THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES

By Barb

 

A/N:  So here’s the story for Inmate 78 or as I refer to it as ‘the episode where Buck loses his shit’. So far I’ve had Gabriel make a few appearances, but this is the first time that you’ll get to see Michael. Hopefully there’s enough angst for everybody, but if not…I tried.

 

~ ~ INMATE 78 ~ ~

 

“I hate this town,” I growled, casting a flinty-eyed glare around the darkened saloon. I knew I should’ve just left Chris to his own devices on this trip, I reprimanded myself mentally. I turned my attention back to my brooding charge and sighed dramatically as he downed his glass of whiskey and told the persistent watch salesman next to him to bugger off. “Least you didn’t growl at the poor man,” I muttered, leaning against the bar on Chris’ other side so that I could rest my head between my propped up hands. So far, this little excursion to Jericho had felt like one big waste of time, and I’d be lying if I said that the town wasn’t giving me bad vibes. “Do you think that you could perhaps speed things up a bit? You know how quickly things turn to shit when you lot…” My voice trailed off as two men burst through the swinging doors, bringing an abrupt halt to any conversation in the room. “Separate,” I finished my thought quietly, praying that my uneasy vibes were just my paranoia talking. As I watched the men identified as being the sheriff and deputy of this pathetic excuse for a town confront the salesman sitting next to Chris, I let out a strangled laugh of relief. “It looks like you lucked out on this one, mate,” I grinned cheekily, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “Yep…it would seem that I have nothing to worry about.”


 I felt my smile begin to falter when I heard Chris butt in on the men’s conversation, his voice low and mumbled as he kept his attention firmly fixated on the whiskey bottles behind the bar. It was as if time had suddenly slowed to a crawl as the sheriff and his deputy turned their attentions to my charge, a particularly sinister glint in their eyes that made me more than uneasy. Please ignore him. Please ignore him. Please ignore him, I chanted internally. Perhaps if Chris played things cool, they’d just dismiss him as nothing more than a mouthy drunk and leave him alone.


“Or not,” I exhaled loudly, my irritated utterance lost amongst the noise of the brawl that my charge had initiated with the sheriff and deputy. I appreciated Chris’ noble sentiment of speaking out against an injustice, but the man really needed to work on his timing and tact. “You just couldn’t control yourself, could you?” I asked mockingly, staring down at my now unconscious charge. The look on the sheriff’s face as he eyed Chris’ sprawled form told me that whatever plans he had for my charge did not include a night in jail or a quick dismissal from town. “I really hate this town,” I bit out harshly, stomping off after the sheriff as he and his deputy dragged Chris off to the local jail.


“You have got to be kidding me!” I exclaimed incredulously, looking on as the sheriff pulled a judge’s robe over his clothes and proceeded to ‘oversee’ Chris’ case. Surely this must have been some kind of sick joke…this wanker couldn’t possibly be able to arrest someone let alone pass sentence on him? “Please tell me that there is a legitimate officer of the law around here?” I pleaded to the un-hearing sheriff. I listened as he and his deputy conducted a sham of a trial before the man ‘sentenced’ my charge to five years of hard labor. “You son of a…” My angry growl was abruptly cut off as a pair of arms wrapped around my waist and halted my lunge for the smirking man behind the desk. “Bugger it to hell,” I grunted, wrestling with the iron grip that held me back from my target. My head snapped up as I heard my charge being forced from the jail, and I made one more desperate grab for the object of my ire. “This isn’t over you bastard!” I yelled after them, pulling at the arms restraining me. “Bloody hell, let me go!” I cried out to my captor, knowing it could only be one of two people. As soon as I felt the arms around my mid-section loosen, I took the opportunity to violently shove my elbow into the form behind me, taking a sadistic pleasure in the grunt of pain I received in response. I quickly whirled around in preparation to deliver another blow when I heard a wheezy voice drift up from the doubled-over figure before me.


“That…was not…how…I had wanted…to start things off.”


“Michael?” I asked tentatively, my brow scrunching in puzzlement. I had expected such an asinine maneuver from Gabriel or perhaps a lower class angel or demon not my all mighty older brother Michael; he always knew better than to come up on me from behind. I watched as he raised his head to look at me, an abashed smirk curving his lips. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re playing at?” I blurted, totally bewildered at my older brother’s strange appearance and behavior.


“Well…I was hoping to catch you before things turned to shit…but I guess I was a bit late for that,” Michael sighed, straightening slowly and rubbing at his side carefully. “Next time I think I’ll just let you have a go of it instead of trying to hold you back.”


I let a self-satisfied grin grace my face before returning to my question. “Now that you’ve learned not to sneak up on me, you want to tell me why you’re here?”


Michael’s features quickly sobered as he quit prodding at his sore side and took in a deep breath. “It’s about your charge.”


“If you’ve come to tell me that Mr. Larabee has put both feet in the milk bucket, I already know,” I stage whispered, crossing my arms over my chest as I leaned back against the desk. Any other news that my brother had couldn’t possibly be any worse than what I had just witnessed. I watched as my brother swallowed thickly, and I inhaled a shuddering breath. There could only be one reason for Michael’s strange behavior and his mentioning of my charge. “N…no…oh no…n…no,” I stammered, shaking my head in denial at Michael’s unspoken revelation.


“If it’s his appointed time…”


“The hell it is!” I screamed, cutting off my brother’s soft spoken words. Chris was my charge, and I’d be damned if I let Lucifer get his claws on Larabee’s soul! I strode to the door in three angry strides, wrenching it open viciously before I pinned Michael with a heated glare. “You go back up there and tell Lucifer to shove off. I aim to keep Chris’ soul amongst the realm of the living, and if he has a problem with that then he can come see me himself.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Merciful heaven,” I gagged, clamping a hand over my mouth to prevent my traitorous body from disgracing me. I had known that my charge was in for a rough go of things, but I had no idea that the conditions of his prison would be so dire. “How the bloody hell could anyone be expected to survive these… deplorable conditions?” I mumbled into my hand, narrowing my eyes at the sickening setting before me. I turned around at the sound of the prison-wagon doors being opened and groaned when my charge leapt out from inside and took out a mounted guard. “Bugger it all,” I sighed, moving to reign in my wayward charge before he managed to do serious damage to his person.


Chris had taken control of the guard’s horse and was powering his way towards the gate before I could reach him, managing to help break his fall when another guard knocked him off the horse. “Oi, what the bloody hell kind of place are you running here, mate!” I shouted to the pompous-looking man leering down at my charge. Although the man hadn’t introduced himself just yet, I could tell that he was the warden of this hellhole; he was far too confident to be anything else. I felt my anger begin to bubble to the surface as I listened to the man condemn Larabee to spend four days in something called ‘the hole’, knowing that whatever this place was couldn’t be conducive to my charge’s well-being. “For fuck’s sake, Chris, hold your bloody tongue!” I all but shouted to my obstinate charge, incensed at the warden’s adding another four days to his time in the hole due to his smart mouth. As I watched the guards lead him away, I felt my anger begin to morph into fear, leading me to rush after them so that I could have one last word with my charge before I left him at the mercy of these Neanderthals. “You hang in there, Chris. I’m just going to pop back into town and make sure that the others come find you, and then I’ll be right back,” I assured him quickly, swallowing the lump that arose in my throat as I watched the guards toss him into a cell that had been dug in the ground. “Please hang on,” I whispered, giving my incarcerated charge one last look before heading back to town. With any luck, the others will suspect that something’s wrong when Chris doesn’t show up tomorrow. “And being the good and loyal friends that they are, they’ll come to investigate his disappearance,” I reassured myself, praying that my charges wouldn’t pick now as the time to disappoint me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 
“So much for positive thinking,” I murmured, leaning against the wall of the saloon and cradling my aching head as I listened to JD spout off atrocious jokes. All the while I had been hoping that my other charges would be worried sick because Chris was late in returning home, they had been sitting around in the saloon cracking bad jokes and drinking beer. “I guess I gave you lot too much credit,” I sighed in disgust, pushing myself off the wall. I hadn’t managed to make it around Buck’s chair when I spotted Mary Travis cautiously entering the saloon and walking right up to my charges’ table. Perhaps she’ll set these imbeciles straight, I thought bitterly, backing up a step so that I had a clear view for the conversation that was about to take place. “Well…at least someone’s concerned about Chris’ disappearance,” I drawled, flopping back against the wall as I waited to hear Buck’s explanation for his friend’s continued absenteeism. While Nathan and JD showed some concern over Larabee’s lengthy absence from town, Wilmington was hastily using up what little patience I possessed with his casual disregard for his friend’s safety. “So that’s what you think Chris is up to, Mr. Wilmington? Carousing whorehouses and living it up?” I cried out in astonishment. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as Mary shook her head in dismissal and walked away, leaving my charges to splutter in amusement. “If only you lot knew what was really happening to him…I doubt you’d find the truth to be so entertaining,” I snarled, stalking out of the building without so much as a backward glance. It was no use hanging around here right now; they’d start looking for Chris once they pulled their heads out of their arses. “In the meantime, I’m going to stay where I’m needed the most,” I reasoned aloud, taking off for the prison camp as fast as my wings could carry me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The next couple of days were hard going as I watched Chris struggle alongside the other prisoners in performing the assigned tasks.  I split my time between keeping my eye on him at the prison camp and checking in on the rest of my charges back home, hoping that they’d finally come to their senses and decided to start looking for their missing leader. Alas, after a couple days of journeying back and forth and running myself ragged, I’d finally thrown up my hands and said ‘to hell with it’. If the others were content to stay back home and continue to wait forever for Larabee to show up, there wasn’t much I could do in the way of changing their minds. I observed as Chris struggled to put down the shovel that he was carrying before he limped his way over to the meal line, shaking my head forlornly at his haggard appearance. If I hadn’t known it was him, I would’ve probably never recognized him.


“How the bloody hell do they expect anyone to survive on slop like that?” I asked disdainfully, giving the ‘food’ on the prisoners’ plates a disgusted sneer. When it came time for Chris to receive his meal, I had to turn away or risk being violently ill at the sight of the ‘cook’ spitting into my charge’s food. “You’re not going to last much longer in here if that sort of behavior keeps up,” I murmured around the hand that I’d placed over my mouth, sitting next to Chris as he handed his plate off to a fellow inmate. If only the others would see fit to come and look for him…Chris might be spared from such further indignities, I mused bitterly.


 I vaguely heard the sound of a new voice looming over my head, and I raised my weary gaze to see three grimy-looking prisoners standing before my charge. “Bugger it all to hell,” I growled, leaping up from my seat as Chris sucker-punched one of the men and began brawling with all three. Was there any place on this forsaken planet that was free of people that Larabee had had past dealings with? “Somehow…I don’t think my charge’s presence in that piss-poor town was a coincidence,” I muttered, watching as a couple of the guards escorted Chris to the infirmary. This new development sent my already troubling thoughts into overdrive as I numbly walked through the camp. It certainly appeared that events had conspired against my charge on this journey of his…almost as if they had been… “Pre-ordained,” I whispered brokenly, stopping just inside the medical tent. Damn it all to hell…it looked as if Michael had been right. “But as long as Chris lives and breathes, there’s still a chance to save his soul.” I nodded to myself resolutely as I strode out the door, intent on returning to this place only when I had my other charges in tow.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


My sojourn from the prison camp ended up being relatively shorter than what I had expected, my charges already retracing Chris’ trail by the time I met up with them. Seeing as they were closing in on the town of Jericho, I decided to leave them to it and headed back to check on Chris, praying that he hadn’t managed to get into anything dire while I was away. “Sometimes…I think you time these little incidents just right,” I remarked sarcastically, standing next to Chris as I listened to the sheriff and warden offer my charge a ‘deal’. I had just made it back to the camp when I had spotted my charge being led to the warden’s ‘office’, and after letting out a round of mumbled curses I’d stomped after him, grumbling about how ‘uncanny’ my timing seemed to be as of late. “Chris…you keep that bloody trap of yours shut,” I warned him, seeing the effect that the warden’s and sheriff’s extortion ‘offer’ was having on my charge. As two guards came and roughly hauled him back to work, I let out a breath of annoyance. The others had better be making good progress because I didn’t give Chris very good odds in surviving much longer…especially not after a performance like that. “You mouth off like that again, and I’ll kill you myself,” I hissed into Chris’ ear, wishing for the millionth time that my charges could hear me all of the time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I couldn’t suppress the happy grin that twisted my lips at the sight of my charges riding into the town of Jericho. “It’s about bloody time,” I chuckled, letting out a relieved sigh as I spotted my remaining charges clustered in front of the jail. “Oh shit,” I mumbled, the curse slipping past my lips as I saw Buck suddenly make a move to draw his gun. Thankfully, Vin had been right there with a restraining arm, but I made sure that I plastered myself to Wilmington’s side as my troupe ambled away from the jail and the town’s obnoxious deputy. As my charges continued to lead their horses down the road, I began to fear that they would simply keep riding, passing this town over like the others that they’d apparently already been to. However, my bout of panic began to ebb away when they stopped in front of the local hotel that also doubled as the town saloon.


“This place sure does bring back some fond memories,” I drawled sardonically, leaning back against the bar as Vin and Josiah subtly questioned the hotel matron while the others situated themselves at a near-by table. I could hear the elderly lady’s claim to have not remembered seeing Chris, but she was soon tuned out as I watched JD attempt to tell Ezra his horrible joke from a few days ago. “Lad wouldn’t know a good joke if it snuck up on him and bit him in the…oh bugger.” I snapped to attention upon the sudden arrival of the town’s sheriff and deputy, shifting to stand between my two charges at the bar and the others at the table. “Please let them play this scene off cool,” I mouthed inaudibly, praying that the others would show more restraint in handling these two wankers than Chris had. I felt myself wince when I heard Buck’s snort of amusement at hearing the sheriff’s ‘request’ for their guns. “Please don’t argue…please don’t argue…please don’t argue,” I chanted quietly, squeezing my eyes shut in anticipation of a blowup that never came. “Bless you, Vin,” I exhaled, shepherding my charges out the door and away from potential harm. Having Chris’ would-be rescuers wind up in trouble with the local law was the last thing I needed right now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Shit, shit and shit…can’t leave the bloody idiot alone for five minutes without him attempting suicide,” I ranted, swooping down into the prison camp and dropping down to hover over my writhing charge. I turned my fiery gaze to the warden, who stood over Chris with a mean-looking club and a sinister smirk, and shook my head despondently. “What caused you to use your body as a punching bag this…time.” My voice trailed off as I caught sight of an injured man lying in the dirt a few feet behind the warden, and I closed my eyes with a weary sigh. “Here I am…trying to keep your bloody soul in the realm of the living…meanwhile, you’re trying your damnedest to thwart me at every turn. I swear…you lot have me wishing that I’d been given a group of selfish bastards to look after with each of these foolish acts of yours,” I grunted, carefully helping my wounded charge to his feet. I steadied his shaky form as he threw another defiant comment at the warden’s smug face, and I tightened my hold at the sinister look that the man shot him. “Yes…these rash acts of heroism will certainly be the death of you, Mr. Larabee,” I commented casually, throwing my charge a sidelong glance as I helped him back to the infirmary. Let’s just hope that such an event is farther along in time, I told myself mentally.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


After making sure that Chris would be under the care of the infirmary ‘doctor’ for a spell, I decided to pop back into town to see how the others were getting on. The sound of a loud crash accompanied by a familiar raised voice drifting out of the town general store had me slapping a hand across my forehead. I’m surrounded by Neanderthals, I mused despairingly, keeping my hand over my eyes as I trudged up the steps to the store. It wasn’t the fact that Buck was apparently assaulting the store owner that got on my nerves; it was the fact that his behavior was doing nothing in the way of helping Chris out of his current predicament. On the plus side, at least my charges knew for sure that Larabee had been here and that something suspicious was going on in this town.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I calmly strode a few paces behind my charges, a smirk of anticipation on my face as I observed them cross the street and stop at the entrance to the alley next the hotel. “This should most interesting,” I grinned maniacally, settling myself against a support post as I waited for the ‘show’ to begin. The general store owner had finally confessed that the old woman who ran the local hotel had given him Larabee’s gun to sell in his store; therefore, my charges decided that the best way to get more information on Chris’ whereabouts was to get the woman to come clean about her actions. “This may not have been the smartest way to go about getting answers, but it sure as hell is the funniest, bloody thing I’ve seen in a while,” I laughed, nearly doubling over in mirth when Buck began to ‘rage’ at the old woman. “The hell with it, Nathan, let him go! Lord knows we could all use a good laugh right about now,” I called out to the healer, laughing even harder when he actually picked Wilmington off his feet and held him back when Buck began to lunge at the woman. The look on her wrinkled face as she pleaded with Josiah to help her was priceless, and I couldn’t resist giving my charges a round of applause when she hurriedly began to spin her tale. “Well…that was the most entertaining waste of time that I’ve had for the last few days,” I chuckled, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes as I followed my charges down the street. The lady’s story had been about as fake as Buck’s performance, so that put my troupe back at square one in regards to finding Chris. I glanced out at the horizon and considered checking in on my incarcerated charge briefly, just to make sure that an incident similar to the one that I’d come back to last time hadn’t occurred again. “With all that I’ve got riding on this situation, I’m not taking any chances,” I stated lowly, shooting my group of men one last look before taking off.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The scene that greeted me upon my arrival back at the camp was surprising to say the least, but unlike the other surprises that I’d been receiving lately this one was pleasant. Apparently, Chris’ little display with the warden had earned him the respect of his fellow inmates, and the three men who had confronted him a few days ago were now offering him their respect. “Well…it looks like some good will come out of this mess,” I remarked, hanging off to the side as I watched Chris admit his wrongdoing to the man who had accused him of murdering his cousin. The other man had accepted Chris’ sincere apology and admission of being a changed man with a nod of the head and an admission of having been a different man in the past himself before allowing Chris to pass by.


As I continued to stand and evaluate the men around me, I began to see things from a new perspective. Suddenly, the bizarre coincidence that led to my charge being imprisoned here had a new meaning behind it. “If Chris hadn’t been in that saloon at that exact time, we might have never known about this place and the cruelty that goes on here,” I mused aloud, turning in circles to get a complete view of the place. With this new thought in mind, I headed back to Jericho to see if the others had come up with an alternate means of acquiring information. “Perhaps I can save my charge’s soul and bring an end to this reign of tyranny at the same time.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“What a truly, pathetic individual,” I remarked drolly, chuckling despite myself at the display before me. For the last several hours, I’d sat with my charges in the saloon, watching as Ezra got the town’s deputy beyond pissed. My charge’s silver tongue had once again worked its magic as he’d spun a tale of how they’d actually been looking for Chris in order to collect a bounty on his head, and the unsuspecting lawman had eaten it up with gusto as he and Ezra had begun to engage in a round of drinking. “I’d say he’s about had it,” I snickered, leaning back in my chair as the deputy erupted into a fit of drunken laughter upon hearing JD’s dreadful ‘dog walks into a saloon’ joke. I almost felt bad for the young man when his pleased grin was wiped away by the deputy’s sudden passing out. “At least the chap proved useful before his… untimely…collapse.” I heard my words trail off into a quiet whisper as the sheriff and a group of men from town abruptly burst into the saloon, looking for all intents and purposes like a lynch mob. I clamped my mouth so tight that I felt my jaw ache when the sheriff announced that he had a warrant for Vin’s arrest and that they were there to take him into custody. “They’ll never let that happen,” I mumbled, glancing around as I spotted my other charges begin to assert themselves into the conversation. Surely he knows the trouble that will ensue should he pursue this course of action, I thought nervously, flicking my eyes between my angered charges and the fidgety lawman. I watched as the sheriff’s posse disintegrated with each move my charges made until the man finally handed over his gun and the arrest warrant with an anxious smile, holding his hands out in supplication.


With the sheriff now in their custody, I followed my charges out of the building as they prepared to head for the prison camp, stopping just outside the door when I spotted the old woman from the hotel standing outside with a shotgun. “What the bloody are you trying to pull?” My angry shout to the heavens went unheard by those around me, and I angrily stalked the short distance to where Josiah now stood facing off with the woman. “You’ve already let her fool you once, Josiah. You let her fool you again and you’re a dead man,” I growled, casting a sidelong glance to my focused charge. I had a feeling that he didn’t trust the woman to surrender willingly, and wasn’t too surprised when he wrapped a large hand around the shotgun in order to prevent the hammer from releasing. “Good show, mate,” I muttered, clapping Josiah on the shoulder as I brushed past them. For once, I was relieved that I hadn’t been needed in order to avert disaster, but my heart began to pound at the thought of what awaited us upon our arrival at the prison camp. “Not much longer now…we’re almost there…just a little while longer,” I chanted under my breath, praying that Chris would still be in one piece when I arrived.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Shit! Where the bloody hell is he?” I cried out in frustration, racing about the empty camp in a vain search for my missing charge. I spotted a dark form crouched over the entrance to the hole and let out a string of angry curses. That pompous bastard had thrown Chris down into that vile pit again, probably knowing full-well that the injured man wouldn’t last long in his weakened condition. “You son of a…oh…shit.” The sight of my charge huddling in the corner of the underground cell, staying as far away from the deadly serpent that slithered across the floor as possible, caused my furious growl to fade into a fearful whisper. So that’s how Chris was expected to die? “Your sense of humor is truly atrocious, Lucifer,” I ground out, hopping down into the space below. If this was to be the final act, I’d be damned if I didn’t give it my best shot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I stood at the entrance to the prison camp and viewed the scene before me with a wistful smile all the while keeping my exhaustion and anguish under a tight rein. There would be plenty of time to collapse in a fit of relief driven tears once I saw my charges home. I felt rather than saw my older brother step up next to me, his subdued manner setting me on edge. Surely there wasn’t more to this trial through fire? I swallowed my momentary panic as I felt him place an arm around my shoulders, pulling me into a firm but gentle one-armed hug. I relaxed my tense muscles so as not to appear anxious as I waited for him to speak, the illusion becoming harder to keep up the longer the silence stretched out.


“When Gabriel first told me how well you were doing here, I didn’t believe him. Out of the three of us, I’d never expected you to take to humans better than any angel in the heavens,” Michael stated quietly, his focus on my charges as they prepared to leave the prison camp. Up until now, I’d have taken such a statement from him to be nothing more than another way to mock me. It was sort of frightening how far I’d come since first taking this assignment. I felt Michael’s intense gaze turn on me and I cautiously glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, his somber face causing my throat to constrict.


“There are times when I’d like nothing more than to throttle the lot of them,” I choked out, attempting a weak smile that began to wobble. My brother had apparently sensed my distress because he quickly turned to envelope me into a hug, holding me tight until my pent up distress passed.


“You did wonderful, Julian, better than Gabriel or I ever could have hoped to do,” he murmured into my ear, hushing me when I let out a strangled sob. “It’s over now…Lucifer’s been beaten…you have nothing more to fear from him.”


“Until his next attempt,” I shot back, pulling away from Michael so that I could wipe the tears from my face. “He won’t stop; you and I both know that so there’s no point in denying it,” I sniffled, attempting to regain as much of my dignity as I could. I’d never allowed myself to break down like this in front of anyone, so I hastily adjusted my robe and hair in an effort to appear presentable. Michael simply smiled at my actions wistfully and wrapped me into another hug. It was a testament to my need for security that I gave up all pretenses for appearing confident and simply clung to my older brother for comfort. “Thank you for believing in me,” I whispered, allowing only a few more renegade tears to escape my eyes.


“It wasn’t my belief that delivered you through this trial, Julian. You’ve never needed me to believe in you for anything,” Michael replied quietly, pulling back so that he could look into my eyes. “This was Father’s plan all along, and you were the only one fit enough to see it come to fruition. Lucifer will never stop his attacks, but at least now you know that you’re able to handle whatever obstacles he may throw your way.” Michael brought his hands up to cup both sides of my face and gave me a gentle shake as he grinned, “I don’t think I could’ve kept it together had I been in your shoes. It’s a blessing that you’re no longer able to carry your sword with you.”


“It would’ve certainly made things easier,” I smirked, feeling my control start to come back. I ducked my head as I began to think about what I’d do the next time an attempt was made on one of my charges’ souls, and I swallowed thickly as I quietly voiced the question that plagued my mind. “The next time Lucifer decides to come after one of my men…you will tell me, won’t you?”


Michael’s easy smile had disappeared by the time I raised my gaze to meet his, and he dropped his hands to lightly squeeze my shoulders. “You’ll know the second he shows his face in heaven,” he assured me. I gave him a nod of acceptance and he nodded back before releasing me from his light hold, vanishing back to the heavens before I’d managed to turn around and walk more than two steps. As I began to escort my troupe back home, I thought about all that had transpired and my brother’s words. This event had shaken me…shaken me to my very core, but I’d managed to persevere and ended up besting the Devil himself. “Used your own favored creature against you, brother,” I smirked, thinking about the irony of it all. Lucifer’s own twisted sense of destiny had come back to literally bite him on this one. “And I’ll make sure the same result happens the next time.”

 

 

 

 

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