I woke up slowly. It was a new thing because usually I was asleep and then just suddenly aware. Apparently, being the father of a new life made me more tired than I could have imagined. It was immediately apparent what had eased me awake: the sounds of Phoenix fussing, just a little, beside me.
I picked them up and carried them out to grab a premade bottle before heading out to the deck. Moonlight shone down on us as I held Phoenix against my chest while they ate. The lapping waves lulled us as I stared at the stars sitting in the sky – the universe – and I began to tell them from whence they’d come.
“You will be different, better,” I said to them, eventually. “My last trip…” I sighed, kissing the top of their head before sharing the tale I hadn’t yet told Medea.
The moment had arrived. The time had come to keep the barter I’d made for my family by delivering Sammael to Yahweh. Part of me felt bad for him. Well, not really, he had been the ultimate douche. But, I also couldn’t imagine the existence he’d experienced.
Spending lifetimes watching Medea have other lives and loves, raising my children with other partners – it would’ve been crippling. It would’ve probably sent me mad as well. That said, he’d also messed with the wrong group of legends and was now ether, about to face the light.
There was no light brighter than Yahweh’s, and I didn’t envy douchebag mcReaper-face one bit.
When I ascended, I began my stroll down the hall and found a shepherding angel waiting just like before. A different one, to be sure. My brow crinkled, maybe. The Shepherd smiled brightly, as was their custom, even as they glanced pensively down at the carrying case in my left hand.
“Ah, well, yes. I see. They are waiting,” they stammered.
“They?” I asked, following diligently.
“They, as in Yahweh or they, as in the three?”
A frown curved the Shepherd’s lips downward. “Neither,” they offered, before opening the large doors to the conference room.
It was huge, undoubtedly larger than the last. I looked around wearily, my eyes taking in the long table and the giant chairs. It was hard to tell whether things were the same or different, even if the similarities or differences were inconsequential. I guess in the presence of Yahweh, most things should seem inconsequential. One thing I knew without a doubt was different from my last visit was the occupants. The conference room where I stood was eerily empty. I was confused.
I turned back around to question the Shepherd just as the doors closed behind them. Well, okay then.
I dropped Sam. Probably on his head, literally, depending on how that whole ether thing worked now that his heart was back “home.” Within a breath, I had my archblades in my hands.
“Ah, Ah, Ah,” Michael tsked, pointing at my blades from his seat at the head of the table, his feet propped up, and crossed at the ankles.
He’d appeared in a male form, built and swollen, a mustache and goatee gracing his face. He looked like The Rock mixed with some kind of avant-garde artist.
If you smellll-llll what the asshole is painting.
“You know you can’t kill me up here. So what’s the deal with the lame weapons?”
I stared at him. Then back at the blades. I shouldn’t have even been able to access them up there. I couldn’t focus on that part at the moment, not with Michael in front of me.
I had nothing to say to him. He was, and always had been, dark. He just hid it better when it came to Yahweh. He also didn’t question Yahweh as long as he was allowed to maintain his power. They had a twisted symbiotic relationship, and the things Michael got away with because of it went further beyond the pale than probably even Lui, First Woman, or Death-if-I-Only-had-a-body could come up with.
“No answer? Still acting like a human child, are you?”
I stood my ground, staring him down, giving him nothing.
“Your problem, Gabriel, is that so much more was expected of your creation than you could’ve ever lived up to. You were a glitch, I suspect.” He paused, leaning in, “But you and I know that’ll never be acknowledged. Instead of going along though… you just had to upset the balance. You were supposed to be Their reaping, but instead, you became the weeping one. Bemoaning what you did in Their name. Questioning Their plans. You may as well have fallen with Morning Star.”
He spat Lucifer’s name and stood, spinning to grab the back of his chair. Before I could blink, he’d hurled it in my direction. I phased out of the chair’s path, but only to the other side of the room because my power was limited in Yahweh’s realm.
Something wet trickled down my face, and I reached up to find blood covering my cheek. The chair had shattered the glass, and the glass must have caught me after phasing.
I glanced up, furious, eyes blazing purple fire. “What. Is. Your. Deal?”
Michael glared, a smirk full of malice and evil. He looked more like Sammael than the world would ever want to admit. I wondered, briefly, if all us angels, the products of Yahweh, were so irreparably broken.
“The only deal to be discussed is the one you made with Them. Because, once again, you were too weak to stand on your own and do what needed to be done.”
“What needed to be done was for me to protect my family, and it’s what I did.”
Michael laughed heartily. “Did you? Time will tell.”
I frowned, contemplating his words and actions, his presence there instead of the Three. “What do you know?”
In a flash, he was beside me, leaning toward my ear. “I know you know. If you so much as utter a syllable… your deal with Yahweh will be for naught.”
His words swam through my mind, and I instantly saw Carmen’s face… remembered my quest before I’d arrived at Lycaon’s damn cabin. Before… Medea.
A smirk crossed my lips as understanding dawned in my mind. “Oh, you pathetic fucking creature.”
Michael snarled as his fist curved and plunged into my middle, knocking me back with the force of ten angels. He held on to me, so we moved together, spinning around the room. He delivered blow by blow by blow, until he let go and I dropped, lying flat across the table.
“Watch your mouth in Yahweh’s kingdom, you flailing waste of wings.”
I ushered myself up, the pain real, even through the speeded healing. Blood trickled down my lip as I laughed. “My deal is done. The heart of that trash power is in the box,” I nodded to the case carrying Sammael where it lay among the glass debris.
“Their own laws say They have to abide by the rules and agreements They make.” I stood on the table, “Medea, my kids, my family – are all off-limits for Them.”
Michael smirked as I jumped down, bringing myself toe-to-toe with him. “You, however, are another matter. But what you do won’t be done in Their name. Nor will you be able to mask it as such.”
The sneer that crossed his face would have made a lesser being tremble, it only made me more determined.
Michael leaned in then, lips close to my ear, “You are nothing more than a wailing cherub lost in the night. Everything I do is in Their name,” he paused, pushing himself closer, so the weight of his body pressed upon mine until I instinctively pushed back. “Trust that in the name of my family, I will turn yours to dust.”
Then he was gone, the heart of Sammael with him…