I came here to ask; I should ask.
Nathan swallowed so loudly, he was sure the angel heard it, but he turned to face Gabriel and did his best to smile, despite what he was about to do. "It's about Alton. He's... well, to say he's worried about the Sins is a bit of an understatement. He came over for lunch today and practically broke down in my kitchen." He rubbed the back of his head. "Is it normal for the Devil to be this paranoid? I mean, because knowing that's who he is makes it all even weirder."
"It's unusual for Lumiel, yes, to not have a handle on things." Gabriel motioned for him to take a seat again, waiting until he moved to an armchair across from him. "If it weren't for seeing first hand what the sisters have done to him, I would suspect he trying to gain your sympathy through his usual, deceptive means." The corner of his mouth quirked up. "And even if he is that frightened, it's still in his nature to exaggerate."
"I don't think he was exaggerating." Nathan's brows knotted. Every time he'd seen Gabriel and Alton together, they'd always seemed genuinely friendly. Unlike Micah, who made it clear there was tension between them, his guardian angel was always at least concerned. Gabriel's comment seemed so the opposite, it was jarring, and Nathan put himself on guard, just in case Alton's worries were more well-founded than he'd anticipated. "He thinks there's more to this whole thing than just Superbia rising against him, and given what I know about the Sins, I can see his point."
Gabriel raised an eyebrow and tilted his head curiously. "What do you mean?"
"Well, first tell me what you know about Pride. I'd rather not repeat myself if you already know half of what I'm about to say."
The angel looked at him skeptically, and Nathan wondered if he was already suspicious of him. He tried not to tense, tried not to hint at the fact that he was testing him, and waited patiently for his response.
Gabriel sighed and shrugged.
"I can't say I'm more or less informed than the average mortal," he said. "Though my age and experience does give me some edge, I'm pretty sure even you have me beat when it comes to general information. Why?"
It was an evasive answer, telling Nathan nothing about what Gabriel really knew. He realized he'd have to be more specific. He had to think like Alton, manipulate the situation to get the information he wanted. Without even realizing he'd done so, Nathan folded his hands in front of him. "I mean, what do you know of her personally? I can go online and look up what Pride means, the symbols and colors associated, famous prideful individuals, but I can't say I've actually met her and know what she's like. If we figure she's the mastermind behind the Sins actions, then it helps to know as much about her as possible."
"Then why ask me and not Lumiel?" Gabriel was definitely suspicious now, his lips pressed in a thin frown. "He knows the sisters better than any of us."
"True," Nathan conceded. "But you're Death: you must have had encounters with Superbia when she was making efforts to actually kill someone, and seeing as that's what it looks like she's trying to do to Lumiel now..."
"She won't kill him."
His answer surprised Nathan, and his eyes lit up as he stared at Gabriel. "Are you serious? Have you forgotten what they did to his wings?"
The angel laughed. "No, and I agree that's distressing. But the sisters have no free will. Their place has been and always will be under Lumiel's rule. Honestly, when he mentions previous attempts they've made to overthrow him, I don't believe him. I can't think of any other time it's happened, and really, they just can't." He chuckled and shook his head, then sighed. "Don't mention this to Lumiel, because I think it may be part of your test, but I think he and the Sins have orchestrated this whole thing, of them trying to defeat him, so you'd have more sympathy for him and be inclined to play along. It concerns me that he'd take things this far, and I dislike it immensely, but I have no say in the matter. Whether or not the game ends is really up to you." He frowned slightly again. "He doesn't tell me or Michael much about his plans because we could potentially ruin them by accidentally telling you the truth, but that doesn't mean I can't tell you my suspicions."
"Okay." Nathan ran his fingers through his hair. He had one more shot at this, he figured, before Gabriel caught on. His explanation made sense and could very well be true, but it was still vague enough that it could also be another evasion. Nathan decided to be straightforward for his final approach. "Just for a minute, let's assume he's telling the truth: he didn't plan this and the Sins are rising against him, Superbia at the lead..."
"Karol, you're not listening." Gabriel's expression was stern, the frown deeply pronounced. "What part of this don't you understand? It isn't possible for the Sins to act outside of their natures. They don't have free will. They can't rise against him..."
"Then why would they?" Nathan met his gaze. "If they can't act against him, but they are, and Lumiel is genuinely panicked, then how could it have happened?"
Gabriel opened his mouth to refute him, but there was suddenly a glint in his eyes as what his charge was saying sank in. He was quiet for a long time, breaking his gaze while he slowly covered his mouth. It worried Nathan how long he was thinking about this, but before he could speak the angel turned back to him. "Someone else is manipulating the Sins against him."
Nathan's shoulders sank, but he nodded. "He's afraid you or Micah may have set Superbia off, accidentally or otherwise. He's just too freaked out to say anything, so I offered to ask you."
Gabriel's eyes narrowed and shone bright red, and it was hard to tell by his grimace whether he was angry or sadden by this suggestion. "If Superbia is acting against Lumiel, I had nothing to do with it," he said through his teeth.
"Even accidentally?" Nathan hated pressing the issue, but he had to know. "I mean, maybe Superbia overheard you saying how she wasn't the best at what she does or something..."
"No, Karol. Nothing even close to that has ever left my lips, and I would never suggest such a thing!" He tightened his hands into fists, then released them and looked at the writer again. "I would never set the evil he controls against him! Do you know what sort of destruction that would cause? The loss of life? The... deaths I would have to deal with if such a thing were to succeed?" He searched Nathan's face. "We each have our divine roles. I would never do anything to jeopardize them!"
Nathan held up his hands in defense, not wanting to make him angrier. "I believe you! I believe you!" He sighed. "I just... well, I believe Alton too. I don't think he'd jeopardize his own role for the sake of one mortal playing his game. He's the Devil, not stupid. Someone has to have convinced Superbia to act against him, and from what I can tell, there are only three possibilities."
"Me, Michael, or Raphael," Gabriel said for him, slowly calming. "And he has every right to suspect each and every one of us." He let his head drop forward into his hands. "Forgive my reaction, Nathan. I... I care very deeply for Lumiel. To even suggest that I would wish harm on him..." He trailed off, and the writer saw a thin trail of tears roll through his fingers and drip to the floor. "Today is not a good day for my emotions..."
I've really done a number on him, haven't I? But can I really believe him? He may not have meant it, but he admits that Alton should suspect him. Should I just give him the benefit of the doubt and trust that he's not the one who convinced Superbia to turn on Lumiel? What should I do?