The ill-fitting black suit shifted across Lucifer’s bony shoulders as he took a heavy drag on his cigarette. Smouldering ashes glowed crimson, a pinprick of color amongst the washed out backdrop of fog and city lights. Distant police sirens and the soft hush of traffic were the only sounds that permeated the momentary silence.
“Did He send you back to try again?” Lucifer asked quietly, a blue ring of smoke haloing his head.
Michael didn’t know how to respond. He approached the balcony railing beside his brother, leaning his elbows on the cold metal surface. An arm languidly gestured outward as he did, encompassing the entirety of the glowing expanse beyond.
“Look at them, Michael. Look at the empire they’ve built, the accomplishments they’ve achieved. Since the dawn of their species, they’ve done nothing but bloom through adversity. And they’ve done it all on their own.” The cigarette smouldered again; Lucifer turned a golden eye on Michael. “This wasn’t accomplished by the hand of God, you know.”
“Nevertheless,” Michael finally replied, “it is the sinful nature of Man that keeps the gates of Heaven closed.” A heavy sigh escaped his chest. “Do you really want to keep them here forever?”
“They are free to go when they choose.” Lucifer shook out his golden mane, rippling like flames down his back. “If they accept His dogmatic tyranny, that is. Though you’ll find that growing more scarce as the millennia pass.” He nodded. “Does this look truly like Hell to you, brother?”
“It is not my place to decide.” Michael turned. “You make a compelling argument, but please…reconsider. Morning Star Industries has taken more souls than Heaven currently has among our number. Our strength is weakening.”
Ashes peppered the misty air, the cigarette butt flicked from Lucifer’s fingers. Its crumbling embers burned away, disappearing into the night.
“Not my problem.”
Michael pursed his lips as Lucifer finally turned to face him. He clasped thin hands behind his back, staring down his hooked nose with those shimmering, golden eyes. “Yahweh has no jurisdiction over what I do here. He made that very clear the moment he decided to, ah, ‘terminate my contract’, if you will.” His brow furrowed. “Why do you continue to be His watchdog? Knowing all that He has done – has failed to do?”
“It is the only way to keep things in check,” Michael replied honestly. He spread his hands. “He has changed, despite what you may think.”
“By sending His son to get killed, for no reason other than to take blame away from Himself when things go wrong?” Lucifer shook his head, a deep chuckle rumbling in his chest. “Right. Some change, that. He’s done it twice now.”
Michael sighed heavily. “Come.” He gestured toward the glowing parlor, where they had come from. “Let’s go back inside and negotiate. Hopefully for the last time.” He leveled his brother’s gaze evenly. “Please.”
A wan smile spread Lucifer’s thin lips. He inclined his chin.
“If you insist, brother.”