Chapter 20 ‘Slap and Tickle’



     Miriam silently came to a halt at the edge of the trees. Her bare feet were almost as white as the snow, but she seemed not to notice. She noted the position of the land rover and that it was empty, before trekking through the snow. Her feet darted on their own accord to avoid twigs and anything else on the ground that would make noise if trod on. Keeping to the trees, she followed along after the quintuple. She soon caught up with them and paralleled them in the shadows of the trees.

      They were wandering among rows of pine trees, carefully cultivated to grow in cones. She drew her blade, keeping it by her side so it wouldn't reflect light and draw attention. She started humming absently and then said quietly:

      "Fair is strong and fair is cold. I am fair and I am bold," before she spun and dove the point of her blade into a thick branch above and slightly behind her. Damien gave a startled cry and fell from where he had been perched on the branch. He landed on his back and she was kneeling on his chest in moments.

      "You're late!" she hissed.

      "Piss off!" Damien snarled, pushing her off.

      They stood together and Miriam looked into his dark complexion. She stepped close to him and reached out her hand. Her white fingers traced along the black scar that marred his face. A result of Damien's last face-off with Jason. She looked almost sad as her fingers reached the bottom of the black gash. Then her wrist snapped back and delivered a stinging blow to his face that opened up the wound again. A few droplets of black ooze splattered on the snow and hissed.


* * *


     As the five walked along, Drew scooped up a handful of fresh snow and balled it. He quickly hurled it at Jason and hit him square in the back. Jason turned and faced Drew and Scott who were walking together. Drew made a subtle gesture at Scott and Jason was quick to make his own snowball. He lobbed it and struck Scott in the chest.

      "What the--?"

      Drew burst into laughter and Jason rounded on him. He scooped up another handful of snow and sent it Drew's way. The three glared at each other briefly before simultaneously stooping to gather snow. A full-blown snowball fight ensured. Sara and Matt walked slowly ahead of the trio, paying scant attention; Matt deep in contemplation, Sara silently fuming. Jason chucked a packed snowball at Drew who ducked. The projectile flew through the air and connected with a wet smack with the back of Matt's head. Jason froze as Matt did and tried to assume a serious face. Drew stood slowly and looked cautiously at Matt. Scott paused too, his arm in mid throw. Matt turned slowly and Jason braced himself for a reprimand. Matt blinked and looked at the three pranksters. He bent low and scooped two handfuls of snow. His fingers danced on the clumps and quickly formed two perfect spheres out of the snow. He held on up to his face to inspect it while Jason, Drew and Scott waited to see what he did. Both of his hands suddenly snapped out and hurled the two snow-spheres at Scott and Drew. Before they had even hit their marks, Matt was scooping up more snow, which he flung at Jason.

      Jason grinned to see Matt's participation and scooped up his own handful of snow. The snow battle resumed, plus one member.


* * *


     "Fuck you!" Damien snarled. "It had just healed after what that shit did to me!" His fist lashed out and struck Miriam in the chest, propelling her back against a tree trunk. He was fast behind her and as she struck it, snow from the upper limbs rained down upon them in heavy clumps. He stood close, pressed against her body, both breathing heavily. His many-toothed mouth opened and a long black tongue snaked out. It slid along Miriam's cheek and down her neck as he brought his face closer. She writhed silently under him but didn't try to force him away. Instead, she closed her eyes and reached up around him. Bands of liquid fabric flowed from her arms and wound around them, pulling them tighter together. Damien made a low, guttural moan.


* * *


     Jason paused in his snow flinging and stared across the tree-dotted field at the woods. He'd seen one of the larger trees shake violently and snow rain down from its top. It caught his attention so sufficiently that he forgot about the snow fight around him. At least until one of Matt's snow spheres caught him full in the face. He staggered backwards and tripped on a stick protruding from the snow.

      Matt left a flurry of snow in the air behind him as he rushed to Jason's side. He crouched low over Jason and reached out a hand to touch Jason gently.

      Jason didn't respond.

      He shook Jason harder "Jason?"

      Still no answer.

      Matt leaned over Jason and shook him more urgently, starting to panic.

      Jason's hand snagged the front of his coat and yanked him down. Matt toppled over and landed, sprawled over Jason, his face buried in the snow. Jason laughed as Matt slowly rolled over in the snow and glared at him. He giggled again and rolled atop of the angel. His face lowered until their mouths met and they locked lips.

       Scott and Drew had stopped fighting as Jason fell and watched anxiously at Matt's mounting panic. Relief washed over them as they realized it was a prank and laughed when Matt ended up face down in the snow. Drew watched with envy as Jason rolled on top of his boyfriend and they shared a kiss. Drew lowered his gaze to the patch of snow between his feet. He felt hot air against his cheek and then a pair of lips briefly.

      He looked up with a start. Scott was standing next to him, pointedly avoiding his eyes.

      "What was that for?" Drew asked quietly so that Jason and Matt couldn't hear.

      Scott shrugged. "I'm not really sure." He started to blush, so he turned away and ran to catch up with Sara. Drew cast a curious glance at him and then a wistful look at the couple on the ground before he followed Scott.


* * *


     Jason and Matt finally caught up with the others when they were deep into the field of Christmas trees. They set about on the long and arduous task of selecting the 'perfect tree.' Always a controversial task, it usually involved at least an hour of tree-inspection and heated arguments. Traditionally it was Jason and Sara who argued over the tree, whether it was tall enough, or full enough, or if it were straight, and their parents stood back and enjoyed the outdoors. But with Matt, Drew and Scott along, Jason and Sara were trying to be less volatile about the whole thing. Even so, whenever one of them found a tree they liked, the other would find something wrong with it. Scott and Drew were in fits of laughter as the siblings bickered.

      "Hey!" Matt called out. He had wandered off from the rest of them several minutes before, but none of them had noticed his departure. "What about this one?" He asked.

      Jason and Sara abandoned their argument over the umpteenth tree and followed the direction of Matt's voice. The gathered around two trees clumped next to one another to find Matt standing, staring up at a tree almost twice the size of the ones they had been looking at.

      "Too big," Sara snapped as soon as she saw the tree.

      Jason got a bit closer and checked out the tree properly. It certainly was larger than any of the others, but it was also in much better condition. Fuller and straighter with lush, green needles.

      "Why not?" Jason turned and asked her. "I mean, there are nearly twice as many of us this year, why not get a tree nearly twice as tall?"

      Sara glowered at Matt. He would have to choose the perfect tree, wouldn't he? "How are we going to get it home?" She asked, although she knew she was being ridiculous. She'd already lost this one. She could see it on the faces of Drew and Scott. They both liked the tree too.

      "Oh come on Sara, with that monster of a landrover we won't have any trouble," Jason urged.

      "Fine," Sara frowned. "But if mom and dad don't like it, you're taking the heat."

      Jason grinned and began spreading a tarp across the snow. Scott took the saw from Sara and with Drew's help, started cutting the base of the trunk. Jason's hand snaked out and found Matt's. They stood side by side as Drew and Scott made fast work of the wood. Soon, Jason moved in to help support the tree as they cut through the last bit of wood and then pushed the tree forwards so that it toppled onto the tarp. The five of them positioned the tree securely on the tarp before setting off, using ropes to drag it across the field and back towards the entrance to the tree farm.

      Matt and Jason, walked along next to the procession, until Jason suddenly stumbled. Had Matt not caught him, he would have tumbled face-first into the snow.

      "Jase, you ok?" Matt asked him worriedly. 

     Jason nodded weakly, but then his eyes flicked to the side, darting around in paranoia. Sara had noticed something was up and paused.  Scott and Drew did too.

      "We'll catch up in a sec." Matt called out, hoping Sara wouldn't come over. She'd probably accuse him of doing something to Jason.

      Scott and Drew tugged ahead with the tarp and Sara was forced to keep going along with them.

      Matt led Jason over to a rock and sat him down on it. He kneeled in front of Jason and took his hands, rubbing them with his own. "Jase?" He asked again. "Jason, look at me." He touched Jason's cheek and turned his head so he was looking down into the angel's face. "What is it?"

      Jason looked at him and then he trembled and his eyes darted back away from Matt's face. They jumped randomly from object to object, never pausing. Jason's hands clutched hard onto Matt's. "What are they?" he gasped.

      Matt turned his head to look behind him, but saw only the snowy trees.

      "What are what, Jason?"

      Jason's eyes found his again. "Don't you see them?"

      "See what?"

      "Green ghostings," Jason hissed. "They're everywhere!"

      Matt closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them again, allowing his second sight to take over. He gasped at what he saw.

      Every tree, every plant that stuck out of the ground, every living thing wavered with a green shadow that danced and flickered. He'd seen it before on numerous occasions, but never with such intensity. Usually, if he used his second sight, the living world acquired a second, green image that overlapped. But now, some of the objects around them had triple, even quadruple swirling green shadows. The green, swirling mists were fairly bubbling up from the ground and washing over things like an unstoppable river.

      "You can see it too?" Matt asked.

      "What is it?" an edge of panic touched Jason's voice.

      Matt almost chuckled. "It's the Earth Mother."


      "The Earth Mother. Life itself." Matt said again. "There are four elements that make up the universe we know. Earth and Water hold dominion over your world." He explained. 

     Jason looked at him, not sure whether or not to believe him. He remembered back in the woods near Matt's sanctuary. Lying by the brook and dozing. The leaves with their green mirror images and then the squirrel...

      "But why can I see it?"

      Matt's brow furrowed for a moment. "I don't know. Maybe it's just another of your powers."

      Jason shivered. He didn't like it when Matt said that. It made him feel like something out of X-men. "It's making me nauseous." he complained. "How do I make it go away."

      The angel crouching before him chuckled. "It's always there. You can't make it go away. It IS life."

      "I don't care what it is!" Jason suddenly snapped. The constant shifting and swirling was making his head hurt. "I don't want to see it."

      "Just close your eyes and picture the world without the green images." Matt soothed as he gently rubbed Jason's hands. Jason did as he was instructed, and Matt took the opportunity to study the ghostings around them. He felt the green mists extending tongues to probe his own, brilliant white aura. His aura was almost invisible against the pristine snow. Where it met the green, they merged and swirled together. He wanted to go off and study the plants to figure out why the ghostings were so strong here, but he couldn't leave Jason. He looked back at Jason, who had by now opened his own eyes. Matt suppressed a gasp as he saw the green tendrils stretching out and swarming over Jason. They were like appendages touching and feeling him. Everything seemed to be flowing into Jason, and something was flowing back out from him too. It was just above his skin and merged with the green almost immediately so it was impossible to discern its color, but the mist around him was in constant turmoil.

      "What?" Jason brought him back from his thoughts.

      "N-nothing." Matt blinked and the green shadows vanished. It troubled him more than he liked to admit. Not just that Jason had been able to see the ghostings, but also the way the mists reacted to Jason. As if they were trying to envelope him. He wasn't about to worry Jason with it though, so he stood and helped Jason to his feet. "Come on, they'll be waiting for us."

      Sara, Scott and Drew had already paid for the tree. It was now netted and strapped to the roof-rack with several bungee cords.

      "You OK?" Drew asked as they approached.

      "Fine." Jason answered, more snappily than he had meant. "Sorry." He quickly recovered and then clambered into the van. He took a seat in the very back and hunched against the window, looking out.

      Drew shot a questioning look at Matt, but Matt only shook his head once. Sara and Scott were already in their seats, so Drew jumped in as well. Matt got in last and slid the door shut behind him. He moved to sit besides Jason, but their eyes connected. Jason gave a momentary look and then returned to gazing out the window. Matt sighed and eased himself into the seat next to Drew. They pulled out of the parking field and headed home in heavy silence.


* * *


     Miriam lay on the ground, Damien pressed heavily on top of her. The snow around them had melted and evaporated, leaving a circle of exposed, dry grass. Her ears picked out the unique noise of the Parker's landrover from the background noise as it started up and pulled away, fading in the distance.

      She shoved Damien off of her and snarled, pulling at her hair.

      "Fuck!" She cursed, and then again. "FUCK!"

      Damien sat up and then stood as she did.

      "What?" he asked.

      "We let them get away!" Miriam all but screamed.

      "So? Matt was there, it's not like you would have been able to just take Jason and run--"

      Miriam's fist lashed out and slammed into his chest. Damien flew through the air and struck the trunk of a tree. It cracked under the impact. Damien spat blood and then froze as the tree groaned. It snapped and toppled backwards, lifting him off the ground as his back was embedded in the wood.

      Miriam stomped to the tree where her sword was still stuck in the branch and ripped it from the limb. Her eyes blazed with fury as she rounded on Damien.

      "This is all your fault!" She spat. "If you hadn't started your little game of Slap and Tickle I could have gotten the brat!"

      She stood beside the tree and raised the sword over her head. Damien looked up at her and struggled to pull his spine from the wood. She moved so that the blade was positioned in such a way that it would sever his head and then flexed her arm muscles. Damien's eyes widened in fear. She brought the sword smashing down towards him, but flames licked up his body, engulfing him. The metal of her blade dug deep into the wood where he had been and Miriam screamed.


* * *


     The expedition arrived home without incident and presented their chosen tree to Mr. and Mrs. Parker. There were a few umm's and ah's about the size of the tree and then about the logistics of getting it inside the house. Jason sat by the whole while, still feeling slightly nauseated from his experience in the snow, and watched. He wasn't sure, and certainly no one else seemed to notice, but he could have sworn he saw the doorframe expand on the second try to allow the tree to fit in. He looked at Matt, but couldn't manage to catch his eye.

      Jason continued to watch from the sidelines as they debated whether or not the tree could fit in its usual spot in the living room. Eventually, it was decided it couldn't, and they began setting up in the hall to one side of the stairs. Jason took his leave of his family and slipped silently up to his room. He didn't want to be around anyone right now. Matt watched him go with saddened eyes. He didn't know what was wrong, he didn't know how to help Jason, and he didn't like it.

      Jason sat in his room, the happy babble of his friends andfamily drifting up from below as they decorated the tree. Everything had gone weird now. He didn't like seeing the energy of the 'Earth

Mother' as Matt had put it. It made him feel nauseous; the swaying, swirling green. He sprawled back on his bed and looked up at the ceiling. Where had it all gone wrong? His life seemed to be falling apart. Something inside him told him that it all led back to Matt.

Ever since Matt had come along, things had been happening, changing, in his family. So long ago it seemed, yet it had only been a few days... he thought back to Sara's words in the hotel that night, and his question that had sparked it all off.


* * *


     "Fine. Then what happened between you and Matt, why does everyone flip out at the mention of his name?" he had asked her. 

     Sara had drawn a breath and clenched her hands in her lap. She'd faced Jason across the couch and her eyes had sought his for a moment before she started. "It all started with Damien... Damien was my guardian angel, sent by the republic of heaven to watch over me and help to focus my skills. When you were born, another angel was allocated to watch over you. Matt." She had paused.

      "I don't get it," Jason jumped in. "That doesn't explain anything."

      She'd shot him down with her eyes. "I wasn't done, so shut it." She had looked at the wall to her left in exasperation and bit her lip before continuing. "Damien broke the rules laid down by Heaven and showed himself to me. He told me and taught me things that no one could have known and we started an affair. I was seventeen, he was five hundred." Sarah broke off and swallowed. She looked nostalgic and wistful. "It was wonderful, to have such a secret, forbidden love. He cared for me and loved me like I was his world. Of course, this was before his 'fall from grace'." Her face hardened and she turned back to fix her eyes on Jason again. "I didn't know you were part of their project, but I found out one night during a storm. I had come to check on you, you were only five at the time, and Matthew was perched over your cradle. The moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he was just like Damien, only older, stronger, and far more beautiful. I-I was jealous at first, that you had gotten a watcher like him and I had only Damien.

      "I left without a single word passing between myself and Matthew, but when Damien came to me the next night, I unloaded my jealousy upon him as anger. I'm sure I was a right bitch about it too," she had chuckled bitterly. "Mainly, I shouted at him about not telling me about my own brother, but he could tell there was something more. I grew more and more distant with our love affair and he grew colder in all his ways. I didn't see Matthew again until you were about twelve, and by then I was blind with jealousy and love. He was watching you sleep through your window so I was able to grab his leg and pull him off the windowsill before he noticed me. We scuffled on the ground but he pinned me." Tears started to well up in her eyes. "I just brought my head up and kissed him. He jumped off of me and wiped his mouth. I reached out for him again, but he stepped away from me. And then, what he said made my world at the time fall to pieces. He told me he was in love with you, my brother! I couldn't understand, why wasn't I good enough for him? I wanted him more than I wanted anyone before and he was in love with my brother."

      She had covered her face which was by then streaming with tears and she clenched her teeth. When she spoke again, her voice had been muffled from the depths of her arms. "I called him a fag and a pervert for loving you and not me, and--"

      At this point, Jason had had enough of her. "You what? I can't believe you would do something like that!" he'd leapt up from the couch. "I can't believe you Sara, that's sad even for you!" He had shouted and then he stalked off to his own bedroom and slammed the door.


* * *


     Jason sighed. He wished he'd waited and listened to the rest of what she'd said, but he hadn't and now as a result, he had no answers to any of his questions. But he did remember one thing. It hadn't started with Matt at all-- it had started with Damien. He had been meddling in their lives for far longer. It wasn't fair of him to be mad at Matt for what was happening now; his only crime was always being there for Jason and helping him out. God, he didn't deserve Matt. He'd never shown his appreciation of Matt, not properly, not the way Matt deserved. A smile played across his lips. Jason would make sure that this Christmas was the best Matt had ever had in his seemingly immortal life.

      Downstairs, the Parker's and their guests had finished decorating the tree. Matt had hung mistletoe around the windows and doors, with Sara following his every move. She didn't once let him out of her sight. He couldn't take it anymore. Jason had been on his own for long enough. Matt started up the stairs, but Sara grabbed his wrist.

      "You leave him alone! If he doesn't love you anymore, then deal with it." She snarled so only he could hear.

      Matt looked at her contemptuously. "Move on Sara. I never loved you, and I never will. Jason needs someone now, and that someone is me." He wrenched free of her grip and took the stairs two at a time to reach the top. He didn't bother to open the door, he just phased through it into Jason's room, his body becoming ethereal as he passed through the wood and then solidifying again on the other side.

      Jason was sprawled out on his bed, eyes closed and a smile curled upon his cute lips. Matt stalked silently to the bed and then pounced suddenly onto the bed. Jason's eyes flicked open in surprise but before he could react, Matt's hands were already on his sides, his fingers dancing to tickle the boy. Jason yelped and doubled up with laughter as Matt's fingers found his sensitive sides. They rolled together on the mattress, getting tangled in the sheets and enjoying each other's company.

     Jason rolled off of Matt and sighed heartily. His fingers searched out and found Matt's hand and he clasped it gently. "Matt?" he asked, tentatively. He felt like he'd pressed Matt for answers so much lately, but he needed to know, or at least try to find the answers to the questions that had been troubling him.

      "Hmm?" Matt grunted.

      Jason chewed his lip. "Ok, I know you don't know everything, and I know you don't understand what's happening to me any more than I do, but... I just have some questions and I- could you just try to answer them?"

      Matt turned on his side and raised his head up on an elbow. "I'll try, but no promises."

      Jason grinned, "Well, trying is the first step to succeeding." At least this time Matt wasn't shouting at him. Jason broke his eyes away from Matt and stared at the ceiling. He swallowed a lump. "Is God dead?" He repeated the question he'd asked Mephistopheles.

      He felt Matt shrug on the bed next to him. "Haven't got a clue."

      "What?" Jason jerked his head around to look at his boyfriend.

      Matt shrugged again. He started to say something, and then closed his mouth again. He pursed his lips in thought and then started once more. "Our records go back only a little further than Human records go. Certainly the first council watched over Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, the first humans. But before that there is no record. We don't know any better than you do if there was a Creator that made the universe. Or if there was, where this Creator went. All we know is that there isn't a god or creator in heaven, and there is no one left from the beginning times. Those angles were mighty and terrible."

      Jason ran this though his head. "So no-one knows?"

      Matt shrugged again.

      "So what is heaven?" Jason pondered out loud.

      The Angel answered the spoken thought. "Heaven is a parallel universe to your own. It is exactly like your world, but the main element is air. Land and cities float in the clouds."

      "And Hell?" Jason queried. 

     Matt furrowed his brow. "Hell doesn't exist."

      Jason looked at him in confusion. "But I went there, I saw--"

      "Hell is a fourteenth century invention of the Christian church," Matt interrupted. "The other plane you went to when you disappeared from the pattern was simply the land of the dead." 

     "What do you mean the 'land of the dead'? All I could see were fires and furnaces. It looked like the descriptions of Hell to me."

      Matt shook his head. "The land of the dead has been expanding since the first human died. Each new death adds to its expanse. 20,000 years of existence has made it vast. What you saw was a small portion of its expanse. And from the sounds of it, you saw the Forging Pits, where everything metal in that land is created."

      Jason was just mulling this over in his head when something struck him. 'Land of the Dead' sounded like there was only one... "I'm confused," he said, sitting up and looking at Matt. "If where I went was the land of the dead, then what is Heaven? And why are the fallen angels and such in the land of the dead?"

      Matt chewed his lip again. "You know, I'm really not supposed to be talking to you about this... but... um... Well Heaven is simply the residence of angels. Nothing more. And as for the fallen angels... well, when they were cast out for rebelling against the council, they decided to take dominion over the underworld and subvert the efforts of Heaven."

      Jason opened his mouth to ask another question, but his sister's voice echoed up from the hall. "Jason, dinner!"

      Suddenly the only questions that filled his mind were about Matt and Sara. Matt made a move to rise from the bed, but Jason laid a hand on his chest. The angel sank back down on the duvet and looked at him questioningly. Jason laid his head down on Matt's chest and curled up by his side. He listened to Matt's heartbeat while he tried to phrase his next question.

      "What happened after you told Sara you were in love with me?"

      Matt's chest stopped rising and falling and Jason could feel the intake of breath.

      "She told you about that?"

      Jason nodded.

      "What else did she tell you?"

      Jason relayed Sara's words to Matt, repeating the scene in his mind for the second time that night. When he had finished, they lay in relative silence, the occasional clink on metal on china ringing up from the dining room.

      "Is that right? Is that what really happened?" Jason asked cautiously.

      "Umhm." The Matt's chest shifted and Jason assumed if he’d been facing his boyfriend he would have seen him nod slowly.

      "After she said that, Damien moved out of the shadows. He'd heard and seen it all, and he was furious. Both at Sara and at me." Matt touched his fingers to Jason's brow. "Here, let me show you."


* * *


     "Bitch!" Damien spat. "I trusted you! I told you everything and promised you eternity, and this is how you repay my trust? By lusting after your brother's watcher?"

      Sara gaped "Damien I--"

      "Save it Sara, it's over between us."

      Matt looked between the two. "Damien, what have you told her? You know it's forbidden to disclose information to wards and to become romantically engaged with them."

      Damien shot daggers at him with his eyes. "You fucking hypocrite. I heard everything Matt. And it's no secret that you're in love with your ward. Even your mother knows it."

      Now it was Matt's turn to gape openmouthed.

      Sara stepped towards Damien. "Dammy, I'm sorry! I wasn't thinking, can you forgive me?"

      Damien snapped his wrist out at her and a cord of white energy lashed out, knocking her back and binding her against the wall of the house. "Snake! A bloody snake is all you are!" The energy still flowed from his open palm, but it was steadily growing darker.

     "What are you doing Damien? You're going to kill her!" Matt shouted.

      "She deserves it! She betrayed me!"

      Sara writhed and gasped for breath.

      Matt started moving towards Damien. "If you kill her, the ramifications will be dire. You could be cast from grace and--"

      Damien whipped his other wrist in his direction and sent a talon of black force straight at the elder angel. Matt quickly summoned up a defensive shield and the force spike smashed into the wall of energy and sent out crackles of energy in every direction.

      "Maybe I'm tired of Heaven?" Damien snarled. "Hmm? Did that ever occur to you?" He made a few rapid hand movements and the ropes of energy that bound Sara lashed together and held her on the wall by their own accord, setting his other hand free to fight Matt. "I'm tired of working and never receiving! The favoritism of your mother is disgusting. I want to be recognized, I want real power, not just watching over these weaklings."

      Damien began ripping the white garments off his body, leaving tatters clinging to his form. He curled his hands and his nails began to grow and elongate, forming black talons. He shook his shoulders as if with a chill and a pair of glistening white wings cascaded down from his shoulders. They glimmered in the night.

      "Damien!" Matt shouted anxiously. "Get control of yourself! You're loosing your mind, you have to stop--"

      Damien shot across the ground between them and barreled into Matt, slamming him against a towering pine tree. Their faces were pressed close, and Matt stared into Damien's eyes. The darkened from bright green and clouded over with pitch. Two pits of blackness stared back at Matt from Damien's face.

      The younger angel hissed into his face, "I am in control of myself! Maybe for the first time, I don't have Heaven lording over my every action."

      Matt struggled against him, his skin beginning to burn from Damien's corrupted touch. He summoned up his will and cast it out. There was a blinding flash as Damien was sent sprawling and Matt's wings simultaneously blossomed from his back. They cascaded like twin fountains, glistening plumage flowing around him. Matt cast a glance to Sara. She was beggining to turn purple from the constricting bonds. He sprinted towards her, intent on ripping them off of her, but Damien caught his foot and sent him crashing into the ground. He skidded to a stop at Sara's feet and reached to grasp the bonds, but Damien was already on him. The crazed angel dragged him back and pounced, arms outstretched to claw Matt.

      Matt kicked his legs up, catching Damien in the torso and flinging him back. Damien tumbled through the air, before using his wings to halt his motion and then launch after Matt again. Meanwhile, Matt had struggled to his feet and began tearing the lashes from Sara's neck and wrists.

      Sara looked over his shoulder and shouted a warning just before Damien caught Matt around the waist and tossed him into the air. Damien pressed his body against her and opened his mouth. He reached into his mouth with a finger and there was a tearing sound. A trickle of blood ran from his mouth, and then he extended his tongue, licking up the side of her face. She sobbed and struggled as the now forked organ traced over her features. 

     Damien cackled. "I'll finish with you later." He swung his legs up on to the wall on either side of her and then launched off.

      Matt meanwhile rolled a few times before using his wings to balance out. He swooped down towards Damien as the crazed angel shot up to meet him. They clashed in midair, black energy smashing against white. Damien tore at Matt's wings with his claws, pulling feathers out in bloody clumps. Matt gritted his teeth in pain and grabbed hold of Damien's wings, bending them backwards until he screamed in pain. Damien lashed with is feet to push Matt away and forced him to loose his grip. He lashed with his claws against the elder angel's stomach, tearing through the long white coat he had been wearing and causing a blossom of blood to stain it.

      Matt cried out in surprise. Out of instinct, he brought his hand up, backhanding Damien across the face. As he hand connected, his pain and anger welled up and sprung forth. At that proximity, Damien's energy shield had no time to cause effect. Damien's head snapped back and he topped through the air, Matt's hand print glowing faintly on his face and burning into his flesh. Damien hurtled to the ground. He hit with a sickening thud. Matt's own wings were failing now. He flapped them frantically, trying to slow his descent. Droplets of blood filled the air, like some sort of macabre precipitation.

      He landed heavily and sprinted to Sara, tearing the bonds from her body. He cast them to the ground where they sparked and fizzled from existence. She couched and sank to her knees on the ground. Sara rubber her throat were a tether had been and gasped raggedly for breath. Matt propped her up against the wall.

      "Go into the house and stay there." He instructed her. "We'll sort this out later." He strode shakily across the garden and arrived by Damien in time to hear him mutter the last line of some incantation.

      Damien started laughing, but was silenced by a gurgling cough. Blood trickled from the side of his mouth. "A curse upon this household! I'll take the one you love from you as you stole from me mine."

      Matt frowned. "I'm taking you to the High Council for judgment." He knelt to pick Damien up in his arms.

      He received a glob of bloody spittle in his face. Damien chuckled again. "I'm past their reach Matthew." He paused, and smiled. "Be seeing you." The ground around his body darkened and then he burst into flames.

      Matt leapt backwards, away from the fire, as what Damien had done suddenly became clear. The flames vanished as quickly as they had come, leaving a black, greasy smear on the ground. He was really beginning to suffer from loss of blood now, but this was more important. Matt summoned upon his reserves and cast his form upwards towards the High Council to deliver the news of Damien's defection.


* * *


     Dinner had been a quiet, uncomfortable affair. Sara, Scott, and Drew were again sitting along one side, which made Jason and Matt's absence even more painfully obvious. They sat in silence for the most part, with the occasional hushed request for a dish the only thing to break the silence. It was as if an oppressive, dark cloud had settled over the table, barring all chance of conversation and enjoyment. As soon as it was over, Sara, Scott and Drew politely excused themselves. Sara went immediately to her room and her own devices. Mr. and Mrs. Parker both retired to their separate studies. The two men breathed easy in the living room, glad to be away from the dour mood of the dinner table. They settled down on the couch to watch TV, arms barely touching. The movie 'Empire Records' was just starting on one channel. They sat back to enjoy it.

      About halfway through, Drew slumped sideways on the sofa and his arm pressed into Scott's. The older man's arm was quickly moved, and Drew felt his heart sink. What was with this guy? One minute he was kissing him on the cheek, the next he was reluctant even to touch. Scott shifted on the couch and Drew dared not to look, in case he was getting up and leaving. But the couch continued to sag towards the larger man. He clearly hadn't left. Then Drew felt something along his shoulders, as Scott draped his arm around him, hand resting on Drew's right shoulder. His heart felt like it had wings it was rising so fast. He turned and their eyes met. They both smiled, nervously, but warmly, and then went back to movie watching. A few minutes passed before Drew again took the initiative. He leaned sideways and rested his head on Scott's muscular chest.

 'Anyway now, it don't seem right

He is in there and you're on the outside

Over pine ridge to wounded knee

There's blood on the ground as far as you see

Crazy life


In the air I'm sensing a change in the weather

In the end the path is clear

Does anyone remember here

Did you all think he'd just disappear

Crazy life


What have you done with peltier

Who did you think you'd taken away

Crazy life


In the air I'm sensing a change in the weather

In the end the path is clear


Burying won't stop it breathing forever

Underground it takes to root


Anyway, it don't seem right

He is in there and you're on the outside

What have you done with peltier

Who did you think you'd taken away

It's not over...'


     The song and the credits ended, and Scott flicked off the TV. Drew  had dozed off with his head still on Scott's chest. The man sat, admiring the boy's face from above. Gently he eased himself out from under Drew and scooped him up in his arms. He walked softly and carefully through the house and up to Drew's room where he gently deposited the boy on his bed. He hesitated a moment before pulling Drew's shoes and pants off. A few seconds passed in which he quietly admired the boy lying sprawled on his covers in boxers and shirt, before he slipped the duvet down past his feet and up over the boy.

      Scott slipped quietly from the room, switching off the light as he went and crept down the hall to his own room. If Drew wanted to sleep with him, then a decision would have to be made. But he wasn't going to make it for Drew. Scott disrobed and slipped under the covers of his own bed. As he drifted off, he curled up on the left side of the bed and said a silent prayer of thanks to whoever had thought to turn on the electric blanket.

      In his own room, Drew rolled to the right side of his bed, a smile playing across his face as he slept.


* * *


     Matt removed his fingers from Jason's brow and the boy gasped.

      "And thus Damien, watcher to your family, fell from grace," the angel spoke to the darkened room.

      Jason blinked his eyes and looked to his bedside clock. Evening had long since passed. According to the clock it was almost eleven. They'd missed dinner completely. As if to prove the point, Jason's stomach growled in complaint. "Heh." he blushed.

      Matt chuckled and poked Jason's belly. "Let's get you some food."

      They crept from their room and slipped silently down the stairs. The rest of the house was silent. The hum of the kitchen light when he switched it on sounded like a running motor to Jason's ears. Matt perched himself on the counter as Jason tiptoed about, searching in the fridge and cupboards for something that appealed to him. He straightened up after his second search and looked at Matt, frowning.

      The angel smiled and hopped down from the ledge. "Go make some tea, I'll sort it," he whispered as he reached under the counter, pulled out a saucepan and set it on the stove. Jason filled a kettle and put in on the stove to heat before pulling down two mugs and a box of tea bags. He sat at the informal breakfast table, looking out the window at the still falling snow, the drifting flakes illuminated by the light pouring out from the kitchen. He shivered and drew his knees up to his chest, holding them. Jason looked across the kitchen to watch his boyfriend, his angel, who was busy cooking something in the saucepan. He couldn't see what it was, but it sure smelled good. A thought suddenly struck him. It would be Christmas soon. In two days in fact. He had to find presents for everyone by the end of tomorrow. As Jason watched Matt, he wondered what on earth he should give him. Nothing seemed practical. Matt had no need for clothes, he made his own. He pondered long and hard on the matter and realized he's never seen Matt use anything that he hadn't been able to make himself. Perhaps then, something less practical...

      His thoughts were interrupted as Matt set a bowl of porridge down on the table in front of him, as well as Jason's cup of tea. Matt moved around and took a seat beside Jason, his back to the windows. He'd only taken a few bites, when the kitchen door swung open. He looked up to find his mother framed in the doorway.

      "Mom" Jason said in surprise.

      Matt quickly stood, the chair screeching on the floor. "Elizabeth." he said gravely.

      Mrs. Parker looked at the two of them and then got herself a cup down from the cabinet. She poured herself a cup of tea from the still hot kettle and steeped her tea bag a bit. Without a word, she moved to sit at the breakfast table, an empty seat between herself and Jason. She took a sip of her tea, her eyes still fixed on the snow falling outside the window. Matt sat down beside Jason again.

      "You two have some serious explaining to do." She said quietly between sips.

      "Mom," Jason started. "Look, I know you don't like Matt, and I know you two don't have the best history, but I love him and--"

      Mrs. Parker set her mug down heavily. "Jason, you're a grown up now, which means you're old enough to make your own decisions about who you date. But that's not what I'm talking about."

      Jason blinked.

      "Everything I keep hearing about one or the other of you is completely unacceptable." She continued. "First Fiona shows up here in a car that's driving itself, with her terrified maid, telling some half-crazed tale about tea with some crazy bitch and being rescued by Matt." She shot a glance at Matt. Jason did likewise, but in surprise. "Then when you got here last night, Sara told me all about what happened at her base. I want answers, and I want them now." She demanded sternly.

      Jason gulped. She was in her 'don't fuck with me mood.'

      Matt cleared his throat. "I apologize for sending Fiona here, but I felt like it was the best option at the time."

      Elizabeth fixed her gaze on the angel. "You want to explain exactly what happened?"

      "I was out trying to find where Sara had whisked Jason off too, when I felt someone summoning me. It was coming from Fiona's house so I hurried there. When I arrived, it turned out Miriam was holding her hostage to make me turn up. I managed to help Fiona and her maid escape and I sent them here." Matt paused. "Your house has wards of protection that prevents otherworldly beings from entering without being invited. I thought she would be safer here. Whatever story she told you is most likely right. Miriam seems to have lost her mind of late."

      Elizabeth nodded, as if accepting his story before she turned her gaze upon her son. "And what about you? I could hardly believe Sara when she told me you'd used your powers in full view of the public!"

      Jason stared open mouthed. "Y-y-you know about my powers?"

      "Of course I know about the powers," his mother informed him curtly. "As soon as Sara went and formed that Agency of hers, she told me everything about the angels and their little experiments with humanity. With what she told me, and the little information I had managed to gleam from my own watcher, I figured a good deal of it out. What I didn't know was that my own son had them, let alone such powerful abilities!"

      Jason looked bemused. "I-I..." 

     Matt came to his rescue. "It's not his fault Lizzy. Damien attacked him while I was occupied. Jason isn't fully in control of his powers yet, so they just burst out when he is threatened." Matt looked at him with a bit of an odd expression on his face. Both Elizabeth and Jason noticed it.

      "What?" they asked in unison.

      Matt shrugged. "Nothing, maybe. It's just--" he stopped again and they both continued to stare at him. "Well, Jason, you know what I told you about 'the one' and how I thought you were he?"

      Jason nodded.

      "Well you're not really displaying the powers we intended 'the one' to have."

      "What are you saying?" Jason asked, confusion evident on his brow.

      "I don't think you are 'the one'."

      "Oh." Jason's forehead furrowed. "Does this mean I don't have to save the world anymore?"

      "I don't know what it means, Jason. Sorry." Matt apologized.

      Elizabeth cleared her throat. "Well, regardless of what it is you've turned my son into, he has powers, and he needs to know that using them in public is not an option."

      "Agreed." Matt inclined his head.

      "Look," Jason burst in. "It's not like I'm trying to use my powers. But I get the message. Don't use them in public." A grin played across his face.

      Elizabeth noticed and raised an eyebrow.

      Jason giggled. "You know, you two just went over five minute without either one of you shouting or trying to kill the other." Jason quickly buried himself in his food again, avoiding the sharp look he received from his mom. As soon as he was done, he stood up, Matt following him, and he kissed his mother goodnight. Jason placed his bowl in the dishwasher and grabbed Matt's hand, ushering him out of the kitchen. He looked back at his mother, sitting at the table sipping her tea and staring out the window. "You should try some of Matt's porridge, it's even better than yours!" Jason called to her jokingly.

      She turned and looked at him, a sparkle in her eye.

      Elizabeth finished her tea, watching as the snow slowly accumulated outside the window. Eventually, she stood and placed her mug in the dishwasher and turned it on. As if as an afterthought, she pulled off the lid of the saucepan of Matt's porridge and dipped her finger in side. She licked it clean and then suddenly slammed the lid down.

      "It bloody well IS better than mine too!"