“Brothers?” Hannah kept looking between the two strange men. Beth pressed closer to Cynder who wrapped his arms around her in a protective, or possibly possessive manner.
“That’s right. We’re brothers. Or at least we used to be.” Cynder eyed Cecil more closely and frowned. “My, my, isn’t it just like Father to send you after me?”
“I didn’t know it was going to be you,” Cecil hissed, his voice stiff. “All Gabriel told me was that I should keep my eyes out for a demon.”
“Oh, yes, I’m sure that was all. Just because you didn’t know doesn’t mean Gabriel didn’t.”
“I don’t think he did.”
“Well, perhaps not,” Cynder said, and his tongue swiped briefly across his teeth. “But Father most certainly did, and Father was the one who gave Gabriel the order to give to you. Why do you suppose that would be, hm?”
Cecil shuddered and took a small step back. “I’m supposed to call for backup and bring the others here to destroy you.”
“But you wouldn’t do that, would you?” Cynder let go of Beth and stepped closer to Cecil, leaving the two girls alone to just watch as these supernatural beings dealt with each other. “I’m your brother, after all. I may be playing for the other team now, but even so you couldn’t hurt me or bring yourself to do anything that would destroy me, could you?”
Cecil clenched his hands into fists, breathing much more heavily. He turned his face away and hung his head, letting out a deep sigh. “I… no, you’re right. I can’t…”
“So then, what are you going to do?” Cynder tilted his head to the side. “Are you going to lie to Gabriel and Father and tell them you couldn’t find me?”
Cecil shuddered and brought his head back up to meet Cynder’s eyes. “No, I’m not going to do that.”
“Then just what are you going to do, hm?” Cynder leaned closer, a small smile on his lips.
“I’m… I’m going to save you.”
At this Cynder drew back, looking confused at first and then letting out a howl of laughter. “You? You’re going to save me? And what does that mean exactly, Cecil?”
“I’m going to bring you back out of the darkness that you fell into. I’m going to make you see the light again. Father wants you to come home. So do I.”
Cynder snorted. “Father wants me back? What a joke. If Father actually cared about us, things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did, and you know that damn well, Cecil.”
Cecil flinched but he held his ground, looking Cynder straight in the eye. “I think you’re wrong. I think I can bring you back.”
“Is that a wager?” Cynder said.
“Hey! We exist you know!”
The brothers turned to see Hannah standing, her hands on her hips, glaring at the two of them. A grin spread across Cynder’s face and Hannah faltered. He swept over and pulled Beth to her feet, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close to him.
“You know something, Cecil? I knew you were here all along the moment that I met this girl. I could sense that she was the one marked to be guarded by an angel. Perhaps that’s why I took a liking to her. No one had shown up yet, so I decided to take her myself.”
Cecil blinked and looked between Hannah and Beth, then his eyes grew wide and he whispered something under his breath. Cynder started chuckling more as Cecil grew pale.
“Oh, you didn’t realize? What did Gabriel tell you about your charge, anyway? I wonder just how you could have screwed this up.”
“He said… he said that I was supposed to take care of Bill Fulton’s daughter!” Cecil said, his breath sounding heavy.
“Why yes, that is true. But didn’t you know he had two?” Cynder rested his hand on Beth’s cheek, making her look at Cecil. A horrified expression came over Cecil’s face and he looked as if he were going to be sick.
“That’s not… that can’t be…”
“You made a mistake,” Cynder said, pressing Beth closer to him. “And I took advantage of that. I’m her guardian now. Her soul belongs to me.”
“What?” Hannah stared at them, her eyes wide. “What did you do to her?”
“I have done nothing at all to her, except been there for her and given her comfort. However, when she eventually passes from this world, I will keep her soul for myself. It was her own choice.”
“Beth!” Hannah clenched her fists, looking directly at Beth and trying to keep her voice steady. “Is he telling the truth?”
Beth didn’t say anything. She just stood there in Cynder’s embrace, keeping her face down, then she slowly nodded her head. Hannah gasped and took a small step back.
“Why would you? Why would you ever make a deal like that?”
“Because it’s better this way!” Beth shouted, grasping at Cynder’s arms so tight her knuckles began turning white. “It’s better than living in a world where everyone hates you for being born! I don’t care… I don’t care what happens after all this. I just want someone to love me.” She turned her face away and hid it against Cynder’s chest. He held her close and stroked her hair, then smiled in Cecil’s direction.
“She made a wish to have someone love her,” he said. “I granted that wish in exchange for her soul. I’m here to be her guardian now, one who will love her, cherish her, protect her. Give her all the things that no one else ever would. It’s funny, isn’t it, Cecil? It’s just like we said from the beginning. Humans are flawed. She has done absolutely nothing to deserve this. She’s so innocent and yet everyone around her is throwing all of their hatred her way. Hatred built from the lies of a man who everyone thinks is wonderful, and even her own mother ended up believing those lies despite being the only one who knew the truth.”
“Stop it,” Hannah said, and there were tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “Just stop it. Yeah, life is shit and the world sucks, but that doesn’t give you the right to take her soul.”
“Doesn’t it?” Cynder tipped his head to the side and looked down at Beth. “Well as I said, she made the decision on her own, and I’m giving her something in her life that she has needed for so long, but never received. Love and affection.”
“I-” Hannah started to say something, but cut herself off and stared at Beth who was holding onto Cynder tightly. The sight made her think of a small child with her father who was holding her protectively, never allowing anything to harm her. Hannah bit her lip and turned away, and Cynder smirked.
“What’s that? Are you saying you would offer such love to her? I don’t think you could. You may think so and you may even want to, but you wouldn’t be able to. Not only because of your parents and her grandparents getting in the way, but I don’t think she wants anything to do with you either.”
Hannah swallowed and looked at Beth. “Is that true? Do you not want me around?”
Beth didn’t answer. She didn’t even acknowledge that Hannah had said anything. Cynder chuckled, wrapped one wing around her as he stroked her face with his thumb. “I think I’ve made my point. There’s no reason to continue this. I’m taking her home now.”
“Wait,” Cecil said. “We aren’t finished here.”
“Aren’t we? What more is there to be done?”
Cecil narrowed his eyes and stepped toward Cynder. “Let’s you and me make a deal.” He leaned in closer and whispered something in Cynder’s ear so only he could hear.
Cynder pursed his lips and grinned as he listened to Cecil’s proposition. “Very well. You have yourself a bet. But I should warn you, I rarely lose bargains such as this. Perhaps to you, though, it will be a challenge. I look forward to seeing what happens.”
Cecil stepped back and stood beside Hannah. “As do I.”
Cynder lifted Beth off her feet and stretched his wings, taking off into the sky. They left Hannah and Cecil far behind and Beth didn’t spare them a second look. She wrapped her arms tight around Cynder’s waist, pressing her face against him.
She didn’t care that he was a demon, not at all. Anything was better than what she’d had before.