.

Ivan now seemed vaguely amused with his lack of knowledge, and Arthur was relieved he didn't seem that suspicious. "Offer your hands to him. If he truly respects you, he will meet your eyes. If not, he might kill you."

Arthur stopped dead. "Wh-what?"

"Don't question an old tradition, Paranomia! Just do it!" Ivan snapped.

"A-alright!" Arthur panicked and held out his hands to the demon. "Alright, I, um..." he looked up, trying to meet the demon's gaze. He watched as the demon slowly reached up and rested his palms in Arthur's, and let his hands weigh down on his for a brief moment before finally taking a big breath and looking up.

Arthur was met with the same eyes he saw yesterday, dark and brooding, but protective. From his distance yesterday, and from lack of observation, the angel had not realised his eyes were so green. His horns were a little longer than Arthur's, and his wings looked rough around the edges. The somewhat long caramel hair was still distinct on him, especially to Arthur because he knew of many angels similar by appearance.

"What is your name?" he asked with a slight smile, trying to come off as friendly.

"...My name is Basch." the demon replied quietly, finally relaxing a bit.

His hands were released from their loose and quite harmless death trap, and Arthur nervously ran a hand through his red hair, careful to avoid his own horns. "Well, Basch, it would seem as if you've joined this little cult. I suppose we have to get busy with what the commanders want."

"Yea, we do." Basch glanced at Ivan. "He has earned your respect as well?"

Arthur opened his mouth to say no, thinking Basch meant Opia. But Ivan beat him to it. "Yes, Paranomia has my admiration as well. I choose to follow him because he is easily the most powerful demon in this room and because I believe there is something greater at work here."

Well, that didn't make any sense. Basch seemed to understand, but Arthur was at a complete loss. He wished he had thoroughly gone through what exactly demons believed in and worshipped, and made a note to look for a library to find out. The only word that seemed to connect was Fate, and Arthur still didn't quite understand the concept of that.

Despite that, he wasn't complaining. It was the first time he had people on his side in too long.

It was no surprise that Arthur had managed to defeat both Ivan and Basch, even when they teamed up together against him. He would never understand the mindset they had, the mentality that only deepened their respect for him. Arthur found himself caught up in bittersweet moments when he would watch their faces twist in pain, but then look up at him with eyes shining with silent reverence after a duel. It was contradicting in too many ways for Arthur to even begin to fathom how they felt so content being hurt while honouring him.

Beating them was almost to easy. Arthur cursed himself for every blow he brought upon the two demons.

Over the next couple of what Arthur hoped were days, Phobos and Deimos(who'd begun to act somewhat like dogs towards him) made the routines tougher and tougher to match. Despite what they'd said about training a whole army, Arthur had the suspicion that it was just him they were after. Not good. The entire military base was beginning to make him feel like he was back where he started, when he was barely getting by and only just able to defend himself.

They were determined to break him, that was for sure. Arthur feared it would work. But, he was also starting to get support. The she-demon from the bath he went to began to offer him a piece of bread every time he came by, saying she'd heard of him. Back at his little territory, no one ever came by anymore. And in the base, he had earned even more respect than before and soon had almost a quarter of the demons in the room who stood by his side. Some had migrated over to his place in the room, and others just appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Their company was oddly comforting.

At the same time, it made him itch. They all liked him. Loved him, for the same reason. He had defeated them all at some point, and this violence was tearing him apart. This wasn't in his nature! He was defying every single piece of himself little by little, and he wondered if he was even an angel anymore. He would switch back and forth just to make sure, but then on some days he would despise his angel heritage and not want to look at himself. He didn't know what was good anymore. Arthur didn't recall a time when he'd been this uncomfortable.

He knew if his destiny never crossed with the prophecy so closely, he would most likely end up serving God's army anyway, but that would have been when he was older and more prepared for his duties.

Phobos and Deimos were infuriated by the fact they still hadn't managed to break him. Arthur could tell they felt like they were running out of options, and might be pushed to take harsh extremes to get what they wanted; a tame and disciplined warrior. They couldn't break him in every man for himself. They couldn't break him in two-person teams. They couldn't break him in one-on-one-back-to-back. Arthur had no idea what was next, but he was worn. Even the flight to the base was slowly becoming a problem because he would flutter in panting.

This day, he was certain he was going to lose a battle. He could feel it when he gazed at the moon just before he went inside, how tired and done he was. He refused to be submissive to the demons, but he was going to lose something. And that worried him.

Basch was waiting for him near his spot. The demon with the Swiss accent nodded as Arthur stumbled in, and purposefully got up and sat next to Arthur to enjoy their comfortable silence they often shared. That was the entirety of their relationship, one unlike anything Arthur had at Heaven. It was foreign to him, but he still liked it. They served as silent pillars for one another.

The room was practically divided completely when the others showed up. There was Arthur's little corner(Not to say that the room was round so there were no actual "corners") where his group of allies were, and then everyone else. Phobos and Deimos seemed to want to keep it that way as they flew in, sealing the boundary.

This piqued the interest of his group, and the demons came up beside Arthur, ever faithful.

"We have noticed how divided you are as an army!" Deimos announced. Arthur was glad he'd finally figured out the difference between the two. "At first, we were determined to change that, since such a stance is not acceptable when battling the Angelicans. But, instead we decided to experiment!"

Phobos flew forth. "See as you are now! There is a group of old friends that remain loyal to each other!" Arthur noticed some of the demons near him flinched at the word "loyal." He didn't want to question it. "And then, we have a lesser group lead by Paranomia!" he almost spat his name, and aimed his glare right at Arthur.

Arthur returned the expression, wrinkling his nose and making it clear how he despised this.

"The solution is obvious, yes? The two groups simply fight!" Deimos sneered at them all. "Rules are different, however. You cannot touch the floor and you can only use the wall to rest. Are we clear?!"

Arthur finally stood, walking forward. So this was how he was going to lose. He refused to go down without a fight, and hated himself as these angry thoughts progressed. "Aye, sir." he hissed lowly. The others made general noises of understanding, and both the commanders backed up to the edge of the cylindrical room.

He could feel his blood burning with anticipation, so much so that he didn't even hear the commanders indicate the start. All he knew was that in a blur of grey and black, he was up and circling around the demons from the opposite group, who were organising themselves.

The wisest thing to do, his personal rule in any battle, was to let the opponent take the first move. He felt sick at the sudden thrill that engulfed his being when the entire group surrounded him, probably in the hopes of overwhelming him. No such luck for them; two demons came at him reluctantly, and they were quickly sent crashing to the floor far below.

That was when the team of foes decided to make smarter choices in facing Paranomia, who's glare seemed to strike fear into all of them. They began coming at him in three's, in four's, and not yet realising that it took more than that to take him down.

Arthur didn't know what possibly gave him the strength to hurl the demons into the walls and kick them down. Adrenaline? Probably, but it didn't feel like he was fighting at all, instead it was more of an autopilot reaction to the enemies around him. He couldn't even gauge how badly he was injuring them...The frustration was fueling him to carry on from there, almost crying out with every hit.

He wanted to stop. Every fibre of his being wished to mend the damage, to halt this senseless fight, to take even just one hit. His mind had lost control of his body, however, and he was disgusted with the willingness of which he continued to carry on. He dodged and blocked with ease, and landed blows too strong to counter and too fast to avoid. He was a monster. He was hurting them. He was maiming them. He was mutilating them.

Killer.

The word flashed over his mind over and over again, and he lashed out blindly. Was he killing them?! He didn't know! He felt the unmistakable feeling of hollowness gouge him out, and he didn't think he ever hated himself so much before. Out of sheer rage, his fist met with someone's head and they were knocked out instantly. He didn't even have to look at some of the demons; he could take out one of them with just his tail.

I'm a killer. I am a psycho killer.

Over the heads he was surrounded by, Arthur caught a glimpse of a couple of different demons fighting, and was confused. Surely he would have been the ideal target.

He slipped up. One more time, killer blinded his mind's eye, and he missed a punch.

The next thing he knew, he was seeing stars and flying upside down. That wasn't right. He was strangely calm until he realised he was falling, and the tornado of demons above had gone after someone else. He couldn't breathe. He panicked, and couldn't make himself fly because he was falling too fast; his wings were paralysed out of terror. This was an angel's greatest fear, and his worst nightmare. Arthur knew this was the end. This was how all the angels went if they messed up. They fell.

He shut his eyes tightly. I am going to die a psycho killer.

Arthur was disoriented once more, when something from above barreled into him. He was almost certain his brain was knocked out of place from the sheer force he had taken, and was dizzy from the sudden change in direction. Was he spinning now? What was direction? He could no longer tell if he was upside down or not.

Finally landing on something firm nearly made him keel over. His head was still spinning, and he thought the room was twirling. Eyes barely cracking open, he dazedly let his head fall back and realised he was perched with his back pressed on the side of the wall. How did he manage that? He reached with his hand to try to steady his head, but it met with something else instead. It certainly felt like a head, though. Arthur patted it curiously.

He was startled when he heard chuckling. Shaking his head to clear his foggy mind, his eyes widened when he finally could see a little. He was indeed pressed up against the wall, and he was balancing on something else. Someone else. The image was a little fuzzy, but two arms were latched onto the iron candleholders above them and he was crouched on someone's knees.

The laughing stopped at his reaction. "Forgot you had a team, huh?" asked a voice Arthur didn't recognise. When he shook his head again, he could make out blue eyes and black hair, and wings flapping slowly for leverage behind him.

His hand was still on their head. Still a bit out of it, Arthur curled his fingers through their hair before letting go. "G-good catch," was all he could manage at the moment.

"Hehe, thanks! You're not too shabby yourself, you took out about half of them within five minutes!" More laughter. Arthur was slowly regaining focus little by little, and could make out both Basch and Ivan, as well as a few others flying in to look at him. "Anyways, dude what was that? You do have a group, you know. Goin' in all Sparta might work for you, but I think we gotta plan how we're gonna win this thing."

"Well, what do you suggest?" Arthur knocked on his head a few times.

"Um..." The bigger demon hadn't thought this through, apparently, and Arthur let out a small chuckle. "I mean, you're the leader of our group, right? Whatever you say goes!"

Arthur blinked in surprise. "R-really?" by now, the others had gotten close and formed a small semi circle around them. All of his allies nodded. "Ah...I see. In that case, I..." he hesitated, looking around the demon in front of him to assess the situation. "I say we gather everyone who's still flying and get up as high as we can. The last thing the other group expects is a diving attack." he looked around for approval, and found that everyone was already getting ready.

The demon who was still supporting him let go with one hand to salute to him. "Aye, sir!" he grinned, and let go with the other hand, making sure Arthur was good to fly before backing off.

Arthur had never led anything before. This was quite new. "Well, then..." he observed the group he had, and thought of the odds. Oh, how terribly stacked against him, they were. That thought gave him rejuvenated courage and spirit, and Arthur felt alive. In fact, more alive than he did in heaven. Maybe because he had survived falling. "Let's go, then." he smirked at the impending battle to come.

Maybe I'm not the only one who thinks something is wrong here.

O~o~O

"Sir, this is unhealthy for you. You should give someone else the duty of watching over the Bereft." a desperate voice.

"No! He is mine and mine alone to watch over! Occupy thyself with anything other than I!" a defiant voice.

Oh, Arthur, how I crave to see more...More of you, more of your place in the universe. You are one in a million suns, the one creature that will never find placement. Oh, how I love being the wordsmith of your fate.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

Arthur's absence in heaven wasn't as insignificant as anyone had thought.

Camael had firmly believed that none of them would remember, that the parades and celebrations for his brave sacrifice would soon die down. Arthur would become a distant memory, eventually forgotten completely under his reign. He would be the only one that kept the young angel in his mind. The beautiful and kind creature who lacked both placement and peace...What a tragic story he was. The tragic protagonist every author dreams of.

Arthur might become a ghost to them. A fantasy story to be told to children and nothing more, no reality, no hope. All that was ahead was a beautiful future, and Arthur was cast away on a false and impossible mission simply because he had the potential to stand in the way. He was also a double edged blade, because the angels would relax and rely on him to stop the war, and that left every possible chance for Camael to take charge and direct the species where they were supposed to go. They were meant for something greater, a world without humans or demons. Camael seemed to be the only one who could see that, and without Arthur, he could make everyone else see too. Even God.

Camael had high aspirations for all of the angelicans. And with no one particularly dangerous like Arthur to risk it failing, he was confident he could make everything work now. The only thing he had left to do in heaven was make sure no one would think of Arthur anymore. Camael was more than certain they would all let him fade from their memories like dust.

He was proven wrong. Despite his attempts to hush the foolish angels, the choirs still sang glorious songs in the grand cathedrals of the tale of the young Bereft angel. They still loved him as they would any other legendary hero. That meant there was someone who was reminding them everyday of how important Arthur was; what purpose he served, and how he would be the bringer of peace across all realms.

The high archangel was not ignorant. He knew someone was keeping his memory alive. He just didn't know who. But he would find them, and even if it meant strangling them in front of God himself, he would silence their useless prayers.

What Camael did not know was that it wasn't just one angel. It was two.

O~o~O

Francis came back from the attack weary, but alive. He had been ordered to be one of the three commanders to lead the angels to the demon camp and kill the hellish creatures in their sleep, and as far as he knew, it was the first frontal assault the angelicans had committed without provocation prior to. The silent onslaught had been successful, unfortunately. Minus those who had managed to escape due to a loud screech when Francis purposefully missed a fatal blow, none had been spared. While he still held an aversion to demons, Francis was not cruel. He was not oblivious either; he was keeping up with Arthur in secret, and was slowly figuring out what he was trying to do.

Smoothing down his fancier uniform, he was filled with regret for not becoming closer to Arthur to know him better. They had been somewhat rivals towards one another, trying to one up the other to get ranked up higher. Now that he was gone, Francis regretted the entire feud. He would have liked this uniform better, Francis thought wistfully, looking at the elegantly decorated and smooth white cloth. He deserves it more than I do.

He was continuing to get to know Arthur without realising. He had learnt so much of the slightly younger angel over the past few days, and knew him well enough to figure out that he was no longer actually opposing the demons. And, if he knew anything at all, that meant something in heaven was wrong. Francis trusted Arthur's sense of direction more than Camael's. Unfortunately, he could only invest his feelings and conflicts to one other angel, the only one who knew exactly what was going on.

Francis found him sitting and crying quietly to himself on the marble fountain in front of Camael's massive cathedral. This wasn't new; he was the closest angel to Camael and saw exactly what he saw. That meant he had the latest word on what Arthur was doing. He cried nearly every day, mostly because Arthur was gone. Francis flexed his wings and fluttered over to him, saddened that this beautiful soul was weeping.

He had eyes of honey and wings of fire; the tips of his feathers on his wings were a vivid orange colour to match his hair. He was truly a beautiful being, but gentle almost to a fault. "Feliciano," Francis greeted softly as he approached, and settled down next to the smaller boy. "I have returned from the offensive...There is nothing really to tell. Not many escaped. What of you? How is Arthur?"

Feliciano delicately brushed a hand over his face, despite knowing it would do nothing to stop his tears. Taking a small moment to collect his bearings, he glanced over to his friend. "A-Arthur has been informed of the attack. He knows there has been death." he said quietly, his sweet voice cracking. "Camael is becoming obsessed with him. I think he believes he is the scribe of Arthur's tale. I-I know not of what we can do, Francis! I don't know what is going to happen!"

Francis nodded sadly, and pulled Feliciano close for an embrace. The younger angel was right; with angels making bolder moves upon demons as well as beginning to use human technology, it seemed like there wasn't much they could do. All of this was happening so fast, so of course their ideals were being challenged. While Feliciano clung to him and sobbed on his shoulder, Francis tried to think of something, anything. How could they possibly know what was right, and be sure they were helping that side?

"I already trust Arthur more than Camael, Feli. I always have." he murmured quietly, soothingly stroking the Italian angel's hair. "Perhaps we should see if there is any way we can contact him without creating a nuisance. Maybe he would share his knowledge with us, whatever we have missed. And we can return the favour. Does that sound good?"

Feliciano nodded against him, and Francis waited until he was calm to stand. "Join wings with me. Let us hope Camael and the other higher archangels won't notice us."

Spreading their wings, the pair took off in search of a discreet place. The sunlight warmed them and the breeze teasingly ruffled their feathers and their hair. Despite that, both Francis and Feli got chills when they thought of Arthur. They couldn't even imagine what it was like for him, to have to go to sleep shivering every night, and not even get enough hours. It was a terrible concept to them, and it wasn't even the half of it.

"Francis?" Feli asked as they leisurely flew past a church.

Francis glanced over to him. "Hmm?"

"How do you think..." he hesitated. "How do you think Arthur is doing? I mean, beyond what we see with Camael. Is he happy? Is he making friends?"

"I don't know, Feliciano. Would you like for him to make friends with demons?" Francis didn't know why Feli would ask such a thing.

"If it makes him happy, then yes." Feli answered firmly. "He has a wing in each world. He deserves to have friends among both kinds. He will save everyone, after all."

Francis was confused by Feliciano's words. Not too long ago, he was crying about Arthur. He supposed the younger soul shared the trust he had in Arthur, the one that was above Camael's just enough to surpass the barrier they had. Perhaps Feli was more of the angel heaven needed, in this world, at least...Francis smiled at him, glad there were still fair and true angels who thought of all the creatures. They were the ones he learnt from most, how to be selfless and kind to anyone, and keep their mercy and faith at the same time. He wasn't sure if that was what Camael had in mind, no matter how many times he tried to justify his reasoning.

After fluttering past another place of worship, Francis spotted a particularly discreet place that was hidden beneath some clouds that were floating upward. Nodding towards the space, both he and Feliciano glided down to it.

"You know how to perform the spell?" Feli asked, looking curiously at Francis.

Francis smirked. "Of course I do, mon cher. Regardez-moi..." his expression calm and confident, he carefully wove his hands in the air, his fingers glowing. After a moment, a small puddle-like image opened in the floor. Both the angels crouched down to peer at it.

The image glowed too brightly in their faces to see anything at first. But, once the light dimmed and their eyes adjusted, both Feli and Francis leaned closer. After a moment of observing the picture, neither of them could stifle quiet giggles. The demon being shown was clearly Arthur, they would recognise him anywhere. But, Arthur was sleeping. Despite the urgency of their situation, the two angels did not want to disturb him while he was getting some much-needed rest. He looked like he needed it.

"Good night, Arthur..." Feliciano blessed the image, the light shining from his fingertips onto the vague curled-up figure of the angel. Francis knew it might not work, but it did not keep him from hoping it would grant him some more sleep than he was getting. "Go to sleep..."

The two angels stared intently at Arthur for a little while more until Francis reluctantly closed the glassy magic depiction. "We can see more of him later, Feli." the Italian angel nodded in agreement. "Camael will be suspicious if we continue to hide. It is time for you to return to him."

"Ve..." Feliciano said quietly. He obviously did not want to go back. Seeming to collect himself, he sighed. "I will tell you if anything new happens with Arthur."

Francis nodded as Feliciano opened his fiery coloured wings and took off towards Camael's cathedral. Sighing as his friend disappeared behind a church, Francis looked back down to where Arthur's image was moments before. "...I will pray for you, Arthur." was all he could manage, and looked away, upset. Before he flew away back to his post as a guardian, he looked up above the heavens and wished upon a star. He had no idea stars had existed before Feliciano told him of how Arthur gazed at them. He had the strange feeling that they were all he could believe in for now.

O~o~O

The past week was what it felt like now. Arthur sincerely wished he had some way to know for sure, but it wasn't an immediate concern. However much time had passed since Arthur managed to get all of the demons in that room on his side had gone very well.

He was learning so much about demons. How they might come off as hostile, but when they pledged loyalty, they would rather die than leave. Much like angels, they were creatures of promise. But exclusively towards friends; they only lied to their enemies, because friends were always held in the highest respect. That was a trait Arthur would always value.

While he was finally getting to some things he desperately wanted to know, Arthur still had not figured out how demons healed themselves. How he could win a fight with a demon beaten in so badly they couldn't tell left from right, but then come in completely fine the next time they showed up? It was confusing to no end.

Arthur certainly hoped he could learn soon; tensions between the demonocracy and the angelicans were rising, and if he didn't start to spread his ideas soon, then he might be too late to stop the next wave of battles. But he had to figure everything out first. And also keep his mouth shut; some of the demons who knew him occasionally asked why he was speaking of war and such large concepts that were too massive for him to worry about. Arthur never even realised he talked to himself, and had to pretend his concerns lied with less important things.

Casually gliding in slightly earlier than usual, he noticed a few of his associates were already there. One that seemed to stick out from the rest was a tall black haired demon with vibrant blue eyes. He had been the one who caught Arthur when he fell during that defining team battle, and he still had not found time to thank him properly for it. Perhaps he would later today; the commanders had mentioned to him the agenda was to do one-on-one sparring with teammates, fights purely voluntary.

Except for him, of course. They had told him they wanted him to be in most of the battles, because now that he had taken the leader role of all the demons in the room, he was expected to become a commander. He didn't mind, he rather liked the sound of that. Arthur was just afraid of hurting himself and everyone else if they managed to make him battle them all. Well, Phobos and Deimos had already figured out they couldn't really make him do anything, he did things purely of his own accord, so maybe he might not have to cause any pain this day.

There was the issue of maintaining the status quo, though. He would not get off so easily.

"Paranomia!" he heard one of the commanders call. It was Deimos, and it appeared to be time to get started with their practice. He could tell by the clamour of demons flying up and moving around. "I want you up first!"

"Of course you do!" Arthur yelled back, earning giggles from the other demons around him.

He was met with two icy stares from both Phobos and Deimos. Smirking, Arthur shrugged and stood to fly over to the centre of the room. Sparring was still somewhat new to Arthur, seeing as he never found fighting to be particularly fun or worth sporting. But, he supposed he could try to look like he was enjoying himself. He would be fighting with his own allies after all, maybe they wouldn't take it too seriously.

To try and bring himself in the mood, he mustered up the most teasingly evil voice he could make. "Who dares challenge the great and powerful Paranomia?!" he demanded, noticing a few demons laugh at how his accent made the statement sound.

There was some shuffling as various demons got up to circle around Arthur to watch the fight, but no one stepped forth. Lovely. They were all afraid of him because they knew how it would end. Just lovely. The room stayed like that for a moment, most of the demons awkwardly standing back.

"Someone must challenge Paranomia." Phobos said dully, shaking his head. " You are all allies. If it helps your conscious, the fight is in jest. You are not out to maim the other."

Arthur sighed.The commander didn't understand that he had the wrong reason, it wasn't that simple. There was more to it than just play fighting. There was no point to a fight where the winner was predetermined. At least, not in this sort of environment. Not when there was no reason to take part in a predetermined fight. A little confused with himself, Arthur had to remind himself that the entire concept wasn't so black and white.

"Sir, we're not challenging him, but not because we're afraid to fight." a demon spoke up from the back. Arthur looked in the direction of the voice and found it was one of the taller females. Glad someone was standing up for them, Arthur nodded to her before looking back towards the commanders to see their response.

"Then why does no one step forward to fight?" Deimos asked a little harshly.

A different voice this time. Arthur looked to his right and recognised the black-haired and blue-eyed demon. "Because we are allies with him. We understand the point of fighting for practice, but we are supposed to practice fighting enemies. Not friends. Paranomia even made that clear when everyone was finally united under his word." he said confidently.

...Ah. So both Arthur and the commanders were wrong. It wasn't even fear, they just didn't want to fight him because they didn't like to fight their friends. Reason enough, in Arthur's eyes, though prejudiced from an angel's point of view. Arthur started to nod again when the other demons made vague noises of collective agreement.

This did not settle well with the commanders. "Very well, then. If this exercise won't be done voluntarily, then we will have to choose the challenger." Phobos hissed, and walked towards the circle. "And who better to start than you? Paranomia, you will fight this one." he grabbed the collar of the black-haired demon and shoved him forward, and he stumbled into the centre of the circle with Arthur.

Meeting eyes with him, Arthur could clearly see he did not want to take part. Neither did he, of course. "Sir, he has already expressed that he does not wish to fight! Surely I have a say in this." he protested for the demon, looking towards Phobos.

"You are wrong. You will fight," the bigger demon growled, flying back with Deimos. "Or would you rather end up dead on the front lines? You're good, Paranomia, I will give you that. But not perfect. You will do as I say."

Wrinkling his nose, Arthur looked down at the ground and snarled in frustration. Status quo. He had to maintain the status quo. "Fine." he spat. Ignoring the instinctive righteousness of angels that made him want to protest more, he turned sideways to get in a defensive position.

The demon before him was ready as well. He seemed to know the outcome, but Arthur had seen him fight before. This wouldn't be easy. But he couldn't just let him win. "You ready?" the demon asked with a grin.

"Of course." Arthur muttered darkly, flicking his tail.

Glancing at the commanders, the two demons were given a nod to indicate the start. Arthur decided to play it safe for this battle, knowing it would be impressive if he messed around, but also knowing he wasn't fighting for show.

That was when he let up his guard a little bit. What exactly was he fighting for?

The demon decided to take the first move and flew at him, and Arthur almost didn't duck in time. He had no idea what he was fighting for, other than the angelicans. But he supposed that wasn't important right now.

The demon pulled a fast turn, and Arthur flew up to meet him in midair, catching him by surprise. Arthur had to hold back a wince at the expression of sheer fear the demon had, trying not to notice how he slowed down just to stop from barreling into Arthur.

If he hadn't slowed down, Arthur would have probably flown a bit higher to avoid being hit. They did crash into each other, but both of them had their hands held out to steady the other. Now they were twirling midair, and Arthur realised this was much like how the demon had caught him when he was falling before, except for being upright this time. The contact felt a little more comfortable than it should have been.

He had to keep the fight going, though. It pained him, because they could easily just stop right then and call it over. It was especially painful because the demon had practically done him a kindness by purposefully not crashing into him. But, if he threw in the towel now, it might wreck what he had been trying to build up. He didn't feel like risking it.

Getting a firm hold on the demon's upper waist, Arthur used the momentum of their spinning to hurl the larger demon back the way he'd come. The demon quickly lost his grip on Arthur and nearly crashed into the floor, trying to compensate for the loss of height and steady himself.

Moving almost dizzyingly fast, Arthur dived down so low to the floor that he had to weave through some demons and benches before he could fly back up behind his opponent. Maybe if he ended it quickly, this entire thing would be less painful for both of them. So, taking a big breath, he flapped his wings to angle himself sideways and advanced towards the demon before he could notice and make another move. In a split second, he had used the demon's back as a platform to launch skywards, and sent the demon hurtling down to the floor.

He landed pretty roughly, from what Arthur could hear when he smoothly spiraled back to the ground. He was afraid to see for himself how much damage he had done, and averted his eyes as soon as he landed back in the middle of the circle. The other demons had spread out a bit after the fight had started to give them room, but now they seemed too far away and too quiet.

Arthur peeked up at the demon before him, who was slowly trying to pick himself up. He wasn't too far, only about ten yards. It was too short of a distance for Arthur's comfort, however. He wished he knew how he could possibly convey how sorry he was, but he couldn't find words or coherent thoughts through the quietness, the only noise being the scratching and scraping noises of the demon attempting to get up.

The demon managed to get to his knees before he could look up at Arthur. It was a strange stare, one that Arthur did not recognise. In fact, out of nowhere it suddenly seemed to instill fear into everyone around them, even the commanders. Did they know something he didn't? Taken by slight surprise, Arthur backed away a step from the demon at the sudden overwhelming fear from everyone else that he could practically taste.

The other got up from his knees, finding balance on his feet with his tail. The demon seemed to disregard his injuries completely now, and, looking closer, Arthur couldn't figure out how. He was somehow bleeding in several places, including from his forehead. That was when Arthur realised what was wrong. The blue eyes of the demon were no longer blue. They were a very bright red.

"Paranomia..." Phobos said quietly, breaking the deafening silence. "You should run."

O~o~O

"The wavelength gently grows, coercive notions re-evolve..." a quiet, eager voice echoed around the small space. "A universe is trapped inside a tear! Don't you agree? It resonates the call, creates unnatural laws..." Pacing. Observing. Wild grinning. "Replaces love and happiness with fear! That is what is happening to him! It is glorious, no?"

The holographic image of the Bereft danced around the room, and it wasn't clear what exactly he was doing. But the archangel watched him with an almost frightening want, as if the desire for the Bereft had begun to consume him.

He was talking to himself, and not actually addressing anyone. The younger archangel stood awkwardly in the back of the room with his hands trembling while he watched his Lord follow the golden outline of the demonic figure, pacing around the room.

"How much deception can you take? How many lies will you create? How much longer until you break?" he inquired the image fervently, reaching out as if he could touch it. "Your mind's about to fall...And they're breaking through..."

A finger grazed the magic projection. "Yes," he whispered, his hand making the picture ripple under his touch. "They're breaking through...And now we're falling, we are losing control..." he murmured.

He seemed to sense the angel's confusion behind him. Smirking, he waved a hand towards the other divine being and cast a glance back. "Can't you see it?"

"N-no. I cannot." the angel's voice sounded terribly weak, as if he was sick with what he was seeing.

The high archangel sighed, his wings unfolding irritably. "Invisible to all, the mind becomes a wall..." he was talking to himself again. "All of history deleted with one stroke! That is what is happening, yes! He is going to be a glorious legend, the hero who killed them all!" laughter echoed uncomfortably loud around the space. "Now that we are making use of what the humans created, it is much easier to see the truth! Psychology is the key, not magic anymore. None of the silly angels know that yet, but soon, they will learn what the sciences are and what they will mean for our future...Soon, my darling...Soon..." he crooned, stroking the image.

It's happening soon, it's happening soon! The scent is blowing in my direction...To me it is new, to me it is new! And it's not gonna change for anybody...

O~o~O

Chapter Text

I don't want to be the one the battles always choose, because inside I realise that I'm the one confused...

"Paranomia..." Phobos said quietly, breaking the deafening silence. "You should run."

Glancing over to him, Arthur gave a weird look to the commander. "What?" he asked, not sure if he should be scared or not, because this sudden behaviour was odd. He had one demon that looked bloodshot or something of the like staring at him from one direction and another who was quivering like a feather from the other. It was more confusing than it was frightening. "What's going on?" when he didn't heed the commander's words, everyone began to shift uncomfortably.

"He has Rage, you fool!" Deimos hissed fearfully. "And he's after you! Run!"

Well, that didn't help. Arthur tilted his head, perplexed even more than before, and turned back to face the demon he was fighting. "No, seriously, what-? Oh, bloody-!" without warning, the demon suddenly launched himself at Arthur, not looking so friendly anymore. Arthur barely had time to dive out of the way and get back upright so he could fly. "What the bloody hell is going on?!" he demanded, when the demon faced him and let out a low, deep growl. The angel had been pretty certain his voice didn't sound like that.

No one answered him. Some of the demons watching even fled the room, and the ones who stayed were careful to stand or fly back. Arthur was only beginning to get nervous, because he no longer recognised the demon from before. All he saw was bloodlust in his red eyes, trained right on him.

He still didn't understand why either of the commanders were fearful for him. Surely they wouldn't have cared, right? He suddenly felt pressure on his front and realised Phobos was yanking him back by his collar. Ushering him towards the entrance, he yelled "Get out of here, Paranomia! He will not hesitate to kill you!"

"What?!"

"Run, Paranomia!" urged both of the commanders.

The last thing he saw before he turned to flee was the red-eyed demon lunging towards him with looks to murder.

He was slightly terrified as he heard screaming behind him, and flew down the halls as fast as he could. Arthur had no idea what was going on, no idea what could possibly make the commanders so afraid. Why was the demon after him in the first place? Perhaps he was angry he couldn't win a fight against Arthur? But he had lost before...Also, why was everyone else simultaneously afraid just by the look of the red-eyed demon? Arthur had never lost a fight here, and they knew that. What was so scary about a demon who Arthur could beat? Unless the red eyes indicated something darker about his power...Confused beyond reason, Arthur let out a frustrated sigh and veered to his right down a part of the base he'd never been before.

Hearing nothing more than distant yelling from the cylindrical room a couple of halls away, Arthur assumed he'd somehow already lost the demon. He knew the larger demon was a little slower than him, but not that slow. Maybe he really did just escape from something potentially threatening.

At least, that was what he thought. Arthur jumped when he heard a loud crash behind him, as if something had slammed into the wall from the sharp left turn he'd made and made a big dent. Turning his head slowly, he realised not only was the demon practically on his tail, but he had the sheer power to break that wall.

Letting out a startled shriek, Arthur flapped his wings harder with his eyes wide in panic. Okay, so he really is dangerous and I should be scared. He found an opening to fly up to the next floor, and risked ascending up there to try and be smart about losing his chaser. Arthur cringed badly when the demon let out a loud roar behind him, letting him know that he wasn't anywhere close to getting away just yet.

Arthur had no idea if he was going to be able to escape. Terrified now, he wracked his brain for what to do; was he fast enough to hide? Did he have enough energy to keep flying at this speed? Who would tire out first? Could he fight back if he was caught? The realisation that he had no answers was killing him.

At first, he followed the left wall along corners to see where it went. Never having been up in this floor, Arthur had half a mind wondering where it led through his fear of what would happen if he slowed down. So, sprinting with his wings, he took all of the left turns he possibly could, hoping it wasn't making him predictable because he was also trying not to get lost.

It only took two times around the massive area of crooked hallways to realise he was going in circles. He decided to risk it and take rights to mix it up, a split-second decision that probably cost him a few tail-lengths from the demon behind him. He had been this scared before, but there was something about this kind of thrill that made it worse when it was fending for himself to survive. Maybe it was because this time it was in a building and not the open outside space of Hell.

He let out a yelp when something grazed his wing. It was more of a cry of fear than pain, however, because he knew that was going to slow him down. He could hear a slight splattering sound when he tried forcing himself to fly faster, and assumed he was bleeding.

Oh, God! I'm going to get caught! He realised there was no good outcome to this; either he got caught and probably died, or escaped and got lost, only to have to run away again because the demon didn't look like he was going to give up. He would rather be lost and be able to find a place to hide and rest then have to run for this long. His lungs were burning, his muscles ached, and his form was faltering. He couldn't tell if he was flying lopsided or not. There was no way he could keep up for much longer.

Coming up on a two-way turn, Arthur made a last-second decision to go left, and that was where he lost it. That slight hesitation closed the gap between him and the demon. He felt something latch on to his ankle and he was abruptly brought out of the air and slammed onto the floor.

Gasping, Arthur tried to crawl forward and fly again, but he was suddenly brought up by his uniform and hurled into the marble wall. His head took the worst of it, and it hurt so badly he couldn't see straight. Or, maybe that was the blood that fell in his eye. For a moment, he thought he was upside down. He couldn't support his own weight and would have fallen had it not been for the fist that grabbed the front of his uniform and forced him to stand.

He could have sworn he was looking right into the evil red eyes of the devil. His vision was going a little blurry as well, and he felt throbbing pain everywhere. Arthur suddenly couldn't feel the floor. What he could feel was a hard pressure on his neck, but it didn't bother him at first because everything else hurt just as bad, if not worse.

It pressed harder. Putting one and two together, Arthur realised he was being choked and tried to claw at the hand that was squeezing his throat, but to no avail. The leverage the other demon had on him was too much. He sputtered and panted for breath, and couldn't form coherent words even if he tried over the mix of panic and pain coursing through him that made tears fill his eyes.

His windpipe was being crushed. In his desperate attempts to get air, he spat and gasped raggedly, digging his heels into the marble and pulling as hard as he could on the hand enclosing his neck. It wasn't working.

His eyes could barely focus on the cold and apathetic demon in front of him. "P-ple-ease..." he begged airily. "H-help me, pl-ease..."

That was all he could say, before his vision failed with dulled spots and his struggling and squirming got weaker. He was beginning to go faint, and he could feel himself losing traction on the wall. This was it, he thought, and his eyes began to roll back in his head.

The demon's eyes went wide, and he blinked. When he had opened them again, Arthur thought he was dreaming when he saw blue haze over his faint eyesight.

He was dropped. As soon as he hit the floor, he crumpled and fell to his knees, and then could barely stop his head from hitting the floor with his arms. He coughed roughly, and saw blood spot the floor before he had to close his eyes to keep from losing balance. He lifted one hand up to gently touch his neck, almost sobbing from the pain of each shaking cough that wracked his entire figure. The arm that supported him was shaking so badly that it gave, and Arthur fell on his side, still forced to cough harshly.

"No no no, not again! Oh, hell..." he heard vaguely over himself. Forcing his eyes open a little, he could make out a figure backed up against the wall opposite of the one he was next to. "Paranomia! Oh hell, I'm so sorry!"

He flinched when the demon was suddenly towering over him, and a hand cautiously reached for the angel. "Paranomia...No, please don't be submissive now!" Arthur had pulled in a sharp gasp trying to push himself away and it only induced another coughing fit. He was probably spitting up blood everywhere now, but he was too afraid of the demon above him to do much else. He continued to attempt to drag himself along his side, sliding uselessly across the floor in small inches.

"I could've killed you! I'm so stupid, damn it! Why can't I control it?! Please, Paranomia, I have to take you to the infirmary." the demon seized Arthur by his shoulders, forcing a shrill but strangled cry that made him choke on blood still caught in his throat. The fear that was making him react so wildly was probably irrational, but Arthur couldn't even think straight at this point. Squirming weakly, Arthur tried to get away from the demon as he was pulled from the ground and up into the demon's arms. "You aren't crying, are you?! Dude, please, Paranomia! Take it easy! Hell, I'm so sorry..." Despite struggling as much as he could, the demon wouldn't let him free. Arthur couldn't speak or scream for help, and he wasn't strong enough to push away. He wouldn't stop trying to escape, though.

Supported in a strange angle that allowed him to cough facing downwards, he felt the entire world do a flip when they took flight. He still pushed against the demon, using his back, twisting to use his hands, anything.

Arthur could feel himself drifting in and out of consciousness on the way. He would fight for a little bit, then everything would go fuzzy and he'd have strange thoughts that seemed perfectly logical until he would wake up again and continue trying to push away. Distinguishing reality from his imagination became a little difficult, because the meaningless daydreams seemed so real. Every movement hurt his bruised and bleeding muscles.

Strangely, the demon carrying him seemed worried. "Paranomia? Hey, stay with me. We're almost there." Arthur woke up abruptly and tried turning around so he could push harder. "That's right, keep fighting me. Just stay awake, okay?"

The flight seemed to take hours. Arthur was pretty sure they were lost, but then again his head spun so much he thought they were taking vertical turns. At one point, he had somehow managed to turn himself so his body was facing the demon, a position he could exert the most force, and his eyes suddenly seemed to hold weights. Letting them slide closed, he went limp and conceded, his only movements being slight jerks when he had to cough.

"...Paranomia?" He felt everything slow down to a stop, and his mind went reeling. "Hey, wake up, dude. Come on. Please." his eyes opened a little bit, and he could see shame and guilt on the other's face. He could still feel the gentle rocking motions of flying, and guessed the demon had stopped and was just hovering to check on him. "We're almost there, Paranomia. Just a little further. Fight me or something, stay with me, please." he panted, probably tired from carrying him.

Arthur tried to say 'no' and ended up gagging on something in his throat, and instead made a strange sound of pain when his neck strained from the action. Occupied with trying not to die, Arthur felt the demon take the time to adjust his hold on Arthur. He grabbed his arms and wrapped them around his own neck, and then pulled Arthur closer to himself. Arthur was forced to use his knees to find a grip on the other demon's waist, otherwise he would fall, and that wasn't a good idea at the moment.

The demon winced when he went forward again. "Okay, maybe carrying you wasn't such a good idea. You're not that heavy, but you're not exactly light as a feather either." Arthur could hear the teasing tone in his voice. After a couple of seconds that passed after an eternity, he felt them slowing down once more.

They landed. The demon had moved his arms on Arthur's upper and lower back to support him, and walked inside a room Arthur had been in only once before. He could tell that before the bouncing movement of walking made his head fall into the Demon's shoulder. The demon was oddly warm, and Arthur found himself relaxing little by little. The warmth felt so nice..."Nurse! Hey, where are you? I need some help!"

Arthur let his eyes close and just listened, not bothering to push away anymore. "Yes? Oh, it's you. You've gone and Raged on another one?"

"Yea...At least he's alive. I somehow snapped out of it before I could kill him."

"Interesting. How badly is he injured?"

"I...don't know. I don't think he can talk or anything, I might have crushed his throat." something rubbed Arthur's back, and it felt like the demon's hand. God, it was so soothing. It took everything Arthur had left not to snuggle closer.

"Mm. I'll see what I can do. You can go." the nurse's voice suddenly got quieter, as if she'd turned and faced the other way.

Arthur felt the demon go stiff. "N-no! I've hurt him badly, I have to help him!" he protested. "I...I don't want him to be afraid of me like the others are. Besides, he's one of the best fighters around here! I don't want to be made his enemy." he added, as if scrambling for the answer.

The nurse was silent for a moment. "...Very well. You can set him on the cot over there if you want to heal him."

They turned, and Arthur was taken to a strange cushy thing that felt similar to a cloud. Not as soft. But comfortable. He was set down carefully, as if he was a delicate object, and he immediately collapsed on the soft surface upon contact. It seemed to startle the demon when Arthur fell out of his grasp. "H-hey! Paranomia, are you alright?"

Arthur couldn't nod, say anything, or move for the most part to indicate any answer. The most he could do was open his eyes as much as the sudden bright light would let him and look at the demon. He was still afraid, there was no denying that. But he had made himself calm down so he didn't make it worse. It hurt to breathe, and slowing that down somehow managed to slow his heart as well. He was caught in a self-induced state of placidness.

The demon's eyes seemed to light up when Arthur actually acknowledged him. He sat down on the next 'cot' over and looked down, seeming to sort out his thoughts, then met Arthur's eyes again. He opened his mouth as if to say something, when the nurse walked in. Now that Arthur wasn't facing the opposite direction, he could see she had short silver hair and cold lavender eyes, and looked like she ate rather well as opposed to some of the pencil-thin demons he saw at the base often.

"Hmm." she said, giving Arthur a once-over. "His neck is wounded. Badly. It looks like you clipped his wing along the edge there..." she gestured down to his right wing, which hurt to much to fold to his back, so it hung limply over the edge of the strange surface Arthur was laying on. "...and he's bleeding in a couple of other places. His neck will be the hardest, you better hope the worst of it is external." she had a strange accent that Arthur didn't recognise.

Now Arthur was confused. Not understanding, he slid his gaze painfully over to the demon. He seemed to agree with the nurse, staring at Arthur as if in deep thought. "Yea. I have to ask permission first, right?"

"If he can answer. The wounds could be considered fatal because you did nearly choke him to death, so maybe not. He might not be able to think clearly." the nurse told him, and Arthur was suddenly frightened. What was he going to do? He could hear just fine, but understanding words or implications wasn't as easy in this state.

"Uh, okay." The demon stood and looked down shyly at Arthur. "Paranomia." he said simply, addressing him to check if he was listening. "I request permission to heal you. You were injured by my hand and therefore I owe a debt to you. Let me repay it by undoing the damage." he reached forward to rest his hand on the soft surface, making it dip a bit.

Arthur blinked once, making a strange face. The eyes of the demon looked so earnest and honest, and the angel in him wanted to lay all of his trust in him like he would any other angel. The demon in him was still scared and tentative about confirming anything, because he still didn't understand what the demon was going to do.

The nurse sighed. "He isn't thinking clearly. I would just go ahead and heal him, I will stand back." she told him.

The demon nodded and suddenly leaned over Arthur. "I'm going to heal you now. This might hurt a little at first, but not for long. I swear." he knelt down and gently lifted Arthur's wounded wing. Arthur let out a faint hiss at the movement, and suddenly felt a warm and wet sensation along the bony edge. It felt so weird, and Arthur almost didn't want to look. He'd never experienced anything like it before, and it wasn't exactly pleasant.

He decided to turn his head away. It hurt to move his neck at all, but it just felt too uncomfortable to even attempt to look at what the demon was doing. He faced the wall, his breathing coming out a little faster than before.

"He is getting nervous," the nurse warned. "I don't think he gets healed very often. You should hurry. His head is turned, go ahead and get his neck after you've finished the wing."

Arthur heard a small grunt of acknowledgement from the demon. The weird feeling on his wing suddenly disappeared, and, flexing it on his own a little, he realised so had the pain. Shocked, Arthur made a move to turn over and see what exactly had happened, but the demon was suddenly over him and held him still without warning.

Before he could protest by pushing him away, he suddenly felt the demon's hot breath on his neck and, not long after, that wet feeling as well. His face twisted with very near disgust, and he began to struggle a little bit, feeling violated. He couldn't move his head because the demon used his hand to prevent it. He couldn't use his arms or wings because the demon was careful to pin them down as well. Arthur let out a startled gasp of pain when the pressure began to push harder on his neck.

A hand forced his chin upwards, and the disturbingly moist feeling travelled down the other side of his neck. An involuntary whimper escaped him and he shut his eyes tightly, not able to fight it. Until he realised something. He could actually whimper. It hurt, but he could.

The demon suddenly pulled away, still holding Arthur's hands down. At the sudden rush of cold air, Arthur shut his eyes even tighter. "Oh." the demon said quietly. "He's shaking."

"Mmhm." the nurse said, not really sounding like she cared. "Just as I thought. You can get most of the bruising, because they are close enough to the skin. But there is more internal damage in his throat. See how the discolouration is still there?"

The demon let out a heavy breath. "Okay. So do I...?" he seemed to ask a silent question, only indicated by action.

"It might surprise him. Be careful." the nurse said quietly.

Arthur's eyes shot open when he felt the demon climb up over him on the soft cloud-like space. Before he could even react properly, the demon had his legs pinned, his wings, and then his arms by his wrists. He bent down so low his chin almost brushed against Arthur's chest, and he met eyes with him. "Paranomia, all I can tell you is that this is going to feel weird." he told him, and smiled apologetically. "Just don't panic, okay?"

Arthur tried to shake his head, and attempted to scoot away as if it would help. All he had to do was drink the tears of angels and he would be fine! There was no way he was going to be able to do that, though. Not now.

Trying to stop his struggling, the demon leaned forward faster than Arthur could flinch and pressed his mouth painfully on Arthur's, forcing it open. Gagging, Arthur practically went hysterical and started putting up a bigger struggle. He couldn't get anywhere while the demon was using his own weight on him, but he was making it difficult for the demon to retrain him.

He managed to kick out and knock something over, and even wrench a hand free so he could push up on the demon to get him off. But it didn't work; the demon held strong, despite seeming pained with what Arthur was doing.

"Be careful! You're only choking him again! He needs to breathe, hurry up!" Arthur vaguely heard the nurse over the racket he was making, and she was probably scrambling to clean things up. He felt something warm go down his throat, and it obstructed his breathing. She was right, he was going to choke.

By now, the demon was having a terrible time trying to keep Arthur down. He was getting a little stronger and weaker at the same time without realising, and it was beginning to overwhelm his oppressor. Practically convulsing trying to free himself, he flailed as much as he could. Arthur couldn't see anyway, so he closed his eyes tightly and pushed as hard as he could while losing air.

Just as he began to lose his fight again, it was over. The warm thing choking him suddenly slithered out of his throat and Arthur immediately found himself covering his mouth to cough, this time, without all of the pain. He was too busy trying to get air to be that surprised.

The demon gently pushed on Arthur's back to help him roll on his side so he could actually cough productively, and then crawled off of him. Looking over Arthur once more, he waited until he looked like he was done retching out a lung before coming near him. He pulled Arthur's hands away from his face so he could look at his neck. "...Does that feel any better, Paranomia?" he asked, breathing hard like he was still recovering.

Arthur found that he could nod now. He kept his eyes on the opposite wall, and nodded weakly while catching his breath as well.

The demon seemed relieved. "Oh, good. I did it right, then. Okay, I think you still have bruises cuts along your arms and stuff...Can you sit up?" he looked curiously at him.

Blinking, Arthur's eyes flickered over to the demon. "I..." he began, and was startled when he could actually speak. "I th-think so." he said. Slowly bracing a hand behind him, Arthur tried to raise himself.

Without even being asked, the demon stepped forward and helped Arthur so he could sit up straight. Head still spinning, Arthur didn't make any move to protest when the demon began to undo the straps and take off the top of Arthur's uniform, so he just had his dark red dress shirt on. Finally calm enough to think, he watched quietly as the demon began to roll up Arthur's sleeves to tend to his forearms, which had bruises that strangely resembled hands.

Arthur frowned when the demon moved his face close to a bruise, and instinctively tried to pull his arm back. Freezing at his reaction, the demon's eyes flashed up to Arthur to make sure he was alright with what he was doing before continuing. Arthur tried to convince himself that the demon had no intention of hurting him anymore; he was trying to heal him.

"You need to relax," the nurse said, and Arthur looked up at her in surprise. "He's trying to help you. You know help doesn't come easy in Hell. I would be a little more forgiving if I were you."

Choosing not to answer, Arthur simply sighed and turned his attention back to the demon. He had carefully taken the angel's hand and used his other to steady Arthur's elbow. Then, without any more delay, he opened his mouth and began to run his tongue along the bruises.

Arthur almost recoiled back in horror, only just managed to restrain himself. His eyes went a little wide with shock, though, and the nurse was probably noticing his strange reactions. Swallowing thickly, Arthur tried to collect himself before he did something weird that would give him away even more. So that was the warm and wet feeling from before. The demon was licking him.

Gathering his dignity and courage, Arthur forced himself to glance down at his trembling hand. The demon was still holding it steady, and Arthur tried not to make a face despite how repulsed he felt, watching the demon pass his tongue all along the swollen skin. Angels never did anything even remotely close, except maybe to cry on another's wound.

Feeling shaky and slightly nauseous, Arthur watched the livid marks disappear and heal. That was when he finally realised he'd worked it out. Demons do have a natural way to heal themselves and each other. Instead of tears like angels, its...saliva. The mere word made him shiver in revulsion. That was why the nurse and the demon helping him were so nonchalant about it; it was a completely normal occurrence.

The demon checked Arthur over for any other wounds, even when Arthur insisted he was fine. What was even stranger was how the demon kept apologising profusely, since Arthur didn't recall demons to be particularly apologetic creatures. He apologised for hurting him, for chasing him, for removing his jacket, for touching him at all, and a lot of other things. Arthur had to guess that what the demon had done to him was definitely not a regular situation, and having to make it better was both uncomfortable and against demon nature.

It wasn't long until Arthur could finally leave the infirmary. The demon flew him out after thanking the nurse for her help, and kept up with him. Arthur had a feeling the demon would follow him all the way back to the cylindrical room even though everyone was likely gone by now, but, oddly enough, he didn't mind all that much. Arthur didn't know the demon all too well, and it might have been a side effect of being healed and spending so much time with him, but the company was oddly comforting.

Arthur rounded a wide right to give the demon room to turn as well, and found just what he expected. The tall silver archway was there, but the doors were closed. This made a little more of the dark engravings of doomed angels visible, and as soon as he touched the floor, Arthur turned away before he could get too caught up in it.

"...Paranomia?" the demon asked quietly, landing next to him.

Glancing at him, Arthur nodded to indicate he was listening.

The demon smiled nervously, and wrung his hands. "I know you probably don't like me, since I tried to kill you and all, so I understand if you say no. I just..." he looked sheepishly off to the side. "I really admire how strong you are. You could probably take on an entire legion of angels! Also, you're the only one who had survived my, uh, Rage. I don't know how, but you did. I think you're a little more powerful than you let on, yea? Anyway, I would...I would like to request Opia." he looked up hopefully at Arthur.

Arthur didn't know what to say. He was surprised and confused. He was also a little afraid, because the fear of nearly being choked to death by him wouldn't go away for awhile. Looking up at the taller demon, he observed his blue eyes as bright as the skies of heaven, his hair black as a raven's feather. He was definitely more muscular in form than Arthur was, his horns were thicker, his wingspan wider. His tail was probably longer too. He was very frightening for a demon, and also rather distinguishable; he wore a particular black leather jacket over his uniform that looked like something a human pilot would wear. He made for a very peculiar character.

He was still afraid. Any second, he felt those blue eyes would turn red again and he would be killed. For his own sake, he prayed that it didn't happen. But, that was something he felt he could get over. Other than that, he really didn't have a reason to say no.

Arthur held out his hands palms-up. "Alright." he said, finding himself amused at the flash of what appeared joy in the demon's blue eyes. When the other placed his hands in Arthur's and looked up at him, Arthur felt a strange trust towards him like he would in a close friend. He offered a small smile. "It just occurred to me that I don't yet know your name, after all this." he chuckled. "Also, could you, um, explain what you mean by 'Rage'?"

The demon nodded eagerly, and didn't seem to notice that he gripped Arthur's hands tighter out of excitement. "My name's Alfred! I think you're Arthur, right? Most demons here only know you as Paranomia. Oh, and yea, Rage..." he trailed off. "You're not really from around here, are you?"

Arthur cautiously shook his head.

"Well, Rage is a kind of..." Alfred looked like he was trying to think of the right word. "...Impairment? Disability? I don't know, man. Rage is something that gets triggered by most negative emotions; some dude told me it was a rush of chemicals to the brain or something like that." he laughed nervously. "It's very rare. I am one of the few demons to ever be inflicted with it. Basically, I just want to kill everything. It's an uncontrollable fury, which is why it's lucky you survived; most of the time it's only stopped after the emotional release of..." he hesitated, fidgeting awkwardly.

"Of...?" Arthur implored, fascinated by this sudden confession.

"...Of killing something." Alfred said quietly. "Most other demons don't mind killing, but I do. And I have killed more than once. It hurts. Right here." he released one of Arthur's hands and poked at his chest, as if he didn't know what a heart was. "I don't like killing. I know that sounds cowardly because that's what everyone says, I...I just don't want anyone to be afraid of me, which is why I want to be your friend. I also really want to know how you managed to make me stop before I killed you, because I can't figure it out. You're an odd case. Just like me." he gave a sheepish but toothy grin, fangs and all. "Everyone knows you're, like, super powerful! But you aren't cruel like most strong demons are. You can be kind too, and I like that about you."

Arthur didn't recall a single time in his life when he'd been complimented so many times at once. Flattered, he could feel himself blushing. "W-well, I, um, thank you. Alfred." he replied. "I hope we can be good friends. You have my loyalty." he pledged, praying to the Lord that this wasn't a mistake.

O~o~O

It wasn't until later that night that all of the negative feelings and thoughts finally caught up to Arthur.

He was curled up on the ground behind a crate to shield himself from the cold wind that was making the biting air chiller than usual. Head buried in his hands, he gasped quietly to himself and fought his tears. No one could know he was crying.

His gentle sobs shaking his figure, he reflected on all of the recent events. How he had learnt of Rage. How he had finally figured out how demons can heal. How he had very nearly been killed. How he had almost all of the demons he knew on his side. How he had won all of their respect by spilling blood. He imagined the disappointed look on Camael's face at seeing what he'd become. He imagined the evil leer on Phobos and Deimos's faces at seeing what he was slowly becoming.

"I don't know what's worth fighting for..." he whispered. "Or why I have to scream...I don't know why I instigate, and say what I don't mean." he curled up even tighter and covered his face with his wings. "I don't know how I got this way, I know it's not alright..."

Letting out a shaky breath, he rolled over into a more comfortable position. Combing his red hair out of his face, he closed his eyes, letting the tears free. He knew what he must do now. "I'm breaking the habit..." he murmured. "I'm breaking the habit tonight."

O~o~O

Chapter Text

“M-my Lord…” a quiet voice slit through the serene silence. “D-do you fare well? You have not seen the sun for days…”

The sleeping archangel responded and shifted a little, dark brown hair falling in long tresses around his tired face. His silvery eyes peeked at his apprentice, and then he elegantly rose to stretch his wings. The first pair was already there, still holding traces of the traditional yellow powder from all of the celebrations in his feathers. He summoned the other two pairs, and slowly stood as he spread all six of his impressive wings.

“I am fine, child.” Camael yawned, watching as the younger angel took a polite step back to acknowledge the seraph. “I am an angel of light, I do not require it.”

“I am sorry.” Feliciano apologised quickly. “I thought embracing the sun would give you a chance to relax. Your skin is becoming pale, perhaps basking in the rays for a few hours would return...your...complexion…?” he hesitated because Camael had slowly lowered his head until it looked like he was glaring.

He shook his head. “Sinful thoughts, my dear child. I cannot think of such leisurely activities when I have an angel to watch.” he tutted disapprovingly.

“O-of course, Camael.” Feliciano nodded and bowed respectfully.

Letting out a deep sigh, Camael combed his long, slender fingers through his silky hair. His wings absentmindedly stretched out along with his arms, following their movements. It felt pleasant to use muscles that had been still for so long.

He noticed Feliciano watching with awe, probably wondering how he controlled so many limbs at once. Smiling gently, he decided to ease the poor angel’s nerves, rather than put him even more on edge. “My child…” he began softly. “How does it feel to be a Principality now?”

Feli blushed bashfully, which Camael found endearing for a young angel full of such promise. Fingering his beautiful uniform that was decorated with lots of free flowing cloth and woven gold, he shyly looked up at Camael. “It is a glorious feeling, my Lord. More power than I deserve.”

“Do not be silly,” Camael laughed. “Of course you deserve power! You are, after all, my assistant in all of this.” he gestured behind him, all the space he’d been watching over the Bereft. “You are as brave as he is, you know. He was such a gorgeous angel…” he said dreamily.

“...Was?” Feli inquired tentatively.

Camael turned around and faced the Principality with an almost wicked grin. “You don’t really expect him to remain an angel, do you?”

The larger angel was slowly approaching the smaller one, who was backing away. “I-I do not understand, my Lord!” his wide gaze darted helplessly around the blue spherical room, which seemed to be flickering with faded lights, having been projecting images for so long.

“What is there not to understand?” Camael asked, his eyes alight with wild fire. “The Bereft has no place here, he never did! He belongs with the demons, if not further within Hell. He practically is a fallen angel!”

Feliciano gasped, and covered his mouth. “H-how could you say that?! Arthur sacrificed everything for us! Even if he is not truly meant to, he is going to save everyone from this war!” he defended proudly, standing his ground defiantly.

Only at Camael’s frightening silence did he realise he had spoken out of turn. Stumbling over words, he folded his wings back and lowered his head subjectively in panic. “I-I’m so sorry, I-I did not mean-!”

“Did I give permission to address the Bereft by name?” Camael hissed softly.

“N-no, my Lord.” Feliciano squeaked.

“Did I give permission to speak so blatantly?” the seraphim approached the principality ominously, almost looming over the smaller angel.

“N-no, my L-Lord!” Feliciano’s voice rose a pitch out of fear, and his gaze was further averted to the floor.

Camael grinned. “Then why do you disagree, my dearest child? Surely you wouldn’t want to end up like little Arthur, all sad and cold and alone with no one left to love…” he said pitifully, as if he were threatening Feliciano. “He lacks everything that makes him an angel! Angels are happy, warm, and always have plenty of others to play and frolic with! Are you not happy here in Heaven? I can give you and all of the other true angels everything...And I will. I promise, all Arthur was was an obstruction to the glorious future I have planned out. You needn’t worry your little head about it.” he walked past, ruffling Feliciano’s hair. “Now, be a good principality and go inform a Messenger that we will initiate another attack soon. This time, I will lead it.”

Feliciano looked like he was trying to hide the fact he was tearing up. “Yes, my Lord.” he whispered. He quickly swiped at his eyes and solemnly spread his wings to flutter out of the dome-like room. Before he exited, he cast a frightened glance back at Camael, before using magic to open the door and fly off to attend to his duties.

“Mm.” Camael sighed, his eyelids lowered pleasantly. “Such a typical angel. He can never understand what it is to be the maestro of fate...What true fulfillment is, what it means to desire…” he turned around, and strolled slowly to the centre of the room. “He doesn’t know that sinning is forgivable, he’s too strictly bound to the rules. Just like most angels, lacking in headstrong or bold wishes…” he opened his hands, weaving them around him until they glowed with an eerie blue light. “He doesn’t know that his obedience is only due to his weak conscious...If it didn’t hurt them so much, perhaps the angels would have done as you have, my dear Arthur…”

His content smile widened as the light danced around the room, lighting up the dull space with shimmering tendrils of light that began to dance around the seraphim. The thin vines of magic appeared to pulse, switching from silvery blue to golden yellow again and again light a heartbeat. Slowly, the gentle light began to form outlines, forming shapes and figures all around Camael. It was quite a dazzling sight, to see all of the scenery just with light. The spell always struck wonder into everyone who saw it, because the only other who used this magic regularly was God himself. This spell was how angels watched over humans.

Of course, Camael wasn’t watching over a human. He always watched over the Bereft One, without any shame. He watched over Arthur as he battled his way around the maze of hell, and watched as he managed to get a foothold on his situation and begin what he believed he should do. Such an admirable character, normally any other angel would have given up and resorted to simply hoping and praying. But not Arthur, no, never Arthur. If something had to be done, he would not hesitate to do it. He would easily put his life on the line for what was right. Such an angel he was, yet, not even close.

Camael was endlessly enticed by his character.

It would be easy to say Camael had fallen in love with Arthur, but it was much more complicated than that. This love was different, not romantically related in any way. This was a kind of love that very few living beings could empathise or even begin to understand, because the love was a very rare kind. This was the love that sparked a strange kind of magic in his eyes that wasn’t from the dancing lights around him. It warmed him, fueling his motivation to achieve what he had set years ago, and gave him inspiration to continue his life’s work. It made his black heart catch in his chest at the mere thought, and left his mind to soften and relax.

This kind of love was an obsession. A malevolent desire that could grind on his nerves and make his heart sing. For Camael, the love was like that feeling that bubbles up when asked for his greatest wish. He knew exactly what he wanted, but at the same time, he had no idea. He could easily grasp it, but, for some inexplicable reason, he couldn’t yet bring his hand to close. He wanted it so badly, and if frustrated him to no end because he couldn’t have it.

“I could end this now,” he whispered, reaching towards Arthur’s still image with a sure hand, and delicately grazed the ever-changing strands with his fingertips. “I could end this, and watch you weep until the end of the worlds...But I cannot yet.” he retracted his hands and expanded the image, looking at the soft outline of his sleeping angel. “I cannot bring myself to stop watching your story unfold. It is becoming an addiction...A beautiful...addiction…” he trailed off and smiled when the image showed the Bereft shift his position. Camael shifted the angle he was watching to get a better sight of him.

The light moved in such a way that Camael’s eyes became overshadowed, and his entire figure became rather ominous. “It’s bugging me, grating me...” he murmured, feeling himself move around the room and follow the pulsing magic. “And twisting me around...I am endlessly caving in, and turning inside out…”

As if Arthur could hear him, Camael lashed out his arms, making the magical image grow bolder and brighter, and began to yell. “I want you now...I want you now! Give me your heart and your soul!” his hands ripped at the magic, and it fell apart like sand before it fixed itself. “And I’m breaking out...I’m breaking out, last chance to lose control!” with one final wild thrash out, he let himself fall to the floor and curled up, giggling to himself.

“Too...far out of...reach…” he said softly, looking up at the spherical image again.

Arthur was still sleeping, and Camael observed his beautiful figure with yearning silver eyes. He wanted Arthur badly, but not in any particular way. Some days he just wished to embrace Arthur as tightly as he could and lay in silent peace, and others he wanted to cut him into small parts and dissect the angel just to hear him scream. He could never decide what he wanted, and most of his reason for anything he did was to find out.

The best way to have Arthur was to watch him as he grew, developing interests and preferences and opinions and wishes...It was so fascinating for Camael, and it balanced out his odd mixture of motherly, lustful, unconditional, and sensual feelings about the Bereft. Watching him meet and learn to appreciate new friends, and keep his angel self a secret piqued a very intimate interest in Camael. He could not wait until more of his flaws were uncovered, until he realised that his task was utterly futile, and until he broke down and fell for the final time.

Falling. That reminded Camael of that other demon, the one who called himself Alfred. He had done a selfless act by catching Arthur when he fell, which was unusual for a demon. He seemed to admire Arthur, and Camael could only grin at the thought. A new character to introduce to the story, perhaps that was the best way to put it.

Foolish angel. It would not be long before Arthur was driven into an insanity much like Camael, because there was no possible way anyone could fend for themselves in Hell. Not even demons from the inner circles. It might be prolonged now, most likely because of Arthur cleverly gaining followers and perhaps friends. Namely this Alfred character, because he seemed to respect Arthur even more fervently than the angels in Heaven.

Ah. Well. Only time could tell. Time indeed...The one thing Camael could not manipulate.

He could do everything else, though. Rising with the elegance of the most divine creature in existence, Camael used a spell to don his battle armour, and spread all six wing to full length. He took one glance back at the image of his little angel that caused all of this hysteria.

Camael, blinked slowly at Arthur. “I want you now...I want you now…” he repeated. “I’ll feel my heart implode, I’m breaking out, escaping now…” his expression suddenly melted into a devilish grin. “Feeling my faith erode…”

O~o~O

Chapter Text

O~o~O

This was the day. Camael could smell it in the air when the angels began to wake up with the sun that morning, and it almost made him shiver with anticipation. It was a particularly warm day, but despite that all he could feel was goosebumps crawling along his skin.

It was quite humid, actually. Heaven was usually alight with glorious light and warm rays that the angels loved to embrace. The only way to cover up the sun was with dark thoughts, and those were provided almost uncontrollably by Camael. Grey clouds began to wander dangerously close to the bright star.

A small group of low-ranking angels fixed up Camael’s uniform, adjusting his heavy, pearly white armour and decorating all six wings with the powdered colours of Heaven; Red and Gold. He kept a steady and slightly bored gaze upward, at the slowly darkening skies that no one else seemed to notice. It was a little amusing to see the angels gradually looking duller and duller and not even realising it.

It satisfied him to almost no end. With a mild grin, he watched all the saddened and despondent angels go about their duties like ghosts.

The Angelican Army was preparing for war. Angels and Archangels were tending to the armour and decorations on Powers, Virtues, and Dominions, as well as other higher angels like Camael. The Seraph enjoyed observing all of the big shields and sharp spears being passed around, and how some of the warriors were practicing summoning their bows and arrows. It was unfamiliar to see such gentle creatures with such dangerous weapons, and it made Camael feel sinfully good.

A Cherubim approached him, his face straight and stony. Camael recognised him as Zadkiel, the one who had comforted Arthur the day he fell from Heaven. Most humans recognised him as an Archangel, and his magic bore a particular purple light, thus the lavender coloured tips on his feathered wings. But now he was a Cherubim after years of offering Mercy to humans. Camael could recognise the four faces; on his armour, there was the face of an Ox on the left, the face of a Lion on the right, and the face of an Eagle on his helmet. Despite such a high rank, his eyes looked almost dead.

“My Lord,” he greeted Camael, and bowed gracefully. “I come to inquire, where will we lay siege upon the Demonocracy?”

Camael smiled one of those leering grins. “Deeper within Hell than before, I can assure you. It will be a large city near the border to Earth. We will have to be careful to mind the humans.”

“Of course.” Zadkiel agreed, breathing out carefully. Camael could sense that wasn’t really what he had wanted to ask, so he waited. He waited, and watched the angel stretch his wings, watching the feathers twitch irritably because he wasn’t used to the decorative powder. He picked up many details with his keen silvery eyes without looking around too much. “I...I was also wondering if you knew of the...Bereft’s whereabouts.” Zadkiel got out eventually.

“Mm.” Camael’s broad grin started to seem a little wicked. “You are worried about him. I can assure you, my child, that the Bereft should not be of your concern. He is doing what he is meant to do.”

“But-!” Zadkiel began to protest, but then cut himself off and looked down, seeming so nervous being on the edge of heaven. “My Lord, our Messengers have no way of warning him. What if he is at the place we intend to attack? We never told him that the Angelicans would make a move on the offensive while he was there at all. What if he cannot escape?”

“I have trust that the Bereft can take care of himself.” Camael assured him, not meaning a word of it. “You should as well. He is occupied with his mission of acting as a Revolutionary. It is highly unlikely that he would be where we are going.”

Zadkiel was still uneasy. But he had already come too close to crossing the line, and simply nodded before turning to fly back in position. Camael grinned smugly at his obedience, and turned back to face Hell below the army. Once the angels realised the beauty of it, he was certain that the rest of them would fall into place for his beautiful plan. He loved the concept; that a glorious future awaited them, and yet they did not know. Time always seemed to last too long, for Camael at least. It was like pouring Holy Water out of a goblet, in that most of it would pour out quickly, except for the remaining droplets that took a little longer.

Frustratingly longer.

Heaving a deep but calm sigh, Camael let his reflective silver eyes wander around the army, spying Francis, whom was being tended to by Feliciano. Such a valiant commander; never disobeyed or strayed from his orders. The Power-ranked angel was always trustworthy, despite often keeping to himself.

He was always a rank above Arthur, from what Camael remembered. When the other higher Seraphim watched over the Bereft in heaven, they had noticed their little rivalry. By now, after all that the Bereft had done and achieved, he would be above Francis if he was in heaven. But unfortunately, he would only ever be a simple angel. He would never move up, because he would never return. He would die a simple Messenger.

Poor little Arthur. All of his foolish hopes and selfish dreams...If Camael hadn’t lost his Mercy, he would pity the angel. He had managed to put the Bereft in an impossible situation with unachievable goals, and it was the perfect way to trap him to prevent any encounter with him. He would drive himself mad in Hell and eventually die. It was the only way the angels could do what they were meant to; sacrifices had to be made.

Camael knew he was doing the angels a favour by lying to them about Arthur.

He also knew exactly how to assure that this attack would be successful. He would play on the one thing that could connect all angels, the one thing that they all loved and cherished as a species. It would also startle and confuse the demons, which would be perfect for their objective. Since he would be the highest angel there, he would be giving the orders. So, with every armed angel within the vicinity at his command, he could do whatever he wanted.

It was wickedly perfect. Everything was set, and all that remained to do was to make sure the angels were ready. Some of them knew and did not seem to mind that they would have to kill a few demons here and there. Others had no idea. But they would. They would understand once they were finished.

It was nearly sundown by the time the entire army was set, which was perfect. After watching the Bereft and picking up on the same things he did, Camael knew it was about this time the demons began to sleep. Another mass assault on a sleeping army would be ideal.

Camael spread his six wings and flew to the head of the massive army. With a single wave of his hand, every single one of the hundreds of angels before him took flight and hovered in the air above the clouds. He watched all of their wings, some brown, some blonde, some resembling those of birds of prey, some with the bright colours of their magic. He had control of all of these lovely creatures.

“Angelicans!” he commanded, and they all simultaneously moved their shields up front and their spears on their right. “We fly to the Northeast! We will attack the Demonocracy closer than before and bring forth suffering to their kind! Leave your Mercy here in Heaven, where it belongs! Show no Mercy, and no Remorse!”

“No Mercy and no Remorse!” the army echoed back.

“We will bring down Hell from above, and the Angelicans will rise! Protect the humans and kill the demons!” Camael yelled, raising his fist.

“Protect the humans and kill the demons!” all of the angels raised their shields with Camael.

“Glory awaits, us, my angels! Let us fight!” as the sky resounded with battle cries and shouts, Camael grinned proudly at his work. This was how it was meant to be. This was a glimpse into the future he so heavily desired.

He waited for the army to calm down before sealing their obedience. The one thing the angels would listen to forevermore, for eternity. A song.

“War is overdue!” he raised his voice and sang, making sure everyone could hear him. “The time has come for you, to shoot your leaders down! Join forces underground!”

As if they were hypnotised, the angels began to sing the phrase back to him, easily harmonising, turning it into a round, and becoming the choir of an army Camael wanted. It was absolutely perfect.

Camael rose with his army, climbing higher and higher until he suddenly dove downwards, and the Angelicans began to dive with him. They maneuvered around him as they followed, forming a giant protective diamond with himself at the centre. The army descended down from the skies of Heaven to the churning fires of Hell below, and the haunting phrase echoed around him over and over. “War is overdue...War is overdue...The time has come for you…”

The air began to cool as the angels delved deeper and deeper within Hell. After a while, the song began to turn to occasional whispers that rang around the stony landscape. There were ravaged cathedrals, broken pillars, and buildings that leaned dangerously far off centre. The still gargoyles and shattered statues didn’t seem to strike fear into the army, which was a little unusual. The blue of the dark sky and the hazy grey of the fog hushed the city and did not faze any of the angels. It was both thrilling and frightening.

They were as quiet as the desolate grounds. Camael noted that the Angelicans collectively tried to silence their long wingbeats, and the only evidence of their passing was a quick rush of air. This was exactly what he had wanted, and his plan advanced flawlessly.

Arthur would wake up to a Hell of a nightmare, Camael knew that much.

It was only about an hour before Camael finally signaled for the angels to come to a halt, and he allowed them a moment to gaze in frightened wonder at the enormous citadel before them. It was at the peak of the city, and the closest space to the angels because of how high in the air they were. The organised yet broken down fortification held all of the demons, who had no idea that they were about to see the end.

This was the time.

Camael began to murmur a spell, holding out both of his hands. “Bring me my bow of burning gold…” a molten, glowing object began to take form in his left hand, seeming to spark with magic. “Bring me my arrows of desire…” an object of a deep, rich red weaved itself into his right hand.

The angels began to prepare. “Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold!” he cried, the dark sky suddenly seemed to lighten at his words, and the blood-orange sun peeked through down to Hell for the first time in centuries. It was still setting, so the light wouldn’t remain for long. It was enough to bring life into the army, and he could feel their anticipation rippling through them.

And finally, the words that would unleash the fury of a thousand suns. “Bring me my Chariots of Fire!” Camael roared, finally summoning his full weapon and lighting the skies.

The angels along the front lines lashed their arms outward, creating a spell that outlined countless shapes that began to take the form of wild horses. The sheer amount of magic was exhausting them on the spot, which was why there was an angel behind all of them to help create the burning stallions and the fiery carts behind them.

Almost at all the same time as Camael released his fiery arrow, hundreds of chariots of fire began to rain down on the citadel, setting fire to the military base. Immediately, demons were awakened from the inside, and were out of the buildings to see what was going on. If they didn’t get trapped inside. Once they realised what was happening, the demons began to scream and alert the others.

Some of them were blinded by the sun. Some of them perished with the fires of the magic horses. Some of them flew around blindly, trying to awaken the others. Camael watched them scurry around like ants as he advanced the army, and with one hand, signaled for them to leave none alive.

Immediately, the offensive angels summoned their bows and began shooting arrows of light into the mess of evil creatures. The angels with spears, who were followed by the defensive angels, flew in to attack the demons head on, whilst being protected by magic spells cast by the defensive ones. The remaining angels, which were many, still flew beside Camael until they were ordered to dive in.

He watched as demon blood began to spill. Little angel blood was being shed, but it was nothing compared to the wounds the angels were hacking into the demons. It wasn’t long before Camael could watch their lifeless bodies fall down into the black below with a pleasant smile. Everything was going right.

Camael decided to make the angels go in a little harder. Picking up from the song they had left before, he began to sing. “Lose control! Increase in pace!”

As he expected, in harmonising voices, the angels began to sing back. “Losing control...Increasing pace…”

“Warped and bewitched! Time to erase!” as the Hellish spawns of the Devil began to multiply in number, Camael could only grin at how the angels handled them with ease. He soon had all of the angels following his movements and charging the doomed demons. “Whatever they say, these people are torn, Wild and Bereft, Assassin is born!”

“Wild and Bereft, Assassin is born, whoah…” the angels repeated.

He waited a moment, letting the words echo around his army. Then, with a leer that could strike fear into anyone who met eyes with him, he gave them a new phrase to sing. “Oppose, and disagree! Destroy Demonocracy!”

With the new order set and said, the angels would abide. The words all wandered around, and Camael was pleased to see how afraid the demons were.

He launched right back into the merciless attack. “Lose control,” he directed the angels on his right to attack from above.

“Losing control…”

“Increase in pace,” he shot another arrow of fire, and let the angels strike on the inside.

“Increasing pace…”

“Warped and bewitched, time to erase! Whatever they say,” he continued, his excitement widen his smile.

“Whatever they say…”

Camael’s magic burned like the fires and lit up the skies like lava with the setting sun. “These people are torn!”

“These people are torn…”

And then, in a secret allusion, he referred once more to the only angel who could have done something about his reign, now rendered helpless. “Wild and Bereft, Assassin is born!”

“Wild and Bereft, Assassin is born, whoah…” the angels echoed back with their beautiful voices, unaware of what it meant.

The ominous singing was frightening the demons badly, and thus the white and colourful angels began to overtake the black and grey. They were falling in higher and higher numbers, and Camael couldn’t even begin to guess how many had lost their lives already. They were an infestation to the worlds, they needed to be rid of. Camael hoped he was getting this point across to the angels. And, if any of them died tonight, he would honour them. He would make them understand that this was right.

It was only when the sun had finally set that the screams and cries were silenced for the last time. Camael knew there were demons that had escaped, but it was obvious most of them were dead. He observed the bodies littered across the grounds, and those that had fallen even further in Hell. This was exactly what they deserved for being such malicious beings, and Camael knew he had done the worlds a favour.

He gathered the angels with a wave of his hand, and led his weary army back up to the glorious Heavens.

O~o~O

Hell was frightening.

That was the only thing the angel could think as he flew, ragged breaths and weak flapping slowing him down. He was trying to shed his armour and drop it unceremoniously to the stone ground, trying to remove any trace of where he was supposed to be. He searched desperately, knowing he was lost. He had one hope, and he would gladly die for it. If he never made it back to Heaven, he had to find the one soul who would understand.

Tears filled his eyes when he thought he could hear the evil giggles of demons that were watching him. He was scared, more scared than he ever had been in his life. But he had to do this, and perhaps his faith would save him. Turning a clumsy corner, he clipped his wing painfully on the edge of a brick wall and cried out in pain.

He tumbled to the ground, bruised and broken in more than a few ways. But he had to keep moving, out of sheer fear of anyone creeping up and following him. He quickly scrambled to his feet in panic, nearly slipping in his sandals, and took off sprinting on foot as fast as an angel could.

Hope stayed with him. He almost lost it, but through the tears streaming down his face, his Fidelity to God pushed him past exhaustion and injury. He had to do this.

The dark-skinned angel panted but kept running, with muscles he didn’t even know he had aching and burning. His body was slowly failing him, and he knew it. With one last push, he turned a corner, praying he was close.

He came to a relieved stop at the sight. He recognised this area vaguely, and saw a figure curled up on top of a crate. Thank God he was far from the attack, at least he wasn’t hurt.

The angel stumbled over to him, grinning through his tears. “Arthur,” he sobbed, trying to pull himself together and nearly tripping on the other. “Arthur, please, you must wake up. This is urgent!”

He rolled Arthur over onto his back and shook him vigorously, but to no avail. The angel knew it would be bad if he disturbed Arthur’s sleeping, but he had to tell him somehow. Perhaps he would wait. Giving Arthur one last shake, he sighed and backed up a step. He was shuddering almost violently because of how cold it was, and he assumed it was why Arthur had been curled up so tightly. The poor angel must always be cold.

With a warm smile, he unwrapped the elaborate top of his tunic and took it off, leaving only the basic top. He opened his arms to let it flutter in the slight breeze, and carefully laid it across Arthur. The decorative white fabric would be his gift, if he couldn’t give anything else. Arthur deserved more.

Bringing the soft blanket up to his chin, the angel’s hand passed over something underneath Arthur’s shirt. Curious, he brought the blanket back down and prodded Arthur because he didn’t know what it was. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt, he began to gently unbutton Arthur’s dark jacket, and eased his hand under it until he found it inside his jacket pocket.

Pulling it out quickly, his eyes lit up when he realised it was a journal. He began to flip through it without hesitation, knowing this was the perfect way to let Arthur know his message. He had to let him know.

His eyes wandered curiously over the pages, suddenly fascinated with the eloquence and organisation of it. He couldn’t actually read it, because it was written in an old language that Arthur probably used for secretive purposes. The diagrams weren’t hard to decipher, though, and he gazed in wonder at all the drawings and comparisons Arthur had scrawled in. Lots of simple Angel vs Demon drawings that portrayed all the similarities and differences, among other things. The angel was impressed.

He finally found an empty page, and forced himself to ignore his concern at seeing a couple papers spattered with what looked like blood. He used his magic to write, and concentrated on getting the message written down.

There was a small scrabbling sound. The angel froze, and in a nervous flash, he gritted his teeth and continued writing. Nothing was more important than the message. At the risk of his own life, he would protect Arthur’s and let him know what he needed to. It was necessary to the lives of everyone.

He finished writing and replaced it back where it belonged with shaking hands, making sure to button up his jacket again and pull the white cloth back on top of Arthur. With his mission finished, the angel sniffled and wiped at his tears. He quickly touched his injured wing with his hand, and turned around. Should he stay, and guard Arthur until he awakened? Or should he leave and try to find his way back to Heaven?

That question was quickly answered when the angel heard the unmistakable sound of a demon getting nearer. He could do both.

The Angel of Mercy whirled around and leaned down to press a soft kiss to Arthur’s forehead, and just as quickly, he turned and took flight.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

Arthur had awoken from the strangest dream.

It was a sort of haunting dream, but not in a way Arthur could really describe. It was more of a memory, and for some elusive reason, it made Arthur's heart catch in his chest out of fear. A mixture of emotions came from that dream, alternating from being slightly afraid, to getting annoyed, and then to wanting to cry and sit by himself for a long time.

Right then, he was stuck with that sad and lonely feeling.

He sat in the Cylindrical room at the military base, having woken up earlier than he should have. He was the only demon present, and he sat in his usual area twirling a feather between his fingers.

Sighing quietly, he looked around the still and dulled grey room for a moment more, before returning his glassy green eyes to the purple-tipped feather, careful not to crush the quill. The dream...it stirred a strange feeling in him. He could only name a few parts of it, because he wasn't as familiar with the more negative ones. But he knew for certain he felt homesick and upset.

The dream was back when he was a young angel in Heaven. He remembered very vividly, the warm wind that caressed his pale skin and made his hair and feathers flare up. The sun soothed his muscles, and relaxed him as it always did. Over all this time, he had forgotten what it had felt like to lose tension.

For most of it, he'd sat on a soft cloud in front of his favourite cathedral, the Cathedral of Song. He could remember hearing all of the beautiful voices coming from it, a never-ending ethereal choir that always sang ever-changing chords. The voices never said words, they just maintained an ominously glorious sound. Angels of all ranks would go inside to sing and come out when they had finished, and the calming song never stopped.

Arthur smiled a little bit, moving the feather close to his face and brushing it over his cheeks and lips. He blinked a few tears back, remembering how fond he was of the Cathedral of Song. It would often put him to sleep because it was so hypnotising, watching all different coloured angels with their gorgeous wings fly in and out on occasion, and listening very deeply to their sound. They would get softer and louder at seemingly random intervals, and maintain a droning dissonant chord that only wrenched more of the beautiful suspense in his fragile heart. The song was so familiar, and it made him feel so much nostalgia at once that he almost became dizzy.

The voices had gotten louder and louder until it had become an almost frightening and deafening buzz in his ears. His calm feeling gradually dissolved into an anxious and nervous emotion, and he woke up breathless. As if to add to the mysterious and scary feeling of it all, he had discovered a blanket draped over his body and a feather not far from where he slept.

He would recognise the elegant patterns in the cloth anywhere, the intricate golden designs and, for this part in particular, ornate purple markings of rank. It wasn't a blanket, it was part of a high angel's uniform. Without a doubt, Arthur knew an angel had come to visit him. He hadn't figured out why yet. He thought about writing it down in his journal for later, but suddenly couldn't stand to sit still any longer and instead made himself fly off towards the base. He decided the best thing to do with the blanket was to leave it with his angel self. So before he had left, he performed the switching spell behind a couple of crates, wrapped the half-uniform around himself, and then switched back. It magically disappeared, with the rest of his angel qualities.

Arthur was alone, playing with the delicate lavender-tipped feather in his hand absentmindedly. He had recently begun to think of himself as strictly Paranomia when he was in the large room, but now he could only think of himself as the pathetic little lonely angel that he was. He might have lost his former opinion of Angelicans, but now he wanted desperately to have been ignorant of Heaven's faults. He wanted to go home.

He let out another deep sigh, wishing he was awake to see the angel that had visited him. But, the fading presence seemed so dead down in Hell that it almost felt like a ghost. Arthur carefully tucked the feather in his inside pocket as if he were afraid of losing it to some mysterious breeze.

Just in time, as well. Right as Arthur had finished buttoning up his jacket, he could hear demons approaching from down a few halls.

He looked up as a couple entered, and, upon seeing him, one immediately flew over. "Paranomia! Hey, how are you?" Alfred greeted with a somewhat odd smile.

Shaking his head slightly to attempt to clear his mind, Arthur looked up at the demon hovering above him. "I'm fine, Alfred. And you-?!" he jumped slightly when Alfred suddenly flipped onto his back in the air and flicked Arthur's tail with his own. He coughed a little in embarrassment. "A-and you?" he tried again, fidgeting awkwardly.

Alfred laughed at Arthur's reaction, and reached out with his hand to poke at Arthur's horns, still upside down. "I am above the fires," he said thoughtfully, making a funny face as he tugged gently on one of Arthur's horns, making his head tilt to the side.

Arthur was very confused, both with what the demon had said and with what he was doing. However, after confusion became a default for him in Hell, he didn't show it. He kept a steady, and slightly annoyed gaze on the demon.

He was very strange, Arthur could safely say. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Ivan and Basch give their own puzzled looks to Alfred. They watched as the larger demon poked at his face, making Arthur flinch slightly each time. He couldn't really keep track of his train of thought with the demon incessantly prodding him, but he tried to decipher what he meant by 'I am above the fires.' Was it a reference to the inner circles of Hell? Perhaps it was an expression that was synonymous to the angel phrase 'My prayers have been merry' or 'I fare well.' The slightly more pessimistic attitude in Hell would bring justice to that comparison, he supposed. Maybe angels typically thought along the lines of 'I am grateful for all that I have, I am gifted with so much', whereas demons would think 'At least I'm still alive.'

"Why are you poking me?" Arthur finally asked flatly, getting a little more irritated when Alfred suddenly began jabbing at his eyebrows, and that stupid upside down smile was getting on his nerves for some reason.

Alfred shrugged and stopped, but didn't move from in front of Arthur. His tail seemed to match his mood, as it was lashing around playfully and occasionally meeting with Arthur's tail.

Perhaps Opia meant something different for every demon. Arthur had observed similar things with other demons, and it only seemed that demons who really trusted each other would let their friend touch them. If touch was the right word, it was more like allowing contact or being in close vicinity. Did that mean Alfred trusted him that much? Or was he just having fun by teasing him? He doubted he would find out.

Suddenly, Alfred flipped back the right way and flapped his wings gently, so he didn't hit Arthur, and landed next to him on the stone bench. They were quite close; Arthur could feel the demon's slight warmth from his leg, and their wings almost brushed against each other. Despite having it been the norm in Heaven, Arthur still felt slightly uncomfortable and it was probably because he hadn't felt something so intimate since he'd left his home. This behaviour wasn't new from Alfred, though; he'd been acting this close to Arthur since that day he'd nearly succumbed to his Rage.

Alfred was looking towards the entrance to the room, so Arthur followed his gaze to see a few more demons enter the room. Enter as in stumble over each other as they struggled, some limping, to get inside. They were more of his allies among a few faces he didn't recognise, no sign of Phobos and Deimos. The difference was, they all looked terribly tired and beaten in. Arthur usually saw them with smirks or some sort of smile, but now they couldn't seem to lift their broken frowns.

Upon not seeing either of their military leaders, the demons quickly spotted Arthur. "Paranomia! There has been trouble!" one called out, a short one with light brown eyes and long dark hair tied back with a band. He didn't recall any of their names.

Ivan and Basch flew up with Arthur to meet the group of disheveled demons. "Trouble? What sort of trouble?" Arthur asked curiously, sitting up a little straighter. "You look bloody awful, lad. The whole lot of you."

Some of them were panting, he noticed. "A-another attack," one of them blurted out, a tall demon with very dark skin. She pushed forward through the group, struggling to explain it to Arthur. "The angelicans struck close to this region of Hell. I heard the military was attacked by a lot of higher angels. Principatus, Potestates, Aretes, Dominationes, Thronos, and even Cheroubin, from what I can remember."

Arthur's dumbfounded face was mistaken for one of shock with the situation. What they didn't realise was that he actually didn't have any idea what she just said. He was grateful when another spoke up.

"There was also a Seraph! A Seraph led the attack!" one exclaimed, coming up in front of the other demons. Her horns were pointed downwards, unlike a lot of other demons present. But that wasn't what had gotten Arthur's attention.

Seraph. She said Seraph! Those weird names spoken by the other demon, the Principatus and Dominationes...They were the demon words for the angel ranks! The blood drained from Arthur's face as he realised what this meant. If an attack was led by someone so high like a Seraph, then it definitely was not something trivial.

Arthur had to choke back some weird nonsense before he could speak, and glanced at Alfred, who seemed almost as surprised as he was. Of course he wasn't even near, but a Seraph was rare to see, let alone even hear of in Hell. That was probably why there was not another demon word for the rank. "A-a Seraph?" he asked a little hoarsely. "Y-you can't be sure..."

The demon shook her head vigorously and pointed at a tall blonde demon a little further into the group. "He was there! Tell Paranomia about it, Ludwig!"

The one called Ludwig stepped forward, and met Arthur's eyes with a searingly cold blue gaze. In fact, Arthur almost jumped at how intense his eyes were, a lot colder than Alfred's slightly gentler eyes. He knew for certain he hadn't seen Ludwig before; he must have found his group of allies and followed them here. "Ja, I was there." he said with a gruff, low voice. "I saw a Seraph there for certain; he had all six wings like the tales tell. All of the angels responded to his command, and he made the angels do something strange with their voices."

Arthur was sitting on the edge of his seat, gripping the stone anxiously. "What did the Seraph look like? Were you close enough? What do you mean by something strange?" he asked quickly, his brain coming up with a thousand more questions than he could speak, all on the tip of his tongue.

Ludwig seemed slightly taken aback by Arthur's inquiries. "...He had long hair." he said after a moment. "Dark hair, I think. And colourless eyes, like mirrors. I was nowhere near him, because he had several legions of angels between where I was flying and himself. But I could see how reflective his eyes were. It was like looking into the eyes of death." the demon seemed to trail off, looking lost in thought. Arthur could only imagine how frightening it was. What he could figure out now was that the Seraph who led the attack was, without a doubt, Camael.

"I don't know the word for what the angels were doing." Ludwig admitted. "They were speaking while slaughtering us, but in a...harmonious way. It was almost pleasing to the ear."

Arthur flinched at the word 'slaughter', but he knew what Ludwig meant. He had never heard of the Angelican army singing while killing.

"I've heard angels do that before too!" Alfred suddenly spoke up, and everyone turned their attention to him. "But never in battle. It was a long time ago, so I don't remember much. It was in something that I think was called 'preacher?' And-"

"Prayer," Arthur corrected automatically, without meaning to. He blinked and looked about as startled as Alfred did. "S-sorry. Go on."

Alfred gave him a confused look, but nodded. "Uh, yea, in prayer, and they were doing that harmony thing with their voices that Ludwig was talking about. I couldn't hear words, just the endless and changing tones in their voices. Like if I said 'Aaahhh.'" he demonstrated for the others, and looked at Arthur hopefully.

Arthur bit back the urge to explain everything to them. "I-I've heard of it somewhere. I think they call it 'singing.'" he said quietly, and was surprised when all the demons suddenly looked at him with fascination.

"Wow, really? I've never heard of that word. 'Singing.' Doesn't it sound like 'sinning?'" one near Alfred asked, and that began a whole new level of conversation.

The demons began to talk to each other about their new knowledge of angels, and he could see all of the questions in their eyes that they didn't give voice to. He looked to Ivan for help, but found that the silver-haired demon was looking away and seemed to be thinking about something else. Basch was speaking with Ludwig, and Arthur could feel Alfred staring at him.

He slowly turned his head to acknowledge the slightly larger demon. "Yes?" he asked.

Alfred blinked. "Have you noticed something? Phobos and Deimos aren't here, and no one else but us have showed up. Usually everyone is here by now." the subject seemed random at first, and out of nowhere.

Arthur looked around in slight surprise, only to realise it was true. Alfred was right; by this time, normally the other demons were present, and they would be fighting. But the place was empty, save for his little congregation. "Huh." he said pointedly. "Maybe it has to do with the attack."

The others had stopped questioning singing vs sinning and had begun discussing more things amongst themselves. "What do you think we should do?" Alfred seemed clueless, and glanced around worriedly. "Should we go somewhere to see if we can find out more about what happened?"

"That sounds like a good idea." Arthur agreed with a subtle nod. "I don't really know a place to go, though."

"Maybe..." Alfred thought for a moment. "The Nkri Graveyard? There's a magic library full of books about the wars like the Flame and they have all the names of the dead. Some of the graves might have all of those who recently died, and we could find out why they were so important that the angels had to kill them. Don't angels only kill as a last resort?"

Truth be told, Arthur had no idea what the 'Nkri' Graveyard was. The mere name sent shivers down his spine; being around the deceased made him nervous, and he was pretty easily spooked. But a library sounded promising, and he could finally decipher why the angels were making such bold and brutal moves while he was still in Hell. It was better to go than not, especially if no one was coming to the base any time soon.

He nodded. "From what I know, yes. Angels aren't usually as...violent as we are." he hesitated to say 'we'. "Maybe going to the graveyard will give us some answers."

Alfred smiled, and stood up. "Should we take everyone with us?" he inquired, gesturing to the ten-or-so demons in the room.

"Yes." Arthur decided. "More minds and more eyes will be helpful."

O~o~O

For the first time in a painfully long while, Arthur felt comfortable flying along other people. The air was cool as usual, but flying instead of standing still made it much more bearable. Alfred was directly next to him, almost matching his wing beats. Ivan, Basch, and that other blonde demon called Ludwig were flying near him as well, and the rest of the demons from the base were behind them. They were going in a direction he'd never been before, but he trusted his sense of direction and knew he would be able to get back on his own if need be.

He didn't seem to be the only one who was this thrilled either; he snuck glances at Alfred every once in awhile and always found him grinning broadly to himself. With his own pleasant smile, Arthur prayed no one thought to ask him for directions.

The wind rushed around them, and Arthur could feel very light rain beginning to fall. The clouds were a lighter grey than usual, and it brought out features in everyone and even in himself that he didn't notice before. He discovered several hues of darker colours that he would have never caught under the dull sky, like blues and reds and browns. They all almost looked like the colours of Heaven, and not the dark greys and blacks he thought they all had. Or maybe he was just that desperate for a trace of his home.

It was a long time that had passed. Arthur had given up on time long ago, knowing it was just a way to keep order in Heaven. He knew they they were flying almost beyond their limits; he could see Ludwig's and Alfred's red faces, and a few of the others behind him who were fighting to keep up.

They flew until all of them were panting for breath, and they gradually began to slow down their collective pace. Arthur found breathing to be painful; his sharp intakes of cold air seemed to burn down his windpipe, and, like everyone else, he was covered in a cold sweat that was chilling to fly with. Alfred gave him a strange look when he suddenly hugged himself, rubbing his arms with his gloved hands.

By the time they had all stumbled into a landing, Arthur was seething and shivering violently. He didn't care that everyone could see him, he was bloody cold. None of the others seemed to be bothered by the temperature, and for a moment he resented all of their stupid, cold, demon hearts.

Arthur waited until he and most everyone around him had caught their breath before looking around. What he saw almost took his breath away again.

They were walking on an ancient structure that was broken down in some places. In the place of blackened stone where it had fallen were soft clouds. Far up in the sky, Arthur could see faint sunlight that made the grey clouds up above a few shades brighter.

"This is...Middle ground." he murmured to himself, the realisation suddenly dawning on him. With wide eyes, he looked around in wonder, and breathed in the suddenly serene air. There were graves far ahead of them, and all of them were marked with either black stone or white marble. They weren't all separated either; black and white gravestones mingled among each other in various places. This place was not just a graveyard, it was a compromise! He was absolutely shocked that such a place existed, and he had to collect himself before he could get too emotional about it. There was a place where the angels and the demons could be at peace! This was exactly what he needed to expand on for his mission. If this wasn't a sign from God, he didn't know what was.

Alfred approached him, noticing his strange expression. "Hey, are you alright, Paranomia?" he asked in confusion. He must have seen how Arthur's eyes glittered with utter rejoice, because he did a double take of his face.

Arthur could not answer for a moment, letting out weak breaths with a blissful smile and still staring ahead at the vast sky temple before them. "I am...bloody brilliant." he got out eventually. "Do you know what this is?"

"...It's a graveyard with a library." Alfred replied with a half laugh, and flapped his wings once to move and stand by Arthur. "I've only been here once, but I know that it's for keeping records of the dead."

Arthur nodded, and looked at Alfred, trying very hard to suppress his excitement. "That's not all. It is also peaceful grounds!" he gestured far above them, towards Heaven. "This is a sacred place that neither demons nor angels believe to be worth fighting for. This 'Nkri Graveyard' is where our differences disappear!"

His happiness was not met with Alfred. Looking with a very confused expression, he glanced back and forth between Arthur and the graveyard. "I don't get it." he said a little dumbly.

"This is a sanctuary for both angels and demons." Arthur said, trying to put it as simply as he could. "No war exists here. All rage and sadness is kept outside of this...mausoleum, this shrine!" he explained, trying to come up with words to describe it. "This is where we can grieve and celebrate our dead without fear. All of us."

Alfred nodded, and Arthur assumed he understood. "Well...What's so great about that?"

At that question, Arthur's delight faltered. "I..." he realised he had not explained his motives. Alfred was the closest demon to him, other than Ivan or Basch, so he assumed it would be safe, but Alfred's Rage...What if he regarded the angels with undying hate? There was no way he could agree to finding peace and ending the war! To tell him or not to tell him, was that not always the question?

"N-never mind." he said eventually, and turned to face the other way to see if he could find some sort of magical guide around this vast place.

Alfred seemed perfectly fine with that answer, until he saw Arthur's distressed face. "Oka- hey, wait. You were really happy about this, which isn't something you normally are. You were going to say something important, so tell me." he reached forward and poked Arthur's wing, which had drooped considerably.

Arthur shook his head, a little surprised. "No, it's quite alright. I'm not sure you would understand." he stepped off to the side, looking around the border of rock for any kind of key or spell to trigger.

The demon persisted. "Is this something everyone should know about?" he inquired with a teasing smile, using his tail to wrap around Arthur's wrist when he reached towards the ground.

"No! Dear G- Nn-! Sa- Bloody hell, no!" Arthur replied, drawing his hand back. He looked up with wide eyes at Alfred, and stood up straight.

That earned him another strange look. "Tell me." the demon said again, and watched Arthur with a weird mixture of playfulness and confidence.

He glared. "Look. I just...Ugh." he rolled his eyes and collected his thoughts for a moment, crossing his arms. Alfred had a smug grin but patient eyes, and Arthur knew he couldn't get away now. "I just...I don't think we should fight, you know?" he feigned nervousness and uncertainty with the subject by averting his eyes to the ground. "The angels and...us...What are we fighting for, anyway? Why are we putting forth everything we have and killing and dying for this stupid, pointless war? Why can't we coexist?"

Alfred looked genuinely taken aback by his answer. "I...never thought of it that way before." he admitted, his eyebrows creasing guiltily. "All we know how to do is hate angels, and angels sure as hell know how to hate us. It's not easy to stop centuries of that, which is why I think it's never been considered." he laughed awkwardly. "I guess that is kind of a bad thing. There should be something done to stop it."

Internally, Arthur lit up and practically screamed with joy. 'Mercy is still alive and has spared my soul!' Externally, he was careful to hesitantly look up at the demon with a solemn expression. "Really? You feel that way?"

It took him a moment, but Alfred tentatively nodded. "Yea. I do. Should we...Should we be the ones who start doing something about it?" he asked, unsure of himself and obviously in need of guidance. Arthur understood completely; the very basis of Alfred's believed existence was being questioned, naturally he would seek help.

"I think we should." it was hard for him to hold back his answer, he had to look like he thought about it. "But we'll have to be careful. Opening the minds of everyone won't be easy, as you said."

That got him a grin. Arthur almost felt dizzy with absolute euphoria; this was almost too good to be true! He had an ally, a true one now that was willing to help him end the war! The weight that lifted itself from his shoulders was extraordinary. And, glancing over at the demons to his left across the rock they all stood on, he realised he might have a few more.

"Hey, Paranomia!" he heard Ivan call out, and Alfred turned as well to see what was happening. Somehow, they had found the peculiar thing Arthur was looking for, and it ended up being a book.

Arthur and Alfred quickly flew over. "What is it?" he asked, as a large book was handed to him, and it was uncomfortable to carry. He then answered his own question. "Ah. The human word is 'encyclopedia.'" he told them all as the group gathered around him. "So, while we're here, what should we look for first?"

Demons were actually very organised and knew how to handle themselves in large numbers, Arthur soon found out. It wasn't long before they had picked out certain dates and graves to look for, and split themselves into smaller groups to look for what they needed to find. He and Alfred went with Ivan and Basch to find the recently deceased angels and books about them, and Ludwig followed as well.

Alfred was dropping occasional ideas that he and Arthur had discussed earlier to the others, and they didn't seem to oppose in any way. He looked at Arthur each time, unaware of how he had to hold back several strange noises of utter delight each time.

The temple was quite a lovely place; it held relics of both kinds, and gorgeous decoration that was evidence of a time of peace. It was very fun to fly around; the demons Arthur was with seemed to enjoy themselves in a more genuine way, with a more positive mindset.

They found dates of the past few days on gravestones and Arthur found it quite amusing and very sad how hard the demons found it to pronounce all of the angel names. He would prefer his brothers be alive for such a silly time. To hide his mood, he made sure to pretend he was occupied with reading all of the books that the others couldn't, after they found out he could read several languages. He preferred not to read the words, because it was painful to imagine that all of these beautiful souls were sacrificed by Camael. He was still bothered that a Seraph he looked up to led the attack.

"Hey! Paranomia! Look at this one!" he heard Alfred's voice and peeked towards the demons ahead of them. Alfred was flying in circles around the large white marble mark, while the other three were trying to read what it said. "What's the name? Kah-mail? Kuh-my-all?"

Curious, Arthur approached the elegant monument, and then his heart nearly stopped.

~In loving memory of the Archangel Camael, the one who sees God~

O~o~O

'Help me.' He'd fallen on the inside.

That was the only way to put it. He'd sprinted back to the city with only a brief lie as to why he needed to leave, and almost fainted out of exhaustion once he was back to his lone alleyway. Hell was quiet, save for his pitiful cries that echoed around him.

"I tried to change the game, I tried to infiltrate, but now I'm losing!" he sobbed, stumbling aimlessly around the dead end and pulling at his red hair.

He realised that the angels in togas, the men in cloaks always seemed to be one step ahead of him. The moment he found something out, the more mysteries sprung up in its place. They always ran the show, like some sort of all-powerful system designed to play God. This wasn't a mission, this was ghosts and shadows trying to eat his soul!

The only thing he knew for certain was that he'd been lied to. None of this was for the good of everyone, and he didn't know who to trust anymore. He turned to the last thing he had.

"Mercy! Mercy!" he begged, falling on his knees and screaming a broken song. "Show me Mercy! From the powers that be! Show me Mercy! Can someone rescue me?"

He leant forward, covering his head with his hands as he sobbed uncontrollably for a little while, unable to form coherent words. The only thing he could think was how much he hated heaven, hated hell, hated the universe, hated God's absence, hated the silent tyranny. Most of all, he hated himself. His false image of Camael, the puppeteer who hypnotised the angels...All the angels had done was bring him down.

The switching spell. He hadn't even realised he had done it, but suddenly he was kneeling and praying as an angel to anyone that would listen. He had not sung for a long time, but he sang because it was the only thing he could do.

"Mercy! From the powers that be! Show me Mercy! From the gutless and mean! Show me Mercy! From the killing machines! Show me Mercy! Can someone rescue me!" he pleaded with all his might.

His journal lay untouched that night.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

O~o~O

The dark sky seemed too bright and the rain seemed too cold when Arthur woke up.

So bright and so cold, in fact, that he slowly brought his hands over his eyes to block it out. God, he felt terrible. It was probably because he was laying down on the cobblestone ground, strewn out haphazardly as if he'd fallen on his back and not bothered to get back up. It wasn't that far from the truth, he supposed, but it annoyed him. Everything annoyed him. He was tired, upset, angry, and lonely, which wasn't new, but it didn't lessen the blow.

He didn't remember when he'd switched back into his demon self, but he could feel the lack of matted feathers and a slight pressure on his head when he tilted his chin up and pressed his horns into the ground. He half-heartedly made his tail twitch, and wrinkled his nose in slight pain when his extended spine moved in a jagged way.

Thoughts were coming at him too quickly for him to understand, so he ignored them and opted to just lying flat as he was, listening to the whispers and murmurs of the rain falling around him. It was cold, Hell, it was so cold, and it stung to move. His mind was a cloudy mess, and he felt so dead. He was not familiar with the twisting of his emotions like this, his heart being wrung out like a damp towel.

"Shut up," he mumbled blearily to the silent, rainy streets, rolling over miserably and letting out a small noise that resembled a groan or a whimper.

...

"I...Didn't say anything?" came a reply, and Arthur nearly had a heart attack.

He sat up as fast as he could through his disoriented state, and immediately regretted it when the ache in his head rushed downward and spread, almost dropping him like a

weight. Dizzy, he looked dazedly around for the source of the voice, but only saw blurry wet shapes. "Wh-what the bloody hell?!" he managed to let out, his heart beating uncomfortably fast.

That was when a figure appeared directly in front of him, and he forgot how to breathe because of how startled he was. "Paranomia! Hey, are you alright?!" demanded the voice, laced with genuine concern. "I've been trying to wake you for ages!"

Arthur sputtered out a little bit of nonsense at first as an attempt to explain that he was very confused and very tired, but it came out as a lot of random sounding noises instead and resulted in him flinging around water that had pooled on him. It seemed to get his point across, though.

He was forced to stop flailing around when his arms were brought down and held firmly against his side, and he shut up for a moment, his head spinning. "Paranomia? Hey, buddy, are you okay?" the voice seemed tender and worried. His head rolled a little to the side and his eyes were still unfocused. "...A-Arthur?"

It took a moment of blinking and attempting to see straight before Arthur could identify Alfred in front of him. "I..." he could think slightly more clearly, and looked at the demon before him with hazy eyes. "I'm fine..."

Alfred nodded and sat back, having been very close to Arthur. He let go of his arms, but remained near him to steady Arthur when he swayed slightly to one side. "You've been asleep for a long time. I thought you were dead." his face was contorted with concern, and he scooted back forward on his knees to grasp Arthur before he could tip backwards. "The demons who were with us at the graveyard are still looking for you. I finally found you, thank Satan. What are you doing all the way back here? You're one of the really skilled demons, don't you have housing near the base?" he questioned with a frown.

Arthur slowly shook his head. "I live...I live here." he replied slowly, not really noticing Alfred's shocked face. "I'm sorry, I..." he shook his head slightly, still quite dizzy.

The demon hesitated, looking like he was debating heavily in his mind. He stared at Arthur's unsteady demeanor, seeming to want to back away, but eventually decided against it. He brought his hands behind Arthur's back and gently propped him forward, and let Arthur fall against him. That alone almost shocked Arthur into full awareness, and he wasn't prepared for when Alfred also held him closer, using his wings to shield them from the rain.

He listened with wide eyes at the gentle pattering sound from above him, the tips of his own wings just barely folded and resting on the hard ground. Needless to say, he did not expect this sudden act of kindness, mostly because it was what he really wanted. He needed something to hold, and something to hold him back, and it came from his childish desires in Heaven. All angels quietly wished for a gentle embrace, and they usually did not need to ask for it.

Mind reflecting back on the events of his last waking hours, he closed his eyes with a pained expression and slowly brought his own arms around Alfred. The demon probably had no idea what this meant to Arthur. It was soothing more than he could ever know, and Arthur very nearly broke down at the gesture.

"It's not alright, is it?" Alfred asked quietly, resting his chin on top of Arthur's soaked red hair. They held still, neither daring to do anything that would cause the other to move away. Arthur sighed silently, struggling to hold back tears as he shook his head in Alfred's jacket and clutched it a little tighter. His throat ached from all the sobs he was suppressing, but he knew it would be cataclysmic if Alfred saw him cry.

Alfred decided not to question it further and shifted slightly closer so that his thighs were underneath Arthur's knees, and it made it easier for him to pull Arthur nearer. "...You're trembling." he observed after a moment. "Are you cold or somethin'?"

There was no way Arthur could answer, and he panicked. Just before he could think about pulling back, Alfred sat back on his heels and opened the front of his jacket, as if to take it off. But he didn't, instead he leaned right back and pressed Arthur against him in such a way that made him have to hug Alfred on the inside of his jacket. It was a lot warmer, he realised, after getting over the initial surprise. The leather material was cold but the soft and fuzzy cloth on the inside was warm with Alfred's body heat. Arthur knew it was nothing close to an angel's, but it was better than anything he'd felt in too long.

Alfred didn't seem to mind when Arthur involuntarily snuggled closer.

A few peaceful moments had passed, hearing nothing but the now calming noise of the white rain, before Arthur realised he could think clearly now. God, it took that long. He then remembered the graveyard and the better part of what happened when he was last awake.

"...Did you find anything at the graveyard? A-after I left?" he asked, curious if the demons managed to get on without him.

Alfred shook his head and flicked his tail. "Nope. You left, and we kept looking like you wanted us to, but we didn't find any reason for the angels to attack like that. When we were done, we mourned for our lost brothers and sisters, and we told them you were there with us in spirit." he said in a slightly saddened voice.

His wings drooping even further, Arthur's face twisted with guilt. "I am sorry. Thank you." He'd seen too many gravestones to think it was a plain battle. It was a downright slaughter. He let himself simmer in his anger for a moment, his mixed emotions churning like a turbulent sea; he didn't know what was going on, and felt even more confused than ever. It frustrated him that with everything he found out, it led him deeper into a mess of lies and deceit.

"Paran- A-Arthur...?" Alfred tilted his head and looked down at him.

Arthur's tail curled up in a loose circle as he glanced up. "Mm?"

Alfred seemed vaguely suspicious. "Something...happened, didn't it? You left because you figured something out?" he narrowed his eyes curiously, searching Arthur's face for some kind of hint.

In return, the angel struggled not to give it away. He thought about telling him, and the entire story was on the tip of his tongue from beginning to end. 'Yes, Alfred. I found something; as it turns out, I've been a living lie because I'm actually an angel, but that's beside the point. That name I saw on the gravestone is the name of the Seraph that killed your brothers and sisters, and I'm dreadfully confused because there is no way he could be dead. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?' Ah, yes, that conversation would be just delightful.

"No." he said in a soft voice. "No, I did not find anything. I left because I realised I forgot that I had to do something here."

"Something so important that it left us confused as hell, and even more so when I find you laying in the middle of an alleyway, possibly dead?" Alfred countered quickly, but lacking in a seriously accusing tone.

Arthur looked down. "Yes. No. Maybe- I-I don't know! Look, Alfred. I did figure something out but it did not have to do with the attack! It was more personal than that." Well, at least it wasn't a complete lie. He hesitantly glanced up, expecting to be faced with a glare, but was instead faced with an expression of concerned curiosity. Alfred wanted to know what he meant; that was a given, but he wasn't going to pry further.

"Am I interrupting something?" a question rang out from behind Alfred.

The two quickly sat up and peered around to see Ludwig, hovering with his arms crossed a few metres from where they sat. His appearance was unexpected, that was for certain. Arthur tried to scramble off of Alfred and comb his red hair out of his eyes so he could see. "Er, no. You are not." he said carefully.

"Yea, dude. Paranomia just woke up. Took him forever, but he's fine now." Alfred explained, standing up with Arthur. Both facing Ludwig, they glanced at one another before returning their attention to the tall blonde demon.

"Very well. I will inform the others that Alfred has found you, Paranomia. Let us meet deeper in the city." Ludwig said, and then just as quickly as he came, he turned and took off flying the other direction.

Alfred's tail swished back and forth, and Arthur scratched the back of his head nervously as Ludwig left. They were silent, and Arthur assumed Alfred had no idea what to say either. The atmosphere became a bit awkward.

It was bugging Arthur to no end, keeping silent about his discovery. He had to say something about it, or at least give Alfred some sort of plausible reason for how he was acting. It wasn't like it was easy to hide an existential crisis, after all. But with all that happened, he couldn't sum it up without leaving unanswered questions. Alfred was bound to wonder about his extensive knowledge of the Angelicans, and so was everyone else.

He remembered that Alfred had agreed with his feelings on ending the war, and that he was willing to help do something about it. Maybe that gave him a little bit of an edge at least, perhaps his case wouldn't be that bad...

Sucking up what little courage he had left, he turned stiffly to Alfred. The demon blinked and looked at him, still looking worried from before. "There is something I need to tell you." Arthur said lowly.

He waited until Alfred nodded and turned his body to face him, giving Arthur his full attention. "Yea? What's up?" God, his normally friendly appearance suddenly looked ominous and threatening, and Arthur suddenly felt very small.

Arthur made a nervous expression and looked off to the side, unable to meet the blue eyes before him. "The reason I left...I...I-it's because I have been thinking for awhile and I might have finally figured something out." he said slowly, and avoided Alfred's patient gaze. "Remember what we last talked about? Halting the war? I-I think it will be more complicated than we can imagine, because the angels are not who we think they are."

Alfred looked confused. "Who are they, then?" he asked, tilting his head.

It was so hard to put all of what exactly he wanted to say all together. Making it into one long explanation without slipping up or forgetting something would be hard, but there was no going back now. Fear was clawing at his heart, and he knew it when his breath caught as Alfred peered at him. Flashbacks to when he was choking against the cold, cruel walls of the base blinded his mind's eye long enough to scare himself visibly.

The demon must have noticed Arthur's panicked look, because he blinked and his eyebrows creased worried lines in his forehead. "Arthur? What's wrong?"

"I-I, sorry, I just..." Arthur sighed deeply and put his hands on his hips, his tail lashing limply behind him while he looked away in discomfort. "It is really complicated."

To his surprise, Alfred nodded slowly. "Let's catch up with the others," he said, raising his wings. "We can just not go to the base today. How about we go to Earth and you can explain it to me there?"

That wasn't expected. Slightly dumbfounded, Arthur looked up at Alfred. "Earth?" Not that he was opposed, he just had not been on the human plane for a long time.

"Yea!" Alfred grinned. "There aren't usually any other demons or angels around, and the humans can't see us anyway. I like to show up on Earth sometimes because it's the one solitary place I can go. Plus, it's kinda fun to mess with the humans sometimes..." he snickered.

A small, reluctant smile found its way to Arthur as well, because Alfred's happiness was slightly contagious. "Alright, then. Let us tell the others, like you said, before we drop off the face of Hell." he agreed.

O~o~O

While Arthur was still trying to figure out his place, seeing as he had no basis of belief whatsoever anymore, he still found himself investing a lot of trust in Alfred. Maybe it was because he was so desperate for something to rely on, and it was all he could do to pray it didn't end with a dagger in his back. He'd already had the floor, his stability, swept from under him like a ratty old carpet, stained with years and years of meaningless promises. He felt like he had nothing left to lose, save for his life, perhaps.

But...Did that matter? Did his life matter at all?

He pondered this as he followed Alfred through the city, balancing his concentration on weaving and diving around corners and obstacles, as well as the disappointing and discouraging truths that scrambled up in his head. His life truly did not matter to the ones who mattered to him, and he was very nearly sure of that. He had yet to accept it, seeing as it occurred to him so suddenly. But he had to come to terms with the fact that he was never important. Not to Heaven, not to God, not to anyone. He then realised, with a deeply hurt wince, that he was not sent down to Hell to undertake a heroic and noble mission. He was simply cast out of Heaven.

'But why...? What did I do wrong...?' he felt himself tearing up and shut his eyes to make it go away. He couldn't cry now, not anymore. 'Did I mess up? Am I even an angel? Or am I a fallen angel now? Oh, God, I do not know...'

His eyes became dull. Of bloody course it had to come to this. What was he even doing? Was he supposed to live out his miserable life in Hell, never to feel the sweet rays of sunshine or the gentle compassion of angels ever again? Was he supposed to become a demon? Was he supposed to die, or be dead already? Was he just prolonging the inevitable? Arthur felt broken. 'Why, why, why?'

'"Paranomia? Hey, buddy, are you okay?"' Alfred's voice from earlier rang in his mind, startling him out of his negative words. '"You've been asleep for a long time. I thought you were dead."'

Arthur's expression became one of tired, confused sorrow. '"It's not alright, is it?"' No, it never was and never will be. '"Something...happened, didn't it? You left because you figured something out?"' It is more than you can ever understand. '"Something so important that it left us confused as hell, and even more so when I find you laying in the middle of an alleyway, possibly dead?"'

He had been worried. The meaning of Alfred's words were sinking in, and Arthur looked away guiltily. Someone did care after all.

"Dudes!" Alfred's actual voice startled him out of his deeper thoughts, and he looked up to see the demon waving at a group circling a massive charcoal-coloured building. Arthur was very nearly entranced with how high up the structure reached, almost like the jagged glass tips of it could graze the grey, rainy sky. "Hey, we're coming!"

He gestured for Arthur again, and they both picked up the pace a little until they reached the giant, skyscraping, slick edifice. They all landed in a crevice near the top, and the altitude normally wouldn't have bothered Arthur if he didn't have to look down so far. A bit distracted, he watched the water fall and wondered how terrifying it would be to be a droplet, plunged to the unforgiving depths to end its life as abruptly as it started. He then wondered if that was how he was cast out of Heaven, like a simple rain drop, only to die when he landed in Hell. Depressed by the sudden allusion, Arthur pursed his lips and turned back to the deeper part of the holed-out indent, lowering his wings dejectedly.

The rest of the soaking demons who glided in were some of the survivors of the attack, and some of his allies from the base. It surprised him when he realised they all looked sort of relieved to see him, as if they had been concerned for his well-being like Alfred. Not likely, he began to think, but that was before he received a tight embrace from one of them.

"Paranomia!" she gasped, just before he was taken into a bone-crushing hug by the slightly taller demon. Jesus, how many of them were taller than him? He awkwardly patted her back in return, smiling through a wince at how hard she was squeezing him. "We looked everywhere for you! Are you okay?!"

"Bloody hell," he muttered into the shoulder of her uniform. "Er, I'm fine. Th-there is really no cause for concer-!"

"Of course there is, darling!" she interrupted, leaning back just for a moment to allow him to breathe before she hugged him even tighter, making him squish his shoulders uncomfortably. "We're all worried about our leader! Aren't we?" she looked around, unaware of Arthur's alarmed expression.

A couple of them were laughing at the funny faces Arthur was making, trying half-heartedly to squirm away. But they all nodded in general agreement with the dark-complected demon who had him trapped in her arms. It was clear, then, that they all looked up to him, and normally he would take that seriously. That is, if he wasn't at risk of his spine snapping.

His panicked gaze found Alfred, who was struggling and failing to hide hysterical laughter. His tail swishing stiffly due to his back being compressed, he tried opening his wings only to discover she had him trapped there firmly as well. He couldn't ask him for help, or even mouth 'help me' because half of his face was smothered by the demon. But his wide and slightly unnerved eyes seemed to be understandable enough.

Alfred grinned, sticking his tongue out at Arthur and earning a glare. "Alright, haha!" he laughed a little obnoxiously, stretching out his own wings. "Well, me and Ar- Paranomia were going to go somewhere else today, and we just met with you guys to let y'all know he's still alive. So we gotta go."

"But you just got here," the other demon whined, reluctantly letting go of Arthur. She seemed oblivious to how he stumbled a good distance away from her and rubbed his back painfully, cracking some of the bones in his wings like knuckles. "Don't you guys ever take it easy?" she asked over a particularly loud crash of thunder, looking around at the small assembly of demons around them

"That would be a no," Arthur replied quickly, before Alfred could open his mouth. He then decided to take advantage of his authority to make everyone else useful, or at least distracted until he could figure out what to do with himself. "Anyway, I would appreciate it if you discuss the attack while you are here. If you were there, tell the others of what you saw. It will be good for when Alfred and I return to tell me about it, and I will tell you what I know. Maybe we will get some answers this time around, yes?"

He was not used to being in charge, he knew that. He still half-expected them all to ignore, or even mock him. Instead, they stared and listened to him intently, and nodded when he was done to agree. He felt he would never get used to anyone taking him seriously.

"Alright, then." he could not contain a slightly exhilarated grin at his group. It was then he was realising that he was unconsciously building back up his purpose, and giving himself something to fight for. He was his own ruler, and they would follow. "Come on, Alfred, let's go."

And they were gone, just like that. They turned and jumped up with their wings to dive off the side of the building together, headed to an ever-changing foreign and exciting place Arthur had only been a few times.

A glance at Alfred was enough to prove he was not the only one who was pleased. For different reasons, probably, but Alfred was smiling in a strikingly and spreading upbeat way.

'"Forgot you had a team, huh?"' This time, Arthur welcomed Alfred's past words. It seemed like a long time since they had met, but it really had not been at all. He remembered how his vision had gradually focused on Alfred the day he had caught him when Arthur almost fell. '"Anyways, dude what was that? You do have a group, you know. Goin' in all Sparta might work for you, but I think we gotta plan how we're gonna win this thing. I mean, you're the leader of our group, right? Whatever you say goes!"'

The cloudiness of Arthur's mood began to filter out, and, feeling the cool wind pulling through him, he listened to their swift wings slice through the air. For a moment, Arthur played with the thought that Alfred was the only good thing about his Hell. '"I really admire how strong you are. You could probably take on an entire legion of angels! Also, you're the only one who had survived my, uh, Rage. I don't know how, but you did. I think you're a little more powerful than you let on, yea? Anyway, I would...I would like to request Opia."' He was kind...Kinder than the angels in some cases. For a moment, Arthur panicked as his fond memories of Heaven became slightly darker, and he clung to the one thing that could make it all better right then. '"You're an odd case. Just like me. Everyone knows you're, like, super powerful! But you aren't cruel like most strong demons are. You can be kind too, and I like that about you."'

'Yes,' Arthur thought with a tentative gentleness. 'You can be too, you little git.'

Alfred seemed to pick up on his mixed mood as he led him around the city towards the Southeast, or at least that was what Arthur had guessed. He glanced over every time Arthur gave off some sort of smile, and again when he sensed Arthur's gloomy and dispirited mood change. The demon looked like he wanted to ask, but he seemed to respect boundaries like a physical wall between them. Another stark difference between angels and demons; an angel would probably already know what was upsetting Arthur, because they tended to be curious creatures with next to no concept of privacy. Not that Arthur minded it either way.

In a way, Arthur found the areas they were flying through to be beautiful. Gradually, as he'd lived in Hell, the grey sky had become aesthetically pleasing and complimentary to the rough stone surfaces. The grotesque statues, the rugged and complicated streets, it all melded into something close to Arthur. He could appreciate what frightened him.

Well, mostly.

He wasn't sure if he could bring himself to hate Heaven, even though he now regarded the once pleasant place with fear. He felt deceived, split, and confused. What could he do? Pretend like it never happened and continue with this nonexistent mission? Feign ignorance, as if the archangel he once looked up to wasn't up to something? Or should he find a new purpose? Was there anyone out there who he could look to for guidance?

"No," he accidentally mumbled aloud. "No, it is just me now."

Alfred looked over at him, panting a little like Arthur. "Huh?"

The surprise that crossed his face went unnoticed by the demon. "N-nothing."

With a shrug, Alfred made a sharp right turn that Arthur easily imitated with a deft twist of his wings, and then slowed down his pace. Taking a moment to catch his breath, he looked at Arthur and gestured upwards, where the clouds appeared to ripple instead of meander with each other like they normally did.

"That's a magic portal the angels abandoned," Alfred explained, and suddenly snickered. "They keep wondering how we manage to make it to Earth, because they forgot about it too. It's really kinda funny how they get so confused when they find us around humans."

Arthur glanced at him with an amused smirk. "Oh? What do they say if they find you?"

The demon laughed and posed like he was drawing back an arrow. "'You are not supposed to be here, devilish and heinous creature! Begone, or I shall be forced to smite thee!'" he imitated the eloquent speech of an angel as if it had happened lots of times. "'Let the humans be, and do no more corruption. If you are ever here again, you will surely be defeated by my hand. Out of Mercy, I will allow thee to keep thy life.'"

Shaking his head, Arthur chuckled and flicked his tail. "Charming," he remarked, and Alfred stuck his tongue out at him.

"Come on then, Mister Charming, what are we waiting for?" Alfred sneered teasingly, and poked Arthur's nose before abruptly flapping his wings and bolting upwards. "Race ya!"

"Why you little-!" Arthur growled and tore after him, grinning widely. Their wings spread and tilted forwards slightly for leverage, and, just before they could hit the portal, Arthur slowed down and evened with Alfred because he knew he could ascend faster.

Caught up in the moment, and with both of them laughing at each other, they did not realise they had passed through until Arthur went quiet and his expression became one of absolute awe. Alfred looked that way as well, and he gazed around with almost as much wonder as Arthur.

A few moments of being fascinated and distracted by all of the pretty lights and blackness of the sky passed before Alfred could say "I never get tired of this place..."

Arthur only hummed and nodded in agreement, smiling fondly at the world beneath them. He had only a few memories of encounters with humans, and they all had ended so well. They could feel the heavy but warm wind around them, which Arthur was grateful for, and he found the rushing noise below to be calming.

Earth held some of the most mesmerising and dark things, and there was not any question as to why demons and angels were so captivated, and why they loved to explore and see more of the human kind. Tragically beautiful children, was how God had referred to them.

A sudden thought came to Arthur's mind as both he and Alfred gazed at the city of blinding lights. "I did not know what I had until it was gone..." he murmured to himself, too softly for Alfred to hear. "I did not know what I never had." He also did not know why looking down upon a colourful planet brought back his empty and purposeless feeling.

His face wrenching in sorrow for himself, he wrung his hands and glanced up towards the unforgiving oily sky, where the stars were nowhere to be seen. He did not have a place in the universe. And he was not sure if he could make himself one anymore, not when he felt this lonely. There was no way he could take on all of the bad things in existence by himself, and there was no one left to love. There never was, and he had to keep correcting his mentality. He would be better off letting the evils of the world take over and conceding to the powers that be.

He felt himself tearing up as he looked hopelessly up at the moon. He had nothing left. He was stripped of everything he treasured, but long before he knew it. It was killing him.

"Hey." Alfred's voice brought him back to Earth.

Arthur blinked, and looked over to the demon, who had glanced up at him. "Yes?"

"Listen." the demon said in a low voice, and pointed down towards the centre of the city, where the most lights and sounds came from. "I don't know what's going on down there, wanna find out?"

A slightly excited nod and a grin from both of them was what brought them diving at an impossible speed. The wind was wilder than it was in Hell, and the height was one of thrilling extent. They shrieked and laughed all the way down, squinting and smiling.

They reached the top of a shiny building with ease, messing with their wind-blown hair and stretching out their wings. Arthur was not sure about Alfred, but he knew his heart was racing out of excitement. The only thought in his mind was how fun and exhilarating that was, and he could allow himself to forget the loneliness for awhile.

Shaking his head out to get rid of the dizziness, Alfred nudged Arthur with his elbow. "That was awesome!" he grinned, and laughed with Arthur as they stumbled around to find balance. "We can just forget all the serious things for now, yea? Let's stop thinking bad stuff and have some fun!"

Oh. Arthur looked over to Alfred, inwardly shocked. He did that on purpose? After thinking it over, Arthur realised Alfred must have noticed he was looking upset and decided to do something fun to take his mind off it.

That was why angels thought demons were only cruel and manipulative...Demons were kind but indirectly. Little things, unspoken things for their friends. An amazingly mislead misconception was what it was, and Arthur almost laughed.

"Yes," he agreed. "Let's have some fun."

They peeked over the edge of the building, listening to the louder city sounds. Arthur could hear what Alfred had mentioned earlier, and grinned down at the sight below. He would let Alfred guess.

"Dude!" he exclaimed soon after, and he pointed fiercely to the gathering of humans. "That thing! You were talking about that thing!" he leaned over the wall, almost looking like a child. He could recognise the harmonic sounds, he'd just forgotten how to name it.

It looked like a massive celebration. The lights were concentrated around four particular humans, and the rest of them were bouncing and yelling, gathered closely on the streets. Arthur rested his chin in his palm as he listened to the cheers and the music. They were at a concert.

"He's-he's doing that thing!" Alfred got a little more excitable, evident by his tail practically wagging and him waving wildly at the scene. "But with words! That thing that angels do!"

"He's singing," Arthur replied with a small smile. "Those are not just words. He is singing lyrics. Sometimes songs have words in them, and sometimes they do not. It's a traditional practice all over Earth, and all human cultures have some form of music."

"Music?" Alfred asked incredulously. "Why? What's so great about it? Is singing fun? Why are they all screaming?"

A laugh escaped Arthur. "It's entertainment and something to do for fun. Listening or making music appears to bring joy to humans either way. And I...I do not really understand why they are screaming. I do not think they are in pain, though."

This entire conversation seemed to be news to Alfred. "Oh." he said dumbly. "Well, what's he saying? And how come that guy gets to bang on stuff? Those other two are standing there with really weird and shiny sticks."

"Those are musical instruments!" Arthur said while laughing a little harder. "The sticks have strings on them that make pleasant sound, and that's the weird distorted part other than the voice. It's called a guitar, I think." Pointing at the other two, he began to explain their purpose. "He's not randomly being destructive, I don't think. Those cylinders keep a beat to the song. And that other man is playing a bass, which is a sort of foundation for the tune. Does that make sense?"

Alfred scrunched his face in thought. "Uh, kinda. The guy who's banging stuff...He's a drummer, I think, because demons do that beat stuff." he said thoughtfully. "But the guy in the front also has a stick. Is that a kind of amplifier?"

Arthur nodded. "It makes his voice louder without magic. Listen to what he is singing."

They both fell silent, and it only took a moment for them to begin to hear the words.

"It's already gone too far, who said that if you go in hard, you won't get hurt?" Arthur did not know the name of the man who was singing, but he knew that he had the voice of an angel. He had an inherently beautiful tone, and it rang so well in Arthur's ears. "Jesus, could you take the time, to throw a drowning man a line? Peace on Earth..."

He kept singing, but Arthur could no longer hear the words. He stopped listening, and got lost in thought. He was filled with that grief again, and he yearned for forgiveness from those whom he did not know anymore. That he never did know. 'Cause you don't know what you've got, until it's gone...' he thought like before. He had security, he had placement, he had purpose, he had happiness, he had hope, he had almost everything.

And now it was gone.

Yet, he had nothing. He never did. But he felt like he had it. The truth was slow to dawn on him, like the sun over the horizon. He had spent all of his time thinking he deserved every ounce of pain he received, and now, he knew it was unjust. Now he knew he would not be content falling this way.

With a searing glare at nothing in particular, it became clear to him.

He had to do something.

O~o~O

Chapter Text

The late night was filled with playful laughter and joyful grins.

Their senses were overwhelmed by everything Earth had to offer. There were so many blinding lights, so many deafening sounds, so many intoxicating scents, and the air even tasted different than in Hell. It was a wondrous experience, and Arthur did not remember the last time he had felt such childish joy. Alfred seemed a little giddy with excitement himself, as he was beginning to get clumsy like Arthur while they chased each other around.

Everything was loud and incomprehensible; Arthur and Alfred tore down streets, weaving in between lots of heavy rolling metallic objects and twirling around buildings and laughing the entire time. It was a game of some sort, with no rules and no spoken words. Just thrilled and exhilarated laughter as they randomly alternated chasing each other, as if they did not need to communicate at all. Their wide and crooked and goofy smiles were all that was needed.

They explored and played around like children, wrestling in the sky and tackling near the ground. It went on for hours and hours, wearing down on their impressive endurance, and flew like they did as mere blurs.

It was called night. Where angels lived in eternal day, demons lived in eternal night. Arthur was too excited and wound up to be jealous that the humans got both.

The night was glorious. Their game was legendary.

Somewhere late into the time, their strength wore out, and they collapsed on top of a short squat building near the portal. Barely able to lift themselves with their wings over the rim, they tumbled on the hard ground and rolled with each other like animal cubs, still giggling at each other with the leftover thrill.

“That…” panted Alfred, giving up and lying on his back. “...Was awesome!”

“Yes,” Arthur agreed breathlessly, mindlessly dragging himself on top of the demon as if to wrestle him some more. Half-heartedly pinning him down, he gave a tired smirk. “We should come to Earth more often…”

Alfred’s eyes lit up. “Yea! We...We totally should! We could…” he struggled for breath, giggling when Arthur began poking his sides. “W-we could make this a thing! Like we...come here e-every...Every time we can-! A-Arthur, stop!” he began laughing harder when Arthur tickled him.

“Make me, you...You git!” Arthur panted, unable to stop himself from chuckling. Alfred squirmed and laughed, trying to push Arthur’s hands away.

He only stopped when he began laughing too hard to use his hands, and he rested against Alfred for a moment, both of their figures shaking with their mirth. There was no particular reason that Arthur could name as to why, but everything about their situation was just so funny. They didn’t stop laughing for awhile.

When it eventually did get quiet again, Arthur forgot to move off of Alfred. At first, he felt intrusive and wrong, seeing as Alfred was a demon and all. But Alfred didn’t move, so Arthur gradually relaxed and closed his eyes, his arms folding closely to rest his head on Alfred’s torso. It was...Nice. Although it wasn’t completely, he felt like the both of them were perfectly comfortable with one another. Was this what being friends with a demon meant? That they had total and complete trust in each other?

Arthur thought he rather liked the closeness. It was reminiscent of when he was a small angel, when Heaven was still good. Of when no matter where he was, there was always someone to hug and play with. Of when he did not need to know a single angel’s name in the vast stretches of Heaven to be comfortable snuggling up with one or a few for a nap.

He absentmindedly wondered if Alfred would mind napping with him. Although it probably wasn’t worth the risk; he was already suspicious by how long he saw Arthur sleep last time. Sleeping together would be a catastrophe. Alfred only needed to sleep for two hours, so what would he think if Arthur slept four times longer than he did? That was just a disaster waiting to happen.

Opening his eyes to sneak a glance at the demon, he found that Alfred’s face was aimed skyward, but his eyes were shut. Arthur doubted he was sleeping; he could feel Alfred’s regular breathing since his arms rested on the demon’s lungs. He thought it was a bit of a sweet gesture, seeing as Alfred at least trusted him enough to rest his eyes around him.

Arthur didn’t want to feel like he was always treading on a strand full of broken glass, but it always seemed that way around almost everyone. The only instance he didn’t at all was around Alfred, and perhaps that was why he enjoyed the demon’s company so much. He was basically all Arthur had left, the only one he could smile and be genuinely happy around.

He was beginning to sound selfish. All of his new and old ideals were contrasting and confusing and it required too much thinking to sort it all out at once. Recalling those sweet, Heavenly naps, Arthur let his eyes close once more. Now that he thought about it, he was starting to feel a little drowsy…

“Hey, Para...Arthur?” Alfred’s quiet voice pulled him out of his mind.

Arthur opened one eye to look at him. “Hm?” he adjusted his arms, and watched as Alfred lifted his head slightly.

“You mentioned something earlier...” Alfred began to sit up let out a big yawn, showing off his sharp fangs. Sliding off of him, Arthur made a move to sit up as well and listened. “Ahh...Something serious...About the Angelicans.”

Oh. Right. Arthur had very nearly forgot the reason they were on Earth in the first place. Scratching the back of his head, he winced inwardly at how they managed to spend hours doing exactly what they had not come to do. “I believe I did, yes.” he agreed, stifling his own yawn.

“Okie dokie…” Alfred stretched, pulling his arms high above his head, before reaching over and tugging on Arthur’s uniform strap. Confused, Arthur simply gave him a weird look, until Alfred pulled on it harder and ended up scooting Arthur closer. Then he forcefully leaned forward to rest his forehead on Arthur’s shoulder, wiggling until he was comfortable.

“Ah. Um.” was all Arthur got out, and made an expression that was a cross of confusion and amusement when Alfred grinned and nudged him with his wing and tail. “Alright, first of all, your horns are poking me and that hurts,” he teased, and Alfred laughed but adjusted his head so his horns didn’t press into him anymore.

Overcome with what he could only describe as surprised but joyful pride, he didn’t dare move in any way so Alfred didn’t sit up. Unable to pin a word to his emotions, he looked downward at the demon resting on him and tried to hide a broad smile. He couldn’t even begin to explain why the gesture made him so happy. Maybe it was because it was good to feel trusted? It was probably somewhere along those lines, but regardless, Arthur was content.

Alfred sighed deeply against him. “So, what’s that serious thing? About the angels?”

Arthur’s smile fell. “Yes, yes, that…” he trailed off, trying to put his words together carefully. “It’s become slightly complicated, what I’m about to explain to you. I hope you understand if it’s not exactly clear.”

“Mmhm.” Alfred made the noise to indicate he meant ‘yes.’

With a slight nod to reassure himself, Arthur began to think about what he didn’t want to. The lies, the empty promises, the entire hoax of his existence. He thought about all the false kindness and meaningless words, all to make him out for a fool. ‘But no longer,’ he thought bitterly, and felt himself begin to boil with cold rage. He felt the need to stand, and leaned away from Alfred slightly, making the demon lift his head, and then brought himself to his feet so he could do just that. He began to pace with purpose, his jaw clenched in aggravation.

Unable to channel his uncracked codes into fully understandable words, he began to speak in an odd and unintendedly poetic way. “They’ll laugh as they watch us fall,” he hissed lowly. “The lucky don’t care at all...No chance for fate, it’s unnatural selection, and I want the truth.”

Alfred sat up straight and cocked his head to the side, listening carefully. Arthur was breathing slightly more forcefully now, as if holding back a fit of rage. “I’m hungry for some unrest, I want to push it beyond a peaceful protest! I want to speak in a language that they’ll understand,” he snarled. “Dedication to a new age, is this the end of destruction and rampage? Another chance to erase it, then repeat it again…”

The demon placed his hands on his knees, observing Arthur with a peculiar stare. “History repeats itself…” he murmured. “At least that’s what the humans say.”

“Counter-balance this commotion, we’re not droplets in the ocean...Ocean…” Arthur continued, and noticed his voice shaking slightly out of sheer fury. “They’ll laugh as they watch us fall! The lucky don’t care at all! No chance for fate, it’s unnatural selection! I want the truth!” he repeated from before, pacing a little more harshly. Alfred seemed to notice his trembling.

“No religion or mind virus! Is there a hope that the facts will ever find us? Just make sure that you are looking out for number one,” Arthur quavered angrily. “I’m hungry for some unrest, Let us push it beyond a peaceful protest, I want to speak in a language that you will understand…”

At that, Alfred looked up, meeting his livid green eyes with an intimidated and baffled stare while Arthur continued speaking aggressively. Alfred was still sitting, so Arthur was looking down at him. Alfred did not interrupt when he went on.

“They’ll laugh as they watch us crawl! The lucky don’t share at all! No hope for fate! It’s a random chance selection! I want the truth!” Arthur wasn’t able to stand on the ground any longer and abruptly spread his wings, which startled Alfred enough into making him back up a bit, and flew upward. He flew in a few furious circles while Alfred slowly brought himself to his feet, and watched the human sun begin to rise before it was curtained by dark grey clouds.

Alfred half-heartedly glided over to him and looked up as if he was smelling the city air. He didn’t say anything, seeming to guess that Arthur wasn’t done yet. But his slightly worried look suggested that he had never seen Arthur this angry or passionate before, but Arthur didn’t want to come off as frightening.

There was a slightly serene moment of silence between them, the only noise being the rushing life below. Arthur’s thoughts were absolutely churning with rage now, and he could barely find words to express all of what he needed to get across.

Making a slightly desperate expression, he spoke with a suddenly quiet and broken voice. “Try...To ride out the storm...Whilst they’ll make you believe...They are the special ones…” he sighed and landed, glaring at the dawn while crouching for a brief moment on the edge of the building. “We have not been chosen…”

When Arthur jumped off and began to fly back the way they had come awhile ago, Alfred was quick to follow and flapped his wings rapidly to make up the slight distance between them. He looked like he was still trying to wrap his head around what Arthur was saying.

“Injustice is the norm! You won’t be the first, and know you won’t be the last…” Arthur muttered out of spite when Alfred caught up. “Counter balance this commotion, we’re not droplets in the ocean, ocean, ocean…!” he insisted darkly.

It startled Alfred when he looked up and yelled accusingly at the sky, flying higher than before. “They’ll laugh as they watch us fall! And the lucky, they don’t care at all! No chance for fate, it’s unnatural selection! I want the truth! I want the truth!”

He flew upward and roared towards the heavens. “Damn it, I want the truth! I want the truth!” His voice flew over the city, travelling as far as his rage would take it, and echoed back softly. It snapped him out of his furious trance, and he looked down from where he was flying at an anxious looking Alfred.

He probably didn’t make any sense at all. Mirroring Alfred’s expression, Arthur spiraled back down to him, tucking his wings and tail back shamefully, and opened his mouth to apologise when they continued slowly onwards back to the portal.

“Dude,” Alfred said before he could. “I thought the angels were right in all they did. With all they declared, I really was beginning to be convinced that demons really shouldn’t exist…” he mumbled off to the side.

Arthur’s eyes widened. “S-seriously?!” Without even thinking, he fluttered in front of him and stopped Alfred in mid-air, both of them now bobbing in the air. “What the hell could even make you begin to believe that?! You git, of course you matter! Everything alive has value in the universe, and you cannot think of everything as black and white! It’s not that simple! I don’t know what kind of bloody angel would say that, but Heaven’s first and foremost belief is that all life matters!”

Alfred’s taken aback look was to be expected. “Y-yea, but…” he said weakly. “Y-you just said they were lying…”

Maneuvering himself back slightly with his wings, Arthur crossed his arms. “It’s...It’s really complicated, Alfred. Angels are bound by certain rules of idealism and perfection. But after...er...recent events of which I cannot disclose easily to you, I have realised it might be false. Angelicans might be hiding behind an innocent and glorious image, but I am not entirely sure yet. That attack...It was unprovoked as far as I know. They have no reason to make any sort of offensive move, and I am suspicious. I think something might be happening that could threaten all of dem- ah- O-our kind…”

“How can you know all that?” Alfred asked, blinking in confusion after thinking it over. “You know an awful lot for a demon.”

A bit defensively out of fear of being found out, Arthur growled back. “Like I said, I do not know everything! I want the truth, I want to know what is going on! I feel like I am being lied to and I do not like it!”

Alfred held up his hands in submission, and sounded slightly breathless. “Hell, dude, sorry. You have a point. The Angelicans are beginning to act suspiciously, but I think the Demonocracy is up to some pretty dark stuff too. I’m just curious.”

“Rightfully so, I suppose,” Arthur huffed and looked out over the horizon, ignoring the blurry streets below. “It does not feel right. Nothing about any of it. Ugh…” he sighed roughly aloud. “I- this- probably is not making any sense, is it? I think I am as confused as you are…” he rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand.

The demon nodded and fiddled with his tail. “I think I get the jist of what you’re sayin’. But, um…” he looked towards the sun again, watching it brawl with the clouds. “What do ya say we go ahead and go back to Hell? I’m starting to get a little overheated…” he panted.

Raising his eyebrows, Arthur glanced over to see that Alfred was indeed sheened with sweat on his face, and his face was a little pink from the effort of flying in place. He’d thought it was nice out, just a little warm. But granted, they were wearing all black, and demons preferred the cold. He’d forgotten how different their bodies were. “O-of course! Let us return,” he agreed a little too quickly.

He gestured for Alfred to follow as he whirled around and flew rather hastily back the way they had come. His wings catching once more on the rapid city air, he was reminded of what it was like to fly as an angel. Now he wasn’t sure whose side he was on.

Glancing with uncertain eyes at the demon flying beside him, he wondered. ‘What am I fighting for now?’ Grimly then, with a cold stare onwards, he knew. ‘I am fighting for the truth. I am fighting for what I originally came to do, and I fully intend to do it.’

“You! What are you doing here?!”

O~o~O

“Francis! Francis!” a shrill voice rang out, startling a few napping angels from their peaceful rest. “Francis! Where are you?!”

The young archangel looked panic-stricken, and flew hurriedly over the field of clouds that angels of many different kinds slept upon. Most of the angels had gorgeous dark skin and hair, with wings that were striped, coloured to match their eyes, or even dusted with the colour of their magic after years of experience. He, however, was looking for a particular pale angel with long blonde hair and creamy-coloured wings.

A few angels responded to his call, and pointed him in a few different directions to where they last saw the commander. But it took the slender angel several calls until he could find the Power.

“Mmnn...Oui, Feliciano? What is it?” Francis asked groggily, waking up slowly and rubbing his eyes.

Feliciano landed next to Francis, who had been sprawled elegantly across a particularly puffy and comfortable looking cloud. He knelt down, assisting Francis in sitting up, and waiting politely for him to be ready for his urgent word.

At a nod, he began to babble rapidly. “I cannot find Zadkiel anywhere! He disappeared after the attack, and Camael will not assist me in my search! He simply stated that Zadkiel was doing some work on Earth for him. He knew about Arthur! What if Camael cast him out of heaven?! Arthur is angry now, furious with Heaven! He believes angels are bad and that we have malevolent plans for the future! Francis, what are we going to do?!” he shrieked, not even bothering to be quiet about it.

Francis blinked tiredly at Feliciano, barely able to process anything he’d just said. “Feli…” he sighed softly. “I need a little bit of time to wake up.”

Practically in tears, Feliciano nodded miserably. “Ve, o-okay…” he sat back and let Francis have room to stretch.

Francis thought about what Feli had said, trying to make sense of it. Yawning and stretching his wings, he made a move to stand up and cast an apologetic look to all the angels who were awakened by Feliciano’s yelling.

Bouncing on his heels and eagerly waiting, Feli waiting with an agitated look on his face. “Francis...This is really important…” he whined.

“Oui, oui, I know.” Francis replied soothingly, and gestured for Feli to stand. “Come, join wings with me.”

The two angels flew with somewhat dark expressions on their faces, both of them looking haunted. Not many of the others seemed to notice them, which was not surprising considering they were practically emanating negative feelings.

“Zadkiel is missing.” Francis stated, rather than asked. Feliciano’s nod confirmed it, and he glanced downward solemnly at their shadows crossing the clouds. “Camael will not reveal where he is, and Arthur is furious with us.”

“Yes.” Feli said in a slightly choked voice.

Looking pained, Francis sucked in a deep breath. “I am not sure there is much we can do yet. There is no way we can message Arthur with the truth about what is happening, and now I do not think he can trust us, even if we could. It is too much for him to comprehend at once, whatever it is he has figured out. We have to pray that he knows what to do.” he said quietly. “We cannot trust Camael. Ever since the attack, he has been cruel and manipulative, like you told me. Whatever we do, we do in secret. Arthur has to be the one that stops this, because he is the only one that can stand up for himself. We are already in danger, and we might be the next to go missing. But no matter what, we protect Arthur. Arthur is all that matters…”

They came to a halt, and perched on top of a giant statue of Mary. “Arthur...I think he has Zadkiel’s feather.” Feli murmured.

Francis blinked. “What?”

Swallowing nervously and wringing his hands, Feli nodded. “I did not see the entire thing, because I am only in Camael’s Cathedral for a couple of hours at a time. It was just before the Angelican Army returned to Heaven, because I had stepped inside to check on him. All I saw was Arthur in that Military place I had told you about before, and he was holding a white feather striped with purple. There are not many others with purple magic.”

His eyes widening, Francis began to put it together, and he thought hard. “Zadkiel must have gone to Hell to try and contact Arthur!”

“I do not think it was successful,” Feli said worriedly. “Arthur did not seem to know how he had gotten the feather. What if he never got back from Hell? Or...Wait…” he trailed off.

“What? What is it?” Francis asked urgently, fluttering his wings as he sat down, prompting Feli to do the same.

Looking down at the marble they were perched upon, Feli spoke again. “Camael has spoken of using human technology for the Angelican army. I am beginning to wonder if he meant on the Angelican Army.”

Francis’ face paled with horror. “Technology like…”

“Machinery, implants, medicine, weapons…” Feli listed, and he began to tear up again. “I think Camael figured out that Zadkiel had snuck off to do business against his will. And then he forced that witchcraft onto him and cast him to Earth! Francis, Zadkiel is an angel drone!”

O~o~O

Arthur froze in utter shock.

“You! What are you doing here?!”

Alfred seemed surprised, but not at all frightened like Arthur. They stared with wide eyes at the angel before them, who donned frightening looking armour that certainly was not traditional.

It was a dulled silver, rather than the gold Arthur would have expected. And it was not for battle, in fact, it looked more like it was there permanently. There was a dark eyepiece over one of his eyes that glowed, and the shoulders of his wings had metal sheets extending them too. It was common knowledge not to arm wings at all. Arthur was also certain that there were not supposed to be small blinking lights over his chest piece.

But he recognised the feathers.

His hand absentmindedly reached into his shirt and delicately pulled out the long feather from his inside pocket. Holding it out in front of him, he knew it was unmistakable.

“Zadkiel…?” he whispered.

Alfred glanced over to him. “What?”

His breathing accelerating in panic, Arthur met Alfred’s stare with wide eyes. “Alfred, we have to go.” he said. “We have to go right now, immediately.”

Without thinking twice, he grabbed Alfred’s hand and tore upwards as fast as his wings would take him, replacing the feather in his jacket and passing through the portal.

Chase your dreams away, glass needles in the hay, the sun forgives the clouds, you are my holy shroud...

And I just don't care if it's real, that won't change how it feels, I just don't care if it's real, that won't change how it feels...

O~o~O

Chapter Text

O~o~O

It was cold enough that Arthur’s lips were beginning to turn blue.

He shivered violently and rubbed his arms, sitting in the corner of his alley. It had long gone dark in Hell, because the sky was flooded with clouds. The wind never would relent either, no matter where Arthur sought out shelter, and the rain was not of any help. His uniform was plastered to his skin, and he felt like he was sitting clothless in the freezing night.

His stomach growled, his skin crawled, his mind churned, and he was heavy with grief. Nothing could go his way anymore. Every time something began to look up, something else would go horribly wrong. It seemed to be a recurring pattern in his life, only fluctuating in the urgence of the situation. It could never settle, he could never be happy, not for a moment. God, it hurt worse and worse every time.

Alfred had left soon after Arthur brought them back through the portal. He had wanted an explanation, seeming worried, but Arthur had insisted he return to the demons waiting without him. Thinking that Arthur simply needed to figure things out on his own, Alfred had heeded his word and left him alone. It was for the best as well, since now Arthur could not stop the tears while he pathetically wallowed in his misery.

His hands shook as he reached into his wet jacket and pulled out the lavender-tipped feather. “Why did this happen to you…?” he asked the quill as if it could answer him. “What is going on…?”

Too many unanswered questions rang around inside his head, and he wanted to scream. But, in a brief moment of logical calmness, such as the eye of the storm, he made every attempt to silence his cries and whimpers. His throat ached from all the wretched wails he held back. He curled up tighter, resting his forehead on his knees, and tugged on his wet red hair without letting go of the feather. Everything hurt. His mind, his heart, and his body. His soul was slowly dying, as was his faith. No one could help him. Not now, not ever.

“I should just give up,” he whispered hoarsely. “I could let all Hell break loose without doing a single thing, and no one would blame me. No one would remember me.”

Trying to come to terms with that, he leaned back to reach into his jacket again, aiming to put the feather back, when his fingers brushed across something hard. Pulling out the journal that he had nearly forgotten about, he blinked with watery eyes at the book and flipped it open. He pointedly ignored how the light rain prodded the damp pages, and carefully turned each and every page.

All the drawings, all the words scrawled in, all the blood that made up his first experiences in Hell. It seemed like much more pleasant times back then, when his only worry was getting enough sleep and eating sustainably. Nothing compared to the present, when now he had to worry about Heaven and Hell reversing roles. The last time he had written, he had still believed he was a Hero, a warrior for peace. Now he knew he was nothing more than a speck of dust, a simple smudge in the midst of an ever-changing universe. He was so, so small.

He turned the last page that he had written in with a slightly disgusted scowl at his former self, but his tired eyes narrowed when he realised there was more to the journal. Trying to read it through his blurry vision, he used the palm of his gloved hand to move away some of the rain. It was a message, he realised. A message in a language more common in Heaven.

‘My dearest Arthur,

By the time you read this, I will have been long gone. There has been an attack on a region of Hell near you, and you have no idea how relieved I am at finding you safe. If only you were not asleep, but I will not disturb your rest. You are a tired angel, I can see it in your face, in the dark circles under your eyes. However, this is terribly urgent! I must tell you that you cannot trust anyone! You have been lied to about nearly everything. I write with truth, but you may not even be able to trust me in the near future. I know not of what Camael has in mind for my punishment, but it will be of a Hellish sort. He has a twisted mind, my child. Without a doubt, he knows that I have broken away from the Angelican army to find you. Worry not, Arthur, I have already accepted what is to come for me. I will gladly die for you. My fear is that I will be punished with something worse than death.

It is all up to you, my sweet angel. You were given a mission to save all of the angels and the humans, even if it meant destroying Demonocracy. But it was under the assumption that you would not succeed. Camael expected you to die. However, I still believe in you, and so do several more of us in Heaven. Think not of it as a mission failed, but rather a new beginning! You must be the saviour of all kinds now! Not just angels or humans. You must be the vessel that saves us all.

I cannot help you anymore beyond this point. You must be the one to figure out how to do it! I know you can, you are clever and cunning, intelligent beyond most beings. If I am right, Camael would not be merciful and simply grant me death. He would do something worse, beyond your or my imagination. Should we meet again, gentle Arthur, do not pursue me. I would be dangerous and cruel, and willing to kill any demons on sight. It is my worst nightmare, even beyond falling, to be the hand that brings death. Please, I implore you to be careful. Laying all of your faith in someone could be what ends up killing you, just as it has me.

It is too late to save me, and I tell you this because I know you. I know you remember me from the day you fell, and you will wish to help. Do not try, please. Camael is going to try to bring death to all who are not angels, and he might try to kill you as well. He and his Angelican followers are the enemy, not just the angels. There are a few others who are relying on you to break his spell and end his reign. He is not who you think he is! I am almost certain Camael is not an angel himself.

This is all I can do for you, and I weep because I wish very strongly that I could do more. But I cannot; for your safety and protection, I must leave you in Hell to your own devices once more. You must be the Messenger! May your prayers be answered and may God grant us forgiveness.

~Zadkiel, the Angel of Mercy~’

After reading it over several times, Arthur felt himself go numb with shock. How could he have missed this? It had all been right with him the entire time! Before he could get hysterical, Arthur tried to assuage himself by assuring his conscious that despite having some clue, the message did not hold all of the answers. He was still confused, still lost, and still without help. All it did was confirm his suspicions.

“Zadkiel…” he whimpered quietly, carefully shutting the soaking journal and sliding it back inside his jacket with quivering hands. He cringed when his last view of the formerly beautiful archangel flashed in his mind’s eye, and he buried his face in his arms once more. “You knew something worse was coming...But you never knew it would turn you against me…” The mere thought of what horrible things had been done to the archangel’s body and mind left him gasping for breath out of fear. “Camael did this to you…”

Wishing for some form of comfort, Arthur looked up at the sky and performed the switching spell, discovering Zadkiel’s warm and mostly dry tunic top around his shoulders. Pulling it off in an upset rush and switching back to his demon appearance, Arthur wrapped himself with the old Angelican uniform and carefully clutched the feather in his trembling hands.

Whispering Zadkiel’s name in sorrow and blinking both rain and tears out of his eyes, Arthur hummed old angel hymns and cried to himself. God, the tears felt so familiar on his cheeks along with the searing rain, and the pain was known too well. He was going to get found out eventually, just because crying was the only way he could deal with this pressure.

He cursed angels for being such emotional beings, and lamented his miserable existence like never before until he fell unawares, practically fainting into an exhausted slumber.

O~o~O

He woke up alone.

Grateful for that, Arthur let out a shaky breath and sat up as much as he could. He winced and shifted his arm to pull on his knee to sit up when a sharp soreness made itself known across his whole body, especially in his neck. He’d fallen asleep in an odd position, curled up sitting against the wall with his head cocked to the side. Not very comfortable, to say the least.

His eyes slowly adjusted to the slightly brighter scene, no longer blinking away rain, and he felt strangely calm like a whole unknown weight within him had been dissipated like dust. It felt somewhat empty now.

Unlike the last time he had been awoken, he was gradually able to adjust to awareness, rather than panicking. That was a relief. Opening his mouth wide to yawn and slowly moving his muscles, Arthur brought himself to his feet and sleepily stumbled until he could find his balance. Rubbing his tired eyes, Arthur stretched carefully, his face wrinkling in groggy discomfort at the movement. He waited until he was fully woken up to focus on more important things.

He absentmindedly fingered the soft tunic top around his shoulders. His clothes were still slightly damp, but it wasn’t raining anymore, so he figured he could dry off quickly enough. Spreading his wings to stretch them as well, he got startled when he felt a couple of droplets hit the back of his neck that must have been suspended on the sharp points of the bat-like limbs. Even now, he still had yet to get used to demon anatomy.

Curiously, he reached to the top of his head, combing his fingers through his red hair until they found his left horn. He did not understand why demons had horns at all; was it an evolutionary tactic to make themselves more frightening? Or was it something more biblical, like they were designed that way? Feeling over the small ridges in the protrusion from his head, he sighed deeply and decided to let it be. He might never know.

Making sure his journal and Zadkiel’s feather were safely put inside his jacket, he performed a surprisingly smooth and swift transformation to replace the Angelican uniform with his natural appearance, before returning to his demon self. Looking around, as if making sure he hadn’t left anything, he made sure his small area was spotless before taking flight.

Initially, going to the base like usual seemed like a great idea, in the hope that the demons he failed to get back to yesterday would be there. But, in the middle of trying to ascend while rounding the familiar route, his stomach growled loudly, and he realised just how fuzzy his mind was when he nearly clipped a hard corner with his shoulder.

“Alright, alright,” he said to himself. “Food is first priority. Then, maybe water. Actually, a bath sounds nice.”

Promising himself some form of nourishment, he changed directions and clumsily flew in the direction of the baths he liked. The air chilling him, he shivered and hugged his arms. It smelled different in Hell for some reason, like the cold city was slowing down for a more frigid season. It clouded his senses, making it almost difficult to breathe the heavy air. It burned down his throat.

After just managing to make it through the alley walls and various large objects he had to weave around, Arthur caught sight of the building he was headed for, and wheezed quietly. His whole body felt about ready to give up on him. He felt tired and anxious, and he hadn’t even been awake that long.

Glancing upward at the dark sky and breathing hard, he gazed hopelessly across the hazy horizon of hell.

When he finally stumbled into the grey building, panting heavily, he very nearly collapsed to his knees out of exhaustion. He had half a mind to be bitter about his ignorance of his own health, but he was more focused on trying to be able to stand straight. He felt bleary, and let out weak noises along with his breathing unintentionally. His chest hurt, his throat was sore, and the muscles in his wings and back ached like he’d flown for several miles.

He didn’t even hear anyone approach him, but a short, purposeful cough startled him into looking up from the stone floor. Letting out a quiet “Huh?” in confusion, he was faced with a large piece of warm bread shoved right in front of him, to the point where he could smell it more than he could see it.

“Eat it.” commanded a sharp voice. Arthur dragged his distracted gaze up to see the demon who seemed to own the bath house, the older woman with that natural snarl.

“I- buh- ah- you-...” he stuttered weakly, nearly tipping over and falling as he tried to explain himself to the elder demon.

She had none of it. “Eat it,” she told him again, and stuffed it in his mouth without warning. “You fool, you’re going to end up dying of starvation. You think the Demonocracy would appreciate that? They’d be sure to cremate you if you just died on them. Then you’d really be in for it; being cremated is almost worse than being in the innermost circle of Hell, from what I’ve heard. You have to keep yourself healthy.”

Arthur only barely understood what she said, having nearly choked on the big slice of bread that occupied his mouth. Making an odd noise that resembled a startled but muffled cry, he came very close to falling on the floor while flailing his hands uselessly.

His weak knees weren’t helping. The only thing that kept him standing was the demon’s sudden firm grasp on his shoulders, at least until he composed himself at her firm glare.

She let go of Arthur, but pointedly waited to watch him eat. She stood sternly with her arms crossed, waiting for him to start chewing. Even though he was taller than she was, he somehow felt infinitely smaller like a child. Then again, he was hunched over weakly and clinging to the wall. After realising that she wasn’t going away, Arthur finally began eating, and she waited until he had finished every bite. By the time he was done, he hadn’t even noticed that he’d slid to the floor on his knees, savouring every bite like it was the most seasoned and rich bread in all existence.

The demon let out a satisfied huff and turned to walk back to her usual place, finally letting Arthur be. He let out a small sigh of relief, and also found himself at least able to think straight. Shifting up so he was kneeling, he leaned forwards and brought himself back to a stand.

Seeing that the nameless demon was occupied with sorting out something near the front of the room, Arthur turned and walked over to the washrooms to get cleaned up before anything else happened. “What did she mean by being cremated?” he mumbled to himself as he rounded the corner, by himself again and able to switch to his angel self. Hopefully out of earshot. “Is that not something the humans do to celebrate their dead?”

He thought about it very deeply as he washed, scrubbing all over his body, in between his feathers, his fingernails, his face, everywhere. He shivered violently, but he felt too numb and tired to react properly. He knew humans were full of many different cultures that he could not name, and so there were several ceremonies for disposing of the deceased. What purpose did cremating serve?

Arthur had wondered why his skin was beginning to look so dark. He made sure to wash all of the dirt off as thoroughly as he could with shaky hands. “G-God.” he muttered, after he had leaned forward to submerge his head and wet his hair.

Trembling very noticeably when he finally got out, Arthur sighed deeply and preened his wet, trembling feathers until he had gotten his plumage sorted out for the most part. The quills were flushed, trying to warm up again, so the inside of his wings had a slightly pink appearance as if they were blushing.

As he carefully dried his blonde hair out, he made sure the rest of his body was dry as well before putting his tunic back on and arranging Zadkiel’s uniform around his shoulders. Still not hearing anyone around, Arthur remained as he was for a moment, staring at himself in the mirror.

He stood alongside two statues also staring at the mirror in the room who were supposed to represent the ‘demons of vanity,’ or something like that. He did not know why else the room came off as so frightening, other than himself. Finding himself very nearly horrified at his own appearance, he couldn’t help but stare.

The tunic fitted more loosely than it did before. He was almost certain that he had not been this slender when he last saw himself, and while he still held a somewhat muscular figure, he was still obviously not in top health. His hair hung in damp strands around his face, not quite long enough to cover his dead green eyes that were shadowed underneath with very dark circles. He dragged his gaze along down his jawline, that contoured a little more sharply than he remembered, down his arms and the shoulders of his wings. Turning slightly, he realised his back was bruised, but not for a reason he could pin.

Before he had to look at his malnourished form any longer, he tore his eyes away and began the switching spell. Why was it that his demon self looked more alive than the angel appearance?

Not wanting to question it, he walked a little too quickly out of the washroom.

Fixing his black tie, he nervously pretended to be busy as to not catch the gaze of the stern demon who still stood around the same area she was before. She, however, had a different idea.

“Paranomia!” she snapped without turning around.

Arthur froze. “Y-yes?”

Flicking her spiny and weathered tail, she turned to him, holding something that Arthur didn’t know the name of from first glance. “I don’t expect you to tell me why you’re being so stupid and not feeding yourself, but if you don’t want to die, you better take this.” she handed it to him, and it took everything Arthur had to not jump back in disgust.

It was a carcass of some kind. A dead animal.

“Jesus.” he muttered under his breath, and then panicked, thinking the demon heard him. But she didn’t, she simply held out the disgusting body in front of herself expectantly, waiting for him to take it.

“Well?” she asked at his hesitation, watching his hand twitch towards the dead thing, wrinkling his nose. “Take the damn fish, Paranomia.” she shoved it towards him.

Unable to help his revolted expression, he almost dropped it by simply pinching the tail between his finger and thumb, and then kept an awkward grip on it. “I-I do not have the money, I cannot take this,” he tried to insist, but was shut up by the demon waving it off.

“Just eat it,” she snarled. “but don’t expect this kindness again. You better figure out a way to feed yourself, because you can’t afford to be a useless child at a time like this.”

“Y-yes, ma’am.” he straightened immediately, still holding the dead fish a considerable distance from himself.

The demon narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t you form that stupid habit of formalities,” she hissed. “Just go, eat that, and if you die, I’ll kill you.” she waved him off and turned around to get back to what she was doing.

Standing there for a moment, Arthur stared after her before reluctantly looking at the fish. He had to figure out how to eat it, since he felt he didn’t have a choice. So, with a heavy breath and a slightly disturbed expression, he spread his wings and glided outside in search of a more private place to eat his...fish.

Despite how sick it made him feel just thinking about putting that thing in his mouth, he forced down the bile in his throat and pulled himself together. “It’s alright, you’ve seen the humans eat fish before. Jesus even ate fish!” he assured himself, landing around behind another tall building. “Surely I can as well...At least just eat out the middle.”

With the most nauseated and repulsed feeling, he held the raw fish on its side in his hands, and slowly brought it closer to his face, sinking his teeth into the centre.

O~o~O

“God, I’m never doing that again,” Arthur moaned to himself, flapping his wings carefully as he entered the base.

He had managed a few bites of it, at least. But the moment he felt like he was going to vomit, he dropped the fish without thinking and abruptly flew off to find water, and sat for a long while by a heavily flowing faucet just to wash out the revolting taste of raw fish from his mouth, and in the hopes of calming his stomach so he didn’t lose all that he had just eaten.

It worked, eventually. He didn’t throw up at least, and that was a good thing. In fact, he didn’t even feel that hungry anymore. Feeling only forced content, he removed his hand from his now only slightly upset stomach as he entered the cylindrical room.

It was empty, he gathered, from looking around the deserted area.

“Huh.” he said aloud, looking around, only just then noting that he had not heard a single noise from anywhere else in the Base. There was usually something going on, right? He couldn’t have missed anything.

He turned around, about to leave and figure out where he could go from there, when he saw a figure standing aways from him, in the middle of the silver arch. Startled, he pulled in a sharp breath and instinctively got into a defensive position. That was, until he recognised the demon.

“Ivan,” Arthur sighed in relief, and relaxed at the sight of his friend. “I was beginning to think something happened, what-?”

“You’re in trouble Paranomia.” Ivan stated simply, interrupting him. It only took a few steps towards the Russian-accented demon for Arthur to realise that he did not exactly look like he was up for pleasant chatter. He stood with his arms crossed and his head lowered in a dark look, and Arthur stopped.

He blinked. “Er...Come again?” he asked, confused.

Ivan stared at him with an unnerving and frightening look. “Phobos and Deimos are looking for you. I suggest you run before they find you, because they have gruesome plans for your fate.” he hissed in a low voice.

“E-excuse me?” Arthur didn’t understand and backed up a step.

Wrinkling his nose into a slight snarl, Ivan spat. “Are you stupid or something, Paranomia? You think they haven’t noticed how strange you are compared to us? You think I haven’t noticed? We’re not fools. We know something is off about you, otherwise you would not know so much of the Angelicans. You are lucky I found you first, and lucky that I am still somehow loyal to you. I am not kidding when I tell you to run.”

Panic slowly rising, Arthur went on edge. “I-I, uh, I-Ivan-”

“Save it, Paranomia! If you live, I expect a full explanation. Phobos and Deimos and the rest of the demons who follow them are searching in bloodlust for your head! Get out of here!”

As Arthur flew towards him, Ivan ushered him out, still looking very dark. “They’ll kill you if you let them. Run fast and far, and we’ll find you. We’ll try to defend you.”

That was the last he caught from Ivan before he was too far away to hear, and he flew fast back the way he came, clueless as to where he should go. He was also still confused for infinite reasons. He didn’t know what was happening or what was going on, but he understood it was not anything good. For him, anyway.

Flapping his wings harder to ascend, he finally exited the base and took a route that closely followed the edges of Hell’s broken city. Ivan had made him paranoid, and he felt like he was being pursued.

Slowly becoming breathless with his speed in panicked flight, he dove closer to the ground and did his best to twirl and weave around the desolate streets, remaining in the shadows. The air smelt wet, and he was certain it was going to begin raining again, and the rain would be freezing.

The thing that frightened him most was the fact that he had no idea what he was doing or where he was going. Did Ivan just want him to run far away for no reason? Or was he really in danger? Trying to even his velocity with his breathing, he desperately flew onward.

It wasn’t until a horrific screech sounded behind him that he realised he was being chased.

“There he is!” roared a demon, and Arthur could hear the shouts of several others as well. Dread filled him like the heavy clouds in the sky, and he felt sick to his stomach again.

With only a half glance back, he could see the swirling mass of them, all the demons he’d ever wronged or hurt, and his eyes widened in horror. Phobos and Deimos were somewhere in that storm of demons, and, breaking out in a cold sweat, Arthur could just feel from the very depths of his being that they had every intention of seeing him dead.

His movements became stiff and overwhelmed, and it took everything he had to keep flying. He became a little unsteady, and faltered several times trying to turn and not hit anything, but the nauseous feeling made that unbearably difficult. Arthur could practically hear the demons breathing as they gave chase to the angel.

A screeching crowd of cheetahs on the hunt for one gazelle. A gazelle that was about ready to fall at any given moment, really. Unnatural Selection had caught up to him again, and he was only fueled by adrenaline that coursed through his body like the blood roaring in his ears. Heart beating painfully and evidently, he gasped and moaned for breath, his body trying too hard to compensate for his speed.

Hell became a blur. He could hardly see what he was flying over, and his avoiding hitting the run down buildings became pure luck. Numb with the cold, he lost just about all coherent thought.

Left. No, right. Ascend. Spin this way. His mind was light and spacey. His body felt faint. The back of his neck was chilled from the sweat that dripped from his hair. He couldn’t feel his fingers.

Almost running into a wall, he risked a glance back. He was still ahead, but not by far. ‘Mercy, mercy, please show me mercy!’ his mind begged, and his body wearily tore through the air with shaky muscles. He had no idea how long he could run for.

This felt familiar. Why did this resemble the time he was being pursued by Alfred’s Rage?

A dead feeling manifested in him. He had no idea where he was, what he could do, what was happening. His final attempt to surge forward and faster in flight brought him to a place he was certain he’d been before.

The portal.

Only just spotting it with his glazed over eyes, he rose to meet it without thinking.

Earth was his last hope.

The air was no longer warm and pleasant. The dive was not exhilarating like the last time. His wings trembled in the wind and he kept almost spinning out of control. He could barely process that he was headed straight for a complicated network of silver roads lit up by moving vehicles and shiny with the light rain.

He was caught before he could make it.

Something latched onto the edge of his wing, almost ripping it right off his back when he was yanked backwards, back towards his chasers. He howled in pain, and the rush of cold made him figure the fragile skin had been torn and he was bleeding. Going limp for a brief moment, he was helplessly pulled towards the demon.

“Paranomia,” Deimos spat, holding Arthur face-to-face with him and forcing the angel to meet his wild eyes, alight with a raging fire. “You’ve left us with no choice but to kill you. We will bathe in your blood tonight in celebration, and the Demonocracy will rise on without the likes of you.” he smirked and brought the hand that had grabbed Arthur to his mouth, licking off some of the red from his bare fingers.

Arthur gagged and weakly tried to squirm away, pushing at Deimos’s grip on him. The rain was blurring his vision a little, but he could see that the rest of the demons were approaching as well. Phobos wasn’t long after Deimos, and he also gripped Arthur tightly, using the claws on his wings to dig into Arthur’s arm.

Feeling himself crippling, Arthur tried everything he could to get away, letting out sharp cries as the pain got excruciatingly worse. Eventually he let himself drop like a dead weight, and somehow that managed to make Phobos and Deimos lose their grip on him, his wet body slipped through their claws.

It wasn’t without leaving several gashes as he slipped from their painful grasp. Tears welling up in his eyes, he let out faint whimpers as he fell down towards Earth again, trying to adjust his position so he could fall back like in a dive.

However, with his wing wounded, it only made him begin spinning uncontrollably. Letting out a hysterical wail, not just out of pain from all the stinging wounds that were made worse by the rushing wind, he did everything he could to slow back down.

With no idea how he managed it, he somehow spread his wings and glided in a more horizontal angle, still spinning. Phobos and Deimos were still on his heels, and he couldn’t even tell where anyone else was.

The two Demonocratic commanders evened with him and tried to tackle him out of the sky, and the only thing that kept them from doing just that was Arthur’s sheer desperation and last-resort survival reactions. They bit into him, clawed at every possible angle, and earned screams of unbearable agony. Still, he wrestled with them despairingly, flapping his near-useless wings, until they got close to impacting the ground, and they were in the dead centre of the complex of silvery paths that shiny rolling machines sped past on.

He succeeded in using their own momentum to hurl them off of him. Still way better off than he was, they quickly met with him again and continued attacking his defenseless form in the air. He was beginning to see red, and spots danced around his hazy vision. Overwhelmed, he could feel his body shutting down.

Something loud blared in their ears. All three of them turned, only to be blinded. In an instant, Phobos and Deimos had abandoned Arthur. Something huge slammed into him.

The impact sent him off the side, head first. He felt like he was flying upside down, the only thing he could hear was screeching and breaking and fast roaring that quickly disappeared and was replaced, over and over again. Before he could process any more, he hit something else, but the sheer force that shattered glass and metal alike beneath him kept him from landing, and the surface disappeared beneath him. He landed hard on the pavement.

The world spun like never before, and through the gloom he could see the sky. The rain stung his eyes, and he wasn’t sure if he was lying still. Various dark shaped tore after each other, and everything shimmered like the starlight in the gloom.

Lights danced across the short walls. Metallic contraptions rolled past faster than Arthur could think. Something smelt like it had died, something artificial. He could gradually feel the world slip from him. His body screamed silently.

Slowly, he could feel his eyes begin to close, the world getting darker and darker…

He did not know what was happening. Many more of those black figures tore through the sky, and a scraping sound close to him startled his slow mind enough to keep him awake.

His fingers twitched. Something appeared overhead, a much closer black figure. He was too tired to be afraid.

For a moment, all he could hear was the rain and the human traffic. But then, it spoke. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, little buddy…” murmured a quiet voice.

Arthur’s gaze flitted around, trying to identify the form above him. Alas, he could not see, and instead let out was he thought was a choked cough.

He felt so tired. But he could not bring himself to close his sore eyes, and felt something warm press into all the hurting, soaking areas. He could not move, and could barely breathe. Nothing was working. His chapped lips couldn’t even open to form words. But he must have made some sort of noise, because the figure appeared close to him again.

“Shh, shh,” it told him, and something brushed his wet hair from his face. “It hurts, I know, buddy. I know. Stay with me, okay? Stay awake.”

Unable to do much else, Arthur abided as much as he could.

It did hurt. But the warm feeling returned, soothing various parts of his body as it went. His eyelids trembled, alternating between wanting to close and open. He fought for consciousness, even if it was only half awareness.

Eventually, only a fraction of the pain remained, but he was colder than any time he had ever been before. His breath came out as less ragged gasps, now just short and fast. He was alive. He could figure out that much.

A slight pressure underneath his knees and upper back alerted him that he was moving, and he dizzily tried to resist. “Arthur, Artie, it’s okay, it’s just me.” reassured the voice again, and he felt something chilly press on his cheek. “It’s just me, buddy. We’re going home.”

The ground disappeared from below, and Arthur let out a small gasp, the air burning his throat. He was limp, held in the arms of mercy, and he could not think past that. Had an angel come to take him back to Heaven? Was that what the voice had meant? In this state, he could not come up with a better place to be, and relaxed instantly.

“I’m falling from your grace…” the voice said quietly, and Arthur felt warmth press up against him.

They took to the sky, Arthur blind to everything else around him. Only relying on feeling, he tried to get as much of the warmth as he could. He opened his eyes after a little while of bobbing through the fast air, and found himself gazing at the glowing city below.

That was the last thing he saw before everything went black.

O~o~O

When he eventually awoke again, it was on something soft and still.

His bleary eyes found a ceiling instead of the sky. Too tired to wonder why, his muscles began stretching on their own, and he clutched a comforting swath of blankets in trying to wake up fully.

It was only when he attempted to bring his knee upward that he realised something heavy was on top of him.

He was too groggy to question it. Looking downward, he discovered a mess of black hair on top of his chest, and an arm strewn near one of his own. When he accidentally brought his knee up a little fast, the body on him moved as well.

“Oh...Sorry.” Arthur mumbled, apologising absentmindedly when Alfred lifted his head wearily, seemingly slightly pained since Arthur had basically kneed him in the gut. Not hard enough to hurt, but any sort of movement was enough to wake a demon.

Alfred’s tired blue eyes met with Arthur’s, and for a reason Arthur wasn’t awake enough to inquire about, he lifted himself just slightly, letting Arthur sit up a little, and then leaned forward.

Fatigued beyond reason, Arthur didn’t move back. Instead, he merely blinked as Alfred leaned closer, their faces almost uncomfortably near. Then, without any sort of explanation, the demon pressed his lips upon Arthur’s.

It felt rather nice, he supposed. His eyes closed, and he felt the warmth from Alfred’s face. Alfred was only very gently leaning into him, and Arthur guessed they were both too tired to question anything, really. He felt his fingers curl even more into the blankets when Alfred tilted his head.

He had never been this close to Alfred before, and he picked up on all kinds of details. The scent of the demon, which had become somewhat familiar to him, washed over his senses. All he could hear was the soft shifting of fabric and silence between them. Alfred pressed slightly closer then, and they remained that way for what felt like a while.

Soon, Alfred leaned back, and promptly lowered himself back down on top of Arthur. He sleepily adjusted until he was comfortable again, and shut his eyes.

Confused, Arthur slowly laid back down as well, absentmindedly moving a hand towards the demon who rested upon him. “...What was that?” he whispered, not understanding what had just happened.

Alfred shifted, and moved his own hand towards where Arthur’s was before, and laced their fingers. “I think the humans call it a kiss,” he mumbled tiredly, and then relaxed and settled back into sleep.

Chapter Text

O~o~O

Our wrongs remain unrectified, and our souls won’t be exhumed...

Arthur let out a small, content moan, arching his back and pulling his arms above his head to stretch. It felt so nice to feel muscles moving, muscles that had been still for so long. He turned his head with a slight smile after letting his arms rest, not quite opening his eyes yet, and felt sleep pulling him back along with the soft blankets.

Was he dreaming? He didn’t want it to end. The scent of the air was so comforting, and he felt like he was laying on a cloud, not heated by the sun but pleasantly cool instead. His fingers tiredly clutched at the sheets, and he felt his body curling up like it usually did when he was going to sleep, adjusting himself even more comfortably than before.

The sensation was slowly lulling him back to sleep, and he sighed deeply before relaxing once more.

“...Hey, Artie?” a quiet voice roused his sleeping mind again, and he stirred. “Are you awake?”

Something dipped behind him, almost making Arthur fall on his back. He curled up tighter in response. “Um…” the voice was more delicate, more considerate this time. “Arthur...Are you alright?”

“Nnnh…” Arthur let out a small, tired noise, and shifted to stretch again. He pulled on his achy muscles and shifted around a little, his tail following his back movements. “Hmmn, wh...what…?” his eyes fluttered open, and he turned to see a demon leaning over him.

Alfred smiled tentatively. “Heh...Took you long enough. You were asleep for a while, but I didn’t wanna wake you because you were beaten in kinda badly. I figured you needed to rest.” he said in a quiet voice while he leaned back a little from Arthur.

Rolling onto his back, Arthur blinked slowly at Alfred. “I...I’m…” he started to say, but cut himself off by yawning and turned away.

Alfred laughed softly. “And a good morning to you too, sleepyhead.” he watched for a moment with a peculiar fascination at Arthur’s slow, stretching movements, before gently reaching behind his back and helping him sit up. “You alright? I mean, not like you’re not always tired, but you slept for, like, ever.”

Closing his eyes and slowly adjusting to being awake, Arthur nodded sleepily. “I am fine,” he sighed eventually, pulling his shoulders back and stretching his wings. “What...What happened? It is escaping me…” he trailed off, accidentally reverting back to angel speech.

He’d opened his eyes and looked down his front. “I…” he couldn’t find words, and could only blink at his own uniform, which had been stained with blood, heavy enough for concern.

“Yea, about that…” Alfred winced and scratched the back of his head. His awkward demeanour made Arthur feel like he should be concerned. “I think you remember those Phobos and Deimos dudes chasing you to Earth. Basically, they were tearing you to shreds, but then you got hit by this giant machine that a human was driving! Like, really hard! A truck of some kind, I guess. Anyway, so you fell over the side, and landed on top of another one of their machines, totally shattering it! The machine thing kept driving though, so you rebounded off of it and landed right on the giant path they drive one. Scared the Hell out of everyone around when that metal thing broke…” Alfred snickered, seeming to remember the scene clearly.

Arthur tilted his head. “So...I was hit by a truck and landed on top of a car? And then on the road?” he asked in a slow, still evidently tired voice. His stare remained on his bloodied uniform, and he wondered how injured he had managed to get. However, he noticed he was no longer actually wounded. Had Alfred healed him again?

Alfred nodded. “After being thoroughly being ripped at by the demon commanders! I’m amazed you’re still alive, to be honest…” his smile fell, and he shook his head in a slightly concerned and worried manner. “You had gashes, bruises all over your body. Your right wing was practically torn off. I still don’t know how you were conscious when I got to you. I mean, I wasn’t even that bad when I found you, but I could barely keep my eyes open! So, I picked you up as carefully as I could and carried you back to Hell, and told Ivan to call everyone else back if he could. I just flew back here, and pretty much as soon as I set you down and finished healing you, I fell asleep too.” he laughed nervously.

“Back...here.” Arthur repeated, looking around the room. “Where is here?”

Eyes widening, Alfred leaned back away from Arthur and looked down at his hands. “This is, uhh…” he hesitated, swallowing thickly. “This is where I live. I dunno what I said last night, but I was really tired, so I might have forgot to mention, that, um, this is my place.”

He gestured around a little awkwardly, and Arthur’s sleepy gaze followed his hand movements. It looked like a rather large human apartment, just, without all of the strange things the humans kept in them. The smooth tile floor was dark, and the walls were only a little lighter. To his right, there was a very large platform of sorts that sat along the corner, turning at a ninety degree angle with the wall. It was black, and looked as if it had the texture of refined skin like leather. Arthur vaguely remembered someone calling the giant object a ‘couch’. There was a long glass table in front of that, and on the other side of the room, there was a door opened just a little. To his left, there was just a wide opening that led outside to a stone balcony, and he could clearly see the grey sky of Hell.

Arthur looked down, and realised he was also sitting on a platform, but it wasn’t a couch. Glancing at the smaller square table beside him, he shifted up to get a better look at what he had slept on. It was strewn with soft grey blankets, still warm with his body heat, and behind him were small, soft rectangles that sat against a elegant black board with the wall. To his weary delight, he discovered that the surface he sat upon was quite springy.

Alfred was still watching him with a somewhat anxious look. “So, uh, you don’t live in a place like this? Why do you sleep in an alleyway?”

“I...Mm…” Arthur yawned again, but on purpose this time. He couldn’t think of a plausible reason for his lack of a living quarters quite like this. “It is what I am used to,” he mumbled after a moment.

The demon sat cross-legged and tilted his head. His half-smile was caught somewhere between slight amusement, embarrassment, and something else Arthur didn’t know the name of. “...You’re funny when you’re tired.” Alfred pointed out eventually, reaching forward to poke Arthur’s face. He laughed when Arthur didn’t quite react in time.

“How is that?” Arthur creased his brows, confused as he turned his head to peer at his demon friend.

Alfred shrugged. “I dunno, dude. You just are. Also, you talk weird, like you alternate between talking normally and in a fancy angel tone.” he giggled when Arthur made a face at him. “Anyway, I hope this isn’t too overwhelming or anything. Like I’m imposing myself on you or something…” he looked away, outside towards the balcony.

“No, no, it is nothing like that. I am actually quite comfortable.” Arthur assured the demon. “Besides, we are friends, are we not?” he smiled tiredly at Alfred and stretched again, trying to relax and show Alfred that he was alright. He remembered that a demon’s sense of privacy probably made any sort of personal event a little unsettling, but perhaps if he loosened up himself, it would make Alfred feel better.

He looked back and smiled shyly at Arthur. “Yea…” he agreed. “You’re right. Besides, I think the Demonocrats would have found your little place down in that alley. It’s safer for you up here. If it’s alright with you, I think you should stay here for the time being. Like, sleep here and stuff.” he grinned somewhat hopefully. He was calmer now, less on edge. Arthur was happy about that, but he was also confused.

“Stay here?” he asked. “You do not need to be worried about my safety, Alfred. I can take care of myself, and I think you know that more than a lot of others. My staying here would put you at risk more than it would protect me.” he pointed out, rubbing the back of his neck.

That struck a slight reaction in Alfred. His eyes flashed with somewhat of a defensive look, but it quickly calmed. “You could have died last night.” he reminded Arthur quietly. “And this isn’t any small matter. Something’s wrong, and the worlds are changing, like you said. The Angelicans and the Demonocrats...They’re fighting with each other but now they’re also after us.”

“Me.” Arthur corrected, but Alfred went on.

“There’s something going on, something dark with both of them and something that I don’t wanna be around to find out. So the best option, for me at least, is to stick with you. And your best option is to stay hidden, in case the commanders find you again, ‘cause I dunno whatever reason they wanted to kill you. It’s the only way we’ll stay alive, as far as we know for now.” Alfred said, in a dead serious voice.

He had a very valid point. Arthur was unable to think of a way to insist that he did not need the protection, but Alfred seemed dead set on his word. Arthur pretended to rub his eyes to wake up some more to hide the fact that he was thinking of a good reply. Yes, Alfred’s opinion mattered and he made a very good case of it, however, it was still problematic; how would he be able to ensure that he didn’t somehow reveal his actual identity by accident? Perhaps he could attempt to come to a compromise, if only just to ease Alfred’s mind. Arthur still couldn’t accept that the demon was worried about his safety.

“I can stay sometimes.” he said firmly. “I would only be a burden if I stayed here as often as you wanted. We are both supposed to stay alive, not just me. We are friends, and I trust your judgement, Alfred. But this situation is something we need to learn to handle, rather than hiding away, alright? We are not weak, but I can tell you that we are both somewhat scared. And that is okay. We are going to be okay.” he assured the demon.

Alfred shifted uncomfortably, making an obviously disagreeable face at first. Glaring at the grey blankets, he didn’t answer for a moment. He was thinking, and after a while, his blue eyes lost their coldness. “Yea. Alright.” he eventually agreed in a forced voice. “Whatever works.”

‘Did I make him angry?’ Arthur wondered, eyes widening in worry when the demon suddenly opened his wings and turned to fly off the springy surface they sat on. The fast movement startled Arthur enough to make him jump a little, but luckily Alfred was facing the other way and didn’t notice. ‘That could not be enough to induce his Rage...I hope.’

Alfred took a deep breath, landing just outside in the big opening to the balcony. “Whenever you want, you can go wash up. The shower is in that door in the back, but the water can get really warm if you don’t turn the temperature knob thing to the right.” he told Arthur, before walking outside to the edge of his balcony.

Arthur sat up curiously from leaning forward in thought, his interest piqued at the words ‘warm’ and ‘water.’ Blinking after Alfred, he tilted his head before looking to the right, where he saw the door that was open slightly that he’d spotted before. “Warm water?” he asked himself, wondering if he’d heard right.

O~o~O

He most certainly did hear right.

Arthur stripped himself, prepared for the cold water when he turned on the strange device that Alfred had called a shower. It didn’t take much to figure it out, and he closed the curtains as he stepped inside, the tile feeling very cold to his pale feet. His black wings even quivered, and he swallowed nervously as he neared the mysteriously narrow flow of water. Remembering what Alfred had said about the knob, he made sure it was turned to the a little more to the left than the demon had suggested.

He reached forward slowly, testing the stream with his fingers. At first, it struck as freezing and he pulled back, but after a moment, it almost burned. He held his hand back out palm up, his eyes lighting up when the water warmed his cold hands.

Once it got warm enough for him to believe it was real, Arthur took a step forward so his head was directly underneath the flow of hot water. Gasping, he broke out in a relieved smile as he twisted his body around to get every possible inch of him wet.

Without thinking, he performed the switching spell, the magic making the water shimmer and glow. It wasn’t long before Arthur had to cover his mouth with his hand to hide blissful moans as the water found it’s way through his feathers. He kept his wings at such an angle that they didn’t reach over the top of the curtains, or peek through the bottom, because he was slightly paranoid of being visible.

He hadn’t felt anything this good in too long...Feeling his muscles relaxing and stress leaving him, he stretched his sore wings around him to get every single quill wet and warm. Stifling several pleasured gasps, he rolled his shoulders, gracefully turning his body around in the water in every direction he could, and breathed the heavy air in deeply.

“God,” he groaned weakly, almost struggling to stay standing. But he didn’t care, he grinned and let out soft laughter at how good and relieving the water felt upon him. It went that way for awhile, even when he could hear the faint sound of Alfred walking around outside the washroom. The only thing he had trouble with, oddly enough, was not singing. The room was quite small, and so everything echoed more than he expected. It reminded him of what the build of Cathedrals did to a voice in Heaven.

After soaping up his body and washing his feathers carefully, he knew he had to hurry. The footsteps outside the room were getting a little impatient sounding. So, with one final savouring moment of the hot water, he turned around and figured out how to stop the shower.

As he expected, he was cold again almost instantly. But that was alright, he’d felt better than he had in a long time. He let out a deep sigh, and performed the switching spell to turn back into a demon. As soon as he did that, more water than he believed to be possible suddenly cascaded from being suspended on his wings, and it startled him when it all crashed loudly on the tile.

Arthur stared at the floor for a brief moment, with wide eyes and with a racing heart. He guessed his angel wings must have absorbed a lot of water, and the spell just dissipated the wings, and not the water in them. Perhaps that was why they were always so clean looking when he switched. Using his tail to pull open the curtains, he stepped out carefully out of fear of slipping, and found a towel that he quickly wrapped around himself.

He let out a sigh, resting his hands on his hips. His red hair was dripping still, and it fell on his back, rolling down his spine in freezing tendrils. Shivering a little bit, he turned his head to observe his wings.

They were a little smoother, he discovered. Normally, the fragile skin was tautly bound around his bones, but he supposed the heat would relax some of the natural tension. He stretched them out carefully, trying to avoid making more water from his wings find his back.

Glancing to the front of the room and looking for his uniform, he discovered it was not where he put it. Frowning, Arthur looked around for it, almost certain he had left it by the door. Now a little unsure of himself, he walked around the small space, confused with his memory.

He found it after looking up on the side wall, where he discovered his black clothes neatly folded on top of a shelf-like stone protruding from the corner, his boots perched right next to them. Blinking, he took a cautious step towards the shelf, and carefully took down the uniform and the shoes.

Holding up the top at arm’s length, he realised it had been cleaned. It had been bloody and dirty from his unconventional trip to Earth, and he was certain of that. Even more confused, he held it a little higher. “Uh-”

“I didn’t see anything!” yelled a voice from outside the door.

Startled so badly that he dropped the shirt, Arthur quickly knelt and picked it up again. “I-I’m sorry?” he stuttered, alarmed to where he was almost shaking.

“I didn’t see anything, I promise! I just came inside to grab your uniform and I washed it for you! I swear I didn’t try to look at you!” Alfred said, this time a little less loudly.

“Jesus.” Arthur muttered, trying to slow his breathing and calm down. That was what he was worried about? Arthur didn’t really mind if he were honest, though he was slightly taken aback at realising that Alfred had come in the room while he was showering. It was a little embarrassing, he supposed, almost frightening considering the fact that he had been an angel. Then he thought about how much more embarrassing it must have been for Alfred. “Demon’s modesty…” he chuckled to himself.

“It’s fine, Alfred!” he called back after a moment. “I do not mind at all. Thank you, actually.”

He could hear awkward shuffling outside the door, and Arthur fiddled delicately with the towel around his waist, it’s placement reminding him of a high-angel’s uniform. Eventually, Alfred finally stopped moving so Arthur assumed he had flown away. Shaking his head, Arthur chuckled again a little wryly to himself before undoing the buttons of his red dress shirt and slipping his arms through the sleeves.

He had only just put his boots on when he finally couldn’t stand being in that room any longer, and hadn’t even put on the jacket. It hung over his shoulder as he tied up his laces, and he moved it under his arm as he walked out the door, trying to adjust his belt.

Immediately, he bumped into a taller figure and dropped the jacket in surprise, the third time being startled. He looked up, meeting the unnerved blue eyes of Alfred, who was equally surprised.

“Sorry!” Alfred also dropped to the floor, hurriedly picking up the jacket and handing it back to Arthur before the angel could even react. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to be standing over here, I’ll just, um.” he turned and walked quickly towards the other side of the room.

Slightly befuddled, Arthur raised his eyebrows and frowned at the demon, who appeared to be bouncing nervously in front of the wide balcony. He opened his mouth to say something, and then glanced down, realising his belt was still undone. Hurrying to fix that, Arthur began to cautiously pad towards Alfred.

While he shrugged on his jacket and began to button it up, he looped around Alfred at a wide angle, a small smile teasing at the corners of his lips. “Er, Alfred. Is everything alright?” he asked, dipping his head and peering curiously at the demon.

“Yep! I’m good.” Alfred replied quickly, glancing nervously at Arthur before suddenly finding the sky outside rather interesting. He messed with his own jacket, and the tip of his tail twitched around at random.

Arthur’s smile fell and turned away to leave Alfred alone. The concept was astounding to him; the fact that demons could get so worked up over a potential loss of decency...Arthur shook his head and smiled to himself. He found it quite endearing, for some reason.

As soon as he’d faced the opposite wall, he felt a cool breeze from behind and immediately shivered. Maybe it was not such a brilliant idea to walk out so soon, when Hell was getting colder and his hair was all wet. The back of his neck and the top of the collar on his jacket were a little damp as well, and Arthur trembled in silent torment. ‘Damn this Hell,’ he thought bitterly, though the hell he referred to was the fact he was an angel, unable to ever get used to the temperature.

The quiet atmosphere returned, and it remained that way between the angel and the demon for awhile. Arthur thought he could feel Alfred watching him from wherever he decided to stand, but every time he glanced over, Alfred would be facing the other way. For most of the time, Arthur sat on the floor facing the inside of the room, while Alfred stood outside on the balcony. Arthur was worried, and stressed once he began thinking about the events of the last time he’d been awake.

He had almost been killed. Just remembering it made his heart catch a couple of times in his chest out of fear; he could see very vividly with his mind’s eye. The cold and ruthless look of the demons, their harsh attacks on his defenceless body...Arthur flinched visibly when the memory haunted him, and he felt uncomfortable tingling running along his upper back where his wing had nearly been ripped off.

Absentmindedly reached for places that he slowly remembered had been injured, he felt that odd feeling spread when he touched the back of his head, his cheekbone where he remembered being cut, along his chest, and the fragile tips of his wings. The feeling made him shudder violently to the point where he quickly stopped and wrung his hands in his lap.

“What am I going to do?” he asked himself. He obviously wasn’t going to the Military Base, not after Phobos and Deimos tried to brutally tear him apart. He couldn’t really flee the city, because he still had business to tend to in the region. Besides, it wasn’t like he could make it far anyway...Shaking his head and letting out a sigh of frustration, Arthur leaned forward and rested his forehead in his hand. Curling his tail around his body, he dwelled on what he couldn’t do.

That was, until a shadow suddenly slid across the floor in front of him, alerting him enough to raise his head and watch as Alfred glided above him and landed neatly in front, with only a glance to him. Arthur met the demon’s eyes with a surprised look at first, before he calmed down and returned his gaze to the floor.

Alfred’s tail reached for Arthur’s, and he twisted their arrow-like tips together to get the angel’s attention. “Are you alright, Artie?” he asked curiously.

Arthur rolled his eyes. “You have asked me that twice now.” he replied with a tired smile. He looked up at Alfred, only just then noticing how the angle he was sitting at made his eyes look. The clouds outside, behind Arthur, allowed for him to see how truly blue Alfred’s irises were. Entranced for a brief moment, Arthur stared at him for what felt like a very long time.

His smile only made his eyes even more bright, and Arthur was reminded with an aching heart of the only other place he’d seen such a vivid shade of blue. “Yea, yea, whatever dude. I’m still gonna ask, though.” Alfred grinned at him.

“I am fine, you git.” Arthur waved his hand as if to say that his well-being didn’t matter. He tried to look away at something, anything else, but he kept finding his way right back to Alfred’s stunning eyes.

Alfred seemed to notice, but didn’t know why. “...Do I have something on my face?” he asked, suddenly finding it difficult to maintain their eye contact, which Arthur could see by how he attempted multiple times to not look away.

“No, no, sorry, it’s just…” Arthur trailed off, his head tilting a little. “...You have eyes like the skies of Heaven.” he murmured in a quiet voice.

Blinking, Alfred averted his eyes, searching around the floor for a moment before he looked up again. “Uh, um.” he looked unsure of himself. “Th-thanks?”

Arthur realised what he said might not have sounded right to a demon. “That was intended as a compliment.” he added to explain, hoping it wasn’t an offencive comment with a little of a panicked look.

“Oh. Haha, thank you, then!” Alfred perked up immediately, that smile lighting up his face once more. “You have cool eyes too. Like the forests humans have on Earth. Real bright eyes.”

Arthur didn’t think he would receive a compliment in turn, and forgot what words were briefly. “I, er, thank you.” he said awkwardly, finally forcing himself to look away.

He watched their tails while Alfred thumped them against the floor somewhat playfully. Allowing himself a small smile, Arthur just knew this demon was something else.

“So…” Alfred said after a bit, grinning to himself. “What do you wanna do? Maybe the other demons who tried to help are waiting for us somewhere?”

Taking a deep breath, Arthur let it out slowly. “I doubt it.” his eyes flickered up to the demon. “I am not sure why they respected me before, but the fact that Phobos and Deimos are after me might make them switch sides.”

Alfred snorted. “Dude, have you, like, never met a demon before?” he snickered at Arthur’s worried and confused expression. “Those dudes are still loyal to you! And so am I. It takes a lot to make someone change sides like that, especially when there aren’t even any physical sides that we know. I mean, a lot a lot.”

“Alright, alright.” Arthur nodded. “If that is the case, then where would they be? Not at the Base,” he said quickly, when Alfred opened his mouth. “No, if Phobos and Deimos are after me, then why would they be at the Base? If we went there, for all I know, they would try to kill me again.”

“They’d have to go through us first.” Alfred supplied with a smirk.

Arthur shook his head. “Absolutely not. I will not allow you nor anyone else to endanger themselves like that. You have no reason to risk yourself for me. Phobos and Deimos are only after one person, and that is my battle.” he said firmly.

Scoffing, Alfred smiled in disbelief. “Dude!” he let out, and then waved his hands in front of Arthur’s face. “In case you forgot, you almost died yesterday! Right? In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d be looking at your head hanging from the Base right now if Ivan didn’t find all of your- our allies. Whether you like it or not, you have demons who’re on your side. And you’ve been attacked. So we’re gonna defend you. From like, all the bad guys and stuff.”

Arthur sighed and rested his elbow on his knee and brought his chin to his palm. “Who are the bad guys, Alfred? Is it just Phobos and Deimos? The demons who joined with them? Or the entire Demonocracy? What about us? We do not know and have no way of knowing quite yet. We should not be so quick to take action.”

The demon couldn’t think of anything to say to that, and settled for letting out a huff and shaking his head in a slightly annoyed manner. “Well, we gotta do something, dude.” he crossed his arms and made a face at the floor. Despite their disagreement, their tails remained intertwined.

They avoiding looking at one another for awhile, and Arthur began thinking about Phobos and Deimos again. Slowly, the increasingly traumatic events began to flash around his mind, ranging from being chased, landing on the highway, being faced with the demonic leers, and even back to when he was almost killed by Alfred’s Rage.

God, that tingling feeling again. Arthur unconsciously reached and pressed his fingers on his neck, and then along his chest like before. His breathing got a little faster when the memories began to quicken and become distorted. He could almost smell his own blood like he could when the actual attacks happened.

He could feel the bruises and the grips on him, the cold blood chilling his skin, the stiffness of his limbs. Shuddering a bit, Arthur pulled in a sharp but silent gasp when he remembered the demon’s faces, their wide grins at his suffering.

“Artie.” a hand gently touched Arthur’s shoulder, as if asking to come closer. When Arthur looked up with wide, fearful eyes, he saw Alfred kneeling and leaning towards him, seeming unsure and concerned. “Hey, what’s up?”

“N-nothing, I am fine.” Arthur mumbled, lowering his head and glancing away.

When Arthur half-heartedly scooted away, Alfred advanced with him. “You were shaking. Your eyes were shut really tight. What’s wrong?”

Arthur shook his head. “I am fine!” he insisted, leaning back and trying to move backwards. But, a sudden yank on his tail made him freeze, and Alfred quickly moved closer, until he had Arthur loosely pinned beneath him. Arthur had forgotten their tails were entangled with one another, and he was distracted by the fact that a tug made his entire body go rigid. Was it a natural reaction to having the tail pulled on? Was that why Alfred did that?

“What’s wrong?” Alfred asked again, waiting until Arthur relaxed a little bit to dip his head a bit to match eye levels. They stared at one another for a while, Arthur rendered almost speechless by the demon. Somehow, they both remained as they were.

From the lack of a reply, Alfred shifted to get his weight on his knees so he could wrap his arms around Arthur. “...You’re still shaking. Are you scared?” he inquired curiously,

Unable to do much else, Arthur merely nodded. He was frightened, yes, but he was also confused with Alfred’s sudden intimacy. Was the demon genuinely concerned about him?

He certainly seemed nervously determined to get something out of Arthur. “Are you scared of Phobos and Deimos?” Alfred continued in a quieter tone.

Arthur nodded again.

This seemed to worry the demon. “Are you scared of the other demons?”

Once more, Arthur nodded his head, knowing his face was etched with guilt.

Lifting his head a little more, Alfred looked at the angel with uneasy eyes. “...Are you...Scared of me?” he asked softly.

Taken aback, Arthur hesitated. Alfred didn’t seem to notice the slight panic that flashed in his eyes, for he did not want to either lie or tell the truth. But he knew that Alfred was his friend, and that nothing but the truth would be acceptable. His face twisting with more and more stress, he eventually made himself nod.

He watched as Alfred’s expression broke a little, and Arthur felt terrible for admitting it. It was almost unbearable to see the somewhat heartbroken feelings evident in Alfred’s face, and he turned his head away. Arthur remembered how Alfred had expressed that he never wanted anyone to be afraid of him. “I- I am sorry,” he let out in a slightly choked voice.

Alfred shushed him by shaking his head and leaning forward again, pressing his face into Arthur’s uniform. “No, no, no. I’m sorry. It’s my fault, you can’t help it if you’re scared.” He held Arthur tighter, but Arthur couldn’t ignore how sad he looked.

At first, Arthur tensed up with discomfort. But gradually, he found himself relaxing and slowly easing himself to where he was calmer. He took a deep breath and tipped his head forward so his nose barely touched Alfred’s black hair. Shifting his wings around so they sort of wrapped around them, Arthur gazed downwards at the demon holding him.

Silence rang around them, neither daring to move. It stayed that way for what felt like a long while, the only evidence of the time passing being a small breeze that whispered outside.

Sometime later, Alfred had gone quite still. His breathing had slowed considerably, and his grip around Arthur loosened to a weak clutch. It was only when Arthur shifted around a little bit, making his tail move, did Alfred give any sign that he was still alive.

He jumped in surprise at Arthur’s movement, and began to lift himself off of the angel. He looked tired all of a sudden, and Arthur noticed his eyes were narrowed like they had just been closed. “Have to get up,” he mumbled, squinting at Arthur before looking at the floor. “m’ falling asleep on you.”

Trying to hold it back to no avail, Arthur couldn’t resist a small chuckle at the demon. He didn’t realise Alfred had become that comfortable. Allowing Alfred to move, Arthur sat up and flapped his wings just hard enough to bring himself to his feet.

Alfred soon followed but without his wings, stumbling before catching his balance. He rubbed his face tiredly and shook his head, as if trying to dissipate the weariness.

“We should do something.” he said, looking at Arthur once he was done being half-asleep. “We won’t get anything done if we stay here. Maybe we should look for the others?”

Thinking it over, Arthur reasoned that there was nothing more to be accomplished at Alfred’s little place. Other than maybe to regain his bearings, but, after all this time, when did he ever have them? “Alright.” he nodded.

O~o~O

Although he found it difficult to hide, Arthur was extremely nervous to fly around the eerie streets of Hell so soon. It was too close, too near when he had been brutally attacked and almost killed. His only assurance was Alfred flying smoothly beside him.

He discovered that he was flying very well for his state; his lungs were working fine, and his wings felt stronger than they had in awhile. There was the fact that he could feel hunger crawling around in his stomach, but besides that, there was not anything he needed to worry about immediately.

The city was silent, and there didn’t seem to be a trace of anyone around for miles. Arthur knew better than to even begin to think that, but he would never get used to it. It was practically part of Hell’s anatomy, part of the dark skeleton the city seemed to be.

At first, the thought of flying around a giant ribcage amused Arthur, until he realised what he was thinking. Then he hated himself for such a dark imagination.

Letting out a rough sigh, Arthur followed Alfred carefully while they weaved through the structures with practiced ease. It was clear that neither of them had any idea where the rest of their allies were.

They were beginning to get close to the Base. Remaining within the blackest shadows, it was an unspoken agreement to make more of an effort to remain unnoticed by whatever gleaming eyes watched over the place.

Arthur was about to make a sharp turn to keep behind Alfred when he felt a sharp pressure on his ankle just before he rounded the corner. Letting out a startled yip, Arthur was forced to halt and was dragged the other way.

He froze. Gasping when he impacted the hard ground, he only had enough breath left in him to raggedly yell “Alfre-!” before he gagged on something that was stuffed in his mouth.

Struggling, he clawed at the ground and desperately flapped his wings, but he was going too fast in the other direction to really get a grip. Feeling his muscles go into shock, his wings suddenly wouldn’t unfurl all the way and he couldn’t move his hands.

“Arthur?” he heard Alfred’s voice echo from a distance, and that made his heartbeat go up. How far away was he?! He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t even breath around the dry cloth forced into his mouth.

He squirmed and twisted, anything to get away. There were scratches on his cheek from being dragged along the concrete. His eyes were dangerously close to watering. The muffled cries that came from him were easily drowned out by the scraping noises that surrounded him. His shoulders tensed up as he remembered the highway and the Rage. Flashbacks were beginning to overwhelm him.

His movements were limited to slight jerks and muscles that tensed so sharply it hurt.

Finally, everything stopped. Choking on the large cloth that was partially caught in his throat, Arthur was forcibly brought to his knees, and then yanked upwards to his feet.

He was pushed against a wall, and struck it hard enough to make himself even more dizzy. Looking around with unfocused eyes and incoherent thought, Arthur could barely make out a taller figure looming over him.

“Paranomia.” it hissed, but the name could barely make it to Arthur’s ears. He began to sink down the brick wall weakly, but a fist grabbed the collar of his uniform and forced him to stand. “What is wrong with you?! Where is your strength?!”

Blinking unevenly, it became clear that Arthur could not answer. The only response he gave was a small gag on the cloth. He was very close to blacking out from lack of air.

A hand harshly gripped his jaw while another nearly bruised his mouth in reaching to grab the cloth and yank it out of his throat. Arthur abruptly began coughing uncontrollably.

“This was not supposed to have been easy, Paranomia.” the voice growled after several minutes of listening to Arthur’s fight for breath. “Did Phobos and Deimos injure you so badly that you forgot what you are?”

Gasping, Arthur blinked up with stinging eyes at a face he did not expect to see. “I-Ivan.” he let out in a guttural voice. He could not say much more beyond that.

The violet eyes of the demon narrowed. “Why are you so weak?” he spat. “Surely Phobos and Deimos did not break you already. I advise that you begin to explain yourself.”

After taking several rapid and shaky breaths, Arthur dragged his unfocused eyes up to Ivan. “Th-there is no-nothing to explain,” he rasped in a small voice.

“Lies,” Ivan seethed, roughly tilting Arthur’s head up when he threateningly grabbed his throat. Not tight enough to stop him from breathing, but enough to hurt. His furious look only darkened when Arthur let out an involuntary whimper, remembering the same situation with Alfred’s Rage. “I am not stupid, Paranomia, not like Alfred. I can see that you are not like the rest of us and I want to know why.”

Arthur felt his face twist into a pained snarl, and wasn’t sure if he was feeling saliva or blood dripping down his chin. “I-I am the same as you.” he told Ivan. “You kn-know me. You are not a f-fool.”

Ivan’s face curled into a harsh glare. “I am not sure I ever knew you, comrade.” he spat.

“Hey, hey, hey! Ivan, what the hell, man?!” a voice came echoing around too loudly for Arthur to know where exactly. But not long after, Ivan disappeared from his sight, and Arthur could hear him land on the ground. “What are you doing?! You saw him almost get torn apart yesterday and now you’re after him too?! Who’s side are you on?!”

Without anything holding him up, Arthur slid to the ground, feeling himself shaking. “Not- not again,” he muttered to himself, covering his head with his hands. “I cannot do this again.” He could hear scuffling before him, but not much more beyond that other than yelling.

Breathing as carefully as he could in an attempt to calm himself, Arthur peeked up at the two demons before him. He could see Alfred now, who’d thrown Ivan off of him. They appeared to be standing off, wings spread and heads lowered.

“You of all demons should know that he’s not weak. He’s scared, just like you would be if you were almost murdered yesterday. The last thing he needs is one of his allies being his next threat!” Alfred snapped, seeming to be coming back for an argument.

Ivan let out a low growl. “This isn’t about fear, Alfred. This is about lies. Paranomia is clever and powerful, and you are an idiot if you honestly think he has not lied to us once.” he replied. “You may be blind to what’s beneath his mask, but I can see beyond it. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but Paranomia has made us put trust in a false hope.”

“False hope?!” Alfred scoffed, raising his wings even higher. “Do you really think he’s earned so much trust just to lie to us?! He committed to Opia with over half of us, and you know that no demon can lie through Opia.”

“Perhaps he is not a demon.” Ivan sneered, challenging by raising his wings as well.

He didn’t catch on to how Arthur’s eyes widened. “No,” he whispered weakly.

Alfred still held true to his belief. “Arthur would never lie to us. I trust him more than I trust any other demon in this damned place, and I sure as hell trust him more than you. He is our leader for a reason, and I’d gladly give my life for him.”

Arthur became aware to several presences, and looked up to see his allies surrounding Ivan and Alfred from above. They must have been watching the entire feud.

While they organised themselves, Alfred bared his teeth and growled one more time at Ivan before he turned his back to him and approached Arthur, aware that most eyes were on him.

“Artie,” he greeted quietly, offering his hand to Arthur to take. While he pulled the angel to his feet, Alfred made sure that Arthur was steady before he gently turned Arthur’s head, so he faced everyone else, and then leaned in.

Not even needing to question it, Arthur was still, almost calm as Alfred healed him. But he could not ignore the glower Ivan was giving him.

Beyond that, there was not anything very eventful to speak of. There was never any sign of Phobos or Deimos, or anyone hostile, really. Arthur’s allies spoke to one another, and even admitted to being afraid like Arthur did. After a while of slightly more civilised discussion, Alfred suggested that the group meet in Arthur’s alleyway everyday to decide what they should do. To Arthur’s slight disappointment, they all agreed easily to the arrangement. That meant Alfred was determined to keep Arthur with him at his place.

Before the group went their separate ways, Arthur thanked everyone for helping when Phobos and Deimos had attacked him. The demons didn’t seem to expect it, and insisted that it was nothing.

For some reason, Arthur felt as if he had gained more respect when he left their small gathering.

Over the span of what Arthur assumed had to be days, there were no more challenges presented to him or the group. Instead, he got used to somewhat of a routine; spend some time with Alfred, meet with their allies, and then return to Alfred’s place. Most of the time, he managed to sleep somewhere else, but Alfred managed to talk him into sleeping in his room quite a lot. Arthur had discovered that the large platform he slept upon was called a bed, but that was only after Alfred had burst out laughing at him for attempting to sleep on the floor.

Alfred rarely questioned why he slept for such a long time. But that was probably because he woke Arthur up after only about four hours of rest. He’d throw in an occasional “You sleep a lot, dude,” but that was it. On the nights when Arthur did not sleep at his place, he still never mentioned the late time Arthur met up with him.

Investigations and remaining hidden were what made up the secret gatherings of the group. A few demons at a time each few meetings would check around and see what was going on with the Demonocracy, but they were never able to bring back anything particularly informative. They seemed to be at a stalemate.

For the first time in a long time, Arthur felt relatively safe. Sometimes the demons would wish to sharpen their fighting skills by practicing with Arthur, and so he would leave sometimes with scratches and small wounds. But other than that, there was nothing majour.

Alfred even began to leave Arthur on his own. It was a slight relief, but sometimes Arthur would go entire days without seeing the demon.

One night, after a few days of sleeping on his own and feeling fairly confident, Arthur decided he wanted to stretch his wings. Not his demon pair.

He performed the switching spell as soon as everyone left and he could tell they were gone. Then, flexing his large and strong feathery limbs, the angel took a little bit of time to readjust to his natural body. With a slightly excited smile, Arthur took off to fly a short distance through Hell.

The feeling of being invincible had developed over the weeks without trouble. And despite the chills that made his exposed skin feel numb, Arthur felt so much more alive. He could remember how far he could fly with these wings, how powerful they were. For the first time in Hell, Arthur felt genuinely relaxed and confident on his own.

Following the foggy streets and dark shadows, Arthur was careful to remain in places where he wouldn’t stick out too much. He was certain at this time, demons were generally asleep, so he could get away with a quick lap around the region without being spotted.

The wind excited him. The speed was thrilling so much, that he even let out laughter as he spun and flipped around the alleyways and streets. He even dared to take to the skies, losing himself in joy that he had not felt in too long.

He had forgotten what it felt like to be an angel, and the reminder was welcomed. He appreciated the time with a content sigh and a real smile.

When he was almost halfway back to his alleyway, Arthur’s senses finally picked up on something that he dreaded. He was being watched.

“No.” he murmured, feeling himself tense with fear. “No, no, no, not now.” He picked up the pace, until he was racing back down to the shadows. Thinking of everything he could, he used a spell to make the shadows even thicker over his pale being and tried to silence his wingbeats.

The alarm was growing faster than he wanted. He was reminded then of the reasons he was afraid in the first place. The Rage, the Commanders, and Ivan...They all came back to frighten him like never before. He knew his flight was beginning to falter, and he prayed that he didn’t panic.

Please don’t let this be how I die. I cannot die yet, I am not done. I cannot die, I cannot die, I cannot-! He was startled out of his begging when he was tackled out of the air. He screamed.

Both he and his attacker spun around sideways briefly before Arthur felt their direction change upwards. The force of the flying rendered Arthur unable to fight back at first because he was dizzy, but he could tell the demon was too.

The offender seemed to struggle to lift Arthur, but they kept their arms tightly around the angel’s torso. Pulling in almost every direction, Arthur fought hard to get away, but he could feel himself crying and knew that he was too overwhelmed to do very much.

They finally reached something solid, and Arthur realised it was the roof of a small building surrounded by several other much larger structures. He squirmed harder as soon as his knees touched the concrete, but the grip on him wouldn’t give. Arthur even tried a magic spell, but his mind was too confused to think of anything.

“You’re gonna injure yourself if you keep struggling.” a voice above him panted. “If you jerk away any harder, you’ll break a wing.”

Arthur knew he was losing strength, but he pushed anyway, feeling his knees scrape along the ground. His throat was too constricted to say anything back, but a hitched sob made it clear that he was too scared to do much else than try to escape.

He was pushed backwards, and he lost his balance and fell on his back. Shocked into going still for a moment, he looked up, only to meet the eyes of the last demon he wanted to see.

Alfred?!

Choking back any words he possibly had, Arthur remembered he was an angel, and no angel knew Alfred’s name. But it was unmistakable; those bright blue eyes couldn’t belong to anyone else. I am going to die by my best friend’s hand… The mere thought made him quiver and tear up even more. He reached up and practically slapped his hands over his eyes, not wanting to see anymore.

The demon looked over the angel curiously, and with a slightly worried look. “Hey...Why are you crying? Is that what angels do when they’re scared?” he asked, and now Arthur wondered why he didn’t recognise his voice at first. Keeping his hands over his eyes, Arthur nodded and turned his head, his small sobs making his figure shake a little.

“Hm.” Alfred crawled further over him, and experimentally reached to gently touch the top of the angel’s head. “You don’t have to be scared. I’m not gonna hurt you or anything.” he giggled like it was a silly thought.

Shaking his head, Arthur let out a soft gasp and a slightly louder sob than before. Alfred was going to kill him and he knew it. That was why angels never returned from Hell. He froze when he felt Alfred’s hands gingerly hold his free wing down as to not hurt him, and when he felt the demon’s cold breath along his arm. “Y-you are go-going to kill me.” he said in a broken voice.

It was one thing to have an ally threaten to murder him. But when it was a situation like this, where his closest friend didn’t even know who he was killing, Arthur was reduced to just crying, unable to do anything else. Alfred would never know why Paranomia suddenly disappeared one day. Hell and Heaven would never find reconciliation. War would plague the realms and eventually kill them all off. The demons and the angels would hate and blame each other until the end. That was why he wept, because he was afraid of that future, and he was helpless to the mercy of a merciless creature.

“Why would I kill you?” Alfred replied in an oddly soothing voice. “I guess you don’t remember, do you? We were both really young. I’m kind of surprised that I recognise you.”

Arthur froze. “Wh-what?”

Seeming excited, Alfred carefully removed one of Arthur’s hands from his face. “Do you remember coming to Hell when you were young? Do you remember seeing a small, injured demon and healing him? I’m sure it was you. There are no other blonde angels like you.” he said, his expression looking hopeful.

“I…” Arthur squinted at Alfred, not making any move to take his hand back. “I-I, uh…” he thought hard, trying to think of anything remotely close to what Alfred described. At first, he could not remember a single thing about his childhood relating to Hell. But Alfred must have seen the flash of shock in his face because his eyes suddenly lit up.

“You do remember, don’t you?” he asked, smiling at the angel. “It was you, I’m sure of it. I can finally repay my debt…” he trailed off.

“...Debt?” Arthur dared to ask, his expression still looking fearful. There was no way this was possible. Alfred could not have been the demon he’d visited when he’d strayed from the angels showing him around the edge of Heaven and Hell...Could he? He hardly remembered the context of it, but he remembered seeing a demon. The memory was becoming more and more clear.

Alfred nodded. “Since you healed me, I’ve owed a debt to you for most of my life. I never thought I would see you ever again. I would have given anything to have that weight off of my shoulders.” he laughed to himself. “It’ll do us both a favour. You are injured, so I’ll heal you. And by doing that, I won’t have a debt. Is that okay?”

Never knowing that this debt had existed before, Arthur was still trying wrap his mind around what was happening. He didn’t know that debts were important to demons, nor that Alfred had an unpaid one in the first place. “How exactly, uh, do you heal me?” Arthur asked in a clumsy attempt to pretend he didn’t already know.

The demon made a small smirk, but his eyes looked at him knowingly. “Just relax.” he told Arthur. “It won’t hurt. Close your eyes if it helps.”

Arthur felt very conflicted. He trusted Alfred, but at the same time, he knew he couldn’t as an angel. Regardless, he had put himself into a state of uneven but calm feelings. He obediently let his body ease down and moved his hand back to cover his eyes once Alfred let go of his arm.

He could feel Alfred healing him, and tried to be disturbed. But this had happened too many times for him to truly be revolted like he had been that very first time.

It took a little while, but Alfred finished healing Arthur in places he didn’t even know were injured. The demon sat back up to look at Arthur, and tilted his head at the now still angel. “You stopped crying.” he pointed out, crawling off of Arthur. “And shaking. You’re okay now?”

Arthur nodded reluctantly, and sat up. Alfred was right; he had stopped both crying and trembling, and his heart rate was low again. “Yes, I am...Fine…” he faded off when Alfred suddenly leaned closer, looking at him very closely. “Wh-what?”

“Your eyes…” Alfred narrowed his own at Arthur, scrutinising him. “I feel like I’ve seen them somewhere before. Somewhere besides when I first met you.”

Calm quickly dissolving, Arthur’s eyes widened and he averted his gaze. He was still at risk of being recognised, if Alfred remembered that his eyes were the exact same when he was demon. Feeling panic rising, Arthur made a move to stand. “I-I have to go.” he said. “G-go back. I have to go b-back home.”

Alfred blinked. “So soon? Where do you have to be this late? Hey!” he called out when Arthur raised his wings. “I can help you get back! You’ll get lost or actually attacked here!”

Arthur ignored Alfred yelling after him and took flight, not caring where he was going. He had to hide, to lose Alfred, anything so he could change back. He was plagued with regret for being so foolish in the first place.

The demon chased the angel as closely as he could, but a mixture of desperation and distress kept Arthur ahead. He took wild turns in random directions, hoping to lose Alfred for even a minute.

After only a little while, Arthur managed to take a sharp enough right that Alfred lost sight of him, and then he arced backwards into a narrow crevice between two tall walls. As soon as his feet touched the ground at the back of the dead end, Arthur performed the switching spell.

Perhaps he had done it too fast, or a little wrong. But the next thing Arthur knew, Alfred had flown in from below, and halted at the sight of who he knew as Paranomia. He opened his mouth, maybe to ask if he’d seen an angel. That was before his eyes focused on a small, white feather floating and twirling downward. Both the demon and the angel watched, one with confusion, and one with absolute dread. When the feather graced the ground, Alfred looked up at Arthur again, the recognition obvious when he met the same green eyes from before.

Chapter Text

O~o~O

Breaking News: Two days ago, a mysterious accident occurred in the middle of a highway. A truck delivering goods to a nearby Costco received severe damage to the front in a collision. The driver, who was determined to not have been intoxicated in any way, is currently in the hospital after being injured, and is not predicted to make it. There has not been a report stating what caused the collision, and almost all the witnesses claim it happened out of nowhere, with no perceivable cause. Directly below the bridge the truck had been driving on, a similar accident occurred on top of a silver SUV. The survivors of that accident were two children, who lost their mother and older brother to the incident.

One man claimed it was an alien attack, and demanded the government take action immediately. Another said it was a ghost. However, the nearly incoherent words of the truck driver before he was taken to a hospital, as reported by a medic, claimed that a demon had been in the way. Another witness, the younger girl in the silver SUV, also said there had been a devil that crushed the car. Despite how far-fetched the concept might seem coming from the two first-hand witnesses, a demon being the cause of the two accidents would explain the humanoid indention in both vehicles.

O~o~O

‘Alfred snorted. “Dude, have you, like, never met a demon before?” he snickered at Arthur’s worried and confused expression. “Those dudes are still loyal to you! And so am I. It takes a lot to make someone change sides like that, especially when there aren’t even any physical sides that we know. I mean, a lot a lot.”’

‘Alfred still held true to his belief. “Arthur would never lie to us. I trust him more than I trust any other demon in this damned place, and I sure as hell trust him more than you. He is our leader for a reason, and I’d gladly give my life for him.”’

O~o~O

“Oh, my…” a voice purred, floating around the dim, glowing blue room. “This does not look too good…”

The smirking angel who spoke remained unaware of the sheer horrified expression of the one behind him.

“N-no…” he whimpered.

Stalking around the room with an unbroken grin, silver eyes alight with greed shone through the magic blue lights dancing around the room. He watched the charged stare between the two beings that solidified the end, the Bereft’s Fate. “Time for the Blackout~,” he sang eerily, his voice fading off into low chuckling.

O~o~O

Everything was frozen, stilled by the heavy atmosphere and weighed down by the silence. The suspense that pulsed around the chilled air was deafening. Like an intricate network of blood veins weaving themselves in endless, aimless patterns, of such was the intensity of the time that passed. The gravity of it seemed to grow heavier with each passing second.

The demon’s suddenly dark irises flickered from the small, innocent feather, to Arthur’s terrified eyes. He let out a slow breath, understanding reflecting in his face. One could easily see the realisation as he put one and two together with a solemn frown, now able to see the truth clearly.

He released a slightly heavier huff, his head lowering until he was glaring. His breathing getting heavier and faster, the demon’s fists clenched and his nose scrunched up until he looked like he was snarling, revealing his fangs. By this point, he looked furious, and in turn the tension between the demon and the angel built up with his anger.

Arthur’s heart pounded. His knees felt weak with fear, and his expression absolutely fell with panic. His wings went stiff, and even his tail wouldn’t move fluidly anymore. The disgusted, betrayed look on the demon’s face...It was all there to see, and he couldn’t even hide or deny it at this point. The little things had given him away, and the flimsy, tattered curtain that hid the truth fell, fluttering down to the ground with the force of discovery. Just as the feather had.

They maintained their electric eye contact for a moment, one pair of eyes wide and afraid, the other narrowed and accusing. All those promises, the closeness they had built...It seemed to have been forgotten in the moment. The sky collided with the earth, creating such a massive detonation between the two that it only increased the rough storm between them. There was enough anger to rival a hurricane, and enough panic to rival the city disaster was headed towards.

Closing his eyes and looking down, Alfred appeared to tense up. “I’m stuck on this bed you made,” he murmured quietly, almost hissing. As he said this, both the demon and the angel took a step as if circling one another, Alfred towards the dead end of the concrete crevice and Arthur towards the edge. “Alone with a sinking feeling...I saw through the words you said, to the secrets you’ve been keeping.”

Stumbling back a little, Arthur pulled in a sharp breath, watching the demon warily. From there, he was petrified, and rooted to his spot.

Suddenly looking up at him and gesturing carelessly to the angel, Alfred continued. “It’s written upon your face, all the lies, how they cut so deeply! You can’t get enough, you take and take and never say…”

He trailed off for a moment, looking back up at Arthur. The instant they met eyes, Arthur’s face paled in horror. They were red. Oh God, they were red. Feeling nothing but frenzied and hysterical fear, Arthur almost crumpled and fell to his knees.

“NOOOOO!” Alfred suddenly screamed, startling Arthur enough to jump and flutter backwards, half-falling and half-gliding towards the edge. “YOU’VE GOTTA GET IT INSIDE, YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN! YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN, NOOOOO! YOU’LL NEVER GET IT INSIDE, PUSH IT BACK DOWN, BLACKOUT, BLOOD IN YOUR EYE!”

He jumped for it. Getting as much footing as he could on the gritty pavement, Arthur clumsily sprinted for the edge, where he opened his wings to run, as fast and as far as he could. Driven by sheer terror, he somehow managed a smooth turn and a dive to the shadows.

It was a given that he was being chased, and he knew this too well. It was very reminiscent of the last time Arthur had been this afraid, and even before to when he first encountered Alfred’s Rage. Through the blood roaring in his ears, Arthur could hear the demon follow him over the edge and take off, but from there he lost it and wasn’t able to pinpoint where he was. That scared him enough to surge forward faster than he meant to.

Swerving around a corner, Arthur already felt his lungs paying for his fear. Gasping and trying to recover, he realised the only thing that kept him going was the adrenaline that coursed through his veins. His eyes were wide. His breath was shaky despite how hard it was. He narrowly missed diving straight into a wall with a corner cut too sharply.

It made no difference to his pursuer, who seemed to keep up easily. “You say that it’s not your fault, and swear that I am mistaken! You say it’s not what it seems, no remorse for the trust you’re breaking!” he heard the seething voice behind him, sounding smooth even as it echoed around the alleys. Arthur couldn’t tell if it was close or far away. Not daring to look back, he sped through pathways, weaving through protruding pipes and walls of crumbling buildings around the area.

He was flying so fast that he could barely process the blurry shapes. Achieving a velocity he didn’t believe he could at his height, he took several confusing turns and dives and flips. His wings felt strained. Taking a right, he actually flew through the centre of a building before abruptly diving and going along the damp ground again. No matter how he took advantage of gravity, he could still hear the demon too close for comfort behind him. “You run, but then back you fall, suffocate in the mess you’re making! You can’t get enough, you take and take and take and take…” the voice paused, seeming slightly breathless with anger. “ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?!”

Tears sprung to Arthur’s eyes. The guttural screaming chilled him to the bone. It frightened him continuously, because it was the voice of a monster he had only nightmares about. He ran, driving himself onward with everything he had.

“NOOOOO! YOU’VE GOTTA GET IT INSIDE, YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN! YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN, NOOOOO!” Alfred roared in a deeper, harsher tone. It was getting louder. Arthur let out a desperate cry when it was amplified by the closed space on the alleyway. Using his arms and even his legs to launch himself further and faster, he tore down the city into places he’d never seen, and probably never would. “YOU’LL NEVER GET IT INSIDE! PUSH IT BACK DOWN, YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN, NOOOOO! YOU’VE GOTTA GET IT INSIDE, YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN! YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN, NOOOOO! YOU’LL NEVER GET IT INSIDE! YOU PUSH IT BACK DOWN, BLACKOUT, BLOOD IN YOUR EYE!” the horrible screaming continued, almost scaring Arthur enough to sob. He was losing his breath fast, and no longer knew where he was going. He took any turn in any direction he could.

The wind suddenly got heavier. Gasping for breath, Arthur swore the city changed beneath him, as he was forced upward by the powerful draft. He still kept on going, driven by panic. Everything seemed red, even the clouds took on a sort of brownish hue above him. The wind made the dust from the crumbling city whirl around, and Arthur choked on the dirt while it stung his eyes.

Twirling around an ominous, broken-down Cathedral that was about to fall to the ground and panting heavily, Arthur realised the voice had stopped. As he attempted to get back down along the stone streets, he dared to throw a glance over his shoulder.

The sight shocked him enough to almost fall backwards before he remembered how to fly. The demon that was behind him couldn’t be Alfred, it just couldn’t. His now spiny and rough horns had grown and curled into a full circle, extending far from his head. His skin had turned grey, almost stony looking, and his uniform had torn in several places from the fast flight and his sudden increase in size. He was a lot bigger than the demon Arthur knew before. His face looked far beyond demented, and his tail seemed to have gotten thicker. Lashing it out like a whip while he dove towards Arthur, the tail smacked into the biggest pillar of the building and immediately made the entire foundation crumble. And those eyes...The eyes were the worst. Arthur was crying openly when he looked into fiery eyes the colour of death, of fury. Of Rage.

Somehow, Rage had made Alfred morph into some sort of high level demon, distorted and powerful, with nothing but vengeance carved into his corrupted features.

Arthur turned in a vain attempt to escape, but the demon was coming too fast. The force of the diving monster knocked into him so roughly that Arthur went limp for a moment before he tried struggling again. He felt absolutely useless. His normally powerful hits and blows had no effect on the demon.

Strong arms gripped his torso and hurled Arthur to the ground once they had gotten close enough, and the concrete cracked with the sheer power behind the throw. The angel’s body twitched, his red hair matted with both dust and sweat. Dizzily lifting his head to search for the attacker, Arthur tried to move and attempt to take flight, only to freeze at the roar again. The demon was yelling at him in that monstrous voice, and Arthur shook violently in trying to move.

His mind couldn’t process words. Everything was going dark. Helpless to the wrath of the arc demon, Arthur’s entire body tensed and he screamed when claws and fangs alike sank into his shoulder and lower back. He was taken upwards, squirming in pain, and promptly thrown into a wall. The yelling had continued, but the words all blended together and Arthur couldn’t understand any of it.

After sliding down the wall of the confined alleyway and landing on his back, the assault didn’t cease. He was dragged, with an anguished wail, around the ground while being ripped into by claws sharp enough to penetrate skin with a mere stroke. His body was thrown around easily, and he was lifted and dropped back on the ground several times. He was punched, bitten, scratched, dragged, and heaved so fluidly and roughly, Arthur felt like he was falling down a waterfall. He was tormented by gashes all over his chest down to his thighs, and he kept getting bitten in the same places along his shoulders, arms, and back. Something snapped in his arm after being dropped again, and something else stung so horribly that Arthur shrieked when he was once again flung into a wall. Everything was moving too fast for him to know exactly what was happening, and it was torture. His hopeless crying got weaker and more tortured with every blow.

Eyes barely able to stay open, Arthur could still make out the twisted demon, and he let out a thick sob when he could see the horrible red eyes. They were practically glowing with hatred, enough to where a mere glare could bring an army to its knees.

The demon held Arthur up by his collar, something which seemed to have happened a lot recently, and slammed him into a wall before a series of punches hard enough to shatter boulders fell all over his body. Writhing against the impossible grip, Arthur howled in pain as he was yanked roughly from the wall and made to collapse on the ground. Small rocks cut into his cheeks, making his already bleeding, bruised, and dusty face worse. He received kicks in rapid numbers, making him convulse to the point where he couldn’t breathe, before he was taken up again.

With one arm, the demon grabbed Arthur by his neck and lifted the angel off his feet. “N-no-” Arthur gagged, coughing on blood. He couldn’t lift his wings, and he was certain that several bones had broken. The pressure around his neck tightened, threatening to crush his throat right then and there. Blood began to trail down his chin from the corners of his mouth, and his body mindlessly resisted, his feet seeking some sort of hold and his hands clawing uselessly at the demon’s grip. “P-pl-ease, n-nn-o...” His eyes began to roll back into his head, and the demon held him there until his hoarse breathing stopped on one last choke.

Adjusting his hold on the fainting angel, the demon spun around and hurled Arthur one last time against the wall. Arthur crashed into it upside-down with his head and shoulders taking the worst of it, and he had already gone limp while pieces from the wall fell around him. The weight of his torso and the curve of his back made his lower body slump over more, so his knees touched the ground above his head. His arms were splayed out uselessly like his wings, and he closed his eyes that way.

He would have given everything in that moment to be dead, as the pain was too much to bear. There was nothing he could do, he had no options of survival left. He had no reason to be alive anyway, not when he had no time left. No room to make a plan. Somehow, he could even hear the approach of the demon coming to give him death. That was almost a relief; death would be merciful to his wounded heart and soul.

But then he remembered the feather in his pocket.

There was an option. With a slightly alarmed and heavier breath that pained his barely-functional lungs, Arthur’s eyes fluttered open a little, enough to make out the upside-down and looming silhouette of the huge monster walking towards him. He could choose death. He could choose to let himself go, but somehow, through the blaring and throbbing agony he was enduring, he decided against that.

Adjusting himself as best as he could and lifting his shaking hands, Arthur gritted his teeth and performed the switching spell.

Alfred froze at the bright light, and Arthur somehow found the strength to let out a strained and airy laugh. This could work.

Pushing himself from the wall in a daze, the injured angel in his natural form turned over and lifted himself onto his knees, trying to ignore the dizzy flashes that threatened to make him keel over again. He had thought that transforming wouldn’t make any difference to his wings, but he had predicted wrong; his white, feathery limbs appeared to be much better off than his demon ones, but they were still injured and stained with red blood. Raising them experimentally, Arthur reckoned they were still strong enough to lift him. They were shaky, but he trusted his wings. He had to.

He looked up with bleary eyes to the demon, who was still staring. His vision had been made fuzzy, so he couldn’t see any details. But he could still make out the lack of movement. Coughing and lifting one leg so he was on one knee, he steeled himself with a rough breath. Knees and hands quivering, he raised his head and pushed off from the ground, spreading his wings.

His take-off was clumsy, but he was in the air. After only a few small flaps, Arthur had made it much higher than he expected, and continued to ascend. His only hope was to fly as far as he could, even if it wasn’t in any particular direction. He was surprised at how strong his wings were after all his time in demon form, unlike when he last flew as an angel. Finding that he could flap even harder, he did. It hurt, oh God, it hurt like Hell. But he could live. He could actually go faster, go harder, and find his way back home.

The vague and undefined idea of home somehow made him grin weakly, forgetting any doubts he had.

Arthur knew his chances of not being chased were slim, but he was calm now despite that. He blamed it on being injured senseless; there were probably many chemicals running through his blood to dumb down the pain and make his fuzzy mind temporarily placid.

Wiping blood from his brow with a trembling hand, Arthur flew onwards and upwards, trying to take the simplest and straightest routes he could. The wind somehow made it easier for him to fly, for now it was at his back instead of his head. That made it a little easier on his aching muscles and wounded body, and he wondered what sort of power was keeping him in the sky.

Gradually, the over the time of his journey, the wind and dust died down until the city was back to it’s dank grey atmosphere. It was also colder now, and Arthur glanced down at his small tunic, with only Zadkiel’s scarf keeping him warm. It was bloody, dusty and torn, and he wasn’t surprised. His demon uniform probably wasn’t in much better shape.

He rose higher and higher in the sky, shivering and wincing as the cold stung his many injuries. Arthur noticed that he couldn’t feel his right hand. When he tried to move it, a sharp pain jolted through his arm like lightning, and he let out a startled yelp. Carefully holding his arm with his other hand, he tried to the best of his dazed ability to follow the wind. He flinched at nearly every movement.

The wind got louder again as he rose up, and, squinting, he swore he could see light. Was he really getting close to Heaven? He panted, the flight beginning to tire him out again. The calmness and lack of pain could only last for so long.

Slowing a little, Arthur felt his head ache even more than before. Raising his uninjured hand, Arthur rubbed his eyes, and noticed when he brought his palm back, it was suddenly grey. He guessed it was from all the debris on his face, or rather, all over his body. He was shocked to discover when he looked down at his arm and legs that they were layered with grey stone dust over the various cuts and bruises he’d collected.

“A-Arthur!” a distant voice yelled.

Jumping, Arthur slowed his rise until he was merely flying in place, and he turned around, bracing himself to go at any moment. The wind whipped his blonde hair and white feathers around, and, clutching his arm, he looked fearfully down at his caller. The clouds were a pale grey, lighter than they usually were in Hell.

Blue eyes.

That was the first thing he saw. The ones he’d grown to trust. Alfred was panting even heavier than Arthur was, but he probably wasn’t nearly as exhausted as the angel. It was still very difficult to get this high with demon wings.

He wasn’t twisted and horrifying anymore, he looked normal now. His horns were their normal length, his wings with shorter claws, and his tail thin. Something must have caused the Rage to ebb away, and Arthur couldn’t even begin to wonder why. The demon looked up at Arthur desperately.

“Are you...Are you going home? Back to He-Heaven?” he asked breathlessly, his expression upset and worn out.

Arthur hesitated, wanting to turn around and fly away, but from his mind to his aching, tensed muscles, prepared like a deer to flee, something kept him still. Something more than just fear. He had a feeling it was the look in those despairing blue eyes, those eyes he’d gotten to know so well over all this time. Turning his body to face Alfred now, he nodded. Tears threatened to form in his eyes again, his only thought being how this same demon had tried to kill him not too long ago.

Alfred looked sad now. “Damn it, I-I’m so sorry, Arthur, I-” he had to stop to catch his breath, gasping quickly. “I can’t ever expect you t-to forgive me. I don’t even know why I got s-so angry-”

Backing up a little, further in the sky, Arthur watched the demon’s hopeless expression while his own became painfully fearful.

“You...You’ve opened my eyes to things I thought were way out of my reach.” Alfred struggled for words. “Y-you’ve also done things you regret, b-but you can let all of that go! With th-this war going on, will Heaven take you back? Why were y-you even down here anyway? I don’t think angels regularly leave Heaven for Hell to pretend to be a demon, do they?”

He didn’t appear to expect an answer, trying to flap his wings harder to get higher when his height fell a little. But Arthur shook his head anyway, looking away. Alfred was obviously trying to reach him, and it certainly was not easy.

The demon gritted his teeth, flying himself until he panted too heavily for words. But he looked up at Arthur with wretched determination.

Watching him with alarm, Arthur’s eyes widened when Alfred held out his hand. “P-please...Come back down with me.” he almost sounded like he was begging. “I-I don’t know...If I know who you are any-anymore, but you can’t just leave! I know I hurt you, but w-we…” he trailed off, not knowing what to say.

Arthur was almost tempted to take his hand. Dizzily swaying to the side, he started to shake his head, feeling his head throbbing with pain, his aches and scratches all hurting. He wasn’t sure if it was a tear or a drop of blood going down his face.

“Y-you were right, we...W-we have to stop all this fighting. Your...Our allies, they were waiting, we were all waiting for s-someone like you, even if we didn’t realise it. We n-need you, to make things right. Come down, w-we can...We can fix this. I can h-help you let go!” his face twisted urgently, looking distraught at Arthur’s apparent intentions to fly away. “P-please, Arthur! C-come back down with me!”

The angel had never seen such a genuinely distressed look on a demon. Turning his head to glance up at Heaven, Arthur’s eyes almost closed and he nodded off briefly before flying again, catching himself from falling. It was evident how tired he was, how worn he had become. Alfred looked worried, but couldn’t fly up any further.

Arthur knew it was inescapable now. All his troubles up until then running through his head, the idea of Heaven suddenly seemed very bleak and dark. He was still frightened out of his mind, but there was nothing he could do. There was nowhere to go, no words to say. Either way, he would likely die. Heaven was tempting, yes, but he could not forget everything that had led up to that very moment. Yet in comparison, Hell was almost too much to bear.

But Alfred...Alfred had been special all throughout the time the angel had known him. He always had Arthur’s back, always trusted him, always fought with him despite how Arthur had been a living lie the entire time. And over the past few days, they spent almost everyday in each other’s company. The demon was so kind, afraid of his own power. Arthur had never met anyone so loyal, so open, so free. Someone who would turn his back on hatred just to chase after an angel.

In that moment, he knew there was no way he could deny to the hand reaching out for him.

Tilting his wings and reaching cautiously like a frightened animal, Arthur hesitantly flew closer. He was still afraid, so afraid of coming near the demon. But, after a long moment, Arthur delicately let his trembling hand rest in Alfred’s. Seeing relief in the demon’s blue eyes, as well as infinite apologies, Arthur felt himself being pulled closer in a warm embrace.

Bringing his hurting arms around Alfred’s neck, Arthur let out a quiet sob. He felt gentle hands, far from the rough ones that gripped him before, tenderly wrap around his injured figure and hold him closer. Both the demon and the angel almost fell, their wings slowing their constant flapping once they’d relaxed a little. But they quickly caught each other, weary and finished with the night.

The demon was calmer, content even, with returning to the darkness. The angel was still in shock, still frightened of being held in the demon’s arms. But the light had abandoned him long ago, in the cruelest way, so there was but one place left for him.

The demon known as Paranomia and the angel known as the Bereft One was one and the same now, reduced to so little by fear. He held onto the demon with the weakest of holds, barely able to breathe. He could not bring himself to trust the demon, not yet, for he had been damaged too badly for it to be that easy. But the poor angel was too exhausted to resist, and he needed something to support him. That was why he let the tears fall, in healing trails down his cheeks, and conceded to the warmth that promised him comfort through the suffering he beared.

‘Floating down, as colours fill the light, you look up from the ground, in fields of paperwhite...And floating up, you pass us in the night, a future gazing out, a past to overwrite...So come down, far below, we’ve been waiting to collect the things you know...Come down, far below, we’ve been waiting to collect what you’ve let go…

Come down, oh…

Come down...ohh….’

O~o~O

Chapter Text

O~o~O

“What...What is this? What is he doing?!”

“I do not kn-know, sir.”

“What happened to the Rage?! Why is he not trying to kill the angel?!”

“I-it appears to have worn off, s-sir.”

“How?!”

O~o~O

The only noise that could be heard was simultaneous panting.

The angel and the demon held on tightly to each other, the demon a little more carefully because he knew the angel was grievously injured. The two beings were exhausted and they knew it; the angel was practically on the verge of fainting and looked terribly beaten in.

Holding their embrace for what felt like a while, the demon gasped for breath and allowed the angel to cry until he calmed down, clutching the demon’s jacket with weak hands. A million words needed to be said but none could be spoken, not yet. The city was thankfully silent, except for the light and the dark desperately holding one another.

Arthur felt himself being held tenderly, but each small movement made something hurt, regardless of that. He let out a slight yelp when his arm moved from their wing beats becoming uneven, and Alfred looked at him in alarm. The question was evident in his wide blue eyes; are you okay? But the answer was just as obvious, so it remained unasked.

Of course he wasn’t okay.

Releasing one side of the angel, Alfred delicately pulled him closer and faced the east. “Let’s go home, little buddy.” he murmured softly to him.

Adjusting his grasp on the angel, Alfred tried to assist him so he could fly, only to have his hands brushed away. Arthur shook his head when the demon reached for him again, and flew himself. At first, Alfred refused to, seeing that the angel was about ready to fall. But Arthur was determined, if shaky, and he didn’t need to be frightened any more. Reluctantly, Alfred backed off and nodded, turning so he could lead the way.

Fighting back more tears, Arthur followed as best as he could. He felt so dizzy, like he could fall at any moment. He was amazed that he was still flying, because logically, there was no way he should be able to. But, despite how shaky his wings were, they still managed to keep him in the sky.

The angel and the demon glided, inclining gradually down further into the city. They had been very high, and it was awhile before they started seeing buildings again. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Arthur wondered if demons had a natural homing instinct; Alfred seemed to know exactly where he was going, whereas Arthur didn’t have a single clue. Perhaps his normally good sense of direction was just thrown off balance.

There were several times Arthur thought he’d flipped upside down, and he could only just catch Alfred’s repeated glances full of concern. Somehow, he got too tired to even remember how to be exhausted. Breathing became something that he had to think about, lest his body start to black out. It seemed almost too hard to regulate it correctly. Struggling to even keep his hazy eyes open, Arthur caught glimpses of the blurry grey shapes of the towers and crumbling cathedrals through the foggy Hell.

Everything hurt. More times than he would be comfortable with saying, Arthur’s body almost gave out. He wanted so badly to just stop, stop flying, stop breathing, stop living, and at that point, he had no idea what drove him.

The flight seemed to go on forever through the unfamiliar and unwelcome place. Arthur felt that at any moment, demons would come to eat him, angels would appear to chase him away, or Alfred’s Rage would emerge again...Too horrified to even think about it anymore, Arthur choked back a breathless sob.

Alfred cast a glance back at him. “Hey, we’re almost there.” he informed the angel softly, slowing up a little. “You gonna make it-?” before the demon could even finish talking, Arthur had nodded nervously and faced away, trying not to gasp too sharply or breathe too loudly.

Looking torn, Alfred watched him worriedly in response, but kept flying.

Weakly flapping his giant white wings, Arthur looked blearily ahead, where he couldn’t even really tell what he was headed for. His height was declining more than he meant to, and the areas ahead seemed darker than everything else. From the corner of his eye, Alfred disappeared suddenly, and before Arthur could even be confused, he felt himself being lifted over a short stone barrier he had been right about to crash into.

Startled, Arthur immediately lost control of his flight, and fear rushed through his body faster than he could think to do anything. Alfred reappeared again, but in front of him this time, to catch and steady the angel.

With no other reaction his body was capable of doing, Arthur trembled. He could feel himself being slowly lowered to a floor, his wings drooping and his knees becoming weak, and he could also feel another tear sliding down his cheek. A gloved hand reached up slowly, making Arthur flinch, before a thumb gently brushed across his face. “Shh, shh…” he heard an uncertain but soothing tone. “It’s okay, shh...”

They were on the balcony that led into Alfred’s small place, Arthur realised. Being the only entrance, he didn’t remember it being so big. Then again, he was dazed out of his mind.

He didn’t even realise he’d been rocking back and forth until his mind caught up with motion again; his wounded body was held close to Alfred, and the demon shifted to and fro with Arthur’s exhausted movements. Somehow, it calmed him for the time being. His shoulders were tensed however; he was still nervous about being so close to Alfred.

The angel lost track of time. Almost unable to keep his eyes open, Arthur found himself leaning almost completely into Alfred with his head lowered shamefully, face pressed into the demon’s uniform. He couldn’t find the strength to look up, or the bravery. He was so, so weary. The angel almost looked like a dull statue because of all the dust and debris on his body.

Arms that were stronger than Arthur believed to be possible carefully shifted from around him to his torso, seeking to lift him. Wincing, Arthur pulled in a sharp gasp when Alfred’s hands pressed into bruises and other wounds. “N-nn-!”

“S-sorry! Hell, I’m so sorry!” Alfred rushed to apologise, releasing him quickly as Arthur dazedly tried to shift away. “Damn it, how am I gonna do this…?” he looked frustrated with himself, and quickly reached forward when Arthur stumbled back a step. “Here, here, I got you. I’m sorry, it’s gonna be okay.” he caught Arthur, and kept trying to assure the frightened angel.

Breathing rather hard, Arthur tilted his head up as much as he could. His eyes were wide and fearful, like a doomed animal facing death. Alfred’s eyes were also wide, and though Arthur’s vision kept blurring out, he could see the unsure look the demon had. He didn’t know what to do.

“I’m gonna…” Alfred’s quiet voice sounded confused and slightly afraid. “I’m gonna try to heal you, okay? Just...Please don’t try to fly away or anything...I know you’re scared, and that you probably can’t trust me anymore. B-but there’s nothing else I can do, I have to repair the damage I’ve done…” he looked over Arthur’s wounded form, his expression looking more and more pained as his eyes flitted over every single injury upon the angel’s once flawless figure.

Taking a careful step forward, Alfred accidentally made Arthur back up into the stone railing, and hesitated. “I’m so...I’m so sorry…” he let out sadly, leaning closer and closer. Arthur mindlessly tried to move away, but he was already pressed up hard against the stone. He was practically cornered.

Arthur shut his eyes tightly when Alfred didn’t stop, expecting nothing but pain. He tried to back up, anything to get away, and he flinched when he instead felt tentative lips upon his cheek in apology. It was a kiss, he vaguely recalled the term. The unharmful gesture, however gentle, did not prevent him from shuddering nervously in response.

The demon’s face remained close to Arthur’s for a brief moment, and during that time, Arthur was too scared to even breathe. “I’m so sorry…” he heard again, shivering when the cool breath chilled his exposed, bloodied, and dusty skin even more. “I’m so, so sorry…” The apologies didn’t stop, even when Arthur became aware of Alfred healing him in various places.

The angel continued to tremble; his small tunic was in no way meant to handle colder temperatures, and he was still very scared despite all that had just happened. He wasn’t even strong enough to hold up his wings, and that was supposed to be second nature. Alfred kept working on healing Arthur, and murmured his faint apologies into the angel as he went.

Letting his eyes slide closed, Arthur’s breathing became a little more irregular. Inhaling sharply upon contact and exhaling shakily, Arthur couldn’t stand still and relied almost completely on the railing for support. Alfred tried to help with that too, but even the slightest grip on him now resulted in a slight squirm of protest; the most Arthur was capable of at that point. The time that passed felt like an eternity, and Arthur feared his body would give out before it ended.

The only thing that alerted him to his own nodding off was his wings being raised a little bit. Abruptly waking up again, Arthur lifted his head to catch the fuzzy view of Alfred quickly moving his hands away.

“S-sorry.” Alfred apologised again, backing up a step so he wouldn’t be close enough to touch the other. Arthur’s wings drooped again, and he looked up pathetically at the demon. “Can you...Stand?”

Oddly a little more conscious than before, Arthur’s hazy gaze fell to his feet, where he could vaguely see his sandals, as well as the gold straps that wrapped all the way up his calves. It was strange; he now had a bit of footing, and could balance. Facing up again, he nodded weakly. “I…” he interrupted himself with a cough, and spoke hoarsely. “I can.”

Alfred nodded and took in a deep breath, clasping his hands behind his back and standing straight like he was resisting the urge to reach forward. “I, um.” he cleared his throat. “Do you want anything? Is there anything else I can, uh, do?”

Swallowing thickly, Arthur took a moment to process the question. “...N-no.” he shook his head. Blinking and raising his dull green eyes, he tried to focus on something. “I need...I need a moment to think…” he murmured in a surprisingly coherent voice.

The blue he managed to catch in his vision was suddenly outlined with a little hurt, like an ocean suspended by a still moon. The imagined fluidity halted. “A...Alright.” Alfred agreed softly. “I’ll be inside if you...If you need anything.” he backed away, stepping with silent movements inside the room that had once been a place of comfort for both of them.

Once he was out of sight, Arthur adjusted himself to turn around. He didn’t intend to escape; it wasn’t like he could even if he wanted to. One dizzying gaze down was enough to know that he would not be flying any time soon, at least judging by how he got so much vertigo that he almost slid to his knees. Shutting his eyes tightly in the hopes that it would stop the sensation of spinning, Arthur gritted his teeth and leaned heavily against the stone, now at least on his front.

Weakly raising his head, Arthur attempted to look up at the bothered, blotchy sky. It was grey, as always, but something about it seemed like it was filled with contempt. As if it was possible for the sky to be contemptuous. Managing to get back to a stand, Arthur tried to relax. To his physical and mental relief, he was healed in various places. However, there were parts of him that still hurt, either where Alfred was too shy to venture or where his healing just wasn’t enough. Arthur didn’t care; to his knowledge, he was fine.

Just scared.

Yes, very scared. It took him a moment to put all of that together, but his mind wasn’t useless quite yet. He could at least recognise that he was cold, lonely, and afraid. And hurt, of course. Some part of him wondered how hard the blood would be to wash off, and another part momentarily forgot he was an angel. There was still that mentality that existed- ‘How long can I go in my demon form? What can I do to blend in more? Who could be able to tell me apart from the rest?’ But all he had to do to remind himself was shiver; his wings would tremble far differently depending on what form he took.

All that occupied his mind for the time being was thoughts of the consequences of his failure. He’d accepted death multiple times, but his being discovered as an angel must be the biggest and stupidest thing he’d done in Hell. Arthur wondered when Alfred would get around to killing him, or perhaps give him to the group to tear apart. But...upon his death, he wouldn’t be there to stop the Demonocrats and the Angelicans from escalating their war, he wouldn’t be there to at least do something about the toll it would take. He wouldn’t be there to apologise for all his wrongs, or to try and stop the ultimate destruction of all he’d ever known. If his death resulted in all of that, he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around why he would want death. Perhaps to be free of the weight he carried?

Arthur didn’t even realise how cold it was until he reached up with a shaky hand to his face. His fingers were numb. Holding out his hand in front of him, and not daring to glance below, the angel realised his movements were stiff and limited. He couldn’t form a fist, nor stretch out his fingers all the way.

He began to feel a little bit more, and almost every single muscle tensed; his shoulders, his jaw, and with that, his legs almost gave out in the process. The cold coursed through him like he wasn’t even there. It blew right through him, chilling his very bones. This was no ordinary wind, no usual cold. At least, not to Arthur, who stood in nothing but his tunic and shattered will.

After a brief moment spent leaning against the railing with his face aimed towards the sky, Arthur became aware of Alfred’s presence. The cold may have washed over his senses, but it hadn’t quelled them.

The demon tentatively approached, and Arthur’s eyes slowly slid open again. Peering at him from the corner of his eye, Arthur watched Alfred inch just a little closer and rest his arms on the railing, looking at the angel. With no idea how much time had passed, Arthur could only assume that either Alfred was impatient, or he simply hadn’t a single clue of how long it’d been.

They remained in silence for a moment, but it was obvious the demon wanted a conversation. He let out a sigh, seeming to be searching for words. Arthur wavered a bit, his breath catching and his arms shaking before readjusting. The demon seemed like he could sit there forever, but he had some sort of motive for coming back out to talk to Arthur. Maybe it was to convince him to do something, or kill him now. Arthur couldn’t help the sudden shudder at that.

“...What’re you thinking about?” Alfred asked him eventually, his voice quiet. The intent was unidentifiable, but it seemed harmless enough.

It was a little bit before Arthur could answer, for he could not find the words for his worries. “...The future.” he finally mumbled, deciding to be honest. He closed his eyes so he could look down, hoping the dizziness wouldn’t come back. Opening his mouth again, Arthur meant to add ‘or lack thereof’ until he sensed Alfred moving closer.

Nervously looking up, Arthur opened his eyes, only to face Alfred startlingly close. He tensed up again, even more so when Alfred hopeful expression fell, but made no move to back away just yet.

With wide eyes, he watched as Alfred slowly raised his gloved hand, his blue eyes catching onto the lowered, white, feathery wings. “Um…” the demon hesitated upon seeing Arthur’s obvious skittishness. “Can I…?”

Looking from Alfred’s face to his wings, Arthur realised he wanted to touch them. Immediately, he wanted to shake his head, but through the confusion and emotional turmoil from everything that had happened, he somehow reluctantly nodded. By instinct, he wanted to trust Alfred; he wanted so badly to believe their friendship over all this time wasn’t for nothing. Though, he was certain he was just kidding himself if he dared to hope Alfred would have any mercy on him. The only reason he decided to let the demon do it was because he figured he would die anyway.

Alfred’s hand slowly reached forward until his fingers delicately brushed against the feathers along the uppermost edge of Arthur’s left wing. He seemed to think of something when he did that, and immediately retracted his hand. With wide eyes, Arthur watched as Alfred took off his glove, revealing a strong, pale hand. Reaching forward again, this time with his bare hand, Alfred gently touched the wing with his fingertips.

Arthur supposed he did that so he could actually feel. Closing his eyes and lowering his head a little, Arthur was silent as he felt Alfred continue to touch his wing, stroking slowly along the edge. It was almost like he was exploring, and the demon dared to go further and further, until his hand traveled to the inner part of the wing. His fingers curled gingerly into the fluffy plumage, and just then, Arthur pulled in a small gasp.

Glancing at his face, Alfred stopped for a moment and pulled back his arm. “...Does that...Hurt?” he asked, his voice dropping like he was nervous he’d done something wrong.

It was odd that Alfred would ask such a thing. Frowning, Arthur shook his head and kept his eyes closed, but not as tightly as before. “N-no.”

“Then why did you…?” Alfred trailed off, thinking. When he felt his hand pull away, Arthur peeked up at the demon with one eye, just to see him pull of his other glove and fold the pair to stick it inside one of his uniform pockets. Alfred offered a small smile when Arthur opened both eyes to look at him. “I hope you like to have your wings petted.” he teasingly warned the angel, before he reached with both of his hands to Arthur’s wings.

At first, Arthur stiffened in fear, not prepared for death by wing mutilation. That was, until Alfred’s fingers simultaneously found the soft underside of both wings. Eyes sliding closed again, Arthur’s head lolled forward as if he was caught in a dazed trance due to the sudden tingling sensation in both feathery limbs. His mind began to get cloudy from Alfred’s continuous scratching, and the only thing he could comprehend was how...nice it felt. He didn’t even notice that he was beginning to tilt forward.

The petting didn’t stop, even when Arthur’s wings began to relax subconsciously. “...Arthur? You okay?” Alfred asked, and Arthur’s glazed green eyes flitted upward aimlessly. The angel was becoming drowsy, and only just was becoming aware that he wasn’t controlling his balance. Before he could even cry out in surprise, he stopped falling. “Whoah! Hey, hey, hey, I got you.” the hands disappeared from inside his wings, catching him underneath his arms.

Arthur blinked slowly, his eyelids refusing to stay open. He realised he was leaning full-on into Alfred, who had moved his arms around Arthur’s neck and back to support him. At that point, Arthur couldn’t even bring himself to be afraid; he was simply too exhausted. If he could stand straight, or even see straight for that matter, he would have noticed that Alfred looked more scared than he did.

The demon let out a shaky sigh. “Hey, Artie, it’s alright. I got you.” he said again, pulling Arthur closer. “You okay? I bet you’re really tired. Talk to me, buddy.”

“N-nngh…” Arthur shifted a little bit, but Alfred patted his back to keep him still. “Why...Wh-why are you not t-trying to...Kill me...?” he mumbled into Alfred’s shoulder.

The hand moving over him froze. Arthur’s breath caught then, not sure what he’d done.

“...Arthur…” Alfred began quietly, his fingers seeming to remember how to move again. “I...I never wanted to hurt you, much less kill you. I think you’re a little too freaked out right now to trust or believe me, so all I can do is tell you.” he said sadly, gently rubbing Arthur’s back.

For a moment, the angel was silent. “...Artie? Hey, talk to me, tell me about something.” Alfred nudged the side of Arthur’s head with his face, and then began talking just to distract the angel. “You being an angel explains a few things, ya know. What’s that thing you told us about? The really cool sounding thing that Ludwig told us about, we even saw it on Earth! It was singing, right? Well, you’re an angel, can you sing for me?”

There was a beat of silence before Arthur became responsive again, having almost dozed off on Alfred’s shoulder. “Why do you...Why do you want me to sing for you…?” he asked softly.

Alfred shrugged, and readjusted his hold on the beaten angel. He began rocking back and forth slowly like before, trying to soothe Arthur somehow. It had some effect eventually; Arthur finally conceded and rested his head against Alfred, and didn’t resist when the demon reached down to pull the angel’s arms around his neck.

Continuing to fight the urge to sleep, Arthur breathed in deeply, and let it out slowly. For the small time that passed, he was able to forget just how cold he was, or maybe it was just his body could only focus on one or two things at a time. Right now, it was Alfred’s hand slowly stroking up and down his back through his tunic, occasionally brushing with his wings.

He felt so tired, so exhausted. His vision blurred out occasionally, and he couldn’t quite move of his own accord. The rocking, he noticed, was steady and constant, and that distracted him for awhile. Tunes began to form in his head from an old habit, one he’d thought he’d left behind since he left Heaven. A short while seemed to pass, and Alfred seemed to think Arthur had already fallen asleep. At least, until Arthur began humming.

Alfred looked down in surprise at the soft notes, not expecting the voice. He didn’t know any better, but Arthur knew he wouldn’t sound perfect because he had not sung in such a long time. Still, he maintained a semi-steady tone and hummed in time with their swaying.

The demon even seemed to pick up on that, and rocked them a little more enthusiastically from it, smiling down at Arthur. He seemed utterly fascinated, despite the fact that it really wasn’t anything special. Just a simple, almost sad song that had a perceivable beat.

“Don’t....Kid yourself…” Arthur murmured after a while of just organising the tune. “And don’t...Fool yourself...This love’s too good to last, and I’m too old to dream…” he lifted his head just a little so he could sing the words carefully, sounding weary but surprisingly clear.

He sensed Alfred looking down at him in shock, but he didn’t look up. “Don’t...Grow up too fast, and don’t...Embrace the past...This life’s too good to last, and I’m too young to care…” his voice gained a little bit of strength, at least it was loud enough to hold a tone that almost echoed.

The demon and the angel moved a little more languidly with one another, Arthur even relaxing as much as he could in the cold while Alfred listened. Together, they swayed almost like they were dancing, and Arthur continued to sing a slightly more bravely. It wasn’t quite reconciliation; how could it be? But it was a step towards the sun forgiving the clouds. The light and the dark embraced like before in a waltz of sorts, swinging gently in three to the angel’s sombre song in the otherwise quiet place, stone-cold and cloudy with silence.

“Don’t...Kid yourself, and don’t....Fool yourself...This life could be the last....And we’re too young to see....” Arthur looked a little dazed and dreamy, finishing with one last hum. He wasn’t too observant in that moment, but he could see all the emotions playing across Alfred’s face with a glance up at him.

The demon was absolutely dumbfounded, standing speechless for a little while. “Th-that was…” he trailed off, shaking his head in disbelief. “That was beautiful, Arthur, I- Arthur?”

Arthur blinked slowly. “Mm?”

He could see a smile from the demon, somehow, through his vague sight. “Sorry, you just don’t look too focused right now.” he leaned his head down a little bit, adjusting his arms around Arthur’s lower back. They kept swaying, continuing to rock to and fro. “I-I mean...Obviously, you’re not. That’s my fault. Yea...Um.” he glanced away, looking nervous. “I’m just...I’m really sorry. I’ll say it every day, every time I see you. What I’ve done to you, it’s...It’s unforgivable. I don’t expect you to ever forgive me, actually, but Hell, am I glad you’re alive.”

Pulling Arthur a little closer until he bumped into him, Alfred shifted his arms again in an embrace. He rested his chin on Arthur’s shoulder, his horns accidentally touching Arthur’s halo. “I’m confused, Artie, and I’ll ask you to explain some stuff later. But right now, you’re almost completely senseless and tired, and...You really need rest. Also, are you- Are you cold?” he pulled back and held him out at arm’s length, just to look at Arthur’s small, shaking figure. “I don’t know much about angels, but you never seemed too comfortable in this kinda weather. Even when I thought you were just a demon.”

Arthur winced at the way Alfred had said that, and looked down at the ground. He noticed it was beginning to get wet; was it raining? Sure enough, after a moment, the drizzle was very evident to Arthur’s exposed form. He stiffened and shivered, flinching occasionally when the water droplets hit his face. His fingers and toes stung, and he could see his breath with how the temperature dropped.

The demon still looked at him, shaking his head. He opened his mouth a couple times, as if wanting to say something, but not quite able to decide what. Finally, he shrugged off his leather jacket he always wore. “Here.” he muttered, slowly approaching him when Arthur’s face paled a little more. “Uh…” he glanced to and from his jacket and Arthur’s wings. “This might not...Work…” he laughed nervously when he realised the slits in the back of the jacket were definitely not big enough for Arthur’s wings. “Wear it backwards, it’ll still keep you warmer.” he said, and turned the jacket around so he could fit Arthur’s arms through the sleeves.

The fluffy collar of it was pulled up to Arthur’s chin, and the angel felt a little bit warmer already. He noticed it smelled only of Alfred when he took in a deep breath. Looking up in shock at Alfred while clutching the body-warmed jacket around him, he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. The sleeves fell over Arthur’s knuckles, as it was a bit big on him.

Alfred looked strange in just his uniform, and it was then Arthur realised he’d just never seen the demon without his jacket.

Licking his lips, Alfred turned so he faced the inside of the building. “Hey, you can come in if you want. You really need sleep, and there’s no way in Hell I’m letting you sleep out here.” Carefully, Alfred pulled an arm around Arthur’s shoulders, and the angel self-consciously turned his head down so his numb, red nose was pressed in the warmth of the jacket collar. He stumbled a little when Alfred began leading him inside, but he guessed that was why there was an arm guiding him.

“N-no, I am- I will be-...” Arthur tried to deny the offer, getting a little more nervous by the closer contact.

“Artie, you’ll be safer inside. I know you’re scared, but…” Alfred let out a sigh, and stopped, turning Arthur to face him and looking worried when Arthur tried to hide his face in the jacket. “I know there’s no way you can believe me, but I won’t hurt you anymore. If you’re out here, other demons might find you o-or something horrible... And I couldn’t stand to let that happen. Plus it’s also freezing already, it might start snowing. And you really don’t like the cold, so...Please, come in with me?” Alfred tilted his head with a desperate look.

Assuming he didn’t really have a choice, Arthur pulled in a deep, chilled breath, and reluctantly nodded. He wouldn’t be able to stand for much longer anyways.

He felt like he couldn’t move. His nose had gone numb, he couldn’t feel his hands anymore, his wings were losing feeling...Alfred almost had to support him completely. Luckily, the demon quickly recognised Arthur’s exhaustion and decided to help him inside by lifting him up. The angel would have been startled by the disappearance of the floor, but his mind simply could not comprehend all the feelings at once. His head tilted to the side, bumping into Alfred’s shoulder.

With one arm below and in between his wings and one underneath Arthur’s knees, Alfred carried him inside, and the sudden warmth washed over the angel’s dwindling senses.

“I can...Sleep on the- on the floor…-” Arthur started to mumble.

“Shh, no, sir.” Alfred interrupted, heading towards the bed. “No floor, no couch. You are going to be as comfortable as you possibly can on the bed, and I won’t have it any other way.”

Too tired to argue, Arthur let out a small noise of acknowledgement before, for the most part, he started to fade out.

He was set gently upon the bed. The bed that he and Alfred had slept on together for the past several weeks, now deemed foreign and frightening to Arthur’s cloudy eyes. The goal suddenly became to get him as warm as possible. He could feel the pillows being nudged around him, and more blankets that came out of seemingly nowhere were pulled over his limp form. His wings did not fold like a demon’s, so his primary feathers hung over the edge of either side of the bed, at least until Alfred gingerly lifted them into a semi-folded position.

Alfred looked like he wanted to crawl in the makeshift nest of pillows and blankets with Arthur, but the angel’s eyes were unintentionally wide and afraid, so he didn’t. He wasn’t yet forgiven enough to sleep in the same bed. At least, while Arthur was aware. Reaching down with a sad face, Alfred pulled his jacket up to Arthur’s nose so he was certain to be cozy, and then turned around to head somewhere unknown. Just as Arthur’s eyelids slid closed, not to open again for awhile.

O~o~O

Arthur felt like he was slipping in and out of consciousness, when really he was becoming more and less aware of dreams, flowing through them like sand from an open palm. He could feel them, but only in his head; the rest of his body felt still while his mind waded through the molasses that made up his sleeping thoughts. While everything else was calm, his head churned and ached like a swelling sea.

Obviously, he felt like some of them were real. Some of the nightmarish events he witnessed felt very authentic and true, and Arthur was terrified of the tangible properties he could have sworn were anything other than a dream. Others, he could very easily pick out as false, because either they were simply too ridiculous to be factual or too beyond radical to be believable. He seemed to switch very smoothly with and without these separate images. For a while, it would seem quite logical; naturally everyone switched between stories, right? It was a recurring realisation that, no, in fact, no one did.

Unless of course you were the grand creator of it all, which was a thought that ran through Arthur’s centre of attention several times. What say they, who had perhaps planned all of this? What say they who have the musician’s long fingers to construct symphonies from the imagination, the artist’s delicate hands to paint illusions on paper, and then the...the author’s sore tendons to bend hearts and to conscript minds? The foundations of all the followers came from specialists of the arts, twisting them into songs of war, canvases of destruction, and stories of death.

Camael’s face flashed briefly before him, and Arthur could feel his entire being freeze, not sure what to do. He felt like he released a noise of some kind, but couldn’t recall it and dismissed it as the turning began, flipping his mind and going another way.

He would go from nearly jerking away from faceless demons who he could somehow tell all had Rage, to rolling gently in the philosophical, wave-like thoughts.

It was a very long time before he washed up on shore.

His body finally stirred, and he let out a quiet moan. Sensations were coming back to him slowly, like the feeling of his head being stuffed with cotton and the tingling stroking upon his back. Discovering he could breathe and was actually a sentient, physical form rather than a spirit of conscious floating around the universe, he opened his eyes.

The first thing that he saw was the wall across the room, just before the opening to the balcony. Shifting his head a little, Arthur discovered he was laying on his stomach, and his head and neck ached with some sort of internal pressure.

His wings slid upward as he moved, and the tingling he could feel along his spine stopped, suddenly turning into gentle patting. His sore arms started to try and lift himself. “Nn-nngh…”

“Hey, Artie…” a soft voice stopped him, and he assumed the owner of that voice was also the cause of the feeling on his back. “Are you...Are you awake now?”

“Mmmn…” Arthur replied vaguely, lifting his head just enough to turn it to face the other way, and wincing in pain when he laid back down. “I do not...Know…” he murmured, blinking and eventually making out the form of Alfred perched on the edge of the bed before him.

The stroking began again, and Arthur let out a pleasant sigh. It felt so nice. He could finally identify that Alfred’s hand had reached underneath his tunic to run his fingers along the angel’s bare back. His eyes narrowed sleepily, and he saw Alfred smile. “That feel good?” the demon asked, letting out a small laugh when Arthur’s eyes slid closed. “Wait- Are you-? Are you smiling?”

Arthur’s eyes fluttered open again. “Am I?” he asked in a confused voice, straining his eyes to look up at Alfred.

With another thrilled laugh, Alfred turned around and almost collapsed on top of Arthur, wrapping his arms around the angel’s torso to turn him around and hug him. Startled, Arthur didn’t know what else to do but hug the demon back. He didn’t even notice he’d chuckled weakly in response.

After a moment of grinning and nuzzling Arthur in various places, Alfred froze. “Wh-oh, uh...S-sorry...You’ve been sleeping for...I don’t even know how long. I’ve slept three different times and you didn’t wake up at all, I’m just…” the demon rambled and backed off a little, looking nervous. “It’s really nice to see you smile.” he offered softly.

Upon having been released and thumping gently onto the bed, now on his back, Arthur watched Alfred for a moment, unsure of what to say. For whatever reason, his habits of acting around Alfred before had resurfaced, replacing the trembling, pathetic angel he had been. The fear still knotted up in the pit of his stomach, but, with no desire to know why it was, Arthur felt quite calm now for the most part.

Smiling shyly up at Alfred for a small moment, Arthur looked off bashfully to the side. “Th-thank you.”

Alfred looked absolutely delighted in numerous ways, and it was very easy to see the multiple different reactions he had, conflicted on how excited he was, exactly. He failed to suppress an oddly high pitched noise as he dove back down to hug Arthur again, laughing and almost wagging his tail. Ignoring any fear, probably out of fatigue, Arthur closed his eyes and embraced the demon back, burrowing his nose back in the fluffy collar of the jacket. He realised then he’d been breathing in Alfred’s scent all the time he’d been sleeping, and it had become...Comforting.

“I’m so- I’m so happy! So glad…” Alfred didn’t sound like he was able to express how he was feeling. Pulling back, he looked over Arthur’s figure before returning to press his chin in Arthur’s shoulder. “I was so worried but you’re okay...You’re okay…”

Arthur was beyond confused, but pleasantly surprised as well; he hadn’t expected such a reaction, especially after the Rage...Doing his best to ignore the feeling of dread, Arthur tried to sit up a little, and immediately received help from Alfred. The aching in his head became less painful then.

Looking up with bright green eyes, definitely more alive than when they were last open, Arthur sat himself up properly while watching Alfred. “I think I am...Okay.” he said thoughtfully. “I just do not...Understand why you are not angry.”

“Why would I be angry?” Alfred asked, tilting his head. Sitting comfortably in front of Arthur, he curled his tail around as if searching for Arthur’s, though now he knew the angel didn’t actually have one.

Arthur glanced down at his hands. “I lied to you. All this time you have been my friend, and I lied to you. Surely that must make you feel upset?” he mumbled quietly.

The flicking tail suddenly stopped, and the pointed arrow-like end of it reached to tilt Arthur’s chin up so he looked at the demon. “You’re right, I am your friend. And if you know me well enough, I’m not the kind of demon to just take things the wrong way. Yes, the Rage did...React first, but if it weren’t for that, I’d be totally easy going! To be honest, I really don’t mind that you’re an angel at all! It just...All happened wrong.” Alfred told him seriously, looking down, but then back up at the angel.

It shocked Arthur a little to hear it that way, and his expression contorted with pity. He was well aware that Rage was not something Alfred could always help, because it was a defect. He had made a good point; without Rage, Alfred was always a happy demon, and unusually open-minded. It was very likely that he’d be extremely easy going if Rage wasn’t a factor at all, and Arthur thought of what his reaction would be upon discovering Arthur was an angel in that case. Smiling a little, he guessed it’d be something like “Dude...It was you? All along?! Sweet!”

Nodding slowly, Arthur looked up a little more willingly. “Well...Surely you have questions...It is impossible for you to be so indifferent about it.”

“I mean, duh, I have questions!” Alfred laughed, making a silly face that even made Arthur let out a small giggle. “But just some simple stuff first. Like, is your name actually Arthur?”

Biting his lip to stop himself from laughing anymore, Arthur nodded. “Yes.”

“Oh, great! Uhh, how about…” he tilted his head, to a ridiculous angle, scrutinising Arthur’s face and trying to make him laugh more. “Why are you so colourful?”

“Excuse me?” Arthur was confused by the question, and struggled to hide a growing smile.

For no apparent reason, Alfred leaned forward and crawled over Arthur, pinching his cheek and poking his eyebrows, giggling the entire time. While Arthur frantically held back similar laughter, he grinned and squished the angel’s face. “Your skin is all peachy and pink! And warm! Why are you like a mix of all the oranges and the pinks and the reds?”

“I-I do not know! All angels have full colour in their skin!” Arthur explained, trying desperately not to laugh. “Wh-what are you doing?”

Alfred finally calmed down and let go of Arthur, sitting back where he was before and still giggling to himself. “Pfft, sorry,” he laughed, looking better when Arthur couldn’t stop a dumb smile. “Had to do an inspection,” he teased.

“You are impossible,” Arthur growled back in the same joking tone, shaking his head and sitting up, still unable to stop smiling. “What other questions do you have?”

“Hmm…” Alfred thought for a moment. “Just one, before I ask about, you know, the big stuff.” leaning forward, his expression suddenly became dead serious, and Arthur’s eyes widened a little. Then, after a moment of waiting and expecting something frightening, Alfred solemnly whispered, “How are your wings so soft?”

For a minute, all Arthur was able to do was look at Alfred in awe. Soon after, he began chuckling quietly and turned away in embarrassment. “I-I do not know that.” he answered honestly, covering his mouth and shyly shifting his wings to hide his face.

Alfred looked surprised by Arthur’s reaction, and brushed his wings to the side so he could lean in and hug the angel. “You can laugh, you know, it’s okay! It’s actually kind of adorable.” embracing Arthur comfortably, Alfred sighed happily. They enjoyed a small moment of silence before it had to be broken again. “You can tell me whenever you want. Why are you down here?”

“I can tell you now.” Arthur replied, leaning calmly against Alfred and adjusting the jacket so his face was pressed into it. Hugging the demon back, Arthur thought long and hard of where to begin, somehow no longer afraid. He began the complicated explanation carefully, prepared to sit with the demon for a long time.

That time was passed with Arthur's story, speaking of his troubles and conflicts. Alfred occasionally nuzzled his face, and even kissed his cheek sometimes while he listened. “I came to Hell because I was a spy sent by the Angelicans, my mission being to find peace. At least, that was what I thought…”

O~o~O