In The Arms of An Angel

2012-09-20 001 001 (2)

The weather was appalling. Rain lashed against the windscreen and it was almost impossible to see in the lightless lanes.

“Shit. This is fucking nuts. Where are the houses? Where are the people?”

Lukas laughed. “You’re such a city person. This is the countryside, Pasha. Miles and miles of empty space and crazy, unlit country roads leading nowhere.”

“How can you stand it?”

“I love it. I’ve never been so happy.”

“No. You’ve never been so happy since you moved here… with Anna. You’re sickeningly in love.”

Lukas looked over at his younger brother and smiled. He wasn’t wrong. Anna was perfect. She was an angel, the best thing that had ever happened to him and…”

“Holy fucking shit!!”

His head snapped forward at Pasha’s scream, and a flash of white light blinded him. Moments later the car hit something and skidded out of control, eventually coming to rest in the hedge.

“Jesus. Pasha, are you alright?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine, I think.”

“What the fuck was that?” Lukas unstrapped his belt and massaged his shoulder.

“I don’t know, lightening?”

“Could have been, but it wasn’t a bolt of lightning I hit.”

“No.” The brothers stared at each other, frozen. Finally, Pasha shook himself and unbuckled his belt. “You know we have to check. May as well get it over with.”

“Pasha, what if… What if I hit someone?”

“Then we deal with it. Come on.”

Lukas got out of the car and squinted into the driving rain. Pasha had a little more trouble because he had to squeeze through the hedge.

“Right, you take the left side and I’ll take the right.”

Slowly they worked their way back along the road until they saw something large and white. It was surely too big to be human, and the wrong shape. Taking heart, they hurried forward.

“What the fuck is it?”

“I don’t know. It looks like some kind of a bird.”

“It’s too big for a bird.” Pasha crouched down and touched the white feathers. They trembled. “Well, it’s alive whatever it is.”

“Can’t we just drag it to the side of the road and…”

“No, we can’t. At the very least we have to see if it’s hurt.” Ignoring his brother, Pasha hurried around to the other side of the bird and pushed at the wings, raising them to see what was underneath. The bird groaned, just as a flash of lightening lit the sky, lighting up the pale face and mass of golden hair. Pasha dropped the wing and skittered backwards.

“Help me Luke,” he gasped scrambling up off the road. “We’ve got to get her into the car.”

“You want me to do what? Put a big, wet and possibly dead bird in my new car? I don’t think so.”

“It’s not a bird, Luke. It’s not a fucking bird. For Christ’s sale help me.”

Alarmed by the edge of hysteria in his brother’s voice, Lukas hurried to his side. “What the hell’s going on?”

“Luke, this is going to sound as crazy as hell but… but I think… I think we might have killed an angel.”

“What the fuck? Don’t be ridiculous.” Crouching down, Luke pushed back the wings and let out a yell of shock. The long, pale body jerked under his hand and eyelids rose over colourless eyes.

“What are we going to do?”

“Get her into the car. We’ll take her home, warm her up and see if she’s hurt. Maybe we can patch her up and…”

“And what? What if she…? She might not be grateful. I mean, considering we hit her with the car and all.”

“Well, maybe she’ll be pissed. Maybe she’ll smite us or whatever angels do. But I’m not going to leave her lying here at the side of the road to die.”

“No, we can’t do that.”

“Help me.” The angel’s voice wasn’t like any voice they’d ever heard. It seemed to resonate on more than one frequency at the same time.

“Of course we’re going to help you. Are you hurt. Can you stand?” The wide eyes stared at him but there didn’t seem to be much comprehension there.

“Never mind.” Together, they hauled the angel to its feet. She couldn’t stand and passed out again with a moan of pain.

The two brothers exchanged glances but were committed and so they dragged the angel to the car and, somehow, stuffed her into the back seat. This was not easy at all because the wings were big, incredibly heavy and not at all manoeuvrable.

“How far is the house?” Pasha asked anxiously, as Lukas pulled the car onto the road.

“About another fifteen minutes. How’s she looking?”

“Big, wet and unconscious.”

“Jesus, I’ve never seen anything like it. Do you think that flash in the sky was…”

“Yeah.”

There was no more talking and, in ten minutes flat they were pulling into the yard of Lukas’ renovated farmhouse. The light from the windows spilled out onto the gravel and turned the little stones golden.

It was a lot harder to get the angel out of the car. The feathers resisted and they didn’t want to break any more than they had to. Half way through, the angel woke and screeched.

It was an inhuman sound that caused the glass in the windows to vibrate.

“Fuck. Ssh… ssh angel. We’re trying to help you. We want to get you warm and dry. You have to get out of the car. Please… we’re trying to help you.”

Big blue eyes oriented on him and the screeching stopped. Something in them made him shiver.

With the assistance of the angel they managed to get her out of the car, and Pasha put his arm around the slender waist to help support… “Oh.” Scanning the angel from the crown of its head, over the inhumanly beautiful face and along the length of the pale, perfect body, he realised with a jolt that it was most certainly not a ‘her’.

Anna came hurrying into the hall as they were stumbling through the door, the angel slung between them. When she saw him she screamed.

The angel’s head jerked up and he answered her with the chilling screech he’d made in the car. It shattered the glass vase on the table. The sound of smashing glass shocked both of them into silence.

“What the fuck is that?”

“I’m not sure. I think it’s an angel.”

“You think?” Recovering from her shock, Anne hurried forward and touched the angel’s face, brushing the sodden hair away to look into his eyes. They were even more startlingly blue than they’d seemed in the yard.

“You poor thing. What happened to you?”

“I hit her with the car.”

“Him,” Pasha corrected and Lukas looked at him, confused. Hauling the angel straighter, Pasha nodded at the evidence.

“Oh,” Lukas and Anna chorused.

“Well, I don’t care if it’s a ‘him’ or a ‘her’, the poor thing’s soaking wet, cold as hell and maybe hurt. Bring him through.”

Anne preceded them into the living room and dragged a throw off one of the chairs, spreading it on the sofa. It took some doing to get the angel settled. Finally he was pretty much lying down, propped up on cushions stuffed around his wings. He didn’t look too comfortable but at least they could get a good look at him. And boy was there plenty to see. Pasha had to look away.

“Get some alcohol from the kitchen Pasha, and some hot tea… and there’s a first aid box under the sink.”

“Yes ma’am.” With bad grace he slouched from the room and found the kitchen. Gathering the things he’d been sent for he hurried back, juggling a bottle of dessert wine, mug of tea and box he assumed was the first aid kit.

By the time he got back, Anna had covered the angel with a blanket, for which he was glad. He just wasn’t used to looking at that kind of perfection. It was unsettling.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” Anna said and took the cup from Pasha. She held it out to the angel who stared at it but made no move to take it. Anna helped him sit up a little and held the mug for him to sip. At first he burned his mouth but after Anna had explained carefully about it being hot, he tried again and sighed with pleasure. “There you go darling. Is that making you feel warmer?”

The angel stared at her with his unnervingly direct gaze. He smiled but didn’t look as if he’d understood what she said. She knelt down and took his hand.

“Do you understand what we’re saying? Do you speak our language?”

The angel’s eyes flicked from Anna, to Lukas, to Pasha and back. He nodded. “I… understand.” His voice was light and musical, but didn’t have the same strange tone they’d heard at the roadside. This time it could have belonged to… well, a human. It was think with an accent no one could place.

“What’s your name?” Anna asked gently, holding his gaze.

The angel closed his eyes and frowned. Then he shook his head. “I knew once. Now I know not.”

“Oh fucking great,” Lukas snapped. “It wasn’t enough I had to run over a fucking angel, it’s an angel that can’t even remember his name.”

“Hush, Luke,” Anna admonished then smiled at the angel who was looking alarmed and a little frightened.

“It’s alright,” she said laying a hand on his arm. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to remember, not just yet. Do you remember anything?”

“Swords,” he said quickly. “Swords and wings and darkness.” His eyes took on a distant look and he frowned in concentration. “Fire and blood and birds, black birds. Little black birds.” He shook his head and looked at Anna. “I might have dreamed.”

“You might have. Do you hurt anywhere?”

The angel nodded. “I’m bruised but there is nothing damaged beyond repair. My wing… my wing is sore. I don’t think it will fly me for a while.”

“That’s alright. You don’t have to fly anywhere. You can stay with us until you’re feeling better, until you remember.”

The angel nodded and reached for the mug, guiding it to his lips to drink again with obvious enjoyment.

“Are you hungry?” Anna asked and the angel thought about it.

“I don’t remember what… hungry is.”

“Do you need to eat?”

“Eat?”

“Food. No, never mind. I’ll get something for you. Just rest and keep warm.”

As she passed, she pulled Lukas aside. “I think the poor thing must have hit his head. I’d really like to get him checked over by a doctor but that’s not an option is it?”

Lukas shook his head. “We have to be careful. If people find out… Who knows what they might do.”

“True. Come help me in the kitchen.”

Left alone with the angel, Pasha found himself without anything to say.

“You were first.”

“What?” Pasha jumped. He hadn’t expected the angel to speak.

“You were first… to help me.”

“I… I guess so.”

“Come to me.” Without quite knowing why, Pasha found himself drawn to the angel and knelt on the floor beside the couch. The angel studied him carefully. Pasha grew more and more uncomfortable under the steady gaze. He picked at the hem of the blanket to distract himself. The angel raised his hand and touched Pasha’s face. His hand was cold. The touch sent chills through him. “You… looked at me… differently.”

“Differently? What do you mean?” Despite his nervousness, Pasha was intrigued.

“Differently to the other one. Differently when you saw I am a man. You… desire me.”

It wasn’t a question but Pasha shook his head vehemently. “No, no of course I don’t… I…” The angel silenced him. With an iron grip on the back of his head, he pulled him down and kissed him.

Pasha pulled away. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Giving you what you want.”

In the light of the living room the blue of the angel’s eyes, which he’d frist noticed in the yard, was intense and otherworldly. They were wide and innocent but there was something deep within that screamed ‘danger’ at him.

“That’s not what I want. You… you’re a man and I… I don’t… I’m not gay.”

“I don’t understand what that means, but I know you desire me, as the other two desire each other.”

“You’re wrong.”

“I’m never wrong.”

“How can you know that? You don’t remember.”

The angel shook his head. “No, I don’t remember. But I do know.”

“You… you must have hit your head when you fell. You’re obviously in shock or… or something. It was a heck of a fall. And you’re hurt, and…”

“All true.” The angel frowned and thought deeply. “I still don’t understand.”

“Understand what?”

“Why you are so afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” Pasha glared at him and backed away, his eyes wide and his heart pounding.

“Then you are afraid of your desire for me.”

“For the last time… I don’t desire you.”

The angel opened his mouth to speak, then shook his head and closed it again. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I’m very tired. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel now.”

“What do you mean? Feel now?”

“Now I’m here.” He frowned again, then said slowly, his blue eyes open and gently puzzled. ”I was there, and now I’m here and it’s… different. I’m different. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.”

“Well… I… I suppose you just feel… like you feel.”

“There are many things I feel that I don’t remember having felt before. It hurts… here.” He put his hand over his heart. “It’s strange. I… It gets worse when I try to think about… before. Is that right?”

Pasha looked into the angel’s face and wondered what the hell he’d gotten into. There was such sweet innocence there but an innocence that was, in itself, dangerous as hell.

“I… I think so. I think what you’re feeling is homesickness and maybe fear.”

“Fear? Yes, I am afraid. What is the home… sick?” He rubbed his temple and frowned. “This is all so difficult.”

“Homesickness is missing your home. Being sad because you can’t go home.”

“Yes,” the angel said softly. His eyes slipped away from Pasha’s gaze and seemed to be looking inwards. “I am… sad. But… I don’t remember my home. How can I be sick for it, when I don’t remember it?”

“I think maybe…” Pasha floundered. He wasn’t good at this kind of thing. Where was Anna? She was the one who knew what to say in these kinds of situation. “I’ll just get Anna, she—“

“No.” The angel’s hand shot out and grabbed Pasha’s hand. His eyes were wide and suddenly very frightened. “Don’t leave me.”

“I’m only going into the next room.”

“No. I… need you.”

“What do you mean, you need me? Don’t be silly?” He tried to pull away but the angel’s grip was strong.

“Let me go. What the fuck…?”

“Please Pasha. Please stay with me.”

Pasha shook his head and turned away. Then the thought occurred to him that the angel was more totally and utterly alone than anyone else on the planet. “Alright. Okay, I’ll stay with you. But no more crazy talk about me desiring you okay?”

“If that’s what you wish?” He looked very confused.

“Yes,” Pasha said firmly, “it is.”

The angel sighed and closed his eyes. “I’m very tired. Might I sleep now?”

“Of course. Don’t you want to eat first?”

The angel opened his eyes and frowned at him.  “Yes,” he said softly, “I do but I don’t think I can.”

“You don’t think you can eat?”

“No,” the angel said, that same puzzled expression on his face. “I can eat… I think, but not… not before I…” He closed his eyes again and never completed the sentence. As soon as his hand relaxed enough to release Pasha, he pulled away and sat down suddenly in a chair.

“Shit,” he muttered to himself. “What the fuck?” The fact was that he had desired the angel, and that scared the hell out of him. He’d never in his entire life had sexual thoughts for another man, never. He couldn’t be gay. Surely he would have known, would have had some inkling before now. No, it was impossible. It was just because it was an angel… an angel for fuck sake. They probably made everyone feel like that. Yes, that was it. He was some kind of fucked up cupid that made people love him.

Lukas and Anna startled him out of his uncomfortable thoughts.

“Oh, is he asleep?”

“Yes. I suppose— well— falling from heaven, or whatever, then getting hit by a car, is very tiring.”

“I suppose. Has he talked to you at all?”

“Um…” Panic fluttered in his breast but he battered it down. “A little. He feels sad and homesick and doesn’t really understand what’s happening. I would have thought he’d have been more scared.”

“He’s an angel. What do we know of how their minds work?”

****

Pasha insisted on sleeping downstairs with the angel. He remembered the look of panic on his face when he thought Pasha was going to leave him alone and thought it was safer that way. He couldn’t stand that screech. That was the entire reason, of course, for wanting to sleep close to the angel. It was the screech, and the fact that the angel was alone and scared and… and it had nothing whatever to do with the fact that he might be an angel but he was hotter than hell…

It was an uncomfortable night and when Pasha woke he was stiff and sore. He sat up and stretched, yawning. The angel had gone.

“Fuck.”

Pasha leaped to his feet, staring around wildly. Where had he gone? Where would an angel go?” As he panicked, he heard humming coming from the direction of the kitchen and, when he walked through the door he got the shock of his life. Standing in the middle of Lukas and Anna’s kitchen was the most incredibly beautiful man he’d ever seen. A man with no wings. Oh my God, is that…?

“Who the fuck are you?”

The man turned and smiled, his long golden hair cascading over his shoulders. He’d heard that expression before many time—golden hair. He even thought he knew what it meant, but he’d never seen anything like this before. The angel’s hair was actually golden, each strand a filament of spun metal. It looked like—

“A halo,” Pasha breathed. “You have a halo.”

“Hello,” the angel responded eagerly, with an even brighter smile.

“No, not ‘hello’… Never mind. What happened to your…er..?” He gestured over his shoulder. The angel looked confused. “Your… wings.”

“Oh. I woke up this morning and remembered I don’t have to have them. They were making it difficult to move.”

“Yes, I expect they were. What did you..? What… happened to them?”

“Happened? Nothing. Do you want me to bring them back?”

“I… don’t know. Can you?”

“Of course.”

Pasha blinked, as the air around the angel shimmered, then solidified into a pair of snow white wings. It’s one thing to pick up a muddy, injured angel from the side of the road and manhandle it into the car. It is quite another to see one with its wings spread, sparkling pristine in the morning sunshine, golden hair spreading out as if lifted by an invisible wind and bright blue eyes shining, lit by an internal light. The angel was awesome… and terrifying.

“That’s okay. I… You can put them away now.”

The angel shimmered again and returned to being just a man. A beautiful man. An incredibly beautiful, naked man. Abruptly Pasha turned away.

“Pasha.”

The sound of his name in that soft, musical voice sent shivers down his spine and he froze. He heard the soft pad of feet and cursed himself. Fucking hell, Pasha, move. Run. Don’t just stand here.

“Why do you fight so hard, Pasha,” the angel said. Pasha felt the heat of the angel’s body just behind him and his breath tickling his hair, over his ear.

“I… I’m not fighting anything.”

The gentle touch on his hair sent a shiver through him. He wanted even more to run, but he couldn’t. Not even when the hand kept on stroking, then brushed the hair away from his neck, allowing the angel to lean forward and whisper into his ear.

“I know you desire me. I feel it. I smell it. Why do you fight so hard?”

“I… I don’t fight anything. I don’t desire you.”

“Really?” The angel inhaled deeply and kissed his neck. Pasha’s eyes rolled and he moaned. He couldn’t help himself.

“No. Please.”

“Ssh,” the angel whispered, peppering his neck with kisses, pulling aside the neck of his tshirt to kiss his shoulder.”

“Please…” Pasha gasped, “Please, no. Stop.”

“You lie to me,” the angel whispered, breathing faster. “I hear your words but I feel your body make them lies.”

The angel slipped his arm around Pasha’s waist and pulled him closer. His kisses became more urgent.

Leaning back against the angel’s hard body, Pasha closed his eyes and tried to focus. This wasn’t right. It just wasn’t right but… It wasn’t a man, not really. It was an angel and angel’s didn’t count… did they? “Oh God,” he moaned as the angel slipped his hand under his tshirt to brush the hot skin on his stomach. His legs felt weak and his guts turned to liquid fire. What was this creature doing do him?

“You are so beautiful, Pasha. Don’t fight me. Please.”

“No… No, I…” He broke off when the angel found his nipple and pinched it. Electricity shot through his body straight from nipple to groin and he moaned again. He let his head fall back against the angel’s shoulder and rolled it when the angel kissed and sucked his throat.  He shuddered and moaned as he pinched the nipple again then circled it slowly with his finger. “No…” he groaned, “Please…”

“Beautiful, Pasha,” the angel whispered, running his hand over Pasha’s body, long elegant fingers stroking the soft skin of his chest and belly.

Pasha closed his eyes and surrendered himself to the incredible sensations the angel was waking in him. Was it magic? Had the angel put a spell on him? It was amazing. The angel was right. He did desire him. He desired him more than he’d ever desired anything in his life. He desired him, longed for him, ached for him.

He turned his head and found two soft lips waiting.

The kiss was long and sweet and took his breath away. He clawed at the angels arms, desperate to feel them around him. One wrapped snugly around his chest, while the other continued to stroke his belly. He arched his back, moaning into the angel’s mouth as the hand moved downward from his belly, slipping under the waistband of his sleeping shorts.

Something snapped in Pasha’s head. No, this wasn’t right. This just wasn’t right. Whatever he told himself, however he packaged him, the angel was a man. Definitely and undeniably a man. And Pasha wasn’t gay, he didn’t sleep with men. He didn’t want to sleep with men. He’d never wanted to sleep with men. But he did want the angel. He wanted him so badly.

“No.” Wrenching himself out of the angel’s arms he staggered forward and almost fell.

“Pasha?” the angel asked hurt in his voice.

“I can’t, “ Pasha said, and ran.

Pasha lay on his bed, arms crossed behind his head, and stared at the ceiling. What had he got himself into this time?

He thought of the angel downstairs, he was naked and— Oh shit, don’t think about that, Pasha. If you don’t think about you won’t— It was hopeless, of course. It was all he could think about. The strong shoulders and narrow waist. The golden hair. The unworldly blue eyes. He shuddered.

The angel was so sure he desired him. But he didn’t. He didn’t desire him. So why was he getting hot just thinking of him? Why was his body reacting to something he was trying so hard to deny?

Although he fought it, his hand slipped under his shirt and followed the path the angel’s had taken. It was as if he’d burned a trail and touching it awoke a deep tingling pleasure that permeated his body to the bones. Throwing back his head, he touched his stomach, his chest, his nipples. Oh God, his nipples. As soon as he touched the eager nub it was as if he could feel arms around him, hot breath on his skin, lips caressing him.

Gasping, he closed his eyes and ‘He’ was there, the angel— touching him, kissing him, sucking him.

Shocked, he opened his eyes. He was alone. What the hell was going on? This was the angel’s doing. He’d put a spell on him. He’d… Pasha wanted to get up, to break the spell but part of him wanted more and that part wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easily.

Letting himself relax again, he closed his eyes and the angel was back, licking a trail from nipple to groin. Pasha moaned and bucked his hips as the angel kissed along the velvety skin of his shaft. He whimpered when his tongue flicked out and tasted him and then his hot, needy mouth took him in to the hilt slowly sliding up and down, flicking with his tongue until Pasha was in a frenzy, sobbing with desire.

He looked down. He thought he looked down although surely his eyes were closed. The angel’s eyes caught and held his, burned into his mind as he speeded up then swallowed, the strong muscles of his throat contracting and drawing from Pasha the most intense orgasm he’d ever had. Gasping and panting, he opened his eyes. Surely the angel would still be there. Surely…

He was alone, his hand still clenched around his throbbing cock. Oh no. He’d just jacked off over a man. Did that make him gay? Had he always been gay, or was it the angel? He moaned, a headache beginning to pound. He was so confused.

Eventually he got up and cleaned himself off, shivering in the early morning chill. He threw on a pair of jeans and was lacing up his sneakers when the door flew open. He looked up startled, to find the angel standing there, his eyes wide and wild.

“You must help me, Pasha. Help me, please.” He threw himself to his knees at Pasha’s feet and laid his head on his lap, throwing his arms around him. “Please help me, please. I am so afraid.” He looked up and there were tears running from his eyes, tears like perfect pear shaped diamonds. Entranced, Pasha reached out and took one on the tip of his finger. He stared at it, crystalline and perfect in every way. When he looked down, his knees were scattered with them. Angel tears.

“Ssh,” he said, stroking the angel’s hair. “Ssh, it’s alright. I’ll help you. What are you afraid of?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” The angel shook his head. “I… Something bad is coming. I know it. Something bad that wants to hurt me. Please save me.”

“Nothing bad is coming. You’re hurt and alone in a strange place. You don’t remember and you’re confused. It’s natural to be afraid. Nothing bad is coming.”

“But it is, Pasha, it is. They will hurt me. I know they will. I don’t know who they are or what they will do, but I know they will hurt me. They have followed me. It’s not enough they made me fall, they’ve followed me to finish me. They’ll kill me, Pasha.”

“No one’s going to kill you. You’re safe here.” He tried to soothe the angel, stroking his hair and back, but the angel wouldn’t be calmed. He got more and more agitated until suddenly he grabbed Pasha and sobbed.

“They’re here. They’re here. Please, Pasha. Hide me. Save me.”

Pasha was about to say something when he heard a sound outside the window. He didn’t know what he’d heard but it chilled him. Hushing the angel, he got up and went to the window. There were two men in the yard, looking around, peering into the car.

They looked like ordinary men, nothing overtly sinister or strange, but there was something about them that scared the hell out of him. One of them bent down and picked something up. It looked like a feather.

“Oh no.” He turned the angel. “Stay here and be quiet. Don’t go anywhere near the window.”

“Please don’t leave me,” the angel whispered, cowering against the bed.

“It’s okay,” Pasha said, trying to reassure the terrified angel. “Just wait here. It’s going to be alright.”

Quickly, Pasha slipped out of the bedroom and hurried down the stairs. It would be a disaster if anyone else answered the door. Some of the angel’s paranoia was rubbing off on him. He was half way down when the knock came at the door.

He froze.

“I’ll get it,” Anna’s voice called from the kitchen.

“No,” he almost yelled. “It’s okay. I’m almost there.” He practically ran across the floor and yanked open the door. The man standing on the doorstep looked a little taken aback. “Er… sorry,” Pasha stuttered. “I… um… I was… just… Can I help.

The men looked scarier up close. Their faces were stony, as if a smile would hurt.

“We’re looking for someone… something.”

“Something?” Pasha licked his lips and wiped his palms on his jeans. He was sure he must look as guilty as hell.

“Did you see anything strange last night? Any… unusual beings.”

“What do you mean? Unusual beings?”

The man held up the feather, twirling it in his fingers. “You might have mistaken it for an… angel.”

Pasha laughed. “An angel? Yeah, right. As if. Sorry, we don’t get too many angels around here. I’m sure we’d have noticed if we’d seen one.” He laced his voice with as much sarcasm as he could.

“So you saw nothing unusual?” He kept twirling the feather and Pasha’s mind raced. There was no point saying he hadn’t seen anything because the feather said something different.

“Well… now you come to mention it there was a god-almighty flash of lightening. I mean fucking crazy. We thought it might have struck the barn in the next field. The daft punk rooster was squawking fit to burst.” He hoped to God they didn’t check for a barn in the next field because he had no idea if there was one. “We looked out of the window and there was something sniffing around the car. I don’t know what it was. It was so dark, all we could see was a shape. We figured it was a dog run off, scared by the storm or something.

Didn’t take too close a look, just in case—it looked big.”

“I see. And that’s all?”

“Yeah. That’s all. Sorry I didn’t see any angels.”

The man leaned forward slightly and stared into his eyes. “Mock all you please, but this creature is dangerous. He’s beautiful and seems sweet and soft but trust me, he isn’t. He’s a bloodthirsty warrior who’d cut your throats in a minute if he thought he needed to.” He straightened again. “He was tried and sentenced but escaped punishment. He’s on the run and deadly dangerous. If you see him, call. Do not try to approach him and whatever you do, don’t invite him into your home.” The man handed over a card. It was thick and creamy with raised writing on it. Pasha glanced at it. The writing was strange, curly and indecipherable. The numbers though, were clearly a telephone number, although he didn’t recognise the exchange.

“Sure. If I see anything I’ll call.”

“It’s important, sir. Not just your safety but that of your family and possibly the whole neighbourhood is in jeopardy. This creature is not what it seems. It’s rogue and dangerous.”

“I… I understand. I promise I’ll call if see anything strange.”

The men nodded and turned away. As they crossed the yard they looked up at the window. Pasha’s heart stopped. What did they see? Surely the angel wouldn’t have been stupid enough to stand close enough to be seen.

As soon as the men were out of sight, Pasha ran into the kitchen. Lukas and Anna were eating breakfast.

“Shit. Shit. Shit,” he gasped, taking a gulp of Lukas’ coffee.

“Hey, that’s mine. What’s going on?”

“Two guys just knocked the door asking if we’d seen anything strange. Apparently they’re hunting a rogue angel, an escaped criminal who’d cut our throats in a minute if he thought he needed to.” He pushed the card across the table. They all stared at it. A day ago they’d have dismissed the whole thing from their minds.

“The thing is— the angel knew they were coming. He came running upstairs and begged me to help him because someone was coming who was going to hurt him.”

“Shit. Who do we believe? What did the angel say?”

“Nothing really. He said he couldn’t remember why he was scared.”

“Yeah, that’s a convenient excuse isn’t it?”

“He seemed so genuine,” Anna said.

Pasha nodded. “I’ll talk to him.”

“Are you sure? What if he is dangerous?”

“Then I’ll yell. I don’t believe them, Lukas. I just can’t. I know he’s not evil. I don’t know how, I just do. Look, let me talk to him, then you talk to him and if you’re not convinced you can call the number on the card.”

“Be careful.”

The angel was still crouched on the floor, huddled against the bed. He looked up when Pasha entered and his eyes were pleading. Pasha crouched down next to him. “Are you alright?”

“Scared, Pasha. They… they want me. Want to hurt me.” His eyes were so wide, so innocent, so beautiful.

No, he couldn’t get lost in his eyes, not now. He couldn’t let himself be fooled by a beautiful face… a very

beautiful face.

“Do you know who they are?”

The angel shook his head. “They’re bad men, Pasha,” he moaned. “They’ll hurt me.”

“They said you’re the bad man.”

“No. No, Pasha. I’m not bad. I… I know I’m not. I’m not bad.”

“You don’t remember. How can you be sure?”

The angel shrunk away from him, shaking his head. His eyes were wide and terrified. “Please,” he whispered. “Please. I’m not… I’m not bad. I don’t remember but… but I… I know I’m not bad… not like them. Please believe me, Pasha.”

“They said you were a warrior, that you might hurt us.”

“Oh no, Pasha, no, I’d never hurt you. Or your family. I… I like you. I… more than like you.” He fluttered his eyelashes and looked up at him through the golden fans.

Pasha shook his head. “I can’t be blinded by the way you say you feel about me.”

“Say? You don’t believe me?”

“I don’t know what to believe.”

“You don’t… believe me.” The angel turned away from him and slid onto the floor, curling on his side sobbing heart wrenching sobs. Pasha looked at him in horror. How could he believe this sweet, scared,

pathetic creature was a bloodthirsty escaped criminal?

Pasha stared at the angel for a while, his head spinning. The fact he was beautiful, vulnerable and distressed, did nothing to help him in his quandary. If he made the wrong decision someone who didn’t deserve to be hurt would be— horribly. If he chose the angel and he was what the men said he was, he’d expose his family to terrible danger. If he chose his family and the angel was who he said he was, the angel was probably going to die.

It also didn’t help that his mind kept drifting back to the dream, feeling the angel’s hands on his body, remembering the look in his eyes, the curve of his shoulder, the…. Shit. He was getting hard and actually starting to feel those hands. He looked up and the angel was staring at him, his eyes wide and his body showing his arousal.

“What are you doing to me? How can I possible believe you’re innocent when you’re trying to seduce me, to cloud my mind and my decisions.”

“I…I’m not. I swear it, Pasha. It isn’t me. It’s you. You are doing this to me, not me to you.”

“I’m doing it? Don’t be so ridiculous. That’s the last thing I’d be thinking of at a time like this. I told you… I don’t have sexual feelings for men. I’m not gay.”

“I…I don’t know what gay is but I know you desire me. If…if that is not what you want then I… understand but, Pasha please, please believe me I’m not trying to… to… u…um what you said. I’m not doing this. I swear I’m not doing this.”

Pasha stared at him. It was impossible. Whatever was going on wasn’t coming from him, which meant the angel must be lying, which meant he probably lied about everything. He was playing on Pasha’s attraction— not that he was attracted, of course. He must be what they said he was. He must be. But… if he wasn’t. Could he bear to stand by and watch those terrible men take the angel away? Could he ever forgive himself if he was the cause of the beautiful man’s death?

“If I trust you and I’m wrong…. If, when you get your memory back you are what they say you are, I’m putting my family at risk. How can I do that?”

“I’d never hurt you, Pasha, never, nor your family. I won’t hurt anyone.”

“Can you absolutely guarantee that?”

“I…” The angel bit his lip and bowed his head. “No. I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything. I feel

I’m not bad, but I don’t know it.”

Pasha dropped his head and ran his finger back and forth along the seam of his jeans.

There was silence for a while, a thick, dark silence. Then the Angel sighed deeply and sniffed. “I…I see it now, Pasha. I…am a danger to you. I can’t tell you I’m not. I can’t promise I won’t hurt you, because I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt you. I want to protect you. I want to protect you and take care of you. So…” He closed his eyes and the diamond tears tinkled as they scattered his knees. “I am afraid, Pasha. I am so afraid but… You must call them. You must let them take me. It’s the only way I can make you safe. I feel… I feel you are in danger. I don’t think it is from me but I don’t know and either way you will be safe if I am gone. Please do it quickly. Let it be over soon.”

Pasha was horrified. The more he thought about it the more it made sense. If the angel was evil wouldn’t he have sworn they were all safe? Wouldn’t he have promised not to hurt them. By telling him he couldn’t guarantee his safety he was effectively signing his own death warrant. Would he have done that if he was what they said he was?

 Even if he didn’t remember anything he was still essentially himself, his personality intact. If he was a liar and a cheat, a vicious, heartless brute, he would have done anything he could to persuade Pasha to protect him. Instead, all he cared about was that Pasha be protected, even if it meant his own life. He just couldn’t be bad.

“No. No, I won’t call the men. I believe you. I trust you, and I want to help you.”

“You… you do?”

“Yes, I do. You’ll be safe here until you get your memory back. I’ll take care of you.”

“You…will?”

“Yes, I will. I promise.”

The angel’s face lit up and he threw himself at Pasha, hugging him close. “Thank you, Pasha. I love you.”

Pasha jerked back. “But let’s get one thing straight. I’m not gay. I don’t desire you and I definitely don’t love you.”

The angel looked terribly confused but nodded slowly. “Whatever you say, Pasha. Whatever you want.”

“Good. I need to talk to my brother.”

“A…all right. Can I…?” The angel was looking at him as if he was scared one wrong word would be bring disaster. “Can I come with you? I…I’m scared.”

Pasha opened his mouth to say no but the angel looked so frightened and he was shaking.

“Angel, I’m not going to hurt you. No one here is going to hurt you. And we won’t let anyone else hurt you either. You’re safe here.”

Slowly, the angel shook his head. “No, I’m not. None of us are. But I don’t know why. I…. I’m weak Pasha. I should walk away and take the danger with me but I can’t. I can’t leave you. I’m weak.”

“You’re weak because you’re shocked and hurt. You’ll be better soon.”

Wordlessly, the angel nodded.

“Come downstairs. Sit in a comfy chair and we’ll talk—all of us.”

Again the angel nodded and allowed Pasha to lead him down the stairs.

“When did you become a man?” Lukas demanded, when they were all seated in the living room.

Anna had found the angel some clothes, after throwing a fit about finding that a naked man had replaced the naked angel. Apparently, naked angels were fine but naked men weren’t. Pasha was confused but he couldn’t deny it was a relief to get the angel covered up.

In a pair of Luka’s old joggers, cinched tightly at the waist, and a shapeless sweater, the angel looked…. Well, he still looked like an angel. Somehow, the shabby clothing merely made his beauty shine even more brightly and as for his hair….

He curled up even tighter in the old armchair in the corner, facing the window and shook his head. “I… I just…. The wings were getting in the way and I…. He….” He nodded towards Pasha. He wanted…but he didn’t. I was confused and then….. Then the men came and I was scared. I was so…. I was…so scared..”

He started to rock, hugging his knees tightly, and hiding his face. Pasha wanted to go to him, to hold him and….

Suddenly, the angel sat bolt upright and stared at Pasha. For a moment, the world flicked out and all Pasha was aware of was hands, touching him, stroking him, making him….”Stop.”

The angel gasped and collapsed, hugging his knees even tighter and moaning, as if in pain.

“I told you to stop it,” Pasha yelled at him and the angel cringed back.

“I…I didn’t. I didn’t do anything. You…. You made me…. You did it. You.” He buried his face, sobbing and Pasha suddenly wanted to…. No, he wanted to pound him, to tell him he didn’t desire him and would never desire him and to demand he stopped doing whatever it was he was doing to make him desire him. But he didn’t. He didn’t say anything. He simply turned and walked away.

In the kitchen, he paced, striding back and forth, blazingly angry. How dare he do that? How dare he make that happen in front of his family. He was oblivious to what was going on in the other room, until Anna burst in on him.

“What the fuck’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“That little scene in there.”

“What…? I…”

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m not that bothered, as long as it doesn’t put us into any danger but whatever happened just now hurt him.”

“Hurt him? What do you mean?”

“See for yourself.” She took Pasha’s hand and led him back into the living room where Lukas was kneeling on the floor next to the angel, who was curled up, making strange little keening sounds. Lukas was patting him gingerly on the shoulder but seemed to be lost as to what else to do.

“What the fuck?” Without another thought entering his head, Pasha strode across the floor and dropped down next to the angel. He put one hand on the angel’s shoulder and winced, as pain lanced up his arm. He ignored it and crooned. “Hey… Hey, what’s wrong. Ssh, it’s okay. It’s okay.” He had no idea what to say but had a strong feeling that it really didn’t matter. It was the sound of his voice that would calm the angel, not what words it was forming.

At his first touch, the angel fell silent and slowly turned his head to look up at Pasha. He looked totally dazed and confused. “Why?” was all he said and it was Pasha’s turn to be confused.

“Why what?”

“Why did you do that to me?” There was no condemnation in the shaking voice, only confusion.

“Do what? I didn’t do anything to you. You….”

“No,” the angel said forcefully. “Why do you keep saying it’s me? It’s not me. It’s you. You’re doing it and you hurt me.”

“I told you it isn’t me,” Pasha snapped, overcome with embarrassment and anger. There was no way he was going to talk about the angel’s stupid insistence that he desired him in front of Lukas and Anna. “Just shut up. Shut up and…and keep away from me.”

As his voice rose, the angel’s face crumpled into an expression of pain, and the keening sound started again.

“Stop it,” Pasha hissed. “Just stop it.” The sound was giving him a terrible headache, blinding pain stabbing into his skull. “Stop it,” he yelled and shook the angel roughly by the shoulder. “Stop it. Stop it.” The more he yelled, the more the angel keened, peal after peal of pain distilled into sound.

“Pasha,” Anna, said, putting her hand on his arm, “maybe you should….”

“Shut. The. Fuck. Up.” Almost blinded by the pain, Pasha shook the angel like a rag doll. His head snapped back and struck the edge of the fireplace. As the angel’s eyes fluttered and rolled back the pain winked out and Pasha dropped him, skittering backwards. He sat on the floor his eyes wide and his arms clamped around his knees.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. What have I done? What have I done?”

“Calm down, Pasha,” Anna said, putting her arm around his shoulders. “Listen to me. Listen.”

Tearing his eyes away from the unconscious angel Pasha looked up into Anna’s large, calm eyes.

“I’m not pretending to understand, but it seems to me as if you and the angel have some kind of connection, okay? When you feel strong emotion it affects him in one way or another. Does it do the same with you. Do you feel things when he does?”

“K…kind of.”

“Okay, well we need to keep calm then, okay. We need to keep a lid on the strong emotions until we work out what’s happening.” Wordlessly, Pasha nodded. “Right, back away. Keep back and keep calm okay?”

“I…I’ll try.”

“Anna,” Luka said softly. He’d been kneeling over the angel and he looked at them over his shoulder. I don’t think he’s breathing.”

“What do you mean he’s not breathing? He…he’s an angel.”

“And you’re an expert on angels now? I don’t know what angels are supposed to do. This is a whole new world to me. Was he breathing before. Do angels breathe? I don’t know what to do.”

Pasha was shocked to the core. Lukas and Anna huddled together staring at the angel, who was lying perfectly still.

“For the love of God….” Pasha scrambled across the carpet to the angel. A desperate search found a pulse and strong heartbeat and, when Pasha put his face next to the angel’s mouth, he felt the tickle of breath on his cheek. He very nearly collapsed across the fallen angel, relief coursing through him.

“Of course he’s breathing, you idiot. What the hell did you think you were doing, scaring the crap out of me like that?”

“Well I didn’t know. I’m no fucking doctor or expert in CPR,” Lukas snapped back.

“There was no need for CPR, he’s fine.”

“Yeah right. Fine. Unconscious angels bleeding on my carpet are quite usual in this house and it’s fine.” Lukas was angry and Pasha didn’t blame him. He felt pretty angry himself. Angry with himself.

“What have I done?” he murmured again, brushing the bright metallic hair out of the angel’s face. At his touch, the angel’s eyes fluttered and opened. For a moment he stared blankly at Pasha, then he smiled. It was a beautiful smile that came from somewhere deep within and beamed out of him. Pasha gasped at how lovely he was.

The world faded out and Pasha totally forgot about Lukas and Anna, as the angel raised his hand to touch his face. The angel sighed. “I knew you cared,” he murmured. “I care about you too.” He sighed and his eyes closed.

“No wait, wait don’t….” It was too late. The angel was out cold.

“We’d better get him up off the floor,” Pasha said, embarrassment warring with a strange kind of peace that had settled over him when the angel said he cared. Not that it made any difference. Not that he was bothered.

Lukas helped him lift the angel. There was blood on his hair and on the carpet. A few spun gold threads stuck to the edge of the grate. Pasha shivered.

The angel was heavier than he looked and totally limp. It was all Lukas and Pasha could do, to get him up onto the sofa.

“Wait.” They froze as Anna raced from the room. She returned moments later with a towel.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Anna, don’t we have more to worry about than a bit of blood on your cushions?”

“I like these cushions,” she complained spreading the towel before they laid the angel down.

Pasha dismissed her from his attention. Grabbing the blanket that had covered the angel the night before, he tucked it carefully around him and took his hand. The angel was shivering and his hand was cold. “Get me another blanket,” he demanded.

At the sound of his voice the angel’s fingers twitched and his eyes fluttered open again. He blinked slowly and finally  seemed aware of what was going on around him. He made no move, but stared up at Pasha with an intent expression on his face.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened but I’m so, so sorry I hurt you.”

“You? Hurt me?” He thought for a moment, then raised his hand to his head. “Yes, you did.” There was no accusation in his voice. It was a simple statement.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. I can feel it.”

“Look…how does this work. I…I’m not saying I believe you…completely. You keep saying that I make you feel things…how?”

“I…don’t know.”

The angel looked wary and Pasha realised with a jolt it was because he was afraid of him. Not that he blamed him. “Look, I’m not going to hurt you. I won’t get angry again but I need to understand.”

“I don’t know how it works. I don’t remember. When… when you feel desire, I….”

“I don’t—.” The angel flinched and Pasha bit his lip. He turned to Lukas and Anna. “Can I have a minute?

There are some things we need to talk about.”

“Yeah, there sure are and I want to—.”

“I know what you want, Lukas,” Anna said, “but this is something Pasha has to figure out for himself. Come on, you’re going to help me get dinner.”

Practically dragging him, Anna led Lukas from the room, leaving them alone.

“I don’t desire you,” Pasha repeated stubbornly settling himself into a more comfortable position on the floor at the angel’s side.

The angel held tight to his hand. Saying nothing, he simply stared, his huge blue eyes swirling pools of confusion and fear. The sheer vulnerability hit Pasha as he realised the position the angel was in and a flood of compassion washed through him. He was about to say something when the angel raised a hand and touched his face. The fingers were cold and trembling and there were crystalline tears in the corners of his eyes.

“Don’t hurt me,” he whispered and Pasha’s stomach lurched. The angel gasped and his hand tightening on Pasha’s  Then he felt it. He’d felt it before but not recognised it. It was like a surge of energy between them.

As he stared into the shocked eyes of the angel he could feel hands touching him, stroking him, caressing him. The angel hissed and arched his back.  “What are you doing to me?”

“I…don’t know. I seem to be doing it to myself too.”

With the words, the connection broke leaving them both shocked and gasping.

“Did you feel it?” Pasha asked the quivering angel.

“I felt something. Like you were… were touching me.”

“Yes. Me too. What does it mean?”

“I think,” the angel said breathlessly. “I think it means you’re mine.”

“What do you mean ‘I’m yours’?” Pasha snapped. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’ve got some freaky bond and we need to work out some way to break it. I….”

“I don’t think we can,” the Angel said miserably. “I think if we try we will hurt each other.”

“But we have to try,” Pasha said in desperation. I can’t… react every time you think…. Shit, I feel you.”

“And I you. Why do you fight so hard to deny it? I know you desire me. You thrust the feelings on me then deny you have them. Why do you keep denying it?”

“I don’t desire you,” Pasha said, but with less conviction than before. “I can’t. I’m not gay.”

“You’ve said that before. I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Gay means…. It means a man who loves another man.”

“You love your brother,” the angel said carefully.

“Not love like that. Like… have sex with.” Pasha felt the heat rise and his cheeks burned. The angel didn’t seem to notice,  although Pasha didn’t miss it when he rubbed his fingers absently over his own cheek.

“Is that a bad thing? Is it bad…being…gay?”

“No, not bad. It’s just I’m not.”

“Oh. But….”

“Let it drop, okay,” Pasha snapped and the angel winced. Pasha held up his hands. “Sorry. I’m sorry. Look, we need to work this out, and soon before one of us gets hurt.”

“One of us did,” the angel said bleakly.

“Yeah. I’m sorry about that. Does your head hurt?” he asked, his mood softening considerably.

“Yes.”

“Let me see.”

Pasha helped the angel sit up and examined the place, on the back of his head, where his golden hair was sticky with blood. When he touched it the angel winced and moaned and his hand came away with fresh blood. There was a fair amount on the towel, too.

“You’re still bleeding,” Pasha said, feeling concerned and guilty together. “I’ll get Anna to—.”

He made to get up but the angel’s hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. “Don’t go,” he said softly in his sweet voice.

“I…. Alright, but we need to do something to stop the bleeding.”

“It will stop. It hurts when you touch it. Don’t do it anymore. My… My head hurts inside too and it’s making me feel strange in my stomach.”

“Okay, well…. You should rest. If you move around too much you’ll be sick.”

“Sit with me.” The angel took Pasha’s hand and laid it against his cheek. Pasha felt a familiar stirring in his gut and thought he should pull his hand away. The problem was, it felt…nice.

Pasha shifted his position to make himself more comfortable and the angel let go of his hand. He reached out to touch Pasha’s hair. “You have pretty hair,” he murmured. “Soft.”

“It’s not as pretty as yours.” Pasha touched it. “It looks like real gold.”

“It is,” the angel said in a matter-of-fact way.

“Oh. It doesn’t feel like gold. It’s soft.”

“Yes.” The angel smiled and closed his eyes. “That feels good. Don’t stop.”

Pasha didn’t want to stop. He found he was enjoying himself, letting the golden locks slide through his fingers. The angel sighed again and his soft moan was echoed by the sound that slipped from Pasha’s throat.

“Who’s doing it this time?” Pasha asked, with an uneasy laugh.

“Both of us,” the angel said softly, opening his eyes.

Pasha wondered why he hadn’t noticed how beautiful they were. They were so big and so blue and so…. He had a strange sensation, as if he was falling into them.

“You are beautiful, Pasha,” the angel whispered.

“So are you.”

The smile the angel gave him was as sexy as any smile Pasha had ever seen. He found himself leaning forward and brushing his lips over the angel’s

“Mmm,” the angel hummed and wrapped his arms around Pasha, drawing him closer. There was one brief moment when Pasha felt he should say something, let the angel know he really didn’t desire him and this was…was just…. But the words were lost in the kiss and by the time the kiss ended he didn’t want to say them anymore.

When Anna and Lukas returned they found them both sitting on the sofa. The angel’s head was on a pillow in Pasha’s lap and was gazing up at him with an adoring look on his face. Pasha had the same expression on his and was gently stroking the angel’s hair and face. He looked up when he heard them and smiled.

“I take it you two have worked some things out,” Anna said, with a smile.

“Some things,” Pasha said. “We’re still no closer to understanding this bond, whatever it is.”

“But you’re not fighting it anymore. I think that’s quite a lot of progress, don’t you?” she said.

Pasha thought about it and nodded. “Oh yes,” he said.

“So what? Are you two…um…friendly now?” Lukas asked, unable to meet Pasha’s eyes.

“Oh, definitely friendly,” Pasha said in a loaded voice, gazing at the angel then he raised his eyes back to his brother. “Is that a problem?”

“A problem?” Lukas sounded mystified. “What do you mean a problem?”

“You know what I mean.” There was a hardness to his voice that made the angel frown.

Lukas shook his head, confused, then his eyes widened. “I thought you knew me better than that, Pasha,” he said, sounding disappointed. Pasha nodded.

“How are you feeling?” Anna asked the angel gently. “Do you have a headache?”

“I think so,” The angel said.

“If I were you I’d take him upstairs?” She said to Pasha. I think both of you could do with a nap. Don’t forget,” she said with some severity in her voice, “the angel was battered in the accident too.”

“Oh,” Pasha said, feeling guilty that he’d forgotten.

The angel gave a little gasp and touched Pasha’s face. “Don’t feel like that,” he said and it made Pasha smile.

Lukas and Anna’s spare room was huge, at least compared to Pasha’s flat in the city. The bed it contained was king sized and brand new. Pasha carefully laid the angel on it, after Anna had stripped back the covers and spread a towel over the pillows. Twitching the covers back in place over the supine angel Anna took her leave.

Pasha barely noticed her go. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the angel. Their fingers found each other’s as did their eyes and they remained still and silent, as the clock ticked on the wall and the wind battered the window with a smattering of rain that heralded the start of another storm.

It was the angel who broke the spell. “Pasha,” he whispered.

Pasha blinked, as if awakening from a trance and smiled. “You’re supposed to be taking a nap,” he said, making no move to unwind their fingers.

“I’m not tired.”

“Liar.”

A slow smile crept over the angel’s face. “I’m sleepy, Pasha, but not tired. There’s a difference.”

“Yes, there is,” Pasha said, his smile mirroring the angel’s as he lay down on the bed and stared into the beautiful blue eyes that twinkled in the angel’s pale face. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know.”

“It hurts me that I…” He stopped when the angel’s fingers touched his lips.

“Then forget. I don’t want you to feel guilty for hurting me. It wasn’t your fault. Something is happening to us and…” The angel’s eyes wandered away then wandered back. “I feel that I should know what it is.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “I feel that I am…that I should stop it.”

“Why?” Pasha asked, alarmed. “Do you think it’s bad?”

“I don’t know. That’s the point. I should know but I don’t. My heart is saying it’s not a bad thing but my head is saying… well, I don’t really know what my head is saying because everything is so confused, but I’m thinking we should try to stop before….”

“Before what?”

“I don’t know,” the angel moaned. “I don’t know what I think, I don’t know what I am, I don’t know what I want. No, that’s not true. I do know what I want.” Taking Pasha somewhat by surprise, the angel leaned forward and kissed him.

It wasn’t a tentative kiss, like the first one the angel had surprised him with, or a heated one like the second kiss in the kitchen. This was a kiss that was sure of itself, certain of its reception and worth, unhesitant but also undemanding. It was a firm, sweet, giving kiss and Pasha found himself overwhelmed by it. Tears were pouring down his cheeks and he could hardly breathe. His heart swelled up in his chest and he felt… He felt…

“Open for me,” the angel whispered and Pasha thought he meant his lips. However, when he let his lips fall apart, the angel’s tongue did not slip past them. In fact, it was not in evidence at all, only his firm, soft lips massaging Pasha’s and his breath, filling him with sweetness.

Something was happening to him. The deep emotions that had been stirring inside were in turmoil, as if being stirred by a giant wooden spoon in a cauldron. He felt suffocated. His chest burned and his heart was beating too fast. Panic gripped him but he heard the angel’s voice murmuring somewhere close to his ear. “Open for me.”

And somehow he did. Almost immediately the tumult inside calmed and he felt as if he was floating on the air, encased in something soft…cotton wool…feathers.

He realised he’d closed his eyes and opened them. The angel was smiling down at him, his golden hair floating around his head as if lifted by the wind and his blue eyes shone. Not only were his arms around Pasha but huge snowy white wings, soft as down, encased him in a cocoon of warmth and absolute comfort. Pasha had never felt so safe, so comfortable, so… loved.

“What happened?” he whispered.

“I remembered,” the angel said with an enormous smile.

“Remembered what?”

“How to do it.”

“Do what?”

“This.”

He lowered his wing and allowed Pasha to peep over it at their surroundings. “Oh my God. Where are we?”

“Everywhere and nowhere. This is where we join. Our hearts. Our souls. The inside part. The place deep, deep inside where there’s no separation between what can and can’t be, what was is or will be, what’s you and what’s me. This is the very center, where all things are possible.”

“The center of what?” Pasha whispered, afraid to raise his voice. The deep quiet felt like the holy silence you get in churches and cathedrals and Pasha felt that any loud sound would be almost sacrilegious.

“Of us. This is where we join, where the connection comes from. I can’t explain it. I just know it’s a safe place, somewhere only we can go. Wherever our bodies are, we are also here, together, our hearts beating as one. That is why you felt my hands on you when I was not beside you, why I felt your anger even when you weren’t speaking it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I, fully, but I know that the very fact we are here means we are meant for each other, you and I. I am yours and you are mine. It’s woven into the very fabric of who we are.” The angel frowned. “Do you think that is why I am here? Why I came to this place? To find you?”

Pasha was overwhelmed. “I… I don’t know. I….” It was impossible, surely, that an angel would fall from heaven just for him.

“Are you sure I came from heaven?”

“Where else?”

“I don’t know but I feel…I feel it wasn’t a good place. I’m glad to be done with it. Shouldn’t heaven be different to that?”

“Don’t you remember anything about where you came from?”

The Angel frowned and shook his head. They’d been lying quietly, drugged  by the energies they’d raised and the experiences they’d had. He smiled and tentatively touched Pasha’s face. “I want to remember. I want to know who I am and where I came from but…. There’s part of me that doesn’t want to know.”

“You don’t? Why?”

“Because I don’t want to be anywhere else than here. I don’t want anything to come between you and me and I’m afraid when I remember I will have to leave you.”

“Leave me? Why would you leave me?”

“I don’t know. I can’t think of any reason why I would except….” The angel frowned again and stared deeply into Pasha’s eyes. “When I think about anything that was before, I feel scared. And when I think of you… When I think about it touching you I feel even more scared.”

“Think of what touching me? I don’t understand.”

“The past. My past. Whatever I was running from or cast out by or…. No one chooses to fall out of the

sky….do they?”

“No,” Pasha said, “Do you think it has anything to do with those two men who came looking for you?”

The angel shuddered and Pasha saw a blinding white flame kindle briefly behind the brilliant blue of his eyes. He blinked and it had gone. “I fear them, Pasha. I don’t know why and that makes me even more afraid. I fear I am what they say I am, that when I remember I will hurt you.”

“After what we just shared, you still think you might hurt me?”

“I can. I love you, Pasha and anything that threatens you scares me, even more that it might be me. Perhaps I would not raise my hand against you but my actions might bring danger to you nevertheless.”

“Do you think we’re at risk from those men?”

“If they become sure of my presence here, then yes, I believe so.” He shuddered again. “I don’t know how I know, but they will do anything to get to me—anything.”

Now it was Pasha’s turn to shudder. “Then we have to make sure they don’t find you. You must stay hidden here until you remember who you are and what happened to you.”

“Yes, but if my memories show I am a risk to you, I will run from here. I will not bring danger to you or your family.”

 Pasha shook his head. “Whatever happens now, we face together. You have to know it’s too late to try to protect me in that way. If you are hurt; I am hurt, whether you’re here or a million miles away.”

“Yes,” the angel said, sadly. “That is true.”

“Don’t sound so sad,” Pasha said, brushing the angel’s face gently with his fingers. “We’re together now. You’re not alone. And neither am I.”

The angel smiled and his eyes lit up with a different kind of light. Every emotion he felt was so clear Pasha didn’t need the connection to tell him.

They found themselves drawn closer until their bodies were pressed close together. The angel winced when Pasha buried his fingers in his hair and Pasha, contrite, attempted to pull back. The angel wouldn’t let him and, indeed the pain seemed to spur him on to cling to Pasha and press their lips together.

“Make me feel alive, my Pasha,” the angel whispered. “I have been dead and cold for too long. Make me feel alive.”

“Dead and cold? What do…?”

His words were cut off when the angel kissed him deeply. With a groan he responded and this time, the hands that caressed his body were very real and very present.

Taking their time to slowly explore each other’s bodies, Pasha and the angel lay together and raised the energy between them until it was almost a palpable entity, sharing their passion.

“I… I can’t…. I’ve never…. I don’t know what to do,” Pasha gasped. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Do?” The angel raised himself on one arm and looked at him curiously. Pasha was breathless with desire for the beautiful creature that loomed over him. With his lips swollen from their kissing and his eyes glazed and slightly unfocussed from their passion, the angel was painfully lovely and Pasha was overwhelmed.

“I…I feel there’s…more. We have to do…more. My body is on fire and it’s craving…something. I know…. I kind of know where things go from here but I’m scared. I don’t know what….”

“Ssh,” the angel said, bending his head and kissing Pasha gently. “It’s alright. I know what to do.”

Pasha opened his mouth to ask what but before he could speak a word his body was seized by such an intense feeling of desire he couldn’t hold a thought long enough to vocalise it. The sensations tearing through his body were so intense they scared him but somewhere in the middle of the maelstrom a voice spoke to him and the angel’s love poured through him like cooling salve over a wound.

“Surrender to me. Open for me.”

Pasha sensed more than heard the words, lost in a fever of desire that made him helpless. Instantly he complied, trusting the angel implicitly.

This time it was very different. Pasha’s body sang with energy and was ultra sensitive to every touch of the angel’s hands. He felt vaguely that he ought to be ‘doing’ something but he was so overwhelmed he couldn’t do anything more than whimper as the angels questing hands and lips turned him into quivering jelly.

He was barely aware when the angel entered him. All he knew was that there was yet another layer to the pulsing energy coursing through him. He bit his lip not to scream and the angel held him close until his body acclimatised to the new sensations.

“Are you ready?” the angel whispered.

“Oh yes. Oh God, yes.”

Pasha whimpered as the angel began to move inside him, sliding slowly in and out. Although the surreal energy had died, his body was still singing with it and didn’t quite feel it belonged to him. Every time the angel thrust into him it sent burning fire through his guts and rippling convulsions through the muscles in his stomach. He moaned and raised his hips to meet the angel, wrapping his legs around the angel’s slender waist.

“Rise with me Pasha, beautiful Pasha,” the angel moaned into his ear. His hands clutched at him and stroked his back as they clung together. With a gasp, Pasha realised they had risen from the bed and were hovering over it. The canopy of snowy white feathers arching over them made it seem they were in another world altogether.

“Oh God,” Pasha moaned, “what’s happening to me?”

“Nothing more than happens to any man, Pasha,” the angel gasped, his entire body trembling as his thrusts lost their rhythm and became unfocussed and jerky. The angel’s breath in his ear was getting ragged, matching Pasha’s own  and the angelic moans that slipped from him spurred Pasha on to even more frenzied movement.

The angel began to kiss Pasha’s neck, licking the sweat from his skin. Pasha sobbed and grabbed his head, grinding their faces together and desperately thrusting his tongue into his mouth, trying to regain some control. The angel lost focus even more and moaned into his mouth, tightening his arms around him.Both of them trembled and twisted, thrusting against each other, lost in the sensations building in their bodies.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck,” Pasha moaned, losing the ability to kiss as an intense orgasm began to build in his belly.

“I…I’m….”

“And….and I,” the angel gasped. “Come for me Pasha and I will come for you.”

Pasha whimpered and his body began to shake. He realised he was making noises but they weren’t conscious. The angel grunted and thrust deeply and it was the sound as much as the action that sent Pasha spinning over the edge.

He screamed when he came. He had never done that before but the sensations were so intense they were straddling a tenuous border between pleasure and pain. The angel was silent but Pasha felt something hard and cold bounce off his shoulder and realised the angel was weeping. Pasha felt he ought to console him, or at least ask what was wrong but the orgasm still held him in its grip.

The angel slowly lowered them back onto the bed and lay quiet, with Pasha in his arms. His wings covered them with a trembling, twitching blanket. Soft moans still slipped from his lips and his eyes were closed.

“Are you alright?” Pasha managed to ask at last.

The angel opened his eyes and Pasha gasped at the rainbow of colours that swirled behind his closed lids.

“Oh yes,” he murmured with a sigh. Closing his eyes again, the angel pulled him close and nuzzled in to his neck.

Pasha shifted as something small and hard dug into his back. Something suddenly occurred to him, widening his eyes. He moved his hips experimentally and it didn’t feel as if there was anything  hard inside him.

“Um…,” he said. The angel opened his eyes and the rainbow colours faded to blue. “Your um…. Your tears are made of crystal.”

“They become crystalline, yes,” the angel agreed.

“Do um…? Does everything that comes out of you…? You know?”

For a moment the angel frowned, puzzled, then he smiled. “No, Pasha, not everything. In some ways we are the same.”

Pasha relaxed, with a sigh. “That’s good.”

The angel smiled and kissed him, but suddenly tensed, his body going rigid and his eyes wide.

“What’s wrong?”

“Something is coming.”

“What?” Pasha tried to sit up but the angel held him tight. “What’s coming?” he whispered.

“I don’t know. I’m scared.” The angel buried his face in Pasha’s hair and wrapped his wings more tightly around them.

“We can’t hide, Angel,” Pasha said and tried to push the wings off him.

“No. I’m scared.”

“We have to face our fears. If it’s dangerous, it can’t find us like this. We’re helpless.”

“I’m afraid,” the angel repeated and Pasha pulled away, taking the angel’s face between his hands and forcing him to look at him.

“I know you’re afraid. I am too. But we can’t just hide under your wings and hope whatever it is won’t find us. I’m crapping myself here but we have to face it. We can’t fight like this.”

“F…fight?”

“Maybe we won’t need to  but we have to be ready just in case. I won’t let them take you without a fight.”

The angel searched his eyes, then nodded. Suddenly, the wings had gone and they were shivering and naked.

Pasha leaped out of bed and ran to the window. Before he had the chance to look out, something threw itself against the glass. He skittered backwards so fast he fell over and sat on the floor and looked up at a window filled with golden feathers. In the middle of the feathers was a beak that tapped against the glass.

“What is it?”

“I…I don’t know,” the angel said, crouching next to Pasha.

“Is it dangerous?”

“I don’t know.”

“Should we let it in?”

“No. I…I don’t know. It…. It feels familiar but I can’t remember if it’s in a good way or a bad way.”

The creature at the window abruptly stopped tapping and pulled back a little. They could see it was some kind of bird but none Pasha had ever seen before. It was a ball of yellow and orange trailing feathers with a small body and long neck. Its head was crested by a tuft of red and its beady eye was golden yellow.

“What the hell are you waiting for, Uzzi’el?” A reedy voice penetrated the glass. “Micha’el’s enforcers are about and I’m drawing attention.”

Pasha and the angel exchanged glances. “What the hell is it?” Pasha whispered.

“I don’t know.”

“It seems to know you.”

The angel nodded. “It scares me, Pasha. I don’t know why but it scares me.”

“Do you think it will hurt you?” All the while he was talking, Pasha stroked the angel’s hair and shoulder, trying to calm his shaking.

“I…don’t think so. I don’t think that’s why it’s scary. I think…. I just think….” He shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“Uzzi’el. Open the bloody window. What in the name of mercy is wrong with you?”

“What’s that word he’s saying? Uzzi’el?”

The angel shuddered deeply. “I don’t know, but it feels…. It feels….” He shrugged helplessly. “I don’t like hearing it, Pasha. It scares me. I don’t know what…” He swallowed hard “…or who Uzzi’el is but it’s trouble, I know. Everything about it is screaming ‘danger’ at me but I don’t know why.”

The bird began to hammer frantically. “I don’t know what’s the matter with you Uzzi’el but if you don’t open this window right now you’re going to bring the enforcers down on us all and you know what that means.”

“Do you know what that means?” Pasha asked.

The angel shook his head but he looked terrified. “I’m guessing it wouldn’t be good.”

Pasha nodded. With a fair amount of trepidation, he hurried across the room and opened the window. He was rewarded with a face full of feathers as the bird hurtled past him into the room. He carefully closed the window and drew the curtains as the bird circled the room rapidly, it’s feathers bristling.

Pasha climbed back onto the bed and huddled close to the angel, wrapped in his arms, as the bird zoomed around the room.

Eventually, the bird settled on the footboard and sat, twitching its head from side to side, twisting its neck to examine them from all angles, while making soft squawking sounds.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” it asked at last.

“What do you mean?” the angel croaked, scared and trembling.

“You didn’t turn up at the meeting point. Everyone’s going crazy and the enforcers are everywhere. What the hell have you been doing? And who is this boy? Why are you naked? What have you been doing?”

“It’s none of your business,” the angel said uncomfortably, tugging ineffectually at the duvet, trying to cover Pasha who was too enthralled with the bird to notice or care.

“Maybe not, but you are my business and I’ve been sent to get you safely to the meeting point…where, I have to point out, you should have been two days ago.”

“Should I?” the angel asked, a touch of curiosity in his voice as he leaned towards the bird anxiously.

“Don’t play games, Uzzi’el,” the bird snapped. “This isn’t one of your role plays; this is for real. Half the Council have fallen and the enforcers are going crazy. They’re rounding up anyone who’s had anything to do with you and wiping out humans in the process. You started this and you have to finish it.”

“Started what?” The angel’s arms tightened around Pasha, holding him against him like some kind of giant teddy bear. Pasha could feel his body shaking, every muscle tensed as if ready to run at the slightest provocation. This alone made Pasha more frightened than he’d ever been in his life. Here at last, he sensed, were the answers they’d both been craving…well that he’d been craving. He wasn’t so sure the angel had ever really wanted to remember and now he wasn’t so sure he did either.

The bird hopped up and down, anger making sparks fly from its feathers. “”Stop playing games Uzzi’el.”

“What’s Uzzi’el?”

“What? Not what—who—you.”

“M…me?”

“Yes, you,” the bird snapped. “It’s your name, as if you didn’t know.”

“My…my name? But…. But, I…. I don’t….” He looked at Pasha with wide eyes.

“Who are you?” Pasha asked the bird, “and how do you know Angel?”

“Angel? What? Who? What in the name of mercy is going on here?”

“I….” Slowly, the angel uncurled from around Pasha and crawled towards the bird, who remained still, staring at him. “I…. feel I should know you, but I don’t. You… you make me feel….afraid.”

“Afraid? Too right you should be afraid, holed up in this place with enforcers all around you and no one able to get near. What on earth possessed you to come here?”

“I….don’t know.”

The bird cocked its head and clacked its beak. “What happened to you?” it asked eventually, its voice considerably softer than it had been, the anger tempered with what seemed to be genuine concern. “You don’t look right.”

“I don’t?”

“No, you don’t. Your eyes look…wrong. You and I have been friends for a long time, Uzzi’el. Why don’t you know who I am?”

The angel shook his head. “I don’t know. There was….” He turned quickly to look at Pasha. “There was an accident. I…fell. I don’t remember.”

“Don’t remember what?”

“Anything. I don’t remember anything. The first thing I remember is lying on the ground in the rain. And then I was here. I…I was hurt and confused. I couldn’t make my wings go and I didn’t know what I was or where I was. Men came looking for me and they scared me but I don’t know who they were either. I’ve tried and tried to think, to remember, but there’s nothing there.”

“Ah fuck,” the bird said.

“Do you know me? Do you know who I am?” The angel, Uzzi’el moved closer, anxiously examining the strange bird, eager for answers but afraid, too.

“Oh yeah, yeah I know you. I know who you are. You’re Uzzi’el, Angel of Faith and Mercy, Gabri’el’s lieutenant and leader of the rebellion here on earth.”

There was absolute silence. The bird watched while the angel…Uzzi’el stared at him. Pasha was afraid to move, to disturb the tableau.

“What rebellion?” Uzzi’el asked eventually.

The bird heaved an exaggerated sigh. “This is impossible,” it said fluffing its feathers.  “I told you it was a crazy plan. I told you something was bound to go wrong, but would you listen? Would you hell? Nothing’s going to happen, Fierro, you said. You worry too much, Fierro, you said. It’s foolproof, you said. It’s safe, you said. It’s….”

“Fierro? Is that you?”

“Yes, of course it is.”

“I’m sorry,” Uzzi’el said, collapsing back on the bed, “I’m sorry about everything. I can’t tell you what I was thinking or why I didn’t listen to you. I’m sorry. I can’t give you answers because I don’t know them anymore.”  He laid his head in Pasha’s lap and started to cry quietly. “It hurts, Pasha. It hurts to try to remember, and I’m so tired. All of this… It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like me and I’m scared.”

“I know,” Pasha said, stroking his hair. “I can feel it.”

“What do you mean, you can feel it?” Fierro snapped.

“We have some kind of link,” Pasha explained. “We can feel what each other feels. If A…Uzzi’el hurts I hurt and if… well…it works in all sorts of ways.”

Fierro snapped his beak. “Oh great. Just great. As if we didn’t have enough problems.” He shook his feathers and Pasha noticed that tiny flames were shooting around underneath them.

“Are you a phoenix?” he asked suddenly, voicing the thought as it popped into his head.

“Of course I’m a phoenix,” Fierro said impatiently. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Nothing. I just….”

The phoenix sat for a while, staring at Uzzi’el who’d stopped crying and seemed to have fallen asleep. “I don’t understand,” he said at last.

“Understand what?”

“How he can be like this. He’s the commander of an army. A small one but an army nonetheless and they are loyal to the point of death. I’ve known him a long time and I’ve never seen him uncertain of anything.

When he makes a decision there’s no swerving him from it. I’ve never seen him weak and vulnerable like this and I don’t know what to do.” He sounded angry.

“He can’t help it,” Pasha snapped. “You heard what he said. He’s hurt and he can’t remember. What do you expect of him?”

“Not being able to remember doesn’t steal your backbone, human boy. He was strong and brave and now he’s a snivelling wreck. To have lost his memory, I understand. To have lost his courage I do not.”

“Then tough on you. He is as he is and I won’t have you hurting him any more than he already is. If you’re going to be so judgemental you can just piss off.” I can’t believe I’m talking to a bird, Pasha thought to himself.

“Maybe it would be best,” Fierro said after a few moments contemplation. “I will speak with Gabriel and see what he says. Tell Uzzi’el I will be back soon.” Without another word Fierro took off. “Open the window,” he demanded and Pasha slipped off the bed and complied. Lightening flashed in the dark sky, or was it lightening at all?

It seemed empty and quiet in the room without the phoenix and Pasha lay down on the bed, pulling Uzzi’el into his arms. What the fuck have I got myself into, he thought.

“I’m sorry,” Uzzi’el whispered, startling Pasha.

“I thought you were asleep.”

“No. I just…. I couldn’t handle it. He’s right.”

“Right about what?”

“I am a coward.”

“He didn’t say that.”

“All but.” He sighed deeply, snuggling closer to Pasha. “It’s like…like being in the dark and having things you can’t see touch, and not know what they are. I’m straining to see but it makes my head hurt and….”

“Then stop,” Pasha said gently. “Stop trying to remember and just work on what to do now. You don’t remember anything about the rebellion but the others do and they can tell you what’s going on, what you need to know. The firebird’s right. Losing your memory won’t have changed who you are. If you relax and stop jumping at shadows you can let your true personality out and pick up where you left off.”

“Do you really think I can? That I can be that brave? I don’t feel brave, Pasha. I’m so scared. I’m scared of everything.”

“Are you scared of me?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then that’s a start. Besides, courage isn’t about not being scared. It’s about being scared but pressing on regardless.”

“Is it?”

Pasha raised himself on one elbow. He gently stroked, Uzzi’el’s chest. “The Angel of Faith and Mercy, eh?

Quite a title.”

“It doesn’t feel like me.”

Pasha frowned. “I have a book of angels. We should look you up.”

“No. No, please. Don’t. I don’t want to know.”

“Alright. Come here.” Pasha took Uzzi’el into his arms. He was cold and shivering and Pasha dragged the covers over them. He held the shaking angel tight, until the tremors ceased and he fell asleep. Pasha lay awake for much, much longer.

He was jolted awake again by a pounding on the front door. He lay stiff and frozen, his heart pounding in his chest. Uzzi’el, also awoken by the sound, tightened his arms around Pasha’s waist.

“Who is it?” he whispered.

“I don’t know.”

“What should we do?”

“I don’t know.”

Suddenly, there was a crash as the front door exploded, followed by footsteps on the stairs. The two men held each other, white as ghosts, fear binding them.

The bedroom door flew open to reveal a man so tall he had to bow his head to enter. He was dressed head to toe in black, with black curly hair and eyes like black holes.

“Uzzi’el,” he said in a voice that sent shivers down Pasha’s spine.

“Gabriel,” Uzzi’el gasped.

Gabri’el dragged Uzzi’el off the bed and into a rough embrace. “Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been about you? Micha’el  is everywhere and our people are getting killed. We have to end this and we have to do it soon.  We need you, my love. I need you. “

Pasha cringed at the tone in his voice and the sheer charisma that emanated from him in waves. This man was everything he was not—beautiful, powerful, charismatic and supremely confident. And he seemed to like

Uzzi’el…a lot.

Gabri’el suddenly realized that Uzzi’el wasn’t responding to his affection and, in fact, seemed to be terrified by it. He was passive but trembling. Gabri’el moved him back so he could look into his face. “What’s wrong, little flower? Fierro was spouting some crazy tale that you’d been hurt and didn’t know who you are, but you look good to me.” He smiled. “You always look good to me.”

“Please…” Uzzi’el said, trying to pull away. “Please don’t hurt me. Please let me go.”

“Hurt you? I would never hurt you, little flower. You’re too precious to me.” Gabri’el frowned deeply and released Uzzi’el, who scrambled back and stared at Pasha, terror reflected in his blue eyes.

“Help me, Pasha,” he said in a voice that shook so much it was barely audible. The words and the tone tore at Pasha’s heart and he leaped off the bed to encircle Uzzi’el with his arms.

“Leave him alone,” Pasha ground out, standing tall even though his heart was thudding painfully in his chest.

Gabri’el froze and stared at them. He shook his head. “What happened?” he said quietly. The strength and charisma were still there but there was a hesitancy now.

“I…fell,” Uzzi’el whispered.

“We all fell, Uzzi’el, you know that.”

“I…do?”

Gabri’el sighed . “The phoenix was right then. You don’t remember me.”

“I don’t remember anything.”

“You knew my name. When I walked in, you knew me.”

“I thought… For a minute, I thought I did.”

Uzzi’el cringed back as Gabri’el moved forward and touched his hair.  “This is killing me, little flower. To see you so…weak.”

“He’s doing his best,” Pasha said angrily. He was sick and tired of people criticizing Uzzi’el for something he couldn’t help.

“You’ve no idea what his best is, human,” Gabri’el said, turning his burning eyes on Pasha. Pasha did his best to stand tall but the truth was Gabri’el terrified him. “You think you know him? Think again. This is not

Uzzi’el. Uzzi’el is a fearless, a powerful warrior, a strong leader and….” He smiled a gently smile and stroked Uzzi’el’s hair. “A wonderful lover,” he said softly.  His eyes met Uzzi’el’s and slowly Uzzi’el turned to face him.

Although Pasha tried hard to hold on to him, Uzzi’el  broke out of his arms and moved towards Gabri’el as if in a trance.

“Stop it. Leave him alone.”

“Keep out of this, human.”

“Don call me that.”

“Is it untrue?”

“No, but….”

“Then stop complaining, human.”

All the time he spoke Gabri’el kept his eyes on Uzzi’el who was completely quiescent in his arms, staring at him.

A scream from downstairs shocked Pasha out of his terrified stasis. “Anna.” He was torn. Should he rescue his sister in law, or…. Gabri’el seemed unconcerned so Pasha deduced it was unlikely they were being attacked by an enemy, therefore the likelihood was Anna was being restrained by one of Gabri’el’s people and was  safe enough, at least for now. Uzzi’el on the other hand….

“I’ve missed you, little flower,” Gabri’el said, lowering his head to brush Uzzi’el’s lips with his own. “Have you missed me?”

Uzzi’el didn’t respond, but simply stood, staring at Gabri’el with empty eyes.

“Leave him alone,” Pasha said, trying to keep the shake out of his voice. “Can’t you see he doesn’t want you?”

“That’s not true, human. He doesn’t remember me, that’s all.”

“He doesn’t want you. He wants me.”

Gabri’el looked up, his burning black eyes boring through him and making him want to run screaming. However, even though part of his mind was screaming at him What the hell do you think you’re doing? He’s a fucking archangel. You can’t win against him. He’s going to turn you into ash another part was saying. That’s your man, your mate and you are not going to let him go.

“If that wasn’t so amusing I would turn you to ash, human, for daring to suggest   you have a claim over my

man.”

“He…he’s not yours; he’s mine. He’s my mate.”

For a moment the world paused. The night was deadly quiet and there was no more sound from downstairs. Pasha could hear the sound of his heartbeat loud in the silence. Then Gabri’el laughed and it wasn’t a pleasant one. “Mate? Yours? Ridiculous human. Take care. You’re walking on thin ice. If you displease me too much I’ll turn you to dust where you stand.”

“If you do Uzzi’el will hate you for it.” Pasha had no idea where that came from but there was something, a spark deep inside that told him he was safe, that as long a Uzzi’el lived and was close by, he was safe from everything.

“You bore me, human.” Gabri’el waved his hand and Pasha felt as if he’d been punched in the chest. He flew backwards and crashed against the bedside table which splintered under him. His world was white, as if a veil had been raised in front of his eyes, and he was bitterly cold. He was so cold he could barely breathe, every breath drawing shards of ice into his lungs. And then it stopped. Blinking, he looked up to find Gabri’el staring in shock at Uzzi’el whose fingers, around his wrist, were glittering with blue sparks.

“Touch my mate again and I’ll tear off your arm,” Uzzi’el said in a cold, clear voice. Both Pasha and Gabri’el stared at him in shock and awe.

The sparking blue energy travelled quickly up Uzzi’el’s arm and covered his body. He looked surprised by what he was doing, but not as surprised as Gabri’el, whose wide eyes were like pools of darkness in a pale, shocked face.

“No,” he said abruptly, “not even for you, little flower.”

Instantly, a glittering dark energy rose from him and began to quench the blue sparks. Pasha, crumpled against the wall where he’d fallen, was stunned. When the energy had burst from Uzzi’el, something inside him had opened and he’d been flooded with fire that made him feel invincible, but strangely nervous. As soon as the sparkling dark began to creep out he felt cold, the energy turning in on itself.

Uzzi’el began to tremble, falling to his knees and Pasha could feel his panic. He was drowning and Pasha had to do something, but what? He was afraid to touch either of them in case he did more harm than good—to Uzzi’el or himself; he had a feeling nothing he could do would harm Gabri’el .

Then it came to him. He was feeling what Uzzi’el was feeling, so the reverse would also be true. He was still fizzing with Uzzi’el’s energy. As Uzzi’el had given it to him perhaps he could give it back. Would he need to touch him? He was inclined to think not, but then remembered the fantastic sensations that had flown through him when they did touch and so crawled slowly across the floor. Gabri’el ignored him— one advantage of being human and therefore beneath Gabri’el’s attention.

When he was close enough, Pasha reached out his hand and touched Uzzi’el on the arm, trying to will energy into him. The effect was instant and dramatic. An enormous surge of sparking blue energy literally threw Gabri’el off his feet. Uzzi’el, too was thrown backwards and landed on Pasha, sending them both  tumbling.

“What the fuck was that?” Gabri’el demanded furiously as he staggered to his feet. He loomed over Uzzi’el and Pasha who cowered on the floor. And then Uzzi’el stopped cowering. Shaking his head like a dog coming out of water he turned to Pasha, his blue eyes wide and shining. Pasha was hit by a wave of feeling that crashed over him and he very nearly lost consciousness. He was vaguely aware of Uzzi’el, pulling him close and he clung to him, like a rock in a stormy sea.

For what seemed like an age, Pasha rode the wave of Uzzi’el’s chaotic emotions until they finally settled into wonder, awe and overpowering love. Pasha stared up into his eyes and his world contracted into the two glowing blue orbs.

“Are you alright?” Uzzi’el asked breathlessly.

“Yes,” Pasha gasped. “What happened?”

“I guess, I… unlocked.”

“Unlocked?”

“Yeah, I’ll explain later. In the meantime I have business to take care of.”

Pasha watched, still stunned, as Uzzi’el got to his feet and faced Gabri’el.  Gabri’el smiled slowly, seeing something in Uzzi’el that made a gleam come into his eyes. He reached out to draw Uzzi’el into his arms but was stopped by the vicious blow that caught him on the cheek and deposited him again on his backside on the floor.

“You bastard,”  Uzzi’el hissed. “You left me behind. You left me to them. Do you have any idea what they did to me?  To hell with your fucking revolution, I want nothing more to do with it. It was never my fight. I just want to take Pasha home and forget I ever knew you.”

“Do you think I wanted to?” Gabri’el retorted, getting to his feet again. “Do you think it was easy to come to Earth without you and do you have any idea how I felt when I realised I’d been tricked? I had no idea we’d been set up and by the time I realised it was already too late. I thought you were with me, Uzzy. I swear I thought you were with me and when I realised you weren’t it was too late and there was no way back.

“I knew you’d make it though. I had every faith in you and then, when Fiero told me you were here…. I’ve been searching for you, I swear it. I never stopped.” He’d been moving forward slowly, his hands in front of him as if he was approaching a wild animal who was as likely to attach as run. Uzzi’el eyed him suspiciously.

“I know you, Gabri’el. I know the way your mind works. Schemes within schemes and the only one who really matters is you.”

“That’s not true.” Gabri’el  slid his arm around Uzzi’el’s waist again and drew him close. The look that passed between them could have melted rock. “You matter to me, little flower. You always have and you always will.”

“I don’t believe you,” Uzzi’el said, but Pasha could feel his confusion, his resolve weakening. He could also feel the underlying sexual tension, the undeniable attraction that had him looking at Gabri’el in an entirely different way. He’d always been beautiful but now he seemed softer, less threatening.

“Believe this.” Gabri’el lowered his head to kiss Uzzi’el and Pasha experienced his surrender. He closed his eyes for a moment as his body was possessed by a delicious shiver of anticipation. He moaned softly and Uzzi’el leaped away from Gabri’el as if he’d been burned.

“No,” Uzzi’el said firmly. “No, I’m not going to be deceived by you again. How many times can you expect me to be hurt and keep coming back? You want me in your army then so be it. I’m no more convinced than I ever was, but just as resigned to its inevitability. However, I want nothing to do with you other than as my superior officer. Touch me again and I’ll rip out your heart.”

Gabri’el looked at him for a long moment. “You already did,” he said softly then turned on his heel and strode from the room.

When Gabri’el had gone there was silence. Pasha had no idea what to say. Eventually, he had to break the silence.

“You remember then?”

“Yes.”

“Those men who came were right, weren’t they? You are a warrior and, from their point of view, you are an escaped criminal.”

“Yes.” Uzzi’el wouldn’t meet his eyes. He stared at the floor and chewed on his lip.

“And you’re dangerous.”

That wasn’t a question but Uzzi’el answered anyway. “Yes.”

“What have you done to me?”

Uzzi’el knelt before Pasha, his eyes tormented. “I never meant to hurt you, Pasha. I swear I did  nothing consciously to hurt you.”

“Would it have made a difference if you’d remembered?”

“Yes. I would have run far away the moment I saw you.”

“You’d have run from me?”

“If that’s what it took to keep you safe.”

“Oh.”

“I’d like to think I’d have had the strength to walk away but I don’t know. From the moment I saw you there was…a connection. When I started feeling your feelings I knew. I didn’t remember but I knew.”

“Knew what?”

“That I’d found my mate, my partner.  We bonded and I was helpless to do anything about it. I love you, Pasha. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love anyone.”

“What about Gabri’el?”

“Gabri’el was a mistake. I was young. What can I say? He was the kind of guy you’d want to lick chocolate off. I really believed I loved him— and that he loved me. Sometimes I think maybe he does but he’s not the loving kind. He’s a soldier through and through, always has been. I think he’s forgotten what it means to love. He thinks only of the next battle and how to get his men through it. That’s all I ever was, one of his men; one who was decorative enough to grace his table and passionate enough to keep his bed warm. He cares for me, I believe that. He just doesn’t know how.”

“Do you care for him? Still?”

Uzzi’el stared at him. “I want to be completely honest with you, Pasha. I suspect I have no choice. You know how I feel without me having to say a word. Yes, I still care for him. There’s still a pull but it’s not like it was before. Before when he called I had to come. Now, I can hear the call and walk away.”

Pasha nodded. “I believe you.”

They smiled at each other until suddenly something snapped and they were in each other’s arms kissing desperately, as if it was the last kiss they’d ever share.

Then Uzzi’el pulled away. “Pasha,” he said softly, regretfully and Pasha was hit by a wave of sadness and despair.

“No,” He whispered.

“I have to go.”

“Don’t leave me.”

“I have to. I’m a leader. People depend on me for their lives, their freedom. I can’t, in all conscience, stay here safe with you when people are dying in my name.”

“Then let me come.”

“I can’t, Pasha. You’re not a warrior. You wouldn’t last a day and I couldn’t take that chance.”

“Please. Please don’t leave me. Not now. Please. You won’t come back. I know you won’t come back.”

Uzzi’el took his hands and held them tight over his heart. “I swear to you, if I am able I will come back.”

“If you’re able?”

“Only death will keep me away from you.”

“Death?”

“It’s a war, Pasha.”

“I’ll know, won’t I. I’ll feel if you…”

“Yes.”

“Will I die too?”

“No. If I die the bond will break and you’ll be free of me.”

“I don’t want to be free of you. I don’t ever want to be free of you.”

Uzzi’el threw his arms around him and pulled him close. “I don’t want to leave you either,” he whispered in his ear. “I want to be with you forever and I will be. When this is over I’ll never leave your side again.”

“Uzzi’el?” The sharp retort drew them apart. Pasha looked up and saw Gabri’el in the doorway, his face expressionless.

“Gabri’el.” Uzzi’el’s voice was cold.

“It’s time to go.”

“I’m ready.” Uzzi’el gave Pasha a last kiss and stood up.

Pasha wanted to throw himself at Uzzi’el, hold onto his leg and never let go, but he was damned if he was going to look that weak in front of Gabri’el.

“I’ve left guards,” Gabri’el said to Uzzi’el. “Your human pet and his family will be safe.”

Uzzi’el glared at him, then strode out of the door and was gone.

Pasha sat immobile until he heard the front door slam then threw himself onto the bed and sobbed hysterically until he felt arms around him. He knew it wasn’t Uzzi’el, the arms were to slender, too soft and the smell was all wrong. It was Anna. She held him until he calmed and lay, gasping, knowing that some of the distress that tore at his heart wasn’t his own. It was comforting to know Uzzi’el was hurting as much as he was.

Somehow, Pasha made it through the rest of the day. The angelic guards were unobtrusive although he occasionally caught a glimpse of a shadow in the garden or heard the swish of feathers outside the window.

“Do you think they’re going to want dinner?” Anna asked

Pasha shrugged. “Don’t know.”

“Try to cheer up, darling. You know he loves you and he’ll be back as soon as he can.”

“I know but—” His stomach lurched as someone knocked the front door. He almost pushed Anna out of the way to answer it.

The man who stood on the doorstep was unfamiliar, but Pasha was instantly rooted to the spot in absolute terror.

“You must be Pasha. I thought you’d be bigger.”

“Who…who are you?”

“You might have heard of me. My name is Micha’el.”

Pasha gasped and took a step back. He froze as Micha’el’s hand touched his arm, then the world spun around him and went black.

Uzzi’el paced the small room. It was oppressive and he could barely stand the claustrophobia. His mind was racing, yet curiously blank and he felt…wrong.

“Will you please sit down?” Gabri’el snapped. “We have important things to discuss.”

“But where is he?”

“Where is who?”

“Pasha.”

“How the hell do I know? Back at home I should think, unless he was stupid enough to try to leave.”

“Why can’t I feel him?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Gabriel stretched his long, lean body, putting his feet up on the table, crossed at the ankles and his arms behind his head. Leather creaked as he arched his back and cricked his neck.

“When did you become such a bitch Gabe?  It doesn’t matter how much you mock me, Pasha is my soul mate and I should be able to feel him through the connection. He must be hurting, full of confusion…”

“Then it’s a good thing, Uzzi’el. It would be a distraction if the human’s emotions were messing up your thoughts.”

“What thoughts?” Uzzi’el impatiently pushed his heavy golden hair back over his shoulder and stopped pacing to sink into a chair. “There are no thoughts in my head, at least none I can hold on to. I can’t focus on anything. It’s as if my mind is filled with fog…no soup.” He laid his elbows on the table and took his head in his hands. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I can’t concentrate on anything, I can’t….” He sighed.

“It’s as if I’m half asleep and I can’t wake up.”

“Well,” Gabriel said, stretching again, “you’d better wake up. We’ve got a rebellion to plan and every day we delay Micha’el is killing more humans, trying to smoke us out and the Council is putting the pieces back together. If we don’t move soon, they’ll get enough support behind them to claw their way back and then where will we be? We have to strike now, while they’re still in disarray, while we still have the sympathy of the people.

“Micha’el’s a good soldier but a bad propagandist. I was the master of that. Without me, the Council couldn’t manipulate a paperclip. I’ve been getting the message out there that they’ve fallen and Micha’el’s gone rogue and people are biting it. We’re riding a swell of public support at the moment but when nothing happens and Micha’el keeps pulling in our supporters it won’t last.”

“I know. I know all that. I know people are relying on me. I know it all but I can’t… I can’t get my head together to have concrete thoughts about anything.”

“Then let me do it for you. One of us has to take control.”

“But you’re not….” Uzzi’el sighed and rubbed his temple. “I’m so tired. I….” He raised his eyes and blinked at Gabri’el. It was as if the air between them was shimmering with a heat haze. Nothing felt entirely real.

Somewhere in the back of his head Uzzi’el knew it would be a really bad idea to let Gabri’el take charge. There was a reason why Gabri’el, the brilliant strategist, wasn’t heading the forces of the revolution and he, nothing more than a pretty face and sunny disposition—as Gabriel often told him—was. There was a reason and it was a good reason. He knew it was a good reason but he just couldn’t…quite…remember….

Gabriel got to his feet and walked around the table. Standing behind Uzzi’el he began to massage his shoulders. Uzzi’el melted. He always did when Gabri’el massaged him. The man had magic hands. “Oh mercy, that feels good,” Uzzi’el murmured, letting his heavy head fall back.

“Ssh,” Gabri’el murmured, stroking his hair. “Why don’t you rest? It’s been a hard time for you. You’ve been ill and it’s going to take time for you to get back on form. There’s nothing much happening right now.

Why don’t I take you back to your room and help you relax.”

“No, I have to….”

“What? What do you have to do right now? There’s nothing to do right now but relax.”

“But… Pasha…. The…the revolution. I have plans…people….”

“They’ll wait. Let me help you.”

Uzzi’el closed his eyes, letting Gabri’el’s voice wash over him. He knew he should snap out of it. There was enough spark left to be sounding warning bells, but his mind was so slow, so thick with fog, the warnings wouldn’t come through. “Pasha,” he murmured. “I think there’s something wrong with Pasha.”

“There’s nothing wrong with Pasha, little flower. He’s safe. I made sure of it. You know that.”

“Yes. Yes, I…. I know. But…. Every time I try to think of him or open the connection it feels as if… as if there’s nothing coming back but darkness and it’s overwhelming me.”

“Let me help you, Uzzy. Rest your head against me and close your eyes.” Uzzi’el was glad to comply. Gabri’el’s fingers combing through his hair felt good. “If you’re so worried about Pasha, let me help you connect with him. Open your mind and concentrate. I’ll add my energy, see if I can make it clearer.”

“Really? But you hate….”

“I care about you, little flower. You know I care about you.”

“Yes, I know, but not enough, Gabri’el. It was never enough.”

“Well, maybe it will be enough for this. Relax now. Concentrate on Pasha and we’ll see what we can do.”

Uzzi’el relaxed and let his mind go blank. He thought of Pasha, of the feelings he evoked, of his smell, his touch, the colour of his eyes, the sound of his voice. His lips curved into a smiled as he remembered the touch of his hands and…and… Darkness rushed at him as if along a tunnel, a roiling twisting darkness like a wave of dirty water.

“Gabri’el,” he cried, struggling against it.

“Don’t fight it, little flower,” Gabri’el said softly in his ear. “It’s for the best.”

****

Darkness enfolded him. Deep darkness. The kind of darkness that breathes. Every now and again there were voices, snippets of conversation, bright pulses of light, pain, screams, the smell of burning, the touch silk, of flesh, of metal. But it always came back to the darkness. The thick, black, breathing darkness.

“Dammit Uzzi’el, will you please wake up.” Should he open his eyes? Part of him said he should and part of him didn’t have the energy to care. “Right. You asked for it.” There was a sudden brilliant flash of light that sent intense pain into his head and he screamed.

He became aware of someone, something close by. They were cursing and clucking, expletives spilling out in a torrent, accompanied by squawks and a clicking sound.

“Open your goddamn eyes, you lazy son of a bitch. I can’t believe you made me do that. You know I hate it when I have to do that. My feathers are singed. The least you could do is say thank you.”

“Fierro?”

“Who else, you stupid lump of stupid angel? Get your arse off that bed right now. You’ve a total disaster to stop.”

“What? What do you…?” Uzzi’el opened his eyes and looked around. He seemed to be in his own bed in his own room. He blinked again, his head still sore from the flash of light. “What was that?” he asked, rubbing his temple.

“I’m a phoenix, use your imagination,” Fierro snapped. “Now get up. Gabri’el’s about to make a monumental mistake.”

“Gabri’el? What do you mean?”

“Think about it. What’s the last thing you remember?”

“What do you mean?”

“Just think.”

Uzzi’el thought. “I was in a meeting with Gabri’el. We were talking about… about….” He sat up suddenly, almost knocking Fierro off his perch on the bed post. Into a new flurry of cursing he asked. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”

“Don’t mess with me, Fierro, this is too important. What happened? Where’s Gabri’el? Where’s Pasha?”

Fierro squawked. “I won’t mess with, you shall I? Leave  you now, shall I? Obviously you don’t want….”

“Don’t,” Uzzi’el said, firmly grasping Fierro’s beak and holding it closed. Fiero squawked and fluffed his feathers, sending tiny bolts of electricity flying everywhere. Uzzi’el ignored them. “I don’t want any of your nonsense, Fierro. I just want answers. Understand?” A series of clicks and squawks burst from the ball of feathers and electricity in his hands. “Understand?”

After a roll of the eyes and a single squawk, Uzzi’el let go of the bird who hopped out of reach and clicked his beak in a highly offended way. “Could have broken by beak. All I asked for was a simple thank you.”

“Fierro. Where. Is. Gabri’el? Where. Is. Pasha?”

“Gabri’el is about to lead your army into war. He’s persuaded the generals it would be a good idea to mount an all out attack on Micha’el.”

“What? Is he crazy? Does he know what he’s doing?”

“Seems to.”

“But… why… why hasn’t anyone run this by me?”

“Because Gabri’el has told everyone you’re ill. He told us you collapsed in the meeting and you’ve been

unconscious ever since.”

“What? How long?”

“Two days.”

“Two days?! Dammit, I have to go. I have to stop him.” He slipped off the bed and staggered, almost falling. His hands flew to his head. “Goddamit, what did he do to me?”

Fierro looked uncomfortable. “What?” Uzzi’el asked. “What do you know?”

“Um… It’s not exactly what he’s doing to you.”

“What? Fierro, my head feels like someone’s unscrewed the top and vomited into it. I’m in no mood for games and riddles.”

“Okay, I’ll make this simple for you. No one is doing anything to you. They’re doing it to Pasha.”

“What? Doing what to him?”

Fierro fluffed his feathers. “How would I know? I’m able to see inside Micha’el’s camp now?”

“Micha’el? Micha’el has Pasha? But how? Gabri’el was guarding him. He….” Uzzi’el stopped, his eyes flying wide. A horrible thought was gnawing its way to the surface of his mind, spitting acid as it came.

“Gabri’el. He betrayed me….betrayed Pasha. He never did post guards.”

“I’m not saying he didn’t post guards, I’m just saying they might not have been keeping somrthing out.”

“No, they were keeping Pasha in. But why? Has Gabri’el betrayed us all? Is he in league with Micha’el now?”

“Hell no.”

“But….he sold us out. He handed him Pasha.”

“Yes. Think. Why?”

“Because….” Uzzi’el thought deeply, working things out as he went. “Because he knew the generals wouldn’t follow him as long as I was here to lead them. When I…. When I got lost they wouldn’t listen to him, wouldn’t accept his authority but…but, with me here and… incapacitated….” He shook his head in disbelief. “And he knew he couldn’t do anything to me directly because the healers would be able to tell.”

“Dammit, the man’s a genius,” Fierro said, his voice filled with admiration. “I…I meant in a totally evil way, of course,” he added, shrinking back from Uzzi’el’s glare.

“Where is he?”

“In the main meeting room. They’re about to….”

“Like fuck they are.”

Everyone looked up when the doors of the meeting room flew open and crashed back against the walls. Uzzi’el strode along the side of the table, hearing mutters and sounds of astonishment from the men and women sitting around it. Some of them quickly snatched up one of the fine crystal glasses, filled with golden liquid, and took a long drink. When he reached Gabri’el, who was standing, he stopped.

“Uzzi’el?” Gabri’el said warmly. “I’m so glad to see you on your feet again. Are you feeling better?” He sounded so sincere and the hypocrisy sickened Uzzi’el. Before he quite knew what he was doing, he’d drawn back his hand and hit Gabri’el so hard he knocked him right off his feet.

“Where is he?” he said in a calm, even voice and the whole room held its breath.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Gabri’el said, climbing to his feet. He looked hurt and confused. This time it wasn’t washing. Uzzi’el crossed his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes.

“When did it happen, Gabri’el? When did you decide to betray me? Was it before we came here? Did you deliberately leave me in the hands of the enforcers? Did you orchestrate it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I didn’t. I love you. You know I love you. Everyone knows I love you,” He swept his arm around the table like the showman he was.

“What about Pasha? You don’t love him. You’ve made that clear enough. Did it give you pleasure to hand him over to Micha’el? Did you discuss with him what drugs to use on Pasha to make sure you could manipulate our connection so they affected me too. You wouldn’t have left something like that to chance would you?”

“Uzzy, are you sure you’re feeling well? You’ve been so ill and you’re talking nonsense.”

“I haven’t been ill, Gabri’el and you know it. You’ve simply been manipulating me, and everyone else. I want to know one thing from you, that’s all. Just one thing.”

“What?” Gabri’el asked suspiciously.

“Where is he? Where is Pasha?”

“I don’t know anything about….”

“Don’t lie to me. You’ve been and done many things to me, but you’ve never directly lied. Give me a straight answer. Do you know where he is?”

“No.”

“But you know who has him.”

“You’re sick, Uzzy,” Gabriel said gently. “Your head’s not right. You can’t be feeling yourself or you wouldn’t say such things to me. I love you, Uzzy. I….”

“No, Gabri’el. You’re not going to squirm off the hook this time. This is my soulmate and I’m not compromising. Tell me what you know.”

“I don’t know anything. Uzzy, you’re paranoid, deluded, can’t you see that? You’re ill. You should lie down.” Gabri’el reached out to him and something snapped inside. Uzzi’el grabbed the arm, pulled, twisted and before he knew it Gabriel found himself with his back pressed against Uzzi’el, his arm twisted behind him and Uzzi’el’s arm around his throat, cutting off is air.

“I’m not a weakling and I’m not a fool. Once again, you underestimate me. You didn’t think I’d get free from the enforcers, did you? And it must have felt like your birthday when I went missing. I’m sure you were already in the process of taking my position, even then. It must have been frustrating when my friends insisted on searching for me before they’d mourn my death like you did. And then… what did I do? I came back. I spoiled your plans and to top it all I had a human mate. You hate humans, don’t you? You always have?

“This war isn’t about saving humanity, not for you. It isn’t about breaking the power of the Council to stop them meddling in human affairs, driving them to destruction. No, it’s about power. It’s always been about power. You couldn’t care less if Micha’el wiped out every human on the planet. In fact I’m sure it’s part of your plan that between you, you give it your best shot. Why share Earth with humanity when you can take it from them by force?

There were gasps from around the table and one or two people got to their feet.

“Uzzy,” Gabri’el said in an even, placating voice. “You’re obviously not well. You don’t know what you’re saying. Just let me go and….”

Uzzi’el tightened his grip. “Not a chance, sunshine. You’re not going to talk me into believing I’m deluded and I’m not going let you convince anyone else either. I’m not ill and I’m not confused. In fact, I’m clearer than I’ve been in ages. I see it now. It’s all one big game for you, isn’t it? The whole thing. Tell me—did you ever really care for me, even a little.”

Gabri’el laughed, and it wasn’t a nice one. “Care for you? Yeah, I guess so, in the way a human would care for a puppy. You’re soft and sweet and beautiful and so, so easy to manipulate. It was almost too easy, no challenge at all. You swallowed every line I fed you, like you were starving and you were a bloody good fuck, but you were never going to be in it for the long run.

“For the record, no, I didn’t sell you out to the enforcers but I can’t say I was too upset when they caught you. It suited my plans just fine.”

Intense pain stabbed into Uzzi’el’s heart with every word. “I knew it,” he said hoarsely, “I knew you left me. You let them take me, let them do those terrible things to me.” For a moment he felt overwhelmingly weak and Gabri’el seemed to sense it. He surged forward, intending to burst from Uzzi’el’s arms but Uzzi’el wasn’t that weak and all Gabri’el earned for himself was his shoulder almost yanked out of its socket.

“Never mind, Gabri’el, I’m back now. I’m sure it’s a relief to know I’m home and well again.”

“Yeah, I’m ecstatic,” Gabri’el ground out. Two warriors appeared at Uzzi’el’s elbow and he allowed them to take Gabri’el from his arms and bind him.

“Find out what he knows about Micha’el,” Uzzi’el said coldly. “I don’t care what you do to him to get the information.”

“But Uzzy….”

“Don’t call me that.” He turned his back as Gabri’el was dragged away, screaming abuse at him. He closed his ears and his heart. “Right, ladies and gentlemen, I think some damage limitation might be in order. And we have a rebellion to plan…properly.”

For a moment there was silence, then one of members of the council of war, a beautiful blonde in a red satin dress, raised her glass and said, in a velvet soft voice. “Well done Uzzy darling. I never did like that slimy toad.”

****

There was a light in the darkness. A full moon hanging pendulous in his dark sky. It had been dark for as long as he could remember. Once, there had been someone here with him, drawing him towards their dark light. He’d never quite managed to reach them and then, suddenly, they’d gone. Now something else was coming and it scared him.

At first he’d been happy about it— finally something to relieve the monotony— but then he started to get nervous and the nervousness turned to fear. This might all have happened in a day, a year, or a second. He had no means to measure time.

“Pasha.” The sound of the name shot terror through him and the darkness pulsed red.

“No,” he screamed, without making a sound.

“Come now, Pasha. Have you no courage in you at all that you run from me before you know me?”

Courage? No. He had none of that. His heart was pounding in time with the red flashes, and the screaming went on and on. Then it stopped. Everything stopped. In the cool darkness a voice spoke. “Be brave. I know where you are. I’m coming for you.” Something about the voice calmed him, made everything alright, and he opened his eyes.

He was horizontal, looking up at a dark ceiling. Between him and the ceiling was a face, which was attached to a body, which had…wings? The shadow of wings. For a dizzying moment he was utterly confused, then everything clicked into place and he tried to sit up.

He shouldn’t have been surprised he couldn’t move. Thinking about it, he wasn’t. It should have frightened him, but it didn’t. It was the voice, that presence inside him, that kept the fear at bay. There was urgency about it, something fighting to be with him, to protect him and an all-encompassing feeling of being loved.

“Uzzi’el.” He was surprised the word slipped out. He hadn’t intended to speak it aloud. Laughter welcomed it into the world.

“Ah yes, little human.” The face came into sharp focus and he watched the lips move around the words.

“Uzzi’el doesn’t seem to be as closely linked to you as we thought. He managed to break the connection, didn’t he? Couldn’t have been strong, could it? I’m so sorry, little human, but it seems your precious Uzzi’el wasn’t your soulmate after all. Do you love him? Did you really think an angel could love you?” The face, with the beautiful blue eyes and curly blonde hair drew the full, bow shaped lips into a smile that should have been sweet but was anything but.

“He does love me.”

Micha’el laughed, a sweet sound, full of malice. “Silly little human? If he truly loved you. If he truly was your soulmate, he wouldn’t have been able to break the bond between you and he would still be imprisoned in the cage your mind created for him.”

“He…is still there. He…is still with me. I…feel him.”

“You do?” Micha’el looked surprised, then pleased…no gleeful. “Oh how delightful. I was going to kill you.

You’d have been no use to me. But if that fool Uzzi’el really is still connected, we might yet make that connection work for us. Thank you. Thank you for telling me that. If I chance to meet your ‘soulmate’ before he dies I’ll be sure to let him know you were the one to give me the information that brought him down. If you can feel him, then he can feel you. Think about that.”

The face smiled again, and stroked his face. “Such a beautiful boy. If I wasn’t so busy I’d play with you and let your ‘soulmate’ feel that. Unfortunately I have to leave it to others. Try not to die too quickly.”

Pasha’s dulled mind couldn’t comprehend what Micha’el was saying but he was aware enough to know it wasn’t good. He watched the archangel walk across the room.

Something sparked in him, brought the tiny flame inside he knew was Uzzi’el, into blazing life. He knew what Micha’el was talking about, what he was intending to do. He knew Uzzi’el was searching for him. He had to stall as long as he could.

“It won’t make any difference, you pile of shit.” He tried to shout. It came out as strained gasp, but it stopped Micha’el in his tracks.

“What did you call me?”

“A…pile of shit.”

Micha’el wasn’t laughing anymore. He strode back across the room. “A human? A measly, pathetic, weak human, would dare speak to an archangel in this way?”

‘No,’ Pasha’s mind was screaming. “Yes,” his voice said, speaking out of the place where Uzzi’el had his spiritual arms around him.

“Are you not afraid of me?”

“Yes. But you’re a bully and I don’t run away from bullies.”

Micha’el narrowed his eyes. “A bully? That’s a human term. It means nothing to me. Do you have any idea how much power I have? How much damage I could do to you? I could blast you out of existence with a thought.”

“Then do it.” Pasha was terrified. The more awareness he gained the more he realised how crazy his actions were. He was taunting an archangel, one of the most powerful beings in the universe. And this wasn’t a very nice one.

Micha’el smiled. “Oh no. I know what you’re doing. You’re trying goad me into killing you, to save your precious Uzzi’el. How sweet. What a shame it didn’t work.”

Michael’s smile seemed to be growing wider and wider as his face swelled to dominate Pasha’s vision. He couldn’t turn his head, couldn’t close his eyes, couldn’t shut it out in any way. The eyes bored into his, deeper and deeper into his head, burning him. The pain started and it grew at a frightening rate. It might have driven him insane if he didn’t have something to concentrate on, something to hold on to. Uzzi’el. He had to protect Uzzi’el.

Pain. Pain like nothing he’d ever experienced before. Pain that tore at his very core and threatened to do exactly what Micha’el had threatened –to tear him apart, atom by atom. And yet. Pasha knew Micha’el wouldn’t kill him because somewhere in his tortured mind he could feel Uzzi’el.

At first he was cradled in Uzzi’el’s spiritual arms but, as the pain intensified the arms were torn away and a mind-splitting, tortured scream echoed through the core of his being.

“Uzzi’el!”

Although his cry was only in his mind Micha’el responded with glee. “That’s right, little one. Call to him.

Drawn on his strength to save you. Make that connection. Deliver him into my hands.”

Pasha’s numb mind couldn’t comprehend the words, couldn’t understand what they meant, but he understood the malice behind them and he understood it was directed at his soulmate.

The pain intensified and every atom in his body vibrated. They were about to separate from each other and fly into the void. His eyes were still open, staring at Micha’el’s pretty face, made ugly by the expression that twisted it. Pasha’s entire world contracted into the two blue eyes but….

Unconsciously his mind reached out to Uzzi’el and feeling the backlash of his lover’s pain was worse than the torture Micha’el was inflicting on him. He couldn’t let him hurt Uzzi’el. He had to protect him, had to save him.

Somewhere, far away, Uzzi’el reached for him in desperation, in pain, in confusion, and Pasha did the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life – he pushed him away. He pushed as hard as he could and felt something snap. It was a very definite snap followed by a sensation of something rushing past him, as if he was slipping off the table into a river.

“Don’t you dare,” Micha’el screamed inside his head. “How can you break the connection? How can you escape me? You will not escape me.”

Escape? Yes, escape. He could escape. There was only one way. One way he could escape Micha’el and save Uzzi’el. He had to die.

“No!” Micha’el’s impotent scream of rage echoed in his head as he pushed himself further and further into the river, floating gently on the tide.

Something slammed into him and he felt himself falling, tumbling over and over, but not in the river. He came to rest against a wall and dragged himself to his knees.

Pasha couldn’t see a thing. He was surrounded by a blinding white light. Every part of him hurt. He had an idea that at a very basic level his body was remaking itself,  atoms settling back into the places they should never have been shaken from.  The pain was indescribable and he would have screamed if his voice hadn’t been locked in his throat.

He cowered against the wall, pressing his body against the cold, hard bricks, fighting to hold it all together, to get through the pain. He was alone, enclosed in a cocoon of fire and blinding, white light.

The first thing that changed was the light. It faded, turned orange, then red, then winked out altogether and left him in darkness. Then the pain began to slowly recede and he started to sob.

Eventually, there was no pain, only the sobbing, which faded into silence.  Shaking and exhausted, Pasha slid to the ground and lay with his cheek pressed against the cold floor. He was completely blank. There were no thoughts or feelings inside him. He simply existed. And then someone came.

“Pasha? Pasha are you alright? Please tell me you’re alright.”

Realising his eyes were closed, Pasha opened them and gazed up into the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. Uzzi’el looked amazing. He was dressed in some kind of leather armour that hugged his figure and gleamed dully. His beautiful golden hair was loose around his shoulders and seemed to be lifted by a non-existent breeze. Best of all his eyes, his beautiful, beautiful eyes were bright and concerned and full of love.

“Micha’el.”

“He got away, but I’ll find him. I swear I’ll find him and I’ll make him pay for what he did to you.”

Pasha flinched at the terrible intensity of Uzzi’el’s words, and the fierce glow in his eyes faded to soft concern. Uzzi’el turned and called over his shoulder. Can someone please pass me a blanket?

Something soft and fluffy fell around Pasha’s shoulders. He closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek against it.

Two cool hands touched the sides of his face and tilted up his head. He opened his eyes and stared at Uzzi’el. He looked worried.

“Can you stand?”

“I… don’t know.”

It was hard to speak, hard to think, hard to move but Uzzi’el was here. Uzzi’el made everything better. Everything was alright now.

Standing was easy, staying on his feet wasn’t so easy. He leaned heavily on Uzzi’el, who held him close to his side.

“What would you have us do with the human, My Lord?” Pasha noticed there were other angels in the room.

“’The Human’ is my soulmate. His name is Pasha and I will have him treated with the same respect you would offer to me.” Pasha stared dumbly at Uzzi’el.  He was so…commanding.

“Apologies, Lord.”

“Get him away from the city. Make sure he’s comfortable and taken care of but whatever you do, don’t let him come back.”

“Yes, My Lord.” Someone put their arm around Pasha and drew him away from Uzzi’el.

“No.” Pasha clung to his mate and wouldn’t let go.

“Pasha, my sweet. There’s a war going on and I have to fight it. I can’t do that if I have to worry about you. Let my men take you somewhere safe. I’ll come to you as soon as I can.”

“No. Don’t leave me.”

“I have to, but I’ll be back. I’ll be back really soon.” Uzzi’el kissed him and in a whirl of leather and sweet perfume, he turned and was gone.

“Sir, if you’d just….”

“Get your hands off me.” Pasha pushed the angel away from him, trying to get to the door.

“Please, Sir, come with us.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m staying right here with my—“ Pasha broke off. His what? Not his soulmate. Not anymore. He’d felt the bond break. He’d wanted it to and now it wasn’t there anymore.

There was a huge void inside him and it was unendurable. “No. Uzzy. No.” Waves of pain swept over him, worse than any Micha’el could have inflicted. He was gone. Uzzy was gone and Pasha wasn’t going to rest until he was back again.

With a low growl, Pasha headed for the door, pushing aside the angels who stood between him and his destination.

A grip like iron around his arm pulled him up short. “I’m sorry. I can’t let you do that.”

Pasha whirled and glared at the angel who held him. He looked about fourteen with the sweetest face and huge, innocent eyes. Innocent? The front of his armour was encrusted with blood and gore. He was no mascot. He was a fighter. Still, Pasha struggled in his grasp.

“Let me go.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. It’s easy. Uncurl your fingers and move your hand away. Then move yourself away and let me get the hell out of here.”

“For sure, Sir. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. Get you the hell out of here.”

“I’m not going with you. I’m going after him.”

“I’m sorry I can’t–.”

“Can’t what? Allow it? Dream on.”

Pasha fought to tear his arm out of the angel’s grip but he might as well have banged his head against the wall.

Rage and helplessness flowed through him. Uzzy was out there – fighting, maybe dying, and Pasha was here with this fool, trapped and… The empty space inside him roiled and burned and he thrust everything he had into it, searching, grabbing, holding…loving. “Uzzi’el,” he whispered and an enormous outpouring of love almost knocked him off his feet. The joy he felt at the re-forging of their bond was indescribable, almost unbearable.

Pasha could feel the joy coursing through Uzzi’el too. Joy and love and—

“No.” Pasha’s struggles grew desperate. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with Uzzi’el. He was in pain. Thrashing wildly Pasha did everything he could to break free. Two other angels joined in and pinned him between them.

“Calm down. We’ll take you to safety.”

“No. You don’t understand. He’s in trouble. Uzzi’el’s in trouble. He’s hurt. Let me go to him. Please.”

“It is better we take you to safety so he won’t have to worry about you.”

“Don’t tell me what Uzzi’el worries about or what he wants. He’s my mate and I know what he feels. I know—“

If the angels hadn’t been holding him up he’d have fallen to his knees from the pain that punched into his stomach.

“It was a trap,” he gasped. “Micha’el’s withdrawal was a trick. It drew them into a trap. Please. Just… please. He’s going to kill him. Micha’el’s going to kill him.”

The angels exchanged uneasy glances. The one who’d first grabbed Pasha shook his head. “Then even more should we follow the instructions of Lord Uzzi’el and get his…mate, to safety.”

“No.” Panic ripped through him, a fear worse than any he had ever known. Part of it was Uzzi’el’s. He could feel his mate’s terror at whatever it was that faced him. Even so, he knew Uzzi’el was facing it with his head high. Micha’el was hurting him…for sport. The pain he was feeling was not from any kind of battle wound. It was quick, bright, intense pain from blows and twists and…. No. He didn’t want to think about what Michael was doing. He wanted to be there. To see it. To stop it.

But. But he. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t. He couldn’t get free. Free.

Something was happening. Everything was slowing down. Time was draining away. Weeks. Days. Hours. Minutes. Seconds. And stop.

Pasha was nowhere. There was darkness. There was stillness. There was silence. No, not silence. Whispering. He was whispering words, over and over, like a prayer. He had no idea what they were, what they meant or why he was saying them. He just kept repeating over and over and…

Something was coming out of the darkness, a bright white light in the shape of angel with wings of flame. As the angel of light drew closer Pasha’s voice grew louder, the words more emphatic, pouring out of him like a molten river, feeding the golden image in front of him. Until it stopped.

The angel was close enough to touch with eyes that burned into his soul but no features he could see.

“Who are you?”

“Who are you?” The angel had no voice as such, and yet he heard.

“I’m Pasha.”

“I’m Pasha.”

“Are you going to repeat everything I say?”

“I say.”

“Who are you?”

“I am you.”

“Me? I don’t understand. Where are we?”

“We are you.”

“I don’t… Okay, I don’t understand but I don’t have time to play games. What’s going on?”

“We are you, Pasha. I am you. You are you. We are you.”

“Are you trying to tell me you’re part of me?”

“I am you.”

“Can I become you?”

“I am you.”

“Goddamn it.” Pasha reached out and grabbed the angel by the hand. Fire rushed up his arm and tore through his body. There was a feeling as if he was being catapulted through time and space and then he was back and the angels were scuttling away from him. Everything looked different through the flames in his eyes and the burning wings that flowed behind him felt strange.

“Get out of my way,” Pasha said. Not only did the angels throw themselves out of his way, the rickety old door in the white wall of the building exploded into toothpicks.

Outside the shack was chaos.  Pasha appeared to be In the middle of an army camp set up on a deserted industrial estate. All around were derelict buildings and mounds of rubble on a vast concreted open area. Dotted around the area and at the edge of a nearby wood were strange, shimmering white tents and the general debris of a large and busy campsite.

Angels, some with wings unfurled and some in human form were fighting hand to hand on the ground and in the air. The area was dotted with the pathetic mounds of the dead and dying from both sides.

Pasha ignored it all. He was blind and deaf to the fighting and to the shouts that went up when he was spotted. There was a pain in his heart and the sound of screaming echoing in his ears and he was following them with nothing in his head but the burning desire to get to the source as soon as he could.

No one challenged him. No one tried to stop him. In fact, no one came near him as he walked straight for the woods. Behind him, the sounds of battle fell to silence.

Pasha didn’t bother to look for a path but plunged straight into the trees. They tore at his wings but he ignored the pain. It was nothing. Besides, the trees didn’t tear at him for long. They burned at his touch and turned to ash as he passed.

He’d only taken a few steps into the clearing when he began to hear the screaming with his ears as well as inside his head. He speeded up and crashed through the trees until he burst into a clearing.

The hated figure of Micha’el stood off to one side. The other angels who dotted the clearing appeared to be high ranking. Some of them were holding prisoners and all were staring at Micha’el and the three angels standing directly in front of him.  Two of them were holding the third strung between them. He was barely able to keep his feet. If they had let him go he would have fallen. It was he who was screaming.

At Pasha’s entrance everyone looked his way and the screaming stopped as Micha’el’s attention was diverted from Uzzi’el to Pasha.

“You,” he snarled.

Ignoring everyone and everything Pasha strode forward. As he approached, the two angels holding Uzzi’el stepped back. They released him and he fell to his knees. Although there were no bonds in evidence Uzzi’el’s arms seemed to be somehow bound against his body.

Micha’el, his eyes fixed on Pasha slowly smiled. He reached out his hand and held it palm down at shoulder height. Uzzi’el cried out and jerked to his feet as if yanked up by his hair.

“Let him go?” Pasha was surprised that his voice was so calm and even. At the sound of it Uzzi’el twisted his head to look at him. His face was smeared with dirt and blood, which also caked his hair. He was beautiful; glorious.

“No, Pasha. Run. Leave me.”

“I’ll never leave you. Never again.” His voice was soft when he spoke to Uzzi’el. When he spoke again to Micha’el it wasn’t soft at all. It was cold and hard. “Let him go.”

“Why on earth would I do that? I’ve waited for this moment for a very long time. Why would I give it up now?”

“Because I command you to.”

“Command?” Micha’el threw back his head and laughed.

‘Uzzy, Uzzy listen to me. I’m here. Our bond is strong again. Open to me. Let me in. I can’t defeat him. You can’t defeat him. But we can. Together we can bind him, but before we can do that you have to break the bonds that bind you.’

“You dare to command me? Archangel. Leader of the Angelic Hosts. Member of the Sanhedrin Malakim. You, a human?”

“I thought it would have been obvious by now, I am anything but.”

‘Get up Uzzy. I don’t know how long I can distract him.’

“I had noticed a slight change but you are weak. You have power, that’s undeniable, but whatever you are you’re weak and no threat to me.”

‘Uzzy, please. He’ll kill me if you don’t get up and join with me.’

“You’re over confident Micha’el and that’s why I’m going to win, why we’re going to win.”

“Do you honestly believe that?”

With enormous relief, Pasha saw Uzzi’el haul himself upright. There was a fluttering in the back of his mind, a weak connected.

“I don’t believe, Micha’el, I know. It was never a coincidence that Uzzi’el fell where he did. It was more than chance that drew me to that place at that time. We didn’t meet for the first time in that rainy country lane, we’ve been lovers for much longer than that.”

Both Micha’el and Uzzi’el looked puzzled.

“Don’t you remember me, Micha’el? It was a long time ago. A very long time ago, when you ripped my soul from my body and cast it to earth. You tried to do the same thing not so long ago but this time you thought it was a human soul. It never was.  You wanted to know how an angel could take a human as soul mate? The truth is, they can’t. I never was human. I just didn’t remember.”

“Passa’el.” Uzzi’el’s cry had Micha’el spinning towards him. As he did so Pasha sent a spear of pure love at Uzzi’el and all barriers to their true connection burst. All three of them were consumed by a blinding rainbow of light. Bonds of love and joy flew between Pasha and Uzzi’el. Bonds unbreakable by death or separation, bonds freely given and freely accepted. Bonds than twined into an invisible rope that snaked around Micha’el and held him in an iron grip. When the blinding light died Micha’el was on his knees,

Michael knelt and stared in shock at the two angels who stood before him like twin stars. Passa’el, with his dark hair and dark eyes, and Uzzi’el with hair like gold and eyes of blue. Not that he could see the colour of their eyes. He wondered if they realised there was a rainbow light glowing from their eye sockets making it seem as if their bodies were merely receptacles for some unearthly being made only of rainbows.

Power radiated from the two angels who stood, hand in hand, silent and still. There was no anger in them, no condemnation. Their faces were calm and their stance relaxed. Blue sparks and little arcs of electricity ran up their arms from their joined hands and that strange, multi-coloured light poured from them, forming bonds that he didn’t bother to struggle against.

“You know you can’t bind me for long.” Michael smiled, his angel smile. “Soon I will be free and you will die. Neither of you has the power to hold me for long and certainly not to defeat me.”

“True,” Uzzi’el said in a voice that was calm and gentle. “Neither of us has the power to defeat you, but both of us do.”

“What do you mean?” Michael laughed at him boldly, certain of his own power, his ability to see this arrogant young fool and his mate crushed under his heel. He’d made a big mistake in leaving their destruction in the hands of others. This time he would take care of it personally.

“You’ve told me, twice. Don’t you remember?”

“Remember what?” His patience was beginning to wane. He hated being confined and he hated even more that his men were seeing him on his knees in the dust. Come to think of it, why weren’t they coming to his aid? Cowards. He’d see them pay for this.

“Once, a long time ago, we stood before you as we are now.” Passa’el took up the conversation with the same gentle tone. “Only that time, we were the ones in chains. You were our judge and executioner. You condemned us for our support of humanity and took it on yourself to carry out sentence without even referring to The Council. You tore my soul from my body and cast it down to wander among humanity for eternity, to witness their excesses and nature, with no power to influence them. I was doomed to wander, unable to move on, unable to return home.”

“My punishment,” Uzzi’el continued smoothly as if they were one being speaking with one voice. “was to suffer his fall through our bond and then the forceful breaking of our connection. You thought it would break me, and it did, for a while. I remember, just before the deed was done, you looked into our eyes and told us that together we were powerful, more powerful perhaps than you, but alone we were nothing and would never be anything other than a whisper in the night.”

“Yes, I remember that.” Michael shivered with delight at the memory of the power he’d wielded over the pathetic, broken angels. Oh how they’d pleaded, begging to be allowed to suffer their punishment together, or to take the punishment of the other to gain reprieve for their lover. He’d taken such great pleasure in tearing them apart, plundering the power of their love. How delicious it had been to watch Uzzi’el writhe in the dirt, screaming out his pain, his loss. The image had stayed with him for quite a time, but in the end he’d forgotten.

“And then, not a week ago, when the probes of your enforcers were still in my brain, you allowed me respite from their torment long enough to torment me yourself with what you were going to do to my ‘pathetic band of miscreants’. You stood before me and said that if only Passa’el were still with me, perhaps I would have had a chance. Of all, we two were the only ones who might have been able to defeat you. Alone, I was an annoying irritation who would soon be nothing more than a mindless drone.”

Micha’el remembered that, too. He smiled at the memory. Uzzi’el, bound and helpless, his eyes wide with pain and fear as the enforcers invaded his mind and took it apart, piece by piece. He should have waited until those eyes went blank forever, but he had been too eager to crush the rebel army.

“It was the sound of Passa’el’s name that freed me, that allowed me to shake off the power of the enforcers and flee. I believed that Gabri’el would be searching from me, but when I couldn’t find him, I fell and couldn’t stop falling. It seems that the seed you’d planted in me when you spoke Passa’el’s name was enough for my soul to find him and take me to him.”

“But how…how did you find your way back?” He addressed his question to Passa’el.

“That is a question I can’t answer. The universe works its miracles and who am I to question?”

“Who indeed? You’re a no one.”

“Indeed, Alone I am no one. I am nothing. But we are together now and nothing will ever part us again. We are one and nothing will stand against us.” He looked at Uzzi’el at precisely the same moment Uzzi’el turned his head to meet him. Their eyes met and an explosion of rainbow light washed over Micha’el in waves of unbearable sweetness.

For the first time in as long as he could remember, Micha’el; Archangel, warrior, leader of the celestial armies, felt fear.

Passa’el had never felt so alive, so powerful. He looked down at Micha’el and knew he could blast him into atoms with a thought. Joy surged through him as he called on the power of the universe to –

“No.”

The influx of energy stopped, eddied and receded. The rainbow of colours that had blinded him faded and he blinked, feeling empty. Shocked and confused, he turned to Uzzi’el. From him, too the power had faded.

“If we destroy him like this we’ll be no better than he is.”

“But – “

“Listen to me, Passa’el. Don’t stain your soul with his blood. He’s not worth it. He’s defeated and he will be punished, but to rend the fabric of the university again, as he did, will stain us.” He laughed. “My soul is already darkened with the blood of my brothers but yours is so bright, so pure. Please don’t change that. It gives me hope and courage.”

“He deserves to die.”

“Maybe, but not by our hand.” Uzzi’el laid his hand against Passa’el’s cheek. “You have such power in your innocence, your lightness. It feeds the darkness within me and makes me new again. I’m afraid that if you are tainted too we will be lessened, that we will lose each other again. Leave the killing to me.”

“I…don’t know.”

Micha’el laughed and both Passa’el and Uzzi’el turned to him.

“And I thought he was the dark one.”

“I didn’t give you permission to speak.” Uzzi’el’s voice was deadly cold and the words seemed to solidify as they left his mouth, forming themselves into a mist that flowed into Micha’el’s mouth. Micha’el’s eyes widened and his lips moved as he tried to form words that refused to be spoken. His eyes narrowed with anger. Uzzi’el smiled. There was no mirth in his expression.

Squaring his shoulders, Uzzi’el turned to address Micha’el’s angels, who were still frozen with shock. “If anyone wishes to join us, now’s your time. Your cause is lost and I’m offering you one chance of redemption. If you refuse you will share your master’s fate.

Taking Passa’el’s hand he backed away about twenty feet leaving Micha’el, still bound, on his knees in the grass. “Those who wish to follow your master into darkness, stand at his shoulder. Those who seek redemption stand at mine.”

Of the dozen or so angels in the clearing, only two took up position behind Micha’el, whose face grew redder and redder with impotent rage.

Suddenly, the trees all around the clearing rustled and dozens of angels burst in.

“Ah, our rescuers have arrived.” Uzzi’el glanced around his angels and smiled. “How fortunate we didn’t need rescuing.” He hugged Passa’el close to his side, then raised his eyes, motioning to the enforcers who had chosen to forsake their master. “These angels are to be given quarters, fed and treated well but guarded closely until they can be tested. Those…” He nodded to Micha’el and the two angels who stood nervously beside him. “…are to be taken immediately to headquarters. Have Gabri’el join them in the square before the main building.”

“As you wish, Lord.”

Uzzi’el led a suddenly exhausted Passa’el out of the wood and into the camp. “Do you wish to rest here or go straight to headquarters?”

“I won’t rest until Micha’el has been taken care of once and for all. He’s clever and powerful. I don’t want him to slip through our fingers.”

“True, but you look exhausted.”

“I am, but I have enough energy to see those two damned.”

Uzzi’el smiled. “I have an idea about that. I’ll tell you about it on the way to headquarters.”

By the time they arrived, Micha’el, Gabri’el and the other prisoners were kneeling in the main square, surrounded by armed angels with their guns pointed and ready. Micha’el was still bound as he had been in the wood.

“Are you ready?” Uzzi’el asked. He sounded a little anxious. Passa’el smiled.

“Yes. I’m sorry I’ve been quiet but so much has happened. It’s a lot to take in.”

“I know. Come, let’s get this over so we can rest.”

Passa’el nodded and, hand in hand, with power building at every step, they strode towards the captives.

“Uzzy,” Gabri’el called out as soon as he saw them. “What is this? Why are you treating me like this? It’s him you should be punishing, not me. I—.”

“Be silent. You are as guilty as he is. I saw your mark all over that camp. You sold us out Gabri’el. You sold me out.”

“I let you down, I know it. Surely you’re not going to punish me just because I hurt you?”

“I’m going to punish you for hurting us all, Gabri’el. You betrayed you people, not me. You are as guilty as Micha’el and you will be punished with him.”

“Is this your justice? What about a fair hearing? The Council should—“

“You forget, Gabri’el, the Council has no power here and as for justice, what do you know about that? How many people have died because of your betrayal? What about justice for them?”

“But—“

“Enough.” Uzzi’el’s voice rang out clearly across the square, which was suddenly full of people, angels and humans alike. Gabri’el’s eyes widened as he found himself unable to speak.

Uzzi’el turned slowly in a circle. “Is there any who would deny my right to bring justice to these angels?”

Silence and stillness met his words and he nodded once. “So be it.”

Holding tightly to Passa’el’s hand Uzzi’el turned back to his captives. “We have thought carefully about what would be a fitting punishment. My mate would have us scatter your atoms to the four winds, but I would not have his soul marked by such an act. Therefore, we have come to a punishment that fits your crimes. We will strip you of everything that marks you angelic. Then we will let you go. When you leave this square you will do so as humans.”

Passa’el and Uzzi’el ignored the outraged cries of the sentenced angels and linked hands. Once more the rainbow coloured light poured from them and surrounded the prisoners. Soon their cries were silenced and they were lost in the maelstrom of colour.

After what seemed like a long time to those who watched, the two angles dropped hands and took a step back. All four prisoners were kneeling on the ground, their heads bowed, no longer bound. They looked – different.

Slowly Micha’el raised his head and glared at Uzzi’el, his eyes burning with anger and hatred that bordered on madness. He got to his feet and stumbled. Surprised, he looked down at himself, studying his hands as if they belonged to someone else.

“What have you done?” he growled, his voice low and threatening.

“What we said we would do. You are now human, Michael. Go learn what it’s like to be human. As your body grows old, remember what you have done and repent of your evil ways. If you can purify your heart sufficiently there may still be a place for you when your human body dies. If not, then you will turn to dust as you deserve.”

“No!” Gabri’el cried out. “Uzzy, please. Please don’t do this to me.”

“It’s done Gabriel.”

“Please, not this, not a human. I can’t stand it. I would rather die.”

“That’s in your hands now. Your life is yours to do with as you please. If you choose to take it then remember this – unless you redeem yourself your body will turn to dust and your soul will be freed to join with the universal source of life. Only if you work hard at being human and make yourself a good one, will you have a chance of regaining what you once were. Learn humility, Gabriel, or disappear forever.”

“You can’t do this to me. You can’t—.”

“As I said, we already have. Now leave. You may collect your belongings from the camp. If you wish you will be taken there and on to anywhere you please. After that you’re on your own. I’d wish you good luck if I didn’t think the words would be wasted.”

“As I said, we already have. Now leave. You may collect your belongings from the camp. If you wish you will be taken there and on to anywhere you please. After that you’re on your own. I’d wish you good luck if I didn’t think the words would be wasted.”

Gabriel continued to plead and curse while Micha’el and the other two angels remained silent. The two lesser angels appeared resigned to their fate but Micha’el was simmering, already plotting something. Passa’el had no confidence they’d make anything of their chance, neither did he have any doubts they would find a way back eventually. But that was for another time. For now, he put his arm around Uzzi’el and they turned away.

From the droop of his shoulders, Passa’el could tell Uzzi’el was as exhausted as he was. Ignoring the shouts and curses from behind them the two tired angels walked across the courtyard toward the low, L shaped building that was serving as headquarters for the rebel angels, who, it appeared were rebels no more.

By the time he registered the change in the tone of shouts and heard the crack of gunfire, Passa’el turned just in time to catch the flat of Micha’el’s hand in the middle of his chest, sending him staggering back a few steps.

“Uzzy,” he cried, too late, as Micha’el grabbed Uzzi’el and pulled him against him with a gun jammed against his ribs.

“Get back,” Micha’el called and the angels who had been running towards them slowed to a standstill. “If anyone so much as twitches, I’ll splatter his guts all over the courtyard.” He jabbed the gun sharply into Uzzi’el’s ribs, making him twitch and gasp.

“Let him go.” Passa’el knew full well Micha’el had no intention of letting Uzzi’el go, but he had to try. Uzzi’el smiled at him, his eyes alight with love. Even now.

Micha’el laughed. “Not a chance, little demon. Give me back my wings. Return what you took from me and I will return what I took from you.”

“I can’t.”

“Oh, I think you can.”

“Then you think wrong. We can, but I can’t.”

Micha’el frowned, considering. “Alright. Come closer. You can touch him but make a single false move and I’ll pull the trigger.”

Passa’el moved closer and took Uzzi’el’s hand. They gazed into each other’s eyes, non verbal messaged flying between them.

“Do it.”

Passa’el and Uzzi’el nodded in unison and the rainbow began to build.

“Don’t try pulling any stunts,” Micha’el growled, jabbing Uzzi’el again and making him cry out.

“If you keep doing that,” Uzzi’el said calmly. “I won’t be able to concentrate to do anything.”

“Get on with it.”

Uzzi’el took a deep breath and started to glow again. The rainbow grew and grew until it was blinding, obscuring each of them from each other and everyone else. Passa’el held tight to Uzzi’el’s hand and let him lead, following him along the paths and the currents of their own personal rainbow. It didn’t take long to realise that Uzzi’el had no intention of restoring Micha’el.

Passa’el fed his energy into his mate as Uzzi’el carefully spun it and gathered it ready to release into Micha’el. He was somewhat surprised that Uzzi’el intended to destroy him but he wasn’t about to argue after what Micha’el had done to him, to both of us.

What happened next was so fast Passa’el couldn’t really have said in precisely what order they came.

Uzzi’el got to the point where he was ready to release the energy into Micha’el, effectively atomising him and sending his essence back into the universal life source. At what must have been precisely the same moment Michael realised he was being deceived and pulled the trigger. There was an enormous, but silently contained explosion of energy that literally blasted Pasha off his feet. He flew backwards and landed so hard he was winded.

Struggling for air, he managed to roll over and raise his head. Uzzi’el was on his back in the dirt about two hundred yards away, but there was no sign of Micha’el.

Passa’el was in agony. He writhed on the ground, oblivious to everything but the pain. It was far more than he would have had just from falling on his back in the dust. What did it mean? Oh God, what did it mean? Fighting the pain he dragged himself to his knees. He was surrounded by people who were trying to help him. He wanted to scream at them. All he cared about was Uzzi’el. What was happening to him? Had Micha’el pulled the trigger before Uzzi’el blasted him? Where was the pain coming from? Was it from Uzzi’el.

As he got to his feet, the pain faded and he was able to stagger across the courtyard, thrusting people out of his way, until he got to the little knot of people who surrounded Uzzi’el. Breaking through, he fell to his knees and almost passed out when Uzzi’el raised his hand and grabbed Passa’el’s, holding it tight. A quick scan reassured Passa’el there was no blood.

“I’m sorry I hurt you. Are you alright?”

“I am now; now I know you’re okay.”

“Okay is such a relative word. I hurt like all hell.”

“Me too. What happened?”

“I think I drew in too much energy, and I didn’t account for the backlash.”

“What do you mean?”

Uzzi’el groaned as he and Passa’el helped each other to their feet. “I didn’t realise that when I threw all that energy at Micha’el the force of his deconstruction would surge back on me, on us.”

“Deconstruction?”

“Yes.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I deconstructed him. I did to him what he was going to do to you when you were in his hands. He is gone, his atoms scattered and reabsorbed by the life force of the universe.”

“He’s gone? It’s over?” Uzzi’el nodded but another voice interrupted.

“It’s not quite over yet. There is something you should see.”

The speaker, a woman in a red dress who Passa’el recognized slightly, took Uzzi’el’s arm and drew him away. Passa’el, of course, followed.

A little way away another knot of people stood around, staring at something on the ground. The woman pushed them out of the way. Passa’el gasped when he saw what it was. Uzzi’el pulled away from both of them and threw himself to his knees.

“Gabri’el.”

Gabri’el’s eyes fluttered and opened. He looked totally shocked.

“He…he was going to….” He stopped, choking on his words. Blood was trickling from the corner of his mouth. “He…jumped a guard. He had a gun and he….” He choked again. He was going to shoot you.”

“You…you stepped in front of a gun? You took a bullet? For me? Why?”

“Because….” Gabri’el gasped as a spasm of pain shook him. “Whatever you think I always…. I always…loved…you.”

“You loved me? You truly loved me?”

“Enough to…to…. Enough to die for. Oh dear God.” Gabri’el clasped Uzzi’el’s hand and brought it close to his chest, pressing it against the blood soaked shirt. “I’m dying, Uzzy. I’m dying.”

Tears splashed on their entwined hands as Uzzi’el stared into Gabri’el’s face. “Yes,” he whispered.

“I’m scared, Uzzy. I never thought….”

“No. Neither did I.”

“I wish…. I wish I’d had a chance to prove….to show…. I wish I could have shown you how much I love you. If I could turn back time….”

“I know. Now I know.”

“If I could have…. I thought…. Everything I did…I thought it was for the best. I thought I was doing the right thing…for us. I never thought…. I thought… I thought that when it was over, when everything had settled you’d realise how much I love you, how I only ever had the best at heart. I thought we’d…. that…. that….” Pain stole his words and he coughed thick blood over his chest. “Uzzy,” he cried in panic.

Uzzi’el was panicking too, Passa’el could feel it. As much as he’s despised Gabri’el it was terrible to see him in so much pain and it was clear that he really did love Uzzi’el in his own way. Without prompting, Passa’el reached out for the rainbow energy and carefully shaped it before letting it leak slowly into Gabri’el, soothing his pain and fear.

Gabri’el’s beautiful blue eyes slid past Uzzi’el to light on Passa’el in shock. “You….” he whispered. “You…help…why?”

“Because he’s my world.” He knew he had no need to say more, so he didn’t.

Gabri’el nodded and tried to say something but he couldn’t. As Passa’el watched a spasm of pain sent a deep shudder through his body. He took one, deep breath and then his eyes glazed and his hand slipped from Uzzi’el’s.

“No,” Uzzi’el cried. “Gabriel, no.”

Passa’el gripped his shoulder and continued to carefully pour the energy into Gabri’el. At some point, Uzzi’el must have realised what he was doing, because he gasped and looked up into his eyes. He wanted to smile, but he was too deep into the process.

Eventually, when he was confident, he’d poured in enough energy and he thought he could see Gabri’el’s body shimmering slightly, he severed the connection and stepped back. Uzzi’el threw his arms around him and hugged him tight. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“You told me I’m not the one who kills. You took Micha’el’s life and I….”

Gasps from the watching crowd snapped their attention back to Gabri’el, except he wasn’t there anymore. His empty clothes lay, just bloody rags on the ground, a shimmering mist of rainbow colours slowly rising from them. All eyes followed the mist upwards to where it gathered to make a semi-solid image of an angel, his wings spread behind him. The angel was beautiful, its face serene. The lips curved into a smile, then the wings shivered and the figure rose like a bullet into the clear sky.

“What happens now?” Uzzi’el asked, his eyes still on the sky.

“He’ll go home. We’ll meet again one day soon.”

“No,” Uzzi’el said, turning back to Passa’el, “I meant with us.”

“What do you mean? What happens with us? We go on. We learn. We live. We love. We become one as we were always meant to be.”

Uzzy took Pasha’s hand and looked into his eye. “But we are not as we were. You know nothing but your earthly life. You have ties now that bind you to the earth, and I…. We have not won the war, Pasha, my love. We have won a battle only. A great battle it’s true but the real war is in Eden now. Micha’el is gone but the host is still there. I have an army to lead.

“I have to leave earth, Pasha and I may very well never come back. I can’t ask you to leave your family, your friends and everything you’ve ever known and follow me into a war that isn’t yours.”

He looked so sad, so scared that Pasha couldn’t help but smile. He cupped Uzzy’s face in his hand and lifted it to gaze into his eyes.

“What ties I had are meaningless beside the ties I have with you. You’re my mate Uzzy, my soulmate and I would follow you to the ends of the universe. All I ask is time to speak to my brother and explain, then I will follow you wherever you go.”

Tears sprang to Uzzy’s eyes and he smiled a smile that dazzled Pasha. “I love you, my mate. I have always loved you, but never more than I do in this moment.”

“And I love you, my mate. I forgot you for such a long time and I want to re learn every little thing about you. I want to know what makes you laugh, what makes you cry and…” he kissed Uzzy deeply and whispered, “…what makes you scream.”

“Oh, you knew how to make me scream,” Uzzy said breathlessly.

“And I will again. How soon do you have to leave?”

“We can afford to take a few days. Others will begin to pack the camp for our return to Eden. Would you like to spend some time with your family?”

“You are my family and I would like to spend as much time as I can with you. We have a lot to learn about each other.”

“Re learn.”

“Oh yes. I’m sure it will come easier as time passes. The re learning that is.”

Uzzy smiled shyly. “Can we begin to re learn very soon?”

“Can we visit my brother and say goodbye. After that I’m all yours. No ties but you.”

“Give me half an hour to get things moving here?”

“As long as you want. We have all the time in the world.”

“I only wish we did.”

****

Lukas looked shocked when he opened the door, but he only hesitated a moment before throwing himself at his brother and taking him into his arms.

“Dear God, Pasha, we’ve been so worried. I honestly thought we’d never see you again.”

“Trust me Lukas, there were times when I thought that too.”

“Pasha!” Anna nudged past Lukas and hugged him too.

Pasha gently pulled away and smiled at her. “Aren’t you going to ask us in?”

“Of course, of course. Come in.”

Anna hurried Pasha and Uzzy into the living room and fussed around them. Lukas simply sat and watched. When Anna had gone Pasha began to feel uncomfortable with his scrutiny and silence.

“You’ve come to say goodbye, haven’t you?” Lukas said at last.

“Yes.”

“Will I ever see you again?”

“it’s not very likely.”

“You’re going with him then? To… wherever angels come from.”

Pasha nodded. “Yes.”

“Will they let you in? A human?”

“Well… that’s the thing. It seems I’m not exactly human at all.”

“What do you mean?”

Pasha exchanged glances with Uzzy who nodded, knowing what he was asking and what he was intending  without even a thought.

Getting to his feet, Pasha stretched out his arms and concentrated. The great dark wings manifested and spread from his shoulders. Lukas yelped and drew back. There was a crash and, when Pasha turned his head it was to see Anna in the doorway, the tray of tea at her feet amidst broken china. Pasha turned towards her and the tip of his wing knocked an ornament off the fireplace. It smashed against the hearth.

“Shit. I’m sorry.” He immediately de-manifested his wings and hurried to help Anna clear the mess. She stood still and stared at him, looking frightened. Pasha took her hand and she flinched. “Don’t be afraid of me, Anna, please. I’m just the same as I always was.”

“How can you say that? You have wings.

“Yes, but the wings aren’t the important part. My heart’s what’s important and that’s just the same as it always was, it loves you just as much.”

For a moment Anna continued to stare, then she threw her arms around him and held him close. “Oh dear God, Pasha, I love you and I always will, no matter who you are or what you become. I always said you’re an angel.”

Pasha smiled and hugged her back. “Thank you,” he said.

“So… are you two… together now?”

“Yes, very together.”

“Then I’m happy for you.”

“He’s leaving,” Lukas said dully.

“Well of course he’s leaving. This is no place for an angel.”

“We’ll never see him again.”

Anna smiled sadly. She ran in to embrace her husband. “Maybe not,” she said, “but he’ll always be close, won’t you darling.”

“I’ll always be thinking of you and I’ll always hold you in my heart. I swear. And if the opportunity ever arises I will come back to visit.”

“I won’t hold my breath for that.”

“No.”

Suddenly, Lukas sniffed and grabbed Pasha dragging him into a tight embrace. “Take care of yourself.” He looked up at Uzzy. “Take care of him or I’ll track you down and rip your heart out.”

“He is my heart,” Uzzy said.

After a moment Lukas smiled and nodded.

After saying goodbye to Anna and Lukas, they went straight back to headquarters, hoping for some time to be together. However, as soon as they arrived they were met by someone with a problem. Uzzy was whisked away to solve it, leaving Pasha alone and at a loose end.

That was the pattern for the next few days. Someone would come with a problem only Uzzy could resolve and he always went with good grace, leaving Pasha gnashing his teeth in frustration. On the rare occasions he attended meetings with Uzzy he was bored to tears

It was late and Pasha was furious. Uzzy had been gone for hours and the meal he’d spent ages preparing was all but spoiled. He was almost at the stage of pacing when the door opened and Uzzy slouched in.  After one glance Pasha’s anger dissolved. Uzzy looked exhausted, his skin grey and his eyes sunken. A twinge of guilt shot through him that he’d been angry with his mate for being late for a meal, when he’d been somewhere leading a fight for freedom.

Pasha had to admit he didn’t understand the politics Uzzy was so passionate about. He had very few memories of his time as Passa’el, the angel of death, soulmate to Uzzi’el, the angel of mercy.. He knew they came from a place called Eden, where they lived in a great white city on a cliff overlooking a fertile valley. Uzzy had talked about lush terraces of olive groves and flower gardens, but he didn’t remember them.

Uzzy had talked about a lot of things, and always with such passion. Half the time Pasha was too caught up in the beauty of his eyes or the brightness of his smile to really listen to his words, and when he did he didn’t

understand them.

Apparently, Eden was ruled by a Council who had absolute power. Uzzy, and those who followed him, believed they were corrupt and out-dated. They ruled every level of society with an iron fist, backed by the fearsome Host, their army of warrior angels which used to be led by Micha’el. Pasha had shuddered at the thought there might be more like him, but had no real understanding of what it would be like to face and army of them.

Uzzy was fighting for freedom, for a new Council of honourable men who had the interests of the people at heart and not the acquisition of personal wealth and power gained at the expense of the populace. In all honesty, Pasha had no idea if this was a just fight or purely the idealism of a disenchanted sector of society.

The fight for Earth and humanity had been a ‘cause’ that had been taken up by the rebel angels but, again, Pasha had no idea how legitimate it was, or how significant in the grand scheme of things. Uzzy had spent hours patiently explaining and Pasha had listened with only half an ear.

One thing he was sure of, however, was that Uzziel believed absolutely in the cause and threw himself at it tirelessly. He was very proud of his mate and it hurt him to see him so exhausted and dejected.

Despite his obvious exhaustion, Uzzy’s eyes lit up when he saw the feast Pasha had prepared for him and threw himself into his arms with a cry of delight. Gasping from the kisses Uzzy showered over him, Pasha laughed and held him back a little so he could look into his beloved face.

“It’s the least I could do, my love. You work too hard and you need to be taken care of.”

“Oh, but it’s half spoiled and you worked so hard.”

“Not as hard as you. If you’re not careful you’ll be too exhausted to lead once we get back to Eden.”

Uzzy sighed. “I know, but what can I do? There’s so much to take care of.”

“Then delegate others to take care of it.”

“I’d love to but you’d be surprised how quickly people disappear when there’s a chance they might be asked to do something and those who stick around are as busy and tired as I am.”

“I wish I could be of more help.”

“Do you have any idea how much you already help, just being here? You’re never going to be a great politician but that’s fine, because I am. Your skills lie in different places.” He highlighted his words by pressing his body against Pasha’s.

“Oh so that’s it,” Pasha said, a laugh taking the sting out of his words. “I’m to be a play toy for the mighty leader, spending all my time making sure everything is just so for him when he returns after a hard day saving the world.”

The smile disappeared from Uzzy’s face. “Is that what you think?”

Pasha was about to say ‘no’ when he paused. “No-oh, not really, but I do feel kind of out of place and redundant.”

“Redundant? That couldn’t be further from the truth. I need you Pasha. I need you so much and you’ll find your place when we get home.”

“Home? You mean Eden. It’s not home to me, Uzzy. I don’t remember ever being there. I don’t even know what it looks like.”

“Oh, I forgot.  Come here.” Uzzy dragged him over to the table under the window. He took a flat tablet out of his pocket and laid it on the table. His fingers flew over its surface and Pasha saw strange golden glyphs appear and then, suddenly, the image of a mountain in 3D. On one side it fell in sheer cliffs into a beautiful valley and on the other it meandered more gently in a series of terraces. At the top of the mountain was a great city that gleamed in the bright light, brilliant white.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Pasha breathed.

“Hmm. It seems that way doesn’t it. But don’t be deceived, Pasha my love. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.”

Uzzy seemed so sad as he sat staring at the shimmering white city, Pasha put his arm around his shoulder. Uzzy turned and rested his head on Pasha’s chest. “The truth is,” he said, “I’ve no idea what it’s like there now. The whole place is in turmoil. All kinds of factions have come out of the closet. Discontent is widespread and the shit is hitting the fan everywhere to coin one of your colourful human phrases.

“The last time I was there it was chaos. That’s how they got me. Gabri’el was—.” He broke of and shook his head, his face still resting on Pasha’s chest.

“Did they hurt you very much?”

“Yes. I thought I was going to die. I wanted to die.”

“I’m glad you didn’t.” Pasha’s voice was soft and gentle but he burned with anger on the inside, that anyone would hurt his beautiful and gentle mate. He’d forgiven Gabri’el after his act of self sacrifice but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be angry with him. Gently, he lifted Uzzy’s head and kissed him.

Uzzy smiled up into his face, his eyes looking slightly dazzled. “So am I,” he said, breathlessly.

“Are you hungry?”

“Yes, but it can wait.”

Pasha smiled at the tone in his voice. “Wait for what?”

“First, I want to eat you.”

“Oh no you don’t. Once I get you into bed I don’t intend to let you get out again. This wouldn’t be the first time you skipped eating because you fell asleep after sex. I’m going to make sure your tummy is full before I lick it.”

Uzzy shivered and gave him a blatantly dirty smile. Sucking in his bottom lip, he danced away from Pasha and picked up a peach from the table. Taking a big bite, he closed his eyes and let his head fall back, ignoring the juice that ran over his chin. Taking another bite, he squeezed the peach so juice fell on his face. Pasha shivered, clenching his fists to stop himself grabbing Uzzy and taking him there and then.

“Full tummy,” Uzzy, or no playtime.” Pasha said, trying to sound severe.

Uzzy took another bite of the peach, then lifted his shirt and rubbed the juicy fruit over the tight skin of his belly. He circled his belly button, then worked lower, nudging the band of his trousers downward as he descended.

Pasha licked his lips, his self control wobbling wildly. He was getting hot, hard and distinctly uncomfortable. He was about to snatch the peach out of Uzzy’s hand and force meat between his lips when Uzzy changed tack and moved upwards instead. When he started to rub the peach on his nipple Pasha could stand it no longer. Eating the distance between them in two steps Pasha swept his mate off his feet, with a low growl. Uzzy laughed and threw his arms around Pasha’s neak.

“You wanted to lick me so I made me sweet and sticky for you.”

“You’re always sweet and I have my own ways of making you sticky. But you are not going into the bedroom until you’ve eaten.”

Holding Uzzy tight against him, Pasha sank onto a chair, keeping Uzzy captive on his lap. With Uzzy laughing and kicking, Pasha grabbed a piece of meat and fed it to his squirming mate.

“Keep still. If I drop you I’ll sit on you. you’re going nowhere until you’ve eaten.”

“You too,” Uzzy said, pouting and selected a grape, popping it into Pasha’s mouth. Pasha rolled it around, letting first the grape, then his tongue appear between parted lips. Then he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Uzzy’s which opened to accept the fruit. Before the grape had passed between them, Pasha bit and it burst into both mouths.

Uzzy moaned and impatiently swallowed the grape to free his tongue to lap at Pasha’s lips before plunging deep into his mouth. He squealed with disappointment when Pasha withdrew and offered him another piece of meat.

“It’s not fair. Don’t start if you’re not going to follow through.”

“Oh, I’m going to follow through but not until you’ve eaten.”

Grumbling, Uzzy subsided and allowed Pasha feed him meat and cheese. When Pasha picked up a couple of peaches Uzzy groaned. “I’ve eaten enough.”

“Oh, these aren’t for eating,” Pasha said, his voice husky.

Uzzy’s eyes lit up and he slung his arms around Pasha’s neck and kissed him. “Carry me,” he demanded.

“You’ll have to get off and let me stand first.”

“Nu huh.”

“I’ll drop you on your arse if I have to.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Try me.”

“Oh…” Glowering at Pasha, Uzzy got to his feet and allowed Pasha to stand.

Pasha laughed at him. “Oh dear, is the big bad leader of the revolution pouting because he isn’t getting what he wants?”

Uzzy glared, then grinned. “Yes,” he said, “so give it to me, now.”

“Oh, I’m going to give it to you alright.” Pasha handed the peaches to Uzzy and scooped him up again.

Pasha carried his mate into the bedroom and dumped him on the bed. Before Uzzy could complain Pasha threw himself on top of him and kissed him.

“Mmm,” Uzzy said, squirming. “You’re squashing the peaches.”

“Mhm.”

Wriggling down, Pasha, nudged up Uzzy’s shirt and, crushing one of the peaches in his hand, rubbed the flesh into Uzzy’s skin. Uzzy moaned and arched his back. He moaned again when Pasha started to lick the sticky juice. Squirming, Uzzy whimpered. “Lower,” he begged.

Pasha slipped Uzzy’s trousers down over his hips and Uzzy kicked them off. Pasha took the remaining peach and held it to Uzzy’s lips. Uzzy raised his head and took a bite. He chewed the juicy flesh, giving Pasha a hot look and licking his lips. The look dropped off his face and he fell back with a deep moan, when Pasha dribbled peach juice over his cock and began to lick.

Uzzy had never looked so beautiful, spread out under him, feverish and trembling. His back was arched, his skin slick with peach flavoured sweat. The little squeaks and whimpers that slipped from his lips drove Pasha insane, as did the taste of Uzzy’s weeping seed on his tongue.

Pasha felt privileged to know this wonderful man and even more privileged to have him helpless and moaning under him.

“More. More.” Uzzy groaned and Pasha took him further into his mouth, sucking harder and harder, making Uzzy’s hips rise from the bed.

“Oh fuck, oh hell, stop. Stop now. I don’t want….”

Immediately Pasha responded to his lover’s wishes and began to lick his way back up Uzzy’s heaving body.

“Hell lover, if that’s what it’s like not to come, I don’t think I’ll survive orgasm tonight.” Uzzy gasped.

“You’ll survive. You’ve survived worse and haven’t exploded yet.”

Uzzy smiled his bright, beautiful smile. “I’m tired tonight.”

“Then rest and let me do all the work.”

“That’s not fair.”

“You’ve done enough for me, for everyone. Relax.”

Silencing Uzzy with a soft kiss, Pasha lay beside him and Uzzy turned to face him.

“Close your eyes,” Pasha whispered and when Uzzy complied, Pasha kissed him, while his hand roved over his side and hip. Uzzy sighed with contentment. “Do you like that?”

“Yes.”

For a few minutes, Pasha kissed Uzzy, moving from his lips to his neck and over his shoulder, while his hand caressed his curves and ran the tips of his fingers of the soft skin of his belly. With a loud moan, Uzzy rolled over and arched his back, seeking more contact on his sensitive abdomen. Pasha smiled slowly and lowered his head to swirl his tongue around Uzzy’s belly button eliciting a moan as a shudder rippled through the muscles of his abdomen.

“I love you,” Pasha whispered against his skin and continued to kiss over his belly and upwards to suck on his nipple. Uzzy squeaked and Pasha laughed running his hand over Uzzy’z twitching belly, over his hip and around his thigh. Uzzy’s hips thrust upwards. “Easy,” Pasha whispered and teased the sensitive skin of his inner thigh.

Uzzy’s breathing was hitching and he grunted, with a deep shudder, when Pasha gently gripped his balls.

“Pasha, I can’t stand it anymore. Please.”

“I thought you wanted to take it slow.”

“I changed my mind. Oh God please. Please do it. Harder.”

“Seeing as you asked so nicely.” Pasha pressed himself against Uzzy’s side, rubbing his erection on his mate’s leg as he stroked long and slow.

“More. More.” Uzzy thrust into his hand and Pasha started to tremble, his own groin aching with desire as Uzzy tossed and moaned, his hips twisting and thrusting, seeking more…more…more.

Uzzy’s whimpers were coming thick and fast and he was trembling violently. The end was close and Pasha sealed his lips over Uzzy’s as he squeezed a little tighter and….

“My Lord, I—. Oh. Oh shit. I’m sorry. I…I’m so—.”

“What the hell do you want? Don’t you ever knock! Why can’t you leave him alone for one night, just one night?”

“I…I’m s…sorry, My Lord but…but there’s news, news from home.”

Uzzy sat up, not bothering to try to cover himself. “What news?”

“Insurrection, My Lord. The Council’s fallen.”

“But who…? By whose hand?”

“No one knows, My Lord but… they’ve sent a request for you to join them for discussions in Eden.”

“You can’t go,” Pasha said immediately. “It’s a trap.”

“I have to.”

“Uzzy…”

“This is it. This is what we fought for. Whoever brought the Council down is powerful and we can’t fight something we don’t know. If they’ve asked to speak to me, I have to go.”

“It’s a trap.”

“Maybe, but I can at least get information back that will help the others fight.”

“The others wouldn’t be able to fight their way out of a paper bag without you.”

“Maybe so. I’m still going.”

“I’ll go. I’ll test it out, see if it’s safe.”

“And have them hold you as hostage if it is a trap? That would be even more dangerous.”

“I’m coming with you.”

Uzzy paused, then nodded. “It’s safer if we’re together.”

“Give us a minute to get dressed.”

“Yes, My Lord.” The flaming faced angel disappeared and Uzzy collapsed back onto the bed. He looked so tired, pale with dread.

“I’ll be with you.”

Uzzy smiled and nodded but Pasha could see the reassurance didn’t give him much comfort.

Ten minutes later they were standing in the square. “My Lord, at least take a guard.”

“If their assurances are genuine I won’t need them. If not, a guard won’t save me and we’ll lose men we need for the fight. Pasha and I will go alone.”

“How will we get there?”

“The way we always do.” He turned to one of the advisors. “Do you have the co ordinates.” The elderly man nodded and handed something to Uzzy, which he held tight in his hand. Holding Pasha’s in the other he looked at him nervously, then nodded. “We go up.”

Pasha nodded and unfurled his wings, as Uzzy did the same. Following his mate Pasha shot straight upwards. Suddenly a blazing light surrounded them. He felt a strange sensation, as if he was being turned inside out, then the light died and they were… somewhere else.

Spread out below their feet was the streets and houses of a great city and Uzzy was descending towards it fast. Pasha had little time to look around before their feet touched the pavement in front of an enormous pair of doors set in the wall of a towering building, faced in white marble.

Holding tight to each other’s hand they exchanged glances and were about to move forward when the doors opened. A bright light shone out and all they saw was the towering shadow of an angel, his wings spread wide and a flaming sword in his hand.

Moving closer to each other Pasha and Uzzy joined hands, ready to unleash their power, then the angel stepped forward.

“Gabri’el,” Uzzy gasped.

Gabri’el smiled, then dropped to one knee, holding the sword, point down, in front of him. “My Lord,” he said.

“What are you doing? Get up. What’s going on?”

“The host is yours, My Lord. The Council has fallen and Eden is secured – for you.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

Gabri’el raised his head and smiled. “You gave me my life, Uzzy, and I give you Eden. I think we’re even now.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“What is there to understand? When I ascended from the field I found myself back in Eden. I went straight to the host and took command in Micha’el’s place. There was some dissention but the majority were with me, as sick of the corruption in Eden as anyone. We quickly subdued the dissenters, then turned on the Council. They didn’t have a chance against the host. There are some pockets of resistance still but we’re mopping them up quickly. Almost everyone was glad to see the Council fall, and almost everyone is happy to see you in charge of forming a new one, a just one. The people trust you, Uzzy. Between us, we can build a new world.”

Uzzy glanced at Pasha, who was utterly shocked.

“The war is over?” Pasha asked.

“It is, and you are triumphant.”

“Me?”

Gabriel smiled again. “You are seen as one now, a single entity almost. You’d better get used to it. When we speak of Uzzi’el we include Passa’el too.”

“So when you said, ‘between us, we can build a new world’ you meant me too?” Relief washed through him that he wouldn’t have to compete with this beautiful man for the love of his mate.

Before Gabri’el could speak Uzzy turned to him. “There is no us without you. You don’t have to worry, I’m yours and only yours, isn’t that obvious yet? You don’t have to compete with anyone. There is no one but you.”

“How did you know what I was thinking?”

“I didn’t, but I knew what you were feeling. And I know the relief you feel now. We are one, my love and

always will be.”

“Oh, how touching. I have always adored pure declarations of love. They feed my soul in so many ways.”

Pasha and Uzzy spun around at the voice from behind, and felt Gabri’el rise and stand at their shoulder.

“Who are you?”

“All in good time, my dears. The important thing right now is not who I am but who you are. You’ve come a long way, but you have so much further to go before you are ready to truly lead your people. You have connections to make that have long been broken and you can’t do it as you currently are. You have the grounding but not the higher purpose.

“Pasha, you are grounded in the earth, your time among the humans giving you insights into the nature of the body and mind.

“Gabri’el, you are grounded in the heavens. Your experiences in transcending death have given you insights into the nature of the soul.

“But you, my dear Uzzi’el, are destined for more. You are the one who connects and binds, and you will do that. At present you are two but you must become three. Only then can you truly connect with the Source and become the immense force you have always been destined to be. Every step of your journey has been part of a plan that comes to fruition very soon. Your destinies have converged and now they must transcend.

“The body and soul must receive their heart, a heart that is pure and beats out the rhythm of time and space, transcending heaven and earth and reaching out into the heart of the stars where this story truly began.

You’re not ready yet, Uzzi’el, not pure enough and not strong enough. You must come with me to complete your education while you true mates continue to secure this place for your return.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.” Uzzy drew closer to Pasha and their hands locked, already glowing with the beginning of their power. Gabri’el put his hand protectively on his shoulder and all three felt a bolt of energy shoot through them, a connection that awoke places inside them they’d never been aware of. In that instant the realised that at least part of what the strange man said was true – they were one, all three of them were one. They thought with one mind, felt with one body, loved with one heart.

“Oh well done,” the man said, clapping his hands. “I’m so glad you got that resolved before you left.”

“I told you. I’m not going anywhere with you. Who the hell are you?”

“Me? I’m no one. I don’t exist, I am merely the physical manifestation of the Source, the universe, the life force, if you will.”

“You’re God?”

“Good grief, no. You are your own gods, my dears, never more so than now, and you will be more. Destiny, is a different thing, altogether. Uzzi’el will explain, when he returns.”

“I’m not going anywhere with—.”

Uzzi’el broke off as the man held out his hand. A strange fizzing sensation passed through Pasha emanating from Uzzi’el’s fingers, and then, without ever letting go of his hand, Uzzie’l walked away, down the steps, until he reached the man and took his hand. He turned and stared at Pasha, calling to him without a voice. He tried to pull away, to run back, but the man held tight and they faded to nothing.

It had all been so real, so… very real, that Pasha was about to run down the steps after them when he realised he was still holding Uzzy’s hand. He turned to look at his lover as Uzzi’el’s empty eyes rolled upwards and he collapsed at his feet.

“Uzzy!” Pasha threw himself to the ground next to his stricken mate. Uzzy was completely unresponsive. He was breathing but only just and, when Pasha pressed his ear to his chest his heart was beating very slowly.

“Don’t just stand there,” Pasha cried to Gabri’el. “Help me. Help him.”

Gabri’el looked shocked. He stood, frozen, staring at Uzzy.

“Gabri’el, snap out of it. We have to help Uzzy. I’m scared. He might be dying.”

“He’s not dying,” Gabri’el said flatly.

“How do you know?”

“He’s not dying.” Gabri’el seemed to shake himself mentally and his eyes came to life. “Can you carry him?”

“Yes, of course. To the ends of the earth if I have to.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

Carefully, Pasha lifted Uzzy in his arms, terrified of his stillness. What had happened to him? Who was that man? Where had he taken him? What was he doing to him?”

Pasha was about to walk toward the doors when Gabriel said, “Not there. Bring him.”

Pasha followed Gabri’el down the steps, cradling Uzzy carefully, periodically looking into his beautiful face and praying he’d see some sign of life. He reached out constantly with his senses through the bond but there was nothing. It was as if it had never been.

Gabri’el led him across an empty square and along a short street to a rather grand house. “Hang on a

minute.” Gabri’el slid aside a panel beside the door and pressed his hand against it. The door swung silently open. “This way.”

The house was large and cool, with high ceilings and spacious rooms. They climbed a rather ornate staircase to a grand bedroom. Pasha’s attention was drawn to an amazing tapestry of a peacock which hung over the bed. Without prompting, Pasha laid Uzzy on the bed. “He’s freezing cold.”

“Take off his clothes and get him into bed,” Gabriel said. “I’ll get some heated pads.”

Lovingly, Pasha stripped Uzzy and rubbed his body, trying to warm it. He might as well have banged his head against the wall.

“What’s the matter with him?” he asked when Gabri’el returned. “He’s so cold.”

Gabri’el shook his head and heaped velvet covered pillows around Uzzy. When Pasha touched one it was hot.

“I don’t know,” Gabri’el said. He sounded thoroughly miserable.

“Who the hell was that man?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him before.”

Pasha tucked the covers around Uzzy then lay down beside him, gently stroking his face and hair. “Do you have any idea what he was talking about?”

Again, Gabri’el shook his head.

“What did he mean about us? About you being part of our bond?”

“I don’t know,” Gabriel said miserably. Suddenly he spun and punched the wall, so hard he made a hole.

“Fucking hell! I feel so fucking helpless and I can’t do a damn thing about it. I can’t help him.”

“Calm down. We’ll figure something out.”

“How? Neither of us have a clue who that man is or what he’s done to Uzzy. Where do we look for him?

Where do we start?” Gabri’el’s voice was rising and he was clearly very angry.

“There’s no point getting mad, Gabri’el. We have to think this through. There must be somewhere you can search for that man. A library? A data base? You must have the internet, or something like it. What about the Council?”

“The Council’s gone,” Gabri’el snapped.

“Alright, what about those who took over?”

“Maybe.”

“I can’t help but think,” Pasha said thoughtfully, “that this is a ruse, a clever way of separating us. Together we’re a force to be reckoned with. Without Uzzy, I’m nothing.”

“You have me,” Gabri’el said, his tone quite different.

“Let’s get one thing clear. No matter what that man said I can’t and won’t accept you as my mate, at least not until Uzzy is here. I don’t feel anything for you?”

Gabri’el stared at him, then stared at Uzzy. “I won’t lie. I don’t feel anything for you either. There was something… a connection when we touched but it’s gone and frankly I don’t want to rekindle it. Uzzy….”

Gabri’el shook his head. “It’s no secret how I feel about him, but he’s yours and I’ve accepted it, I’ve had to.”

Gabriel drifted to the side of the bed and gazed down at Uzzy. With that tender expression on his face he was even more beautiful. The archangel was flawless and in other circumstances he would have taken

Pasha’s breath away.

Gabri’el’s lips trembled and he reached out to brush his fingers across Uzzy’s lips. “I can’t do this,” he said and abruptly turned away. “Take care of him.”

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“To look for answers.”

“What about me? What about him?”

“You’re safe here.”

“I can’t just sit here. I have to do something.”

“I have a private library, and I have access to the data base. I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble working out the password.”

“But—.” It was too late. Gabri’el had gone, leaving Pasha alone.  Pasha continued to stroke Uzzy’s face, which got no warmer. Neither did any other part of him, despite the warm pillows.

“I… can’t just sit here, my love. I have to do something. I have to try. I’ll be right here, in the room. I’m not going anywhere. If you need me just…reach out.” Bending down, he kissed Uzzy on the lips. It made him shudder.

Pacing the room, Pasha located a computer console but was too restless to sit down and use it. Pausing in front of a window he gazed out into a street that was busier than any he’d yet seen. The window looked

down onto a commercial area, with stalls and hawkers. People wandered around, examining the wares.

Maybe he’d go take a look sometime. Suddenly it hit him. He could leave the house, but he needed Gabri’el’s handprint to get back in. There was no way he could leave Uzzy alone. He was effectively a prisoner.

Pasha was furious with himself that he’d allowed this to happen. He should have thought of it before he stepped over the threshold. Had Gabri’el thought about it? Was he aware of what he’d done? More and more Pasha was becoming convinced they’d walked into a trap after all. Together, he and Uzzy were unstoppable but now…. He stood at the side of the bed and looked down.

If he allowed himself to be honest, Uzzy looked dead. His skin was cold and had a blue-ish tinge, especially around the mouth. Nothing Pasha could do warmed him. Even the hot pillows Gabri’el had brought made no difference and turned cold quickly. He’d tried lying next to him under the covers and warming him with his own body but that had only made Pasha cold and not warmed Uzzy at all. It almost seemed as if he was sucking warmth out of his surroundings and Pasha wouldn’t have been surprised to see ice forming on him.

Trailing his finger over Uzzy’s cheek, Pasha shuddered. He was cold as marble. A hideously beautiful statue.

“Dammit.”

Striding across the room, Pasha threw himself into the computer chair and booted up. There was no way he could sit for any length of time just watching Uzzy and the clock or he would go insane. Whether or not he found anything useful on the computer, at least it would keep his mind occupied for a time.

When prompted for a password Pasha frowned. Gabri’el had said he wouldn’t have any trouble guessing it, but that was all well and good when you weren’t sitting in front of the screen with a mind blank of everything but fear. All he could thing about was Uzzy.

On an impulse, Pasha typed in ‘Uzziel’ and the password was accepted. Of course. Just great.

Once into the computer, Pasha had no idea where to go next. He typed a few random key words and phrases but nothing came up.

“Pasha.”

Pasha spun at the sound of his name, but there was no one there.

“Who’s there?” He was met with nothing but silence. Shivering, he turned back to the computer and carried on randomly searching.

“Pasha.”

This time the voice was so close and so loud he leaped from his chair and spun, ready to fight. But still there was no one. The room seemed to have gone very cold and he rubbed his arms. Suddenly, he was frightened. Was the man who had taken Uzzy coming for him now? Why? Had he finished with Uzzy? Was he…?

Pasha ran to the bed and bent over Uzzy. As much as he hated to touch his cold skin, Pasha pressed his ear to Uzzy’s chest and almost fainted when he heard the faint but steady thump of his heart. He stood and laid his hand on Uzzy’s chest.

“I’m going insane,” he said softly. “This is driving me mad.”

“Pasha.”

Suddenly, with shocking awareness, Pasha realised the voice was coming, not from the room behind him, but inside his head.

“Uzzy? Is that you?”

“Pasha.”

Pasha looked down at his mate. Uzzy’s eyes were closed, the lids still and blue. There were no signs of life and when Pasha tried to find their connection there was nothing.

“Pasha.”

“Alright,” he snapped. “I’m listening. What am I supposed to do?”

Looking around a room that suddenly seemed sinister, Pasha shivered. “Uzzy, we’re in trouble here. We’re prisoners in Gabri’el’s house and I don’t think he’s our mate, and I don’t think he’s innocent in this. We did walk into a trap. That’s right isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

This time the voice was definitely not inside his head and he spun with a snarl. “What do you know?”

Gabri’el looked dreadful. He was almost as pale as Uzzy and his hair was disheveled as if he’d been running his hands through it repeatedly.

“I didn’t want to be involved, Pasha, I swear. If I’d known they were going to hurt him I’d never have—.”

Pasha flew across the room, grabbed Gabri’el by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the wall.

“What do you know?”

“Nothing. Not much. I… When I…. When I came back they were waiting for me. I don’t know who they are. Not the Council. I don’t even know if they’re angels.”

“Human?”

“Hell no.”

“Then what?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been trying to find out but I can’t…. I….”

“And you led us into a trap?”

“No. Yes. I didn’t know it was a trap. They’ve crushed the Council and have all the civil unrest under control. They seemed…genuine. They said…they said they know about you – you and him – that you’re special and they wanted to talk to you. I agreed to get you here, but I swear I thought it was only to talk.”

“Then why all that bullshit about handing Eden over to Uzzy.”

“It’s what they told me to say. I didn’t know they were going to do this. I swear I didn’t know.”

“Who was that man?”

“One of them.”

“And all that bullshit about being our own gods and about Uzzy…coming into his destiny…?”

“I don’t know. I’d never heard any of it before. I swear Pasha, I thought they were going to talk to you. Just talk to you.”

“And where are they now?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been to Council Chamber but there’s no one there. I tried every method they gave me to contact me but they’re all offline.”

“I bet. They’ve got what they want.”

“Pasha.”

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Someone calling my name.”

“No.”

Turning his back on Gabri’el, Pasha walked back to the bed and took Uzzy’s hand. “Baby, please. Show me how to get to you. Give me some kind of opening. Something.”

“Pasha.”

“Is that you? Is it? What do you want? What do you want me to do?”

Uzzy’s eyes opened and Pasha recoiled. They were completely white. “Help.”

Pasha gazed into the eyes of the man he loved, desperate to find some sign of life, but there was nothing. The white eyes were blank and unseeing. After uttering that one word Uzzy had been still and silent and no amount of pleading or urging had elicited the slightest response.

“Have you tried making a connection?” Gabri’el’s anxious voice asked at his shoulder.

Pasha turned and glared at him. “This is your fault. You did this to him. You’ve got no right to make suggestions; no right to be here.”

“This is my house,” Gabri’el pointed out.

“Thanks for the reminder. Trust me, as soon as we can we’ll be out of here and you’ll be out of our lives forever.”

“I deserve that, but—.”

“Too right you deserve it. Just get out and leave us alone.”

“He’s dying, Pasha,” Gabri’el said very softly. “Can’t you feel it?”

“No, I can’t, because it isn’t true.”

“You can’t because you don’t want it to be true.” Gabri’el’s hand fell onto Pasha’s shoulder and the world changed. Everything but the three of them seemed to recede into darkness and all that existed were him, Gabri’el and Uzzy. Pasha looked down at himself. He was glowing faintly with the same rainbow light he and Uzzy had called to them before. He glanced over his shoulder to find that Gabri’el was surrounded by the light too. Uzzy, however was dark, the glow just visible through some kind of black smoke with which he was shrouded.

“What does it mean?”

“It means he’s dying and if we don’t do something fast he will be gone.”

“No. No, I won’t let that happen. I won’t.”

“How do you think you’re going to stop it? He’s been dying since the moment he fell and you’ve found nothing so far.”

“And you have?”

“Maybe. Reach for him, Pasha. Hold on to his hand and reach for him. See what happens.”

“Nothing happens. Do you think I haven’t tried?

“Try again.”

With a sigh, Pasha took Uzzy’s hand, shivering at how cold it was. It felt like a dead man’s hand. “No,” he whispered and closed his eyes, reaching out with all his might for something, anything he could sense of his love. Almost immediately pictures started flashing through his mind. A waterfall, a cave, a cage, an unicorn, chains, fire…and then the pain came. Crying out, Pasha staggered back and fell to his knees, holding his head.

“What did you see?” Gabri’el demanded.

Pasha couldn’t answer. He couldn’t speak. His mind was in a whirl trying desperately to make sense of what he’d seen.

Finally, he was able to look up at Gabri’el who’d stopped glowing.

“They have him in a cage, in chains. It’s suspended over a lake of fire and they’re torturing him. They want something from him, something he can’t or won’t give. He’s in terrible pain, Gabri’el. We have to find him. I have to go to him.”

Gabri’el nodded. His face was very pale, his blue eyes bright as chips of sapphire lit from behind with a burning light.

“What else did you see?”

“How do you know there was something else?”

Gabri’el ducked his head, letting his hair fall over his face.

“How do you know?” Pasha got to his feet and shook him. “Gabri’el please. If you know anything, please, you have to tell me. How do you know I saw something else?”

Gabri’el raised his head, licking his lips. He met Pasha’s eyes then flinched away. “Because I saw it too,” he said eventually.

“What? What did you see?”

“What you saw…and a waterfall, a unicorn, fields of purple flowers.”

“But…but how? How did you see it? Can you read my mind?”

“I don’t know. Look, are we going to stand here all day and argue over what I saw or didn’t see, or are we going to rescue Uzzi’el?”

“Rescue him? How?”

“I know where it is. The field of flowers. The grove where the unicorns live. The waterfall. I know where they are. I can take you there.”

“But I… I can’t leave him here. I can’t leave him here alone.”

“We can’t take him with us.”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to carry him? And when we get there, if there’s a battle, can you protect him?”

Pasha looked from Gabri’el to Uzzy. “No,” he said at last, slumping in defeat.

“I will post guards. He will be safe here. As safe as anywhere.”

“Whatever. Let’s get on with it.”

“We can’t go there alone. Give me time to gather the Host.”

“Time? We don’t have any time. Uzzy’s dying, he’s in pain. We have to—.”

“What? Throw our lives away trying to rescue him? End up in the cage with him? We can’t do it alone.”

“Alright. You’re right. Go, but please, don’t take long.”

Gabri’el gave Uzzy a long, intense stare then he nodded. “Not a moment longer than I have to.”

Left alone, Pasha was washed with wave after wave of panic. His lover was in terrible danger and he was sitting here doing nothing. At the time Uzzy needed him most, he was doing nothing but sit and watch his life ebbing by the moment. He could feel it now, the darkness that swirled around him like smoke, choking the life from him.

Desperately, Pasha clasped Uzzy’s hand and tried to concentrate on dispersing the smoke, but every time he touched it, it flowed towards him and almost found a way through his guard to possess him too.

“I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry. I should have known there would be a trap. I should have protected you. I should have held you close and never let him take you. I should have saved you.”

“Pasha.” The voice echoed in his head. “Pasha, Pasha, Pasha.”

“I’m coming,” he whispered, too choked to speak more loudly. “I’m coming.”

Uzzy sighed and his eyes fluttered closed, leaving Pasha utterly alone.

The Angelic Host was something to behold. Row after row of shining angels in silver armour mounted on snow white horses. Their hair streamed out behind them as did their banners of blue and silver. It would have taken Pasha’s breath away if he hadn’t been focussed elsewhere. Gabri’el had taken three hours to gather the Host and Pasha was about ready to hit him. Now, all he could think of was getting underway, finding the bastards who’d taken Uzzy and making them pay. It didn’t help that for the last hour his head had been full of screaming.

He couldn’t say for sure the screams were Uzzy’s because they were distant, searing the edges of his consciousness, and didn’t seem to have any connection with their bond, but it didn’t matter. Screams were screams and they were driving him insane.

Gabri’el pulled his horse next to Pasha’s. Pasha was riding one of the enormous white horses of the Host and, although he’d never admit it, he had to use all his wits to stay in the saddle.

“We’re ready to go. How are you doing?”

“Going out of my mind and a hair’s breadth away from going back. I can’t bear that we left him there alone.”

“Hardly alone. My guards will guard him well.”

“And what if he dies? If I leave him to die alone? I should never have left him.”

“If you don’t leave him, he will die.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s what they want; what they’ve always wanted; to separate you. Don’t you see? Once you get there you can connect with Uzzy again. It’s our only chance.”

Pasha thought about it and realised he was right.

“I’m sorry. I’m just….”

“I know. So am I. Trust me, Pasha, I’d promise you to go in and get him back to you this afternoon if I could, but I don’t think anyone but you can. I don’t think even you can alone. You have to join again.”

“Will he be able to?”

“I don’t know, but if he can’t we’re screwed.” Gabri’el grinned and it struck Pasha that he was very beautiful. “Don’t worry; if we go down, we go down fighting – together.” He reached out his hand and after a moment hesitation Pasha took it. Rearing his horse, Gabri’el drew his sword and gave a strange yodelling cry that was taken up by the rest of the Host. The sound raised the hairs on Pasha’s neck and made him shiver. Quite suddenly he was filled with a wild exhilaration and he reared his horse before galloping after Gabri’el.

They galloped along the wide thoroughfare, which was thronged with people, cheering at the parade even though they had no idea what its purpose was.  When the city fell away they found themselves on a wide plain. On the far side of the plain the sun was setting, an enormous ball of orange fire slung low in the sky.  Gabri’el pulled up his horse and the whole Host came to a dead stop.

“Ready?” Gabri’el called to Pasha, his voice full of excitement.

Pasha was mystified. “Ready for what?”

“To ride out with the Host.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing.”

“Oh no, my dear, not even close. My only advice is hold on for dear life and whatever you do, don’t fall off the horse.”

“I’m not going to fall off the horse,” Pasha said indignantly. “I’m a good rider.”

“Not of these horses you aren’t,” Gabri’el said with amusement. He raised his sword and gave that strange yodelling cry and suddenly they were flying. The Host streamed across the plain like a river of mercury. Right into the heart of the sun they rode, with Pasha and Gabri’el at their head.

Standing in his saddle, his body throbbing with a deep thrill of excitement, Pasha glanced over his shoulder at the wonder that was the Angelic Host in full flow. It was almost his undoing.

“Pasha,” Gabri’el cried and he turned in time to see a swirling vortex open in front of them. Gabri’el rode into what Pasha could only consider to be a doorway, without stopping and winked out of existence, or so it seemed. Holding on for dear life, Pasha crouched low over his horse’s neck and closed his eyes.

The temperature dropped suddenly and Pasha shivered. It felt as if slivers of ice were slicing his skin and he couldn’t help but cry out. However, as soon as he became aware of the biting cold and pain, it was gone and there was sun warm on his skin again. He opened his eyes to see he was still galloping across a plain, but it was a different plain.

Glancing over his shoulder, Pasha watched the Host stream from the doorway and spread out, ranging across the plain behind him. When he turned back Gabri’el was holding his sword up, calling the Host to a halt.

Still gasping from the thrill, Pasha looked around and immediately recognised the purple flowers that blanketed the surrounding area.

“This way,” Gabri’el said and led the way, trotting towards the still setting sun.

“In a short while they arrived at the banks of a river that was so crystal clear it appeared metallic in the fading

light.

They followed the river for a while until it plunged into a thick wood. Almost as soon as they entered the wood the ground began to rise and they broke, now and again, into clearings that revealed they were climbing a steep mountain.

It was getting dark when they broke out of the woods once again onto a wide plateau where the river flowed into a wide, mirrored lake. On the far side of the lake a thunderous waterfall tumbled over high cliffs into the pool. It was just possible to see the spray rising from the froth into which that part of the lake was being churned.

“That’s where he is,” Gabri’el said. “Behind the waterfall.”

Gabri’el raised his hand and one of the angels detached from the Host and rode forward. He was a big man, with wide shoulders and a square jaw. Raven hair streamed from under his helmet as he rode. His eyes, when he was near enough to see them, were kind.

“Range out in ranks of three, wait for my mark and then we ride.”

“What?” Pasha asked in surprise. But, we can’t all fit through the waterfall, not spread out. Shouldn’t they be in single file?”

“Trust me, Pasha, where the Host wishes to go, the Host goes. No door is closed to us.”

“Are we doing the…thing, again?”

“We’re doing something,” Gabri’el said with a smile. He nodded at the soldier who inclined his head, then rode back to the ranks.

“Are you ready?” Gabri’el asked.

Pasha considered. Was he? He raised his eyes to the distant waterfall. The lake reflected the trees and sky and glittered with diamonds where the occasional fish broke the surface. Far across the water the cascade tumbled, broken by rocks on the lip into four separate streams.

Everything was still and silent. Except inside his head. Inside his head the screaming went on and on. Then suddenly it stopped.

Pasha’s head jerked up and met Gabri’el’s eyes. Gabri’el looked as startled as he was.

“What’s happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Something has happened, though, hasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“What should we do? Should we go forward or wait.”

Gabri’el looked around. “I have a feeling something’s coming. We wait.”

Pasha’s heart started to pound and his mouth went dry. He had a horrible feeling something bad had happened and something worse was about to. The minutes stretched interminably and Pasha started to feel weak and edgy.

The jangle of harness had both heads turning. The same man Gabri’el had spoken to before was riding forward.

“My Lord, something is coming.”

“Coming? Coming where?”

“Through the gate, My Lord.

“The gate? But, only the Host can pass through the gate.”

“Apparently not. It approaches. What would you have us do?”

“Watch. Wait. If you sense a threat, act.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

Again the minutes stretched until a strange, flutelike call rose from the trees.

“What was that?”

“It sounds like Frosty. But it can’t….”

Before he could continue a ball of glittering whiteness rose from the trees and shot towards them. It landed on the grass a few feet away from Gabri’el’s horse and gave the same eerie cry. It was a beautiful white peacock. She raised her head majestically and shook out her plumage. Tiny frost crystals and snowflakes fell from the feathers.

“I bear a message,” she said, “from my brother.”

“Fierro?”

The peacock, bent her neck and two perfect crystals fell from her eyes. “When he learned of what happened to My Lord, Uzzi’el he travelled to Eden, but was already too late. It seems he arrived as the Host left the city and he went straight to My Lord’s side. He was there when….” The snowy head bowed lower. “He was there for the end.”

Panic grabbed Pasha’s heart and squeezed the life out of him. “The end of what?” he asked, his voice shaking almost uncontrollably.

The regal peacock raised her head and shook out her feathers again, scattering more ice and snow over the grass around her.

“You are Passa’el, his mate. I mourn your loss, and mine. My Lord, Uzzi’el was kind and brave; a good soldier and a good man. Fierro is distraught.”

“Is he…? Is he sure? There’s no doubt?” Gabri’el asked, his voice almost as shaky as Pasha’s.

“There is no doubt. My Lord, Uzzi’el is dead. He passed minutes ago. I came as swiftly as I could.”

“My Lord.” The soldier interrupted. “There has been another breach of the gate.”

Pasha could barely raise the energy to lift his head and was unsurprised when the sputtering ball of electricity that was Fierro the phoenix appeared. He shot through the sky like a fireball and almost knocked Pasha off his horse.

“It was terrible. My heart was torn from my body and I am nothing more than an empty shell. He didn’t die alone, My Lord,” the phoenix continued with undisguised accusation in his tone. “I was with him, at least.”

“Fierro, My Lords, Passa’el and Gabri’el are here seeking to save My Lord Uzzi’el. What would you have had them do? Sit at his side and simply wait for his death?”

The chilly tones calmed the over excited ball of fiery feathers and Fierro sniffed. “I tried to warm him Lords. He was so cold. I tried to warm him, but there was nothing I could do. I called to him but he was so far away. And then he opened his eyes and I hoped….” The phoenix sniffed and tiny discharges of electricity stung Pasha’s skin and made his hair stand on end. “He said. ‘Tell them. Tell them to go on’, and then he was gone. I tried to breathe life back into his body, to shock his heart to beat again, but there was nothing I could do.”

“He told you he wanted us to go on?”

“How can I go on?” Pasha asked, feeling numb. “I have to go back. I have to….”

“And then what?” Gabri’el was sitting tall in the saddle, his eyes blazing. “Sit with a dead body and mourn

while his murderer goes unpunished? I will not go back until I hold his still beating heart in my hand.”

“Vengeance,” Fierro said.

“Vengeance,” Frosty repeated, her voice like a blast of icy wind.

“Vengeance.” The Host called with one voice.

Pasha looked around and knew every soul there was crying out in pain for justice and to avenge Uzzi’el. A surge of energy shot through him and his grief was swept aside as he raised his head and poured the agony of his tormented soul into one word. “Vengeance.”

At Gabri’el’s signal, The Host flowed forward, skimming the surface of the lake. Pasha was barely aware they were on the water. His eyes were fixed on the waterfall. He wondered briefly how they were all going to get through then his horse plunged beneath the fall and suddenly he was in the cave beyond.

The cave was not what Pasha had expected, if he’d expected anything at all. He stood among the stomping, snorting horses and looked around. The space around him was enormous. It would easily have held a thousand human horses, and then some. The walls were smooth and seamless, clearly hand hewed out of the rock.

Fierro and Frost circled above, under the perfectly smooth ceiling. They reported there was no entrance, no flaw their keen eyes could see in the solid rock

“It must be an illusion,” Gabri’el said. He ordered a search which arrived at the same conclusion. If there was enchantment they couldn’t penetrate it. A search outside revealed no other entrance.

“My masters require counsel with your leaders only.”

The band of angels turned toward the voice, ready for battle. They were disappointed. The boy, who had appeared from nowhere, was unarmed. In fact, he was barely clothed, other than the silver chains attached to the silver collar and cuffs encircling his throat, ankles and wrists. His soft white skin, where visible through the hip length cloud of silvery hair, was marred with welts and whip marks. He was clearly a slave, or at least meant to appear so.

“Your masters can go to hell,” Gabri’el snapped. “Tell them to face us and we will guarantee them safe conduct to the City and a fair trial.”

“That is not an option, My Lords. Should you refuse an audience all opportunity to speak with them will be lost. You cannot find them unless they wish to be found.”

“Then so be it, but we are not foolish enough to place ourselves into their hands.”

“Then leave in peace, My Lords, but all chance of securing the return of your mate will be lost.”

Pasha laughed bitterly. “It’s too late for that.” Then his voice became flat. “Uzzi’el’s dead.”

“Are you sure, My Lord?”

Pasha’s eyes flicked to Fierro, who ruffled his feathers, sending up a shower of sparks.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Fierro snapped. “I saw it with my own eyes. I was with him at the end. Are you calling me a liar?”

“Oh no. Not at all. You saw what you saw but things are not always what they seem.”

“Are you telling me Uzzi’el’s still alive?” Pasha’s heart fluttered in his chest.

Gabriel touched his arm. “Easy. We can’t trust anything he says.”

“Maybe not, but I can’t leave without knowing if there’s a chance.”

“Pasha, I feel the same. You know I do, but there are bigger things at stake. We can’t afford all three of us to be captives.”

Pasha knew Gabri’el was right. He knew the mysterious strangers couldn’t be trusted, that to walk into their hands would be extremely foolish. But Uzzi’el! Pasha was in torment and could bear it no longer. Leaping from his horse, he strode across the floor to the startled slave. With a hand around his throat, he backed the boy against the wall and pinned him.

“Tell me,” he hissed. “Cut the bullshit and tell me. Is he still alive? How do I get to him?”

“My…My Lord, I…I cannot.”

“Tell me.” Pasha growled and tightened his hold. The boy choked and started to struggle, trying desperately to break the hold that was draining the life out of him. Pasha viciously slammed his head against the wall until his hands fell away from Pasha’s arm and he went still.

“Pasha, stop. What do you have to gain from killing him? He’s nothing more than a slave. He knows only what he’s been told.  It’s clear he’s not in their confidence.” Gabri’el pushed back the boy’s hair to show the dark bruises on his face and shoulder. Pasha looked into the boy’s eyes. They were dazed but resigned. It was clear he believed he was about to die and at least part of him welcomed it.

Horrified and sickened by what he was doing, Pasha released the boy who fell to his knees, clutching his throat and coughing. Gabri’el crouched and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He shrank against the wall, looking up with frightened eyes.

“You’re alright,” Gabri’el said gently. “No one will hurt you. You have my word.” He looked up at Pasha who nodded quickly.

“I swear it.”

The boy’s hand fluttered to his throat.

“My…My Lords,” he whispered in a cracked voice. “I…I believe….” He swallowed hard. “I believe it is not too late to save him.”

Gabri’el got to his feet and drew Pasha aside. “We can’t do this,” he said. “It’s a trap. If we go with him we may never return. Eden needs me; needs us. Without us they’re vulnerable if these monsters seek war.

“We’re not as vulnerable as Uzzy.”

“He’s dead, Pasha. It’s a trick. You can’t trust them.”

“But if there’s a chance, any chance I can’t live with myself if I don’t take it.”

He turned to the boy quickly so he wouldn’t change his mind. “I’ll come with you.”

“Pasha, don’t.” Gabriel grabbed his arm but Pasha shook him off.

“I have to.”

For a moment, their eyes locked. “You’ll be the death of me,” Gabri’el said.

“I already was,” Pasha replied.

Gabriel shook his head in resignation. “Alright.” He called over his second in command. “Wait outside,” he said. “There’s less chance of being trapped. If we’re not back by nightfall, ride to Eden and seek out Raphael. He will know what to do.”

The soldier looked as if he was about to say something, but merely nodded and bowed his head.

Pasha and Gabri’el turned to the boy.

“Very well,” Gabri’el said. “Take us where we need to go.”

Chapter 41 – Nothing Is As It Seems

The boy led Pasha and Gabriel to a patch of wall that looked like every other. He pressed his hand against the stone and a green flash illuminated his fingers. A section of the wall swung open. The boy looked up at them. “Nothing is as it seems,” he said and hurried into the corridor beyond.  Pasha and Gabriel followed.

The door clicked shut behind them and they were plunged into darkness. Moments later the walls began to glow, providing more than enough illumination.

“What about you?” Gabriel asked. “Are you what you seem?”

The boy chuckled and turned. The chains melted away as if they had never been there and the cloud of white hair floated around unblemished skin. “Not quite,” he said with a soft smile.

Pasha growled and Gabriel held him back.

“I knew it. I knew you were a deceitful little worm. Where is he?”

“I didn’t deceive you,” the boy said. “You made assumptions.”

“What about the chains? The bruises?”

The boy shrugged. “You saw what you wanted to see.”

“What?”

“I was no different then than I am now. You merely saw what you expected to see from my demeanour. I allowed you to expand the illusion. You could have broken it at any time if you’d looked with different eyes.” He turned to Pasha. “You saw. Just for a minute, until my My Lord Gabriel reinforced the illusion for you. When you had your hand around my throat you knew there were no chains there, you simply chose not to acknowledge it. Your shock and disgust that you would injure a helpless boy wiped the knowledge from your mind.”

“I knew I should have choked the life out of you,” Pasha growled.

“It would have done you no good and I am a helpless boy. I have no weapons and I was instructed not to fight you. You could have killed me and there was nothing I could have done about it.”

“You were instructed not to fight back? By who?”

“My masters.”

“So you are a slave?”

“A servant.”

“Same difference. When I had my hands around your throat, you looked as if you would have welcomed death.”

The boy stared at him for a moment, then turned sharply in a swirl of hair and strode along the corridor, leaving Pasha and Gabriel to follow.

At the end of the corridor the boy paused. He glanced over his shoulder. “There are many different kinds of slavery,” he said, “and not all of them are obvious. Nothing is as it seems.”

Turning back to the wall, he pressed his hand against the door and the same green glow appeared between his fingers before it swung silently open.

The room beyond was dim. This time no lights illuminated it. There was a sense of space and openness. Peering into the dimness they couldn’t see the other side of the room. They could, however, see a glow coming from the middle. Pasha turned to the boy to ask him where to go, but he’d vanished as silently and completely as he’d appeared.

“Damn,” he said. “That little beast has disappeared.”

“Are you surprised?”

Pasha thought about it. “No, not really.”

“What now?” Gabriel asked.

“I don’t think we should stay here.”

“Which way? This place feels big.”

“I think we should check out that glow.

Gabriel loosened his sword and laid his hand on it in readiness. “Okay.”

Keeping behind Gabriel, Pasha followed him across the floor towards the misty glow. They soon realised why the glow was misty when they felt the first touch of ice on their skin. Whatever was glowing was surrounded by a cloud of dry ice, or something similar.

The cloying mist clung to their clothes, faces and hair, frosting them and burning their eyes and throats.

“Should we go on?”

“The question is whether they are trying to keep us away or draw us in.”

“Does it make a difference?”

Gabriel grinned at him. “Of course it does. If they’re trying to keep us away that’s double the reason to go on.”

Shaking his head, Pasha pressed on as the mist thickened.

A few moments later he was about to turn back. “This isn’t Dry Ice,” he said. “Dry Ice doesn’t hurt like this.”

“You’re right. What do you think it is?” Gabriel’s voice was hoarse and he coughed. “Do you think it’s dangerous?”

“Maybe. Just a few more—“ He broke off, as the mist thinned allowing him to see what lay at the centre.

“Uzzy?”

Pasha lurched forward but Gabriel pulled him back.

“Wait. It might be a trap.”

“I don’t care.” Pasha’s eyes were fixed on the glass case within which the same cold, white mist  swirled.

Pressed against the lid of the box were a pair of hands, as if the person inside was trying to push off a lid. Around the wrist attached to one of the hands was a colourful band, bearing a number of tiny charms. It was Uzzy’s bracelet.

“Remember, nothing is as it seems. Don’t believe what you see.”

Pasha shook himself free and strode forward. He stopped just short of the box. The surface of the glass was frosted with ice crystals and the air was so cold Pasha’s breath misted to party obscure his vision. Breathing was painful and his lungs burned with cold. Still, he fell to his knees and peered into the case. As the mist swirled it revealed snatches of golden hair and pale skin.

“It’s Uzzy,” he moaned, reaching out for the glass. Gabriel grabbed his wrist and yanked it back.

“It’s too cold, Pasha. If you touch it your hand will burn.”

“I don’t care.” Pasha wrenched his arm away and reached forward.

“Lord save me from fools who make it a habit to run where angels fear to tread.” Gabriel sighed but hovered protectively.

Pasha’s hand touched the casket. It was warm.

Chapter 42 Down The Rabbit Hole

“Please be careful, Pasha,” Gabri’el warned with a hand on Pasha’s shoulder. “This smells like a trap.”

“It’s Uzzy,” Pasha said, his voice tormented. He ran his hand over the box, looking for a catch, an opening, anything. When he reached the place where the hands pressed against the lid, he laid his own over them and closed his eyes. He could feel nothing…except…. Somewhere on the very edges of his consciousness was a tug he hadn’t noticed before. It was faint but strong and, now he’d acknowledged it, it grew stronger. “I can feel him,” he said excitedly.

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Gabri’el said sadly. “Remember, nothing is as it seems. We need to keep that in mind at all times.”

Pasha looked up at him. “You don’t understand. I feel him.”

Gabri’el gave him a tight smile and nodded, then his face grew serious. “Something’s happening. Get back.”

Pasha turned to find the mist in the box was getting thicker and had started to swirl. “What the…?”

“Get back.” Gabri’el’s grip on his shoulder tightened and he pulled back as the lid of the box flew off and the mist billowed out. “Be careful. It’s not….” Gabri’el’s voice sounded weird. Pasha looked up and reached out as Gabri’el  swayed and sank to the ground. Before he could speak or still the panic that fluttered in his breast, his vision darkened and the world winked out.

Pasha opened his eyes to darkness. He blinked and reached out his hand. It touched something. “Gabri’el?”

Gabri’el groaned and his fingers found Pasha’s and curled around them. “Where are we?” Gabri’el asked.

“I don’t know. It’s too dark to see.” As he spoke the darkness began to lighten rapidly until they found themselves in a brightly lit room lined with doors.

“Where the hell is this place?”

“I don’t know. Be careful.”

“What should we do?” Pasha looked at Gabri’el and found it strangely upsetting that the warrior angel seemed confused and uncertain.

“I suppose we should try a door.” Pasha nodded and headed for a door. “Wait. Be careful. It’s bound to be a trap.”

“We don’t have much choice.”

“No. but we can still be careful.”

Pasha nodded, then looked down in surprise when Gabri’el took his hand. “We have to stay together.” Pasha wasn’t about to argue. He found the contact reassuring. He smiled and Gabri’el smiled back.

Something fluttered in the back of Pasha’s mind. “I can feel him. He’s behind one of these doors, I know it.”

“I have a feeling you’ll find him behind all of them.”

Pasha shivered.

The door opened easily and swung inwards on silent hinges. Holding tight to Gabri’el’s hand Pasha stepped through into the darkness beyond. Instantly, the room lit up.

“Uzzy,” Pasha cried, surging forward.

Gabri’el yanked him back. “Wait,”

“It’s Uzzy,” Pasha cried, trying to break Gabri’el’s hold.

“We don’t know that.”

“I know it.” Pasha fought to free his hand from Gabri’el’s.  Across the shadowy cavern a figure stirred. Whoever it was, was chained to the wall, suspended from a set of handcuffs above his head. Groans echoed in the cavernous room. “Let me go. I have to go to him.”

“I know. Just don’t rush into it.”

“I…” Pasha looked up to tell Gabri’el to get the hell away from him, but stopped. Gabri’el’s face was chalk white and his eyes flicked between Uzzy and Pasha, with the same expression. It hit him suddenly that Gabri’el actually cared about him. He knew Gabri’el loved Uzzy but he didn’t think Gabri’el even liked him.

Pasha found himself smiling and was rewarded by a lessening of the stress on Gabri’el’s face as the dark haired angel smiled back. “I’m sorry I’m being such an idiot,” Pasha said.

“I understand. It’s not easy for me either. I see Uzzy and want to run to him , but I don’t trust these people. We need to be careful.”

“I know. Thanks. I’ll try to be more careful.”

Gabri’el’s smile brightened and Pasha felt a sharp pain in his hand, which was still linked with Gabri’el’s.  It was as if Gabri’el had shot a bolt of electricity into him. Gabri’el snatched back his hand and looked at it.

“What was that?”

“I don’t know. It hurt.”

Gabri’el frowned. “Keep alert.”

Pasha nodded and began to edge towards Uzzy, his eyes on his mate who seemed to be unconscious, hanging in his bonds. “Uzzy,” Pasha cried. There was no response.

“Pasha. Look out,” Gabri’el hauled him backwards. Again, the shock of electricity shot through his arm.

“What the…?”

“Look.”

Gabri’el nodded to the floor. Pasha shuddered when he realized the darker patch of rock in front of him was a gaping hole into which he’d almost fallen.

“Shit.” Again, he looked up at Gabri’el and was shocked at the expression in the chilly blue eyes.

“I’m not going to lose both of you,” Gabri’el ground out and Pasha stared at him, stunned.

“You’re not going to lose either of us,” he said at last and straightened. As he did so there was a rushing sound and the floor crumbled under their feet, dropping them into the chasm.

Pasha opened his eyes to darkness. He groaned.

“Pasha?”

“I’m okay.” He sat up and, as he did so, the room around him lightened, illuminating the doors.

“Just great.”

Standing up, Pasha strode purposefully towards the door. It was locked. He tried the next one. It opened easily and bright light spilled out.

”Pasha, be….”

“Careful, I know.” Pasha edged into the room and let out a cry. Gabri’el grabbed his shoulders and steadied him.

In the center of the sterile, white room was a piece of medical equipment. It looked like a giant punch, the jaws open ready to slam down on the helpless, victim restrained on the table between. On this occasion the helpless victim was Uzzy. Even worse, the red line of a lazer sliced down to a red spot in the middle of Uzzy’s forehead.

Pasha surged forward.

“Wait,” Gabri’el hissed. “They’ve all been traps and illusions. There was something wrong in every room and there’s no reason to believe this one’s any different.”

Pasha paused and looked up at Gabri’el, holding his eyes for a moment. There was something in them that sent a shiver through him and he found he couldn’t look away. Gabri’el opened his mouth as if he was going to say something, then closed it again. Pasha shivered, when Gabri’el touched his cheek, brushing his hair out of his eyes.

“Please be cautious. You have a tendency to rush into things and I fear for you.”

“You do?”

“Do you still hate me, Pasha?”

“Hate you? Of course not, I….” Pasha paused as, with a thrill of surprise he realised that somewhere along the way hatred had changed into something very different. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was, but it definitely wasn’t hatred. “No, I don’t hate you.”

“I don’t hate you either.”

Something stirred inside Pasha and he turned away, feeling unsettled and guilty. He was pretty sure Uzzy would be happy he and Gabri’el were getting along but not so sure he’d understand the strange mixed feelings he was getting. He resolved to put them to one side until Uzzy was safe.

Cautiously, Gabri’el and Pasha edged forward Nothing seemed to be happening.

“I’m not happy with this. Nothing’s happening and that makes me suspicious. Perhaps we should go back and think more on this.”

“Go back? I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Uzzy’s about to undergo brain surgery. We can’t just leave him here.”

“Is it him?”

“Of course it’s him. I can feel him.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, it’s been getting stronger. I know it’s him.”

Ignoring Gabri’el, Pasha closed the last few steps and touched Uzzy’s shoulder. Instantly an alarm sounded and deafened them. Uzzy turned his head and opened eyes that were entirely black. Recoiling, Pasha noticed the lazer was now moving directly toward him.

“Get back,” Gabri’el cried. This time his warning was unnecessary as Pasha was already moving. “Get down.”

Without hesitation, Pasha dropped, tucked and rolled, as the door exploded in splinters. Gabri’el grabbed his shoulders and dragged him from the room as the lazer cut a groove in the floor, past the doorway and out into the room.

Gabri’el and Pasha sat with their backs to the wall and watched the line move slowly across the floor cutting through solid stone like butter.

“Are we safe here?”

“I think so. As safe as we are anywhere in this place.”

“That…thing wasn’t Uzzy.”

“No.”

They were silent for a while. The lazer reached the middle of the floor and winked out.

“Pasha, I don’t think any of them were Uzzy. I don’t think Uzzy’s here.” He sounded so incredibly sad, Pasha didn’t snap at him as was his first reaction. Besides, he was beginning to think the same thing himself.

“He’s here somewhere,” he said stubbornly, refusing to let go of the hope he felt inexorably slipping away.

“Pasha, we have to face it eventually. Fierro was right. Uzzy’s dead.”

“No,” Pasha snapped. “He’s not dead. I know he’s not. I can feel him.”

“I don’t think you can,” Gabri’el said sounding wretched. “I think you can feel me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s Uzzy, I know it.”

“Stand up,” Gabri’el said unexpectedly. He got to his feet and held out a hand to Pasha. Pasha stared at it

for a moment, then took it and allowed Gabri’el to help him up. Gabri’el stood facing him  and searched his eyes. Pasha felt something stir and reached for it desperately, sure it was Uzzy because it was something he had only ever felt with Uzzy.

“I feel you, Pasha,” Gabri’el said softly. “I didn’t want to and I’m still not entirely sure I’m ready to accept it, but I feel you and I believe you can feel me.”

Pasha thought back, a few things clicking into place. “No,” he said stubbornly. “I don’t believe you. It’s Uzzy, not you. Uzzy’s my mate and you’re just….”

“What? What am I?” Gabriel brushed Pasha’s cheek, his touch hesitant and Pasha gasped when the touch sent sparks through him.

“No.”

“Don’t fight it, Pasha. If it’s meant to be that’s how it has to be.”

“No. I won’t believe it. You’re not my mate. I don’t even like you.”

“Don’t you? Can you look inside and honestly tell yourself you’ve no feelings for me at all?”

Pasha was about to say ‘yes’ when flashes of memory flickered in his mind, memories of the times Gabri’el had pulled him out of danger, of the touches and glances, the times their eyes had met, the shared visions, the ‘feelings’, the ‘connection’.

“No,” he said, dropping his eyes. “It is you. I know it. Maybe I’ve always known it but I didn’t want it to be you. I wanted it to be Uzzy.”

“I know. I…. I’m glad you recognize it now and that you’re not running from me.”

“Running? From you? There’s no point. I learned that with Uzzy. Something would always bring me back.”

Gabri’el smiled and took a half step closer, sliding his hand into Pasha’s hair. “Gabri’el, I don’t think I’m ready for this. Uzzy….”

“If he is alive he needs us united to find him. I don’t know if we can ever have the power you had with Uzzy but we have to try.”

After a time of standing stiff and terrified, Pasha sighed, the pulsing energy from Gabri’el’s touch overwhelming him. When he finally capitulated it all felt so right, so natural and when Gabri’el’s lips touched his, the fizzing blue fire that consumed them both confirmed it.

Lost in the kiss, they gradually became aware of clapping and pulled apart to see the white haired boy. He was wearing a studded collar, a top hat and very little else and he was grinning. “About time,” he said.

Gabri’el had to hold Pasha back. He wrapped his arms around the feisty, impulsive angel and dropped his cheek to Pasha’s hair.

“Easy,” Gabri’el murmured. “If we want answers we have to tread carefully.”

“Well said,” the boy said, clapping again.

“Don’t get complacent, boy,” Gabriel snarled. “I want answers and if I don’t get them, I’ll be the one going for your throat and this time I won’t stop until I choke the life out of you.”

“Good luck with that,” the boy said, with a musical laugh. “You have to catch me first.”

Between one blink and another, the boy vanished.

“What the…?”

“Looking for me?”

The voice behind them was smug and amused. By the time they turned, the boy was gone.

“Not fast enough,” the boy said and they turned back to where they first started.

“Who the hell are you?” Pasha cried. “What’s going on here? What do you want from us? What have you done with Uzzy?”

“So many questions,” the boy said. “I’ll answer them, in due course, but why not go somewhere more comfortable to discuss this?” He clapped his hands and the walls melted away. They found themselves in a plush room that looked like some kind of gentlemen’s club from nineteenth century London. The boy indicated three leather armchairs in front of a roaring fire. “Shall we?”

Pasha and Gabri’el exchanged glances. Gabri’el shrugged. “We may as well go along with it, for now.”

The boy laughed. “Just for now,” he said.

It was so odd, seeing a boy wearing nothing but a top hat, reclining in an enormous armchair, his white hair spread out over the dark leather.

Gabri’el sat down and pulled Pasha onto his lap. Pasha found, with some surprise, he felt safe there. Why hadn’t he realized it before?

“Because you were fighting it. Because you felt you were being unfaithful to Uzzi’el when, if you had only spoken to him you’d have found him more than open to the idea.”

“How do you know what I was thinking?”

“It wasn’t too difficult. I believe you were told, once, that you and Gabri’el were meant to be together as you and Uzzi’el are. If only you’d listened or at least explored the possibility.” He looked sad. “This whole charade has been exhausting for me. I wish none of it had been necessary although we knew from the start it

would be.”

 “I don’t understand.”

“I do,” Gabriel said. “It all comes from what that man said when he took Uzzy. He said we were mates but I didn’t believe him. You did more that disbelieve. You actively fought against it. Even when we both had the same visions of the cave, the same connection with Uzzy we fought it. Even when I realized you were sensing me and not Uzzy, I couldn’t…”

“You knew?”

“Not knew, suspected.”

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“What would you have done if I had?”

“Let me make this easy for you,” the boy said. “If Uzzi’el had been with you, you might never have recognized what you have. You would both have fought it; maybe for years; maybe forever. Even when Uzzi’el was removed you still wouldn’t turn to each other. You were still fighting it. And so, I was forced to create this whole elaborate charade to force you to see what was always there.”

“All of this? All this…was just to push us together?”

“In a manner of speaking. You were already together, you just didn’t recognise it. Don’t you remember what I said right at the beginning? You saw only what you thought was there, Pasha, or rather was determined to deny what was there. Nothing was as it seemed, especially not the way you feel for Gabri’el. I think Gabri’el was quicker to embrace what he feels for you.”

Pasha looked up into Gabri’el’s face and could immediately see from the softness in his eyes that the boy was right.

“Who are you?” he asked.

The boy smiled. “You might say, I’m God.”

“Yeah, right. Who are you really and what do you want with us?”

“I’ve already told you.”

“Stop talking in riddles and give us a straight answer.”

“I’m trying to. I believe that if I simply lay the facts on the table you will not accept them.”

“Tell me one thing. Is Uzzy alive?”

The boy scanned his face for a moment, causing his heart to stop. “Yes,” he said simply.

“Where is he?” Pasha would have leaped from Gabri’el’s lap if Gabri’el hadn’t held him back. “Take me to him,” he yelled, struggling.

“You see?” the boy said mildly. “If I give you what you want you don’t listen.”

“Easy, Pasha. Let’s listen to what he has to say.”

“Gabri’el, at least has some sense, it seems.”

“I won’t listen to anything until I know Uzzy’s alright. Why did Fierro say he was dead? Is he a spy for you?”

“Fierro is nothing but a true and loyal friend. It was unfortunate he had to be drawn into the charade. No one was supposed to have been there when he died.”

“But you said….”

“Nothing is as it seems, Passa’el. The Uzzy that remained with you was nothing but a shell, a copy if you will. It was never really Uzzi’el at all.”

“I don’t believe you. I want to see him. I need to see him.”

The boy sighed. “He said this would happen. He knows you very well.” He turned toward a door they hadn’t previously noticed. “You’d better come in.”

The door opened and a figure stepped into the room. Nothing could have held Pasha back from throwing himself into his mate’s arms. Fireworks exploded in his head as Uzzy’s arms closed around him and the fizzing, sparking rainbow energy surrounded him.

After a few moments, Uzzy moved away slightly and held out his hand. For a moment, Pasha was confused, then his heart soared as Gabri’el joined them and the energy flared brighter than ever.

“I’ve been so frightened for you.” Uzzy rested his cheek on Gabri’el’s chest and kissed Pasha’s hair. “Ari swore you would be safe but that’s not how it seemed.”

 “Who’s Ari?”

“I am.”

All three turned to the boy. He was no longer adolescent, although still young. The top hat had vanished and

he was dressed in tight leather pants and poet’s shirt. Lounging on the chair, with one leg hooked over the arm and his shining white hair tumbling over his shoulders, he looked more like an angel than any of them, albeit a fallen one.

“Who the hell are you?” Gabri’el demanded, keeping his arms firmly around Uzzy’s waist and Pasha’s shoulders.

“Why don’t you sit down and we can talk.”

“Give me one good reason why we should,” Gabri’el growled.

“Because I ask you to?” Uzzy said softly. Both Gabri’el and Pasha stared at him.

Pasha stared into Uzzy’s eyes, searching for some sign that he was being forced, or brainwashed, into encouraging them to comply. All he saw was Uzzy’s bright blue eyes, sparkling with love and sincerity.

“What did they do to you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but educate me. You really need to listen, both of you.”

Gabri’el glared at Uzzy for a moment. “They didn’t hurt you?”

Uzzy smiled and shook his head.  “Only by making me watch what you were going through. I begged Ari to find another way but I think, in the end, he was right. With me there, you were never going to embrace your own connection. You’d have fought it, and each other. There’s nothing I could have done to help, not even walking away. It had to be something drastic, something to force you to work and grow together. I didn’t like it. I don’t like it. But I see the necessity of it.”

The truth settled over Pasha, like a cloak of feathers. Even while he still felt angry at everything they’d been through, he realised Uzzy was completely right. He glanced up and met Gabri’el’s eye. The taller angel smiled softly and the last resistance he may have had to their three way union dissolved. A sense of completeness lightened his heart and he laid his head on Gabri’el’s shoulder. Gabri’el’s eyes filled with tears, which he blinked back angrily.

“This is all very nice, but we still don’t know what the hell’s going on. You’ve put us through the mill and I, personally, want to knock that smug smile off your face.”

Ari’s smile widened. He looked delighted. Unhooking his leg, he sat up and clapped his hands. A silver tray appeared on the table in front of him and he plucked one of the crystal glasses and raised it to his lips. Ruby wine swirled in the glass, although it had seemed to be empty until the moment it touched his lips.

“Please, sit.” He clapped his hands again and two of the large chairs merged into a large sofa where they could all sit together.

Not seeing anything else they could reasonably do, they sat down. Gabri’el, in the middle, kept tight hold of both his mates. Pasha could feel the tension in his muscles and knew full well that he was on high alert and, at the first hint of trouble; he’d be on his feet in moment, sword drawn to protect them both. Warmth spread through him and he raised his hand to squeeze Gabri’el’s. Gabri’el looked down and smiled.

“Please drink. The glasses will contain whatever you wish.”

Uzzy leaned forward, but Gabri’el pulled him back, “We won’t accept any food or drink from you until we know who you are and what you want.”

“I’ve already told you who I am. I am God. As for what I want… I want you, together, to take over my job.”

“What…? What do you mean, God? What do you mean, take over your job?”

“Maybe I should begin at the beginning.” Ari put down his glass and stood. He walked over to the fireplace and touched the large oil painting that hung over it. The painting dissolved to reveal an enormous screen on which was displayed an image of space. The pink and gold spiral galaxy seemed unreal. The specks of gold and purple that were planets, resembled seed pearls in a beautiful applique.

“You’ve probably realised I’m not human. I come from a planet that is…inconceivably far away.” He touched the screen gently over a golden globe near the centre of the spiral. We are a civilization of scientists and explorers, far too curious for our own good. Many millions of years ago, we discovered a race of beings who showed amazing resilience and the ability to adapt to almost any environment. We decided on an experiment, to seed words with the dna of this particular race and see how their development changed according to the different planetary environments they were exposed to.

“I was young and idealistic. I volunteered for the experiment right at the very beginning and I was eventually put in charge of one of the planetary seedings. I came here, to Earth, and watched over the birth of humanity. I guided its growth until it reached a stage where it was well enough established to secure its own survival, then withdrew direct contact.

“There were a few…unfortunate incident as humanity struggled to get a foothold in the world and I had to interfere more than I would have liked. More, really, than the experiment allowed.”

“What do you mean ‘interfered’?”

Despite finding the whole thing somewhat unbelievable, Pasha was fascinated and wanted to know more.

“Humanity seeded well , but its development stalled, just before the first real leap toward civilization. The environment was simply too hostile to allow them to prosper well enough to progress. I should have left them alone but I knew the experiment would fail and I didn’t want to have to go home and report failure. I’m the youngest scientist in the program and I didn’t want to be the first to fail.

“What did you do?”

“Well, I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to give them a bit of a helping hand but I overstepped a bit. Instead of reducing some of the danger in their environment allowing them to develop more quickly, I wiped out most of the predators and caused their level of civilization to leap forward.”

“You are the missing link?”

“You wiped out the dinosaurs?”

Ari bit his lip.

“Okay,” Gabri’el said. “Let’s assume for a moment you are what you say you are. What does that have to do with us?”

“Well.” Ari sat down and picked up his drink again. “It started with the dinosaurs and went downhill from there. I accidentally caused an ice age and changed the whole direction of evolution, not to mention the landscape and climate of Earth.” He sighed. “Climate is hard.”

“I’ll take your word for that,” Pasha said, dryly. “Get to the point.”

Ari glared at him. “All in good time. It needs a bit of explanation or you won’t really get it. Trust me, I really don’t want to have to go over all of this. Most of it I’d be more than happy to forget.” He swirled his glass and seemed to find something very interesting in there, because it commanded his eyes for a while. The others grew restless but felt unable to break the silence.

“Things settled down for a bit after that. Then I messed with climate again and things went to hell.”

“What do you mean?”

“I caused some extreme weather conditions that changed the Earth again. It led to some dramatic consequences and an entire civilization was wiped out.”

“What do you mean? What civilization?”

“The Atlanteans.”

“Atlantis was a real place?”

“Of course it was.”

“I don’t remember it.” Gabri’el  frowned. “I’ve been here from the beginning and I don’t remember Atlantis.”

“You…. You weren’t here at the beginning.” Ari held up his hand to prevent Gabri’el’s retort. “Let me explain about Atlantis and you’ll understand.” Ari stared into the fire and sighed. “I’ve never been good at climate,” he mused. “Atlantis was a beautiful place, its people the most civilized for their time. They were beautiful and proud. They were so beautiful many angels fell in love with them, especially the women.

“The angels spent a lot of time in Atlantis and told the Atlanteans secrets they weren’t ready to hear. They advanced the civilisation too fast and they wouldn’t listen to me. I never wanted them to come to any harm. They were jeopardizing the project and I just wanted them to stop teaching humans arcane knowledge.

“I hit on the idea of sending a storm to wipe out the fields they’d planted with herbs and plants that weren’t meant to be grown on earth. The fruits gave too much knowledge and the herbs lengthened their lives too much.

“I’ve never been good at climate and once I started the storm I couldn’t stop it.”

“The great flood.”

Ari nodded. “I drown everyone and created a new sea that swallowed countries, split continents and completely destroyed Atlantis. Most of the angels, who tried to save their human lovers and friends, were killed too.

“Fortunately, there were enough Atlanteans left to re stock Eden. I created a new kind of angel, stronger, more stable and more intelligent…well you were supposed to be more stable and intelligent. I’m not sure about Micha’el.”

“I didn’t know about any of this,” Gabri’el said, his voice shocked. “It’s not written down anywhere.”

“No. I managed to keep it out of the history books, angelic and human. It wasn’t easy but if my professors had seen….”

“So this is all an experiment? The whole of history is a science project for a newly qualified scientist who….

What?”

He stopped at the look on Ari’s face. Ari turned away and took a deep drink. “I’m not quite a newly qualified scientist. This…this was kind of a…. It was an examination.”

“An exam? You did all of this as an exam project.”

Ari nodded. “I don’t think I’ll pass climate.”

“You think?”

Silence fell as Pasha and Gabri’el digested what had been said.

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“You don’t. What’s past is past and none of this was preserved in record. You’ll just have to trust me.”

“Why should we trust you?”

“Because I made you.”

“You made me?”

“I made all of you; all the angels. I was given the DNA of humanity to seed the earth and I used my own

DNA to create another race. I couldn’t be everywhere at the same time and I needed help. The rules of the examination say that I can’t interfere with humanity’s evolution by changing them , but I can – “

“What about the ‘missing link’?”

“I’m allowed some mistakes  and, anyway, I was compensating for the dinosaurs. No one foresaw that.”

“That’s okay then.”

“Wait. You genetically engineered angels from humans and…whatever you are? You made us?”

“Yes.”

“All of us? All angels?”

“Yes.”

Gabri’el shook his head and got out of his seat. He started to pace while Uzzi’el watched him anxiously.

“Give me one good reason why I should believe you.”

“I’ve already given you one. “

“Not good enough. The fact that you say you created us doesn’t prove anything. It doesn’t add anything to

your credibility.”

Ari smiled. “I honestly can’t blame you. I had a hard time convincing Uzzi’el too. I’m going to have to prove it to you the same way I proved it to him. Come with me.”

“Where are you taking us?”

“It’s okay, Gabri’el. He’s only going to take us to the control center.”

Gabri’el rolled his eyes.  “Of course he is.”

Uzzy linked arms with Gabri’el and Pasha as they followed Ari. “You’re very quiet.”

“I have a lot to think about.”

“What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that I don’t care what he has to say, whether he’s right or wrong. All I care about is that you’re back with me.”

Uzzy gave him a glorious smile and laid his head on his shoulder. Pasha put his arm around Uzzy’s waist. Gabri’el stopped and they all stopped with him.  “You’re right,” he said as if it surprised him, “it doesn’t really matter. You’re here and you’re happy with him and we’re all truly together. That’s all that really matters.”

Arm in arm, Pasha, Uzzy and Gabri’el followed Ari through corridors that first reminded them of a hospital and then, rather uncomfortably, of some kind of spaceship.

Ari stopped in front of a metal door and pressed his hand to a panel in the wall. A familiar green glow appeared between his fingers, and the door swung silently open.

Immediately, the hall was filled with sound – whirring, clicking, humming, buzzing, and a high pitched alarm. Ari swore and ran inside.

“It’s the climate alarm,” Uzzy whispered. “It means there’s a disaster somewhere. There are supposed to be indications and warnings in advance to give Ari the chance to control or divert it, but Ari’s useless at it.”

“I can hear you, you know,” Ari said, staring intently at a huge screen where a cluster of red dots was flashing frantically. Ari’s fingers flew over a massive touchpad and the dots grew rapidly bigger then resolved into a map which zoomed in to scene of carnage, with houses mere mounds of rubble, severed power lines twisting like snakes with fireworks tied to their tails, fires springing up and people crawling, hobbling or carrying each other away from cracks in the earth as wide as car. In some places cars were half inside the giant maws as if about to be crunched and swallowed.

“Earthquake,” Ari said. “It doesn’t count as climate.”

“You’re still supposed to keep them under control, though.”

“I know,” Ari ground out through gritted teeth. “God here, remember?  I know everything.”

“Except how to control climate and avoid earthquakes.”

“The science is very similar.”

“Which explains why you’re as useless with earthquakes as climate.”

“If you think you can do better, by all means give it a try.”

Uzzy looked a little startled, then walked forward and frowned at the touchpad. “Why don’t you reduce the pressure over there,” he said pointing at the upper left corner. “And that graph line is unstable. If you increase the pressure here and here when you reduce it over there, it will bring the baseline up and make it more stable.”

Ari stopped work and glared at him. “Oh well, if you know better than God, then feel free to take over.”

Gently edging Ari out of the way, Uzzy gazed at the map with a dreamy expression on his face as his hands began to move slowly over the touchpad.

“Pasha, can you help me? Gabri’el, come over here.” Pasha hesitantly took his place next to Uzzy.  “Look,” Uzzy said, “see there? I think if we move this and slide that the pressure will even out. Gabri’el, if you move over to that pad you can handle the hurricane headed for the coast of Brazil. Can you see what to do?”

“Yeah,” Gabri’el said, shock in his voice. “I can. I really can.”

While Gabri’el set to work Pasha examined the touchpad and blinked as the random symbols and flashing lights began to resolve themselves into a pattern. Looking up at the screen and watching the way Uzzy’s fingers flew over his own patch of symbols, Pasha soon saw a pattern which he started to repeat and gradually transform into a whole new set of patterns.

As they watched the heaving earth stilled and settled, the fissures groaned and closed, taking the cars with them, and the dust began to settle. In Brazil, the hurricane dispersed leaving nothing more than high waves and a rather severe rainstorm.

When everything had settled the three angels moved back in unison and grinned at each other. “That was fun,” Uzzy said.

“Stressful fun.”

“The best fun always is.”

Ari cleared his throat and they all turned to him. He looked sulky. “How did you know what to do? How did you fix things to easily?”

Uzzy shrugged and spoke for the trio. “It was obvious once you saw the pattern.”

“But how did you know how to work the controls?”

“I don’t know, I just did.”

“But… Hmm…” Ari wandered off and started examining a different set of equipment and when he hadn’t come back for five minutes the others wandered around for a while examining the strange machines and delicate equipment, then Uzzy led them back to the comfortable room, where they sat together on the sofa and held each other while staring into the fire.

When Ari came back, Uzzy and Pasha were asleep and Gabri’el dozing, although he came instantly awake as soon as the door opened.

Gabri’el woke the other two and they sat up, rubbing their eyes and staring expectantly at Ari.

“It was the DNA,” he said. “I knew you three were special I just wasn’t quite sure how. It seems as if you’ve somehow acquired concentrated amounts of DNA from my people. At least Uzzy does. I took some samples when he came – with his permission,” he added quickly as Gabri’el leaned forward.

“Your DNA?”

“No.”

“But you said that you created angels my mixing your DNA with humans, and that when you mixed it with Atlanteans you created super angels.”

Ari laughed. “Not exactly ‘super angels’, but that’s it…kind of.”

“What do you mean?”

“It was an accident.”

“Now why am I not surprised?”

Ari glared at Gabri’el. “I carry DNA samples from some of my own kind, in case of emergencies.”

“What kind of emergencies?”

“Destruction of my species.”

“Is that a possibility?” Uzzi’el asked , alarmed.

“It’s always a possibility. There are dangerous beings out there. Everyone who travels off planet takes a set of DNA of all the most important members of our society with them – just in case.”

“And?”

“I got some of the samples mixed up. I thought it hadn’t really made any difference but it now seems that it did.”

“What kind of difference?”

“I don’t really know. I’ve never done it before but I have a theory.”

“Don’t keep us in suspense.”

“I think I accidentally created the Trinity.”

“I get the feeling you’re talking about more than just a three way bond,” Gabri’el said, his eyes glowing with suspicion.

“Yes. We always ensure we leave a three way bond in charge when we leave a seeded planet.  A Trinity is more than that; much more. It actually exists within each of you. Human genes, our genes and something that represents the union of the two that creates something more. Usually, the three way bond is nothing more than the union of three angels creating a special energy that is more powerful than that created by a two way bond. With a Trinity, you’re transcended beyond that, to a state which has less to do with being human that I am. It happens very occasionally when the balance of DNA is equal. In effect, that requires an overdose of our genes. That’s why it’s so rare. It requires a pretty drastic mistake.”

“Why does it not surprise me that you made a drastic mistake?” Uzzy said with some fondness in his voice.

“What does that mean for us?” Gabri’el snapped.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Ariel said with a sigh. “Trinities are so rare we haven’t really been able to study them, especially as they’re only ever created immediately before we leave. Occasionally, one of the senior scientists are sent back to study them but not much information has been gathered so far.”

“What information do you actually have? What have you done to us?”

“I don’t know.” Ari said, a touch of irritation in his voice. “Haven’s I just told you that?”

“Is it going to harm us?”

“Oh no, it won’t do that. All the Trinities so far have been stable, some for centuries. We’ve had no reports of it affecting the participants negatively. Quite the opposite. As you’ve been given far more of our DNA than the ordinary angels you’re far more powerful.”

“In what way?”

Ari sighed. “Have you not listened to what I’ve been saying?  I don’t see there’s much point repeating a question to which you know there is no answer. It’s something you’re going to have to work out for yourselves as you go along.”

“You’re going to help us though,” Pasha asked, rather alarmed by the way the conversation was heading.

Ari looked uncomfortable. “That’s another thing I’ve already told you,” he said. “We only create the three way bond immediately before we leave. Therefore, it’s a reasonable assumption I expected you to make, that I am about to leave.”

“Not until you’ve taught us what we need to know,” Gabri’el snapped. ”You can’t just drop all this in our laps and walk away.”

Gabri’el seemed on the verge of going for Ari’s throat. Ari shrugged. “It’s the way it happens. You have to find your own way and if I stay I’ll affect that, pollute it. I’m not of this world; you are. Uzzy has already shown he’s more than able to use the equipment.” He tossed his hair. “Better than me, in fact. He was always meant to be the leader and he can guide you better than I can. Uzzy is the leader, Gabri’el is the protector and Pasha is the mediator. It’s the way it always is. At least I got that bit right.” Suddenly, Ari’s face lit up. “I did get that bit right, didn’t I? And I created a Trinity. I might just pass this after all.”

“That’s all you care about? Passing your bloody exam? You sit there and tell us we’re some kind of super beings and that you’re imminently going to leave us in charge of the whole planet, and all you care about is passing your exam?”

Ari looked somewhat embarrassed, but simply shrugged.

“You can’t do that.”

“I have done that. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t good enough.”

“It’s all I can give you.”

“At least show us how everything works,” Pasha said, suddenly feeling alarmed.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have time.”

“What do you mean? When are you leaving?”

“Um Nowish.”

“Nowish? What does that mean?”

“Nowish. Now. I have time to show you The Core and after that I have to go.”

“What’s The Core?”

“It’s what powers all this and gives you the ability to be anywhere and everywhere at once.”

“I wondered how that was done.”

“I may be God but I’m can’t split myself into that many pieces. The Core…. Well, come see it.”

Numbly, the three angels followed Ari through corridors and the weird sliding doors.

Pasha realised something as Ari laid his hand against a wall panel and the green glow spread between his fingers. “How are we going to get through the doors?”

“Once The Core recognizes you, you’ll be able to work all the panels and equipment.”

“Uzzy was already able to use the equipment.”

Ari stopped. “He was, wasn’t he? I wonder if that’s one of the things The Trinity can do. Try.” He stepped aside and indicated a door panel. Startled, Uzzy stared at it. “Go on. Try.”

Hesitantly, Uzzy laid his hand against the panel. Instead of a green light the rainbow light they’d already experienced between themselves, sparkled and shimmered. The door opened. Uzzy turned to them, delighted. “You try.”

Both Gabri’el and Pasha were successful in opening the doors and Ari acknowledged it sulkily with a huff. He then continued to lead them through the corridors, deeper into the complex. “You can explore later. Most of the rooms are empty.”

Finally, he paused in front of a door that looked the same as all the other doors. With a flourish he opened it and they stepped into The Core.

It was beautiful, amazing, breath-taking. It was…a room full of nothing, but a nothing that contained everything. The air was full of it.

“Damn,” Ari said. They knew what he meant. They were surrounded by a familiar rainbow energy. “It’s never done that before.”

“Oh God,” Pasha said, breathless. “We’re God.”

“Absolutely. And I’m retired.” Ari grinned at them.

“This is crazy,” Pasha said. “It’s unreal. I feel stoned stupid. Are you sure you didn’t put acid in our drinks?”

Ari laughed. “No, no acid, just…magic, maybe? I’ll leave you to look around.”

“What do you mean ‘look around’? There’s nothing here.”

“Really? Try walking in a little further.”

Uzzy moved forward but Gabri’el pulled him back. “Wait here.” Gabri’el strode to the centre of the room, then turned slowly. His eyes were wide and the glittering rainbow energy was swirling in them.

“What is it?” Pasha asked; half eager and half anxious. “What can you see? What can you feel?”

“Everything,” Uzzy whispered.

“Everything,” Gabri’el gasped in wonder.

“Like I said, I’ll leave you to look around.”

“Wait. Are you leaving…altogether? Are you leaving us right now?”

Ari looked sad. “I have to. I’ve been called back. I can’t stay.”

“No one will know. Stay for a little while, just until we find our feet. A few days. Surely no one will notice a few days. How long will it take you to get home? Months? Years? Will they really miss a few days?”

“About half an hour and yes, I think they would.”

“Half an hour? How far away do you live?”

“About two galaxies…and then some.”

“In half an hour?”

“How long does it take you to travel through the angel gates? Star gates are just bigger versions and not quite so fast. It’s not a pleasant way to travel but the best we can do in the circumstances. I really do have to go. They’re waiting for me and it doesn’t do to keep the education panel waiting.” Suddenly, Ari looked very nervous. “They’ll have the result – whether I passed or failed.”

“What happens if you fail? Will you have to re-sit? Start again somewhere else?”

Ari shook his head. “There’s only once chance. Opportunities like this don’t come up very often.  There aren’t an infinite number of suitable planets. This is it for me. If I fail….” He shrugged. “I guess I’ll be thrown off the programme and have to get a job.”

He looked and sounded so horrified Pasha couldn’t help but laugh. “Wouldn’t that just be the end of the world?”

Ari opened his mouth, looking indignant, then laughed. “I suppose you’re right. Time to ‘man up’ I guess. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I failed. I don’t know, maybe it would do me some good. I have some growing up to do, I think, although this whole project has certainly dragged me on up the scale somewhat. Looking back, I can’t believe they ever gave me the project in the first place, at least not on my own.” He frowned. “Sometimes I think I’m the experiment.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Uzzy said. “Speaking as one lab rat to another – it really isn’t that bad once you get over the righteous indignation.”

Ari spluttered and hugged Uzzy. “I’m going to miss you,” he said. Letting Uzzy go, he walked into The Core, grabbed Gabri’el’s hand and dragged the stunned angel across the floor until he was able to embrace them all. “I’m going to miss all of you.”

For a moment, they stood in silence, then Ari pulled free. “I suggest you move the Host into here. There are loads and loads of empty rooms. It’s a standard station and it was always way too big for me. Actually, you should contact them, Gabri’el, they’ve been waiting patiently for you.”

Gabri’el started, horrified that this was the first time he’d thought of his men. He’d told them to leave, but was unsurprised they were still there. “How long has it been since we left them?”

“Don’t worry. Not as long as it seemed. I’m much better at time than climate.” He grinned impishly “Now I really do have to go.”

“Wait. Don’t leave us like this. We’re not ready.”

“You’re as ready as you’ll ever be. Trust me. This isn’t anything that can be taught. And I wouldn’t be a very good teacher anyway.”

Quickly dropping a kiss on each cheek, Ari  turned and, before anyone could say another word, he was gone.

“Dammit.”

“It’s just us then. Are we really God?”

“We’re something.”

“What shall we do now?”

“I don’t know about you,” Gabri’el said. “but I could do with a drink. I feel like a croquet ball that’s been hit with the mallet just a few too many times. I don’t think I can handle any more hoops right now.”

“Do you think we can? I mean, take time for a drink? Shouldn’t we be on constant watch or something. I mean… God. Doesn’t God have to….well… do everything?”

“You’d be surprised how little God actually has to do. It’s mostly just watching and making sure things are kept in balance. The Core is amazing. You step inside and suddenly you know everything. You are everything. You’re connected to every cell, every energy flow on the planet, and beyond. In The Core you can see all the patterns. The way they should be and the way they are. As long as it all pretty much matches we’re fine. If there are problems we can see them and then go to the control centre to sort them out. As long as we check The Core a couple of times a day we’re fine. There are alarms that go off if something unexpected crops up.”

“And that’s it?”

“Pretty much.”

“Well then,” Gabri’el said, sliding his arms around Uzzy and Pasha’s waists and pulling them close. “I think a little R & R is in order.”

“I’ll show you how everything works.”

“Oh, don’t worry.” Gabri’el said in a voice that conveyed his meaning much better than the words. “I know exactly how all the parts I’m thinking of work.”

*****

After Gabri’el called in The Host and set them to conduct a thorough search and inventory of the complex, Uzzy took them back to the suite where they’d first met Ari. “I guess this is ours now,” he said with a sigh as he lowered himself onto the plush sofa. I’ll have to show you how everything works, but not tonight. I’m too exhausted.”

“What do you mean, ‘how everything works’?” Pasha asked, sitting beside him and snuggling into his side.

Uzzy smiled at him with open adoration in his gaze and gently stroked his cheek. “I missed you,” he said hoarsely.

“I missed you, too.”

Caressing his mate with his gaze, Uzzy raised his hand and brushed it over the arm of the sofa. Pasha gasped as the sofa seat shot out beneath his legs and stretched away until they found themselves lying on a huge, four poster bed. In the fireplace, the fire flared, its flames crackling comfortably.

“How the hell did you do that?”

“I’ll show you tomorrow. It’s a knack. You’ll pick it up. All you need to do is touch something and you can alter their composition. Nothing here is the same as it is out there. Things are not as…solid as they seem. Most of it’s made of magic, which is why it’s so easy to change. I’ll teach you.”

“Okay. I don’t think anything would surprise me in this place.”

“I don’t know. I’m sure I could find something if I tried hard enough.”

“No need to try. You always surprise me.”

Uzzy smiled, and pushed him back on the soft, fluffy pillows that had appeared along with the bed.  His eyes glittered in the firelight. “Got any peaches?” he said huskily.

For a moment Pasha was utterly confused, then he remembered the last time they’d been together like this. “Maybe next time,” he said, feeling lazy and comfortable.

Pasha sighed contentedly and closed his eyes as Uzzy began to undo the buttons on his shirt. His sighs deepened as Uzzy opened the shirt and started dropping kissed over his chest. His skin prickled with the crackling blue energy that sparked and tickled with every touch of Uzzy’s lips and he allowed himself to be submerged in the sensation.  He moaned softly and writhed as hands pulled at his trousers and slipped them down over his hips.

Uzzy’s hands were everywhere, caressing, tweaking, stroking. His lips seemed to be everywhere, too. Something didn’t quite add up and Pasha opened his eyes. He was met with a sight that, at first shocked him. He froze and gazed up into Gabri’el’s smiling face. His emotions were thrown into turmoil and he stared for so long the smile began to slip from Gabri’el’s face. And then Pasha saw the rainbows in Gabri’el’s eyes and a switch flicked. Reaching up, Pasha buried his hands in Gabri’el’s hair and pulled his head down to kiss deeply.

With Gabri’el’s mouth on his and Uzzy’s sucking at a nipple, Pasha found himself completely swept away and, after only a short time it became unbearable. He twisted away from Uzzy and pushed Gabri’el onto his back. Raising his eyes to Uzzy, he grinned and Uzzy returned it.

“What…?” Gabri’el asked and Pasha silenced him with a kiss, while Uzzy quickly stripped him, then shucked his own clothes before stretching out on the other side of Gabri’el, teasing him with light strokes until he started to tremble.

Releasing Gabri’el’s mouth, Pasha leaned across him and kissed Uzzy deeply as three of his fingers curled in the dark hairs on Gabriel’s chest and tugged gently, while his thumb and forefinger rolled a nipple. Gabri’el moaned and shuddered, writhing as Uzzy replaced Pasha, kissing his lips while Pasha released his nipple with his fingers and replaced them with his teeth, making Gabri’el squirm even more.

Pasha had to admit to a pang of jealousy when Uzzy shifted his position to bury his nose between Gabri’el’s legs. Although he couldn’t see what he was doing he could see the results on Gabri’el who started to shake in earnest. It was momentarily though, because then his vision was filled with the luscious sight of Gabri’el’s rock hard cock waving in front of his face and he was unable to resist.

Uzzy raised his head slightly and his eyes met Pasha’s as he started to lick Gabri’el’s balls. Gabri’el fisted Pasha’s hair as Pasha licked then suckled his throbbing cock. Little mewling sounds came from the enigmatic soldier as Pasha sucked harder, taking Gabri’el further into his mouth, and Uzzy rolled his balls with his tongue.

Pasha jumped when Gabri’el’s finger slipped between his ass cheeks and massaged his hole. He squeaked and Gabri’el whimpered at the vibrations. Moaning, as Gabri’el massaged him more and more firmly, Pasha swallowed him deeper and began to bob. Gabri’el thrust into his mouth as his finger popped passed his barrier and slipped deeper inside. Pasha lost total awareness of what Uzzy was doing as he had to focus hard on maintaining his rhythm as Gabri’el  slowly finger fucked him.

Wriggling, his ass, to receive a second finger, Pasha sucked harder and swallowed deeper until Gabri’el moaned. “I’m close.” Pasha was ready to swallow him, but Uzzy pushed him gently backwards until Gabri’el popped out of his mouth.

Gabri’el  and Uzzy seemed almost to be in mental contact when Gabri’el slid from under him to be replaced by Uzzy. Gabri’el positioned himself behind Pasha and raised his hips while Uzzy wriggled under him to work him deeply into his mouth. At the same time, Uzzy’s pretty cock, velvety and hard was just impossible to resist. Pasha almost regretted taking it in though, when he very nearly bit him as Gabri’el’s fingers thrust into him, hard and fast, finding his sweet spot and sending shock waves through him and rainbows flashing in front of his eyes.

Pasha moaned, as best he could with his mouth full and forced himself not to bite down as Gabri’el worked his fingers inside while Uzzy made good use of his tongue and teeth on the outside.  He was totally unable to do anything other than compress his lips around Uzzy’s shaft and suck. He lost the ability to do even that when both Uzzy and Gabri’el, still with that uncanny synchronism stepped up their attacks on his equilibrium.

Forced to let Uzzy go, Pasha ground his teeth and moaned, arching his back. Gabr’el’s free hand kneaded his buttock, while Uzzy’s ran up and down over his sides, sending shivers through him.

When Gabri’el’s fingers withdrew Pasha moaned with loss but not for long. Uzzy gripped his hips to brace

him as Gabri’el parted his buttocks and pressed against his opening.

“Are you ready to grant me entrance?”

“Just do it,” Pasha moaned. “Please.”

“I have a feeling this is more than just sex, Pasha. If we go on; if I expel my seed within you, there will be no going back. We will be joined forever. For better or worse.”

Pasha didn’t have to think. “Do it.”

“Pasha, do you understand…?”

“Just fucking do it. I understand. We’ll be joined forever. As if we aren’t already. As if any of us can go back from this. Do it,” he screamed, then screamed again as Gabri’el did.

Gabri’el was not small and he filled Pasha as Pasha had never been filled before. At first he was still, letting Pasha become acclimatised to the intrusion. Pasha’s muscles twitched and spasms. With a long, low moan he pressed back against Gabri’el while Uzzy raised himself to follow his cock.

“Oh God. Oh God,” Pasha panted as Gabri’el increased his speed and depth. He was getting short of breath. Electric shocks were running up and down his spine, fizzing, then popping in his head, sending little bursts of light flashing in front of his eyes.

Gabri’el  grunted as he thrust, deeper and deeper. His fingers dug into Pasha’s flesh. It hurt but it was a good pain, a great pain, and another was building inside – or was it pleasure. The borders blurred and shifted and shuddered deeply. Hid brain was backfiring, unable to decide if it wanted his body to thrust back onto Gabri’el, or forward into Uzzy. Both of them were going deeper and deeper and the pressure building in his gut was making his eyes roll.

He tried to call out, to say he was close, but he couldn’t speak. Gabri’el bent forward and whispered in his ear.  “Come for me.” It was too much. He slammed back against Gabri’el, as Uzzy worked him hard and his whole body shook like crazy as he came hard and fast. As his muscles contracted hard around Gabri’el, Gabri’el cried out and exploded inside him.

For a moment, no one moved, then Uzzy slid out from under Pasha and Pasha collapsed, gasping. Gabri’el rolled sideways to avoid crushing him and they both lay sprawled out and trembling with after shocks.

Gradually, Pasha became aware of featherlight strokes on his chest and light kisses, moving from his belly upwards. By the time he was fully aware, Uzzy had reached his nipple and bit hard. Pasha cried out and grabbed his hair tugging upwards until their lips met.

They kissed softly, then Uzzy curled into his side, while Gabri’el crawled up to tuck himself around Uzzy. For a while they merely lay, content, listening to the crackling of the fire and allowing their hands to wander over whatever skin they could reach, not caring who it belonged to.

Uzzy made little noises of pleasure and sleepiness, nuzzling into Pasha’s shoulder. Pasha would have let him drift off and followed him willingly, but Gabri’el raised his head and smiled at him, his eyes glowing and holding a wicked expression.

“Shall we pluck the little flower and plough his field?” Gabri’el said huskily.

“I think we should pluck him good.”

“Mhm.” Uzzy purred and blinked up at Pasha, like a sleepy kitten, but one who was about to leap for the ball of string. “I’m hungry,” he whined.

“You’ve already eaten,” Gabri’el said, “Hasn’t he, Pasha?”

For a moment, Pasha didn’t know what he was implying. “Oh  yes, my love. You’ve just had a meal of me and now I’m hungry for you.”

“Wish we had peaches.”

“You don’t need peaches to make you sweet.”

Uzzy gazed up at him, looking more like an angel than ever, with his blue eyes and golden curls. Pasha kissed his soft, warm lips and it suddenly hit him. This is heaven, literally heaven. Maybe he’d got there by a wing and a prayer but he was here now. One lover lay under him and the other was stroking his hair and his back and he felt exactly what he was – A God. Raising his head he saw an expression in Gabri’el’s eyes that told him he was thinking the same thing.

“Come on, my Gods, send me to heaven.”

“We’re already here.”

“Yeah well, you’re thinking literal and I’m thinking metaphorical. I’m hungry so either you make me spam and chips or make me forget about it.”

“Spam and chips? We’re Gods, in heaven…kind of. We could have anything, absolutely anything and you

want spam and chips?”

“I got infected with human.” Uzzy fluttered his eyelashes and threw Pasha a hot look.

“Then it’s time we did some serious distracting,” Gabri’el said. Pasha agreed and they both pounced.

Half an hour later they were lying, absolutely sated, tangled in each other. Pasha was listening to the crackle of the fire and Uzzy’s breathing, which was still a little fast. He raised his head, which was cradled on Uzzy’s shoulder, to look down at his mate. Uzzy’s eyes were closed, his hair mussed and his lips swollen from kissing. The flickering light from the fire cast dancing shadows on his perfext face. Pasha’s heart swole at the sheer beauty of his lover and a powerful protectiveness swept over him. Uzzy looked so vulnerable, even though Pasha knew he wasn’t.  He traced the lines of Uzzy’s face, brushing his fingers over Uzzy’s cheek and lips, which curved at his touch.

On the other side, Gabri’el stirred languidly and also raised his head. If anything, he was even more beautiful than Uzzy; a darker, more dangerous beauty. Pasha thought there was nothing that could make Gabri’el look vulnerable. The warrior angel leaned across Uzzy’s body and kissed Pasha tenderly. It felt so good. When they broke apart there was a look of such fierce love in Gabri’el’s eyes it made Pasha’s stomach tighten.

A thunderous hammering on the door had Pasha and Gabri’el leaping backward. Gabri’el went for his sword, while Pasha crouched in front of Uzzy, who was laughing, even as he scrambled up to kneel next to Pasha. “Silly angels,” he said, kissing Pasha’s shoulder. “As if anyone could hurt us here.”

Uzzi’el waved his hand lazily toward the door and a whirlwind of white and gold flew in with a cloud of feathers.

Mute, for once, Fierro flew to Uzzy and circled him, fluffing his feathers and keening. Uzzy reached out to him and, sitting back, drew the fiery bird onto his lap. Fierro butted his chin and Uzzy laughed again. “Insane creature.”

“We have both been insane with worry over you all,” Frosty announced, her usually haughty manner tempered with relief. “We thought we had lost you and were concerned we’d lost the other two too. Who would have led the armies? Who would have rebuilt the Council?”

“And that’s the only reason you were concerned?”

“I watched you die, Lord,” Fierro said with none of his usual bluster. “It broke my heart. I will take time to heal.”

Silently, Uzzy hugged Fierro, then held his arms out to Frosty. After a brief hesitation she hopped up onto the bed and allowed herself to be petted.

“I saw you die,” Fierro repeated, in accusing tones.

“I know. It wasn’t really me, though. Just an empty shell; a deceit. I was never there.”

“And how was I expected to know that?” Fierro said, sounding more his old self. “I went through hell. Do  you have any idea what it’s like to watch someone you love die?”

“You love me?” Uzzy asked, grinning.

“I didn’t say that,” FIerro said ruffling his feathers.

“Do we live here now?” Frosty asked. “I feel magic; much magic.”

“Yes, we live here now. There are so many things to see; to find, and we’ve only just begun.”

“What about the Council? Eden? Earth?”

“We can run them all from here. I’ll explain later, but we can establish easy ways to travel, no problem.

We’ll call a meeting of the Council here in the morning and we can thrash out the details with them.”

“And you won’t go doing stupid things again?”

“I’m sure I will. Lots of stupid things, but I have my friends around me. I think you should stick close to me,

just to make sure I don’t get out of hand.”

Fierro humped and looked around. “Did you know you’re naked? I suppose you’re all—.”

His question was cut off by a loud alarm. Without even stopping to dress, the three angels, followed by the two feisty birds, ran to the control room.

Uzzy’s fingers flew over the controls. After a moment, he relaxed and smiled. “I think a friend has a message for us,” he said.

“What friend? Who know we’re here?”

“You’ll see,” Uzzy said. After a few more moments working furiously on the control panel, Uzzy stepped back. One of the screens, that had always been blank, was fizzing and slowly resolved into a picture.

Ari was wearing some kind of uniform, and his long hair was braided over his shoulder. He was beaming.

“How are you doing? Settling in?”

“Starting to.”

“I see your birds have found you.”

Uzzy glanced at the two birds who were hovering, nervous but protective. “I didn’t doubt for a moment they would.”

“I can’t be long. It takes a lot of energy to maintain the connection. I just wanted to let you know I passed.”

“You did? That’s great.”

“I could get offended that you’re so surprised, if I didn’t appreciate how right you are.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“I’ll be assigned a new task, my first as a qualified scientist. I don’t know what it is yet, but I hope it has nothing to do with climate control.”

“God forbid,” Pasha said, rolling his eyes.

“Well, if you forbid it, I’ll convey your orders.”

Pasha blinked, confused for a moment, then laughed. “It’s going to take some getting used to.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll get right into it. At least there are three of you. I was on my own. Besides, Uzzy is

already better at using the machines than I am. You’ll do fine. Make sure to have fun.”

The picture started to waver.

“Looks like I have to go.”

“Wait. Will we ever see you again?”

“Maybe. I’ll try.”

Before any of them could say another word, the picture dissolved and the screen went blank.

“I’m glad he passed.”

“Yeah. On the whole, he wasn’t so bad.”

“As Gods go, he wasn’t a bad one, I guess.”

“We’ll be better.”

“Yeah, like he said, we have each other. We can do anything, together.”

“Yes, we can, together.”

The End.