Chapter 4; POV: Meghan

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I knew the angel had not stayed the whole evening. I had felt her departure at about 11'o'clock, just after I went to bed, and went to check only a few minutes later. Too tired to be angry, I slunk back into my room and fell into a dreamless stupor.

I was completely caught off guard when I woke up with Roark hovering over me. It was odd; I was already growing used to the fact that she hardly ever looked me in the face. She jumped away, to the edge of my bed, staring at me with apparent interest. My eyes drifted downwards, and I saw that both of her hands were wrapped in shredded pieces of towel. The smell of blood made me scowl, then feel shallow that it was the smell that bothered me.

"Good morning," she said, as light as a sixth grader off to the first day of middle school.

"Good…" I cut myself short and skipped to the point. "Where were you? And do I even want to know what happened to your hands?" She twitched a little at something I said and swiveled around so her back was to me. "Answer my questions. You said you would. At least do that for me."

She was silent for a beat, then spoke in a resigned, weary tone that made me feel unreasonably guilty for asking. "I was outside of the city, training with my sword. I met a demon."

"And it did that to your hands?" I was skeptical; it was hard to imagine anyone moving faster than she could.

"More or less," she said, and her voice had a hard ring to it that made me recoil, tugging up the blankets to my chest like they could protect me.

The conversation between us felt fragile, like it did talking with kids at school. I was awkward in my own skin again.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

She shook her head, standing up from the bed and striding across my room to peer out the window. When she turned back to me, she looked distraught. "Someone died because of me last night, Roark. An angel. Charlie." She closed her eyes.

"Would you like me to get you something for that?" I asked quietly.

She shook her head, and her white hair swung out like a hallo. An angel, sitting on my bed, in my flat. It was more than surreal, it was amazing.

"I am only confused, for the most part." She looked sort of like a lost Never Land child, only a girl. "My sword, Broken… she betrayed me, then she helped me. I don't understand." She sighed heavily. "I suppose I will have to ask her."

"I ask her?" I had to ask. If curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back.

"She can take a human form without a host for a small amount of time within a certain proximity. I told you already that she was sentient, this shouldn't come as a terribly surprise."

I shrugged. Nothing would surprise me anymore. "Can I meet her, sometime?"

At that, she actually laughed. It was short and unpleasant, at best, but it was a step up from the puppy eyes. "No, doubtless that would be unwise. I cannot trust her to even be untrustworthy, and you are far more delicate than I am."

"When you say she betrayed you, what happened, exactly? I want to understand." It was the truth. I had always been nosy, and now that I had discovered a secret society, secret worlds even, I needed all of it. It was like I'd finally come into my sci-fi inheritance, hours spent in front of the computer of Friday afternoons paying off.

"She held her power from me while I was fighting the demon Karreth, then she aided me in defeating him. She used my body as a host instead of my sword."

"Karreth is Saise's whatever?"

She nodded once. "He was here to find me when he encountered Charlie. He killed Charlie, and it's my fault. I tried to kill him, but he got through the rip. Every hour there are a few second when we can slip through the rip. I was foolish. Jonathan has often said I dally to long before striking." Her hands clenched at her sides a few times.

"So that's where those guys went yesterday?" Another nod. "They were still alive, then." My statement held a question.

"Yes. The closer to second death we come, the stronger the pull from the rip becomes. The demon from yesterday was Porter. He was unskilled, though the same level as both Audrey and Charlie. I did kill him, with a spell." The white lightening came to mind, and I nodded.

"Karreth killed Charlie. I reunited with Broken after she failed me in an attempt to keep him from killing Audrey too, although in retrospect, it may have been more merciful to merely let him kill her. She loved Charlie very much. She was crying when she left, Roark."

I blinked. "Is it not normal for angels to cry?"

"No, not at all. We do not give emotions away as freely as humans do."

"Is that why you never make eye contact?"

"Yes."

There was a long silence. Botticelli batted my hair and rolled onto his back, and I stroked the fur on the side of his face idly.

When I caught sight of the clock, I started. "It's noon already!"

Roark nodded slowly, but didn't reply. I was suddenly anxious about leaving her alone. Maybe I didn't have to go to school.

"What do you say to staying here another day? We can do something fun." I didn't know why I said it, but once the words were out, there was no way to pluck them from the air.

A heavy sigh met my proposition. "If I stay here, they will be drawn after me."

The thought sent a little thrill through me, but logic took over easily. "You said I smell sort of like you. Wouldn't they have already come here? After all, they went after Audrey and… Anyways, wouldn't they be able to smell me on you?"

She thought briefly. "You're right. Considering you smell so much, I'm surprised you haven't encountered more of us. I mean, even a lesser demon… an incubus, perhaps. That is to say, a level one or less demon without a sword." I shot her a look, but she didn't notice. "I suppose a break could only do me good."

She fingered her sword thoughtfully. The holster ran over her shoulder and connected to the sheath in several places, probably to keep it from dragging. I hadn't noticed before, all the black blended together from a distance. She was so short, though, she wouldn't have been able to draw or carry if it was sheathed normally.

"Where do you want to go?"

I help up both hands. "First I have to do my morning thing. I'll eat breakfast, take a shower, and then we can go anywhere you want."

She shook her head. "I don't know much about your world. Certainly not enough to cast an eye on anything diverting."

I almost giggled. Diverting. Who the hell used the word 'diverting?'

"I'll show you around, then. It's better this way, actually. We can't go anywhere where we have to pay without coming off as being totally weird." I laughed, and she offered a smile.

I wondered into the kitchen, her presence already something I was going accustomed to. She followed a few steps behind without a sound, watching while I made myself pancakes and ate them ravenously. I lifted a bag of medicine from on top of my refrigerator, lined up the bottles, uncapped them one by one and swallowed the prescribed amount. It was something of a ritual, but I remember when I was young, taking my medicine had left the taste of death in my mouth.

"You have a Pulmonary Embolism, right?" Several, but I didn't correct her. "That would account for this medicine," she gestured to one of the bottles. I raised an eyebrow, surprised that she would know much about modern medicine. Somehow it just didn't fit the divine being complex.

"Yeah, that's right."

"And this is just a painkiller, probably related indirectly to that cause."

"Yes."

"Then what are the others for?"

I shrugged. "I have a weak heart, some problems with blood clotting, I get migraine headaches, my blood pressure is out of whack, my lungs fill up with water occasionally…" I counted them up on my fingers, then laughed humorlessly.

She tilted her head to one side and turned her back to me, examining the living room chandelier. "An unusual amalgamation."

I leaned backwards to take my last pill and nearly choked on it, something I hadn't done since I was small.

"Were you always unhealthy?" she asked.

I swished some juice around my mouth to rid the taste of plastic and bile. "Pretty much. About two years ago it kind of…jumped up a level all of a sudden. It's gotten worse as I've aged, though."

"How long do you have to live?" Her question was so frank that I was surprised, but I answered anyways.

"The doctors aren't allowed to tell me yet, not until I'm eighteen, but… I've done some research. Five years, probably, at best." I swallowed, the immensity of those words consuming me for a moment.

She tapped a finger to her lip and wound one of her hair ribbons around another. "That isn't very long. What do you intend to do in that time?"

"Finish school. Start college. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered what I'd do if I was somehow cured; but I hadn't really come up with anything conclusive. Maybe write a book, or go into medicine."

"I want to go back to California, though. It was lovely there. Even when it rained, the smell of the water on the tar in summer…" I took an exaggerated breath, holding it in as I remembered the steep, hot smell. Cloudy and bitter, but on the edge of it you could smell wet grass and stormy ocean. "Perfect."

I smiled in earnest this time and began recapping the bottles. Before I could pick them up, they disappeared. I winced and gaped, spotting them on top of the refrigerator in a neat row. Noticing my confusion, Roark's lip twitched.

"I put them away. You're taking too long, and I want to see the big apple."

I smiled, licked a head of syrup off of my thumb, and went to the bathroom to get dressed. When I returned, she was sprawled across my couch, flicking through the television channels.

"Do you have TV in heaven?"

She snorted, focused on some commercial for orange juice with an upbeat jingle. "No satellites, no radio. We don't need it, we don't want it. There are far better ways to amuse ourselves, and what time we have between training and fighting, we have feasts and celebrations and contests and all sorts of things. There are some angels who cannot fight, who don't have swords. They look after domestic affairs and organize events to stave boredom."

It sounded like the reasoning behind not letting woman have jobs. "So do you have a class system then?"

She tossed her hair, almost arrogant. "Not really. They are appreciated for their skills, while we are appreciated for ours. We are not humans; differences don't always culminate in brutality."

"Gee, thanks," I replied, sliding my hands into my coat with exaggerated slowness.

"I speak only the truth. I have no interest in human qualms."

"Then why are you here at all?"

"I told you. To train."

"Alright, are you ready to-" before I could finish, she had gotten past me and was standing in the hallway, looking back inside. I trotted after her, down the hall, the elevator, and the nearly dozing doorman. He waved and offered me a pitying smile. I did return the gesture. I didn't want his pity.

I noticed for the first time that Roark's side looked padded underneath her shirt. She handled herself with such grace that it was hard to believe she was injured at all.

We took a bus a few blocks until we came to the shopping district, and as I dragged her into the main mall, nobody spared me a second look.

It was loud, an endless round of pop music playing in the main hall, a golden-domed area between two old buildings. The signature CDs of different stores spilled around us when we passed different doors. Vending carts with tasseled edges, manned by college-age attendants, cut the human traffic like knives. The sleek lines of elevators stood out against the old fashioned engravings on the sides of buildings, jutting from plastic molds or between dyed blue fountains and potted plants filled with trash. The heady scents of perfume and cotton and Chinese food and shoe leather all came together in something that was sweet and overwhelming. I closed my eyes, imagining myself rising above all the clamor on feathered wings.

Roark stopped and stared, peering once over the top of her sunglasses only to wince and push them up. Her eyes, teal as turquoise and even rounder, looked weirdly innocent in contrast to the leather holster for her enormous sword. I grabbed her sleeve and tugged a few times, rolling my eyes.

"Do you want to buy something or just stand around and gawk?"

She shook her head. "I can't. No one can see me, remember?"

"Right." I frowned. She had a point, but my girly instincts were kicking in, unexercised for too many years. "Can't you let them see you? I mean, you had to have bought your clothes somewhere."

"I could, but I'm not supposed to, unless it is completely necessary. I ordered my clothes."

My intellect was instantly piqued. In the back of my mind I wondered if the truth rule still held. "Says who? That you're not supposed to, I mean."

"Jonathan, the head of my legion. He is a mentor for a group of a dozen angels. He is level 7, very skilled, and very wise. It's against our law to let ourselves be seen, it disturbs your world too much. It is dangerous for me to be talking with you."

"Then why are you?"

She looked at me, and I fidgeted a bit. Her gaze was nine kinds of searching. "Jonathan will doubtless be interested to learn of a human who can see. Would you accompany me to meet him tomorrow night?"

I felt a jump in the pit of my stomach. It took me a moment to realize it was excitement. Talk about emotional jetlag. "It's a school night… but sure."

She smiled and walking away from me, and I hurried after. "Aren't I supposed to be the one showing you around?"

"It's a mall, Meghan, I can figure it out myself." She stopped in front of a big, plastic covered map on one wall.

"Yes, but today is my day." A devilish smile crept onto my face. "I'll get you some clothes."

She frowned, sensing my devious intent from my smile, but let me lead her through the swamp of people and into the first store.

She balked, one foot through the door. "It's pink. Everything in here… pink."

"Yup."

"I don't wear pink."

"Oh, but you're so small! You should wear pink."

"You're small. You don't wear pink." Her expression was unchanging, but her words carried such aristocracy that I was almost offended. I grabbed her hand and began towed her towards a rack. She resisted for a moment, then sighed and gave in.

I loaded my arms with little trouble, grabbing a few sizes for everything remotely acceptable. Revenge had never been so sweet.

Once I had collected a suitably overwhelming stock, I set down the pile on a fold out chair behind a mirror and lifted up a shirt and skirt, holding them in the air and eyeing her critically.

Roark cocked her head to one side.

"What are you doing?"

"Putting them on you… with my mind." I waggled my eyebrows.

She scowled. "Give me those," she ordered after a moment. I handed them over. She wrinkled her nose, then passed her hand in front of her face.

A sales woman walking by paused, looking between Roark and me in confusion. I followed her gaze, understanding what had happened. The clerk's bafflement was understandable; Roark was not an average looking child.

I waited for her to leave to speak. "You left Broken invisible?"

Roark smiled. "Do you have to ask?"

"Just try on the clothes, you little wise ass."

She stuck out her tongue, so utterly middle school that I could not respond in kind, and disappeared into the changing rooms.

When she finished, she was decked out and getting moody again. I was ecstatic.

"You look so cute!" I trilled. Part of it was a jibe, sure, but part of it was honest excitement. She did look cute, her anime white hair went well with whatever and she had on and she had finally pulled off the sunglasses in the absence of natural light. Creepy vampire. "You're like a doll. I could just dress you up all day."

Her eyes narrowed dangerously.

"I look like an idiot," she said without an ounce of guile, fingering a clothes hanger.

"Don't say that, you haven't even looked yet." I positioned her in front of the 180 degree mirror. She let herself be maneuvered with minimal difficulty.

"See? You look nice."

There was a pregnant pause, and I grinned so broadly that it made the corners of my mouth ache.

"Do you want to try on the other stuff?"

Her mouth twitched again.

"Give me it," she muttered finally. I beamed.

The stores began closing at seven, and I was exhausted. Roark seemed as lively as ever; though still a bitter about that fact that I had convinced her to wear colorful clothing.

We passed the food court on the way back out, and her eyes lit up.

"I would like some food."

"We can eat here, but if we wait there's a really nice Italian place a few blocks away. I bet you would love it there." I offered her a smile, which wasn't quite returned, but she was making eye contact and bouncing a bit on the balls of her feet.

"Like what?"

"Do you like sea food?"

"Can't say I have had any. I only got here a few days ago."

"It's good, you'll love it. I can even help you order, if you'd like."

She smiled. Food seemed to be one of the only things that excited her.

"That would be lovely."

I remembered something. "What about your hands? Weren't they totally torn up?"

She looked at me and sucked in her bottom lip to chew on it. "I can heal. I couldn't last night because I was tired and I didn't want to alert anyone in the area where I was. I healed them in the changing rooms, and I left the bandages in the trash. The blood will dissolves back into the rip within the hour, so no one will see."

A healer? I wondered if it was only herself that she could heal.

"Can all angels do that?"

"Not all of them, but many of us have extra skills. Not usually as flashy as healing, but still useful. Audrey, for instance, can heat and cool objects just by touching them. Charlie could…" Her face fell, and my fingers twitched at my side, almost moving to touch her shoulder.

She waved down a cab and we crawled inside. The driver looked at us skeptically, and I threw her two tens, resolving to spend less in the coming month. "Will that get us ten blocks?"

She smiled and nodded, and I gave her the address.

We were back on the street too quickly, standing before an impressively shinny building with a techy blue and green sign hanging over the entrance. It reminded me of one of my aunt's hotels, overdone and lovely, but unrealistic.

I grabbed Roark's hand and tugged her inside. Upon catching sight of me, the man in charge of seating waved from behind his computer and sent another man, this one in a grey suit, to seat us.

"Wine, ladies?" he asked stiffly, and I shook my head. He bowed and hurried off, and I turned my attention back to Roark.

She was staring in utter fascination at a fish tank covering one of the walls, her entire body moving with her head as she swiveled to watch them.

I laughed, resting one of my hands on the table. "Don't you have fish in heaven?" I realized that we were in a crowded restaurant, and there was a high likely hood that somebody would be listening. I shrugged it off mentally- they would have no idea what we were talking about anyways.

"Of course, but they are nothing like these ones." She closed her eyes in thought. "They are pretty, though not terribly interesting. All big fins and big eyes. Home is a place of amazing beauty, but few surprises. In some ways, it is nice to be here.

"Besides, many of my fellows do not trust me as much as they could." She looked down at her napkin.

A man came and poured us both glasses of water before I could think about what she said.

"Are you ready to order?"

"Yes," I said, too eagerly, and he looked confused for a few seconds before clearing his expression.

"I'll order for both of us, this is my friend's first time here. Could we please order the calamari and muscles to start, and for dinner, the scallops with caramelized apples, and the pasta with scampi?"

He wrote down the order, bowed again, and left.

I got back into the conversation immediately. "How can you tell? I mean, what do they do exactly? They're angels."

She giggled, white teeth flashing. "Angels are the upper half of the spectrum, but that does not make us perfect. Certainly I deserve some sort of repercussion for the lives I took as a demon."

"That wasn't you," I said without hesitation. "Saise made you do those things. It wasn't you."

"I appreciate your accepting nature, but Saise didn't make me do those things. I was Saise, and I am still Saise, if only half of her. The split in the Kimmor… Nothing like that had ever happened before; it makes sense that the incident would attract attention."

I would have tried comforting her, but she had made a lethal error. I grinned and balanced my chin across my fingers. "I thought you said differences didn't always end in conflicts for you? That you're better than humans?"

A surprised sound, though not quite a laugh, tumbled from her throat. "That is usually true, but you must remember that in this case any misgivings are based in fact. I poisoned Kimmor, after all. The weapons wielded from her silt are now deadly to both our kinds."

Two large dishes appeared in front of us, and the conversation flowed easily into a much lighter one about food. At first she looked sickened, but her expression quickly changed once I managed to get a few muscles into her.

She did not use traditional table manners, though she was doubtless graceful, even when licking the plates clean after eating everything presented. I matched her gluttony easily, starved from a day of activity. When the entrees came, we split those too.

It was amazingly pleasant to sit in her company, lapses in conversation few and far between. I hoped, very much, that I wouldn't stop seeing her after Jonathan came.