10038/Path of Glory: Of the Shadow of Death

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Path of Glory: Of the Shadow of Death
Date of Scene: 06 February 2022
Location: The Astral Plane
Synopsis: Michael's retribution on Jon continues with mental and psychological anguish in the form of the statment of the Archangel and a taste of the world that he will give the universe if he suceeds.
Cast of Characters: Michael Demiurgos, Jonathan Sims
Tinyplot: Path of Glory

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    As Jon awakes he finds himself in a well funished room. Gone is the cell that was his prison. His clothing still shows dark stains of his blood but it is dry and surprisingly not stiff (or perhaps unsurpringly, it is the astral plane, after all.)

    The room is open plan with a number of chairs of hard wood and cushions of a plush nature. There is soft music, something ethereal and hard to truly place, coming from some source in the room. There is a balcony, separated from the main room by a quad of Corinthian pillars. What Jon can see of the outside is the vastness of space that was beyond his cell. Stars and dust clouds of their birth twinkle and billow in the beyond.

    There is a cuff attached to Jon's ankle and a chain of some shimmering metal that leads to an eyelet in the marble floor. It allows him perhaps a yard of movement around its locked position, which leaves him a choice of chairs and a lounge not unlike what one sees in a stereotypical therapist's office. Michael, his captor, is no where to be seen at the moment.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon takes a moment, first, to examine his right shoulder. He hadn't imagined it; his arm is truly gone. He has the sinking feeling that there won't be any way to restore it. Perhaps when he dies and is reborn? Perhaps. But, then again, perhaps taking that damage on the astral plane means that it's permanent in a profound sort of way.

    He sighs. Worries for later.

    His back still hurts, and he doesn't really want to rest it against anything, so he gingerly sits down in one of the chairs, one with a cushion, and peers around the room. He might have liked to go to the balcony, to look out at the vastness of space more closely, but he settles for just peering out that way from the chair.

    "You were right, Cael," he murmurs. "He took my arm." He closes his eyes for a moment, to let tears fall, then opens them again.

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    "'And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.'" Michael's voice comes from behind Jon. There is no indication that he had arrived or how long he had been there. Also no indication of -how- he arrived as there is no visible door in the... office? Is this an office?

    He moves around to stand before Jon and there is a noticable difference in his appearance. The marred wing, his left is pristine and unblemished, returned to the glory it held before Jon's use of the balewater on it. He settles into a chair without a back, his wings folding neatly behind him as he sits opposite Jon.

    "And now we come to this..." he says serenely. "Your punishment for the act will be threefold as the damage was threefold to me, Jonathan. Mortification of the flesh is only the first step in the process of retribution. There is still your mind and spirit to consider."

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    "Your wing is healed," Jon says, voice scratchy and raw from the scream he gave earlier. He gestures at his right shoulder. "This... it's /gone/. It's not coming back." He stops, to clear his throat. Talking /hurts/. "How does a lifetime of disability compare? You could still fly, with your wing damaged. I offered healing--and now you've healed it yourself. But this... I presume this is permanent, yes?"

    He shakes his head, and looks down at the ground. "You don't understand, do you?" he murmurs. "How can you possibly understand? You are eternal, you don't... age and die. You don't have to learn how to contend with a life without a limb."

    He looks up and frowns at Michael. "Did it help? Hurting me. Did it help you feel better about your own pain? Ease the memory?"

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Michael seems confused by Jon's words. He truly doesn't understand. "No, it did not help. But that was never actually the intention. It was a restorative action, not something that was needed to heal. My wing was safe to restore once I returned to the Silver City. I kept it in the state you left it to remind me that your payment for it was not yet made. Now that you have made the payment, it can be given its original form once more, at least visibly."

    He glances at Jon's arm. "I imagine your situation is rather permenant, yes. But you are resourceful. You will adapt. That is the difference, Jonathan. Don't you see?" he says. "We--when harmed in such a way--cannot continue. You've seen the lesser angels, our shock troops on the field of battle. The moment they are wounded in such a way to render them disabled, be it loss of limb or simple disarmament, they cease to carry form and return to the City for reforging."

    He cotinues, looking out the window at the vastness of the world of imagination. "We are not adaptable in such a way. Our forms are immutable. My brothers and I are given some measure of flexibility, but even it only goes so far. Had you truly destroyed the wing fully, I would've been forced to erradicate myself to reform it."

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon shakes his head sharply. "That's not what I meant. I didn't mean 'did hurting me heal your wing.' I meant your anger, your pain. You told Cael you were angry with me, you had been hurt, so you needed to deal out pain in return. Is this actually helping?" He frowns at Michael for a moment.

    "I /didn't/ destroy the wing fully, though. I--" He shakes his head again, slumping in the chair. "What's the point? You won't understand, because you /can't/ understand. And it's not like I'm turning out to be very good at this outside of the office anyway." He laughs, bitterly. "I can't seem to get through to... anyone at all. All my training, and for what? When I need it most, it's failing me."

    He stares down at the floor. "What can you /possibly/ do to me that will be worse than trying to save someone's life and having her /hurt/ me? Than seeing a teenager dead in battle? I've failed in almost every way I could, except the wellsprings." He flexes his hand. "And I don't even have that magic anymore."

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Michael continues to look at Jon as if he is some puzzle that the Archangel is just coming to understand. "It is not helping in the way you mean it to when you throw your accusations. But it is giving me a measure of satisfaction in going through it," he replies softly.

    He considers Jon's words for a moment and says, "Humans are so irritatingly bound by labels and seem to forget what makes them unique in grander scheme of the universe." He frowns seeming frustrated about something. "Do you know why I explained the situation to you as you received your mortification?" he asks. "What purpose I had in explaining to you that you were a warrior?" he clarifies.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    "I'm not throwing accusations," Jon says, looking up at the archangel. "I'm trying to understand. If I sound bitter, well." He laughs, and the sound is indeed bitter. "I'm in incredible pain, and it's only going to get worse. Evidently neither of us wanted war, but we both thought the other did. So many people dead, because I don't fucking understand /anything/. So it's not you I'm bitter at, really." He shakes his head.

    "I don't really understand why you explained, no. I don't..." He reaches up to run his hand through his hair. "I don't understand you. At all. I thought I did, but I was evidently wrong. I don't..." He shakes his head again. "I don't know. Why, then? What was the purpose?"

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Michael smiles softly. "Oh I wanted a war or at least a conflict. Stagnation is a terrible thing and we in our infinite capacity have become terribly, terribly stagnant. All of creation has moved beyond the need for our direction, even those closest to us, humanity, have advanced to the point where our guidance is faded to myth. Legend." He sighs and looks out into the vast void. "Something needed to remind them that we are -here- and that is my responsibility. So I moved in the only way I knew how."

    He chuckles wryly, his expression sad. "People die daily, Jonathan. Entire cities are leveled in the pursuit of superiority. Islands rendered into flotsam of the sea simply to prove that power can be weilded by those who have the means. To that I say... no more. If humanity and the other races of the universe wish to prove themselves powerful, I will give them a threat they cannot hope to raise above."

    He regards Jon for a moment. "I did what I did to you to explain a point, Jonathan" the Archangel replies as if he is speaking to a child. "I am a General above all else. In all I do, be it creating the scope of the universe or relaying information and insight or bearing arms against a foe, I am a general. You can been more than what you believe yourself to be" he explains.

    "You were correct... but only in part. You are a healer. A doctor. A scholar. But you are also a warrior. Much like the samurai of ancient Japan, there is more to you than even you understand." He smiles softly. "I needed you to accept that in order to be a true match for me. To understand that you and I are not as different as you believe."

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    "I suspect your idea of war and mine are very different. When I think of war I think of... my grandmother's stories about the Blitz. About supply chains and logistics. About... collateral damage and civilian casualties." Jon sighs. "I think about atrocities and pain and suffering. That's what I thought you were bringing. That's what we /all/ thought you were bringing."

    He looks over at Michael. "I suspect you think of it as... what, a glorious competition? Sport? You called us both 'gladiators.'" He sighs. "And your army was meant to be... what, an audience? Or, well, you don't even think of them as individual beings, really, do you? Because they're not, really. They're automatons." He frowns, thoughtfully. "And my people... aren't. Everyone in my 'army' was just as mortal as I am, their lives worth just as much, with just as much choice and free will as I have."

    He sighs, rakes a hand through his hair again. "That's why you changed tactics, when we got the Gozer boxes. I finally had the same kind of army you did, automatons I could program. I was finally playing the game your way. So you... what, you finally started treating me like a fellow warrior?"

     He shakes his head. "I don't care about power, or proving that I have it. I really don't. I want to protect Gaea, and my home. I want people to be... happy, and healthy. Everyone dies, sure, but they don't have die in pain and terror. They don't have to die alone. We don't... we don't have to /do/ these things."

    He looks down at his hand. "I've failed, though, don't you see? Lydia's the one that defeated you. All that business with the wellsprings... that was temporary. The first seal will start to fade, within a week or so. I couldn't convince the other Champions to work with me. I can't convince you of /anything/. So I'm supposed to... become a warrior, defeat you that way? What was the point of choosing /me/ then?"

    He stares at the floor, brow furrowing. "What's the point of... of /any/ of this?"

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Michael nods along with most of Jon's statements and then stops at his question. "Growth... of course" he replies, "growth for you and for those around you." He sighs and pushes himself to his feet. "While it is true that a child of Irael did manage to shift my focus--and I do not disparage her her victory, for that is what it was above all others--it has simply moved my plan to a more... difficult field."

    He stops at the window and gestures out. "This field. The world of dreams and imagination... a place we cannot affect as readily or travel as readily for we are static and imagination for us is... difficult." He stops and looks to Jon. "But you are right, you did start using my own tactics against me during the conflict. And for that I commend you."

    He pauses and frowns. "But you wish to understand me. I can let you do that. But are you certain ou want it? It is a terrible thing to experience the life of one who has been around since the birth of all things. The first being with a mind created. Companion to an entity that surpasses even your own meager understanding. But I am willing, if you are asking for it." There is a dangerous note in his tone, a slightly veiled threat. Or perhaps, a worry for his own safety in doing this thing.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    "Seems the only thing I do right anymore is take statements," Jon mutters. "I am meant to bear witness to horrors. To record them, that they are not lost to time. To offer judgement on the actions of those whose statements I take, and comfort to those who need it. I suppose I do manage that, well enough. I just..."

    He moves to sit back and immediately regrets it, hissing in pain and pulling himself away from the chair. "/Fuck/," he whispers, and closes his eyes for a moment. He sobs, quietly, putting his hand to his face. And for a few minutes he just... sits there crying. As defeated as Michael might be, Jon feels even more so. Helpless, and floundering, and so, so tired.

    Finally, though, he looks up and says, "What choice do I have? If I don't get your statement, then..." Then this was all for nothing. Or, well, not for nothing, but it was pain and torment without any gain. And somewhere deep inside, there's a stubborn core that refuses to give up entirely.

    He sniffles, and wipes at his eyes, then fixes Michael with a penetrating gaze. It might be surprising, the strength of the will and compulsion that Jon throws at the archangel--and Jon himself would deny it if he were called out. Probably not enough to /actually/ compel the angel, but far, far stronger than he knows.

    "Saint Michael," he says, in a voice that manages to ring out despite the pain in his throat, "give me your statement."

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    The swell of the will of the Archivist is indeed surprising to Michael and he starts speaking without even registering the act of doing so. "My existence was formed from thought. The Presence, in his eternal capacity wished a companion. Someone to speak with about the thoughts ruminating in His head." Jon would feel a light before him and though the illumination of the room didn't change, Michael's memory of the Presence made manifest would sear itself into his consciousness.

    Michael continues. "My Purpose in the beginning was to listen. To record. To question. A proverbial sounding board for the Presence. Eventually... the Presence wanted another voice to give its own opinion in contrast to my own. And so my brother, now called Lucifer, was created." A figure fills Jon's mind. He's seen Lucifer, both in his human guise and as the Lord of Hell. The being in his mind, is neither of those. The sketch of such a creature is similar but the lines are more perfect. More beautiful. More entrancing. Lucifer is and was the most beautiful creature ever given form and even next to the perfection of Michael, he is more glorious.

    "Time passed and more of us were made. Eventually thirteen of us existed and while we were adequate company for Him, we were subject to His will above everything and thus did not offer our own opinions." He pauses, allowing Jon to take in all that he has revealed to this point.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    For a moment, Jon is flabbergasted. He... compelled Michael. /He/ compelled an /archangel/. Even caught off-guard, that shouldn't be possible, not with the kind of power Jon tends to think he has. He stares at Michael, mouth hanging open, stunned by what he just did. /He's/ not that strong, right? He can't be.

    Though Michael /does/ see him as a worthy opponent...

    But then the statement starts in earnest, and all Jon can do is sit and listen, transfixed, as images sear themselves into his mind and into the Archive. Not merely the Presence--but the Presence from /Michael's/ point of view. Not merely Lucifer, the Morningstar, but what /Michael/ saw and thought of his brother. His eyes keep widening, and his breath comes a little faster and shorter, but he can't move or react, not until it's done. So he just... sits there, overwhelmed.

    Well, he knew this would be a /lot/, right?

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Michael continues on, speaking his existence into life in Jon's mind. Time passed, or did it? It was not truly created at that moment. It was us and it was Him and we were family. And so He proposed a plan: give His favored creations to power to create and shape all of nothing into something. We were appalled by the idea. Could we even think to create something that could match His skill. He would see to it of course. My brother and I, as favored among his children were taskd and given the power."

    Michael's voice becomes wistful for a moment. "The Demiurgic force is... I cannot give it words. The knowledge, the infinite possibilities laid out before me. The guidance of the One I loved more than anything, giving me the reason to shape it all. To know that with a thought I could create multitudes. I could see the joy on the face of my brother as well. He could feel it too. The will to shape, to mold, to envision everything he wanted if he was just given the raw materials to do it." Jon can feel it as well. The infinite power in the Demiurgic force that resides in Michael. A well of energy that has no end. Infinite as nothing else is. He could see the power that Michael and Lucifer had weilded together. Feel as each atom of the universe was birthed into being and watch as the hands of Lucifer constructed stars, galaxies, planets, all of it from that spark that Michael -willed- into being.

    "And so we created. I willed the atoms of the universe into existence and my brother, always the artist, shaped the particles of dust and turned everything and nothing into -something-."

    "And we watched as He moved further and further from us... His focus on those beings who were given Freedom to act without his direct command. On those called mortals. My brother, ever prideful voiced his concern and..." Jon watches as Lucifer raises up his fist to The Presence and is subsequently smote down by a force of will stronger than anything Jon could ever imagine. He watches as Michael, full of Demiurgic power, stripped Lucifer of everything that made him divine: his Purpose, his essence, and the power of Creation that was given to him by the Presence, taking it in as a sponge takes in water, before throwing the Prince of Hell to the earth along with those who followed him.

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    "And that was the last time we were used in that fashion..." Michael says. "Until now, of course." he says. "We did more than simply watch though in those early days. We guided. We raised those up who would become the gods of the universe. Gaea and her siblings. We even watched and despaired as so many of them died and became those terrible echoes in the realm of Nothing. And then, as more time passed we provided more guidance to her children. Mortals. Hoping that if they took our words to heart they would become what He wanted us to be." Jon watches at Angels of all scopes and powers move amongst mortals, offering advice, tutelage, and each time humanity would get better only to fall back into imperfection over time.

    "You see the futility in it all, Jonathan? Our entire work was simply to give Him companions that would match his splendor and even in that we failed." He laughs softly. "And then we noticed a pattern. The entire product was flawed. Somewhere, somehow it broke."

    Jon can see the familiar shape of the universe expanidng, breaking free of it's sodity and becoming the amorphous mass that it is this day. Seeking out life from other universes and siphoning them to sustain itself. Instead of the cycle being self-sustaining... I realized that with each consecutive death... it was becoming less. Dimishing. And I knew then that I had to step in and take it all back. Start over, create again without the failed process involved in it. That is where it had to have happened, after all. Nothing else made sense. And that is what I am doing."

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    When the statement finally ends, Jon slides out of the chair he'd been sitting on, falling to his knees with a rather loud *thump.* It was so much... it was almost too much. His mind reels, trying to grapple with what he was just shown. He's crying, even though he doesn't quite realize it. The sense of loss, of betrayal--not just at Lucifer, but at the *Presence*--is overwhelming. Michael has done everything he was supposed to do, followed every rule and every guideline... and yet the universe he created is still flawed and broken. And he doesn't know why.

    "All that power," he whispers. "You... you shouldn't still have it, Saint Michael." He looks up at the archangel, eyes wide. "It's too much, don't you see? Too much by far. When you took the power from Lucifer, you overburdened yourself."

    He frowns, and shakes his head. "Your Father created you to assauge His own loneliness and then turned away, to focus on others. When your brother raised an objection, you had to strike him down. You've been asked to do too much, even for one of your caliber. To fix a problem your /Father/ created." There is nothing but compassion in his voice.

    He reaches up his hand to push himself to his feet, and walks over to the archangel, to stand in front of him. "I know what the problem is, Saint Michael, and it isn't your fault, not... not really. It's the Old Ones. They've hijacked the flow of souls, somehow. But... but we can fix it. We can make this right. We could do it /together/."

    He reaches out to put his hand on Michael's shoulder. A gesture of comfort. There is no anger, no fear, just... compassion. Maybe worry. "I'm sorry that He turned away from you. I know what it is, to feel lost and alone, to feel like you can't do anything right." He smiles, sadly. "We /are/ more alike than I thought."

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    The strike comes with surprising swiftness and power, a backhack across the face that, were Jon purely mortal, would've shattered bone and likely send him to his grave. "Don't touch me!" demands the General of the Hosts, disgust and anger in his tone. "Even if your power gives you the ability to feel what I felt. You did not -earn- it. You are a spectator. -I- was the one betrayed. -I- was the one who was tossed aside."

    He towers over Jon, his wings spreading out behind him and the sheer weight of his power pressing in on the Archivist. "Do not dare offer me compassion and sympathy. Your pity is not welcome here, Jonathan." The towering fury of the Archangel is the same power that turned cities into salt and wiped out entire populations as it spread throughout Egypt in a deadly mist.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon falls to the floor with the power of that strike, and he stares up at Michael, not with fear, but with something like betrayal. "I reach out my hand in love and comfort, and you respond with anger and violence?" There's an aching quality to his tone. Pain and remorse, dripping from the words. How can he /possibly/ fix this?

    All he can see, when he looks up at that towering Archangel, with all that power and fury, is an overgrown child, lost and alone, lashing out in anger.

    Something clicks in his head, suddenly. He understands, finally, why Gaea chose /him/ of all people. The Outsiders don't call him "Thoth Dad" for nothing, after all.

    "I see you now, Saint Michael," he says, tone suddenly firm, even in the face of all that power. "I thought you were a bullying parent, but you aren't at all. You are a hurt child, lost and abandoned, lashing out in pain and anger. You don't understand your own emotions. You don't know how to handle them, express them appropriately."

    He frowns, swallows. "I see you now. And I have compassion, and sympathy. But by the gods, I am going to sit you down in a corner and teach you to express your anger properly. You're not mad at me, so stop threatening me; you know damn well I've done nothing to deserve this reaction."

    It's probably not the /best/ idea to treat the being that created your universe like a wayward child, but when he's /acting/ like one...

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Michael continues to stare daggers at Jon, his own fury rising in volume as Jon calls him a child. He who is older than the concept of time itself. A child. "I should end you here and be rid of you and your arrogance," he growls at the man. "But that is not your fate here. Not now." He turns and stalks away, his wings folding back against his back once again.

    He turns again and his face is composed serenity, but that visage of fury and rage is forever etched in Jon's mind. The petulance of a child alone and frightened and lashing out in that anger. "Let me give you a taste of what I suggest if I win. A paradise where all is well and pain no longer exists. May you rot in there forever." He raises a hand and the world blurs and fades away into darkness.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon blinks as he jerks awake. He's sitting in his office, at his desk, with papers still left to grade sitting in a stack to one side. He must have dozed off; he'd been having the strangest dream...

    He frowns and reaches up to pull off his glasses and pinch the bridge of his nose. "Just a dream," he murmurs to himself. "Shake it off."

    He has to take a moment to orient himself. He's in his office, in his apartment in Chelsea. He teaches philosophy at Columbia. That shouldn't seem strange, but for a moment it does. His mind whirls, and he shakes his head.

    Maybe it's just the nature of the assignment he's been grading. 'Why does God give us challenge and hardship when we know He will ensure all is well in the end?' He has his own thoughts on that, about challenge being necessary for growth, about God being a firm but loving parent who wants to see humans prosper. The point, however, is to get his students thinking. If only some of them didn't think the /strangest/ things.

    Like the student who wrote five whole pages about the possibility of /evil/ in the world. As if God would let true evil exist as more than a matter for idle contemplation.

    "I need some air," he mutters, and pushes himself up from the desk with his arm. He has a prosthetic, to replace the arm he lost in an accident a few years ago--another one of those challenges God provides--but he needs to take it off from time to time. He picks it up and fastens it on beneath his shirt, then heads out into the rest of the apartment.

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    His husband, Martin is in the living room of the apartment speaking animatedly on the phone to someone. Martin is a poetry writer, and a well established one at that. His poetry often focuses on the beauty of the works of God in their world. His protective nature and how he manages to supply for all his creations. "I don't care what the weather forecast says. If it rains we'll set up a bunch of canopy tents in the middle of the lawn and do the reading under cover if we have to. I want to make sure everything is right for this, Duncan. Just... make it happen."

    He hangs up and looks at Jon giving the man a smile. "Finally awake?" he asks. "I was going to wake you but you looked so peaceful, I figured you needed the sleep. How--" He is interrupted by the door opening and two girls entering the apartment. They are both in their teens (one further along the timetable than the other) and both have hair in a distinct shade of red. From direct appearances no one could be blamed for thinking them friends instead of what they actually are: sisters in everything but blood. Agnes is tall and thin with brown skin much like her parents: Jon and Alya. Her hair is a deep auburn with vivid red highlights throughout; Lyra, even as the older of the two, is shorter and more curvy, taking after her father Martin in that regard more than her mother Julia. Her own hair is a bright ginger, the one holdover from her mother's side of the family.

    Agnes is smiling and nodding as Lyra recounts something exciting. "...and on lap 8, on the last turn... did you see number 25 go up on two wheels? I thought it was going to fly off into the sky for a moment" the older of the two girls says with a laugh. "Hi Dads," she says with a wave to the two men. Agnes also gives the pair a wave in greeting.

    Martin smiles, "Enjoyed the race?" he asks.

    "Oh yes," Agnes replies with a bright grin. "Shelley won. She said to tell you both hi, but she was going out to celebrate with her team afterward. Maybe she'll swing by when they're done?"

    Lyra snorts. "Not likely. She'll probably be a little too drunk to think clearly. Expect her tomorrow." The older girl plops down onto the sofa and leans back. "So... what's for dinner tonight?" she asks giving the pair a grin.

    Memories wash over Jon. Meals in the household were an entertaining affair, Martin isn't terribly good at cooking, but Jon has had plenty time to learn a lot about cooking and between his studies and natural talent, he's a virtuoso in the kitchen.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon hesitates in the hallway for a moment, unsure why the sight of Lyra nearly grown chokes him up quite so much. More even than the typical parental emotions about their child grown up, seeing Lyra hits far harder for some reason. Perplexed, he shakes himself and then heads into the living room.

    "Well, if Shelley's not around then I suppose we could head over to Sara's. I swear, her casserole is the /only/ thing with noodles Shelley refuses to eat." His girlfriend is busy quite a lot--between her work on a search and rescue team, her racing, her friends and family. He treasures every moment they get together.

    He's supposed to learn to make curry with noodles for her.

    That's ridiculous. He already learned to do that, he has plenty of time.

    He reaches up to pinch at the bridge of his nose. "Ahh, on second thought, I'm not feeling my best today... why don't you girls raid the pantry and see what you can come up with?"

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Martin frowns and moves over to place an arm around Jon. "Coming down with something, love?" he asks, putting a hand to man's forehead. "Come have a seat, I'll fix you a pot of tea while the girls work on dinner."

    Lyra bounds back up, ever full of energy and waves Agnes to follow her into the kitchen. "C'mon Squirt, let's see what we can come up with" she says, receiving a glower that makes her look so much like her father it's uncanny from the much taller and yet younger girl. "I'm taller than you now, you know" she says following Lyra into the kitchen. "Yeah, but you haven't always been so I roll to disbelieve that you ever hit that growth spurt at 11" Lyra replies with a bright grin.

    Martin gets Jon settled on the couch. "I'll just be a few minutes, love. You rest," he says and then moves to go to the kitchen as well to start work on the tea, leaving Jon to his thoughts.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    "I'm alright, it's just been a rough..." Week? Month? Year? None of that makes sense, so Jon shakes his head and says, "Afternoon." He watches the three of them go into the kitchen, unsure as to why his heart is aching.

    "I think I'll call Shelley," he says, raising his voice. "Give her congratulations before she gets too drunk to talk coherently." He pulls out his phone, opens his contacts, and scrolls down to 'Shelley Mason.'


    For a moment, his eyes swim, and he blinks. Shakes his head.

    Jon? Can you hear me?

    There's a ringing in his ears.

    It's Cael. I'm here. You're not alone.

    He drops the phone and puts his hand to his head.

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Martin peeks his head out of the kitchen. "What do you think about a Russian Earl Gr--Jon?" he asks sounding alarmed. He moves out of the kitchen, their daughters on his heels. He kneels before Jon and places a hand on the man's leg. "Jon? What is it? What's wrong?" he asks sounding confused and worried.

    His features are strained, moreso than they ever have been. Their family isn't one that has these sorts of hardships. God has been good to them. Why would they be given hardships now? What had they done to deserve this test?

    Agnes and Lyra are there at his sides. "Dad? Is there anything we can do?" Lyra asks, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder and giving it a gently affectionate squeeze.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    For a moment, Jon doesn't see Martin or their daughters at all. He sees an ash tree, in Central Park, a tree he knows doesn't exist. He sees Shelley (Cael) standing next to the tree, pressing her forehead to its trunk.

    I believe in you. You can do this. I'm waiting for you.

    Jon squeezes his eyes shut, like that can rid him of the vision. "It's... it's nothing. It's just..."

    Even with his eyes closed, the visions refuse to go away. He sees Martin, standing in a very different living room, holding a book. Praying. Crying. Praying for Jon's safe return.

    This is a lie.

    Jon shakes his head. "I'm fine."

    Don't lie. Lies burden the heart.

    He puts his hand to his chest. Burden the heart? That means something. Something important. He just can't remember what.

    "My heart aches," he whispers. The truth. "It hurts. I hurt. What's wrong with me?"

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Martin rises and moves away. "I'm going to call the doctor's office. See if I can get you in tomorrow..." he says softly. He goes to his phone and starts to scroll to find the right number. Doctors are few and far between in the world, illness being a rare occurance as it is.

    As Martin looks for the doctor's number, Lyra speaks up. "What do you mean, your heart hurts, Dad?" she asks, settling down next to him. Her hand on her back is a steadying pressure. So calm and reasonable, even more than her father, she has been a rock for him. Or at least she was. Before...

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon looks up at Lyra, right into those stormy blue eyes. So much like her father's.

    The last time he saw those eyes, they were staring at him in fear as one of the Frost Giants aimed its weapon at her and--

    "You're dead," he whispers, and feels his heart shatter in his chest. It's the truth. The Truth, plain and simple.

    He draws in a shuddering breath. "I'm so sorry, Lyra," he says, reaching out to cup her cheek. "You're dead. You've been dead for almost four years now. And this... isn't real. None of this is real."

    Even if it isn't real, he could stay. For a little while. For forever. Would that be so bad? To stay, and see his children grow up together? Whatever else is so important is waiting out there for him; it can wait a little while longer, right?

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Lyra blinks at Jon. "What? What do you mean, Dad?" she asks. Anges, on his other side, seems confused. "Dad?" she asks putting her hand on his other arm, trying to offer her own support for her father. "You're just confused. You haven't been sleeping right? Working too much?" she supposes.

    Martin is on the phone speaking adamantly with, presumably a doctor's office. "I need to get him in, no he's not had a history of any illness? Is that even a thing?" he asks sounding skeptical of the legitamacy of the office he's called.

Jonathan Sims has posed:
    Jon could stay. He could just stay right like this. Let Martin take him to the doctor, determine nothing is wrong. Stay. Be happy. So what if this is a lie? It's safe. It's comfortable.

    Even this will fall apart. The universe is imbalanced.

    You have a duty, Archivist.

    Jon closes his eyes for a moment, then reaches out to pull Lyra into a tight hug. "I'm sorry," he whispers. "I'm so sorry I couldn't save you." He sobs. "It should've been me. I'm sorry, Lyra. They should've killed me."

    Before either of his daughters can respond to that, he pulls away, wiping at his eyes. "I love you," he says. "All of you. But... but this is a lie. And I can't..." He presses his hand to his heart again.

    "Better a painful truth than a comfortable lie."

    He pushes himself to his feet, looks around, as if to take it all in. He looks at Lyra, the only one of them he won't be seeing soon.

    "Goodbye," he says.

    Then he turns to walk toward the front door.

Michael Demiurgos has posed:
    Martin pulls away from the phone to see Jon departing. "Jon? Jon?!" he says, his voice becoming more alarmed. "Where are you?" he starts after the man but it's too late.

    Lyra stands but even she is too slow. "Dad? No!" she protests. Agnes' voice is a quiet sobbing thing. "Daddy?" And under them all, just beyond the threshold of sound Jon can hear a scream of absolute anguish and rage. That of the Archangel. A last desperate plea for him to stay in this paradise; in this perfect lie that he has built.

    As Jon's hand pulls open the door he falls forward into a land of dry empty heat and an endless sea of sand, tumbling forward and down a sloping dune as the oppressive heat beats down. Michael's voice comes to him from all sides. "You turn away from paradise. A place with everything you wanted. Very well, if nothing will satisfy you, then you shall have it in -abundance-. Enjoy your desert sands, Archivist, for they will be your tomb."