Chapter 30 - ‘Resurrection’


            Matt sat alone on the crest of the sand dune, looking out over the sea as the haunting sounds of Sigor Rós drifted up from the stage behind and below him. A lone seagull drifted idly on air currents out over the ocean and he watched the air ruffle its feathers.


            He heard soft footfalls in the sand behind him but didn’t turn. Instead, he scooped up a hand-full of sand and let the grains slowly trickle out. The visitor cleared their throat. Soft, feminine.


            “Matthew are…” Sara started, “are you ok?”



            He held his silence stoically. Out over the water, the seagull dived, reaching for a fish or morsel just below the surface.


            Sara sighed at his lack of response. She scuffed her foot on a tuft of sand-grass and then moved closer. Eventually she sat, her legs out in front of her, bare feet joining his own in digging into the sand. She drew a long breath before speaking again. “Matt I wanted to say… I’m sorry. For how I’ve treated you… I knew you loved Jason. I’m sorry it took what it did for me to really realize that…”


            “It was my fault.” Matt said quietly, acknowledging her presence for the first time. “If I’d paid more attention to Damien before his fall, none of it ever would have happened.”


            Sara shook her head. “Matt, you can’t blame yourself for what he did. My brother’s death wasn’t your fault. Damien was solely to blame for it—“


            “No. I was the one who appointed him as watcher for your family. It all comes back to me in the end.”


            She sat silently for a while, both of them watching the swell and ebb of the waves on the beach below them. Eventually, she noticed Matt’s shoulders were shaking ever so slightly; as if he were try to suppress a sob. “Matt…” she started.


            He raised his hands before him. They were shaking. “All I could think about… as I was sitting there… holding his head…” His voice broke and his shoulders slumped as he finally let out the emotion he’d kept bottled inside. “All I could think about was how much I loved him and that I never got to tell him…”


            The waves crashed and rolled as his mind swam back through memories of the last nine months, past all that had happened, back to the day Azreal had stood in heaven and changed things forever.


* * *


Matt had watched as Azreal propelled himself through the gates with his wings. He landed on his feet several paces within. Light cascaded down around him, setting his form gleaming. The ground beneath him fell away suddenly, and it was Jason's face that looked back at Matt in surprise for a moment. The angel lunged to reach him, but he was already falling. Matt's grasping hands were met by solid earth as Jason tumbled down and the ground reformed above him. He hit the ground hard and then leapt to his feet again, whirling on Mephistopheles who still waited outside the gates. “What happened? Where did he go?”


            The fallen angel shrugged. “He’s human. He’s not meant to be here.”


            “But where did he go?”


            “How should I know!”


            Ashley grabbed his arm. “Matt, I’m sure he’s fine. You don’t need to—“


            “I have to find him Ash—I’m sorry.” He slipped from of her grasp and dissolved in a shower of sparks.



            His sudden appearance in the Parker’s foyer startled Fiona. He caught her with an arm as she slipped on the polished floor. He didn’t even wait until she was standing again. “Is Jason here? Have you seen him?”


            “No, I—“ she started, but he wasn’t listening.


            As soon as she said she hadn’t, he started to disappear, his form dissolving again and he ignored the rest of what she said—something about the boy Drew and Jason’s mother and a hospital.



            Sara looked up from her desk as light filled her office. Matt stood, looking panicked.


            “What do you want?” She snapped.


            “Have you seen Jason?”




            “Have you seen Jason?” Matt asked again urgently.


            “I thought he was with you.”


            Matt sighed. “He was… and then he went somewhere.”


            “You lost my brother too?!” She was on her feet now, her nostrils flaring angrily.


            The angel paused, and focused his eyes on her. “Too?”


            She nodded. “Yeah, the Guardian… he wouldn’t tell me where Jason was either… just said something about being off in a field somewhere. He—“


            But Matt was already fading as the light welled up around him. She slumped heavily in her chair, the files spread across her table now forgotten.



            There was a field near Tristfall gorge, perched on the edge of the ravine. Once, long ago, before the area had been suburbanized, it had belonged to a small farm. The land was sold and divvied up for various properties, but the proximity of the gorge had meant that the one field was deemed unsound for construction. It had grown fallow and provided the surrounding neighborhood with a regular display of wildflowers throughout the year. Jason had made his way to it on more than one summer day as he was growing up. It was to this field, that Matt descended. Coalescing by the road, he looked around quickly to make sure no one had noticed his arrival. It was Christmas day—everyone was inside with their families.


            The field was coated with several inches of fresh snow, making the poppies that still sprouted stand out like blood-drops on linen. Something had made a void in the middle of the field, and it was towards this that Matt ran, a churning feeling in the pit of his stomach. It felt as if the world was holding its breath—as if the very wind had gone silent—as his feet crunched across the frozen earth and snow, leaving crimson flowers swaying in his wake. He came to a halt at the edge of the void, his trembling legs giving out as he collapsed. He reached out a trembling hand and then pulled it back as if afraid to touch. And then his control shattered and he started to sob and cry. His hands reached out again and dug into Jason’s stilled chest, clawing at the cold skin underneath his shirt in desperation. His lips trembled and he shook his head, trying to deny what he could see before him.


            The boy was sprawled, like a discarded doll, his arms flung out on either side of his body, and one leg crumpled up underneath the other at an odd angle. Matt wailed and his face contorted in a grimace, spittle flying from his mouth. His chest shook with wrenching sobs. He crawled to sit behind his shoulders and stroked the boy’s hair with a shaking hand before carefully lifting his head in his hands. He keeled low over his stilled face and kissed his whitened lips softly with his own, quivering mouth. He couldn’t see anymore, the tears flowing too freely from his eyes so he squeezed then tightly. He gripped Jason’s shirt in his hands, scrunching the cloth, his fists quaking.


            Matt felt something flicker against his cheek and sat up quickly. He looked down and—yes! Jason’s eyes had opened. His lips moved minutely. Matt furrowed his brow and bent low, his heart racing. Was he trying to say something? Jason’s lips parted further, and a slow trickle of blood seeped from the corner of his mouth. His voice crackled with liquid and it was so quiet, Matthew had to strain to hear.


            “Help Drew… please... Damien hurt him”


            A bubble of blood formed and then burst on Jason’s lips, splattering both their faces with tiny flecks of crimson.


            Matt straightened up and screamed, “Somebody help me!” His voice expanded and magnified like a shockwave of air so that it shook the flowers around them and shattered the windows in near-by houses. People began to run from their houses, looking franticly about them. The angel bent low over Jason’s face again and kissed him shakily on the lips, before resting his head back in the snow. He vanished in a burst of light, attracting those that had heard his scream. Soon enough, several of them were running across the field to where Jason lay and emergency services were being called.


* * *


            Matt blossomed into form high in the sky and immediately unfurled his wings, halting the sudden fall he had begun. Something Fiona had said surfaced from the recesses of his mind. Even in his focused fervor, some small subconscious part of him had taken in what she said, something about “Elizabeth and Drew,” and “hospitals.”


            He searched the roads below, keen eyes hunting for the disturbance of emergency vehicles—cars pulling off the road and flashing lights. He found them quickly, just entering the city outskirts. A pair—the foremost with sirens blaring and lights flashing to part the traffic like Moses at the Red Sea. The second however followed in its wake, sirens stilled. He swooped lower, focusing on the second vehicle, brilliant wings flickering in reflection as he passed a glass office block. He landed deftly on the metal step, playing on the distraction of the sirens to detract attention away from his arrival. He pulled his wings within his body and flung the ambulance door open, slipping inside.


            Two paramedics leapt to their feet. One of them slammed his hand against the glass separating the driver from the cabin and the van started to slow. The other moved towards Matt, clearly intending to keep him from their patient or medicine—whichever he was after.


            Thinking quickly, the angel spread his hands, palms facing them. “Please, I’m trying to help!” But when the doctor continued to advance, he swiftly called up an illusion, setting his eyes blazing with white fire and summoning a regal angelic splendor to cover his form. The paramedics fell back, shielding their eyes from the light. “Tell the driver to keep going,” Matthew yelled, his voice magnified so that it rang off the metal interior. The paramedic hit the glass again and yelled something through the partition, and he felt the ambulance speed up again.


            Matt turned to the stilled body on the gurney, for the first time noticing the gaping hole in Drew’s chest. His shirt was wet with blood and clung to his skin, which was itself already ashen. His lips were tinged with blue. Clearly he’d been dead long before the ambulance had got to him. He slipped his finger under the boy’s collar and traced down, the fabric splitting easily under the digit.


            “He’s dead—“ one of the paramedics began.


            But Matt put his finger to his lips and hushed him. Both of the medics fell silent, standing stock still like cardboard cutouts. He took a deep breath, and then bent low over the body. He cupped his hands before his face and then froze. The ambulance ground to a halt, but without losing any motion. He raised his head and looked out the small side window. A pigeon rising up from the street, startled by the ambulance, hung suspended mid-wing beat. He stood up and watched, as his body remained hunched over the boy, his waist now seeming to sprout from his own lower back. He back-stepped quickly, out of the space his body occupied. Something glowed brightly behind him and he turned.


            A glowing white form coalesced into the flickering body of a human. It shifted between shape, age, and gender so rapidly that the angel had trouble focusing on it. Eventually, the changes in appearance slowed and then ceased altogether, settling on that of a bright-eyed adolescent boy.


            “You!” Matt exclaimed, recognizing him as his brief abductor just the day before.


            “Yes, me. You do understand what you’re about to do, don’t you?” The Guardian stared at him with emotionless, piercing eyes.


            Matt nodded slowly.


            The Guardian remained impassive. “He was human.”




            “He was in no way unnatural.”


            The angel could see where this was leading and quickly interjected, “But his death was. He was killed by Damien, in Hell. I can smell it all over him.”


            “Perhaps it was his time to die.”


            Matthew shook his head. “Not at the hands of Damien.”


            “And what if it was his time regardless of the method?”


            “Then I guess he’ll just die again.” They stood facing each other in the small compartment, the world frozen around them. Eventually Matthew crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. “You told me that only unnatural force could interfere with unnatural force. So how is it that Damien was able to do this?”


            The Guardian stepped around the deceased, hands clasped behind his back. He bent and peered closely at the boy, and then at the angel’s frozen form, still leaning over the gurney. It was an intensely uncomfortable sensation for Matthew—to see himself from outside, completely unable to move.


            Finally, the being answered, “He was open to interference by association with unnatural force. Through Jason.”


            “But then anybody could be open to interference.”


            The Guardian stood and for the first time that Matt had seen, he smiled. He changed the subject with his question however. “You’re certain of this course of action?”


            Matt nodded. “Jason asked me to help him.”


            “But you realize how this will affect you?” An inquisitive tone had crept into the being’s voice, as if it was struggling to understand him.


            Matt only nodded again.


            “And if he dies?”


            “Then at least I can say I tried.”


            A pause, and then, “And if Jason dies? What then? Will it have been worth it?”


            Something caught in the angel’s throat. “He won’t. I know him. He’s too strong to give up.”


            The Guardian blinked. “Is he? Or was Azreal the strong one?”


            Matt frowned, and then shook his head as if casting off unwelcome thoughts. “It doesn’t matter. Jason wanted this.”


            “But did he know the cost?” The question hung in the air heavily. Of course he hadn’t. But it was soon followed by another. “And Ashley? What of her?”


            He tried unsuccessfully to keep the emotion from his voice. “She doesn’t need me anymore. She’ll understand. She can always visit when she needs.”


            The Guardian shook his head. “No Matthew, not anymore. Remember, Azreal’s decree. They can no longer interfere with earthly affairs.”


            “Then why am I being allowed to do this?”


            A tilt of the head, and then, “This was set into motion prior to the decree. I’m willing to allow this to play out.” He didn’t even give the angel time to reply. “I can see you’re set upon your actions. Very well. They won’t remember any of this,” he said, gesturing vaguely towards the frozen paramedics.


            There was a flash of brilliant light and Matt closed his eyes against it. When he opened them again, he was once more doubled over Drew’s corpse, back in his own body. He could feel the movement of the ambulance wheels on the tarmac. He lowered his hands briefly and whispered, “I’m sorry Ash. I love you.” And then set to.


* * *


            Ashley surveyed the transformed landscape of Heaven from her balcony. It was teaming with souls and more arrived with every passing minute. She heard Matt’s whispered voice by her ear and drew a sharp breath. She sagged against the marble column behind her, feeling the connection between her and her brother start to tear, as if a part of her was being torn free. She fought back the lump in her throat. “I love you too Matt.”


* * *


            Matt concentrated and began to exhale. He didn’t open his eyes at first. He needed to be sure the process had begun before he could risk the distraction. Something gently tickled his fingertips in front of his face—but he had to be sure. He opened his air passages, letting it flow out into his cupped hands. The silvery wisps of moiré trickled out of his mouth in small tendrils at first, but then more and more began to flow. He opened his eyes, careful to keep his concentration focused on the ethereal tendrils in his hands. He continued to exhale slowly, shaping the mass of pearly substance into a tightly woven ball, making sure not a single strand spilled out. The ambulance hit a pothole and he stumbled slightly. He forced his breath out faster, tuning out the distractions of the world around him.


            Something tickled his neck, and then his brow. He was sweating. The ball was growing, and the wispy strands were starting to slip over the edges of his fingers. Slowly, so as not to lose any, he folded his hands closed, keeping only an opening for his lips. He saw in his mind’s eyes, the ball compacting and solidifying. He squeezed his chest, flattening his lungs to force more of the precious air out. He could feel his legs weakening and his vision started to blur. Just as he was beginning to grow dizzy from oxygen starvation, he drew a sharp breath and closed his hands tightly.


            The mass of aether in his hands started to shift, becoming unstable without the continuing influx of more. Carefully, he positioned it over the wound in Drew’s chest and parted his hands from the bottom. The moiré tried to slip out, but he forced his hands down. He staggered. He was almost too weak to stand—but he wasn’t done yet. He pressed a hand firmly over the wound and sank to his knees, bringing his mouth level with the boy’s ear. He whispered something too soft to be heard over the engine of the ambulance and then the spot under his hand flared brightly. Matthew slouched back on his heels. He wiped his brow absently with one hand and looked at it curiously. A smear of blood and sweat crossed the back of his hand like a coating of fresh paint.


            He heard the two paramedics behind him unfreeze and then he collapsed sideways on the floor. Vaguely he heard a sharp intake of breath and then a gurgle. The startled medics jumped to action, one pounding on the glass partition, shouting for the driver to hit the sirens. And then he blacked out.


* * *


            Sara saw the glow of sparks in her peripheral vision and shouted, “He’s not here! What use are you if you can’t even find your ward?”


            The feminine voice that replied startled her and made her turn. “I know you dislike my kind,” Ashley said tersely, “but my brother is dying for yours. You could at least go and thank him.”


            Sara’s mouth fell open an inch and she hissed. “What?”


            “They’ll soon be in the county hospital, along with your mother and Drew. You won’t be hearing from us again, so I suggest you take Scott and go to them now.” And before Sara could ask anymore, the angel vanished in a burst of golden motes.


            She dashed from around her desk and out the door of her office, skidding into Scott as he was coming up the hall. She grabbed his hand. “Get your keys. We’re going to the hospital.”


* * *


            The council room at Antioch was in chaos. It was taking all their resources available to prevent a global media sensation. No less than eight other countries had watched the mass move across their radars after India and Pakistan, and numerous space satellites in orbit had picked up the movement. Every agent, bribe and debt had been called into use and there was still a risk that the whole thing could be blown wide open. The official story was that the disturbance was caused by a massive solar flare, momentarily scrambling radar and satellites.


            Thus, when his secretary tapped him lightly on his shoulder, he waved her off impatiently, ignoring the cell phone she offered. She persisted however until he turned, covering the mouthpiece of his own phone. “What is it?”


            She extended the phone to him. “I think you want to take this. It’s about your wife.”


            Mr. Parker uncovered the other phone. “I’m sorry ambassador, I’m going to have to call you back.” They swapped phones. “Hello?”


            “Hi, Mr. Parker? It’s Fiona.”


            “Fiona, hi. I’m very busy right now, is this important?”


            “I’m sorry…” her voice started to quiver. “I’m at your house… I just found your cell phone number… the ambulances just left, I—“


            Mr. Parker felt his stomach convulse. “What ambulances?”


            “I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened.” She was beginning to sound more and more upset. “When I got here, she looked like she’d been thrown through a window and… and the boy… Drew… and that smell… like rotting eggs…”


            “Who? She who?” He almost shouted, causing several people to look quizzically at him before returning to their frantic pace of work.


            “Elizabeth…” Fiona sobbed. “She was out in the snow, and he wasn’t breathing… And then Matt just… appeared and then vanished, looking for Jason.”


            “Fiona, I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’m going to call a friend to come over, ok? He’ll try and help you.”


            “Thank you.” She croaked, and then he hung up.


            He pushed back from his desk and grabbed his secretary’s sleeve. “Nicole, I need a car. We’re leaving.”


            They tried to leave with as little commotion as possible. He left his briefcase and coat at his desk, trying to appear as if they were simply slipping out momentarily and would be returning. They were almost halfway to the door before someone moved to interpose themselves with their trajectory. It was Kelman.


            “Where do you think you’re going?” He smirked.


            Mr. Parker moved to step around him. “Just nipping out for a moment.”


            “No you’re not.” Kelman accused. “You got a call. I saw you.” He grabbed Mr. Parker’s arm as he tried to slip past.


            Mr. Parker felt his exasperation well up and bubble over. Too many times had Kelman unjustly accused him—and right now, he didn’t have time for this. He needed to get back. Before he knew what he was doing, he balled his fist and turned, hurling a punch into Kelman’s nose. His opponent was taken by surprise and crashed back into one of the many tables, sending files spilling across the floor.


            Kelman snarled and reached for his nose, shocked when his hand came away wet with blood. He struggled to his feet, blood trickling down his chin to soil his shirt. Security guards arrived to block further transgression, and the President was hurrying towards them.


            Mr. Parker shot daggers with his eyes at Kelman. So much for slipping out unnoticed.


            “What the hell is going on?” The president demanded upon his arrival. “We don’t need our own people fighting one another—especially not at a time like this.”


            Kelman beat him to the punch. “Parker was trying to leave, no doubt off to give information to them, when he attacked me” His tone made it clear who the ‘them’ referred to.


            The President rounded on Mr. Parker. “Is this true?”


            “My wife’s been attacked and is in hospital and my son is still missing. I wasn’t even taking my briefcase.” Mr. Parker snapped and pointed to his desk.


            The president nodded grimly. “On your way then. Give my best to Elizabeth. I hope she is all right.” Kelman started to protest, still holding his dripping nose. The president turned and started to move back towards the central floor. He called over his shoulder causally, “Clean yourself up Kelman. You have work to do.”


            Mr. Parker let out a sigh of relief and he and Nicole finally managed to slip out of the door. Once they found his car, Parker peeled off with a screech of tires. He glanced at Nicole in the seat beside him, still clutching his cell phone and her personal organizer. “Make a note: as soon as this mess is cleared up, I’m resigning from Antioch.” She looked at him in surprise. “And I need to make a call.” He slipped on the hands-free earpiece she passed him and dialed a number on his phone. “Hello, Wolf? I need a favor…”


* * *


            Scott and Sara made it to the hospital to find it surprisingly busy for the day after Christmas. Sara quickly made her way to reception where a flustered nurse was struggling to answer phones and sort through patient files. Sara started to inquire where to find a patient, but the nurse pointed irritably towards a doctor who’d just emerged into the waiting room, before she returned to juggling phones.


            Sara muttered to her second, “Why is it so busy? I thought the fighting didn’t spill into our plane?”


            Scott sighed. “Domestic violence.” After an arched eyebrow from her, he elaborated. “Your chances of being killed or attacked by a member of your own household rise by 70% on Christmas. Tidings of joy indeed.”


            Sara caught the doctor’s attention as he was returning a sheaf of files to a wall holder. “Can I help you?”


            “We’re looking for some patients who were recently admitted—“


            The doctor grunted. “We’re quite busy right now. Can you give me their names, or at least their descriptions?”


            “Elizabeth Parker, Andrew Taylor—“


            “Ah,” the doctor stopped her. “The mystery multiplying patients.”




            He reached back into the wall holder and pulled out the files he’d just set there. “The ambulances called after picking up two patients from the same address, one stable, the other was declared deceased at the scene. Only, when they arrived, they had three patients and all were very much alive.”


            Sara felt her heart skip a beat. Was the third one Jason? She quickly described her brother to the doctor, but he shook his head.


            “Sorry, he didn’t have any identification on him… and he was definitely not that boy.” He folded open the third file and unclipped a Polaroid. “We take pictures of all our John Doe’s to send to missing persons.”


            Sara felt her heart sink again. “That’s Matt…”


            “You know him?”


            She nodded. If Matt was in hospital already, and they didn’t have Jason… then where was he? Was anyone still looking for him? “I can fill out the medical information for him and Elizabeth. She’s my mom.


            The doctor looked relieved. “Good. If you can tell us anything at all about this one…”


            Scott cut in, “Why? What’s wrong with him?”


            “That’s the thing. Medically, there’s nothing wrong with him at all… at least not that we can find. But he’s in critical condition and on life support. If you have any knowledge of previous incidents or illnesses—“


            A burst of commotion at the ambulance bay doors cut him off as a team rushed a gurney in. The doctor broke away from Sara and Scott as nurses rushed out from the interior of the hospital. The ambulance crew began divulging their passenger’s symptoms in a rush of words.


            “Broken arm, shattered tibia, dislocated collarbone, massive internal bleeding and possible head trauma. He’s coughing blood, so there may be a punctured lung.”


            “A fall?” The doctor inquired.


            “He was in the middle of a field, so unless he fell out of the sky…”


            “Right, let’s get him into theatre. I want sonograms and ex-rays as soon as he’s prepped. We need to hurry if his ribs have punctured his lungs.”


            Scott and Sara were pushed out of the way as the gurney rushed past. She looked down into the wheeled bed and felt her breath catch. Jason’s face looked up at her from beneath an oxygen mask and a tangle of tubes. She reached out and grasped Scott’s arm tightly. “Call Drew’s family. They need to know what’s happened.” She paused, an absent look in her eyes, but quickly hardened her expression. “I’ll try and get them all moved to the same ward and start filling out their forms.”



            “Sara, are you gonna be ok?” Scott too had recognized Jason beneath the sea of paramedics and tubes.


            She nodded grimly. “I’m fine. Jason will be fine. We’ll all be fine.”


            As Scott moved to a quieted corner of the lobby, he watched as Sara again tried to gain the attention of the distressed receptionist. Finally, she slammed her hand down on the counter, startling the nurse. “Look, you give me what I want and I’ll take four patients off your hands for at least an hour.” It only took the woman a few seconds to gather the correct forms and slip them into Sara’s hands, a look of considerable relief on her face. He quietly wondered at Sara’s stoic behavior. How did she do it? How could she stay so calm when…? He grunted at his own thought. ‘That’s why she’s a commander and I’m only her second.’ He flipped open his phone and dialed up information services, “Yes, I need the number for a Mr. and Mrs. Taylor in Middletown, CT.”


            It took them a moment, and Scott turned his attention to Sara. She was busy filling out medical forms and trying to get the four patients moved into the same private wing. The voice came back over the line. “Do you want the number or would you like to be connected now?”


            “Put me through now.”


            A few rings followed, and then a woman picked up. “Hello?”


            “Is this Mrs. Taylor?”


            “Yes.” And then, “Is this some kind of telesales call? Because of so, then I’m sorry but I’m not—“


            “Please,” Scott panicked. “Mrs. Taylor, My name is Scott, I’m calling about your son, Drew.”


            “Oh, I’m sorry. What is it?”


            His throat tightened. How do you tell someone something like this?


            “Hello?” The woman asked.


            “I’m sorry…” Scott’s voice was haggard and rasped slightly. “There’s been an accident…”


            He heard her call shrilly for her husband and then, “Please, what’s happened? Is he ok? Where is he?”


            Scott tried to control the tremor in his voice. He had to stay calm. For their sake. “I’m sorry ma’am, I-I don’t know what happened. We’re at the hospital now waiting to speak with a doctor.” He continued to give them directions, assured them he would still be waiting when they arrived and promised to call again if they heard anything from the doctor.


* * *


Fiona was waiting for it when the doorbell rang. She’d made herself a mug of strong tea and she carried this with her to the door. She opened it cautiously, peering out at the visitor. “Yes?”


            “Hi,” the elderly man gave her a look of concern. “I’m Professor Wolf, Mr. Parker sent me to check on you. Can I come in?”


* * *


            After another good half-hour of waiting, the doctor they’d spoken to before re-emerged from the depths of the hospital and approached the two. “I think we need to talk. Privately.”


            Sara and Scott stood slowly and followed him into an examination room. He closed the door firmly behind him.


            He tossed four medical files down on the table and crossed his arms. “You have some explaining to do. I have two physically impossible patients upstairs, and that boy who just came in… You described him exactly before he even got here. How did you know he was coming?”


            Sara reached out for the desk to support herself and missed, stumbling and falling prone on the floor. The doctor quickly checked her pulse and then pulled a light from his coat pocket and checked her pupils.


            Sara opened her eyes and, from the floor still, started to address him. “You’re bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, now right? You can’t repeat anything I tell you, can you?”


            The doctor frowned and narrowed his eyes. He sat down at the table, while Sara got to her feet. “That’s right. Unless I think you pose a threat to someone else.”


            Scott smiled at her trick.


            She meanwhile, stood and then hopped up onto the examination table. “For starters, the boy who just came in is my brother. We knew he was missing and have been looking for him. I received a message at work, telling me that my mother, Drew, Matthew and Jason were on their way to this hospital.”


            “And I suppose you had nothing to do with our miracle patients?”


            Sara shrugged. “Beats me. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”


            The doctor opened the topmost of the four files and began reading from the medical report. “‘Andrew Taylor. Ambulance team arrived at 9:27 after receiving a 911 call from the address. On arrival, they found two patients, a middle-aged woman and an adolescent boy. The woman was taken in for treatment of hypothermia and shock, as well as a number of superficial cuts on her body. Paramedics found an empty revolver on the floor in the kitchen, as well as a large amount of broken glass and a dented cooking pot. The second patient, Andrew Taylor, was found outside the shattered French windows of the kitchen. His chest had been pierced and he was pronounced deceased at the scene, despite the lack of a blood pool. Patients where loaded into separate vehicles.’” He looked up at this point. “Now, this is where it starts to get interesting. ‘9:36, the ambulance carrying the body of Andrew Taylor, reports their patient in critical condition and in need of immediate medical attention.’ Strange that a dead body would need medical attention?” He continued. “‘Upon arrival at the hospital bay, the ambulance transporting the’—now living—‘body of Andrew Taylor unloads two patients, both in critical condition.”


            Scott raised his hand and started to speak. Sara kicked his leg and glared at him. “Oh right.” He walked towards the doctor’s desk and knocked his knee firmly against the closest leg. “Ow.” He said, rather unconvincingly.


            The doctor rolled his eyes and then made a show of checking his knee for injury.


            Scott started again. “I thought you said Drew and Elizabeth were put in different vehicles.”


            The doctor nodded. “They were. The other patient with Mr. Taylor was a John Doe. Neither of the paramedics recalled how he’d gotten onto the ambulance, but he was in need of respiratory assistance.” At this point, the doctor opened up the second file with the Polaroid of Matthew clipped to it. “Now, you know who he is as well. Frankly I don’t care what his name is, I’m more interested in his test results.” He slid a number of sheets across the table, which Sara deftly snatched up before they slid off the edge.


            She looked at them and then at him in shock. “You did DNA and blood tests? Christ.”


            “Oh, so you know what I’m talking about?”


            Sara frowned. “Not really. But sort of.”


            “Hmpf.” The doctor clearly didn’t believe her. “Well, not only is there medically nothing wrong with him—in fact, he’s almost too healthy—but his DNA says he’s roughly eight hundred years old.”


            Sara let out a low whistle. “I didn’t even know they had DNA.”




            She stared at him. “You’re not going to believe me…”


            He shrugged. “You’re probably right.”


            “…But, he’s not human.”


            The doctor put his fingers to his closed eyes and pressed. “Oh, I can believe that. His DNA shows he’s not human.”


            Scott stepped forwards. “Look, this is what we know: Millions of years ago, when the first humans appeared on earth, we know there were other intelligent beings as well. There were cave paintings and unexplained advances in technology that indicated interactions. Turns out, the other intelligent beings are what you and I might call angels. It’s what they call themselves, but strictly speaking they’re not from our world. They make their home in a plane that borders on this one, called Heaven. Matthew is one of them.”


            The doctor blinked.


            Sara continued for Scott. “We’re from an agency called the People’s Coalition of Defense.” She pulled out her identification badge and laid it on the table for him to see. “Our agency works on protecting people of our plane from interference from beings from other planes.”


            “So these angels are bad?”


            Scott shook his head. “Technically speaking, no. But in the past they became involved with certain activities that most people might not approve of—eugenics in particular. There’s speculation that they created Jesus and were trying to do so again—or at least something similar. Mostly, we try to keep them from doing just that, and protect people from the denizens of Hell.”


            In a tone of disbelief, “Hell?”


            Sara waved her hand. “Fallen angels, demons, that sort. Hell is another plane that runs parallel with ours. Heaven and Hell seem to run in opposition of one another.”


            “Right,” the doctor smiled in sarcasm. “And where does God fit into it all?”


            “Oh, he doesn’t.” Scott explained. “Well, at least not that any of them know. From what we’ve been able to ascertain, they’ve never even known a ‘God’ figure to have existed. Anyway, yesterday, Hell launched a full-scale attack on Heaven.”


            “And that’s where my brother comes into the picture,” Sara cut in. “Apparently, he was the reincarnation of an ancient angel from the ‘dawn of time’ as it were. Apparently though, something halted the battle before it even began and then… Jason—my brother—vanished. I was then contacted by Matthew’s sister—also an angel—telling me about my mother, Drew, Jason and Matthew.”


            They sat in silence for a long while, letting the doctor absorb it all. He strummed his fingers on the desk, and then started gathering the papers together and returning them to Matt’s file. “I have medical proof of intelligent non-human life, and I can’t even tell anyone.”


            Scott looked at him hopefully. “So you believe us?”


            The doctor shrugged. “I don’t imagine you’d be able to make up a story like that on the spot. And his medical tests seem to agree with you.”


            “Can we see them?” Sara spoke up.


            “Your brother is still in surgery, he has a lot of internal bleeding. We’re doing what we can. After hearing your story, my guess would be that he fell all the way from Heaven. I’d suggest you pray for him… but if there’s no god, I don’t suppose it’d do much good.”


            Sara reached out and touched his arm. “I’m sorry if we’ve somehow damaged your faith… We don’t know for sure that there isn’t a God, just that they don’t know who or what it is anymore than we do.”


            The man smiled at her. “I’ve never had a whole lot of faith anyway… I’ll take you to see the others. They’re resting in a private ward. But like I said, Matthew is still on life support. He’s in a mild coma for the time being. Probably from exhaustion. When he arrived, his sweat pores were leaking blood. I’ve only heard about it before in cases of shell shock and war trauma but…” He trailed off, as he led them out into the hall and to the elevators. When they got to the room, the doctor held the door open for them, but then didn’t enter himself. “I’ll see how your brother is doing in surgery.” And with that, he left them.



            Sara went to her mother first, perching on the edge of the hospital bed and gently taking her hand in her own. She had an IV drip running into her arm and a number of small bandages on her arms and face. Elizabeth opened her eyes groggily. Sara smiled and reached out, brushing her hair out of her mother’s eyes and hooking it behind her ear.


            “Drew…” she murmured.


            Sara hushed her. “He’s gonna be OK.”


            Worry crossed Elizabeth’s face again. “Jason?”


            Sara squeezed her hand. “We found him. He’s downstairs.”


            Her mother smiled and lay her head back into the pillow. “Thank you.”


            “Try and get some rest mom… Dad will be here before too long.”



            Scott meanwhile stood at the end of Drew’s bed. He gripped the metal bar in his hands, his knuckles white with the pressure. Drew’s breathing apparatus whooshed rhythmically and the heart monitor beside him beeped periodically. Tubes ran across his body, into his arms and chest and even down his throat. His torso was wrapped tightly in bandages. Scott closed his eyes and tightened his grip on the metal. He couldn’t think how anyone would want to hurt him. He was so… caring. He wanted to find whoever had done this and…


            “Scott.” Sara’s voice cut across the ward. He turned, but couldn’t see her. She poked her head out from around a curtain and called him again before disappearing again.


            With a final look at Drew, he made his way towards her and pulled aside the curtain. Sara was bent over the bed, peering at the face of its occupant. She hissed at him to close the curtain again, and while he did so, lifted one of the patient’s eyelids.


            “Look.” She said. “Something’s different. He looks different.”


            He looked down at Matthew and grunted. “Yeah, he looks like he’s dying. But I’m no doctor.”


            Sara shot him a look. “That’s not what I mean. Something’s changed.”


            Scott looked closer at the body. She was right. Underneath all the tubes and wires… something was different. It wasn’t just the pallor of his skin, it was—


            The heart-monitor picked up speed, reaching almost double it’s previous pace. Scott looked at Sara. “What did you do?”


            She stepped back from him. “Nothing! Go get a doctor. Something’s wrong!”


            He crashed through the curtain and as he banged through the door, Sara threw up her arms as bright light swallowed everything around her. She heard Scott shouting in the corridor, summoning a nurse. She lowered her hands. Matt’s body had lifted up off the bed to accommodate the pair of silvery-white wings that now sprouted from his shoulders. The heart-monitor beeped faster as his heart raced. An alarm went off somewhere and an automated voice announced, “Code blue, B ward.” The wing nearest her drooped, and then the feathers started to fall off. First just a few, and then like a shower of great snowflakes. She heard running in the corridor—the nurses rushing to the alarm. The wings had completely disintegrated now and Matt’s body lay back on the bed, the ground though was strewn with a thick layer of feathers. The doors banged open behind her, and with the sound of ice crystals shattering, the feathers dissolved into a fine dust only to be swept away on a gust of warm air that ruffled the curtain around her legs. The nurses threw open the curtain and moved Sara out of their way only to find as they did so, that Matt’s heart-monitor had suddenly returned to normal. The alarm switched itself off and the nurses looked at her in bewilderment.


            Scott caught Sara’s arm as she stumbled backwards. She gazed up at him, a look on her face of… he couldn’t quite tell. Fear? Surprise? She turned from him, pulled her arm free and then ran from the ward.


            The nurses looked at him. “What was that all about?”


            “I haven’t got a clue!”



            Sara lurched through the fire-door out onto the fire escape, flinging the powdery snow that had collected into the air around her. She caught her weight on the metal railing and leaned out over the precipice. Tears streamed down her face and her breathing was ragged. She turned and beat her fist against the door as it closed behind her, slumping against the metal surface as she sat hard on the metal grate. Her hair slipped down, masking her face, but not the sobs that racked her body.


            After a while, she wiped her eyes carefully. She pulled her coat tighter around her and tried to control her breathing, her sobs turning to shivers and then ceasing. She pulled the cell phone from her pocket and dialed her father. He picked up almost immediately.


            “Dad,” was all she managed, before she had to take a sharp breath.


            “Sara? Where are you? Are you with your mother?”


            How did he know already? “Yeah I’m… I’m at the hospital. How—?”


             “Fiona called me from our house.” He said, anticipating her question. “I’m on my way back now. Is your mother OK?”


            Sara nodded, and then realized he couldn’t see her. “Yeah, she’s ok. So is Drew.”


            “Good. I’m going home first to make sure Fiona is all right before I come to the hospital. I’ll—“


            “Dad.” She interrupted. “Jason’s in surgery.”




            “They found Jason and he’s in surgery now. Matt’s here too but…”


            “Sara, I’ll be there as soon as I can. Hold on.”


            “Dad, please hurry!”


            She folded the phone closed as he hung up. She breathed out raggedly, her breath expanding and condensing as fog before her face. She sniffled again and tried to fight back any more tears.


Eventually, she stood, brushing the snow from her legs. She pulled her hair up, out of her face and twisted it into a bun. She used the shiny cover of her phone to check her face, wiping under her eyes one last time to be sure, before she straightened her coat and slipped the phone back in her pocket. She reopened the door and stepped back inside. Time to find out how Jason was doing.



When Mr. Parker finally arrived at the hospital, Jason was still in theatre. He was ushered into the observation gallery where he was told he would find his daughter. She saw his reflection in the glass.


“How long has he been in surgery?”


She didn’t turn. “Three hours and counting.” He opened his mouth to say something, but she spoke before he could. “The surgeon hasn’t even been able to leave him yet to tell me his condition…” she stopped speaking as a new team of doctors and nurses slipped into the theatre and one by one replaced the original team. The surgeon was the last to go. He looked up to the gallery window and nodded once before he slipped out of the door and into the scrub room.


Several long minutes later, there was a soft knock at the door and he entered. Sara and her father immediately turned to hear what he had to say.


“We’ve managed to stop the internal bleeding and repair the damage to his lung.” He looked exhausted. “The new team will set his bones back in place before transferring him to an observation room. He’ll need close monitoring.”


“How long until he’s better?” Mr. Parker asked.


The doctor spread his hands. “His body should heal in a matter of weeks, the bones maybe a little longer.”


“When can we take him home though?” Sara pressed.


“Not until he wakes up, I’m afraid.”


She was getting impatient. “And when will that be?”


The surgeon sighed. “I’m afraid your brother suffered some very serious head trauma. He’s slipped into a coma. It could be days, or it could be months, even years before he wakes up. The brain is a very delicate organ, it can’t simply be stitched up like the rest of the body.”


“But he will wake up right?” her father cut in, a hint of panic in his voice.


“It’s impossible to say. A lot of it depends on the patient more than anything else. But no, there’s no guarantee that he will wake up. I’m sorry.”


Sara slumped onto the row of gallery seats and held her head in her hands.


Mr. Parker thanked the doctor, who quietly left, before he eased himself into the seat next to his daughter and slipped his arm around her and hugged her close, whispering “It’s gonna be alright. Jase will pull through. You’ll see.”


She wept silently as he rubbed her back.


Eventually, he broke the silence again. “Do you think Matt can help him?”


She sat up and wiped her face quickly. “No. Matt’s the one who’s going to be needing our help.” She could feel his eyes asking the silent question, so she answered before he could vocalize it. “He’s lost his wings, dad. He’s just like us now.”


“Where is he?”


“Upstairs, in the same ward as mom and Drew. I had them all moved together. Jason’s meant to be moved up there too as soon as he’s out of surgery, so we can go up there now. Mom’s alright, but Drew’s a little worse off.”


They stood and she led him out the door and towards the elevators. On the way, he caught sight of Scott, still waiting out in the lobby. “Who’s Scott waiting for?”


She hit the button to call the lift and crossed her arms tightly in front of her, holding her own arms more than anything. “Drew’s parents are on their way. He said he’d wait to meet them.” The elevator was empty when it arrived and no-one else joined them. As soon as the doors slid shut, she kicked the wall and cursed. “This is my fault, dad. If I’d just stayed there, none of this would have happened. I would have been able to protect them—“


He caught her arm and turned her so they were facing. He looked at her sternly. “No you couldn’t, Sara. I stopped at home before I came to make sure Fiona was all right. The kitchen still reeked of sulfur. It wasn’t just a burglar…” Her father fell silent as the elevator chimed as the doors split open to admit another passenger, before they resumed their upward journey.



Mr. Parker was still sitting by his wife’s side when Drew’s parents arrived, the couple rushing into the ward and to his side while Scott trailed behind. He stood awkwardly by the door, unsure of where he aught to be now. He was a part of neither family and to stand too near either bed would have felt like intruding. After a few uncomfortable seconds as the Taylor’s fussed over their son and Mr. Parker and Sara had moved over to speak to them, Scott slipped out quietly. He found a floor map of the hospital and set off back down to the ground floor to find the cafeteria.


Sara meanwhile spoke to the Taylor’s, re-calling for them everything the doctor had told her about Drew’s condition. Of course, she was careful to exclude the details of their son’s death and seemingly miraculous recovery. She’d tell her father about all of that later when they were alone. Once she’d finished, she offered to find the doctor again so they could speak directly to him and then went in search of him. Mr. Parker retreated back to his wife, allowing them some privacy.



In the cafeteria several floors below, Scott had made himself a strong coffee and bought a muffin before locating an empty table in the corner of the room. But now he sat, picking at the pastry with little interest and idly stirring his cooling coffee over and over. He was only vaguely aware of the other diners in the cafeteria and a dutiful cleaning lady who kept the place spotless. He watched the little currents he’d created in the cup with the stirrer as they formed a tiny whirlpool. He didn’t notice the shadow fall across his table.


“You alright sugar?” someone asked.


“No thanks.” He said, not looking up, but covering his coffee with his hand.


The woman’s voice pierced his thoughts again, “I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then. Don’t mind if I join you, do you?”


He looked up at the cleaning lady as she took a seat facing him. She was younger than he’d thought. Maybe thirty. “Uh, yeah, sure.”


“I’m just on my break,” she smiled. “But you’ve been sitting on your own for a bout an hour now. Everything alright?”


Scott shrugged and sighed. He looked down at the muffin; the edges of it had been demolished by his picking fingers. He wasn’t hungry and couldn’t understand why he’d even bought it. He pushed it away from him and then took a sip of his coffee.


“You waiting for someone in surgery?” She inquired.


He shook his head, stopped, and then nodded. “Sort of.”


“Sort of? They’re ‘sort of’ in surgery?” She gave a little chuckle.


Scott looked at her face for the first time. Who was she? Why was she bothering him? He opened his mouth to say something, but she beat him to the mark.


“My name’s Chloe,” and she tapped the small nametag pinned to her breast.


“I’m Scott.”


She sipped her tea and they sat in silence.


Scott wasn’t sure why, but after several moments of silence between them, he found himself opening his mouth to speak again. “My boss’s brother is in surgery…” She was still quiet, waiting for him to finish. “But I’m not here for them. There’s this boy upstairs. He got out of surgery a couple of hours ago. His name is Drew.” He pulled the muffin back towards him and began picking at it again. “We were all spending Christmas at a house outside of town, with my boss’s family.”


“Who is he?” She questioned. It was quiet, caring, the way she asked, as if she wanted to keep him talking.


“I don’t even know. I only met him four days ago but…”




Scott looked up at her. She was staring steadily at him. He was used to being the man in charge, the masculine guy who ran things on base for Sara. Why was he acting like such a wimp now? He twitched his mouth and found he’d been frowning without realizing it. Should he take a chance and talk to her? Why not… She didn’t know him. He’d probably never see her again. “I’ve always thought of myself as straight…” He watched her for reaction, but her face remained impassive. “I mean, I never really thought about it much, it was just what was normal. But then about a week ago, my boss, Sara, sends me to pick up her brother, Jason and I… Well I spent several days with him, just doing stuff for Sara, but the more time I spent around him the more…” He pushed the muffin away form him again, wiping his fingers on a napkin. “It wasn’t like I liked him—I mean, I did, as a person. He’s a nice guy. But not… I just got more and more attracted to him. You know?” What was he talking about? Of course she didn’t know. She was a woman he’d never met, and here he was trying to explain how he’d had the hots for a boy, but not really. “Anyway, we all went to their house for Christmas, and this boy Drew was there. He and Jason are flat-mates in college or something, we sort of ended up hanging out together after Jason’s boyfriend showed up. Turned out Drew liked Jason, but didn’t know if Jason was… that way inclined. But the more we talked about it… the more we both sort of realized that we found him sexually attractive—but not who he was.” He looked up.


She was sort-of half-smiling at him over the brim of her teacup. He reached out for the muffin again, but she stopped him. “You gonna eat that or just keep mutilating it?”




“’Cause if you’re not, I’ll have it.” She slipped her hand under his and removed the pastry to a safer distance from him. She broke off a chunk from the top and ate it. “Sorry, go on.”


He still didn’t know for the life of him why he was divulging all of this to her, but it felt good to talk to someone. “We had sex. Me and Drew.”


“Drew and I,” Chloe corrected.




“Drew and I. Sorry.” She took another bite of his muffin. “Was it good?”


He blushed and struggled not to smile. “It was amazing.” He folded his hands in front of him on the table. “But now I don’t know what to do. He likes me, he told me. He even bought me this for Christmas,” he pointed to the thumb ring he now wore. “And I guess I like him too. He’s smart, and funny, and sweet, and we get along really well…”


“But?” She looked at him expectantly.


“But he’s a guy and I’ve never…” He looked down at his hands.


“Does that matter?” Chloe set down the muffin and wiped a crumb off her lip with a fingertip. “You’ve admitted you like him, you’ve had sex with him and liked it. Is it against your religion?”


He shook his head and chuckled. “No, I’m agnostic.”


“So what’s wrong?”


He shrugged. “Nothing I guess. Well he’s younger than me by several years.” He paused, and then, “No. I know I like him, I do want to be his boyfriend.”


“So go upstairs and be with him!” She urged. “Don’t you want to be there for him when he wakes up again?”


Scott shook his head. “I can’t now. His parents are here.”


“Ah. The plot thickens.” She helped herself to more of his muffin, pulling open the paper wrapper.


“Yeah.” Scott tapped his fingers on the table. “I don’t know if he’s out to them… or how they’ll feel about me and him… They don’t even know me, so I can’t just go up there at sit with him.”


“So go and talk to them. Get to know them.” Chloe had a chunk of muffin half-way to her mouth. “If they like you, they’ll be more likely to accept you and him being together when you tell them.”


“So you think I should tell them?”


“Absolutely not!”


He furrowed his brow.


“Wait until he’s awake and you’ve had time to talk to him—find out if he is out to them—then you can tell his parents together. I’m just saying, if they already like you, then at least they’ll know their son is with a good person.”


His face light up and he smiled his first proper smile since before Sara had told him they were going to the hospital that morning. “You’re right. I will go talk to them.” He started to get up to leave.


“Hey,” Chloe touched his hand. “You’ve been here over an hour. Don’t go back empty handed.”




She rolled her eyes. “Take them some tea or coffee and something to eat.”


He smiled. “Thanks. I needed to talk to someone…”


She grinned back. “No, thank you. This has been one of my nicer breaks, and your muffin was pretty good too.”


Scott laughed and then hurried back into the buffet line where he mounted a tray with cups of tea and coffee and a choice of different pastries. He paid for it all, and then carefully, so as not to spill the drinks, carried the tray out towards the elevators.


When he’d left, Chloe finished the last of the muffin and her tea, before clearing and wiping down the table. She sauntered over to the cash register where she’d left her cleaning supplies.


“What was that all about?” The portly cashier asked, indicating Scott with a nod of her head.


Chloe smiled. “Just helping a confused little bi-boy sort his life out.” And they shared a chuckle.


The refreshments Scott had brought had been thoroughly welcomed by all parties, but just when the atmosphere of the room had begun to placate, a team of nurses arrived, transporting Jason’s bed. Having stabilized his condition in the operating theatre and set his bones properly, the doctors had deemed it safe to move him to an observation ward. The nurses pushed his bed and an accompaniment of monitors and IV tubes into place next to Matt’s facing Drew’s and Elizabeth’s beds from the opposite side of the room. Sara had them pull the curtains closed around her brother so that the rest of the room wouldn’t have to look at his battered body.


Her father left Elizabeth’s side and joined her behind the curtain. He took Jason’s limp hand and gripped it tightly in his own. Sara hadn’t before been able to see how badly her brother had been injured, and now, it seemed a miracle that he had even survived. His right arm and left leg were encased in plaster-casts and his left collar-bone looked red and swollen. His torso had been wrapped in padding and gauze, protecting the stitching on his chest and belly from exposure. Even his head had a bandage at the base of his skull, and his hair had been shaved off.


She stood at a distance from her brother’s bed, holding her arms across her chest. Finally, Mr. Parker left his son’s side and took her by the arm, turning her and guiding them out from behind the curtain. He took her over to Drew’s bed and cleared his throat, drawing the attention of the Taylor’s.


“I don’t know if you already have something sorted out, but if you need a place to stay our house is open to you. I went briefly before coming here, and the damage isn’t bad. It shouldn’t take long to clean up the kitchen.” He looked at the clock positioned over the door. “Visiting hours will be ending shortly, and I’m sure you need somewhere to rest after… all of this.”




Elizabeth was allowed to leave after another day, and Drew had woken up. Scott had been waiting to the side of his parents when his eyes finally opened, and he smiled to see him there. His parents fussed over him excessively until he groaned and croaked for them to stop. He looked curiously at the two curtained off areas, but no-one said anything.


He felt the bandaging on his chest and winced. What had happened? He remembered his abduction in the kitchen, and then standing out in a rocky plateau… even the blade stabbing through his chest. Shouldn’t he have died? Yes. He should have. Lying on the hot rocks, watching the blood pool slowly expanding in front of him until his vision dimmed and… and what? He woke up in a speeding ambulance, paramedics working to save his life. But in between? Nothing.


Scott and his parents were daily visitors over the following several days. He was glad of their company too. There was only so much one could do while confined to a hospital bed. It was one such day, when his parents had left to bring back lunch from the cafeteria, that Drew turned his head to Scott. The man was leaning against the wall, watching him placidly.


He smiled when he noticed the boy’s eyes on him. “Hey…”


Drew smiled. “Hey. Thanks.”


“For what?”


“For coming to see me every day.”


Scott smiled too and moved so he was sitting by the bed. “That’s ok. I wanted to be here.”


Drew gave him a questioning look and glanced at the door.


Scott shook his head. “No, I haven’t told them anything. I was going to wait until I could ask you what you wanted to say.”


“About what?”


“About us.”


The boy’s eyes widened as realization struck him. “You mean…?”


“Yeah. If you still want to… I want to give it a try.” He took Drew’s hand in his own. “Will you be my boyfriend?”


Drew tried to raise his head from the pillow but winced in pain. Instead, he reached out with his hand until Scott leaned in closer. Then he grabbed his collar and pulled him forwards across the bed until their lips met. “Yeah. I still want you.”


Scott sat back in his seat, taking hold of the boy’s hand and squeezing it gently. The smile on his face could have lit a darkened room. “So… what do you want to tell your parents?”


Drew pursed his lips. “Well, they already know I’m gay but… Well, do you mind if we wait to tell them about us? Just until I’m out of the hospital I mean… I want them to get to know you.”


“Sure.” Scott’s eyed darkened and his face grew serious. “While their gone actually… Sara needs to talk to you about what happened. Is that ok?”


Drew nodded.


Scott slipped away from his side and went behind one of the curtain partitions on the other side of the room. He re-emerged closely followed by Sara.


Sara looked at him apologetically before she spoke. “I’m sorry to have to do this… I know you probably don’t want to think about it anymore than you have to, but I need to know what happened. My mom has already told me what she remembers from the kitchen, but I need to hear what you remember, and what happened after her story ends.”


Drew nodded, swallowed hard, and then began to relate the events to her. She nodded periodically, as if checking his story against her mother’s. But when he told her of watching Elizabeth get flung through the glass doors and their attacker grabbing him by the wrist, her interest grew. He explained how he’d appeared in a place of red and black rock, a great lake of lava at his back, and Jason and a stranger facing him. He told her what he could remember about the words that passed between Jason and his attacker, about the key. And then the shock as he looked down to see a metal blade grow out of his chest. He noticed Scott clench his fists. “And then the next thing I remember was the ceiling of the ambulance and looking out from behind an oxygen mask.”


“Nothing in between? Nothing at all?”


Drew shook his head. “No, sorry.”


She patted his arm gently. “That’s alright. You’ve helped to clear some things up.” She left him then, touching Scott’s shoulder as she passed him, and then slipped back around the curtain.


He looked up at Scott, still standing by his side. “What’s behind there?”


“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”


Drew glared. “Don’t lie to me. We’re dating now, remember? You’re meant to be honest with me.”


Scott chuckled and sighed. “It’s Jason. He was… hurt. But he’s doing better now.”


“Why can’t I see him then? Why the curtain?”


“We didn’t want you to worry about him.”


“What, he’s the one person who doesn’t come to see me and you think I’m not going to worry about him? Tell me!”


Scott opened his mouth, but at that moment, Drew’s parents returned bearing trays of food for everyone. “I can’t in front of them.” He whispered. “But I’ll tell you what we know later. I promise.”



Sara took a seat beside her father. “Drew’s story matches mom’s. It was definitely Damien who attacked them.” She sighed. “He also said he was taken to a place—from the description, I’d guess it was Hell. He saw Jason there. He remembers being stabbed, but then nothing until he woke up in the ambulance.”


Mr. Parker nodded gravely. “I’m going to go home and pick up your mother. She said she’s sick of waiting at home—“


Sara started as her phone started to ring. She dug it out of her pocket and flipped it open. Static and garbled words poured out and she winced, holding it at a distance from her ear. “I must not have any reception in here. I’ll be right back. Wait for me before you go.”


She passed around the curtains and strode out of the ward, ignoring Scott’s questioning look. She made her way to the end of the hall and flipped open her phone, just as a hand grabbed her arm and pulled her into an empty and darkened room.


She reacted almost instantly, snapping her arm back and moving away so her back was against a wall before she took a defensive stance.


“I’m not here to hurt you.” A male voice. British.


She didn’t lower her guard.


“You can turn on the light if you want.” He said. “The switch is just to the right of your shoulder.”


She sidled sideways until her shoulder brushed the switch, and then pressed back against it. The luminescent bulbs above flickered to life. They were in a private clinic room.


The man was seated casually on the examination table, legs crossed. He was dressed in black trench coat that was spread in a semi-circle behind him, underneath which was a chic pin-stripe business suit. “Sara, I’m not here to hurt you. Just to talk” He cocked his head and then furrowed his brow, muttering under his breath, “What is it with your family and making me British?”


“Who are you?”


He gestured elegantly with his hand, tipping his head. “Mephistopheles, at your service.”


She eyed him over. “A fallen angel. I thought you’d be more… impressive.”


The room was plunged suddenly into darkness and red flame burst forth around his hands, licking at his skin but not burning. Spirals of horns rose from his head and two  great wings unfurled themselves from his back, spreading to touch the walls on either side. A red ring of fire blossomed around his head, circling around his brow and his coat tossed in a warm wind that grew up from nowhere. There was a crackle of thunder as storm clouds collected across the ceiling—and then the vision was gone. He grinned mischievously at her. “Any better?”


Sara gave no answer. She simply stared at him, a mixture of emotions frozen on her face.


“I just came to tell you,” Mephistopheles continued, “I over heard you talking to your father and thought you might like to know. Damien is dead. For good this time. Your brother made very sure of that—well, your brother or Azreal, I’m not sure which.”


“So you know what happened to him?” She burst out. “Can you help him then? Help him wake up?”


The fallen angel shook his head. “Sorry, but we can’t interfere with your world anymore. We can come… walk about… talk to people… but we can’t ourselves do anything to affect the world. Azreal made sure of that too. Say hello to Matthew for me when he wakes up.”


“You know about him too?”


He nodded. “Of course. When an angel falls or gives up his wings… we all feel it. Something like that affects us all—whether we’re in Heaven or not.”


“Can you tell me if my brother will wake up at least?” Sara begged.


Mephistopheles shrugged. “That all depends on him. But Matthew should wake up fairly soon. At least once his body has gotten over the shock.” He hopped off of the table, flicking his coat about him. “You won’t be hearing from us again I don’t think. Unless of course you try to contact us. And I’m sure with all the connections you and your father have, you know how to do that.” He brushed past her, the door swinging open before him. He rounded the corner, saying over his shoulder, “Thank your brother for us if he does wake up. He’s done a great deal to further our cause.”


She darted around the corner after him, but he was already gone. She sighed and flicked out the light and closed the door, before returning to her father and Jason’s side.



Sara stayed late at the hospital, even after the others had gone home. Drew had fallen asleep a few hours ago, his body still too exhausted to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. She stood by Matt’s bed, arms folded across her chest, holding her arms. She stared down at Matt’s up-turned face. He looked so normal now. She stepped closer, trying to keep from sniffling. Tears started to trickle down her cheeks and she quickly wiped them away, clenching her jaw. “Why him?” she asked softly to the room, barely a whisper in the darkened ward. “Why him and not…” She balled her fists, and turned on her heel and left, the doors sighing shut behind her.


* * *


            It was another week before Matt woke up.


Night had fallen and Drew was just trying to fall asleep in the darkened ward. He was startled to alertness however, by a metal clang as if a dish had been knocked to the floor. Something else crashed and then Matt staggered through the curtains tearing them open. He looked about wildly and then stumbled forwards, a series of medical equipment and tubes trailing behind him. An alarm sounded somewhere down the corridor as his heart monitor disconnected. Matthew stretched out his hand, catching the edge of the second curtain. His knees gave out and he fell forwards, the partition ripping from its hooks. Drew could hear footfalls now, running. Matt crawled forwards and gripped the edge of the bed. He struggled to rise, ripping the curtain he still clutched, further from its hangings and Drew felt his heart miss a beat.


Jason’s face shown in the dim light from beneath a tangle of tubes, wires and bandages. Monitors and breathing apparatus ringed the boy. The nurses arrived suddenly, rushing through the doors to grab Matt and help him back to his own bed. He started to struggled against them and one of the nurses grabbed a stray IV, slipping a hypo in and pushing through the sedative. Their patient quickly went limp and they loaded him back onto the gurney, re-connecting his monitors and then slipping his wrists into a set of padded braces. When they were finished, they closed the curtains again, re-attaching the partition around Jason. Drew sat silently through it all.


Sara and Mr. Parker were there, bright and early the next morning, breezing past Drew without a word and then moving behind Matt’s enclosure.


* * *


Matt cracked his eyes open and looked about. Sara and Mr. Parker were seated beside him, watching him carefully. He tried to raise his hand to his forehead but couldn’t. He looked down, jerking his wrist in the brace. He looked at them questioningly. They said nothing. Eventually, he swallowed and spoke. “Jason… is he…?”


Sara nodded, but when she spoke her tone had a hint of bitterness. “He’s alive. But he’s in a coma.”


He sighed and relaxed in the bed, but suddenly looked up, worry etched on his face. “And D—?”


Sara put her finger to her lip quickly. “He’s fine too. He’ll be out of here in another few days.” Her glare never wavered from his face.


They sat in uncomfortable silence for several moments.


Mr. Parker looked down at his hands and avoided eye contact. “The doctors say that if they don’t wake up after the first forty-eight hours, the chance of them ever waking up at all falls by sixty percent.”


“How long has he been under then?”


Mr. Parker balled his hands. “Almost two weeks now.” He exhaled slowly before speaking again. “But there is some encouraging news. They say his brain activity still high. Which means he’s still in there.”


* * *


Matt sat clutching Jason’s limp hand in his own. He un-zipped the front of his sweatshirt, feeling slightly uncomfortable in his new clothes. Elizabeth had finally taken pity on him after a week of having to wear borrowed clothes from Scott, and taken him shopping. All the Christmas displays had already been taken down, and at mid-day the mall was almost empty. He wandered from store to store, unsure of what to buy. Eventually, Elizabeth had had to make the choices for him, selecting clothes and telling him to try them on for size.


They had returned to the Parker mansion with his new wardrobe and he’d carefully put everything away in his room. Not Jason’s room. A guest room further down the corridor. He’d gone into Jason’s room only once since being released from the hospital, and that was to reach the handle and close the door firmly. No-one else had opened it since.


The house had a fragile air about it. Sara wouldn’t speak to him, Elizabeth looked at him with saddened eyes, and Mr. Parker had retreated into his study, saying as little as possible to anyone. Mrs. Parker’s company was suffering because she couldn’t concentrate, so she’d finally taken a leave of absence and left instructions for how to manage things until she returned. The Taylor’s had left as soon as Drew was discharged to return to their home in Connecticut—but not before he had exacted a promise from the Parker’s to call as soon as Jason woke up. Scott had been calling him daily anyway though. Even the house-maid cum nanny cum cook had taken to trailing Elizabeth around the house, trying to cheer up one-another.


At first they had all come to the hospital each day, taking shifts watching Jason, sitting by his side. But now, almost a month since the events at the gates of Heaven took place, the visits had dwindled to just once every few days, and then for no more than an hour. Only Matt stayed faithfully by the boy’s side. Everyone else had things to do but him. Mr. Parker was finalizing his severance from Antioch, Sara and Scott were busy trying to figure out what the People's Coalition of Defense was meant to do now that Heaven and Hell were no-longer interfering on Earth. With no one else visiting, Matthew had to become very acquainted with the public bus system in order to reach the hospital each day.


He squeezed Jason’s hand as he lay his head on the edge of the bed, closing his eyes for just a moment—


He sat up. Had Jason’s hand just squeezed back? Was he waking up?


The boy’s hand clenched again. And then once more, his whole arm twitching. One of his feet kicked out too. Matt snatched his hand free and sprinted to the hall, shouting for the nurse. By the time she got to him, the boy was having full-blown body spasms, his limbs jerking like a badly animated puppet. The machines around him had changed from a dull monotony of steady beeps to frantic irregularity.


“What’s happening?” Matt shouted at her as she ran to the door again, punching the code alarm on the wall.


She returned quickly, checking Jason’s chart and then administering an injection into one of his IV’s. His spasms continued, and the heart monitor let out a shrill warning. A team of nurses and doctors barged through the door, running a cart along. “What’s happening?” the doctor asked as he pushed Matthew out of the way.


The original nurse explained breathlessly, “Patient is suffering from chronic seizures. I’ve already given him 20CC’s of Phenobarbital. He’s not responding to it and his heart rate is out of control.”


The team of nurses struggled to hold Jason’s convulsing body still as the doctor gave orders. “Give him 50CC’s of adrenaline. Get his heart back in sync.”


They did so, and the heart monitor started to slow, the BPM slowly falling. Jason’s eyes shot open, staring up at the ceiling. The doctor leaned in, shining a light into his pupils and then away. “Jason?” He asked again, “Jason, can you hear me?” But there was no response from the boy. One of the monitors made a shrill beep and then the rest seemed to go haywire. The Doctor leaned over Jason’s face, “Jason come back to us now.” His blood pressure started climbing again and the brain scan was off the charts. Jason’s eye-lids flickered madly as the heart monitor let out another alert.


One of the nurses called out, “The adrenaline is spiking his system.”


“We’re losing him again. Get the paddles ready, he’s going into arrest.”


The trolley was brought forwards and then one of the nurses pulled the curtain shut around the bed and then pushed Matt out of the door. “Sir, you need to leave.” Matt struggled briefly, but then common sense took over. He backed away, and then ran down the hall looking for a payphone.


* * *


            The Parker’s and Scott arrived in a rush, pouring out of the elevator to be greeted by a pale Matt and Jason’s doctor. The two were immediately assaulted with a barrage of questions. Finally, the doctor held up his hands before him, begging their silence.


“We’ve managed to stabilize him, for now. We’re still trying to figure out what triggered the seizure. I’m waiting for the lab results to come back now. His heart is fine, and so is his breathing. He remained oxygenated throughout, so there’s no danger of asphyxia. I’ve scheduled Jason for a CT scan later today. We just need to check to see if there’s something in his brain that might have triggered this.”


Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Like what?”


“Like a tumor,” Sara said under her breath, but her voice carried in the hall and they all heard it.


The doctor nodded slowly. “Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I’m going to need you to come with me so I can ask you some questions. If there’s been any history of anything like this in the family or… anything I should know about…” They moved off together up the corridor to a private room.


Sara pushed past Matt without a backwards glance and went to her brother’s side, taking a seat in an empty chair and gripping his hand tightly. Scott showed more concern for him, asking if he was ok, and then if he wanted to get something to drink from the cafeteria.


* * *


            It took another month before Sara even spoke to Matt. He was sitting on the window-seat, overlooking the garden. There had been another snowstorm and the ground was covered with at least a foot of the powdery white stuff. It was too early to get to the hospital still, just gone six thirty, but he hadn’t been sleeping well lately. How could he? Each day Jason didn’t wake up was one day closer to him never waking up. Sara came out of her room, heading for the kitchen but stopped abruptly when she saw him. He noticed her reflection in the window, but didn’t turn.


Eventually, she approached him. “You look like shit.”


He turned his head to look at her questioningly.


“You look like shit.” She said again. “You need to get out and do something.”


He opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off before he could even begin.


“Shut up and listen to me. You’ve been moping around this house for two months now. We’re all upset about Jason. But you need to get off your ass and do something. Sitting around waiting for something to happen is going to make you even more depressed and you’re just going to piss off the rest of us. We’re the only family you have now. Don’t take us for granted.”


He looked up at her from where he was slouched. “What do you want me to do? I can’t go anywhere. I don’t have any money, I can’t get a job—I don’t have an identity.


She nodded. “I know. Me and dad have been working on that. I was just going to get your papers finalized today.”


“My papers?”


“Yeah. Actually, I need you to come with me today. They’ll need a picture for your passport and a signature. And you need to choose a name.”


“What’s wrong with Matthew?”


“Nothing. But you need a last name too.”


He looked up at her, and then down at his lap again.


After a while, she sighed impatiently. “Go get dressed and be ready to go in an hour. I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”



Matt looked down at his forms. His last name had been filled in already as ‘Parker’. He cast a glance at Sara. “I already have a last name according to this…”


She waved her hand. “That was just a formality for the forms. You can change it to whatever you want now.”


He read it over again, and then looked up once more. “Do you mind if I keep it?”


She looked a little surprised, but then shrugged her shoulders. “Sure, I guess.”


They waited as the forms were printed and stamped. They were informed his passport would be arriving in a week or so, and then they slipped out. In the car, Sara pulled out of the parking lot, heading the opposite way that they’d come.


“You can drive right?” She asked. “I mean, you know how?”




“Then let’s go get you a permit.”



            Finally, after waiting to take the permit test and then standing in like for the better part of an hour to get everything stamped and his permit printed, they took off in Sara’s car again. It was still only early afternoon.


            Matt looked out the window and then thanked Sara.


            “For what?”


            “This… helping me. Paying for me.”


            She laughed. “I’m not paying for you. That’s the other thing we’re doing today. Now that you have an identity, we’re going to get you a credit card. My dad already has an account set up for you.” He started to say something, but she ignored him. “Don’t worry, you can start paying him back once you get a job.”



            Once their business at the bank was complete, Sara checked her watch and frowned. “It’s getting late. I need to get back soon.” They loaded once more into her car and started the drive home. But after a several minutes, Matt grew aware that his driver was struggling with something.


            “What is it?”


            Her answer was terse. “Nothing.”


            He waited in silence, and then “Ok, not something.” Sara chewed her lip, and then pulled the car to the side of the road. She half-turned in her seat to look at him. “Why Drew?”


            “What?” He shifted uncomfortably. “Why Drew what?”


            “Don’t play dumb with me. I’m not stupid Matt. I worked it out as soon as the doctors told me what happened.” She narrowed her eyes. “First Drew was proclaimed dead at the scene, but by the time he gets to the hospital, he’s alive again—with you as an extra passenger. And I saw your wings…”


            He looked up at her in curiosity.


            “While you were in the hospital. Your monitors started going crazy out and then your wings burst out of your back. I watched the feathers fall off and then dissolve and blow away. I knew what that meant. Mephistopheles confirmed it. He says all the angels felt it. So here’s my question. Why Drew?”


            “Because Jason asked me to help him.” The former angel swallowed hard. “But that’s not what you meant. You meant why Drew, and not Marcus.”


            She held him fixed in her gaze.


            “Angels can only interfere with the unnatural. Damien killed Drew before his time. That was how I was allowed to do what I did. Your brother… Marcus… He killed himself, Sara. I couldn’t have done anything. I—“


            “But what about Damien?” She asked angrily. “He was Marcus’s watcher. He made him do it! I know he did!.”


            Matt shook his head. “It’s easy to blame someone you hate already. But it wasn’t Damien.” Matt sighed and looked at his hands. “The day your brother died, Damien was in Heaven. He was being reprimanded for not paying enough attention to your brother and focusing too much on you, leaving him unwatched and unprotected. But it was your brother that took his own life. Damien neither encouraged him or tried to dissuade him.”


            “But why didn’t you stop him!”


            “I didn’t even know he was in danger, ok? I was Jason’s watcher. Not Marcus’s. No one is to blame for him dying. Don’t try to make this into something it’s not.”


            Sara got out of the car, slamming the door behind her. She walked some distance away, and then sat down on the safety-rail. Matt watched in silence as she tried to calm herself down. Finally, she came back, got in the car and started up the engine. “Don’t.” She said simply. “Just don’t. Not a word.” And so they drove in silence.


* * *


            The weeks passed by, some days quickly, some days like they were crawling at a snails pace. But pass by they did. Now in late March, Matt had managed, thanks to Scott, to get a job working as a lifeguard at a gym not too far from the Parker house. Scott had practically moved in, taking up residence in one of the spare guest rooms. They were all expecting Drew to come by for the summer as well. He’d been down a few times since, just to see Scott and to sit by Jason’s side for a while. With help from Mr. Parker, Matt had managed to arrange a meeting with Mr. Wolf. Now, without his angelic contacts, he was having to get used to doing things the hard way. The meeting was an informal interview. He was applying for a job at the university, something that paid more than minimum wage. Mr. Wolf of course had been happy to arrange the whole thing but had some reservations. Matt was, technically speaking, unqualified. He’d never been to university—didn’t even have a school transcript, or any sort of resume. His job interview was in just a few weeks and he still had no idea how he was going to convince them to hire him.


            For the other Parker’s the hospital visits to Jason’s bedside had dwindled to just once a week. They would all come by, every Saturday, to sit by his side for an hour, before going home again. Matt however, had been resolute. Sara had tried to dissuade him from spending so much time there, but he wouldn’t listen. He managed still to find time to see Jason for an hour each day, and every Saturday, he was there from sun-up to sun-down. He’d become a regular face for the nursing staff and they greeted him with sad smiles every time he showed up, shaking their heads to his silent question. Was he awake?


            And this Friday was no different. He sat holding Jason’s hand, squeezing every now and then. The machines all around him hummed and chirped. The breathing apparatus wheezed nearby and he felt the rubbery plastic tubes winding across the boy’s wrist. Matt had taken to reading books while he was with him, sitting idly to pass the time. He lay the book across his lap and stretched, tilting back in his chair, yawning and scratching his chin. He fell forwards suddenly. Jason’s eyes were open. He stood, the book falling to the floor. “Jason?”


            No response.


            Matt checked the machines. They held their heavy rhythm. Matt released Jason’s hand and ran to the door, catching a passing nurse. “His eyes are open.”


            She looked at him in surprise and then followed him back to the bed. Sure enough, Jason’s eyes were still open. She took a small light from her pocket and flashed it in his eyes. She frowned. His pupils weren’t dilating. “I’ll be right back, I’m going to page his doctor.” She bustled down the hall to the call station, keeping an eye up the corridor. She’d just sent the page when Matt burst into the hall. He waved his arms at her and shouted.


            “Something’s happening! Hurry!”


            She hit the 911 page button, making it clear the doctor was needed immediately and then ran back up the corridor to Jason’s room. His body temperature was dropping rapidly and so was his heart rate. The boy’s lips had taken on a bluish tinge and his eyelids were fluttering. The doctor arrived as Jason’s body slipped into minor convulsions. The nurse hit the code call as the doctor rushed to Jason’s side. He felt Jason’s wrist, and then frowned. “He’s hypothermic, get him into incubation and give him 80ml of Verapamil.”


            The nurse looked at him. “Are you sure that’s the right diagnosis? He’s inside, under a blanket.”


            “His skin feels like ice and he’s shivering. His body core temperature is dropping and so is his heart rate.” The doctor snapped at her. “It’s hypothermic onset. Treat him now and we can figure out what’s causing it after we keep him from dying.”


            The nurse administered the drug though one of Jason’s intravenous tubes and his blood pressure started to rise again, pushing up his heart rate. She unhitched the gurney and pushed the bed through the door, heading off at a running pace with the doctor to another part of the hospital leaving Matt in their wake. He took a few minutes to compose himself and then went to find a payphone to call the Parker’s.



            By the time they’d all assembled, Jason was back in his room again, a fresh IV drip cocktail in his arm. They were standing around and sitting, waiting for the doctor to show up. Scott was talking to Matt quietly in the corner.


            “They said he was hypothermic?” he was asking. “Inside?”


            Matt nodded. “Yeah. I don’t get it either.”


            The doctor finally arrived, carrying Jason’s floor chart. He took a breath before beginning. “I have to say, Jason is stumping us. This afternoon, your son developed all the symptoms of hypothermia—before we could incubate him though, his condition stabilized. We thought his coma might be lifting, but his body seems to be staying resolutely comatose. We ran some MRI scans, hoping we could see what was wrong with him. In case we missed something that hadn’t fully developed before—some form of brain trauma—but there wasn’t.” He pulled out a plastic scan sheet of a skull. “What we did find though, was a hugely abnormal amount of brain activity. This is a scan of an average comatose brain. The red patches are areas of activity.”


            He placed the color picture on the end of Jason’s bed. They crowded around to see it. Only small sections were colored in red, the majority of the brain colored in green and grey. The doctor pulled out another scan.


            “This is a scan of an average conscious brain. As you can see, there are many more and much larger areas of activity.” He frowned, and then pulled out a final sheet. “This is Jason’s brain.”


            The sheet was almost entirely red. Nearly all of the green and grey areas had been eclipsed.


 “What does that mean?” Mr. Parker asked for them all.


“Well,” the doctor spread his hands, “it means he’s not in a vegetative state. I’d say it shows that he has a high chance of pulling through, but these readings... they’re off the chart. It’s frankly somewhat baffling. We ran the scans three times to make sure it wasn’t just a malfunction. I’m in contact with the best neurosurgeons in the country and as yet, they’ve come up with nothing. All we can do now is wait to see if something else develops or his condition changes.”


* * *


            He opened his eyes, looking up at the pale green ceiling. Machines beeped all around him like a chorus of mechanical birds. He raised his right hand, looking at the tubes that ran down his arm to puncture his skin and the electrical finger clip on his index finger. His arm was sluggish to respond as he lifted it up before his face. He tried to swallow, but couldn’t. Something was in his throat. He moved his eyes down, the view of his lower body obscured by a mixture of tubes and medical tape affixed to his jaw. His hands scrabbled with the tape, ripping it loose until he could grab the tube freely. He wretched as he pulled it from his throat, gagging on the plastic until his esophagus felt like it was on fire.


He looked down finally at his chest, tearing off the electrodes that someone had stuck to his skin. The heart monitor beside him let out a high-pitched whine as it stopped picking up his pulse. He pulled the clip from his finger and swung his legs sideways off the bed, rushing to the door. Before he could take a step though, his legs gave out under him and he sprawled.



The shrill alarm alerted her and she sprinted down the hall, the noise growing louder with each step. She slid through the doors to find the patient in a heap on the floor. He was struggling desperately to move forwards using his arms. The boy’s legs trailed behind him limply. She rushed to his side, trying to lift his body weight. He looked at her with a mixture of trepidation and apprehension until she helped him into an up-right sitting position. She reached for the medical file hanging from the end of his bed and flipped it open on the floor beside her with one hand, the other still supporting his weight. She found what she was looking for and then pushed the file away. “Jason?” she said louder than she needed to. “Jason, you’re in a hospital. Your legs aren’t working because the muscles have atrophied.”


He looked at her in confusion.


 ‘You’ve been in a coma.” She continued, again too loudly.


He winced and growled, “Stop talking so loudly! I’m not deaf.”


            She apologized and helped to lift him back onto the bed. Six months with no exercise save for occasional sessions of physiotherapy and only intravenous fluids to sustain him had caused his body mass to plummet. The same thing that had made his own body unable to support himself allowed her to lift him.


He settled back into the bed and she re-connected the IV drip, finger clip and electrodes. The heart monitor beeped back to life, but she switched the breathing apparatus off.


“I don’t think you need this anymore, but I’ll have to check with your attending if you still need the oxygen tubes.”


Jason’s hand suddenly caught her wrist and he hissed, “Who is it? Not Dr. Chastfield, right?


She furrowed her brow. “Who?”


He sighed and released her arm, sinking back into the pillows. “Thank you.”


* * *


            A series of CT and MRI scans had shown his brain activity had returned to normal. Once he’d begun to eat again and with a daily regime of physio and exercise routines, his strength had started to return.


It had been a shock at first to see his family and friends assembled in the small hospital room. They were all smiling, happy to see him awake once more—and no one more so than Matt. He could tell almost immediately though that something had changed. He wasn’t sure what, but he was different. At the end of the afternoon, by the time the rest of his family was leaving, Matthew had developed a five o’clock shadow. As he stood to leave with the others, Jason caught his wrist, begging him to stay.


Jason waited until the door closed behind his family and then gestured Matt closer. He leant down and the boy’s hand reached up to stroke his cheek, feeling the coarse texture of the stubble. “This is new…” he said out loud and then frowned. “Things are different now… I’ve… you’ve… everything’s changed.”


Matt nodded slowly.


“I tried…before… I can’t see them anymore—energy, life, I mean. Can you read my thoughts now?”


Matt shook his head.


Jason looked at him pleadingly. “What’s happened?”


“Azreal’s gone now. He’s not inside you anymore. Heaven is flooding with souls, Hell is empty. Angels can’t interfere anymore with this world. Your father has left his job. The PCD is working in coalition with Antioch. Scott and Drew are living at your house—as a couple, and I’ve got a job at the University starting in September. You made a lot happen, what you did.”


Jason shook his head. “Not what I did, what Azreal…” And then realization dawned on him. “At the university? Why—Oh… Matt… I didn’t do this to you, did I? I mean Azreal?”


Matt smiled. “No. I did this. I chose to. Don’t worry.”


“How can I not? I’ve been in a coma for six months!”


“Jason, nothing’s changed. I’m still me and if you want we can still…”


The boy’s hand reached out for his and their fingers gripped. “I want to.”


* * *


            By June, Jason had been discharged, and by August, he was coming to terms with a repeat year of college after missing finals and the entire second semester. It had been difficult at first, knowing he’d forever be a year behind his closest friends, but more frustratingly that Matt refused to let him out of his sight or do anything for himself. They’d had a fight and Jason had put his foot down—literally and proverbially—when he wouldn’t even let him walk the few blocks to Fiona’s house on his own.


Now though it was the last weekend of the summer before Jason, Matt and Drew started term. Scott too would be joining them. With the PCD left with nothing to do but track reported visitations from angels, Scott had chosen to go back to college and finish the degree he had left to join Sara. They’d succeeded in securing an apartment for the four of them earlier that week, and to celebrate, they were driving to the coast. Drew had heard news of an open-air concert from a friend and after mentioning it over dinner the night before, the whole household had elected to make a day of it. Scott drove Drew, Matt and Jason in one car, with Sara, Jason’s parents and food for a picnic following in the land rover behind. As they pulled onto the beach, leaving their cars behind, a group was already on stage, mid-set and a large crowed had formed, enjoying the music and sun. They quickly staked out a patch of sand, spreading a large blanket before the younger members of the troop raced to frolic in the surf and sand.


Except for Matt. He sighed and smiled, watching Jason run with Scott and Drew. He set down the freezer chest he had been carrying and wandered off on his own towards the rising sand dunes. He took a seat in a sheltered drip, looking out over the sea as the haunting sounds of Sigor Rós drifted up from the stage behind and below him. A lone seagull drifted idly on air currents out over the ocean and he watched the air ruffle its feathers.


He heard soft footfalls in the sand behind him but didn’t turn. Instead, he scooped up a hand-full of sand and let the grains slowly trickle out. The visitor cleared their throat. Soft, feminine.


“Matthew are…” Sara started, “are you ok?”


            He held his silence stoically. Out over the water, the seagull dived, reaching for a fish or morsel just below the surface.


            Sara sighed at his lack of response. She scuffed her foot on a tuft of sand-grass and then moved closer. Eventually she sat, her legs out in front of her, bare feet joining his own in digging into the sand. She drew a long breath before speaking again. “Matt I wanted to say… I’m sorry. For how I’ve treated you… I knew you loved Jason. I’m sorry it took what it did for me to really realize that…”


“It was my fault.” Matt said quietly, acknowledging her presence for the first time. “If I’d paid more attention to Damien before his fall, none of it ever would have happened.”


Sara shook her head. “Matt, you can’t blame yourself for what he did. My brother’s death wasn’t your fault. Damien was solely to blame for it—“


“No. I was the one who appointed him as watcher for your family. It all comes back to me in the end.”


She sat silently for a while, both of them watching the swell and ebb of the waves on the beach below them. Eventually, she noticed Matt’s shoulders were shaking ever so slightly; as if he were try to suppress a sob of grief. “Matt…” she started.


He raised his hands before him. They were shaking. “All I could think about… as I was sitting there… holding his head…” His voice broke and his shoulders slumped as he finally let out the emotion he’d kept bottled inside. “All I could think about was how much I loved him and that I never got to tell him…” The waves crashed and rolled as his mind started to swim back through memories of the last nine months, past all that had happened.


But her voice brought him back to reality. “Matt… None of that matters now though… he’s here. He’s with us, and he knows. He loves you too.”


He didn’t look at her though. He curled his fingers slowly inwards and then pressed his hands together.


She scuffed sand off of her feet, and then dug them a little deeper again. “I thought about what you said. And you were right. Marcus took his own life, and I can’t keep trying to blame other people for that. I apologize for how I treated you, recently and… before. I’m a spoilt brat and I’m used to getting what I want. Almost losing Jason too made me realize a lot. I never had any claim to you—but it still made me mad that I couldn’t have you.” She sighed.  “I’m not a kid anymore, and while the agency gives me what I want, I need to realize that there have to be certain limits.” She fell silent as if she’d said more than she had intended. “Look at me,” she chuckled. “Going off and making this about me again.” She chewed her lip, uncertain how to take his silence. Eventually, she stood, brushing the sand off her legs. She extended her hand down to him. “Come on Matt, you’ve got a boyfriend waiting for you.”


He blinked in surprise and then grinned, gripping her hand as she helped him stand. His hand reached quickly to his pocket, checking to make sure its contents hadn’t fallen out. Together then, they crested the sand dune and slid down its summit, leaving small wakes of disturbed sand. He looked over to see the band leaving the stage as another one prepped to take their place.


Jason, Drew and Scott had left the surf and were kicking a ball around bare-foot. Matt took off running towards his boyfriend. Jason kicked the ball, passing it to Drew seconds before Matt scooped him up in his arms, still running. Jason shouted in surprise, but Matt didn’t stop. He kept running until they were deep into the sand dunes with the surf to one side and no one else in sight for miles. Matthew finally set Jason down on his feet as he heard the music from the stage begin to echo across the sand.


“I can fly

But I want his wings”


            The boy laughed and kissed him quickly. “What was that all about?”


“I can shine even in the darkness

But I crave the light that he brings

Revel in the songs that he sings

My angel Gabriel”


            Matt silenced him by pressing his finger to his lips. He pulled the small box from his pocket, sinking to one knee. He eased the small cube open, looking up into Jason’s eyes.


Gingerly, Jason raised the ring from the box. It was made from tiny, silver carved feathers, weaving together to form a band.


Matt stood wordlessly, and taking the ring, slipped it onto his partner’s finger. “Forever.” He whispered, and their lips met.


“I can love

But I need his heart

I am strong even on my own

But from him I never want to part

He’s been there since the very start

My angel Gabriel

My angel Gabriel

Bless the day he came to be

Angel’s wings carried him to me


I can fly”



            Mephistopheles stood watching the pair from a distance, half-hidden by a sand dune. He looked up at the larger fallen angel beside him. “You can’t read him either, can you?”


Beelzebub shook his head. “No. What does this mean?”


“I don’t know.” Mephistopheles sighed and then looked around. “Do you want an ice-latte? I want an ice-latte. Wanna’ go to Starbucks?”


* * *


            Far away from the concert and the sand and the sea, Nodiesha grimaced, her rounded belly rising and falling with her labored breathing. She caught one of the imps that had strayed too near her, and flung it away so it struck the wall and bounced off. The other succubae fussed about her, cooling her brow with a damp cloth. She groaned as the contractions began anew, the cords of her leg muscles standing out as she strained. Her jaw fell open and she screamed, her voice echoing out of the stone temple and ricocheting off of the black rocky cliffs.


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