Orlando Bloom was one of His finest creations. But I've destroyed far more beautiful creatures. Men and women whose beauty had made Orlando's look dull and lifeless, mortals who'd vibrated with so much life and vitality that they had seemed a different kind of being altogether, something not quite human. But they'd proved all too fragile in the end. I have laid waste to entire civilizations, razed cities to the ground, slaughtered the blasphemous, wielded my sword in His name until my wings were soaked in the screams and blood of the dying and the damned.
I've never hesitated to do His will, to reap His judgment, to seek His vengeance. I am without sin, without guilt, without pride or lust or guile. I am infinity and patience and virtue. I am His embodiment, created in His image, chosen to represent Him on Earth.
Never have I longed to be what I am not.
Never have I longed to have that which is forbidden, even to His most favored.
"There is something about him, isn't there?" the voice to my right rasped in my ear. I wasn't surprised. I'd expected him far sooner.
I turned my head from studying the child, sleeping peacefully tangled in cotton sheets, and examined my companion. If Orlando was beauty, then Lucifer was incandescence personified. Strong of limb, dark of hair, sleek and glorious and completely irresistible to those who had a weakness. And everyone had weaknesses. Including us.
"All His creations are beautiful, Lucifer," I finally replied. "Even you."
"Especially me," he chuckled, and shifted closer to me with his next movement. There was plenty of room on the railing at the foot of the bed where we were perched. The movement was deliberate and we both knew it.
"Pride was ever your downfall," I replied, and turned my gaze back to Orlando. Sleeping blissfully on, dreams uninterrupted by our conversation.
"Do not think for a moment He has forsaken me, Angel," Lucifer whispered, his voice a slithering presence in my ear. "He needs me. He needs balance, an equal. It is why He created me, after all."
"He created you out of love and compassion, as He has created everything. And look what you've done with your gifts."
"Look what He has you doing with yours. Killing innocent mortals in His name, because He is afraid."
"This boy is a golden calf," I replied, gesturing carelessly at the bed and its sole occupant.
"This child?" Lucifer laughed, and Orlando murmured in his sleep, shifted, sheets riding dangerously low around slender hips. "You believe this mortal is a rival for Him?"
"Doesn't matter what I believe. I do as I'm told." We all did, except for Lucifer. Obedience was our entire reason for existence. We served His will without mercy or regret. It is why we were not given souls. We are nightmare and cruelty, compassion and love. We live through His mercy, kill at His command. For time without end, we have endured countless trials, fought His battles, carried out His orders without question.
"Such a good little foot soldier you are, too," Lucifer murmured, and I spared him another sidelong glance before returning my gaze to Orlando. "How sad it must be for you to know that He is afraid of His creations here on Earth."
"He is fear."
"No." The retort was whip-fast. "He's afraid, and there's a difference. His creations no longer believe, Angel. This is why I grow stronger every day. This is why I will win this war. Because He would send you to destroy this mortal rather than risk letting him live and grow strong in the adulation of his peers."
Old argument, from before the First War. He and I have had it endlessly, without resolution. "His creations believe," I replied, watching the way the shadows from the billowing curtains danced along gold-hued skin. "Miracles exist every day, in every breath that He graces them. The miracle of laughter and hope and art. What have you ever given to them except damnation?"
"I let them enjoy and embrace what little time they have. I can make them Gods while on Earth."
"And then stand back and watch them fall under His wrath."
"Even I must be allowed my pursuits."
"Why are you here, Lucifer?" I was weary of this discussion, weary of his voice, sibilant and low in my ear. Orlando murmured again, lips pursed in exhalation, breath shuddering out of a tightly muscled chest.
"How long have you been following this mortal's soul, Angel?" One of Lucifer's fingers trailed up my thigh, slid between, traced the void. "How long have you lusted after what you could never have?"
I didn't respond to the touch, even though it burned like acid along my flesh. "Angels do not lust," I said.
"You are not one of us anymore."
A gentle thumb turned my head, and Lucifer's breath ghosted across my lips when he spoke. "I have always been one of you, Angel. First born, best loved." He blazed from within at every word, an inner fire that had consumed the best of us in its wake. "And I lust."
I remained silent, watchful, waiting for his next trick, his next move. Orlando slumbered on, one hand curled under his cheek, dark curls tumbling in disarray over plump pillows.
"I can give this child to you." Lips brushing mine, silken and warm. "I can give you what you most long for."
"I long for nothing."
I felt Lucifer's smile over my lips. "You long for what He will not give you. That is why you hesitate. That is why I am here."
"You're here in vain." I still did not move, did not dare. The slightest shift would be exploited. His breath was fire, his lips a brand, his touch a mark. I felt soiled and unclean, as I was meant to.
"Look at him and tell me no," Lucifer instructed, and turned my face back to the bed, and the perfect creation upon it.
I am vengeance. I am the dusk, the dawn, blackest night, break of day. I am eternal, without time, the alpha and omega. Among the firstborn of His creations, one of the best loved, ardent warrior, loyal vassal, willing soldier, beloved slave. I have fought His wars, done His deeds, obeyed and lived my life in subservience, subject to His whim, slayer at His command.
I have never been tempted to have what is forbidden.
I have never longed to be that which I am not.
My wings are drenched in the blood of beauty, for I have no soul that will weep.