The most unlikely romance in Heaven began with a bang.
--It's amazing, the things that cross your mind at a time like this-- thought Aranel to himself, as the young Mercurian of Flowers frantically dove for cover beneath his desk --I've got Belial rampaging through my Tether and I actually thought about *insurance premiums*?--
The smoking ashes of what *had* been the cheap Art Deco painting on the wall behind him landed in his hair... along with large chunks of the wall.
--I don't suppose asking if we could talk about this would make any...--
Belial suddenly paused for a second in his rampage to admire the more interesting side effects of setting plastic curtains on fire... mmmmm, the acrid throat-searing smell of burning polymers, the leaping and coiling of the thick black smoke...
--... sense? Guess not! Let me see -- exactly *how* did Superior Invocations go again?--
Novalis arrived to a scene straight out of Sheol, as half the lobby was on fire, several of her Soldiers lay unmoving on the ground (--Dead or injured?--, she wondered. (--Check them as soon as you can... but first find out what's going on--), her Seneschal frantically trying to douse his flaming clothes with what was left of the water cooler, and the Demon Prince of Fire laughing maniacally as he finished spot-welding the fire escape door shut with a glance.
"Are you *that* upset about what I did with the Burning Man celebration, Belial?" she asked sadly, as she tried to extinguish the flames with a Song. "If you wish to contest with me, then come speak to *me*, not these people. They had nothing to do with you!"
"But I"d rather that *you* came to *me*, flower girl," Belial said, pumping his own Essence into keeping the fires lit "... and I knew this wimp of yours would Invoke you as soon as I started making it even a little too hot to handle! Baal calls it 'My time, my place, MY RULES!' I'm gonna have a Tether roast today and I'm gonna use your Vessel for the kindling! So let's get to BURNIN' DOWN THE HOUSE!" And Belial, burning with white-rot rage and glee, lashed out with an incendiary wave that would have reduced the average granite tor to free-floating plasma...
... and ran head-on into Novalis's Shield, as she concentrated and dug in with all of her Essence against one of the most brutishly strong Demon Princes in Hell.
"Over my dead body."
Belial grinned even more widely.
"That's the whole idea."
"What the fucking Hell is all that racket?" Michael snapped out, as the Archangel of War listened to the faint sounds of Symphonic disturbance drifting in halfway across the city. "If it's that far away and we can *both* still hear it, they've got to be wrecking a building!"
"No idea, Sir" said his Seneschal. "I haven't heard that much noise since that one crazy Ofanite of Gabriel's lit a bonfire in an oil refin...*
Both angels winced and held their ears as the already ear-splitting noise of Belial's arsonous rampage was drowned by the atomic shockwave of a Superior manifesting on the corporeal plane in a *really* big hurry. While his Servitor still reeled from the noise, Michael's reflexes were already evaluating the new data....
--Superior manifesting! Concentrate... Novalis... facing *Belial*? Get range... bearing... *acquisition*! OK, pyro, you picked the *wrong* town to go gate-crashing in!--
Snapping out a curt order to his Seneschal to get back up the Tether and call it in, with a flicker of a Song (--No point in keeping things quiet now, you couldn't hear *Legion's* rampage over all this noise--), Michael teleported straight to where the action was.
"If you can't stand the heat, hippie chick, get back in the kitchen!" Belial crowed, as the force of his onslaught forced Novalis to one knee.
"I don't... have to win... just have to hold you long enough..."
"For what? For these pitiful worms to get away? Who cares? It's not *them* I want, it's *you*! And you're *mine*, all mi..."
***** WHAM *****
Laurence would undoubtedly have issued a formal challenge first, but Michael never was one to pass up a free shot. Belial's grip on Novalis's arm was broken as Michael's free hand chopped down hard across his wrist, while the axe stroke to the side of the Demon Prince's head sent him staggering facefirst into the nearest wall.
"Your skull's even thicker than I thought, lava-brain. Or I need a better sharpening stone."
"Guess the sharpening stone's OK, then."
Novalis lay on the floor, exhausted from the effort of having contained Belial's full berserker onslaught to her and her alone while simultaneously Attuning to the injured Soldiers of Flowers lying on the floor and drawing their wounds into her via her resonance while blocking further damage to her attuned with Self-Sacrifice. Having to turn her back on the Demon Prince even momentarily, so as to lay her hands on her wounded servitors, had granted him a significant advantage which he'd used to the fullest. But there hadn't been any *time*....
--He *stopped*? What in Heaven's name could have diverted Belial's atten...
Oh. *Him* *sigh* I must remember to thank him for stepping in, but... there he goes *again*...--
Smiling from ear to ear despite his singed clothing and blistered hand, Michael feinted with his axe and then rammed his off hand straight into Belial's solar plexus and then swiftly threw a knee into Belial's face as he doubled over. Belial howled indistinctly through his smashed teeth and lunged forward from his crouched position, coming up and over and trying to overbear the Archangel of War via sheer brute strength and aggression...
... with predictable results, as Michael deftly stepped aside and redirected Belial's rush straight into one of the support pillars with a simple hip-throw. The pillar cracked along its length.
--Now I know why Baal keeps telling me that only he gets to fight Michael. Nobody else *wants* to.--
--Has no one ever told Michael that only a fool fights in a burning house?-- Novalis thought wearily. --Or is he just trying to save the building by destroying it?--
Between the thick gouts of smoke from the burning couches, curtains, and ceiling and the flying pieces of wrecked furniture from the wrestling match, visibility was at an all-time low. Novalis and two of her freshy-healed Soldiers peered dimly through the gloom, trying to locate and move to safety the limp and unmoving bodies of the few customers that had still been in the day-care center at this late in the afternoon. --At least he's keeping Belial too busy to think about lighting new fires *this* time--
Belial desperately threw almost all of his remaining Essence into fueling his strength, as he tried frantically to break Michael's grip so he could get the Hell out of there! Managing to momentarily break free of the avenging Archangel's clutches, Belial reached under his jacket, tossed his last-ditch surprise on the floor, and skedaddled.
--Hmph! So much for *him*... what's that?--
--Thank Heaven, he's gone... what's that?--
Seeing the bomb dimly through the smoke and haze, Michael instantly went into action. That much C-13 would drop the entire building if nobody did anything, and knowing Belial the fuse was shorter than Magog's temper. No problem. Just dive on the bomb and activate a Song of Shields, and the new Vessel'll be ready before lunchtime...
--Somebody else jumping in! Catch them and toss them back before it's too...--
Seeing the bomb dimly through the smoke and haze, Novalis instantly leapt into action. She couldn't possibly let Belial's bomb -- it had to be a bomb -- detonate *here*, and neither of her Soldiers knew the right Songs. A simple Song of Motion to teleport the bomb away to somewhere harmless...
--Oh, *no*! *Not* someone jumping in and trying to be a hero *now*! Blocked my line of sight! Got to get there and Attune to them before it's too...--
Turning to catch and toss back what Michael thought was an overly bold Soldier of Flowers (--Now *there's* two terms I never thought I'd use in the same sentence.--) at the last second as Novalis came diving in with arms outstretched to try and absorb the damage from the 'Soldier' as well as get a look at the bomb again, Novalis and Michael ended up nose-to-nose and at arm's length. As the Attunement link formed between them and the Shield snapped up around them both.
-- *Novalis*? What is she *doing*? I *had* it, everything was under control, does she really think I'm going to let a bomb explode in a day-care center just because there's a Demon Prince I could be following? I've half a mind to resonate her body language just to see what she Truly thought was going on here--
-- *Michael*? I thought he'd be charging off after Belial! And it isn't it typical of him to *jump* on the grenade instead of thinking to just toss it away? I've half a mind to use this Attunement just to see what on Earth he thought he was *doing* here...--
Time stopped as they stared into each other's eyes...
--She Truly cares--, thought Michael. --Belial put her through enough pain for any two of my average weeks, and she's nowhere near got my damage resistance, and she *still* didn't slow down a second when she thought somebody was about to be hurt, leaping straight into the fire again...--
--He *cares*--, thought Novalis. --I thought he'd be just focusing on his little War with Belial, but when the choice came to follow Belial up and try to finish him off or save these few mortals, he didn't stop for an instant. He cared more about protecting the innocent than he did about hounding his foe...--
--She *is* brave and strong...--
--He *does* have compassion....--
--I'd always thought...--
--I'd never realized...--
When the bomb went off inside their Shield a second later, the explosion was distinctly anti-climactic.
[To Be Continued]
So, whaddya think?
(PS -- if anybody has a better idea to continue this than I do, go right ahead! My inspiration well just tapped out here -- I *do* know that they're both going to have a loooooooooong period coming up of wondering how to deal with these feelings of theirs, instead of just up and moving in with each other right off the bat.
Incidentally, I was thinking that Michael would actually -- role-reversal time -- be quicker to come to terms with this than Novalis would. Not only is he the oldest of Seraphs, and as such not really acquainted with lying to himself, but Michael never was one not to face up to something. Plus, there's nothing in his word that says he can't cherish and protect a 'civilian'... indeed, that's one of his usual jobs. If not always quite this personally. :-)
Poor Novalis, OTOH -- she's even stronger than him in many ways, but this is the *last* thing in all of the three planes she could ever have suspected -- and Novalis takes dissonance just from *voting* for War in the Seraphim Council (Revelations V: Final Trumpet), how will she reconcile *loving* War?
Oh, the star-crossed saga has barely *begun*...
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