He sang while he worked, a low, clear crooning as sweet as a nightingale. The scraping of his hands against the wall seemed obsolete paired with it, as if the dreamy, faraway melody held more power even than the force that had driven the needle-knife deep into the sheetrock of her bedroom wall. It was taking him a while to extract it, as he had claimed he rather wanted to avoid bringing the apartment down around their heads, the magical method of hollowing the plaster and matter away from the barb to free it slow but highly efficient. Still, by the time hed decided to take to the job with gusto worthy of an inspiration-driven artisan, shed almost forgotten that she was new to sharing a living space with another person, despite the fact that the angel wasnt really living with her.
Something about watching prim, dutiful Azrael working like he did, bent over the job presented clearly before him with such a driven, purposeful, yet still so calm air drove her to a sense of remarkable fondness. He took to his self-appointed task with a fine, dexterous grace, nimble of fingers and generous of patience with his hair tied back and his shirt-sleeves rolled up to bare sleek white forearms up to the elbows and freeing artistically slim hands that gave only the illusion of delicacy. More than once when she would duck into the bedroom between spurts of frantically cleaning the apartment to take a rest she would find herself cooing to herself over him. She would stop and listen to the songs he sang in that ethereal voice of his, the lush notes that dripped like honey from his gifted tongue, quite taken with the pleasure of hearing his voice. Once she found a point where she couldnt really do anything more to improve her already nearly spotless home did she settle on the foot of her bed, resting her palms on the mattress and devoted herself to listening and watching him as he used his magic to fix up the mess in her wall.
Truly, he shouldnt have bothered, she could have just called someone to have it done, but he had taken up the mantle of the job himself, and she saw no real reason to argue with him about it. He didnt seem to be exerting much effort either, just a good deal of patience and tiny, precise movements with his right hand, held several inches from the surface his other palm was pressed flat against. The spell wasnt very fancy either, no sparks or glowing or much physical to show anything was happening at all, but she knew there was if simply for the scraping noise harmonizing grossly with the song cradled in his throat.
Such a sad song, full of such longing, and not a word of it could she understand. Not that it hindered the beauty any.
Is that one of the songs you heard growing up? she asked him, hoping she didnt distract him too much. Or maybe she did
He didnt answer right away, but paused, absolutely motionless, silent as stone, for about five seconds before his fingers closed around the visible length of the needle and pulled it smoothly from the wall, accompanied by a quiet noise of victory. Setting the undamaged (and completely spotless) weapon on the top of her dresser, he offered her a smile and shook his head. In a way, I suppose. More like it is a song from the heavenshumans are not the only ones with ballads. Turning his head back to the hole and the cracks that spread out from it like broken glass, he smoothed his hand over the wound in the wall, taking measure of the depth and damage done by the demonic strength that had put it there. The next moment, when she looked at it, the wall had sealed itself, completely healing the wounds in its plaster-and-sheetrock flesh.
With a shake of her head, she lamented, you are seriously amazing.
Eyes flashing wide with surprise, he shot her a glance over his shoulder that was actually rather alarmed. Iwhat?
Amazing, she repeated with a sweet smile as she got to her feet and crossed the span of the room. He watched in a spell of still, muted silence, eyes following the path her small body took to get to him and reach out with a small, soft hand to touch the now flat, flawless wall with its plain white paint. So many talents! Leaning down, she kissed the tip of his nose. Thanks for healing my wall.
I doubted you would want to keep a reminder of
that. He didnt so much as mention the events of the trying night specifically, let alone speak the name of the demon who had virtually kidnapped and threatened her, but from the shadowed expression that turned his marble face to pitiless stone for the briefest instant was enough to get his meaning across. And he was right, anyhow. The shattered remnants of the vase had been thrown out purposely so she wouldnt remember the way Malik had sent the weapon whistling through the air to crack the pottery as though he would very much have liked to do so to every bone in her body. Just the thought made her work to conceal a tiny shiver of recollected fear.
Seeming to know exactly what she was thinking, Azrael circled her waist with his arms and pulled her gently down to take a light perch on his bent knee, tucking her against his chest with all the affectionate comfort of a cuddling pet even somehow managing to purr while he nuzzled his face into the curve of her neck. She was so much smaller in stature than he was, oddly delicate, though he wasnt truly very large at all. It didnt take much to dwarf her. The smile he gave her went unnoticed, hidden by the fragile line of her pale neck and the soft spill of her rich, nut brown hair. His hands spanned the slim circle of her waist, so utterly tiny, though he knew she didnt see herself with near the amount of reverence he did, just as she thought her breasts too small and her legs too bulky from dancing so religiously. But from an outside point of view (if not exactly objective), he thought she was beautifully natural, nothing unfitting to anything but what was good and real. Yes, she was slender and constructed finely, yes, she was strong in the legs
but he found it attractive.
She had grown into her loveliness quite nicely, having been a charmingly bewitching child. The little girls heart-shaped face had remained, even if the detailed features had smoothed out with the years to hone her into the makings of an adult and the moon had reshaped her into the very essence of womanhood. From the sweet, innocent naivety of an infant shed had him trapped in her open palm, and almost nothing had changed. Nothing but the methods she used to keep him there with no chain but his own will. Everything from the soft, kind curve of her lip to the touch of her fine, delicate hands to the shapely curve of her thigh down to the calf was purely Lilith and he loved her for it, because he had watched her grow into herself, just as he had been fortunate enough to witness her grow to let him in.
With a quiet sigh of contented adoration, he squeezed her closer, listened to her giggling when his fingers snuck around to dig into her ticklish side. Smacking him lightly across the shoulder in retaliation, she turned and wrapped her arms around his neck to give him a more generous hug; her mildly-feisty mood gentled by the way his palms rested tender against her back. I have to go buy food, she told him, mourning the fact that she couldnt simply stay there in his arms for the rest of the evening. Do you want to comeor do you have somewhere to be?
Both, he answered; smiling faintly when she shot him a look which said very clearly that he hadnt answered her question at all. I am behind schedule by nearly a day, and I do have some visitations to make, but I have a little time to spare. I would much rather accompany you.
She slid free and got to her feet, stretching softly with a casual arch of her slender back. Is that because you really want to come, or because youre paranoid? she accused, padding back across the bedroom floor to search for a suitable sweater to fight off the cold weather sure to be raging outside, and he could have sworn she let her hips sway just a little more than was altogether necessary not that he made an effort to look away
A small lilt of ironic laughter caught her ear as she was extracting a plain white pearl-button cardigan from a drawer and she turned in time to watch him stand, drawing a faint symbol to conjure his sleek black jacket out of nowhere. I find it amusing that you see fit to lecture me about paranoia. His smile could have melted her heart to a molten mess. I was under the impression that you were the obsessively-phobic one here. And I am not certain that paranoid is the right description. Possessive, perhaps
What, you dont trust me alone in public? her glance was torn between bemused and vaguely insulted over the sock drawer while lifting out a pair to wear.
Something like that.
She threw the socks at him, which he caught easily and handed back with a touch of even more beautiful laughter when she held out an expectant palm. Ugh, men! she lamented loudly, but she couldnt quite conceal the fondness that laced the exaggerated tone even if she had wanted to.
How about brussel sprouts?
A grimace was flashed toward the package he held up for her to assess, a feigned tinge of nausea as she gagged, eww!
He hid a chuckle behind an exclamation of surrender. All right, that would be a no. The bag of vegetables was placed back in the refrigerated bin along with its fellows, rejected quite bluntly by his partners display of disgust.
That was a no way in heck, came her correction while she took another perusal of the array of selected frozen veggies and snatched up two bags of carrots, tossing them into the basket hanging from the crook of Azraels arm. Such a gentleman, he was hed plucked the thing from her almost the very instant she had bent and picked it up under the pretense that she shouldnt be carrying anything in her state. Which she knew was utter baloney, because he would have done it anyway. With a distracted nod while she checked the vegetable off her list, she headed for the bakery section. Last stop
she told him, looking over the little slip of paper sliced with her crossed-off items. Shed already gotten the roast; pasta shells, cheese, and pepper for her side dish of spicy noodle-salad; and veggies, though deciding what would go well had been a bit of a trick. Rolls were the final touch for a good meal, she always felt.
A bag of nice dinner rolls was settled into the basket atop the rest, and she was just starting to feel a little less stressed about tomorrow, when she remembered something. Oh, I should buy some wine for a welcome home, celebratory present. Daniel was a regular wine connoisseur, a true drinker even though he despised the social intrigue that often accompanied others who shared the particular trait. At a wine-tasting, he would have been the only one dressed in jeans and dog-tags with messy hair and needing to shave compared with the fancy, suit-and-jewel laden peacocks who generically enjoyed that sort of thing. Not that he was a slob, but he just didnt care under most circumstances. It would be a nice little present for him, since shed missed her favorite uncle for so long; but Lilith didnt consume alcohol, and she had no idea how to pick any.
Hmm. Well, let us investigate.
She followed his lead as he led her back across the store toward the liquor section, which was actually the neighboring shop-space converted to house the so dearly-loved commodity of booze. During business hours, the adjoining doors would be open, as they were now, and she trailed after her companion for the first time, taking in the numerous racks of bottles ranging from the larger wines and odd-shaped drinking liquors to cooking bottles and the tiny little shot-containers. How a store could hold so much alcohol was purely a mystery, but if it suited her purpose, she didnt mind so much.
Excuse me, Azrael hailed one of the workers, who stepped out from behind one of the racks with a typical salesmans smile spread across his face. What do you have by the way of a good, dry red wine?
The man nodded and gestured toward an artistically-placed display of bottles atop an old-fashioned beer-barrel at the end of the aisle. We have a Merlot, very affordable and great with heartier
Azrael was very lightly shaking his head, causing the light from above to shine along the soft gold strands of his hair. I was thinking something a little finer. A Burgundy, perhaps? Something in the eyes of the grizzle-haired salesman changed, as if he suddenly realized that his customer was not the everyday wine-drinker to be asking for that particular name. With a distinctly more interested smile, he beckoned them over to a far corner of the store, which looked no different to Liliths eyes, but seemed much more acceptable to the angel next to her.
May I ask what the entrée would be?
Beef, she answered, observing with curious eyes the way Azrael plucked a bottle from the shelf and read the label with a reminiscent gleam flickering over his expression.
The salesman glanced at it as well and faintly beamed with approval. 1873 Montrachet, he remarked fondly, an excellent vintage of Grand Cru making. I compliment your taste, sir.
Thank you, the angel mused graciously, and handed it over to be purchased. This will do nicely. In the snippet of time between Azrael holding out the bottle and the immensely pleased salesman taking it to the register to ring up the total (and offering to do so with the rest of their purchases as well, which was nice of him), Lilith caught sight of the price and nearly had a heart-attack. She had never seen such a high number on an item meant for consumption, and while she gulped like a fish drowning on air her delicate fingers dug into Azraels forearm, eyes wider than dinner-plates, mouthing wordlessly as he looked down and smiled, tenderly patting her head. Calm down, I will be paying for that. Consider it my contribution, since you are the one who decided to slave away in the kitchen for the majority of tomorrow.
But its he bent his head and touched a soft, sweet kiss to the corner of her mouth. By the time he pulled away, she was nicely flushed and willing to give in. Ok then, its your wallet.
With a tiny little laugh, he noted, pleased with the victory, much better, and forked over a good number of bills to the salesman while Lilith looked away to avoid cracking her teeth from gritting them too hard over the waste of so much money. She did, however, refuse to let him pay for her groceries, going so far as to threaten not to let him touch her for a week if he tried which worked like a charm, and left her gloating over her newfound secret weapon when he backed away from the counter with wide lavender eyes and a small touch of pleading to his expression.
It was bitter cold outside, a reminder that it was finally December at last and the very peak of winter. The frost was brutal, nearly as thick upon the air as it was dusted across the ground in fragile lacy patterns and every breath was like taking millions of miniscule chips of ice into the throat and lungs to melt into a sheet of cold which turned into a steady ache of chill from nose to chest and beyond. She cuddled close to her escort to combat the icy air just as she lifted her face to the unfeeling grayish sky, smiling for her love of the season despite the havoc it wreaked on her physically. Always having been something of an oddball for this, she couldnt help adoring the winter for its difference from the rest of the seasons. Any other season could be rainy or rich with sunshine, but only winter could paint the entire world like a palace of glass. It also brought so many reasons to be warm and cozy inside to look out at the whiteness that humbled mankind so ruthlessly and no one expected her to run around in public in a bathing suit.
Her foot slid on the slick pavement, a warning that she hadnt been paying much attention to where she was putting her feet, causing her to stumble. Though Azraels arm twined with her own prevented her from falling flat on her back by tightening ever so slightly, her abdomen gave a twinge low and slightly sick with a tiny stab of fading, leftover pain. Ooh, she curled lightly, just barely, the smallest hint that she had felt anything, but her escort noticed and his face darkened upon realizing what the hurt was spurned from. Still he felt guilty? Even after she had prostrated herself half into his lap to convince him of the opposite? Sweet, but
a little frustrating that he didnt believe her.
Take an aspirin when you get home, he told her softly, so soft that it seemed emotionless but for the tiny hint of sympathy she caught at the end of the sentiment, it might get rid of that.
Im perfectly fine, was her retort after straightening and renewing her clutch at the bend of his elbow. And dont you mean we?
His right hand adjusted its grip on the bags of shopping held between his fingers as he offered a light, tight-lipped smile firm, yes, but lovely. I will leave you at the corner. The note in his voice turned a little wry, I fear if I stay with you much longer I might not be able to force myself to leaveand I really must see to those visitations. He didnt say it out loud, but the implication that he also might do something more
romantically inspired if he stayed with her was crystal clear underneath the cool outertone of his spoken words. It made her a little unhappy with the prospect of his imminent departure, because she rather felt another impromptu rendezvous might just do them both some good.
Excuses, excuses. She blushed; embarrassed by the various scenarios creeping into her head and very thankful her companion was incapable of reading her mind.
The corner that came nearer almost as he mentioned it, just off the main property of her apartment complex, drew an old parallel to a time when coming to that very place meant she could soon he free of his piercing, eagle-eyed watch. But now it was saddening to know she would be left alone, the prospect no longer offering any sense of freedom as it had no so very long ago. He came to a stop as she did, handing over the plastic bags of groceries hed carried for her and leaning just slightly down and to the right to kiss her flushed, frost-touched cheek. Take an aspirin, he repeated gently, and I will see you tomorrow to formally
meet your uncle.
Something in his smile hinted at some secret bit of information he was withholding, but she let it pass, deciding that it was inconsequential for the moment. She lifted a hand and briefly stroked his cheek with the back of it, the surface cold and hard as marble until the warmth beating under her own skin was absorbed and mirrored upon the chilly plane of his face. Ok, the response was uplifted, strange for how much she quickly glommed onto and anticipated seeing him again, and sent him a bright smile to light up her pretty, heart-shaped face, soften her stubborn chin, and gleam in her green eyes as she turned to ascend the stairs with a cheery wave. Have a good night!
Un dei, he whispered before letting the winter air swallow the imprint of his body with a swift, subtle transience between realms. Effortless as breathing, quiet as shadow, a whisk of pale feathers refreshed and renewed from tattered and bloodied, bright and clean and shining upon a pure black background, powerful eyes keen and watchful again after centuries of steady decay.
All for her, though it was the one facet of the sequential dream she managed to miss.
Not needing to look back to know hed gone, Lilith made her way up the steps to her floor, the trip turned somewhat awkward by the bags that hindered her finer sense of mobility. Nothing on her planned menu required overnight preparation and she had already brought her living quarters to a state of slightly unnatural cleanliness; so there wasnt much to do but heat up a bowl of leftover spaghetti and curl up in front of the television to watch some old X-Files reruns after putting away her groceries. And even despite feeling both a tiny bit restless and keyed-up for what tomorrow might bring, she fell asleep only an hour after finishing her dinner and downing the pain pill Azrael had insisted she take.
Sprawled across her couch, oblivious to the world, she found a glimpse of the vaguely familiar bird-shape wheeling in a world of darkness, calling to her with gratitude in its voice and a brilliant silver sheen to its sleek white plumage as it flew toward her and settled happily upon her extended forearm. It settled as though at home there on her wrist, heavy, but not to the point of becoming unbearable, preening one glorious wing with a silver beak while she watched it, contented and warm with affection cradled in her insides like some vaporous talisman. Then, slowly, it turned its head to look at her, and she realized with a shock of dream-muted understanding what she was looking at within the unnaturally purple eyes of the falcon that stared her down with something very like love reflected in the expression that no earthly bird would know.
You brought me back.
His voice; spoken through the soundless cry of a raptors steely glare, and the echoes of something more. Something
I was fading, but you brought me back. Thank you.
TBC in part 2