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A Rigged Question

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You fell asleep with your head against the seat at a rest stop, and now when you wake, you find it in Neptune's lap, her fingers brushing through your hair, the steady feeling of wheels against the road underneath; Jupiter must be taking a shift at driving. It's nice. You'd gladly stay like this, pretend to be asleep, if not for the reason you woke up in the first place.

"Venus, please. I want to see with eyes unfettered."

A prayer. Some desperate cry for assistance only a devil can provide. You sigh, and peel some of your eyes open, blinking away the sleep.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, babe," Neptune teases. She must have noticed your light.

"Prayer," you mumble, and try to work up the energy to work your way up to sitting again. You can feel something wriggle between your fingers, and you realize it's a hand – one of Jupiter's. Fingers locked with yours, not quite letting you go. You could always push the boundary, but staying put is very tempting too. So, you give up the motion.

You can see Neptune's frown out of the corner of four eyes at once. "I could always take this one. You don't have to answer."

"They asked for me, though." You adjust yourself, tracing back the sound. "I wouldn't want to–" Your voice trails off as you catch the telltale static pop of a radio.

It's not quite 'hearing,' you read the sound as it ripples through the air, and you know it innately. Whoever is praying to you is doing so in the same room as a radio. That's not the most uncommon thing, but it's a huge risk. Radios are just a little bit two-way, always. Why chance God hearing you speak to the devil? So you look closer, just a bit, you focus on it with still-tired eyes. Ah, there it is. The little sparking fizzle of salt burning against your gaze.

"Actually," you say, quiet, bitterness leaking into your voice like so much ichor, "could you help, please? I think they need the flood more than the light."

Neptune quirks an eyebrow, and then the implication hits her. She swears under her breath. "Another fucking devil-trap, huh?"

You nod, and Neptune snarls out a dark word in a darker cough.

"What's going on?" Jupiter asks from the driver's seat.

"Entrapment," Neptune calls back. "Some bitch is trying to snare our girlfriend."

"Um?" Jupiter says.

"Salt circle and a radio," you add.

"Oh," Jupiter says.

"I can guide you?" you say to Neptune.

Neptune holds up a fist. "Yo, Jupes, crack my knuckles for me, babe." A hand materializes out of nothing, and cracks Neptune's knuckles. "Bitching. Venus, lead the way."

And you light the path. It doesn't take long at all for the flood to reach, for water to pool and sweep away the salt – and you can see clearly, now that the circle isn't blocking your sight. A pair of young men, panicking in ankle-deep water, in a basement somewhere. Halfway across the country, by your estimate.

"Enough water for you?" Neptune asks.

You nod. "That's plenty. Keep me safe?"

She leans down and presses a long, sweet kiss to you. Cold, and lovely, something deep and dark and wondrous that pulls at your chest. Your lips tingle after she leans back up. "Always," she whispers, and you can't help but shiver a little.

"I'm here too?" Jupiter offers. "I mean, I'm driving, so not all the way. But you have my blessing." A hand on your cheek, and another brushing the hair out of your face. So warm. So, so warm, and lovely. They feel like Summer, and new love, and talking alone in a quiet corner together.

You giggle, let the sound pour through you like sunbeams through a sieve. "Thank you." And you close your eyes – your human ones – and step into the water of the basement.

The young men flinch as your light dapples, refracted across every surface.

"You called me?" you say, in a falsetto of cheeriness. You don't feel cheery. You feel curious, and as cold as a dying star.

One of the men glances longingly to the stairs, starting to wade towards them and away from you, but the other raises a radio with a pinpoint sharpened antenna, clutching it in both hands. "Venus is the weaker one, remember!?" he yells, eyes locked on you but tone clearly aimed towards his companion. "And there's two of us, and only one devil! There's nothing to fear!"

"I'm not weaker, though?" you correct. And you give them a little smile. "We're all the best at being the worst, but I guess I'm just nicer about it. It's a little mean to call me weak, when I keep holding myself back against you sort of people. Neptune says that makes a person stronger, to not hurt the people who hurt you." You shrug, and a few feathers drift off, down onto the surface of the water like flower petals. "I still don't know if I agree with that, though."

The other man stalls, raises his radio – two handed, with a wide, flat edge – between himself and you. "Two of us," he repeats, "and one devil."

"Not really." You can't help but laugh, a bit. It's devilish, and wicked, and everything you've ever wanted to be and ever feared you were.

The man with the sharp radio leaps forward, then thrusts the pointed edge towards you. The tip of the antenna snaps cleanly against your wing and falls into the water. He stares at it, frozen in place, like he wasn't sure what just happened.

"You have to compensate for the antenna's weight when you're wiring," you say. "But you shouldn't beat yourself up for it. It wouldn't have really changed the outcome, even if you'd done everything right." And the maelstrom is on you and in you, wind rippling the water, steam rising from the surface. A twofold beloved blessing fills the space inside your chest, and you bring the flood, and the storm, and the light. You bring it all.

The two young men scramble backwards, dropping their radios as the crackling pitch sparks them out, as the voice of God is drowned out entirely by your voice, and Neptune's, and Jupiter's; by the trinity of sight and sound and touch. They plaster themselves against the far wall, staring at you with wide eyes.

"There's never only just one of us." You beam at them, and giggle, all dark and bright and warm and cold. "So when you tell your friends about tonight, you should tell them that too. Tell them the devil keeps itself company." Somewhere, you can see a new story curl itself into existence. Like a new serpent, young and already so very hungry.