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Warriors (That Built This Town)

Chapter Text

 

Castiel has his good days. On those days, he manages to smile, to enjoy the time he’s spending with his loved ones. Reveling in the fact that he gets to hold Iakobo is one of the biggest reasons he can truly feel happiness, but one of the steadiest reasons is the presence of Dean around him.

Dean is his rock, the person that keeps him up. He’s there for him when it gets hard for him, which it does. Because along with the good days, Castiel also has his bad ones. The ones where it’s hard for him to get out of bed because of the memories. They haunt him, guilt hitting him right where it hurts the most. The reminder of a person he’s loved and lost, and no matter how much he tells himself that Dean is right there, that he never knew Demetrius and that he’s not Cassia, his mind often likes to tell him otherwise.

Today is one of those bad days. It’s about ten months since they’ve returned from Enochia and so far everybody’s lives seem to have stabilized. With Jess now having recovered completely from her crash she’s been getting her degree along with Sam, finishing off college. They still got a long road ahead of them, but Castiel is glad to see that they’re happy together. They deserve that, after all they’ve been through.

Jimmy only recently got married to Amelia. It had been a spontaneous decision according to his twin brother, but Castiel is very happy for them. Sadly, even that doesn’t help him get up on this particular morning.

Dean is still asleep, so he doesn’t hear the long sigh escaping from Castiel. He has to pee, but he just can’t find the strength to get up, to take care of himself. He’s been ‘forgetting’ to do some of the housework that’s still left to do, and the thought of Jack possibly crying in the next room nearly makes him want to tear up as well.

Any kind of commotion is already too much for him. He just wants to stay in bed until it passes. Which it does, eventually. It always does. Just like it always comes back.

“Hmmm, Cas, weren’t you gonna go to the store this mornin’?” Dean asks sleepily against the back of his neck. He’s spooned up behind Castiel, his arm underneath Castiel’s head. The other arm is resting on his hip, and Castiel’s hand is put on top of it. It’s an attempt of holding on to him, and now that Dean’s awake Cas grabs his fingers and pulls his entire arm to his chest.

He doesn’t respond. He knows that Dean will understand immediately. He always does.

The thing he hates the most is the fact that Dean has no idea what to do. He has often admitted that he hates seeing Castiel like this, which makes the guilt even stronger than before. He doesn’t want to make him sad, but he can’t help it. Can’t stop himself from feeling so horrible about everything.

“You’re having a hard time again, don’t you?” Dean asks calmly when there’s a lack of answer. Castiel closes his eyes, holding on tightly to Dean’s arm. He doesn’t want to let go, afraid that Dean might disappear on him. Might be getting tired of him having these random waves of depression hitting him because of this shit.

And it’s not like he can just visit a shrink or something. What can he say? That he recovered the memories of an Archangel and found out every horrible thing his ancestor did out of heartbreak? No-one in their right mind would believe him. They’ll only put him in the nuthouse.

Before Castiel knows it, Dean’s moving behind him. Despite a bit of tugging Dean gets his arm free rather easily. Then his weight dips, and Dean is out o the bed. He goes around, coming to stand in front of Cas and gently caressing his cheek while dropping down on his knees.

“Let’s get you washed up, okay?”

Castiel nods, a single tear escaping from his eyes.

He doesn’t know how he ever deserved such a kind a loving person like Dean Winchester, but for some reason the guy decided to stick with him. That, more than anything, means the world to Dean.

Dean scoops him up from the bed. He grunts a bit from the weight, but he’s strong. Years of climbing does that to a person. Castiel rests his head on Dean’s shoulder while he’s carried away from the bed, brought to the bathroom. In just these short few months they’ve gotten familiar with the small family home they’ve bought themselves with the money Cas kept aside.

After most of the business is done, Dean helps Cas into the bathtub so he can get washed up. And as Cas lounges into the water, trying to calm himself down, Dean drops down on the ground next to him, carefully observing him.

“Will you tell me about it?” he asks. He always does. And Castiel always tells him that no, he’s not ready for that. And Dean respects it every time, despite the fact that he’s awfully curious about their past.

This time, though, Castiel hesitates. He doesn’t deny Dean immediately. He just clears his throat, lowers his gaze, and thinks about it.

He could tell Dean about it. Could share some of the burden, perhaps. Of course, since Dean didn’t live through it he won’t be affected as much. But it can help to share.

So Castiel nods. He holds out his hand, needing Dean’s support when he starts talking. Instead of taking it, Dean shrugs off his clothes and gestures for Castiel to sit up for a bit. Then he squeezes into the tub as well, pulling Cas back against his chest. He takes his hand and puts it against his mouth, waiting for Castiel to speak as he presses gentle kisses against his knuckles.

And finally, with his eyes closed, Castiel starts speaking.  

 

Chapter Text

 

Cassiel doesn’t know much about their past. Angels do not have pasts, after all. They are created with only one task ahead of them; to love their Father’s creation unconditionally. And that is what Angels intending to do.

That was, until Morningstar.

It was true, even Cassiel has to admit that Morningstar always used to have a rebellious side in them. They were the second-oldest Archangel in heaven, only younger than Michael. But while Michael agreed with everything their Father said, Morningstar liked to put things in question.

At first Father said it was something that made them more human. Morningstar did not like that response.

The crimes Morningstar committed against humanity are indescribable. It wasn’t too surprising they were sent to the deep pits of Hell, locked in a cage there was no escape from. And thus, Morningstar became Lucifer in the mouths of their fellow Angels.

It broke Father, according to Gabriel. It hurt Michael, as well. The two, close to age, always seemed to turn back to each other for the matters of Heaven. Now, Michael alone is burdened with that task.

Heaven returned to their matters easily after that. Michael continues up to this point still as the head Angel. Gabriel stays to their task as the Messenger of God. Raphael takes care of the sick and guides pilgrims along on their journey.

And then there is Cassiel.

Cassiel was not always an Archangel. They remember being a mere Seraphim, trained along Anna’s garrison to the point where they were given their own garrison to train. And Cassiel trained them well, getting amongst what must be the best garrison in the entirety of Heaven.

Until one day Gabriel approached them with the news that their Father had chosen Cassiel to take over Lucifer’s place as the fourth Archangel.

A normal human reaction would have been disbelief, or shock. Cassiel had merely nodded and agreed without question.

That’s why, after not too long, they got assigned with watching the seventh Heaven, which humans would describe as the holiest of the holy. Tasked to guard the house of God, their extra task existed of keeping an eye of the people who needed it. The poor, the orphans, the sick… Cassiel kept them all in their eyes.

Aside from the occasional wish, Cassiel did not often interfere with humanity. They would help out when a family was in deep trouble and at the verge of dying out, or would guide a truly desperate person back on the right track.

That is, until he gets to the Enochia family.

Sitting at their post in front of the gates of the Seventh Heaven, Cassiel grooms their wings while they keep their ears open. From the other side of the gates they can hear people, probably their Father having another one of his parties with the great Kings of the world. It’s surprising how civilized these Kings can be amongst each other. Put them all together on Earth, and no doubt a war would break out.

Of course, if it was Cassiel’s choice, none of these Kings would be here. There are plenty of other people who deserve to enter the Seventh Heaven. But, obviously, it is not Cassiel’s choice. And they are not supposed to have an opinion so Cassiel keeps their mouth shut.

“Hello, Cassiel,” they hear behind them. Cassiel pulls their wing back, turning to find Michael approaching. Michael appears as a bright white light in front of them. Their wings are as white as snow, glowing so strongly that a normal human being would have their eyes burned out because of them.

Cassiel remembers Lucifer’s wings. The color of gold in the feathers, the majestic appearance they had. They were probably the most beautiful wings Cassiel had ever seen in their life, but none of the wings come close to Michael’s.

“Hello, Michael,” Cassiel responds. They nod towards their sibling and Michael sits down next to them. They look down, taking in the sight of the Earth underneath them. “It is truly a sight to behold, is it not?”

Michael’s expression does not change. Angels do not smile, after all. Emotions are something human to have. They are not human.

“Our Father’s creation is beautiful, yes,” they agree. Then they turn to Cassiel. “What do you see right now?”

“Love,” Cassiel answers shortly. “Family, happiness.”

Michael hums, clearly glad with that answer. But Cassiel knows that their Father’s creation isn’t all just happiness around, so they’re not waiting too long to continue on the list.

“But also sorrow. Sickness. Loss.”

It tugs at something inside of Cassiel, but they know not to pay attention to it. Angels are not meant to show any kind of reaction to it. Especially Archangels.

“Anything in particular right now?” Michael asks. Cassiel turns to them, their eyes meeting.

“Two young boys just lost their parents due to sickness,” they say before lowering their gaze. Focusing on the siblings, Cassiel tries to figure out everything about them. “One boy is about seven years old. The other is eleven.”

“They are quite young,” Michael agrees. “What will you do?”

Cassiel closes their eyes, listening to the eldest boy. He’s praying, Greek words sounding sad and hopeless.

“Please, God, do not let this happen. Do not let them take my brother away from me. He’s all I have left. Don’t let them separate us.”

The kid sounds so… Cassiel can’t name it. All they can do is reach out with their Grace and offer him comfort, allowing the kid to sleep along with his brother. He’s been through enough. He deserves some rest.

Michael watches in interest as they look at Cassiel. Given his position in Heaven, Michael never has to interact with humanity. Because of that, they like to watch other Angels do so as they perform their tasks. It’s a way to connect with humanity, they say.

“They will separate them eventually,” Michael points out, but Cassiel shrugs.

“At least the kid will be able to rest for now,” they return. After that, they direct their attention somewhere else; a woman not being allowed to marry the man she loves. Cassiel decides not to change her parent’s mind, but helps her on her decision to choose for her intended, instead.

They sit there in silence for a bit. Behind the gates, whatever party their Father is having is still going strong. Cassiel feels no need to check it out. Michael, too, seems to like where they’re sitting right now.

Time is a strange concept in Heaven. It’s everywhere, but it’s also nowhere. Cassiel could spend a thousand years here on their spot, accompanied by Michael, and the Earth will only have made one rotation on its axis. Though a thousand years means nothing to Angels. It’s but a mere eyeblink.

It’s impossible to say how much time has passed since Michael joined them. But once Gabriel arrives, both Archangels look up in alarm. If Gabriel arrives it means they’ve got a message from their Father. And much like Cassiel suspects, Gabriel greets them with a nod.

“Father wishes to speak to both of you,” they say before knocking on the golden gate next to them. It opens up soundlessly, and the three Archangels walk through it.

The Seventh Heaven is the most beautiful of them all. Containing the Gardens of Joshua, it has such wonderful sights to behold. Everything is a combination of white and gold, and the kings have everything they would ever wish for. They never get full so they can eat all they want, they require no sleep and they have plenty of ways to entertain themselves.

Truly, humans are such simple creatures, Cassiel scoffs towards themselves.

Gabriel guides them to the House of God, which is a large white temple with pillars upon clouds. In the middle of the temple is a throne, where God sits with his arms crossed.

“My children, welcome,” he greets them. Cassiel and Michael bow simultaneously to return the greeting. “I’m glad you’ve agreed to see me.”

Cassiel is aware they might look confused. Michael, too, has their head tilted to the side for a bit, though their face remains expressionless.

“Is there something You wish to discuss with us, Father?” Michael asks carefully. God nods and stands up. He smiles, which is one of the biggest things that differentiates Him from the Angels. God shows emotions. For some reason, Cassiel envies Him.

“Yes, please sit down.” Their Father points towards two seats made of clouds. Neither Archangel hesitates and do as their told. Meanwhile, Gabriel returns to their post on God’s right, saying something to Metatron – God’s scribe – who scribbles it down.

God comes to stand in front of them, looking a bit at a loss for words before He decides to just go with it.

“I wanted to try something,” He says. “You can refuse if you want, but I’d really like to give this a shot.”

Cassiel finds themselves curious. They don’t have to guess to know Michael is, too.

“You know how after the battle against Lucifer we’ve lost many of your siblings?”

Cassiel nods. They do remember. The death toll to get Lucifer locked up was high, and for a long time the Angels have been waiting for God to fill up their losses.

“Well, at first I thought I’d just, you know, create new Angels. But then I thought better of it; what if you guys create them?”

Cassiel is at a loss for words. They have no idea what He’s talking about. How could an Angel create other Angels?

“Do you mean by reproduction, Father?” Michael asks. It’s a possibility He means that, but it is not possible. Angels are not created with reproductive organs, after all.

“I mean exactly that,” God responds enthusiastically. “I know I didn’t give you all the thingamabobs to have babies, but it is possible for you to procreate while wearing human vessels.”

“But is that not forbidden? To posses a human being?” Cassiel wonders out loud. God shakes their head.

“Not as long as permission is granted,” He returns. “Every Angel here has their true human match on Earth. I want you two to find yours and, if you agree with me, to give this thing a shot.”

Cassiel already knows their answer to that. They know their Father is giving them a choice, but that’s just a formality. An Angel or Archangel would do anything their Father asks. So it’s not too hard to guess the answer that would come from Michael.

With a nod, the two Archangels agree.

“Alright,” Michael says. “We will look for our vessels and as soon as they have reached a reproductive age we will ask permission to posses them in Your name.”

God nods in excitement, clapping His hands together.

“Nice, nice, alright, I’m hyped up now. How about we get this party started again here, huh?!”

And that’s enough for Cassiel to know that they should get out of here as soon as possible. While Gabriel makes haste to bring the Kings back inside, Cassiel and Michael exit the House of God, entering the Garden of Joshua without much thought.

“Do you truly not mind what our Father is asking of us?” Michael asks, and Cassiel finds it a weird question. Why would Michael doubt their loyalty like this? Do they not trust them?

“Of course I do not mind,” Cassiel responds in assurance. “To follow our Father’s will is the best task of them all.”

Michael nods before looking down to the Earth. “I must start my search for my vessel. I will contact you as soon as I have discovered it.”

Cassiel has no time to agree with them, for Michael is gone before they can respond. Cassiel does not mind. They walk through the Garden, taking in the beauty Joshua has created around here. They have surely surpassed themselves.

Well, it looks like it’s time to do what Michael is doing. With just the blink of the eyes, Cassiel opens up their wings, spreading them out to take flight. Then, without hesitation, they get themselves to the first layer of Heaven. It’s the closest to Earth and will give them a perfect view to humanity.

It’s a good way to search for their vessel. So Cassiel goes on the lookout. They are aware of the arrival of humans into Heaven. Aware of the prayers sent their way, but their attention is elsewhere. With their eyes closed, they try to lock on to their vessel. The perfect match resonates in perfect balance with their grace. Finding it should not be too hard.

They’re distracted when a voice comes up in their head. Another prayer, though this human familiar.

Thank you for not separating us. Thank you so much.”

It’s short, but it’s so honest. Taking their mind off their current task, Cassiel focuses further on the child. It’s now two days further, and from what they understand the siblings were bought off as slaves by the same person. It’s not the best way of living, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Cassiel is glad they got to keep them together.

Keeping their eyes peeled, Cassiel decides to return to the Seventh Heaven. They can keep on searching for their vessel there while at the same time guarding the gate.

It’s not that Cassiel dislikes guarding the House of God. It’s honorable work and any of the other Angels would gladly do it in their place. But the constant begging of the mortals, wishing they could come face to face with their Father… It never ends. And Cassiel is aware that it might be a very human thing to say that it gets boring, but then again that’s just the way it is.

“Is it true, Cassiel?”

Cassiel turns, finding Balthazar approaching them, their wings still spread from the flight they just took to get here.

“What is, Balthazar?” Cassiel asks, unclear of what their sibling is asking of them. Back when they were still younger, Balthazar and Cassiel trained together under Anna’s garrison. They had been friends, though they did not have many chances to speak after Cassiel was assigned as the new Archangel.

“Word goes that you and Michael are intending on creating fledglings?” Balthazar stands next to them, holding their arms next to their body as they look at their sibling. Cassiel nods.

“Word does travel fast. I suspect Gabriel has something to do with that?”

“Who else could it be?”

Cassiel knows that Balthazar tries to make jokes, but they just lack the ability to do so. It’s something typically Balthazar, who often does not act like an Angel would, but is also unable to behave like a human.

“Are you going to do it?” they then ask. It’s a weird question, reminding Cassiel of the one Michael asked them. Does everybody doubt them, maybe?

“Of course I am. Why would I not?” It’s a honest question. Cassiel finds themselves curious as to why people would question their loyalty.

“Because as far as I heard, turns out Father gave you the option to choose.”

And they’re right. Their Father did say that they had a choice. But it never really came up in Cassiel’s mind to say no. Why would anybody say no to their Father? If they asked, that means they probably really need help, no?

Cassiel decides not to think further about it. Getting back to their post, Cassiel sits down on the ground with their eyes peeled on the people of Earth.

“I would be honored to do what Father asks of us,” they answer shortly. Balthazar nods, sitting down next to them.

“I know you would,” they say. There’s something weird in their voice, something Cassiel cannot place. But that’s not a matter for them. Balthazar’s business is their business.

For a short while, Cassiel continues with caring for the people of Earth. It’s in the small ways that they help them out. After allowing the occasional King to enter the Seventh Heaven, Cassiel finds themselves thinking of all the people down there who truly deserve to be with their Father. Half of these kings haven’t even done anything good in their life.

Cassiel isn’t too aware of how many human years have passed when their eyes come to rest upon Iphigenia.

She is a young human woman, born twenty years ago from a lord and a slave. Treated as a bastard child, Iphigenia’s life has so far not been as beautiful as she’d hoped. Now, the moment Cassiel comes across her, they realize they’re just in time.

The woman is at the verge of dying, it turns out. After getting 15 lashes from the whip due to an escape attempt, her wounds turn out to have become infected. When Cassiel tries to find out why she wanted to escape, she comes to the understanding that the woman was about to be sold to a man who did not intend to keep her as a house-slave, but rather as his source for pleasure.

With Balthazar still next to them, Cassiel reaches out for the woman. She is very weak, but a sick vessel is not something Cassiel cannot fix. Closing their eyes, Cassiel tries to connect with her, find that soul inside of her to get in contact with it.

“Hello, Iphigenia,” they say in greeting. Though still unconscious, Cassiel has no trouble talking to them. Quite easily, they enter into the woman’s dream, leaving Balthazar in Heaven as they dive down to Earth.

“Who is this? Who are you?”

Iphigenia sounds scared. When, inside her own mind, she stands in front of Cassiel, the Archangel notes that she must be considered a very beautiful woman in the eyes of the human. She has long, dark hair that curl up naturally, and her eyes are as brightly blue as the sky. Her cheeks have a natural blush, and her lips are turned downwards. She looks surprised, confused, maybe.

“Don’t be afraid. My name is Cassiel. I’m an Angel of the Lord,” Cassiel introduces themselves. Humans would not be able to perceive another Angel in their true form, at least not unless they are true vessels, seeing the Angels they are meant to be with. Iphigenia seeing them now does not lead to an instant burning of their mind of eyes, which means Cassiel is at least right about something.

“Is this a dream?” she sounds full of disbelief, but that is not too much of a surprise to Cassiel. Taking a step forward, they watch as the woman takes one back. “Did I die?”

“This is not a dream,” Cassiel assures her. “But you are dying, yes.”

And here’s the remarkable thing; Iphigenia smiles. Relief comes up on her face, and she lets out a long breath.

“Will you take me to heaven, then?” she asks. Iphigenia stays quiet. While it is true that she is allowed into Heaven, that is not what Cassiel is here to do. Surely, if they do not hurry, a reaper will come to get her before Cassiel can get her consent.

“If that is what you wish,” they answer truthfully. “But I must admit that I did not come here to guide you to Heaven.”

Iphigenia shakes her head, throwing up her arms and waving them around.

“I don’t care what you want, just as long as I don’t have to spend one more day here. You have no idea what’s waiting for me if I stay!”

But Cassiel does know, though they do not understand that much how this could be something unpleasant. Humans are complex creatures, after all.

“So will you grant me permission to use your body as a vessel to carry on God’s plan?” Cassiel finds themselves a bit surprised that it goes this easily. Or that somebody just doesn’t care that much about it.

“Friend, you can do with my body whatever you want, as long as I’m not there to live it through.” Cassiel looks down at the hand Iphigenia has put on their shoulder. When Cassiel doesn’t do anything, Iphigenia rolls her eyes. “That means ‘yes’, take over this body. But promise me that you’ll take me to Heaven as soon as you can. I don’t want to spend one more day here.”

Cassiel does not hesitate further. Nodding, they hold out their hand for Iphigenia to take. The woman smiles at them, looking like she’s finally found peace. Closing their eyes, Cassiel lets themselves be engulfed completely by her. It feels extremely limiting to end up inside the body of a human being. Despite having no power diminished it’s just… different. Cassiel cannot say they dislike it, but it does feel a bit like they’re stuck in a cage.

The only good thing about this is that now they can be amongst the humans. The ones who pray for them and beg for their mercy. For some reason, Cassiel finds themselves excited to finally be able to do that.

As soon as Cassiel opens their eyes through Iphigenia’s for the first time, the first thing they do is heal the body. All the lashes on their back are now gone, the infection removed. Every scar that was once on this body has now disappeared.

When Cassiel hears the shocked gasps from the women around them, they realize that Iphigenia was in some sort of healing hut. People were taking care of her, and now they must all be scared to find them sitting up like this, as if nothing happened.

Cassiel holds out their hand to both women, putting it on their foreheads. Neither dares to move.

“Iphigenia is dead,” they say lowly, though unused of hearing it through a female voice. And actually spoken out loud. Angels do not speak the way humans do. “She died of her wounds. There was nothing you could do.”

The two women nod. They’re unmoving when Cassiel gets on their feet. Once standing, they look down at their hands. Now stuck inside such fragile things, they still hold so much power in them. It feels strange. Not at all how Cassiel would have imagined it.

With just a thought, Cassiel opens their wings and takes flight. They don’t go far, only getting outside from the building. Once finding themselves in a street, Cassiel is finally face to face with humans. With many of them.

Having been larger than them for their entire life, it sure is a bit of adjustment to suddenly be on their size. Cassiel takes their first steps forward, bare feet touching the ground. It is warm outside, the sun touching their new skin. It shines brightly in their eyes. It feels good, in a way.

Cassiel greets the people they come across. Step by step, they nod towards another person. When they get to a homeless man on the ground, Cassiel kneels down next to him.

“Hello, sir,” Cassiel greets him. The sick man looks up. He seems tired, pale. Their dark eyes have lost any hope in them. He’s sick, that much is obvious. Cassiel doesn’t need to look for long to realize that most of his organs are already shutting down.

The man doesn’t answer, he does not have enough strength for that. Cassiel presses their lips together, holding out a hand and putting two fingers on the man’s forehead. He closes his eyes, as if he’s expecting the end. Cassiel ignores it, letting the power flow through their borrowed fingers until it reaches it destination. Then, with just a thought, everything that ails the man is healed.

The man opens his eyes as Cassiel leans back. His mouth has fallen open while he looks down at his hands. Then he touches his chest, stomach, and his knee. Before Cassiel can say anything, he starts laughing in relief. Happiness.

“Did God send you?” the man asks. Cassiel nods.

“Yes. My Father did send me down to Earth. I am glad I was in time to help you,” Cassiel assures him. Taking his hand and squeezing his fingers, Cassiel gets back on their feet. “I must go on. My siblings must be awaiting me.”

Cassiel does not wait for the man to respond. Spreading their wings, Cassiel jumps back into the air, flying themselves home once more.

Chapter Text

“I have news.”

Cassiel turns around. As they do so, their borrowed long hair twirls, flowing over their shoulder. It’s a strange feeling that Cassiel doesn’t think they’ll ever get used to.

Michael approaches them, their wings spread from their recent flight. Michael stills when they see them, not having seen Cassiel in their vessel yet. As usual, there’s no expression in their face, though that slight hesitation is something Cassiel has never seen Michael do.

“You have found your vessel,” they state. Cassiel nods, holding out their arms as if to demonstrate. Then they turn around, showing them the whole package. Obviously, Michael does not care much for how the vessel looks, but it’s just some automatic movement Cassiel hadn’t thought about.

“It wasn’t too difficult to get her permission,” Cassiel admits. Then they look back up to Michael, who has started walking again now. Once they’re standing right next to Cassiel, they continue. “How is your search going, Michael?”

“That is the news I have.” Michael takes a closer look to the body Cassiel is currently possessing. For Angels, it’s not difficult to see their siblings underneath a vessel. “It turns out I have found mine as well.”

“Michael, that’s great news.” Cassiel can’t believe how quickly they succeeded in this. Now their Father’s plan can get to the next stage.

“It is, only there’s a small problem with it,” Michael admits before sitting down on the bench next to the gate. Cassiel joins them. “My vessel is called Demetrius. He’s a descendant from King Enochia, who ruled over the little-known kingdom Enoch before it was taken over by the Romans.”

King Enochia? That is not a lord Cassiel remembers having seen entering the House of God. If his kingdom was truly so small – and to be fair Cassiel hadn’t really known about it at all – it would probably be an explanation for it.

“So he’s of a royal bloodline?”

Michael nods, though that’s obviously not the points they’re trying to make.

“He’s also twelve years old.”

Cassiel understands, nodding as the realization hits them. While Iphigenia had been at a very fertile age when Cassiel approached her, Michael appears not to have such luck. That’s alright, time isn’t that meaningful to them, after all.

“We can work with that,” Cassiel assures them. “We can keep an eye on him. We can make sure that he stays healthy and that nothing gets to him. And once he’s reached a fertile age, you can approach him and ask for his permission. Does that sound fair?”

Michael nods, not needing a moment to think about it. “Tell me, Cassiel. At which age do humans reach fertility?”

“There’s no definite answer to that. Some people reach it at twelve years old, like my vessel. Others only at an older age. It is perfectly possible that Demetrius can get to it in only a year, but it can take longer, too.”

Nothing comes from Michael for a moment while they seem to think. Then they stand up, looking down at Cassiel and holding out their hand. Cassiel takes it, allowing Michael to pull them up again. After that, both of them start walking towards the edge of the Seventh Heaven. Looking down at the Earth, a long, pensive look comes up in Michael’s illuminating face.

“It is fascinating,” they then start before turning back to Cassiel. “How much you know about humanity.”

It’s not that abnormal, really. Cassiel watches human kind almost permanently, after all. They simply nod, lowering their head only to then see that their hand is still being held by Michael’s. Cassiel hadn’t even felt it.

They don’t mind, but it’s still odd. Cassiel doesn’t know whether they should pull back or keep holding on.

Michael is about to open their mouth again when Samandriel comes up behind them. They look hurried.

“Michael, we need you,” they say. Michael closes their mouth again, giving Cassiel another short look before letting go of their hand and heading Samandriel’s way. Having reached them, the Angel starts explaining whichever situation they need Michael for. Cassiel watches them leave in silence, thoughts in their mind that they can’t really place.

Cassiel doesn’t know how much time has passed since the two left, but once they’ve put their mind back to it, Cassiel looks down at Earth once more. Focusing on that particular individual, it comes to their surprise that this Demetrius is in fact one of the two kids Cassiel helped once. The orphan one, current house slave from a man called Alastaire along with his younger brother. Cassiel starts really looking at them, keeping their eyes on them to watch them do their daily business.

They already know that the older boy is called Demetrius. He’s twelve years old, and he’s four years older than his younger brother, which Cassiel learns is named Scamandrius. Demetrius has the habit of calling him Scammy, much to the kid’s annoyance. The elder boy, in turn, is called Dem by Scamandrius.

Even from afar, Cassiel can see that the two boys obviously love each other. Having nothing else left to their name, all they’ve got is each other, after all. During the day they work, during the night, the two curl together in the small bed they’ve been given. Demetrius then tells him stories. Tales of their parents and all the things they’ve done. Tales of heroes of the past. The ancient Gods that people have stopped believing in eventually. And with each word Demetrius gets out, the younger sibling eats them up and revels in them.

Cassiel remembers not separating them. It was just a flick of an eye, and their master decided to buy the both of them. While Scam is stuck with the household chores, Demetrius is put outside to work in the garden and the farm. In turn, Demetrius’ skin has a stronger tan than his little brother’s, who’s almost always stuck inside. But, being pale works in a human’s favor in these times. Demetrius seems to know that, too, since he always takes over his little brother’s tasks that occur outside.

They watch for an entire week before Cassiel decides to pull away for now. Nothing immediately seems to stand out that could mean danger to the siblings. Cassiel figures they should continue keeping an eye on the people allowed inside of Heaven.

Before becoming an Archangel, this was Cassiel’s task. To stand at the entrance of Heaven, hearing all the souls’ pleas and deciding which one was worthy of entering Heaven and which one was not. It had been years with nothing but sorrow and despair coming from humanity, but Cassiel has to admit that they were good at it. Now, their job is still kind of the same. It only means less…

Standing at the entrance of Heaven is Peter, who is not an Angel. The man used to be one of Jesus’ Apostles during his life, and ended up being seen as the first Bishop of Rome. He died in Vatican Hill in the year 65, and has been named the keeper of the Keys by their Father, himself (per Jesus’ request, Cassiel heard through the grapevine – that one being Gabriel).

Cassiel does not approach Peter. Knowing what it’s like to stand at the Gates of Heaven, a bit of distraction can mean that hundreds of people have to wait. It’s a large responsibility, and Cassiel should not pull his attention away from his task. Cassiel continues on, moving back up to the House of God. Standing in front of the Gate, Cassiel notes that there are no arrivals from any Kings, which is good.

For a short moment, Cassiel finds themselves hesitant to what to do next. There’s no need for them to remain at the gate permanently as they’re often notified when a King stands before it. It wouldn’t hurt to go back down to be amongst humanity and get to know it better. Prepare themselves for how to act a bit more… human, perhaps?

So Cassiel spreads their wings, having no hesitation in them before they take flight. It’s more of a freefall rather than an actual flight, but in the end they still get to their destination. Cassiel finds that they enjoy coming down. If not to be surrounded by the humans, the rush going through them as they drop down to Earth really makes them looking forward to it.

Once down, Cassiel looks around. They’re in a little street behind some houses, hidden away from the eyes of the people. They made sure that they wouldn’t see them arrive. Cassiel is pleased with the ease this came with. They straighten their clothes – still the torn brownish scraps that Iphigenia had been wearing when Cassiel took over her body.

They can still feel her in their head. She’s in a slumber they created for her. As long as they’re in control of this body, they can’t let Iphigenia go. At least, Cassiel thinks so. They should probably ask their father if they can let her get to Heaven while Cassiel remains in the body.

“Who’s there?”

Cassiel turns. Deep in thought, they hadn’t noticed the other presence in the alley. Seated on the ground is a young boy, looking no older than seventeen, perhaps. With slow steps, Cassiel approaches him, noticing immediately that the boy isn’t looking at them.

He’s unable to; he’s blind. Relying on only his ears, he tries to listen to where Cassiel is.

Not wanting to keep the boy in the dark any longer, Cassiel kneels down and reaches out a hand to his face. The boy startles once they touch him.

“What are you doing? Who are you?” he asks. Cassiel immediately tries to soothe his worries.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” they assure him. “Our father is watching over you.”

With just the bat of an eye, Cassiel fixes the boy’s eyesight. The boy blinks a few times as his vision returns to him. At first it’ll probably be a bit difficult to get used to it, to focus on stuff, but Cassiel is sure that he’ll manage eventually.

“What-?” the boy breathes out, voice full of disbelief. He reaches out for his eyes, seeing his own hands appear in front of him. That makes the boy laugh, while tears well up as well.

Cassiel leans back, putting some distance between them again.

“You made me see?” the boy then asks. Cassiel nods. “Why?”

How can Cassiel explain it? They take care of the less fortunate. Slaves, orphans, people with disabilities. It’s just in their nature. Cassiel does not like to watch people suffer, and the way things were going for this boy it would probably mean an early death.

“It’s just what I do,” they explain. Then they turn around to leave the alley. Any further questions from the boy are ignored as Cassiel joins the people of Athens in the streets. It seems like a busy day, people heading to the market or returning from it with buckets full of fruit.

Cassiel is aware that people are giving them weird looks. They ignore it for a while, getting themselves to the market. They smell around, wondering how humans perceive all these fruits and spices. Cassiel can only distinguish the molecules around them. Even when they’re suggested to try out one of the apples Cassiel finds themselves making a face when the taste does not hit their tongue.

Close to an hour Cassiel remains at the market. Not because they want to look around the stalls, but mostly because they enjoy being surrounded by humanity. Everybody’s talking, parents holding their children, lovers giggling as they discuss their upcoming wedding… it goes on.

People of all ages are here. Elderly people, teenagers. Much to their surprise, a lot of people seem to be in love here. It’s such a weird concept, to have your body have such a reaction that would make you think you’re in love. Angels don’t feel that, they just don’t have the ability to do so.

For a short second a thought passes their brain.

Father did it wrong on that part.

Immediately, Cassiel berates themselves for even thinking like that. Their Father didn’t do anything wrong. He did everything on purpose. Cassiel should not complain for their inability to love, because it’s not what Angels are for.

Besides, Angels do know love. Love for humanity, love for their Father. Just because they are unable to be in love does not mean that they can’t love.

As Cassiel passes an erastês holding his erômenos, his beloved, lovingly. There must be close to twenty years difference between the two individuals, but paiderastia is something that’s always based on love and consent, no matter the age.

“Look at that, seems like a runaway, don’t you think?”

Cassiel’s focus is on the voice immediately. They realize rather quickly that the words are directed towards them. Turning around, they find a group of men in their twenties surrounding them. The people start avoiding them, rather just getting home in peace instead of helping out.

Not that Cassiel needs their help, of course.

“My apologies, I am unsure of what you’re talking about?” Cassiel returns, trying to be kind and friendly in return.

“Look at that, she’s pretending she has no idea what she did.” The boys start laughing. Cassiel frowns. Is it customary for people to address others like this on the streets? Cassiel can’t remember doing anything wrong.

“I am sure there is some form of misunderstanding. I did not run away from anywhere, gentlemen.” As Cassiel starts to make a movement to indicate they’re leaving again, a strong grip takes their arm and pulls them back.

Or it tries to. While the man pulls all he can, Cassiel only moves when she turns around to face them again.

“Aesop, stop messing around, man,” one of the guys says. The man, Aesop, shakes his head while giving Cassiel’s arm another pull.

“The bitch won’t move!” he says. One of the other guys rolls his eyes and approaches Cassiel, taking their other arm and pulling as well. Cassiel does not move, letting them yank on their arms but with no result.

“Aesop, Bartolomej, get on with it!” the third man shouts.

The two give up, taking a step back from Cassiel and eyeing them in confusion. The third man shakes his head before approaching them instead.

“Nils, don’t! It’s not worth it,” Bartolomej says, but Nils ignores him. He approaches Cassiel until he’s right in their face, lifting his head and slapping it over Cassiel’s face. It does not hurt, and instead Cassiel hears something crack in Nils’ hand. His fingers just broke from trying to hit them.

Nils falls down on his knees as he starts to cry it out from the pain. Cassiel frowns as they look down. They did not mean to hurt the man. Angels should never hurt humans. Immediately, Cassiel kneels down as well and takes Nils’ hand into their own.

“I apologize. I did not mean to cause you pain,” they say. Healing the bones back in their place, Nils’ painful cries stop as he looks down at his hand with wonder in his eyes. Then Cassiel stands up, deciding to just walk away from the crowd.

They don’t make two steps before another voice behind them speaks.

“Would suggest a change of clothes if y’don’t want to be mistaken for a slave.”

Cassiel turns, finding one of the sellers leaning against her stand. She’s got long blonde hair, wearing a white dress with a few stains on the bottom due to the ground. Cassiel moves from her feet back up to her face. She looks friendly enough.

“Where would I acquire such a thing, perhaps?” Cassiel asks. The woman shrugs.

“You can look around my stuff, but I’m not so sure you’ve got any money on you?”

Cassiel realizes that she’s right. They pass their hands over their ragged clothes to find anything, but they quickly realize that’s not the case at all. The woman rolls her eyes before giving her a short smile.

“Look, I’m not unreasonable. I propose a deal, alright?”

Cassiel nods. They can do that.

“You bring this little package here to my friend Alastair, and after that you can take whatever you like from the stack, alright?”

Cassiel nearly startles when they hear the name. Alastair. That is the same name as the master of the Enochia-siblings (as Cassiel has come to call them due to their lineage). Without any hesitation, Cassiel takes the package from the woman. When she smiles, all of her teeth show. They’re white, shiny. A bit too much, since humans often have quite a poor dental hygiene around here. Cassiel’s trust in this woman suddenly disappears. There’s something off about her. Something Cassiel does not quite know what to do with.

Besides, Cassiel does not need any of her free clothes. It’s not difficult for an Archangel to create a new set of clothes for themselves. Still, Cassiel feels curious about the boys, about seeing them up close. So they decide to go for it. Not that they would return for the clothes. It’s just mostly to find out what is inside the package.

“Thanks, dear,” the woman says. And just for a short second, her face changes. Instead of this beautiful woman she was just seconds before, she’s now the vilest creature Cassiel has ever seen their life. They take a step back before nodding at her. Then they step away. They want to be as far away from here as possible.

Halfway there, Cassiel realizes that the woman never gave them the exact location of Alastair’s house. She never even questioned them about it. It’s entirely possible that she was testing them. Cassiel decides to prepare themselves, instead.

Arriving in front of Alastair’s house Cassiel knocks on the large door in front of them. There’s no immediate response, causing for the Archangel to hesitate on whether anybody is home. Still, ever so patient, Cassiel waits in front of the large mansion in front of them.

The door is opened by an eight-year-old boy, looking up at them with large eyes full of child-like wonder. Cassiel does not need any introduction to know that this is the younger brother of Michael’s vessel. Scamandrius.

“You’re pretty,” the boy says as his mouth falls open. Cassiel is unsure of how to respond to that. Instead they hold out their hand with the package in it.

“I have something for a man called Alastair?” Cassiel explains. Scamandrius’ face falls only lightly before he nods.

“Yes. Master is home. I will get him for you.”

Cassiel nods gratefully, watching the door close again as Scamandrius starts walking back into the house. For a few minutes more, the Archangel waits outside for any appearance of the boy’s master. It seems like the man likes to make them wait.

Eventually the door opens once more. Instead of the child, this time there stands an adult man, shaven clean with reclining blonde hair and light eyes. His mouth is curled upwards in a grin most humans would describe as nasty, but that’s not what startles Cassiel.

It’s mostly the fact that the man’s face looks horrible.

To Cassiel, this is a mystery. They thought God created humankind to be shaped after his image, right? But this man’s soul, it looks so… twisted. Torn. Cassiel’s never seen anything like it before. The same goes for with that woman earlier on the market.

“Now what do we have here?” the man asks, his eyes going over Cassiel’s entire form and his smile widens. Cassiel hesitates slightly before holding out the package the woman gave them.

“I have something for you,” they say calmly. Even if this man’s demeanor unsettles Cassiel, there’s no way he’s able to overpower them anyway. Despite being in a human form now, Cassiel is no less stronger than they were before.

“Ah,” the man that must be Alastair exclaims, taking over the package and looking it over. “Lilith must have been busy again. Though I wonder where she managed to get herself a slave? Especially one who obviously has no clue to talk to someone superior.”

Cassiel tilts their head. “I’m not a slave,” they say. Then looking down at their torn clothes, they shrug. “Though I see where the confusion comes from. I’ve had a bit of misfortune if I’m completely honest.”

Alastair raises an eyebrow, but the grin never disappears. “You ran away or something? Nasty husband somewhere?”

Cassiel frowns. “I fail to see how that is any of your business, sir,” they say with a faint warning in their voice. Alastair holds up his hands, one of them still with the package between the fingers. Cassiel clears their throat before looking over their shoulder.

“You got somewhere to go?” the man tries.

“Yes,” Cassiel says. It’s the truth. They need to go somewhere away from this man. Or at least hide out so that he is unable to see them. Cassiel can turn invisible to anybody other than Angels after all. At least that way they could have a look inside this house without attracting any unwanted attention.

“Well, then, don’t let me keep you up.” Alastair gestures to the road behind Cassiel and the Archangel doesn’t hesitate. They turn around without bothering to say goodbye, going on their way. They’re aware of Alastair watching them leave, but they ignore it. Once they’re completely out of sight, they close their eyes while their Grace works to hide them from view. Then after becoming invisible, Cassiel returns to the house, this time using their wings.

They don’t use the door; they don’t need to. Just a simple flap of their wings and Cassiel is inside.

The mansion is large. Aside from the large one at the front there aren’t any doors in here. Cassiel watches as they get through a large hallway that leads to what seems like some sort of living room. A large chair stands in the middle, the view being of the large pool in the garden. There are chairs, sculptures, pillows, carpets… It’s all just one luxurious place that would be able to house all the poor people in Athens alone, probably. Too bad that the rich intent on staying rich by keeping distance from themselves and the less fortunate.

Most of the rooms are like this. There’s about three large bedrooms with what seem like the most luxurious beds in the world, curtains hanging over the bedposts to regain some sort of privacy in them, though Cassiel cannot imagine any human would willingly want to have sexual relations with this man.

Then again, Cassiel is not too sure this man really waits for consent, exactly…

The slaves are all put together in a few small rooms with multiple beds in there. Alastair has a total of eight house slaves, divided over the four rooms dedicated for them. There are three female and five male slaves, all varying in age. The youngest is Scamandrius at eight years old. After that, it’s one girl of twelve and Demetrius, followed by two women and three men in their twenties.

In some way, Scamandrius and Demetrius managed to get the room together. Cassiel is unsure as to why that pleases them.

Cassiel continues through the house, taking in room after room until they get to the large bathing room. There, lying in a large pool as naked as the day they were born is Alastair, surrounded by one female and one male slave cleaning them up as he unpacks whatever Lilith got Cassiel to deliver.

It’s obvious on the faces of the slaves that they do not wish to be there. Cassiel lowers their gaze, knowing they’re not supposed to interfere. Not in such a large scale, at least. Because the only way Cassiel can imagine helping these people is by removing Alastair from the equation, which is something they’re not allowed to do.

Cassiel remains close, watching as Alastair takes out what seems like a Scythe. Cassiel frowns again, recognizing it immediately as the weapon of the Fourth Horseman. What is this man doing with the weapon of the Ultimate Reaper?

“Look at this beauty,” Alastair says to the woman next to him. She doesn’t look up, though, obviously not feeling comfortable to do so. Alastair ignores it. “Might be a nice addition to my little collection, no?”

“Yes, master,” they say in unison. Alastair observes the weapon for a bit longer before he gestures for a third slave to take it over.

“Just put it in my room.” The slave, the second woman, nods and walks off. Then Alastair throws his arms over the slaves’ shoulders and gives both of them a long look.

Nothing is said for a few seconds. Cassiel isn’t too sure what is happening right now.

Then, the situation explains itself. Alastair nods to the water he’s currently in. “Well, it’s not taking care of itself, morons.”

The two slaves jump into action, each of them having their hands dive into the water towards Alastair’s crotch. Cassiel turns their gaze away then, having seen enough. They turn deeper into the house, until they get back to the room that belongs to the slaves. There’s a vaguely familiar voice going through the hallway, catching Cassiel’s attention.

“But I’m telling you, Dem, she was beautiful! She was like an Angel!”

“Quiet down, Scammy,” a hushed voice joins in.

“No, Dem! Listen to me-“

“Scammy!” Demetrius is only hissing, clearly not wanting to make any noise. As he grabs his brother’s shoulders he quickly takes a look around to find if there isn’t anybody near them. Cassiel waits patiently, deciding to observe just a moment longer before going on a quest to find some better clothing. “Please be quiet.”

“But Dem-“

“I believe you, okay?” Demetrius is quick in assuring his brother. Cassiel moves closer to him, studying Michael’s true vessel in further detail. Cassiel’s never been up close, after all.

Demetrius’ face is touched by sunlight, indicating that he’s an outside worker. There freckles on his cheeks, nose and arms, his eyes green with tiny bits of brown in them. His hair is golden, bleached by natural causes. The skin of his shoulders reveals scars that are hidden behind a brown shirt. Scars that indicate a whipping in the past. Small wounds cover his arms and fingers as well, though those might just be from working outside.

Surely, Demetrius will one day grow up to be a strong man. Exactly what Michael needs for a vessel.

“You need to go to bed now,” Demetrius tells his brother. “It’s already past your bedtime.”

“But I don’t want to-“

“Scam!”

Scamandrius drops his head. “Fine,” he agrees. He shrugs himself out of his brothers’ hold, turning towards the small bedroom that has only one bed barely big enough for one person, let alone two. Once he’s underneath the covers, Demetrius heads towards him, tucking him in and kissing his forehead.

“Sleep tight, little brother,” he says to him. Scam yawns before nodding. In just a matter of minutes he’s already asleep.

Cassiel watches as Demetrius pulls himself away from Scamandrius. He exits the room, giving his brother another glance before sighing. Then, without another word he starts walking towards the bathroom where Alastair is still washing himself. Cassiel doesn’t miss how he untangles the belt that keeps his robe together, loosening his clothes as he approaches his master. 

Chapter Text

Human years pass so quickly in the eyes of an Angel.

Cassiel remains in the shadows, watching the days pass by as they make sure that no serious harm comes to Michael’s true vessel. Serious harm that would mean that Demetrius’ body is permanently damaged. But so far Demetrius’ tasks mostly contain working outside and taking care of Alastair’s… personal matters.

It doesn’t take too long for Cassiel to figure out that Demetrius is Alastair’s favorite. The boy constantly takes over his brother’s burdens, making sure that Scamandrius stays out of trouble by taking the blame. Alastair seems to enjoy punishing Demetrius, whether it’s by whipping him or by using him to satisfy his needs.

Especially those moments the ugliness that hides beneath Alastair’s face comes forward and it surprises Cassiel that no-other person sees it.

Cassiel never interferes, only observes. That’s how they notice that as the months pass by, all the fight seems to leave Demetrius’ body. With each whipping his drive to escape goes away. Each time his body is used in ways that Cassiel is sure doesn’t apply to other slaves, Demetrius seems to settle with the fact that this is how it will be for the rest of his life. And it works for now, because Scamandrius stays out of trouble that way.

Cassiel can only offer peaceful nights of sleep. Moments where Demetrius needs to rest to recuperate his strength are the moments where he’s often staying awake at night, sometimes even crying when his brother isn’t awake to notice it. At those times, still hidden from view, Cassiel approaches Demetrius and puts a hand on his forehead, willing him to sleep despite his desperation.

Michael gets the updates on Demetrius’ progress. He turns thirteen, and then fourteen. And it’s on a particular summer’s day that it happens. The moment Demetrius has reached the age of fertility.

The first thing Cassiel does is return to Heaven to pass along the news. Michael is happy to hear it and descends down to Earth immediately as soon as the words reach their ears. Cassiel decides to take that moment to remain in Heaven again for a bit. A few Kings await permission to enter the House of God after all. Once upside, Cassiel is approached by Gabriel.

“Hello, sister,” Gabriel greets them. Cassiel tilts their head in confusion.

“Sister?” they ask. Gabriel shrugs, nodding towards Cassiel’s vessel.

“You are currently in a female body, are you not?”

And while that might be true, that does not define Cassiel’s gender, does it? Cassiel is not human, so it’s no use to categorize them into different sexes.

“I don’t think it would be bad for all Angels to have their vesssels,” Gabriel shrugs. “I’ve been looking for my own vessel, too.”

“Really?” Cassiel is surprised by the news. Gabriel does not react to it, instead sitting down next to Cassiel to look down to Earth. Cassiel’s gaze is stuck on Alastair’s house where they can see Demetrius preparing himself for the night. Scamandrius is already asleep, which Demetrius takes as the opportunity to clean himself up at the bucket filled with cold water in the corner of the room. As he washes away the remains of Alastair’s pleasure, Cassiel can see Michael approach him.

“You think they’re going to need much convincing?” Gabriel wonders out loud. Cassiel honestly can’t say that they know the answer to that.

“I am unsure,” they admit. “Over the years I’ve pretty much seen the fight leave Demetrius’ body. It’s entirely possible that he might see Michael as a form of liberation, perhaps.”

“Good point.” Gabriel leans forward as they try to get a better look. Cassiel wants to listen in, but decides not to do so. Surely, Michael can manage on their own.

But minutes go by, and there doesn’t seem to be any progress. Gabriel starts to get impatient, it seems. Cassiel, too, decides that there’s probably a problem. Tuning in on the conversation, it’s clear immediately that things are not going how they’re supposed to be going.

-and let me tell you something else: if Heaven’s looking out for us, how is it that they’ve watched for all these years and never once agreed to help my brother out of here? How is it that I’m the only one here pulling my weight to earn my brother’s liberty? You have any idea what shit that monster has put me through?!”

“Oh, this isn’t good,” Gabriel mutters. Cassiel agrees. It’s obvious that Demetrius is putting Michael into a corner, which is a strange feat since he’s only a human. But Michael is not used to be amongst them. They’ve never been in contact with humans, never even observed any of them.

“Michael, get away from there,” Cassiel warns their sibling. Michael stays put, though. They try to persuade Demetrius once again, only to get it thrown back into their face. Eventually, Cassiel notices Scamandrius shifting in his sleep. He’s at the verge of waking up. Some wave of protectiveness goes through them and Cassiel flies back down to Earth. Demetrius’ eyes widen when he sees the addition in the room, but before he can say anything Cassiel presses their fingers against his forehead and makes him fall asleep. As Demetrius’ unconscious body falls down, Cassiel picks him up before he touches the ground. Then they carry him to the bed, putting him next to his brother. With just another small touch to his forehead they clean Demetrius up to remove anything related to Alastair, including healing his bottom which seems to be hurting him as well after Alastair had enjoyed it thoroughly. The bruises on his arms and the wounds he’s gotten from a recent whipping Cassiel leaves. Removing them would catch people’s attention, after all.

“I failed,” Michael mutters. Cassiel sighs, putting a hand on their shoulder.

“He is still young. We have time to persuade him,” they assure their sibling. But Michael seems less convinced about it.  “Come on, Michael. We shouldn’t linger here.”

Michael nods, the two of them spreading their wings to get out of there. But as Michael has gone and Cassiel is about to go after them, a soft sound catches their attention.

“It’s you,” Scamandrius whispers, rubbing his eyes as he sits up in the bed. Demetrius is in a deep enough sleep not to wake up from the movement.

Cassiel tilts their head. “You recognize me?” they wonder. Scamandrius nods eagerly, getting out of the bed and approaching the Archangel with careful steps. He’s only wearing a dirty white drape around his middle, his upper body bare. That gives Cassiel all the proof that Scamandrius’ body has only limited scars, none of them inflicted by any whipping or other kind of punishment. It’s mostly just childlike carelessness that took care of that.

“Of course I do,” Scamandrius admits. Once he stands right in front of Cassiel he takes their hand and pulls them out of the room.

“Where are you taking me?” Cassiel wonders. Scamandrius shrugs.

“Away from my brother. He needs to sleep,” he admits. He doesn’t seem too worried about being found by Alastair. He seems a bit rebellious, especially now that he doesn’t have his brother watching his every move. Scamandrius takes them outside into the large garden.

They don’t say anything as Scamandrius sits down near the pool. He puts his feet into it, looking back at the house. He can see a candle flickering in one of the upper rooms. Cassiel knows that’s where Alastair resides.

“Are you an Angel?” Scamandrius then asks, curiously. Carefully, Cassiel sits down next to him.

“Why would you think that?” they ask.

“Because you look like one,” the boy admits. “You’re like one of those pretty women Dem always talks about in the stories he tells me. Like Aphrodite or something.”

Cassiel chuckles. “Aphrodite does not resemble my vessel at all, if I’m honest.”

“Your vessel?” Scamandrius’ face lights up when he realizes Cassiel is not denying him. “What does Aphrodite look like?”

Cassiel chuckles. “Well, to begin with the color of her skin is much different. She is a lot darker than I am. And her hair; it’s wild. But not too wild. Many people saw her as the most beautiful person in the world.”

Scamandrius lets out a gasp of wonder. “And her eyes?” he asks. Cassiel chuckles.

“Gold,” she says. “The ‘Gods’ do not have the same eye-colors humans have.”

“Whoa.” Scamandrius kicks his feet in the water. He’s ten now, having grown quite a bit. “She sounds beautiful.”

“She is,” Cassiel answers, though they wouldn’t be sure. Angels don’t think of things being more beautiful than others. People are just people, and there’s hardly a difference in them. But, they can imagine that humans would define Aphrodite as ‘perfect’.

“Then are you a God as well?” Scamandrius asks curiously. Cassiel chuckles despite themselves. It’s an incredibly human reaction that takes them by surprise. Immediately, they clear their throat and shake their head.

“No, I am not,” they admit. “The Gods have stepped aside now that their time of reign has passed. After the arrival of Jesus people started to believe in my Father, instead.”

“Your father?”

Cassiel nods. “God,” they say.

“Then if he’s your father, you’re a demi-god?”

Cassiel gives Scamandrius a look. “No, I am not.” Then, without hesitateion; “I am an Angel.”

Scamandrius smiles widely, throwing his arms around Cassiel into a strong hug. “I knew you were!” he says happily. He leans his head against Cassiel’s arm and holds on to them. Cassiel is unsure of what to do next in this situation. Angels don’t hug, don’t need any kind of physical contact. This is strange territory.

But it’s not entirely unpleasant.

“If you’re an Angel, can you look after my brother, then?” Scamandrius suddenly asks, though without looking away from the house in front of him. The light in Alastair’s room goes out at last, but Cassiel doubts he’s going to sleep. Something about that man gives Cassiel all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. Like there’s something extremely wrong with him. Perhaps he should address the issue with their Father.

“What do you mean?” Cassiel asks. Scamandrius shrugs.

“He thinks I don’t know what our Master does to him. We don’t have rights, we’re just property. But even in Athens the thing Master does to Dem and the others is illegal. Sadly, nobody cares.” Scamandrius finally turns his head, pressing his face into Cassiel’s arm. “He tortures them. Abuses them. And Dem most of all because he takes over my load. And he keeps on making me go to sleep early to avoid me seeing it. But I know.”

Cassiel stays quiet for a bit. They’re unsure how they can stop Alastair from using Demetrius the way he’s doing now. Not without killing him, that is. Cassiel has no right to be an executioner.

“I can try to lift his burden of the situation for a bit,” Cassiel offers. Scamandrius shakes his head.

“No!” he says, pulling away from Cassiel and getting on his feet. Then he starts walking around the pool. “I want Master to stop using my brother like that. I want to have my brother back. I want to be at home with my parents. I want my old life back.”

And then Scamandrius starts crying. He drops back down on the ground, wrapping his arms around his legs as he curls in on himself. Cassiel hesitates for a few short seconds before standing up as well. Carefully approaching Scamandrius, Cassiel puts a hand on the back of his head and tries to take away the sadness inside of him. But there’s just so much inside of it. The memories of a more carefree Demetrius going through his mind, where the boy smiled and laughed and did some mischief along with his little brother. The current Demetrius looks more like a shell, a ghost from the one Cassiel gets to see in Scamandrius’ memories.

There are images of the boy’s parents, a small house they shared. Everybody was happy. Their mother having long brown hair and grey eyes, their father fair hair and green eyes. Marcus and Joanna. They were a happily married pair with a lot of love for their children. It is truly a tragedy that their lives were robbed away from them by a stupid fire.

“Sleep now, little one,” Cassiel whispers towards Scamandrius. The little boy’s body stops tensing up, his arms letting go of their hold around his leg. His head hangs back, leaning against Cassiel’s arm as they hold him. Carefully, they pick him off the ground and carries him back to his bedroom. As they put the kid in the bed next to his brother, Cassiel gives them another careful look.

If Michael wants to convince Demetrius, he needs to include the brother. Scamandrius is probably the only reason that Demetrius is still here. The only reason why he, despite having lost much of his will to fight, still goes on with his life. Because Demetrius will do anything to free his little brother.

Cassiel exits the room of the brothers, instead going up to where they know Alastair’s room is. There, in his bedroom, Cassiel can hear the groans. There are two voices, one filled with pleasure and the other one with pain. Cassiel carefully approaches the bed, trying to catch behind the curtain what is happening in there.

That’s how they find Alastair with one of the female slaves; the girl of Demetrius’ age. She is crying, a bruise surrounding her left eyes. Her entire body is bare, and she’s lying on her back with Alastair’s hand around her neck.

“That’s it, slut. Give me those tears.”

The girl gasps for breath as her airway is closed off. Cassiel watches only for a few seconds more before they turn around. There’s nothing they can do here.

But right as they’re about to head out, they can hear Alastair one last time.

“Not enjoying the show, little Angel?”

And Cassiel’s eyes widen as they turn back to face Alastair, who has his eyes trained right on their form. The form that’s supposed to be hidden from any mortal. Alastair doesn’t falter his movements. The longer their eyes meet, the more Alastair’s face forms back into that horrible thing Cassiel’s never seen before.

Cassiel wants to ask how it is that Alastair can see them. It’s impossible! But before they can even get out a word, Cassiel opens up their wings and flies off. The longer they’re in Alastair’s presence, the more unsettled they feel.

The sounds of Alastair’s nasty laugh fills their ears once they’re back up in heaven.

Michael tries again five times after that. First they offer Demetrius all the strength and power he could wish for. Demetrius refuses.

The second time, they promise him all the riches he could wish for. Demetrius once again says no.

The third time, Michael tells him that Demetrius will be able to see the entire world. See things no man has ever seen before. Demetrius does not agree

The fourth time they promise all the food he wants. Another no.

The fifth time, Michael even uses pressure on him. That certainly doesn’t work. All the while, Cassiel is aware of what is the best approach on Demetrius. Yet they don’t tell them.

They’re all in Heaven, the Archangels seated together as they discuss the happenings in Heaven of the past century. And with happenings, Cassiel is ready to declare that nothing happened in Heaven. Nothing ever does.

“Well, Michael, looks like you got a strong-willed one,” Gabriel says as they lean back in their seat.

“Do not remind me of it. I am well aware,” Michael admits in defeat. Out of the four, Cassiel is the only one wearing a vessel, though Cassiel is sure that eventually Gabriel will find one of their own as well.

“I say you’re wasting your time being nice, Michael,” Raphael says. “You are stronger than he is. You should probably go after something the human loves if you are to convince him.”

The three Archangels frown at Raphael. Michael speaks up. “Raphael, you know we are not to harm the humans.”

“And what good does that do? You can’t get the mortal to agree with you. I say you’re fresh out of options, sibling.”

“Still, I’m not doing it.” Gabriel and Cassiel agree with Michael here, and Raphael simply shakes their head as they realize they’ve lost the discussion. What does Raphael even think? Father would never allow it, not even for this task ahead of them.

“I suggest you just keep trying, Michael,” Gabriel offers. “I’m sure that eventually he will see that this is all for the greater good. Besides; you won’t be needing his body for long. Cassiel, on the other hand, will be needing Iphigenia for a while.”

“Yes, I agree. Just accentuate that it’s not for too long.” Cassiel can’t help but look down at their vessel’s flat stomach. A lack of sufficient nurturing caused for Iphigenia to be extremely skinny, but over the human years that have passed Cassiel managed to fill out her body a bit more.

She’s no longer in there anymore. After a short discussion with their Father, Cassiel was allowed to let Iphigenia pass onto Heaven, where she is now much happier than she was before. This vessel, albeit temporary at first, is now completely Cassiel’s.

Michael stands up, going towards the edge to look back down to Earth. They don’t spread out their wings, standing stiffly as they must be watching Demetrius somewhere down there.

“I’ll leave him alone for a moment,” they then say before turning back around, looking at Cassiel. “But I will be needing your help in the meantime.”

“My help?” Cassiel tilts their head in confusion. “How could I be of help?”

Michael nods down to where Earth is. “You can hide between the humans. You have found your vessel. And the small boy trusts you, it seems.”

“The child thinks it was only a dream,” Cassiel counters. They know, because they made sure of that. Scamandrius, to this day, still thinks that his meeting with Cassiel was only in his mind. Cassiel does not want to change that.

“Well, if you do not go down to try and persuade the human, the only other solution I have is find another vessel.”

Gabriel shakes their head. “Any other vessel will not be as good as your true one. You will burn out of it in only a matter of days.”

“I do not need longer than a few days to produce a fledgling, my siblings.”

“I think you’re being too confident about this. You have no idea how to even procreate since you do not even know how humans do. I suggest you educate yourself a bit upon the matter before you start claiming that you know it all.” Raphael then stands up as well, passing their sibling on the way out. “This meeting is over.”

Gabriel disappears almost as quickly as Raphael, leaving only Cassiel with Michael’s presence. Carefully, the Archangel joins their sibling to the edge where they’re observing Demetrius. Michael seems troubled, which unsettles Cassiel a little bit.

“Raphael is right,” Michael eventually says after another day has passed on Earth. Cassiel does not look up.

“They are,” Cassiel agrees.

“I have no idea what humans do. I know nothing about them. I never have the chance to observe them like you do.”

“I know you don’t,” Cassiel agrees again. Then they raise a hand, looking at it with a slight confusion before putting it on Michael’s shoulder. The figure made of light turns around, facing Cassiel with a frown.

“Will you teach me?” Michael asks. Cassiel looks their sibling in the eyes, finding that the other Archangel seems truly desperate about it. Cassiel wants to sigh but they don’t. Instead they nod, pulling Michael along. Then, with just the blink of an eye they transport them back to Earth. Right when Michael is about to ask what they’re doing here, Cassiel explains.

“I want to show you,” Cassiel explains. They find themselves in a large bedroom, windows wide open, two figures standing in front of the bed in the middle of the room.

“What are they doing?” Michael wonders.

“They are kissing,” Cassiel explains. The two humans have their lips pressed against each other, the man’s hand going through the woman’s hair while the woman passes her hand over his back to his buttocks. As she squeezes them, the man chuckles happily. “That’s what people do when they are in love.”

Cassiel knows that because they’ve seen it. Unlike when Masters use their slaves to get their pleasure. Those are never kissed because they are not ‘worthy’ of it. That is what Cassiel heard, at least.

Before Michael can ask any further question, the couple ends up on the bed. The man rolls them over until he’s on top of her. She wraps her legs around his middle and he presses closer. They see it all happen in detail as he moves onto her.

And Cassiel explains it all to Michael. Explains every little thing that goes through there. Explains the difference between sexual lust and actual love, and how it can eventually lead to procreation. Michael listens intently.

Once the couple is finished Cassiel guides them away from there, back to Heaven. Once back to Michael’s secluded part in Heaven, the Archangel nods.

“I think I understand now,” they say. Turning to look at Cassiel, Michael starts to study their form. Their vessel. “That was love, wasn’t it?”

Cassiel nods. “Yes, those two people are in love,” they agree. They then focus their attention back to Earth, looking at all the people out there who are in a romantic relationship. God never intended for Angels to feel that. Angels are unable to be in love. For some reason, Cassiel finds that bothering.

Huh, that’s a surprising thought. How long have they been thinking that way?

Cassiel opens their mouth, preparing themselves to say something. Though what they were about to say escapes their mind when Michael suddenly grabs them by the arm and pulls them close. Before Cassiel can make a sound, Michael kisses them on their borrowed lips.

It’s safe to say that Cassiel is startled. Angels do not get startled, but yet that’s exactly how Cassiel feels. Instantly they pull back, shoving against Michael’s shoulders to get distance between them. This seems to surprise Michael as well.

“What are you doing?” Cassiel asks as they put their hand against their mouth, right where Michael just kissed them.

“I was- I wanted to learn,” Michael offers. Cassiel frowns shortly before lowering their arm, looking right into the white, bright light that is Michael. Humans would be unable to perceive them face to face, but to another Angel they’re just a humanoid form made of light.

Michael wanted to learn. Cassiel can understand that; they have a task ahead of them, and it wouldn’t do them any good if they didn’t know what to do once they had both vessels.

“Alright,” Cassiel agrees. It makes sense, to be fair. So, thinking back of what all the humans do together right when they’re about to engage in sexual contact, Cassiel lifts up their hand and puts it against Michael’s cheek. They wonder, just shortly, what the other Archangel would feel like under a human’s fingers. Would he be warm? Cold? Cassiel doesn’t feel any temperature on them.

“What are you doing now?” Michael asks curiously. Cassiel shakes their head.

“Just what I’ve seen humans do as well,” they admit. “Put your hand through my hair.”

Michael does as they’re told, passing their fingers through the long brown locks. Cassiel feels it but… they don’t really what’s so special about that.

“Maybe we should just… practice a bit?” Michael offers. Cassiel nods.

“Agreed.”

After that, both lean forward once more to press their mouths together.

Chapter Text

Alastair leaves the house for some ‘important business’ by the time Demetrius has reached the age of seventeen. He leaves the house under the strict care of his friend Azazel.

Cassiel hasn’t returned to the house since that talk they’ve had with Scamandrius. There had been no reason for them to do so, but that is not the only reason for that.

For the past few human years, Cassiel has been ‘practicing’ with Michael. Cassiel observes the humans, and then they teach Michael about it. They try to act on it, but Cassiel knows that they’re not going to be able to do it. They’re not required to do so, either.

Yet Michael insists on it, and Cassiel can not deny their elder sibling’s request. So greetings have now gotten the addition of kisses. Conversations are now filled with touches. And Michael tries so hard, but Cassiel doesn’t feel it. They’ll probably never feel it. And that’s okay. It’s just until they’ve succeeded at creating fledglings; there’s no need to have this go on any further after that.

Michael has tried to talk to Demetrius in the following years. After each meeting, Cassiel had to erase the boy’s memory since it became clear that the more Michael asked, the more annoyed he became.

Demetrius has changed, that much Cassiel can tell. He rarely laughs anymore, not even around his brother. He barely speaks, and he’s often just staring ahead of him. Though, when Cassiel thought that Demetrius is not the person he was before, an obvious difference can be seen when Alastair announces his departure.

“I’ll leave you to the good care of my old pal Azazel here. I’m sure you’ll all get along swimmingly.”

By now there has been a change in the slaves Alastair owns. The girl of Demetrius age eventually ended her own life as the sexual abuse carried on. She resides in Heaven now where she spends her time with her parents. The two older women and men are still there, but there’s now three more boys and two girls as well, all of them about Scamandrius’ age. Their names, Cassiel failed to register.

Scamandrius is thirteen now. He looks older, as well. Self-assured, too.

“Hello, Cassiel.”

Cassiel turns their gaze away from the scene on Earth to see Michael approach them. When they sit down next to them, Michael kisses their cheek before taking their hand. It’s all stiff and static, but nothing else can be expected from Angels. Cassiel knows this, and realizes that Michael must think the same thing about them.

Angels are not meant to love, their mind keeps on repeating.

“I think I will return to Earth soon,” Cassiel admits. “The siblings’ Master has left the mansion for a short while, so I could go down and try to get closer to the brothers.”

“How would you do that?” Michael wonders.

“I will pretend to be a family member of Alastair’s,” Cassiel explains simply. “I can shift this Azazel’s memories so he’ll believe me.”

Michael nods. They look down at Cassiel’s hand into their own before lifting it up and putting a hesitant kiss against their knuckles. Cassiel watches him as he does this.

“I hope you’ll have more success than I do,” Michael finally says. They let go of Cassiel and get back up on their feet. “Keep me updated.”

“I will do that.” Cassiel nods towards the other Archangel before standing up as well. Then they spread their wings wide, taking flight with just a thought.

They arrive on Earth in just a flash, standing in front of this Azazel in a secluded bedroom. Before the man can say anything, Cassiel holds up a hand and presses two fingers against his head.

“I am a family member of Alastair. He’s told you about my arrival, and you’ll allow me to stay over in this house,” Cassiel instructs him, letting the power flow through their borrowed limbs. Azazel’s eyes are open wide, his mouth in an o-shape as he gasps for breath. He blinks a couple of times after Cassiel lets go of him, and once he’s regained his posture he smiles up at them.

“Why, hello there. You must be Alastair’s niece, right? He told me you were coming.”

Happy with the result, Cassiel smiles and nods in his direction.

“I am glad to have arrived, sir,” Cassiel tells him. Azazel holds out his hand in their direction.

“I’ll give you a tour of the house, introduce you to the people around here. I’m sorry you’ve missed your uncle, but he’ll be back in a couple of weeks I can assure you.”

Cassiel receives the tour. Pretending to have never seen the house before, Cassiel allows Azazel to guide them along by the arm. The only slaves they are introduced to are the four eldest ones; Cassandra, Gyorgy, Eleanor, and Leander. He only vaguely mentions Scamandrius and the others his age (Ava, Jacinto, Lidka and the twins Andreas and Anson). It becomes obvious to Cassiel that Azazel seems to forget one particular slave.

The slave Cassiel went to Earth for.

“Excuse me, sir,” Cassiel starts once Azazel leaves them in their bedroom to get settled in. Before Azazel can leave, he turns into the archway.

“Yes, miss?” he asks. And shortly, just for a short moment, his face twists as well. It’s not as ugly as Alastair’s, but it’s indication enough; this man isn’t a kind one either. If they’re appearing more often, Cassiel should probably bring it up to their Father, find out what exactly is wrong with these humans.

“I thought my Uncle said there was one more slave? A little younger than me? He was supposedly my Uncle’s favorite?”

Azazel’s face falls, the smile removing itself from his lips.

“Oh, you mean Demetrius. You won’t be seeing much of him, he’s being transferred in a few days.”

That is not good news. That could unsettle their plans, for sure. “And where would he be going? Is my Uncle alright with that?”

Azazel laughs. “Yes, it was his idea to send the grunt to the arena. Get some fight back into him and whatnot. All those years of using him as his playtoy really softened the kid up if I’m honest.”

After that, Azazel leaves and Cassiel remains alone in a large bedroom they don’t need. It’s a beautiful room if they can say that. The large bed has soft curtains around it. The open archways lead to a balcony of sort. From there, the view is of the large garden. Cassiel is pleased with that; they like the garden.

Cassiel leaves their room. Having since long changed their faded scraps to a long white dress, Cassiel is no longer mistaken for a slave. They look like any other rich girl in Athens. They put their hair up neatly, setting the golden diadem on top of their head before heading back out. If they’re lucky, they can still catch up on Demetrius in these following few days.

Wandering around the house does not reveal much Cassiel didn’t know already. They’ve seen the mansion multiple times before, after all. They pass the slave’s rooms, only to find that they’re empty. Since it’s the middle of the day, that’s not too weird.

Cassiel moves on. Demetrius is an outside worker, so he would probably not be indoors. It’s probably better to move out to the garden, where they’re sure to find him.

But Cassiel comes across another person first. Finding Scamandrius’ familiar form in front of them, Cassiel stops in their tracks. What’s the possibility that the child remembers their face? Their conversation? Sure, Cassiel made sure that the boy thought of it as a dream, but if he were to find the exact same face in front of him years later he could be suspicious.

“Scam, where are your manners?!” Azazel’s voice is loud, and the sound of the slap following afterwards even more so. Scamandrius holds his hand against his cheek before turning around, where he notices Cassiel standing. Quickly he bows his head.

“Hello, Miss,” the boy says, more gritting it through his teeth. He’s in pain.

“Hello, Scamandrius,” Cassiel greets him in return, taking the boy’s hand and pulling it away from his face. The skin where Azazel hit him is red. There are light tears in his eyes, from the pain or the shock, Cassiel does not know. Out of the eyes of Scamandrius’ new master, Cassiel reaches out her fingers to his cheek and heals away the pain.

Scamandrius’ eyes widen when he realizes it doesn’t hurt anymore. And while he knows he’s not supposed to look a superior in the eyes, he does so anyway. Vague recognition is immediately obvious on his expression.

“I’m very glad to meet you,” Cassiel tells him, trying to pretend like they’ve never met before. For a moment it seems like the boy is going to say anything, but after that he closes his mouth and nods.

“Likewise,” he says, giving them a vague smile. “I should be going now.”

Cassiel nods. “Yes, I wouldn’t want to hold you up.” Without realizing it, Cassiel passes their hand through Scamandrius’ hair. It’s a strange act of protectiveness going through them. For a short moment Scamandrius leans into the touch before pulling away. With another short nod he starts moving again.

Cassiel watches him go. Scamandrius works inside, Demetrius outside. So staying here wouldn’t bring her to the teenager.

An entire day passes until Cassiel realizes that Demetrius is not on the property. They’ve wandered al over the garden, passing each place about three times and frequenting the places Demetrius is the most often. But he’s never there. He’s nowhere, and after a quick sweep over the place with their wings Cassiel realizes he’s just not here.

During dinner, Cassiel sits next to Azazel. The man is eating the meat he’s been given by Ava and Lidka. Cassiel has been served a portion as well, but they’ve never eaten anything before in their life other than those few samples at the market. The urge to eat is not there, but it’s clear that if they want to pretend they’re human they’ll have to partake into most of the human activities.

So Cassiel takes a first bite of the meat. It tastes like nothing and everything at once. Molecules, particles. But not taste.

“Sir, I have a question,” Cassiel starts. Azazel drops his fork and gives Cassiel a friendly look. Or a look that is supposed to be friendly. Nothing about him indicates that he is in any way friendly.

“Yes, sweetheart?” There’s an immediate dislike to the nickname.

“The arena, what exactly does that mean?”

Azazel lifts an eyebrow. Then he takes his cup and takes a sip of his wine. “Well, sweetheart, the arena holds the gladiators. People who have lost their liberty and are tasked with bringing entertainment to the people by going into battle.”

Cassiel tilts their head. “So, Demetrius will become a fighter? Is it dangerous?”

Azazel laughs. “Yes, my dear, it can be extremely dangerous. So the upcoming days the kid is sent to the training grounds where he will be trained by the other gladiators. But I personally think that they learn more during the actual thing.”

Cassiel hesitates for a bit. Is it safe to ask the next question?

“Will it kill him?”

There’s another stop from Azazel, who seems extremely surprised by their questions. As he lowers down his cup again, he puts his hands together and rests his chin on his fingers.

“Listen, dear. Don’t get close to the slaves. They’re not worthy of your affection. They’re nothing, worth no penny. You’re better off finding another rich man who can provide you a good house and food.”

Cassiel frowns at Azazel. They’re unsure of what to say to that. Is it better to stay quiet? Pressing their lips together, Cassiel lowers their head and pokes into their food. They’re aware of Azazel’s smile.

“Unless, of course, you just wanted him to satisfy your needs. Because I think it’s safe to say that Demmy there is pretty much ruined for anything of that kind. Your Uncle really had his way with him.”

Cassiel is barely aware of their hands balling into fists. They’re angry. Without even realizing why, there’s anger and fury going through them, at the idea that Alastair would have used Demetrius like that.

Anger towards themselves, because Cassiel knew it had happened. They’ve seen it happen, but they never did anything about it. Because it’s not an Angel’s job to interfere.

But isn’t it their job to look over the less fortunate? Was Demetrius not a less fortunate?

That night, when everybody’s asleep in the house, Cassiel wanders around. Once again hidden from the view of man, Cassiel goes to the slaves’ quarters. There they wander past the other rooms and goes to Demetrius’ and Scamandrius’ instead.

The two brothers are in the small bed together, but Cassiel can see from their stances that they must have had some sort of argument before they fell asleep. While normally Demetrius sleeps with a protective arm around his brother, now the two have their backs to each other. Cassiel reaches out a hand before realizing it, letting it pass through Demetrius’ hair. He can’t feel it, not only because he’s asleep but because Cassiel is hidden. With their eyes closed, Cassiel tries to reach out, letting their Grace flow through their arm and to Demetrius’ mind.

He’s dreaming, that much Cassiel can tell. The dream does not seem like a pleasant one if the look on his face is anything to go by. Once Cassiel is inside his subconscious they find themselves surrounded by flames of a strong fire.

Take your brother outside as fast as you can and run. It’s a woman’s voice, vague around Cassiel’s ears. It seems to come out of nowhere, but Cassiel knows who it is. Joanna, the mother. Once Cassiel is able to put a name on the voice, it’s like the figures appear in front of them instantaneously.

Demetrius doesn’t look older than eleven, perhaps. His brother is trying to pull away from his hold, trying to get back to his parents, but Demetrius drags him along.

We need to go, Scammy!” they can hear Demetrius’ young voice say. Scamandrius is screaming, shouting in horror as their mother disappears back into the flames. And just as quickly as they appeared in front of Cassiel’s field of vision, they disappear as well. Now there’s only darkness surrounding them, no sign of Demetrius anywhere around them.

Cassiel wonders if he might have woken up, and decides to get out.

They’re stopped by a voice.

“What are you doing here?”

The voice, Cassiel hasn’t heard as often in person. While they’ve spoken to the younger brother multiple times, no conversation has yet been held with the older Enochia-descendent. When Cassiel turns they’re standing face to face with the boy they’ve been looking for the entire day. Only, not really face to face. For all Demetrius knows, this is still a dream.

“Hello, Demetrius,” Cassiel greets him. The boy frowns, his hands balled into fists as he seems wary for their presence.

“Don’t make me ask you again,” he warns them. Cassiel holds up their hand, an indication that they mean no harm.

“My name is Cassiel,” they say. “I’m-“

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Demetrius counters. Before Cassiel can say anything else, the scenery changes around them, Alastair’s room becoming obvious around them. “You need to go away.”

“I wanted to talk,” Cassiel explains quickly. Demetrius shakes his head.

“You don’t want to see what’s coming next,” he warns them. And he sounds sad, broken. Worried for Cassiel, which is weird since he’s never even met them before. Cassiel takes a step forward, reaching out for Demetrius. But before they can get to them, Alastair appears behind Demetrius, grabbing him by the hair and pushing his head sideways, baring his neck.

“You ready for it, sweetheart?” Cassiel hears Alastair’s nasty voice. When Demetrius doesn’t answer, Alastair grabs his arm and pulls it behind his back, tugging at it painfully until Demetrius lets out a painful gasp.

“Y-yes, Master,” the boy answers with obvious tears in his eyes. Alastairs laughs against Demetrius’ neck before loosening his hold on Demetrius’ arm. Then he pushes him towards the bed.

“You know what to do,” he warns him. Demetrius nods, carefully walking towards the bed and starting to take off his clothing. Cassiel frowns, their eyes never leaving Demetrius’. But before he can start to take off the sheet around his middle, Cassiel stops him.

“You don’t have to do that,” they say before thinking better of it. Demetrius hesitates, stopping in his movements as he turns towards the Angel.

“I didn’t tell you to stop, Demmy,” Alastair says behind them. Startled by the voice, Demetrius continues only to be stopped by Cassiel once more when they take his hand into their own.

“You do not have to listen to him,” Cassiel tells him. “This is not real. You are having a nightmare.”

Demetrius shakes his head. “This is not a nightmare. This is reality,” he says with a broken voice.

“Not here. You’re dreaming.” Cassiel then gives him a smile without thinking about it. Putting their hand on Demetrius’ cheek, they look him right into his green eyes. “And the thing about dreams is that you can control them.”

But Demetrius’ fear doesn’t go away after their words. Alastair gives him another warning, and Demetrius tries to get out of Cassiel’s hold to continue on his task. He finds that he’s not really a match against them.

“Do not give in,” Cassiel reminds him. “You are the boss here, not him.”

Demetrius gaze goes from Alastair back to Cassiel. Panic grows in his expression, words fail to escape him. But Cassiel is sure that he can do it. They just need to get some of the fight back into him. Make him stronger once more.

“Close your eyes,” Cassiel instructs him. When Demetrius does so, they continue. “Now imagine him gone. Imagine anything that would make you stronger than him. You are the boss in this world, not him.”

And Demetrius frowns, squeezing his eyes shut as he concentrates. Cassiel waits for anything to happen. They lower their hand away from Demetrius’ face, keeping to themselves again. And Demetrius tries. He tries really hard. But Alastair is still approaching them, and he’s looking angry. And now he’s raising his hand and is about to hit Demetrius.

And then suddenly he’s gone.

When Demetrius realizes that the blow isn’t going to come, he opens his eyes again. Realizing that it’s just the two of them now, he laughs in disbelief. The relief in his eyes is so strong, and the way he grips Cassiel’s hand into his own makes the Archangel look down to where their fingers touch.

“I did it,” Demetrius says before turning to them. Cassiel nods.

“Yes, you did,” they say proudly. Demetrius laughs once more before wrapping his arms around Cassiel’s shoulders and hugging them tightly. Cassiel isn’t too sure on how they’re supposed to return the hug. Carefully, they lift up their arms and copy Demetrius’ stance. And then, for a few minutes, they’re just standing there in a long embrace.

And before Cassiel knows it, they find themselves enjoying it. Closing their eyes, they let their head rest against Demetrius’. He’s about their height already, being quite tall for his age. Cassiel realizes they’re reluctant to let go all too quickly, but they still should. Carefully they pull back. Then without a word they leave Demetrius’ dream.

 

When Cassiel arrives back in Heaven they know they can’t stay for too long. Life on Earth moves far more quickly than it does in here. They search for Michael, finding them mid-conversation with Zachariah and Uriel. When they notice Cassiel approach, Michael is about to greet them.

Cassiel gives him no time to do so. Before Michael can get a word out, Cassiel hugs them. Copying the way Demetrius held them, Cassiel pushes their bodies close together as their arms wrap around their shoulder, their head leaning against Michael’s.

“Cassiel, are you alright?” Michael asks. Knowing that this is what humans do, Michael returns the hug, but the difference is obvious. It’s too obvious. It’s not the same. Cassiel does not feel like they want to stay in this hold. Does not feel like this is right. Carefully, they pull back, keeping their hands on Michael’s shoulders. Behind them, Zachariah and Uriel give them strange glances.

“I am fine,” Cassiel assures them, then. “There was just something I wanted to try.”

And Michael does something they’ve never done before; they smile. His hand goes up to Cassiel’s face, finger passing over their cheek, copying the way humans handle their lovers. So foreign for Angels, but the two of them stepping out of their comfort zone for the task ahead of them.

Then Michael kisses them carefully on the lips. Cassiel closes their eyes automatically, but the touch against their mouth does nothing. It never does.

“I must continue this meeting, but we will talk later alright?”

Cassiel nods before spreading their wings and disappearing back to Earth in just a matter of seconds.

It’s morning once Cassiel is back in their new bedroom. They can hear footsteps approaching in their direction, meaning that Azazel probably sent someone for them. Cassiel decides to meet them halfway. They step towards the archway, entering into the hall until a figure nearly bumps up to them.

“Oh, miss… uh…”

Cassiel looks down at the twelve-year-old. Scamandrius looks like he didn’t have a good night’s rest. His hair is wild, his eyes tired.

“I’m sorry, miss, I don’t know your name,” Scamandrius eventually admits, speaking carefully as to not anger them. Cassiel frowns for a short second before they realize they shouldn’t look too… intimidating. Forcing a smile up their lips (a smile that doesn’t feel too forced), Cassiel shakes their head.

“Cassiel,” they say. Scamandrius looks hesitant for a moment before nodding.

“Miss Cassiel,” Scamandrius greets them. “I was asked to guide you to breakfast.”

Of course he was. Cassiel makes an affirming sound before holding out their arm. It’s something they’ve seen women do when somebody accompanies them somewhere. It’s only logical to appear as a completely normal woman in their eyes.

Scamandrius links his arm through theirs and slowly guides them down the stairs. He stays quiet the entire time, and once they’re in the dinner room he untangles his arm from Cassiel’s. The Archangel offers him another smile, making Scamandrius look confused once more. After that he exits the room and heads to the kitchen.

“I sure hope he hasn’t annoyed you, missy?” That’s Azazel. His voice brings an instant sense of dislike going through Cassiel, especially due to his insistence on giving them pet names. Quietly, Cassiel looks over the man. His sandy-brown hair now mixed with grey strands. He has a beard covering his chin, and some scars in his neck. His face still looks like it’s hiding a hideously disfigured soul behind it. For the life of them Cassiel still can’t explain what that could be.

“No, he’s been very kind. He’s a good kid,” Cassiel answers truthfully. They don’t want anything to bring bad attention to the siblings.

“Yeah, that stupid mutt brother of his at least did something right about that one,” Azazel mutters while lifting up his cup of water. Or, Cassiel hopes it’s water. It might as well be wine for all they know. “Speaking of which, I hope the runt’s departure this morning didn’t wake you up?”

Cassiel has no idea what he’s talking about. They tilt their head and give him a questioning glance.

“Little Scammy there isn’t always that good behaved,” Azazel says, pointing towards the kitchen where Scamandrius disappeared to. “When the guards were there to take Demmy along for training, the brat seemed especially averse to watching his big brother go. Threw a scene, and to make it worse little Demmy suddenly threw a fit as well. Woke up the whole damned house!”

It’s strange that Cassiel finds it pleasing to hear that Demetrius showed some sort of resistance to being brought along. Where at first he would have just come along without any complaint, he actually fought back! Cassiel wonders if their appearance in Demetrius’ dream might have something to do with that?

“Oh, well, I must have been really tired,” Cassiel offers. Then, as they reach for their spoon to start on their meal, Azazel starts again.

“Don’t you have any other clothes with you? Surely you shouldn’t be wearing the same dress in two days.”

Cassiel looks down at the white piece of clothing around them. It’s clean and there are no stains on it. But is it improper for somebody to wear the same piece twice? Cassiel did not know about that.

“Yes, well, on my way here I appear to have lost my clothing. This is the only thing I have left, I’m afraid.”

Azazel raises his head, obviously displeasured with that answer. “Cassandra!” he shouts, seemingly to nobody. Eventually, one of the two eldest female slaves emerges from the kitchen with her head lowered. She is a skinny woman – slaves don’t really get enough food to have a bit of fat on them – with long blonde hair that is put in a messy braid. Her skin is sun-tanned, meaning that she must be outside a lot.

“Yes, Master?” the woman asks. Her arms are stiffly next to her body, her hands balled into fists with her fingers twitching nervously as she awaits her instructions.

“I want you to take this lovely lady to the shops today after breakfast, help her pick out some nice dresses for her stay here. I will give you some money, but I want none of it spent on anything other than clothes, do you understand?”

Cassandra nods without raising her head. “Yes, Master,” she agrees before disappearing again. Azazel looks pleased with this and continues on his meal in silence. Cassiel isn’t too sure about what is expected of them right now. As they silently eat through their breakfast, they wait for Azazel to announce their departure.

By the time Azazel has left the table with the instruction for Scamandrius to follow him, Cassiel gets on their feet to take their plate and bring it up to the kitchen. They nearly bump up to a couple of the other slaves who look at them in horror.

“You don’t need to do that, miss Cassiel. We can clean up,” the other woman says. Eleanor, Cassiel’s mind reminds them.

“I do not mind helping out,” Cassiel tells them as they enter the kitchen and put the plates down on the table. Then, noticing that Scamandrius isn’t there with them Cassiel continues. “Does anybody know where I can find Demetrius?”

They only get confused stares in return. Some disbelief, others relief. A couple look annoyed as well. Cassiel wonders what they said wrong.

“Everybody’s always looking for Dem,” Jacinto mutters towards Anson who nods in agreement. Andreas shoves them both in their sides for making that remark before throwing Cassiel an apologetic look.

“I’m sorry for what they said, Miss Cassiel. Demetrius is on the training grounds at the arena a bit north from here. He’ll probably be there until the evening, so the chances for you seeing him are slim.”

Cassiel doesn’t like that answer, but it’s probably the only one they’re going to get. Nodding in understanding, Cassiel looks away. The slaves have by now taken the plate from where Cassiel put them down and are already starting on cleaning them up. When Cassiel offers to help them again, Cassandra stops them and gives them a pointed look.

“We should be leaving for the shops, shouldn’t we?” she says. Cassiel can sense that she’s just trying to get them away from the kitchen. They probably just don’t want to get in trouble for allowing Cassiel to help them out. Understanding the situation suddenly, Cassiel nods.

“Alright, we should go,” Cassiel nods. Cassandra holds on to Cassiel’s elbow and guides them out of the house. With the money that Azazel left for them the two head out on a trek to the city. Cassiel, still wearing her white long dress and sandals, looks like a complete contrast to Cassandra who is wearing a battered black dress that has been ripped at her knees, and her feet bare as she walks forward. While Cassiel’s hair is neatly put up and held together by golden ornaments, Cassandra’s look like it’s about to fall out of the braid at any moment.

She takes them to multiple dressmakes, and with all the money they have they put together a small wardrobe for Cassiel to have. Just seven dresses, one for each day of the week, Cassandra says.

And as they start walking back to the direction of the house, Cassiel comes across a large building. One that stands out from the others. Nodding Cassandra in the side, they try to get her attention.

“What is that place?” they ask curiously. Cassandra clears her throat nervously.

“That’s, uh, that’s the arena. There the big gladiator battles happen,” Cassandra explains carefully. Cassiel nods in understanding, realizing immediately what that means.

Demetrius is there

Chapter Text

 

Long after everybody has gone to sleep, Cassiel still finds themselves wandering the property of Alastair’s house. 

No news has yet come of his return; when that will be or if he’ll come back alone. Cassiel has already decided that they’re not going to be there when the man returns. Not only does Alastair know what they look like, but as he’s able to see them even when hidden away from the eyes of the mortals, Cassiel isn’t exactly looking forward to coming across him again.  

The moon is high in the sky, the sounds of night filling the air. Cassiel sits in the large garden, their feet in the pool as they’ve done with Scamandrius only a few years back. For some reason, Cassiel finds that they enjoy the feeling of the water against their borrowed feet. It makes them feel… less grounded.  

“Cassiel,” they hear behind them. It’s Michael, Cassiel can tell. But because they still have no vessel to call their own, they’re only there in Cassiel’s mind. It’s an indication that they request for their return. But Cassiel does not want to leave the water just yet.  

They sigh, pulling their feet out of the pool but forgoing the sandals as they open their wings and fly back up. Awaiting at the Seventh Heaven is Michael.  

“Hello, Cassiel,” Michael greets them. Cassiel nods. 

“Hello, Michael,” they return. Before anything else can be said, Michael has already approached them and put a hand behind their head. Then, without a word, they pull their face closer. A soft kiss is put against Cassiel’s lips.  

It’s different from the previous few times. At first Michael was stiff, almost clinical about it. But the more they try it, the more Michael seems to be used of it.  

Despite that, the kiss does not feel particularly special to Cassiel.  

“Do you have any news about my vessel?” Michael asks after they pull back. Letting go of each other completely, Cassiel leans towards Earth once more, trying to find Demetrius somewhere in that large world. When they find him, they see that he’s on his way to bed, trying not to wake his little brother up.  

That means Cassiel missed him again. Had Michael not called them up, Cassiel might have had the chance to actually talk to him at last.  

“He’s currently being trained to become a fighter,” Cassiel explains. Michael nods, clearly pleased about that. 

“Good, that means he’ll be strong once he’ll give his consent.”  

Cassiel gives him a short glance, wondering just how Michael is so sure Demetrius will ever give his consent. They’re glad that Michael’s no longer feeling bad about the lack of agreement coming from the boy, but to be so certain?  

“It also means that he might be killed in battle,” Cassiel quickly counters. Michael’s happy expression immediately disappears again. 

“No, that can’t happen!” Michael calls out. “You need to make sure that he’s not killed.”  

“I am. Once he engages into the actual battles, I will be there to make sure that nothing happens to him. And if he gets hurt, I’ll heal his wounds. Do not worry, Michael.”  

The other Archangel seems a bit unsettled at being described as worrying. Cassiel nearly feels the human urge to roll their eyes, but they don’t.  

“In fact, I do have noticed something else that raises a question,” Cassiel admits, thinking back of Lilith, Alastair and Azazel down there. And as they explain what exactly they saw and how Alastair seems to be able to see Angels when he shouldn’t, it obviously causes distrust in Michael.  

“That does not sound good,” Michael admits once Cassiel is finished explaining. “I will bring up the matter with Father. In the meantime, try not to raise any attention from these people, alright?”  

Cassiel nods in agreement. Another glance downstairs makes it obvious that the night is almost over. They should return downstairs. After hearing assurance from their sibling that they will consult with their Father, Cassiel goes back down. Arriving on Earth once more, in the bedroom assigned to them, Cassiel realizes two things; almost everybody is still asleep as the sun has not yet gone up, and that they’re not alone. 

Cassiel feels his eyes on them before they see the boy standing there. Turning, they find Demetrius standing there with wide eyes and a mouth that has dropped down. He looks at Cassiel with surprise, like he did not expect them to be there. 

“You-?” he starts, but nothing else seems to come out of his mouth. Cassiel raises their head and offers the boy a smile.  

“Hello, you must be Demetrius,” Cassiel greets him. They take a few steps forward to get closer to him, but immediately they notice him taking a few back as well. Cassiel stops in their tracks instantly. “I am pleased to meet you.”  

Cassiel frowns upon hearing their own words. This is the first time they ever see each other face to face, in actual person, and yet there’s something strange about this. Something that doesn’t feel like normal. Cassiel is unable to put an exact word to it. It’s just… there.  

“I- I think I saw you in my dream?” Demetrius asks, like he’s not too sure about it, either.  

“Really?” Cassiel can’t just go and agree with him, after all. Demetrius squeezes his eyes shut for a short moment, shaking his head before letting out a soft breath. Then, without a word, he moves again. Walking out of Cassiel’s view, the Archangel quickly runs to the doorway to find Demetrius’ figure retreating. Why he’s awake and wandering around, Cassiel isn’t sure they’ll find out soon enough. Demetrius really is a closed off person.  

“Wait,” they call out. Demetrius stops in his tracks, hesitating for a bit. “Why are you running?” 

He’s on the move again after that. Cassiel does not wait a moment, going after him. There’s no way for them to lose him, but Cassiel doesn’t particularly want to chase after him, too.  

Demetrius runs out to the garden. It’s dark, the only light coming from the sun that is about to emerge from the horizon. Once at a large tree, Demetrius stops at last. He shakes his arms before pulling himself up by a branch, climbing up through the leaves. Cassiel stands at the ground, looking up and finding Demetrius disappear.  

“C’mon, you’ll miss it,” they suddenly hear, and that’s enough confirmation for the Angel. Demetrius wasn’t running away from them, he was guiding them somewhere. Cassiel pulls themselves up as well, climbing through the branches until they get to the top of the tree. They’re aware of their dress getting stuck at a few places but not much mind is given to it.  

Cassiel isn’t too sure why Demetrius would bring them here. They have a good view of Athens from this point, but the thing that the boy seems to be focused on is the horizon. The place where the sun will come up. He points in that direction.  

“Didn’t want to miss this,” Demetrius admits in a low voice.  

Instead of looking at the sun coming up, Cassiel looks at the boy. How the first touches of sunlight glow onto his face, touching his skin and accentuating those spots on his cheeks and nose. His freckles, their mind reminds them.  

Demetrius looks like he’s on the highlight of his life. He’s smiling, which is something Cassiel wouldn’t have expected to ever see him do.  

“You’re missing the good stuff,” Demetrius reminds them. Cassiel blinks twice before turning to the sunrise. Without really realizing it, Cassiel forms up a smile on their lips. Not because they particularly enjoy looking at it, but because they’re so aware of how much Demetrius loves it. Cassiel’s pretty sure that now sunrise is their favorite moment of the day.  

And that’s when Cassiel frowns. They’re not supposed to have favorite things. Angels are meant to love all things equally. But, glancing another look at Demetrius, that frown does not disappear. Why is it that, right now, all Cassiel wants to do is to fly them out of there? Grab Scamandrius from the house and get the siblings away from this life?  

They’re not supposed to meddle with the humans’ lives like that. That does not mean that the urge isn’t still there.  

“You know that could have been my last sunrise?” Demetrius suddenly asks without casting his eyes away from the colorful morning in front of them. He sighs. “Every morning could be my last…” 

“That is not true,” Cassiel counters. Before thinking better of it they already have their hand reached out, touching Demetrius’ gently. “I will not allow that.”  

Demetrius chuckles bitterly. “I think that’s pretty much out of your hand. You might be the Master’s family, but he does not care about you. Not like I would care about my family. I think he’s incapable of love.”  

It takes a moment for Cassiel to remember that they’re supposed to be Alastair’s niece here. Right.  

“If I’m entirely honest, there isn’t too much to love about him, either,” Cassiel tells him. Demetrius then frowns. 

“Then why would you come here? And why did I dream of you before I even met you? Are you a witch or something? A druid?”  

Cassiel tilts their head to the side, confused about the ‘witch’ thrown in with the words. But Demetrius is older than Scamandrius was when they met. Of course his first instinct wouldn’t be ‘Angels’.  

“I came here for you,” Cassiel says honestly. From the unimpressed look they get from Dean, they continue “I am not a witch, nor a druid. I must assume that you dreamt of me because perhaps you saw me in passing?”  

“Why would you come for me? You don’t know me…” Demetrius throws his arms around his legs, curling together until he’s small. “I’m nobody. Worthless… Only good for one thing.”  

The boy flinches when Cassiel touches his shoulder. Not used to being touched like that in affectionate ways, Demetrius seems extremely on edge from any sort of contact. But Cassiel offers him only a smile.  

“You are not worthless,” Cassiel tells him. “You have a soul that shines so bright despite all the hurt it has known. When you love, you do so unconditionally. You have a brother that thinks highly of you.”  

Demetrius smiles slightly at the mention of Scamandrius, but that smile doesn’t last long. In just a few seconds his mood falls again. “Not like I see much of him anymore. Azazel seems to have taken a good liking to him. Whenever I’m here, Scammy’s gone. Whenever Scammy’s here, I’m gone… It’s like they planned it exactly like that.”  

Cassiel hadn’t known about that. They might have to keep a closer eye on Scamandrius if that is the case. 

“How old are you?” Demetrius asks, then.  

Older than humanity , Cassiel thinks. Instead, they say: “Eighteen.”  

Cassiel isn’t sure why they chose that number. Perhaps because some humans tend to feel more at ease with people closer to their age. Demetrius being seventeen would not be too far off from the eighteen Cassiel is supposed to have.  

Besides, it’s not like their vessel couldn’t appear that age. It would not grow older anymore, so, really, Cassiel could give it any age they want. Perhaps with their Grace they could age up the vessel as well, make it appear older. But Cassiel would never have the same thing happening. They are stuck the way they are.  

“What is your name?”  

Cassiel feels surprised that the boy didn’t already know. “I am Cassiel.”  

Demetrius smiles vaguely. “Hello, Cass. I am Demetrius, but friends can call me Dem. Are you a friend?”  

Holding out his hand, Demetrius is waiting for Cassiel to return the gesture. Although a bit hesitant, Cassiel does reach out for him, accepting his handshake by pressing the palms of their hands together.  

“I can be a friend if you want me to be,” Cassiel assures him. Demetrius smiles again before letting go of their hand. Then, instantly, his face falls. It’s upon hearing a voice coming from the garden. Demetrius sighs, starting his climb back out of the tree. “Where are you going?”  

“Where that uncle of yours wants me to be,” Demetrius tells them. With a grim smile, he disappears from Cassiel’s view, leaving the Archangel alone in the trees. A soft breeze starts blowing against the leaves of the tree, making them rustle around them. Cassiel watches it for a moment before they descend as well. Getting their feet back on the ground, they hear somebody approach. Cassiel presses their lips together; another day ahead of them. Better to get it started.  

 

It cannot be said that Cassiel does not listen to the people around them. When Demetrius mentioned Azazel having a special interest on Scamandrius, and once Cassiel saw that it obviously disturbed the elder sibling, Cassiel decided to investigate. 

Not too much by disappearing and following them out of sight; If Alastair could see them, it’s entirely possible that Azazel can, too. Cassiel just hides in plain sight. By being where they are, usually reading scriptures that are scattered around in the house. When the two are in the garden, so is Cassiel, seated on a bench. Sometimes they’re braiding their hair, sometimes making a crown out of flowers. Everything Cassiel has seen human girls at the age of eighteen do, Cassiel copies. 

At first sight nothing especially weird seems to be happening. Azazel gives Scamandrius some instructions on whichever task he’s expected to perform. Doing so, Cassiel can see it’s more a demonstration of his strength, like Azazel wants him to be strong. There’s nothing too special about that; it’s not unusual people want their slaves strong, after all. After each session, Azazel lets him drink some water, have a little snack. Nothing too special about that. Cassiel makes sure to think about checking out those beverages after they’ve left, just to be sure that there’s nothing wrong in them.  

But further investigation leads to nothing; the water is clean, the food as well. To Cassiel, it just seems like Azazel is really fixated on educating Scamandrius. Like the man just wants to raise him as his own. There’s nothing too special about that, especially since that means Scamandrius would not just be treated as a slave anymore. Cassiel would have figured Demetrius to be happy about that.  

That night, Cassiel lets their consciousness travel back to Demetrius. Knowing that he’s asleep next to his brother, it’s easy to find him. The dream he’s having looks a lot like the previous one; the fire, a child being pushed into his arms and a mother telling him to run away. And Cassiel can see Demetrius run, faster and faster until he’s suddenly alone, only surrounded by darkness. The flames have disappeared, as has all sound around them.  

“You’re back,” Demetrius greets them. Cassiel does not respond. The Demetrius in front of them is small; only at the age he had when his parents died. But even in this dream, the pain in his eyes is obvious. Cassiel hates seeing it there.  

Unaware of their own actions, Cassiel reaches out a hand, putting it against his cheek. While lovers do this, Cassiel has seen mothers doing this to their children as well. It’s a gesture of affection, and one Cassiel finds they like rather well. Their thumb passes over Demetrius’ cheek, rubbing away at a stray tear that tries to roll its way down from there.  

“You’re sad,” Cassiel remarks. Demetrius chuckles bitterly. 

“What gave you that idea?” he asks in return. Slowly but surely, the darkness around them disappears, turning into a familiar room. The same room from Demetrius’ other dream. And Cassiel can only bet that the only other character that is going to appear is going to be one Alastair.  

And they’re quickly proven right. Behind Demetrius he appears, holding the other slave girl in his arms; the one who ended her own life a little while back. She’s a young girl, sandy blonde hair and light eyes, though they are red-rimmed now. Fresh with tears. Cassiel notices all of this only now because they’re not looking at it from above.  

“Oh Demmy, it’s time,” Alastair sings happily while holding on to the girl. She sobs when his hand travels to her neck, her eyes full of fear. Demetrius, now once again in the body of a sixteen-year-old, seems to freeze on the spot. He, too, looks like he’s seeing something terrifying in front of him. All color leaves his face. Cassiel does not like it.  

“No,” Demetrius counters in a soft breath, obviously not meant for Alastair to have heard it. But he did, and the man’s playful grin suddenly disappears.  

“You know the deal, boy!” he shouts, throwing the girl on the ground and grabbing Demetrius by the neck, instead. When Cassiel wants to reach out to him to push him aside, their hands end up empty. This is Demetrius’ dream; Cassiel cannot do anything here. “I will drop the knife as long as you pick it up. That’s what we agreed to.”  

Demetrius sputters against Alastair’s hold, trying to catch his breath.  

“Do we need another lesson, Demmy?”  

Demetrius cries, shaking his head as he sobs despite his lack of air. His hands stop fighting against Alastair’s hold, and only then does the man let him go. Demetrius tries to catch his breath. He’s reliving this memory as if it’s all happening again.  

“Dem, you need to take control,” Cassiel reminds the boy again. It doesn’t seem like he can hear them.  

Instead, Demetrius gets on his feet, approaching the girl on the ground slowly. Once he’s reached her, he holds out a hand, putting it against her cheek. She looks up, grey eyes suddenly hopeful. But that’s when Demetrius’ hand goes into her hair and pulls her head back. 

“Demetrius, no,” Cassiel breathes out. They know what is going to happen, know that this part here is the part that Dem hates the most about himself. The part where he caved in and agreed to become Alastair’s apprentice rather than his… toy. Cassiel does not even want to think about it.  

Even more fury passes through them at the realization that they could have stopped this. That all the Angels could have prevented this. How is it that nobody cared? That Cassiel hadn’t cared?  

“Demetrius, please, you do not have to relive this moment. It is not your fault,” Cassiel assures him. But Demetrius does not respond as he pulls the girl by the hair, getting her onto the bed. He’s hesitant in his movement, but continues while Alastair instructs him on what to do.  

Cassiel can’t let this happen. They run to the bed as well, putting their hands upon Demetrius’ cheeks and making him look up. When his eyes meet theirs, Cassiel can only see an empty gaze staring back in return. This here; this is the part where Demetrius lost it. The moment he could barely even manage to build up a smile for his own little brother.  

“You are in control,” Cassiel reminds him. “He can’t make you do anything. Not here. So please, come back to me.”  

Demetrius blinks twice. Nothing seems to happen; no recognition, no reaction. Just staring.  

So Cassiel does the only thing that comes to their mind. They lean forward and gently kiss his forehead. And that makes the boy blink, mostly in confusion. He frowns at them when Cassiel pulls back. Cassiel can only manage a small smile.  

“You are Demetrius. And yes, your master has made you do terrible things, but those things do not define you. You do. You are in control of your own choices here.” Cassiel gently pokes Demetrius in the chest, right above his heart. Demetrius looks down at where their finger touches him, blinking down at it while he tries to set things right in his head.  

Slowly, the entire scene around them disappears. The girl on the bed is gone. Alastair behind him as well. There’s only the two of them. And in a moment of silence, Demetrius reaches out to take Cassiel’s hands into his own.  

“Her name was Bela,” Demetrius admits. “She always pretended like she had everything under control, but it was just a façade. In truth she was just some scared little girl…”  

There’s a sniff coming from him. Cassiel does not speak, letting Demetrius finish instead. 

“It wasn’t like it was the first time it happened to her; I might have been his favorite, but Alastair liked to change things up once in a while.” Demetrius sighs. “I think she was mostly feeling betrayed. We never really acted like it, but I think we were kind of friends… Not that slaves really have a lot of them…”  

“It is not your fault,” Cassiel tells him. “Driven to a point where there seems to be no alternative, it starts to become really difficult to make a different choice.”  

Nothing. Demetrius stays silent. Cassiel shakes their head, gently pulling on the boy’s arms and pulling him closer until they’re holding each other in a strong embrace. Demetrius sighs, letting out a soft sob against their shoulder.  

“I know you feel guilty. But don’t let that stop you from who you’re supposed to be. Let it guide you into becoming the man you want to become.”  

Demetrius sighs. “I just want to be free,” he says. “Me and my brother. And the others. I just want freedom for us.”  

And then Cassiel says something that surprises even them.  

“I’ll see what I can do.”  

Chapter Text

It had always been so obvious to Cassiel as to why Angels were ever created by their Father; to serve mankind. To watch over them, and to love them unconditionally. It has always been this way, and it never looked like it was going to change.

The longer Cassiel spends on Earth, the more a specific question comes to mind; if Angels were created so many years before humankind, what was their purpose beforehand? What was God trying to achieve with His children, the guardians of Heaven, if there were no humans yet to protect?

Their Father’s past is unclear to many of the Angels, still. Only the eldest Angels, the Archangels, know the most about Him, but so far none of them have ever shared any of those memories. Cassiel hadn’t even been assigned to take over Lucifer’s place, yet.

It is not an Angel’s place to ask questions, but Cassiel has them, nonetheless. As the humans lie asleep at night, it’s what Cassiel does to pass the time, other than return to Heaven and pass along a short status update to their sibling.

Michael grows impatient, Cassiel can tell. In the few days that Cassiel has been on Earth, they’ve descended three times as well to try and talk to Demetrius, but so far no advancement has been made. Demetrius is still reluctant to go along. The only difference now is the fact that Cassiel feels not as disappointed about his refusal as before.

It’s like they’ve grown used to it. Like they’re expecting it already. Eventually, Michael will get ahold of a vessel and manage, but until now there’s nothing else to do but wait.

When it comes to Demetrius, the only moments Cassiel ever gets to talk to him are during his dreams. Those often simply contain nightmares that Cassiel tries to diffuse. Call it guilt for letting all that trauma happen in the first place, Cassiel is aware that other Angels would not care as much. But, then again, that’s what Cassiel stands for; a watcher for those less fortunate. And Cassiel will absolutely make sure that the less fortunate are being watched over.

By the time Cassiel is on Earth for an entire human week, the message of Alastair’s delay passes through. A messenger arrives, breathless, with the news of another engagement requiring Alastair’s presence, and that it would take longer for him to return. Nobody at the house seems to mind, in fact. Including Azazel.

A week turns into two weeks, followed by a third. Michael makes no progress, and Cassiel sees even less of Demetrius during the day. As they’re seated in the garden, looking around and pretending to read some of the scrolls Alastair has in his library. It’s not so much to learn its context, but rather to grasp an understanding to what exactly humanity knows about the world.

“What are you reading?”

Cassiel heard him appear even minutes before, but they still manage to act surprised by Scamandrius’ appearance. The boy looks down at the scroll curiously, blinking at the words written on the paper. Cassiel knows he can’t read them.

“It is a text that speaks of the tales of the Gods,” Cassiel explains, holding down the scroll so Scamandrius can look at the figure drawn on it. “This is Zeus; he’s holding a lightning bolt in his hand.”

“What does it say?” Scamandrius asks curiously. He sits down next to them, eager to follow along. Cassiel smiles despite themselves.

“Well, there’s truly too much to say about Zeus if I’m honest. He’s quite the displeasing character,” Cassiel admits. “He is the son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, though along with his brothers he led the party to overthrow his father and become ruler of Mount Olympus.”

“Whoa,” Scam breathes out before shuffling closer to Cassiel. “And then he passed control of the sea to his brother Poseidon and the underworld to Hades, right?”

“That’s right,” Cassiel bumps back up to him and Scam laughs. “What made humans stop believing in him?”

“Some people still do,” Cassiel assures him. “While believers of… God are slowly increasing in numbers, there are still people clinging on to the Ancient Gods. But I believe it’s their own fault for losing their followers.”

“How come?”

“Well, Zeus always meddled with humanity in the worst ways. He seduced many mortal women and made them carry his children; which would all end up being demi-gods. And he wouldn’t remain with the humans; even the animals...”

Scam makes a face, clearly unsettled by that statement. But he doesn’t interrupt Cassiel.

“Zeus did not care much for Humanity. He cared about power. And when it looked like Humanity was growing stronger and less fearful due to the creation of fire, Zeus was angered about it. Until one day he decided to take away their fire and use the flames to create the Flames of Olympia.”

Scam nods, an indication that he’s still following.

“Prometheus, another Titan, eventually stole the flames back to return it to the humans. According to Zeus, this action led to the Gods losing their hold on the world. So as revenge, Zeus chained Prometheus to a mountain, cursing him to die every day.”

“I remember that story. Dem used to tell me this one as a scary story whenever he was teasing me. That’s the one with the man having his liver eaten out by a bird, right?”

Cassiel nods. “An eagle, to be exact. Aquila was his name.”

“Was he finally freed?” Scamandrius asks. “Or is he still being eaten right now?”

“Some say Heracles, one of Zeus’ half-mortal children, killed the eagle and freed him.” Cassiel, though, knows that this is not true. It’s just something humanity added to the story to appease the children. It seems to work, though, as Scam smiles again and looks back down at the paper.

“My parents tried to teach me how to read, but… I don’t know how to do it…” he admits. “We weren’t exactly rich enough to be schooled…”

 Cassiel looks at Scam studiously before clearing their throat. “I can teach you if you want?” they offer. Surely, if he’s wandering around like this, Azazel will not be looking for him. “Where is Azazel?”

Scam shrugs. “He’s in the city. Went to the Library, I think.” He then sighs again. “My parents told me about this great library somewhere in Egypt. Many stories are told about it, but nobody knows if it really exists… Would be cool to find it out.”

Ah, yes, the Great Library of Alexandria. It’s too bad that Scam will never be able to visit it, as it no longer exists. The Library in Athens is not a horrible addition to the list of libraries, but it will never match its greatness. If Cassiel is fair, the Alexandrian Library had been one of their favorite human inventions.

Cassiel takes a hour of Scam’s time to teach him the basics. He advances pretty well, refreshing everything he already knows as they go over the Greek lettering on the scrolls. The more they continue, the more enthusiasm he’s showing.

But after an hour it’s clear that he’s lost that eagerness. He’s growing tired, restless, and eventually Cassiel puts aside the scroll and stands up, holding out a hand for the young boy. Scam looks up in confusion before nodding and following them.

“You appear worried, Scam. Is there something bothering you?” Cassiel asks after a few minutes of silence. They walk through the garden, around the pond where little ducklings are swimming after their mother.

“It’s Dem,” Scam admits. “I barely see him anymore, and now he told me that tomorrow he’ll have his first real battle… I’m just scared that they’ll hurt him.”

Cassiel looks at Scam, seeing nothing but worry etched on his face. It’s unsettling to say the least, both the news and the expression Scam is showing. If Demetrius has his first fight tomorrow, Cassiel has to make sure that he’s going to be alright. They have to be there.

“I’ll try and ask Azazel if we can go along. Maybe your presence will help him out.” Cassiel says that to appease the child, but they know they’re using Scam as an excuse to go. Not that they don’t care for Scam, of course. If Scam would get in harm’s way, Cassiel would protect him instantly. Demetrius cares too much about his brother for him to get hurt.

That evening during dinner, Cassiel brings up the request to Azazel. They’re seated with enough distance between them, Azazel not saying a word while Cassiel silently eats their meal. It’s easier now than it was before, but it’s still not the most pleasant thing in the world.

“The news has come to me that Demetrius will go to Battle tomorrow?” Cassiel starts. Azazel, who had been lifting his spoon, stops mid-air to let his dark eyes land on Cassiel.

“Has it now? I wonder where you heard that one from,” he mutters, though obviously grinning. Cassiel just hopes they haven’t gotten Scam in trouble by that remark. “Let me guess, you wish to join me to this battle?”

Cassiel nods. “I would be very intrigued to see how such an event would take place. I have never been there, before.” And that’s the truth; never in existence has Cassiel thought about going to something like this.

“Well, I don’t see why not. You could represent for him, after all, since you’re the niece of his owner. It would make more sense for you to be there than me.” Azazel then finally puts his spoon in his mouth, only for Cassiel to continue.

“I wish to bring Scamandrius along as well,” they admit. Azazel now glances back at them, eyebrows raised. This time he looks less pleased.

“Why would you do that?” he asks with a low grunt. And then, all the sudden, Cassiel finds themselves out of words. What could be a good excuse to bring Scamandrius along?

“Well, uhm… A lady does need their servant, doesn’t she?” they try. “What if I crave water? Do I need to fetch it for myself? That surely does not seem like something somebody of my position should be doing.”

It feels bad to talk about Scam like that, but it works. Azazel loosens a bit in his stance, sitting up with a nod being formed by his head.

“Yes, I see…” he says, wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand. “I suppose I could lend you Scammy for the day, but I need him back unharmed, you hear me?”

Cassiel nods. “You have my word,” they admit. Feeling unsettled by the smirk Azazel gives them, Cassiel decides to depart from the table now. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be heading to bed early this evening.”

“Yes, you do that,” Azazel says without looking up. “Sleep tight, little Angel.”

Cassiel stops in their tracks, turning around to face Azazel once more, though he has his head down, eyes not looking up. He looks like he’s lost all interest in the conversation. And for a few seconds Cassiel hesitates. Did Azazel mean something? Or did he just use that as a coincidental term of endearment? Not that Azazel particularly cares for them, but…

Deciding it’s best to just leave the room, Cassiel marches back to the stairs which lead to the upper floor. There’s no door for them to close behind them, meaning that anybody could just walk past and look inside. That is why Cassiel has taken the habit of residing at least a few hours at night in the bed meant for them. It would not help them if people would notice more than once that they’re not asleep.

Cassiel pretends to sleep for a couple of hours. The footsteps of all the other people in the house are sharp in their ears. Cassiel is extremely aware of them. Especially of Azazel’s, halting in front of their room as they try to catch a glance of Cassiel’s figure hidden away behind the curtains of their bed.

Time has no greater meaning to Cassiel if they’re completely honest. It’s perfectly easy for them to just wait until morning arrives, which is exactly what they do. Tonight is not the night to go wander around or head up to Heaven and risk returning late for Demetrius’ battle.

Cassiel gets out of bed the moment the rooster makes its first sound of the day. They’re immediately greeted by a sleepy Scam, who is rubbing his eyes as he wanders in the hallway. The behavior Scam is showing is completely different to the other slaves. It’s further proof of the theory that Scam might be Azazel’s favorite. Yet, so far Cassiel hasn’t really caught anything that might stand out about it.

The morning meal isn’t special much. Azazel is not there to accompany them, probably still asleep or already out. The other houseslaves seem to be a bit more relaxed now that that’s the case, especially knowing that Cassiel isn’t at all like their supposed family members.

So as they’re pretending to enjoy the breakfast given to them, Cassiel listens to Ava talk about a boy she used to be friends with and might have been in love with, Jacinto’s former dream of joining the army, the twins Anreas and Anson who wanted to travel the world and perform ‘magic’ tricks (they even showed some things to Cassiel, and the Angel had to admit it was rather entertaining). Eleanor and Cassandra promised to help Cassiel out with wearing the right clothes – because apparently that’s important when going to an event, though Cassiel wouldn’t really know about it.

Quickly enough, Cassiel was hauled back to their bedroom where the two female slaves make her sit down on a chair, followed by Ava, Lidka and even Scam and Anreas who appear to be curious. In just a quick movement, Eleanor sets Cassiel’s borrowed hair up in a loose bun, to keep everything away from their face. Then the two women sit down in front of them and hold up their hands.

“Okay, so wearing make-up is quite an ordeal. Only the rich are able to wear it, as it’s so expensive and time-consuming,” Cassandra explains. Eleanor nods.

“Luckily, Azazel made sure that we had the money to get some for you.” And with that, they point towards the big amount of small pots and bottles upon the table.

“Surely, Azazel would not want to spend all his recourses on something like that?” Cassiel wonders. The two ladies raise an eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that. It’s all about representation and showing off money, after all. You’re here to represent Dem, since Alastair is not here. If he makes it big time, people will want to try and talk to you. It’s best if you look absolutely stunning.”

Cassiel blinks twice in confusion before shrugging. “Alright,” they say then. “I guess you’re free to do as you please.”

The two girls smile and start working immediately. They begin with putting stuff on Cassiel’s face, often letting it work in for a few minutes before peeling it back off. Meanwhile, Lidka and Ava prepare a warm – though completely unnecessary – bath for them, which Cassiel soaks in for half an hour or so before they’re pulled back out.

The process of putting on make-up lasts quite long in human time. There’s the whitening of the skin at first, followed by the removal of any body hair Cassiel possessed other than the hair on their head.

Despite apparently needing to look as pale as possible, a light pink color is put upon Cassiel’s cheek.

The thing that quizzes Cassiel the most is their fixation with their eyelashes. As they’re all gushing over the length of it, Cassiel wonders why it’s that important to begin with. It’s Cassandra who explains it;

“It is said that eyelashes fall out from excessive… sex,” she says, sounding a bit embarrassed to speak about it. “The fact that they’re naturally this long with you can prove your chastity.”

“And that is good?” Cassiel wonders.

“Of course! It means that you’re staying pure until you’re married!” Eleanor exclaims. Cassiel wants to stay something about that particular thing, but they’re not given the chance as the girls start putting color upon Cassiel’s eyelids. Ava and Lidka often ask questions of how or why they do particular things, and the two women answer each time. Cassiel isn’t really too focused about it.

The whole ordeal finally ends when there’s multiple bits of perfume pressed against Cassiel’s neck to take away the stench coming from the make-up they’ve used. Cassiel frowns at that thought, wondering why, then, the women would wear make-up in the first place. Humans are such peculiar creatures, really.

After they’re finished with Cassiel’s face, they move on to their hair. They work wonders, using golden hairpins and leather cords, braiding the strands together until it rests upon their shoulder. Once that’s over as well they turn to Cassiel’s clothes – which are still rather limited. They pick out a particular blue dress and tell them to put it on.

Cassiel has to admit that they’re glad that whole part is over at last. Ready to get out of this house now, they descend the stairs to meet up with the other slaves. Though as they go down, the first thing they notice is the addition to another presence in the place.

“My, my, Angel, you look perfect,” Azazel says when he sees them. The way he speaks doesn’t quite indicate that he means any of it. Cassiel has since long caught on to the way he works.

“Thank you, sir,” Cassiel answers in return.

“I suppose, to keep that make-up in check you’ll need to take the girls along as well. You’ll have to stop eventually or I’ll run out of slaves,” Azazel jokes, but it falls flat mostly due to the fact that Cassiel has no idea what he’s talking about.

“For the make-up, miss. It needs regular touching up,” Eleanor whispers towards them. Cassiel resists the urge to sigh.

“Oh, joy,” they say. Azazel laughs again, opening up his arms and gesturing for Cassiel to join him as they head back out of the house. With Scam, Eleanor and Cassandra following, they get into the chariot meant for them. Once seated in the cramped space, they’re being brought to the arena at last.

There appears to be a big turn-out. People are all gathered around the entrance of the large arena Cassiel had only seen in passing before. The chariot lets them out a bit further away from the masses, clearly a section reserved only for the ‘important’ people. A couple of servants walk up to them to help them out of the chariot before gesturing them on where to go. Cassiel thanks them all for their help, but Azazel ignores them mostly.

They walk through a series of hallways. On the walls are drawings, portraits of former champions in the previous battles. Cassiel can read all their names, but none of them sound even slightly familiar. They wonder, just shortly, if Demetrius’ name will eventually appear here, as well.

The thought makes Cassiel frown. They ignore that.

“Why hello, good sir. And I’m pleased to see you accompanied by such a beautiful woman. Surely, I am happy-“

The man that approached them is silenced by Azazel’s hand pushing him aside.

“I don’t need your ass-licking today, nor any other day. Get out of here,” Azazel mutters. The man nods, bowing humbly before disappearing from view. Though, while Cassiel had not recognized the voice at all, seeing the man flee from the scene, they recognize him immediately.

Gabriel. But why are they here? And did they already find a vessel? Surely, if they came down to Earth that means there must be a message to be delivered, most likely to Cassiel. They need a moment alone, but Cassiel is not too sure how they’ll manage that.

Unless… Cassiel twitches a bit with the golden bracelet they were given. Dropping it on the ground and knowing Gabriel will hear it, Cassiel pretends like they didn’t notice. Neither did any of the others.

“Miss! You dropped something!” comes from behind them, and Cassiel smiles without realizing it. They turn, facing the man Gabriel currently possesses and start heading in his direction. Azazel and the other servants stay in place as they wait for Cassiel to return.

“I do not have much time. Why are you here, sibling?” Cassiel whispers even before they can reach Gabriel.

“I was just curious, little sis,” Gabriel returns with a smirk. “Meet your new big brother.”

“Brother? You have assumed a gender for yourself, then?” Cassiel wonders. Gabriel nods.

“Yeah. And I am pretty glad I did. Father even approves, though he wonders why I settled with such a short vessel.” Gabriel looks down at their – no, his body, studying it with some slight doubt. “Of course, people might underestimate me like this. I don’t mind it too much.”

Gabriel then hands Cassiel the golden necklace.

“Can we meet this night? I have some news from Heaven and it’s easier to talk when there aren’t people around us.”

Cassiel nods. “Of course, brother,” they say. The two part ways after that, only nodding as a goodbye before Cassiel gets to rejoin Azazel and the others. Once they’ve caught up to them, the man grunts in annoyance.

“He didn’t bother you too much, did he?” he asks.

“No, he was rather friendly,” Cassiel answers. Azazel shuts up after that. They continue on the path to their seats, and once they’ve found the box that is reserved for them Cassiel sits down on the chair completely on the left, with Scam sitting on the ground next to them.

He looks nervous, and normally Cassiel would address it, but other thoughts are passing through their mind. Thoughts about Gabriel.

In all the years that Angels have been in existence, never has one assumed a gender on their own. Even when taking a human vessel, that would not make the Angel of that particular sex. But Gabriel seems pretty accustomed about it, like he enjoys it. Enjoys having a pronoun that fits.

Looking down at their vessel, Cassiel figures it would be logical to identify as a woman, then. If their true vessel is female, then surely that must reflect in Cassiel in a way. Much like Demetrius must reflect in Michael. Cassiel thinks about this for a few minutes while the arena starts filling up.

It could be easier to pretend to be human, if Cassiel tries to completely identify as one. Assuming the female gender could ease that up, in fact. Besides, it doesn’t sound too bad at all.

“And who do we have here?”

Cassiel is pulled out of her train of thought, surprised that she didn’t hear people approaching. Standing in front of her is a middle-aged man with dark hair and a beard, accompanied by another young man behind him. A slave, Cassiel understands.

“Ah, Bradicus,” Azazel greets the man, who looks down at Cassiel with a strange look that the Archangel cannot place. “This is Alastair’s niece, Cassia.”

“Cassiel,” she corrects him before nodding at the man. She doesn’t hold out her hand for him to shakes, mostly because she’s very much aware of the large distrust Scam seems to send the two newcomers.

“I didn’t know Alastair had a niece? And such a lovely one of them, too.” Bradicus takes Cassiel’s hand and puts a kiss upon her knuckles. Cassiel isn’t sure what to think of that gesture. She knows it’s just a way for people to be polite, but Cassiel simply does not see how strangers kissing a part of another human’s body can be considered polite.

“Yeah, Alastair don’t share much with the others,” Azazel mutters. “Anyway, she’s in town for a bit so since she’s Alastair’s only family I figured it be best if she represented Demmy out there.”

Bradicus doesn’t remove his eyes from Cassiel, looking her down like she’s only food in his eyes. Cassiel finds her distrust for this man immediately strong, especially when something dark seems to pass over his face as well. The same thing that happens with Azazel, Alastair and Lilith. Is it something to indicate a bad human? A rotten apple in the tree?

“Yes, well, I’m sure such a beautiful goddess like you cannot come to an event like this unaccompanied by a partner?”

Oh, Cassiel can see what he’s trying here.

“I am perfectly capable of looking after myself without the help of another man,” Cassiel counters. “Though I do appreciate your concern.”

That’s a lie. Cassiel does not appreciate it at all.

“Right,” Bradicus mutters before looking her down another few seconds. Then he shoves his slave to the ground. “Move! We need to get to our seats.”

Bradicus leaves without saying goodbye, which gives Cassiel the suspicion that this won’t be the last time they’ll see him today. But this man’s presence should not bother her. She gives Scam a reassuring smile when his eyes bring nothing but concern, and when Azazel’s not looking she lowers her hand for Scam to hold as they wait for the first battle to begin.

There’s a whole introduction, a show beforehand where a couple of young girls start dancing in the middle of the arena. But then, finally, the participants of the games are being called out on the field.

Demetrius isn’t the first nor the last one being called out. He’s somewhere in the middle, holding a shield and a sword in his hands as he walks to the middle of the ring. He’s dressed the same way as the others; legs and arms bare, wearing nothing but a uniform that doesn’t even cover most of the parts that should in fact be protected.

Scam makes a surprise sound when he notices his brother there. It’s so quiet that Azazel wouldn’t be able to hear, much to Cassiel’s relief. There’s another speech coming from the one who organizes it all, until he disappears from the arena and only the contestants remain standing there. Cassiel tries to focus further on Demetrius, trying to see if he’s very nervous.

It unsettles her to find him twitching on his feet, anxiously looking to the others before glancing at his own sword. He seems like he’s ready to just run away, and the urge is there to just fly him out Both him and his brother. It wouldn’t even be too much of an effort.

Cassiel remains where she’s seated, wondering where Gabriel is; is he back in Heaven? Is he also watching the fight? Are there other Angels here as well? More Angels with vessels, perhaps?

A horn is blown, the twelve men in the arena storm up to one another. The sound of metal hitting metal is loud around them. Grunts of effort as these men, strangers to one another, battle each other for their own survival.

Cassiel can’t take her eyes away from Demetrius. He’s somewhere on the far left, but he fights differently than the others. While the technique mostly seems to be to just smash to win, Demetrius seems to prefer deflection and defense. He’s not hitting back, just trying not to get hit.

“Go Dem!” Scam shouts suddenly, startling Cassiel from where she’s seated. Azazel leans over her to flick him on the head, probably knowing that Cassiel wouldn’t do it herself. Scam remains quiet after that.

A man falls. A sword is pulled out of his chest and he drops down on the ground. The man who delivered the final blow moves on to his next target. He seems fearless, ready to kill everybody in this place. And not because he has to. This one looks like he enjoys it.

It goes on for a long while. Slowly, the amount of fighters diminishes down to five and so far Demetrius seems to have succeeded in keeping himself alive. Despite that, it turns out that the others seem to find an easy target in him. In their distraction to try and get to Dem, they’re often stabbed in the back by another. Up to the point where it’s only the wild man and Dem against one another.

Cassiel sits up, preparing herself to intervene if necessary. Demetrius hasn’t been trained well and long enough to face this man. This one looks like he’s been in multiple battles before. This is only Dem’s first time. And if Cassiel doesn’t do anything, probably his last time as well.

“Any final words, princess?” Cassiel hears the man mutter towards Dem, keeping a wide though disturbing grin on his lips.

“Uh, nice weather we’re having, huh?” Dem tries to lighten the mood. Cassiel resists the urge to roll her eyes. The man seems to agree with that sentiment. He raises his sword, letting out a roar before storming towards Dem.

And for the first part all Dem does is deflect and evade, if only because it seems to buy him some time. But Cassiel knows that won’t save him. Unless he fights back, this battle will not end up well.

Though after a couple of minutes Cassiel seems to understand what Dem is trying to do. While Dean keeps on flinching back, avoiding every hit thrown his way, the other man seems to become sloppier with every move.

“That’s how dad taught it to him,” Scam whispers softly, not removing his eyes from Dem.

When it seems like Dem has had enough of tiring the other guy out, he moves. Suddenly swinging his sword wildly like he’d been holding one his entire life already, he moves like a completely different person. It appears the other man obviously didn’t expect Dem to turn out to be a very skilled fighter in the end.

Dem gives him a couple of painful blows, cutting him in his skin with the sword, kicking his knee until it breaks. When he loses the sword he uses his fists instead. He throws himself onto the man, moving so fast that the other doesn’t even stand a chance to retaliate.

He moves like a beast. It almost scares Cassiel, to know Dem can do this. But it must be all that pent-up anger, all that hate for the world around him.

The man begs for mercy. He’s on his knees, holding up his hands in defeat. He doesn’t dare to look up to Dem, afraid to insult him. And Dem, looking so young, so… fragile… Dem just stares down, holding the sword he picked back up in his right hand, his other one balled into a tight fist.

“C’mon, boy! There’s only one survivor here!” Azazel shouts, probably loud enough for Dem to hear it. Cassiel’s eyes widen, suddenly understanding what Dem is about to do here. And sure, she should have realized this long ago, before the battle even started. But now…

Cassiel wants to tell him not to do it, not to obey. But if he listens to her, he’ll surely be killed.

She says nothing as Demetrius raises his sword and delivers the final blow.

Chapter Text

 

Once, many years ago, Cassiel’s Father revealed a set of rules. And while it was not abnormal for the Lord to make rules and pass them along, those usually only applied to Angels.

This time, with ten sentences, the Lord spoke to Moses and told the Prophet what was acceptable for humanity and what wasn’t. And any person who has shown true devotion to Christ and the Holy Father know these by heart.

Cassiel knows them, too. It’s surprising to her, though, that many humans on Earth don’t.

Thinking back of those Commandments, they would appear almost obvious to anybody. But for many years, and still to this day, the Christians in the world are not so openly welcomed in a society that believes in many Gods.

“You seem troubled,” Gabriel greets her when he approaches. Cassiel turns, finding her brother now standing in front of her. The vessel he’s possessing is wearing wealthy-looking clothes, but that doesn’t say much of the man’s background. “Did the battle disturb you?”

Cassiel keeps her mouth closed. Thinking of Demetrius, who returned rather late and is probably asleep at this moment, she can’t help but feel… strange. The thought that, today, he murdered somebody. That he’s expected to do so from now on… it unsettles her in many ways. And not because it makes her dislike him, but more because he has to live with that thought from now on.

“You know how humans are, Cassiel. They are violent and murderous. But our Father loves them anyway, and so should we.”

Gabriel leans against the marble arch next to him with his arms crossed. His dark brown eyes settle upon Cassiel’s figure.

“I am aware,” she agrees. Then she stands up straight again. They should get to business. “What was it you wanted to discuss with me, brother?”

Gabriel raises an eyebrow. “Brother? Is it safe for me to call you sister, then, too?” he says with a smirk. It’s such a human thing to do that Cassiel is surprised of seeing it in front of her.

“You can call me whatever you want. That does not take away my interest in the matter you wished to address to me?”

Gabriel rolls his eyes but then nods. “Right,” he says before motioning for her to follow him. Cassiel does as he asks, and the two walk further into the garden, probably to avoid being heard by anybody. “We brought up the matter about Alastair, Azazel and Lilith to Father, but even He admitted that he never heard anything about it.”

“He didn’t? That does not sound plausible.”

“I know. He wants us to observe them further. These people look human, but… it’s weird, as if their soul has been tortured in a way that makes them look so mangled, you get me?”

Cassiel nods. She does get him, because that’s exactly what she sees when she looks at Azazel.

“Does He have any thoughts of what they could be?” Cassiel wonders but Gabriel shrugs.

“I think He has a hunch, but He does not want to find out that it’s true,” Gabriel admits sadly.

“What is?”

“That Lucifer might have been torturing human souls in his imprisonment, before we banished him.”

The mention of his name startles Cassiel. Lucifer? Nothing has been heard of him for centuries as he’s forbidden to have any contact with any Angels. Locked up in Hell, there’s no way for him to reach out to  anybody.

“Father is having a look at Purgatory. Trying to have a look at the amounts of souls awaiting purification. He fears Lucifer might have created an extra layer which there’s no escape from.”

This does not sound good at all. Cassiel wonders if she should forget about the mission for now and help out? Passing along this message to Gabriel, the other Archangel agrees to voice Cassiel’s concerns to their Father before he takes off again, leaving Cassiel behind in the large garden of the mansion.

Cassiel looks down at her bare feet. She forgot to put on the sandals but it is not like the ground is bothering her. She toes a bit at the grass, attempting to sort out her priorities.

That is, until she hears somebody approach.

“Who’s there?” she asks, nearly preparing herself to take out her blade. Not that she’s been needing it so far, but her conversation with Gabriel has left her rather unsettled.

Out from the shadows appears the figure of Demetrius, holding up his hands in a surrendering motion. Cassiel relaxes instantly upon seeing him.

“I’m sorry if I worried you,” Demetrius admits. Cassiel clears her throat, shaking her head.

“No, it’s fine,” she assures him. “Why are you awake?”

Demetrius smirks, though it does not reach his eyes. “I could ask you the same thing. Mr. Azazel would not like having you wandering around in the garden at this time. Crazy thieves and murderers could always be wandering around.”

As soon as the words leave his own mouth, Demetrius’ expression changes again. Deflated, he hunches his shoulders forward and lowers his gaze.

“Murderers like me,” he continues sadly.

And Cassiel feels something jump inside her borrowed chest at those words. This is Dem, once again downgrading himself. Even Cassiel knows how nobody hates Demetrius more than Demetrius himself. It makes her reach out a hand towards his face, making him look up with fingers against his cheek.

“You are troubled,” Cassiel states, feeling like the roles have changed a lot in comparison to her conversation with Gabriel. “This is about the battle, is it not?”

“I killed somebody, Cass…” Demetrius whispers. “I know I had no choice but I did it, still… And Scammy saw it all happen.”

Cassiel doesn’t say anything; there’s nothing to be said. It’s true, after all. Demetrius did end somebody’s life, and his younger brother was a witness to that. Not that Scam seemed awfully worried about that, looking rather relieved that his brother made it.

Cassiel closes her eyes, throwing her arms around Demetrius’ shoulders and pulling him closer to her into a consoling hug. Demetrius is stiff at first, not sure as to what is happening, but eventually he loosens up. Embracing her in return, the two stand there for a long few seconds before Demetrius pulls back. As he does so, he wipes at his face to hide the tears, yet Cassiel saw them anyway.

“I am really glad that you survived, Dem,” Cassiel tells him carefully. “I know the situation was not the most pleasant one, but I have to admit I preferred watching you take out the life of a man who murdered countless of others without even batting an eye, rather than seeing that man end yours with no remorse at all. Because this guilt you are feeling; that is what makes you human. And I like that part.”

The words are out of her mouth before she realizes it. It’s strange that, while she did not plan on saying all that, it doesn’t make it less true. She smiles at him before reaching forward and kiss his forehead. Another gesture of comfort.

“Why are you so kind to me?” Demetrius asks with a cracking voice. “I’m only a slave, after all.”

But Cassiel shakes her head. “No you are not. You are a human being who deserves a lot better than what he has.” Barely realizing that her hands are clinging on to his, Cassiel continues. “You have a soul that shines so bright it nearly blinds me. You have such goodness in you, and people are taking advantage of that, are trying to destroy it. But no matter what they throw at you, that soul never stops shining.”

Demetrius stays quiet, simply staring at her for a few short seconds. But then he lowers his gaze, letting out a soft sigh and stepping back.

“I should return to bed. Have another game tomorrow now that I won this one.”

Cassiel’s face turns grim at the thought that he’ll be back in the Arena.

“You should get some rest, then,” she agrees. Holding out her hand, she waits for Demetrius to take it. He hesitates shortly before shrugging and doing it. Lacing their fingers together, the two walk back to the house. In front of Cassiel’s room, the two separate with a quick goodnight. And once Cassiel’s alone once more she becomes extremely aware of this strange feeling passing through her entire body. As if there’s a pressure on her chest that is not exactly uncomfortable.

And with a smile, Cassiel lies down on the bed and pretends to be in a deep slumber.

 

Demetrius wins the following game. The same goes for the next one, and the one after that.

It bothers Cassiel still, the thought that Demetrius is forced to kill another human for the entertainment of others. It bothers her even more to see how much it seems to affect him, as the guilt rises with every life he takes.

But the days continue on this way. Twice a week, Demetrius is called out to the arena for a game. The other days, he’s there as well but only for training. Slowly but surely, he’s even becoming a well-known name in the ears of the Athenians. He returns home with few injuries for the most part, but it did happen that a sword did a bad swing and landed badly on his foot. When the healers had to take off one of his toes, Cassiel stood silently by his side, making sure that the pain would be at its minimal. Also, she’s mostly there to reduce the chances of infection.

While Earth seems to remain the same, with Cassiel watching over Demetrius to make sure he isn’t killed in action, Heaven seems to become unsettled with each passing day. As the mystery of the ‘broken souls’ seems to raise a few questions upstairs, no answers seem to come their way. Simply put, nobody has ever seen anything like this.

A month after the first battle, the message comes that Alastair’s arrival will be postponed for another month or so. It’s Scam who brings in the message as they’re eating dinner, handing the scroll to Azazel with a head bowed. Azazel simply passes his hand through Scam’s hair as if he were petting a dog before motioning for him to walk away. Scam obeys, leaving them in peace.

“It appears your Uncle will be detained for another month,” Azazel says. “I hope this does not bother you too much.”

Cassiel offers him a smile she hopes looks somewhat convincing. “I am fine, I can wait for his arrival,” she lies as she bares her teeth into a smile.

“Good,” Azazel returns with a wide smirk. He continues his meal silently after that, but Cassiel can’t help but look around. Something seems a bit different today, like… There’s a presence missing.

The answer comes that evening as Cassiel encounters Scam in the hallways. Finding the boy with red eyes and suspiciously silent, Cassiel holds on to his arm to stop him from moving away from her.

“Scam, is there something wrong?” Cassiel asks in confusion. Scam sniffs, drying his eyes before looking up at her.

“You don’t know about Ava yet?” he asks with a shaky voice. Cassiel frowns. She hadn’t really noticed anything wrong about the girl. Only, she hadn’t even noticed the girl. Thinking of it, she hasn’t even seen her all day.

“Is there something wrong with her?” Cassiel wonders. “I think I missed her today.”

Scam sniffs once again. “She disappeared. And I mean I suppose it’s good for her if she managed to escape but… She was my friend, you know?”

Cassiel doesn’t know, but she can imagine Scam feeling sad about it. Holding out her arms, Scam walks into her embrace and puts his head against her shoulder. The boy’s growing up a lot, she realizes. Eventually, he might even be taller than Demetrius.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Cassiel says, though she is not sure about it. She just knows humans say these types of things to ease other people’s worries. “How is your brother doing? Is he walking again?”

She feels Scam nod against her. “Yeah, they’re thinking about sending him back to the arena tomorrow since he’s healed up so quickly. I wished he wouldn’t have to.”

Cassiel frowns. She knows that she’s mostly the reason why Demetrius’ injuries have healed up almost immediately after the surgery he underwent, but she never thought that would lead to him being sent back right away.

As the days pass, it becomes more and more obvious that Ava will not return. Though the reason of her disappearance is unknown, Cassiel doesn’t think her focus should go to it. The girl probably ran away when she saw a chance, and it’s not that uncommon for slaves in households for things like that to happen.

Scam’s sadness disappears again after a while. Azazel seems to distract him enough during the day with whatever he’s intending on teaching him. When Cassiel sat in on one of their ‘lessons’ one time, the man had been teaching Scam to read, much to Cassiel’s surprise.

Every evening, after the sun has already set and all the others are already asleep, Cassiel heads to the garden. It’s the only time a day they can do this, after all. She moves deeper through the maze formed by bushes until she gets to the secluded tree that marks their spot. That’s where she usually waits for Demetrius to arrive.

There’s never a promise that he’ll be there. Despite him acting strong all the time, there are moments where he needs to sleep early, or when he’s too injured to walk around. But even those times Cassiel sits here. It’s not as if it is any different when she’s in that bed pretending to sleep. In fact, she prefers to spend the night here.

“Hello, you,” she hears behind her, though she caught Demetrius’ footsteps a long while back. Still she pretends to be surprised, smiling when she sees Demetrius’ exhausted form standing there. He looks like they wore him down in the arena today.

“Hello, Demetrius,” she greets him in her usual way. Demetrius nods before sitting down on the ground. Without hesitation, Cassiel does the same.

“Man, I’m not staying long today, Cass. I’m exhausted and I’m pretty sure I saw Azazel wandering the hallways when I was sneaking this way.” Demetrius leans to the side, dropping his head on Cassiel’s shoulder and keeping his eyes closed.

“You didn’t get hurt today, did you?” Cassiel asks in worry. Demetrius shakes his head against her.

“Nah, I’m fine,” he says. “Just beat.”

“Somebody beat you up?” Worry is obvious in Cassiel’s voice and she’s already moving to inspect his figure, only for Demetrius to hold up his hand and press it against her leg.

“Nobody beat me up – at least not more than normal. It just means that I’m tired, is all.”

“Oh,” Cassiel gets out, understanding now what he said. “I suppose it’s better if you go rest, then.”

“Hmmm,” is all Demetrius says calmly before shaking his head against her shoulder. “Tell me how your day went.”

He sounds sleepy, like he’s not going to stay awake for long. Instinctively she takes his hand into her own, allowing him to just rest against her. When his breathing starts evening out, Cassiel knows he’s fallen asleep.

Gently, she picks him up, spreading her wings to bring him to his bedroom. Without awakening Scam, she puts him down on the mattress that probably isn’t comfortable at all. For a couple of seconds, she simply stares at him, realizing only minutes later that she’s smiling.

Dem looks so calm, but he must have been exhausted. Cassiel carefully passes her fingers through his hair before leaving the room, returning to her own.

The following day, Cassiel is once again in the garden. That’s when Raphael comes by, unannounced and unbothered by the fact that others could see him.

“Cassiel,” Raphael says, the low voice of a man sounding behind her. Cassiel turns around, finding Raphael standing there in the body of a dark-skinned man. A fighter, it seems; he looks strong, with muscles and a hard face.

“Hello, brother,” Cassiel returns. Something changes in Raphael’s expression upon hearing the word ‘brother’, but he remains otherwise unbothered about it. “I was not expecting you here?”

Raphael simply stares, unmoving. He looks like a statue, much the same way Cassiel was when she arrived here, first.

“Such as you should have been,” Raphael says. “Otherwise I would not have seen you on your mission.”

“Excuse me?” Cassiel wonders, tilting her head. Raphael is quiet.

“A few of our siblings, including me, were finding ourselves worried with your… involvement with the matter of Michael’s vessel.” Raphael looks around the garden before returning his gaze back to Cassiel. “I see now that you are greatly distracted. Perhaps watching over the vessel is not a task to be given to you.”

“What?” Cassiel doesn’t understand what the other Archangel is doing here. “Have I done anything to offend you, Raphael?”

Before Raphael can say anything else, another Angel appears behind him. This time, it’s Gabriel once again. He seems surprised upon seeing their other sibling here, raising his eyebrows upon noticing him.

“Whoa, family meeting,” Gabriel says. When no response comes from either Angel, he rolls his eyes. “Anyway, I have a message from Michael.”

In just a flutter, Raphael disappears back, leaving even more questions to Cassiel. Why would he suddenly come here, insinuate that Cassiel’s not doing a good job, before disappearing again?

“Hello? You with me?” Gabriel asks. Cassiel nods, quickly shaking off those thoughts and returning her attention to Gabriel.

“Yes, go on,” she assures him. Gabriel only looks at her with a strange, questioningly expression.

“Okay, so, he’s growing kind of tired of talking to Demetrius. So he was kind of wondering if, maybe, you would have a word with him? It looks like the guy trusts you somehow.”

Cassiel simply stares. Is it possible, that, in a way, she had completely forgotten about what her mission entails? She knew Michael was still asking permission, and that Dean kept on refusing, but only now that Michael’s asking for Cassiel’s help does she realize what it would mean.

She doesn’t like the thought. Doesn’t like the idea of Demetrius' spirit, that mind that makes him so strong, so special, would be hidden away behind Michael. And that does not mean that Cassiel dislikes her sibling, but more that… the idea simply irks at her.

“Uh,” she starts, realizing Gabriel is waiting for an answer. But the other Archangel simply gives her a grim look.

“You shouldn't get attached, Cassiel,” Gabriel tells her. “You knew from the beginning what this would mean.”

Cassiel nods. Gabriel is right; their Father gave them a mission and Cassiel should make sure that she sees it through. She should approach Demetrius, knowing what works with him and what doesn’t. She can make him change his mind, using every bit of information she has on him.

“I’ll tell Michael that you will do it, then,” Gabriel assures her before disappearing once more with the flutter of his wings. Gabriel remains in the garden, eyes stuck on the ground and a heavy feeling all over her.

Cassiel figures it might be safest to approach him in a dream. Talk to him in a place where he feels the most comfortable. About a week after Gabriel approached her, Cassiel sends away her consciousness to Dem’s, mixing their minds together. As usual, at first there’s just darkness. Simply Cassiel floating into nothing and everything as she’s trying to find where he is right now.

It takes a bit of searching before she finds him. Instantly, just by the cold colors of the room around them, she knows this is another nightmare. They’re in the bedroom Alastair used. The bed seems freshly made, with a girl kneeling on the ground in front of it. Cassiel can’t see her face, only that she has long, dark hair that is tangled into knots.

Demetrius is standing in the back, his gaze lowered though his face void of any kind of emotion. Cassiel wonders if he’s even aware that she’s here.

“She’s been a bad girl,” Cassiel hears, the words near as if they’re whispered against her ears. But Alastair is standing behind Demetrius, holding his hands on the boy’s shoulders. Demetrius doesn’t move, doesn’t shiver the way he used to. His gaze is dark, eyes focused on the girl kneeling in front of the bed.

The girl who is softly sobbing, not daring of looking up. Afraid of punishment that Alastair is going to bring.

Or, no. Punishment Alastair is going to force Demetrius to give.

“You know what she did?” Alastair asks in another whisper. Demetrius shakes his head and the man behind him smirks. “She lied. Lied about who she was, why she came here. She invaded my property without invitation. That can’t stand, now, can it?”

“No,” Demetrius answers lowly. The sound almost scares Cassiel.

“Then, you know what to do.”

Demetrius moves as if on automatic pilot. He marches towards the girl, grabs her by the hair and pulls her forward to the bed, almost throwing her in it. The girl lets out a shout, sobbing from fear and pain. Cassiel is at a loss for words. Demetrius had been doing so well lately. How is it that he’s getting another nightmare like this?

“Please- please don’t do this,” Cassiel hears the woman stammer out, and that voice sounds familiar. Cassiel cannot place it, though, and with the way her hair is covering her face it’s difficult to see who she’s supposed to be. Cassiel stays in her corner, though. Demetrius learned to fight himself out of these types of dreams, she’s sure he’ll manage it again.

And sure, for a moment Demetrius hesitates, turning around to look at Alastair. He blinks in confusion, as if he’s trying to understand what’s going on. But when Alastair gives him an affirming nod, Demetrius moves again. He didn’t snap out of it.

“You disrespected our Master,” Demetrius warns her, grabbing her hands and pulling them above her head, using his other, free hand to shift her onto her back. “You must pay the price now.”

“Dem, please I beg of you-“

Using a cord that was supposed to keep the curtains of the bed together, Demetrius ties the woman’s hands against the pole. Then he leans back, looking down at the struggling body underneath him.

“Do not speak to me as if you know me,” Demetrius warns her. When he puts his hands upon her knees, he pulls her crossed legs apart, forcing them open. The girl, already unclothed, is now in full display. And yet her hair is still tangled in front of her face.

“Demetrius,” Cassiel finally starts. It’s obvious that he’s not going to pull himself out of this one by himself. Cassiel has to intervene.

But Demetrius doesn’t hear her. He leans forward, passing his hand through her hair and finally pulling it out of her face, the movement almost lovingly despite the brute force he already used on her bruised body.

Cassiel stops in her tracks when she sees the woman on the bed. The face looking identical to Iphigenia’s. But Demetrius doesn’t know her. He knows Cassiel. And he associates Cassiel to having that face.

For the first time since Cassiel could possible imagine, she feels truly shocked. At the thought that Demetrius has nightmares so dark. That this, right here, is something he truly seems to fear. Something Alastair has twisted his mind to dream now.

Cassiel hurries to the bed. She needs to stop this, needs to make sure to Demetrius that this isn’t happening, that she’s fine, that he’s no longer being forced to do this. But as soon as her hand is upon his shoulder, the palm of his hand slaps upon her cheek.

“How dare you interrupt me?!” he shouts at her, fury in his eyes. He almost looks… rapid.

“Dem, it’s me,” she tells him after the initial surprise of the blow has passed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt. Physically, that is. The impact on its own somehow managed to touch her somewhere in her chest, instead. It’s not exactly a pleasant feeling.

“I know it’s you. And Master wants you to suffer.”

“What do you want?”

Demetrius’ eyes widen, as if that question had never even crossed his mind. His mouth drops open, but no words escape from his mouth.

“I-“ is all he manages to get out. The scene around them fades away a last, though slowly. The girl on the bed is still sobbing in the background, but Alastair is no longer there. It’s just them eventually. A speechless Demetrius and Cassiel who becomes more and more unsure of what she’s supposed to do.

“Maybe I should tell you what I want?” she offers, holding up her hands in a surrendering gesture. She keeps enough distance between them. “I want to be away from this room. I want to be in the garden. In the place we’ve been meeting each other. I want you to sit underneath the tree with me and tell me about your day.”

Demetrius shivers, his face full of confusion. He has lowered his gaze. Afraid of meeting hers.

“I want you to take my hand, and to hold on as tightly as you need.” Cassiel holds out her hand when the scenery around her slowly starts to shift into the familiar one of the garden. The secluded spot, near enough to the villa but far enough away for them to be alone.

“Cass,” he finally utters out, though nothing much more comes from him. Cassiel smiles when his hand finally touches hers.

“What do you want?” she asks him.

“I don’t-“

“Yes you know. You just need to think. What is it that you want?”

Demetrius blinks, finally looking up at her. She pulls them down onto the ground, leaning their backs against the large tree behind them.

“I think-“ he starts before hesitating again. “I think I want to kiss you.”

It’s as if a wave of electricity passes through her as she hears the words. She clears her throat before nodding.

“Then why don’t you do it?” she asks.

Demetrius gives her a sheepish look. “Because I’m going to hurt you.”

He sounds sad, broken. Cassiel doesn’t fight the urge to press her hand against his cheek, and exact opposite of the touch Demetrius had given her before. Passing her fingers gently over his skin, she shakes her head.

“Why would you hurt me?”

Demetrius’ breath hitches. When their eyes meet, he licks his lips. “Because that’s how he trained me to be,” he says. “That’s how I’ll always be.”

Cassiel lets out a soft sigh. Her mind wanders back to Gabriel’s words. His warning not to get too close. Not to get attached. But it’s too late for that, she realizes. She’s already attached to this being. Already she wants to be near him all the time. And for a moment, right on this instant, she never felt more human.

“You are more than who Alastair made you to be,” she tells him, pulling their faces closer together. “You are strong. You are caring. And you are capable of wanting someone else without wanting to hurt them. Because that’s not who you are.”

Demetrius seems to sink in on himself. He pulls his face away from hers, instead shifting until he’s leaning against her, his head resting on her shoulder.

“Can we just stay like this for a moment?” he asks. “I don’t think I can do it already.”

Cassiel smiles. Demetrius knows his limits. And he says that he can’t do it yet. Which means that he believes one day he might. And that’s all Cassiel needs right now.

She puts her hand on the top of Demetrius’ head, massaging her fingers through his hair as they sit like this in silence. They don’t need to speak; the company of each other is enough for both of them.

But with dread going over her, her mind once again goes back to Gabriel’s words, to Michael patiently waiting in Heaven. Waiting for her to make progress. And she knows that she shouldn’t linger for much longer, before she won’t be able to do any of this anymore.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Cassiel.”

It hasn’t been that long since Cassiel returned to Heaven. Still, Cassiel can’t help but feel like she’s been away for years. Time doesn’t move the same as on Earth, but all in all time seems to be a strange concept in itself.

“Michael,” she greets the other Angel. She looks into his bright light, knowing that no human could ever see him like this. It’s a shame, really. It is quite an unforgettable sight. “How has Heaven been?”

Michael walks forward until he’s standing in front of her. Then he reaches out their hand, putting it against Cassiel’s cheek for a few short seconds before lowering it again.

“You appear different,” he then says as he inspects Cassiel’s form. The other Angel nods, taking a step back.

“Yes, human customs state that rich women should be wearing cosmetic products upon their faces to be considered beautiful. The workers have taken it upon themselves to make sure I look the part,” she says simply as she moves towards the edge of Heaven, eyes lowering back down to Earth. Everybody’s still asleep, which is good.

“It suits you.”

Cassiel turns to look at Michael, surprised by his words. The other Archangel doesn’t seem to have noticed it at all.

“Thank you,” she says, slightly hesitantly. If he caught the tone in her voice, he must be ignoring it. “Did you not answer my question for a reason?”

Michael then smirks.

“I was distracted. My apologies,” he admits. “Heaven has been busy since you’ve discovered those tortured souls. We’ve been trying to find this ‘Alastair’ you spoke of, but he’s very well hidden.”

“How is that possible?”

“He must be moving very fast, though even that seems unlikely.” Michael starts walking again, this time returning to the Gates. The Gates Cassiel recognizes. She hasn’t been here since her arrival on Earth, making her wonder if another has taken over her task of looking over the kings of the Earth.

“I heard Father fears Lucifer has something to do with this?” The thought is unsettling, to think that their fallen brother would be the cause of this.

“Yes, well, as long as we’re not sure, Father wants us not to face these creatures, in case they mean no harm.”

Cassiel has her doubts about that, but she does not voice her concerns. She nods in Michael’s direction, intending on taking her departure again after this. She’s stopped when Michael takes her hand into his own.

“We haven’t had a chance of practicing, lately,” Michael says, the words almost sounding accusatory. Cassiel takes a moment to study Michael’s face, the light that he shines ever so bright.

“I am aware,” Cassiel admits. “I have been trying to bring Demetrius to a peaceful state of mind before I approach him on the matter of being your vessel. He’s quite distressed over his memories of this Alastair.”

“I know.” Michael lets go of her wrist to put both his hands against her cheeks. When he pulls her closer, Cassiel closes her mouth. “I am glad you’ve decided to come by today.”

Carefully he leans forward, pressing their lips together. Cassiel does not respond, not even by pulling away. She just lets Michael do his thing; he won’t even notice she’s not reciprocating, as he has no idea what this all even means. He just wants to make sure this mission is a success.

Cassiel used to want that, too, once. Doesn’t she still want it?

She’s not so sure anymore.

Once Michael finally pulls back it’s only because another Angel has approached them. Standing there is Hannah, looking with wide eyes at finding their superiors like this.

“Excuse me, Michael, we need your guidance,” Hannah says carefully. They haven’t yet chosen a vessel, though their light isn’t as bright as Michael’s. While it might still burn a human’s eyes, a worthy person might be able to gaze upon its brightness.

“Very well,” Michael says calmly, pulling back from Cassiel and following Hannah to where they’re supposed to go. Before they’re completely gone, Michael turns again. “Do not wait too long for your next visit. It is always good to hear news on the situation.”

Cassiel nods, already spreading their wings before Michael can even get out of sight. One glance downwards already made it clear that morning is arriving. Cassiel comes down to her assigned bedroom, immediately taking a new dress for the day. She decides it won’t do much harm to take a bath this morning.

She’s taken up to the routine; daily baths, preparations by Cassandra and Eleanor, breakfast and then an activity to stay busy during the day. So Cassiel takes her stuff needed for the bath and starts heading her way to the large pool. The room is heated by steam, causing for the water to be warm enough for a normal human being. Cassiel, of course, has no trouble with the temperature. In the corner of her eye she can catch Gyorgy and Anson walking out of the room; they must have prepared the bath for her, the way a servant does every morning. As usual, Cassandra and Eleanor stay close to offer assistance if needed, not that Cassiel ever asks for it.

Without waiting, Cassiel lowers her dress, making it fall on the ground. She loosens her hair, dropping any kind of ornament along with the rest. Once it’s all at her feet, she moves forward, dipping one toe into the water.

“Is the water warm enough for you, Miss?” Cassandra asks with a lowered head. They’re not supposed to look up, Cassiel knows. But even if they would, she wouldn’t mind. She is not Azazel, after all.

“The water is perfect,” she says. “Thank you, all.”

Cassandra and Eleanor smile, eyes still cast downwards. They’re always acting this way whenever Cassiel takes a bath, which must simply be out of respect. By now, Cassiel would have thought that the same rules don’t apply to her, but she does not point it out. It wouldn’t help to make the two girls even more confused about what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Before Cassiel can make one more step towards the water the doors to the bathroom open loudly. Storming in are Scamandrius and Demetrius, the two of them appearing a bit out of breath.

“Is it true?” Scam asks towards the two slaves that have now turned in their direction to kick them back out. But the urgency in Scam’s question catches Cassiel’s attention, and she stands still to listen.

“Scam, this is not the time,” Eleanor warns him. But Scam seems unbothered by her words.

“Don’t tell me it’s true. Don’t tell me she disappeared as well?”

“I’m sorry, who disappeared?” Cassiel can’t help but ask, causing for the two boys to turn their gaze on her. Scam immediately averts his eyes once he sees her standing there, putting his hands up to keep himself from looking while making a distressed sound.

Demetrius, though, doesn’t move. With a mouth fallen open and eyes unblinking, he simply stares at Cassiel. No words get through his lips as he makes a shocked intake of breath.

“I-“ he manages out before Scam continues.

“Cass, put something on!” the boy complains. Cassiel looks down at her naked body, suddenly understanding what must be causing these reactions. Instead of picking up the towel from the ground she sinks into the pool of water and puts her arms over the side. Her body is now shielded from their view, and she can still talk.

She hadn’t even thought about the fact that she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Not that she would have cared if people saw her like this, but obviously people make more of a deal of it than she would have done.

“So, tell me?” she asks with a smile. Scam finally lowers his hand and lets out a relieved sigh.

“It’s Lidka. She wasn’t in her room this morning, and when we searched for her we couldn’t find her anywhere,” Scam admits sadly. “First Ava and now her… They’re all leaving us.”

Scam appears genuinely distressed about it. Cassiel does not like seeing him this way.

“If you want, I’ll ask Azazel about it during breakfast. He might know more,” she offers. Scam nods determinately, smiling as he turns back around.

“We should let you have your bath. Thank you, Cass!” And with that, Scam storms back out of the bathroom. He gently tugs on Demetrius’ arm before disappearing, but the older boy does not move. He’s still frozen in place, his head obviously in another place. For a moment, Cassiel worries that he must be back in a bad memory, perhaps.

“Dem, you know you’re not allowed in here,” Cassandra warns him then, carefully. “You should go before you get in trouble again.”

Demetrius blinks at last, pulled out of his train of thought. His gaze turns to the two servants next to him, carefully nodding in their direction before sneaking another glance towards Cassiel.

“Go, Dem. Before Azazel decides to take away your free day,” she tells him with a soft smile. Demetrius swallows visibly before nodding again. Then he turns around, following after his little brother. Though, before he closes the door, he sneaks another glance in Cassiel’s direction.

Once it’s once again the three of them in the room and the door is once again closed, the two girls start giggling quietly. It makes Cassiel smile, to see them like this; happy for some reason. They’re amused, which isn’t something that happens often in this household.

“May I know what is so amusing?” Cassiel asks curiously. The girls straighten up again, their smiles disappearing once more, as if they’re afraid of getting trouble for simply laughing.

“We’re sorry, Miss,” they say simultaneously. Then, Eleanor continues: “We’ve just never seen Dem so flustered like this. It was rather amusing to watch, is all.”

“I see,” Cassiel counters, a smile once again tugging at her lips. “It was rather amusing, wasn’t it?”

After the conversation is all over Cassiel starts washing herself at last. Not that she would need long in the water, since she is an Angel after all. It’s mostly the façade that counts. When she first arrived here it was obvious enough that she stood out; the bed seemed never used, she never washed and she only arrived with one set of clothes. For that, Cassiel has started acting more the way a human should.

And by now she finds that she kind of enjoys some of the daily stuff to do.

Standing in front of the silver plate in front of her, she looks at her reflection. To be fair, she has never really looked at herself since she took over the vessel, and while the polished silver does manage to show a bit of herself, it’s not a perfect view. Still, Cassiel takes a moment to stop and just look, taking a view at what exactly made Dem react this way.

Iphigenia had been skinny when Cassiel took over from her; she’d been a slave, barely fed and on the verge of dying. Being an Angel, nothing much has changed on that state, other than that Cassiel filled the body back up to at least a safe level. The ribs are no longer poking out, the bones no longer sticking to the skin.

Iphigenia had always had broad hips. It had been good for the birthing-process, Cassiel knows. Which is what made her the perfect vessel to begin with. She puts her hands on her thighs, feeling the skin under her fingers.

“Is there a problem, Miss?” Eleanor asks when Cassiel doesn’t seem to make a move to get dressed. The Angel turns, having a look at her backside. No, she never at all took a moment to look this body over at all.

“What is it that attracts men to the female body?” she wonders out loud.

“Uh,” Cassandra starts in confusion. “Pale skin, for one.”

Cassiel looks down at her arms. While she does not classify as the palest woman around here, she isn’t tan, either. Iphigenia had been tan, but once Cassiel took over that sun-touched skin disappeared along with her scars.

“Wide hips, too,” Eleanor adds, nodding towards Cassiel’s lower body. “And the breasts, often, too.”

“The breasts? They are mere objects for nurturing?” Cassiel wonders out loud. The two servants shrugs.

“We don’t know why they have suddenly become an object of desire,” Cassandra admits. “A couple hundred years back, people wanted them small. Now they like them big. Everything changes all the time.”

“Like the hair,” Eleanor says, pointing towards Cassiel’s long locks of hair. “In the past people would bleach their hair to make it lighter, but now people seem to like dark hair again.”

“All in all, men in this city all seem to think you are probably the most beautiful woman in here.”

Cassiel now turns, raising an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” she asks in confusion.

“It’s true; you’re, like, the true image of beauty around here. Many women around here wish they could be as pretty as you.”

Cassiel looks back at herself in the mirror, vaguely seeing her own face. Iphigenia had dark blue eyes, full, reddened lips and a sharp nose. Her eyebrows are thick but not meeting in the middle as would have been considered beauty in the years before Christ was born.

“May I ask you a question, miss?” Eleanor tries carefully.

“Of course, Eleanor. You know you don’t have to ask me permission for that,” Cassiel reminds her. No matter how much she does that, the girl will always ask despite her assurances.

“How is it that you are not yet married? I’m sure multiple men have already thrown themselves at your feet to ask your hand in marriage? Has your father not allowed you to be with anybody?”

Cassiel frowns, then. “I am already promised to somebody else,” she says, twisting the truth a bit; it’s not that she’s going to marry Michael, after all. She’s just going to carry his children, create more Angels for Heaven.

But that is not something she can explain to these two human girls.

“Oh, Dem is not going to like that,” Cassandra says carefully.

“Unless it is Dem?” Eleanor tries as well.

“Oh my Gods, it is, isn’t it?” Suddenly, the two girls are once again laughing, giggling towards one another. Cassiel fails to understand the amusing part of this, but that is also because these two girls do not understand the greater role Dem has in all this business.

“Demetrius does play a large role in my future, yes,” Cassiel agrees. Then she finally takes over the long golden dress Eleanor was holding in her hands. With their help, she puts it on, allowing the two girls to fix her hair up with the usual golden bands. After the whole process of make-up is once again finished, Cassiel is ready to head to her meal.

Azazel is already seated at the table, drinking some orange juice out of a cup while he reads over the messages of the day. He barely looks up when Cassiel takes place as well.

“Good morning, sir,” Cassiel greets the man. Azazel nods but doesn’t say anything in return. Shortly, Cassiel waits, letting him have at least a couple bites of his meal before bringing up the whole Lidka-business.

She can see Scam lingering in the kitchen, clearly not wanting to miss a single word she’s about to say. Carefully, Cassiel clears her throat once she sees Azazel has finished his plate.

“State your question, sweetheart,” Azazel asks without looking up from his pieces of parchment. Cassiel blinks in confusion upon the request, but then nods.

“I have been wondering about Lidka’s whereabouts? A well as Ava’s? I’ve noticed that they haven’t been here anymore?”

Now Azazel looks up, eyebrows raised. His grey eyes dig deeply into Cassiel’s, and he’s quiet, silently studying her.

“While I might have understood you noticed Ava’s departure, Lidka has only disappeared since this morning. Who, might I ask, passed that information along to you?”

All the way from the kitchen, Cassiel can see Scam’s eyes widen in fear. The other slaves, too, freeze up on the spot. Cassiel made a mistake. She shouldn’t have asked right now. She should have asked a week from now, perhaps. Scam should have just been patient.

“I-“ she starts, unsure of what to say next. Azazel drops the pieces of parchment, glaring at Cassiel as he waits for her answer.

And that’s when she realizes it shouldn’t matter; she’s an Archangel. She could make him drop the conversation and that’d be it. Carefully, without it being too obvious, she reaches out her Grace.

“I don’t think that really matters,” she says lowly. “My question is as to why two slaves have suddenly disappeared?”

The slap on her cheek comes as a surprise. From where he’s seated, Azazel has his hand raised. Cassiel touches her skin; it doesn’t hurt, but it came out of nowhere. With wide eyes, Cassiel looks back at Azazel.

“You may be Alastair’s little niece, but you will have respect for your elders,” Azazel says menacingly. Then he stands up, the whole business obviously forgotten. Cassiel doesn’t move, too shocked by the turn of events.

This shouldn’t have happened; Cassiel had him under her control? How is it possible that he struck out like that anyway?

“JACINTO, SCAMANDRIUS, ANREAS AND ANSON, I WANT YOU ALL TO COME WITH ME!” she hears Azazel shout in the hallway. In a hurry, the four boys run after their master, Scamandrius giving Cassiel an apologetic look before disappearing with him.

Cassiel should bring up this matter to Heaven. Or no, she should have smitten him on the spot. The disrespect he has for touching an Archangel of the Lord. The blasphemy alone should be enough for his execution.

But that would make Cassiel just as bad as him. If it had been Raphael he’d hit, her brother would have made sure nothing is left of him.

Cassandra and Eleanor get back to her side, making sure that she’s alright. But Cassiel can’t focus on it. All she manages to think about is the fact that she used her powers, and it didn’t work.

Does that mean that Azazel is immune? Or worse…

Are her powers fading?

 

She finds Demetrius in the garden a couple hours later. At the end of the week, he’s usually kept at the Villa rather than the arena. It’s his ‘day off’, though that does not necessarily mean that he has a free day.

“Hello, Demetrius,” she greets him carefully, not wanting to startle him. Demetrius is seated on his knees in the grass. He wipes at his head as he looks up, in turn leaving a trail of dirt over his skin. He’s unshaven, his hair getting longer.

“Cass, you startled me,” he greets her with a wide smile. At this point, Cassiel would think it safe to say that they’ve become friends. Demetrius does seem to feel comfortable around her. “It’s good to see you found some clothes.”

Cassiel looks down at her now-dressed body. “Yes. Apologies, I did not mean to make you feel uncomfortable. It seems like I am less bothered about these types of things than people around here.”

Demetrius leans back towards the flowers he was tending. “Where is it you came from, then?” he wonders. Cassiel shrugs.

“Far away from here,” she says. “A lot is different.”

“I don’t doubt that.” While he doesn’t look at her, there’s still a smile on his face. Something small like a small is rare on the boy, but lately it’s been happening more often. Especially around his little brother. But then the smile disappears from his face once more. “I heard Scammy got you in trouble with Azazel?”

Cassiel instinctively reaches for her cheek. It never hurt, but the memory of the hit is still clear.

“It wasn’t your brother’s fault. Azazel should not have reacted that way. He’s no family of mine, so he has no right to lay a hand on me.”

Demetrius sits up once more, huffing out a breath while shaking his head.

“Sadly, he’s a man and you’re a woman. There’s nothing much you can do, I’m afraid,” he admits. “Not that I think women are worth less, obviously. It’s just… what people like him seem to think, is all.”

Cassiel chuckles, sitting down on the bench next to the little garden Demetrius is tending.

“So, uh, Cass… You got family back home? Parents? Perhaps a husband or something like that?”

Cassiel thinks of Heaven. Hesitantly, she nods.

“I have my Father, yes. And all of my siblings. And of course Michael.”

“Michael?” he asks curiously, though at the same time with clear caution in his voice.

“Yes, I’m supposed to carry his children when the time is right,” she explains. She’s not lying at all. She doesn’t want to ever lie to him, after all. “We’ve lost many of our siblings during the fight with… another brother of ours.”

“Wait a minute,” Demetrius starts while wiping at his forehead again, leaving another trail of dirt over his skin. “You’re telling me that all they want from you is to carry some guy’s children? To secure the bloodline? Am I right with that?”

Cassiel nods. “Though that does not mean my Father does not care for me. He told me I had a choice in this. I just chose to agree because it serves a higher purpose.”

Demetrius shakes his head, disbelief clear in his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Cass. You actually agreed with it? Don’t you think you deserve better than that?”

Cassiel frowns. Deserving better than that? It’s the highest honor of Heaven, to be given such a task, right? Besides, it’s not like she’ll be expected to carry more than a few. Surely, it’s just a test-phase, to see if it works. And if it does, other Angels will follow in their footsteps. She’s simply setting up an example for her siblings.

“I don’t understand why you’re reacting so strongly? I find myself glad to have been given such a great honor by my Father.” Cassiel puts a hand upon her chest, her eyes never leaving Demetrius’ green ones. But the boy shakes his head once more, suddenly reaching out for her and taking her hands into his own.

“C’mon, Cass. You can’t tell me that you honestly want to carry some guy’s kids? Do you even love this man?”

And that’s the question now, isn’t it? She loves Michael, right? The way she loves all her siblings, but she’s always managed to get along with Michael more than with the others. Gabriel is good company, and occasionally she spent time with Anna and Balthazar, but after being assigned as the next Archangel Michael had welcomed her with open arms. In contrary to Raphael, who didn’t like the idea of Lucifer being replaced so easily. Not that it had been easy, of course.

“I- I think I do?” she gets out, though hesitant.

“Do you?” Demetrius then puts her hand on his chest. She feels his heart beat underneath her fingers. It beats fast; he’s nervous. Or agitated. “Does your heart beat like crazy around him?”

Then Demetrius shifts her hands towards his hair.

“When he’s sick, does it make you want to pass your fingers through his hair to relax him? Does it make you want to stay by his side, even though it would mean you’d be sick as well?”

Then he moves her hands to his face, pressing the palms against his cheeks.

“Does he make you want to smile for no reason other than being here? Does he make your stomach feel weird in a good way. Does he fill your dreams because you don’t even want to spend your hours asleep without him?”

“Dem,” Cassiel starts. She doesn’t know why the boy is starting to get so agitated, but he needs to stop. Gently she frees her hands, shifting back to leave a bit more space between them. Her hands are on her knees, her eyes averted.

“If you tell me you feel all that, I’ll back off.”

“And if I don’t?” she asks in a whisper. Her face is lifted once more by Demetrius. She’s forced to look at him, finding his face closer than before.

“If you don’t, wait for me,” he says. “Wait for me to buy my way out of here. To earn my freedom. Take my brother with me and we’ll go.”

“We’ll go where?” she asks carefully. Demetrius chuckles, and she feels it against her skin.

“Far away. Where all the memories of this place will be gone.” He presses his cheek against hers. “I can’t promise you children. I can’t promise you I’ll be a perfect lover, for I’ve been tainted in a way that’s not easy to fix. But, Gods, I will try to be what you need.”

Cassiel closes her eyes, lifting her hands once again to cup his face. But then she shakes her head, leaning to the side and kissing his cheek gently.

“I can’t,” she says. “It’s my mission.”

“Forget your mission,” Demetrius gets out. “You don’t have to agree right away, but promise me you’ll think about it.”

“Dem-“

“Promise me!”

Cassiel stops her sentence, lowering her gaze. She barely realizes her hand shifting behind his head, fingers going through his hair gently. She likes that it’s getting longer, but it needs to be washed. Sadly, slaves are not allowed that luxury, and soon enough it’ll be cut shorter again.

“I promise,” she finally says. Demetrius lets out a relieved laugh, moving his face upwards to kiss her forehead. Then he leans back, his hand moving up to tangle his fingers with hers. For a couple of seconds they just sit like this. No words being said, just the two of them, uninterrupted.

 

To say Cassiel is hesitant on entering Demetrius’ dreams that night is an understatement.

She would have expected nothing to be different; after all, there’s no way for any of the things that Dem said to be possible. The idea of even thinking about it should be a foreign thought all by itself, enough to make Cassiel forget about it.

But she can’t seem to forget about it. Especially when she sees Dem on the bed there, fast asleep. Scam is next to him, though the fact that they have some distance between them makes Cassiel think that they might have had a fight before. Hopefully it wasn’t a bad one.

Cassiel kneels down to the ground, just to have her face a bit closer to Dem’s. So, at least, she can have a better look at him for once. Inspecting the freckles on his sun-kissed skin, Cassiel wonders, just shortly, what is considered beauty for a man in the eyes of a human. She knows now what men like to see in women, but has there ever been anything said about the other way around?

In her eyes, Demetrius is beautiful. But that’s not the face she’s looking at; true it is a pleasing sight to view, but the true thing that matters to her is that soul underneath it. It resonates Michael’s quite well; shining brighter than all the others around him, though just not quite as brightly as his little brother’s. It was the same with Lucifer, who was called the Morningstar for that exact reason. But, it wouldn’t be fair to Scam to be compared with her sibling. Scam is a good person, and Lucifer was anything but.

For a long time, Demetrius’ soul had been tainted. Not as badly as Alastair’s or Azazel’s, but it was still obvious that there was something wrong with it. But the soul is strong, and Demetrius fought through it. While there are still some wounded spots on it, he’s been doing better than ever. And it makes Cassiel proud to think that he worked on that all on his own.

I can’t promise you children. I can’t promise you I’ll be a perfect lover, for I’ve been tainted in a way that’s not easy to fix. But, Gods, I will try to be what you need.

Those were the words he said. Hearing them had done something inside of Cassiel. Because he’s right; he has been tainted in a way that isn’t easy to fix. And while he’s been doing a lot better already, she knows that he’ll have trouble to love. Trouble to be intimate with another being.

But, he wants that being to be her? And how could she go through with that, when she’s mostly the reason he’s been tainted in the first place? She could have stopped Alastair, after all. She didn’t think of it at the time because she never thought it would matter. But now… it matters a lot.

“If only I could undo all the wrong he did to you,” she whispers softly, passing a hand over his cheek. Demetrius smiles in his sleep, but he doesn’t wake up. Then she closes her eyes and reaches out with her subconscious. The process of finding Demetrius’ dream goes pretty much the same way it always does. First there’s darkness, and then there’s Dem.

Slowly, the space around them seems to form. The first thing she notices is that it’s, for once, not Alastair’s bedroom, but instead her own. On its usual spot is the large bed, the curtains around it loosened. They don’t completely hide away the person inside of it, but it’s mostly just used for decoration. That’s why Cassiel usually keeps it tied up. Still, despite that, Cassiel has trouble identifying the two individuals in the bed right now.

She steps forward, reaching out for the curtain and gently lifting it aside. As long as she doesn’t want to make herself seen, the people inside the dream won’t see her. That’s why they don’t hear her surprised gasp as she finds a naked version of herself in that bed, lying underneath an equally underdressed Demetrius.

Their hands are linked, the other Cassiel’s legs wrapped around Demetrius’ hips. They’re gently moving together, clearly very loving in their movements. Instantly, Cassiel feels like she’s intruding.

She starts lowering the curtain once more, deciding to just leave the dream as he obviously isn’t in any distress right now. But the sound of her own voice stops her.

“Ow, Dem, you’re hurting me.”

Cassiel stops in her tracks. Instantly she notices the change of colors in the room. While at first it had all appeared warm and welcome, now it’s shifted back to the colors of Alastair’s room; cold, unpleasant. A wind is blowing inside from the windows, trees shaking from outside.

“Dem, seriously, stop it.”

Cassiel turns back around to look at the scene in the bed. It seems less loving now, more… urging. Dem has the other Cassiel’s arms raised above her head, his fingers digging in her thigh. On her face there’s a painful look, like she’s biting her teeth together.

He’s losing control. Alastair’s hold on him is catching up on him once more. It’s obvious in the way he’s ignoring her cries of protest.

Before the other Cassiel can complain further, the real Cassiel grabs Demetrius by the shoulder and pulls him away from the bed. She gets them out of the room, back into the darkness that usually comes at the beginning of the dreams. Dem’s eyes look glazed, his hands balled into fists.

“What the hell?!” he shouts. Cassiel shakes him on the spot.

“Stop it!” she snaps back. “Alastair’s not here. You don’t have to hurt her.”

“Hurt-?” Demetrius blinks a couple of times before turning back to where he thought the bed was. Now seeing only darkness, he frowns. “What’s going on? You were just there and now you’re here?”

“You were starting to have a nightmare,” she explains.

“How are you doing that?” Demetrius passes a hand over his face. “How- how are you always here? How do you always feel so real?”

Cassiel doesn’t speak. It wouldn’t do them good to explain it. Carefully, she pulls him closer, her hand behind his head. Trying to get him to lean against her works for about two seconds before he pulls back away.

“No!” he shouts. “I don’t want to hurt you!”

Cassiel shakes her head. “You can’t hurt me,” she says. “You can never hurt me. Nothing can.”

“What do you mean?”

“You just can't.”

Without a warning, Cassiel pulls herself back out of the dream. She makes herself invisible instantly because she knows Dem isn’t far behind her. And indeed, as soon as her figure is hidden from the mortal eye Demetrius’ eyes fly open and he sits up in his bed.

The first thing he does is throw his legs over the bed. His feet touch the cold ground, yet he doesn’t flinch. He just hurries into the hallway. Cassiel frowns, following after him. Scam remains calmly asleep, not even noticing his brother leaving the room.

A bit too late Cassiel realizes which way Demetrius is going. It’s the path to her own quarters he’s heading. The room she’s currently supposed to be asleep in. The room she isn’t in right now because she’s standing behind Dem at this point.

And he notices it immediately when he finds a lack of her in the bed. Cassiel sighs, removing the concealment and revealing herself to him.

“Why are you here?” she asks, startling Demetrius by the sudden sound of her voice. Dem turns around with a surprised gasp. When he notices her standing there, he frowns.

“Who are you?” he asks.

“I’m Cassiel,” she answers truthfully. Demetrius just keeps on eyeing her suspiciously.

“And what are you?”

She can’t tell him that. Not only should Angels not tell about their existence to the humans but she also knows that he’s not going to like the answer. Yet, at the same time Cassiel feels tired about the constant lies. Tired about not being honest with him.

“I’m an Angel of the Lord,” she says before she can think better of it. Demetrius huffs out a breath, passing a hand over his forehead while turning around. He takes a few steps into the room to distance himself from her, but she just walks closer anyway.

“An Angel-“ he starts before shaking his head. “So, what? You’re here to look after me? Make sure Alastair doesn’t screw me up even more than he already did?”

Cassiel presses her lips together as she thinks. How is the best way to tell him everything?

“That is part of my mission,” she admits.

“Wait- all that crap about you carrying some Michael’s children – was that just a lie? Is there even a Michael?”

“It was not a lie.” Cassiel shakes her head as she starts walking to the bed, sitting down on it without removing her eyes from Dem’s. “Michael’s one of my siblings.”

“You know that’s gross, right?”

Cassiel shrugs. “We are not related the same way you and your brother are. We are all created by my Father. Although-“ 

“I don’t want to know,” Dem interrupts her. He crosses his arms. He doesn’t look happy at all, and that bothers Cassiel. Knowing that she’s the reason he looks so angry. “Why did you come down here if your mission is to have some angel-babies?”

“That is a complicated part,” Cassiel admits. “One I’m sure you are not going to like hearing.”

“Cut the crap and just tell me.”

So Cassiel takes a breath even though she doesn’t need one. It’s more to prepare herself mentally. Even in just a couple of months, she’s already taken over so many human character traits that never before applied to Angels. It’s a strange thought. To think how different she already is to the way she was before.

“Angels aren’t like this,” she starts, pointing towards herself. “The way you see me; this is a vessel. A woman allowed me to take control of her body and take it as my own. She had been dying, and was relieved for the escape that is death.”

“She willingly died so you could have her body?” Demetrius sounds horrified.

“No, she chose to die. I could have healed her and given back her body after my mission is over. But she chose not to live anymore, and I carried out her wish.”

“And then she just ‘gave’ you her body? That sounds like bullshit and you know it, Cass.”

There’s that defying part of Dem that Cassiel hasn’t seen in such a long time. The part that was in him when he first arrived at Alastair’s. The constant backtalking, the scoffing. Alastair tortured it out of him, but Cassiel is glad to see it returned at last, though she would have preferred it if it wasn’t directed at her.

“She did,” she assures him. “Though not everybody willingly submits to it. Angels have to ask permission. If that permission is not given, then they cannot enter the vessel. Such was the case between you and Michael.”

“Me and- what?!”

“Michael and I were tasked to create new Angels, but in our true form we could not do that.” Cassiel points towards him. “We would need vessels for it.”

“And what’s that got to do with me?”

Another bit of hesitation. Whatever trust she had built with Demetrius will be completely gone after this. But it’s her mission, still. The mission always comes first.

“You are Michael’s true vessel.” There it is. “You never gave him permission after he tried multiple times, so eventually he asked me to try and persuade you.”

Demetrius closes his eyes, his hand going to his forehead once more to rub on his eyebrows. Then he shakes his head again. A long breath escapes from his mouth, the tension in his shoulders releasing.

“So I was nothing more than just a puppet to this plan of yours, is that it?” he asks in a low voice.

At first, Cassiel wants to tell him no, that he wasn’t. But she doesn’t want any more lies. So she lowers her head as well.

“In the beginning you were, yes,” she admits. “But you are so much more than you think, Dem. You’re-“

“Stop it, Cass.” Demetrius glares at her. “Don’t go and tell me that you’ve grown to care for me. Because I know from what you’ve told me earlier that you still want to carry on with that mission of yours. You don't even have an idea of how fucked up that is.”

“I don’t-“ she stops herself. What was she going to say? That she doesn’t want to carry on with the plan? Is that really the case, here? Would she actually opt out of her duty because of what? This fondness she’s created with this human?

“I can’t believe it,” Dem breathes out in disbelief. “I basically just told you that I’m probably in love with you, and then I just get to hear that I’m just a freaking ‘mission’ to you?”

“Dem…”

Demetrius shakes his head, not looking even near her direction. “I guess that’s what I get for all I’ve done under Alastair’s command. It was all too good to be true, anyway…”

He then starts walking, heading towards the hallway. Cassiel quickly stands up and takes his arm, only for Dem to pull it away as if she was burning him.

“Don’t touch me!” he shouts. That’s when Cassiel notices he’s shivering.

Cassiel pulls her hands hands, unsure of what to say next.

“Tell me, Cass. In all those years that you’ve been an ‘Angel’, have you watched me and Scam prior to meeting us?”

He sounds angry, but there’s something else in his voice as well. Something that tugs at Cassiel’s borrowed chest. He sounds… sad. Devastated.

“Yes,” she admits. “I have watched over you for years.”

“Have you now?” Demetrius’ lips form a grim smile, but his eyes are so furious. “Have you also seen all those times Alastair used me? Made me his personal plaything? Forced me to do the same to others, or he’d hurt Scammy?”

Lowering her shoulder, Cassiel nods in defeat. She does not want to lie. Never wants to lie to Demetrius again.

“I did,” she admits. Demetrius lets out a bitter chuckle, passing a hand over his chin as he shakes his head.

“You did,” he mutters before stepping away. When Cassiel makes a move forward, he holds out his hand in a stopping gesture. “Don’t come any closer!”

“I know now I should have helped you back then. I just didn’t know any better. None of the Angels did. It just never occurred to me to think that you would be-“

“Anything more than just a mission?” Demetrius bites his teeth together. His hands are tightly balled into fists, his face flushed from anger.

“…yes.”

Demetrius shakes his head again. He takes a few angry breaths before looking aside.

“I’m going back to my room. Don’t come after me.”

And after that he runs back into the hallway, leaving Cassiel behind in the bedroom. And when the Archangel feels something stinging in her chest, she presses her hand against the aching spot to lessen the pain. It doesn’t help at all.

Chapter Text

Time has always been a loose concept to Cassiel. It was neither long, nor short. It was just there, going at the right pace with things happening exactly as they should be.

The day after Cassiel confides in Demetrius, she comes to the conclusion that that statement does not apply anymore; time is slow. Extremely slow. The night feels like forever, especially as she stands by Demetrius’ bedside, invisible to the human eye, and hesitant to enter his dream. She figures she would not be welcomed there anymore.

Morning also feels like time has slowed down. As the table is quiet during breakfast, Cassiel does catch Scamandrius throwing her curious glances. He knows something, but clearly not everything. Cassiel doubts Demetrius would tell him, anyway.

By the time the sun is highest in the sky, Cassiel is in the garden, looking up at the sky and wondering if Michael is watching her right now. If he saw everything that had happened? Why hasn’t he called for her return already? She failed miserably, after all.

“Cass?”

Cassiel turns upon hearing Scamandrius voice. It’s starting to change, becoming lower as he grows. He’s now already taller than Cassiel is, but Cassiel’s vessel was never tall to begin with. Scam’s hair is growing out, already put together in a tail behind his neck. His clothes look too small on him.

“Hello, Scam,” Cassiel greets the younger sibling. Seeing him approach her makes that strange feeling in her chest return. She realizes now that it’s sorrow. Demetrius’ reaction really hit her in a bad way. She hadn’t even realized that was possible.

Angels are not supposed to feel like this.

“What happened between you and Dem? I thought you two were getting along?” Scam asks as he carefully approaches her. When Cassiel doesn’t tell him otherwise, the boy sits down on the bench right next to her. He looks around to see if she was reading anything, but there’s nothing she brought with her.

“We were,” Cassiel admits. “But… there’s some things about my past that were difficult for him to accept. I’m not even sure he’ll ever will.”

Scam frowns. “That’s not possible. My brother adores you! I’m sure he’ll get over it eventually, don’t worry.”

Scam tries to be kind, tries to assure her that all will be fine, but Cassiel knows better. There’s no way for Demetrius to want to see her again after all that happened. The sins she has done around him are countless. She can’t even blame Heaven for it; she should have known better – even if there was no way for her to know better…

“You are a kind boy,” Cassiel tells him, because she knows not what else to say. Scamandrius scoffs, his hand twitching a bit on his lap. He doesn’t look nervous, but somehow he’s still acting it.

“I’m not a boy! I’m a man, now!”

Cassiel chuckles, though still sadly. “I’m sorry; you’re a kind man,” she corrects herself. Scamandrius now stands proudly, patting her on the shoulder before standing up again.

“I should get back to Azazel now. See ya later,” he says quickly. Before Cassiel can say anything in return he’s already on his feet and storming back into the house. As if he’s impatient for something.

It’s come to Cassiel’s mind a lot lately that Scam seems a bit over-active in the past few weeks. He’s often jumping on his seat, swinging his feet wildly as his breath constantly hitches. For a moment Cassiel even wondered if he was becoming sick, but when no other symptoms came up she figured he was just a bit hyperactive, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as he can let it all out once in a while.

The day passes slowly, but not even one second does Cassiel see Demetrius. She repeats her activities of the night, standing by his bedside but not entering his dreams. The day afterwards, Cassiel decides there’s no use in keeping it like this.

Azazel is calmly eating, not at all bothered about anything, it seems. That’s when Cassiel clears her throat to get his attention.

“I’m afraid I must announce my departure again,” she says gently. She tries to smile, but she’s pretty sure she fails at it.

“Your depar- you’re leaving? Your Uncle hasn’t even returned?” Azazel wonders in surprise. Cassiel nods but then holds up her hands in a gesture of defeat.

“I am aware, but as it is, my journey must continue. It cannot wait for my Uncle to return – not that I do not wish to see him, of course.”

Azazel simply stares, as if his mind has blacked out. He seems uncertain of what to say next.

“You are coming back, aren’t you? I’m sure your Uncle will be disappointed to have missed you during your stay here,” he then says while lifting up his fork again, looking back down as if he doesn’t particularly care about the conversation anymore.

“I am not sure. I might return if that is his wish,” she says. But that’s not true. She’s not intending on returning. She’s just going back to Heaven and pretend this experience has never happened. She’ll talk to their Father, say why the mission had to be postponed; there was just no way with Demetrius; they’ll have to take the next of kin, perhaps.

But even the thought of Demetrius having children of his own irks at Cassiel for some reason. She realizes only then that she’s frowning and quickly she tries to get her face back to neutral.

“I suppose I can’t keep you here. But know that you are always welcome. When is it that you’re leaving?”

“As quickly as possible,” she says. “Tonight, maybe tomorrow.”

“Tonight is not possible, I would say. We’ll have to arrange for your transport and the slaves still have to pack up your stuff.” Azazel drops his fork and holds out his hands. “How about this; tomorrow the runt has another game. How about we go to it one last time, and after that you can take a direct carriage out of there, huh?”

Cassiel does not like that idea at all. But she figures she might as well just agree. Azazel has been hospitable for the last year and it would appear ungrateful for her to just say no – despite the fact that the day earlier he struck her in the face, which she still can’t get her head around as that shouldn’t have happened. Anyway, she nods, agreeing with the idea.

That evening Scamandrius storms into her bedroom, eyes red from tears and an obvious angry expression on his face.

“You’re leaving?!” he asks angrily as Cassiel is taking out the braids from her hair. When Cassiel first arrived here, the boy wouldn’t even have dared to address her like this. Now he’s coming in here, demanding answers like he’s as much a member of the household as Azazel is.

“Hello, Scam,” she greets him as she untangles her long hair. The braids are beautiful but a normal person would have a hard time undoing them every day.

“Don’t ‘hello Scam’ me, Cass. You’re leaving and you didn’t even think to tell me?”

Scam towers over her as he’s standing and she’s sitting. Slowly she turns, facing him with what she hopes is a calming smile. Sadly, it does not work to relax him as he seems even more angry about that.

“I assure you, I did not mean to keep this from you,” she says. But in fact, she just wanted to fly out of there without warning, only deciding to at least say goodbye since she owes that to Scam, who has become a true friend to her.

“Yet you did,” Scam grits out in return. “I thought you were my friend?”

Cassiel sighs. “I am your friend,” she says before standing up as well. “But us being friends is not going to keep me here, I’m afraid.”

“What brought you here in the first place, then?” Scam watches her move. His stance relaxes a bit when Cassiel sits down on the bed, already wearing a night gown she does not need. It’s all for the show, and after a year she’s pretty much mastered it.

“My mission,” she whispers, putting her fingers through her hair to untangle them further. She does not dare to look at Scam. “But the mission failed, so I must return.”

“So Dem was right about all that?”

Cassiel looks up, surprised at Scam’s words. “What did he tell you?” she asks. Scam just shrugs.

“Not much. That you weren’t who we thought you were. That you could have prevented a lot of shit but didn’t.” Scam frowns. “Dem was your mission, wasn’t he?”

Cassiel wonders what else he knows. What she’s allowed to tell him. Would Scamandrius hate her for telling him the truth, too? Could she live with the fact that both siblings dislike her that much?

“He was,” she agrees with a nod.

“And that time I saw you when I was a kid; that was really you? When I called you an Angel?”

Cassiel nods once more.

“So, are you?”

“Am I what?”

“An Angel?”

Cassiel hesitates. Should she tell him? Won’t Heaven punish her if she does? Are humans even supposed to know of the existence of Angels? They’re supposed to stay behind the scenes, after all…

“Yes,” she says without thinking.

Scam nods, unable to look at her. Then he takes a deep breath, crossing his arms over his chest while he leans against the wall. “So did you do anything to help us with Alastair?”

She did, didn’t she? It was not as much as she should have done, but she kept her eyes on them and guarded over them anyway. In the only way she was allowed to do.

“I did,” she says. “I kept the two of you together.”

Scam’s eyes widen. “You did?” he asks, his voice cracking.

“Yes,” she says. “They were going to separate you, but I changed the second buyer’s mind. He suddenly didn’t want you anymore, and Alastair got the both of you for just the price of one.” It sounds horrible when she says it like that, but it doesn’t make it even less true.

Scam looks pensive for a couple of seconds before he nods. “Thank you,” he then says. “Dem and I only had each other. Keeping us together is actually the greatest gift you could have given us.”

There’s nothing else Cassiel can say. She continues going through her hair before getting up on her feet and sitting on the bed. Her eyes are lowered. She is hesitant on looking at Scam, who seems to take all of this pretty lightly.

“Do you really have to go?” Scam then asks. Cassiel finds herself chuckling at Scam’s insistence.

“You know I do,” she assures him.

“No, I don’t. You might as well have erased his memory or something if he was really just your mission. Yet you didn’t. And I think I know why.”

Cassiel raises her eyebrow at him. Scam’s smirking now, looking kind of smug about something. What is he on about, then? Is he planning something?

“And why would that be, then?” she asks urgently when he doesn’t continue on his own.

“Because you’re in love with him.”

Cassiel freezes. Her fingers stuck in her hair, her eyes opening wide and instantly falling on Scam. She’s completely unmoving, not even thinking about breathing or doing any other kind of thing that would make her appear more human. She doesn’t have to do that anymore.

“Got you by surprise there, huh?” Scam asks in amusement. “Doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I know it isn’t.”

“It’s not possible,” is the first thing Cassiel says once she’s shaken herself out of her trance. “Angels do not fall in love.”

“There’s always a first in something.” Scam shrugs as he sits down on the bed next to her, his legs crossed as he faces her. “And of all the humans you could have fallen for you chose my brother; the one that won’t be easy to get love from. But I think you like a challenge, don’t you?”

“Scam…” Cassiel doesn’t want to hear anything more about it.

“Fly us out of here,” he says. “You can do that, can you? Fly? Get all of Alastair’s slaves away from here. Take us somewhere far. Once we’re free, I’m sure Dem will see that you’re not that bad.”

“I can’t do that,” she counters. “I’m not allowed-“

“Just like you’re not allowed to fall in love, yet here we are.” Scam shrugs smugly before getting back on his feet. “Just think about it. Freeing us – freeing me would surely be the ultimate way to win Dem back.” Scam then winks and turns back, leaving the room. Cassiel watches him leave before shaking her head.

There’s no way Heaven would allow it. But, why wouldn’t they allow it? Clearly, Alastair and Azazel are terrible human beings – if they are even human, still. Why would Heaven allow them to hurt so many human beings? If Cassiel can put an end to that suffering, why wouldn’t she?

To say that night is the longest night is an understatement. The urge is there to just leave right now, depart without saying anything. But that wouldn’t seem fair to Scam, who has been a true friend to her from the beginning. He trusts her despite everything. To leave now and not saying goodbye would seem terrible.

So Cassiel waits. Waits for the night to pass. Waits for Cassandra and Eleanor to appear, helping her get ready for the big competition the way they always do. They dress her up in the long blue dress, but when they start braiding up her hair Cassiel stops them.

“Leave it like this,” she tells them.

“But miss-“ they start. Cassiel shakes her head.

“I want to keep it loose,” she explains shortly. The girls hesitate but then nod in agreement. Once it’s time to head out, Azazel is already seated in the carriage, accompanied by Scam. Cassiel doesn’t even question why the young boy is with them. Azazel seems overly fond of Scam, but after some observation she knows that he doesn’t do him harm so she’s not going to interfere with that.

Scam is smiling at her when she enters. She tries to smile back but it fails. She startles when Scam leans forward to take her hand and squeeze it. Immediately her eyes go back to Azazel, worried that he might do something to him for acting so impulsive, but he doesn’t. He simply turns his gaze aside and looks out like nothing’s happening.

Scam winks at her before letting go. They arrive at the arena a couple of minutes later. Much like before, Cassiel is helped out. There’s no Gabriel wandering around the place to suddenly corner her. That Bradicus is once again there, smiling his way towards Azazel with a nasty grin.

“Why hello there,” the man says, smiling as he puts his hand upon his chest. “Am I sure glad to see you again.”

Cassiel might have been kind to him in the past, but she’s over that. It isn’t like she’s going to see any of these people again ever, so she doesn’t bother to bring up a good word. She just stares at him with a frown.

Azazel and Bradicus both seem a bit speechless at her reaction. Then, Azazel coughs a bit to fill up the silence.

“Miss Cassiel is leaving town after this game,” he tells Bradicus. “I’m sure she’s feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the goodbyes she’s been given.”

That’s a lie. Only Scam, Eleanor and Cassandra told her goodbye. Not that it matters. Goodbyes are just something humans created to feel a bit better about a person leaving. They have no further value and are often empty promises of seeing each other again at a later time, only for that never to be true.

“That sure comes as a surprise. Might I be as bold to ask what is the reason to your departure?” Bradicus asks.

“No,” Cassiel returns. “It’s a personal business that I do not have to share.” She stares at him, knowing she’s glaring. She doesn’t care about coming over unrespectful. So far, her feelings about Bradicus have always remained the same; untrustworthy. He might not appear like Azazel or Alastair, but Cassiel knows his soul is nearly as dark as theirs.

“Oh, uh,” Bradicus seems at a loss for words and the same goes for Azazel, who once again clears his throat.

“I sure do hope this will be a special game to close this adventure with,” he tries to save the conversation. Cassiel gets up on her feet, giving Scam a quick look before returning to Azazel and Bradicus.

“If you’ll excuse me, I need to stretch my legs for a short moment.”

She doesn’t wait for their answer, instead just starting on her walk. There isn’t much for her to walk to, of course. They’re on a high balcony, secluded from the poorer people in this arena. Going towards the railing of the balcony, she looks around. Nearly all of Athens is here, including some of the children who seem just as excited as their parents. There are a couple of important people around here, each of them talking to each other as if they’re of the highest importance. In the arena itself is a slave still removing some of the dirt that was left over from the previous fight. When he returns to one of the guards he gets a slap in the face before being pointed back inside.

“Are you alright?” comes behind her. Scam is there, eyeing her carefully as he approaches.

“Be careful before Azazel catches you,” she warns him. Scam waves off her worry.

“It’s okay, he doesn’t mind,” he assures her. “Is there something wrong? Are you regretting your decision to leave?”

He sounds so optimistic, it almost hurts. Scam is such a bright person, deserving of so much more than just the life of a slave. He’s smart, willing to learn, to become someone great. And if given the chances, Cassiel is sure he could amount to great things.

“I was just looking at this place. I can’t believe how so many people lost their lives here, and everybody here just watches this happening for their entertainment…” It really saddens Cassiel. “If I could, I would burn this place down to the ground, just to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Scamandrius shrugs. “You can do that, but they’ll just rebuild. You know slaves like us aren’t considered people. We’re just ‘things’ in their eyes.”

“Azazel doesn’t seem to see you as a ‘thing’,” she finally points out. Scam turns to look at his master, his face setting strangely for a couple of seconds.

“I guess he doesn’t,” he agrees. “He wants to teach me things. He is teaching me things.”

“What is he teaching you?” Cassiel wants to know. Needs to know since she’s never seen anything happen when the two are ‘studying’ together. What is Azazel teaching Scam?

“I’m not allowed to say,” Scam admits in a whisper. “But I think it’s really cool and I would like to show you once I’m allowed.”

That means Cassiel will never know. She smiles at him, reaching out a hand to put on his hair, which he evades easily. Then he goes to wrap his arms around her in a hug, his size nearly crushing her. Had Iphigenia only been a bit taller, then at least Scam and Dem wouldn’t both be towering over her.

“I think the games are beginning,” Scam then says. The two pull back and Scam takes her hand to guide her back to their seats. Cassiel feels a bit hesitant to sit next to Azazel once more, but she does it anyway. One last time, after all.

It starts the way it always does; a speech, people clapping as the contestants arrive in the arena. The new ones being glossed over, but the champions being praised. And Dem is now one of those champions.

Cassiel tenses unknowingly when she sees Dem there. He looks… troubled? That can’t be anything good, she realizes. He doesn’t seem as focused as he always was before.

By the time the fighting starts it becomes obvious that it isn’t going the way it should. Dem gets blows against his face, is nearly stabbed a couple of times and the others seem to actively target him for this exact reason. Cassiel realizes she’s at the edge of her seat the entirety of the game.

It doesn’t last long, probably around ten minutes, before Dem lands on the ground, struggling to get back up on his feet. While he reaches for his sword and shield another comes up behind him to deliver the final blow. And right when Cassiel is about to fly in and stop him Dem rolls over on the ground, snatching his sword and diving it into the man’s chest. Then he does the same with the others.

But as he takes care of the ones that were focused on him, the ones that weren’t seem to catch up on what’s happening. And as Demetrius, just shortly, finds his groove back, it isn’t long before he’s thrown back on the ground. The man behind him, a large, muscular man with enough scars on his body to prove that this isn’t his first fight, puts his foot on Dem’s head to keep him down. Then he snatches Dem’s own sword, and starts pointing it downwards where Dem currently is.

“No!” Cassiel shouts as the sword pierces through his back, right into his chest. Next to her, Azazel is grinning, while Scam, too, lets out a scared sound.

“DEM!” he screams, causing for a couple of heads to turn in their direction. That’s when Azazel pulls the boy back and slaps him on the cheek.

“Silence!” he hisses at him. But Scam is crying now, his eyes on Cassiel, pleading.

Not that Cassiel needs Scam’s begging to jump into action. As soon as the bloodied sword pulls out Cassiel opens up her wings. She doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter that the whole city of Athens can see her. That Azazel can see her. She can’t let Dem die, can’t let this person just murder somebody she cares about.

As soon as she’s on the ground, standing behind the man that just stabbed Dem, Cassiel takes out her golden Archangel blade. It’s extremely overpowered to be fair but it’s about the only weapon she has. Before the man can even notice that she’s standing there the blade is already in his gut. It’s not a killing strike for the Archangel-blade was never meant to kill humans but it will keep him down for at least a few months.

As the others charge towards her, surprised at the sudden addition in the ring, Cassiel moves as the warrior she was trained to be. The sound of metal clinging against metal fills the entire arena as all the public has fallen silent. Her long blue dress becomes dirtied by the sand and the drops of blood that fly off the swords she deflects.

She doesn’t kill any of the humans. They’re just doing what they need to survive. She simply stops their blows before reaching out a hand and making the men fall asleep on the spot. One by one, they drop down on the ground.

Cassiel must have missed one when suddenly the sharp end of a sword ends up stabbing her in the back, pointing out through her lower belly. But there’s no blood, though the dress is by now ruined. Not that it matters; she can fix it up easily. Cassiel turns around, the sword still stuck in her gut. The man stares at her with wide eyes before dropping down on the ground as well. Then Cassiel finally pulls out the sword, throwing it aside before running towards Dem.

“Dem?!” she calls out, turning him around and putting her hands against his cheek. He’s unconscious, barely breathing, but he’s still alive for now. Gently, Cassiel presses against the wound on his chest, not caring that her hands are covered in blood now. Calling up her Grace, she starts folding the tissue back together, undoing any type of fatal fissure until there’s nothing left to indicate that he ever got hurt. Then she leans back, letting out a relieved sigh when she sees him open up his eyes.

“Cass?” he asks when he notices her there, though he still sounds a bit out of it. Cassiel immediately crawls forward once more, holding her hand against his cheek and keeping their foreheads together.

“I’m getting you out of here,” she says in a spontaneous burst. “You and your brother.”

Dem still seems a bit confused. She can feel him still under her touch when he notices the crowd around them. Cassiel turns as well as she lets go of him. Then she holds out her hand for him to take, helping him back up on his feet.

The entirety of Athens gasps in shock when they see him stand up again like he hadn’t just been fatally stabbed by another gladiator. Dem looks down at the blood on his robes, touching his chest only to find that there’s no wound.

Still holding Dem’s hand, Cassiel flies them back to the balcony they just came from. She doesn’t think about the fact that Azazel doesn’t seem as shocked as all the others from her sudden appearance. She simply reaches out for Scam, who hurries towards his brother to hug him tightly.

“We’re leaving,” Cassiel tells him.

“You’re not getting far,” Azazel warns her.

“I’d like to see you try and stop me,” she counters. Then she opens up her wings once more, carrying the two brothers out of the arena and bringing them at the border of the city. It’s a jump start, just so they can decide on where to go next.

It’s Scam who answers that unspoken question first.

“We need to get the others! Anson, Anreas, the rest! They deserve to be free as well!” he begs of her, pulling against her arm to guide her back in the direction of the house. Cassiel sets her jaw, somehow knowing that it isn’t such a good idea to go back.

But Scam’s right. The others deserve to be free as well. And Cassiel possesses the power to free them. She shouldn’t even hesitate anymore.

“You two wait here for me. If there’s anybody coming your way just pray for me and I’ll come right back.” As she speaks, her eyes meet Dem’s for a short moment. He seems speechless, still, probably still in shock about being stabbed and actually surviving it.

“No, we should go with you!” Scam counters.

“I can’t go and save the others if I also have to worry about you two getting caught. Just stay here and remain out of sight.”

Scam looks like he’s about to complain once more, until Dem stops him.

“We’ll wait. Just go,” he says, keeping a hand against Scam’s chest to stop him. Cassiel nods in his direction, waiting for one second longer before returning to the skies, finding her way back to Alastair’s villa.

Cassiel finds Eleanor, Gyorgy, Leander and Cassandra easily enough. The four slaves are surprised at her sudden appearance in front of them, all of them letting out a surprised gasp as they notice her. Cassiel doesn’t explain, doesn’t even give them the time to ask anything. She wraps her arms around the four of them and flies them out of there as quickly as possible. Scam and Dem can do the explanation, surely.

She drops them off and returns to the villa for the three others. She wants to be quick; the further away she can get everyone from here, the better. She’s sure she can find another city for them to make a fresh start. She can get everyone going, prevent them ever becoming slaves again.

A quick search through the house indicates that Jacinto, Anreas and Anson are near Azazel’s quarters. Knowing that he’s still at the arena she gets herself there, preparing to leave almost immediately.

But the sight she’s greeted with makes her stop for a second, as she finds Jacinto standing there, holding a bloodied knife in his hands with the twins on the ground.

“What-?” Cassiel gets out, revealing her arrival. Jacinto startles, the knife falling out of his hands as he turns around.

“How did you get here?!” he shouts in his panic. Cassiel looks down at the two bodies on the ground. It would be easy to heal them and bring them back, but it would be difficult to explain it to Heaven if she would be sneaking inside to get two souls back. If they’re dead, she won’t be able to undo that so easily. Especially not with her time-limit.

“Why did you do that?” she asks, feeling sorry for the twins. They deserved better. A lot better.

“Because there’s only one who’s going to make it,” Jacinto says calmly. “And now there’s only two left. And he may be the master’s little protégé, but I’ll show him how efficient I can be.” He then smashes his fist against the wall, surprising Cassiel when instead of hurting him it crumbles the stone instead.

Humans should not possess such strength…

“Down boy, quit your flexin’,” a familiar voice says from a bit further away. Right when Cassiel turns to the source of it, a flame sparks up, forming a circle on the ground that prevents her from moving away.

Holy fire, she realizes. Touching it instantly burns into her flesh in a way that’ll take days to heal. No human possesses the knowledge of creating such a circle to contain Angels. But, she’s learned by now that this man is far from a normal human being.

“Alastair,” Cassiel greets the man slowly approaching her with a wide smile. In just the flash of a second, all color leaves his eyes, leaving only two white orbs.

“Now, how about the two of us have a little heart to heart, huh?”

Chapter Text

“Alastair.”

“Now, how about the two of us have a little heart to heart, huh?” He turns towards Jacinto, who has by now picked up the blade once more and is putting himself into a defensive stance. “I suggest you piss off for a while, sweetheart.”

Jacinto nods stiffly before turning around, leaving the room, and with that the twins that he just murdered in cold blood.

“How ‘bout that? ‘zazel’s always been hopin’ that little Scammy out there would do the hard work, but seems like there’s somethin’ there that keeps him from doing the dirty work.” Alastair fishes out a blade from his belt, scraping the tip against his teeth as he starts to pick through them.

“What do you mean?” Cassiel asks.

“Now, Cassie, don’t tell me you’ve never noticed anything… different in little Scammyboy?” He starts waving his hand while he’s explaining. He sits down on a bench, crossing his legs. Despite his white eyes, Cassiel knows he’s staring at her. “He’s a bit… on the active side, wouldn’t you think? It’s all withdrawal. You just don’t know enough about humans to place it.”

“Withdrawal for what?” Cassiel asks carefully. Alastair rolls his eyes, as if that was the most stupid question in the world.

“Blood, my dear,” he says. “Or, the blood of my kind, to be precise. Demon blood.” Now he points the knife towards his own chest, getting back on his feet and moving back forward to where Cassiel is standing. The Archangel glares down at him, her mind already sending prayers to her siblings. She’s not sure if any of it will go through the holy fire, but it’s worth a try nonetheless.

“Your kind?” Cassiel asks. The best thing she can do now is to stall. Prolong his talking until the point where Michael might notice there’s something wrong. Surely, he’s keeping an eye on her. That is, unless he’s focusing on Demetrius instead. Then she at least hopes any other Angel might be observing. Balthazar, perhaps, would surely come to her aid.

“My-? Wait, you don’t know?” Alastair sounds genuinely curious and surprised at this point. “You’re an Archangel and you don’t know?”

“Surely, if I had known just how evil you were I would have brought you to Heaven long ago,” Cassiel deadpans. “I’m sure the Host would be glad to analyze you through and through, find out who exactly created you.”

“Who created me?” Alastair now frowns. Obviously, this conversation is not going the way he expected it to. “You really can’t tell, can you?”

“I can tell that you were once human. I can see that in the remaining bits of soul inside of you, though it’s not like there’s much left of it.” Cassiel isn’t sure if annoying the man is a wise idea but it couldn’t hurt to try. After all, it’s not like he can kill her. The Holy Fire wouldn’t be able to kill her; it just prevents her from flying away and it would hurt an awful lot – probably in ways she wouldn’t be able to heal herself – but it would not kill her.

“Everybody seems to have turned a blind eye towards that other sibling of yours haven’t they?”

Surely he can’t mean… “Lucifer?”

Alastair now smiles once more. “Ah, so you haven’t forgotten about him. You took his place, after all. He didn’t take to it kindly, that little runt Cassiel had to replace the once mighty Morningstar.”

“I did not replace him,” Cassiel counters. “Nobody could be as the Morningstar. My re-assignment as an Archangel was merely for the numbers. There must always be four Archangels.”

“Yeah, and after he left there were three. That’s what replacement is, in our eyes.”

Cassiel now glares at him once more.

“Don’t you wonder who’ll they’ll assign to take your place? After I destroy you, that is.” Alastair points the knife in her direction, closing an eye as he focuses on her. He sticks out his tongue while he looks.

“You can’t destroy me,” Cassiel tells him. Alastair rolls his eyes.

“No, I can’t. But I can take you to the one who can.”

That is alarming. The only thing that can destroy an Archangel is another Archangel. Cassiel wouldn’t be able to see Michael, Raphael or Gabriel betray Heaven like that, meaning that it must be another Archangel he’s talking about.

The one that has been banished to the pits of Hell after the crimes he commited. Only, Cassiel suddenly isn’t too sure about what exactly the crimes were?

“All those years in the cage really pissed him off,” Alastair sighs. “He didn’t intentionally do it, you know? Sure, corrupting Lilith perhaps, he did. But killing your Mother was more of an accident. An indirect result of his actions.”

He’s not making sense. He’s just talking to confuse Cassiel, to blow her off her feet by his words. Never, ever in her existence has she heard anything about a Mother?

“You’re just making things up,” Cassiel grits out. She’s not going to listen to any of it. It’s all lies, all of it. “I suggest you release me now before the Host of Heaven will destroy you in the most painful way.”

The look on Alastair’s face seems dangerous. It almost looks frightening, but nothing scares Cassiel. She’s the powerful one in this room. If only she could get that fire to stop around her. Is there nothing around here to make it die down?

“I’d like to see them try,” Alastair mutters.

There needs to be a change of subject. Cassiel needs to find out more, but without falling for any of his tricks. She raises her head, steadying the Archangel blade in her hand.

“You spoke of Lucifer creating you. How is that possible if he’s locked away in the Cage?” Cassiel demands. Alastair shrugs.

“Ah well, after the first of us was made the old man didn’t need to do it all himself anymore,” he explains. “Lilith was the first. After her there was me.” Alastair once again points towards himself.

“Who is Lilith?”

“My, you really don’t know anything? Could it be that dear old Pops removed your memories?”

“He wouldn’t,” Cassiel snaps. Come on, Michael! Raphael! Garbriel! Anybody… “You know not of what you speak.”

“Lilith was the first woman ever created by the Lord,” Alastair continues as if Cassiel’s outburst had never happened. “Adam’s first wife. But, of course, Adam was rather boring and she needed more excitement. That’s where Lucifer came in, seducing her away from the dull life God intended for her to live.”

“I know nothing of any Lilith,” Cassiel grits out. Alastair sighs.

“Too bad. She was quite the catch. Of course, we all know you’ve got your eye on another human, don’t you? Do tell me, where is my lovely Demetrius? I sure do hope you haven’t made him weak with all your lovey-dovey stuff.”

It’s probably for the better not to speak anymore. Obviously, Alastair has the ability to even confuse an Angel. Cassiel decides it’s better to shut her mouth and observe, though without listening too deeply to any of his stories.

“You know you can never be what he needs. You’re an Angel, after all. You are incapable of ‘loving’ a being that isn’t your Father. It’s just not how you were made.”

Cassiel closes her eyes, trying to send out stronger prayers. Her hands are balled into tight fists.

“Those days you were pretending you were my ‘niece,” he continues, his voice mocking on that last word, you were supposed to go through with your mission. You’ve failed miserably, haven’t you?”

“What is it you want, Alastair?” Cassiel grits out. As soon as the words come out she frowns at her own reaction. Before coming down to Earth her patience would have been a lot stronger than this. She looks down at her hands, seeing the shadows of the flames dance over her skin.

“I want my favorite pet back.” Alastair smirks widely before approaching the circle. When he gets close to the flames he breathes in as if he would be smelling something nice. “Ah, that fresh scent of Archangels being cornered. Too bad I don’t know how to kill you for ruining my slave. But I suppose I can send you back to Heaven.”

Then Alastair’s eyes disappear once again in just two white orbs as he speaks. From the first word, Cassiel feels a shiver go through her body; something that has never happened before.

Omni potentis Dei protestatem incovo,” he starts. Cassiel shivers upon hearing the Latin. “Omni potentis Dei potestatem invoco abrogo terra, hoc angelorum in obese quantum. Domine expuere, Domine expuere, Unde abeo Dei per…”

“Hey, dickface!”

Cassiel gasps for breath, for the first time actually feeling out of it. She nearly falls down into the flames as she can feel her Grace re-attach itself to her vessel. Is it possible that Alastair’s words actually managed to banish her out? Would he have succeeded if he’d finished his sentences?

Being completely disoriented, it takes a while for Cassiel to realizes somebody distracted Alastair. She can hear the voices in the background, but it doesn’t exactly sink in until a bit later.

“-would return to me. Now, be a good boy and come here.”

“No!”

That’s Dem’s voice. Cassiel looks up immediately, seeing the boy standing there next to his brother, and though he’s busy defying his former master, he still looks so small. Demetrius is scared of him, and Cassiel can fully understand why. Especially now.

“Get out of here,” Cassiel whispers, her voice not carrying over the distance of the flames.

“No?” Alastair laughs. “My boy, you know what happens when you don’t listen to me, do you?”

“You already broke me,” Demetrius returns, keeping his arms up to prove his point. “You can’t break me more than that.”

Cassiel is so concentrated on the whole conversation that she never expects the soft whisper coming from next to her.

“Pssst, Cass,” she hears Scamandrius get out. Turning around, she finds the boy crouching down, trying to remain out of view. But even while he’s talking to her, he, too, seems extremely concentrated on Demetrius’ face-off with Alastair.

“Scam, what are you two doing here?” Cassiel asks softly.

“You weren’t coming back so we were gonna rescue you,” Scam explains. Cassiel returns to facing Demetrius and Alastair when she hears footsteps. Alastair is indeed approaching Dem, which means that she needs to hurry. “How can I get you out of here?”

“Kill the fire,” she explains. “Or pray to my siblings. Tell them I’m down here and that I need their help. I cannot contact them while in the ring.”

“I’m not going to call a bunch of Angels here? You can protect us all on your own, I’m sure-”

Scam’s sentence is cut off by the sound of Dem grunting in pain. They quickly realize that Alastair has by now reached Demetrius, who is holding is hand against his cheek. He just got a punch by his former master, and Cassiel is sure that’s not going to be the last one.

She’s quickly proven right when Alastair grabs him by the collar of his ripped shirt, lifting him up from the ground with obvious ease.

“You think you were already broken, boy?” Alastair asks before punching him once more. Then he does it again, and again. Blood ends up on his knuckles, dripping through Demetrius’ nose, passing over his lips. “I can do you so much worse in Hell. Which is surely where you’ll end up, after all you’ve done.”

“No,” she hears Demetrius whisper. Then he’s being pushed against the wall, but when Cassiel hears Dem shout it out in pain she realizes there must have been something sharp there, as there’s now a pin poking out of his stomach. Alastair lets go of him, letting Demetrius hang there on his own, crying from the pain.

“Dem!” Scam shouts, revealing his cover before he can even manage to free Cassiel. Alastair notices him instantly, the smile on his face widening.

“Now, of course I can’t have my favorite toy without his little pet by the side. Tell me, Scam, you feelin’ it yet? All that darkness inside of you?”

Scam seems to be fuming, coming to stand in front of the flames. “Let go of my brother!” he shouts. Alastair rolls his eyes.

“Now, you see, I would love to do that, but your brother’s still got a lot to learn. I guess I’ll have to see him back in class bright, early Monday morning.”

Alastair turns back to Demetrius, fishing out his knife once again and planting it deep into the other side of Dem’s lower belly. The boy shouts it out in pain once more, obviously close to losing consciousness once again. This can’t be happening for a second time today. Cassiel can not see him nearly die two times in only a matter of hours.

“I said STOP!”

The ground shakes, the flames flickering as Scam throws out the order. Even Alastair seems to hesitate for a moment.

“What are you going to do, huh? Cry me to death? I’m sure there are more fun ways to die,” Alastair then jokes. Scam is shaking, his face nearly turning red from the hatred he’s throwing in Alastair’s direction.

Then he keeps up his hand, pressing his lips together as Alastair stops in his tracks. His eyes widen for a short second before he’s pushed against the wall by an invisible force. A strong wind passes along the room, instantly killing off the fire that was restricting Cassiel’s movement.

“Why are you doing this?” Scam demands, not lowering his hand. Immediately, Cassiel realizes that he’s the one doing this; he’s actually using some kind of force to keep Alastair back. And Cassiel could easily take over the situation but she finds herself too surprised to even move. Her eyes are stuck on Scam’s hand, which is held up with the palm of his hand facing Alastair.

“You think I’m gonna tell you?” Alastair grits through his teeth, his voice barely understandable and extremely nasally.

“Yeah, I do,” Scam counters smugly, actually grinning. He twists his hand suddenly, making Alastair choke on the spot. When Scam speaks next, his voice nearly sounds menacing. “Why are you doing all of this?”

“The Morningstar,” Alastairs manages through his grunts and gasps of air.

“Go on.” Scam closes his hand into a fist, twisting it once again and making Alastair gurgle even louder.

“We wanna… break him out… of the cage.” Alastair struggles with every word, to the point where Scam seems to have gotten through him. But despite that, Scam keeps on going, that brightness in his soul slowly but surely darkening. It starts at the center, spreading bit by bit, nearly making it resemble Alastair’s or Azazel’s.

“How?”

“A fallen Archangel.” Alastair starts shaking his head, drool dripping over his lips as his eyes slowly regain their color again. “The righteous soul sheds blood for pleasure. The sacrifice by the hands of the student.”

Scam then stops, pulling his arm back. Alastair drops down from against the wall, gasping for breath now that the pain has receded. When he looks back up, he grins.

“’zazel’s taught you well,” he grunts out. “Now go ahead, send me back. Let this be done with.”

Scam glares him down, raising his hand once more. That’s when Cassiel finally comes back to her senses, grabbing his arm and stopping him.

“We need him alive, Scam,” she says. The boy, though keeping Alastair contained, turns to her in confusion.

“After all he’s done to Dem you want to keep him alive?!” he asks in shock. Cassiel nods.

“Heaven needs to know what he is,” she says. “We don’t know anything about him.”

For a long couple of seconds Scam just stares, but as Cassiel carefully watches the light of his soul, she’s pleased to see that the darkness is receding. Once it’s almost completely gone, Scam opens his hand once more and releases Alastair.

Before the creature can move, Cassiel marches towards him, punching him right in the face and making him kneel on the ground so she can bind his hands together by an Angelic spell she never thought she’d ever have to use.

Alastair is smirking, letting out a gurgled, nasal laugh before looking up at the Archangel.

“You think you might have won now, but it’s far from over for you,” he says smugly. “You’re already in it too deep.”

“Silence,” Cassiel warns him. She tugs once against his shoulders before taking a step back. Then she closes her eyes, concentrating fully on contacting her siblings while Scam hurries to Dem, helping him back on his feet.

“Are you okay?” she hears the boy ask his brother. Dem just grunts, leaning heavily against Scam. Once Cassiel notices she walks his way, reaching out a hand without a warning. Dem flinches from her reaching out, blinking in surprise.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Cassiel warns him. Then she puts her fingers against his cheek, passing over his bloodied skin. “Nobody ever will, again.”

In an instant, Dem’s wounds are gone. Every cut and bruise that had been so fresh against his face have now disappeared by the touch of Cassiel’s Grace. Dem looks as good as new, much to his own surprise once the pain is completely gone.

“Cass,” Dem mutters out in his confusion. But before anybody can say anything the sound of wings comes up behind them. Cassiel turns to find her siblings standing there; Gabriel and Raphael, both ready for a fight.

Scam lets out a surprised shout, holding out his hand as if to defend himself. But where his power appeared to work against Alastair, the same thing cannot be said about Angels. At least that way they can be sure that Alastair’s not anything related to them.

“Looks like we missed the action,” Gabriel mutters, lowering his blade once more, while Raphael keeps it raised. “Good work, Cassie.”

Uncomfortable with telling them about Scam’s involvement in this, she simply nods. “Can you take him to Father?” she asks.

“The sooner the better,” Raphael mutters dryly, rolling his eyes before marching up to Alastair, who is still kneeling at the ground. “Come with me, you vermin.”

Alastair laughs. “Oh I love it when people talk dirty to me,” he mutters back. Then they’re gone, leaving Gabriel with the others on Earth. The other Archangel doesn’t seem too eager on returning to Heaven just yet.

“He told you anything?” he asks curiously. Cassiel frowns, thinking back of his words.

“He said Lucifer created him,” she explains. “Spoke of a woman called Lilith being the first. And…” she hesitates, wondering if it’s not all just lies told by him. It can’t be, can it? He couldn’t have said the truth about this…?

“And?” Gabriel asks.

“… and he mentioned our ‘Mother’,” she finishes. She figures whether it’s a lie or not, they’ll figure it out soon enough. “Though I am uncertain of which Mother she’s speaking of, if I’m completely honest.”

“A Mother?” Gabriel frowns, face suddenly worried and curious at the same time. But, in just a matter of seconds he tenses up a bit, the thought clearly having left his train of thought. “Michael’s coming.”

Now that surely isn’t the news Cassiel was expecting. “He’s what?”

“’He’ isn’t really the good word for it.” That last part has been mumbled, probably Gabriel speaking out a thought to himself. But before Cassiel can ask for clarification, she can feel the strong energy emerging from Michael approaching.

But it isn’t possible. Without a vessel, Michael wouldn’t be able to come here. He’s always appeared inside of Dem’s dreams, never on the actual plane of existence.

Cassiel turns around once the source of all that energy feels like it’s right behind her. And true to her thought, her sibling is standing there, tall and powerful. Only, not the way she would have expected him.

“Michael?” Cassiel asks in confusion. She can see his grace behind the face he’s borrowed. The face that is nothing like Dem’s.

“Cassiel,” Michael returns with something in his voice as he approaches her. His borrowed hands go up to her face as he starts to inspect her. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

Cassiel shakes her head. “Of course he didn’t- Michael, why are you here?”

Michael’s dark eyes widen at the question. The face he’s borrowing wouldn’t be anything like the beauty-standards that reign today. His vessel’s tanned, her dark hair put up messily and the clothes she’s wearing faded and torn in most places. She was a slave, as well. But why was Michael able to get to her?

The Archangel shrugs, looking down at the vessel once more before looking up. “A far relative,” he explains. “She’s not the perfect fit, but she’s agreed to help for now.”

Cassiel doesn’t know what to say. As Michael’s hands finally let go of her face after making sure that she wasn’t hurt by Alastair, he turns towards the two siblings on the ground. Scam is behind Demetrius, though whether it’s from fear or because Dem’s protecting him, Cassiel isn’t sure.

“Hello, Demetrius,” Michael then says. The female voice sounds strange on him. It’s almost confusing. After glancing a look at Gabriel, her sibling shrugs before shaking his head. It’s not the time to ask questions.

“Who- who are you?” Dem asks, scrambling backwards, and with that pushing Scam further back as well.

“My name is Michael.” He kneels down until they’re on the same eye-level. “I trust you’ve heard about me?”

“You’re the son of a bitch that wants to wear me to the feast.” Demetrius makes a disgusted face. “I’ve been through some shit but I doubt you can ever make an offer compelling enough for me to say yes.”

“You’re sure about that?” Michael looks smug, making Cassiel realize that he’s got a plan, perhaps. But Cassiel isn’t sure what she’s supposed to do here. The logical thing would be to let Michael act out his plan; they have their mission, after all.

But everything inside of her tells her not to let him do that. Not to allow him to take control of Dem.

“I can give you what you want, Demetrius,” Michael continues. “And I know now that all you want is for your brother to be safe. No longer a slave.”

Dem’s eyes widen. Cassiel’s screaming internally. It’s not that Michael isn’t right here; Archangels must always respect their promises. If Dem would say yes here, Michael would personally take care that Scam will be in good hands.

But the best hands for Scam to be are Dem’s…

“Wh- what?” Dem sounds full of disbelief.

“Dem, don’t listen to her!” Scam pleads, but Dem isn’t reacting to it.

“I could make sure he has a family. That he’s taken care of, looked after. And after the mission is over, I can make sure that you’ll be returned to him without any lasting damage. It’s like it never happened.”

“Only I’ll have a couple of kiddos running around up there,” Dem complains, though it sounds weak. It’s like his head is attempting a final time to convince him to disagree.

“They won’t be your children. You would have no need nor duty to care for them, for they will be my children. Mine, and Cassiel’s.”

Michael and Dem both look at her, putting Cassiel in the center of attention all so suddenly. Michael looks smug, glad that his words are having effect. Dem, on the other hand, looks scared. Not at all the way Cassiel likes to see him.

“But Cassiel-“ Dem starts, only never finishing his sentence. His eyes lock with hers, and they don’t let go anymore. Not even when Michael continues talking.

“These feelings you have for Cassiel, they are mere resonating feelings of vessels meeting. It’s something completely out of your control, and it will pass once you’re separated. You will not have to fear about that.”

“I-“

And that’s when Cassiel sees it in his eyes. How his mind is being made up. How all fight seems to lose him, and acceptance washes over his entire being. He closes his eyes, the connection lost as he looks away.

“I acce-“

“No!”

Cassiel doesn’t wait. She storms towards Dem and Scam, holding on to their shoulders and preparing to get them away from there. Standing, now, between Dem and Michael, she faces her brother at last. A thing she would never have expected to do, for she loves her brother. Only, she thinks she might love Dem more. And Scam.

Alastair was right. And she hates it that he was right. She has fallen in love. That while Angels aren’t supposed to do that. Aren’t supposed to be able to do that, even.

“Cassiel?” Michael sounds confused. He stands up, his vessel taller than hers. “What are you doing?

When she takes out her blade, Michael takes a step back, holding up his hands. His eyes look sad, while Gabriel’s look… excited, for some reason?

“You cannot have him,” she tells him.

“Cassiel,” Michael starts. When he tries to move forward once more, Cassiel raises her blade up a bit higher, causing for Michael to stop in his steps. “You know it’s our mission.”

“I don’t care about our mission,” she returns. “I’m pulling away from the mission. I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”

Now there’s only shock, disbelief. It’s like Michael’s warmth seems to be fuming now. His power radiating even stronger than before. Behind his vessel, Cassiel can see his Grace. Can see the pain it’s in. And she hates herself for being the cause of it.

“You cannot walk away from it now?”

But his words have no effect. “Father gave me the chance to choose. I’m choosing.”

“You’re choosing him? A mortal?”

Cassiel almost turns towards Dem, but knows better than to take her eyes away from Michael. Though, she knows he wouldn’t hurt her. Michael would never hurt Cassiel, for Michael, too, has come to love. Not a love that is the same as the one Cassiel feels for Dem, but it’s close. It’s very close. And she hates herself, knowing that she’s hurting him now by doing this to him.

“It was always meant to be him,” Cassiel defends herself. Eventually, she realizes that she shouldn’t draw it out any longer. They must leave, now. Slowly she lowers her blade, stepping forward to where Michael is standing. With her free hand, she gently cups Michael’s borrowed face, her fingers passing over the skin of his cheek. “I love you, brother. But I cannot let you have him.”

Michael says nothing. Not as she gently kisses him. Not as she moves away once more.

It’s by the time that she’s taken Scam and Dem, and has carried them away from Alastair’s house that the thunders roar through the sky.

But that isn’t Michael being angry. That’s Michael being sad.

Chapter Text

“Wow,” is the first thing he says.

They’re in bed, Cas underneath the covers and Dean on top of them. They’re facing each other, but for a long while Cas had been on his back, looking at the ceiling as he spoke.

“So you were stuck in a love-triangle, only the other guy didn’t really have much of a shot?”

At last, Cas smiles a little, shuffling forward until his forehead is pressed against Dean’s shoulder. Dean instantly wraps an arm around him to hold him close.

“Practically, yeah,” he admits. “Anyway, it wasn’t until that point I- Cassiel was seen as a traitor in the eyes of Heaven.”

They stay silent for a moment, simply enjoying each other’s presence for a long moment. It feels good, lighter. It’s like a bit of the weight that had been on him has finally been lifted from his shoulders – though still not a lot of it. After all, Cas knows that the worst is still to come.

He’s at the verge of continuing when they hear the speaker attached to their bed make a noise. It’s a small, little gasp that will no doubt lead to louder noise eventually. Feeling a little bit stronger now, Cas instantly gets up.

“Babe?” Dean asks in surprise. Cas just holds out his hand.

“I wanna see Jack,” he admits with a light smile. Dean doesn’t hesitate, taking Cas’ hand and getting up as well. The two walk through the hallway, going to the room next to theirs. There are many rooms in the house, which Cas and Jimmy had inherited from their parents. So far, only two of them have a specific use as bedrooms. More of the rooms that could in fact be bedrooms are still unused, probably covered in dust if Cas wouldn’t have a maid coming over once every two weeks.

They enter Jack’s room, seeing instantly that the boy is awake. He’s got his hands up, his feet swinging in the air. Cas is not even sure if Jack can already notice them looking at him next to the crib. His eyesight has yet to develop further, after all.

“Hello, baby,” Dean greets him immediately. Jack gurgles, causing for Dean to pick him up, which makes the boy hiccup out a laugh. “Slept enough now, huh? I know why. You know how I know why? Because it’s noon, and there’s a certain little prince who always wants to eat at noon. Yes he does.”

Cas chuckles upon hearing him like that. Dean has the habit to take out his ‘baby-voice’ when he talks to Jack. He barely notices doing it, but everybody around him loves to make him know it. More often than not, Cas walks around with a cam-recorder to just get it all on tape.

As Dean cradles Jack close to him, he points out his hand in the baby’s direction. Jack instantly grabs for it.

He grows so quickly, it’s really unbelievable. Making his first attempts at crawling, Cas had been following him around with the camera all day even as Dean was carrying him. And now as he takes Dean’s finger in his tiny hand, Cas remembers just how strong he’s become in the five months that he’s been here.

Eventually, Dean turns around, standing so that Jack can look at Cas as well. Then Dean points at him, keeping his head close to Jack’s.

“And who’s there? Is that papa? That’s papa, isn’t it? How about we say hi to papa, huh?” Dean takes Jack’s hand once again between his fingers and starts shaking it as if the boy was waving at Cas. The other man now genuinely laughs, walking forward to wrap an arm around Dean’s waist and take Jack’s little feet in his free hand.

“Hello, baby boy,” Cas finally greets their son.

“You have a good papa, don’t you? He’s such a good papa. And I’m gonna tell you a secret; he’s also such a good boyfriend. But you don’t know yet what that is, because you’re too small-“

“Dean,” Cas starts attempting to interrupt him. Dean won’t have it, simply ignoring him.

“But the day that you bring home a girl- or boyfriend we’re gonna think back of this moment right here, where you were too small to know what that is. Yes, because you’ll always be our little boy. Yes, yes, yes.”

“Dean, stop it.” But it doesn’t annoy Cas. Instead, it makes him laugh. Dean simply smirks before leaning for a kiss.

“Hmmm, how about we feed the little prince and then you can tell me more – if you want to?” Dean offers after leaning back. Cas smiles, simply nodding.

“Sounds wonderful,” he returns. Hand in hand, they exit the room.

Chapter Text

Demetrius doesn’t trust her.

He does not need to say it for her to know it. Even as she passes him by, holding a vase filled with water to fill up the cauldron. There's a fire already burning underneath it, created by Cassiel before she left for the stream.

It's been five days already since they've left Athens and Alastair behind them. The weather is currently rather warm, and the sun is shining, though it's not exactly as if they can feel its beams through the trees.

The brothers have no idea where they are. Cassiel, of course, is aware she brought them far away from Greece as possible, but even then she's sure they'll never be completely hidden. Especially if they remain hidden in the forest. It won't be long until a person takes a walk in the woods and hears the pained screams that have been coming from the younger brother.

To say that the days have been difficult for the three of them is putting it lightly. Ever since Scam woke up  the second day, he stared behaving strangely. He became erratic, nervous and hyper. It was by the time that he started screaming at his brother that they realized something was wrong. Thinking back of Alastair's words, Cassiel quickly realized that there must have been a truth in his words about the blood.

“So what's for dinner this evening?” Dem asks lowly. If the days have been hard for Scam, the effects seem all the more obvious on Dem. He's unable to fall asleep on his own, always listening to his brother's desperate pleas of help. He only eats because Cassiel forces him to do so.

“I still have some leftover from yesterday,” Cassiel explains, pointing towards the sheep that she managed to preserve. The animal had been wounded, and while Cassiel could have rescued it, the beast had already accepted its end.

“Great,” Dem mutters. Cassiel sighs, uncertain of what exactly it is she should do to change Dem's behavior towards her. She's aware that he's untrusting of her, but she has no idea how to change that.

Another angry shout comes from behind her, along with the sounds of the reinforced chackles she put on him to keep him there. Scam has nowhere to go, though his constant struggling has been damaging his wrists and ankles so often that Cassiel automatically goes to heal them whenever she checks on him.

“C'mon, let me out of here! I'm feeling much better, I swear, I swear!”

Neither of them answer. Cassiel can see in Dem's eyes that it's about the hardest thing he's ever done. When it becomes obvious that Scam is ignored, his pleading tone quickly changes.

“I HATE YOU! I HATE BOTH OF YOU! YOU CAN'T KEEP ME CHAINED UP YOU PIECCES OF DONKEYSHIT!”

Dem chuckles bitterly. “Donkeyshit,” he mutters. “That's one I haven't heard yet.” 

“He isn't aware of what he's saying,” Cassiel tells him.

“Yeah, so you've mentioned ten times already,” Dem grumbles back. “You also said that he'd be fine in only a few days.”

“My apologies but so far I haven't been familiar with addictions to demon-blood. Don’t take it personally if I don't have all the answers,” she suddenly snaps back. Dem startles in his seat, eyeing her widely. Cassiel feels like she should apologize, but at the same time she's feeling a bit tired of Dem's constant bitterness directed towards her. She might have been wrong before, but she's pretty sure she made her choice as obvious as possible.

“Let's just hope it'll be over soon,” Dem then says calmly, at last lowering his gaze. The two fall in another quiet moment after that as they wait for the water to start boiling.

Five days that it's been since Cassiel has been shut off from Heaven. Five days since she’s heard of her siblings last. The separation had hurt more than she could have imagined. She instantly felt how her Grace suffered the moment she flew Dem and Scam away from Athens. An Angel should not be separated from their siblings for this long. Especially not an Archangel.

Eventually, the silence gets to her. She has to stay busy, otherwise she's constantly think back of Heaven. Of Home... Only, it's probably not her home anymore. Nor will it ever be again. There's no possible way they'll ever let her return after her betrayal.

Not wanting to think further of it, Cassiel gets back on her feet. She walks towards the clothes she's washed in the stream. They're mostly some scraps that she found in the closest city. She handed out her beautiful dress and jewels in exchange for more things for Dem and Scam to wear. Now Cassiel, too, is wearing a washed-out beige tunic that has a couple of holes in it. And while she could easily fix it without breaking a sweat, she figures the holes help her appearing more human. Because, as Scam stated, she seems to have failed miserably at that department before.

The clothes have been hung out to dry, and one quick touch indicates that they're still wet. Cassiel decides to leave them hanging for a bit more before she returns to the edge of camp. Checking the warding that are supposed to keep them hidden, she's glad to see that they're holding up quite well.

As Cassiel flew Dem and Scam away, she carved near-identical sigils onto their ribs. It's experimental, but it seems to work so far given that Cassiel can indeed not sense where they are. It could prove to be a problem would they ever end up separated. She should probably explain to them how they can reach her if they're in trouble.

“Cass?”

Cassiel turns, surprised by Dem calling out to her. She returns to the camp, finding Dem standing next to Scam.

“I think he's passed out,” he says. Cassiel nods, approaching the brothers and kneeling down next to him. She then takes Scam's hands into her own and quietly she heals all the wounds he's inflicted upon himself during this episode. The wounds on his wrists disappear, and she wipes away the blood that came with it. Meanwhile, Dem puts a tissue into the pot of hot water before passing it over Scam's forehead. Carefully he wipes away the sweat and dirt, as well as the blood that must have come from his wrists. Then, Dem goes over his neck and his shoulders. He's taking such gentle care of his brother, Cassiel takes a moment to watch him work.

When she hears Dem let out the first sob, she immediately takes his hand.

“He's just exhausted,” she says. “It's been a tough few days on him.”

Dem wipes away his tears, unable to look at her but instead keeping his eyes on his unconscious brother.

“I know,” he says . “It just sucks. I'm supposed to take care of him, and I couldn't even do that...”

“Dem...”

“Don't- don't say that it's not my fault. If I had just said yes to Michael, he would have taken care of Scammy. He would have made sure that my brother would be safe and you-”

“No!” Cassiel doesn't intent on snapping at him. She flinches when she sees Dem startling. “Michael is as powerful as I am. I can assure you that whatever he promised you, clearing the demon-blood from your brother's system isn't something he would have been capable of doing.”

Dem looks like he's about to object once again, but Cassiel interrupts him one more time.

“Besides, there's nothing Michael would have been able to do that I cannot do. I will keep your brother safe. And I will keep you safe. You will both have a life worth living from now on.”

Dem sets his jaw, yet he doesn't speak as he stares at his sleeping brother.

“I promise you this, Dem.” Cassiel squeezes Dem's hand, but almost immediately afterwards Dem pulls away, settinig his brother down on the improvised mattress they put together for him.

“Yeah, you know, your promises don't really mean much to me right now,” he mutters, getting back on his feet. “'m going for a wash, don't follow me.”

Dem takes the cauldron with him and moves further into the forest, out of Cassiel's line of sight. She's not worried; she explained the expanse of the camp so the chance that Dem would just accidentally walk out of it is slim.

She looks back down at Scam, pushing his hair out of his face. He looks so much more peaceful when he's asleep. She feels sad that he's going through this.

In a more sober moment Scam had explained what exactly had transpired between him and Azazel; the things that he hadn't been allowed to say. 

“He- he often gave me these drinks,” Scam had explained hesitantly. “I didn’t like them at first but he said they would make me stronger. Eventually I started to like them, anyway. That’s when he started making me do things…”

“What things?” Cassiel had asked.

Scam had shrugged. “He would bring people in, tell me that they had an evil spirit inside of them and that I had the power to release them and send them back to where they came from.”

That was about all he had said. The entire time afterwards, Cassiel had been wondering how it was possible she hadn't been aware of it. She was supposed to keep an eye on the entire estate Alastair owned, but for some reason she hadn't seen any of it. That must mean that he probably had warded certain locations against Angels. Places where she hadn't thought to look.

She really hopes Heaven gets something out of Alastair. If they're truly planning to release Lucifer, Heaven must prepare itself for another confrontation with their sibling.

Only, now it won't be with Cassiel. Just for a short moment she wonders who else will be appointed to replace her now that she’s gone. Are they going to replace her, even?

By nightfall, Cassiel returns from sweeping the borders of the camp. She does that each evening to make sure all the wardings are still in place. Only then does she return, often to find Demetrius already curled up on the ground next to Scam, holding his little brother close. This time, the sight isn’t any different, and as usual it makes Cassiel stop and think for a while.

It bothers her that she cannot help him. The thing bothering Scam is something that is way out of her control. Her Father, perhaps, could fix him. She can’t.

Looking down at the siblings she wonders if things would have been different had she taken them away much earlier. Without Demons and Archangels going after them. Would she have been able to save the twins? What even has happened to Jacinto? Will he be taken out by Alastair, too? She didn’t even have the time to think about Cassandra and Eleanor, and all the other slaves that she managed to get out. She has no idea if they got away. She hopes they did. It’s not safe for her to try and find out, anyway.

Cassiel slowly approaches the siblings, lifting up the blanket and pulling it back to Dem’s shoulders where it has fallen off. It’s good to see that, even when Scam is out of his mind, Dem won’t abandon him. Cassiel wouldn’t, either.

She sits down next to them, opens up her wings and wraps them around the siblings. They might not feel it, but they’ll surely sense that feeling of being warmed up. Keeping her eyes on them, she waits for the night to pass and for one of the two to wake up again, hoping that it’s Dem. When Scam wakes up first, it’s often not a pretty sight.

 

There are hallucinations, eventually. Moments where Scam opens his eyes and starts talking to somebody who isn’t there. Sometimes it’s his parents. Sometimes his brother. The other slaves, the ones who disappeared under Azazel’s rule. The ones who most certainly did not survive, Cassiel realizes.

Dem is sharpening a sword he found in the wood. He cleaned it up, and now he’s passing a stone over the metal, making a repetitive but soothing sound. He doesn’t look up to Cassiel, but keeps doing his business. She knows it’s because he desperately needs to distract himself from Scam’s constant muttering.

They can hear him whimpering in fear when he imagines Azazel approaching him. Can hear him cry from the disappointment given from his mother. The hallucination of his father, Cassiel realizes, has a better effect on him.

“Scam and mom didn’t have the best bond,” Dem explains bitterly when they hear Scam call out after his father. “She had expectations of him, and he was a bit rebellious. But they loved each other, of that I’m sure.”

“What expectations did your mother have?” Cassiel asks carefully, not certain when she’s crossing the line of not when it comes to Dem. The stone stops and drops on the ground as Dem eyes the sword he’s been sharpening.

“He needed to become a warrior. He was strong, big for his age. But Scammy didn’t want to. He’d prefer books over violence.” Dem blinks at his weapon for a short moment before sighing. “He’s nothing like me, and it annoyed the hell out of our mother.”

Cassiel nods, understanding what he’s saying, but unable to relate to it. Her Father expected things of her, too, but in the end he gave her the chance to choose, which she did. Eventually.

“And your father?” Cassiel asks after a few seconds of silence. Dem then smiles.

“My father was softer. He’d seen battle and had grown tired of it.” He sighs, dropping the sword on the ground as he rests his arms onto his knees, eyes meeting Cassiel’s. “If he had his way, we would have had a farm far away from any city. Just… far from people.”

“He must have love you very much,” Cassiel points out. Dem smiles sadly.

“He did,” he agrees. “They both loved us. But… eventually the fire happened. We had nowhere to go; no family. Nobody wanted to look after us.”

Dem presses his lips together before giving Cassiel a pointed look.

“Not even you.”

And something stings inside of her when she hears that. Not only is it the realization that he might be right. It’s the shame that comes now that she’s gained free will. Knowing what she would have done differently would she be able to return back in time. Which she can’t without being found out.

“There’s nothing in this world I regret more than that,” Cassiel tells him. She’s not trying to excuse herself. That doesn’t work on him, she knows.

“You know what he did to me, right?” Dem continues. There’s something hard in his eyes. His jaw is set, hands balled into fists. “You saw it happen?”

Cassiel shakes her head. “Not all of it,” she admits. She still had her tasks to uphold, after all. Watching the gates, guarding over the other people that needed her help. “I wasn’t even supposed to watch you as much as I did.”

“Then why did you?” There’s something strained in his voice. He sounds sad, angry, scared… It isn’t a sound Cassiel likes to hear in him.

“I don’t know,” Cassiel admits. She has no idea why the brothers caught her attention as much as they did. She should have known that she wasn’t like her siblings the moment that happened. A quick look at her hands show that they’re dirty from the ground. A part of her tells her to clean it up, but some other part tells her that it’s human. And she doesn’t mind feeling human at this moment.

“You know, I always hated everything Alastair did to me. I hated it so much that I thought I’d never do the same thing to anybody else.” Dem wraps his arms around his knees now, eyes looking down at the fire burning between them. The flame reflects in his eyes, an orange glow shining on his cheeks. “I thought I deserved it, perhaps. That it was my punishment for not keeping my parents safe.”

“There was nothing you could have done for your parents,” Cassiel assures him.

“I know,” he agrees. “I just… every time Alastair would do… that to me, I started second-guessing myself. And he enjoyed every moment of it, of breaking me apart, tearing me open in places that shouldn’t be. Bringing me to the point where I thought death was close, only to be pulled back again and again.”

Cassiel says nothing. It’s too rare for Dem to speak up, so there’s no more point in interrupting him.

“He’d tell me again and again that he would stop if I took his place,” Dem continues. “If I’d train the next generations of slaves like he did me. And I refused. Each time I would tell him to stick it where the sun don’t shine, which he always did afterwards. I should probably have chosen better words…”

He tries to be funny about it, but his own joke falls flat. He shudders again, finally looking away from to fire to watch his brother further away, still mumbling to another fragment of his imagination.

“But eventually he told me he would involve Scammy. That he would make him take my place if I refused to cooperate. And I couldn’t- I couldn’t let him hurt my brother, so I agreed. And I picked up the blade, and I became a monster just like him.”

She wants to tell him that he’s wrong, that he had no choice. But at this point, she knows that nothing will change his mind about this. Not right now, at least.

“All those girls I’ve hurt. Those boys, too, though they were rarer. I had to break each one of them. And I don’t even know what Alastair did once it was finished. He sold them off, he killed them… I have no idea, Cass.”

She knows about those slaves, as they were sold off to work at a nearby brothel. Their lives aren’t good. Of those that are still alive, that is. They’ve been it with many diseases, their bodies slowly but surely shutting down on themselves. No, they don’t have it well.  

“I can take it away, if you want,” she finally says. Dem looks up in confusion, blinking at her with that fire still reflected in his eyes. “The memories. I can shift them from your mind. Put up a wall to shield them away, or I could take them from you.”

“Take them from me? But wouldn’t you have them, then?”

Cassiel smiles sadly. Dem is a lot smarter than he should be, that’s for sure.

“That is not relevant,” she assures him. Dem then holds up his hands and shakes his hands.

“Nu-uh, no way. I’m not saddling you up with my problems.”

“Dem,” Cassiel starts but it’s clear Dem doesn’t want to hear anything about it. She stops talking, then, hoping that at least he’ll think about it.

“I think he’s asleep,” he eventually says. Het gets back on his feet with his eyes pointed to where his little brother is now very quiet. Cassiel has to agree that the whimpering has stopped, and the two hurry back towards him. There they find him on the ground, no longer awake. He’s breathing calmly, looking scared and small. It aches to see him like this.

Dem doesn’t say anything. He simply moves his brothers’ cuffs a bit to ease the tension on his ankles. Then he lifts up his head, resting it onto his lap and putting his hands through his hair. He’s quiet, eyes focused on his brother and fingers moving with such tenderness over his scalp.

“You think it’ll be any longer?” Dem asks.

“I wish I could tell you, but I do not know,” Cassiel admits. She approaches Dem, carefully holding on to his shoulder and feeling something weird passing through her when she sees him lean in to the touch. A soft smile passes over her lips, ignoring the confusion of her own vessel when she realizes that this doesn’t feel like enough. It should. This is enough.

 

It gets worse for a while before it gets better. After a while the hallucinations turn more violent, up to a point where Scam is lifted up from the ground as an invisible force yanks him into the air. It happens once or twice, and it drives Dem literally insane each time, but after a while it becomes obvious that it doesn’t get worse than this.

A couple more days pass before they let go of the shackles holding Scam in place. The boy eats on his own again without being forced, his face pale and skinny. There’s barely any meat left on his bones and both Cassiel and Dem make it their special mission to make sure to fill him up once more.

Dem takes Scam hunting – not letting him actually do anything but more allowing him to tag along. It does Scam good to go on a walk with his brother while Cassiel remains at the camp. Dem returns with a deer he claims Scam tracked all on his own. That evening they have a full meal, and for the first time in a while all three of them share a smile as they’re seated around the fire.

“I think it’s time to get back to civilization,” Cassiel announces eventually once everybody has finished eating. Scam is leaning up against his brother, eyes closed but still clearly awake. Dem stares back at her with a mouth fallen open.

“You think so?” he asks in confusion. She realizes it must be weird for him to hear it; after nearly two weeks of surviving in the woods, moving back to a city must sound like a luxury they weren’t allowed to have anymore.

“Yes, the Demon blood has clearly been purged from Scam’s veins, and he’ll need better sustenance to replenish himself in the future. It sounds like the better move to return.”

Dem nods, turning to look at his brother whose eyes have opened once again. He, too, looks like he’s agreeing.

“But where will we go?” Scam asks. “We can’t go back to Athens.”

“No, we can’t. And they’ll suspect we’ve moved far away, too. I suggest we go somewhere they speak Greek, but no longer in Greece.”

Dem and Scam give each other a short look before nodding. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well, there’s a city not too far from here,” Cassiel reveals. Taking a stick and flattening the ground beside her feet with just the snip of her fingers, she starts drawing a map of the place they currently are.

Dem and Scam follow her movements, silently watching as she puts down the lines and curves that show the borders of the city up to the ocean. With one wave in the earth she points to the large volcano further away.

“That there is Mount Vesuvius. Next to it is a city called Herculaneum. It used to be colonized by the Greek but it is in fact in Italy.”

“Wait, we’ve been in Italy all this time?” Scam asks in surprise. Dem laughs and gives him a soft poke in the side before nodding towards the volcano.

“It’s safe?” he asks Cassiel. The Archangel shrugs.

“The volcano isn’t going to erupt for another few centuries,” she assures them. “We can go there and get settled in somewhere in the city. We’ll have to get jobs so as not to stand out too much but we’ll be able to live in a house rather than outside.”

Dem takes a second to think it over before shrugging. “It’s a good idea,” he agrees. “You still got enough magic left to scramble us some money?”

“Yes,” Cassiel agrees. “It won’t be much. Just enough to get us a house and to get by. We can’t let any attention fall on us for too long.”

Dem and Scam nod. “Sounds good to me. I, for one, will be glad not to stay outdoors for another night.” Scam tries to laugh it off but it’s clear in the cracking of his voice that he’s exhausted and ready to get away from here.

“Alright, then. Tomorrow we’ll pack up and I’ll bring us to the border of the city.” Scam and Dem smile, obviously glad that they’re going to be out of the woods at last.

Chapter Text

The city of Herculaneum is roughly located 7 kilometers from Mount Vesuvius. Due to that, the mountain is in clear view from any place of the city. On the other side there’s only the ocean, where their biggest import comes from; fishermen sail out to get the catch of the week. Sailors make port to put their international merchandise for sale on the local market.

As the three enter the streets of Herculaneum not many people look up at their sudden appearance. There are beggars on the streets – though not as much as in Athens. Around the city a large wall is built. Their getting through the gates was mostly thanks to Cassiel who persuaded the guard to let them through.

Scam had looked up with wide eyes when they had approached the city walls, for all the large villas are all located around the city. While the buildings didn’t come close to the size of Alastair’s villa, the architecture was a whole lot more impressive in the younger boy’s eyes.

Another thing that was obviously different compared to Athens was the lack of carts or chariots. People travel by foot, by horse or by mule.

“Say, Cass, I forgot to ask but is there any chance that this place was named after Hercules?” Scam asks as he stands close behind the archangel, blinking around the town with wide eyes and a mouth dropped open.

“That’s correct, yes,” Cassiel agrees. “It’s rather a tourist-spot, too. Those villas you saw outside? Holiday-homes for the wealthy.”

“Yeah, I mean, if I’d have that view on the ocean, I would buy something here, too.” Dem lets out an impressed whistle as he looks towards the port where sailors are getting off their ships. “You think I could take up some fishing jobs around here?”

“Nothing is impossible,” Cassiel agrees, finding it amusing that the man is already planning on what to do around here.

It takes a bit of asking around, approaching people who don’t seem all too much in a hurry. They’re pointed towards other citizens until, finally, they come across a man who’s supposed to be selling properties.

Now, Cassiel knows she can afford a large house; one of the villas perhaps if she uses her Grace on them. But the point is not to stand out too much. So when they walk around the town, come across a two-story house that seems uninhabited. It’s not as large as the standard domus, but it’s a whole lot better than the insula the lower-class people live in.

“Not a lot of people want this house but in my opinion it’s a good place.”

“Why don’t people want it?” Scam asks in confusion.

“Well, the richer folk think it too small for their tastes, and it’s too expensive for most of the others. Thought about taking it down if I can’t sell it. Wanna have a look inside?”

Cassiel doesn’t have to wait for their responses as Dem and Scam storm inside without any warning. Cassiel just chuckles as she follows after them.

The first thing she notices is that it’s small; much smaller than the house Alastair owned. Despite that, it’s got everything they need; a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room. While it might be small, it would perfectly suit for all their needs; they don’t need much more than that, after all.

There’s an upper floor where she’s sure Scam and Dem are already. When she follows after them, aware that the man is staying downstairs, she’s surprised to find that there’s what seems like three small bedrooms. The smaller one looks fit for a child, perhaps. The second and the third room are equal in space, though still not very large.

It looks perfect in her eyes. There’s nothing more that they need. Just seeing Scam drop down on the bed and letting out a long, relieved sigh is enough reason for her to make a decision. Walking back downstairs she approaches the man.

“We’ll take it,” she says. The man blinks at her in confusion as she speaks, obviously not having expected her to go with this place.

“I, uh, really? Wow I never thought this day would ever happen.” The man scratches the back of his neck before clearing his throat. Then he looks up again, grinning in excitement. “Great, I’ll go and make up the documents.”

And gone he is in just a matter of seconds, out the door on his way back to his own house, perhaps. Cassiel figures there’s no problem in waiting; if this place is to become their home after this, they’ll spend a lot of time here, after all.

Dem and Scam run back downstairs, wide grins on their faces as they look at her expectantly.

“We’re taking this place, right?” Dem asks.

“It’s not too expensive, I hope?” Scam adds. Cassiel chuckles before shaking her head, blinking once and suddenly materializing a bag of money.

“Whoa, you made that appear out of nowhere?” Dem asks in shock approaching her to take the bag into his own hands and weighing it down.

“Let’s say I moved it from one place to another.”

Dem then raises an eyebrow, that grin disappearing almost immediately. “So you stole it?” he asks. Cassiel can just look back at him fondly.

“The person I took this from won’t really miss it.” She won’t say it’s from Alastair’s personal vault. She won’t admit that in just those few short miliseconds she flew back to Athens and took the money of the person who made these two boys’ lives so miserable.

“You sure?” Dem doesn’t sound too convinced, but Cassiel just smiles back before putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing it.

“I promise.” She doesn’t let go. Their eyes are glued into each other; it’s difficult to look away. Even when they hear Scam exit the room to get to the garden outside, the two continue standing there. Cassiel is barely aware of the two of them taking a couple steps forward until they’re standing near each other.

“Hey, guys? Did you know we have a garden?”

Dem’s the first one to look away, turning his gaze to his brother who has reappeared from outside. “You serious?” he asks.

“Yeah, man. Come have a look!” Scam gestures for them to join him into the garden, but that’s the moment where the man returns, a bit out of breath holding some tablets. He’s followed by a young girl around Scam’s age with long brown hair put into a messy braid. Her dark eyes fall on the three new figures, but her mouth remains shut.

“Alright, let’s get these documents in order immediately and then you can do with the place as you wish! I’m telling you, I’m really glad to finally be rid of this place! Kid, hand me those carvers!” The man talks quickly, but as soon as he’s addressing the girl he speaks slower, holding out his hand towards her to get her attention. She, in turn, squints for a short second before nodding and handing him the utensils.

Cassiel watches her figuring she must be the man’s daughter. She looks a bit on the skinny side, but further than that she seems completely healthy.

Except for the fact that she’s deaf. That’s about the first thing Cassiel realizes about her. It’s all in the way she stands and observes; looking at people’s faces as she tries to figure out what they’re saying. But she doesn’t seem like the person who hates being unable to hear. It appears she’s learned to work with it, even though the society she lives in isn’t all that accepting of people who are different than them.

“Alright, then I’ll need the young couple’s names and payment and we’ll be done,” is what the man says after a couple of minutes of discussing some matters. Cassiel just agrees with everything, realizing that the living situations aren’t the best but they could have been a whole lot worse. Besides, buying off the house is a lot better than renting it. At least that way they’ll be left alone.

“My name is Cassi-“

“AH!” Dem suddenly shouts in interruption, startling the man who’s busy carving some extra details on the tablets.

“Cassia? Is that correct?” he asks, his pick hovering over the stone. Cassiel frowns, turning to Dem in confusion.

“Y-yes! Her name’s Cassia. I’m Dem. This here’s my little brother.” Dem throws his arm over Scam’s shoulders and pulls him closer. “We just moved here.”

The man raises an eyebrow, not looking impressed at all. “Obviously,” he mutters before continuing his documents. The girl simply looks amused, eyes passing over the three of them before she opens her mouth to speak.

“It’s a nice name,” she says. Her accent sounds a bit strange due to the fact that she can’t hear herself speak, but she’s very clear in her words and it’s easy to understand her. Cassiel smiles at her, their eyes meeting.

“Thank you,” she returns to her, making sure that she can read her lips. “What’s your name?”

But before the girl can answer her father holds out the tablet in her direction and hands Dem the pick – since he’s going to be the man of the house he’ll have to be the one to sign it all. Dem clears his throat and takes the materials, making quick work of putting down his name. After that he hands the man the bag Cassiel took from Alastair’s.

Once it’s done the man packs up his stuff, poking the girl in the shoulder and gesturing for her to follow him. She nods, giving the three of them another quick nod before going after her father who seems like he just wants to get away from there as quickly as possible.

And just like that they are no longer homeless. They have a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in. A garden to keep… For some reason, Cassiel looks mostly forward to that part. They give each other a short look before Dem clears his throat and points towards the door.

“How ‘bout we check out the city for a moment?” he asks. “Maybe look around for some jobs or something.”

“Can I get a job?” Scam asks curiously. Dem looks back at him with a thoughtful look.

“I dunno. We’ll see if anybody wants you,” he jokes. Scam rolls his eyes, shoving him playfully. Dem counters that act by poking him in the side, causing the younger brother to giggle it out happily.

The three of them get jobs near the port. Dem gets his wish and is accepted to join the sailors to catch the fish, while Scam and Cassiel are assigned to clean them and prepare them for the market. It’s a dirty job, but it’s one they don’t mind doing at all. Especially when they get to see Dem smiling each time his boat returns to the port with another great catch.

Scam and Dem share one of the bigger bedrooms. Despite the possibility of sleeping apart, it seems like they have the habit of staying close together during the nights. Cassiel doesn’t speak of it, instead just watching over them.

Within the first week Cassiel’s been through the entire city, putting up wards and making sure that this place is protected from the eyes of the Angels. Next to that, she perfects the brand that would shield her from Heaven. During a free day she heads into town and finds somebody to tattoo it upon her belly; a place where such a symbol is easily hidden underneath clothes.

Eventually a week turns into a month. The three meet some of the people that live close by. The man who sold them their house walks by now and then to see if the place is still by their liking. Occasionally his daughter joins him, though she never says anything other than a short ‘hello’.

Cassiel thinks about the girl some nights as she’s watching over the brothers. Her abilities would make it possible for her to hear again, making her life infinitely better. But the whole point of staying low means not to use any kind of power at all. Not even to clean herself up or to heal the brothers whenever they hurt themselves – again. It’s frustrating to say the least.

Scam always goes to sleep much earlier than Dem. He’s younger, which is why Dem always sends him up sooner to at least still have some sort of grip over the education over his brother. Scam often complained about it at first, but eventually he’s learned to go with it. That’s why, around the seventh week after their arrival, Cassiel is seated in the garden with Dem as Scam is asleep.

The summer season is drawing to an end, the night arriving much sooner than before. The sun has sunken in the horizon a while back and there isn’t much for them to see other than the flames from the torches Dem lit up.

They’re sitting in silence, the two of them already having spoken about their day at the docks during dinner. Or, mostly it had been Scam speaking and the two of them nodding and agreeing with every sentiment he makes.

“It’s a nice evening, isn’t it?” Dem asks.

“It is,” Cassiel agrees. “Though I suggest we head back inside soon.”

“Yeah, probably.” Dem gets on his feet, passing a hand over his shirt before holding it palm facing upwards in Cassiel’s direction. “May I help you up?”

Cassiel blinks up at him. For the past few weeks it seemed like Dem had to warm up to Cassiel all over again. He wasn’t hostile towards her anymore since they’ve arrived here, but there's now a playfulness in his behavior that had been missing in the past few weeks. One she figures must have disappeared after the reveal of her being an Angel.

“You may,” she says carefully, smiling despite herself. She puts her hand into Dem’s, letting his fingers close around hers. Slowly he pulls her up onto her feet, not letting go of her as he guides her back inside the house. They close the door behind them, careful to be quiet so as not to wake up Scam.

She is very aware of Dem’s hand moving away from hers, passing over the rest of her arm, her shoulder until he’s touching the small of her back as they move further inside. Unaware of what she’s supposed to do here, she simply waits for him to do anything.

But he does nothing. He just goes to stand in front of her, his hand moving away again. For a short few seconds they only look at each other, but then Dem turns away again, rubbing his eyes. Cassiel can see a shiver going through him.

“Dem?” she asks. She doesn’t touch him, knowing that it’s the last thing he needs if he gets into another memory of Alastair.

“Just- wait a second,” he tells her. Cassiel does as he asks, waiting as Dem recovers from his own mind. Moments like these have been happening occasionally – something that’s not likely to change in the near future.

She stays next to him as he fights that battle inside his head. It’s all Dem seems to need; slowly but surely he straightens again, removing his fingers from his eyes as he looks back at her while obviously holding back tears.

“You are no longer there,” she tells him, finally lifting up a hand and putting it against his cheek. Dem leans into the touch, closing his eyes once more.

“I know,” he returns. “I should probably go to sleep.”

“I will watch over you,” she assures him. Dem smiles sadly.

“I know you will.” He closes his eyes once more, leaning his forehead against hers. “I know you’ve been keeping my nightmares away.”

Cassiel doesn’t know if that’s a bad thing or not. He doesn’t seem upset about her doing that, but by now she’s not sure she can always assume Dem’s reaction to most things. With gentle movements she lifts up her hands until they’re resting on his chest.

“Remember when you told me you could take the memories away?”

Cassiel nods. Of course she remembers.

“Could you maybe still do that?”

She leans back, eyes looking right back at him. Just for a few short seconds she needs to be sure that he’s not kidding; that he’s actually serious about this.

“It’s a lot of memories that will be gone,” she tells him. “I shouldn’t have suggested it so lightly. It could change you.”

“Then is there anything else you can do? Anything that won’t make this suck as much as it already does?”

“Dem, what’s the matter?”

He steps back, finally separating himself from her completely. With his back pointed at her, he clears his throat once more, obviously trying to mask his tears as he rubs his cheeks dry.

“I- uh…” He shakes his head while chuckling bitterly. “I just wanna do right by you. And being the way I am now isn’t doing right by you at all.”

Cassiel sighs, taking his hand into her own and squeezing his fingers carefully. “I am willing to wait,” she assures him. Then she passes her fingers through his hair pulling him closer so she can kiss him gently on the lips.

Dem takes a surprised gasp of breath but doesn’t pull away. He carefully leans into the touch, though only for a few seconds. Then he does lean back, keeping his eyes closed.

“You’re not going to hurt me,” Cassiel assures him with a whisper. “You never could.”

“You don’t know that,” Dem returns shakily. He bites his lips together, opening his eyes a little bit. A small tear escapes from the corner of his eye.

“I mean it, Dem. Look at me.” She lifts up his head by gently pushing underneath his chin, making him look up at her like she instructed. “I am an Angel. There are ways for you to hurt me that you are unaware about. Ways for you unable to perform for you lack the knowledge or materials for it. So I can assure you that, even if you lose control over your body, I will not suffer for it.”

Dem doesn’t answer. He just stares at her with a glassy look in his eyes, his breath hitching while Cassiel gently strokes the back of his neck.

“Besides, I am much stronger than you, so it’s quite impossible for you to make me do anything without my consent.” That last bit is added with a small chuckle, and it does succeed in making Dem laugh as well, though only for a short second. Then he lowers his gaze once more, pressing his forehead against Cassiel’s.

“One day at a time?” he asks. Cassiel nods.

“One day at a time,” she agrees. She presses another short kiss against his lips before pulling him into a strong embrace.

 

Four months into their stay they find Scam a teacher who helps him reading. It brings Dem great pleasure to see the boy learning things he always wanted to know. The man is called Francesco and despite being extremely smart he’s also one of the most paranoid people in the world. Still, he agreed to teach Scam after some short time of persuasion.

With it being the middle of winter, the ships don’t sail out as much as they used to. With that, Dem takes up another job at a local smithy where he helps make weapons but furniture as well. Most of the furniture they end up having in the house is built by Dem’s own two hands.

Cassiel moves away from her job as a fish cleaner after she’s shown a certain skill in healing people; sailors often return wounded thanks to slipping on the deck. She helped splint a couple of broken bones and stitched up some cuts. After that, she’s been sent to the healer’s hut.

They thought of naming her a doctor but decided against it due to her being a woman. She hadn’t taken offence; if she would have it would have caused unnecessary attention she desperately wants to avoid at all costs.

Cassiel’s days are busy, but so are Dem’s. Scam helps out a hand to both of them whenever he’s alone; he learns a lot about the human body from Cassiel and is taught how to make a sword by Dem.

They celebrate Dem’s eighteenth birthday. Some people from Dem’s workplace join in on the celebration, passing by their house and enjoying the dinner Cassiel and Scam have prepared for him. Cassiel likes Dem’s friends. They’re pleasant to hang around with.

They’re all men, obviously, but they’re all respectful towards her which is more than she can say from other men in the city. There’s Vico; he’s a dark-skinned man from the South of the world – a former slave who managed to buy his freedom over the years. He’s married now with a first child on the way.

Then there’s Riccardo. He’s a bit of a wilder man; unmarried but unashamed for speaking his tales of his latest adventures at the whorehouse. According to Dem, he’s not really that good at his job, but he’s entertaining enough so they don’t fire him.

The third and the fourth friends are a bit of a weird case; they are two men – Cesare and Ezio. They are both unmarried, well in their thirties, and most obviously in love with each other.

It isn’t unheard of, men bedding other men. It is most certainly allowed for men to do so, even if they are married. But homosexual relationships do often not go further than that; being sexual. It is rather fascinating for Cassiel to see that there’s a form of homoromantic love happening right here in front of her eyes, even if the other men are unaware of it.

They talk loudly, drink wine and beer and they compliment Cassiel on her cooking. She leaves them alone on the most part, glad to have Dem relax like this.

It is later that evening that Dem approaches her, resting his hands on her hips and carefully kissing her mouth with such a tenderness that she wouldn’t be able to expect from any other man.

Winter passes, spring returns. Dem sails out a couple days in the week, Scam keeps on learning at school. Cassiel ends up teaching the doctors at the clinic more than they teach her.

By the time Scam celebrates his 14th birthday he decides it’s time to start sleeping on his own. He moves into the second bedroom, and while the first night might have been a difficult one for Dem, it doesn’t change from then on. A week after his birthday he approaches the deaf girl at last, learning that her name is Eileen and that she’s about his age.

They become fast friends.

The date of their one-year anniversary in Herculaneum comes and goes. There’s no news from Heaven, nor from Hell. They’re being left completely alone. None of them mind that detail any bit, as long as they don’t have to worry about their safety.

In September, a warm mid-day at the clinic, Dafne approaches Cassiel with a worried expression as she takes her hands and pulls them away from her body, raising them up in the air.

“Is there something the matter, Dafne?” Cassiel asks, confused as to why the woman would so suddenly grab her like that.

“We are worried about you, Cassia,” the other woman admits. Tamara and Rosario nod in agreement. Further in the back, the healer Adamo pretends not to listen to the conversation.

“What is it that worries your minds, friends?” Cassiel asks, though still gently pulling away from the ladies’ touch. She straightens out her dress, blinking down at the three young women who appear legitimately scared about something. Rosario even looks down at her pregnant belly, putting her hand on it as if to protect it.

“We were just wondering; you have been with Demetrius for a while now, yet you have not yet provided any children for him. Are you not worried that he’ll divorce you if you do not bring him heirs?” Tamara speaks quickly, though with a hushed voice. Cassiel frowns upon hearing her words.

“My apologies, but why would Demetrius expect me to provide him children if we are not married?” she asks. Besides, she isn’t even certain she can carry his children. Carrying Michael’s children would mean creating a life form that’s made out of two angels. It’s possible that having children with Dem is out of the picture as the Angel part of the child might burn out the human part of it.

“Not married?” Dafne asks loudly, even startling Adamo further back from the volume of her voice. “How can you not be married? You live together?”

“That is what we do; we live together,” Cassiel explains. “There’s nothing further than that.” She decides she’s done with the conversation and turns to the table to pick up the rest of the materials she had collected to make a new soothing balm. She put most of it in pots for the infirmary, but there’s one small pot she’s put into her own bag to try out at home, knowing that Dem will be sore from another day on the sea.

“I don’t think you understand, Cassiel. If you live together, you are married.”

Tamara’s words sink deeply, though she can’t seem to comprehend them fully. It does not make sense, after all. There is no ring on her finger, nor on his. There has been no ceremony, none of the traditions have happened.

Rather than heading home that afternoon she goes to Francesco’s place. Scam is still there, busy reading some tablets the man has prepared for him. The old man still startles when Cassiel appears in the living room, letting out a surprised gasp.

“Your daughter let me in,” Cassiel explains. Francesco glares at her for a short second before lifting up his glass of wine.

“What can I help you with, lady Cassia?”

It still manages to throw Cassiel off-guard most of the time. Being called Cassia ends up happening so often that sometimes she calls herself that way as well. Even Dem and Scam slip up occasionally, getting out that name with an ease that confuses them, also.

“I have been told some matters at work today that I realize now I do not know much about. What do you have on the matter of marriage?”

“What?!” Scam calls out, dropping his tablet on the table and staring at her with wide eyes. “Are you going to marry Dem?!”

“Silence, Scam. Focus on your studies,” Francesco corrects him before turning to Cassiel. He puts down his cup and gets on his feet. “You’re in luck, missy. I happen to know a lot of things on the matter. What do you wish to know?”

Cassiel sits down after being instructed to do so. When Francesco’s daughter offers her something to drink she declines politely. “I wish to know when two people are considered married.”

And so Francesco starts explaining her everything. Women were able to marry early, as soon as the reached the age of 12, while boys were allowed to marry the moment they turned 14. Women were expected to be virgins until their first marriage.

There are three kinds of marriage: confarreatio, which symbolized the sharing of panis farreus (or spelt bread); coemption, which is by ‘purchase’ as he explains. Finally, there’s usus, which is by habitual cohabitation. The latter tells that the man is intimate with the woman for an entire year, and if the woman would not leave the man for three nights she would come into the man’s power, which is why Cassiel now understands how the women at the infirmary confuse her with being married to Dem.

She learns a lot more, getting a grasp of what it all really means at last. And by the time Francesco is done explaining, Cassiel feels like she knows all there is to know about it. She thanks Francesco by shaking his hand and asks if Scam can come home with her already.

Aware of the countless questions she gets from the younger boy as they walk to their house, she barely recalls what answers she gives him.

At home she does not mention it at all, and luckily neither does Scam. Times moves on. Winter arrives once more. Dem turns nineteen. Another feast is thrown for him, only this time there are more people present, including Vico’s wife and their twin sons.

Dem’s nightmares are becoming less and less frequent. They kiss occasionally, but there’s never anything more than that. At night, he starts to hold on to her. She never complains.

The evening of Scam’s fifteenth birthday, after having spent and entire day with his friends – including Eileen who he seems to like a bit more than all the rest – Cassiel goes to lie down on the bed next to Dem without him asking her to. She lies down on her back, and he rolls to his side, his hand going over her arm. He gently caresses her skin, kissing her lips with such a tenderness that Cassiel smiles automatically.

But it doesn’t stay that way. Eventually there’s a bit more heat in his touch. Dem’s hand moving to her hip, his mouth pressing against hers more urgently. Cassiel simply closes her eyes, touching Dem’s cheek as she takes in every bit of him. He leans up above her, leaning onto his left arm while his right hand moves up onto her belly.

“Dem,” Cassiel breathes out heavily when he moves to kiss her neck, instead.

“I can do this,” he assures her. “I’m ready.”

Cassiel sighs silently, though not from annoyance. Dem’s hand moves lower once again, now slipping underneath her dress and going back to her belly. His fingers touching her skin there for the first time makes her gasp.

“Dem, we shouldn’t-“ she starts.

“Why not? Don’t you want this?” Dem counters. He retaliates by kissing her lips once more, letting his tongue pass gently over hers. The immediate response Cassiel has to that is to grab the back of his head and pull him closer.

She wants this. She never knew how she wanted this, but now she knows. She knows it very much. It feels good, to have Dem’s fingers on her. His mouth upon hers, the two of them breathing the same air (not that she needs to but it's become a habit lately), learning each other’s bodies further for the first time.

But as Dem’s hand moves down further, Cassiel shakes her head, pulling away from Dem’s face.

“I mean it, Dem. We shouldn’t do this. Not yet.”

Now Dem frowns. He moves his hands away, resting them both next to her face as he leans above her. “Why not?” he wonders, clearly a bit annoyed about it. Cassiel lets out another deep breath before cupping both of Dem’s cheeks.

“Because women should remain virgins until their first marriage,” she explains. “If it comes out that we have slept before we’re married, I’ll be considered a disgrace. A whore…”

Understanding passes over Dem’s face. He blinks twice before shaking his head, pulling away at last. He lies back down next to her, the two of them now looking at the ceiling, their hands resting next to their bodies.

“You’re right,” he agrees. Then he starts laughing, rubbing his eyes as he bares his teeth in a wide smile. “Scammy mentioned something about marriage. You think it might have been a hint?”

Cassiel laughs softly, turning to her side and taking his hand into her own. “The women at work think we are married, too. They were concerned that I have not provided you children, yet.”

Now Dem blinks at her looking a bit shocked. “Is that possible? To have kids, I mean?”

Cassiel shakes her head. “I do not know. That is something we’ll have to find out over time,” she admits.

Dem doesn’t smile, but he doesn’t look sad. Instead he seems… pensive. He’s thoughtful, mind obviously elsewhere. Cassiel doesn’t speak about it. She lies down against him, her head resting next to his shoulder. Automatically, he throws his arm around her, kissing her on the top of her head.

“So, when are we gonna do this?” Dem asks then, suddenly.

“Do what?” Cassiel asks.

“Getting married?”

Cassiel pulls back, looking up at Dem with wide eyes. “What makes you think I even want to marry you?” she asks, though only intending it as a joke. Luckily, Dem seems to grasp it immediately, grinning up at her.

“I just know,” he says before kissing her once again.

“You could at least ask me, no?”

Dem chuckles again, moving in the bed until he’s sitting up. When he gets on his feet, Cassiel sits up as well, aware that the strap of her dress falls off her shoulder but not bothering to pull it back up.

When Dem kneels down on the ground she smiles widely. Especially when he takes her hand into his own.

“Will you marry me?” he asks. Cassiel tries to fight away her smile, clearing her throat before taking a deep breath.

“I will,” she returns.

Dem lets out a happy sigh, climbing back up on the bed and pulling her face close to his to kiss her once again.

“Then we shall be married by the end of the month,” he says. Pressing their mouths together, they’re both extremely aware of the voice coming from the next room.

“Finally, now let me sleep for crying out loud! And close your damn door!”

Dem starts laughing loudly now, and Cassiel can’t help but chuckle along with it.

 

True to his word, Dem manages to put everything together by the end of the month. There isn’t too much about it; a couple of guests that serve as witnesses. A lot of the usual traditions Francesco spoke about could not be performed for Dem was an orphan and Cassiel had no parents to speak of. In most people’s eyes the marriage would probably not even be considered legal, but they don’t care about that.

Cassiel also offers to cut off her hair, as is another supposed tradition that would symbolize her leaving her childhood. Demetrius stops her, explaining that since she did not have a childhood it wouldn’t be necessary.

They decided not to bring any type of religion with it, for it might attract the eye of Heaven upon them.

It all happens extremely fast, but at the same time not fast enough. For the entire day of the ceremony, Cassiel wears nothing but a long white dress. Rather than having put together a flower crown of her own, Dem created one for her; one made of gold he collected in the years they’ve been here. He also made them a pair of rings; two golden bands rather simple, but not less beautiful despite that.

Things do not feel different after the ceremony. Despite now being officially married, there is no other sensation of seeing Dem that evening in the garden as he helps her clean everything up. It’s late in the night, the guests have already all left and Scam is in his bedroom probably sleeping. And while Cassiel starts picking up plate after plate, bringing them in the kitchen, Dem scrapes away the remaining food, throwing it in the pit for the animals to eat.

He lasts for about ten minutes before he drops everything and comes to stand behind Cassiel, wrapping his arms around her middle and pressing his face in her neck.

“Let’s go upstairs,” he suggests. Cassiel chuckles.

“Let’s clean up first. If we don’t now, you’ll be complaining again for the entire morning.” She knows she’s right, but she might also just be doing it to tease him a bit. Everybody in this house is aware of how impatient Dem is getting.

“I won’t,” Dem promises, though Cassiel knows he won’t be able to keep it. She drops the plates and turns around. They’re standing incredibly close, their bodies pressed almost completely together.

“You will,” she counters.

“Can’t you just, for one time, use your magic and clean this up immediately?” Dem leans forward, pressing his nose into her hair. “I know you can do it.”

“You know I’m not supposed to,” she counters.

“You’re not supposed to do things that would attract attention. This isn’t that. It’s inside our own house; nobody’s watching.”

He has a point there. And if the urgency in his touch is any indication, Cassiel realizes that he won’t give up until he gets what he wants. She might as well do it; after all, she’s been waiting along with him. With a sigh she closes her eyes, snapping her finger once. When she takes a look at the room again, it’s spotlessly clean, all the plates back in their place. The leftover food Dem hasn’t thrown away completely disappeared, the drinks all gathered into clean bottles.

 

“Oh, I adore you,” Dem whispers into her ear. Then he grabs her by the buttocks, pulling her up until he’s carrying her. His lips are once again pressed on hers. Cassiel holds on to his face, gladly opening her mouth for him to enter. As their tongues rub together, Dem starts on the journey upstairs.

Cassiel knows they are not like the standard married couples. Next to the fact that they’ve thrown aside nearly all of the traditions precedent to the marriage ceremony, they did not smear the doorpost with animal fat, nor did Dem carry her into the house. And even now, as they manage their way into the bedroom – with the door closed behind them this time – Dem puts her down on the bed to put on a candle.

The wedding night is supposedly always spent in the dark, but it’s obvious that Dem wants to see her. And to be fair, Cassiel wishes to see him, too. For it is Dem’s entire being that she so desires, and while she has grown close to the personal aspect of him, the physical aspect is to her still pretty much unknown.

Dem doesn’t waste any time; he pulls up the dark green toga he’d been wearing, along with the white shirt underneath. The loincloth goes away just as quickly.

Cassiel just watches, taking in Dem’s form. He’s toned, muscled from all the fighting and labor he’s done in his past. But next to that he’s also covered in scars; old wounds that Cassiel had not healed away when she revived him in the arena. While the stabbing wound the gladiator had made upon his chest is gone, all the other marks are still there.

Immediately, she reaches out for him, her hands going over some small scars on his belly, his shoulders, his upper arm. She looks not at the wounds his feet sustained, nor does she pay attention to the shortened middle-finger on his left hand. Because it does not matter; even wounded, scarred like this, it is still the man that she has fallen for – almost literally.

“It’s your turn,” Dem tells her shortly before he kisses her once. Cassiel nods, sitting down on her knees upon the bed. Dem grabs the underside of her skirt, pulling it up with such a gentleness that it makes Cassiel let out a shivering breath. When the dress is pulled off completely he throws it somewhere behind them. When he sees that she is not wearing anything underneath he grins at her.

“Figured I wouldn’t make you wait any longer already,” she confesses to him, leaning back down on the bed.

Now, while most women would act shy upon revealing their bare body to their husband for the first time, Cassiel has no such shame. After all, Dem has seen her like this once, already. As a matter of fact, had Iphigenia not been wearing any clothes when she obtained her as a vessel, she would probably have walked around the town as naked as possible, for it did not matter to her at all.

Yet, for some reason she’s extremely aware of Dem’s hungry eyes passing over her entire body. For just a short second she wonders if he likes it. It is, after all, not really her body. Except that there’s nobody else present in here. The vessel is hers as much as it could possibly be now.

Dem reaches out for her, though hesitant before he can touch. He looks up carefully; “May I?” he asks. Cassiel smiles and nods, allowing him to touch as he pleases. Which he does. He traces down her body, starting on her shoulders and moving down to her breasts, her stomach, hips and then her legs. Cassiel sighs softly, closing her eyes in enjoyment.

“Do you like that?” Dem asks. Cassiel nods.

“Yes,” she confesses. It feels strange when his fingers pass through the hair at her pubic regions, but it is not unpleasant. Especially when he starts kissing her belly immediately after.

“Have you ever been touched? Or have you touched yourself? In another vessel?”

Cassiel shakes her head, but she knows Dem can’t see it. Taking a deep breath, she repeats the gesture. “No,” she gasps out. “Never.”

“Good,” he whispers against her skin. “I like the idea of being your first.” His fingers move down, passing over her outer labia. She hisses when he pulls on the hairs, startling him with that reaction.

“You didn’t hurt me, don’t stop,” Cassiel quickly tells him before he does stop. Dem looks at her sheepishly before nodding, though now he crawls upward and claims her mouth again. His hand takes place down again, urging themselves past the outer lips and finding more to work with there. Cassiel gasps against him when he touches a sensitive spot that seems to make her shiver completely.

“Feels good, no?” he asks. Cassiel nods without opening her eyes. Her hand balls into a fist against his chest, the other one pressing their nails into his skin. That seems indication enough for Dem to keep on doing what he’s doing.

Already, he’s paying a lot more attention on her than he’s supposed to. The wedding night – no, any kind of sexual encounter is not destined for the woman’s pleasure. It’s only meant for the man’s. Yet Dem seems to ignore that completely as he strokes her gently, even managing a small whimper from the Archangel.

“Dem,” she whispers into his mouth.

“Do you want me as much as I want you?” he asks her with a low, breathy voice.

“Yes.” She presses her nails into his skin once again. She’s ready. She wants him. She needs him. It’s sinful how desperate she is for anything he can give her.

“Tell me if it gets too much.” And despite everything, there’s still that edge of uncertainty. The obvious fear that, while Dem might need this as much, he could still lash out. He could fall back into another memory with Alastair and act mindlessly once more.

So Cassiel decides to do anything to counter that. While the girls Dem had ‘used’ had never returned any affection towards him, she does the exact opposite. With everything she has she makes sure to let him know how much she cares for him. She touches him everywhere, kisses him at every opportunity she gets.

And by the time Dem prepares himself to enter her, opening up her legs and placing himself between them, she strokes through his hair. It’s a small, though familiar gesture to remind him that it’s her. That it’s them.

“I’m ready,” she assures him. She knows she is for she can feel the wet pool forming underneath her. Still, Dem looks for confirmation, only satisfied when he finds evidence of how ready she is on his fingers. The slick shimmers in the candlelight, and Dem stares at it for a short second before sticking that finger into his mouth.

Cassiel can’t begin to imagine it must taste any good, but Dem’s face does not change into one of disgust – though it doesn’t seem to enjoy it all that much, either. It probably does not really have any taste at all.

Yet, Cassiel can see he still hesitates. “Look at me,” she instructs him. When he does, she kisses him again, chastely. “Remember, you cannot hurt me.”

Dem nods shakily. “You would tell me if I do, right?”

“Yes.”

Then he takes another deep breath. “And you’ll stop me if I lose it?”

“I promise.” Another kiss before she moves her hand over his back, to his buttocks and pushing him closer against her. The friction must have done something good as Dem lets out a soft, barely audible moan. “Now make me yours. Please.”

Dem chuckles then, though it’s strained. “I cannot deny my lady’s wishes,” he whispers. He reaches between them, passing his hand between her folds and then slicking himself up. She knows it’s to ease the friction between them. She seeks out his mouth once more, allowing his tongue in the moment they touch.

Simultaneously he guides himself inside. As the tip of his length enters her body Cassiel gasps loudly against Dem’s lips. It does not hurt, though a part of her tells her it would have had she been human. The first time can be painful at first, so it appears.

But luckily, Cassiel does not feel pain that easily. What she does feel is something good, even though Dem doesn’t move. He breathes loudly, eyes never leaving her as he gauges her reaction.

“Good?” he asks. Cassiel nods with a smile.

“Very good,” she agrees. That seems to be enough for Dem as he pushes further in. Another hitch of breath comes from Cassiel, and even a soft moan escapes from her mouth. She puts her forehead against Dem’s cheek, wrapping her arms around him so as to pull him closer to her. Dem strokes her belly until he gets to her breasts, where he pays a bit more attention to her nipples.

They don’t speak. Once Dem is all the way buried into her he waits for a few more seconds. Making sure that Cassiel’s feeling fine he kisses her once, twice on the top of her head.

“Not too much?” he asks jokingly.

“Don’t flatter yourself, you’re not that large,” Cassiel counters. Dem then laughs.

“Wow, that’s just hurting my pride there.”

“Dem I swear if you do not start moving right now I am going to flip us over and do all the work myself.”

Another laugh, followed by a kiss. “Yes, your highness.” And that’s that, finally he starts shifting his hips, nearly pulling all the way out before slamming back in. Cassiel’s entire body shakes with the movement. It’s good. It’s really good.

One would say it’s almost like Heaven, though she would never because that would be blasphemy.

Dem sets up a pace, and Cassiel moves along with him to meet him halfway. She’s barely aware of the sounds she makes, though the thought of Scam hearing this does come to mind. With just the snap of her finger she wards up the place to make it soundproof. Nobody should hear what happens inside. This is only reserved for them, after all.

“Faster,” Cassiel instructs Dem eventually. “Please.”

Dem obeys, speeding up his movements though not losing the force. For a few seconds their eyes meet and they don’t look away. Cassiel strokes his cheek, unable to understand how this could be happening. How could her existence have turned out like this? How could she possibly even have done this with Michael possessing this wonderful human being on top of her? It would not have felt anything close to as good as this is.

This is euphoria. Ecstasy. Pleasure in its truest form.

“Cass,” Dem whispers against her lips. She sighs happily.

“I love you,” she returns. There’s a hard thrust, followed by a short stop. Then Dem looking down at her with such adoration in his eyes. He moves a couple of strands of hair out of her face as he smiles.

“I love you.” It’s simple, just three words, but they mean everything. Because four years ago, Cassiel would not have known what love was. Not the way she does now.  Meeting Dem has ruined her as an Angel, but has made her understand humanity more than ever. Yes, there’s supposed to be pain and hurt, but all the bad is worth it when you get all the good along with it.

The pleasure Cassiel felt seems infinite, but eventually something seems to happen. It’s indescribable, as if something heavy is dropped upon her, getting heavier and heavier by the second. But not in a bad way, yet it still frightening.

She squeezes onto Dem’s arms, hoping she won’t break them with her touch. Something in her chest wells up from the inside. Her ears nearly pop. Keeping her eyes open starts to get hard.

“De-Dem, something’s happening,” she tells him, not knowing at all what it is. Dem grunts in agreement, his mouth next to her ear.

“Yeah, I’m getting close, too,” he says. Close? Close to what? Is this the climax that’s supposed to come with intercourse? Is that what this holy-like feeling is? It feels like the biggest understatement, really.

“Dem,” she tries again, but no further word gets out as Dem starts to slam into her with an impatient pace. The bed shakes underneath them, straining from all that’s happening upon it.

“Cass.”

The feeling gets stronger. As if she’s falling, further and further down. She holds on to Dem, afraid to lose him if she doesn’t. And Dem pushes and pushes, harder and harder, deeper until he’s completely pressed against her. And then he shakes, groaning loudly, once, as his movements slow down. And she can feel it, feel him fill her up from the inside. Letting in the seed that would possibly create a new life form – if it can. And that realization, the thought that each time they’ll do this the chances of her being with child becomes bigger, it’s what seems to be the tipping point.

Though he’s gone through the aftershocks of his orgasm, he keeps on slowly thrusting into her. The help from his hand at her sensitive spot is what does the ultimate trick and suddenly she’s no longer falling; she’s soaring up. Ejected into the sky for a short few seconds before falling down again.

And it feels so good. It’s a thrill she never would have expected to experience, yet she did. Most probably being one of the first Angels to do so. Had she been human, her heart would be racing. Her breath would be fast yet deep.

Dem holds on to her, still buried inside, hips pressed together tightly. He smiles down at her, their noses close as he hovers above her lips.

“How was that?” he asks. Cassiel opens her eyes at last, finding his playful yet exhausted green ones staring back at her. She smiles back, touching his cheek affectionately.

“It was perfect,” she tells him. She then kisses him once more, long and deep. “Thank you, husband.”

“You are welcome, my beloved wife.”

When Dem falls asleep after a few minutes, Cassiel isn’t too far behind him. And in his dream, they make love all over again and again, until the early hours of the morning when they wake up and do it once more.

 

It happens the summer after Dem turns 20. The date is now August 22nd, the year 79, and they’ve been at Herculaneum for nearly their third year. Cassiel gets out of Dem’s dream, though what pulled her out she’s not sure. She would have sworn to feel the house shake, yet now that she’s focused upon it there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Dem is still asleep next to her. He looks peaceful, though it had been a good dream to be fair. She smiles as she looks at him, leaning his direction to gently kiss him on the shoulder. Then she gets out of the bed, walking up to the window to open up the blinds.

It’s another hot summer’s day ahead of them, yet there’s a lot of work to do. Luckily, Dem has his free day so Cassiel lets him sleep. She puts on a long, dark blue dress and exits the room without making too much noise. Already downstairs is Scam who seems to be talking to Eileen with wild arm-movements.

They hang out a lot, lately. Cassiel wonders how long it’ll be until he’ll ask her father for her hand. It wouldn’t be unusual for people their age to get married, after all. And Eileen is a lovely girl who does not stand for being treated differently just because she can’t hear.

Once, Cassiel asked her if she would want to hear would she ever get the chance to. Her answer had been astonishing.

I don’t think so,” she had said. “I’ve grown so used to the silence, I’m afraid the sound will kill me.”

And seeing the pair like that in her living room she does have to agree that Eileen can hold her own. She reads lips, and she can speak despite not being able to hear herself. She even made up some sort of language with her hands that she’s taught her closest friends.

“Good morning,” Cassiel greets them. Eileen doesn’t look up for she didn’t hear her, but Scam does wave at her. Cassiel doesn’t take it personally that he barely speaks to her; she can understand love, after all. She smiles, getting to the kitchen to see if there’s anything left to eat. Taking out some bread and fruits, she takes place at the table outside, taking in the sight of her garden with much joy.

She’s barely aware of eating the entire bread, the two apples and the three oranges she appears to have taken outside. Though when her hand goes onto her stomach and somehow she still feels a bit hungry, a thought passes through her.

She’s hungry?

And true to her thought, when she looks down at the table she sees the remains of all the things that are now buried inside her stomach. Things that she’s never had a need of, before.

Something tingles inside of her, as if her Grace is speaking to her. It’s a strange sensation, but it’s there nonetheless. When she looks deeper inside her vessel, searching around with her Grace, she finds the answer easily enough. And it’s such a shock that for a moment she forgets everything else.

She nearly startles out of her seat when Dem shows up, his long hair bedridden and his beard full. He looks handsome despite only just waking up, and her first reaction is to smile at him when he leans in to kiss her.

“Did I startle you, love?” Dem asks as he takes place next to her, dropping his own food and taking her hand into his own. Then he pulls up her knuckles against his lips, kissing them as well.

“It’s alright, I was far away with my mind,” she assures him. “Say, how about we head out to outside the city? I want to have a walk.”

“Outside the city? But we’ve never been outside the city,” Dem counters with a frown. When he offers to fill up Cassiel’s glass, she shakes her head.

“Technically we’re shielded all the way up to Vesuvius, so there’ no danger in Heaven seeing us. I could just use a change of scenery.”

Dem takes a bite of his bread. “How ‘bout work?” he asks with his mouth full.

“I can take the day off.” She clears her throat, shifting in her seat until the strap of her dress fall over her shoulder. “If you wish we can move back upstairs so I can… convince you more?”

Dem swallows, blinking down at her bared shoulder. When Cassiel’s hand moves onto his thigh he almost jumps up in his seat.

“How about it, love?” she whispers into his ear. Her hand finds his groin and she has no shame in grabbing his shaft, squeezing it once gently before stroking it with soft caresses.

“I- uh-“ Dem can’t manage a word out, but his answer is obvious. They hurry back upstairs, where Cassiel takes him into her mouth and she expertly blows his brains out until he’s just a mess on the bed. She doesn’t even care that she didn’t get her pleasure; seeing her husband so blissed out like that is enough for her.

He agrees to her question, obviously. Which is why, in the afternoon, the four of them are walking in the long open fields outside of Herculaneum. Cassiel holds on to Dem, glad that they’re out of the eye of the people – displays of affection aren’t exactly appreciated in public, after all.

It’s good to see Scam and Eileen run around excitedly, acting much younger than the fifteen years they currently are. At one point she tackles him into the grass and they roll around in it, nearly disappearing from view. It’s good to see it. Especially when a stray dog seems to have caught interest in the two of them and starts to chase them down playfully. Cassiel can already imagine Scam approaching them with the news that he’s taking the dog home without needing Dem’s consent.

Despite the heat, a soft breeze hits them. It feels good. Cassiel takes off her sandals and Dem does the same. They step with the grass underneath their feet, hands linked. Cassiel’s hair moves along with the wind and the same goes with her dress.

“He looks like he’s having fun,” Cassiel says, nodding towards Scam who now has a large dog all over him. Eileen is probably somewhere in the high grass near them, though out of view. Cassiel can hear their giggles from far enough away.

“He needed this. Thank you, my love,” Dem returns. He then lifts up Cassiel’s hand and kisses her knuckles once more. She smiles, knowing all too well that Scam might have been cooped up from all the studying Francesco puts him up to. Somehow, the boy has managed to convince even that paranoid old man that Scam could become a lawyer, perhaps.

“I have something I need to tell you, beloved,” Cassiel slips out before she thinks better of it. Dem seems only mildly concerned for a second before he smiles back at her.

“I’m listening,” he assures her. Cassiel licks her lips once, clearing her throat before stepping closer to him.

“I’m with child,” she tells him, a grin wide on her face. Unable to hold back her excitement, she squeezes Dem’s hands without thinking about it.

And Dem’s reaction is priceless. His face drops, mouth fallen open, eyes wide. For a moment it seems like he’s stopped breathing. But then the corners of his lips curl back upwards, and his eyes glimmer with some sort of emotion.

“You’re pregnant?” he asks in clarification. Cassiel nods, pulling his hand to her stomach and dropping them upon it.

“I realized it today,” she admits. “We are going to have a child.”

Dem shouts it out, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her up from the ground in his excitement. He turns them around, startling probably even Scam from where he’s hidden.

“I can’t believe it! I’m gonna be a father? You’re gonna be a mother? This is incredible, sweetheart!”

And Cassiel has to agree. It is unbelievable, for at first she thought it wouldn’t be possible to provide any offspring. She’s glad she’s proven herself wrong about this.

Their celebration is cut short when another loud rumble comes up from in the ground. It shakes underneath their feet, nearly making Dean lose his footing. Immediately, their gaze turns to the mountain next to them. Eileen and Scam, along with the frightened dog, comes running back in their direction.

“What just happened?” Scam asks.

“I felt the ground shake, was there an explosion?” Eileen asks as well. She’s holding Scam’s hand, though it looks less affectionate and more reassuring.

“I think it came from the volcano,” Dem says, pointing towards the mountain ahead of them.

“It cannot be; it is not meant to erupt for another three-hundred and sixty-five years,” Cassiel tells him in return.

“Well, something’s happening, that’s for sure.” Dem doesn’t look too keen on staying here for much longer. “C’mon, lets go back home.”

The five of them start their trek back to the city, though Cassiel casts another glance backwards, eyeing Vesuvius with a studying look.

This shouldn’t happen. A heavy, unsettling feeling goes through her, though at the same time she tries to tell herself that it’s probably going to be nothing and it’ll be dormant again in just a few days.

Oh, how much she wishes that to be true.

 

Wedding Portrait

Chapter Text

In the time that Cassiel has gotten to know Demetrius Enoch she’s found many ways to describe him. First of all, he’s brave, ready to give up his life if it would mean saving the ones he cares about. He’s faced countless of foes in battles he was forced to fight, and he’s sacrificed himself to spare his brother’s innocence countless of times.

Secondly, he’s also incredibly smart. Despite not being able to read, or never being schooled by anybody he knows a lot more than he thinks himself. He could build a house from scratch while keeping all its important structures to mind while at the same time never foregoing the details of artwork. He can make furniture, design toys for children and knows how to handle a ship inside and out.

His kindness is also a part that makes him into the man that he is today. While he’s been through unspeakable things that he clearly just wants to leave behind in his past, never to be thought of again, anything that triggers him isn’t enough for him to start shouting at people. It’s safe to say that he’s gotten a bit of a grasp on his situation. And while sometimes it’s still hard for him and he has to seclude himself from his friends or his family to prevent himself from hurting them, things are going a lot better than they used to.

There are many more words to describe Demetrius Enoch, but one word Cassiel wouldn’t have expected to have been accentuated like that would have been impulsive.

“What did you do?” she asks him. He’d been making a bit of a show, chasing her out of the house that morning and having Scam keeping her distracted until late in the evening. And once he’d been done, he had come down, put his hands upon her eyes and guided her back upstairs.

As it turns out, the surprise is in the third, smaller bedroom. There isn’t much space in it but it’s large enough for a child, which seems to be exactly what Dem had in mind because against the wall stands a wooden cradle, decorated with small little animals that couldn’t have been drawn by him. There’s toys scattered around on the floor – toys that look handmade though not just by his hands.

“The guys and I worked all day on this,” Dem says proudly, gesturing to the room. Then he points at the wall. “Vico’s wife even came by to draw these murals for us. Aren’t they nice?”

“They are very nice, Dem, but… how did you put this together in just one day?”

“Two days.” Dem shrugs. “I told the boss that there was a little one on the way and he gave me the day off to prepare. Yesterday was my free day anyway, so…” He puts his hand on Cassiel’s belly. Now that they’re aware of the child growing inside of it, they are all the more aware of how more swollen it is in comparison to normally. They just never paid attention to it.

After all, Cassiel, as an Archangel, does not show the usual symptoms of pregnancy other than eating (much) more than before. She never gets nauseous, doesn’t get tired. Her feet aren’t swollen and her breasts don’t hurt – though they do look a bit bigger than normally in all honesty. The fact that the dresses she wears are often loose-fitting and she has no way of looking at herself naked it took a while for the facts to make sense.

“Dem, I don’t know what to say,” Cassiel admits. It’s not that she doesn’t like it, but there’s just the fact that it’s barely sunk in yet that they’re expecting a child. Up until a few days ago she had accepted the fact that she probably never would get pregnant with him, and now she’s suddenly eating for two. Or for one, really, since all the food she’s taking in is going straight to the child.

“You say that you love it?” Dem doesn’t lose his smile, but instead walks up to her. He holds her to her hips. “Don’t you love it?”

“Of course I love it!” It’s a quick recovery, followed by a fast peck on the mouth. “I promise I do. It’s just- so very sudden, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well, you getting pregnant was also very sudden,” Dem points out. “How far are you, actually?”

Cassiel smiles, looking down at her belly and enjoying the sight of the tiny swell of it.  

“Adamo thinks about twelve weeks now.” She couldn’t say, really, for that’s not a thing she can exactly sense. “The ladies were very excited when I brought the news.”

Dem now laughs loudly. “Of course they are, they were afraid I was gonna divorce you for not providing good heirs.”

“They’re very dramatic.” Dem laughs again. He kisses her again, but that’s enough for Cassiel. “I need to prepare dinner,” she says as she pulls herself away from him. Dem complains, running after her but not catching her as she runs down the stairs.

Just as she’s about to ask Scam if he’s going to invite Eileen over she’s interrupted by a loud rubble. The ground shakes underneath them again, tipping over a couple of vases and bottles in the house. Scam holds on to the table he’s standing next to, while Cassiel feels Dem bump up to her when he loses his footing.

“Cass, what’s going on?” Scam asks the moment it dies down. He’s breathing heavily, much like Dem is doing behind her. “Is it the mountain again?”

“I’m not sure,” Cassiel answers truthfully. “I should probably go and check it out…” She isn’t too certain about that part, knowing that the volcano is on the edge of the warded off distance. It’s possible to put up more wardings, of course, but broadening the area all so suddenly would surely raise questions in Heaven.

“What’s gonna happen if it’s the volcano?” Scam asks in worry.

“I’m not sure, but we might have to evacuate the city,” Cassiel admits. Nobody seems to happy with that answer. By now, this place they’ve come to consider home is not really something they just want to let go of. They like it here; they’ve built a life here. A new life’s going to be brought in this place, too. Frowning, Cassiel looks down at her stomach. Whatever is going to happen with the volcano, she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this little one is safe.

“Hurry back, Scam and I’ll prepare the food.” Dem nods in her direction, assuring her that it’s alright for her to leave. Cassiel only blinks, turning to look at Scam afterwards. Then she spreads her wings, leaving the house without a warning. She flies up to the edge of the city, viewing the volcano further away. On the first glance it doesn’t look like much is happening.

Seventeen years ago, long before they came to move to Herculaneum, there had been a powerful earthquake. It had practically destroyed the Bay of Naples, especially Pompeii. While that city had been near as well, the fact that it hadn’t yet completely built itself back up after the events was mostly the reason why Cassiel had chosen to forgo Pompeii.

When they asked the locals about the tremor they had not looked up. According to them, small earthquakes like that are very usual in this place, and the fact that there hadn’t been one in three years had been surprising enough. Cassiel figures it probably had something to do with her presence.

Which makes it all the more alarming now that there are tremors happening again. Especially now that they are becoming more and more frequent the more days pass.

Cassiel frowns as she inspects the volcano. “What are you trying to tell me?” she asks lowly.

It’s slowly getting dark, the evening falling over them. But despite the lack of light she can see everything all the more clearly. Though, while knowing that she should have a look, she finds herself hesitant still to venture upwards.

Then with a sigh she spreads her wings once more. Closing her eyes, she uses her Grace to extend the wardings, letting them go all the way past the volcano. She just hopes nobody in Heaven is paying attention to it. She might even lift off the wardings after she’s done. Perhaps they wouldn’t have noticed it.

Arriving at her destination Cassiel realizes immediately that there is something wrong, but not in the way she would have expected. Much like she originally thought, the volcano is active. Very active, it seems, more like on the verge of erupting in only a couple of hours.

No, there’s something else around here; something she senses. Something familiar. She dares not move as she tries to identify the force that hovers around this place, while bursts of hot and heavy air pass over her – while it does not hurt her, a normal human being would have been burnt to death by the sheer temperature of it.

“Hello, Cassiel.”

Dread fills her complete form. Her Grace shivers visibly, making it pass over onto her skin. The voice sounds familiar. Pained, and resentful. It is the sound of a woman she’s only seen once, but while the voice is female, the person behind it isn’t. Or probably doesn’t identify themselves as such.

“Michael,” Cassiel greets her sibling. She turns to face him, seeing him in that same vessel as before. The woman he’s possessing stares back at her blankly. his long brown hair is now put up, probably so as to keep it out of the way. He’s wearing clothes that seem to belong to a man rather than a woman. On his feet are very neatly-made sandals that look like much work have been put into it.

“It is a pleasure to see you again, sibling,” he greets her. Cassiel can only glare at the brother she once loved. She still loves, in fact. Only it’s not as much a pleasure for her to see him.

“I wish I would be able to say the same, Michael,” she returns. Remembering the time where Michael’s expression wasn’t as filled with disappointment to her as it is now. “Not that I do not enjoy being in your presence, but having you here certainly does not mean anything good, I suspect?”

“Depends on where you stand,” Michael returns. He takes a step forward, making Cassiel do one backwards simultaneously. That makes Michael frown when he realizes she’s stepping away from him. “I wished to speak to you before the others would join us. Try and get some sense into you.”

“The others,” Cassiel mutters. “This is an intervention, then? I’m afraid much sense won’t be talked into me.”

“It does not hurt to try.” Michael takes another step. Cassiel does the same. She’s nearing the border of the volcano. Smoke starts forming from underneath her. They shouldn’t waste much more time, if she can get to the city and talk to the people, she might succeed in evacuating them all.

Somehow, in her movement, Michael seems to notice something on her. His eyes wander down to her hand, which has balled into a fist. Cassiel hasn’t yet brought up her blade but she won’t hesitate on using it. After all, it’s not just her she needs to protect now.

“You are married,” he states, pointing at the golden ring she’s wearing. Cassiel looks down, seeing it around her fourth finger on the left hand. Then she clears her throat, nodding.

“I am,” she agrees.

“Do you love him?”

And Cassiel hesitates. Not because she does not know the answer to that. Mostly she doesn’t speak up immediately knowing that he will not take the answer very well. After all, is it not him who probably loves her as much without really realizing it?

“Yes,” she finally says. She could not lie to him. He deserves better than that. Even if the truth hurts. And it visibly hurts, that much is clear. Something hard passes in Michael’s eyes.

“You know it is not normal,” Michael tries to reason. He attempts to sound hard, but there’s something in his voice that betrays the hurt. “An Angel cannot marry a human. I doubt this marriage between you two is even legal.”

Cassiel shrugs. “It’s real for me. It’s real for Dem. Is it really that hard for you to understand that when Father gave us a chance to choose I actually took it?”

“Is it because of me?”

Cassiel frowns. “You had nothing to do with my choice. I simply chose Demetrius. I chose him and you cannot change that now. Though I do wish it would not have changed the way all of you look at me.”

Michael says nothing more on the matter. He stops in his steps, no longer trying to approach her anymore. His eyes are cast downwards, his mouth pulled into a thin line. Eventually he sighs.

“You really will not reconsider, will you?” he asks.

“You know I will not.”

“Very well,” Michael says. For a short moment, a very fraction of a millisecond, Cassiel expects to be let go. That Michael finds some ounce of good in himself to decide and let her go. A moment that he realizes he loves her enough not to stop her. But it does not last long, because this is Michael; he’s the good soldier, does as he’s told without questions asked.

So Cassiel’s not too surprised when, suddenly, there are three more figures standing around them. She recognizes Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel. All three of them are holding their blades in their hands. Michael, too, reveals his weapons. On one hand there’s the usual golden blade, though on the other hand there’s the Lance.

The weapon created by him to use in his final battle against Lucifer.

They are going to destroy her. And it’s obvious she’s got nowhere to go. If she flies, they’ll follow her. And the prospect of being hit by the Lance do not look favorable for her. Hitting an Angel with it would make them suffer a slow and agonizing death. Cassiel has seen the effects on some of the Angels that sided with Lucifer and had been executed accordingly. So far, the weapon has not yet been used against Lucifer.

“You believe that the five of you will be enough to stop me when it took the entirety of Heaven and our Father to stop Lucifer?”

Raphael smirks, and so does Uriel. Gabriel’s expression does not change. It seems… conflicted? He clearly does not want to be here.

“Lucifer was more powerful than you,” Raphael says. “You should not compare yourself to our sibling for you are clearly not even close to their strength.”

Cassiel glares at him. The sun has now completely set, the evening having fallen around them. Would a human being walk near the volcano they would not notice the five figures standing on top of it. Not that they would with all the smoke, anyway.

“We give you one last chance, Cassiel,” Michael calls out, his voice bouldering over the noise of the volcano. Cassiel looks him into the eyes, seeing that he’s very serious about what he’s talking. “You let go of this madness, you agree that it was all just a foolish phase, and we’ll welcome you back to our Home. You will be reprimanded, but not in the way the other option gives you.”

“You know I will not surrender,” Cassiel points out. “But I do wish to know one thing; how did you find me? I believe I deserve to know at least that?”

Raphael makes a disgusted face, pointing towards Cassiel’s stomach, eyeing it even though the swell of it shouldn’t be visible due to the dress. “That,” he says. “It’s that thing there that alerted us.”

“Excuse me?”

“You did not sense it?” It’s the first time Gabriel speaks. He looks surprised about that revelation.

“What was there to sense?”

“The immense power you used to conceive this… abomination… Lots of cosmic shock waves were sent out all over the Universe. We felt it all over Heaven. After that, all we had to do was to follow its trail and there you were.”

“I did not use immense power to conceive the child,” Cassiel immediately defends herself, only when the words are out she realizes it might not be the absolute truth. Had she not been hoping to conceive the entire time? Had she not been wishing that this time it would work? That they would finally have some good news? Could she possibly, without knowing it, have used her Grace to have the child created?

She looks down automatically. The thing they’ve been trying to achieve, while being their greatest creation, turns out to also be their downfall. It seems like there would have been no way for them to be a family.

Unless Cassiel would have been patient, and waited until the child would have been naturally conceived.

Oh, no…

Suddenly she looks up, glaring up at her brothers who are all standing there, ready to jump her. There’s no way she’s just going to surrender like that. It’s not just her in here, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect the little one she’s carrying. Even if it means taking down all five of her siblings without hesitation. She would, no questions asked.

Though she wishes Gabriel would not have been involved. Perhaps Uriel, too – he had been the funniest Angel in the garrison to hang out with, after all. But with him it’s obvious that he does not stand behind her. At least with Gabriel there seems to be confusion.

“Be certain, I might not win this fight but before I go down I will take at least two of you down with me,” she warns them, finally releasing her own blade. As it falls into her hand, she gives it a short look. It’s the same Golden blade as Gabriel’s and Raphael’s. And Uriel’s? That isn’t normal, he isn’t-

Except he is. Cassiel can see it. His Grace shines ever so brighter, though it’s subtle. Because there must always be four Archangels in Heaven, and with Cassiel disappearing again, Uriel must have taken her place. She doesn’t know what to think of it, of being replaced so easily.

And then she realizes how that must have felt like to Lucifer, who had been replaced as well.

“It is a worthy sacrifice,” Raphael admits. And then he charges her direction. The others are close behind her.

It’s a testament to Cassiel’s power as a warrior that she manages to evade all of their blows. While she might not hit them, too, never once do any of their blades touch her skin.

She’s the most wary of the lance, putting all her attention to removing the weapon from Michael’s hands. If it’s gone, at least she won’t have a slow agonizing death to look forward anymore. No, it would be quick, then, instead.

Uriel slashes her in the arm. A white light shines through the wound, her Grace bleeding out of it. She hisses in pain, letting out a short curse. Then she returns the gesture to Uriel, who now has a glowing gash on his forehead. Yet she does not have the time to be happy about that development. She has a manic Raphael to avoid, after all, as he swings his blade around like a madman. It’s wild enough that all the other Angels steer clear of his path of destruction.

“You shall not take me down,” she tells him. When the blade comes her way again she responds automatically by grabbing it as it dives her way. It cuts into her hand, surely leaving scars there that she won’t be able to fix in the future. But she’s able to stop him from stabbing it through her chest.

And it hurts, a lot, but it distracts Raphael enough to swing her own blade. Yet she does not manage to hit him in the chest or the head – such as would be a fatal wound. She gets him in the gut. That is a wound he would be able to heal from, though it does hurt like one wouldn’t be able to imagine.

At least for now Raphael is out of the battle. Cassiel manages to rip Raphael’s blade out of his hand and she throws it into the volcano. It won’t destroy it, but it will be very annoying to retrieve it.

There’s no time to celebrate her victory. Uriel is back on her, followed by Gabriel who seems to have a real conflict of interest here.  

It goes on for a bit like this. For a moment it looks like she’s about to win. The lance is thrown out of Michael’s hand, Gabriel keeps on missing her, Raphael is down and Uriel is just no match to her strength. That is, until two arms grab her, making her drop the blade. She’s pulled down until she’s on her knees. Somebody holds her head back by grabbing her hair, revealing her neck.

“I got them, do it now,” Michael says. Cassiel tries to shake him off, to fight herself free, but it doesn’t work. While they equal in strength, the position he has her in is just impossible to break free from. She shouts it out, attempting to release herself.

Uriel is holding on to a wound in his gut, groaning painfully. The only Angel that’s still standing it Gabriel, who frowns in her direction before looking down at his blade.

“Gabriel, stop stalling!” It’s Raphael who shouts it through gritted teeth, still obviously in much pain. Cassiel struggles some more to get out of Michael’s grip and for a moment it seems to work, only for him to grab her tight again after that.

“Gabriel, orders are orders. You know this,” Michael assures her. “It’s what Father wants.”

Gabriel frowns. “Is it?” he asks. He then tightens his hold on the blade, giving Michael an angry look. “Is this really what Father wants?”

“Why do you hesitate? Just do it!” That’s Uriel, clearly getting as annoyed as his brothers. Gabriel takes a step forward, then, eyes lowering down on Cassiel. He does not respond to the question.

“Gabriel, please, I beg of you. Father gave me free will and I chose. I should not be punished for that,” she tries to reason with him.

He takes another step. His blade is raised again.

“Gabriel, do not do this,” she tries again.

“’m sorry, Sis,” he says. He looks down at her belly for a short moment, then back at the blade. A moment of thought passes over his face, and then he grabs her by the shoulder and shoves the blade deep into her gut.

And Cassiel screams – it hurts. More than she would have been able to imagine. It’s like every inch of her Grace is being ripped out of her, piece by piece. It hits her deep in the organs of her borrowed vessel, the end of the blade sticking out from the back. Behind her, she can hear Michael letting out an equally loud scream. The arms that had been holding her let go at last, Michael falling down on the ground while Cassiel loses her balance as well. Gabriel pulls out the blade, kneeling down in front of her to stop her from falling.

“Forgive me, Cassiel,” he quickly tells her. “I did not know any other way to get to Michael.”

Cassiel cannot answer. She screams, loud. But not just through the voice of her vessel; her Grace screams, too. A scream that would get any human nearby deaf instantly for it is not meant to be heard by the mortals. From the city, it would sound like a long and loud thunderclap.

Cassiel presses her hand against the wound on her stomach, feeling the Grace seep out of it.

“We have to get out of here, now,” Gabriel warns her. He grabs her by the shoulders and tries to make her stand up, but it just hurts too much. She can’t move. Tears are rolling over her cheeks, screams keep on escaping her mouth.

At this point, death would nearly even be welcome to arrive. She can immediately understand why neither Raphael nor Uriel have stood back up; it just feels physically impossible to do so without bleeding to death.  

“Gabriel, you traitor!” Uriel shouts. He stands on his feet despite his pain, wielding his blade and preparing himself to take Gabriel down. The other archangel is too fast for him, though. He throws the blade in Uriel’s direction and the weapon sinks itself right into Uriel’s chest.

So much for Cassiel’s replacement. With the wound being fatal, light shines out of Uriel’s mouth and eyes. He shouts it out, his vessel burning up until it falls down on the ground, lifeless. Burnt etchings of his former wigs are now engraved into the stone underneath them.

“Come on, Cassiel, there’s no time to waste! This volcano is going to burst and we need to get everybody out of there now!”

Some sense seems to find Cassiel when he mentions the city. Dem is there. So are Scam, Eileen and all their other friends. They are going to die unless they get everybody out of there. She allows Gabriel to pull her up, though when she does that she notices Michael on the ground behind her, his face just as pained as she feels.

She feels horrible that this has happened between them. They used to be friends, and now there’s so much hate. This is not what she wanted.

“Forgive me, brother,” she mutters in her brother’s direction. Michael eyes her with small eyes, but there’s no expression other than pain. She wishes this all would just not have happened.

Next to her, Gabriel spreads his wings. With difficulty she manages to guide him to the right house, making them land right into the living room where both Dem and Scam are sitting, obviously waiting for her to return.

They jump up in surprise, especially when Cassiel sags forward the moment they land. Dem hurries to her, catching her when she’s about to fall.

“Cass, what happened?” he asks in worry. Scam hurries to her as well, only to stop when he realizes she did not come here alone.

“Who are you?” the boy asks, suspiciously.

“I am not here to hurt you or anybody here,” Gabriel says, hurrying to the front door until he sees that there are barely any people on the streets. It’s the middle of the night at this moment, maybe nearing the morning. They only have a few hours to stop it, Cassiel figures.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?” Dem asks. He pulls her along to the seat where he lets her lie down. Cassiel groans in pain, her hand still clutching tightly to the wound in her gut.

“It hurts so much,” Cassiel grits out. More tears roll out of her eyes, which she squeezes shut as she bites her teeth together. “Dem…”

“I’m here, beloved,” Dem assures her, kissing her on her sweaty forehead. “I love you so much, and I know that you’re going to fight through this pain.”

“Not that I don’t understand Cassiel’s pain here, but we really need to move.” Gabriel storms back inside, looking at Scam with a serious expression. “You, come with me to the streets. We need to get everybody out of the house. We still have a few hours to manage a evacuation of the city. You, lover-boy, seal up that wound. If it stops bleeding Grace, it’ll start healing again.”

Gabriel grabs Scam by the arm and pulls him back out of the house. Dem eyes them warily before returning to Cassiel, lifting up the dress until her stomach is revealed.

“Oh no,” he mutters out when he sees the light dripping out of the wound. Immediately he hurries to the medical supplies Cassiel keeps in the house for occasions like these. There are balms and potions that are supposed to help with wound healing – since she wasn’t allowed to heal their wounds by her Grace. Though while Dem’s intentions are good, she doubts it will have much effect on her.

“Dem, you need to get some needle and thread,” she instructs him, instead. The words barely escape her mouth.

“What?!”

“You need to sew up the wound or it won’t close,” she clarifies. “I- I can instruct you on how to do it.”

It might be hard, and it’ll probably stress Dem out a lot, but there isn’t much else they can do at this point.

It’s a long process – it takes more than an hour for Dem to finish up with the wound in the front, and then they still have to start on the exiting wound on the back. She’s sure that he’s about to faint when she turns around, but he pulls through. By the time they’re completely finished, Gabriel and Scam storm back into the house. The sun has set again, indicating that it’s morning. Cassiel can’t believe that she’s been on the volcano for an entire night.

“These people don’t want to leave! We need to get out here as soon as possible.” Gabriel looks irritated. Scam, too, seems a bit annoyed as he sits back down.

“What do you mean?” Cassiel asks. She’s now leaning up against Dem, who holds on to her in a protective way. She can feel the wound sealing up again, though it goes slow. Agonizingly slow. It still hurts a whole lot.

“They didn’t believe us!” Scam calls out. “Even Eileen told me I was exaggerating. They are convinced it’s nothing but another earthquake!” He grunts as he punches a pillow next to him.

“It’s their choice,” Gabriel points out. “We have no reason to stay here.”

“I’m sorry, but what exactly is happening? Why are you helping us? Because I’m suspecting you’re another Angel, right? I mean I kind of recognize you…”

“I’m Gabriel,” he agrees. “And as for the reason I’m helping you: it’s only because it’s our fault that volcano is active in the first place. They wanted a way to bribe you, to make you choose to give up your own life or the people of this city.”

“They never gave me the ultimatum,” Cassiel whispers, not at all remembering anybody giving her the choice to save the people.

“Because Uriel and Raphael are sick individuals,” Gabriel mutters back. “When I heard he was going to replace you as the next Archangel, I realized things were going the wrong way. I never liked Uriel.”

“I liked Uriel,” Cassiel counters sadly. Uriel had been funny, after all, and now he’s dead, too. Who is the next one to take his place? Or are they going to give up trying to replace the fourth Archangel? Is there any Angel who even wants to try and take that place?

“Any way, we should get out of here, immediately.” Gabriel points to a place over his shoulder though the brothers eye each other warily with that. Cassiel glares back at Gabriel.

“No, I will not abandon these people,” she counters. Gabriel rolls his eyes.

“These people clearly do not want to be saved, Cassiel!” he shouts. “I suggest we get out of here now before things get out of hand.”

But she shakes her head again. “No,” she says. “I will not leave this city without making sure that I did all I could to save everybody. How many hours have I got?”

Gabriel groans, looking out to the city. “Five hours, perhaps?” he guesses. “You won’t be able to evacuate an entire town in five hours. It can’t be done.”

“Watch me,” Cassiel mutters. She grunts, trying to get up with a lot of effort. Dem supports her, pulling her up by grabbing her underneath the shoulders.

“Cass,” he starts, trying to stop her from moving. She gives him a short glare, making him shut up.

“What are you going to do, huh? You can’t even stand without showing how much pain you are in.”

“I would not have been in this much pain had you not stabbed me in the gut!”

Gabriel now only glares back, though not saying anything in return. He keeps his mouth closed, his brown eyes boring deep into hers. Then he sighs, holding up his hands in a sign of defeat.

“Fine,” he says. “You stay here. I’m out of here. I don’t owe these people anything.”

“What?!” That comes from Dem and Scam simultaneously.

“A guy tries to help once in a while and only gets shit in return.” Before anything more can be said, Gabriel disappears without another warning. Cassiel sags forward a bit when she feels his Grace fade away, further from here. With a sigh she returns to Dem and Scam.

“We need to keep trying,” she assures them. “Keep the word out. I will fly out, find a place for me to bring everybody – a place that is safe. Give me an hour and then I’ll return.”

“You’re going to fly out again? You’ve been stabbed!” Dem doesn’t sound happy about it at all.

“I do not see how that contains any urgency on the matter,” Cassiel mutters back. “We are getting low on options, so you two find a way to get as many people in the same place, and I’ll find us a place where we can gather back.”

“Cass-“

“Dem, there’s no time to argue. I will see you in an hour!” Then she spreads her wings and flies out of there. It hurts beyond her imagination to lift off into the air but there isn’t much of a choice for her They are running out of options after all.

With much urgency and difficulty, Cassiel flies up all the way until she’s nearly reached Heaven. Looking down at the Earth, she seeks for any uninhabited places. But the longer she flies, the more she feels the wounds open up again. She’s not meant to be airborne again so soon, especially for so long. If she would return to Heaven, the wounds would seal up more quickly. Sadly, this is not the case right now.

It’s more of a crash than a safe landing. Trees stop her fall, but that doesn’t make it hurt less when she makes an impact on the ground. She groans, another sob escaping from her while tears run down freely on her cheeks. With difficulty she gets herself into a seated position, instinctively wrapping her arms around her legs as she curls in on herself. Her face she presses against her knees.

Despite not needing air, it feels like she’s running out of it. There’s hiccups coming out of her as she cries, both from pain and something else. Something much darker, much worse. With red-rimmed eyes she looks up into the sky, letting out another sob.

“Why, Father?” she asks shakily. “Why are you doing this?”

There’s no answer. Of course there isn’t. Her Father wouldn’t come back down to Earth; he hasn’t done that since he created it. And he certainly wouldn’t devote his attention to a runaway Archangel who probably in his eyes followed after Lucifer’s footsteps.

She understands that the Angels went after her. And she understands for a part that Gabriel was only trying to help. But that doesn’t make it easier, and she for one would not mind never seeing him again.

But then again, when would she ever get her way?

“So you did fly off,” Gabriel suddenly says from behind her. Cassiel startles, but doesn’t move from where she’s seated on the ground. “It’s a nice island. With a bit of warding and spells we could make this place completely Heaven-free, don’t you think?”

Cassiel turns her head around, though she can hear him approach as well. She clears her throat, sniffing back another tear.

“Why are you here?” she asks. Gabriel shrugs.

“Trying to keep my sister’s alive, is all.” When Cassiel doesn’t respond she can hear him sigh in defeat, throwing his hands up apologetically. “Listen, I’m sorry about the kid, okay? It was either it or both of you. I had to make a choice here.”

“You killed my child,” Cassiel snaps. “Forgive me if I’m not as grateful as you think I’m supposed to be!”

“I saved your life. You can always have another kid. Just next time be a bit more careful about the signal you’ll let out when you create it.”

“Are you serious right now?” Cassiel gets on her feet, nearly stumbling over before regaining her posture. “I just lost my baby, and you’re talking to me about being more careful when I try again?!”

“Cassiel, don’t make this-“

“INTO A BIG DEAL?” Cassiel shoves Gabriel with such a force that it makes the Archangel tumble backwards. He eyes her widely, his mouth falling open like he didn’t expect her to react this way.

“My, those years on Earth really made you more human, haven’t they?”

Cassiel nearly lets out a growl his way. Her hands are balled into fists and she really has to stop herself from punching him in the face.

Gabriel has no idea what it’s like; to learn that you’re no longer alone in your body (aside from the obvious vessel-part), loving that new creature being developed inside your body and then losing it all in just a matter of four days.

And then to think what she’ll have to tell Dem. He’s going to lose it. He built an entire nursery for the baby. He poured so much love into it, and now it’s over. There’s no more child.

Cassiel starts crying again. She doubles over, her hand coming to rest onto her stomach. The wail she lets out it loud and ugly and she’s quite aware very heartbreaking to listen to. That’s pretty much how she feels.

“Cassiel,” Gabriel starts, clearly reacting some way to her breakdown. Then he sighs, lowering his hands and shaking his head. “I’ll start warding off the place. Your people should be safe to come back here when we’re bringing them along.”

“You’re going to help me?” she suddenly asks with a cracked voice. Her cheeks are wet and she’s probably completely red all over her face.

“Of course,” Gabriel says as if it’s the most obvious thing. “You’re in no condition. And besides… I did just lose my niece or nephew. I’m not losing anybody else.”

Cassiel blinks at him before laughing sadly through her tears. It doesn’t last long before she’s sobbing again.

“Th- thank you so much, Gabriel,” she utters out. Gabriel sighs.

“Don’t thank me. You’ve got enough reason to hate me already.”

 

Just like she promised Cassiel returns in one hour, only this time with the help of Gabriel. She doesn’t make a crash landing, but she does double over when Gabriel comes down on the ground. They are in the house, but there’s nobody inside. Outside, the sun is shining on a warm summer’s day. From the volcano, more smoke is to be seen. It’s impossible that the people cannot see what’s happening there.

They hurry outside, going as fast as they can in Cassiel’s situation. It’s not too hard to find Dem and Scam as they’re the ones causing commotion around them, shouting at people for being stupid not to believe them. But it seems like everybody’s just ignoring them rather than listening, which seems really weird if Cassiel’s entirely honest.

When Dem notices Cassiel there, he stops shouting. He runs towards her, hugging her tightly with an obvious relieved breath.

“I’m glad you’re back!” he says. “Something’s wrong with these people; it’s like they can’t hear us at all anymore.”

“I’ve actually pushed somebody and they just ‘tripped’ and got back to walking,” Scam adds mournfully. “It’s as if they really don’t see us…”

“That is odd,” Cassiel mutters with a frown. She turns to look at Gabriel, who doesn’t seem to trusting about the situation, either. “Do you think our siblings have something to do with that?” she asks. Gabriel shrugs.

“It’s possible,” he says. It’s nearing noon, their timespan getting shorter by the minute. “I’ll check it out, you just stay here and don’t injure yourself further.”

Gabriel is off again, leaving Cassiel with the two siblings in the middle of the plaza. Dem’s hand goes to Cassiel’s stomach, not resting onto the wound but more onto the swell of her belly, holding it affectionately.

“We’re going to be fine,” he says, leaning forward to kiss her belly. “We’re all going to be.”

Cassiel doesn’t respond, though the tears are threatening to come back. With much difficulty, she takes in a deep breath and tries not to show any further emotion. This isn’t the time at all to tell him about it; to reveal that their child is dead.

“You’re right,” suddenly comes from next to them. Dem startles when Gabriel appears out of nowhere. “There’s some spell on these people, I suspect Raphael or Uriel put it up. I can break it but I’m going to need your help.”

That last part is said to Cassiel, who nods and walks out of Dem’s arms. It’s not like his hold comforts her at all at this point. Instead it makes her feel guilty like beyond belief.

She holds out her hand to Gabriel, realizing she’s slumping a bit when the wound aches again – she really shouldn’t be walking around in her condition, but the situation doesn’t really give her much opportunity.

The two archangels close their eyes, opening up and reaching out their Grace to one another. To undo an Archangel’s spell is difficult for another Archangel, which is why it’s basically impossible for them to stop the volcano from erupting since it took four of them to get it going. One archangel’s spell can be broken by two archangels channeling their powers together, which is what they are currently doing at this point.

It takes a lot of concentration, especially now that Cassiel’s mind isn’t exactly with the matter at hand. Gabriel senses it, hissing in her direction.

“Focus, Cass,” he warns her. Cassiel grunts, nodding and squeezing her eyes further shut. She ignores the pain, ignores the impending doom that is going to get to them and just focuses on Gabriel, on his Grace, and on the spell that has obvious traces of Uriel left behind. Even for only being a recent Archangel, it seems like he had much strength.

They get a grasp on it; it’s some sort of thin line hanging all over the city. It seeks out every human being around, though it seems to completely miss Scam and Dem – probably because their house had extra warding when the spell had been performed.

It takes a little moment for them to lift it, but once they do Cassiel grunts in exhaustion, letting go of Gabriel and taking a step backward. Dem stands behind her to hold her up, which she’s grateful for.

“Thank you, Dem,” she tells him.

“You’re welcome,” he assures her. “It’s done?”

“Yeah. Now do your thing. I’ll go and see about the other cities nearby, try and get them evacuated as well.” Gabriel points to somewhere behind him before he spreads his wings again and soars back into the sky. Cassiel watches him go before letting out a sigh.

“We haven’t got much time,” she admits to the brothers. “They have only little more than an hour to gather their belongings and then we’ll need to leave.”

“Let’s not linger, then.” Dem looks determined, letting go of Cassiel once more to run back into the middle of the plaza. There he steps onto some stairs to get himself higher up before cupping his own mouth. “EVERYBODY LISTEN UP!”

Scam joins in by banging some cauldrons, which makes a loud and obnoxious sound. Cassiel can’t much move, still gripping the wound on her abdomen out of fear that it will spontaneously open up again. She’s glad to see that some people come walking out in curiosity, clearly confused as to what’s happening.

They don’t come close to gathering everybody around, but they have enough people there to spread the word. Obviously taking charge with some hidden leader-skills that Cassiel hasn’t so far seen in him before, Dem explains the situation. He doesn’t beat around the bush, just brings them the cold, hard facts. They’re about to die unless they follow his instructions by the letter.

Some children start crying. Women hold on to their husbands or huddle together with their friends. There are some men, too, who have obvious fear in their eyes.

“Are you certain?” somebody asks.

“Do you really want to test it?” Dem asks. “Feel the air; don’t you notice the temperature? It’s hot! Too hot! And it’s all coming from there.” Dem points to the volcano where smoke starts escaping from it. There are more surprised sounds when the people notice it as well.

“We have an hour, people. Spread the word and gather as much as you can.”

“And then what? We just walk out of here? There’s nowhere for us to go that’s fast enough!” That’s Vico, who is holding on to his wife and their baby. Cassiel doesn’t look at the child, nor at the family. She just clears her throat once more before she steps forward.

“I will take care of that. Make sure everybody is here in an hour exactly. Don’t ask any questions, just hold on to each other as tightly as you can. I will do the rest.” There’s no time to explain it all in detail. She barely even realizes her voice is hoarse. And is it possible that she’s feeling the heat? She’s actually sweating!

“You? What will you do? You’re just a woman,” a man shouts out. To that, Dean snarls.

“That is my wife you’re talking to!” he shouts back. “Now hurry up! We’re losing time!”

As the group of people disassemble to spread the word (hopefully) and get their stuff, Dem turns to his brother. “You go check on Eileen and see if she knows what’s going on. I’ll go and get our stuff.”

Scam nods, running off into the distance.

“BE BACK IN TIME!” Dem calls out quickly, but it’s unsure if the boy heard him. Then he goes to Cassiel, taking her hand. “You stay here to keep the people calm, okay? I’ll be right back.”

“Please do hurry up. There isn’t much that we need,” she tells him. Dem doesn’t say anything, just takes off in the direction to their house.

Minutes pass, the clouds getting thicker and the smoke getting darker by the seconds. For a moment, Cassiel fears that they’ve made a calculation error and that it’s happening sooner than Gabriel told them. Luckily, it’s just another tremor, followed by a loud rumble. If the people didn’t believe them yet, they surely will now.

The first family arrives with a couple of leather bags and a mule to carry it all. On top of it two children are seated, obviously crying out of fear. The woman is holding the youngest’s hand and tells him soothing words to calm him down. The older child has his hands onto his brother’s shoulders, while the father is holding his leg.

“Good,” Cassiel tells them. It’s very important that everybody holds on to each other, otherwise people might be forgotten.

As there are more and more people approaching, Cassiel quickly starts to realize that the theory had seemed easier than it’s going to be. To transport this many people would be a serious strain onto her already-wounded Grace. She might be completely drained after this. Or worse; she might actually die because of it. But it’s worth the risk. If it’s her life to save all of theirs, it’s not going to be for nothing.

With fifteen minutes to spare, Demetrius returns, a bit out of breath. He has two small leather bags with him, thrown over his shoulder. Around his hip is a sword he forged himself, as well as a smaller one he made for Scam. He nods at her, and she does the same in return.

Five minutes before it’s one in the afternoon, Scam arrives at last, holding on to Eileen’s hand as she’s dragged along with him. She’s followed by her father who looks just as scared as all the people around. There’s no mother joining them; just the two of them.

“I almost didn’t find them,” Scam explains his tardiness. Dem shakes his head, holding out his hand to his brother who takes it. His other hand goes to Cassiel’s, who reaches her other one out to the person in front of them.

The moment the volcano erupts at last, Cassiel understands that they need to leave this instant. She really hopes that everybody made it in time, but there’s no certain way of knowing. With a deep breath, she prepares herself for this impossible flight. It’s going to hurt a lot – though if it’s going to be worse than being stabbed by an Archangel blade isn’t certain.

She spreads her wings, using a small amount of her Grace to amplify her voice. “Hold on to each other,” she tells them again, though by now they should know this already.

It’s now or never. By the time the first rubble starts falling from the sky, she’s off the ground, into the air. She flies, trying to go higher and higher but being pulled down by the weight of the entire town. She grunts, her Grace burning from the strain.

“Come on!” she tells herself. She can do this. Just a bit more.

By some miracle she manages. She can find focus long enough to seek out the island she had prepared with Gabriel. There it is; only trees and waterfalls around the place. The island is uninhabited except for the wildlife, though there are no predators on it. It’s just going to be them and some friendly herbivores.

Cassiel crashes once again, this time harder than earlier. She can feel the bone in her arms break as she touches the ground, her wings curling together protectively to avoid being harmed. Some of the branches on the ground cut into her body; her skin is scraping all over the earth.

She’s pretty sure that the people don’t come down as gentle as she would have hoped, but at least they won’t descend the way she just did. She shudders out in pain, shaking her head and squeezing her eyes shut. It hurts, it hurts too much. The wounds on her stomach have opened up again; her Grace is once again bleeding out. Her new wounds aren’t healing; her bones not setting back together.

This is it, it seems. She’s shivering now, suddenly cold. She can hear somebody call out her name but it’s vague. Who it is, she can’t even tell. Who-ever it is, they’re pushing her until she’s lying on her back. She tries to open her eyes and look at them, but all she sees is darkness as it spreads all over her.

But that’s alright. At least the people are safe.

At last she can rest.

 

The first thing she’s aware of is pain.

It’s not pain in just one place; it’s everywhere. Her arms, her legs, even her wings. But the place that hurts the most is her stomach. She wants to reach out for it, but she can’t so she doesn’t. Instead, she turns her head, opening her eyes to try and find out if there’s anybody there.

But she can barely see anything. Is it dark? Or are her eyes covered? What is going on, even?

“HmmmDem?” she whispers out when her voice doesn’t seem to want to make any noise. She scrapes her throat, trying again. “Dem?” The second time isn’t better.

“She’s awake!” a voice calls out. Cassiel flinches as she hears it; it’s loud. She turns to the source of the voice, noticing a shadow next to her.

“Move over!” another voice says. This one she recognizes immediately; Gabriel. She can sense him approaching her. Immediately she reaches out for him, searching for the comfort of his Grace. “I swear to Dad, Cass, if you do anything like that again I’ll kill you myself.”

There’s a warm feeling going over her when Gabriel opens up his Grace for her, channeling his power into hers. It feels good, warm. The pain becomes less instantly, especially in her arms and legs.

“Gabriel,” she whispers.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s me.”

She sighs. “Is Dem alright? And Scam?”

“Your humans are fine – almost all of them.”

Cassiel opens her eyes again, finding that her vision is getting clearer now. Somebody must have put up a fire to bring some light. She can see dark shadows dancing over Gabriel’s face as he hovers above her.

“Almost?” she breathes out. Gabriel sighs. He gives her a sad look.

“You can’t save everybody, sister. You’ve did everything you could. I was too late for the other cities, too – only managed to evacuate half of them.” Gabriel sighs again before shaking his head.

“What happened?” she asks.

“Some let go of each other at the last instant. Others were just too late.” Gabriel shrugs. “It’s been five days now but your lover-boy has pretty much taken control of the entire group. He’s actually not too bad at it, if I’m honest…”

Cassiel smiles despite herself. While it’s rare for Angels to have to heal themselves, it is possible. It mostly brings a feeling that resembles being drunk, which is exactly what Cassiel is experiencing right now.

Five days. That sounds like a lot, no? For Angels maybe not, but for humans… that’s quite a while, right? She should probably get up?

“Ho, ho, you stay right there now. You’re not getting out of this bed until I tell you to.”

Cassiel groans in annoyance but she obeys – not that she’s got much of a choice given that Gabriel is literally pushing her back down on the cot she’s in.

“Now what?” she asks.

“Now you get better. And after that, you prepare yourself.”

“For what?”

Gabriel pauses, though there’s obvious amusement in his voice when he does respond. “You will see, sis.”

It had not made much sense at that moment, but ten hours afterwards, as Cassiel felt better and well enough to be allowed on her feet, it all becomes obvious.

As she exits the hut that must have been built for her recovery with Dem guiding her arlong, a bit unsteady on her legs as she has not used them in a while, she walks into the open air, expecting to find nothing much but a forest. The sun is shining now once more, the leaves rustling around them. And the first thing she notices are the waterfalls around them. It’s all so beautiful; another creation of their father that is just about the most marvelous sights ever made.

She isn’t sure why she only notices the humans later. But there they are; close to a thousand people all gathered together; what seems to be like a combination of survivors from three cities all camped out, talking animatedly and helping each other out. And they don’t notice her, too. At least not at first.

But when a child does, he points at her. It’s the older kid from the first couple that arrived; he looks around seven years old. And as he speaks, his voice nearly echoes all over the forest.

“It’s her!” he shouts. The sound is followed by surprised gasps and murmuring. Dem squeezes her arm, giving her a sad smile.

“What is wrong?” she asks him. She’s spoken with Dem a lot in the ten hours she’s been awake. The conversation had not been pleasant for them, and there had been a lot of crying on both their sides. But it’s their reality that they have to live with. Their loss they’re going to have to accept now. Days might have passed, but the pain it causes inside of her seems just as strong as when she had just realized.

“Look,” Dem tells her, nodding back to the people. Cassiel frowns, doing as she’s told. She nearly jumps from shock when she sees what he’s talking about.

In front of them are the people of three combined cities, all of them kneeled down on the ground with their heads bowed to her.

“What are they doing?” she asks in her worry. This isn’t normal, the humans shouldn’t act like this. What’s going on?

“They’re pledging their loyalty to you,” he tells her. “To us.”

“To us?” Cassiel frowns.

“To us,” Dem repeats. He throws his arm around her shoulder once more, though if it’s for support or just for comfort, Cassiel doesn’t know.

All she can do is look out over the people.

Her people, as it so appears.