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On the Bells of Horses

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Rose finds herself standing outside of Simeon’s room at Purgatory Hall one evening, having gotten directions from Luke. Her decision to come here was impulsive, and she wonders if it was the best thing to do.  Her hand is poised to knock, but she now thinks that she should have messaged him before coming, that he could be out, that he could be busy --

The door opens to Simeon’s smiling face, and Rose can only stand there and stare at him, stunned. 

“Luke told me you would be coming for a visit.” He opens the door to her, and when she hesitates, says “Come in.” She takes a few tentative steps into his room, looking around to examine her surroundings and finding them both extremely Simeon and incredibly not. Her certainly left his mark on the room, but it’s still a demon’s dorm, and he will always look just slightly out of place. 

That’s one of the reasons Rose is drawn to him like the warm rays of the sun she so dearly misses. As much as she cares for the demon brothers who have become her housemates, she is not drawn to them the way she is drawn in by Simeon. Perhaps it’s just because he’s an angel and she’s a human, and they were never meant to meet. Maybe she craves the forbidden, like Eve (though that’s just another story man made up to turn women into the villain, isn’t it?) longing to bite into that fruit, taste the knowledge that comes with it. There might be something in her blood, some lingering angel magic that wants to return home. 

(But no, wait, she doesn’t feel the same thing around Luke. Perhaps she could talk to Solomon, see if he feels anything of the sort, without somehow revealing that she has a ridiculous schoolgirl crush.)

Simeon settles down onto his bed and invites her to sit next to him; she does, trying not to notice how close his body is to hers and how much she would love for them to be even closer. She feels her palm burning with the phantom slap of a ruler at the thoughts running through her mind, and she sits awkwardly, playing with her fingers as she settles on what to talk about. 

Simeon beats her to it, of course. 

“How have your classes been?” 

“Oh, um, good, I guess.” 

“Are you adjusting well?” 

“Yeah, I think so,” she says, biting her lip afterwards. “Are you? I know it must be different here than the Celestial Realm.” 

He laughs. “Certainly, but I’ve found that there is light to be found anywhere, if you know where to look, and there is more light to be found here than one might expect.”

“Yes, I agree,” she says, though she’s certain he’s thinking of something much different than he is. Even though she’s found good things in the seven brothers she now sees as a second family, it’s still Simeon who shines brightest here. 

“I have been thinking of Lilith a lot lately,” she says. “Of what happened to her.” The revelation of her heritage had only increased her curiosity, but her new housemates have been so used to keeping the story close to heart that now they want only to look towards the future. It is a 

“Oh?” Simeon says, smiling at her gently. His presence is warm at her side, a comfort she cannot become too comfortable with. She wants to ruin him, selfishly. That she shouldn’t only makes the idea more appealing. “Have you come to any conclusions as a result of this thought?”

“I only wish,” she replies, hanging her head low. Simeon hums in response, and they sit in companionable silence for a few minutes and Rose contemplates the beginning of Lilith’s end. 

“Is it still forbidden?” she asks, and then clarifies, realizing he hadn’t shared her train of thought. “Relationships with humans, that is.” 

“Yes,” Simeon says, his blue eyes glimmering. She cannot tell with what, and it frustrates her; his constant composure is vexing, and again she finds herself wanting to undo him. There is something dark inside of her that wants to see him come apart in ecstacy, even knowing the ruin it would bring upon him. She cannot be descended from an angel-turned-human; she is too wicked to have any holiness inside of her. 

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there,” she says, hopeful, pausing before Simeon finishes the quote for her. 

“When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.” He smiles as he says it, and she wonders suddenly if he’s always smiling. (She knows he isn’t, but it seems that sometimes she would like to see how he looks when he isn’t. Perhaps deep in thought or ecstasy . She cannot imagine him angry, though Satan is correct: the idea is intriguing.) 

Rose swallows, a thought blossoming in her mind like a winter flower. Perhaps she has been influenced by the presence of demons more than she is willing to consider. “Will you listen to a song with me?” Levi had shown her how to get access to her favorite music streaming app on her D.D.D., leaving her without her familiar human music no longer. It’s only been a few days, but there’s one she can’t stop going back to, one she thinks Simeon will appreciate.

“Of course,” he says. 

Rose grins at him, forgetting for a moment all of her melancholy in the joy of the moment. To share music is to bare one’s soul, to admit, for just a few minutes, what calls to you, what words resonate in the quiet moments of your life. 

With just a few quick taps of her finger, she has the album up and the song playing through her D.D.D.’s admittedly poor speakers. It’s not a device that was intended to serve as a speaker, but she hopes he’ll appreciate the song regardless. 

Simeon watches her as the music plays, and she looks at him out of the corner of her eye, face turned towards her D.D.D. 

“Today a thousand years of strained affection and prayer,” she sings with the song, soft enough not to overpower the actual music. “Out beyond ideas of right and wrong is a field. Will I meet you there? Will I meet you there?” 

She turns to face him so she’s singing the question at him, and she finds that she means it: can they come together like that? Will he meet her in that field where they can set aside ideology?

Can that field be the Devildom: neither Celestial realm nor Human world and beholden to neither sets of rules? 

She sings more of the song to him, eyes never straying from his. “So many ways to lose. So many faiths.” There is some truth to the words, though they aren’t hers. He knows enough of her history in the human world, her upbringing and doubts, the way everything she’d thought she’d been certain about had been upended when she’d been brought here.

He watches her without pause, without interruption, that same ever-present smile on his face. Feeling brave, she splays her palm against his chest, never letting her skin touch his at the exposed sides of his shirt. 

“Standing on the lake shore, Julia,” she sings, feeling the warmth of his skin through the material of his shirt. “Silent as a seashell, Julia.”

“Lay down on the temple floor,” she sings softly along to the song, applying only the slightest amount of pressure to Simeon’s chest. He complies willingly, sinking onto his back on his bed, with Rose looking over him, one leg on either side of his. She ignores the lyrics that come next, falling silent as they watch each other. Is that anticipation that clouds the air, or is she only being optimistic?

Demons. Humans. Angels. What truly separates them? It’s a question she’s asked herself since being brought here, and one she hasn’t been able to answer in a way not steeped in superficiality. If nothing separates them, what is there holding her back but her own fear? 

“Who do you think needs who more? ” the singer says before the lyrics break for an instrumental. Rose can do nothing but look into Simeon’s eyes until she can’t bear to any longer, looking away and muttering “I’m sorry,” an apology spoken so softly it’s nearly drowned out by the tinny guitar playing from her D.D.D.

She doesn't expect to feel slender fingers tug at her chin until she’s looking back at Simeon’s smiling blue eyes. Rose tries not to look at his lips, but when she gives in she sees that they’re smiling too. 

“Why are you sorry?” 

And it’s her who falls apart, tears welling in her eyes. “I fell in love with you. I’m so sorry .” 

Her words are between them now, and though she is certain he’d known, there is no way to unspeak them. In a moment, she’d made a choice she can’t change, and the heat burning in her cheeks is nothing in comparison to the fire that consumes her the moment he tilts his chin up and meets her lips with his own. 

Is she doomed to repeat the mistakes of her ancestor, then? Rose wonders how many there were before her; how many of Lilith’s line fell to temptation. It doesn’t matter now, not when she feels the culmination of her longing and guilt and desire against her lips, far too chaste to be as satisfying as it is. 

“Holy to the Lord on the bells of horses,” the music continues as she brings her lips back down over his again, and then again, and again. “Safely on the shore we sank like stones, to the bottom of a made-up ocean.” 

For all of her fantasizing about unraveling him, she is the one who is fraying at the seams at the barest hint of affection. Their lips remain gentle, but she cannot help but ache for more, longing to press against him harder, faster, longer, to let her body melt into the long, lean line of his own. 

The song has long since turned into the next, but neither of them separates from the other, though the gentle press of lips doesn’t grow any bolder or stronger, lingering still in that hazy area between dream and reality. 

“Play the victim well,” she hears, finally, towards the end of a tirade of lyrics growing steadily louder and sung with more rage. “Who’s the devil this time? The devil this time? The devil this time?”

She pulls herself away from Simeon and off of his bed, her heart pounding, though she isn’t sure whether it’s from his touch or the lyrics. Still, she’s glad for the reminder, not just of where she is, but what she’s doing. 

“I have to go,” she says, scooping up her D.D.D. and pressing pause before the lyrics of the next song can really begin. 

“Rose,” Simeon says, and for once he isn’t smiling. This isn’t what she’d wanted when she’d fantasized about seeing another expression on his face. She shakes her head, knowing that if she says anything to him, she won’t be able to hold herself together.

She may not be religious anymore, but her upbringing has a habit of sticking with her more than she’d like. The guilt that sits heavy in her stomach for seducing an angel is punishment enough, but the thought that he could be hurt or killed because of her is torture. 

Rose makes a quick getaway, sidestepping Luke in the hallway as he tries to get her to try his newest baking creation, hoping he hadn’t seen the tears in her eyes. 

What had she been thinking? 

What had she done? 

As she walks briskly back to the House of Lamentation, she realizes with dawning horror that she doesn’t have the answers.