The Angel Icarus - Chapter 1 - wittepain (2024)

Chapter Text

Heaven breathes differently after the demons’ dreams are proven true.

The streets don’t carry the same bustle they used to. The Promenade is a wasteland. People hide in their houses, turn their televisions up to drown out the noise of the uncertainty around them. The Archangels work overtime, the Seraphim fight, and the prospect of new sinners spawning before the pearly gates grows increasingly more terrifying as the days drag on.

The Exorcists are cast aside. Once holding such powerful divine authority, the whole army has been rendered useless following Adam’s death and the final extermination. After all, if Hell is capable of handling their own overpopulation now, what use is there for a militia of demon hunters with no other drive or purpose in life? And now in the absence of their leader, their creator… They’re nothing more than a trial that has already run its course. An endangered species. A dying art.

But Lute has never been one to lose without a fight. When told by Sera to disband, she simply moves their efforts underground. When faced with the fear of failure, she throws herself into overdrive and works her girls to the bone. And when ordered to leave the sinners alone for the foreseeable future until Heaven settles on a plan of action, Lute simply takes the challenge into her own hands — or, hand.

And despite her negligence, that was the last hand she ever expected to be cuffed behind her back.

The angel that drags her through the doors is tall, but from the plain white color of his small wings and lack of armor, Lute can easily pick out his ranking in the hierarchy. Strong as his grip is, if she really wanted to, she could have had him kneeling even back in her days as Lieutenant. But, then again, all that has long since faded by now. Whatever power there still is to hold onto is all grasped between her fingers in secret. Where she can weigh out the meaning and worth of her life when put towards anything other than the mission at hand. The mission she still refuses to abandon.

The High Court is just as grand as it’s always been, but it churns with something unfamiliar. As she’s pulled inside, she realizes quickly that all eyes are on her like daggers aimed at a target. And rather than her usual seat overlooking the jury, she’s tossed into the middle without any real regard, only held in place by a long chain of angelic steel attached to the stinging cuff around her wrist.

“So nice of you to join us today, Lute.” Sera’s voice is stern from above as she looks down on her, an unfamiliar fire burning behind her unsettlingly blue irises.

Lute swallows hard, but keeps her footing steady. The crowd around her may know something she doesn’t, but she doesn’t let it show on her face. Instead of diverging into all of the questions swarming throughout the pit of her stomach she shifts her focus to straightening her posture, squaring her shoulders. She may feel more vulnerable than usual with the absence of one arm and no weapon to compensate, made increasingly more difficult as her good hand is held firmly in place by the chain, but she’s cautious to remain strong. Powerful.

“It’s not like I had much of a choice,” she grits out.

No ‘Your Highness,’ no ‘My Lady.’ Sera, as high in authority as she may be over Lute’s newly pathetic standing, isn’t to be trusted with such a title of respect or endearment. She doesn’t seem to care, however, as her expression never shifts. It remains uncomfortably still, almost entirely emotionless as her stare grows more and more intense, as if Lute is nothing more than a bug waiting to be crushed.

“No,” the Seraphim agrees. “No, you did not. Still, I’m glad to see you haven’t put up as much of a fight as one would expect of you.”

Lute sucks in a deep breath, grinding her foot against the cold marble tile. “Why am I here?” she asks cautiously, ignoring the insult.

Sera shifts in her throne inside the Seraphims’ box — strangely missing Emily this time around — and folds her hands in her lap. Her posture is frustratingly much better than Lute’s, something that only fuels the anger, as rational or irrational as it may turn out to be, boiling inside of her veins. The Seraphim has never known the meaning of work in her eternal life. She’s never seen the hardships of physical labor. There are no calluses dotting the inside of her palms from years of swordwork, no knots in her back from all of the falls it’s taken to get where she is today. A regal being, a symbol of heavenly order, but nothing more than a sham in Lute’s humble opinion. Holding authority she’s done nothing to deserve.

In a perfect world, Lute would say all of this out loud. She would scream, she would fight, and the Seraphim would know her place. That she’s the weaker one here. That Lute has spent her entire life working for her position, sacrificing everything it took to get to the top, only to have it all stripped from her the moment the first sinner appeared in Heaven. All while Sera gets to keep her own, the power she’s never had to prove herself to keep. Even throughout every wrongdoing and missed judgment? It’s not fair. It’s not—

“My Lady… respectfully, of course… don’t you think we ought to quell the suspense and get to the point of the matter already?” The source of the second voice is one Lute didn’t quite expect as the man materializes next to Sera in a flash of white light; an Archangel, clad almost entirely in gold, from the fine silk of his suit to his perfectly styled hair. Michael.

“Yes, of course, Michael. My apologies.” Lute has never seen Sera bow… and yet here she is.

Michael clears his throat. “Miss Lieutenant, is it?”

“Just Lute is fine.”

“Right… of course. I take it that title doesn’t suit you anymore, does it?”

Title, not name.

Lute grinds her foot harder into the marble tile. If she had both hands — or even use of the one bound behind her back — she'd be fidgeting for once. Straightening her armor, smoothing down her uniform, making sure there were no runs in her tights. Always fixing herself. Always keeping prim and proper. But there’s nothing she can do to fix this mess.

“I thought we were getting to the point,” she grumbles, a low sound in her throat.

Michael rubs his temples. When he blinks, she notices the glow in his golden irises. Something akin to annoyance, she supposes, although Lute isn’t sure why he’s so pissy if he’s the one that wanted her here.

“I am,” he states firmly. “That was just my point, Miss Lute; you are no longer lieutenant. You know this, yes?”

Her teeth sink into her bottom lip so hard she almost tastes blood.

“... Yes?”

Sera stands, gripping the ledge of the Seraphims’ box with both hands. Lute has never seen Sera so angry before, come to think of it. Sure, she didn't smile much, at least not as much as her missing counterpart, but she was never cruel. She wasn't really anything at all. Stone-faced. Neutral. Nothing at all.

But here, Lute catches the sight of her brows furrowing, her expression only full of malice. Maybe that’s why Emily is missing. She’d never let Sera act this way. She’d beg and plead, cause problem after problem, but at least she’d go a little easier on Lute.

“Then you should know you have no command over private armies.”

sh*t.

Lute looks around, half expecting to see her fellow Exorcists in the same situation as her, arms bound by scalding steel, guards pinning them still. But there is no one. This trial is hers and hers alone — punishment, for not being slick enough.

“I’m not sure what you…”

“Do not play games with us, Lute,” Sera orders. “Your sisters have already given you up as our culprit. Hoarding weapons I asked you personally to discard. Training in barracks I asked you to abandon. Planning, what? A suicide mission? One I specifically—”

“Okay, Sera. I think she gets it,” comes Michael’s voice. He’s rubbing his temples again, as if this entire situation is causing a splitting headache. He shakes his head, blinking hard before he turns his attention back to Lute. “Are you aware of the weight of your actions?”

The weight? What weight? The weight of the greater good? The weight of her legacy — of Adam’s legacy. The one she refused to let be denied to her. No, there is no weight.

“They’re liars,” Lute spectacularly lies in her own right, although she’s sure from the moment the words pass her lips that no one is buying it.

“I’m sure. And I’m sure the weapons in your closet appeared… what? Out of thin air?”

“Who’s to say they didn’t plant them there? You can’t truly take their word over mine.”

“I feel this trial would go much smoother, Miss Lute, if we agreed not to lie to each other. I wouldn’t want any worse consequences if I were you.”

Lute quickly shuts her mouth, but she can’t escape the feeling swarming in the pit of her stomach. Is this what betrayal feels like? Had they actually given her up? After all she’s done for them, they would…

“I will ask again: are you aware of the weight of the harm you have caused us, Lute?” Michael asks — no, demands — in a stern tone. Like he’s scolding a spoiled child, not a grown woman in command of an army.

Lute pauses, lets that simmer for a moment.

There is no weight.

There is only power. Power she’ll put into check herself as the rest of Heaven seems to neglect their sole duties. Power that she intends to use to protect their kingdom, no matter what it spurs on, no matter what it takes.

Lute has never been one to lose without a fight. So shoving down any ounce of anxiety, she’s quick to stand her ground.

“Sir, are you aware of the harm you all have caused?”

“Excuse me?”

“There are sinners in Heaven! Adam is dead, the Exorcists were forced by Sera to disband, all while Hell is still in unrest and Lilith continues to sit on her ass here. You really thought things would be fine with no one doing anything about it? You really think we can protect ourselves against—”

“That is not of your concern, young lady,” Sera calls down, cutting her off mid-sentence.

Lute purses her lips. “I’m twenty-five. Don’t call me young lady.”

“And still a mere speck in the timeline of the universe.” She turns around briefly, engrossed in a whispered conversation with Michael that Lute can’t quite make out. It’s an agonizingly long time before Sera turns back to her. “Your actions are dangerous.”

“I am saving Heaven.”

“No. You are starting the very thing we have fought to prevent: an uprising.”

Lute tugs against the chain, but it doesn’t let up. The steel stings her wrist, burning white hot — is this what demons feel when pierced by angelic steel? She’s sure it will scar later. Burns in the third degree.

Why is it always the arms with her?

“So, what? You’re going to lock me up? Do you really think that’s necessary?”

Finally, something crosses Sera’s face. Anger temporarily subsides, offering up a look of almost… pity? Guilt? Lute isn’t sure, but the sudden change in the Seraphim is enough to make her queasy.

Michael pushes forward, nudging Sera out of the way.

“No,” he says. “The council has decided that we’re going to give you a taste of exactly what you want.”

So they’re letting her go? Does this mean she’s earned back her position as Exorcist? Even though they’d looked so angry before…

“Then what’s the point of the chains?” she grunts.

Michael whispers something to Sera, then nods in the guard’s direction. “Release her.”

As soon as the chains vanish into thin air, Lute instinctively checks her good arm. Shockingly, there are no marks, no blisters, no blood. But the sting is still present. She wonders briefly if it’ll ever go away.

But she’s free. That’s all that matters.

At least, until Michael snaps his fingers, and a bright orb of light appears in front of her. It flickers, making a distracting fizzing noise, until a ring opens up. And all she sees is red.

“Please know I hate that it’s come to this, Lute,” Sera says softly, dragging Lute’s attention back to the Seraphims’ box.

“Wha—”

“Don’t hit your head on the way down!” Michael exclaims uncharacteristically cheerfully. He waves his hand in a hurried gesture, signaling the guard behind her. “You know what to do.”

And before Lute can argue, the guard is shoving both hands against her back.

For a soldier, there is no grace in Lute’s stumble. Her feet betray her, falling over each other as the distinct hum of the red portal floods her ears, obscuring all of her senses. She fumbles for the first time in her life to regain her footing, desperately clawing for something, anything, to hold onto. But her one hand only manages to grasp air; and soon enough, that’s exactly what she’s falling through.

They say the world goes black when you plummet from such a height — that your own heart kills you before the crash even has the chance. It’s the body’s natural way of self destruction. Like shaking a ticking time bomb to rush the explosion. Like tossing a match into a tornado.

What was it called again? A heart attack?

But Lute’s heart is made of steel almost as much as her own weapons are. Air still floods her lungs, her eyes still catch a glimpse of the red world around her as she falls through the cracks, and the pain still tortures every fiber of her being.

It starts as a prickle, like static buzzing throughout her veins. It diffuses throughout her body from her wings to her toes, and all Lute can think is that she hasn’t even hit the ground yet.

It chokes her next, the taste of her own blood. When she spits, it coats her entire face in the slick substance. The taste is awful, metallic, like biting the edge of a sword. It runs down her mouth, spreads across her cheeks, and floats through the air.

She can only imagine what it must look like — a meteor, a shooting star, an omen of mass destruction. Maybe something poetic, maybe something almost hauntingly grotesque… or maybe nothing at all. Maybe she’s nothing at all. An angel, an outcast, flailing every limb, clawing at the air that whizzes around her, screaming in agony. Nothing that can be helped. Nothing that can be saved.

Maybe she’ll be falling forever.

The pain continues to travel, making sure to spread its fury throughout every last inch of her. Her forehead burns, even more gold trickling down her face as something pierces the skin, and… her eye. Her eye. Something severs a connection, the tissue, whatever f*cking term there is to describe this sick torment. And just like that, she can see it, descending in tune with the rest of her body.

______

“No, no, that’s not right — Angel, can you lower the banner a little to the left, please?”

Angel Dust scoffs, folding his lowest two arms in frustration while the others follow Charlie’s suggestion begrudgingly. “Princess, with all due respect, if we make this banner any straighter, Vaggs is really gonna hate it.”

The Happy Birthday banner is decently level, but still, something about its position isn’t right. Charlie can feel it like an itch in her spine, a sign that something is just plain wrong. She worries her bottom lip about it, taking a few steps back to observe the lobby in hopes she can work the imperfection into the charm of the party.

A hand comes down against her shoulder, Angel’s pink-painted nails glimmering underneath the multicolored lights newly adorning the walls when she glances in his direction. “Charlie… chill.”

Charlie sucks in a deep breath, letting it go with a long sigh. “I know, I know, it’s just—”

“Special delivery!” Startled, both of their heads snap towards the door in tune, only met with the sight of Lucifer struggling to open the front doors with the toe of his boot, balancing a box so tall it nearly covers his face with both hands.

Charlie rushes over, abandoning the banner debacle and taking the box into her own hands with ease; she easily towers over her dad, but if it makes him any bit self-conscious he doesn’t show it on his face. Instead, Lucifer simply dusts off his gloved hands while Charlie carefully sets the box down onto the table for him.

“Did you make this?” she questions, eagerly staring at the unmarked box; just this morning, she’d sent him out for a cake after realizing she wouldn’t have the time to bake one like she’d originally planned, occupied with being, as Angel had dubbed it, Decoration Dictator.

“No, no, not if you want it to be edible. Actually, it was a favor from a friend.”

“Oh, so that’s what we’re calling it now?” another voice chimes in, its distinct accent a dead giveaway even before she’s fully through the door. “You bake one cake for the King of Hell and suddenly you’re stuck with—”

“Oh, hush, Carmilla. We’re basically in-laws already.”

Carmilla’s usually stony expression softens into a slight smile at the implication of Vaggie being her third daughter, no matter how often everyone brings it up to tease the two of them. She shakes her head with a slight eye roll, bypassing everyone else to wrap an arm around Charlie’s shoulders. “Has the princess had her daily panic attack yet?”

“Three,” Angel confirms. “First she was afraid the disco ball was too much, then the balloons were two shades lighter than the streamers, then the banner wasn’t—”

“I… appreciate your help, Angel,” Charlie manages to grit out, red eyes narrowed into a sharp glare, “but you’re excused for the rest of the night now.”

“Sure, babe,” he says with a pat on the back before making a beeline for the bar.

“Carmilla,” Charlie changes the subject, lifting the top off of the box. The cake is beautiful, almost too beautiful for something that’ll be carved into soon enough, three tiers and decorated in red and white icing and tiny bows Charlie assumes are made of fondant. “If you’re here, then where is Vaggie? I… I thought you were distracting her?”

Oh, Satan, she’s panicking again.

Carmilla squeezes her gently before letting go of the hug. “Calm down, the girls took her out for the afternoon. I told them to get her a nice outfit for the party.”

Charlie nods, breathing a sigh of relief. “I just—”

“Want this to be perfect? I know.”

“Believe me,” Angel so helpfully chimes in from across the lobby, leaning dramatically against the bar while he downs another shot. “We know.

Charlie sighs, head in her hands. “I just want it to be special. You don’t get many memorable birthdays as an Exorcist, and now that I know that, I… I don’t know.”

“Princess, you could pat Vaggie on the head and she’d remember it forever,” Carmilla says, shaking her head. “Relax.”

“I thought I told you to stop calling me that.”

“Mmm… no.”

Lucifer takes a lap around the lobby, humming to himself as he observes the newly decorated space. “Mhm, mhm,” he murmurs to no one in particular before stopping to face Charlie again. “See? You’re getting better at this! Last time your gang decorated the lobby, I was staring at a ‘it’s a boy’ banner and three dead co*ckroaches your little maid was still torturing.”

A soft pitter-patter echoes across the parlor as Niffty seemingly appears out of nowhere, laughing to herself as she claps her hands excitedly. Charlie subconsciously makes an effort to keep an eye on her now that Lucifer has arrived; usually, Alastor manages to keep her tame, but there’s still good enough reason to be wary of the maid around the King of Hell. Her ‘bad boy’ obsession can come across as… creepy, sometimes. And Charlie really doesn’t need her trying to scale her dad like a jungle gym right now. “It was a warning!”

“Oh-ho-kay!” Lucifer chuckles nervously, taking a step back before clearing his throat. “Everything’s in order, then?”

Charlie does her own sweep of the place. The walls are adorned with colorful lights, a hand-painted banner hangs semi-straight between the two middle banisters on the back wall, the cake is here, now residing between the array of presents on the fold-out table Charlie had dug out of the supply closet… Everything is done. So why is she still so nervous?

“I think so.” She sucks in a deep breath, straightening her jacket in an attempt to steady herself. She’d swapped out her usual red hotel employee suit, instead opting for a simple knee-length dress of the same color and a jacket Cherri Bomb had given her under the guise of the garment not being ‘punk’ enough for her. “Is everyone here?”

“Roll call!” Lucifer echoes, earning responses from the various voices scattered across the lobby.

From the bar, Angel sounds off first with a simple “Uh-huh,” followed by his usual thing-one and thing-two glued to his side, Cherri and Husk.

“Yup.”

“Couldn’t leave if I wanted to.”

Then, Niffty, of course, panting like a dog as she excitedly runs in circles around the middle of the lobby, nearly bumping right into Charlie before…

“But of course!” Alastor chimes in, materializing from the shadows of the lobby. He scoops Niffty up with one arm, hoisting the small girl onto his shoulders. His smile widens as he towers over Charlie, though what would creep most people out serves as a comfort.

“Oh great, I was hoping you’d miss the party,” Lucifer grumbles.

“And miss a chance to support my—”

“If you call her your daughter, I swear to Heaven and Hell—”

“I was going to say colleague, but that works too I suppose!” Alastor says cheerfully, though his eyes narrow into a challenging glare.

“Okay, okay, I’d prefer no fighting today, please. Last time you two had this argument we had to replace two chairs because you literally started chucking them over your heads at each other,” Charlie warns.

“Fine, fine,” Lucifer sighs, extending his hand. “Truce?”

Alastor shakes it. “Not a chance.”

“Great.”

Charlie groans — or, starts to, at least, but before the noise can even pass her lips, there’s… a different sound. Outside of the door, she registers, there’s a loud boom, not quite thunder but certainly louder than the slam of a car door. It makes everyone’s heads turn; at least she’s not crazy, is her first thought, followed shortly by a concerned “What the f*ck?”

“Vaggie is here! Places everyone!” Lucifer calls, but something about that sound… No, something still isn’t right, but Charlie is quickly dragged towards the door as everyone moves to greet the birthday girl.

Lucifer rubs her back as soon as the tension that returns to her body is made obvious from the way Charlie starts to chew on her fingernails, Alastor resting a calm hand on top of her shoulder. She tries another deep breath, slowly coaxing air into her lungs. The door clicks, the knob turning, and… it’s now or never.

Surprise!” the party yells in unison, but the collective cadence drops as soon as Vaggie and the Carmine girls’ expressions are visible.

“Uh, Charlie…?” Vaggie murmurs. “Do you have any idea why there’s an angel in our— oh, sh*t, this is a surprise party isn’t it?” She glances up, a strained smile on her face, but concern still knits her brows together.

Charlie’s own smile drops as she glances between Vaggie and the sisters. “Did you say angel?”

“Uh… would it ruin the party if I said yes?”

Maybe?” Abandoning the other guests, Charlie rushes past her girlfriend and out of the door.

Sure enough, there’s… a figure, to say the least — a crumpled body at the edge of the gravel driveway, its body mostly obscured by two large feathered wings stained a deep shade of red — and just a few feet away lies one sleek black halo, cracked completely down the center and split into two equal halves.

“f*ck, did it— Did she fall?”

“I… I don’t know,” Vaggie admits, but she seems hesitant to approach the body, lingering a few feet behind Charlie, close enough to the hotel should the need for safety arise. “I figured it was another crackhead passed out on the lawn again, but then… I felt it.”

Charlie had always wondered about the sort of telepathic connections all angels seemed to have with each other, especially once the news broke about Vaggie and Lucifer admitted that he’d already figured her girlfriend was an angel. But, now, she figures, probably isn’t the best time to inquire. Instead of dwelling, her feet are moving before she can even stop to think it through, ignoring the “Be careful!” from Vaggie as she darts towards the wounded angel.

The puddle of blood is the first thing she notices, gold circling the body, almost angelic in its own right the way it glows. Still though, no matter how fascinating, it’s gruesome all the same. It stain’s Charlie’s palms as she rolls the girl over, oozing from the horns newly jutting out of her skull, from her eye, from her lips, from—

“Oh, f*ck.” Charlie’s head snaps around instantly to where Vaggie stands, still cautiously close to the door. “Uh, Vaggie… You’re going to want to see this.”

No, she isn’t, Charlie knows, but what else was she supposed to say?

Hey, Vaggie, remember the girl that gauged your eye out and kicked you out of Heaven? Yeah, now she’s in our yard, and— oh! There’s her eye. Three feet away from her!

The Angel Icarus - Chapter 1 - wittepain (2024)
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