Chapter 1: where are you going and what do you wish
'His human face is newer than Deblanc's and he doesn't yet have the command of it.'
Fiore considers earth, regrets and his partner.
Its not that they didn’t have bodies.
In the space between. Physical form was relatively easy to achieve, for both of them, but it was also…mutable.
Human bodies are different. More solid, more contained.
(its another word for trapped)
Fiore glances over at Deblanc, who is hunched over the coffee can- the Domicile, only that purpose is past so really, what’s the use?-, brows furrowed low, tension in the lines of his face and hands. Doesn’t dare to even try and touch him, the way he might once have been able to, but didn’t.
(also separate, apart, alone)
He’s beginning to understand, all too late, how Genesis might have felt locked in all that time.
Time, too, is different where they’d been. Perhaps they simply had no way of marking it, and that made all the difference.
Either way, Fiore thinks he might have… felt for Deblanc for more than a while. Hard to articulate, to twin with these new sensations of flesh and heart and body, where once there had been light and air.
It had started, because of course it had, with the song.
Deblanc’s idea. Utterly unsuitable. Fiore should have reported him, but didn’t, and wasn’t that it, the beginning of the end?
They were too lenient.
It’s a baby, Deblanc tells the Preacher, and speaks truer than he knows.
Fiore doesn’t pretend to understand it himself, any more than he pretends to understand the simple facts of himself, down here.
In all the years, the seconds and instants of millennia they’ve cared for Genesis, they’d made a point never to say that word.
But now, on earth, the evidence is irrefutable. Lullabies. Music boxes. Names. Fiore watches them, the families on the box that is called the television, and wonders if it might be physically possible to kick himself when he realises what they’ve done.
It would be possible to kick Deblanc, it is mostly his fault after all, but-
You’re the sweet one.
Well, what on earth.
His hands go clammy, when he thinks about dialling heaven.
It’s awful, you understand. Earth is awful, with its heat and mess, its mass confusion. Its noise that makes his head ache.
He’s not ready to go back yet.
Because there’s still the song. When the burn of the living world gets too much, Deblanc can tell. Can tell when Fiore is about to snap. Tells, and will tilt his head to the side and murmur that one tune. There’s sleep then, or at least something like it.
Wynken, blynken and nod.
Fiore listens, and thinks it might take more strength than he has to give this up.
Deblanc’s singing is awful. Fiore knows this now. He’s spent enough time listening to the bloody radio, he ought to know.
Doesn’t really matter though, does it?
Point is, the song. It broke something open inside Fiore, long ago, something he’s still unable to staunch. He feels- feels, it is still so strange to of think such a thing- as though anyone who looks his way might see it, see his heart raw and beating for the demon at his side.
He’s never thought to compare Deblanc to heaven’s choirs- not when he hasn’t heard them in so long. Doesn’t miss them all that much, either. Deblanc makes no bones about his own disdain for the higher order of angels, mocking them with twisted lip right in front of the Preacher.
Deblanc spits the word peace like a mouthful of thorns, and Fiore recalls the eyes of the Seraphim, glittering blankly, and the word he wrapped around them both like a shield in the diner.
It’s yet another reminder of how hopeless this whole thing is. How far apart they are, ought to be, from one another, and how that separation is only right.
If that gap was bridged before, it might yet be again
No. He will not think of that. Fiore is not one of the Seraphim, could not do so much damage as was done when Genesis came to be, but the possibility scares him. Almost as much as being away from Deblanc, the idea of them, together, is frightening. Fear. Finally, something that tastes familiar.
“What is that?”
Deblanc looks at him like he’s an idiot, sets the plastic tray down on the table with an ill-tempered flourish. “One Big-As-Texas burger.”
Fiore picks it up, chews, swallows. It’s good. The bus to hell is due in an hour.
“What about you?” He asks Deblanc, noting his partner’s empty place setting.
“Always with the questions, you.” Deblanc says, but there’s a flicker of a smile there this time. Fiore shrugs in response, his mouth full of meat and lettuce. He’s decided he likes onion, but not tomato. He removes the offending red object, places it on a napkin.
He does not ask the question they’re both avoiding.
Another, he wants to ask, so he can be ready. What it’s like, down there. But Deblanc’s brows are doing that twisting thing again, so Fiore puts down the burger and goes over to the machine that isn’t a radio. He fiddles with it till the music changes, and when he gets back, Deblanc has unfurled his face a little.
It’s a face Fiore is more than suitably familiar with, all things considered. His own human face is newer, and he doesn’t yet have the command of it. Questions are a necessary extension of this lack. He wonders if the growth of stubble on Deblanc’s jaw would be rough to the touch, and clenches his fingers under the table.
He tries for an enquiring look. Not sure he pulls it off entirely right, but Deblanc checks his watch anyway. (Deblanc’s human body is not large, but his hands are, and his shoulders are broad). “43 minutes.”
It’s not enough time.
That knowledge hangs between them, and then Deblanc reaches out, draws Fiore’s hand from under the table. Blunt fingers brush his pulse point, (Fiore wonders if he can blame the judders of his heart on too much burger) and their palms collide for a brief second.
It’s more than they’ve touched in days, ever since those fraught moments in the dead of night, when they’d lain end to end in the same bed and fought over what to do.
When Deblanc’s withdrawn his hand, Fiore feels cold metal. Looks down and there’s the coin. Heads up. He understands it for what it is.
(You could still go back, my dear-
-Not without you.)
He puts the coin away, and Deblanc sighs. “Eat your burger, then.”
Chapter 2: down from the skies came the wooden shoe
They meet. The rest is detail.
I did not anticipate this getting as long or involved as it has done, and consequentially, this is now a multipart type thing. Thankyou to everyone who left kudos and comments last time. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The day they meet, he kills Deblanc twice.
Fiore may be no seasoned warrior, but he wields his blade as well as any loyal soldier of the Lord. Before the demon can so much as open his mouth, Fiore has taken his head. He is pondering what to do with the body when a tap on the shoulder startles him into turning.
“Now-” is about as far as the reinvigorated demon gets before Fiore drives the still-wet blade into his chest. Two dead bodies in the little white room, and Fiore no closer to understanding than he had been before the fiend appeared.
The curve of his mouth the second time, had seemed almost…amused.
When next he reappears, a dark hard shape in the doorway, Fiore is busy wafting out the small fire he’d made to dispose of the remains. He goes for the blade, but this time, the demon is ready- a clawed hand fixes on the hilt before Fiore can so much as raise his arm.
The demon’s fingers smoke where the blade touches them, but if he feels it, he makes no indication. Smiles. “Now then- is that any way to treat a colleague?”
We require you to make a dwelling . This is what his superiors told him, just before Fiore found himself stranded on a plane unlike any he had ever set foot on before. Not earth, surely, but almost certainly beyond the common bounds of heaven.
He flexed his hands, alone in the endless space- for the first time in his life, separate from the Song. It was still present, but a mere ghost of itself in his mind. Perhaps, if he so chose, he might find it again-
For now, he had his orders. Matter shaped itself to his thought, and where thought would not do, his hands completed. The dwelling grew, square and sturdy. Some of his best work, if he allowed for a moment of pride. Clean lines.
Perhaps what happened next was punishment for that brief second of sin.
“What?” He asks flatly. It’s the first time in his existence he’s been too surprised to kill a demon. That, and the fact they generally don’t talk to him- beyond the odd taunt, or screech.
On first appearance, this one is no different than its’ scores of tainted brethren. The blockish, sharp edged form seems out of place in the house that Fiore has built. Draws the eye, uncomfortably.
“Like I said.” The demon looks at him for a moment, then loosens his grip on the blade. “You and me…we’re gonna be working together. Deblanc.”
This is apparently the fiend’s name, if the clawed hand stuck out in the air between them is any indication. Fiore looks at it for a moment, wonders what it could possibly signify, then back at the creature. “How did you get here?” He asks.
The demon snorts. “Same way as you. Orders.” He still hasn’t dropped his hand.
“This is heaven.” Fiore objects. At least, he’s pretty sure it is. Possibly he’s having a nightmare, though he can’t remember deciding to fall asleep.
“I know.” The demon- Deblanc- takes a step back and looks around the dwelling, out to the landscape beyond. “Mind you, I don’t think much of it.”
That’s uncalled for. Perhaps that’s why Fiore lets himself speak. “I’m Fiore.”
“Oh yes?” Deblanc replies, revolving on the spot and continuing his examination. He’s finally put his hand away, though, which is probably a good thing. “Always greet your co-workers with a beheading, do you, Fiore?”
“You’re rude.” The words stumble, idiotically, from his mouth. Fiore wants to hide behind his wings like a fledgling at the embarrassment. Of all the horrors the thing in front of him could possibly encompass, and he decides to fling out rude? What is the matter with him?
“I think it’s a fair question.” The demon has progressed to sitting on the table now, calm as you like. He isn’t nearly as large as some Fiore has seen, but the very fact of him seems to take up space. “Those would be my charred corpses, over there in corner. Not exactly an auspicious start to the job.”
“You keep saying that.” Fiore tells him, and well, he does. “Colleagues. Working. Job. Do you really think I’m going to believe any old rubbish you tell me?”
Deblanc seems to genuinely consider this, and then to bypass it entirely. “Did…did they not tell you?”
“Tell me what?” Fiore’s sense of deep unreality is only getting stronger, perhaps he has fallen asleep after all, or died, and it’s taking him so long to reinvigorate that he’s entered into some kind of…well, some kind of something.
“About us. The agreement. It.” The demon seems to think that half sentences and meaningful pauses constitute an adequate explanation, and Fiore is here to tell him that really, they do not. “You don’t have a clue, do you?” Deblanc continues. Fiore doesn’t respond.
He looks as though he might be about to say something else, but before he can, the house is filled with golden light, bright and clear and terrible. The Song, a mere whisper in Fiore’s mind these past few minutes, is suddenly as loud as it ever has been. The archangel steps across the threshold, and Fiore bows his head in reverence (as he does so, he sees Deblanc roll his eyes and begin to pick at his claws).
“You are early, daemonium.” Raguel’s voice is quiet. In his hands, he holds a red tin box. He carries it away from his body, outside the circle of holy light that retracts in on itself, as though afraid too much contact will contaminate him.
Deblanc squints, looks sideways at Raguel. “Well, all things being equal-”
“Silence.” Raguel commands, and Fiore wonders how Deblanc does not slide off the table and onto his knees, such is the power in that one word. “Fiore.” Quieter still. Thus addressed, he chances a glance upwards (not into his eyes, never), and from what he can see of Raguel’s face, this is serious. The archangel casts his light around the dwelling, illuminating every corner. It’s an inspection. “You have done well.” Raguel concedes.
The light retracts again, but Raguel does not move. There is a sound coming from the round box in his hands. Something in there, Fiore realises, is screaming, as though from very far away. He wants to cover his ears, beg an explanation, do anything other than stand here aimlessly, waiting.
Over on the table, it seems Deblanc is of a similar mind. “Will it do?” He asks idly, tilting his head towards the box.
Fiore expects Raguel to smite him for such insolence, such flagrant disobedience to a command, and wonders at a small jump of panic surging in him at the idea. Raguel, for his part, seems unperturbed. “It is…adequate.” The box is still screaming.
“Well.” Deblanc has recovered his smooth confidence, or a very good imitation of it, and he stands, holding out his hands for the box. “No need for any fuss then.”
If Fiore dared to look, he would no doubt see Raguel glare down at the demon. He does not, but from where he is, he observes Raguel turn, and place the box on the table. The noise recedes, a little, and Deblanc seems to relax even more.
“Fiore.” This time, the command is unmistakeable, and as the archangel leaves the room, Fiore scrambles to follow. All the same, he can’t help but spare a quick look back at Deblanc, who stands at the table, eyes fixed on the box. The noise is bad enough, but Fiore is almost certain he sees it move.
Once outside, Raguel’s light dissipates somewhat. “This is a sacred charge.” He says. His voice, always grim, will brook no refusal. As Raguel speaks to him, Fiore can hardly understand what he hears. It is a secret too terrible to be believed. Scarcely possible. A thing never meant to be. And he, Fiore, charged with keeping, caring and silence. “It must never come to light.” Raguel says. “You understand, young one?”
Fiore nods, but he cannot help himself. “Why me?” He asks. Surely there are others, of higher standing, the better to entrust this power, this burden to. Unless… “Am I…did I do something wrong?”
Raguel always was an impatient type. He clicks his tongue, sighs. “It is your duty. Nothing more.”
“And him? The demon?” Fiore curses himself, but it’s got to be asked.
“Part of the arrangement. I was hard pressed to convince them it wouldn’t be better off in hell. More secure, you know.” Fiore doesn’t, but he makes a concurring noise. Mission done, task imparted, it seems as though Raguel will depart. Leave him here with a house and a demon and the cries of the thing in the coffee can. Old Timer. Fiore wonders what that means.
Instead of that, though, Raguel moves close to him. Reaches out, a hand on his shoulder, hot and cold and heavy all at once. Fiore’s wings twitch at the unexpected contact, and though he still does not dare Raguel’s eyes, he makes an effort to look the archangel in the face.
“Remember this, young one. He is not like us. You are called to the service of the One most High, and this requires…sacrifice. A certain amount of cooperation is necessary, to protect the secret, but never be so foolish as to trust in one of them. Reveal no more of yourself to him than is necessary. Fiore…you must remember- who you are. And what he is.”
“I do.” Fiore says, shocked that Raguel would speak to him thus. “I mean, I will. I will.”
And for the most part, he did.
Not that it helped any.
“Why is it still doing that?” The thing has not stopped shrieking, and Fiore has found that no amount of pressing his hands to his ears, songs sung inside his head or retreating behind his wings makes the slightest bit of difference.
Deblanc’s got his arms crossed, sitting in his preferred position atop the table. Beside him, the can twitches and scrapes, battling with the thing inside. “Maybe it’s scared.” He says after a moment.
“Scared! What’s it got to be scared of?”
“Can’t you just…make it stop?”
“I’ve tried. Maybe you should have a go.”
“Try talking to it.”
Fiore gives Deblanc his best approximation of an are-you-serious look. “Don’t be ridiculous.” It’s an abomination, he doesn’t say.
“Try. S’what I do.” Deblanc points out. “There there.” He pats the can demonstratively, and the noise ceases for a brief second. Not long enough.
“Yes, but…” Fiore finds himself trailing off, suddenly unable to look the demon in the face. “You’re you.” He finishes.
Deblanc seems to have no trouble looking at him, though. “A demon? Can’t argue with that. Course, if that’s the case…shouldn’t you be setting a better example?”
Well, Fiore would be lying if he said that didn’t sound like a challenge.
He can’t help it, but as he approaches the can, his wings fold back against his spine. Placing his hands flat on the table, either side of the can, he realises Deblanc is watching him closely.
(This is something the demon does, and Fiore pretends not to notice. Already, they have grown into a pattern.)
He steadies himself, wondering what his superiors would say if they knew he was not only addressing heaven’s greatest mistake since someone decided it would be a good idea to let the monkeys start talking, but that he was doing so on Deblanc’s suggestion. Too late to fudge it now, though, he supposes. Fiore looks down at the box, and searches for a way to put into words the thing that’s been bothering him since the first day. “What do you want?” He asks, and takes a step (alright, it might be something resembling a jump) back from the table.
The thing, which has quieted somewhat as Fiore makes his appeal, sets up shrieking again. Vindicated, Fiore looks back at Deblanc. Immediately, he wishes he hadn’t. Deblanc is radiating that aura of sudden realisation tinged with glee again, just as he had when Fiore explained to him about the phone.
(“You get to call heaven’s throne? Just like that? Someone up there must love you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s standard. Besides, it’s for emergencies only.”)
“Do that again.” Deblanc commands. “Go on- step closer.”
Fiore doesn’t want to, but since that particular detail’s never made any difference, he supposes he might as well do as he’s told. Reluctantly, he moves back towards the table, which, incidentally, is housing the top two things in the cosmos he’d rather be much farther away from. Immediately, the sound from the Domicile modulates, the ear splitting cries flattening out into a low, not-unpleasant hum.
For a brief second, the little house seems almost peaceful. Then Deblanc makes a noise in the back of his throat, and pushes away from the table, flitting to the other side of the room. As if on cue, the rattles and shrieks begin afresh, and Fiore buries his face in his hands. He stays that way for what feels like a long time.
When he resurfaces, Deblanc has returned to his original position, now with a very peculiar look in his eyes. “It’s alright.” The demon is saying, his voice low, directed at the thing, which begins to quieten again. “We’re here.” He looks up at Fiore briefly. “Both of us.”
It’s a start.
I haven’t read the comics, so my angel/heaven worldbuilding is likely wildly off the mark when it comes to Preacher canon.
According to some traditions, Raguel is the archangel (whether archangel=seraph in this universe is something I’ve yet to decide) responsible for punishing those who disobey gods law, so I imagine he’d be the one tasked with dealing directly with genesis’ living arrangements. (Plus Gabriel and Michael are probably too busy bitching at one another while Raphael facepalms.)
Chapter 3: the fishermen three
they begin to learn one another, whether they want to or not.
mostly a transitional chapter, now with added feelings
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Goes both ways, in the end. The watching.
Fiore knows he’s only right to keep a close eye on the demon. Why, he could be up to all sorts. Plotting to steal the entity, trying to find a way into the upper reaches of heaven. Endless possibilities for treachery. It’s in his nature, after all.
Never put your trust in one of them.
For his part, Deblanc seems unbothered by Fiore’s scrutiny.
Three things, then, that Fiore has learned:
First off, that Deblanc’s preference for the area of the house containing the table, and the entity, is no accident.
Puts him closest to the door.
Second, that given an inch, the demon will happily take a mile.
“Genesis.” He says in his quiet voice, and at first Fiore does not understand. He himself tries to avoid all but the most essential contact with the abomination. At first, though, their mutual proximity is all that will sooth it.
As things move along, however, and the two establish a begrudging rhythm with regards to their duties, the entity becomes less fractious.
“Knows we won’t go anywhere, now, don’t you?” Deblanc says, moving the can in an arc across the table’s surface. This causes the thing inside to make a strange noise, unlike anything Fiore has ever heard before. A sweet, sharp note, like a peal. Makes Deblanc bare his teeth, an expression that frightened Fiore at first (he’d rather die several times over than admit it), but that he now thinks is meant to convey content.
Fiore looks up from where he’s sitting, flat on the floor, in a corner. He’s got his blade out, turning it over in his hands. Not sure if he’s expecting the hordes of hell to fall upon them at any second, but just in case they do, it pays to be prepared.
Wishes he had a gun, to be quite honest. Prefers it. More range, less room for error. He tells Deblanc as much, a long time in the future, and his colleague throws back his horned head and laughs. “Course you would, my dear.” And well, it’s fair enough, so Fiore doesn’t argue.
Then, before, when Fiore is still learning, he meets the black eyes with their bloodied edges, wonders how he looks to the demon, with his light and his wings. He hasn’t used them. Where would he go? “It can’t know anything.” He says pointedly.
“It can.” Deblanc scoffs, and Fiore regrets speaking. Not only has he given the demon an inroad, but he senses he’s about to be thoroughly proven wrong. “Why else would it need us? Shown that much, hasn’t it?”
“Need ain’t knowing.” Fiore replies tightly.
Deblanc looks at him for a while. “Hark at you.” He says eventually. His tone pushes at Fiore, makes a quiver down somewhere in the pit of him- wherever it is he keeps his truth. “Got all the answers, have we? Tucked away under that nice shiny-”
An ear splitting whistle puts a quick stop to his words, blowing through the room, around the four walls and back to the spot it originated: the Domicile, rocking slightly with the force of its inhabitant’s existence, and apparent displeasure at the current state of affairs.
(oh, brilliant, Fiore catches himself thinking. Now it’s got him suspecting Deblanc might be correct after all, and that can’t mean anything good.)
The thought swells and buffets as it grows in his mind and in the room, fighting against its own certainty. Fiore doesn’t have to look at Deblanc to know that the same fact has struck him with equal force. Doesn’t like to think how he knows, either.
Like a whisper, sharp and settling.
Fiore chances a look at the phone, wonders if he ought to call this in. Probably, but on reflection, not worth it. He’s never been one for trouble. Instead, he observes Deblanc’s reflection in the flat light of his sword. “Now look what you’ve gone and done.” He says.
This, and it’s completely by accident that it happens, leads to Fiore’s third discovery.
That Deblanc can, and will, take human form with an almost frightening ease. The first few times he does it, it catches Fiore so off guard he finds himself looking around for his colleague, wondering if the demon hasn’t played some trick on him in order to get out of what must, for Deblanc, be a tedious and uncomfortable job.
(His eyes, though, they give him away eventually. Fiore’s never seen any that dark, that knowing, and doubts he ever will besides. So it’s no surprise they stay the same, whatever else Deblanc cares to change about himself.)
But he doesn’t abandon them. Things are not quite so bad as that. Seems Deblanc just finds it easy, which, frankly, is typical. Fiore makes a show of not being impressed, forgetting what he’s learnt thus far.
Because though Deblanc might not be about to run off, that doesn’t mean he can't leave.
The first time is the worst. Genesis, more sure somehow after deciding on its name, has grown calm enough not to rage and shriek at the demon’s sudden absence (Fiore is unsure if he ought to be pleased with himself for showing the same level of restraint), but when Fiore realises Deblanc is gone all of a sudden, it’s because their charge is all of a sudden silent.
It’s a memory Fiore prefers not to dwell on. (Standing, in the middle of the room, in the utter quiet. Facing the domicile, which does not so much as twitch. He finds himself stopped, and it is only for the sake of Genesis that he can stir the ghost of a single movement. How long it lasts, he doesn’t know.)
Deblanc reappears, his natural form back in place, a fistful of trinkets and a flash of teeth.
Fiore doesn’t speak to him for quite a while.
He doesn’t know where Deblanc goes, and he (tells himself) he doesn’t want to know.
After all, he does always come back.
In that way at least, Fiore thinks, the demon has proven himself reliable.
(Secretly, Fiore is glad of it.)
Raguel calls for updates on occasion.
Fiore is prompt- answers the phone on the third ring. Keeps his answers brief, and deferential. Yes, everything’s just fine.
Doesn’t tell him that Deblanc is breaking the rules.
Occasionally- not all that often- Deblanc will bring something back. Fiore can summon things up with a thought, should he need them, but Deblanc, being Deblanc, is far more apt to steal. Not things of great importance- things Genesis might find interesting, mostly. Fiore can see the value in that, even if he doesn’t understand it.
The Domicile, Fiore slowly realises, must have been the product of a trip to earth.
Demons, after all, cannot create.
The easiest way to get something from Deblanc is to ask, so, after a time, he does just that.
(They are beginning to learn one another, whether they like it or not.)
Deblanc doesn’t seem surprised by the question. He leans back against the wall, gives Fiore one of those slow, slanted looks. Nods. “Went up for it myself. Nice little town on the edge of a mountain. Left out in the cold, but still. Hardly any rust.”
“Is that what you are? A scavenger?” It is, in retrospect, rather an unfair question.
Deblanc seems to consider it, straightening up. “I’m a lot of things.”
This, Fiore will later realise, is not an answer.
Awhile later, he tries again.
It’s a disaster.
Genesis is coming off of a tricky stage, quiet and subdued after another long absence on Deblanc’s part.
“Is it worth it?” Fiore asks shocked to find the words exiting his mouth. “Going down there all the time?” He amends, because Deblanc is looking at him in that way.
It is Deblanc’s habit to choose his words carefully, and give the appearance of doing anything but. “Well, y’know. Earthly pleasures and all.”
Fiore is irritated all of sudden. “No.” He says. “I don’t.”
That certainly gets Deblanc’s attention. “You’ve never? Gone up- down- just ‘cos?” Deblanc’s voice has lost its usual mocking tone. In fact, he seems genuinely surprised. Fiore looks anywhere but at his colleague, regretting having opened his mouth in the first place. Strange how often he finds himself in that situation. He never did before. He realises a sharp sudden longing for the company of the Host, for a thousand voices raised in unison, never a stray thought or unconscious action. Peace.
Then, he wonders why he's barely thought of how things used to be. He's had plenty of opportunity, after all.
With this thought buzzing at him, and the additional problem of thinking through how to react to Deblanc's sudden sincerity, Fiore is equally at sea- how ought he to position his body, direct his eyes? There’s no one here to tell him how to conduct himself, and it’s all he can do to cling to Raguel’s words.
“No.” He replies eventually. “Why should I have?”
Deblanc makes an up and down motion with his shoulders. “You seem as though you’d like it.”
And really, well, that’s not even-
“My duties were elsewhere.” Fiore manages to say.
Deblanc smiles. It’s not a nice thing. “The good little soldier.” He looks harder at Fiore then, eyes darkening. “How-”
“What?” Fiore snaps, regretting it immediately when the Domicile gives a sharp judder. Deblanc’s look turns reproving.
“Nothing.” The demon replies. Does the shoulder thing again. “Just wondered…how old you are.”
There’s not answer Fiore can give (truth told he doesn’t know, and even if he did, why would he tell Deblanc, of anyone?). When Deblanc realises that no response is forthcoming, he materialises, right at Fiore’s side.
Before Fiore can move away or be startled or have any sundry appropriate response to this action, Deblanc has extended one claw and pierced the edge of Fiore’s light. He steps back, finger covered in burning white, and whilst Fiore is still registering that Deblanc touched him, puts his hand up to his mouth, draws the finger between his lips and hmms.
So they really do have forked tongues, Fiore notes idly. His mind is in freefall. Wouldn’t have thought that old chestnut to be true.
Deblanc’s form flutters, and a second later he’s back where he was when this ridiculous conversation started, a wild look on his face. He says something under his breath, harsh and guttural, in a language Fiore has never heard before. “You-” Deblanc begins, and then huffs out a short, incredulous breath. “You’re practically a baby.” He says, and the way he looks at Fiore now…well, it’s different, almost accusing, and Fiore isn’t especially sure why, but he knows he doesn’t like it one bit.
He has no chance to object, strenuously, to that characterisation (because he’s existed through many Chords thank you very much, maybe not as many as Deblanc would have seen if he weren’t what he is, but that’s beside the point), because Deblanc has flipped his form and vanished out of the door.
On the table, Genesis extends a beam of colour over the lip of the Domicile. It remains there, conciliatory, and the entity starts to coo.
“No.” Fiore says, and is ignored.
deblanc has only himself to blame for the months of pouting he's about to be on the receiving end of
Chapter 4: twas all so pretty a sail
Being as he is an angel of the lord, Fiore simply doesn't understand concepts such as mine. Fortunately, (or unfortunately for him, Deblanc and Genesis do.
Chapter four! At last! I'm sorry this took so long, moving house and university stuff took a massive chunk out of September, but I will at least try to keep future updates on track.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I’m not, y’know.” Fiore ventures, after spending quite a substantial amount of time Not Talking to Deblanc.
Can you blame him, though?
It’s insulting, is what it is.
He’s done things. Maybe not the kind of things Deblanc has done, the kind of recklessness and debauchery your common or garden demon might get up to over the centuries, but that doesn’t mean he’s not got experience.
Or this is what he tells himself.
Deblanc is the irresponsible one. Not him.
“I’m not a baby. Whatever that even means.” He continues. He has a general idea of what it might entail, mostly amounting to not good enough.
“Forget about it.” Deblanc says, as though that’s even an option.
How can he forget, when that half-second’s touch remains burned into him? IN that moment, Deblanc took something from him, something small and unknowable. Fiore cannot shake the suspicion that he is no longer himself, no longer part of a whole.
Perhaps it had been coming on for a while, ever since Raguel left them here, but this new development solidifies it. Fiore, quite frankly, is aghast. He slips the bonds of his body over and over again and hopes, in vain, that when he returns to tangibility he will be made anew, washed clean.
This does not happen. The wound, if he permits himself to call it that, remains.
Out of the demon’s sight, Fiore presses his own fingers against that spot, and the memory sharpens. Gains cadence, colour. He repeats the motion.
Over the years, he grows to cherish it. (This, he is almost certain, is yet another sin.)
He supposes, though, that he is not the first angel to have a secret.
That’s what worries him.
“What is that?” He’s tried to keep his mouth shut, really he has. His eardrums can only stand so much, it seems.
“It’s a song.” Deblanc is half turned towards him, the rest of his attention on Genesis, which is hurling itself with abandon against the confines of the domicile. Deblanc making those…sounds were apparently an attempt to calm the creature. It hadn’t been working, and Fiore’s interruption has only intensified Genesis’ latest tantrum.
“I beg to differ.” That gets Fiore a full turn. Oh dear.
“Now who’s rude?” Deblanc murmurs, after a few moments of pointed silence and staring. Fiore feels his wings twitch with discomfort, and it takes him a moment to realise it’s one of those questions he isn’t supposed to answer. Which, probably, is a good thing. “Hmm. Thought as much.” Taking his silence for acquiescence, Deblanc makes as if to return to whatever it was he was doing, but Fiore can’t quite accept that for the relief that it should be.
Fiore has lived with the Song his entire life. Its chords and strains have been a constant to him, a way of making sense of the ceaseless fight. Ever he has turned himself inward, seeking heaven’s voice. He has built and he has slaughtered, time and again. He has known truth and righteousness in the swell of sound rising within and around him. And now, he stands here, sundered from anything that makes even the slightest bit of sense, and the thought that this demon, this fallen, craven imitation of the glory of God, has any idea what the Song might mean…
It is more than he can rightly bear. “You’ve no right.” He tells the demon. His voice is quiet, not the accusation he wants it to be.
“What d’you mean?” Deblanc asks. This question, Fiore thinks, is genuine.
“You…” The words won’t come. Deblanc’s black gaze is needling him again, hard and steadily. He wonders what it would be, to fall form a great height, and not to fly. He thinks that this might be the closest to that he will ever come. In a rush to get away from that thought, Fiore finds his voice. “You make a mockery of the voice of heaven. You act as though you aren’t as you are. You say things are that aren’t, and do things you’ve said you won’t. And then…then you claim to know the Song, and you don’t. You make me…”
“Angry?” Deblanc offers. He’d like the thought of that, Fiore suspects. To drive an angel of the lord to fury.
“No.” Fiore forces this out by way of protest rather than fact. Then, an admission. “Tired.”
(It’s not quite the proper word, but it’s the closest Fiore can get.)
Deblanc sets back on his heels, and it’s then Fiore realises that he has failed in his duty. He has revealed himself, and more besides. Fiore half expects the sharp trill of the phone ringing, to hear the heavy reverberation of heaven’s disappointment. That he would be so weak, so stupid-
A strange sound interrupts Fiore’s thoughts. At first he thinks it must be Genesis, growing bored with wails and screeches, testing new ways to do battle with the nerves of its distracted Custodians. But it’s not. The sound, a deep whoosh of air, slow and heavy, came from Deblanc.
When Fiore looks over at the demon, Deblanc is the one to glance quickly away. Not knowing quite how to take that, Fiore moves to the entryway, and places his back to the room. He doesn’t want to hear that sound again, even if he can’t work out why, or what it even was. “It’s not proper.” He tells the empty air in front of him. “Singing to the…to Genesis.”
“Well, I certainly didn’t set out to offend your delicate sensibilities, my dear.” On the surface, the words are Deblanc all over- heavy with mockery and far too close for comfort.
On the other hand, there’s a certain cautiousness there.
“Thing is though, he likes it. Calms him down.” Deblanc is speaking as though to himself, but Fiore knows the words are meant for all of them. “It’s not as if you lot have cornered the market.” On a haughty rustle of Fiore’s wings, Deblanc hastens to elaborate. “It’s true. I mean…well, earth’s got a lot of songs.”
“I suppose I’ll have to take your word for that. You slip off there often enough.” Fiore says, glad to be given the opportunity to return to somewhat familiar ground. “And what would you know about truth?”
Deblanc appears in front of him with alarming speed. The what? is unspoken. Unnecessary.
“Like I said.” Fiore begins, because he’s right about this, he’s sure he is. “You. Saying one thing. Doing another.”
Promising to stay, and leaving.
“You mean lying?” Deblanc says after a moment.
Fiore takes a moment to consider this. It draws on a bit. They’re inside again, facing one another across the table. “If that’s the word for it, then yes, I suppose.”
“Well, what can I say?” Deblanc is amused again, or acting as though he is. “It’s sort of part of the job description.”
“Which job?” Fiore says pointedly.
Between them, Genesis is still making quite a racket. “Look at him.” Deblanc says, and once Fiore realises he’s the one being addressed, he directs his gaze to the Domicile. “We’re here to look after him, yes? Protect him, and the cosmos, from what might happen if the secret got out. Where’d we be without a few untruths?”
“I…I suppose.” Fiore answers at length. He can see the logic in what Deblanc is saying, right enough, but it’s as though they’re sidestepping around the real issue, both of them afraid to poke at it lest it snap up and bite them.
(The nature of the problem, Fiore will come to realise, is trust. Trust, and that they are not ready for it.)
“There we are then.” Deblanc is looking at him sideways. “Have a go, if you like.”
“I shall not.” Fiore says, appalled. Deblanc might be right about the necessity of untruths, but the idea of wilfully telling one….it’s out of the question. For one of God’s anointed, pure in thought and word and deed, it may as well be impossible.
“I don’t see-”
“You might find you need to. Best to get some practice in now.”
Fiore looks down at his hands. The wound on his arm is aching, hollow. He ought to walk away. He ought not to let Deblanc bait him. He ought not to start these arguments in the first place.
He ought not to do any number of things.
“I...want you to leave.” He says eventually.
Deblanc snorts. “Bloody minded lot, you angels. And they call us stubborn.” He makes as if to go through one of the new doorways. (Fiore has been experimenting with other rooms, thinking they might come in handy).
What is the demon talking about? “That was it.” Fiore protests, his wings twitching in agitation.
He’s bad at judging feelings, especially by expression. He knows this. It’s not something he’s ever had to do before, and Deblanc…well, as demons go, he’s one of the gnarlier ones. Everything about him is foreign to Fiore. Looking at the demon’s face, the furrowed brow, the lips pressed tight together- Fiore might hazard a guess at confusion, but that could just as easily be miles off.
Perhaps he ought to clarify, in any case. Wishes Deblanc would just say, if that is what’s happening. “The lie.”
“Then down from the sky came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty sail it seemed,
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought was a dreamed they’d dreamed,
Of sailing that beautiful sea…”
And, well, yes, alright. Perhaps Deblanc is right about the lying.
But not the song.
Thing is, if there’s one thing Fiore knows, its music.
Or, more precisely, the lack thereof.
He tries to simply think it up, really he does. Bends his mind to the task of creation, but it’s as though there’s a door there he’s yet to open, and this one simple thing remains stubbornly behind it.
Perhaps because he knows it precisely, this thing that they need. Can see the measurements and the components, as if he crafted it himself. He hadn’t, of course, but he’s seen it done. Eons ago. Shouldn’t be too hard to replicate.
It’s merely a problem of acquisition. With this in mind, Fiore turns his attention to the phone. Technically, he’s not supposed to call anyone without Raguel’s permission. Unless, like he told Deblanc back towards the beginning, it’s an emergency.
He thinks for a time, and decides that yes, this is.
With that thought settled, he makes a few alterations, and dials.
She answers on the third ring.
Once they’re done speaking, he puts down the receiver, looks up to find Deblanc staring at him.
“You’re not serious.” The demon says.
“Yes, I am.” Fiore replies simply.
“What makes you think you can trust this…”
“Lailah.” Fiore puts in, before Deblanc can mangle the name and offend the ears of the almighty. “We were born in the same chord.” He tells Deblanc, unsure if this will make his colleague understand. Genesis is babbling softly, seemingly to itself, and Deblanc makes soothing motions with his hands around the edges of the Domicile.
There is something strange in the air, a friction that wasn’t apparent before the call.
Perhaps its natural. It has always only been the three of them, together. Introducing another, however peripherally, is bound to change things.
“Look, its just an idea. She won’t know.” He
“Well then.” Deblanc says. He does not seem remotely content, but he doesn’t try to stop Fiore when he makes for the door. Lailah will leave the materials at the break between this plane and the next. She will never see the dwelling, or gather even an inkling about Genesis.
This will work, Fiore tells himself, keeping his hand on the hilt of his blade. It has to.
It’s a chance, however slim, for some kind of peace between them.
“A music box.” Deblanc says. He seems calm, considering that Fiore’s been gone quite a while.
Fiore has placed said item on the table where it sits across from the Domicile. He nods. He tries to keep his wings still, but he’s nervous and they just won’t stay the way he wants them. There’s still a chance this could have been for nothing.
“How’s it work?”
“Turn the handle. It’ll play anything you like. Matches the sound.” Fiore can’t help but be a little pleased with himself.
“Go on then.” Deblanc says, inclining his head towards Fiore. When Fiore hesitates, Deblanc gives the box a little push. “I can’t very well sing and wind. Besides- it’s right it should be you.”
“Why’s that?” Fiore asks.
Deblanc looks at him, the you’re-an-idiot look. That’s one of the one’s Fiore has memorised. “Cos. It’s yours.”
Lailah, being 'born in the same chord', is basically Fiore's sister. Deblanc /does not know this/. This may or may not be a problem.