Transgression Prologue

Prologue

How you have fallen from Heaven,

Morning star, son of the dawn!”

                            Isaiah 14:12      

The moon hung high in the sky, the color of parchment. A lazy cloud hovered before it, blurring the view of its bright edges; not unlike the bugs on the windshield of Shael’s BMW. The people of Washington DC swarmed the city, like fireflies and mosquitos. The humidity that summer weighed down on the evening’s meanderers; Anna’s hair especially felt its effect.

“I step outside and it’s as if there’s been an explosion, and the only thing affected by that explosion is my head. I look like hell smacked me in the face.”

Shael covered a wince with a laugh. Anna didn’t notice, as she fussed with the passenger-side sun visor.

“And don’t you try to tell me otherwise either, ’cause I can see for myself.”

“Alright, I won’t. You look terrible, horrific really– If I’m being honest. I mean I’ve seen amputees–”

“Okay, I don’t want your opinion.” Anna said abandoning the mirror and flipping up the visor.

“Really?” Shael asked. “Because, it’s just that it doesn’t matter what you look like. You’re the only senator in the country’s history with an approval rating as high as yours… Despite that rat’s nest of yours, the people love you.” Shael grinned and turned at the stop light.

“Well, yeah, it’s got to be for my brains because this,” she pulled out a chunk of her expanded, frizzy, red curls, “isn’t attractive. How far have we got to go?”

“Eight blocks.”

Anna let out a groan. “I have to do something with this.”

Shael’s eyes didn’t leave the road as he maneuvered through the city traffic toward the gala. He knew without looking that his wife was performing what he liked to call “Anna-magic” on her hair. By the time they reached the gala, she would look incredible and all the other women would look on with envy.

For Shael the gala invitation acted more as a mandate. He hated politics. Unfortunately, in Shael’s line of work he couldn’t escape them. As one of the Nephilim, you didn’t get to choose your charge– they were chosen for you, and you protected them at all costs.

Shael, recognized as one of the best, had never lost a charge. With that sort of track record, he usually found himself assigned to the most important of humans. Anna occupied a roll of significance. Not just to Shael, but to the world. She endeavored to do great things– Shael’s duty was to keep her alive so she could do them.

Shael had never met anyone as positive as Anna. She loved everyone. Everyone loved her. He had fallen for her almost immediately. Even being an angel, Shael had never met anyone more passionate, more caring, more– he hated admitting it– Christ-like.

Sure enough, as he pulled up to the curb Anna sighed, “It’ll have to do.” Her hair was pulled back as tiny ringlets fell around her temples, drawing attention to her piercing eyes. She leaned back against her seat to unbuckle herself. “I hope she wasn’t cursed with my hair.” She smiled a weak dainty smile over at her husband.

Shael knew she meant Achaia, Anna hated leaving their baby-girl at home; she wanted to show her off to the world. Achaia had a fire, in place of her mother’s gentleness, that was all Shael. He knew that was the Nephilim blood at work. But, she already had a bushy little bundle of red curls atop her head, just like her mother.

“What are you talking about? With the way you look tonight, anyone would count it a blessing.” Shael could still see a flicker of worry in Anna’s eyes and smiled, “She’ll be fine.” He brushed his hand along her cheek. Her lips parted into a nervous grin. “You look great.” He winked at her before opening his door to get out.

As if he had wiped away all of her worries, Anna shook her head and opened her own door as Shael stepped out into the street. He reached out his hand with the keys to the valet and stopped short, recognizing the familiar face, “Naphtali?”

“Shael.”

“What are you doing here?” Shael asked recovering from his shock and cocking an eyebrow.

Naphtali, the Seraphim assigned as Shael’s sort-of probation officer, didn’t usually show up just to shoot the breeze.

“He’s stirring.” The hint of a smile from before had vanished and his tone had turned serious. “Tonight, keep your eyes open. He’s going to make a move.” He looked grim.

Shael felt like a stone had dropped in his gut. “There’s no way I’m going to let anything happen to her. I’ve got this under control.”

Naphtali shook his head, looking at the ground. When he looked back up Shael could see the doubt in his eyes. “You were never supposed to fall for her.” Naphtali gripped the door handle and swung himself up into the driver’s seat. “I have a really bad feeling about this. You’re judgement has been skewed ever since you married her. You’re overconfident,” he sounded frustrated, then sighed. “Humility friend.” Naphtali spoke gently his pleading reminder.

“She is safe with me. I’ve never lost anyone.” Shael said defensively, feeling as if Naphtali had smacked him in the face.

“Yeah, and do you want tonight to be your first?” Naphtali looked around. When he spoke again his voice softened as he leaned in, “This is a risky business. In order to save them you have to be willing to lose them. You’re too emotionally invested if you ask me. You have to be willing to gamble to win–”

“You’re trying to tell me how to win?” Shael’s voice turned cold. His face shook in anger. He searched for the right words to convince his old friend, but came up empty. “She’s waiting.” He nodded toward Anna who was standing on the other side of the car, looking through the passenger window.

Naphtali looked Shael hard in the face before giving up hope and taking the keys from his hand. “Just expect the unexpected.” He started the car.

“I always do.” Shael’s throat relaxed easing the tension in his voice.

Naphtali put a hand on Shael’s chest, stopping him in his tracks. “Which is why when I say it to you, I mean expect the obvious.” Naphtali dropped his hand, he had Shael’s attention. “Maybe it’s been a while, but he knows you. You’re smart, but you’re cocky. He can, and will, use both against you.” Naphtali put the SUV into drive.

Shael, ignoring him, slammed the door and crossed to the sidewalk where he took his wife up toward the gala. The classical music flowing from inside waged war with his mood.

***

          Anna wrapped her arm up into her husband’s. The hardness in his face worried her. Although he smiled, she could see the lines of tension set in his jaw. “What’s wrong?” she asked, giving his arm a slight squeeze.

“What? Nothing,” Shael said, placing his free hand over hers on his arm; yet his brown eyes looked black.

“You’ve always been an awful liar. You would’ve never made it in politics.” She beamed at her husband and tried to be pleased with the slight increase in his smile.

“It’s a good thing you’re the politician then.” Even though he joked with her, there was still something unsettling about his tone.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” This time she stopped walking altogether.

“I’m fine. I just hope he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

“The valet? I’m sure they wouldn’t have hired him tonight if he was a bad driver.” Anna’s hope dissipated, all of her attempts just about wasted. She watched the tension set further into his jaw and spread to his forehead.

“Come on, we’ve got to get in there. Everyone is waiting for you.” He tugged her gently toward the wide double doors leading into a ballroom.

Anna gave up, hoping maybe once he got to mingling with people he would forget about the valet. He always worried too much. He had a protective tendency toward everything they had.

Anna allowed him to lead her through the doorway and into the ballroom where hundreds of people stood huddled in groups around tables, chatting politely and enjoying Champaign.

“Ah! Anna!” a short, round man exclaimed with a tipsy joy, making his way over to her. “Anna, you look as lovely as ever. Doesn’t she?” he said casting a bleary-eyed smile at Shael.

“Indeed. That’s what I tell her every morning,” Shael agreed. The tension in his jaw faded.

The man looked taken aback, a little confused. Sometimes Shael sounded sarcastic, even when serious, and he would never bother to explain himself to people.

“He really does,” Anna confirmed. The man looked pleased once more.

“You know, you may very well be the luckiest bastard in the world. If I were twenty years younger…”

“Twenty years wouldn’t be enough, Ira.” Shael laughed, patting the old man on the shoulder.

The old man looked half serious and nodded his head. “You’re probably right,” he smiled. He stood a good foot and a half shorter than Shael, and a few inches shorter than Anna, but Anna found him adorable with his jovial disposition.

Ira was one of Anna’s favorites. He had retired from politics, but still paid attention to everything, remaining full of good advice. Sometimes she’d take it, sometimes she wouldn’t, but he always offered it whenever he came around.

“She’s going to do great things, you know!” As one of the catering staff walked by with a tray of Champaign, Ira snatched up another glass almost tipping over the rest.

“Oh, I know that better than anyone,” Shael said putting an arm around Anna’s shoulders. She leaned into it happy to see that most of the tension had disappeared.

Her husband had astounding strength, sometimes it still surprised her to feel the muscles, like stone, under his skin. She always envied his confidence, and wished she could borrow some in her career.

Shael had a right to be confident; he held the prize for ‘Most Beautiful Man’ she had ever seen. When they had first met, Anna thought she had seen an angel. He towered over most men, and was far more fit, even then. He had brown hair with brown eyes, which sometimes held a hue of honey. His voice was low and soothing whenever she’d needed calming down; but when he was angry, it was terrifying. He’d never been that way with her, though– only when he felt compelled to “defend her honor.” He had an unwavering sense of chivalry.

“We should let her make the rounds; don’t need to piss off a bunch of politicians by hogging her all night.” Shael smiled down at the old man, a gentle and genuine smile. Anna knew that Ira meant a lot to Shael, too. He often suggested inviting him over for dinner, especially after his wife Emily had passed. Shael always had compassion for him after that. She sometimes got the feeling that he could relate to loss better than most. He didn’t like to talk about it, but Anna knew that Shael didn’t have any family—at least none that came to their wedding. He only had one close friend, and he was a bit secretive and odd…

“Right. I should get on with the mingling,” Anna said, giving Ira a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“Don’t get jealous now, sonny, but I think she’s flirting.” Ira laughed, the wrinkles in his face accentuated by his smile.

“Well, then I best take her away from you now! See ya later, Ira. It was good talking to you.”

“Always a pleasure. More because of her than you.” Ira laughed again, winking at Shael.

“Oh, of course,” Shael said as he turned to lead Anna to all the right people.

A lot of Anna’s political success, she owed to introductions Shael had made, and she knew it. She did alright on her own, but it always seemed like Shael knew exactly who she needed to talk to and would even keep the conversation going in the right direction. Sometimes she thought she had married her guardian angel.

***

          The night felt as though it had the intentions of dragging on forever. Shael became more and more agitated with the small talk and niceties, especially being on guard the way the night called for. His eyes grew weary from constantly prowling the room, analyzing every person and the level of threat the posed.

Anna seemed like she had grown tired too. Her eyes looked heavier, and her smile less vibrant; her hair fell out of its up-do and into her face in less elegant ringlets. As the Vice President walked away after a polite but brief conversation, Anna leaned her head against Shael’s chest. “My head is killing me,” She said, placing a couple fingertips on her right temple. “Do you think my approval rating would drop if we made an early exit?”

“I think you have some room to fudge,” Shael said placing a gentle hand on her back, relieved that he wasn’t the only one ready to leave.

They walked slowly to the door, mumbling polite goodbyes as they passed familiar faces. They stood close on the sidewalk, Anna leaning her fatigued body against Shael’s as they waited for the car to be brought around. A lanky boy, who looked barely old enough to drive, returned with the car, handed them the keys and wished them a good evening. Shael wished him one as well and opened the door for his wife.

Getting in behind the wheel, Shael started the car. Before taking off, he looked over at Anna; she looked completely drained. “I think we’re out of pain medicine at home. We need to stop at the drugstore on our way back.” She leaned her head up against the window and closed her eyes.

“Alright,” Shael reached over, resting his hand on Anna’s leg, which she took hold of sleepily. He drove down the road in silence trying to give Anna’s head a rest. It looked as though she had fallen asleep. Shael located an ATM across the street from a department store and pulled into the parking lot of a gas station. Anna’s eyes fluttered. “Are we home?”

“No, just at the ATM.” Shael got out of the car, put the card into the machine and typed in his PIN number. Just as he punched in the amount for withdraw, he heard a low grumbling sound. He looked around. It rumbled again, just as a faulty pipe would before a burst. He knew perfectly well, though, that the sound hadn’t come from a pipe at all.

He listened closely letting his angelic senses take over. He stood perfectly still, his eyes darting around aggressively for the source of the sound, the creature growling. The sound came again, closer. Shael saw the reflective eyes just beyond the corner of the building. The store’s closed sign dangled in the window, the only dim light filtering into the parking lot, but Shael could see just fine in the dark.

“Anna stay here, I’ll be right back.”

“What? Where are you going?” Anna asked, getting out of the car.

“I’ll be right back. Just stay in the car,” Shael said, following the demon behind the building.

***

          Anna watched her husband run behind the wall, wondering what in the world he could possibly be doing. He acted so strange sometimes.

She walked over to the ATM to get the money out of the slot where it sat fluttering in the wind. She held the money in one hand and hit the return card button. As she tugged the card out of the slot, she felt something cold against her aching temple.

***

          Shael cornered the demon between the store and the dumpster. He pinned it to the brick with a kick to the gut, and drew a dagger out of the back of his belt. The creature began to choke. At least it sounded like someone choking, but in reality the beast was laughing.

Its black, snake-like face convulsed hysterically as the gurgling sound vibrated in its thick throat. Its eyes, small and beady in comparison to its body– which was twice the size of Shael’s– filled with victory and euphoria. It didn’t even put up a fight; Shael lunged forward and slit its massive throat. Instead of blood, the cement where they stood flooded with a boiling sticky substance, which soon turned to ashes and blew away. The demon had already won, and it knew it.

Shael ran back to the car. He noticed the open car door casting a faint glow along the pavement from the interior light. He ran around to the front of the ATM and found Anna standing white faced. She wasn’t alone. The man behind her looked to be about forty, and perhaps homeless. He had a ragged beard and, from the looks of it, hadn’t showered in weeks. He held a gun in his hand; shiny, black, and against Anna’s head. “What is your name?” Shael asked, with more anger than fear. His reaction frightened Anna. She stood rigged, her eyes widening in disbelief.

The man’s eyes once a pale blue turned black and his face contorted. Suddenly his teeth were tripled in number and grew razor sharp. The mouth beyond appeared endless, like a black pit. His veins burst through his skin, dying his flesh purple, blue, and black. “We are Legion.” The man spoke, but instead of the man’s voice, it was the voice of a hundred speaking in unison in low raspy tones, dry and crackling.

Anna stiffened and made a move to get away, but they yanked her back. The man buried his face into her, sniffing her neck and her hair; his nose formed from two slits in his face. Anna cried now, trembling with fear. Legion’s vast mouth twitched up in a sadistic smile.

Shael lifted his dagger. Anna began to weep, tears pouring down her cheeks. She looked deep into her husband’s eyes, pleading with him, confused. She didn’t understand, that this is what God built him to do, that this is who he was. At that moment the man’s face was his own again– he looked scared, panicked.

“Gi-give me the money, lady,” he said. His voice broke, confusion written clearly on his face.

Anna reached up her hand, horror taking hold of her. The man snatched the money from her. Once the money reached his hand his face contorted once more. Shael threw the dagger. It flew through the air with a whistle and dug itself into the man’s neck. The gun fired.

The man’s body went limp and fell. The face, now that of the demons’, laughed as the body plunged toward the ground. Blood poured profusely from the man’s neck. Then, the demonic face vanished, and the frightened face of the man was there screaming out in pain.

Shael looked down to Anna. She lay on the ground motionless. Blood twisted through her hair, interwoven rivers of red strewn across the pavement. Her eyes were closed, not tight, but relaxed against her cheeks, drenched with tears. The emptiness of her face told Shael he had failed.

Shael, with a knot in his heart, leaped over her to the man. He lay shaking all over, genuine tears streaming down his face. “Stay still,” Shael said, placing a hand over the man’s heart. “In the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, I command you– free this man!” Shael’s voice, full of aggressive finality, penetrated the night, drowning out the man’s cries.

The man screamed and his chest flew upward as what seemed like a mixture of black smoke and ash flew from his body into the air. The man’s body slumped back down to the ground. A flock of nearby birds picking in the ground was smothered by the ashes and flew straight up into the air and then into the windshield of an on-coming thru truck.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! I’m sorry,” The man cried over and over again, his voice beginning to gurgle in his blood.

“Shh,” Shael said, holding the man close, hugging him. He felt the soreness growing in his own throat. “Shh, I forgive you. You’re forgiven.”

Shael held the man until his weeping ceased and his body grew still. Shael lay the man’s body down on the ground, and his own tears began to wet his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he wept as he crawled over to his wife.

Anna’s blood had stopped flowing as freely, but red curls continued to fall out of their hold as Shael lifted her into his lap. His chest tightened. He felt like he was trying to swallow a boulder, which made it hard to breathe. He gasped.

“I’m sorry.” He wept into her hair. “I was supposed to protect you; I was meant to protect you.” He pushed her hair back away from her face. She looked like she was sleeping, but the emptiness in her echoed of a deeper slumber; a final rest.

***

          “Shael.”

At first Shael didn’t hear the voice calling his name. His eyes were shut so tight the tears could no longer flow from them.

“Shael,” the voice that drew him back to consciousness was soft, coaxing. “Shael.”

Shael finally opened his eyes and looked up to see Naphtali standing in front of him. “Naph, I…”

“She’s gone, Shael. She’s not here anymore.” Naphtali came closer to inspect the body of the man. The body leaning against the tire of Shael’s SUV was as limp and mutilated as the bodies of the bugs on the windshield.

“I couldn’t save either of them.” Shael had stopped crying altogether, but he could tell his stillness was more terrifying to Naphtali. Shael’s voice had gone emotionless, the raspy hoarseness of sorrow fleeting. His monotone voice and expression told Naphtali that he now flogged himself internally.

“The past is the past. No use in feeling regret. Nothing can be done,” Naphtali said walking back over to inspect Anna’s body.

“Now, come on, we have to go. He has a new charge in mind for you.”

“So soon?” Shael looked down again at his wife. His voice came in almost a whisper. “I want to tell her I’m sorry.”

“She knows.”

“I want to tell her in person. I want to explain what I am. I want her to know.”

“She knows.”

“I want to see her.”

“You know the rules. There are rules for a reason, Shael. You’ve broken enough; you see what happens!”

“What could happen now?!” Shael’s voice cracked as if under immense pressure. “I want to see her!” Shael said more quietly, lying her down softly and standing up all with supernatural speed.

“I have neither the power, the authority, nor the desire to grant your request,” Naphtali said with a chilling sternness.

“What about my daughter?” Shael asked his voice stern but soft.

“I’ll relieve the baby sitter and watch over her while you’re gone. Now go.”

Shael looked at his friend with an ardent disdain before a pair of brilliant white wings expanded from his back with the sound of crunching bones.

The wings stretched out six feet on either side of him. Beautiful and fierce, the feathers were each a foot long and three inches thick. Shael looked down at his wife one last time, and with bitter tears in his eyes he launched himself into the night sky.

***

          Naphtali looked down at Anna’s body. He knelt next to her and prayed, then moved to pray over the body of the man. He stood silently, and with his back to their bodies, he too splayed out his wings and took off into the sky.

***

          Shael stood surrounded by bright white. As he waited, time stalled. It didn’t seem to pass at all, but had been passing for far too long. It didn’t race, like his mind. Nor did it stand still, like his heart. It remained relentless and pitiless.

But, Shael had expected this torment. He busied himself thinking of what to say and how to approach the subject of seeing Anna. The prospect of petitioning someone who already knew your every argument, tear, laugh and cutting remark, washed over him a sense of helplessness.

He knew nothing he could say would make a difference. Nothing he could do would have shock value. He simply hoped for mercy, for grace. Shael knew of God’s abundance in both, but he also knew of God’s justice.

Shael knew he didn’t deserve God’s compassion. God was jealous, and Shael had given himself to someone else, and was suffering the consequences. He had compromised God’s will for humanity. Asking to see her implied, “I know I hurt you, and I was immensely stupid. It was all for this human, but can I see her even though that would break more of your rules and your heart?”

The clouded wall in front of Shael opened. A Seraphim, with a flaming sword and who was himself on fire, approached in slow, calculated steps. The flames flickering and reflecting off the clouds, turning all the white to gold.

Shael bowed low to the ground, also formed of clouds, as God entered through the opening after a second Seraphim.

Today, God appeared as a tall man wearing white robes, his skin changing colors in ever-shifting hues of black, white, olive, and maple, all at once and independently. His eyes in the same way were blue, green, brown, golden, black, and hazel. He was a tricky sight to behold. The eye could scarcely look at him without driving the mind mad. You would try to predict what change would occur next while still standing in awe over the last, but you’d never be able to capture a single, stable image. Shael kept his eyes on the floor out of reverence and self-preservation.

When God spoke, no tone of voice existed, but an emotion itself filled the space between them. He didn’t so much convey thoughts, but the thought itself audibly traveled between them. All of Shael’s thoughts and emotions lay bare before The Lord. Shael struggled within himself, helpless to hide a single one of them. “This feeling is too much!” Shael screamed aloud.

“But you can handle anything, can’t you?” God thought. If there had been a tone, it would have been stern and fatherly.

“Not your burdens. No,” Shael said weakly on his knees, where he had collapsed with his hands over his head. At once, the overwhelming senses all subsided into more of a dull ache or vague idea.

“Shael, I will not give you what you have come to ask.” Finality filled the air.

“I understand,” Shael said, removing his hands from over his head and placing them on the floor, standing himself up on all fours.

“It is hard for you to let her go. You feel that she still needs you.” Again he just stated fact, no questions at all.

“Is she scared?”

“Perhaps a little confused.” The tone that now filled the room subsided, less stern and almost humorous, with a relaxed fatherly feeling. Shael could feel God smiling.

“Father, please.”

“Shael, no. Look, Son, I know you feel responsible for her, even more so because of the love that you have for her. But I can assure you, for thousands of years, millions of souls have entered Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory without your assistance.”

Shael bowed his head even lower to show his submission to The Father’s decision. It also conveyed his sorrow.

“I know your heart. I feel it. But you acted as a human, and thus, you must suffer as one. To love is to lose, and to feel that loss. That is the path you chose, the penalty you chose.”

“I know.”

“I know you do.” The feeling of God’s smile faded. Sorrow filled the room, an unbearable sorrow; more sorrow than Shael felt at losing Anna, a crushing sense of loss, and dread. “Your new Charge’s name is…”

“No,” Shael said with finality. “I’m done. I’m not losing another. I can’t do this again. I won’t.” The sorrow deepened.

“I know,” God said, if he had spoken with a voice it would have cracked. Tears fell to the clouded floor at Shael’s face. Yet He went on- “You chose this penance, fought for it. It is your, duty and destiny to protect, and-”

“No, I won’t do it. I’m finished.” Shael stood. As he did so, the sorrow nearly crushed him. He fell through the clouded floor, pushed out by the sheer force of agony. As he reached the air outside and the sun, he could no longer feel the crushing weight of God’s pain, but his own anger, and with a pang of guilt he hurled himself downward.

***

          Shael stood among the rocks. Everything around him was frozen. His skin, so dry and cold, had begun to crack and bleed. His blood freezing on the surface of his skin. His lips chapped, and they, too, were frozen over with blood. He had to keep his lips parted to keep them from freezing together.

He’d forgotten how cold it was here. The breath from his mouth rising like smoke to the stalactite strewn ceiling. Humans pictured Hell as a place of flames. When they told each other to “Burn in hell,” they never imagined freezer burn. Shael knew better. He could feel his skin growing paler as his blood contracted inward to keep him warm, but it wasn’t working.

“Shael! Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised. But that’s not really out of my character, is it?” Shael could almost hear the smile in his voice.

“Luc, I’d be lying if I said I was glad to see you.” Shael tried to sound serious but with great difficulty since his jaw shook uncontrollably.

“Awe, come on, I haven’t seen you in…. How long has it been?”

“Um…  A few million years, give or take a hundred thousand or so.” Shael smiled, his lips cracking open painfully.

Despite what he had become, Shael could still see his old friend hidden beneath Lucifer’s disfigured body, once handsome and charming. He had blue eyes, brown hair, a fair build, and an angelic face. He still appeared fair built, but his skin, now blistered and frost bitten, had turned black with frost bite. He was forever cursed, unable to die, unable to heal, pain stacked upon pain. Each injury and ailment a complement to the last. His clothes covered most of the disfigurement, but Shael knew that he wouldn’t want to live inside that body. Always in pain, no comfort to be found.

“You look like Hell.” Shael winced.

Luc looked around, taking in all the ice in the room. It had a glistening deep blue hue, like his own frostbitten skin. He smiled. “We do resemble each other quite a bit, don’t we?” Luc leaned absentmindedly against a block of ice, swishing his robes to adjust them again. He sat and crossed his legs, leaning on one arm. He looked flamboyant in the utmost sense, but only in mannerism, never in speech. He was charismatic despite his stasis. His hair had grown long and black. He wore it spiked out in all directions. The pants under his robe fit tight enough to see more than Shael wanted, and his skin glistened like melting ice.  “Tell me, are you comfortable? Too hot? I can turn the AC on if you like. Ice cold lemonade?”

“I’m just fine. I won’t be staying long.” Shael rolled his eyes. Sarcasm was Luc’s second language, lies being his first.

Luc’s face fell, disappointed; his expression genuine, depressed. His deep blue eyes darkened beneath long thick lashes, and stared at the floor. “Oh.”

Shael felt bad, he couldn’t imagine living like this. Your only company– demons and enemies– never a true friend.

“I thought you’d…”

“Died? No. Sorry to disappoint.” Shael said harshly.

“Or changed your mind–” Luc smiled as he shrugged a shoulder, recovering from his vulnerability.

“Not quite, I still think you’re a bleeding lunatic. I’ll never know what I was thinking when I followed you.”

His depression subsided, and he transformed back into his flamboyant and manipulative self. “Well then,” he said perkily. “What can I do ya for?”

“I lost my charge tonight.”

“Idiot. Where’d you check before here? I doubt they wondered in by accident.”

“She was killed. He won’t let me see her; He’s tried to give me a new charge already. I’m not ready. I can’t do it anymore.”

“That senator was yours- oops. My bad.”

“Whatever. I know you were after me, you vengeful bastard.” Shael tried to calm his temper, taking a deep breath before moving on. “That’s not the point. I don’t want to do it anymore. But I’m bound. This was my sentence.”

“The only way to get out of it is to bind yourself to another.” Luc’s grin widened filling the bottom portion of his face. He stood up a little straighter with anticipation.

Shael looked down to the floor, his stomach sinking with his eyes. “I know. That’s why I’m here.” Luc laughed maliciously and jumped once with joy. “I want to sell you the angelic half of my soul. In exchange, I want to be a human, live a normal life. And when I die-”

“We have a slumber party that will last for eternity.” Luc smiled childishly. “It’ll be fun! What terms are you thinking?”

“My soul in exchange for a normal life. I get to raise my daughter. I don’t want this life for her.”

“And once she’s an adult-”

“I’m all yours, and she lives a normal life, unbound. No ties to him or to you. But not until she’s a woman.”

“When she becomes a woman, I get you?”

“Yes. But not until then.”

“Agreed.”

Until now Shael hadn’t thought it possible to get any colder, but nevertheless a chill went down his spine. Luc’s smile, though beautiful, never comforted those who beheld it.

“I’d offer you a drink, but unfortunately I was kidding about the lemonade. I’m afraid it’s Bose-Einstein condensate down here. Eternally thirsty.”

“It’s alright. I need to get going anyway. I guess I’ll see you later,” Shael said in a melancholy tone.

“Oh… right. You get to go back up there.” Luc’s face dropped, a vastness developed behind his eyes, a hopelessness you couldn’t help but feel. “Well, I guess we’d better go ahead and shake on it so you can get back to your little girl.”

“Yep,” Shael said with as little emotion as possible, walking over to where Luc leaned nonchalantly against the ice.

He approached slowly, so many things rushing through his mind all at once– Anna’s face, her hair, her smell, Achaia’s cries, her tiny hands reaching up at him, Naphtali’s warning glances. He reached his hand forward to meet Luc’s. Their fingers brushed, the icy chill of Luc’s fingertips shook Shael back to reality. He pulled back for a brief moment, looking deeply into Luc’s eyes–

An overwhelming sorrow, like the kind of sorrow Shael had felt in the presence of God, filled the space between them. The sorrow here was melt with victory, an internal conflict. Luc’s loneliness against something unrecognizable within his presence. What might have been love, lay more along the lines of self-pity for being alone. But they had been friends, he didn’t want this fate for Shael, did he? How could he?

          The sorrow remained for only a moment before the selfish victory won out. Luc plunged his hand forward into Shael’s. As he did, all the air was squeezed from Shael’s lungs. Every breath he tried to take in suffocated him with a stinging remorse. He felt his strength ripped from him. His heart shattered into a thousand pieces and his back split open as his wings were pulled from his body like white ashes. As Luc let go of his hand, Shael fell to the floor– weak, human.

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