04 | the reign
The eerie stillness of the Trinity Church at night should have disturbed Lucifer but it does the opposite. In that stillness, that quiet, if he listened he could hear his brothers’ prayers. He only cared about one of their prayers. He hoped that he could feel Lucifer listening. He snorted. Isabel would say that Lucifer was being foolish wishing for his brother to see him again. Too much time had passed between them, too many words left unsaid laid between the cracks.
With his hands around his rosary, he whispered one final prayer and rose to his feet. He dangled the necklace from his fingers. He’d made it some eighty years prior. A cruel reminder that despite his falling, he was still a spiritual being. A man no older than what Lucifer himself appeared to look had asked him about it once. They’d met while the man was in the war and Lucifer was in England. He could remember the man’s words to him in that pub: “Why’s a man who doesn’t believe in God carry a rosary?” Lucifer smiled and said it was his own little inside joke.
“You look well, brother.”
Lucifer pocketed the rosary and turned. Raphael stood before him. His fair hair was shorter than he remembered, styled messily. He was dressed in a charcoal suit, similar to one Lucifer had seen in a Fifth Avenue department store not too long ago. Did he think that all humans visited churches in thousand dollar garments? “What brings you here, Raphael? You’ve ignored my prayers for years. What changed?” He snapped his fingers. “Did God send his lapdog to berate me?”
He rammed his shoulder into Raphael’s chest as he ducked out of the church. The heavy winds blew the church doors open, more specifically. Lucifer has trained himself to keep his emotions in check. Seems he still needed some practice. What was that saying about the abused punishing others? He’d ask Isabel when he got home.
Lucifer pulled a carton of cigarettes from his jeans pocket.
“I thought you were quitting.” Raphael appeared beside him, a frown on his delicate face.
“I thought you ignored me for centuries.” Lucifer lit the stick and took a drag. “If you must know, I did quit. January 15, 1972. I told a friend that I’d quit if Joe Frazier kept his title.” He blew out a cloud of smoke towards the sky.
“You made a bet?”
He shrugged. “Better betting with habits than money. There’s enough bookies to last humans eons, really.” He eyed his brother. “What do you want? I know for a fact that you’ve been less than interested in my everyday life since I fell and He can’t possibly still be on His asinine agenda of ‘punishing’ me.” Lucifer curved his free index finger into a quotation mark.
Raphael sighed. “Lucifer, He’s not punishing you. Quite the contrary.”
Lucifer snorted and took another hit of his cigarette. “Of course He is! He blames me for everything terrible that humans have done since…” He frowned at his brother and blew out a stream of smoke. “He blames me. I know He does.” He took one last drag of his cigarette and threw the butt to the ground, the ball of his foot stomping it into the concrete. He shoved his hands back into his pockets and faced the night sky. “What was my crime? I ask myself that often. Been asking myself, really. Sometimes I wonder if I remember those two days differently. If I remember my life differently.”
“Your memory is impeccable,” Raphael deadpanned. “You just choose to remember things subjectively instead of objectively.”
Lucifer tightened his fist in his pocket. “Do tell, Raphael? What was my crime? That I mistakenly gave Eve an apple? That I was never the docile angel He wanted me to be? That I wasn’t like you and the Seven and the other Heavenly beings!” His breaths came out hard. “I did nothing wrong and He punished me for it.”
“He did not want — ”
“I couldn’t give any less of a fuck what He wanted!” Raphael pursed his lips. “What about what Eve wanted! Mary, Ruth, Miriam!” What I wanted. If Lucifer hadn’t been living in New York as long as he had, he’d express concern for his outburst. But it was half past midnight in January. The only witnesses to their arguments were the spirts of the dead and the occasional homeless person too drunk to listen intently. “I have watched for millennia as He has used me, my name, as a scapegoat for all the plights and wrongs of humans. Oh, Adam took second and third wives? Blame Lucifer! Women suffered abuse from their fathers, brothers, and all men? It’s always my doing.”
“You ruined them!” Raphael roared. Lucifer clicked his tongue. “Father had a plan for the humans. He was going to let them live in peace amongst each other, procreate and grow old together. But you had to do what you always did: ask questions and sneak off like some child.” He shook his head. “You disrupted His plan with your hubris, Lucifer. It’s what’s caused humanity to be what it is.”
“Is that what He tells you and the other Heavenly beings? That naive, prideful Lucifer destroyed humanity?” Lucifer shook his head. “God’s hubris is why humanity is fucked. Tell me, Raphael, what is this grand plan of His? Has He told you? Micheal? His favorite, Gabriel?” Raphael glared at him. “Of course He hasn’t. Do you know why, dear brother? Because there is no plan. It’s just a ploy! A game He plays to keep all of His servants in line!”
“And what about you?”
Lucifer raised a brow. “What about me?”
“You toy with the humans, promise them wishes that you never fulfill and for what?” Raphael snorted. “You act as if you’re Father on Earth but you aren’t, Lucifer. You’re nothing but a spoiled child playing pretend.”
“You think I’m like Him?” Lucifer’s body shook with fury. “Was I the one that drove Cain to kill his brother? To commit the First Death?”
Raphael grit his teeth. “That was not Father’s doing! Cain was jealous of Abel — ”
“But why, Raphael!” Lucifer waved his arms. “If God loves all of His children without fault and bias, why would He tell Cain He was displeased with him without giving a reason? Why would He openly taunt him in front of his brother? Point out their age difference? Tell him that Eve preferred her second born to her first? Explain it to me, brother, since you know Father so fucking well!”
“I don’t know!” Raphael yelled. He ran a shaky hand through his blond hair, his gaze on his feet. “I don’t know, Lucifer. I can’t tell you what His intentions are because they are His. It wouldn’t be fair if I spoke for Him.”
“I’m not asking you, Raphael,” Lucifer said, turning to the sky. “He blames me for giving them the apple but He’s the one that set the trap. He didn’t tell Adam about the apples and He made no plans to.” He nodded towards the church. “Have you read His books? The way He has let Man demean and ridicule women disgusts me.” He wrinkled his nose. “He let them be raped, forced into marriage, stoned! And for what! Because I let Lilith free all those years ago?” Lucifer stopped his rant. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? He wants to know where she is.”
“He sent me because He knew that you’d be more willing to talk to me,” Raphael admitted.
“So much for brotherly bonding,” Lucifer muttered. He frowned. “While this visit has been especially scarring, I’ll do well to bid you goodbye, brother.” He started towards the sidewalk when Raphael grabbed his arm.
“Lucifer, I’m not leaving until you tell me where she is.”
“How long can you hold your breath for? Five years? Twenty?” He snatched his arm away. “Look, I don’t care what you and God agreed upon before you descended upon us simple folk, but you can happily piss off.”
“He can give you your wings back!” Lucifer stopped. “He wants you to come home, Lucifer. Despite what you think, Father loves you and cares for you deeply.”
Raphael blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Shut. Up.” Lucifer turned towards his brother. Lightning cracked through the sky and thunder rumbled behind the dark clouds. “Do you think that this is a joke, Raphael? That I was cast out because I was naughty?”
“Lucifer, I don’t — ”
“I had to watch as Eve went through hell. Her eldest son killed her youngest. Her daughters were married off to her sons and where was God?” Raphael pursed his lips. “He was sat on His mighty throne, watching. He didn’t answer her prayers. He let her live a life of hardship and pain because He knew that He could!” The wind kicked up around them. “She was my friend. You may not care about that but I did. She was brilliant and caring and vivacious and I had to watch helplessly as she lost her light.”
“I thought you left the Garden when Father came to speak to Adam and Eve,” Raphael said.
“You don’t know the story? After I left, God came to Adam and Eve for the second time. He told them that they were to leave the Garden of Eden. Do you know what he gifted them with as they parted? He gifted Eve with complete subordination to Adam and the pain of childbirth. He gifted Adam with being a workaholic. They both knew shame and the very vague concept of good and evil. That is what your just God bestowed upon his creations.”
Lucifer fingered his rosary in his jacket pocket. “I met a man when I was in London some eighty years back. He was being stationed to Dunkirk and was rightfully terrified. When I asked why he was fighting a war when he was so scared, you’d have thought I’d grown two heads in the minute since he’d sat down.
“‘I’m more afraid of what will happen if I didn’t fight,’ he said. ‘Can you imagine what the world will look like then? Riots in the streets, women and children being dragged from their homes and thrown to the streets or worse.’ A man that had probably never even left England before was ready to fight in a war that was bigger than just him.”
Raphael sighed. “Why are you telling me this, Lucifer?”
“Because you asked me about my fascination with the humans once upon a time. Because you think that I roam the Earth treating humans like objects. For twenty minutes in a pub in London, I sat with a stranger and spoke about life, his family, his hopes and dreams.” Lucifer smiled some. “And then he asked me for my story and I was stuck. I’d realized that I’d lived for so long watching humans that I never learned how to live. I’m not infatuated with humans, I envy them.
“I carry eight millennia of experience with me but none of it prepared me for humanity. I have witnessed many tragic deaths and many beautiful births. I have made and lost friends. I have worked in fields, in battle, in museums, in theaters. I have met scholars and visionaries.” He looked to Raphael. “I have lived, brother.”
“Do you not miss us, morning star?”
Lucifer bristled. “I do not go by that name anymore. I am only Lucifer.”
“But do you not miss Heaven? Have you forgotten Anauel?” Raphael put a hand on Raphael’s shoulder, a sad smile on his lips. “I could have my brother back.”
“Anauel made his choice. When I was banished from the Garden, I prayed to him and received nothing in return.” Lucifer shrugged off Raphael’s hand. “I prayed to you and you ignored me as well. It was clear that my absence did not change your unyielding loyalty.”
Raphael recoiled. “Lucifer...”
“He sent you because He knows how much I care about you. That’s manipulative in itself.” He arched a brow. “Do you know what that means?”
Raphael shook his head.
“He’s afraid of me.” A dry chuckle left his lips. “I can’t tell if that should make me happy or even more pissed off.”
“Why would Father be afraid of you?”
“Why would He send you instead of one of the Powers? Why has He been trying to make me out as an omen to the humans? A demon?” Raphael looked at him, expectant. “Because I defied Him. I questioned God! You do not question God.” A manic laugh bubbled up from Lucifer’s throat and made him clutch his chest. The thought that God, Creator of all life and worlds, would be afraid of one of His own sons. But it made more sense the more he mulled it over.
“Are you quite finished?” Raphael hissed. “Stop stalling and tell me where you’ve hidden her.”
Lucifer thumbed at the tears on his face, one last chuckle leaving his lips. “What makes Him think that I know where she is?”
Raphael clicked his tongue. “Sometime around 1723, you were spotted in northern France. As you well know, there’s a mausoleum there that Father kept for certain souls. Below that mausoleum was a cavern. Though no one can report what you’d done in that mausoleum, the result was that a corpse had been taken.” He raised a brow. “I won’t insult you by asking if you knew whose corpse that was because you do. I just want to know what you’ve done with it.”
Lucifer lifted his shoulders, a bored expression on his face. “I went to go pay respects to an old friend. Whatever you or the Seven did with that corpse is not of my concern.”
“Why don’t I believe you, Lucifer?”
“Because no one is supposed to believe the Devil.” He chuckled. “Have I ever told you that I quite liked that name? Beelzebub was ghastly. I mean, come on, ‘Lord of the Dung’? Really? The Devil has a nicer ring to it, simple.”
Raphael gathered his collar in his fist, his nostrils flared. “Tell me where she is, Lucifer.”
A wide smirk colored Lucifer’s lips. “Tell me what He wants with her.”
“Damn it, Lucifer, I’m trying to help you!”
Lucifer took hold of Raphael’s wrist and squeezed. Over time, using his gifts did not affect him physically. There was no more heat on his hands and eyes, no more golden veins and irises. Humans did not take kindly or quietly to white gold eyes, he found.
Raphael grunted and his grip loosened. He bared his teeth to his brother, as if willing him to stop the assault. After almost a minute, he snatched his hand away. “You’re making a mistake.”
“That’s assuming I’ve made a mistake to begin with.” Lucifer ran hand through his curls. “But I can play this game, as well. Let’s pretend that I did take a corpse from that mausoleum. Why would I? Of what interest does a dead body hold for me?”
“You planned to resurrect her,” Raphael said. Lucifer didn’t react. “I’d bet my eternal soul that you took the corpse to reincarnate Lilith. Which would be the worst sin of all. Only God is allowed to create life.”
“He created humans to create life. Why should a Heavenly being be exempt from that?”
Raphael tensed. “That’s blasphemous.”
Lucifer pulled out his carton of cigarettes. “We’re still talking hypotheticals, brother.” He lit it and took a drag. “Besides, hypothetically speaking, it wouldn’t be hard. All one would need was one rib, soil, magic, and patience.” His dark eyes flicked to Raphael. “Unless you’re morbid and thought that I had sex with a corpse.”
“You don’t know what you’ve done, Lucifer!” Raphael groaned and fisted tufts of his hair. “You need to turn her over to me. If you did what you say you’ve done — ”
“Hypothetically,” Lucifer pressed. “I haven’t admitted to anything. And why would that be so wrong! God impregnated a woman with a child that He never took care of, only to resurrect him after he was murdered by his village. What’s the difference?” Billows of smoke left his lips.
“Because that’s not how it works, Lucifer! You know that!” Lucifer pursed his lips. “You desecrated her resting place!”
“There was nothing peaceful about what He did to Lilith,” Lucifer said with a growl. “He had the Seven take her to a cave and leave her. She probably went mad down there! And for what! Because she didn’t want to be a servant?” He threw the stick to the ground. “Who is He to determine what is peaceful? How to practice faith? Who is He but a glorified mad scientist with a complex.” Staccatos vibrations came from his pocket.
Raphael arched a brow. “Are you needed somewhere?”
“That’s none of your concern.” He sighed. “We can go back and forth all night, Raphael, but my answer stays the same: I don’t know where Lilith is and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. So, go home. Tell God that if He’s so omnipotent that He can find her Himself.”
“So that’s it, then?”
“What more do you want me? A declaration of revenge while I twirl the end of my mustache?” Lucifer shook his head. “You’re on your own here, brother.” His mouth quirked up into a half smile. “Thank you, by the way.”
Raphael narrowed his eyes. “For what?”
“For answering my prayer.” He didn’t wait for Raphael’s reply as he threw up a two finger salute and started down the sidewalk.
“Really, Luc? It’s three in the morning!”
Lucifer pushed past Isabel. “Where is she?”
“’Good morning, Izzie. I’m sorry for coming over so abruptly! Since this clearly couldn’t wait ‘til — ’”
Lucifer whipped around to face her. “Where is she, Isabel!”
She blinked; she’d never heard Lucifer so much as raise his voice before. Especially not towards her. She crossed her arms, her full lips in a thin line. “Asleep, given the time. Why?”
Lucifer nodded and started down the darkened hallway. The bedroom door was ajar as always, the dim from the moon night light he’d gotten her for Christmas the year prior sat in her nightstand. She was so excited that her dark eyes lit up brighter than Isabel’s Christmas tree.
He walked inside, careful not to trip over her clothes strewn about the floor. One day, she’d realize that he didn’t speak to hear himself speak: when he said to keep the room clean, he meant it. He knelt down beside the bed and just looked at her.
Soft snores fell from her lips. Her eyes fluttered in time to the movement behind her eyelids. Her dark, curly hair was hidden under a cap — a bonnet, Isabel called it — but a few strands laid against her cheek. Like this, Lucifer almost didn’t want to disturb Lilith. Not when she looked so at peace.
He lightly skimmed his fingertips along the curve of her soft cheek. “Lili, wake up,” he whispered. When she didn’t rouse, he put a hand to her shoulder and shook. Not too hard, though. He didn’t want to frighten her further.
“What the hell is going on! Douma just texted me. They said that you haven’t been answering their calls and that Lilith is in danger!” Isabel hissed from the doorway. Lucifer didn’t need to face her to know how she looked: hands on her hips and her hazel eyes blazing. “Luc!”
“Stop yelling!” Lucifer chided. “I’ll tell you once she wakes!”
As if on cue, Lilith’s eyes fluttered open and a slow, sleepy smile stretched along her lips. It reminded Lucifer of when she was three and she woke from a nap with the biggest smile on her face. He was glad to see the habit stuck. “Hello, Lucy.” She let out a yawn and stretched her limbs. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Lucifer put a hand on her cheek. “Raphael came to see me tonight.” Lilith’s dark eyes widened and Isabel cursed behind them. He looked to Isabel. “Whatever Douma called us for was probably about that. We need to leave.”
Isabel nodded. “I’ll tell Douma to haul their ass over here. We can figure out where to go from here. I think they were saying something about trying Boston — ”
“Not this time, Izzie,” Lucifer said gravely. “You and Douma are staying here.”
She frowned. “You’re not serious.”
“I shouldn’t have gotten you involved in the first place. Douma, either. This was my problem and I should have handled it alone.”
“But we’re family, Lucifer! Me, Douma, Lili!” Isabel wiped at the tears framing her cheeks. “You can’t just throw us away because you’re scared, not after everything we’ve been through!”
“I’m protecting you!” he roared. “All of this is because — ”
“Because of me.” Lilith’s voice was still thick with sleep but it was final. Sobered. “He sent Raphael because of me.” Her brown eyes found Lucifer’s. “He’s angry with you, isn’t He?”
“No more than usual,” Lucifer answered. She gave him a flat look. “I’m not exactly sure the depths of God’s constant anger with me but I can imagine it to be cavernous if He’s sent Raphael to reason with me.”
Isabel paled. “He didn’t follow you here, did he?” She hurried to the window beside Lilith’s bed and threw open the curtains. “I don’t see anyone. Granted, I don’t know what the man looks like.” She groaned and threw herself into Lilith’s bed. She wrapped her arms around the girl. Their skin, two different shades of brown, shone under the light of Lilith’s night light. “I’m so sorry, baby. I wish things were different.”
“Why?” Lilith nuzzled into Isabel’s shoulder. “Lucy and I knew it would be a matter of time before they caught up to us. To me.” Her eyes flicked to Lucifer. “Three hundred years is a long time to be running.”
Isabel chuckled. “I can’t believe you’re three hundred some odd years old. You’re a freshman in high school and you’re older than all of your teachers.”
Lilith shrugged. “Just the perks of being an original human being, I guess, Slow aging.”
Isabel yawned again. “Then again, Lucy over there is a walking bag of bones. How old are you again, a million?”
Lucifer flipped her off. “I’m younger than Douma! They’re over ten thousand years old!”
“Which makes you, what, six thousand? Ooh, so young.”
Lilith shook her head. “I’m just saying that I’m old enough to be tired of running.”
Lucifer narrowed his eyes. “If you’re suggesting that I hand you over, think again. We’ll find a way, Lili, we always do.” He took her hand. “I can’t lose you, too.”
“You won’t,” she vowed. “But I could lose you. You’re my father and it terrifies me that one day He could take you away from me.” Her eyes went glassy. “You’re not the only one afraid to lose someone.”
“Stop being so damn sappy, you two,” Isabel griped. “I’ve cried enough tonight and it’s only Tuesday. Look here, Lucy.” She settled her tired eyes on him. “You’ve got a family. Not God, not the Seven. Us. Deal with it.” A yawn left her lips and she settled into the bed. “Now, I’m tired. Everyone shut the hell up and go to bed.”
Lilith looked at Lucifer, her brown eyes wide. “Do we have to leave right now?”
Lucifer wanted to argue, he did. But when Lilith pouted like that, it reminded him of when she was a child, begging him for a new book or to take in a stray animal she’d found near their home. The thought of denying her would occur to him but then her brown eyes would get wide and she would jut out her lower lip and he would do whatever she asked.
He smiled. “Douma and I will talk in the morning. Go back to sleep, my love.” He brushed a kiss to the top of her head, her bonnet smelling of coconuts and honey.
“Goodnight, Lucy.” She cuddled into a sleeping Isabel and closed her eyes.
Lucifer rose to his feet, stole one last glance at Lilith, and left the room. Once the door closed behind him, he rested his head on it. What was he supposed to do? The longer Raphael stayed to sniff around, it wouldn’t take long before he found Isabel. Until he found Lilith.
He groaned and turned to see Raphael. Speak of the Devil and all that. “I figured you’d followed me. How did you manage to hide yourself from me?”
“I just got here, actually.”
Lucifer scrubbed a hand down his face. “Well, come on. Isabel would kill me if we stayed in her place.”
Raphael held up a hand. “I’ll only be a moment.” He smiled some. “I didn’t realize you had a family here. I’m glad.”
Lucifer lifted a shoulder, his expression stony. “It’s not much but it’s mine, I suppose.” He walked into the kitchen and opened the cupboard. “I’m making coffee if you want some.”
“I’m more of a tea man myself but thank you,” Raphael said. “I went to see Douma.”
“Oh?” The Colombian brew wafted throughout the apartment. Since Isabel didn’t allow him to smoke either inside or outside of the building, something about making him quit, Lucifer resorted to buying her stronger coffee to supplement the vice. The timer went off and he poured himself a mug. He shivered at the warmth. Had he been cold this whole time?
“As usual, I couldn’t tell if they’d been expecting me or they were just being polite about seeing me after so long.” Raphael chuckled. “I told them about our conversation and they let me see your life. You and Lilith’s.”
Lucifer sucked in a breath, his hands tightening around the mug. His brother had a skill similar to his mind reading but amplified. If Raphael touched one’s hands or their face, he could see your memories. Not all of them, just ones that come to mind in that moment.
“I don’t know what I thought your plan for her was but I’m glad I was wrong. You make a wonderful father, Lucifer.” He smirked. “Or do you prefer Lucy?”
Lucifer narrowed his eyes. “If that name ever leaves your lips, I will personally rain down on you worse than Hell.” He took a sip of his coffee. “What does that mean? You being glad you were wrong?”
“I will tell Father you do not know where Lilith is.” He nodded towards the hallway. “The Lilith in that room and the Lilith He knew are not the same. It would be ridiculous to continue searching for someone that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the least I can do.” The last part was so quiet Lucifer almost missed it.
If he hadn’t felt so skeptical towards his brother and his confession, Lucifer would have hugged him. Maybe thanked him for choosing to spare his daughter’s life. Maybe it was the sentimentality of living amongst humans for so long. Maybe it was from becoming a father. Whatever the feelings, he pushed them down. While he could forgive Raphael for some things, this wasn’t one of them.
He gave a curt nod. “Thank you.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Lucifer drinking his coffee and Raphael looking around the small apartment. It wasn’t awkward but it wasn’t warm, either.
Raphael cleared his throat. “Well, I best be off then. Take care, brother.” He opened the door.
“Wait!” He glanced over his shoulder at Lucifer. “How do I know you won’t return? We both know once Father has a goal, He’ll stop at nothing to finish it.”
“I’ll do all that I can but I make no promises. He could send another one of the Seven in another hundred years or one of the Powers tomorrow. Be prepared for anything, I suppose.” He tipped his chin. “Goodbye, Lucifer.” And like that, Raphael was gone. After the door had closed, Lucifer smiled some.
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