Jason was the oldest son of the King of Hell, but he was born before his father fell, so he was hot and he had a moral compass. He had seven younger brothers, whom he loved deeply, but who struggled to get along with him. His younger brothers were planned; with names like Lust, or Envy, or Gluttony, how could you not be? Jason, however, was an unplanned explosion of grace that resulted in a son just months before the Fall, and so was imbued with the entirety of the seven virtues. Jason, the Crown Prince of Hell, was drenched in the qualities Heaven valued most: prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity. His brothers did not approve of him. His father, largely, did not approve of him. Jason loved them all anyways, as was his lot in life.
Jason also had no fucking idea what he was doing. His father was on death’s door, ready to pass on to whichever realm came next, which meant Jason was next in line to be King of Hell, which meant he had to learn how to be King of Hell.
“Despite our best efforts,” Lucifer told his saintly son, before the entirety of the court, “you are set to be crowned King tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Father,” Jason said. Envy rolled his eyes at his older brother, there on his knees on the stone. He was the only one of the brothers to show up to the meeting. He hoped his other brothers were busy with the plan he had in motion, since obviously Jason couldn’t make it to his own coronation and obviously Envy was the more reasonable choice for successor.
“Have you practiced your oath?” Lucifer asked over the low strains of jazz filling the room. Jason nodded. “And you have crafted your sceptre and pitchfork?”
“I have,” Jason told him. “I’m ready to do anything you ask of me.”
Lucifer groaned audibly. The council laughed, titters that echoed through the candlelit chamber. Jason continued kneeling obediently, head bowed.
“Kid,” Lucifer said. “You’re killing me here.” He leaned forwards. “Look, I get it. I was born in Heaven, too. It sucks, being that good, doesn’t it?”
Jason didn’t say anything, but he did lift his head, glancing at his father.
“No,” he said, and Lucifer sighed, leaning back.
“You’ve always been a lost cause,” Lucifer said. Jason dropped his head again; Envy wondered if that was what shame looked like. “Have you chosen a consort?” Lucifer asked, and Jason shook his head. “How about an heir?”
“My eldest brother,” Jason answered, and Envy scoffed. It was the law, and yet he responded like he had made some godly decision all on his own.
“Envy, you accept this role?” Lucifer asked. Envy nodded.
“Yup,” he said. “We’ll see how long it lasts.”
Another laugh. Jason didn’t even look up at his brother. Envy wished he would, then looked away to his father again.
“Then I will see you in the morning, Jason,” Lucifer said. He smacked his own sceptre against the stone floor, filling the room with a horrible, echoing clatter. “You’re dismissed.”
“Thank you, Father,” Jason said, rising to his feet. He offered him a bow, then left the room, his eyes lingering on Envy only for a moment. Envy stared back, unblinking. Jason left.
“I hope you’re hard at work, my son,” Lucifer said to Envy, an aside not meant to be heard by the rest of the council, though they likely knew what he was talking about. Envy stood from his throne chair.
“Trust me,” Envy said, before leaving. He passed by the sin branding room, full of new souls getting their disgraces burned onto their chests, then by the soul-stripping room, containing the freshly dead getting cored of their souls, of their very beings, in much the way apples get their middles sucked out for consumption. Next, they’d get sent off to their own personal hells, hand-crafted by an office full of the worst demons his father could find, but Envy took a left instead, down the halls of his brothers. He found Lust easily enough, because if he knew one sound in the world it was the sound of his brother howling through the castle.
“Get out,” Envy ordered the other bodies he found, as soon as he discovered them. Knowing better, everyone scattered, leaving Lust alone on the floor.
“What the fuck do you want?” Lust asked, heaving himself to his feet. Envy knocked him back down.
“You have a job to do,” Envy snarled. “Why aren’t you fucking doing it?”
“It’s already done, Jesus Christ, get off my back,” Lust groaned, kicking out at his brother’s ankles. Envy sidestepped him easily.
“You couldn’t’ve helped someone else? Just had to come back here?” Envy asked. Lust waved him off, standing up again and pulling his robes on.
“Gluttony is done, Sloth is done, Wrath and Pride are still setting up their parts of it,” Lust told him.
“How about Greed?” Envy asked. Lust shrugged. “What, you can’t keep tabs on him?”
“Isn’t that your fucking job?” Lust asked. “Leave me alone, holy shit, you’re always up my ass.”
“You’d know, you put everything up your fucking ass,” Envy spat, already leaving the room. “Where’s Greed?”
“I told you I don’t fucking know,” Lust screamed at him. Envy heard something hit the wall near the door and shatter as he left. He strode down the hall and nearly slammed right into Jason, who seemed too lost in his own head to be focused on where he was.
“Oh,” Jason said. “Sorry, I didn’t—”
“Move,” Envy snarled, and Jason didn’t, not at first. “Look—”
“I know tomorrow is a big day,” Jason said, instead. “I know you didn’t want it to happen like this. I wanted to talk to you about it, actually.”
“What’s there to talk about?” Envy asked. “You’re going to be King, and that’s—”
“That’s the thing,” Jason said. “I don’t— I really don’t think I’m cut out for it. I want to abdicate.”
Envy stopped trying to shove past his brother to stare at him. “What?”
“I want to abdicate,” Jason repeated. “I think you’d be better at it. I don’t think I’m meant for a job like that. You can assign me wherever you’d like, but I think you should do it instead. I know Father prefers you, and, honestly, so do I, for this.”
“What?” Envy said again. Jason clapped his hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“I’ll do it at the coronation tomorrow,” Jason said. “I know you’ve wanted it. I’m so proud of who you’ve become. I have faith in you.”
Jason passed him by and continued down the hall to his chambers. Envy felt extremely complicated. He hurried down the hall to Greed’s room, ignoring the strangest feeling of need to please his eldest brother.
“Get up,” Envy ordered, as soon as the door banged open. Greed looked up from his painting on the floor. “We have to stop our plan.”
“What?” Greed demanded, already on his feet. “Why? We’re going to execute it perfectly. It’s already in place.”
“He wants to abdicate,” Envy told him. “I’ll get the throne anyways.”
“So?” Greed said. “He pisses me off. We should’ve done this a long time ago.”
Envy stared at him. Greed stared back.
“What?” he asked again. “If you’re having second thoughts—”
“Fuck you,” Envy snapped, then left. He slammed the door shut behind him and leaned against it, catching his breath. His chest stirred. He gathered himself, then started for Jason’s chambers, wondering how, exactly, he’d get him to leave without anything happening to him.
It was, as it turned out, too late.
He heard Jason cry out, and broke into a sprint, slamming open the door. He found Pride already there, standing before Jason, who was shackled to the floor, one dagger in his shoulder-blade, unmoving.
“Don’t do this,” Jason was saying, as the door bounced heavily off the wall. He looked to Envy. “Please. Don’t. You don’t know—”
“Shut up,” Sloth said from the corner, kicking his feet up over the arm of the chair. “You had to know this was coming.”
“He’s planning to—”
“No,” Wrath said, stepping forward. Lust slipped past Envy to get into the room. Jason just looked up at him, distraught, all blood-mouth and big eyes. “It’s been time for this. He knew it was coming.”
“Please,” Jason said. Wrath lifted his longsword.
“No,” Envy said, then, loudly, “No,” but was too late, or Wrath didn’t care to listen as he drove the blade down through their brother’s back. Jason kept his eye contact with Envy, choking, dying on the floor, seven minutes left to go until total death. Envy stared at him, then wanted, intensely, to die the same way.
“What’s done is done,” Greed said from the doorway, as Wrath pushed the sword in a little more. Envy glared at him.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Envy demanded, still staring at Jason’s face. “I told you—”
“It doesn’t matter what he said,” Wrath told him. “It doesn’t matter what he wanted to do. It doesn’t even matter what he actually does. He’s never belonged here. Never.”
“Like shit he didn’t,” Envy said. “He’s the best of us.”
“Hello?” Wrath exclaimed. “Look around you, buddy. We’re in Hell. The ‘best of us’ doesn’t deserve to be the King of Hell.” Wrath twisted the sword around a little bit. Jason coughed, and Envy glanced back down at him. Jason’s eyes were shutting, slowly, like he was drowsy, and his head listed to the side a little.
“Oh, don’t look at him like that,” Greed said. “It’s no big loss. He’ll go right back up to Heaven and live happily ever after. He never should’ve been down here, anyways.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Envy spat. “It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. He was here, so it just—”
“Grow up, you fucking moron,” Sloth chimed in. “People die. It’s our job.”
Envy glared at him, then back to Jason, who stared at him with the last of the energy he had left. Wrath checked his watch.
“That should do it,” Wrath said. Envy stepped forward and shoved him back.
“Don’t you dare,” Envy said. Wrath caught his balance and came right back at him.
“Don’t I dare what?” Wrath asked. “He’s already dead. I’m just finishing the job.”
“Like hell you are,” Envy replied. Wrath raised an eyebrow at him and wrapped his hand around the handle of the longsword. Envy smacked his wrist, and Wrath pulled back to punch him across the jaw. Envy stumbled backwards, skittering to one knee, hand over his face. By the time he caught himself and looked up, Wrath had two hands around the base of the longsword.
“Don’t—” Envy said, his throat drying up all at once. Wrath ignored him completely, even as Envy stumbled to his feet and attempted to come after him; Greed grabbed his hands and yanked him backwards again. Envy, forced to his knees, was face-to-face with Jason. Jason just smiled and shook his head.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said, blood spilling out of his mouth the second he opened it, flowing onto the floor like an overturned glass. It dripped from his chin in slow drops after that, and Wrath braced himself, yanking the longsword out of Jason’s chest. Jason gasped, tipping back onto his haunches. Envy struggled, trying to get free, to take it himself if he had to, but he couldn’t. Instead, Wrath cleanly, without a care in the goddamned world, lopped their brother’s head off. It smacked heavily into the floor and rolled to face Envy.
There was a beat of total silence, as Envy stared down into Jason’s unblinking eyes, at the blood seeping out of the open wound that was once his neck and throat.
The warning bells strung through the halls started clanging all at once, and Envy’s attention snapped around to Wrath. He yanked himself out of Greed’s grasp.
“He went to Hell,” Envy said. “Holy shit. He came back. How the fuck—”
“We should’ve disabled the fucking heavenly alarms,” Wrath said. “We didn’t think there was a chance he’d even up back down here, I didn’t think—”
“How the fuck did he end up in Hell?” Envy demanded. Wrath shrugged, carefree in a way Envy desired to feel.
“Honestly, it doesn’t even matter,” Wrath said. “He’s dead. He’s gone, it’s over. Nobody gives a shit.”
“Fuck you,” Envy snapped. He fled the room to the soul-stripping room, only to see his brother’s bloody back as it passed through into the sin branding room. He shouldered the door open and found his brother, head in hand, eyes blinking up at him.
“It’s okay,” Jason said, as his brand was prepared. His mouth was held down near his waist; Envy stared at the open wound at his neck, what so recently was a whole form. “It is. I knew it was coming. I knew.”
“I forgive you,” Jason said. He looked from Envy to the judge before him, who was perusing the tome of Jason’s life. The judge looked back at him, and Jason returned the scrutiny, the two of them staring into each other’s insides. Jason’s eyes flickered to Envy, and the judge sighed, as if this sealed some deal for him. He flicked the book shut and lifted one of the brands along his desk up and stuck it in the tiny fire beside him. Jason kept eye contact with Envy as the brand was pressed into his skin. IDOLATRY, it read, in crisped skin singed to the bone. “I’ve always loved you. All of you, and Father, but you the most.”
Envy’s heart seized. He had no idea where it was even placed in his chest before that moment, when Jason looked him in the face, IDOLATRY blazing on his chest, and forced him to know it was his fault.
“It’s okay,” Jason said again. Envy felt his chest pulse. “It’s fine. It was always going to be this way. I know who you are.”
Jason was escorted from the room, to be taken to whatever personal hell was now his, and Envy stood there, watching, waiting for his return. He never came.