Disclaimer: For the last time, no.
Author's Note: I know that this hasn't been most readers' favorite of my stories, and I can appreciate why that is. But to be honest, "Diligo" is one of the fics that I've worked hardest on and am (personally) most proud of. So thank you, again, to Madeline-Elizabeth for allowing me to play with her wonderful idea, and to everyone else who has stuck with me throughout this journey. I love you all~
Warnings: SebaCiel. OCs. Fail editing. Ignores season II (mostly). Death, destruction, depravity. Religious themes.
Diligo Victum Nusquam
In the beginning was the word.
But before there could be a word, there had to be a sound. Before a sound, a thought. Before a thought, a creature to have it. And assuming that there had to be something to give birth to the thought-having creature, well—then there was no true beginning, was there? It has always been a centripetal cycle, a paper mobius strip, rolling round and round and round and round like a reel of film in a canister.
Round and round and round and round, like the bodies in the Second Circle, groaning and thrusting and moaning and raking at the porous earth with the bone-caps of their fingers, skin long since worn to bloodied strips of fat. An undulating blob of a creature, the mash of melting souls rolled and thrashed and inched along, each amoebic squelch and squish and ooze of waxy flesh echoing over the crags and cliffs, ringing in supernatural ears.
The first demon, beset with soft jowls and heavy eyes, cut an impressive silhouette atop the overhang, despite his notable age; the second, leaner and younger, sat in a listless heap upon the rocks beside him, hands on his knees and vacant eyes staring sightlessly outward.
"…sometimes I wonder," the first demon murmured— Asmodeus, onyx circlet glinting in the vermillion glow of ethereal blazes— as he watched the damned mortals shudder into their sentenced sex, "why greed and lust are considered separate Sins. What could possibly be greedier than demanding a person's very body? Their heart? Their soul?" He shot a meaningful glance at his son, but Malphas—as had become the norm—said nothing. His forelocks danced in smoldering swirls of miasma; flares and embers tried to kiss him, nearly setting his lashes alight. He did not so much as flinch.
Asmodeus' crevassed brow furrowed deeply, further cementing the somber lines that added centuries to his face. "I visited the death gods that you had been imposing upon," he announced, calm voice tinged with exasperation and confusion. "The redhead mourned your fate when I relayed what had happened. The Undertaker chortled and called you 'entertaining.' The third said nothing to me, but expressed some stoic form of gratitude towards the redhead who had forced them to abandon the shop." The devil paused, mouth twisting into a faint frown of disapproval. "Had you even noticed they were gone, I wonder? Or were you so entranced by your delusions that you forgot them entirely?"
Malphas did not reply. He still had yet to blink. His sire growled: an irritated sound, resonating from somewhere deep and dark within. "While I was there, they told me of this master of yours. They told me of your life with him, your death with him. They told me of the day you met."
Asmodeus tugged serrated talons through loose locks of ebony and silver, as if trying to physically yank understanding from his muddled mind. "Child, why?" he eventually managed, an undercurrent of accusation roiling beneath the surface of the despairing inquiry. The sheer effort it took to keep from screaming and stamping and smacking the younger demon for his insolence congealed in his chest like a palpable entity—it pinched the creature's features and tensed his bulging muscles. "It was clear from the reapers' Records that the Phantomhive boy was perfectly willing to give you his soul right then and there on that damned altar. It was preordained! You were meant to consume him! So why? Why did you allow him to consume you?"
Still nothing. And it was that nothingness that finally did it; the sheer lack of reaction drove him to the brink. With a half-strangled yowl, Asmodeus' hand bolted like lightening: snatch-wrench-forcing his companion to move, to twist around, to meet his wavering glare full-force. "Malphas—!" he roared as he did so, pointed fangs chattering in his jaw, "Answer me when I speak to yo—!"
"Malphas?" The creature in his grasp blinked slowly—once. A measured, lazy, deadened gesture, like a children's doll or marionette. "Malphas cannot hear you anymore," the lifeless body droned, in a voice (in voices) both wholly familiar and frighteningly foreign. With measured clicks of interconnected vertebrae, the stranger turned his attention back to the damned (rape and need and meupareunia), watching in silence as eternity rolled by. On and on, over and over, sin and sin again. One reality bled into another; one memory swallowed by a second. An Ouroboros existence, looping round and round even as it consumed itself.
In time, Asmodeus' fingers fell from their tentative perch, sliding down an arm that he once thought he'd known so well. But since the day he'd stumbled home, even his offspring's skin felt different—icy marble beneath clinging sheathes of colored hide. As his hand slipped from the jutting curve of that now-alien shoulder, it curled into a trembling fist; within his aching chest, the elder devil's withered heart shook with a similar pain. Loss of Grace, loss of Home, loss of self, loss of son… and all to the same cursed phenomenon. A contemptuous hiss bled through the demon's clenched teeth, one that had tangled with the frayed remnants of a mirthless chuckle.
"…there is a reason, I suppose," Asmondeus deemed to whisper, words barely audible over the clatter of boot and basalt, "that they call it Falling in love."
He offered his child a last, lingering glance— but it garnered no reaction. Not a thought, not a twitch. In truth, it no longer surprised Asmondeus, and he refused to waste any more energy on grief. What was the point? What good would it do? There'd been a time when his son was famous for his skills at construction, for his talent at renovation, but even he could not fix the fortress of his heart; Jericho had fallen to pieces, and with it, the demon's soul and sanity. There was no helping Malphas, now.
With a quiet sigh, Asmondeus turned away, surrendering to the inevitable. There was, after all, no reason to stay. If the cadaverous demon felt his father's final touch, heard his murmured farewell, he made no indication. The mobius strip curved in upon itself; the serpent ate its own tail; the devil walked into the hazy gloom, leaving Malphas' body alone in the rubble. They had lost him.
And something once lost can never be returned.