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Forbidden Fruit

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The image of Sandalphon’s crying face lingers in his mind. He has the Supreme Primarch's wings, that much he is certain after having drawn it out of him. The boy is high strung, reckless, emotionally unstable... was it truly wise to have him inherit the wings?

He walks down the halls of the ship until he stops where he feels his aura the most, faint as it was. The one he's seeking is just beyond this door. Locked, as one would expect.  But that's never been an obstacle before. He easily traverses through the solid material by re-materializing himself on the other side.

There he finds the current Supreme Primarch deep in sleep, curled up to his side with his knees almost drawn to his chest. With all the powers he used, it's only natural his body is recovering the powers he expended.  Like this, he is vulnerable, unguarded. Lucio gingerly sits by the bedside. The mattress dips slightly from his weight. He quietly watches over what would be one of the most powerful beings in the skyscape.

"Lucifer..." the name slips in a whisper.

Lucio remains perfectly still to gauge whether the Supreme Primarch can sense his presence after all.  But when he shows no signs of rousing, he concludes that he's doing this unconsciously.

By mortal principles, he shouldn't even be trespassing.  But neither of them are mortals and he wishes to see with his own eyes the very reason the previous Supreme Primarch chose him. He's compelled to move closer to take a better look at  Lucifer's own creation, made flesh and life.

Lucio gently sweeps the bangs to the side to reveal more of his face. Under the moonlight like this, with his mind in a state of momentary peace, he is even more breathtaking up close.  He isn't perfect and heavily flawed. Almost human.

But that's also what makes him so... fascinating.

Sandalphon's eyebrows furrow as he lets out a stuttering breath.  "Lucifer.." his face contorts in pain and he grasps at the bedsheets. His body begins to quake and gradually breaks into a thin sheen of sweat.  "Please.." his tone tinged with desperation. "... don't.. leave me."

The depth of his sorrow strikes a chord inside him.  He knows the name he calls is not directed to him. Not exactly.  But Lucio gives into impulse and leans over to envelop his quivering form in his embrace. And in a voice he knows will reach him,  he assures him softly in his ear. "I will do no such thing."

The result is instantaneous. A wracked sob escapes Sandalphon and his arms cling onto him like he's what keeps him afloat from drowning. The name escapes his lips like a litany even as he buries his face in his neck.  

Lucio closes his eyes as he lets himself be held tightly. His fingers, in contrast, gently comb through brown hair while his other hand curls around his back.  It seems like the most natural thing to do, yet he is not entirely unaffected. His core feels like it's being crushed from within. Steeped in grief, the sensation grips him slowly like the gradual sinking in quicksand. He takes in a shaky inhale of breath, his own tears roll down his cheeks.

What is this pain he feels..?  is it because Sandalphon is now the Supreme Primarch? He does not have the luxury of thinking about it too deeply at the moment because he can sense them drawing near. The otherworldly beings can hear the sorrowful song of his mourning heart.  He can hear them, they want him and are coming for him.

A fierce overprotectiveness causes him to erect a barrier around the Grandcypher. They cannot have him.

"Lucifer.." he whispers in reverence. Eyes finally flutter open, half-lidded and sleep-laden. He can see his reflection in blood red pupils. The way he looks at him as if he's his entire world. The Primarch's white wings beneath him curve inward, half cocooning them both in their cascade of feathers.

In that moment, Lucio is drawn even more strongly towards him. He breathes out his name. "Sandalphon." Beautiful. He's so beautiful. It's irrational that he wants him all to himself. He is not supposed to want. Astrals be damned. It isn't right. But he gives into the sweet temptation of partaking the offered nectar from his lips.

Lucio hears him let out a soft gasp before becoming gradually  pliant and receptive in his arms. Their mouths slot perfectly as if they were made for each other.  

His own heart soars like he's just been propelled up into the cosmos.  It's nothing like he's ever felt before. It's heady and addicting. He can't get enough. What... is this feeling..!? His own wings are drawn out, folding over Sandalphon's own, returning its embrace and their combined wings encases them both.

The perfect moment ends in an instant, their wings dissipate once more. But the taste of euphoria is still on his tongue. The monsters have long dissipated, the negative aura repelled back into the dark void from whence it came.

The relief is short lived because he can sense  Sandalphon further stir to wakefulness.

He has gone too far.

What has he done..?

Lucio places a cool hand on his forehead and watches as those beautiful crimson pupils close behind a curtain of long lashes, and his breathing slows back to one in peaceful slumber.  For the time being.

He slowly eases Sandalphon's hold on him and regrettably separates from his side. He regains a moment of clarity to slip out of his room and into the cool breeze of the night.  For now he's done all he can, he will continue to keep watch. But he needs time to collect himself.

Lucio finds perch on the ship's mast and sighs where no one can hear him. His core continues to fluctuate from the encounter. He has no rational explanation for doing what he had just done.

But he does know one thing is certain.

He wants another taste.

~

"Good morning," The next day, Lucio greets him as per usual. Sandalphon jumps upon seeing him and for a beat, Lucio wonders if he actually remembers what happened last night. "Did you sleep well?"

"You again. Are you here every morning now?" Sandalphon's scowl runs even deeper but his cheeks flush. He reverts his gaze when their eyes meet and his anger does not seem as pointed as before. "I slept fine... but that doesn't have anything to do with you."

That... was new. Lucio feels his own cheeks warm. Something in his chest throbs in delight at being the cause of this reaction. "Heh."

"Y-ou..! You were laughing at me just now, weren't you!?" his voice cracks and he shakes his raised fist at him.  

It's not real anger. He realizes his now. He has the strongest urge to embrace him while he is aware of it and see what it makes him do. But he relents. The captain will not be too happy if Sandalphon were to blow a hole into the side of the ship. "Of course not. I wouldn't dare. Oh. If you're making a cup, I'd like one too, please."

"Make your own!" he snaps back.  Yet in contrast, he deposits the coffee beans into the maker with careful, measured precision. Lucio sees him snatch two mugs off the counter anyway. The tip of the boy's ears peeking from his brown hair are red.  

Oh.

This is bad.

He is utterly charmed.

When Sandalphon places the cup and saucer down in front of him, Lucio's little wings flap a few times in appreciation. Sandalphon doesn't look up at him to see it because he hurriedly goes to his seat across.

Lucio scoots his chair a little closer to his when Sandalphon takes to his own seat.  It makes a loud, dragging scrape on the wooden floor.

The noise and the sudden closeness of his proximity causes Sandalphon to back away to the edge of his seat.  He tries to glare at him. "What are you coming this close for!?"

That's a good question. Lucio is not sure himself why the Supreme Primarch affects him in this way.  "Hmm, I simply want to be near you." he speaks his honest thoughts and tips the boy’s chin up so he can meet his eyes. "Can't I?"

Sandalphon's breath hitches. His gaze moves to his mouth, then up at him again.  Lucio takes that as his silent invitation and leans forward. But just as he feels his warm breath caress his mouth, the door to the galley is drawn open.  

A shriek and crash follow shortly after.

Sandalphon is sprawled on the ground. The crash is from his seat that toppled over.  The shriek comes from the little blue haired girl and red dragon from the doorway. Their captain looks over them with raised eyebrows and that is enough to snap Sandalphon out of his stupor. He gets up quickly and the color drains from his face before turning into multiple shades of red.

"Out of my way!!" he stomps past the group who leap to the side to give him room to pass.

"S-sandalphon?" Lyria worriedly watches his retreating form.  They hear what sounds like Lowain's yell and an explosion- coming from the hallway. Gran and Vyrn exchange glances and rush after him before he does some actual damage on-board the ship.

Lucio remains in his seat, calmly sipping and enjoying his coffee with a content smile on his face.

“How exquisite.”

Chapter Text

'Infuriating.' that's the one word he uses to describe him.  They only share the same face but they are nothing alike.  The mysterious entity within the ship remains elusive and his motives are questionable at best. Despite saying they're on the same side, he continues to be wary.

Sandalphon examines the pale pink plume between his fingers. He found it on his bed when he woke up that morning. Did he think he wouldn't notice?   

If he had intentions of ending him, this "Lucio" had several opportunities. And leaving incriminating evidence like one of his feathers from his wings... he must have either left in a hurry or did it on purpose. After checking his person and small bag of meager belongings, he finds that he is physically unharmed and there's no traces of anything out of place.   So why was he here..?

And that stunt he pulled this morning at the kitchen..  The feeling of his touch continues to linger. Even Lucifer wouldn’t lay a hand on him that shamelessly. Moreover, directed at someone like him…

He rubs at his chin to will the sensation away. He's most definitely toying with him for his own amusement.

Sandalphon nearly crumples the delicate thing in his fist.  But he relents and stares at it instead as if it held all the answers.  "...What are you up to?"

It's difficult not to compare him to the former Supreme Primarch when his mirror image stares him right in the face but then, he goes and does something outlandish and so out of character: speaking in theatrics and grand gestures, blatantly concealing his origins in badly conjured lies, to name a few.  He clearly knows more than he lets on.

Ever since their first meeting, Lucio has time and time again expressed clear interest in getting to know him better. But his take on an “amicable” approach is as strange and baffling as he is. If his idea of becoming acquaintances is constantly inviting himself in and invading the other’s personal space- he’s going about it all the wrong way.

His skin prickles at the memory. A shudder runs down his shoulder blades to the tip of his wings that all six of them ruffle uncomfortably within the confines of his room. Feeling even more agitated, he strides towards the upper deck with impatience in his step. He easily climbs on top of the railing that separates solid wooden slats and the clouds below.

The gales beckon him and without hesitation, he leaps.  

He free-falls a few feet before the Primarch's wings pillow his descent and he soars through the sky.  A world of no boundaries and limitless horizons. He can forget even just for a while, just be as carefree as the wind with no set direction or destination.

His moment of peace is brought to an eventual  halt by the loud screeching noise of an incoming herd of harpies heading straight towards the Grandcypher. The kind of small fry that he shouldn’t be wasting his time on but they’re a nuisance nonetheless.  

They go down in a matter of minutes. It's hardly what he would call a warm up but they seem to be putting up one hell of a fight. They moved with a blood-lust frenzy that went beyond the amount of pain they received. It’s oddly concerning but it's nothing he couldn’t handle. He watches coldly as pieces of them drift down towards the seemingly endless blue below.

For a moment, he remembers the sight of angels clad in armor charging towards their Astral masters only to fall into the abyss in defeat.

He faced off Lucifer just like this. Vanquished in the sky like small fry. Easily defeated with his inferior wings and power. Some part of him wonders if Lucifer should have let him fall and snuff this accursed life from him.  Instead he saved him. He carried his battered body back to the labs. Only to stuff him in Pandemonium for 2000 years. Death may have been more merciful.

Ironic that those same wings and power are now adorning his back.  And he is alive. And Lucifer is....

...a fool, is what he is.

"Look out!!"

He barely registers the sharp sting of a bite into the meat of his left main wing. Even as he grits his teeth in pain, he narrowly dodges a swing of claws and the attack leaves a thin cut on his cheek. It's shortly followed by the shrill slice of a blade.  The remaining harpy screeches its last before the katana is drawn out of its stomach by the sheer force of Lucio’s will.

Sandalphon stutters mid flight. The sharp, burning pain digs in and festers around the affected area. There’s dark energy tainting the bite wound and he can feel it spreading like the slow drip of venom. The right wing and lower left wings attempt to overcompensate but it still throws him a little off balance and he finds himself slowly losing altitude.

His familiar silhouette casts an overshadow above him.  He can almost see the deadpan expression, the hauntingly tranquil eyes staring back at him as the gap between them continues to expand. It painfully reminds him how unreachable he is.   No matter how much he struggles he can never be his equal.  

“Sandalphon!” the call of his name snaps him out of his trance.  The vivid blue eyes before him blaze with determination as he swoops down sharply in his direction. Strong arms catch and wrap around his waist. "I've got you." and he is pressing against a metal plate and solid chest.

“I-I didn’t ask for your help-” Sandalphon struggles at first but he holds his tongue when he comes across Lucio’s unusually stern gaze.  He suddenly feels like he’s shrunk two sizes smaller and reluctantly eases himself into his secure hold. His heart is still beating a mile a minute from the close encounter. He rests his forehead against his shoulder for lack of other places he can catch his breath against while the adrenaline rush begins to fade.  

Lucio flies towards the direction of the Grandcypher in grim silence.  

He is carefully deposited on the wooden floor of the crow’s nest. “Turn around.” And Sandalphon cooperates by lowering his left wing so the other angel can inspect the damage done.

There’s the buzz of crackling energy and the  first brush of his fingers causes him to hiss. The wing attempts to recoil but Lucio keeps it firmly in place. Gentle, white light illuminates from his palm.  The wing muscle relaxes as the dark energy gradually fades under his healing touch, allowing it to resume its regenerating abilities and become white and pure.

Seemingly satisfied, Lucio then, gives the wing a few tender strokes with his palm, cooing softly at how they’re beautiful again.

It gives him a shiver that crawls down from his wingtips to his shoulder blade. “ That’s more than enough.”  Sandalphon tucks his wings protectively behind him and away from his reach.  “And um… thanks.” he figures it’s the least bit of courtesy he’s obliged to give.  

Lucio sighs, in what sounds like relief. “Are you feeling better?”

Sandalphon tests his newly healed wing. “Yes.”

“I suppose there is no point if I keep it from you. I’ll be frank. What you were fighting are not harpies.. They only look that way because that’s what they wanted you to believe.”

“...What do you mean?”

“I’ve cast a barrier within the Grandcypher for the time being. But because you breached the barrier, that’s how they were able to find you. They, being... otherworldly creatures from Pandemonium, have noticed the shift in balance. And you’re leaking the kind of energy that naturally draws them to you.”

“What?” a cold shiver runs down his back at the implication. Although he too, was imprisoned in Pandemonium, he had focused on surviving and fought only when he needed to.  There had been no need for him to venture deeper within to find out what other horrors were locked up in there with him. But why…?

“Because you’re weakened and still adjusting to Lucifer’s wings, it makes you a prime target.” He patiently answers his unspoken question. “They’ve also been attempting to feed you with dreams that induce despair. I discovered it only recently, so I’ve been keeping watch at night. You don’t get nightmares often now, do you?”  

“So... that was your doing,” Sandalphon has nothing to say to refute his claims. It’s true that he has been feeling a little more well-rested these past few days. He didn’t dwell on it too much, thinking it had been a sign that he was slowly moving on. Feeding dreams that induce despair.. What kind of creature would..  It’s clear he misjudged Lucio’s intentions and character severely. If there is any doubt left in his mind that Lucio means to do him harm, it has already faded.

Lucio’s expression softens in understanding as though he senses his change of heart.  “I’m only glad that you’re safe. But you’re not alone in this. I wish you would acknowledge that and stop pushing me away.” Lucio takes one of his hands in both his and sinks to the floor on one knee in a dramatic flourish, if only to show the depth of his sincerity. “I swear upon the wings on my back that I shall be your acting shield from the encroaching darkness, your blade in times of strife. Wield me, use me as you so desire. You only have to say the word, Sandalphon. And I’m yours.”

A flustered Sandalphon grips him by the shoulders and awkwardly attempts to upright him back to a standing position. “I-I get it, you don’t have to go that far as to kneel...!” the only saving grace is that the few skyfarers on deck are not paying attention to them. But it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing how over the top he is. HE’s the one getting second hand embarrassment!

Lucio’s face lights up in earnest. “Then... is it really ok for me to be by your side?”

That smile is blindingly disarming, Sandalphon realizes. Is that all he needs to do to get him to agree to anything? Has he always been this easy? This isn’t good for his heart or his sanity. He’s already driving him mad enough as it is.

“Don’t ask me something like that.” Is he not aware the implications of that statement? If it were someone else surely they would misunderstand- Sandalphon is also alarmingly aware that Lucio is, once more, closing the distance between them but he quickly finds that he has no room to back away.  Flying is an option but- he already has him with his back against the railing. He grips the said rails tightly, “Alright, fine! Y-you can stay! Just.. don’t come so clos-” and then, he feels something soft brush against his cheek. And the undeniable sound of a quick peck.

All that comes out of his mouth is an undignified, strangled noise. “ Whyyy … did you…”

“There, it’s all healed.” he declares with a self-satisfied grin of his own.

“LIKE HELL IT IS..!” his shout reverberates throughout the Grandcypher’s upper deck. “YOUR HANDS WERE ENOUGH, YOU DIDN’T NEED TO USE YOUR MOUTH!!!”

There’s a beat of silence and dead air before it sets in. Sandalphon reluctantly peers over to a small scattered crowd of skyfarers who all paused what they were doing.

Katalina shoots them a dirty look and ushers a confused Lyria and Io below deck. The others shuffle out awkwardly and refuse to take part in this strange play of events, much to the indignant squawking of, “It’s not what it sounds like!” coming from behind them. 

Chapter Text

It’s been a good few weeks since the last incident on the Grandcypher’s deck.  Lucio has become a permanent fixture in his everyday life. It’s become such a normal occurence that at some point, he’s stopped being too self-conscious whenever he approaches, even if it’s something as mundane as greeting him a good morning over a shared cup of coffee.  

Lucio still has a long way to go when it comes to knowing his personal boundaries, however.  But he is maintaining an amicable distance at his behest. It’s an improvement, at least.

So it’s become a little disconcerting when he arrives at the kitchen this morning to find himself alone without a soul in sight in the galley.

“That’s… odd.” Sandalphon tries not to delve into the thought too deeply.  Even angels can oversleep. He makes his way to the coffee maker, as he does every morning out of habit.  He makes a mental note to add coffee beans to the list at their next stop and procures an estimated amount of beans from the stash he keeps hidden.

His footsteps and shuffling echoes in the empty galley. Has it always been this loud?  Lucio often engages him in small talk, so he’s barely noticed it but it seems louder today than usual. He heats the water at the right temperature and slowly pours it in a circle over the filter and beans.

Oh. He’s made enough for two cups again.  It’s better this way so that he won’t need to repeat the process if that smiling fool comes in asking for a second cup.  Sandalphon seats himself at the table. He brings the cup to his lips and takes a sip to gauge the flavor himself.

 

Minutes tick by… he knows it’s on the early side, and most of the crew members are still in their beds, save for the few early risers.

But did everyone sleep in today?  He impatiently taps his foot against the floor. He eyes the door waiting for it to swing open but it stays still and unmoving.  Only the ticking of the overhead clock remains as his sole companion. His brows start to furrow, what’s taking him so long? Why is he keeping him in suspense…

He’s halfway down his cup when he hears footsteps coming towards the galley.  He perks up almost immediately. Finally. The coffee isn’t going to stay warm forev-

“Oh, it’s Sandy. Yoo, mornin..” he locks eyes with another crew member who greets him with this lazy lilt like he’s dragging his vowels. He’s not fond of this way of speaking.  His eyebrow twitches at the nickname but he gives him a pass. It’s too early in the morning to engage him in conversation.

“Uh. Morning.” he says to cut the conversation short, and reverts his gaze back to the cup in his hands.

Said erune crew member whose name escapes him grabs something from the cupboard before taking his leave.

Sandalphon clicks his tongue in annoyance.   Why is he even waiting for him? It makes no sense. Given he did prepare ahead, but it’s such a waste. And he’d really rather not leave it in the coffee maker longer than he’s supposed to.  

Out of spite, he pours the second cup and sets it down on the table and decides to ignore it as he takes his own cup to the sink to wash.  

People come and go in the galley.   

The cup on the table remains untouched and has gone cold now.  Its intended never once showing his face. Sandalphon glares at it.  He left the kitchen some hours prior to let his wings stretch only to return and find it still where it is.  

He’s going to find him and make him drink every last drop of it. How dare he waste his time... He snatches the cup in his hands only to remember to be a little more delicate with it as some of its contents spill over its rim.  “Shit.” he carefully wipes it down and straightens his back. He’ll give him a piece of his mind. Right. Now.

 

“Hey, Lucio.” he knocks once, twice.  There’s no response coming from within.  There’s a twinge of worry taking root in his chest but he stomps it out before it can blossom further.  He’s overthinking it. “OPEN UP!” he bangs the door a little harder. “If you don’t open this right now, I’m kicking the door open!”

He jostles the door knob and finds it’s not locked.  It audibly clicks open.

The unsettling feeling only seems to worsen at the sight of the empty room.  Save for the basic built-in furniture each room has, there’s nothing in this room that feels like it’s been inhabited in.  He checks the door again. It’s the right? room. It’s Lucio’s designated living space in the Grandcypher.   So why…

His chest feels tight.  He takes a breath and tries to keep calm to rationalize.  Right.. There are several plausible explanations to where he could be.  If he wants to show up, he will show up. It’s no cause for alarm. He’s not even alarmed, dammit. It’s just… strange . For someone who made a big show of wanting to stay by his side and promising to have his back, the least he could do is tell him if he’s..

Since when was Lucio beholden to him? He may be the Supreme Primarch but it’s not as if he’s one of the primarchs that are loyal to him. They’re words. They’re just words. As it stands, Lucio has nothing to gain, and what exactly is stopping him from just walking right out the same way he came in and breaking his promise.

Alternatively.. his behavior has been so bizarre that his disappearance could mean he’s in a serious, life threatening situation.

He exhales sharply. No.  He’s not alright. The uncertainty viciously gnaws at him from the inside. He’s going to get to the bottom of this.  He sets the cup down safely on the table and decides to make his way to the only other person he can think of who might know his whereabouts.

 

“Singularity, have you seen…” Sandalphon pushes the doors to the control room open when he freezes in place.  There standing in front of him is the very individual he had been searching high and low for. His temper flares, “YOU. Where have you been!?”

Lucio raises his head in his direction and regards him coolly with an unaffected stare.  Sandalphon notices he’s not looking at him, almost as if he’s looking past him. Then, he breaks eye contact and turns his head back to the captain. “As mentioned prior, if we were to take this route, it will be a much safer alternative to where we’re currently headed..”

He.. ignored him just now, didn’t he?

“Um..” Gran glances back between the two primarchs but Lucio ushers him back to his query and he can only shoot Sandalphon an apologetic look before resuming his talk with Lucio.

A vein makes itself prominent as Sandalphon has half a mind to make good with earlier threats of throwing him overboard- He’s about to say something when Lucio seems to have finished his talk with the Captain.  “--Very well, Captain. I shall make preparations for tomorrow’s venture.”

Then, he parts ways with him and is heading towards Sandalphon who is still by the door.  

But just as he is within range, Sandalphon is once again about to raise his voice at him when he brushes past him without so much as a glance back.

Almost as if he didn’t exist in his line of sight.  

It stuns Sandalphon where he stands that he completely forgets the reason why he wanted to yell at him  in the first place for a few good seconds. But as soon as he regains his senses, he storms after him. “I’m TALKING to you, hey.”

But Lucio just keeps walking forward, in fact he’s picked up his pace and walking more briskly away from him more than before.  

He definitely sees him and he definitely hears him, so what foolishness...what nonsense is this?!

He’s determined not to let him out of his sight.  But as soon as he starts running, the other starts to sprint as well. Sandalphon sharply turns to the corner just to see just the flick of his red sash as Lucio disappears into another connecting hallway. He decides to use another path across just to cut him off but as soon as he reaches the other side, Lucio is in the opposite direction like he knows exactly where he is and what he’s planning.  

He curses out loud.

He’s an unwilling participant in whatever this is! He just wants to know why he’s been avoiding him. Did he do something wrong? Did he offend him somehow?  Damn. Why does he even care so much!? To hell with it. Lucio can go off and do whatever he wants. He can do this on his own. He doesn’t need anyone. He certainly doesn’t need HIM. He can’t ignore the vicious whisper of suggestion that  he just somehow lost interest in him or that he’s of no use to him anymore.

It’s happening again, isn’t it? He’s become someone useless and not worth paying attention to.

No, no, no.. he’s not that person. He’s not the Sandalphon that’s constantly trying to tug at Lucifer’s sash for his attention anymore. Why is he even doing this!?  

Sandalphon slumps against the wall. He’s been chasing Lucio for a while now but he won’t even stop to talk to him, much less  look at him. He’s tired, he’s frustrated. He’s had enough. His vision’s gone blurry and he stifles an incoming sob. Stop it. He’s past this already. This is pathetic. He’s being pathetic. He feels it trickling down his face and he scrubs if off with the back of his hand. It just keeps coming, it won’t… it won’t stop .

“Ah.. Sandalphon..” the sound is very close.  His voice is tinged with regret. “I did not mean for my actions to bring you to tears. I-” The moment he looks up he’s there, kneeling before him to get on his eye level.  He tries to reach out but Sandalphon slaps his hand away.

“Stay away from me!” he yells. He gives him one hard shove and bolts as fast as his legs can carry him. He doesn’t want to see him, he doesn’t want to hear him say his name in that voice.  He just wants to be alone. He should have been alone. He was fine alone. He’s an even bigger fool than Lucio to let himself be swayed by false promises and, astrals be damned.. why did he believe in him ?

He recognizes the footfalls trailing after him and hells, he’s such a mess. He finds his room and bolts the door shut behind him.  

“Sandalphon, please.” he can hear him muffled behind the door.

GO AWAY! I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN!” he kicks at said door and crawls to his bed, hugging his knees to his chest. He doesn’t understand any of this. He doesn’t want to. If he never intended to stay, he should make up his damned mind and ignore him to the end of time. Lucio’s behavior is erratic and he doesn’t understand why this is even happening. Nothing makes sense!! What he does understand is that he’s being toyed around with like a marionette on a string and it’s making his insides twist unpleasantly.

His eyes widen when he sees Lucio’s form in mid-transition just in front of his door. Out of places to run, Sandalphon summons his wings to him, and they all coil inwards almost like a Seraphim’s Cradle would. All six folding around his form until his vision and body is obscured fully as he is encased by Lucifer’s white wings.

“Sandalphon…” he can hear him approach the bedside and feel the mattress shift.

He stubbornly refuses to answer him. See how he likes a taste of his own medicine. The wings only further bolster its defenses by tightening around him.

“I’ve committed a grave mistake.”

He may as well have stabbed him with his own sword. Sandalphon doesn’t want to hear it. He grips his knees tighter against himself. There’s no need for false pleasantries and prolonging his agony. Just leave. Please. Just leave him alone. He should have left him alone from the very beginning if this is the end result.  

“...I didn’t anticipate how much it would affect you. For that I am deeply regretting having hurt you so,” he feels his fingers lightly skim over his feathers.  He doesn’t understand why the fact that he’s being gentle hurts even more.

“Please forgive me.”

Sandalphon doesn’t understand. He’s not sure if he wants to.

“I… should have anticipated that you would not be used to skydweller customs. But I’ve been informed that it brings two individuals closer together when they play harmless pranks on each other. I was merely looking for a way to feel closer to you.”

“What.”

What part of that was a harmless prank!? He covers his face with his hands in realization.

Skydweller custom??

Wait...

What day is it?

Oh. It’s.. the day of the April Fool. And he has just been played as a fool. That doesn’t make him any less upset. It slowly dawns on him. The pieces are coming together. Lucio's strange behavior and everything that has happened until now... curse these insects. He will make them pay dearly. The time he wasted agonizing on this, he wants it back. It’s then he realizes that Lucio is anything but ill-intentioned even if his methods are questionable at best.  But this couldn’t have come out of thin air- so, who has been feeding him this garbage!?  

One of his wings has lowered itself and he only notices this when Lucio's face comes into his line of sight when it's not supposed to. The other angel takes the gesture as a sign of his wavering conviction- judging from how his face lights up when they make eye contact.

Sandalphon uprights his wing immediately to conceal himself fully again.

“Haa… What do I do? I feel terrible for making you feel this way. Yet I feel so ..happy that my being away from you... distresses you this much,” He pinpoints Lucio’s voice from directly in front of him now and he can feel his hands resting on his foremost wings.  

Hearing him say the words only makes him squirm in discomfort.  “Don’t get too ahead of yourself!”

“Is my assessment right?” Lucio gently caresses the wing’s wrists down to his wing tips. Should he even be letting him touch his wings this intimately ?  He doesn’t know.

"Nn.." Sandalphon shivers, he wants to say 'no' but the word remains in his throat.  He doesn’t find himself totally adverse to this. It’s strangely soothing the longer Lucio repeats the same sweeping motions until the forefront wings slack and he slowly guides and folds them back. Sandalphon could fight it. He knows that if he exerts effort he can easily cover himself back up again but as Lucio continues his ministrations and coaxing, his will to fight back dwindles down.

Forewings successfully tucked, Lucio moves onto the next set of wings, repeating the process patiently until he reaches his last remaining pair.  He finally lifts them from his face and the tenderness and adoration Sandalphon sees in his eyes is enough to make him want to pull all six back to him out of sheer embarrassment.  

“There you are.” Lucio softly murmurs, “Should I break my vow, let me be torn asunder. I will never betray you, Sandalphon. This is no trick, of this, I can assure you. Even if I’m unworthy of your forgiveness, just say the word and I will do what I can to earn it.”

Sandalphon doesn’t doubt his sincerity now.  Nor does he want him to expound on it. Because Lucio can and will. He feels the heat blossom on his cheeks at his proximity and attempts to shy away from the intensity of his stare and touch.

He’ll settle for something more simple this time. He timidly peeks at him from behind the veil of long lashes. “You’ll do anything for me, you say?”

“Anything.”

 

The next morning, the rest of the crew are awakened by yelling coming from the upper deck.  Someone has tangled Tomoi, Elsam and Lowain in a fishing net while they were asleep, and left them hanging overnight with a sign tacked on that reads:

“We did something stupid. Someone saw and copied it. We will never come within 10 feet of Lucio again.”

Chapter Text

Lucio busies himself by perusing the steadily growing library aboard the ship in his spare time.  The archives are self-contributed by skyfarers who donate their books for others to read. Because the airship houses many unique individuals with equally different and varied interests, the library has topics and stories from the most mundane to uncommon. But even subjects that interested him before are suddenly so bland and the words may as well be undecipherable scribbles. His thoughts start to drift in the middle of reading and he claps it shut.

He sighs, tucking the book back into the shelf. A walk might bring him a sense of clarity that he desperately needs at the moment.

The Grandcypher is currently docked while the Captain and a few others head below to stretch their legs and restock on supplies.  Lucio decided to stay behind. He didn’t miss the look of brief disappointment flickering in Sandalphon’s face when he politely declined his indirect invitation. Lyria and Gran both hauled Sandalphon off regardless of his weak protests of wanting to stay behind the ship as well.  

So this is where Lucio finds himself. And the day seems to stretch on forever, leaving him to ponder on his own thoughts..

The Singularity himself is kind. Perhaps far too kind, far too trusting, far too naive. He is still a child. But there are others around him who act as his sight, naturally drawn by his charisma and way of thinking.  Idealistically speaking… of course, that didn’t apply to everyone. Plenty others boarded this ship with a mission, with an objective in mind. Some may be a justifiable cause, and some have less savory intentions. But he trusts the Singularity well enough that his presence there assures their safe return.

But perhaps if he were to trace their footsteps… he can--

His trail of thought is interrupted when his shoulder is brushed roughly by a woman with flowing, copper colored locks.  Her amethyst eyes regards him for a moment, excusing herself for her mistake. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to run into you."

"No harm done. Please don't worry about it." despite concealing the full magnitude of her power, he is aware she is anything but human. This also isn’t their first encounter. Rather, the first one where they’ve come into direct contact, with her purposely putting herself in his way. She looks at him expectantly as if waiting for some kind of reaction or recognition.  

He greets her with proper decorum regardless. "This is the first time we've met face to face, I believe. My name is Lucio. And you are?"

Her mouth twists in an sardonic line. "Lucio.. huh, okay. I'm Olivia."

"Something amuses you about my name?" his smile doesn't quite reach his eyes.

"No, nothing. I have an... acquaintance who has a name similar to yours."

He starts to wonder if there is any point in her seeking him out like this. But he does not have the patience to slowly draw her objective out of her. If she has a purpose, she better well state it now or hold her peace. "Well then, sorry about your shoulder. I best be on my way."

"--To see him?"

Lucio stops in mid step. If the woman refuses to reveal herself then he is not inclined to do the same. Sure enough he was just about to fly into the town area but with his intentions laid out in the open, he wonders how closely she has been monitoring them both.   "Beg your pardon, I have no idea who you mean."

"The moody one with the heels."

"You'd be surprised how many fit that description on board this ship." He laughs lightly, spinning around to face her. The only warning she has is the song of his blade unsheathing before she brings up her own weapon to keep it from connecting to her neck. But he is faster to draw his blade and the sudden movement disarms her.

Her sword clangs to the floor loudly and she bares her teeth at him for catching her off-guard. He draws it closer to the skin of her neck in warning if she attempts to try anything more. Despite the calm smile he wears, there’s a frosty undertone to it. "You've been following us for weeks now.  Is there perhaps a good reason you’re skulking around and keeping an eye on us?"

"Nngh.. and what about you..!?" Her fighting spirit continues to blaze and refuses to admit defeat. "Hovering over him like a shadow yourself. Using your likeness of the previous Supreme Primarch of whom he holds dear to get close to him."

Resorting to barbed accusations now, are they.. ? Lucio is not the least bit amused but neither does he care much for her perception of his relationship with Sandalphon. "Haa... Misguided One. Think what you will..  You are either friend or foe. And I would hate to raise a hand against one of the Captain's crew members but if you test me, I shan't hesitate if you prove yourself the latter." he finally releases her and steps backwards. He continues to eye her cautiously as she moves to pick up her weapon.  

She sheaths it properly and continues to watch him under a scrutinizing gaze.  "You... are one of us, are you not? Do you not wish to free the others still trapped within Pandemonium? Surely the Supreme Primarch now, was once held captive in that very same prison, can be convinced to join arms with his brethren-"

Lucio raises a hand, if only to stop her from deluding herself. She speaks of an age old war that has long since been concluded. With the defectors imprisoned in Pandemonium for their rebellion. Appraising the horns on their side of her head and the wings black as night that emerge when cornered, she does bear the marks of the Fallen. “I pray that you do not make dangerous assumptions on my character. Nor should you easily assume your cause, noble as it may be, will move me. I want nothing to do with your war against the Creator. And if your actions threaten the skydoms and the Supreme Primarch himself, then be prepared to find yourself across my blade."

“Fool. The Creator will be the end of us all including your Supreme Primarch! But if we can free the other fallen angels, we have a chance of fighting this accursed fate!” she presses on adamantly.

What manner of folly and blasphemy is this? To go against the creator would be to damn Sandalphon to join a losing battle. One that they weren’t even meant to fight in. He will not allow her or anyone to lead him astray from the light and damn him to bear the mark of the Fallen. He lets out a troubled sigh.  “While I admire your confidence… it is not in my best interest to involve myself with the fate of the world. I am merely an observer of mankind’s fate. To lend a helping hand in their trials would defeat my purpose.”

“Yet.. here you are among the skydwellers doing just that.”

“Again, you are mistaken. There is only one purpose for which I am here. But I’m not inclined to inform you of what it is.” he says with some form of finality. “I believe this conversation is now over. I humbly beseech you to not to directly interfere in matters involving the Supreme Primarch and the Singularity. Or I shall take matters into my own hands and deal with you personally.”

The fallen angel drops her attack stance.  She is visibly not pleased with his response but that is inevitable on her own end. “ But if, in the future he takes our side of his own accord, without my intervention...”

“Then, we will cross that bridge when we reach it.” Lucio waves dismissively, sheathing his swords in turn. “Farewell for now, Dark Angel Olivia.”

“Mark my words. You will rue the day you have spurned me.” She gives him one last look of contempt and her wings spread when she departs for the skies.

Lucio exhales the breath he had been holding. The ominous encounter only leaves him feeling restless again. Ah, but the sun is still high in the clouds, indicating that it’s only midday. It will be a couple more hours till they return. Worries begin to pile on top of the other as he unwittingly paces the Grandcypher deck. The fallen angel’s presence and the reminder that she’s been observing them only bolsters the unease he feels.  It isn’t that he doesn’t trust the Singularity. But rather, he is consumed with the strong desire to see Sandalphon’s safe return with his own eyes.

Without a second thought, he descends to town below using the ramp.  He’s honed in on the Supreme Primarch’s location from his faint trace  alone, all that’s left is to go to him. “Wait for me, Sandalphon.” And he starts to make his way there, ignoring all the stares and the astonished murmuring of the masses. Unaware of the small crowd of people trailing behind him grow in number as they make vain attempts to catch his attention.

~

“Did you find everything you need?” Sandalphon asks just as he reconvenes with Gran and company at the fountain square.  Truth be told, he hasn’t ventured too far from their meeting point. He doesn’t see the point in following them to the public market. There’s always too many people, a whole lot of shuffling, shoving and yelling to get remotely anywhere.  

“Yes! We should have enough to last us a couple of days till we reach the next port. Sierokarte will have our supplies delivered to the ship. She knows which one, haha.”

How carefree.. Sandalphon is sometimes spooked as to why Sierokarte is in every town they’ve been to. It’s frankly unnerving.  She still regards him with a friendly greeting whenever they cross paths, as though the incident some years back didn’t happen.

“--And she also mentioned that you should probably drop by to have a cup of coffee with her sometime.”

Or not.

“I’ll… think about it.” He mumbles under his breath.  

“Um..” Lyria’s brows furrow with worry, “There seems to be some kind of commotion coming from over there?”

“You two are really…” Sandalphon sighs in resignation. “Must you always get involved with every little sign of trouble or fist fight? This is why we’re never reaching Estalucia.. hey!” but the pair and Vyrn in tow are already making their way towards it. He did not sign up to be on babysitting duty when they dragged him off on their shopping trip. He curses the Astrals and follows suit.  

“Young man, won’t you please reconsider? Someone of you caliber is perfect for this profession!”

“I must have you as my model at all costs! Please, even just a little bit of your time!”

“OH EM GEE, he looked right at meeee!!”  

“Hey!! I saw him first! Paws off, ya skank!”

“EXCUSE ME--!?”

“What… the hell…” Sandalphon can only gape at the chaos unfolding around them. And there in the middle of all this mess is the source of all this madness. He finds him . Profusely apologizing over and over to every offer being presented to him, none of whom were taking no for an answer, only becoming even more desperate and persistent with each refusal.  

“Please, allow me through. There is someone I am looking for.”  is his troubled plea but alas it falls on deaf ears.

“Is it me, perhaps?”

“I’ve got everything you’re looking for right here!”

Lucio grows more weary by the second. He had been so focused on his goal that he made the mistake of not concealing himself properly. This is the very reason he refrains from joining the other crew members in venturing off into populated areas.

Some years back, he made the mistake of directly observing the Valentines festivities taking place in a certain town.  But as soon as he set foot within, townspeople and visitors alike began offering him all these chocolates and sweet treats. Not wanting to appear rude, he accepted the first few but then the quantity and fervor increased in volume.  It came to a point where people started fighting over him. It caused such a chaotic wave that the brawl took to the streets and ruined the entire festival with no one but himself knowing who the trigger was for such a disastrous turn of events.

It’s happening again… His beauty is both a blessing and a curse.

He feels someone yank him hard by the arm. And as he turns to reprimand the brute, the words remain still in his throat when he comes face to face with his would be abductor.

“Sandalphon..!” Lucio’s whole face lights up in recognition.

Sandalphon angrily motions for him to keep quiet. Just as he did, a loud explosion fires into the skies. The crowd turns to the source of the noise above and at that moment, he throws over a cloak that covers Lucio’s head and face. Keeping his hand on his head to keep it down, and the other on his back, as he stealthily guides him out of the epicenter.

Vyrn and Gran’s voices rise above the crowd, “Heyyy! The handsome fella went ‘thatta way!!”  

The crowd becomes bewildered at first and begin to disperse.  A number of whom resume their daily activities and seem to have forgotten what it was they were being so heated up for. Almost as if they’ve just been released from some form of trance. While the others who expressed more fervent displays of passion take off towards the direction Vyrn and Gran misled them to.

In a small alley behind one of the shops, Sandalphon lifts the cloth from his face.  The very same dazzling face that can light up the whole city with a smile of pure tenderness. “Sandalph-mm!” He tugs at the cloth to conceal his head again and feels some form of satisfaction from the surprised, muffled yelp underneath.

“You’re a handful, aren’t you… why’d you suddenly come he-” before he could finish, he’s suddenly gathered into his arms for a full embrace. “H-hey..!?” The cloak pools to the floor when Lucio launches himself at him.

“Ah~ Sandalphon! I’m ever so glad to see you safe.” his entire being radiates relief at their blessed reunion. Then, his demeanor rapidly shifts to that of grim seriousness. “You haven’t been approached by some seedy individuals, I hope. Even if they come in the form of a beautiful redhead who will promise you glory and honor in exchange for fighting a perilous cause.”

“That’s… oddly specific. And we last saw each other just this morning!” Sandalphon should be used to his theaterics by now but it’s still jarring how open and full of emotion he is. It’s almost as though his entire body language and manner of speaking stemmed from watching people move and interact in a theater stage. The thought makes him pause. There’s no way that could have gone the way it should, it’s only his overactive imagination.

Deflecting his own thoughts, he taunts him, “Pff. What? Don’t tell me you miss me already?”

He is instead met with a sincere and heartfelt touch of his palm cradling his cheek. “I do. The hours feel like years when I am separated from your side. It’s a mysterious feeling I cannot place but my heart is restless when I don’t have you in my sight-”

With every word that spills from his lips, Sandalphon’s face gradually takes on a darker hue from the intimate caress of his voice and hand. He stumbles over words he wants to say. Stop. This is embarrassing.  What are you saying, you idiot!? Don’t.. But they never make it out of his mouth.  

“Umm.. we can.. c-come back later?” came the nervous laugh. Reminding them that they’re still in a very public environment. The Singularity, Lyria and Vyrn avert their gazes when he finally notices their presence there with them. And makes him realize only now that he’s still wrapped up in Lucio’s embrace.  

Embarrassment creeps up his face and neck, “Th-that’s more than enough- you can let go now..!” he starts pushing himself away from his chest with both his hands.

“Must I? It’s not as though we’re doing something considered shameless.” Lucio’s wings droop just a little but makes no notion to drop his arms anytime.

“You’re really not one to talk when it comes to being shameless!” Sandalphon bristles. “There’s a time and place for everything, and this really isn’t proper out in the open!”

“Oh. I understand..” Lucio acquiesces and reluctantly relinquishes his hold. But his expression still remains hopeful and optimistic. “This is something more appropriate when we’re alone later.”

Steam is practically puffing from his ears. He’s on the verge of screeching,  “T-THAT’S NOT WHAT I--!!?”

“O-oh… I don’t mind. Erm, I think you two are very sweet.” Lyria says with some shy sincerity.

Sandalphon lets out a string of distorted noise and covers his face with his hands. The ground can come and swallow him whole now, please.

“Um… in any case, we’re glad to see you guys made it in one piece.” Gran shifts the topic away lest Sandalphon implodes on the spot from embarrassment.  He looks like he’s about to keel over.

“I apologize for the commotion, Captain. It was never my intent to create such a situation.” Lucio walks up to him and bows low humbly, in hopes to seek his forgiveness.

“Hey, now. There’s no need for that. It’s not like you to just blindly dash into a crowded area.. So, I think you have a pretty good reason.” Gran scratches his cheek as he ponders. His eyes meet with Sandalphon’s for a moment and regards him before turning his attention back to his eccentric crew mate. “Since you’re already here, why don’t you come with us?”

“Come with…” Although the offer is quite generous, Lucio cannot help but be concerned at the unexpected invitation. “But Captain, you’ve seen it yourself. I cannot simply waltz into the streets the way I am. Chaos chases my heels where I walk. I cannot  put any of you through that again.”

Gran mulls over it before his face lights up with a conclusion. "Hmm, I think we'll be fine. We have Sandalphon, after all."

"I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. But I'm not liking the implications of that, Singularity.." there’s a dark edge to his voice as it drops in octave. But the captain seems to be oblivious to it or purposely chose to ignore it.

"Ehh? I don't get it either." Lyria is just as puzzled.

"Just come with us and see what I mean." Gran laughs carefreely as they walk towards the main road leading back to the fountain square.

Lucio inaudibly swallows and steels himself for the inevitable chaos to come. Part of him dreads the inevitable but he cannot defy the Captain after the confidence he has placed on whatever conclusion he’s come up with.  

One hesitant step became two.. then, three.. four... became regular strides.. Until he keeps up a normal walking pace with the group. Surprisingly, as they continue to walk down towards a more densely populated area, not a single soul has approached him. In fact, the townsfolk is parting for their group voluntarily without so much as a glance at his direction.

How peculiar. Lucio is left to wonder the strange phenomenon when his shoulder collides with a young maiden’s.  And for a moment, he’s seized with a feeling of dread and deja vu all at once. For a second, her face belonged to a certain vengeful angel, only for him to blink and the image fades back to her regular face.   

She looks up at him and apologizes, there’s a brief pause as she stares at him.  

Lucio anticipates, ready to decline or make haste to flee the scene. But then she does the unexpected.  She ducks her head, excuses herself, and resumes her way past them.

“Damn.. it’s really crowded..” Sandalphon mutters under his breath.

That’s when it clicks into place.  Lucio can almost feel the hostility in a field around the air Sandalphon walks in.  Whatever it is, it seems to be naturally repulsing his charismatic aura and cancelling it out.  Whether he is conscious that he’s tapping into his Supreme Primarch’s powers or not, the effect is weak but effective to a certain range. Which means… “I see, it all makes sense now. As expected of our Captain.“

Vyrn takes a look around and finally notices, “Heyy, you’re right.. It’s really weird that nobody’s come up to you to give you free stuff or ask you to marry their daughters yet.”

“...Wh..at?” a vein makes itself prominent on the side of Sandalphon’s face. Did the perimeter between him and the sea of people grow even wider by a fraction?

“Rest easy. I’ve properly declined them all. Although some were a little more forceful than others,” Lucio lets his hand rest on his back to pacify him. “I already dedicated myself to your cause and have no intention to go back on my word.”

“Like I care, go run off with some harlot and see if I give a damn.” Sandalphon feigns indifference even though anyone can tell he’s clearly agitated.

“Perish the thought.” Lucio shakes his head. “If you require me to prove my loyalty, I can do so right now, in the middle of all these witnesses-”

S-T-O-P   right there!”

“Oh.” At this, a look of realization settles upon Gran, but it goes unnoticed by the pair who don’t appear to be conscious that they’re in their own little world. Lucio is still getting those looks from everyone around them but as soon as they see he only has eyes for his equally, eye-catching companion beside him, their interest wanes away and only leaves them bereft and sighing.

“On another note,” Lucio continues, clasping both Sandalphon’s hands in his own. “ I have no need to fear walking amongst the masses with you here, Sandalphon. Now I can finally observe skydwellers up close without causing a near cataclysmic disaster.”

Sandalphon rolls his eyes.  The furrow of his eyebrows becomes less intense at least, and he huffs, “Don’t dawdle. We’re only here to get what we came for.” and he shakes Lucio’s hold on him and folds his arms over his chest. The guy is really too touchy-feely and flashy for his own good.

“Um, hey.. So I was thinking..” Gran interrupts. He stops in his tracks and faces them with a sheepish smile. “I think Siero mentioned there’s something she wants Lyria and I to help out with.”

“Ah. How wonderfully benevolent of you, Captain. Of course, we would only be happy to help-”

Gran rubs at his own nape, “OH! Umm, it’s a really top secret, important mission. You two should go on ahead without us.”

Vyrn tilts his head in confusion, “Huh? I don’t re-MMP!”

Gran tucks him securely in his arm with a hand over his snout.

“Really? Are you most certain you won’t be needing our assistance?” Lucio offers once again but Gran shakes his head.

“We’ll be fine! I’ll meet you two back at the Inn later. Just… stay out of trouble, alright?” he also quietly promises the squirming Vyrn some apples later if he stays still. It works and his struggles cease.

If either of the two noticed how suspicious their captain is acting, they never make mention of it. Instead Sandalphon scoffs at the very impudence of his assumption, “Haa? You’re 2,000 years too young to be worrying about me, Singularity.”

“Fear not, Captain.  I’ll be sure to keep us both safe.” Lucio promises.

“Feh. More like I’m the one looking out for you. Let’s go,” Sandalphon raises an outstretched palm towards him with a reluctant but determined look in his eyes. “I don’t really get it but... as long as you’re with me, you’ll be fine, right? Here. So we don’t get separated in the crowd.”

Color him impressed.  It seems even Sandalphon is full of surprises today. Lucio breaks into a soft smile and his own hand meets him halfway. He carefully laces their fingers together. “I wholeheartedly accept.”

The brunet’s cheeks only darken as he brusquely adds, “-Only for today!” ‘As thanks for looking out for me..’ he mumbles out the last bit but Lucio can hear him clear as day.  

“If you say so.” Lucio squeezes their conjoined palms together out of affection.

Chapter Text

“Lucifer!” Sandalphon’s face does nothing to hide his mirth upon his arrival.  

“Don’t run or you’ll fall.. Again,” he lightly scolds but the smile he wears is fond.

“That was one time! I’m just… really happy to see you.” he’s sulking but the shy honesty touches his heart.

He ruffles his hair, reveling in the softness under his fingertips. “I’m glad. But I would hate for you to be hurt because of me.”

“I’ll try not to.” Sandalphon basks under his gentle affection, leaning into his touch.

Lucio flinches awake. Normally, one such as he does not require long hours of sleep unless he is in need of healing or if he expended his energies. Putting up the barrier in this space continues to draw from his power and he’s found himself taking longer hours of rest just keeping it in place. It’s only a temporary fix, a band-aid solution until the very source reveals itself. And he will continue to lie in wait for it. Starve it until it decides to take matters into its own hands and show itself.

How long had he been asleep? The skies are still dark and littered with the twinkling of faraway celestial bodies. Still some ways before dawn. He finds himself staring at the ceiling while he attempts to recall the last lingering fragments of his subconscious.

He saw something.

A vision.

Is it from Master? For what purpose would he show him this...

“Sandalphon..” he looked less guarded then.  Eyes clear and pure, full of adoration and faith. It did not carry any of the contempt and distrust that he’s equipped himself with at present. Will he one day see that same innocent look with his own eyes, he ponders idly. Or perhaps that expression is reserved for Lucifer and Lucifer alone.  Lucio shakes his head to will that thought away. He mulls over Olivia's words to him and his likeness to the previous Supreme Primarch.

The seed of awareness has taken root since that first fateful encounter on the Grandcypher bridge and continues to fester into his core. Each passing day he finds himself wanting. Wanting things he shouldn’t want. Feeling things he  shouldn't ever feel.

Was it a mistake? Perhaps. Does he regret it? No.  

Yet now that he awakens to that knowledge, it's impossible to pretend it isn't there. The warmth of his hand. How at peace he feels when he’s near. The growing awareness that some of his impulsive decisions are born out of satisfying his own wishes. Perhaps this change in him is due to  Sandalphon’s influence. And he is changing. Rapidly.  Learning and evolving with each day they spend together.

And yet, it’s still not enough.

A chill creeps up his shoulder like a whisper in the wind.  It effectively halts his own contemplating, thankfully so. It’s far better company than his idle thoughts.

Lucio retrieves a charm he’s hidden in one of his drawers from a certain Primal that reigns over dreams.  One that he requested specifically made in exchange for a favor. He tentatively slips the trinket underneath his pillow and lays his head back down.

 

~

The massive tree shimmers from the early morning dew drops catching the rays of the sun.   Being here, Sandalphon will not admit out loud, makes him feel the closest to Lucifer.  But it's also a reminder that it's too soon for him to be back, he has nothing, no achievements to note.  This is why he didn't want to come back just yet. Coming here empty handed. Yet. It's not as though Lucifer himself were here, so this petty sentiment is nothing short of unnecessary.  

He hears the crunch of the leaves next to him. Yes, he is here as well.  He insisted on accompanying him to see the tree for himself. He waits for Lucio to say something to annoy him again.  But he is quiet. For once. Out of anything else to do, Sandalphon spares him a glance but Lucio's focus is elsewhere. His face drawing an undecipherable blank.

What's with him? Is this the first time he's seen an ancient tree? There's nothing else to see here. Sandalphon decides to head back to where the others are.

 

~

"Are you two satisfied now? No point in loitering here if there’s nothing else." Sandalphon returns  to the content faces of the Singularity, Vyrn, and Lyria. They happily presented him with carefully packed coffee beans they just procured.  It's become a habit of theirs to sometimes join him for morning coffee besides Lucio. Ah. How troublesome.  But the preparation is simple and feels almost second nature to him. And he is taking up space in the ship.  It's within reasonable means to indulge them once in a while. It's not because he's gone soft or anything.  The quickest way to keep them quiet is to give them a share.

"Wasn't Mr. Lucio with you?" Lyria asks. "He hasn't come back yet. Shouldn't we wait for him?"

"It'd be better if we left him on this island, to be honest." But when Lyria gives him that look, the one that tells him she's disappointed in him, he caves.  "Nngh. Fine. I'll go get him if it gets us off the ground sooner."

It’s more efficient if he uses of the wings. But he hates the idea of attracting attention while the other farmers were up and about in the fields. So he goes on foot, grumbling all the way about how the smiling fool is never around when people are looking for him but always in his face when his company is unwarranted. He asks a few passerbys if they've seen someone stupidly good looking, about this tall, with tiny wings on his back. But they just give him a fairly odd look and he briskly walks past them without any progress.

"Ugh. Don't tell me.." Sandalphon quickens his walking pace towards the coffee tree where he encountered him last. If he’s still there spacing out this whole time, he’ll-

 

~

When he comes into the clearing, the first thing he sees is Lucio sprawled at the foot of the tree, unconscious. A thick pool of blood seeps out from underneath him, staining armor and hair red. Head hanging lifelessly. The revolting iron stench of death and decay is overwhelmingly potent and paralyzes Sandalphon where he stands. The carcass slowly rises to its feet with a sickening crack and squelch. The disembodied voice calls out his name and its arms extend towards him, beckoning him to draw near. 

No, no, no ..!  He thinks he opened his mouth to yell but he hears nothing but the quickening thrum of his own core. His limbs refuse to move no matter how hard he exerts effort.   

“Sandalphon!!” the sound of his name pierces through the suffocating fog. His vision is suddenly robbed from him when gloved hands close over his line of sight.  His back is pressed against a solid but warm body. “Don't stare into its eyes. It’s not real.”

“Not.. real?”

Blanketed by a familiar warmth and aura, the scent of blood is washed out completely leaving a faint but distinct scent of citrus blossoms and lavender in its wake. And with it, a vision of a silhouette bent over his bedside. Face obscured by the night as the moonlight etches its light upon its majestic wings enclosing over his own.  ‘Sandalphon…’

It stirs something deep in the inner recesses of his memory.. A tender touch, a gentle light, a brush of something soft and warm upon his mouth--  “Lu...cio?”

As though pleased to hear his name in recognition, Sandalphon hears him sigh a breath of relief against his hair. 

Whatever he says next is garbled out by a disturbing string of sounds not of this world.  The body in front of them bends back grotesquely as it is being swallowed into the ground whole.  Its puppet master, a wraith in robes red and a face twisted with rage, emerges from the ground a good 8 feet high. It lets out a shrill cry and attempts to thrash its spindly arms at them. Lucio’s wings propel them to the side to evade it with Sandalphon in tow. He manages to navigate them both to a safer distance but only momentarily, the creature switches gears and charges towards them.  

“What abomination is that..!?” Sandalphon summons his wings to him as soon as he is once more in control of his limbs. He’s not going to give it a second thought what would have happened if Lucio hadn’t come as soon as he did. 

“You can think of it as an unwelcome parasite.” Lucio answers, readying his armaments for battle as it draws closer.

“This otherworldly thing that keeps feeding me nightmares. This is the one, isn’t it?” Sandalphon is brimming with seething rage after several nights of mental anguish and torment at its hands. His body rises off the ground of his own volition. The Supreme Primarch’s wings radiate with near blinding  light. “Allow me to thank you thoroughly for all you’ve done to me.”

“-- AIN SOPH AUR..!!”  


~

Charred remains is all what’s left of it once the battle has been concluded.  Lucio surveys the area just to be sure but he can no longer sense the malicious aura and the stench of decay that came with it.  It's unlikely that it made its escape. Not when preventive measures have been set in place and it’s safe to conclude that it was the last, remaining remnant.

“Are there more of them?” Sandalphon asks cautiously.

More. Much, more. Worse horrors that dwell within Pandemonium just waiting to seize an opportunity to traverse the skydom realm.  Lucio closes his eyes as he carefully picks his choice of words. “If you mean the remnants in the dreamscape, no. That was the last one. You’re strong enough now to bolster your own defenses passively, so I highly doubt they will return just as easily as the first time.“

Sandalphon seems to be taking it into consideration.  He’s been worrying at his lip, deep in his own thoughts. “If it is as you say, then I can count on you again if they return.”

“Naturally. That is what I have sworn to do, after all.” The smile he wears now feels painted on. He thought he was above the concept of lingering attachments. It has been this way since the beginning of his consciousness. Master is all he had known when he awakened. He wonders if his affinity towards Sandalphon is merely because he's come into acknowledge the meaning of loneliness. And whether Sandalphon’s reason for enduring his company is also because he’s come to be acquainted with the same feeling.

Two lonely souls seeking to fill the void of being left behind in each other’s company.  But… it’s not that simple anymore. He refuses to be an entity that exists to fill the void of someone else’s existence. Even though he’s merely- He catches Sandalphon staring at him.  Their eyes meet but it’s too late to conceal the uncertainty reflected in them.

“If you have something you want to say, why don’t you just spit it out?”

The question remains still on his tongue. It’s utter foolishness that he wants to ask and he finds himself apprehensive of the answer. Against his better judgement, he asks regardless. “Sandalphon.. when you see me, do you only see Lucifer?” He immediately regrets uttering the very words that he moves to retract them back, “...Apologies, that it is a nonsensical question. Please forget-”

But the latter interrupts him before he can finish. His shoulders slump in what appears to be relief. “Is that it? I can’t believe that’s what you’re worried about.” he lets out a derisive snort and pokes his chest for emphasis. “Listen. You’re too uncool to be Lucifer. So I’ve never once thought of you to be the same person as soon as you opened your mouth.”

“I...I see,” Lucio manages to keep the expression on his face neutral even as he nurses his bruised confidence. “Sorry for being ...uncool.”

“You know that’s not the point I’m getting at.” Sandalphon's expression turns sheepish. He awkwardly taps Lucio’s leg with the side of his boot as he waits for him to meet his eyes again, “Lucifer is Lucifer. Lucio is Lucio. It’s that simple, isn’t it? Why are you overthinking it?”

“Oh.” Lucio can feel his worries dissipate like scattering dandelion seeds in the wind. When he puts it plainly like that.. there is some truth to it. Lucio is Lucio. It’s a simple phrase, but it is one that affirms his own existence in Sandalphon’s eyes. The turmoil in his heart quells and he is able to show him a sincere smile once more. Sandalphon will never know how much those very words saved him. "You have the right of it. It's only that I have been told we share some likeness. Do I look like him that much?" 

“To be fair, I only mistook you for him twice. Once being.. The first time I saw you. And the other...” Sandalphon's voice trails off slightly. His brow furrows as he appears to be thinking deeply about something. He tilts his head and levels him with an expectant stare. “Hey, Lucio… this is still part of my dream, isn't it?"

"Hm? That's right."

"I see. Then..." Sandalphon steps towards him with an unreadable expression.  It only takes a second when his fist lands right under his metal chest plate.

"Sa..nn-?!" The sudden force of it causes Lucio to stagger and sharply draw in breath.

Sandalphon catches him in his arms before he completely falls forward.  There’s a split second where Lucio fears he might have let his guard down too soon.  But the Supreme Primarch appears composed, if not a touch too smug that he’s finally down to his eye level. "Ah, Lucio... Your sealing magics don't affect me in this place. How does it feel not to have the upperhand for once?”

Lucio’s eyes widen slightly when the realization sinks in. Cold sweat rolls down the side of his face. He didn’t think he would have to tackle this, this soon. He’s at a loss of how to explain his behavior for that night he trespassed into his room. Having knocked the wind out of him makes it difficult for him to formulate an articulate response. “Ah.. that was..”

But it didn’t seem as though Sandalphon is interested in listening to any half hearted explanation or excuses coming from him. "Shh... This is payback for that time." He clasps his chin between thumb and forefinger and tilts his face up. Lucio barely has time to think when Sandalphon leans in and claims his mouth with his own.

The first brush sends an electric jolt through him and he finds himself clutching his forearms. “-Mm..!” Lucio makes a surprised noise in his throat but he’s does nothing  to fight back. He's light headed from both the punch and the forwardness of the kiss. Sandalphon’s presence envelops him in a vice grip as a warm thrill unfurls from his center down to his bones. His eyes flutter close, surrendering to the feel of the hot and insistent lips on his. 

Lucio cannot find it in himself to resist, not that he has any intention to. Not when Sandalphon himself is the initiator and he quickly finds that he's not an unwilling participant. His only regret is not being able to reciprocate in the way he wants to.

Sandalphon is the first to pull away, but not before giving Lucio’s lower lip a soft bite between his teeth that only leaves his pulse stuttering. That impish gaze draws him in not unlike the beckoning of a moth to a slow-burning flame. He chases after him like a man thirsting for water but Sandalphon tugs a fistful of hair back, reminding him which between the two of them currently has the advantage over the other.

In frustration, Lucio lets out an unseemly sound of weakness. It’s too much and too little, all at the same time. Only allowing him a small taste that reignites the craving he had been staving off for so long.

Sandalphon's  eyes remain half lidded with a hunger, an almost mirror image of his. And Lucio would do anything, anything to grant him that wish. If only he’d let him. But the smirk that curls on the corner of his mouth tells him that the brunet has other plans. "That also means,” he adds on a more devious note, “I won't be remembering any of this when I wake up."  he places his hands on both Lucio’s shoulders.

"But you will." A captivating smile graces his face and Lucio can't find it in himself to look away.  

He feels Sandalphon give him a shove back.  One with enough force to tip him backwards and lose his footing.

With no solid ground beneath his feet, Lucio becomes aware that he’s falling off the platform.  His wings have sprung up but even as he attempts to pillow his descent, it is to no avail. The charm’s effects are steadily wearing off. His body becomes sluggish and he can feel himself slipping away. 

Sandalphon is above him, peering from the edge of his dreamscape. He's resting his chin on his palm and gives him a little wave of his fingers in farewell. That image is the last thing Lucio sees as he is gradually engulfed in light in mid fall. A strong pull of gravity forcibly drags him down and into his body in the waking world.

He jolts awake with a sharp gasp.  His body still experiences the last vestiges of his free falling even as he finds himself on his bed in the Grandcypher. He clutches at the bedsheets to will his body to a state of normalcy and for his pulse to slow.  

When he finally gathers his bearings, he traces his mouth with his fingers where he can almost still feel and taste him. And in the silence of his sleeping quarters, he can only release a defeated sigh.

"...That's foul play, Sandalphon."

Chapter Text

“What the hell…”

Sandalphon peers down at his current state. He’s coated in a thin sheen of sweat the moment he slips back into consciousness. His pillow and the black shirt he fell asleep in are both damp. He’s in a state of hyper awareness; alert and restless all the same. Almost like the adrenaline rush he feels after a difficult battle. But also different. It’s not an upset stomach or a fever. And Primals do not take ill that easily. Unless it’s Katalina’s cooking- that’s a whole other weapon of mass destruction once ingested.

Remembering the taste is enough to bring him back to focus. The peculiar ailment is gone or at least has gone back dormant. Feeling a little more like himself, he stretches his arms over his head and gets ready to start the day.

But first, a cold shower.  

 

He prepares the pot of coffee like always. There’s something therapeutic about the steady pouring as he evenly distributes the hot water over the filter with practiced precision. He welcomes the aroma of roasted beans like an old acquaintance. It fills him with a sense of calm and elegant indulgence.

The faint squeak of the galley door swinging open catches his attention.  He notices his familiar figure in his peripheral vision almost immediately. He remains in position, concentrating on his task. “You’re earlier than usual. The coffee isn’t ready yet.”

Lucio doesn’t respond at first.  He seems to be in a daze, even his hair is more of a tousled mess than usual. He continues walking forward.  It takes only a few strides for him to cross the threshold.

Sandalphon freezes in mid-pour when he feels arms wrap around his middle and an all encompassing warmth radiating from his backside when Lucio closes the distance between their bodies. A strangled yelp lodged itself in his throat. “H-hey! I’m still in the middle of...”

“Sandalphon...” the low timbre of his voice sends shockwaves through him when Lucio’s warm breath caresses his ear and neck. The heat creeping under his skin from earlier this morning returns with a vengeance. He almost drops the pot had Lucio’s hand not supported the handle in his stead and sets it down safely on the counter for him.

“T-the coffee beans..” he meant to say it’d go to waste, but he finds it difficult to form a coherent thought when he feels a gloved palm slide up under his shirt. The initial brush of his fingers is electrifying and he startles from the touch. He exhales sharply, unconsciously arching his back and feels something nudging his lower back. He can hear the answering groan behind him.

 

The audible sound of a throat clearing can be heard.

“I loathe to… interrupt, gentlemen.  But this is a rather inappropriate setting for that sort of thing.” the voice from a swordsman standing by the doorway makes them both crash back down to the realm of reality.  Three knights behind him are crowding by the door with conflicted expressions on their faces. The bulkiest of the three squeaks when they make eye contact. Being the most flustered, attempts to make himself smaller by hiding behind the small statured, dark haired knight. The redhead scolds them in harsh whispers.

The voice of reason in the room rouses the pair from their heated daze. Sandalphon is the first to react and his elbow jabs Lucio hard in the ribs. The latter immediately lets go and clutches the affected area.

 

"Move!" Sandalphon all but snarls as he bypasses the other three knights who sidestep to give him space to pass.

What was that!? What the hell was that!? His head is still reeling from what happened.  He can hear loud pulsing in his ears and his condition from this morning sweeps through him like the crashing of tides on the shores. He curses the Astrals and breaks into a mad dash to the sanctuary of his quarters. Nobody can see him like this. Especially not him. But he can feel it. Lucio's aura is coming up from behind him - and gaining speed!?

His heartbeat quickens and he deftly rounds the corner. Just down this hallway should be his room. He's not exactly sure why he's running or what he's running from. Sweat clammy palms clumsily reach for his room key and almost drops it. His shaky fingers manage to get it into the keyhole after a bit of struggle.  If Lucio wanted to catch him, he certainly has his ways. Even a door wouldn't stop him from--

"Sandalphon. Please wait." he knows he's directly behind him, panting against his ear from all the running. Lucio's palm is resting on the door, his height allows him to tower over his hunched form.  

Sandalphon slowly cranes his head back with some reluctance. The face he sees staring back at him is one of near desperation and desire. Desire for him. He can see himself in the reflection of dilated pupils and his body betrays him by trembling and thriving under that heated gaze.

He lets out a stuttering exhale, he never should have looked.

"Don't fear me." Lucio carefully draws closer but he gives him enough space to back away if he needs to. It's never been his intention to corner him. "There's nothing I wouldn't do to keep you out of harm's way. Even from one such as myself. So. Please. Push me away now, and I shall remain silent and faithful forever." he pleads like a man standing behind the door barring a dangerous beast.

It's hard to think when Sandalphon can feel him gently nuzzle his nape and hair. His ears feel like they're burning. He knows what he's silently asking for because the same flame threatens to smolder him alive. He’s neither a child nor a delicate flower that needs fragile handling and protecting. He knows what he wants. And this is his answer.

Sandalphon turns to face him and resolutely grabs him by the collar. But it's Lucio who surges forward and steals his breath away.

He holds on tightly, using that piece of fabric as an anchor from the onslaught. His eyes widen when he feels Lucio effortlessly sweep him off the floor by lifting the back of his knees like he weighed no more than a feather. A testament to the strength hidden in those sculpted arms. Arms that could easily maneuver him, hold him down, maybe even fold him in half if he wishes to. And he feels like putty in the hands of an experienced artisan. His to mold and form any way he wants.  He's not even going to deny it anymore. He's aroused. Blindingly, painfully so.

Pinned between the door and Lucio’s upper torso, Sandalphon wraps his legs around his waist for a better foothold.

They take a sharp intake of air when they part. They gaze into each other, breathing heavily.

This is the most unkempt Sandalphon has seen him. He takes delight in the fact that even that perfectly immaculate face of his can make such a depraved expression. And sighs when he feels the scrape of his teeth along the column of his neck. Sandalphon tips his head to the side and bares more of his flesh for him to taste.  Like an afterthought, his fingers fumble for the door but when Lucio teases his pulse point and presses against him in that way, his thoughts scatter and his unoccupied mouth can only let out a needy whine. One that earned him the sinking of teeth on the skin between his neck and shoulder.

Lucio’s attention is eventually drawn to where he’s trying to reach. And he twists the knob to his quarters open. The point of no return. But he’s already long crossed a line that cannot be taken back. He could very well be damning his own fate and by extension, the world’s fate. But at this point in time, he finds he couldn’t care less. Centuries of solitude. With the only driving force of his existence is the hope of his reunion with a Master whose face and presence he can no longer remember, he finds solace in the embrace of the Supreme Primarch.

Consequences be damned. And the door shuts behind them.

----

Meanwhile...

Belial runs his fingers through his sweat slicked hair. He prods the unconscious body beneath him with a bare foot and clicks his tongue in disappointment. "Fainted already? ...Figures." he rolls off the bed and feels around for his discarded clothing in the darkness. Mortals are so fragile and easy to break.

He plants a pouch of rupies on the night table. "But it was fun. Even for a little while." not that the man could hear him in the state he's in. Broken toys are of no interest and of no use to him. They're just bodies to keep him warm at night. Their names not even worth remembering.

All six of his wings spread as he takes to the skies.  It isn't long before he reaches his destination. He stuffs his hands into his pockets as he strides further into the fallen Astral ruins. "Bubs, I'm hooome ." he drawls loudly.  The only sound is his voice echoing back. But it is the quiet stillness that makes him pause.

A pair of glowing eyes flash open in the darkness and the ground rumbles beneath his feet.

"Not this again.." Belial easily maneuvers himself out of the incoming fist of stone. It leaves a cracked imprint on the ground where he was standing only few seconds prior. "Haven't we already been through this?" he leaps into the air and lands on its head.  "No hard feelings but.. you're in the way." he thrusts his arm into the hollow of its chest and crushes the core with his bare hands.

The golem falls apart and returns to being inanimate stone and soil.  "You better still be here with that body, or I'll hunt you down to the otherworld and back." his grin turns wild and bloodthirsty as he makes his way to the only functioning facility within.  Not once did he trust Beelzebub to have his back, not after the fucker high tailed out at the first sign of trouble.

It's a high risk to entrust all that was left of Lucifer's remains to the rat bastard but... he made a proposal that was too good to refuse and it was the only bargaining chip he had in his hands.  The door slides open easily at his prompting and he's there alright, hood and all with his back turned to him.

One step inside and Beelzebub acknowledges his presence. "So you're back."

"Yeah. In one piece. Disappointed?" he sneers.

Beelzebub makes a noncommittal noise. "Did you bring what I requested?"

"Most of it's been accounted for." Belial dumps the sack of procured items on the empty examination table haphazardly. “If you see a crack or two in there, blame your golem plaything.”

The only sign of Beelzebub's annoyance is the small twist at the corner of his mouth.

Belial walks up to the large glass chamber Beelzebub was fixated at prior to his arrival. He sets his  hand on the cool glass, caressing it with a heated reverence he reserves only for him . "How much longer?"

"Provided you acquired the right materials this time. It could be progressing more smoothly." Beelzebub mutters as he inspects the items laid out for any damage from the rough handling. "If there's nothing else, go bother someone else. I've got work to do and you're in the way."

"Cold. I can be pretty useful in many other ways." Belial supplies. He suggestively slides a hand down the curve of his bicep.

"And you reek of filth." Beelzebub tugs his arm loose from his hold and continues to rummage through the items.

"Fine~ I'll go bathe and get myself all nice and loosened up, just for you." he chuckles and takes his leave of him.

Belial looks over his shoulder. The floating entity within the liquid filled chamber continues to drift lifelessly. Several wires and tubes wrap around his ethereal-like form.  Like this he looks like he’s peacefully asleep, in a form of stasis. His head now rests seamlessly upon what was once Primal Lucifer’s body. A perfect fit. He should know.. Lucilius originally created Lucifer with the intent of using his immortal body as his spare when the time was ripe. Although Lucifer’s betrayal hadn’t been preordained, both he and Beelzebub took several measures in order to secure him so that Lucilius was not lost to them both.

This blasphemous creation is a perversion of the natural order in the highest degree. A slap to the face of the Creator. Just what Lucilius would have wanted. Belial strokes the smooth glass surface.  He whispers his name with devout longing. His Creator. His. Beautiful and alluring Lucilius. Here in the flesh with his resurrection close at hand. It excites him, makes his knees buckle at the thought of their reunion.  

His breath comes out in pants as his palm leaves imprints on the surface.  It won't be long now, Lucilius.

Chapter Text

"...This was not part of the agreement. My friend, you said to me, that if I were to subjugate him with my own hands, I am free to do with him as I wish.."

“I did say that. Yes. But we both know your little sparrow is too dangerous to be left to his own devices.” The man seated in his high chair slowly spins his attention to face him. “You already let him slip past your fingers once. What makes you think he will not do so again?”  The astral researcher levels him with a scrutinizing gaze. "Furthermore, I find it strange. This irregularity is not part of my calculations."

"Irregularity? There is no such thing. But this is too..." He stiffens when he is met with a look that often meant the researcher is not pleased. Perhaps he has spoken out of turn. He merely expressed his own thoughts in the matter.  Of course, his analysis never comes without merit. Who is he to question his decisions and objectives?

"It seems my perfect creation is not quite... as infallible as I thought. I was sure you were aware of it yourself but apparently it seems there are things even you cannot comprehend. Either that or you've learned to lie to my face," The thin line of his lips curls to a cold sneer. "How insolent."

Before he can speak in his defense, the Astral closes the distance between them and grabs a fistful of silvery pale hair in his grasp. He pulls his head back with a sharp, unforgiving tug. His voice remains impassive but it belies a temperamental undercurrent. "Your judgement must be impartial and free of bias.  Is it because he is a creation of your own making? Even moreso, that does not excuse his misgivings and he must be punished accordingly. I can, of course, keep him myself. His body composition is perfect for rigorous experiments and I’m sure Belial wouldn’t mind a new toy.”

He winces in his grip and a gasp of pain is drawn from his lips. Never before has he laid his hand on him to cause pain. But it is not the physical punishment that ails him so much as the horrors he whispers in his ear. He struggles to keep his voice even.  "F-forgive me. It was wrong of me to question your judgement. I've looked over him as you have instructed me to. It has never been my intention to make others believe I favor him over my duty."

"See that you do. Get rid of it or I shall do it for you." The researcher finally lets go of him and returns to his parchments. The tension in the air dissipates and he is once more at calm. "I shall see you again in few days time.  I pray this is the last I'll hear of it."

"Your will be done."

~

 

Again.

Another vision.  

He is aware by now that they are memories. Vivid images playing out in his head as if he is experiencing the events firsthand. It’s most certainly not a natural phenomenon. There can only be another force at work even if it’s  only fragments of consciousness. One that continues to linger even after its departure from this realm. It would need a fairly powerful catalyst in order to project itself.

...But he already knows the answer to that.

Lucio need not look any further than the being lying curled up by his side. Fast asleep from exhaustion. His fingers caress the curve of his back where his wings would be. He can almost see the faint outline glimmering, reacting to his touch. Such a wonder the Astrals can replicate to match the power of Gods. It was only inevitable that their arrogance led them to their ruin. But in turn, the primals and primarchs have assimilated to their roles almost immediately, creating balance and fostering life in this realm. But once their purpose has been fulfilled…

His trail of thought is interrupted from the slight movement to his side. Lucio props his chin on his palm as he shifts to find a better angle to bear witness to the sight of his peaceful, sleeping face and lightly runs his knuckle over his cheek.  His heart swells with elation when those beautiful ruby orbs flutter open at his prompting. "Good morning.. although to be more accurate, it's late afternoon."

It's shortly followed by a loud thud and a yelp. Sandalphon's legs are tangled in the sheets as he scrambles to cover his own body. Doing so has him tumbling off the bed. And he slaps his hands over his eyes when he realizes he unwittingly strips the remaining piece of fabric that covers what was left of Lucio’s modesty.

A muffled groan comes from the makeshift cocoon of cloth on the floor.

Lucio stifles a bubble of laughter and slowly rises from the bed only to pluck said cocoon off the ground to deposit it on his lap. He rummages the folds of cloth until he finds what he's looking for. The tuft of brown hair finally peeks from the covers but stubbornly refuses to surface.  

"Sandalphon?"

Finally his fully flushed face comes into view. He squints at him and reverts his gaze.  “You’re... too blinding. Do something about your face.”

“But this is the face I was born with-” a pillow meets him halfway before he can finish. By the time Lucio slides it off, Sandalphon shifts to sit on the edge of the bed with his back facing him. Although Lucio cannot see the expression on his face from this angle, he can almost perceive he is wearing a furrow in his brow. It’s only solidified with what he says next.

“Listen... It was a spur in the moment thing so don’t get used to it.” Sandalphon’s voice is calm but the slight tremor of his shoulders gives him away. Memories of only few hours prior come crashing back into him. He is very aware of what he was doing, of what he was asking and willing to give. And yet, it brings with it a myriad of complications in his life.  One that he has tried so hard to avoid. This prickling feeling in his chest cavity. It is neither guilt, fear, nor-

“You are harboring regrets…? ” Lucio asks for him.

Sandalphon runs his fingers through his own hair, clearly trying to keep calm amid his distress. “No. It’s not- it’s not you. I.. I’m… I-I don’t know.” Words were never his strong suit. What he experienced was something beyond even his own comprehension. It felt like he wasn’t even in full control of his own body’s reactions. But Lucio guided him through it, and like a well tuned instrument, he strummed him to sing and reverberate a composition of his own making. It was never that intense, not by himself, not like this. He’s nothing like Belial. But he can’t deny how much he wanted the burning need to be sated once he became aware of it. Did that make him on level with that animal?

But Lucio made him feel.. so good, so alive. He hates the idea of being able to grasp that understanding now. He can sense the slow burn beneath his skin just thinking about what they’ve done moments prior. Was it Lucio’s plan all along? To make him need him even more? To make it so that he embeds himself so deep that he’ll never forget the imprints he leaves behind? Even now he struggles to piece together a reply that can convey the maelstrom whirling in his head. "I don't know what happens next or what it means. Or why you would even want to, with me? Why me?"

"It has to be you." Lucio answers without hesitation. "Additionally, allow me to throw the question of, why can't it be you?"

"Because I'm nothing. " Sandalphon lets out a self deprecating laugh, "Even I can’t believe it myself.. Me? The Supreme Primarch, inheriting his wings and power. What a joke...! Everything about me is. My entire existence was initially to be a substitute in case something happened to Lucifer. Temporarily. Only to find out I’m not even needed for that role. It’s so pitiful that it’s laughable.”

"And if that’s not enough to be born as a creature with no purpose, I also caused the cataclysm. That’s right. I’ve killed off entire islands by distorting the balance of the elements. Because I stole wings from primarchs to bolster my own power. I-" He clenches his fist as he stares at the hardwood floors. "I did this. All of this. I may as well have killed him with my own hands. The only reason I'm here is to finish what he couldn't because I owe him at least that much."  

Lucio needs to see him. To see him for what he is. He’s nothing like Lucifer. He can never hope to take over his role and responsibilities. Can never hope to take his place. His intention to destroy Lucilius' legacy is neither for honorable means nor to save this world but for his own justification. "Don’t you get it!? I'm not someone worth protecting or saving. I'm scum. Worthless. Trash. An omen of misfortune that only brings suffering to people who choose to associate with me. And I won't hesitate to use you or the Singularity to fulfill my end. Need I go on? Do yourself a favor and don't bother with someone like me anymore!"

"Sandalphon." Lucio interrupts. He reaches towards him and gently cradles his face with both palms. "Lucifer created you with his own hands, did he not? Do you also believe that he would create something and spend time with someone of no worth? I can see how much you are cherished just by looking at you.  How is it you cannot?"

He doesn’t see what he sees. But it’s not fair to bring Lucifer into this. To deny Lucio’s claim would be to deny Lucifer’s kindness towards him. It is not of Lucifer’s own volition that he was created. It was that researcher’s. And yet...

You.. are not worthless trash. Or any of the unflattering things you’ve said.” Lucio amends him resolutely. “Never. Each life is a precious miracle, and yours is no different. I, for one, am glad that you were born. And Lucifer, would never regret having loved you.”

It strikes a chord deep within him and Sandalphon finds it hard to breathe. He can hear the sound of an anguished cry, only to realize the voice comes from himself. He wants to tell him he's wrong. That there is just no plausible explanation for Lucio to know what Lucifer could be thinking. Love? They say love is something primal beasts such as themselves cannot fully comprehend. But who decided that if not their Astral masters? Whatever it is Lucifer feels for him.. he does not know if it can be called love? Responsibility, perhaps? Taking the blame for everything.. when he doesn't even have to. His priority was first and foremost to his duty to the world. Even if Lucifer did love him, he would not be able to reciprocate or even be made aware of what it is. What with that Astral Researcher looming over him like a lingering shadow. That would never have been allowed. 

Even to the end, it was always the world, the skies, the realm. And his wanting to have coffee with him one last time as a selfish wish of his own is filled with regret, longing and quiet suffering.  That, he cannot refute. But Lucifer made his choice. And it would have been too presumptuous of him to believe Lucifer would ever consider him as a viable choice. It's an accursed position. Even without the Astral Researcher in the picture, he still doesn't want it. As soon as he's done what he's set out to do, he knows not if there is a tomorrow after it. 

He looks to Lucio and sees the radiant glow of the afternoon sun on his hair and its gleam causing the illusion of a halo. He wants to tear himself away from that visage of kindness. From that hand extending to him full of hope. How easy would it be if he were to stop resisting and be swept away to bask in his offered warmth. Someone as vile as him can’t hope for happiness in this life or the next.

“If you truly are such a wretched creature as you so claim, you would not be lamenting like this. You must learn to forgive yourself, Sandalphon. Just as Lucifer has already forgiven you.”

“Let me go.” Sandalphon is at his wit’s end. Why? Whywhywhy? He doesn’t even hear Lucio get up but he can feel large wings and firm arms fold around him protectively. Again, Lucio has no way of comprehending what Lucifer can feel or not feel. He'd like to think he, himself should know Lucifer better than anyone else. Yet, he also can’t find it in himself to doubt his words. The Lucifer he knows will forgive him no matter how grave his sins are.  And Lucio should not have to suffer the same fate. There is nothing to gain from being by his side. “...Please.”

And in that cascade of feathers, he sees him and his brilliant smile. “Never.” Lucio peers deep into his eyes and challenges him to refute him. “Pierce me with your blades if you must. But I’m never letting go. This, I swear with my life. And I’ll affirm it many times as I need to.”

He very well means to do it but he can’t find the strength to summon his blades to him. Sandalphon sighs heavily in defeat in the face of his persistence.  He allows himself to be pulled towards the other archangel’s chest and can only supply bitterly, “You’re a fool.”

“I may as well be. But I am not so weak as to let words of discouragement nor a little misfortune to befall me. And neither is the Singularity and his comrades. These bonds are not that frail to be easily broken. If you cannot have faith in yourself, then.. Have faith in me.” Lucio gives his back a few soothing strokes of his palm. Sandalphon may not forgive himself just as readily. It takes time and acceptance. But if he can guide him, take him by the hand and see all this realm has to offer. Outside of that lonely tower, outside of that isolation that’s been drilled into him since his creation. Give him courage to step out of that gilded cage and fly free of the chains that bind them to a destined..no, an assigned purpose that is not of their own choosing.

Sandalphon may not realize it himself but he has given him a new purpose. A possible future to hope for. One that he would like to share with him. So Lucio turns to him with his newfound proposition,  “When this is all over, Sandalphon. I want you to come with me.”

“...What?” he moves away if only to gaze upon at him with a look of shock and disbelief.

“If you have not found your own purpose by the end of your journey with the Singularity... let us depart on a journey of our own and search for it together.” his gentle smile is radiant and piercing like sunlight over rain clouds. As Lucio’s wings withdraws from them slowly, the orange hues of the sunset glows warmly on them both.

Sandalphon swallows the lump in his throat, fighting another wave of emotion threatening to bubble into the surface. He doesn’t deserve this. Not any of this. And yet, a part of him desperately wants to reach out and cling to his words of promise. Lucio... wants him to come with him? Despite all this. Despite seeing him like this and knowing of his sins.

Traveling the skies together, a journey with no set destination and all the time in the world.  No quests for revenge, no saving the realm from destruction, drifting wherever the winds take them. It sounds so wonderful. Can he really hope for this outcome? It never occurred to him before to imagine a future outside of fulfilling Lucifer's last wishes. And the thought makes him feel a little lighter somehow.

“I..” He senses Lucio's inquisitive but hopeful stare but he can’t find it in himself to return it. Not yet. He doesn’t see himself worthy of that yet. He can’t bring it in himself to refuse, yet he also cannot will himself to accept. The result is the silence that only stretches between them.

But Lucio is not easily disheartened, his smile turns to one of quiet understanding. “You need not answer now, of course.” he places a hand over his. “As long as you know that offer is there for the taking when you feel ready for it. For now. I am content to share this time with you. For as long as you’ll have me in your thoughts, your company... and your bed.”

“You’re awful. So you’re only interested in my body, is that what this whole thing is about?” he accuses. Trying his hardest to ignore the burning sensation on his face and ears.

“It’s a very beautiful body, I’ll admit. Your face even more lovely.” Lucio admits unabashedly. “But I also like the charming you who can’t be completely honest with me. The shine you get in your eyes at first whiff of coffee in the morning. The small smiles you wear when you think no one is looking. The little happy skip you do when you’re particularly happy. I love all of that about you. I can keep going if you’d like.”

“No. Stop. Stop.  I-I..I do not..! Y-you..! You’re such a sap. How can you say all of that with a straight face!?” Sandalphon wrinkles his nose and turns his face away in futile attempt to hide his increasing embarrassment.  Never mind that the butterflies in his stomach are fluttering with his silly, flowery words and promises. If he hears any more, he’s going to give him another smack with the pillow.

“Perhaps. But you like that about me.” is that a hint of smugness in that tone?

“Unbelievable. You sure are full of yourself all of a sudden,” Sandalphon doesn’t deny it outright. But he’s not going to give him the satisfaction of agreeing with him either.

“I also like how you like to pretend to be angry when you’re embarrassed..” Lucio gently admonishes, and effectively getting him to quiet down any rising protests when he tilts his chin just so. But it is Sandalphon who surges up to meet his first. Just an innocent press of his mouth on his. When he pulls away, the look on his face is flustered yet also a touch complacent, as if he's feeling a little proud to have surprised Lucio at his own game.

But Lucio is not displeased with his initiative. Quite the opposite. Lucio prompts his lips to part for him with a slow sweep of his thumb. One that Sandalphon nips in retaliation. Lucio lets out a small huff of amusement and that is the only warning he gives when he probes deeper into his mouth with the same digit.

The widening of Sandalphon's eyes tells him he did not expect that either. But instead of resisting, he gradually accepts it and gives the pad of his thumb a few experimental licks. Growing bolder, he gives the finger a light suction. 

Lucio shudders, the sensation ignites a fire down his lower body. His cerulean blue eyes darken in hue and he withdraws his hand from his mouth only to replace it with his own. Sandalphon's answer is to wrap his arms around his neck and gradually maneuver Lucio to lie flat on his back with an impish smirk of his own. 

 

----

A Harvin girl slumps over her desk in deep despair.  “The book fair is only a few days. I haven’t finished the manuscript. Which angel do I have to pray to to give me the inspiration I need to finish this.” she clasps her hands together, praying earnestly to any deity above who can hear her solemn plea. “I need a sign or light! Or any motivation you can bestow me with, and I’ll forever pay tribute the rest of my life-”

It happens in a split second. The wall opposite of hers splinters wide open, leaving a gaping hole with a massive,  glowing, winged appendage sticking out of it.

Lunalu screams and her vision fades to black.

 

When she finally comes to, it’s to the face of the Captain who finds her on the floor of her studio. “Lunalu, are you alright? We heard you scream.”

“B-bwuhhh!! C-captain..!” she sits upright immediately. “There was this- this thing, it looked like a giant wing and broke the wall down. I-” she pauses her rapid fire talk as she stares at the aforementioned wall only to find it whole without so much as a noticeable dent on it. “Huh? But I could have sworn.. something …” she touches the wall with her hands herself in disbelief. “The hole was bigger than myself. And on the other side I saw..”

“I- saw.. I SAW...  I know I saw something!!!” she rubs at her one visible eye. But she’s drawing a blank. Whatever it was she saw made her feel like ascending to heaven. Or hell. She doesn’t know. It felt like such an out of body experience that she’s left befuddled at the end of it all. Under the Captain’s worried gaze, she must sound like a rambling maniac right now and she tries to reel herself back into some level of normalcy.

“Are you.. sure you didn’t dream all of that up?” Gran offers her a sheepish smile and a concerned pat on the shoulder. “I know you're working hard on your manuscript but you really need to look after yourself more.”

“Y..yeah… A dream.. I probably..” she laughs nervously and bows low. “I’m so sorry for the trouble!”

“Don’t worry about it. Here, I got you some warm milk. Make sure to get some proper sleep, okay?” Gran sets the glass down on the night stand. “Do your best tomorrow.”

Captain is so nice and understanding. She feels her heart grow three sizes. She’s really grateful to him for being one of her most avid supporters. “Thank you, Captain. Y-you’re the best!”

“Anything for my crew members.” he smiles and politely bids her goodnight as he closes the door behind her with an audible click.  

Gran sighs heavily then turns to the two waiting for him outside. He folds his arms over his chest and stares them down with a look of dry disappointment, “A giant wing, huh..? I don’t suppose you two know anything about that?”

The pair visibly flinch at the same time.

Chapter Text

Being the captain and more importantly, as their trusted friend, Gran easily finds himself falling into the role of watching over his crew members. Ever since Lucifer's passing, he's been constantly worrying about Sandalphon's state of mind and how he'd react to the eccentric and mysterious Lucio, who joined their crew under strange circumstances before he did.

Their first meeting was anything but stellar. Gran knew right away that Sandalphon would pick up on his striking resemblance to Lucifer immediately. Even if... everyone else onboard did not. He finds it odd that even Lyria and Vyrn don't seem to make the connection, but he is also aware that Lucio has some form of mind and reality distortion ability that he should find both unnervingly suspicious and disturbing. But Lucio does not hide this from him, so he plays along to see where this all leads.

Lucio has his own reasons for doing what he does and they're not in any way malicious. There must be some reason as to why he allows him of all people, to  be aware of the extent of his powers. And Gran can only allude it to him needing his help to further his original goal of safeguarding the realm from the horrors of the otherworldly and Pandemonium.

Call it intuition but.. Gran also believes that Lucio isn't a villainous entity. So he doesn't question him for now. But once Sandalphon is involved.. it's when it becomes a little more complicated.

Gran noticed the gradual change. Lucio initially secluded himself from the rest of the crew with minimal interaction as necessary. But ever since Sandalphon's arrival, Lucio has been more... visible as of late. Gravitating towards the Supreme Primarch, Lucio began to approach him regardless of whoever was watching.

Gran wasn't sure if it was in his place to intervene or if it will have adverse effects on Sandalphon. Lucifer did entrust him to watch over him… in a dream of sorts. But despite the rocky start, their interactions have become more or less cordial. If their morning routine of being in the ship’s galley to have coffee together is any indication.  And it isn't only Lucio who is changing, Sandalphon is too. To what Gran perceives as a more positive way.

Being around Sandalphon now seems less daunting than before. Like he's softened up around the edges. And he can only conclude it's partly because of Lyria's insistence on helping Sandalphon feel more included in the crew but also, partly Lucio's presence and companionship.

A relationship that he's almost certain is leading towards physical intimacy... with the way Lucio touches him, even when others are present. Seemingly casual but lingering touches to the shoulder, hand, lower back, and Percival was seething with irritation that morning when he reported a play by play as he recounts the shameful public display had Siegfried not intervened. The redhead's exact words were, 'they were brimming with over familiarity and pheromones' . And then, he snapped at him to do something about it.

Gran admits it does sometimes makes him feel a little embarrassed just by being in the same room as the two sometimes. And that's not all, he's not the only one that's been noticing it.

Lyria thinks they're adorable. Vyrn says he can feel the "lovey dovey beams" they're shooting at everyone within radius. Katalina is a little disapproving but mostly because they need to be more mindful of their surroundings. Rackham and Eugen say it's like they're in a honeymoon stage and find it amusing. Rosetta just giggles and teases that she'll tell him when he's much older. Which leaves Io even more curious and pouty. Among others.

It's been 3 years since he first set out on this journey and he'd like to think he’s already of age at 18. But he never once thought in his wildest dreams, he'd land himself in a situation where he is tasked to have a heart to heart talk with an ancient, several decades old primal about his private life. He’s not particularly religious but. Gods above. Strike him down with lightning. Right now. Please.

"Lucio." Gran addresses as casually as he can. He clasps his own hands in front of him to rest at his table, unsure of where and how to begin broaching the subject matter.

"Am I... perhaps, causing trouble, Captain?" he smiles and asks good-naturedly.

"Oh. No.. No. It's just that I got a few complaints that you've been a little too ah, open with your affections for Sandalphon. Not that it's a problem. Um, first I'm glad you two are getting along really well. I think you're really good for each other. But there's also- when it uh, comes in excess.. so.. I need to set a few boundaries.."

"Oh..." his wings droop a little.

Why does he feel like the bad guy all of a sudden? He’ll try to make this as painless for them both as possible. No guarantees. Drawing out his best Lancelot impression, he starts out as diplomatically as he can manage, "Affections in public are alright to a certain extent. As long as you don't.. you know.." trying very hard to ignore the disdain in Percival's tone replaying in his head with his exact words of, ‘..attempt to mount him in public..’

No. He is not going to say that.  

“...engage in inappropriate behavior in a shared community space. Like what happened the other day." Gran tugs at his collar a little. "Actions that are deeply intimate by nature uh, should probably be done privately. Preferably in the privacy of your rooms."

"I understand. I shall be.. more discreet and more aware of my surroundings. I did not mean for others to feel uncomfortable, I was merely swept away by the moment." the moment of which, Lucio is most likely recalling right now. If that faraway, fond smile had anything to say for itself.

He doesn’t look remorseful at all! Gran clears his throat. "Okay. So that's pretty much all I called you in for today. I only want for both of your happiness. As long as you're doing it with safety and protection in mind. Not that I don't think either of you are anything but." Nor did it ever cross his mind before to be in a position to contemplate on the details of primal beasts copulating or whether he's correct to assume they're created with the same set of parts as regular people do.

Lucio tilts his head slightly to the left in what Gran perceives as a vague but puzzled look. "Of course, it is a given that I will ensure Sandalphon's safety and wellbeing in mind. My blades are ever at the ready, you need not worry."

Gran pauses. "I'm.. I'm not talking about when we're fighting."

"Then, pray tell.. be more specific."

There's a slight but persistent suspicion at the back of his head.  Gran hopes it isn't so but the slow realization dawns on him and Gran feels his soul attempting to flee his body.  "W-when you are in bed together.. do you, at least use protection?"

"Protection? From what?"

"Lucio...!" Gran can't help but raise his voice in frustration.  But the angel only maintains that same puzzled look. He can't fault a how-many-thousands-of-years old being who only started exploring more intimate physical relations to understand what he means- "Sorry. Sorry for suddenly yelling. I'm not mad but.. e-excuse me one moment. Could you wait here? Let me get someone more well versed in explaining this. Don't go anywhere."

"Very well." Lucio nods in understanding.

Gran makes his exit and closes his door behind him. He looks up at the ceiling as if he is praying for strength before he makes a beeline to the one person he has confidence in that can assist him on this with a more mature demeanor and outlook.

He silently hopes Siegfried can free up his schedule.

 

-----

Singularity had given him a task he couldn't refuse. Not after what happened the other day. He begrudgingly went along with it because he dislikes the feeling of being indebted. So he had him assist the very same girl with the eye-patch from the day before. As expected, she didn’t recognize him but that didn’t make him feel any less awkward about the whole ordeal.  He just made sure to keep eye contact and interaction to a bare minimum. They were much too engrossed to pay attention to him and the day passed quickly, thank his lucky stars for small blessings.

Something topples out of his side pocket and Sandalphon bends to pick it up from the floor. Oh this . Sandalphon received a complimentary copy of an earlier book she made  on as thanks for his support.

It started off with him curiously looking at the first few pages. Much to the horror of the artist who flipped out when she saw him reading it. He remembered telling her,  ‘...it's your story right? You should have more confidence in your work.’

She asked him if he doesn't mind illustrated storybooks like that. He shrugged, reading isn’t exactly one of his pastimes but something to do when idle. That and.. Lucio does seem to like reading.  The Harvins were all looking at him expectantly as the one named Lunalu offered it to him as a sign of thanks.  He didn’t think too much of it and accepted.

He stops in front of Lucio’s room and checks the hallway for anyone passing before taking the key from his pocket. Once inside, he flops unceremoniously on the once immaculately, tucked mattress.

The room that was once seemingly barren of any tenant is gradually being filled.  Books are stacked neatly on the desk. A tea set carefully stowed away in one of the compartments. The closet has some plain black and white shirts, pants, small clothes, sleepwear to name a few. A lint roller, bug spray, and some cleaning supplies. It looks more lived in than before. But they are mostly Sandalphon’s things that he carried over from his room.

A temporary arrangement because Singularity arranged the repairs while the Harvin girl and her friends were away on the book fair. It just needed one more day to sit in before he can move back. Lucio was ecstatic of course, but it seems Singularity dragged him off for some skyfarer mission or other and he hasn’t seen him in days.

Lucio owned little to no belongings of his own. Until the day Sandalphon insisted they shop some spare clothes for him to wear with the money they receive from completing missions. Although Lucio has always refused receiving monetary rewards and shies away from possessing anything material,  Singularity did end up giving his share to Sandalphon by way of association and that he might be able to put it to better use for Lucio’s sake.

What is he, Lucio’s caretaker now?

Sandalphon shifts to make himself more comfortable. He holds up the open page  to his face with one hand as he tugs his boots loose with the other. Using the pillow to prop his head, he watches the story unfold before him. He can't deny the hard work being invested into making the book seeing the finished product himself.

It’s a love story. His mouth curls in sardonic amusement but he continues reading to see where it goes from there.

He clicks his tongue. For a prince, Popol sure was a pushover. Mikhail is a cocky little shit. They’re best friends, aren’t they? Why is he being such a jerk..!? Sandalphon grumbles to himself as he flips the next page. Oh. It was a ruse. It’s for his safety so he won’t be targeted by the assassins. BUT why the fuck would you play with his feelings you bastard!?

Sandalphon is fuming. Mikhail is getting on his nerves. Didn’t mean to hurt him!? BULLSHIT. Punch him Popol! He deserves it! Oh shit. He got knocked over. His musing comes to a complete stop. They’re. Oh. Kissing. Well. Ok? That escalated quickly... whathehell. .!? He squirms a little, almost feeling that ghost of a brush on his own lips and the loving caress of eager hands on his body. He shivers and his thoughts drift unconsciously towards...  He should stop but part of him is curious and can't stop himself from continuing.

'...Look how greedily you’re sucking in my fingers.' Sound effect text reads squelch, squelch.  'Ah, ah..! Mikhail! It feels so strange. Ah! It's in so deep.' I can feel his fingers exploring my insides, stretching, filling. It's nothing I've ever felt before. It's strange but I'm starting to feel so good-

Sandalphon's eyes go round as saucers. WHAT THE FUCK…. WHAT THE FUCK!? WHY IS THIS BOOK SO EXPLICIT!?

Did those group of girls really take the time to sit down, draw and ink down everything to the most minute details for several hours? He didn't exactly see what it was they were working on while he was serving coffee but- he finds some strange mixed admiration? and worry? for their dedication to the male physique.

NO WONDER THEY WERE ACTING THE WAY THE DID WHEN HE CASUALLY PICKED IT UP AND STARTED READING IT.  WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL HIM!?

When he hears a voice behind him make a pondering hum, Sandalphon jumps a few centimeters off the bed and almost chucks the book at the wall out of reflex- only to remember how much work was poured into it- and he ends up clutching it into his chest instead.   

"Oh, no need to stop on my behalf." Lucio settles himself behind Sandalphon peering at what he's so engrossed by that he didn't even notice him come in. "You were getting to a good part, no?"

"Yes- no..! NO . I was- That was-" Sandalphon curls in on himself and stubbornly faces the wall. “I.. didn’t hear you come in.” He feels his heart skip at the feel of the mattress dipping when Lucio shifts more of his weight on it.

"I didn't have the heart to interrupt, seeing as how it holds your attention so." he laughs airily and nuzzles his bare shoulder with fond affection. "You're a blessed sight to return home to. I've been deprived like withering foliage in a dry rainless desert-"

"Y-you don't have to say so much! Limit it to five words or less!" Sandalphon maneuvers himself around to face him. But when it comes down to it, seeing that expectant look on his face. He just can't bring himself to do it. Not without wanting to implode on the spot. So instead he covers half his face with the book he's holding.

He gingerly leans in and gives him a chaste peck on soft, unguarded lips. "I.. I missed you. Welcome back."

When he does lift the cover off him, Lucio is rosy cheeked and the look he's wearing is one of starry eyed enchantment. And Sandalphon isn't sure if the before or after is worse. He is SO bad at this. "F-forget it." but Lucio stops his floundering by embracing him wholeheartedly. Sandalphon’s hands slowly move to rest on his back to return his embrace.

They stay like that a while, just reveling in each other’s presence. And while doing so,  Lucio deftly lifts the discarded book up for inspection and flips open a random page. "So... it's something of romance erotica in full illustration and narrative. I see."

"WH-!?" Sandalphon lunges as he tries to snatch it from his grasp but Lucio's arm reach is much further than his. "You tricked me!"

"Hehe, I would never. I merely saw the opportunity to satiate my curiosity.” Not to mention he just put it up against his face. He really is adorable when he’s flustered. “Pray tell what’s gotten you so panicked, Sandalphon.. It’s only a book with some risque imagery. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.” Lucio casually flips the next page with his thumb.

“T-that’s..” Sandalphon hesitates. “...there are actually some things in there I’ve never seen before.”

“Oh? Show me?” he gestures for him to settle himself more comfortably.

“Why should I?!” But Sandalphon bites the inside of his cheek and unwittingly answers his beckoning by moving to rest against his chest as he indicates the page number in a soft mumble. This kind of sitting position is not necessarily the most convenient but there’s something comforting about the warm press of clothed skin and feeling the steady thrum of his heartbeat. Surrounded by everything that is Lucio, reminding him that he's really there in the flesh. That he won't be spending his night alone in this room with only his fading scent on his pillows and sheets as his companion. 

“Ah.” Lucio’s gaze turns dark and contemplating when they arrive at the aforementioned page. “This… you’d like me to..?”

“I-I never said that! I just… I- I don’t know. It.. it probably doesn’t feel as good as how the illustration makes it look??” Sandalphon admits reluctantly. This is a mistake. He should have never brought it up. He should have-

“Ah. It should ease the pain. If you have this.” Lucio produces a vial from his satchel.

Sandalphon looks at him dubiously. There are other things in the satchel too. By the looks of it.  He knows what those are but.. “How do you even have that? And those!?”

“A friend, although... ‘mentor’, seems more appropriate, gave them to me for occasions such as this.” Lucio’s eyes seem to glint with what seems to be, newfound admiration.

Sandalphon has questions. But he doesn’t know where to begin. They’ve never ventured there before and he’s feeling uncertain and nervous.

Almost as if he’s picking up on his apprehension, Lucio threads his fingers over soft brown hair in reassurance. “But… if you don’t feel ready to take it there, I can wait. First and foremost, I need your full consent. That was the first lesson my wise friend imparted to me.”

“Huh.” Sandalphon’s voice comes off a little on the higher octave end but he doesn’t seem entirely adverse.  He twitches hesitantly under his gaze. “Will it hurt?”

“I’m told it’s uncomfortable and it can be painful but.. with proper preparations, I’m told it can be quite the pleasurable experience for both parties.” Lucio explains.  “But we don’t have to do that today. I’m just happy to be with you.”

That. That, being something he’s never once considered being an option before. He was just fine with how they can both bring each other to completion without.. That. Lucio’s not exactly modest… in size. He’s not sure if he can even fit i-inside. Sandalphon shivers at the thought. It both excites and terrifies him. But Lucio would never do anything to hurt him or suggest something if it only brought pain.

He considers it with himself for some time and when he finally steels his resolve, he mutters. “...Okay.”

He receives no response so he repeats it, louder this time. “I... I said, okay. We can tod-” he glances up only to find Lucio’s head drooping to rest on his shoulder. Eyes closed peacefully with his breathing steady, Sandalphon sends him a half-hearted glare.

He. Fell asleep on him. And after he mustered his courage to give him his answer.

“Hopeless.” he sighs audibly. He slips out of his arms carefully. He moves to unfasten his boots and sash if only to help rearrange him to a more comfortable position. And pries the vial from his hand so he doesn’t crush it in his sleep to store it into a nearby closed compartment, among other things. 

That done, he makes his way back and seats himself by his bed. A rare chance has presented itself before him and his fingers itch at the thought of satiating the burning curiosity that has haunted him since he first laid eyes on them. They tentatively reach out and brush against the visible wing tips that adorn his back. They flutter reflexively from his touch but Lucio shows no signs of waking.

Feeling bolder, he repeats the same motion of sweeping a finger down his wing span. His other fingers join in the fray and he’s not the least bit surprised when he finds them soft and delicate. And fluffy. So. Fluffy. He lies down behind him and lightly nuzzles the tip of his nose against the feathers experimentally before burying his face in them. He rests his forehead against his back with his eyes slowly coming to a close in quiet contentment.

Meanwhile Lucio can scarcely keep himself perfectly still. He may have dozed off a little while earlier but not deep enough not to stir awake from that. And the corner of his mouth barely twists as he suppresses the urge to smile. But there’s no concealing the pink tinge on his cheeks and the warmth gathering in his chest.

Chapter Text

Belial.

“I created you with a natural aptitude for lies, and a silver tongue for deceit. From henceforth, you, my little trickster, will preside over cunning, one of the facets of knowledge. You are however, loyal to no one but me.”

At his first drawn breath, he’s enshrouded in pitch black darkness. Enveloping and all encompassing void, seemingly endless as though he mindlessly drifts in these planes of nothingness. This is the voice that reaches into that darkness, beckoning, summoning forth his consciousness.  Lights, colors, shapes, they blend and mesh as they slowly come into focus. He shuts his eyes once more and drifts back into the embrace of darkness for comfort.

But something is different. If he was drifting before, he’s stilled now. Unmoving and heavy. There’s an abrupt sting that makes his eyes fly open. The surroundings are dark with only but a single illumination. Something is deposited on the silver tray on the side. A gloved hand returns to his arm to apply pressure where he’s just been punctured.  “Are you suure you should be touching me like that? Are you trying to stir me up?”

It’s the first time crimson pupils meet azure. Wispy pale hair frame that beautiful, androgynous face. The light and shadows caress the planes and contours of his cheek and jaw. An angel can’t exist in this darkness... is the first thing he thinks of when he lays his eyes on him. “You’re finally awake. Belial.”

Belial.

He remembers it clearly but it’s nice to put a face to that voice.  Upon hearing him speak, there’s a brief pause before he melts into pleased recognition.  “And you’re breathtaking , my Creator.”

“It’s Lucilius. You will address me only as such. And you’re directly under my care from now on.” Lucilius clears his throat and corrects him dryly. He meets his gaze head-on as Belial helps himself get a better look at him by getting up from where he had just lain.  They stare down each other, one determined not to be swayed by a primal beast’s influence and the other meaning to find an opening or a sign of weakness in him to exploit.

“The pleasure is all mine, Lucilius. To serve such a beauty is one of the ideals I strive for.” His sensual voice rolls off his tongue naturally. Still keeping a firm grip on his gloved hand, he brings it close to himself to brush his lips against  the curve of his knuckles. “I like the sound of that. I can be under you, or on top of you.. Against the wall, on my knees work just as well. I can be creative ...with the right incentive, of course ♡.”

“Is there nothing that comes out of that mouth but constant vulgarities?” There’s no change in his placid expression. He attempts to bring his hand back to himself only to find that Belial’s not too keen on letting go.  “Not interested. Release me.”

His flat tone causes Belial to bark out a laugh.  “I’d be more than happy to. Ask me again, much sweeter this time. And I just might.”

Lucilius very calmly slides his free palm up between his legs and latches onto the source of his lecherous perversion in a vice grip. And the primal is caught off guard, if Belial’s yelp is any indication. “If you persist on defying me, I might suddenly decide you don’t need this part of you anymore.”

The dark chill of his threat sends spikes of euphoria through him. Belial makes a low, keening noise, “ Ooo-h .. yess, that is kinda turning me on- Mnngh, okay- that’s... T-too.. aah.. Point taken , ” He catches his breath as soon as they both break contact. “ Damnn. Didn’t think you’d go right for the goods. I am never washing this part of me again.”

“I strongly insist that you do.” The researcher can only scowl at him in disgust. Taking a mental note to wash this hand later. Thoroughly. “I trust you know how to get yourself cleaned and dressed. There is work to be done and time waits for no one.”

“Mmm, It sounds so stimulating when you put it like that.” the smile he wears is laced with playful mischief. “But… it’s a little too boring, isn’t it? Giving me orders and expecting me to do everything you want me to do. That’s no fun, ‘cilius. A little incentive goes a long way, you know. I can be more creative when I put my mind to it. But I need some inspiration to get the job well done.”

“In short, you want a reward for your efforts.” Lucilius concludes for him. He makes a short huff, whether it is of amusement or annoyance, one can’t really tell. “Hm. Very well so long as the task matches the reward. What ‘reward’ are you seeking..”

Rising up to full height now, Belial finds he easily towers over the astral. He leans in if only to daringly brush his finger over surprisingly soft, pliant lips. “You.”

An unsettling pause lingers before Lucilius sighs harshly and swats his hand away, “I find your humor in bad taste.”

“Heeh, I’ve never been more dead serious over anything in my life.” Belial interjects, feigning offense.

“And what a short life it has been till now.” He sneers in that condescending tone. “Very well. I’ll humor you this one time.” For now, he brings up his proposition. “Seek out the archangel, Lucifer. Kill him and bring me his body as proof. Do that for me and I’ll listen to what you have to say.. But…” he holds a finger up. “If you fail, you have to subject yourself to me for an experiment.”

Belial lets out a loud, unrestrained cackle. “It’s going to be that kind of task. You’re really something, ‘cilius, but you don’t disappoint.  How do I find him?”

There’s a ghost of a smile on his lips. “When you see him, you’ll know.”

-----

“You’re still here? I thought you’d have fled by now. Or that you conveniently forgot your end of the deal.”

“That’s what I’m here for, right? Give me some credit here.” Where else could he run to? And he’d really rather not be sent down to the labs to be the plaything of some other sadistic prick. Not that he minds a little bdsm play now and then but he derives no pleasure from being subjected to the whims of anything or anyone less...

Lucifer, who happens to be in the same room giving Lucilius a report of what had just transpired, watches the pair interact with that same impassive expression on his face. He had risen from his seat upon his entry with his guard up and his armaments at the ready. “... I was not told you two are acquainted with one another.”

“Don’t think too hard about it.” Lucilius says dismissively. “I’ll speak to you again later. For now, I have business with Belial.”

There is hesitation and mistrust in the gaze he directs at him. But at Lucilius’ behest, he stands down. “...Alright. I will return to my duties.”

Frankly it’s almost hauntingly disturbing to see them both together engaging in conversation, looking the way they do. One, a primal beast, and the other an Astral with the exact same face and voice. And when the door closes behind Lucifer. Belial should have listened to his gut instinct to follow suit.  But he’s already entangled in the web that Lucilius has laid out especially for him.

There is no escape. Has never been one. The sound of the door closing echoes in the spacious room.

Lucilius falls back, leaning against the back of his seat as he assesses him. And then, he breaks into a slow clap.  “Hn. To even get Lucifer to raise a hand against you, is a miraculous feat in itself. I am mildly impressed.”

Belial shrugs. “That was real naughty of you, ‘cilius. You already knew how strong he was and you still had me tease him enough to make him crack. Figured your first task was going to be an impossible one.”

There’s a hint of amusement in the small quirk of his mouth. He places his elbows on his table and leans forward to let his chin rest between his loosely, interlocked fingers. “But why go through with it if you already knew what I was planning.”

“Who knows. Maybe I wanted to check his power for myself. Seeing as you regard him oh-so highly. Or maybe... I do want you to put your hands on me. To break and shape me in accordance to your desires.”

“Hmm. Is that so?” Lucilius now stands in front of him. “Then, I don’t need to explain anything else. Shall we begin then.” And with a gloved finger, traces a line down his bare neck to the lowest point of where cloth and skin meet.  “Strip.”

Belial shivers in anticipation. “Ohhh, so forward. I don’t mind a little foreplay before the main event.”

He slides the buttons off their loops slowly with one hand revealing pale, muscled tone underneath, all the while keeping his gaze fixated on Lucilius’ own. He lets the silk underlining help slide the fabric off his shoulders to pool down his wrists. His pants follow not long shortly after.

There’s a strange flicker of emotion in Lucilius’ face.  “Yes. This will do nicely.” he mutters to himself, averting his gaze to his journal. “Stand up straight and present yourself.”

“By all means. Look all you want, Master .”  he’s not the least bit shy standing there in all his glory to be appraised from top to bottom. He revels at the attention from such a beautiful man. Even if said man is assessing him as a test subject than an actual living being with its own self-awareness.  “Like what you see?” he winks suggestively when they make eye contact.

Lucilius rolls his eyes. “Take it out.”

“My dick’s already out.”

“Do you want me to cut you.” There’s an annoyed pause in between.  “...Wing. Out.”

He muffles an incoming snicker and his summoned wings spread out behind him adorned with gray feathers.

“Hm.” Lucilius makes a contemplative hum after he circles around behind them. “They’d look better black.”

“So you DO get it. I think so too.”

“I know just the thing.” his gloved hand reaches out and--

Belial.

--there’s an ice-cold caress on his lower back. Belial stirs awake, half wondering if some backdraft somehow drifted into this place. Granted this isn’t exactly the Jewel Resort but the dregs of a lost civilization. In this place there is only darkness. When Beelzebub isn’t using the lab, most of everything goes into backup power to conserve their resources.

The room’s only illumination is the light blue glow from Lucilius’ containment unit. He fixes his stare on the glass chamber that contains his Creator. The readings indicate he’s still in stable stasis. Drifting weightlessly and lifelessly with tubes and wires all reading his vitals.

“‘cilius… did you call for me?” Three times. He heard someone call his name.

But now. He hears nothing but the hum of the machines. Unresponsive and quiet.

He’s perplexed at the feeling of frustration that wells inside him from the other side of the glass. He couldn’t have just imagined it, right?

Chapter Text

Sandalphon hears the door lock audibly click behind them. The finality of it echoes loudly inside the room. His pulse jumps with it. And when their lips part, a trail of saliva stretches and dissipates between them. Sandalphon finds himself licking his lower lip of its remnants.

He hears Lucio let out a ragged breath. His voice murmurs against Sandalphon’s ear about how he tastes like the sweetest wine and Sandalphon urgently guides his mouth back to him to keep him from talking before he combusts on the spot.

Almost as if everything around them melts out of existence, he feels more than sees him with vivid clarity. Nothing else at this point of space and time mattered, only the desire to chase after the warmth and closeness he's offered.

He feels like he’s floating as Lucio carries him further inside. He tightens his grip on him as though he might drift away if he didn't. And to affirm that he's solid, he's real and he's not gripped by some kind of illusion or dream. And with it comes a strange sense of lingering familiarity. He’s not too hard pressed to investigate as to why exactly, but it’s not the first time he’s come across this feeling.

He's lowered onto the bed. The cotton sheets feel cool against heated skin. But it’s not enough and too much all at once. Lucio reaches down to the hem of his shirt and slides the fabric higher, revealing the smooth skin underneath. Sandalphon shudders from both his warm touch and the cool air he’s exposed to.

Sandalphon adjusts himself up so Lucio can lift it over his head. His fingers move towards Lucio’s armor plate, easily finding the small latches to dismantle them. The clang of Lucio's armor follow as it noisily clatters on the floor and they both wince. He should probably be more careful with that.

Lucio laughs airily against his neck. He doesn’t seem too bothered by it. “Clumsy..” he says with fond affection.

Instantly irked, Sandalphon has words he wants to say but they remain in his throat. His pulse jumps when he feels the press of Lucio’s lips against the bare skin there as it trails a path downwards. Not wanting to be the only one on the receiving end, his own hands explore the contours and curves of lean flesh. His irritation fades as he can feel Lucio shiver and let out sighs of encouragement.

Drawing Sandalphon closer in his arms, Lucio dips his head lower to taste the rest of him.

His body stiffens when he feels the hardness of Lucio's knee brush between his legs where he's aching. It sends a spike of electricity up his spine and he finds himself wanting more of that same sensation. "L-lucio..." he squirms, pushing himself against that hardness. Jolts of pleasure have him repeating the same motion of grinding his hips against him like he was no more than a wanton beast of instinct.

Lucio grips his hips and the Supreme Primarch rumbles a noise of complaint. "Let me.. I promise it will feel good."

Sandalphon can't get his pants off fast enough. The damn thing is skintight and troublesome, stubbornly hugging the curve of his legs.

He struggles to shake it free off his ankle, that Lucio eventually pries it off him with some level of amusement. Sandalphon is about to say something crass when his trail of thought is effectively cut off by the sweep of something warm and wet up his length. He almost bites his own tongue.

He's not serious..!? He's going to.. The head of his cock slips between willing lips and it has Sandalphon throwing his head back and gripping soft hair between his fingers. A shout in the form of his name is ripped from his throat.

Damn. That was loud.

He's not sure if anyone else heard it. And he has no time to worry because his thoughts scatter when Lucio slides him back out, only to let him sink back into that warm orifice. And the cycle repeats itself. This pleasurable torment renders him writhing, core thrumming with life. He cants his pelvis slightly in an unconscious plea for more, deeper.

Lucio complies and lifts one of his knees to rest on his shoulder.

Heartbeat thundering in his ears, Sandalphon manages little gasps of air between hitched, unintelligible cries that he can’t hold in. Not wanting to actually pull Lucio’s hair out, he claws at the bedsheets until warm palms meet his own and threads their fingers together. Sandalphon grips him hard, nails dig into the soft flesh of Lucio’s hand.

Lucio doesn't seem the least bit fazed when he drags his length in and out.  Sandalphon can almost feel him smiling like the smug bastard he is even as he moves and he tries to glare down at him, at that stupidly beautiful face between his thighs coming into view.

Lucio mouths at his inner thigh with a devious look that should never grace an angel's. His lips swollen, pupils dilated in unfiltered rapture as though he were taking his pleasure as his own. He hums as he runs his tongue over the vein of his underside to lap at the leak spilling down his slit. All the while, drinking in the sight of Sandalphon’s unraveling under the curtain of long lashes.

His core starts to hum and Sandalphon's hips stutter involuntarily. “Lu-lucio, I..!” He tries to warn him but he can’t even form words, much less sentences. Toes curling, he sees stars behind his eyelids as he starts with a defiant growl that melts into a drawn out moan. He almost doesn’t recognize it. A part of him refuses to acknowledge something so needy sounding is coming from himself.

When he regains some clarity and focus, his seed paints over Lucio's face and hair like the finishing touches of a debauched masterpiece. Needless to say, he's beyond mortified. He quickly grabs one of their shirts and tries to sit up to wipe his face. He hopes he didn’t get any on his eyes-

Lucio allows Sandalphon to help him with that. When he finally tosses the piece of cloth aside, Lucio asks, “Was it good for you?”

Sandalphon’s cheeks only darken in color. “C-couldn’t you tell..?!” then his eyes move down to Lucio’s own, straining against his pants in a not so subtle manner. His hands move with a purpose, thumbing the hem and slipping it down the curve of his rear. It springs free, almost slapping his lower belly as it proudly juts up to attention. Sandalphon feels his throat go dry.

Lucio observes him with some trepidation. The brunet went white as sheet. He’s not sure how to gauge that reaction other than interpret it as a mixture of fascination and fear. “Sandalphon.. You need not stare at it with so much intensity.” The last thing he wants to do is frighten him. “I can take care of myself.”

Not even caring about where his mouth had just been, Sandalphon pulls him in to kiss him fiercely. Eager to return the favor, his fingers drift down his torso to ghost over the taut muscle of his stomach until they brush further down his waist.

---

But they are not alone.  

Peering at them from a secluded corner of the room, there is a slit between the wood. An impassive lone eye watches the scene unfold before them. The sound of the door shutting behind him has him almost leaping out of his seat. He turns to hiss at the intruder for their impudence.

A girl with flowing copper colored hair rests her hand on her hip with an expectant look in her eyes, “Well? Is there anything to report?”

His lips twist to an annoyed scowl and he grumbles. “Not really. Why am I even doing this? It's an absolute waste of time. I’m not interested in what they do in their private lives.”

Olivia tries her best not to let her temper flare. She’s hard pressed to find allies within enemy lines as it is. And to her misfortune, she’s been acquainted with this absolutely useless excuse of a fallen who is under some odd delusion that he’s a demon fighting against human slavery. “I only need you to let me know if he’s taking advantage of his position. And if there’s a chance we can talk to the Supreme Primarch without him in the way.”

“Unless you count having his way with him in bed, as taking advantage of him-”

It took all of her restraint not to yell. This is what she was trying to avoid. “And you just sat there and let it happen..!?”

Azazel shrugs in a matter-of-factly kind of way. “You told me to just sit and watch.”

“Move aside.” Clearly if she wants something done right, she will have to do it herself.  She positions herself at the small opening and peers inside. Just as she did, the nearly inaudible sound of a sharp whistle is the only warning she receives before something is hurtling towards her vision, blindingly bright and white.

---

“W..what was that?” Sandalphon looks over his shoulder. He thinks he heard something like a squeak. Faint as it was.

“I wonder.” Lucio tilts his head a little in feigned innocence.  “...Perhaps just some curious mice?”

Chapter Text

The pungent smell of flowers permeates the air the closer they climb towards the summit. The amount of purple blossoms and vines increase in foliage as well, as though they adorn the landscape with shades of purple and blues. But something feels off. It’s quiet. Much too quiet. Not the sound of an animal from miles around. Sandalphon can sense that they are being watched intensely. The Singularity and his group have yet to arrive but the two of them take the pre-emptive measure to survey the area.

An old, dilapidated structure is the only thing at the top of the mountain. The paper on the screens are tattered and have yellowed in color. The grass and weeds grow wild all around, indicating it has not been maintained for a lengthy amount of time. During the day it’s less imposing but something is definitely here. Watching and waiting.

Lucio doesn’t seem to be the least bit worried, however. He casually strides towards this looming wisteria tree next to the shrine.  And without warning, forcibly sinks his blade into the trunk.

What follows is an unearthly shriek of agony and the mountain reverbates its cry. It sends vibrations down the slope. The branches and its blossoms quiver and start to thrash. They animatedly raise of their own volition and lash at the source of its pain. Sandalphon swoops in and cuts the spindly things easily enough before they can even touch him.

“You have my thanks. I can always count on you, Sandalphon.”

Sandalphon can picture the carefree smile on his face even with their backs to each other. “Maybe warn me ahead next time…?!” he yells over the noise as he fends off another wave of branches.

The tendrils drift to the floor and thin out until they resemble hair strands. Lucio then proceeds to slice the trunk clean off the tree in one swing. Ink black slime spurts from the gaping wound and spills onto the ground with a sharp hissing sound as it melts layers of soil and grass beneath it.  The soil quickly becomes loose and crumble beneath their feet.

By the time Gran and his party reach the site, both primarchs are overlooking what appears to be a gaping hole on the ground where the wisteria tree once stood.

Even though the sudden rumble of the mountain scared their half of the party to death, they’re lucky no casualties occurred.  But with the grim expression on their faces, their troubles appear to be far from over. Gran cautiously steps towards them, mindful of where he treads. “Good work, you two. So.. what exactly are we dealing with here?”

“Ah, Captain..” Lucio rises from the ground where he was examining the ground near the edge of the deep pit. Soil of which have turned black. Dead soil where nothing is meant to grow from it ever again. “To summarize.. What we’re dealing with has retreated within. And it appears only Sandalphon and I can make that descent safely.”

He’s hesitant to send only two to the unknown depths but seeing as how they managed to hold their own against it just now,  Gran agrees with his suggestion. “Alright. I’ll leave it to you. Stay safe. The rest of us will investigate up here for the missing people.”

“And in case whatever it is comes up here, I shall be lying in wait.” Vira volunteers herself to stand guard outside the shrine. “Do make sure not even a strand of hair is frayed on my dear Katalina, Captain. ” she says this while deliberately ignoring Lowain’s attempt at presenting himself as Katalina’s shield.

“I’ll give it my best shot.” A bead of sweat rolls down the side of Gran’s face.

 

It’s pitch black and silent as night as they make their way down the seemingly bottomless abyss. Lucio’s orbs of light gives them some illumination. But it also makes them easy targets. Still it’s the better alternative than feeling their way in the dark while whatever it is has full advantage. The smell of flowers are also present but overripe to the point where it almost smells like decay. “We’re close.” Lucio says, breaking the silence.

“We’re not dealing with some primal.” Sandalphon glances to him for confirmation. “It feels more like…”

“The Otherworld. That they have manifested a physical form. It can only mean a gateway has been established.” Lucio affirms on a solemn note. “We must..”

“Yes, yes.. I know the drill. Kick its ass. Send it back. Destroy the gate.” Sandalphon recites in monotone. He doesn’t mean to be rude but they’ve been over this. Lucio doesn’t have to remind him every time on a long winded note.

“As expected of my Sandalphon. You summed it up quite aptly.” he declares proudly, easily avoiding the incoming kick Sandalphon attempts in midair. He’s still unused to responding positively to praises. But it was worth briefly seeing that embarrassed look cross his face.  Ah, he’s really is fun to tease.

“You…” The brunet  scowls. This really isn’t the time to flirt! “J-just focus on the mission.”

A horrible gurgling noise comes further ahead from what vaguely appears to be thick roots. “Speak of the devil…” Lucio’s armaments take form around him.  “Oh Radiant Light, pierce this encroaching darkness..!”

-----

 

“Good work, everyone! If there’s anyone within the sky realm who can get it done, I knew it would have to be your crew, Captain.” Siero congratulates them upon their return to the Knickknack Shack. “Here’s the bounty.”

The crate of heavy coins  makes a resounding jingle and thud on the hardwood table.  Also..!” Siero’s voice raised slightly as if she remembered something. “The innkeeper is so grateful that his daughter came back home that he’s offering you an extended stay in his best rooms. Why not take him up on his offer and stay for the night fair? It was supposed to be cancelled but now it’ll be back in full swing. It’d be a shame to miss it.”

“Sounds good.” they can reschedule their boat trip to Cynast for another day.  His crew members need their rest after today’s grueling mission. They deserved that much.  “Gather around, everyone. I’m going to distribute our earnings for today. You’re free to go about wherever you want for the week. The Grandcypher will be docked at port until then. But be sure to make it back before we leave, alright?”

“Do you want me to hold onto it this time too?” Sandalphon throws the question at Lucio.

Instead of relinquishing it as always, Lucio peers inside the coin pouch as though he’s seeing it for the first time. It’s a hefty amount. He can balances the weight of it on his palm. “Hmm.. maybe not this time. I have something in mind I’d like to exchange them with.”

That was a first. “Oh? And what’s that?”

“You’ll see..” Lucio smiles.

 

Sandalphon hesitantly pokes his head out of the curtain. The expectant faces of Lucio and the store attendant come into view.

He resists the urge to retreat back into the safety of the dressing room. But he stands his ground and eventually gathers his courage to step outside. The garment is a rich, indigo blue with striped patterns. The sleeves are wide, the fit just right and the textile, lighter.. It’s  different from his usual attire. And it leaves him feeling a little vulnerable.

Lucio’s in a similar state of dress. But unlike his, it’s plain black. Despite its simplicity, he looks natural and picturesque in it. Relaxed with his hands folded over his chest, disappearing inside the holes of the sleeves. It’s almost as if he’s worn this before. Hells, he’d  look good even in a potato sack. Unlike him...

Yet those beautiful, blue eyes are fixated on him with this wide eyed expression. He can’t tell if it’s a good or bad thing. Sandalphon starts to restlessly fidget under his magnified scrutiny. “What are you gawking for? It looks strange on me, right?”

“Far from the truth. I think you look rather handsome.” Upon his friend’s recommendation, Lucio decided to bring Sandalphon to this store that sells this type of  traditional summer wear from their array of textiles and patterns. There’s certainly a charm to seeing Sandalphon don a different set of clothes. Clothes he had chosen for him.

“Hh..!” his breath catches in his throat.. H-handsome...? Sandalphon is  unaccustomed to be on the receiving end of these compliments. Even if Lucio effortlessly showers him with them. He could just be saying that but It doesn’t do much to quell the butterflies in his stomach either.  The one who looks handsome between the two of them is definitely not him. So he casts his eyes down to his loose sleeves instead.

Of all the things Lucio could have done with his money, he didn’t think giving him this as a gift would be the first thing he’d want to spend it on.  “Hmm.. “ Sandalphon quietly observes his reflection from the nearby full length mirror. The fit and cut looks good on his form. The longer he’s in it, the less conscious he feels about wearing something he’s not used to. He might even be able to sleep in one of these. “It’s… not bad.”

Lucio releases a sigh of relief. “I’m glad it’s to your liking. I’ve tried to picture how it would look on you but my imagination is but a pale imitation to seeing you in it.” he reaches in, if only to tuck strands of hair behind his ear.

The brush of his fingertips sends a warm jolt down his neck. But at the last second, Lucio seems to have realized what he had been doing and pulls away. “Apologies... If that made you feel uncomfortable.”

“Uh.. no, I..”  ...don’t mind? Since when? His mouth clamps shut.  His own thoughts surprise even himself. It’s not as if Lucio held himself back before. So why is he hesitating and apologizing now..?

He can sense the eyes of the attendant and other patrons burning holes at them. “Let’s just go.” Sandalphon ducks his head and walks brusquely out the store first. Lucio thanks the attendant and follows after him.

Sandalphon decides not to dwell on that strange, fleeting moment and focuses on everything else around them. Lucio may have come up with the same conclusion, seeing as he’s animatedly more curious about anything and everything, making it easier to sweep that incident under the rug.

The city streets are lit up by colorful streamers and lanterns. Most folk are either in their beachwear or in their yukatas and are talking animatedly with their companions. There are game booths and  food stands for miles lined up down the road. The various smells of the foodstuff for sale tug at festival goers in all directions. Children’s laughter can be heard as they chase each other and amble up the game and food booths.

Families, couples, friends… it’s a gathering filled with smiles.

There’s a small swell of pride that the job they took up contributed to restoring the festivities back to its intended course. It’d have been a shame to miss all of this. He’s still not a big fan of crowds but he’ll tolerate it this one time.  

There’s mystery takoyaki. Grilled squid. Various meat and seafood skewers. Shaved ice. Lucio is curious to try them all. He calmly blows at the piping hot surface before carefully sinking his teeth into the takoyaki without breaking a sweat. To the owner’s amazement. Another customer who orders the same  is screaming about his mouth on fire next to them.

“On fire? The things mortals say. I don’t see actual flames. But this intrigues me. Naoise. Buy me one.” another group from the crew are also making their rounds. Seruel give them both an acknowledging nod while Naoise attempts to dissuade the smallest of their group.

“Lady Scathaha, please. You’ll give yourself a stomach ache later.” but despite his complaining he’s already pulling out the coins from his pouch. The piping hot mystery takoyaki is served in a paper tray of six.

Scathaha helps herself to one before offering it to the siblings. Seruel respectfully declines, despite Heles’ ribbing. Instead he defers it back to Naoise and even attempts to feed him one, much to the knight’s flustered protests that he can feed himself.

Lucio and Sandalphon excuse themselves of their company and continue on into the night.

Cloud Candy. They watched in strange fascination as the machine produced the threads of candy fluff that gradually gives it its cloud like appearance. Lucio samples a pinch of fluff from Sandalphon’s. “Wouldn’t it be nice if actual clouds were like this?”

“What nonsense are you sprouting? Then all the airships would crash...” Sandalphon says but there’s no edge to his words. It’s kind of nice. Nice to let go and forget about everything else that exists outside this night. It goes against the nature of which they were created. Enjoying themselves here amidst the skydwellers with no defined purpose but to just immerse themselves in the moment.

To be able to think idly of illogical thoughts like that, is a luxury in itself. He looks up to the new moon shining brightly overhead. Would Lucifer forgive him if he foolishly wished this night could stretch on a little longer?

Lucio turns to him with an ice cone on his hand. “Sorry for the wait. Are you sure you don’t want one?”

“No thanks. I’ve tried them before. But..” Sandalphon pauses at the booth selling candied fruits. He’s seen the little children carry them around, biting into them so he found himself curious. “That…” he points to one of the sticks. “I want one.”

The old woman manning the booth smiles at him kindly and retrieves one for him in exchange for his coins.  

“Want a taste?”

“No thank you,” Lucio says with a hint of reservation. “I’m not really fond of apples.”

“Oh..?” It’s the first time Lucio admitted to an aversion to something natural that doesn’t lead to mortal greed. “ ‘s it the smell? The taste? You’re not allergic to them, are you?” he bites into the thin candy glazed surface and thoughtfully chews on the treat.

“No..? Or at least I don’t think so.” he says nothing more about it as they continue to walk and eat.

Sandalphon continues his query. “What about apple flavored jelly or apple juice? And what would actually happen if you accidentally eat one?”

“Why the interest in apples all of a sudden..?” Lucio can’t help but throw another question back at him.

“Is it strange to want to know more about you?” he blurts out without thinking. Sandalphon’s shoulders stiffens in alarm but it’s too late to take back what he said. He diverts his stare while nervously playing with the longer tips of his hair.

“Sandalphon… No, it’s not strange at all. ” The way Lucio regards him, that soft look in his eyes when he looks at him, it’s like something is squeezing at his core. Then he turns his attention to his sweet treat.  

Sandalphon hides a scowl. On the surface, they seem to be having a pleasant exchange between friends. But Lucio has been acting odd since the yukata shop.  Once or twice, he’d glance down and see their hands align, only for the latter to withdraw and fold them or quickly revert his attention to something else. He even went as far as to purposely brush his hand with his pinky, only for the other to find some excuse to use that hand for something else.

Like holding that damn ice cream cone.

He can’t believe he’s seething at an ice dessert. “Lucio.” How is he supposed to convey this into words without embarrassing himself. He started out fiery but now comes off as unsure. “Are you... angry with me?”

Lucio blinks in confusion. “No...?” but curious eyes remain on him asking the silent question as to why he’d ask him something like that.

Shit. Sandalphon didn’t think this through, obviously.  But he finds himself helpless how to explain what he started. The realization of what he’s asking for shocks even him. He squeezes fabric in his free hand in an attempt to calm down.

In the silence, he hears Lucio shuffle to sit closer to him. “Rather.. Is it, I, who has done something to upset you?”

Sandalphon doesn’t respond but his gaze averting to the floor indirectly answers his query. Oh.. no . Lucio isn’t sure what he did wrong this time. He promised himself he’d be a proper gentleman and escort to give Sandalphon the perfect experience. But it seems to have backfired.

“...You easily say things to flatter me. But your actions and words don’t match.” Sandalphon mumbles under his breath.

“What... do you mean?”

“I mean you’re always in my face and so touchy feely but you won’t even so much as take my hand- Am I that repulsive? Maybe you really don’t want to be seen with me or....”

“...You... wanted me to hold your hand?” Is that the only thing Lucio deciphered from what he said? Given, when he puts it like that…

“Y-eah! I do. Is that a weird thing to admit to someone you consider your l-lov...” Sandalphon angrily admits but he’s having a difficult time placing where exactly they are or what their relationship is. Is he presumptuous enough to assume Lucio even thinks of them as such..?

Lucio’s bewildered expression melts into gentle understanding. He seizes Sandalphon’s wrist because the latter looks like he’s about to flee if he doesn’t anchor him firmly. “I hope I’m presuming correctly when you mean, lovers ?”

The undignified squawk from the word alone, answers his question.

It’s a human term, at best. Books describe it as some form of a pact, a bond between two souls in their limited time of existence together. Some easily shattered, some can withstand the test of time. It’s a vague but limitless thing. But its meaning for primal beasts extends beyond a mere lifespan. It’s a vast unexplored scope of life different for the love he feels for all living beings in the realm. He finds that he’s willing to explore it with him. Lucio gently tugs him a little closer. “..I’d really like it if you continue to see it that way.”

“..O-oh. Right. Okay.” Sandalphon hates that his erratically thrumming core renders him almost inarticulate.  His mind is a swirling mess as the finality of his words sink in has him simmering a notch below boiling point. “Just so we’re on the same page.”

“It’s my deepest wish to make a memory with you of this night. And I wanted it to be a pleasant one. It’s not my intent to make you feel neglected.” Lucio professes with regret. “I’ve been made aware that I can… come off as intense. It’s trying but I’m on my best behavior. You don’t have the slightest inkling how much I’ve been holding back.”

“You do come on a little too strong.”

Lucio’s face falls at the blunt admission. “As I’ve been made aware of.” By multiple people. On several different occasions. He’s trying his best.

“But… hand holding during festivals is.. okay.” Sandalphon quietly admits.

“That can be easily arranged.” Lucio laughs lightly.

Sandalphon receives a jolt when he feels Lucio’s fingers brush over the bare wrist of his hand before they intertwine with his. He feels the combined heat of their palms spread slowly up his arm until it engulfs him. It’s not the first time he’s taken his hand and yet, it’s because it’s voluntarily done so without the pretense of being separated in a crowd. But there is no crowd here. Just the two of them and the moon as their witness.

“And... what else is permitted?” Lucio is giving him another one of his sickeningly sweet looks.

Sandalphon gives into the impulse of averting his eyes anywhere else but him. “H-how should I know..!?”

“Sandalphon, look at me.” His voice is low and intimate.

He can’t help but to obey as though spellbound.  And when their gazes meet, Lucio’s eyes crinkle happily back at him. Eyes blue like the Auguste skies on a clear summer day hold him captive in their endless depths.

“Is this also okay?” Lucio gently traces the line of his mouth, coaxing it to part for him.

Sandalphon’s voice cracks in the middle of an indrawn breath. “Un... just for a little while…?” eyes drift close when Lucio’s nose brush against his. Warm breath sweep his parted lips with its light caress.

“Just for a little while.” Lucio assures him in a whisper.  At the edge of town, away from the bustle of activity, they revel in this quiet moment under the soft glow of the overhead lanterns.

 

 

Early next morning, Gran stifles a yawn when he makes his way down to the inn’s shared kitchen.  He sees a figure hovering by the coffee machine and is about to greet Sandalphon. Only to pause when the figure in question turns to face him with a cup in each of his hands. It’s not who he expected. “Lucio..?”

“Greetings, Captain. I hope you’re having a good morning.” he addresses him cheerily.

As the sun shines through the windows behind Lucio’s visage, Gran feels the inclination to shield his eyes from the near blinding, radiant light.  “Morning to you too. You seem really happy.” He considers himself a morning person but even he can’t hold a candle to Lucio’s enthusiasm today. He’s not sure if he’s imagining it but he seems to be… glowing or actually emitting light?

“That I am.” his smile becomes impossibly brighter than he thought it ever could.

Gran notes that he’s still wearing the yukata from the night before. “Not coming with us to Cynast Island?”

“Ah…” Lucio appears to be caught off guard with the query. But he regains his composure just as quickly. “Perhaps another day. After yesterday’s festivities, Sandalphon is still resting. I’d hate to disturb him when he’s sleeping so soundly.”

“Oh. Sure, that’s fair.” Even primarchs party hard sometimes? He shrugs. “You can stay here in town or come catch up to us. The Grandcypher will be docked here for another 5 days or so.”

“Splendid. May you have a blessed journey.”  

“Thanks.” Gran makes way for him to pass and trudges towards the pantry for a quick bite himself. He doesn’t think anything of the encounter for a good, long five seconds. And then, pauses in the middle of rummaging for bread when it finally occurs to him and all the pieces click together.  

“Wait a minute...” but by the time he turns around, Lucio is already long gone.

 

Chapter Text

Lucio's back is pressed up against the wall of their room.

Sandalphon has his hands clamped on the collar of his yukata. He tugs on it impatiently to will him to crane his head down to meet his.  He's not short, this behemoth is just too tall for him to reach without at least arching his heels up for them to be on level. And he’s not wearing his usual boots. He hears Lucio giggling between breaths. If he calls him cute one more time, he's going to bite him. And not gently either.

Intent to prove how serious he is, Sandalphon slides his leg up an unguarded thigh. His grin is hidden under the veil of the night when he sees Lucio momentarily lose his composure.

Lucio’s voice strains, "Nngh... The walls here are paper thin."

"Not that it's stopped you before at the Grandcypher." Sandalphon scowls but he takes it as a sign of polite refusal and gradually backs down. “Unless.. you really don’t want to.”

Lucio can almost see the gears in Sandalphon’s head turning as he pulls away.  He really shouldn’t be doing this with his powers but. The possible effects are relatively harmless. Even for a little while. “Sandalphon. Do you trust me?”

“What kind of question is that?” he pauses in mid sentence as an odd sensation passes through his body. It takes him a moment to make sense of it but Sandalphon sticks his head out of the window of their room for confirmation and sees nothing but endless night sky filled with brilliant, twinkling stars and other specks of floating celestial bodies. The room interior within appears just as it always has but the exterior… it’s almost as if someone had neatly removed the inn floors above and below, leaving only their room to drift airily in this strange place.

He raises an eyebrow at Lucio. “What did you just do?”

“If I explain it, it might take a little over a day. But just know that it will take any person or monster thousands of years before finding this place.” he says this a little too proudly as he sweeps his arm to  gesture to the limitless skies outside. “Of course it’s only temporary. But i can guarantee complete privacy. Moreover...” he sweeps his thumb suggestively down Sandalphon’s jaw. “You can cry out as much as your heart desires and not a soul will know.”

A spike of arousal shoots down his spine instantly. With a stuttering inhale, Sandalphon raises his gaze up at him, throat dry. He swallows thickly, his pulse flutters at the dark prospect. “Are you trying to say, you can contain me here, for however long and whenever you want?”

Lucio’s breaks out of his reverie and wears a look of wide eyed bewilderment. The thought only occurred to him now. Flustered, he replies sheepishly.  “...I didn’t think that far ahead. But subjectively speaking, yes. I can.” He does have the power to entrap him in this space. Disappear with him and erase any memory the crew had of ever encountering them both. Steal him from the world, keep him all to himself. Mine. His insides lurch at how empowered he feels from the thought alone. There's a part of him that yearns blissfully at the thought of monopolising him completely and entirely.

Lucio’s raises his voice in protest. It shakes him forcibly from that disturbing line of thinking. "N-o! That's not… that's not why I brought you here.” He'd never want to hold Sandalphon captive against his free will. He’s appalled at himself for even thinking of him in that way. He’s not an object to be possessed or owned. He breaks into cold sweat, casting his gaze down in shame at his own weakness.

An awkward pause passes before he speaks again, “Does it make you feel ill at ease? I can take us back...”

"UH-" Sandalphon is at a loss of what to do. Lucio appears panicked. That is not the kind of effect he wanted his words to have.  He reaches out to cradle his distraught face, the warmth of his palm helps keep him grounded, to get him to look at him again. “Don’t take it too seriously. You brought me here. So it’s… safe.”

The admission coming from his mouth makes him feel warm all over. Saying it out loud is still embarrassing as all hell, but with Lucio being its only recipient... maybe he can stand to be just a little more honest. Even though he hates how weak and vulnerable it makes him feel to have his soul bare. It’s only fair isn’t it? Lucio’s always upfront and open to him. He could stand to do the same sometimes.

“Ah… of course.” Lucio’s affirms and his expression softens. His entire body slacks as he exudes relief. His eyes close when he exhales deeply and revels at the warmth of his hand resting on his cheek.  He’s moved by the great amount of trust Sandalphon bestows him with. He silently vows to strengthen his own resolve to be worthy of such a special privilege. “Even if this body wastes away, I swear unto you, I’ll keep you safe.”

“Don’t you dare. I’ll kill you if you die for my sake.” Sandalphon’s grip on Lucio’s cheek hardens and gives it a steady pull. He’s had enough of deaths and regrets. “No more of this self sacrifice nonsense. Do you hear me?” he finally grants him mercy when he lets up.

O-w-oww… my face. My beautiful faceee ~” he laments as he rubs at his sore cheek. “That doesn’t even make sense.” He is more than aware, it doesn’t have to make sense, he has come to comprehend the sentiment behind the harsh words and treatment. It’s just so Sandalphon not to be direct about these things.

“It will when the time comes! I mean it.” Sandalphon growls and gives him a little nudge on the head with his own in mild warning.  

“Alright, alright. I understand.” Lucio says just to pacify him. He doesn’t wish any more pain inflicted on his being.  “Believe me when I say I have no intention to ever leave you alone ever again. If that’s what you wish.”

Sandalphon continues to scowl but is gradually placated when searching lips press a light kiss to the furrow of his brow. Then, the tip of his nose, the corner of his mouth, until it finds its way back to his.

Lucio gradually leads him closer to the foot of the bed. He beckons him over with an outstretched hand. "Come here, Sandalphon."

The hard glare the brunet sends his way is half-hearted. But he gradually complies, if only that it works in his favor regarding their height difference. He takes his offered hand and allows himself to be guided to press flush against the other’s body, chest to chest with his legs on either side of Lucio’s waist.  

He settles in this gentle warmth encompassing him. Lucio’s hand comes to rest on the small curve of his lower back. The steady beat of his core resonates with his. Fitting so perfectly like he’s the missing piece, he feels protected, enveloped in his arms.

Treasured. Cherished. Loved...? If this is what it means to feel like, this is the closest he can comprehend the warm feeling that furls in his core and continues down to where their fingertips meet, and where only layers of cloth separate them. Yet he can feel the heat radiating off him. He’s warm. So very warm.

Unlike the other times, there's a lack of urgency and Lucio takes his time to take him apart. He lets his fingers slide the sleeve down one shoulder. Lucio nuzzles his neck and presses his lips to the now exposed skin. But it doesn't linger there, it moves down to his jaw, to the line of his neck, mouthing that one place that he knows he likes. “Let me hear your voice.” He whispers hotly against his ear.

Sandalphon is on the verge of combusting when he feels the soft nibble on his earlobe. A shameful, pleading noise leaves him before he can stop himself.

His yukata parts and pools down his elbows when Lucio almost ceremoniously peels off his remaining sleeve. The brush of his fingers where skin and fabric meet is more exploratory and deliberate.

Sandalphon bites his lower lip, exhaling audibly in anticipation. He’s a breath short of asking him to stop teasing and hurry up, but his voice comes out in a startled yelp when fingers barely graze over a hardened nub, leaving a tingling trail in its wake.

Lucio laughs airily. “It’s gotten more sensitive than last time, no?”

“S-shut... Uh-aa..ahh..!” Sandalphon’s back goes rigid when the pads of his thumbs tease them taut. Lucio continues to mouth at his neck, sucking hard at one point that he’s sure to leave his mark. If anyone sees it they’ll know how it got there and who did it. He tips his head back unsure how long he can maintain this position.

Lucio smiles serenely and easily maneuvers him with his back on the mattress. “Better?”

Sandalphon’s strength leaves him, leaving him pliant and open. He’s splayed on the bedspread beneath him like a willing offering for him to partake. Hair tousled mess over the sheets. Body flush and coated with a thin sheen of sweat. Bathed in moonlight, half lidded crimson pupils beckon him to drown in their depths.

“So perfect, so beautiful.” Lucio murmurs in adoration between open mouthed kisses intent on worshipping and tasting every inch of supple curves and firm lines within his reach. There is a sweetness to his voice, his smell, his body that he can't seem to have enough of.  He’s intoxicated. Roaming hands slip between the folds of his yukata. His knees shakily drift further apart in silent encouragement and Lucio lowers his head to mouth at the prominent shape of his arousal straining against the fabric of his small clothes.

“I-idiot, don’t! I-if you keep doing that, I’m going to…! A-ah..! I’m going to ruin Lucio’s gift!!” It hurts. He’s so hard it hurts. At his behest, Lucio pulls away and he’s almost tempted to lock his knees and trap his head there where he wants him to be. But not tonight. Tonight he wants something else.

Lucio smiles brightly. Touched at the sentiment. “As you wish.”

 

The remains of their clothing are left folded neatly on the floor. Sandalphon’s clutching at the pillow over his head like he’s bracing himself.

“Sandalphon, are you sure this is what you want?”

“You’re asking me this now...?” After a moment his tone mellows, irritation giving way to the embarrassment underneath. “Who do you think I’m doing this for? I want... “ is Lucio really going to make him say it? “I want you , dammit! Don’t keep me waiti-a-ahh.. haa !” his fingers clench the pillows tightly at the tentative slide of his lubricant coated fingers inside. He’s not sure he’ll ever get used to the foreign feeling of intrusion. Those are Lucio’s fingers. Inside. Inside him. But only partially, leaving him in a strange, suspended place where he’s not sure if he wants him to pull out or slip further in.

“Y..you’re squeezing me so tightly. Sandalphon, I need you to relax and breathe...” Lucio attempts to soothe him by running a comforting hand down his side. “Tell me if it’s too much.”

Sandalphon lets out a harsh exhale. It’s too much as it is! The fingers of another person really are different. He has no control where or how he’s being touched.  He gradually wills himself to become more pliant, to accept the intrusion inside him.

He forces himself to watch as they pull out slightly only to disappear inside again with a lecherous squelch. His lower body lifts off the bed this time. He can’t even begin to describe the feeling of being touched so intimately and deeply.  And the feeling of discomfort gradually fades away to something else stroking the flames that lick in the corners of his consciousness. His voice, his body... his mind is becoming strange when he unconsciously tries to take Lucio’s digits deeper inside him. And when he crooks his hips just so, the tip of Lucio’s finger grazes against something that has electricity running up his nerve endings. It causes him to seize up suddenly that he barely registers what the hell it was when Lucio does it again.

He hears Lucio let out a soft laugh. “So it’s here.”

“What’s here!? A-ahh..!? Luci-aH-hh!?!” his own yell interrupts him when Lucio returns to that spot and lightly traces random patterns on that hidden bundle of nerves.

“F-fuck..!” Each caress has him writhing and he can’t contain his voice. Sandalphon’s body convulses involuntarily, unsure if he wants more of it or no more of his teasing. Tethering on the brink yet the stimulation isn’t enough to bring him over the edge( ) has him twitching and pleading him with imploring eyes. “ Please. Lucio, please!”

Lucio inhales sharply as he wills himself to retain control. There’s a storm brewing in those azure eyes when they lock with his. “Ahh… Why are you so ….”

Sandalphon thinks he heard him say something before he's pulling his fingers out completely. He makes a noise of protest in hopes he can convey his complaint. It’s almost a sob at leaving him empty and bereft.

The bed springs creak in protest when Lucio moves to drape himself over him to kiss the lone tears pooling down his cheeks away. “You’re doing so well, Sandalphon. ”

Sandalphon brings an arm around Lucio’s neck to draw him closer to meld and slide their eager mouths together until they need to breathe. They pant harshly when they break apart. Lucio gives him one last peck before he reaches down to align himself properly. “Hold on to something.”

He didn’t need to be told twice. Sandalphon rests his hands on his forearms to help prop himself up slightly. He can see him hang heavy between his legs. Fuck. He doesn’t remember it being that big before. He should know, he’s had it in his mouth. And he couldn’t even take all of him in. Gods above … is that going to be inside him in just a few minutes.

Sandalphon can’t seem to take his eyes off him when Lucio prepares and coats himself generously with the same substance he used to stretch him out earlier.  It’s just not fair. Every part of him, he can say with confidence and certainty, is sculpted to flawless perfection.

“Don’t look so scared.” Lucio chides.

“I’m not.” he insists firmly.

“Heh. Liar…” He leans down to give him a kiss on the forehead. “If it gets too much, I need you to yell out something for me. Hmm, how about... ”

“What about, apple.” Sandalphon suggests. Lucio’s deflated expression makes it worth it.

“That again,” he groans. “Alright. That will most certainly get me to stop.”

“That’s for making me drop mine earlier. Don’t think I didn’t notice it was deliberate.”

“I gave you my ice cream as an apology, did I not?”

“And you did that so I wouldn’t have the apple taste in my mouth.” They pause for a bit, it’s Sandalphon who covers his face with his hands. They’re getting off track here, it’s almost comical. And Lucio’s making a sulking face. He can be petty and childish sometimes, now that he thinks about it. It was almost cute. Almost.

“Come here, you big baby.” Sandalphon cups his face in his hands and gives him a slow kiss to pacify him.

Lucio wings seems appeased enough, if his wings fluttering animatedly behind him is any indication. 

The observation is cut short, and his grin is wiped clean from Sandalphon’s face when he feels the head of Lucio’s cock nudging his puckered entrance. So much for thinking he had the upper hand—it was good while it lasted. He vaguely remembers hearing Lucio reminding him to breathe and this time he shuts his eyes when he feels himself stretch to accommodate him.  Bad idea, closing his eyes only makes it more intense. His eyes fly open and he can see Lucio gritting his teeth in concentration as he tentatively slips further into him.

He squeezes Lucio’s forearms, fingernails digging into flesh. FUCK. It burns. His mouth falls open — o-h oh, gods — he’s going to split him in half.  

Lucio is halfway in but Sandalphon doesn’t give him any indication that he should stop. He’s so tight, his inner walls squeeze and greedily swallow him up in its welcoming heat. It takes everything for him to hold himself back.  “S-sandalphon..!”

The brunet’s gaze is unfocused and his voice cracks. It’s so much all at once but he can take it. He knows he can take even a little bit more.

Lucio eventually stops, panting harshly and using all his willpower to remain still. “A-re you alright?”

Sandalphon nods. He’s still alive as far as he knows. He peers down with some level of trepidation to see Lucio buried to the hilt. He’s not sure if he imagines the outline of something protruding on his lower belly, and he can only let out a whimper. He doesn’t think he has the capacity to form full sentences. His body is doing all it can to adjust to his sheer size.

The previous stretching only partially prepared him for this. He’s not even sure if he can move. Lucio’s length prods into more sensitive parts of his body his fingers couldn’t reach. The pain by now has subsided to a degree and he’s gradually getting used to the stretch.  

Sandalphon mewls when he feels it throb. It’s heavy inside him, big, and hot. Alive. And he’s hasn’t even moved yet. His mind spins at the thought of it rubbing inside him and a different kind of ache settles in like a slow prickling under his skin begging to be satiated. He experimentally rocks his hips and he instantly feels the slow drag against his prostate.

The needy moan that rips from his throat is embarrassingly honest. He is so, SO glad he’s not going to wake up the entire inn because there is just no way he can stop himself. It’s so good but also not good enough. He wants. He craves for sweet friction that can bring him to release. He almost wails, “Lucio!!!”

Lucio sharply sucks in a breath. The near desperate peal calling for him, needing him, agonising for him. Even as he shudders, the vibrations pass on where they’re connected and has Sandalphon nearly begging him to move. He takes the cue to pull back slightly before thrusting in. Sandalphon cries out and arches his pelvis to meet his. Whatever remains of their restraint is broken.

An incredible swirl of building heat and energy starts to build within him. All Sandalphon can do is ride out wave after wave of being filled, the electric currents jolting his nerve endings. Lucio had started out slow at first. But when Sandalphon is snarling at him to hurry and to use his body as he pleases, Lucio complies his request in earnest. He meets him eagerly with each press of their hips.

Sandalphon's moaning becomes loud and feverish when Lucio's hand snakes down his abdomen to give him firm tugs and he bucks up into his loose fist in time with his thrusts. His body becomes taut like a bowstring ready to spring.

Assaulted in the front and behind, Sandalphon loses himself in the pace Lucio sets. He rakes his nails down Lucio's back leaving light red trails on a once, flawless canvas.

More . Harder . Faster . He wants to say, but all that leaves his throat is his name until it becomes the only word he knows rising and falling in crescendo. Sandalphon is overcome with this euphoric, divine sensation just as it envelops Lucio at the same time. And for one moment, it’s almost as though they’ve ascended into one and the same being. His white, luminescent wings burst forth from his back.  They stretch far back all the way to the wing tips, only for them to go limp and lazily curl in on them both.

Lucio gradually moves to withdraw himself but Sandalphon keeps him place with a shake of his head and a small but content curl of his lips. His cheeks are wet. He had been crying. But it’s not out of sadness.

Lucio returns the smile weakly and wraps his arms around him to bask in this beautiful, fleeting moment. His own wings fold over Sandalphon's, enveloping them both in their joined embrace.  

--------

It hurts. Everywhere hurts.

The dull ache on his lower body has him lying face down as he keeps to minimal movement as much he can. Sandalphon hears the door creaking open and the smell of coffee wafts in the air.  He hears the clink of cups and saucers as they’re being set up on the table. He groans into the pillows at the thought of being made to move, much less sit down.

“Are you still in pain?” he feels a gentle brush of fingers on his lower back.

“...It’s nothing. I can still…” his arms wobble when he attempts to lift himself up and ends up planting his face into the pillows again. “No. I can’t.” He doesn’t protest when he feels the warm tendrils of healing magic envelop him. Instead he sighs quietly in relief and entrusts himself in Lucio’s care.

“Better?”

“Mm.” Sandalphon slowly manages to sit up despite still being a boneless jellyfish.

“I hope it’s not too presumptuous of me but I made something for you.” He gestures to the table setting proudly.

“Oh.” Lucio’s coffee. Sandalphon’s eyes are drawn to it and he tentatively takes the cup into his hands. He closes his eyes momentarily as he takes on its scent. This is nostalgic. He’s once again reminded the first time Lucifer presented him with his first cup of coffee.  “I think I’ll try some.” He brings it to his lips and takes a sip.

His cheeks puff as a cocktail of sweetness with a bitter undertone assaults his mouth. It’s like being forced to eat a spoonful of wet earth and a mountain of sugar. He doesn’t swallow. He can’t. But the look of bright expectancy on Lucio’s face makes him steel himself from outright spitting the travesty out. Against all the living cells in his body protesting, he forces himself to swallow it only to turn to the side of the table and wheeze violently.

When he finally finds his voice, it comes out in a rasp croak, “Just how much sugar and milk did you use in there?”

“I don’t know.” Lucio answers on a happy note.

What follows is a direct hand chop to the head.

Chapter Text

"Pleased to formally make your acquaintance, Supreme Primarch. I am Mistress Gabriel's disciple, Europa. And this is my fellow disciple under Master Uriel, Alexiel. I look forward to working with you." her voice is refreshing and pleasant like the clear and gentle flow of a stream. Despite it being their first face to face meeting, word of her beauty is widespread throughout primarchs and astrals alike. There is none in the skies who don't know of the famed and most sought-after Europa.

"Ah. Likewise." Sandalphon says indifferently. Another dazzling creature has appeared and joined the ship's crew. Had he been a lesser man who is not constantly exposed to seeing the face of one beside him, he might have been blinded already. He's not sure what the Primarchs are scheming. Do they take him for an idiot that he needs to be monitored by their disciples because they can't approach him directly?

While Sandalphon is preoccupied pondering their intentions, her line of sight shifts to the primarch at his side. "Pardon my rudeness, and you must be?"

It’s true that most disciples haven’t even seen Lucifer’s face. So he’s not at all surprised that they haven’t noticed anything amiss with Lucio’s appearance. Truth be told, he’s not even sure if the four primarchs themselves are aware of his presence here in the Grandcypher or what it would mean if they did.

"Not at all. You may refer to me as Lucio.  I’ve sworn to protect Sandalphon with my life. Moreover, my purpose is to bring joy, happiness, peace and prosperity.  To be a beacon of light for this world and safeguard it from darkness and chaos." he smiles elegantly and dips his head in a graceful bow.  

Sandalphon’s eyebrows twitch. That’s… so cheesy. No one is going to believe-

“My, that’s marvelous.” Europa beams warmly, eyes sparkling in admiration. “I must say there is beauty in the purpose you aspire to fulfill.”

Hearing this, Lucio’s face lights up, pleased that finally, finally someone comprehends. “And I stand by it proudly. This world of ours is fragile as it is beautiful. It deserves no less.”

The two  continue conversing about the world, its beauty.. before it turns into some odd competition of who can squeeze the most flowery, nauseating compliments back and forth.  Sandalphon can’t keep up with their animated chatter and decides to do what he does best whenever Lucio launches into this zone.

Tune it out.

The primarch next to him remains still and imposing as a statue.  He’s not sure if he’s supposed to say something to her but she makes no move to initiate a conversation either. Her pupils catch him observing her and she returns it with an expressionless stare that’s almost unnerving.

“...”

“...”

He’s the one who breaks eye contact first. And they remain stone cold silent until one of the two, Lucio- notices that their companions have nearly perfected the art of assimilating with the walls.

“What are you doing all the way over here?” Lucio walks over when he realizes Sandalphon has distanced himself from them.

He shrugs. “No reason. Seems like you two get along well. I didn’t want to be in the way.”

But Lucio seems to have taken his sullen expression for something else when a self-pleased smile makes his way to his face. “You needn’t worry. In my heart, there is only you. I was only having a pleasant chat with a kindred spirit, nothing more.”

Sandalphon’s ears and face burn. The words creep under his skin and he can feel himself break into goosebumps. Right out in the open! There isn’t a single bone in his body that has the tiniest shred of shame. Alexiel, being within hearing range, most definitely heard him! Sandalphon worriedly glances over his shoulder but even if she did, there’s no change in her facial expression or manner.

Also-! That’s not what he meant at all! The ridiculous notion almost made him want to vomit blood. All he can hiss out venomously between gritted teeth is, “I’m. not. jealous..!”

“Now, now..” But his reaction only seemed to goad Lucio on. He places his hands on his shoulders and ushers the unwilling Sandalphon back into the fray.

He wants to wipe that stupid grin off his face so badly that had Lucio not been holding his shaking wrists to restrain him, who knows what he might do without a care for their impressions of him.

“I am sorry for taking too much of your time. It’s good to know that the Supreme Primarch is in good company.” Europa gives them both a light bow, looking immensely pleased at the outcome of this encounter. “We only intended to introduce ourselves but perhaps next time we can all have tea together.”

“Splendid. We look forward to it.” Lucio calls over his shoulder as Alexiel and Europa excuse themselves to explore the rest of the Grandcypher.

From behind the pair they can hear the Supreme Primarch sputter indignantly into the night followed by Lucio’s carefree laughter.

 

---------

“Hmph.” A dark figure slips away from the shadows and flits down to the front of the ship. Olivia finds herself in deep contemplation.  Staying with this crew might not have been the best of ideas, even if she initially thought it was a stroke of genius to pretend to be aligned with them.  It's become harder and harder as months go by.

First, Azazel called off their co-alliance and has taken it upon himself to seek the red dragon personally and is absent from the Grandcypher for the time being. Whether he decides to return or not remains to be unseen. Another is, members of the crew have seen her power over dusk in the course of summer events. It's true that they didn't bat an eyelash or think of her differently because of it. But that didn't make her position on the matter any easier because they easily approached her more now.

Almost as though those Primarchs have grown eyes at the back of their heads, they’ve added more eyes and ears into the mix! If the presence of Uriel and Gabriel’s best disciples, Alexiel and Europa, is any indication.  Who knows who else those damned Primarchs send next. Her only saving grace is that they are not aware of her yet. She should lie low and not act rashly for now.

Additionally, her budding friendship with Heles, Rosetta, and the other ladies on board has also made it more difficult to keep a steady surveillance on the two. Inviting her over for tea, shopping in new towns, coming with them during missions, and the like.  It’s as though all of the cosmos and beyond conspire to flush her plans down to the Crimson Horizon.

Logic dictates she should maintain that cover of friendship to keep up appearances, but the more time she spends time with them, it becomes clear that it becomes less and less of a ruse and evolving into something she's looking forward to.  Her original objective is becoming but a distant dream.

Strangely she doesn't find herself adverse to it at all. Which only makes it more perplexing. She's here having tea parties and sharing gossip while her brethren trapped in Pandemonium are still suffering in the darkness.  She bites her bottom lip to keep herself from crying out in frustration. Well played, Singularity. Her once solid, conviction wavers and she finds herself becoming less sure of herself everyday.

With all these odds stacked against her, this cannot go on. She can’t continue pretending everything is alright and spin lie after lie like this.  She’s losing herself to this tranquil, peaceful environment while her spirit remains in a constant state of conflict. It is with a heavy heart that she’s come to this decision.

----------

Spilling her innermost intentions from the beginning, she finds herself confronting the son of that man, the Singularity, at the bridge of the ship.  “...And that is why, I must leave this ship and crew. I cannot guarantee that I will not act in my own interests.” now that the veil has been lifted and they are aware of her deception, she can depart in peace. She still hasn’t given up but she will find means to fulfill her goal straightforwardly onwards.

“I know.”

With just two words, she’s is stunned to silence. Ah. So he is already aware and has continued to let her stay. She doesn’t understand their line of reasoning but neither does she like playing the part of a fool dancing in the palm of their hand either.  She bitterly swallows her pride but maintains her composure with every intention to make her departure with her dignity intact. “That makes things more simple then. This is farewell. The next time we meet, it will be on the opposing sides of the battlefield.”

But just as she turns to leave with a heavy heart, she feels a tug on her hand. “Wait, please…” she faces the blue haired girl who looks up at her imploringly. “There has to be a way we can help you.”

Having exhausted all her options, Olivia can only scoff at her overly optimistic attitude but maintains an air of aloofness when she looks upon her with cold eyes, “Don’t feed me with false hopes.”

“We do have a common enemy. Those from the Otherworld and a force that threatens all living in this realm.” a voice pipes up from behind Gran.  They crane their heads to where the voice originates from. Lucio steps out of the shadows with Sandalphon, Alexiel and Europa behind him. And even more surprisingly, Alexiel shoves someone into the room. The familiar figure unwillingly, spewing curses and fire at the Supreme Primarch before he’s pushed into the center of the room next to Olivia.

No matter what angle she perceives the situation, there can’t be a good outcome from this gathering. Olivia steps away from Lyria. Her wings manifest and the sharp sound of her sword unsheathing rings throughout the closed space. The tension of the room escalates rapidly into a confrontational one.

Despite being outnumbered, her steely glare narrows and dares them to try to back her into a corner and see what she wouldn’t do. She planned to leave quietly but if they want a blood bath here and now, she’s not going to go down that easily. “What’s the meaning of this?”

Still unarmed, Lucio remains unperturbed when he directly addresses the two fallen in the room. “Dark Angel Olivia and Azazel. I am proposing a temporary ceasefire because we face a common, more immediate danger that threatens the very thread of existence of this realm.”

Azazel is the first to protest. “Working with you backstabbing, two faced, Astral lapdogs? To save the humans?” he spits with all the vitriol he can muster. “ Over my dead body!

Sandalphon has had enough of this grating noise. “Say that to my face, you piece of-” he moves to grab him by the collar when Lucio picks him up by the waist and leaves him struggling and clawing at air while yelling dark threats.

Enough!” Lucio’s voice booms over the them. “Despite how things turned out, we are all of the same origin, are we not? And this in-fighting amongst us is instigated by another party. The War is over. The Astrals have either died or gone into hiding. The instigators are still alive and well. And they have plans they intend to put into motion soon. We were never meant to fight each other. If we remain divided, naught can be accomplished. ”

Azazel clicks his tongue but he’s less reluctant than before.  What he speaks is not entirely untrue but he’s too proud to admit openly that he has a valid point. He wouldn’t blink an eyelash if legions of humans perished. But what piques his interest is that he mentioned an instigator of this war. The one who started all this and put them through that hell and senseless fighting.

Not once has Olivia let down her guard, her expression still holds mistrust.  “How do we know you won’t wait for an opportune moment for us to let down our guard before striking us down behind our backs?”

“If I may be frank… we won’t get anything done if we still have our swords at each other's throats.” Europa interjects. Even the usually quiet Alexiel has her own words to say. “There is strength in numbers and allies for the trials ahead. What say you?”

With great reluctance, Olivia sheaths her sword back into its scabbard. This outcome is unexpected but she didn’t expect to be thrown a bone either. She would be a fool longing for a reckless death if she sticks to her pride and refuse them a second time. “I don’t speak for Azazel.  Just know that my original objectives don’t change in the slightest. For now. I can agree on this temporary ceasefire until this imminent danger no longer poses a threat.”

Azazel sneers. “Tch. Never thought a day would ever come that I’d consider working with primarchs and their lackeys. Don’t get any wrong ideas. There’s someone I need to settle a score with, that’s all.”

“That can be easily arranged. The ceasefire effect is immediate. Let’s all try to get along for the time being.” Lucio didn’t expect it to go as smoothly but luckily the other two ceded earlier on.  

Lyria, Vyrn, and Gran on the sidelines, heave audible heavy sighs of relief. The commotion seemed to have drawn other primals and roaming crew members on board the ship to the bridge. Olivia is approached by Alexiel and Europa, both of whom have known her as the Primarch of Dusk and express their admiration for her tales of valor, much to her chagrin. Sandalphon and Azazel begin bickering almost immediately but Lucio isn’t too hard pressed to separate them this time around.

“It’s because both of you are so alike.”

Two pairs of eyes glare at him at the same time. “WHAT PART OF US IS ALIKE!?” they roar in chorus.

“Stop copying me!”

“Why the hell would I copy you !?”

“So lively..” Lucio laughs.  He catches Gran’s amused smile at the scene unfolding before them. He asks in a quieter tone. “It turned out much better than I expected. Is this really enough, Captain?”

“Yes. More than enough. Thank you, Lucio.”

“Had you not suggested it in the first place, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.” Whether or not their temporary coalition will bear fruit, remains to be seen. Perhaps that which has been lost can still be saved.

Chapter Text

The rattle of the chains and echoing footsteps is the only sound between them as they descend into the mouth of Pandemonium.  The dark energy within considerably weakens their kind and he can hear Lucifer's footsteps cease behind him. He turns around and that face remains impassive and unflinching as always. “This is where you shall spend the rest of your days in atonement for your actions. And this is where we must part ways. Sandalphon.”

“Heh.” He scoffs. “So be it.” There isn't a hint of emotion on his face. That carefully crafted mask. Lucifer feels nothing for him, he concludes. Of course he would feel nothing as he sends him into the depths of a prison of terrible beasts and atrocities in the world. A place for him. Here for all eternity. Discarded like the trash he is, locked away in darkness.

“...Do you have nothing else to say to me?”

“Not really. This is where he wants all the trash to go. It’s just another cage to contain me.” The blue skies he sees that day. It might be the last he sees it. It might be the last time they speak. But he doesn't let it show in his face. He will not allow himself to be vulnerable. He hardens his heart and walks forward.

There are no more words left to be said, Lucifer can only impart him with: “.... Farewell.” as he seals the door behind him.

 

Sandalphon slowly rouses in the waking world. His vision blurs, blinking again only makes him aware of the pool of fresh tears trailing down the sides of his face. He can feel his core clench in anguish and he lets out a stifled sob.

He curls into himself, as though it would lessen the pain. But he's almost startled when he feels the arm around his waist tighten slightly. There's a warm breath against his ear and Sandalphon cranes his neck to the figure enfolding him. For a short moment, he thinks he almost sees a different entity of pure white and gold robes, and cascading long hair but when he focuses on the face of the other, he's met with Lucio's concerned gaze.

"I'm sorry." Sandalphon feels guilt prick him but when he feels the warmth leave him and in a flare of panic, his eyes fly open only to find Lucio shift him around so he can sink further into his embrace.

"You don't need to apologize." he feels a soothing rub run over his back and Sandalphon grips him harder as though he needs to affirm he's solid in his grasp.

The discomfort is not great, he is more worried about Sandalphon's state of mind. Even though he dispelled the nightmares plaguing him, he is quick to learn that not all of them were caused by Otherworldly beings. Some are induced by the host itself. All of the things Sandalphon holds inside. And while Lucio acknowledges that he is powerless to fight Sandalphon's inner demons, he is more than willing to let Sandalphon hold him. To remind him that he is here beside him as many times as he needs it.

Until he can find a way to restore that which is lost... he hopes Sandalphon will be patient a little longer. These powers… to be used for self serving purposes like this. Ah. Had he been his former self he’d disapprove of his own actions. But he had already long abdicated his position since the day he took hold of the other’s hand. --So long as it did not endanger the realm and distort the world’s balance, there shouldn’t be dire consequences using his abilities in this way… since when did he allow such things?

These exceptions. He would never permit himself to make allowances before. As someone who had once taken pride in retaining a neutral stance, he is no longer a bystander. And.  It seems he, himself is not immune to change. If it could make this one special being happy… he’s not sure what other exceptions he's willing to make.

While Lucio silently contemplates his thoughts, they remain tangled just holding each other. Sandalphon has gone back to sleep and Lucio is perfectly content just to have him in his arms until dawn breaks and light filters through the windows.

 

Sandalphon's eyebrows wrinkle in annoyance when the light of the sun pierces through his slumber. He buries his head stubbornly against Lucio's chest, eliciting a soft rumble from the man himself. When their gazes finally find each other, Sandalphon's frown deepens. "...Did you watch me sleep the whole night? ...Again?"

"I don't need that much sleep to begin with. Watching you has become one of my favorite past times." he playfully pinches the Supreme Primarch's cheek.

Sandalphon drowsily turns his face away and bats him on the arm without much strength. "Mmphh.. Get other hobbies. What time is it?"

"The sun's only just risen. But it will be another day till we arrive in Port Breeze. You didn’t sleep well last night. And I’m not so cruel as to deny you a few more minutes… or hours of rest." he leisurely runs his fingers over that tangled nest of brown hair.

Sandalphon leans up towards the comforting touch. It sounds tempting to give in. Lucio makes it a habit to spoil him rotten like this. He's not entirely against it either. But if he’s too good to him, he’s eventually going to be more indulgent and demanding. “Mm. What about you? Do you get nightmares?”

Lucio idly plays with the tips of his wavy hair. “No. Nightmares don’t occur to me. I receive visions. And.. have been receiving them in greater frequency these days. It’s nothing you need to be worried about. Some linger, some are fleeting.”

“What... kind of visions?”

“Hm, they’re mostly about you.” Lucio eventually admits.

“Oh?” Sandalphon’s grin turns coy. “...So you’re something of a seer now? Is this in one of your visions too?” he traces random lazy circles on his bare skin with the pad of his index finger.

From his messy nest of hair, to the sensual line of his collarbone, how he forms perfectly against him like the missing piece of a puzzle.. Those irresistibly, kiss swollen lips and beautiful, half-lidded eyes gleaming with mischief. He is aware that he’s fighting a losing battle with his control.

“Are you sure you’re not actually a devil…?” Lucio's lips curl with the beginning of a smile, hands creep underneath the blanket and find their intended target. He attacks his sides with light rakes of his fingers. “I will not show mercy!”

Sandalphon lets out a surprised squawk and flounders about with what little movement he can do without toppling over the bed. “S-stop! Stop, stop..!” he manages between snickering and growling, fending off his relentless attack with not much success. They collapse in a fit of soft giggles melting into lingering kisses.

Lucio nuzzles his neck in apology, and plants another kiss on his jaw. “Don’t worry your secret's safe with me. I rather like being the only one who has the power to fell the Supreme Primarch with my bare hands.”

Sandalphon blows the hair from his face in one huff of breath. Then, he bites his shoulder.

Needless to say, almost half a day has gone by before they emerged from their room. Nobody questions this anymore as the pair do their share of chores around the ship.  

 

“Do you really need to go?” Sandalphon tries not to look as forlorn as he feels about it. But according to Lucio, he perceives that there is somewhere he needs to check for himself for a short period of time.

Lucio smiles helplessly. “Unfortunately, it might be difficult for you to follow.” He cannot tell him the place he intends to check is Pandemonium itself, given it used to be the place Sandalphon was imprisoned.

“So when?”

“In a few days. Weeks, if… the problem might be more complicated than it is.” Lucio takes Sandalphon’s hands in his own.  “Then… I shall be leaving. Might you humor this selfish request of mine and give me a parting smile?”

Sandalphon gives him an answering squeeze, as though it could keep him on the ground a little longer. “Wh-!? It’s not like I can smile on command-” but he forces himself to. He’s probably making a silly face. The longer Lucio stares, the more self conscious he gets. It isn't until Lucio is unable to hold in his laughter anymore that Sandalphon pounds his chest plate in frustration to cover his embarrassment.

Lucio can’t contain himself and pulls him into his embrace. He does not want to let go. But for his sake, and this realm’s sake. He must depart so he can return sooner. “When I return and settle everything. I shall reveal to you all you need to know. This, I swear. So wait for me. I will surely return to you.”

Sandalphon exhales the breath he had been holding as he takes two steps back. “Come back safe.”

“I will.” Lucio climbs onto the Grandcypher’s railing and gives Sandalphon one last look over his shoulder. And he takes the leap, turning into a blaze of white light heading past the blue horizon.  

Chapter Text

Michael’s grip on her sword tightens as she continues to observe the current state of Pandemonium at a safe distance. At the moment, everything is deathly still but she does not let her guard down even at an instant. She knows he’s in there. After the events in the Celestial Strait, she’s exhausted almost every means on tracking him down.

That snake in the grass, Belial and the rest of the Fallen Angels. “Why are they holed up at the summit of the cage? What do they hope to do from there?”

For him to have a hand in Lucifer’s passing, and even breaching the cage to use it as a stronghold... he can’t have been without help. And that’s all the more reason why she remains incognito to observe for any sign or activity within that can hint at their next move. Her network of intelligence informed her that they carry weapons that have the ability to kill immortals. She can’t afford to be reckless. Yet she is forced into a complete standstill and her building impatience and frustration only make her more restless.

As she continues to contemplate, her attention is drawn towards something faint in the distance. “Huh?” almost akin to a shooting star at light speed, blinking in an upward ascent towards the skies above. She can’t make out what it is but any suspicious activity needs to be investigated. Before she can make her move, however, she feels a core thrumming pulse rippling out of the very center of Pandemonium.

And before her very eyes, a shield encompasses the entire structure. They’ve already made their move!!

 

Meanwhile back in the Grandcypher... The archangels of information have just relayed Michael’s summons. The ship has turned around and is now, en route towards Pandemonium.  Even as the coming of the catastrophe draws near, Lucio is still nowhere in sight.

Sandalphon’s gaze is impassive as he stares into the distance. Contemplating, worrying… he told him he was going away for a short while. He told him to wait. That he will return.  And yet, he can’t shake off the feeling that something is strange. Come to think of it.. Aside from what Lucio has been telling him, he’s still not sure what his true identity is. He’s asked on more than one occasion, but the response he receives is that the time is not right yet, and promises that he will reveal all to him eventually.

These were just words, weren’t they? Had he been his former self, he wouldn’t be this trusting of such intangible merits. And yet  like he’s holding onto those very words like a lifeline. Whatever it is Lucio has set out to do, he wonders if he’s mixed into this somehow. He hates that all he can do is speculate. The uncertainty almost drives him mad. Damn it, Lucio. Why now, of all times? Where are you?

The howl of the passing wind is all the response he receives.  

“Are you still moping? Pathetic.”

Sandalphon turns to glare at the origin of the voice. “Don’t you have anything else better to do? Buzz off.”

"Don't get me wrong. I'd never choose to do this. But he asked me to. So. It's not like I can say no." Azazel's arms are folded over his chest, staring down the former with a stubborn determination not to lose. "Hmph! I may be a Fallen but I always pay my debts in full, Sandy."

He can feel his skin crawling. "Ughh-! Don't you ever call me that..."

Olivia ignores them as she watches the pair of archangels flit off too and fro the ship, greeting everyone with brimming familiarity.  “So carefree even when the times are dire. I guess some things don’t change.” almost as though they heard her, they suddenly fly over to capture each of her arms in theirs. Rendering the archangel of dusk immobile and alert. 

“Don’t be such a wet blanket, Olivia.”

“Yeah! We’re on the same side now.”

“Let’s have some coffee and cakes. Sandy can brew us one, can’t you?”

“Do I have a choice?” Olivia hangs her head.

“Nope!” the pair chirp in unison and proceed to coax her to join them.

“Haa.. they’re a handful.” Sandalphon sighs. They only just got here and they’ve already bought into the idea of having a coffee break. It doesn’t help that the other crew members overhear that he might be brewing. Resulting in a small gathering forming into a semi circle around him, each one wanting a share before the upcoming skirmish as well. Where did they all come from? With this number of people.. “At this rate I’ll have to make more than a pot.”

“Hehe.. it’s because you make it so well that it’s in very high demand.” Lyria chimes in.

His lips curve up in a small, ghost of a smile. “Bah, you’re all hopeless.”

It isn’t until they hear someone screaming that their attention is drawn to a black figure flickering in the sky. The once tranquil atmosphere shatters into pieces. As it draws close, it lets out a piercing shriek. The disfigured, winged creature saunters its way towards the upper deck with a black sword on hand.

“Wait..!!” Halluel and Malluel’s eyes widen in recognition and horror. “Do you not recognize this aura? It’s.. it’s Azrael!” trembling at the grotesque form of their friend who went missing two millennia ago, they can only fathom what she has been through. “Don’t you recognize us? It’s Halluel and Malluel..!”

Sandalphon yells, “Fall back! That fallen angel's mind is gone! Those black swords are dangerous... it has the ability to slay immortals!”

Olivia and Azazel are paralyzed as they stare down the creature. This… this is a fallen angel? They can scarcely believe it.  Surely there were experiments that did take place in Lucilius’ laboratories but not something altered to this extent. At least...not to their knowledge.  

The color is drained from Olivia's face. “What has become of them..?” The fallen angel before them now is warped and malicious, seeping with the maddening lust for destruction. She shivers to think that she could have almost shared its fate.

Azazel, beside her is no better off.  For someone who’s always rebelled their kind being used as mindless drones and slaves, this is precisely what he fought against for. His lips twist in bitter fury, “...We need to put her out of her misery.”

“No! If there’s a chance we can get her to snap out of it, we’ll handle it. ” with great difficulty, Halluel and Malluel convince them to press forward and leave them to deal with their friend.

“Okay. I’m counting on you.” Gran finally says as the archangels of instruction lead Azrael away from the ship so they could continue on towards Pandemonium where they can already hear the telltale signs of an intense battle and firearms being ignited.

 

Having just departed from the disturbing sight of what's to come, he silently prays that the two they left behind can handle the situation themselves. There’s a complicated feeling in the pit of Sandalphon’s stomach and it has nothing to do with the turbulent winds the ship has been wracked with as they, too, are on the way to join the alliance fleet positioned outside Pandemonium.  Lingering just above the low altitude where an inexperienced helmsman may falter.

“Pandemonium… I never thought I’d come back here again.” He shudders to think of what might have happened had he not escaped. He might have ended up as one of those soulless puppets. But this is also ironically perfect. “It makes a fitting tombstone for all of these transgressors.” that fallen angel they encountered earlier is only a taste of what’s to come.

He braces himself for what lies ahead. If he can make it through this, he will be able to keep his promise to Lucifer if he fulfills this task. But he’s not doing it merely for his sake now.  He wants to live. He has a reason to continue living. A world and allies, he wishes to protect, and all the fallen angels they’ve wronged. A place he can return to with him when he comes back, he concluded. “We’ll put an end to this, once and for all.”

The Grandcypher and crew converge with the fleet, hereby strengthening the alliance morale and overall firepower. The captains of the numerous fleets have all gathered for a strategic meeting as they try to plan their next course of action to break the current stalemate. Not to mention, the shield that encompassed the whole structure they also had to deal with.

After reconvening with Gabriel, Cagliostro and Society’s representative, Ilsa, a heavy air of dread sweeps through the conference room once they’ve come to realize the extent of Lucilius’ ambitions. But they have little to no time to express their outrage over how very little he views life. It’s clear the opposition is stalling for time as they continue to weaken the dimensional boundary within. Their next course of action is to go on a brute force offensive. 

The meeting adjourns, each individual disperse with clearly defined strategic roles to fulfill. If they fall here, there will be no stopping the outpouring of chaos from the Crimson Horizon. The very fate of the sky realm depended on the success of this last line of defense.

Those that remain on the Grandcypher are steeling themselves for the signal to push forward from the team that are steadily chipping at a single point to peel off layers of the protective shell encasing the structure. With intentions to create an opening large enough for the airship to traverse.  Supporting fleets are protecting them while the horde of fallen angels rain down on them relentlessly. It’s a battle of tenacity and endurance.

 

Michael and Sandalphon stand together on the ship's bow, both conserving their strength for the upcoming confrontation. Michael eventually breaks the silence when she clears her throat. “It seems like you’ve grown a little more insight since the last we’ve met.  I never thought I’d see the day that we’d be fighting alongside, to be honest.”

“Neither did I. I know we have our differences and you don’t acknowledge me as Lucifer’s successor. I’m more than aware of my own shortcomings as I am aware that the sins I’ve committed are anything but light--”

“That’s not it. I have no qualms over Lucifer’s choosing. If I did, it is all in the past. I once saw you as a baby chick, blind to everything around you but your own self centeredness. But something’s changed.  I don’t exactly know what it is, but perhaps the journey with the Singuarity has done you some good.”

Sandalphon turns to look at her in surprise. Never did he think the day would come that Michael had some good things to say about him.

“But don’t let it get into your head.” she cautions. “There’s still more you need to learn. Let’s get through this trial together.”

“Understood.” he acknowledges with a content hum. Then, he tilts his head to the side and loudly proclaims. “...You can come out, Lyria. You’re not interrupting.”

The blue haired girl squeaks as her name is called. “H-how did you know I was there?”

“Heh. Stealth isn’t exactly your forte.”

“Ehe.. sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” she grins sheepishly. ”But we have some food rations being passed around and I thought you two might want some. They’ve been especially prepared with a lot of love and care!”

“Don’t worry about it. And thank you, I think I’ll take you up on your offer.” Michael gives her a reassuring glance.

“Aye, hand it over here.”  And the remaining one is received by Sandalphon.

“Okay!” she brings them over enthusiastically.

 

...It’s actually quite good. Sandalphon doesn't realize how hungry he is until he takes a bite out of this peppersteak drizzled in darkshroom sauce. Although primarchs in general have many other means to regenerate and regain their energy without partaking actual food as skydwellers do, there’s nothing that can raise their spirits quite like taking in a good, homemade meal.

He digs in with more enthusiasm until not even a speck of rice remained.  

“Let me put them away for you two!” Lyria offers as she gathers the remains of their meal and runs off back towards the galley. Sandalphon can only smile vaguely at her retreating back.

And in a voice toned down to a whisper, Michael asks, “Is it because of her?”

“Huh? What’s ‘because of her’ ?” he was just thinking that Lyria has a way of lifting the tense mood.

Her enthusiasm and cheer gives him a faint reminder of a certain smiling fool. He had been idly wondering what Lucio’s reaction would be if he were here. He’d noisily harp on about how it’s the most delicious thing he’s had, most likely. Inelegantly spilling food with cheeks puffed up like a hamster because someone's a little too excited to express how he feels that he forgets decorum. 

Michael almost looks perplexed that she has to spell it out for him, “I’ve never seen you smile so gently towards another person besides Lucifer before.”

His face instantly colors and he blurts out. “This and that are two different things!” and… he wasn’t exactly smiling at her. He’s not about to explain he was daydreaming just now about someone else.

Seeing his reaction seems to have appeased her as she shakes her head in amusement.

Why does he have the feeling she’s misunderstanding something? Sandalphon stares at her in horror when the realization hits him. “Now hold on a minute. She’s like a little sister to me! It’s not what you’re thinking!”

“Then, who?”

Is this an interrogation? Sandalphon thinks glumly. Why is she particularly interested? He knows she can be strong willed but he didn’t think she’d be this nosy too!

“Hmm, is it the Singularity?” comes a melodious voice behind him.

NO!!  Don’t guess!” he whips his head around and sees Gabriel grinning at him like the cat that got the cream. “Hehe, as much as I’d hate to interrupt such a juicy topic, I’m here to report that we’re close to breaching the wall so you’d all best prepare to move out!”

OKAY, GOOD! ” Sandalphon stands upright immediately, and is about to shuffle off when she calls off after him. 

“Don’t think you’re off the hook yet, Sandy~ We’ll continue this topic later over tea!” Gabriel sends him off with a wink.

He keeps going, pretending he didn’t hear her. But under his breath, he’s muttering, “Give me a break...!”

Chapter Text

The entire structure Pandemonium suddenly shakes violently from a massive force. The pieces of the chess board rattle with it and some have even toppled over.

“Oh? It feels like we just got rammed by something big and hard.” Belial looks over his shoulder at the scenic view of pure chaos beneath them. The wind carries the wafting scent of sulfur, magic residue, and singed flesh. Yet from where they’re leisurely enjoying a game of chess at the summit, the blazing red backdrop that reflects the Crimson Horizon seems to be spreading its influence further into the sky realm.

It won’t be long until the last vestiges of the dimensional boundary disintegrates completely.

But like a beacon of hope, the Grandcypher forcibly passes through the crack in the barrier encasing Pandemonium. With the Singularity and Lucifer’s heir leading the charge, it’ll only be a matter of time before they make their ascent towards the upper levels.

All the players are making their way onto the stage. Belial is anxious for the show to begin. His unconcerned demeanor does not go unnoticed.  

“What are you up to…?” Beelzebub regards the fallen angel sitting across him with guarded tension. “It’s almost as though they’re suddenly aware of the grand finale.”

Still poised with his chin resting on his hand, Belial’s eyelashes flutter in feigned innocence. “Haha… you’re seriously asking me this? What haven’t I been up to these past 2000 years, Bubs?”

Beelzebub’s aura turns menacing as his patience wears thin. “I’m not in the mood for your mind games, beast.”

Belial doesn’t even flinch. He has the audacity to even look bored as he plays with a discarded pawn in his hand. “Then, maybe you should be more specific and ask the right questions, mm?”

No matter. Even if they found out, they can’t stop it from happening… but if they do manage to breach the shield, it’s an entirely different matter altogether.

Suddenly he’s not so sure anymore.

And if he’s not mistaken, the Singularity of this realm is also spearheading the infiltration. Thoroughly throwing a wrench into his carefully laid plans. He already knew the boy would be a hindrance from the start. And the very person he sent to intercept them, at the time…. is none other than this demon spawn grinning smugly at him.

To be ridiculed by something as primitive as his kind…. Beelzebub grits his teeth but schools his expression to one of calm. He’s so close to his objective that he can’t allow this imbecile to get under his skin and ruin everything he’s worked for.

“I asked you for one thing in exchange for my help to kill Lucifer, and that was to take out the Singularity. Shouldn’t it be about time you fulfilled the end of your bargain? We might still be able to salvage this farce of a grand finale if you intercept them from climbing Pandemonium. I’ll launch a surprise attack at them from here.”

“Wait.”

Belial sighs melodramatically. “I’m real disappointed in you, Bubs. It’s not very nice to leave me hanging high and dry while you reach the climax alone. Did you really think I’d let you climb Etemenanki behind my back?”

“You…!” Not even Lucilius could have known about the existence of that tower. It’s classified information that only select High Council members are aware of. Beelzebub faces him with stifled apprehension. The crack of that normally stoic mask only affirms all that Belial needs to know.

“Etemananki, a mysterious structure of unknown proportion and origins… it possibly dates back during the time of creation. Its mysterious properties are neither for providence or chaos, making it invulerable to both. Making it near untouchable. Its location is not fixed at one point but you’ve come to calculate it appearing just above here on this day. And it makes it the perfect makeshift bunker to escape any sort of apocalypse, wouldn’t you say?” Belial helpfully supplies, his eyes flash dangerously red as dark energy begins to swirl as he draws them into his body.  “And after all this time, we’ve been working together, you’ve been planning to stab us in the back somewhere along the way. --Do I get a reward for full marks?”

“Hah! So in the end, both of us ended up using each other. So what... I could care less about what happens to this world. Once it’s gone, all its power will revert to me and it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the worlds follow suit.”

“Ah- ah… not so fast.” Belial wags a finger at him. “Unfortunately, that goes against ‘cilius and my plans. Our endgame is the total annihilation of life. Survivors will not be tolerated.” Red summoning runes bring out his armaments. His featherless black wings effortlessly lift him from the ground in slow, steady beats.

”Hrm… try it if you can. Are your six wings even enough?”  Beelzebub’s chaos matter tipped spear is poised into combat stance. He has the power of chaos and void in this tempered body. This confrontation will not end until the other is dead.

“Ohh, I know that much. But… that’s why I saved a little something just for this occasion.” Belial laughs gleefully as his body starts emitting an ominous glow. His body grows taut as an additional two wings break out of his shoulder blades followed by a pair of red horns curling and protruding from both sides of his head. His skin is riddled with cursed markings. Red pupils dilate as the cornea of his right eye turns completely black.

“Nghhh.. ahh … ha.. haa~” his pained groan melts into one of overstimulated pleasure. Falling to his knees, he’s panting, eyes half lidded in bliss. “Mmmm, so this is the power of ‘cilius’ work. Circulating in my veins… stimulating my core.. swirling... deep inside me!

Eight wings!? Bastard! when did you…” he’s not about to give him time to rein in that power but just as he’s about to thrust his spear into pale flesh, Belial shifts his body and evades effortlessly. It is his reflexes that save him from taking the full brunt of Belial’s kick aimed at his side. He digs the end of his spear and his heels onto the ground to keep him from being propelled too far off.

Ssssoo.. . impatient.” Belial makes a noise of complaint when he ascends to full height. By now his aura has swollen to an even more oppressing level. The forced transformation makes him break into a thin sheen of sweat. But the power that overflows through him from absorbing Avatar’s essence is taking effect almost immediately. “Won’t even give me the time to bask in the afterglow. This might be why your partners never answer your calls.”

“Tsk. What have you done with the others?” Beelzebub knew something had to have come in play when none of his pawns haven’t been answering to his direct summons.

“Haha, it’s nothing much. All I did was sever the little mind controlling node you implanted in the two strongest ones, juust in case you become unreasonable.” Belial is having too much fun watching him squirm as his backup plans blow up in his face one after another. Heh. Lucilius’ equal, he is not. Not by a long shot.

“So tell me, Bubs.” his lips curl up into a full-fanged grin. ”How does it feel to be outsmarted by a beast?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” Beelzebub gathers powers of the void into his palms. But instead of aiming it at Belial, he feigns his attack and shifts the target of that blast and hurtles that concentrated mass of dark lightning towards the casket lying defenselessly on the side.

Belial’s features sharpen with burning murderous intent as he accelerates to intercept the projectile. Only for the explosion to happen milliseconds before he could reach him. And for a fraction of a moment, he sees red and is about ready to charge into him in blind fury--

But as the dust clouds clear,  a clear barrier obstructs the pathway of that destructive orb and soaks in the damage, rendering the lone figure and the casket behind him, untouched.

“I’m sorry but I can’t let you do that.” The calm voice is startlingly familiar. What follows is the sound of gravel being crushed underfoot as the young man steps forward towards them. Eyes of azure blue, short pale strands dancing with the wind’s caress. There’s no replicating this face or those wings. Even more damningly so, that divine aura he emits.

"Hey, hey... what the hell, Bubs?  Did you plan this three way?" Belial frantically glances at the only other conscious party present. He's 100% sure the body he gave Lucilius belonged to Lucifer. He couldn't have switched it for a more inferior vassal. The incompatibility wouldn't have made it past the transfusion tests otherwise.

Did Lucifer’s spirit go feral in the afterlife and decide to come take his revenge for desecrating his body? No?

A hallucination, or a trick of the mind? A trump card that Bubs hid in his sleeve?

Can't be. He's not faking that shock either.  

"Soo… If he's not one of yours and he's not one of mine.."

...Who in the skies is this gate crasher?!

 

The primarch in front of them peers at the open casket wearing an expression filled with remorse. “What have they done to you, Lucilius…” It pains him that he’s staring down at this broken monstrosity pieced together from the suffering of so many. Unfortunate that, it no longer contains any semblance of the original body’s soul. It's nothing but an empty, living shell that is soon to be controlled by the head crudely sewn onto it. This unnatural perversion goes against the laws of providence and the natural order.

And yet he is the cast from which Lucilius has taken form. They may not have had the opportunity to encounter each other prior to his creation but he cannot stand idly by and let them violate what’s left of him even further. His lower body and limbs have already been taken over corruption from the void. Only his face remains as he remembers it.

Belial follows his line of sight and his irises narrow. A deep, near animalistic growl is produced from his own throat that he gradually stifles down back to his regular composure. Smiling broadly, he welcomes their distinguished visitor. “Well, well… look who’s here. The last person I expected to see in this little class reunion. Sorry we didn’t send an invite, didn’t think you’d still be alive and kicking!”

Lucifer? levels him with an even gaze when he addresses him. That seemingly cold note devoid of emotion is dipped with an accusatory undertone. “Serpent.”

“Hahah, hey now…. Don’t tell me you’re still sore about the whole beheading thing.” he shrugs his shoulders offhandedly. “You know what they say about an eye for an eye. Or in this case,  a head for a head. But now we’re even and it’s all water under the bridge, amiright?”

The primarch doesn’t respond. He blinks out of his line of sight and suddenly reappears inches from his face with all six of his swords aiming for his throat.

Belial’s darkswords clang loudly when they block the incoming strikes. “ No?  Fair enough.”

Chapter Text

The clash between light and dark erupt at the summit accompanying the darkening red skies bleeding further into the calm blue. A myriad of colors flash, the faint traces of a battle out of reach is visible from the joint forces. All present to witness this phenomenon are tense with an air of uncertainty from the events taking place above them.

It isn’t until someone points out that the shield barrier surrounding Pandemonium is flickering, that the rest of the fleet takes notice that it has been taken down, leaving all of Pandemonium defenseless!  

With hope and vigor renewed, the skydweller-primarch alliance valiantly push back against the fallen angels with rebounding momentum.  

Uriel and Alexiel have joined forces and managed to subjugate a seemingly weakened Sariel. In the middle of the battle, he just simply stopped swinging his scythe and blathered about in confusion. They had to separate him from his weapon until they managed to calm him out of his battle frenzied state.  In the meantime, an unconscious Azrael was brought to the alliance fleet by Michael, and is currently being treated by Europa and Raphael on-board on one of the ships.

But while it looks like their victory over this perilous battle is reaching its conclusion, the opposition seem to be growing even more desperate.

“Don’t even let up for a second until every one of them are eating lead!!!” Ilsa’s voice rings above every able soldier within hearing range. A hail of steady gunfire increase in intensity decimating the waves of watchers and other Otherworld monstrosities. The outpouring of reinforcements are increasing in number as it spills over from the widening cracks between worlds. .

“It’s no good. The dimensional boundary is on its last seams.” Gabriel expresses her worry as the ominous quaking of Pandemonium is becoming even more erratic.

“We have to believe.” Michael asserts. “But this is much of our fight as is theirs, we can’t let them face this battle on their own. If I hurry now, I might be able to catch up to them.”

“The rest of us will hold them off down here. Also! Take these.”

“When did you… “ she blinks back her surprise and then, nods in understanding, “Alright.” she spreads her wings and catapults herself up into the skies.

Gabriel clasps her hand in prayer, “Godspeed, Michael.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Singularity and Sandalphon’s party are still on their way to the summit…

“Huff… huff.. are we there yet!?” Vryn wheezes.

“Almost.” Sandalphon can’t help but pause as he regards this room with some level of scrutiny. “Odd. There should have been a gate here controlling the shield outside. But it’s been reduced to rubble. ....Almost as if someone had been here before us?”

“I’m hearing eruptions and discharges coming from above. Be careful, everyone.” Gran glances up the ceiling where dust and loosening debris are raining down at different intervals.

“I’m sensing a jumble of auras...it’s making my head spin.” Lyria wobbles and almost loses her balance.

Gran grasps Lyria by the shoulder protectively before she topples over. She whispers her thanks and takes him up on his offer of support by hugging his left arm.

“It can’t be.” Sandalphon tenses. “This aura is….”

“Do you know whose it is?” Lyria asks.

“I do.” They can’t waste any more time. His core thrums with burning impatience. He can hear the slithering and flapping of wings coming from Otherworldly beings coming up from behind and all around them. Seriously. Fuck stairs! “Hey, you! Get down here and put those wings to good use!”

 

Isolated from the ongoings of the rest of the world, the ground at the peak of Pandemonium is nearly scorched black from the crossfire.

The mysterious Lucifer doppelganger narrowly dodges Beelzebub’s spear. His steps agile and evasive as he parries his incoming heavy strikes with relative ease. His body and eyes seem to produce an ethereal glow to them as though he moves through a different time and space from them all.  But before he could put more thought into it, the primarch’s boot knocks him staggering onto the ground. He feels something warm and sticky on his cheek. He is no Lucifer but neither is he an ordinary primarch.

The sound of Belial’s charging attack alerts him. The primarch lifts himself off the ground out of his attack reach and veers around Belial’s Anagenesis, slipping just in between the laser beams with precision and agility. Each swing of his blades bear down on Belial harder than the last with an almost wrath like intent to kill.

It’s enough to make his blood boil in excitement. He moans, “So aggressive. Hells, I never thought the day would come that my pants would get so tight over Lucifer -- of all people . But you’re not exactly him, are you? Aren’t you running a little low on steam though? Using all of that up must be taking a toll on your body.”

The silent primarch gives no indication of responding to his provocation or line of questions as they continue to exchange and deflect blows.

“Ignoring me?? Now that’s just cold. Come to think of it, you remind me more of Lucilius, actually. With the way you’re staring holes into me with lofty disgust.” Belial sends him another shockwave for good measure, kicking up dust in the process. He follows it up with three of his blades stabbing inwards in an attempt to catch him unaware. He has fought Lucifer in the past, even under the guise of training-- actually attempting to draw out possible weaknesses. The longer he observes his attack patterns, the more he’s sure they aren’t one and the same.

Even with Avatar’s essence, this primarch is putting up a decent fight. And he’s even dealing with both HIM and Bubs at the same time. This angel is out for his blood! But it’s not enough to finish him off. He’s regenerating faster than his damage output. It may look like he’s giving it all he’s got. But neither of the three has even laid all their cards on the table. “ Heeey~ How about you show me that true naked form of yours already? Or are you enjoying the foreplay a little too much, you tease.”

“Enough. This is the end.” something slinks its way outside of Beelzebub’s cloak. The claw like appendage propels itself towards the primarch’s defenseless back.

The angel barely turns his head to look over his shoulder when something blurs into vision and intercepts the attack with a loud yell.

Like I’d let you!!! ” Sandalphon shouts himself nearly hoarse. He’s panting hard to catch his own breath. He can still hear his core pulsating in his eardrums. That was close!

“Ah, you have my thanks. I can always count on you, Sandalphon.” He can almost picture that same carefree smile on his face without looking at him. This has happened before, hasn’t it?!

Is that- Is that all he has to say!? After all that!?! Sandalphon’s temper has reached his breaking point. “This is why you need to tell me these things!!”  he punches him on the shoulder, not very hard but firm enough to let the other know he’s upset with him . Always keeping secrets from him. Promising to tell him the truth later. He tries to be understanding, he tries to be patient but this is really pushing it!

“But- Sandalphon…? ” he recoils from the contact. The stern, near inscrutable expression disappears from his face is replaced by a gentle smile followed by wide eyed confusion.

The shift in personality so abrupt that it leaves even Belial flabbergasted, ceasing all attack as the two continue their conversation as if they’re the only two people present. Oh sure, carry on. The primarch of cunning that emerged from the shadows to be the harbinger of world’s end is just another fly on the wall.

“Truthfully, I did not expect the situation to be this dire, so I..”

Sandalphon cuts him off with a firm glare. “Talk later. We need to throw out the trash first.”

Purposely ignoring that he was just referred to as trash, Belial greets him warmly with a wave of his fingers, albeit pleased that they finally noticed his presence. “Sandyyy~ you look even more ravishing than the last time we met in Canaan. You look like you’re doing very well.” he gestures at the Lucifer doppelganger beside him with his thumb. “This your new man? I honestly didn’t expect you to be the type to move on so fast! Thought you’d be more loyal than that. What would Lucifer say if he knew~”

“I’ll rip that tongue off your mouth once and for all.” Having reserved the Supreme Primarch’s powers for this moment, Sandalphon’s wings are charged to the brim with ethereal light in direct contrast to the slithering shadows that adorn Belial like a shroud.

“Aww, two against one, that’s not very fair, is it?” he bemoans but his mouth curls to a sardonic grin. “But sure, I’ll take you both on a ride you’ll never forget.”

 

 

Beelzebub clenches his teeth. Dealing with one was bad enough. And now there are two. Thank his lucky stars that they’re both focused on Belial at the moment. This whole thing is a failure. He knew he shouldn’t have relied on a beast to do an Astral’s work. But it’s not entirely unsalvageable. If Belial can keep them distracted, the dimensional boundary will eventually unravel itself wide open and the events can continue as planned.

With this in mind, he decides to make a tactical retreat to Etemenanki.

But he barely takes two steps when his heightened senses warn him of an incoming hazard and he narrowly avoids a wave of shadow tendrils. A shallow crater appears where he once stood.

“Tsk. Missed.” as he turns around a pair of fallen angels flank him from both sides.  The one who clicked his tongue sneers at him. The copper haired beauty beside him carefully sets Lyria down behind her but that gentleness is lost when she sets her gaze upon him.  She draws her weapon and stares him down with uninhibited resentment. “You’re not going anywhere, Astral.”

 

 

In that moment, the aerial battle is taking place between two primarchs and a fallen.  

“Hahaha… You boys sure know how to make me work up a sweat.” Belial licks his lower lip. As much as working as a pair has its advantages, it’s a double edged sword in itself. One that might work in his favor if he plays his cards right.

The sweet, coaxing lilt rolls off his tongue like velvet. “Soo, Sandy... what’s he like? He must be a real beast in the sheets. I can tell you’re into the rough stuff considering how hard you’re both doing me.”  

Sandalphon can feel his skin crawl with disgust at the insinuation as he unleashes another barrage of light rays at him. “Would it kill you to shut the hell up in a fight for once!?”

“Ahaha, I can’t help it, It’s been a while since we last had a proper ‘talk’. Bubs isn’t exactly the best conversation partner, you know. Is it bad that I want to know more about who you’re fucking?”

Incensed, he puts more attack power into his slashes. “That’s none of your damned business.”

Belial barely misses one as it cuts off a few millimeters of hair. “Whoa! So you two HAVE fucked. I’m so proud!” he dabs a non-existent tear from the corner of his eye, ”Belated congratulations on losing that v-card.”

FUCK. OFF!” Sandalphon’s hackles are raised and would have charged in blindly, had it not been for the fact that Lucio firmly presses a hand to his shoulder. They exchange undecipherable looks and Sandalphon mumbles something like, ‘I know..!’

He may have been temporarily subdued but Belial can feel the beginnings of a smirk forming. “Awww… aren’t you two sweet. So sweet I can feel my teeth rotting just looking at you.” Belial coos. “I mean...heh. It’s not as though you held any special feelings towards Lucifer anyway, right? He puts the blah in bland. And boringly, self righteous to a fault. Never thinking about his own wants, desires. Never questioning orders. He was the perfect tool to fulfill a role he’s been created for. He could never belong to just one person, they’d never be more important to him than the world. And wishing for such is  sad and tragic. Why waste time on him when you can get someone who actually pays attention to you? Even better, he looks exactly like him! I’d say you netted yourself a pretty sweet deal, Sandy.”

“Don’t talk like you know about anything.” Sandalphon is fully aware what Belial is capable of. But his core clenches in fury as he hears him continue to slander him and he charges in sword first.

CLANG!

Their weapons connect, his ears are ringing with the scrape of metal against metal.

“Hahaha.. All that unbridled fury and hostility really suits you.” Belial’s irises dilate and then, narrow as his mouth splits to a collected grin. “But I do know more about him than you think… aren’t you even the least bit curious what Lucifer’s last moments were like?”

“His… last moments?” Sandalphon’s brows furrow.

“Sandalphon! You musn’t give in to the serpent’s temptations.” Lucio reminds him but he might be too late to dissuade him when Belial has fully captured his attention with just three words.  

“I’ll handle this. You just stand back and regenerate already.” he stills him. Lucio throws him a complicated look but he won’t deny him this and reluctantly lowers his swords.

Belial has him in the palm of his hand now. And with the way he’s intensely hanging onto his every word, he knows that he used the right incentive. “Heh. Back when Bubs ran him through with that spear of his, did you ever wonder why he didn’t avoid the attack and just stood there to take the hit? You see. It’s because he was standing in front of a seraphim’s cradle like his life depended on it.”

The light in his eyes starts to dim as the realization sweeps over him. “A seraphim’s… where I was sleeping after the cataclysms…” He never knew. He’s always indirectly blamed himself for causing Lucifer’s death. But being told that Lucifer had stood his ground with the pedestal behind him to take the hit to protect him. He’s the guiding light of all. His position is important, so many depended on him. And for him to place his life above his- he.. !!!

“In all the 2000 years I’ve been trying to get him, he’s never let down his guard. But our window of opportunity came along when you did. So I have you to thank for making all of this possible. It’s just a pity that… By the time he eventually came into awareness of his own feelings for you and acted on it, it’s already too late.” Belial gradually approaches him, watching the fight in him leave his eyes. Even with the Supreme Primarch’s powers, he clearly doesn’t have the full grasp of its potential. And he’s just that much easier to crack. “And you want revenge on us? When you’re the reason he died ?”

Belial takes his opportunity to narrow the gap between them to destroy that core in his ribcage. “I’ll help you end your miserable existence. You can join him on the other side!” but before he could touch even a single strand, he suddenly finds himself defending from Sandalphon’s sweeping slash.

The young primarch before him is not one who looked like he had been on the verge of a mental breakdown earlier. His eyes are clear and his strikes have not lost its strength. “I’m the one who should be pitying you. You think he’s the perfect tool chained by duty for all eternity. But to Lucilius, you’re nothing more than the tool to be discarded once you’ve already served your purpose!!”

The head on meeting of light and dark forcibly repels and separates them some few meters away.  

Belial’s laugh is hollow, if not more resigned than anything. “Oh, I know… But if ever it does come to that point, at least I can go quietly knowing that I fulfilled that very purpose. If it’s for Lucilius, I will unconditionally do anything. Even be the doormat at his feet. You might call it pathetic. But I call it, by a different name: love.”

Sandalphon isn’t sure if he should even feel remotely sorry for the state the primarch of cunning has driven himself in. “That isn’t love. It’s insanity.”

 

 

While this goes on in midair, the Singularity, blue haired girl and the red dragon had been carried over from the depths of Pandemonium thanks to the two fallen angels of their crew in haste to reach the top of Pandemonium. Now they’re facing the mysterious individual who seems to have aided Belial in their previous encounter.

Gran cautiously approaches the hooded man. “There’s no way for you to win anymore. Tell us how to stop Pandemonium.”

Beelzebub breaks into mocking laughter. “You think I’ll tell you just because you asked? You’re a little too green to start negotiating terms with me, boy.”

“He’s not asking.” Olivia’s obsidian-like blade shimmers dangerously. The man who responsible for the corruption of her brethren, of whom had been trapped in Pandemonium. Used and exploited, no different from lab rats. How they must have suffered under their hands. Unforgivable. As much as she wants to run her sword through him, it won’t help alleviate their current predicament.

“Hmph, is that right?” The utter fools. They think they have him cornered. He had been saving the immense number of cores he harvested from Avatar. What better way to make use of them in situations. “It doesn’t matter how many of you there are. I’ll make sure you primitive lifeforms know your pla-- gh..GHCKK!! ” a mouthful of blood spurts from his lips.

All he remembers feeling is a sharp, digging pain and loss of breath that spreads throughout his body and then, numbness. He barely registers the tip of a blade sticking out of his chest coming from behind him. He strains to remain conscious but when it sword slides out of him, he’s gasping as he slumps to one knee.  “Of… all the times… for you to revive….”

“I was already revived and well aware of what you attempted to do just now. Rejoice… for you’re about to experience it firsthand.” Blood is flicked off his weapon with indifference. An even more menacing, suffocating aura is emitting from him in waves that has everyone within the vicinity drawn towards the scene where a sudden surge of immense, destructive force is taking place.

 

A loud explosion rips throughout the skies, taking a chunk of Pandemonium’s peak with it as nothing remains of where the hooded man once was but smoke and ash. The momentary diversion is a welcome one. Giving Belial the opening he needed, he catches the distracted Sandalphon off guard and has him taking the full brunt of Anagenesis.

“Sandalphon--!!” Only to be swooped out of the line of fire before it turned fatal.

He smirks, having already expected the save. Belial wastes no time in diving in, a scythe materializing in his hands. He runs the blade clean through an expanse of white wings. A pained cry follows and he can already feel the aura of one of them diminishing.  

“Perhaps, it is insanity. Nobody says our purpose or drive has to make any logical sense to anyone but ourselves.” Belial sighs in satisfaction as he watches them both plummeting down to the Crimson Horizon, even as the injured one clutches the unconscious other protectively. He comforts himself in the fact that at the very least they’ll all return to the nothingness together.

Chapter Text

It was merely a simple output test but the results are satisfactory. Lucilius experimentally crooks and stretches his now clawed fingers, quietly fascinated that he remains entirely unscathed from releasing such explosive power. Not even a semblance of a recoil or rebound. The dull, hardened looking thing that now covers his forearms must have absorbed it. Yet he still retains his sense of touch. There’s an underlying grogginess in his consciousness, which he attributes to the prolonged term of being in a dormant state. But despite being partially corrupted by chaos and void, his vitals seem to be sufficient and regulatory.

He now faces the petrified company before him. Blue gray eyes that hold a stoic cruelty in their limitless depths, devoid of the warm sky blue eyes that both Lucifer’s and Lucio share. He looks past them as though they are merely part of the backdrop of this grand stage. His searching gaze takes in the crimson skies since he regained his sight.

“Morning ‘cilius~ Glad of you to finally decide to join us,” Belial’s leather soles touch down the ground next to him. His head lowered in a subservient manner as he presents himself before his one and only master. He looks proud and a touch expectant, eager for some form of praise.

Lucilius, however, does nothing of the sort. He merely gives the fallen angel a once over. Noting his disheveled appearance before meeting his eyes. His voice is lined with haughty impatience. “I see you bestowed me with Lucifer’s body. But why is the world still here. What has become of my grand finale?”

I’m doing quite well. Thanks for asking. Belial almost says but he stills his tongue. Lucilius is not in the mood for this type of banter. But when is he ever in the mood for those? He knows full well how adorably temperamental he’s like first thing in the morning. And jokes of sarcastic nature will most definitely net him a guaranteed spot at the end of another one of his output tests. Nevertheless, his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. And to finally hear the sound of his voice after all these years stirs a vigor in him that has long been hidden in the recesses of his very being.

“It’s just about to go off. There’ve been some… ah, complications. But it’s been taken cared of and it’s still proceeding as planned.” Belial retains that unmoving, reverent look. “How long did you think you were asleep? It’s been over 2,000 years, you know.”

“2,000 years…hm,” Lucilius murmurs under his breath. He is mildly aware of the heated look fixed on him but proceeds to ignore it in favor of more pressing matters. “Give me a status report of the current stage of the plan, as well as a summary of historical changes. But…” his line of sight wanders over the motley crew assembled before them as though it’s the first time he’s taken notice of their presence. “...Who are these insects ?”

Lucilius looks them over until his gaze rests upon a young boy at the center of the group, “Am I seeing things… or is that actually the blue haired girl and the red dragon together flanking the Singularity of this realm before me…”

“I wonder? Maybe this Singularity is different from the others,” Belial hums airily before casually adding a little more of his achievements into the conversation. “Well. I wouldn’t worry about them too much. After all. They’ve just about run out of moves to make. I’m also happy to report that the Supreme Primarch and his spare have already perished. An inferior vessel can’t hope to amount to much, even with outside help.”

Lyria flinches, unable to hold in that heartbroken, anguished sob she had been bottling up. She doesn’t sense Sandalphon or Lucio’s auras anymore but having him confirm it with his own words only make it all real.

“Is that so…? So that’s the aura I felt earlier. Impressive. I suppose you deserve a little recognition for all your efforts.” Lucilius muses with an acknowledging nod.

BELIALLL!!! What… just what the hell did you do to Lucilius!? Why did he… turn out like this!?” Azazel cuts their conversation short.

The pair of fallen angels among those who stand with the Singularity wear conflicted expressions. The Astral who granted them life, gave them a sense of purpose, their Creator, stands before them in a starling contrast to the Astral scientist they’ve served under who merely defended himself from a rebellion sparking from Lucifer’s side. Lucifer ended up the victor and killed him before turning on them and imprisoned the rebels in Pandemonium. That is what they believed.

But now he’s here before their very eyes, and Lucilius’ aura is unmistakably of similar strength to Lucifer’s.   Just what  is going on!?!?

“Ah, if it isn’t the Primarch of Dusk and…” Belial pauses for a moment, trying to put a name to that face. “...sorry, who are you again?”

Azazel loudly swears up a storm, vowing to carve his name into his head.

“Silence.” his voice is quiet and steady but the underlying threat effectively returning the tense stillness to their surroundings.

“Lucilius,” Olivia steps forward with a heavy heart. Her Master. Her sword which she wields for him. She’s still in a state of denial. The end of the world. His grand finale?  This can’t be true. “I’ve served and fought for your cause and my brethren. Yet… I find it unbelievable you would align yourself with the likes of him who ridicule everything we stand for. To go this far, you’re being manipulated by him, aren’t you!?”

Belial throws his head back in a fit of laughter. “ME? Manipulate ‘Cilius? You give me too much credit. Oh, Olivia… you poor delusional little angel. You are so precious. It’s almost cute.”

“This is a waste of time.” Lucilius coldly snaps, his body emits another surge of power to perform another blast. His arm extends in their direction and a ball of mass gravity starts to form in the center of his palm. This one will not miss and will obliterate everyone standing on this platform.

“‘Cilius~ eaaasy there. Don’t you want to save all that to destroy that tower up there?” Belial slinks his way behind him, snaking his arms around his shoulders.  He doesn’t exactly plan on being turned into waste along with them before Lucilius and he could enjoy the fireworks. He gives those tense muscles an affectionate rub as he coaxes him. “Put me to work, ‘cilius. That’s what I’m here for.”  

Lucilius’ eyes narrow. The primarch of cunning is taking liberties in breaching his personal space. But there is some truth to what he says. He dissipates the charge. “Point taken. But before you get too ahead of yourself...” he adds without a change in tone, just moments away from where Belial’s lips almost brush against his hair. He grabs him by the chin firmly. The sharp tips dig into skin, effectively stopping him from doing any more than that.

Belial slightly winces but makes no sudden movements. The strength behind those elegantly shaped digits are strong enough to rip his jaw off if this beautiful creature wills it. He’s getting overstimulated just thinking about it but he reigns himself in. It can’t be helped. He had been prepared to end the world with Lucilius unconscious in his arms... so this surprising turn of events has gotten him just a little excited, is all. “C’mon, I can be good. I’ll be real nice and behaved.”

“See that you do.” Sensing that Belial has indeed calmed himself down, he relinquishes his hold as the other stumbles away from him. “Now, sweep up the rest of your mess.” Lucilius dispassionately steps away from the sticky child he raised.  “If there’s nothing else, the final, divine obstacle awaits.”

Belial can only stifle that longing sigh but still looking every bit of smitten as he openly oogles the wonderful view from the back. “Ookay~ have fun at the divine tower. I’ll meet up with you later and we can watch it all burn to commemorate our final moments together.”

“Of all the utter foolishness...” Lucilius does grant him a last, scowling look but he catches himself and regains his composure. Six wings, startlingly black like it could absorb and block all light, extend down from his shoulder blades and back.  He takes to the sky without looking back.

“We’re not done with you yet!” Vyrn yells at his withdrawing form.

“Divine tower.. I don’t like the sound of this. We need to go after him.” Lyria urges Gran.

“Hey now. You’re thinking of going after Lucilius!?” Belial cuts through their line of sight as he takes to the air.  “Can’t let you do that. I saw him first- by 2,000 years!” his eyes start to gleam as his lips split into a possessive smile. “He’s mine.”

 

Sandalphon comes to in a familiar place.  A shaded garden. The smell of grass and wildflowers are carried by a pleasant wind. The soft chirp of birds are complimented by the trickling coming from a nearby brook.  From the grape vines crawling up the archways, the familiar uneven stone steps, to the exact same white patio chairs with the small round table. Everything in place is how he pictured it in his memory.  He hears the tinkling of silverware and porcelain as he approaches and his heart skips a beat as the calming scent of roasted coffee beans comes from further within.

A figure emerges from the kitchenette. Azure blue eyes staring back at him appear bewildered at his presence at first before he breaks into a fond, welcoming smile.

“L...luci..fer..??” his voice is barely a whisper. He has many questions. But every one of them evaporates when Lucifer draws closer. The sound of his boots clicking against the wooden floors assures him he’s neither a ghost nor a figment of his imagination. This is… this can’t be real. But he’s also afraid to act suddenly, lest he shatter the illusion.

“Ah, Sandalphon. I didn’t quite expect to see you so soon. Had I known you’d be coming, I’d have been more prepared. The coffee isn’t ready yet, you see...” his demeanor turns mildly sheepish. “Please, come in. And have a seat.”

Sandalphon doesn’t refute him and finds his bearings enough to sit across from him with his hands obediently resting on his lap. Just taking in his visage, exactly like how he remembers him. “Um…”

He has so much to say but he doesn’t know where to begin. There’s a vague possibility that he could have just dreamt up everything that transpired before.  That the cataclysms never happened. That Lucifer hadn’t died. But that would have also meant… everything and everyone else up to this point would not have happened. He finds that he’s also just as unwilling to let go and dismiss all the events as a mere passing thought he conjured up. It’s very real. It’s this place that isn’t quite reality… is it from a memory..?

“Sandalphon?” his voice rouses him from his stupor. He’s still there in front of him. This isn’t a dream either. If he reaches out, he’s almost sure he can feel him solid under his fingertips. But something compels him not to touch him. He doesn’t have the right. He hasn’t done anything to deserve facing him right now.

“Sorry, I was only thinking.” then huffs in quiet amusement at his own foolishness. “I never thought I’d ever be here with you again in this shaded garden. After everything that has happened. All I ever wished for was for us to go back to those peaceful days. And yet, now that I am actually here… I keep thinking of everything else other than this moment.”

Lucifer’s smile is understanding and patient. Eternally lacking of any form of malice, warm as the rays of the sun. “It’s only natural. After all, there is still so much weighing on your mind, so much unfinished business you’ve set in your heart to accomplish yet.”  

“Unfinished…“ Sandalphon closes his eyes as he gathers the remnants of his last moments before they open suddenly, out of panic and he abruptly stands upright. “Wait. Does that mean- I’m.. I’m dead!?”

“Pft..” Lucifer stares at him for some few seconds before he cups his mouth and turns his head away. His shoulders are shaking.

He’s… Lucifer is… he’s laughing AT him!?

When he finally recovers he’s still smiling.”Sorry. It’s a very improper time to laugh but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so purely bewildered for a long time. Forgive me.. I just found it nostalgic, is all.”

He continues on to explain. “This place is the first and last stop for every living soul. It is also here where those burdened with sentience may find rest. Right now, it would seem your soul has gotten lost, and has drifted here independent of your body. But no, you are not dead. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say you are in a state of limbo. One foot still in the realm of the living, and the other… well, it doesn’t need to be said. What you intend to do now, of course, is up to you.”

Even if Sandalpon remains silent, Lucifer has come to appreciate the his unexpressed consideration. So he decides to offer him a little help.  “But you already have an answer, don’t you?” Lucifer looks over his shoulder with a touch of wistfulness. “And someone waiting for you on the other side.”

“Lucifer…” Sandalpon sounds hesitant but in the end, he acquises that he has the right of it. He can’t seem to hide anything from him right now, it seems.  If only they could have mutually come to understand each other back then as now. It had to take over 2,000 years of misunderstanding and separation to get to this point. He eventually gives him a resolute nod. He knows what needs to be done and the promise he has yet to fulfill. “Right… I should get going now.”

“Take care of yourself. ...You used to say that to me back then too.” Lucifer smiles for him.  There’s a touch of longing poorly hidden behind his words.

Unable to endure the meaning behind his expression any longer, Sandalphon turns away and breaks into a sprint towards this blindingly light slowly drawing further and further away from the garden. Sandalphon propels himself off the ground towards it with his hand outstretched reaching for it.

 

 

Back at the peak of Pandemonium, the outcome appears bleak for the skyfarers.  Olivia and Azazel are sprawled on the ground, having been easily defeated by Belial who still retains Avatar’s essence within his body. Gran only manages to pull himself upright using his sword hilt by sheer willpower alone.

“Ah… this is getting boring you know. Why do you even still fight? All hope has been extinguished. It won’t be long before the ether goes haywire again after the passing of the second Supreme Primarch. Lesser primal beasts will go on a rampage again. The skydoms will be overrun and if not by them, then the Otherworlders, after the alliance becomes overwhelmed  by the infinite numbers that continue to invade your world.” Having lost interest in playing with his prey, Belial no longer holds back his punches. He wants nothing more than to get this menial task over and done with so he can return to Lucilius’ side as soon as possible.

But no matter what he throws at him, the Singularity stubbornly refuses to admit defeat, standing up each time he’s knocked to the floor. “Heeeey, Singularity. Aren’t you in a great deal of pain right now? Why don’t you do yourself a favor and stay down already!”  he gathers even more power into this next blast before discharging it right at the boy.

Unable to move any more than this, he positions himself in front of Lyria and Vyrn and is prepared to take the full brunt of the damage to protect them when a figure in red swoops in and snatches them all from the explosion.

“Michael..!” Lyria blurts out in surprise.

Her expression is grim as she sets them down. “I fear that I may have come too late.” she also no longer senses the Supreme Primarch’s aura. They’re on their last legs now. They thought they were beginning to have the upperhand but many unfactored and unfortunate events have taken place. Yet it’s never been in her nature to surrender. She will take as many of the opposition down with her as she falls.

Most especially. Him.

She spits out the name with as much vitriol as she can muster. “Belial.”

“Mikey. Long time no see. As much as I’d love to chat, I’m in a bit of rush. End of the world, top view seats, you know how it goes. So could you pleaase let me go this once?”  Belial places his hands together in a mock pleading gesture. Then, he breaks into a smug grin. “You still want to do this dance? Even if your spare Supreme Primarch already fell from the skies?”

Michael is glowering with fury. She points the tip of her sword in his direction. “While I still breathe, I’ll never let you have your way!!”

“Wait… can you not feel that?” Lyria turns her head towards the direction of this sudden upsurge of energy coming their way at high speed. They shield their eyes from the blinding white light that breaks through the clouds and smoke.

A sharp whistling sound is all they hear at first before Belial is hailed with a sudden rain of light. It takes him completely by surprise that he didn’t have time to shield himself from the attack at all. “Oh, hells.”  

Enveloped in divine aura, his body is outlined with a a white glow. For reasons unknown, he awakened in this state with all of the Supreme Primarch’s power in full and even beyond that. Yet he finds the light suffused within him is still within his control and doesn’t overwhelm him in fact, it’s almost as if it’s cradling him within its gentle embrace. Sandalphon places his hand over his core. And as though he’s come to an understanding, he lifts his head and levels his piercing gaze back at Belial, who is clearly staggering to get back to his feet.

Belial smooths his hands over his hair and dusts off some debris off his already torn up suit.  “We’ve gotta stop meeting like this, Sandy. While I’m flattered, truly, that you keep coming back for more, there’s something to be said about being too overly clingy.”  

“I’m also sick of looking at your face and hearing your voice.” Sandalphon retorts dryly.

He takes a quick glance at the Singularity and his party and is met with their worn, but relieved expressions. “...Everyone okay?” he gets assaulted by a face full of Vyrn’s belly for his trouble. The little dragon grabs clawfuls of his hair, bawling loudly. “You idiot! You had us all worried!!”

They hear a throng of footsteps coming up from behind them. The rest of the Grandcypher crew have made their way to the top of Pandemonium. Io, Rosetta have already started to work on retrieving their unconscious allies and have begun healing them.

“It’s not safe here. Withdraw the wounded back to the Grandcypher!” Katalina steps forward next to Michael with her sword drawn, ready to cast a barrier if Belial attempts to land any attacks. Eugen has his scope locked into him in case he makes any sudden movements.

Belial draws out a heavy, tired sigh. “So the rest of the cavalry has arrived. Looks like I wasted too much time playing around. Lucilius will be livid… haha.”

“Please. Belial. Give up your plans to destroy this realm. You won’t have to fight anymore if you just surrender.” Lyria softly pleads.Her eyes glow blue as she attempts to reach out to him with her ability.  “I know that it isn’t what you want. Otherwise you wouldn’t have placed so many loopholes for us to-”

“Naughty girl… it’s not very nice to peek into my thoughts without permission.” Belial raises his defenses to effectively block her out. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can begin to understand the Primarch of Cunning. I’ll show you just what I mean.”

“Singularity. Everyone.” Sandalphon emerges from the crowd as he lifts himself off the ground in preparation for a fight with all of their lives and the skydom’s fate on the line. “Let’s settle this with him once and for all.”

Chapter Text

Cornered, battered, and on his knees. Belial no longer has any strength to draw more power from Avatar’s essence. He can neither summon his armaments nor his wings. There just isn’t any more. The aftereffects of the grueling battle and the 2,000 years he spent hiding his presence is now taking its toll on his body. He has been completely defeated. “I think you’re all missing the point. This grand finale is also salvation for us primals.”

“Your idea of salvation is to destroy everything? If you want to return to the nothingness so badly, you and Lucilius can meet your deaths by yourselves without bringing the everything else into it. Enough. Tell us how to stop Pandemonium.” as much as Sandalphon doesn’t want to hear another word coming out of that filthy mouth, they still need him to spill how to reverse the widening of the rift.

Belial is aware of this, of course. They have no choice but to listen to him speak when he’s teetering on the brink. He continues on as though he doesn’t hear him. “Your salvation especially, Sandy. We’re created for the sole purpose of being tools to be wielded, caged in our allocated roles throughout our eternal lives. Behind all this awesome power we’ve been bestowed with, is an arduous, meaningless emptiness.”

“You may be fine now. But what happens when these who sympathize with you die off one by one at the end of their short, mortal lifespans? All the good things you’ve done for the sake of the realm will soon be forgotten in history, but they never forget the disasters and the mistakes you’ve made. You’ll be hated, misunderstood, alone till the ends of time.” he sees their expression darken as they take in every word he says.

A grim reminder that their views of  skydwellers and primals co-existing in harmony is but a drop in time. Who is to say that primals will not run amok and destroy civilizations in a fit of uncontrollable rage again? Who is to say sons of man will not grow ambitious and attempt to wield power that does not rightfully belong to them and attempt to control primals for their own selfish gain? Who is to say another Singularity in another time will share the views as the Singularity they have now?  Belial artfully plants the seeds of doubt in their hearts. He paints a bleak picture of their grim, uncertain future.

“That is only but one possibility of the many.” a disembodied voice responds from seemingly all around them. Light begins to gather at a fixed point behind Sandalphon’s back until it forms the outline of a humanoid-like silhouette. A divine aura brilliantly shining like no other, steps out from behind him.  “Such is the duality of the sons of man. But you’re withholding something important. While surely there are those who undoubtedly hold malicious intentions and seek to only empower themselves for their own selfish greed…”

“There are also those that exist alongside them who walk in the path of light and virtuous who can set things right again.” A young man with long hair near translucent in color solidifies in form among them. Draped in a flowing ivory white robe, slender neck adorned with a gold necklace, and gold bangles on each forearm complete the ensemble.

The crew appear just as befuddled and some as slack-jawed as Belial is, at the mysterious new addition to the cluster of people assembled on top of Pandemonium. More notable than the fact that his voice sounds exactly alike, he also bears the same face as Lucifer and Lucilius.

Taking no notice of their shocked states, he gives the Supreme Primarch next to him a warm, steady look before continuing, “You failed to account one other thing. That is… Sandalphon is not alone. And he never will be.” he tentatively takes Sandalphon's hand in his and twines their fingers together.

Sandalphon’s eyes widen for a moment before he returns the smile and gives him an answering grip of his own hand.

“Lucio...!?” Lyria is the first to exclaim in recognition. Everything clicks into place.  The crew members become abuzz with relief and renewed vitality at his return.

Belial’s words meant to sow seeds of discord have been completely plucked off its roots. Sandalphon caused the cataclysms yet somehow he not only got pardoned for his sins but also inherited Lucifer's position. Along the way, the very person who stopped him from causing mass destruction is the same one who is now one of his trusted allies. And even has the four Primarchs backing him. Moreso, adding salt to his wounds, despite losing his most important person and expected to fall into the depths of despair. Someone just happens to come along and lends him his strength and showers him with his unconditional love.

What a life. He can’t help but look on sourly at these two lovebirds gazing into each other’s eyes. He did not toil endlessly and scheme for 2000 years just to watch someone he deemed unworthy and inferior come out with a better written ending than his. So this is the taste of defeat. Losing. It sucks. Belial laughs bitterly. “Just end me already.”

It’s another massive quaking that cuts their early celebration short. Katalina braces herself, “W-what’s happening!? Pandemonium is shaking again!”

“Probably the chaos starting to seep in.” Belial props himself back up to his feet. With what remains of his strength, he trudges towards the edge of the platform. “The skies turning crimson will be quite the sight to see. Well then… enjoy the grand finale. I’ll be taking my leave.”

“Wait! Is he going to-!?” Gran is the first to attempt to stop him but he only ends up brushing his hand against air when he tries to reach for him. “...Belial!!”

What was with that ridiculous expression? Did the Singularity think he could save him the way he saved Sandalphon?

He really is amusing.

There is… no redemption for someone like him.

“This really is goodbye.” are his final words before they lose sight of him falling to oblivion amidst the clouds and smoke.

 

After they lost their only means of attempting to find a solution for this urgent predicament, the other Primarchs finally arrived at the summit to receive news of Belial’s fall. At the same time, they are crowding around this new form of Lucio’s with a growing clamor mixed with awe, confusion, and mild apprehension.

This mysterious entity introduces himself as Helel ben Sahar. He has been referred to as the Speaker from the Divine Tower, Etemenanki. Once was an observer but now an active participant. He has been traveling with the crew as of late, and prefers being addressed as Lucio, and-

“I know proper introductions are in order, but the grand finale is still in motion. The boundary is reaching its breaking point and the otherworlders are only getting more riled up.” Sandalphon reminds them of the more pressing matter at hand.

“He’s right. We can settle this later. But does anyone have any bright ideas?” Uriel shrugs helplessly. For the moment, everyone reaches the eventual conclusion that he’s on their side. And that’s good enough for him.

Raphael ponders on it a while before suggesting, “It may not be the most elegant solution but I don't think we have a choice. The four of us will have to use brute force to reseal it.”

“And the Singularity, myself, and the crew will continue on to reach Lucilius at the divine tower.” Sandalphon adds. He can’t shake off the unease he feels leaving that nihilistic madman to his devices.

“If you’re going after him. Take these. I should have given it to you earlier but I wasn’t sure if you would be able to assimilate them yet. But after seeing your battle with Belial.. I think you’ve proven your strong will.” in Michael’s hands are a collection of wings. Their wings. The wings he had once tried to steal from them, now being presented to him of their own free will and trust.

“This is the hope and resolve of the Four Primarchs. We may not be able to follow where you fly but know that we are behind you every step of the way. For you are Lucifer’s chosen, and we have come to put our faith in you, Sandalphon, the Supreme Primarch.”

Sandalphon solemnly extends his own hands to receive their wings and blessings into himself.

His first order of business is declared. Sandalphon authorizes the Four Primarchs to halt the destruction of the dimensional boundary to prevent the grand finale. At the Supreme Primarch's command, the four primarchs take flight into cardinal directions around Pandemonium. Together, they form a ring of light as four of the distinct tetra element colors swirl rapidly around the axis.

The cracks are slowly but surely are closing up and the boundary is even strengthened.

The Grandcypher is seen taking its course above and beyond the skies where the crimson hues have yet to reach.

 

“Take about two of these and… you should be settled in a few minutes.” the on-board Erune doctor advises through the doorway as he makes his rounds around the Grandcypher. He’s murmuring something about, it can’t be helped that the spiral maneuvering of Rackam’s has gotten nearly half the crew members lying in the sickbeds.

Lucio eases Sandalphon to sit up and take the prescribed medicine with a glass of water. The Supreme Primarch is still looking a little green under the collar. He gradually returns to his prior position with his head on the Speaker’s lap as the other idly combs his fingers over his hair in comfort.

The Supreme Primarch, forced into a pathetic state because of motion sickness. He’d be the laughing stock of the skies if the other primarchs find out about it. “I’m warning you.. if word of this gets out...”

“There is no one in the skies who has better kept secrets than I.” Lucio assures him. “Yours is safe with me.”

“How could I forget.” Sandalphon huffs and closes his eyes. “Are there any more secrets I need to know about?”

“If I tell you all of them, it could last a little over a few decades if we didn’t need breaks in between. I have… witnessed many a passing an era, after all. Alone, in that tower as time continues to pass on by. But I’ve long abdicated the role on that fateful night. I suppose you could say I literally have fallen out of the sky for you.”

His brow wrinkles. Considering what they had just been through, that’s the worst, cringe inducing pick up line he’s ever heard. But it’s also so very Lucio. He groans in complaint. But can’t fight the smile off his face.

Crimson pupils slowly flutter open to meet azure blue ones gazing at him lovingly from above. Hair like fine silk curtains over him, not quite white, not quite gold..He’s going to have to get used to seeing Lucio with this hair length. Sandalphon has seen countless beauties in his time but… they pale in comparison to this androgynous, ethereal being that doesn’t need his ego inflated any further than it probably already is.

“I’m sure I have time to listen to all of them. Gradually, in moderation, and not all at once.” he forewarns. Sandalphon doesn’t like the idea of there being any more secrets between them but it’s not entirely fair that he would demand this of him when there is one other thing he has yet to divulge. “Lucio… that time when we were falling together. I met with Lucifer again.”  

The hand stroking his hair comes to a gradual stop. “Ah. So that’s what happened. For a moment, I thought I had lost you. You disappeared for a short moment and returned not long after. Would you like to talk about it?”

Sandalphon takes a deep breath and moves to a seating position next to him.  He’s well enough now to feel that the medicine is taking effect. This could be their last battle and there is no telling what the outcome is. He would rather there be no regrets and things unsaid left behind. He takes Lucio’s right hand into his own when he takes the leap to admit his innermost sentiments. “I still love him. The feelings I have for him run deep. All the resentment, the insecurity, the need to be acknowledged as his equal. The mourning grief and the loss. It will always be a part of me.”

Lucio takes in this confession of his in. He places his left hand over Sandalphon’s. “Of this, I am aware. Never has it crossed my mind to ever invalidate what you feel for him. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not Lucifer’s replacement or substitute. I have no desire to take his place nor do I wish to refute what he means to you. I am here by your side because of the simple fact that,  I love you.”

Choked with near bursting emotion that simple phrase can evoke, Sandalphon is the first to break free of their hands to embrace him. He clasps him tight like he’s almost afraid he would dissipate or pull away from him. “And I love you!”   

“So wherein, dear heart, lies the problem?” he patiently asks.

“Do you not despise me? You… you deserve someone who loves solely you with all their being,” Sandalphon becoming increasingly distressed and guilty.

“And... you would let go of me… because of this?”

“I don’t want to let go of either of you! That’s the problem!” he finally shouts.

Lucio sighs a breath of relief,  then laughs softly. As if he was waiting to hear that from him, he eases Sandalphon to look at him before gently wiping his tears away. “Then you won’t have to.”

“??? I don’t… understand?” Sandalphon can only look on in bewilderment.

“What is it that you don’t understand? Neither of us want to let go of each other. And I wouldn’t want you to let go of Lucifer either. He is a part of you, as you are a part of him. Remember that I’ve once said, If you cannot have faith in yourself, then.. Have faith in me. So if I say, you are deserving, if you are worthy, then, it must be. Because I say so.”

Unable to find a crack in that impenetrable defense, Sandalphon admits defeat. “You’re something of a tyrant yourself.”

“That’s the first time I’ve been accused of such. But it’s worth it to see that smile again.” he affectionately caresses the corners of his mouth with his thumb.  “Has the shadow upon your heart lifted?”

“Mm.” Sandalphon breaks into a smile as he abruptly wipes his face with his sleeve. He doesn’t know what he did to deserve this man and his outpouring love and devotion. But the guilt and doubt that had been eating away inside him has been dispelled.  Leaving behind only the fiery affection he feels for this primarch.

Lucio then, tilts his chin to give him that soft touch of his lips on his that speaks volumes of the adoration he feels for him.

He’s wrapped in a daze that prompts him to return the gesture. Already half seated in his lap, he takes the initiative of trapping Lucio between him and the wall behind him.

Lucio sighs into the kiss. “Say it again for me, please.”

“I love you.” Emboldened, Sandalphon whispers it with burning sincerity. His eyelashes flutter close as he feels Lucio cupping his cheek and deepening the embrace. And in answer Lucio replies, “And I love you. Sandalphon… when we reach Etemenanki, there is something I must do. It is selfish of me to ask but will you… put your faith in me once more?”

Impatient to continue, he half-growls, “You already know that I do…”

 

“Speaker. Sandalphon, we have -- hieeeek !!” The door is flung open and their reverie is broken. They come face to face with the equally embarrassed  Halluel and Malluel. Sandalphon can’t find it in himself to make eye contact so he’s frozen with his head buried in the crook of Lucio’s shoulder. His other hand is gripping Lucio's arm tightly to keep him from going off balance.

“You bring news?” Lucio seems unfazed when he addresses the blushing pair of archangels who are trying their best not to appear too flustered.

It takes a while for them to finally get around being tongue tied to eventually announce. “We, um.. have come to report that  the four Primarchs have successfully repaired the dimensional rift. And that Rackam says we’re approaching the stratosphere.” Halluel manages to say.  They make notable quick glances at Sandalphon’s near fossilized state with scorching curiosity yet still maintaining some semblance of sheepish countenance.

Halluel takes Malluel by the arm as she inches them both back where they came from whispering sharply to not stare so much. “… w-we’ll knock next time. So sorry for the interruption!”

After he feels their aura drift off to some other parts of the ship, Sandalphon collapses in his arms. Lucio bursts into laughter and then, lovingly rubs Sandalphon’s back with comforting pats.

The grand finale has been averted for the time being. With one less thing to worry about, the remaining threat to the world remains. They make their way back on the deck of the Grandcypher where the blues have become deeper and darker.

The unmistakable structure floating above them must be Etemenanki. The Speaker guides them to a place they can dock their ship.  This holy place that appears in the creation myths is where god and the worlds’ inhabitants could communicate. It also acts an an archive that dates back during the time of creation. But now that the god has fled, nowhere to be found, it has been floating through time and space, a forgotten relic of old.

Several murals and unlit displays line the walls. Engravings of an ancient forgotten language are written on stone tablets. Lucio finally comes to a stop in front of the door that leads to their destination.  He can feel Lucilius is just behind these close doors. He raises his head and lifts his hand to a panel. The door smoothly slides open with a hiss.

And there in the midst of the divine chamber, the lone figure of Lucilius and his six black wings turn towards them.

Chapter Text

Intriguing. Lucilius walks along the corridors of this mysterious space with a strange sense of familiarity. He remembers certain details of this area that he had noted down in a log he had kept for reference while he was building his theories.  The overlap between reality and what his subconscious recalls align perfectly. Too perfectly, in fact, to be counted as mere coincidence.

The murals that adorn the walls can be manipulated to reveal historical records of the world’s birth that are in line with the creation myth. Murals, of which, depict the Omnipotent splitting into two. One who fled to the skies and the other created the world of the Astrals. The two halves have been warring with the other in an attempt to become whole again. It establishes his convictions that the skydwellers and Astrals are merely used as tools leading towards homeostasis. A fate of which he’d rather eradicate down to the roots altogether until all that remains is nothingness.

Now if he is to deconstruct the components that make up this structure, he must first analyze its composition. He is a firm believer that if something can be created, it can also be destroyed.

Upon reaching the end of this corridor, he comes into a large expanse of space with a glowing mass lying in the center of it all. This is the divine chamber where the central core resides. The  elemental condensation here is the strongest, which is optimum for what he has in mind. A sinister smile makes its way to his lips. He had only been contemplating on how he can destabilize this, so called nucleus, when his heightened senses catch on to a disturbance within.

His first assumption is that Belial finally caught up. But as it draws closer, it becomes clear to him that he might need to reevaluate his earlier deduction. He turns to face the assembly of skyfarers that have come with intent to thwart his advances. However, his eyes are drawn to an entity he’s never encountered before.

The entity in question steps forward to address him with a face and voice he only knows too well, “Lucilius. I would like for you to call off your grand finale. Not only your current plan but also, abandon rebellion entirely.”

“Lucifer? You're just as disgustingly self righteous as I remember. But also, I’m familiar with my own handiwork well enough. You’re… not him.”  Lucilius raises an eyebrow as he gauges this being with all the possible answers that would coincide with his identity.

“A defensive sentry?” he ponders out loud before leveling him with cold eyes. “Or perhaps, the only supposed possible inhabitant of this tower. Considering the garbs you wear, and the pretentiousness of your tone, you can only be, The Speaker. Although I don’t quite understand the logic as to why you would wear my face.”

“And if you’re all here, that means… Belial must be dead?” there’s an odd flicker of disbelief as he takes on this information.

“That's right. He’s finished. Pandemonium is under control, dimensional rift repaired. You’re all that’s left.” Sandalphon declares abruptly as he stands alongside the Singularity and the Speaker.

Lucilius lets out an annoyed huff. “That loutish barking. It can only be that mass of spare parts that Belial said already joined Lucifer in his death. Haa… why is it so hard to get good help.”

“...Wear... your face?” the Speaker parrots. His head tilts slightly in confusion with a matching idiotic look to go with it. One Lucilius would never even dare imagine on his own. But what the Speaker says next renders him to a full stop.

“It’s only natural we have the same face. After all, you are a clone of mine.”

“A clone…”

Lucio continues on to explain. “You see… When the god of the stars created a new world, he based it on the one he left behind. From the building blocks of matter, to the fundamentals of ecology. This goes without saying the organisms that inhabit that world, as well as people’s appearances. For example… one such as his Speaker.”

“Surely you must have noticed you’ve acquired information that came from the very recesses of your mind. Visions you could not explain, experiences that you can retell with clarity yet recognize are not of your own. More telling is the primal beast you created in your own image.  Because you instinctively seek the true form of God’s perfect Speaker, you created Lucifer in your own image, to complete yourself.”

Lucilius continues to draw a blank stare as he takes in this information. “So you’re implying that I am an imitation Speaker.. and you're the original…” Ridiculous. Is the first thing that comes to mind. And while his first action is to refute this baseless proclamation. The more he thinks about it, it isn’t entirely unfounded...

The Astrals have always looked upon him with suspicion and disdain despite the fact that among all the other pea-brained, narrow minded researchers of whom the High Council consider the finest minds in the land, it was he, who contributed most of his knowledge and research that attributed to the progress of evolution. With terrifyingly accurate results that even led them to keep a watchful eye on him.

Because of this, he labelled himself an unrivaled genius for spinning theory after theory, hypothesis upon hypothesis, committed experiments that others would not have even dared venture for his endless thirst of knowledge-- and if the Speaker’s words are to be taken as truth-- His identity, his very plane of existence, comes down to the fact that he’s pre-made from a mold that already held all the answers. And that his deductions, findings and achievements are not entirely a product of his own brilliance.

The icing on the cake is, he’s neither a primal beast nor is he an Astral. But a clone. One who does not even have his own identity but is actually a pale imitation of one.  “Heh.. ahahaha.”

“Do you not believe me? If given the time, I can produce the evidence to verify-” Lucio questions, unsure of what his reaction means. He can feel Sandalphon’s fixated stare but he has said nothing at this point to interrupt, honoring his request to place his faith on him.

“No need. I'm sure you know what you're talking about. But I really couldn't ask for a more fortuitous turn of events. Here I was needing some extra power to destroy the divine tower.” he extends his clawed hand. That once, indifferent  gaze directed at him has now taken a different turn. “If I'm imperfect... absorbing you into my core ought to rectify the problem.” he summons his black wings to him. His aura emits a near suffocating malice so great that any lesser beings might be pressed to heel under the pressure.

Which includes almost everyone within the chamber, including Sandalphon. He grits his teeth as he struggles to lift his head. Facing Belial had nearly exhausted his Supreme Primarch powers. And although they had been given a period of rest, it isn’t enough to recover that which was already expended.  What the hell is this!? Why can’t he will his limbs to move, much less stand!!

“I can’t-- move..!” next to him he can see with his limited peripheral is the Singularity undergoing the same struggle with Lyria and Vyrn next to him, lying prone on the ground. No doubt the rest of the crew are in the same state.

“I have no interest in the rest of the rabble.The original and the copy, which one will walk out of this alive. Can a modified clone surpass the original… I’d like to test my hypothesis.” Lucilius states his intentions and draws his blades into an attack stance.

Being the only sole individual left standing, Lucio steps forward. He has already foreseen this very moment in a vision that continued to plague him these past few moons. The collapse of Pandemonium, the rise of the fallen angels, the confrontation in the divine chamber. All had played accordingly and yet, the prior two had been thwarted through Sandalphon and the Singularity’s hands.

But in this third and final trial… he also foresees his coming death.

“Lucio!! Don’t...!” Sandalphon yells at the figure moving further and further away from them. The tiles beneath his hands crack from the pressure he applies on them but he still isn’t able to stand.

“Sandalphon… ” Lucio pauses to look over his shoulder, he mouths something to him and reluctantly continues on despite his growing protests.

 

As much as Lucio seeks a peaceful resolution, a confrontation is what Lucilius desires to the point where he forces his hand like this. Even if he is his clone, he is completely resistant to his will. Becoming enthralled with his obsession to unravel what the Omnipotent has created, to both affirm and damn his own existence. Turning to the imminent threat, he calmly speaks. “If it is an assessment you want, then you shall have it. If they are as insignificant as you claim, then there is no need for this show of power. Release them.”

“It will be dispelled only if either you or I fall to make sure you’re entirely committed to this. Worry not. I have no intention to dilute results. I want a full analysis of this body’s capacity and as it stands, you’re my only equal.”

“Lucilius... can nothing dissuade you from your rebellion against the gods?” knowing it may be futile, Lucio asks just once more.

“Nothing can stop me from dragging god down his throne.” he rapidly narrows the distance between them brandishing his weapon on hand, with every intent to cut him open.

Fully aware that Lucilius cares not for who gets caught in the crossfire of their inevitable battle, Lucio intentionally draws him away from Sandalphon and the skyfarers. He flies upwards with Lucilius in pursuit.

 

“Lucio..!! Dammit!” Sandalphon clenches his fists. He’s in possession of the wings of the Four Primarchs but in this state he is unable to activate them. He closes his eyes tries to regulate his breaths in an attempt to calm himself despite the destructive sounds of the skirmish exploding above them.

‘I’ll be fine. Don’t lose sight of the promise.’ are the words he imparted him with.

“Lucio, you… you’re really going through with this!?” He’s internally shaken from that vague statement. There is nothing ‘fine’ about this!!?! The fate of the world, this deciding battle, it all leads to this point. The realm and all the lives in it hinge on this very moment.

Stand..!

He refuses to abide by Lucilius’ restrictions. Stand up, dammit!

Did he come all the way here just to be forced to be a bystander!?

Get up and fight!! He needs to get up and fight with him! For the skies he’s come to love so dearly, for the friends and comrades he made along the way, for the primarchs who entrusted him with their wings, for the skydwellers who fight their hardest to continue living!!  

‘Please..! Give me the strength to protect everyone important to me…!!!’

“T-the feather..!” Lyria exclaims in surprise as the pure white feather in her possession starts to illuminate a bright light. It starts to float, gravitating towards Sandalphon’s outstretched fingers.

He is instantly filled with a sense of warmth and peace. An aura he knows all too well assimilates with his, granting him a renewed vitality that breaks what control Lucilius once had over him. And if the exclamations of the nearby crew members are any indication, they’ve also been released from Lucilius’ hold.

The Four Primarch wings naturally sprout behind him alongside six other wings that once belonged to Lucifer, hereby granting him a total of twelve multicolored wings adorning his back.

By the time he is ready to take flight and face Lucilius, the sounds from above have eerily ceased. A dark shadow looms ever closer as a lone silhouette descends from above. A being bearing twelve lustrous, black wings. He indifferently flicks a dark red substance off his blade. “What a disappointment. In the end, he’s merely an obsolete model.” he peels what remains of a bloodied white cloth off himself and it drifts lifelessly down towards them.

Sandalphon catches onto it and stares at the blood soaked thing. Dark shadows hide his expression but he clutches the fabric tightly in his palm.

“The Speaker, he’s…” Io can’t find it in herself to say anymore.

Eugen curses under his breath.  He knew that when they climbed up here, there would be casualties but it doesn’t make it any easier seeing it happen before their very eyes. None of them could have stopped it from happening.

If they’re this devastated, Rosetta can only imagine what Sandalphon must be feeling at this moment. A primal beast’s life relies on their core. If all that remains of him is this- it can only mean that Lucilius has already taken his core and absorbed it into himself.

“Sandalphon. We can’t… we can’t give up hope here.” Gran is aware what he’s asking for is the impossible. It’s hard enough for him to manage to say something while his heart weighs so heavy with anguish. “Lucio would have wanted us to keep going. To end this!”

Sandalphon lets out a heavy exhale. His expression is unreadable as he places a hand on Gran’s shoulder, “I know. It’s not over yet.”

Unfortunately, dire circumstances barely give them the time to grieve when the divine tower begins to quake. Their attention is drawn upwards just in time to see Lucilius breaking through the protective membrane of the tower’s power source. He then, proceeds to sinks the tip of his blade into the center of the building’s nucleus and gives it a wide, clean sweep across, shattering the solid mass into pieces.

Etemenanki begins its plummet from the heavens, straight down towards Pandemonium!! Even if the dimensional boundary has already been repaired. The structure of this magnitude falling from this height will obliterate it completely, rendering all their efforts to moot. The grand finale is still in motion!

 

Lucilius..!!! ” Sandalphon raises his voice above the chaos.

The silver haired fallen turns to look at them as though he had only just remembered their existence. He takes in the visage of Sandalphon with his twelve wings with a contemptuous upturn of his lips. “I see. So you have assimilated the four primarch's wings alongside the Supreme Primarch’s. What a mismatched collection of borrowed plumage. Befitting a spare primarch.”

Mass of useless reject, spare parts, spare primarch. Lucilius really doesn’t let up on in referring to him as incomplete and inferior. He’s almost sure it’s because he’s trying to compensate for being called a clone. But he’s long stopped caring what Lucilius thinks of him. And this distinctly colored plumage he so mockingly looks down upon, he wears them with full pride. “They may be borrowed finery, but it’s the shared will of everything and everyone that stands against you and your rebellion.”  

“Hmph, no number of wings will make you my equal.” he raises an arm to bring about a torrential rain of dark rays. “ Paradise Lost!

This time, Katalina is ready for it and forms a barrier over the crew before it pelts them.

Sandalphon sharply propels himself up and breaks through the resulting smoke from the explosions. His blade connects with Lucilius’ own at the last second.  He hears him grunt in surprise as he only narrowly deflected the incoming attack.

“Insolent.” Lucilius snarls, balls of fire strengthened by the bite of a wind are launched towards Sandalphon only to be doused by ice magic coming from below. Vines shoot out and grasp his arms and legs, intent on dragging him back to the ground below. “Just die!” the field around him breaks free of them as though they were no more than paper. He returns the favor and shoots out jet black beams of dark energy towards them to deal with.

Lyria manages to summon a primal that specializes in negating damage but the clear hissing sound from the black residue as it touches his boots has Gran calling out to the rest of the crew not to stand in them.

“Tch.” They’re more of a pain that he thought. Having fought several hard earned battles, their coordination and teamwork is tight knit and covering where one is faltering, becoming each other’s strengths. With Sandalphon on the aerial charge and the crew on the ground, Lucilius finds that he’s gradually becoming overwhelmed. They say the more cornered the animal the harder they fight for their survival and he is experiencing this firsthand.

“Enough. This ends now.” Lucilius takes to higher ground. The sharp whistling sound that indicates him charging up most of his power has everyone bracing for another barrage covering wide area of attack. None of their barriers are ready to withstand another wave this soon.

“For once, we agree on something!” Sandalphon is on his trail, his entire body is also charging with light comparably as intimidating as his counterpart. They both fire off at the same time.  The impact of both light and dark meet halfway. The air is abuzz of both energies whipping and colliding violently.

Lucilius forces his hand in injecting more of his power into the attack. Not to be outdone, Sandalphon does the same with a hoarse yell. Suddenly, he notices the faint outline of a pair of hands coming from behind him to rest on top of his. He can’t afford to turn around now to see who it is but he doesn’t have to. He can hear their voices overlapping as the light from his palms increase their power by two fold.

Paradise Lost!!”

“I-mpossible..!” This unprecedented increase in output plows through his own and he all but braces himself from the impact of the light that consumes him in its blinding brilliance. Even now as he lays in a pathetic, crumpled heap on the floor. He just can’t be sure if it was an illusion but for the briefest moment… he thought he saw him.

That he saw Lucifer looking back at him.

Thoroughly spent and out of options, Lucilius finds himself at the humiliating mercy of the Singularity and the skydwellers.

Having spent every last ounce of the Supreme Primarch’s powers and the Four Primarch wings, they have withdrawn back into Sandalphon’s body. But just as his knees are about to give way from exhaustion, it is Gran and Lyria who catch his fall. Gran takes more of the bulk by supporting him up with an arm over his shoulder.  

It is only through sheer power that Lucilius forces himself off the ground with his elbows. He bares his teeth to dare anyone who has the nerve to try approaching him. But there’s one thing they overlooked. “You’re too late.” he manages to rasp out. “Even if you did manage to defeat me, we’re all still plunging to our deaths. And the realm’s end, as we know it.”

Sandalphon hates to admit it but he’s right. What good was their triumph if none of them had the capability to halt an entire building from its destructive path. But just when they thought all hope is lost…like a switch had been flipped open, Etemenanki begins to slow its descent to a full stop. The core that Lucilius thought he destroyed, lights up with life once again, its components swirl, self repairing the damage he had once wrought on it.

By whatever miracle, Etemenanki is once again operational, the chances of a purported tragic descent is no longer a possibility. For now it seems the skydwellers have completely thwarted the world’s end. Lucilius clicks his tongue and hangs his head silently.

“We… we did it..?” Sandalphon could scarcely believe it himself. His own hoarse, tired voice sounds almost foreign to his ears. It is only now that he allows his stream of tears to fall.  It’s all over. He fulfilled his promise. Lucilius and his legacy are finished. He clutches the only thing that remained of Lucio with his free hand. He had faith until the end, didn’t he? He gave it all he had.  “Lucio, are you watching…?”

“I am.”

The sudden, unexpected answer almost has Gran and Lyria dropping Sandalphon out of fright.

“Inconvenient as it is, I apologize that I can only address you all in this form. But you’ve all done well to save the realm from destruction. I am sending Lucilius to a place where I can ensure he will no longer be a threat to this world. But you must all make haste and escape before I begin the shift .”

The rest of the crew who are able, are assisting the others back to where their ship had been docked. Sandalphon’s struggles begin anew as Gran nearly grapples with him to keep him from toppling both of them over.

“Lucio..! Wait!!” not knowing where else to look, Sandalphon raises his head to the ceiling of the chamber. “What’s going to happen to you!?” no longer with a physical body, he can only assume his spiritual form has taken control over Etemenanki. But after that… what then? Is this it? Is this the last time they’ll speak to each other again? Is he sealing himself alongside Lucilius?

The uncertainty festers inside him. Would he really be willing to the rest of his immortal life without the trace of that smile, the gentle touch of that hand, the assurance of that voice, held in his embrace that radiated tranquility. How cruel must fate be to show him what it means to be loved only to rob it after grasping the warmth it readily offered.  “Please..”

The first time he felt this devastated and lost, it was like being in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. He never thought he could laugh or smile again. He had been ready to cast his life aside if it meant stopping Lucilius, if it meant fulfilling a promise.

And then in the Singularity’s care, he met him. He may have been a nuisance when they first clashed. He distrusted him, despised him, even.

But he doesn’t know when it all started to change or how it all started but slowly, Lucio had gradually broken the chains he had bound himself with. Warmed him until all the ice encasing his core melted. Taught him how to love and be loved in returned. Healed not just his wings, but also his sense of self.

His journey with the Singularity has also taught him many things. Of a world beyond the research laboratory and Pandemonium. Working with others, learning skydweller customs, and participating in festivals. Unexplored lands that extend far off the horizons. There is so much this realm has to offer still alongside troubles and dangers neverending even past the mortal years of the Singularity and his crew. And the world will have it’s Supreme Primarch, but he can only plead for this one selfish thing. “Stay with me. I’ll do it. I’ll come with you, wherever you want to go after this journey ends. Just don’t..” he grits his teeth, biting out the words he has always meant to say. ”Don’t leave me..”

Sandalphon…” Lucio’s responds with heartfelt earnest, “Know that, I will do no such thing...”

Another violent convulsion plows through the entire structure, and has Lyria notifying them. “I don’t sense him anymore. Let’s hurry..!”

“C’mon!! We’re getting closer to that thing in the sky that’s sucking the tower in!” Vyrn supports the back of Sandalphon’s head and starts flapping his wings as they push though, as though the gesture would help them move faster. But it’s the thought that counts, right?!

Just as they cross the hallway. They come across the fatigued form of someone they never thought they would cross paths with again. Sandalphon’s guard is raised. “You’re still alive, you scum!”

There, leaning against the wall in the most storry state he has ever been, is the archangel of cunning. Belial lifts the corner of his mouth. “I’m just as surprised as you are, really. I thought I was done for back there. But I managed to hitch a ride on this airship and take the trip on over here.”

“Why you... ! It’s over, learn when to quit already!” Vyrn raises his fists.

Belial throws up his hands in a half hearted gesture of surrender. “Simmer down, Scaly. I think you’ve all seen to it to wring all the fight out of me. I’m only here to pick up Lucilius. As you can probably tell from my aura, I’m at my limit. Look, I’ll even let you land a punch in as a gesture of goodwill if it’ll get you to just leave me to do what I came here to do.”

”Let’s just go...!” Gran urges them on as they turn their backs on Belial and resumed their way back to the ship as fast as they are able to.

Halfway towards the dock, a couple of crewmates rush down the ramp to help haul the three of them onto the deck.  The engine of the Grandcypher guns to life and Rackam steers them further away from the faint outlines of the divine tower as it’s being swallowed up by the crack in the dimension. In the blink of an eye, the tower, along with the rift, disappear entirely without a trace.

Threat finally averted, all of the adrenaline that had carried him this far is replaced with a heavy feeling of weariness. Having used up the last of his strength, Sandalphon passes out on the deck of the Grandcypher.

Chapter Text

When Sandalphon regains some semblance of consciousness. He’s once again in that familiar shaded garden awakened by the smell of roasted coffee beans. There’s a clink of porcelain as a filled cup is being placed neatly in front of him. Lucifer sets down another cup across him before seating himself.

“You’re just in time. I started to wonder whether it might grow cold by the next I see you again.” Lucifer greets him with a relaxed smile. “You’re not in any danger of your soul leaving your body, so we can finally take our time sharing this long awaited cup of coffee.”

Unlike the first instance, Sandalphon is more calm as he takes the cup in his hands as it is the only natural thing to do.He takes a cautious sip and lets that familiar bittersweet taste settle on his tongue. He wholeheartedly welcomes it like the warm embrace of home and sighs in contentment. “It’s perfect. I could never get it to taste like this. No matter how many times I attempt.”

“Is that so? But does it really have to be the exact same?” Lucifer takes a satisfying sip of his own before he continues. “I don’t think I’m doing anything different from what I’ve taught you. I’m much more interested if you’ve already made your own special blend.”

“My own special blend..?”  Sandalphon absentmindedly traces the rim of the half empty cup with his finger as he ponders on this.  It’s true that he had been experimenting with different ingredients catering to the different preferences and tastes of the different crew members on board the Grandcypher but… True. He had been so focused on recreating the taste Lucifer imparted him with that he has only come to realize that there are several other pathways and doors for him that have yet to be opened. It can never be exactly like Lucifer’s. He isn’t him nor is he a copy. He shouldn’t limit himself to what he perceives as perfection and find one unique to his own. Sandalphon smiles as he comes to understand his meaning. “Haha, that’s not a bad idea.”

“Would you like another cup?” he offers when he sees his nearly empty.

“Ah, yes.. Please. But let me.” Sandalphon hurriedly stands up but Lucifer motions for him to remain in his seat.

“You are my guest here and you’ve all done so very well. It’s the very least I can do… after all, I’ve placed such a heavy burden on your shoulders.” Lucifer stands to retrieve the pot only to circle around Sandalphon’s side to pour him more.

Sandalphon rests his hands on his lap. He stares down at his knuckles with reserved nervousness. “No, I..” And in a more resolved state of mind, he discloses what he had been keeping inside for so long, “...I should be the one to apologize. For having joined the rebellion, for causing the cataclysms. I blamed you for my own actions because I only saw my own pain. For that I… I truly am sorry for all the people I’ve hurt. Including you.”

Lucifer stops at mid pour as he takes in Sandalphon’s apology. Setting the pot down first, he casts his pensive gaze elsewhere. “I have hurt you as well. The fault is not yours alone to bear, Sandalphon. I overlooked your feelings.  And I never realized how vast the void that you once occupied… until the very day we parted on such terms.”

“Lucifer…” Sandalphon begins to say but is stopped when he feels the palm of Lucifer’s hand rest upon his shoulder. He looks up to see his face and immediately balks internally. He can’t even recall the last time he’s looked upon him so fondly like this, that it’s making him even more flustered. “W...what is it? Why are you… ”

“It has been a while since I last had a good look at you. You’ve gotten much stronger. The darkness that once muddled your eyes have dissipated. They’re clear, unwavering. And… radiant.  I’m glad. It has always my most sincere wish for you to find your happiness.”

One that he could not readily provide him with at the time. But if he had known then what he knows now… ah , Lucifer inwardly sighs. There is little point to wishing for time to stand still or to turn back the clock. It is something not within the realm of possibility he should be entertaining because it changes nothing. All the decisions and chosen paths they have taken all lead up to this moment and they can only take responsibility for the consequences.

“I am… happy. But I also, wish for your happiness.” Sandalphon answers genuinely. As much as he hates acknowledging that serpent’s words, he wasn’t entirely sprouting nonsense. Lucifer had dedicated his very existence in peacekeeping the realm. Never venturing too far the scope of his duties. Always putting every living thing’s existence above his own. It personally frustrated him to no end how little he values himself over others.

“Thank you, I will carry your words close to my heart.” Lucifer readily accepted his death as divine punishment for Sandalphon’s transgressions. But lately he began questioning as to whether he should also graciously accept the eternity that lay beyond the rest of his time in this garden tending to coffee trees.

At some point Lucifer had thought about waiting for him to come join him in this place.  But unless under unusual circumstances, such as being forcibly destroyed or fatally wounded by a weapon that can kill immortals, a primal’s life continues on for eternity. And bringing harm into Sandalphon’s life,  is not a fate he would ever wish upon him. Moreover, he has someone by his side now to make sure it will never come to pass. Knowing that, he feels more assured that he can fly free even with the heavy weight of his wings on his back.

Lucifer turns to face him after finally coming to his own conclusion. “Now that I’ve had my last wish granted, I can go in peace knowing you’re in good hands.”

“Go.. in peace? But where are you going?”

Lucifer’s contemplative stare drifts towards the mountains. “To the Stream of Souls. The next step beyond this realm. I had been given a most generous choice to remain here for all eternity and live out the rest of my days in this tranquil place. Free from the malice, conflict, and hardship of the world. But… I declined. ”

“Declined?” Sandalphon doesn’t mask his confusion. The way Lucifer described it made it sound like a paradise that others would aspire to reach, and yet… “...Why?”

Lucifer lets out a light laugh. His hand reaches out to brush a stray lock of hair from the Supreme Primarch’s bewildered face. “Why, do you think?”

The gesture leaves Sandalphon flabbergasted on the spot, that he hasn’t moved at all even as Lucifer slowly withdraws and starts walking ahead of him towards the pathway leading outward. The wind picks and brings with it the scent of wild grass and small stray tufts of dandelion puffs. He doesn’t look back as he lifts his head to the skies . “Perhaps someday, if fate allows it, we might meet again in my next life.”

That they are able to even have the chance to talk like this even after his passing, is a miracle in itself. Still, he never thought he’d live to see the day that Lucifer finally chose to do something for himself. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Then, I shall be leaving first.” Lucifer takes the first step and finds that it becomes easier for him after the next two as his hesitation melts away with the building promise of a new morrow.

Like he had done so many times before, Sandalphon cups his hands around the corners of his mouth as calls after him with all the spirit he could muster. “Have… a safe journey!”

Lucifer gives him one last smile over his shoulder, and acknowledges him with a wave before continuing his way into the heart of the forest. Sandalphon continues to watch his retreating figure until he could no longer see him.

 

Having left the shaded patio, Sandalphon quietly retraces his steps back to where he remembered the light that brought him back to consciousness should have been. But in its place, he sees a familiar figure in white idly reclining against the trunk of a tree. The ancient being listens to the serenade of a sparrow that finds its perch on his outstretched fingers.

Its song abruptly comes to a halt and it flits away when it hears the trample of grass that accompanies his approach. “Lucio? You’re here too?”

“I came here because I knew I’d find you here.” He pats some the loose grass from the folds of his robe, before gesturing to the empty spot next to him in an offer to join him. “Are you returning already? I thought you’d want to spend more time with Lucifer?”

Sandalphon wordlessly squats next to him and immediately envelops him in a tight embrace, burying his face in his chest. His face is lowered and Lucio can’t clearly see his expression. But when he sees tears tracking down the brunet’s face, the Speaker becomes visibly shocked and distressed. “Did the meeting not go over well?”

Sandalphon shakes his head as though he were saying, ‘That’s not it’. The feeling of release from the pain, the guilt, the darkness that clouded his heart is bittersweet. Having already fulfilled his promise and that he made his peace with Lucifer, he can say with certainty that he’s come to accept all that has happened, acknowledge Lucifer’s forgiveness, and.. finally, forgive himself.

He mourns the loss of someone he has cared for deeply, but from the bottom of his heart, he truly is glad that Lucifer has been granted a new lease in life.

Lucio says nothing but he no longer feels Lucifer here and has come to understand what has taken place. He chose to be reborn unto the world again. Perhaps in another form, in another time. But a part of Lucio believes that even if Lucifer comes to forget his previous life entirely, the bonds that have been set so deeply are not so easily severed. With this in mind, he raises a hopeful smile to the skies and continues to stroke his back.

After a while, Sandalphon lifts his head to give him a more resolute look. “I think I found my purpose.” Lucio gives him his full, undivided attention as he continues. “...I want to make sure the world and time period he appears in is during a time of peace. Of course, not just only that period but.. indefinitely,” and he readily adds without giving him an opening to protest. “And you’re going to help me do it.”

There’s an exhilarated glint in his eyes as he dips his head in a light bow of acknowledgement . “If the Supreme Primarch wills it, I am only happy to serve.”

“Let’s go home. And continue our journey with our friends.” Sandalphon helps them both up to their feet. He feels as though all the weight has been lifted from his shoulders. His soles haven’t even left the ground yet he already feels like he’s soaring.

“Yes.” Lucio tangles their fingers together as a gentle light begins to enshroud them both.

 

 

The light is becoming too bright that he can tell how glaring it is even with his eyelids shut. Sandalphon makes a small groan of complaint as he turns over and slowly comes to a waking realization that he’s lying flat on a mattress in his night clothes.  He groggily wipes his bleary eyes as he takes in his familiar surroundings. The faint smell of citrus and lavender... the little knickknacks on the shelves collected from their travels and gifts from friends. Each one contains fond memories.  He's in the.. “Grandcypher…” He nudges the stolen pillow he had been lightly drooling on and noticed the bedside next to him is empty but there’s still creases and traces of warmth left there.

Lucio.

Suddenly jolting awake, Sandalphon staggers out of bed. His balance still slightly askew, he takes a short tumble over the bed frame and quickly picks himself back up.  He rushes out of the room in just a pair of pajama pants. He very nearly runs over the Singularity and Lyria who jump aside to avoid the collision.

The blue haired girl asks, “S-sandalphon? Oh, thank the skies, you’re finally awake. Are you feeling better?”

“Ssorry.. Lucio. Where’s… Lucio?” he’s probably urgently babbling and his nest of hair is in disarray. But he doesn’t care about that right now. All he can hear is the pulsating of his core in his ears as memories of their last battle begin to piece itself together. Of Lucio taking over the divine tower, said tower getting sucked into the rift between dimensions, And the echo of his last assurance before they parted. He wants... no, he needs to see him with his own eyes.

“Lucio?” Gran scratches the back of his neck sheepishly, “I think I saw him on the upper de-”

“Thanks.” Sandalphon doesn’t let him finish and he weaves by them in his hurry.

There in the midst of the white sheets being hung to dry.  He sees a familiar silhouette.

 

No longer concealing his true form, Lucio’s hair spills down his shoulders but they’re tied back into a braid with little flower clips unevenly distributed throughout. Some of the children on board just went to town with it and he doesn’t want to put their hard work to waste. The weather is good, the wind is pleasant. He just about finishes this batch and lifts the basket of the now, dry and clean fabric in his arms with intentions to bring it back inside when-

Sandalphon lunges at him at full force, knocking him flat on the ground and sending all the sheets and loose flower clips flying skywards.

 

The end.