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Angst, angst and more angst. I just can't get enough of it! Seriously though, this is a pretty depressing chapter for both Rhan and Gabriel. The Apocalypse is at its peak, and now, it's become personal! WARNING: for those who have a problem with male/male relationships, I suggest you skip this part, or just the end of it, though you won't understand a bloody thing after. There's nothing graphic (as per the rules, naturally) but there is a kiss. If this bothers you, don't say I didn't warn you!My darling Genipoo drew two gorgeous pics for this chapter, one of them visibly more recent than the other, since her style greatly improved. You can view them here http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se/art/g/e/genissou/rhan_et_gabriel.jpg.html and here http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se/art/g/e/genissou/rhan.jpg.html The second one, with Rhan and his funky wings, is the most recent and the most acurate. This is what Rhan is supposed to look like, the hair especially has been improved. You rock, Gen! Draw Gabriel next! <3
The Ultimate Decision
Gabriel raged and swore. Back in the privacy of his room, he let his anger show. He had been passive and civil in God’s presence, but the injustice of God’s punishment had gotten the best of him as soon as he was alone. He was sure the Angels in the rooms next to his could hear him perfectly well, and he didn’t care.
He stayed in his room for the rest of the day, sulking in stubborn silence after his tantrum. He ignored his friends when they came to visit.
He was furious with God. It simply wasn’t fair!
“Gabriel, you have disobeyed me,” God had said to him. “You were forbidden from going to Earth unless you had a mission. You deliberately disobeyed me. And for that, you will be confined to Heaven for the remainder of the year.”
“But—” Gabriel had protested, reeling with the unfairness of the punishment.
“That’s enough. You will stay away from that boy, Gabriel. You are not to deal with mortals unless they are to be judged. You are dismissed.”
It was so unfair! What would happen to Rhan now? He was alone and distressed. He would die if no one helped him.
“Forgive me, Lord,” Gabriel whispered resolutely, “for I am about to sin.” He pulled his door open and crept out into the night.
“And where exactly do you think you’re going?” a familiar voice said from the shadows.
“Go away, Michael,” Gabriel said sharply.
“You are not going back down to Earth, Gabriel,” Michael told him crisply. “You’re in enough trouble as it is. If God finds out—”
“I don’t care if I have to defy God, Michael. Rhan will die if I don’t help him. He’s got no one left. He needs me.”
“He doesn’t need you, Gabriel,” Michael countered bluntly. “I think you’re the one who needs him.”
Gabriel spun angrily, grabbing Michael’s tunic. Before he could punch, though, he realized what he was doing and released him quickly. “I’m sorry, Michael,” he mumbled. “I know you’re only looking out for me. And maybe you’re right. Maybe I do need him. But I won’t let you or God or anyone else stand in my way.” He walked away.
“You love him,” Michael said.
Gabriel froze. He swallowed the lump that had appeared in his throat. “I’m an Archangel, Michael. I love all humans.”
“But you’ve never attached yourself to one like this before. Gabriel, you can’t be with a mortal. As an Archangel, you have duties. You can never be with him.”
He didn’t answer. He simply walked on.
“Gabriel, you’re going to get yourself exiled,” the leader of the Archangels whispered after his friend.
Rhan was sitting deep in Shelter, down one of the secret escape tunnels. He had insisted that they have several secret escape routes, just in case something like this ever happened. Clearly, though, no one had been able to reach them in time: there was no trace of blood anywhere.
Rhan pulled his legs up to his chest. What was he going to do now? He had nowhere to go. No one to go to. He had lived only for Shelter, and now it was gone. He buried his face in his arms. He didn’t want to be alone.
“Rhan?” called a slightly familiar voice.
The boy lifted his head. A man wearing slightly dirty and torn jeans and a T-shirt, and who had long white hair and piercing green eyes entered the tunnel. Rhan wanted to jump up and run to the Archangel, but he lacked the strength. He smiled wanly at Gabriel.
“Oh, Rhan, you look terrible,” Gabriel told him, touching his cheek. A tear fell onto his palm. The boy was crying again. He sighed, feeling useless, and took the mortal into his arms. This time, Rhan didn’t resist.
He melted into the Archangel’s embrace, desperately needing someone to tell him everything would be okay. Despair deeper than anything he had ever felt had settled into his heart and refused to go away. But when Gabriel was near, that desperation lifted, if only briefly. The Archangel’s light warmed him, soothed him. His tears stopped.
“Better now?” Gabriel asked, smiling softly.
Rhan shook his head, but gave him a weak smile. He looked the Angel over while he tried to think of something to say. Gabriel would never be able to pass for a human. He had done a reasonable job in dirtying his clothes and smearing dirt and blood on his arms and face, but his hair refused to stay messy. No matter what he did, it settled over his shoulders like water. Even his dirty face looked perfect. Not a blemish on it, not a worry line nor a wrinkle. He glowed with health and hope that no one on Earth possessed anymore. He was, without a doubt, beautiful.
Rhan shook his head again, trying to rid himself of that thought. Since when did he find men attractive? But there was no denying it. The hope in Gabriel’s eyes was what had caught Rhan’s eye at the start. It was the selfsame hope that Rhan had desperately wanted for his refugees before it had been dashed by a few demons too stubborn to stay in hiding during the light hours like all the others.
“So are you in trouble?” he asked, trying to take his mind off his failure. “Did God ground you?”
“Actually, yes,” Gabriel said with a laugh. “I am forbidden to come to Earth for the rest of the year, and I am not allowed to see you again unless I am to take you to judgment. As you can see, I’m no better than a rebellious teenager.”
Rhan sighed. “Gabriel, what am I supposed to do now? I only stayed alive so that I could help Shelter. Now that it’s gone, I have no more purpose. And I guess my chance at Heaven is gone now?”
“For the moment.”
“God wouldn’t accept me, anyway,” he muttered to himself.
“Why not?” Gabriel cried, indignant. “God accepts anyone in Heaven, as long as they ask for forgiveness.”
“And do you think that God would accept the child of a demon?”
Gabriel started. He looked at Rhan, hoping to see him laugh. It had to be a joke. There was no way Rhan could be a demon. But the boy returned his gaze levelly. His red eyes suddenly looked very menacing indeed, much like the eyes of a demon.
“It’s not possible,” Gabriel whispered hoarsely.
“It’s the truth. My mother was an Angel, and my father was a demon.”
“An Angel and a demon? How did that happen?”
“My mother was an Auphanim. While she was surveying a part of the Earth, she was attacked by a demon and raped. She was forgiven by God, because it wasn’t her fault that she was impregnated. But when I was born, God wasn’t so forgiving. I was cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven because I was part demon. For the longest time, I was on my own, too afraid to trust humans. Finally, years later, I found the perfect disguise so that no one would think twice about my eyes: I dressed like a Goth. Many of them are into the vampire look, so I copied them: I wore nothing but black, medieval-looking clothes, and lots of dark makeup, and I already had the red eyes and fangs. It was foolproof.
“But I’ve always longed for the light. That’s why I was so torn when I first met you. I had seen my first glimpse of Heaven in seventeen years, and I longed to go back. But at the same time, I can’t help hating God for casting me out.”
“Don’t say that, Rhan,” Gabriel begged. “God has not abandoned you.”
“God cast me out of Heaven because of my father’s nature, not mine,” Rhan retorted. “I have had nothing but misery and hatred in my life. What has God ever done to help me?”
“God has given you a second chance.”
“But what had I ever done to lose my first?”
Gabriel couldn’t reply.
“You don’t know what it’s been like for me, Gabriel. I know what Heaven is like. I was born there. I felt God’s love penetrating every fibre of Heaven. But I was cast out. This Earth began to feel like Hell, because there was so little love. I received no love at all these past seventeen years. The people in Shelter admired me, sure, but they didn’t love me. They loved the protection I gave them. I want to go to Heaven, Gabriel. I want to go home. I want it so badly it hurts. But I won’t go until God gives me a good reason as to why I was sent away in the first place.”
“Gabriel!” a booming voice called.
The Archangel leaped to his feet as his three companions materialized in front of him.
“You’re in trouble now, Gabriel,” Raphael growled. “Are you completely insane? You defied God not once, but twice! Defying your punishment, even! God is furious with you!”
“At this rate, God will take your wings, Gabriel,” Uriel warned sternly. “Is that what you want? To live as a mortal? To die as a mortal?”
“Gabriel, please, come back to Heaven,” Michael begged. “Make it easier on yourself. God will forgive you if you comply.”
Gabriel looked back at Rhan.
“You should go,” the boy told him. “You don’t want to be kicked out of Heaven, trust me.”
Gabriel bowed his head. What to do? He didn’t want to be cast out of Heaven, but he didn’t want to leave Rhan alone, either. But if he went back to Heaven, maybe he could talk God into letting Rhan back in, but that would mean leaving Rhan alone while God considered, and that could take centuries. It was a hard decision, but Gabriel couldn’t deny his own happiness.
“I’m staying,” he informed his comrades.
“What?” they cried. “Why?”
“Because Rhan needs me. And yes, Michael, I need him. God will understand that. I may lose my wings over it, but it will be worth it, in my mind.”
Rhan was even more shocked than the other Archangels.
“No, Gabriel, I won’t let you do this, not for me!” he protested. “You can’t be kicked out of Heaven! I won’t let you! You have no notion of how it feels to want to go back and to be barred from it. You can’t!”
Gabriel silenced him by suddenly taking his face in his hands and tenderly pressing his lips against the boy’s.
A jolt ran through Rhan. The feeling was so familiar, yet completely forgotten. It was the feeling of Heaven’s love. He felt it now, just as he had seventeen years ago. It caused the tears to spill from his eyes.
“You can’t,” he said again, hiccupping slightly, grasping Gabriel’s T-shirt. “You can’t! That love is what keeps you alive. I die a little more every day without it. You can’t!”
“Rhan, this is my choice,” Gabriel told him gripping his shoulders tightly. “I don’t want you to suffer alone. I will stay with you until God welcomes you back into Heaven.”
“Gabriel, I’m begging you, don’t do this!”
“You should listen to him, Gabriel,” Michael suggested, a concerned frown creasing his perfect face. “You get homesick being away from Heaven for a day. How will you survive a lifetime?”
“I have made my choice,” Gabriel said firmly. There was a finality in his voice that stifled all further arguments.
Rhan fell to his knees, weeping bitterly. He had killed Shelter, and now he had killed one of the great Archangels. How many more lives was he going to destroy? Maybe this was why God had cast him out.
“Tell God I’m sorry,” Gabriel asked Uriel. His friend was crying almost as hard as Rhan. Uriel was the sensitive one among them, and he loved them all dearly. He didn’t want Gabriel to become mortal. He didn’t want to see him grow old and die.
There was an unholy shriek that echoed deafeningly in the tunnel. Rhan sprang to his feet, knowing the telltale screech of a demon by heart by now. He snatched a heavy stone and hurled it into the dark tunnel. A winged demon flew out of the darkness straight at him. Rhan’s eyes widened in shock. He couldn’t get away in time. He was going to die.
Something shoved him aside, moving between him and the demon. Four voices cried out in horror as the unholy teeth sang deep into holy flesh. Gabriel merely grunted in pain. The demon was instantly consumed. Some of Gabriel’s holy blood had gushed into its mouth too fast for it to pull away. It writhed in agony, shrieking in pain, and finally lay still.
“Gabriel!” Rhan yelled, horrified that the Archangel had taken the blow for him.
Gabriel turned to him and gave him a bright smile, before his knees buckled and he fell heavily to the ground. Blood was pouring out of his chest, staining Rhan’s hands as he desperately pressed a cloth against the gaping wound.
“What’s going to happen to him?” Rhan asked the other Archangels. “He can’t die, right? I mean, he’s an Angel.”
“He can,” Michael said, heartbroken. “He will disappear. He will vanish and leave no trace. That is the death of an Angel.”
“NO!” Rhan screamed. “Gabriel, you can’t die! Why did you do it? In the name of God and all that is holy, Gabriel, why?”
A pale hand brushed against his cheek. “Because I love you,” Gabriel told him.
“Please, Gabriel, don’t die. Stay with us.”
But he couldn’t. He was dying. His wings were the first to go. Slowly, the tips became transparent, then the rest of them. They vanished in a wisp of light.
“No, Gabriel, please. Don’t die. I need you. I love you more than anything, more than Heaven. Please don’t die!”
Gabriel couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. His hands and his feet were starting to disappear as well.
“God!” Rhan yelled, raising his face to the Heavens. “If you can hear me, save him! I don’t care if I never go to Heaven, just save Gabriel!” Nothing happened. No one answered. Gabriel’s arms were transparent now, as were his legs.
“Gabriel, listen to me,” Rhan said frantically. “Listen to my voice. I need you here. You can’t die. Please. I know you can live! Please!”
But he was fading fast. Gabriel, the Archangel who had delivered the news of Jesus’ birth to the Virgin Mary, and who had dictated the Koran to Mohamed, was vanishing.
“No! I won’t let you die!” Rhan yelled. What he did next was an utter shock for the three Archangels. The boy closed his eyes and concentrated with all his might. The next moment, a pair of wings burst from his back. His right wing was the feathery appendage of an Angel. But the left one was black and leathery. It was the wing of a demon.
“I don’t care if this damns my soul, if only it can save you,” Rhan muttered, half to himself and half to the nearly invisible shape in front of him, “then so be it!” he yelled finally, left hand gripping his right wing. He wrenched the wing from his back, tearing it away. He screamed with pain. The sound seemed to wake Gabriel up a bit. The green eyes opened to see Rhan pressing his bloody wing to his chest.
It glowed brightly for a moment. Gabriel’s wound seemed to absorb Rhan’s wing, healing itself. Both the wound and the wing vanished.
“Rhan, no!” he cried, but it was too late. Rhan had renounced his status as an Angel. He could never live in Heaven now. “Rhan, how could you? Not for me.” He was starting to become solid once more. His hands, feet and wings were coming back.
“I only did for you what you were willing to do for me,” he explained, gripping the bloody stump of his wing. Tears of physical and emotional pain slid down his cheeks. Now he was forever barred from Heaven. He was a demon now.
“No,” he said to himself. “I won’t be a demon.” It took all his courage to raise his hand and tear the second wing from his back. He doubled over in excruciating pain. He clutched the leathery limb for a moment, digging his nails into it as he waited for the pain to pass. Then he threw it away next to the demon that had caused all this.
“I’m mortal now,” he said blankly. He seemed to have forgotten that the others were there. “I’m human.”
“Which means you still have a chance at Heaven,” Uriel said helpfully. “All is not lost. And what’s more, you saved Gabriel’s life.”
Rhan looked up at the Archangel who had risked everything for him, and for whom Rhan had given up just as much.
“Rhan, I’m so sorry,” Gabriel said earnestly. “I never intended for you to give up your wing.”
The boy tried to smile. All he managed was a lopsided grimace. They could never be together now. An Archangel couldn’t be with a human. He had truly lost everything now.
“You were an Angel?” Michael asked Rhan awestruck.
“Half,” the boy replied absently. “My other half was demon. That’s why God cast me out. I suppose I had to prove my worth somehow, but now it’s too late.”
“It’s never too late,” an ethereal voice said.
Gabriel sprang to his feet, and the four Archangels knelt as new holy being materialized in their midst.
“God?” Rhan said, surprised.
“Yes, it is I,” God replied.
|Mage II: A Higher Power; chapter 7||Apocalypse: chapter 1 and 2|
|Witness of the World||Mage II: A Higher Power; chapter 2|
|Mage: The Awakening; chapter 5||Mage II: A Higher Power; chapter 3|