Chapter One

Dead

"Hey. Hey, you! You can't just lie there all day, ya know." I opened my eyes and found myself face to face with a guy in rather odd cloak. He had light brown hair that fell into his face a bit. He wasn't muscular, but built leanly with well toned muscles that could clearly be seen through the t-shirt he wore under his cloak.

"Who are you?" I asked sitting up. I had a pounding headache.

"My name is Ace. I'm your Grim Reaper." I stared at him and blinked a bit.

"Dude, Halloween isn't for a few months, I think you're a bit early." I said and stood up. I looked around the yard and didn't see Molly anywhere.

"You wouldn't happen to have seen my sister, would you? She's got red hair, and she's six, but she looks more like a four-year-old…" I continued my description until he silenced me.

"You're dead." He said bluntly. I stared at him a minute and then started laughing.

"How can I be dead when I'm standing right in front of you?" I laughed again. He didn't find it very amusing.

"I told you. I'm a Grim Reaper." He insisted.

"Grim Reapers are skeletons. You, on the other hand, have skin."

"Fine, I'll show you since obviously you don't believe me." He said. He threw his arm out to the side and closed his eyes. There was a strange glowing in his palm and a long scythe appeared.

"What the hell?!" I screamed.

"Do you believe me now?" he asked, sounding slightly annoyed. I stared in awe at the weapon that had to be six feet tall. I fell backward on the pavement, never breaking my gaze.

"I hate this job." He muttered to himself. He tapped the bottom of the scythe on the ground three times and it disappeared. "Come on." He said as he helped me from my position. I stood, stupefied, as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

"What are you doing?" I asked, gaining back my voice.

"I'm proving to you that I'm the Grim Reaper and that you're dead." He said, still annoyed. The next thing I knew I was high in the air.

"What the hell are you doing! Put me down now! Put me down!" I screamed at him, clutching his neck.

"Scared of heights?" He smirked.

"That's none of your damn business! Now put me down!"

"Okay." He said and let go of my waist. I screamed and closed my eyes, waiting for the impact of the ground. But it never came. I slowly opened one eye and saw that I was still holding onto him.

"I'm not falling." I stated. He shook his head.

"Nope. You sure aren't."

"Why am I not a pancake?" I asked. He looked me in the eye.

"Because. You. Are. Dead." He said.

"How do I know this isn't a dream?" I asked.

"My god!" he yelled, throwing his hands in the air. He turned back to me after a minute. "Come with me." He said and took my hand. We flew across town to a convenience center. He pointed to a newspaper bin. The front page story was about the snake that bit me. Then my memory came completely back. I remembered the pain, the snake, and Molly. The reality of his words began to sink in. I was dead. I could no longer see my family, my friends, or anyone else. I felt tears well up in my eyes.

"Why?" I said softly.

"I don't know why you died." He said softly.

"That's not what I was asking!" I yelled. "Why is it I can't fall, but I can cry!"

"Spirits aren't affected by gravity because technically they have no mass. But you can cry because it has to do with emotion." He replied. I wiped my tears.

"What did you say your name was again?"

"Ace." He said.

"What exactly are you supposed to do?" I asked, sniffling.

"I'm supposed to take you back to where I'm from and send in my report so that the higher ups know that I've got you. Then you have to choose either to become a Grim Reaper, like me, or go through the gates."

"What gates?" I asked, confused.

"Come on, I'll just show you." He said, grabbing my hand. He threw his arm out again and his scythe appeared. He spun it in a circle and the air around it warped, turning into an opening. He led me through it and on the other side it was completely white. It looked like a corridor, doors lining it, but there was no end. The doors stood back to back, a knob on either side, but it was obvious they were two separate doors. I looked around the perfectly white space and saw no end to the rows of doors.

"My apartment's down this way." He said and motioned for me to follow. We twisted and turned between the doors, until finally he stopped in front of one. He twisted the knob and opened the door. It led into a well lit room overlooking a city. The room reminded me of a bachelor's pad. I moved to the floor length windows and stared out at the city below.

"Where are we?" I asked in awe.

"This is where the grim reapers reside." He said. "Before I show you around, I need to show you the gates." He said, and motioned for me to follow him back into the strange corridor. We weaved our way through the doors until we came to where we had first entered. He "summoned" his scythe and created the "portal." We stepped through it, but this time we were in another white plain. The only thing visible was a pair of giant doors, probably about three or four feet high. They had a Victorian feel and had intricate details all over them.

"What is this place?" I asked. He stepped beside me.

"These are the gates. No one here knows what lie beyond them. God created them. When the grim Reapers were first established, some spirits didn't want to be grim reapers. So God, being her usual kind self, created these doors as an alternative." He explained.

"Oh…Wait, did you say 'she'?" I asked. He nodded.

"There are a few things that people on earth got wrong about the bible. First, God is a woman; second, the 'holy ghost' is our boss. God and the boss fell in love and created Susej. Jesus is Susej's earthly embodiment. He was there to gather twelve disciples who would come here to rule over the Grim Reapers. They are known as the 'secretaries.' You'll learn more about it the longer you stay here. But for now let's just show you around town." He said. He summoned his scythe and opened the portal that led to the city. He began floating ahead of me and I couldn't help but wonder how he did it.

"Just take your feet off of the ground." He said, almost as if reading my mind. "You can walk through walls too. There aren't any doors in the city. The only reason there are doors here is because it would just look like a white space without them. No one would know where their room was." He said. "Stay close to me." I did as I was told. We floated on the sidewalks until we reached, what looked like, a mall. "We need to get you some clothes." He said and passed through a wall. I followed him and he led me to a women's area.

"Why do I need clothes?" I asked.

"Well, I figured you didn't have anything else to wear. And I thought you might want to get out of that." He said, pointing to the tablecloth-like drape hanging over me. It was tied over my shoulders and by my bust and hips, but other than that, was a bit revealing. I nodded in disbelief that I hadn't noticed sooner. He pointed to a woman in the area.

"That's the salesgrim. She'll help you find something suitable." He said. I floated over to the woman.

"Um…excuse me?" I said meekly. The woman turned to me.

"Oh! A soul! How may I help you, dear?" She said, excitedly.

"I was just looking for something to change into." I said.

"Of course! What would you like? We have tons of things from different eras and time periods and countries." She said.

"I don't really know." I said, somewhat slowly. She looked at me for a moment and then smiled.

"I think I have just the thing for you!" She smiled and floated away. She came back a moment later with some clothing in her hands. She directed me to a stall and ordered me to change. I did and then came out.

I was wearing a pink skirt that ended around my knees. It had a pattern around the bottom, just above the ruffles, and a big bow in the back. Underneath I had a pair of bloomers, making the skirt poof out. I had a short sleeved white blouse underneath a pink top that had ruffles at the bottom, and the same pattern as the skirt. My socks were white and ended just below my knees and I wore a pair of platform Mary-Jane shoes that were also pink. The head dress was pink and had roses on top of the white lacy bottom and completed the outfit.

"This is a fashion called 'Elegant Gothic Lolita' and this is a subdivision called 'Sweet Lolita.'" She said. "Very popular in modern Japan." She smiled.

"It's pretty, but it's just not me." I said. She floated away and brought out something else. I changed again. This time it was a pink and purple kimono with a purple sash and pink obi. I had chopsticks holding my hair in a bun, and white tabi socks and sandals.

"Another very popular style in Japan." She smiled.

"It's still not me." I said as politely as possible. Next I found myself wearing and Elizabethan inspired dress including a very tall, very heavy, white powdered wig. After that I wore Dirndl dress, and then a sari. After a few hours of trying on different clothing, the grim reaper finally found something she thought I would like. I came out of the dressing stall with a pair of jeans, a t-shirt that said 'soul stealer', and some flip-flops.

"Perfect!" I smiled. The woman sank down on a couch in relief. Ace came over and paid the woman for the clothes.

"Thanks, Belle."

"You know her?"

"You could say I'm a faithful customer." He said smiling. We floated out of the wall and he began laughing.

"What's so funny?" I frowned.

"Every piece of clothing you tried on was considered the best of the best of that fashion and you threw away all of them! Poor Belle probably won't be able to float for a week!"

"That's not nice! She did the best she could!" I frowned more.

"I know, and you looked absolutely adorable in that EGL dress!" He said, pinching my cheek. I glared at him.

"Come one, Cadi. Can't you take a joke?" He smiled.

"I never told you my name." I stated.

"A, it was on the file I was given, and B, it was on the front page of the newspaper." He said, floating backwards.

"What file?"

"You are my assignment. In order to fill my assignment correctly I needed to make sure I had information about you."

"What kind of information?" I asked suspiciously.

"Birthday, physical description, death, just the basics." Ace then started floating forwards, but stretched his body two feet behind him and circled me with his upper half.

"What are you doing?" I asked in shock. He looked like a rubber band.

"Hm? Oh! I'm stretching. Spirits can stretch themselves to any lengths because they don't have the restriction of a body." He stated, putting his hands behind his head. We walked like that for a moment before he went back to his normal shape. I was thankful for this because, honestly, it was kinda creepy.

"What time is it?" I asked. It was dark.

"Um…Where's the clock?" He muttered as he looked around. "There it is!" He pointed to a very large clock, probably twice as tall as big Ben.

"Wow." I said. All of a sudden the clock chimed eleven. "I guess that answered my question." I muttered.

XXXXX

It was almost midnight and I was still following this near stranger around an even stranger town. Everything was exaggerated in the town. The windows were big, the buildings were bigger and it left me wondering.

I followed Ace through a wall into, what looked like, a bar. A few people waved to him and we went over to their table.

"Hello, Ace! It's been a while, hasn't it?" One Reaper said. He had somewhat longish brown hair and deep blue eyes that shone in the dim light. He was about average height, at least, from my standards, and was a bit feminine looking, but clearly a guy.

"I've been a bit busy lately." Ace smiled tiredly.

"Who's the chick? A new 'friend' of yours?" Another said. He was slightly shorter than the first with pale, spiky, blonde hair and grayish eyes. He had a childish air about him and seemed rather excited about my presence.

"Actually, she's my latest assignment." He took a seat and motioned for me to do the same.

"Dude. She's a soul? Wow. I've never seen one up close before." The third reaper leaned his upper body over the table, stretching himself a bit to look at me. He was taller than the others and very muscular. He had dark hair that was a bit messy and clear blue eyes.

"You're a grim reaper and have never seen a soul before?" I asked, finally speaking. He stared at me for a minute and then began laughing. "What's so funny?"

"Damien isn't a reaper." Ace whispered in my ear.

"Then what is he?"

"It's actually a bit complicated. You see, the order of power is in the shape of a pyramid. At the top, you have God. Then you have the boss, and under the boss you have the Secretaries, also known as the twelve disciples. The secretaries find souls and make the assignments. Below them are the Division leaders. There are seven division leaders for each secretary. Damien is our division leader. He trains us and hand us our assignments."

"Well, how did he become a division leader?"

"Well, when the boss and God became really close, it was only the two of them. It was hard for the boss to deliver all of those souls and there weren't that many grim reapers to help. And God can't go to earth because of all of the impurities it contains. So, in order to help the boss do his job better, they asked their son, Susej, to go to earth and find the twelve disciples. When they died, they became the secretaries, but you knew all that. Well, the secretaries needed help, so they asked Susej to help them. Susej was in love with an angel. Susej and the angel had children and they became the division leaders. Damien is one of the last ones created. Well, right before he was created, there was a child who fell off of a cliff while he was playing. He died and his soul was brought here. God and the Boss both had compassion on him since he wasn't able to live his life. So they told him he could be a grim reaper. Not long after that was the Bubonic plague. That killed tons of innocent children, all of which became grim reapers. Since they were souls, God decided they would have more compassion towards souls then a division leader because they knew how scary it was to die. So the division leaders decided to handle and monitor grim reapers. They're kind of like police." He explained. By this time Damien quit laughing.

"So how did you die anyway?" The blonde asked.

"Micah! That's rude. She might've died in a tragic way and not want to talk about it." The brunette told him. "Please excuse him for his rudeness. He's only been a grim reaper for a few months."

"How long have you been a grim reaper?" I asked him.

"Seven hundred years." He said. "I was the boy that fell off the cliff." He said somewhat sadly.

"It has not Jake! It's only been seven!" Damien said.

"Not in the human world. One year here is equal to one hundred years there. Just like she's been dead here only a few hours, but in the human world it's already been a few weeks."

"I've been dead for weeks!" It didn't seem that way. I've only felt dead for a few hours. But a few weeks? I never even thought that it was possible for there to be a time difference.

"Time passes by different here than in your world. Micah's been dead here for three months. But in the human world, it's been twenty-five years. Ace has been dead here for a year or two, but in the human world, he's been dead for over two hundred years." I turned to Ace.

"How did you die?"

"I died in the American Revolution. I was Seventeen and I was in the Battle at Cowpens. It was in January and I was one of the few people that died. I remember wandering around with the others that died. But there were always two men that kept following the dead. I knew they hadn't died. There weren't any bullet wounds or anything. They weren't even carrying guns. One of the dead finally asked who they were. One of them was Jake, the other was a reaper named Rob. All of the other soldiers didn't qualify for the Grim Reaper job, or they chose the gates. But I took a different path." He stopped, and I didn't push him. I could see it was a painful topic to bring up and I felt bad for doing so.

"Cadi, Come one, we should get you home. It's late and even thought you're a soul; you should still get some rest." We said good-bye to Micah, Jake, and Damien and went back to Ace's apartment. I was still in awe of the perfectly white hallway and the doors. When we finally reached his door he turned to me.

"Cadi, you do realize you don't have a lot of time to decide, don't you?" He asked.

"Don't worry! In the human world I still have eleven months and some change!" I tried to make him feel better, but it wasn't exactly working. I did manage a small smile, but I'm sure he could tell it wasn't genuine. We floated through the door and I sat down on his futon. He walked over and pulled it out. I rolled to the middle and he sat on the edge of it.

"Cadi, get some sleep. You'll have a big day tomorrow. I have to give my report to Damien and then file it to our secretary. I might be called in to see the head Secretary, so I might have to let Micah or Jake watch you. It's illegal to have souls wandering around without a Reaper near-by." He sounded like he needed more sleep than I did. I knew he was right, though. It had been a stressful two hours and maybe some sleep would clear my head so I could think more about my decision later.

"Ace?" I said softly. He glanced down at me. "Would you rub my back? My mom used to do it when I was a kid. Whenever I was sick or I had a bad dream I always asked for a back rub." I felt his strong hand lay on my back and gently rub up and down. I closed my eyes and slowly drifted off.

"My mom used to do it too." He whispered right before I drifted into unconsciousness.

XXXXX

My dreams weren't peaceful that night. I dreamt of my death, except it was ten times worse. I felt the venom crawl through my body, but I couldn't make my body move. The bite burned and the head of the snake was all I could see. And all I could hear was the hissing. It grew louder and louder, but there was something I could barely hear under it. The sound of a scream. My scream, or Molly's, I couldn't tell. Then another sound that silenced everything.

"Cadi! Cadi wake up, it's just a dream! Cadi!" My eyes shot open and Ace was in front of me. His deep Hazel eyes staring back at me. His hands held my shoulders and a look of panic was on his face. I never felt the tears, until they started streaming down my face. Ace brought me into his arms. Strong and comforting. He held me there for a while, until I stopped crying. I clung to him, unconsciously. He put his hand on my head and rubbed my back.

"Does it still hurt?" he asked. I knew he was referring to the venom. I shook my head since the words still wouldn't come. He felt my forehead and then carried me to the bathroom. He wet a hand towel and placed it on my forehead. He wiped away my tear trails and some of the sweat I could now feel on my face and neck.

"They'll fade soon. The dreams, I mean." He told me. I noticed, for the first time, he had a slight British accent. I glanced at my ankle.

"What about the bite?" He shook his head. We sat in silence for a while. "Ace?"

"Hm?"

"What was your life like? If you want to tell me, I mean." He didn't say anything at first.

"I had my mother and two sisters. My father had died from a disease when I was five. I don't remember much about him. After he died we moved in with my uncle. I had a fairly happy childhood. When I turned thirteen my mother became sick. It was hard taking care of her. She could barely eat, and the pain made it impossible for her to sleep. Then the war broke out. My sisters were fourteen at the time. They were twins. As soon as I was old enough, I signed up for the war. I went through a few battles. I saw friends and comrades die. I killed a few men. And some boys just like me. The war was glorified to all those who weren't in it. And I saw a few boys desert. Those were the ones that fell for the glorification. I went because of my father. The one thing I remember him telling me was that I had to make a stand for what I believed in. When Cowpens came, I died. Rob told me that my mother had died two days before I did. He said that when he found her, her body was clutching the letter I had sent home. I had told her that it was going well and I thought that my term would be over soon. I told her I loved her.

"Rob said that…when her spirit woke, she was about to write a letter back. When Rob told her she was dead, she asked if she could see me one more time. So he showed her. He said that she stood there a moment and then smiled and said she was ready to go. She was in the city, passing through. Rob had to pick up a few more people before she could leave. But something went wrong. He took his assignments and my mom to the gates. But he was sucked in as well. He hasn't been seen since." He ended his story. By this time I had cuddled further into him than I thought possible, but he let me rest against his chest. I felt bad for him. He had suffered through more than I could ever dream of. I could only imagine his dreams, but I knew they were far worse than what I had gone through.

XXXXX

I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime between then, and the sunrise, we had fallen asleep on the bathroom floor. Ace was leaning against the wall, and I was cuddled against his chest with his arms around me. When I awoke, I found myself staring at Ace. He seemed so peaceful, as if everything he had described last night had just been fiction. I knew better. I could feel the fatal wound in his chest. His arms squeezed me tighter. I found my face growing hotter as a blush crept across my cheeks. He buried his face in my hair. I felt him take a deep breath in. Then he chuckled softly.

"What are you so embarrassed about?" He asked. My eyes grew wide.

"How long have you been awake?" I said angrily.

"Long enough to know you've been staring at me." He smirked a playful grin. I stuttered, speechless. "Why don't we take a bath?" He suggested.

"What do you mean 'we'?" I asked suspiciously.

"We. Us. You and me." He said.

"You perv!" I yelled and pushed away from him. He rolled his eyes.

"Do you honestly think spirits come with a tarp draped across them? I put that there missy. Before that you were in the nude." He informed. I stared at him, flabbergasted. "Cadi, the only thing on your body that's in detail is your snake bite. Everything else is just the same as me. Well, except the outline of your, well, um…" He continued to stutter.

"My breasts?" I supplied. He blushed and nodded. Something told me that time hadn't touched his mind much. I smiled at how he fumbled over his words.

"Fine, but let me get in first and there better be a lot of bubbles!" I told him. He nodded and started the bath. I walked out of the bathroom to find a shirt or something to wear. As I was looking, I heard a knock on the door. I walked to the door and opened it to find the sales woman from the day before.

"Hello, sweetie! I'm here to bring some clothes over for you!" She smiled. I invited her in just as Ace came out of the bathroom.

"Hey, Belle. Thanks for bringing them over." Ace said, smiling.

"Anything for you, Ace!" she smiled back. After a minute or two, Belle finally left and I walked into the bath. Steam was rising off the top of it and bubbles were everywhere. I smiled to myself and then stripped bare. I gingerly stuck a toe in, and slowly let the rest of my body sink in. I heard a knock on the door. I covered myself in bubbles and closed my eyes.

"Come in, Ace." I wouldn't normally get in a bath tub with someone I'd only known for less than a day, but for some reason beyond me, I trusted him.

I felt the water stir and then a body slide in behind me. I opened my eyes wide and turned my head to look at him.

"Why are you sitting behind me?" I asked, looking him in the eyes.

"I didn't think you'd want to see my wound." He said softly, his eyes downcast. I felt bad. Obviously he wouldn't want me to see it. It was a bullet wound. I turned around to face his chest. I looked down at the wound. Dried blood covered the ugly deformed flesh. I brushed it with my hand. He had closed his eyes, afraid of what he might see in mine. I leaned over and kissed it. I backed away and saw his eyes widen in shock.

"When I was little…my mom used to kiss my scrapes and bruises. She would say that kisses make everything feel better." I said, not meeting his eyes. I traced the skin around it. Ace took my hand in his. I looked into his eyes.

"Thank you." He whispered. I smiled. For the first time since I was dead, I felt like it wasn't that bad. Maybe it was the fact that there was something anchoring me there. Or maybe it was the fact that there was some part of me that realized that this guy that I barely knew touched me somewhere and left a mark that would never go away.

Whatever it was, sitting there in his arms felt so right. It was strange, but at that point I felt more alive than I had when I actually was.

Ace wrapped his arms around me. I leaned back into his chest, and slipped my hands into his. He buried his face in my hair. We sat like that for a moment. Then he spoke.

"What makes you tick…?" He wondered aloud. "I've seen tens of thousands of spirits…but not one of them was as hard to figure out as you." He said. "I'm acting like a new spirit…damn annoying…" He muttered.

"What do you mean 'new spirit'?" I asked.

"When you first die and come here, your spiritual body is in tune with the time here, but your emotions and your heart is still in tune with Earth. An example would be…If you got mad at someone on Earth and it lasted a few weeks, it would only last a few hours here." He explained.

"So if I had a crush on someone and I liked them for a few weeks, it would be a few hours?" I asked, staring at the bubbly water. I felt him nod his head. "So it would be expected of a new spirit to have tons of emotional changes the first day, right?"

"The first few days actually." He said. Before I knew what I was doing, I turned around and kissed him.

XXXXX

AN: I'm so evil. Had to put in that last bit since it would seem weird if they only knew each other for a few hours. Anyway, this is purely fiction and not meant to offend anyone's belief about God/Jesus/whatever else. (By the way, her name is pronounced Ca (as in cat) dee) and if anyone has some ideas for a decent title, I'd love to hear them!

Review Replies:

VoodounRomance: I'm glad you like it! I'm hoping to get the next chapter out soon. (Within a week.)

Lilac Kisses: Thanks for the advice! I'll probably end up re-doing the prologue once I've finished the entire thing. Hopefully, when I re-do it, it'll make more sense at the end of the story.

Please keep reading!

Thanx!

-Shojogurl