I've been going through my folder of unfinished fics, and came across some that I'd completely forgotten about, a couple of which piqued my interest again and have subsequently been resurrected.

Like this one.

Which was an attempt to get inside Alexiel's head pre-rebellion against God.

Aha. Ha. Ha.

I have no idea whether I succeeded, but I've poked it enough. (It was also really hard not to name this fic "AND THEN LUCIFER HAPPENED". Because. If he hadn't, so much of Angel Sanctuary would've been different.)

Pairings: None, insofar as anything with Rociel and Alexiel can ever be a "none".
Warnings: Spoilers for the whole manga series. Also takes place before Alexiel meets Lucifer, and I've only read the scanlations, soooo if you've got the official trans, I may be way off the mark here and not realise it. Fair warning.
Notes: Tropophobia is the fear of making changes or moving.
Disclaimer: It's Kaori Yuki's fault, not mine.

Tropophobia

Alexiel's gilded cage was surrounded and paved with cold, hard stone that echoed under footsteps she had come to know all too well. Every time he came she wished it would be the last time – and, at the same time, wished that he would never leave.

She hadn't seen his face since before the deal with God, when it was not so much a face as a rotted, pulpy mess of eyeballs and teeth and decay. She wanted to see him, so much, but—

"Sister," Rociel said, his footsteps halting three feet behind her. He always stopped there, always, pressed right up against the bars that kept them apart physically as though he could step through them and into her heart. "I . . . I brought you a present."

Alexiel said nothing. His scent came to her on the light breeze; cinnamon and musk, artificially applied. He'd smelled of lemon and meat left in the sun too long, before; it was no wonder he would prefer this scent over the other.

"It's an earring," Rociel was saying, not waiting for a response that he had grown used to not getting. "I have the other one," he finished, almost shyly.

She wondered what had prompted this sudden braveness on her brother's part. She had kept her end of the deal – she had rejected him every time he came, if not in words then in actions, always seated with her back to him. Unmoving, unfeeling. In truth, the coldness was beginning to seep into her, dulling her soul and her emotions so that these short, infrequent visits were all that was left with the power to hurt her.

"It's really beautiful," Rociel said. "Sister . . . won't you turn around and look?"

Alexiel forced herself to keep her eyes open, to stare straight forwards. This was the part of his visits that she hated the most, the part where he implored her to just look at him, speak to him, to not ignore him like he was nothing to her when she was everything to him. Every time it happened Alexiel fell prey to tortured wondering of what would happen if, just this once, she gave in – if she told him that she loved him, had always loved him, and that her life to date had been spent ensuring his happiness at the cost of her own, no matter how she could feel it warping her.

She knew what would happen. It was why she never turned around.

"I see. I have a new subordinate," was the thing he said next, and not what she had been expecting. "He . . . ah," Rociel paused, and Alexiel felt her curiosity stirring because for the first time, there was affection in his voice. Warm, gentle affection like a parent with a child, or – or proper siblings. Not the hollow nothingness they were forced to be.

"He picked out the earrings," Rociel continued. "He said that they would look beautiful on me," he added, almost defiantly.

What is he hoping for? Alexiel could not help but wonder, once again. The years had driven the thought from wistful to angry to merely curious and now, now they were tinged with the faintest hint of derision. Look what I have given up for you, she tried not to think. Look, and stand on your own; do not crawl begging to me as if your feet were not sound and whole. I gave you this. It is the least you owe me.

She did not hate him. It scared her that she sometimes had to remind herself of that.

"Sister," Rociel said. "Sister. . . . I have . . . been given new responsibilities. I will not . . . I will not be able to visit you as often, not now."

Where will you be, Alexiel didn't say. What will you be doing, why have you been given these new responsibilities, who do you talk to when you're not with me, what do they tell you about me, do you know that I have the same nursemaids they gave you, do you know that they hate me as much as they did you?

Do you know that I have never cared about anything other than you, and that I am beginning to forget that? Do you know that I hate and crave these visits more than anything in this world?

Sometimes I wish you would just vanish.

"Sister . . . please," Rociel whispered.

Alexiel did not move, did not speak, did not cry or scream or rage.

There was a rustling behind her, then the soft chink of metal laid against stone. "I will leave your earring here," Rociel said. "Would you. . . ."

Wear it for me, Alexiel heard, though Rociel did not finish.

He knows I will not, and to ask is to be denied.

Instead, he whispered, "Goodbye, sister," and left, walking slowly back the way he had come.

Alexiel waited until she could no longer hear her brother's breath or the soft sound of his hair upon his robes, waited until her eyes no longer burned, until the desire to destroy everything about her had passed, until the sky faded from the afternoon light to dusk to true dark. She uncurled her fists, noting distantly the blood that ran down her fingers, the deep gouges in her palms that she did not recall making. Her legs were unsteady and burned with the pain of having sat, unmoving, for hours – maybe even days. It was not as though she had any reason to move, or that her nursemaids would care to move her.

The moon was shining brightly, bright enough that she could see every detail around her – every detail of the earring, of its delicate curls and twists, of the capsule in the centre with the tiny latch at the side.

It was, indeed, beautiful.

Alexiel forced herself to move through the pain, forced herself to crouch down and curl her fingers around the earring. She clutched it tight, the prong digging sharply into the gouges in her palm. She could not keep it; she knew that. She could not wear it as a tangible reminder of what her brother meant to her, the whole reason she twisted herself to fit into the too-small bars of her cage. Even if he had not asked, if he saw it he would hope and even that much could not be risked.

But, Alexiel knew, she would not be in this cage forever. As the coldness crept up on her, seeped into her pores and her veins and her heart, she knew that one day, she would be cold enough that one person's – her brother's – pain would no longer matter more than her own.

Then, the cage would change. Then, it would no longer be a place with no way out, gilded steel covering every exit; then, it would be simply a place she had no reason to move from.

No reason to move, until one was given to her.

Perhaps one day she would be cold enough that even her brother's words would be that reason.

But that was not now.

Now, in the moonlight with blood running down her wrist and her body and mind screaming in pain, she made a promise to herself.

She knew where she would hide the earring, the place none of her nursemaids would find it. And when the day came that she could no longer follow God's command, she would wear her brother's earring, and hope that he understood.

End

AND THEN LUCIFER HAPPENED.