“So it’s true,” said the Archangel Gabriel, “criminals always return to the scene of the crime.”
Samael the Fallen, Ruler of the Abyss, turned his eyes from the leafy green valley nestled in the hills below. Up here, on the windswept heights, the howling of the wind had disguised the rustle of feathers that might’ve warned him of Gabriel’s approach, and masked the scent of sandalwood that clung to his old friend’s person.
His one-time brother, born of the same womb, that of the universe itself. Fellow angels, created in the image of the One, now as different and distant as the earth from the sun; Gabe clothed in Light, he steeped in Darkness.
“Nothing to say for yourself, old friend?” Gabriel moved to stand beside him on the edge of the cliff. “Has the guilt finally gotten to you? Centuries of pain and suffering for all mankind, caused simply by your inability to control the most basic of urges. Was it worth it, this need you had to bury yourself within the softness of a woman’s thighs?”
Samael turned back to regard the vista he’d been beholding and answered simply, “Yes.”
Gabriel made a noise of frustration, which was ignored.
“She was down there,” Sammy pointed, “by that waterfall.” A silver ribbon in the distance, glistening in the noonday sun. “Naked as the day she was born. Eve, mother of your precious mankind, born to tempt both man and angel alike with her sweet juices.” He gave a low laugh. “The epitome of forbidden fruit.”
“You didn’t have to take her, Samael.” The wind whipped Gabe’s brown hair, clubbed in a pony tail at his neck. “You could’ve left her untouched, pure. She was created to be man’s helpmate, not your plaything.”
A harsh bark of laughter came from Sammy’s throat. “Take her? The moment I alighted she ran to me, throwing herself into my arms. I could no more resist the softness of her flesh than the ocean could resist the tides.” He shook his head ruefully. Turning to look Gabriel full in the face, he added, “I was the innocent, old friend. Eve did exactly what she was created for, and I responded. Yet I am the one forever damned; where’s the justice in that?”
Gabe shook his head, frowning. His eyes were brown, unlike Sammy’s, which were as blue as the sky, the heights from which he was forever banned.
“Why are you here, Gabriel? To chide me for doing what came naturally, or to gloat for tricking me into doing what you wanted me to do when last we met?”
“I didn’t trick you, Samael. You showed mercy of your own volition, proving that your heart is not as black as you—and the world—believe it to be.”
Sammy smiled, but it was a bitter smile. “Given that you are here alone, without the backing of a heavenly choir singing my praises, I take it that the One was neither swayed nor impressed by my recent show of mercy?”
Gabriel didn’t look away, but neither did he speak.
Sammy, reading the answer in his one-time brother’s eyes, despised himself for asking the question.
“Ah, well,” he said, turning away. “Life goes on.”
And on, and on, and on…
“You should have resisted the temptation to introduce sin into the world,” Gabriel insisted stubbornly. “You were divine, Eve was not.”
“Sin,” Sammy sneered, curling a lip. “Such a small word for such a big concept.” He raked a hand though his blond hair, cropped short, jagged as his temper. “What happened with Eve was sex, nothing more, yet instantly I’m to blame for all the world’s evils.”
“It’s not too late, Samael.” Gabriel looked out over the garden. “Try again to open your heart, to show mercy more often on the One’s behalf. He’ll see it—He’ll heed me eventually, I know it.”
“You know nothing of the kind,” Sammy told him coldly. “And mercy is in short supply in the world I inhabit. It’s also, I might add, something He’s never shown me.”
“Let go of your anger, brother,” Gabriel said impatiently. “You’re chained to it, a rabid dog, growling and snapping at the world.”
Sammy set his jaw, remembering the pain of that long-ago day when he’d been stripped of his wings. “Of course I’m angry,” he growled. “I didn’t ask to be born; I didn’t ask to be made ruler of the Kingdom of the Damned. The One created me to do exactly what I did, don’t you see? He knew those bumbling fools in the garden would lose their innocence eventually—he knew that both good and evil must exist to maintain a balance in the universe. Yet they’re offered eternal forgiveness, while I’m not.”
He’d been cast off, abandoned, forced to make his way among the humans… the same primitive, foolish creatures who’d caused his downfall.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” Gabriel snapped, “and get over it.”
Sammy’s fists clenched as he whirled, ready to unleash Hell upon his brother.
Gabriel stood his ground. “How old do you have to be before you stop behaving like a spoiled child?” He crossed his arms, planted his feet. “Life isn’t perfect,” he insisted. “Life happens.” The wind ruffled the feathers on the tips of his wings. “We weren’t created with a guarantee that everything would work out just the way we wanted it to. It’s not what happens to you, Samael, but how you deal with it.”
“Ever the philosopher,” Sammy said scathingly, furious at how pointless it would be to give in to the urge to push his old friend off the cliff. A useless endeavor which would result only a painful display of the flight he could no longer achieve, earthbound and damned as he was. “One who knows nothing of which he speaks. Everything’s worked out well for you, hasn’t it, Gabriel? You got your guarantee. Right hand man of the One, Chief Servant to the Universe; how’s the view from up there?”
Biting off his diatribe, Samael the Fallen, once at the right hand of the universe himself, spun to walk a few feet along the cliff’s edge. He betrayed himself with emotion, and knew better than to reveal any chink in his armor to Gabriel.
He was too late, however, for Gabriel said, “My heart aches for you, old friend.”
“Fuck your heart!” Sammy shouted, no longer trying to keep his temper in check. “Take it and go!”
There was a silence, broken only by the harsh cry of an eagle, circling the valley below. Gabriel sighed, and waited.
“You think temptation is so easily avoided, so easily denied?” Sammy’s glare would’ve sent the shadowy denizens of the Underworld scurrying for cover, but against one who’d known him since the beginning of time, it had no effect. “You think that only because you’ve never been tempted,” he spat.
“Not so,” returned Gabriel mildly. “Like right now… I’m tempted to kick you soundly in the ass, except that my foot would collide with your head, which seems permanently lodged there.”
Sammy fought an errant urge to grin, despite the anger and bitterness Gabe had so easily provoked. Gabriel had never been frightened of him, even in those dark days following the Fall, when he’d raged against Heaven and all its occupants. “I meant by a woman,” he clarified wryly. “By the softness of her breast, the curve of her belly…”
“Spare me the details,” Gabriel interrupted, raising a hand. “I need not partake of such pleasures to know they exist.”
Something in his voice caused Sammy to narrow his eyes in speculation.
“I’ve seen humans procreate,” the Archangel said defensively, noting the look. “Physical closeness is obviously important to them, particularly when they’re in love.”
Sammy made a rude noise, noticing the heightened color in Gabriel’s cheeks. “Love,” he scoffed. “Why does everyone speak so freely of love?”
“Because so it is written, and so it will remain,” Gabe quoted, “These three shall abide: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.”
Sammy shook his head in disgust, denying both the sentiment and the verse.
Love was pain, and love was madness.
He’d had eons to learn that lesson.
Gabriel sighed wearily, bringing him back to reality. “Have you ever truly loved anyone, Samael?”
“No,” he answered shortly, not even having to consider his reply.
“Don’t you want to?”
The simplicity of Gabe’s question took his breath away. He turned toward the cliff, his mind’s eye suddenly filled with the image of a young woman with smiling eyes and dark hair, streaked with pink highlights. Nicki, my love…
“Absolutely not.” Crossing his arms, he eyed the eagle who soared, even now, over the valley. “I learned a long, long time ago that the only person you can rely on is yourself.” Keeping his back firmly to his brother and his past, he added, “Go away, Gabriel, and leave me alone.”
A long silence answered him. Then, in a low voice, full of regret, he heard Gabe say, “I’m so sorry, Samael.”
He didn’t answer, and finally, mercifully, he heard a brief flutter of wings as Gabe departed. When the silence became absolute save for the keening of the wind, only then did Sammy begin his descent into the valley.
Following a narrow but well-worn path, the Devil made his way to the place of his undoing. This pocket of green, tucked deeply away in the Mediterranean hills, truly was a paradise, as wild and untouched as it had been in the Beginning. There was no reason to rush; there was nothing and no one waiting for him in the garden, save his own memories, both bitter and sweet.
As he walked through the grove of olive trees that lined the path, a shadow slipped up behind him. Black-winged Nyx, Chief Servant of Darkness. Eight feet tall, with eyes that glowed red, Nyx took his customary place at his master’s shoulder. Though the demon made no sound, Sammy knew he was there, for Nyx was the other half of his soul. The dark, twisted half that fed on the miseries of others.
“What is it?”
“Let me kill the Lightbringer.”
“Gabriel’s immortal,” Sammy replied, deep in thought, brushing his fingers against the leaves of a tree as he passed, “an archangel. There’s nothing you can do to him physically that he can’t overcome.”
A low growl of frustration came from the demon.
Sammy continued talking almost idly as they passed through a patch of wildflowers, threaded with weeds. “My one-time brother dares insult me with his pity, and is in need of a reminder of how little I need it,” he told Nyx, over his shoulder. “He thinks himself above me, both literally and figuratively.” The eagle, soaring high above his head, gave a harsh cry, drawing his bright blue gaze upward. “Like that bird,” he pointed, “who is currently annoying me with its shrieks.” He paused in the middle of the path, resting his hands on his hips as he looked up at the bird. “Silence it.”
Instantly, Nyx spread his blackened wings and took to the sky, the veritable shadow of death itself. A few seconds later he snatched the eagle mid-air and wrung its neck, the bird’s fierce talons no match for those of a demon’s. Then he cast it away, the bird’s lifeless body plummeting like a stone.
Sammy watched it fall, watched too the handful of loose feathers that fluttered, far more slowly, toward the ground.
“Faith, hope and love, indeed,” he muttered to himself contemptuously. “Gabriel puts his precious humans on a pedestal, but I think it’s time for him to get a more close-up view of humanity.”
A Devil Named Desire
Copyright © 2012 Terri Garey, All Rights Reserved