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Clocking in at just over 4000 words, here is part one of what will likely be a very loooong fic.

Title: Fading Stars [part 1/??]
Fandom: Biblical mythology
Pairing: Lucifer/Beelzebub
Rating: PG-13 [this chapter]
Summary: AU. What if Beelzebub had not Fallen with Lucifer and the other Rebel angels?


The future spirals through blackness like spun starlight, a curving twisted thread. Alongside it, many other silver possibilities grow out of or vanish from it. Heaven can be seen. Heaven when it was only Heaven. For a long time, the angels were happy there.

Then God spoke of a new creation, a complement to the angels: humanity.

Many of the Host were enthused. Many were not. Chief amongst the objectors were two of the Nine Archangels, also members of the Seraphim: Lucifer and Beelzebub.

Lucifer's passionate charisma combined with Beelzebub's cool logic won them many followers. Louder and louder, the Rebel faction clamored for reform. Why should God create these lesser beings, these humans? Was Heaven not good enough?

In the Silver City Palace, the Seraphim hotly debated the Earth Plan while the lesser choirs waited with baited breath, and through everything God remained unusually silent.

In the end, no consensus could be reached. Outraged at God's refusal to speak, Lucifer lead the Rebel faction against the Silver City in the Seventh Layer in an effort to take over Heaven.

In command over the Loyalist angels, Seraph Michael marshaled Heaven's defense, and a vicious battle ensued between the two sides. The Loyalists and Rebels fought themselves to a brutal standstill until Michael and Lucifer engaged each other in the final decisive confrontation.

Seeing Michael and Lucifer locked in battle, Beelzebub had hurried to interfere, but before Lucifer's second could get to him, a seraph named Mechnael waylaid Beelzebub. A flaming arrow from another Rebel had tried to clear the Archangel's path, but Mechnael dodged it, and Beelzebub was compelled to fight his newest opponent.

Beelzebub had won the skirmish of course, but by then, Michael had claimed a victory as well. With no other recourse and the Rebellion quickly failing, Beelzebub had Jumped from Heaven to follow Lucifer into what would become Hell.

That had been one possibility. In one reality, that insignificant yet all-important arrow had missed.

But in another it had not.

***

Beelzebub was breathing heavily, strength flagging finally. His sword arm ached from so long fighting and his heart too. From his current position, the Archangel had a good view of the center of the conflict, where space was clearing and angels drew back as two beings squared off against each other: Michael and Lucifer.

Beelzebub's eyes narrowed, normally stoic face twisted briefly with grief. His two dearest brothers... This wasn't supposed to happen. All of his well-founded renunciations and Lucifer's lofty ideals reduced to this bloodletting. It wasn't supposed to be like this!

The Archangel gripped his sword with renewed strength, forcing his expression back to one of calmness. It wouldn't be like this; Beelzebub wouldn't allow it. The battle was winding down, victory beginning to tip in favor of the Loyalist angels, but it wasn't over yet. Michael would hear reason yet. Would Lucifer...?

Asmodeus was near Beelzebub and the Archangel called out to the other angel, "I have to try and stop them!"

The Cherub yelled back grimly, "If you're going to do anything Seraph, you should do it quickly!"

"I'll cover you, Sir!" another Rebel angel, Velael, shouted. Beelzebub nodded his assent to her, and then with a strong beat of his six wings, the Archangel took off.

The air was hot and muggy, stirred up by many hundreds of beating wings and thick with the coppery scent of blood. Swerving around other combatant angels, Beelzebub flew as fast as he could towards Michael and Lucifer. They were so close, not more than a few hundred meters away! However, halfway to his brothers, Beelzebub was forced to draw back as a Loyalist angel, Seraph Mechnael darted in front of him, flaming sword barely missing the Archangel's face.

"Move now!" Beelzebub ordered, regaining his balance. "I must get to the center of the field!"

"I cannot let you aid Seraph Lucifer!" the other angel yelled in response.

Beelzebub bared his teeth, biting back a sound of frustration. Mechnael could be easily beaten, but it would waste precious time!

With no other alternative except to press forward, Beelzebub readied to strike, but before he was able to, a flaming arrow went singing through the air. Beelzebub felt the intense heat as it shot over his shoulder. Mechnael saw it too and tried to feint to the right, but he wasn't fast enough, and the arrow lodged deep in the feathery curve of his top set of wings. With a cry of pain, the other seraph's wings buckled as he dropped from the air like a stone, and Beelzebub felt his heart clench for the millionth time, but thanks to Velael's arrow it might not be too late to stop this.

As he raced desperately toward Michael and Lucifer, Beelzebub wasn't honestly sure what he would do. Part of him raged at the thought of capitulation. God was wrong, and humanity would be a failure—it was pitiful to surrender. But what of the alternative? Would the fighting be permitted to continue until everyone was destroyed? In that case, surely defeat was better than annihilation.

"Wait!" Beelzebub shouted as he reached his elder siblings. Hearing his voice, they both pulled apart so that the lesser Seraph could land between them.

Beelzebub rushed first to Lucifer, dropping his sword as he approached the Morningstar. Something twinged in the Archangel's gut, like a warning, and Beelzebub wondered at his own hesitation. Lucifer was his friend, his brother—the one Beelzebub loved above anyone save for God. And yet his sword had been so reluctant to part from his hand...

Forcing down the fear—which was growing—Beelzebub gently took hold of his beloved's arm, urging him to point his sword at the ground. Lucifer's bicep twitched under his friend's grip, but the Morningstar allowed the movement. Encouraged, Beelzebub turned to his other brother.

"Michael, stop! You know we're beaten." Beelzebub felt possibility leap in his stomach, nervous hope half-strangling him, as Michael also lowered his sword some. Although the Warrior's face was set in hard lines, the same hope shone from his eyes, and Beelzebub knew in his heart that Michael would listen. "Surely you can see that it's over...?"

"What?" Lucifer snarled, sounding so little like himself that Beelzebub was taken aback by the change and had to force himself not to pull away.

Determinedly the smaller Archangel plowed ahead anyway. "It's the truth. If we continue this battle, we'll all be killed. Lucifer...listen..."

The Morningstar roughly yanked his arm from Beelzebub's grip. "I should've known you'd take Michael's side—should've known you'd turn out to be a simpering, God-loving weakling." Lucifer's pupils were blown wide so that his eyes were all black, no whites nor irises. The effect was chilling.

Michael's voice was pained. "Brother, don't do this..."

Lucifer ignored him staring intently at Beelzebub. "You're either with me or against me."

The lesser angel shook his head. "You know that I'd follow you anywhere—absolutely anywhere! But not like this. I can't—"

Lucifer didn't even wait for the shorter angel to finish before he swung his sword at Beelzebub's throat. Only Michael's quick action saved his younger brother. Bringing his own blade up in defense, the Warrior's arm shook with the effort of holding off Lucifer's strike. The Morningstar bore down viciously though until Michael's weapon was slicing inadvertently into Beelzebub's top left wing.

Beelzebub tried to squirm away in vain—but trapped between Michael's armored chest and the crossed blades, he was going nowhere. Michael gave a muffled cry as he failed to push Lucifer away, and the Morningstar just laughed cruelly at his two siblings' frantic struggles. Beelzebub's eyes rolled as the pain spiked, feathers and flesh burning. He bit through his lower lip with the effort of keeping the scream inside.

Straining, Michael finally managed to shove Lucifer back, and while his brother was caught off balance, the Warrior swung his weapon, burying it in the Morningstar's stomach. Lucifer doubled over retching blood, and it was like Beelzebub's worst fears unfolding right in front of him. All around them, the battle suddenly slowed to a muffled grind, most eyes on the trio at the center of it all and the decisive blow that seemed to be struck at last.

Focused solely on Lucifer's huddled form, Beelzebub was shaking with shock, all his weight held up by Michael. His older brother kept a viselike grip on him, almost as if Michael feared Beelzebub would slip away if he didn't hold tight enough.

Lucifer laughed wetly, blood trickling from his mouth as he lurched to his feet, swaying precariously. "You," he hissed, voice half-hysterical as he pointed a shaking hand in Beelzebub's direction, "you make me sick." Spittle and flecks of blood landed on Beelzebub's cheek and the collar of his robes as Lucifer spat on him.

"Well what are you waiting for, Michael?" the Morningstar jeered, saying his brother's name like a curse. "Aren't you going to finish me off?"

Michael just stood, miserable yet resigned. "Lucifer, you bring this on yourself..."

At first nothing seemed to happen, but suddenly Lucifer tumbled over, almost as if his shadow had grabbed him and tugged him to the ground. But no, it was the ground itself falling away and disappearing into darkness. It was like a great black chasm pushing aside the grass and trampled flowers and opening up between the Loyalist and Rebels lines, starting where Lucifer had stood.

The Morningstar dug his fingers into the muddied soil, clinging with all his dwindling strength as the darkness sucked at his ankles. But the void kept growing, swallowing up the ground that the Rebel angel tried desperately to latch on to.

"NO! Lucifer!" Beelzebub moved as if to pull Lucifer from the brink—or jump after him—but it was already too late, and the smaller seraph was jerked back as Michael held onto him, stopping him from rushing to the Morningstar's aid—or to foolishly share his fate. Beelzebub let out a strangled cry as he thrashed in Michael's arms. "No! Let me go—!"

But the blond angel held tightly to his brother all the same. Shuddering, Beelzebub fought anyway as the void expanded. Lucifer was the first to Fall through the blackness, but he was not the last. The Host's loyal members were left untouched, but Beelzebub and Michael watched, horrified, as the Rebel angels were pulled into that chasm as if by some magnetic force. They went streaking downward like hundreds of comets before they were snuffed out, light lost in the growing Darkness.

***

After so many hours of fighting, the fields beyond the Silver City were eerily silent now. The Darkness had sealed up again as if it had never existed in the first place, leaving behind the Loyalist angels and one Rebel.

"Gabriel, Raguel, Uriel!" Michael eventually shouted. Despite the large expanse of the battlefield, the other three Archangels came winging in quickly, having had no difficult in hearing their eldest brother.

"What would you have us do?" Raguel asked when all three of them had landed in front of Michael.

The Warrior took a steadying breath. "Raguel, order all the commanders to start gathering the wounded, especially the most critically hurt. Uriel, fly ahead behind our lines and tell Raphael that the battle is won but that he should expect another wave of injured angels. Then I want every able angel with any amount of healing ability put under Raphael's command immediately."

Uriel nodded her head. "Consider it done." She and Raguel speedily took to the sky, but Gabriel lingered, stepping close to the Warrior.

"Michael," Gabriel asked softly. "What will you do with him...?"

Michael wrapped his three right wings around Beelzebub protectively. "I am going to take him to the throne room. If he did not Fall, that must mean Father still wants him with us. I want him with us."

Gabriel nodded. He squeezed Michael's shoulder encouragingly. "Good luck then, brother. I am not entirely sure I share your sentiment, but I shall submit to whatever our Father decides."

"Thank you, Gabriel. Until I get back, you're in charge. You know what to do."

"Aye, sir," the Cherub replied with a sharp salute.

Sweeping past Gabriel, Michael began to fly rapidly toward the distant towers of the City. Angels parted for him without being asked, but they all had questions in their eyes whenever they caught sight of Beelzebub's limp form.

Michael was nearing the edge of the battlefield when someone finally dared to intercept him. It was Metatron. "I'm afraid you must be confused, Lord Michael," he said coolly, hovering in front of the Archangel. "You seem to be carrying one of our enemies."

Michael glared, the other's tone just shy of outright insubordination. Although Michael and Lucifer, followed by Beelzebub, had been the first of the angels created, Metatron had been next after that. He was a shrewd and calculating being and was regarded with more than a little respect simply for his seniority in the choir of the Seraphim. Blood-spattered as he was, Metatron looked much less regal than usual, but although he ranked just below Michael, Metatron's voice nonetheless held an air of authority.

"What is that you say, brother?" Michael asked as patiently as he could manage. Warily he eyed Metatron's drawn sword. The Warrior did not wish to fight anymore, but for this he would. "Is there a problem?"

"Yes," Metatron replied, declining to take the offered out and gracefully back down. "That thing isn't worth your protection."

"I'm afraid you don't get to decide such matters!" came the snapped reply. "You are following my orders!" Michael snarled, the rage unnatural for that gentle voice. "But by all means, disobey! See where it gets you!" the Archangel added, clearly pained, one hand sweeping wide to gesture across the battlefield at where the recently vanished void had been. Michael had already lost Lucifer. He would not surrender Beelzebub as well—the Warrior absolutely refused!

Metatron glanced from Michael's deadly serious expression to Beelzebub's half-unconscious form before finally sheathing his sword. "As you wish, sir," he growled, displeasure written all over his face.

"A wise choice, brother," Michael hissed, voice soft enough so that only Metatron could hear it. For once, the Warrior was more than pleased to pull rank. "Now get out of my way."

The other angel imperiously and unhappily obeyed the command, flying aside with a glower. No one else came forward to interfere though, and Michael continued quickly toward the center of the Silver City. Almost catatonic, Beelzebub just leaned against Michael, carried by his brother's arms.

Soon the throngs of angels had thinned out, and Michael was going on alone to the palace where he knew God waited. Flying over the spires of the Silver City, Michael shivered to see the normally bustling streets so empty. At last, Michael alighted in front of the central palace. His steps echoed eerily as the Archangel made his way through dim hallways, the ceilings arcing high overhead into darkness. With a wave of his free hand, candles bloomed to light in their sconces, but everywhere was so empty and silent that even with light, Michael did not feel comforted.

Upon reaching the throne room, the Warrior knocked on the large double doors. "Lord?"

"Come in, Michael. I am still here."

Michael entered, head lowered deferentially. Rather than his throne, God sat on the steps in front of it. He looked worn out but not surprised to see Michael or Beelzebub.

"Set him on the floor by Me, please, and then you are dismissed," God said tiredly.

The Warrior carefully did as he was bidden but did not immediately depart. "Don't cast him out, Father," Michael whispered as he came to stand before his Creator, strain and exhaustion writ into the lines of the angel's face. "Please..."

"Fear not," God told him. "I love your brother as dearly as I love you, and he will not suffer as the other Rebels' have."

Going down on his knees, Michael pressed God's hand to his sweaty forehead, shoulders sagging with relief. "Thank you, Father. Thank you, thank you."

"You're welcome, my brave soldier," God replied. Ignoring the mud and blood, He pulled Michael into a tight embrace. "Now go back to the field. Your brothers and sisters will be awaiting your orders. Leave Beelzebub to me, and don't fret as to his fate."

Michael stood, bowing. "Yes, Lord."

***

Michael exited, oak doors shutting quietly, and Beelzebub was left alone with their Father. The door to the throne room closed with a strange finality, sealing the two beings in. Whatever happened next, Beelzebub was quite sure that they would not be interrupted. For the longest time though, Beelzebub just lay like that, face pressed against cool grey marble tiles. His injured wing was painful, but as long as he didn't move it, the injury was not unbearable.

Eventually though, the Archangel rolled himself over, facing his Father. Dressed in a simple off-white robe, God sat on the steps of the dais that led up to His throne. His face was sad, long grey hair pulled back and tied in a bushy tail. Seated thusly, at about Beelzebub's level, the Creator did not look quite so powerful now. More ordinary.

"How could you?" Beelzebub finally hissed, hurt and outrage making his head swim.

"I never intended all this madness," God replied, and the sincerity of His sadness seemed to batter against Beelzebub's anger.

The Seraph refused to give in though. He had already failed Lucifer once; he would be faithful now. "Liar! You betrayed us—twice! First by wanting to create those insipid humans and replace us angels, and now you've destroyed at least a third of us!" Beelzebub's damaged wing spasmed in protest as he dragged himself to his knees, but rather than being cowed by the wound, the Archangel fanned the flames of anger with his pain. He knew what Lucifer would say had the Morningstar been here to utter it. "I hate you!"

God shook His head. "I've always loved you and your siblings, and I would never seek to replace any of you."

"You killed them!" Beelzebub wanted to scream, but his voice only came out in a hoarse rasp. "You killed Lucifer—!"

"By the time I realized how serious the fighting had become, how deep the separation ran, damage control was the only option left. I couldn't allow my angels to continue slaughtering each other."

"But you must have known—!"

God shook His head again. "I am not the omniscient being that you all like to perceive Me as. I can see myriad possibilities spread out—every possibility, in fact—like a web spiraling into the future; however, until My creations make their own choices, I can never be certain which future will come to pass. In this case, Rebellion was one possibility but not the most probable one."

"That's not true," Beelzebub whispered, fiercely. "You-you set us up. You knew. As the Seraphim debated over Earth, you refused to speak to us! Lucifer said—!"

"I did no such thing," God cut in. "Certain that rebellion would not break out, I had retired to meditate, to think on a new way to explain My Plan that might leave your dear brother satisfied. There was the potential for greater strife, but it was not the most likely outcome."

"But you must have known..." Beelzebub pleaded, the angry wrathful part of him yearning for someone to blame (someone who wasn't Lucifer). This had to be someone's fault—cataclysmic shifts didn't just happen! Such illogical randomness should not exist. That's why humans with their capricious unpredictability would be so bad.

Reaching out, God framed Beelzebub's face with His hands. "I can only see what may come to pass," He reiterated. "Had I realized that the future was tipping so far toward discord, I would not have remained silent for so long. Forgive me, My dear Beelzebub. I fear I've let you down just as much as your beloved Morningstar has."

It was like the roar of battle in his ears all over again, and how Beelzebub wished that he had jumped after Lucifer! Anything not to hear this. How many times had he and Lucifer contemplated the nature of God, wishing that He was closer to their level? Now Beelzebub was finally hearing it, and the truth horrified him.

Even the Seraph's knees didn't feel strong enough to support him anymore, and Beelzebub collapsed fully back onto the floor, resting his head atop God's folded knees. The fight drained out of him and was replaced by a crushing sense of loss. "I can't live without Lucifer. I'm not even sure I want to..."

Stroking His angel's disheveled hair, God said, "Giving up is not like you, My Child. What of your duty to your brothers and sisters?"

Beelzebub was silent for a while, but finally he admitted, "If I am needed then I shall do it...but I would rather just die too. Did I not share what You consider to be my brother's transgressions? I see no reason to allow me to remain here..."

"Ah, but I see many reasons. You are loyal and strong and dependable."

"I am Lucifer-less..."

God sighed, cradling Beelzebub's head, and the angel felt the strongest urge to weep. "My dear Beelzebub...I never wished to cause you or any of the others such pain."

"If you had only abandoned Your plans to create humanity, Father, then I would have been content. And Lucifer as well," Beelzebub whispered bitterly, one hand fisting in God's robe.

"I did not, and I shall not," God replied, voice firm yet not unkind. "But I think, in time, you especially may feel fondness for your mortal brothers and sisters. They will share your spark. Kindred spirits of a sort."

Beelzebub felt an unexpected stirring in his heart at those words, but it wasn't anywhere near strong enough to override his sorrow. "Nothing could ever replace Lucifer for me. If You know me at all, Father, then you must realize that."

"Lucifer and the others are not dead." There was a regret in God's voice that ran deep as He added, "But they are greatly changed."

"Changed...?" Beelzebub repeated, the word leaving behind a sour tang on his tongue. "And what is to become of me?"

"Once Heaven is put back to order, I shall have your rank reinstated," God assured. "You will be an Archangel and a Seraph again, and you shall not be punished."

Not more than I already am, the angel thought. They both knew that Lucifer's agonized face in Beelzebub's mind's-eye would be punishment enough for an eternity. And of course, the other angels would not so kindly welcome a traitor back into their fold even if Michael and the Creator seemed more than willing to do so. "You aren't worried that I might rebel again?" Beelzebub asked.

Placing two fingers under Beelzebub's chin, God tilted the angel's face up so that they were looking eye to eye. "Would you?"

Beelzebub remembered the screams and the battle and the blood and shuddered. "My heart could not bear it."

God smiled sadly. "I thought not. You shall be one of My closest again, and I will also have a special assignment for you once Earth is created."

"And shall I eventually see Lucifer again...?"

"You will," God replied sadly. "But you may come to wish you didn't."

The angel's chest ached at the thought—ached at even the possibility that he might no longer love his dearest friend—but exhaustion had a strong pull, and Beelzebub settled his head back down on his Father's lap, eyes facing the smooth alabaster wall as God's fingers gently carded through his hair. "Will Lucifer and I ever have a joyful reunion?" Beelzebub asked hopefully.

"I'm not sure yet," God admitted. In the quiet of the throne room, He continued to tenderly stroke His angel's hair. "There are many possibilities..."

tbc...




Stay tuned for this Wednesday when I post a series of five to ten interlude drabbles set between this part of "Fading Stars" and part 2.

Look for part 2 of "Fading Stars" sometime in April. It will take place in ancient Egypt during the time of the Plagues.

This coming Sunday expect the next set of Asmodeus/Raphael drabbles. Yay!
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