Never to Heaven Go

by Tenshi

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
King Claudius, Hamlet III.iii

The snare of burning letters closed around him, and in an instant Dantalion's world was made of agony. For uncounted years of his long life he had waited for those kinds of Words to come to him again: words of power, words only one narrow step down from the tongue of God. Solomon's words. For them to come at him like this, in blinding torment from an angel's snare, only added further insult to his injury.

What happened after was a pain-soaked eternity of blinding clarity. He wished he could call it a blur, he wished the pain could have blotted out the memory. But it was sharp, crystalline demon logic, and it rang in his mind like a bell. Find the cause of the hurt. Where is the cause? He is the cause. Kill him. End it. Stop the pain. Thought became action, and Dantalion's memories folded over onto themselves. William's neck throbbed under his clenched fingers; Solomon's unresponsive one hung from them like so much meat upon a spit. The struggling boy, the dead king. A second before Camio's burst of power threw the two of them apart, Dantalion had already returned to his senses. Fear overrode even the searing ropes of angelic magic, fear and the cold, stony weight of guilt unabated after centuries. Dantalion staggered back, stared at his shaking hand, and thought for a moment that he might retch.

Fourteen hours later, after William's blunt dismissal, after the stilted play rehearsal, after a night in which none of them slept, Dantalion's left hand still ached. He dressed and went down to the dining room with all the liveliness of a golem. The clamor of the dining hall assaulted his ears: scores of boys all chewing and shouting, both with mouths wide open. The reek of humans and steaming sausages sent Dantalion slumping backwards in his chair, hand clamped over his mouth. Not even all of Baphomet's confections could have tempted him then, and Jacob House's breakfast offerings were a far cry from his demon butler's tea-tray. The porridge was gray and rubbery, and even the wilted eyes of the smoked kippers gave Dantalion an accusing stare.

"You're not hungry?" Across the table, Sytry piled great spoon-fulls of strawberry jam into his porridge, until the mound of oats was entirely covered in a glistening red mass. It looked like a bowl of fresh brains. Sytry dumped on some cream for good measure and tucked in, avoiding the actual porridge as much as possible.

"Ugh," Dantalion replied, and groped for the teapot. School tea was little more than bitter brown water, but his tongue still tasted of angelic magic: like cold steel and honey commingled. Two cups of tepid tea-water did little to erase the memory, but he was unwilling to try his luck with the food. "Where is William?"

"Been and gone, man," Sytry had finished scraping jam off his porridge and was adding another layer. Dantalion no longer asked where he got such luxuries, forever gobbling down sweets and clotted cream while the other students were forced to share a meager pat of butter no bigger than a sixpence. The fallen angel's underclassmen cronies were forever filling his pockets with toffees and chocolate bon-bons. "Isaac too. Something about getting over to Geography early."

"William doesn't even have Geography today," Dantalion replied. "...He's avoiding me."

Sytry gave a most un-angelic snort. "I'd avoid you too if you'd tried to choke me to death, and I'm no human. Surely you aren't surprised."

Dantalion only stared at his open palm and did not answer.

"Ugh." Sytry plopped his elbow down on the table and jabbed the air around Dantalion with his jam-sticky spoon. "Have you tried talking to him?"

"He brushes me off. Like last night, you saw how he was."

"Maybe because he knows it wasn't your fault, and doesn't want to make things worse by wallowing in it."

"But it was my fault," Dantalion insisted, with hushed urgency. "Even with the barrier, even with angelic magic... I should never have lost control like that. And to attack him!"

"Ummhmm," Sytry sucked on his spoon, thoughtfully. "You did rather put your boot in it."

"I deserve his censure and scorn." Dantalion hung his head.

Sytry rolled his eyes heavenward, though he was long past seeking any succor from that direction. "Hell's Bells," he exhaled. "You want him to be angry with you, don't you? You want him to punish you so you can feel better about it." He flung down his spoon. "You're such a human."

Red eyes gleamed through the black fringe of Dantalion's hair. "Is that a challenge, Sytry? I'd be glad to prove my powers to you."

"After trying to throttle the life from the elector?" Sytry looked prim. "I'd say you've cocked up enough in the past day."

Dantalion's shoulders slumped in renewed defeat.

"Anyhoo," Sytry continued, shoving away a bowl that was still full of porridge but miraculously devoid of jam, "You'll be late for Latin class if you sit moping about here. And the kitchen-boys will gather you up after breakfast and throw you out with the fish-heads and other rubbish."

"I don't like Latin class," Dantalion grumbled, almost petulant. "The professor's always trying to correct my accent, and it's perfectly accurate as it is."

"Accurate for a thug in a Pompeii whorehouse," Sytry agreed. "At any rate, if you're late you'll get detention tonight. And then it'll be another day before you're able to grovel on your belly, lick William's boots, and beg his forgiveness."

Sytry's words caused a hot, squirmy feeling down in Dantalion's insides, and even as he hugged himself to will it away, there was little he could do to hide the rush of blood to his face.

"Oh Dantalion," Sytry purred knowingly, smiling at the Nephilim's display of shame and longing, "You're so naughty." Sytry flounced off, a smug demon. And why should he not be, Dantalion thought, bitterly. Sytry could force any man to betray his passions, but he never needed to expend an ounce of his powers to make them do so.

Dantalion craved William's punishment, his censure, his anger. Only in that could he find absolution for his offense. Only then could he forgive himself for bringing harm to the one person who mattered more to him than anyone, in any time, in any world between heaven and hell.

The bell rang to end breakfast and Dantalion fled to the classroom building, his mind and tongue burning with words that had nothing to do with Angels.


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