Reprise Chapter Five Angels in the Alleyways

Icharus woke to the sound of footsteps approaching. He tried to rise to get away, but only managed to scrape his aching hands on the brick wall behind him trying to push himself up. A hand came down on his shoulder.

"Woah, Icharus, don't try to go anywhere right now." Anuel came into view, squatting in front of him, amiable concern on his face, a little smile.

Icharus shook his head and then put it in his hands, trying to make it stop spinning. He moaned softly. "Arend?"

"Wynne finally gave her a job. I thought she'd never stop yammering about tea cozies or something. Arend'll be gone for a little while, so we're going to stay here."

Icharus looked up to see where "here" might be. It appeared to be in an alley next to the church. He could see its high windows over the wall in front of him. He stopped looking up, because it made his head feel worse. He sighed. "I went all scary, right? Said things I shouldn't have said? It's like dreams, listening to them slowly drain out of your head. All shadows and hiccups."

Anuel said nothing, but that spoke for itself, and Icharus sighed again. "I'm sorry."

Anuel sat down next to him. "Don't worry about it." He paused. "Although, that is sort of the reason I'm here."

Icharus looked at him, questioning.

Anuel took a breath. Icharus thought to himself that Anuel always did that when he had news, and then let the thought go. Anuel said, "They've decided to follow through with the punishment they said you'd have in the first place. The next time you change completely, you won't be changing back." Anuel looked at Icharus, "You have no idea what a relief it was when you fainted in there. I thought for sure that you would go all the way."

Icharus felt his heart drop and his head became suddenly a huge expanse, a growing, cold blankness. He felt as if he was very, very high up. There was a buzzing in his ears. Then Anuel grabbed his wrist, "Icharus. Icharus!" And he came back. He stared at Anuel.

"I almost… Jesus, Anuel! This is – I can't - " He was panicking, and he knew it, but he couldn't help it. He tried to get up again, "I can't be around Arend! I have to get out of here. Here, help me-"

Anuel pulled him back down. "Icharus. Calm down." Icharus breathed. "Arend knows about this already. I've told her. She still needs you. We need you. You can't just run away. We'll find a way to keep you from changing. It's going to be okay."

Icharus closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. His heart was beating very quickly, his mind going very fast. He tried to slow himself down. He concentrated on the back of his eyelids. His panic crept to the back of his head, and then finally settled down to a muted chatter. He looked at Anuel again. "Okay." He said, and then again. "Okay."

Anuel nodded and settled back against the wall. They were quiet for a few minutes, each processing.

Icharus finally asked, "Hey, Anuel?"

"Hmm?" Anuel looked to him.

"How did they react to us still being alive?"

Anuel shrugged. "They figured that you would probably run. I was demoted for being an idiot, although I think on the record it says that I displayed reckless indifference toward my mission." He smirked a little. "So now I hardly have authority to deliver messages between angels, let alone between Earth and Heaven."

Icharus stared. "I'm sorry." It was all he could say, and he said it rather lamely. Anuel shrugged.

"Don't worry about it." And then something very brief flashed across his face, but Icharus, attuned to such things, caught it very well.

"What did I say to you in there, Anuel?"

Anuel sighed, almost annoyed, but really more tired. "You said you knew what I'm afraid of. And that it will probably happen."

"You aren't going to fall, Anuel. I won't let it happen." Icharus looked at him very closely. "Listen to me. You won't fall. It takes a lot to fall."

Anuel turned angrily to him, "Yeah? What about working against the will of Heaven seems like a little to you, Icharus? It seems like a hell of a lot to me. If I'm caught, I'm done."

Icharus looked away and was quiet for a moment. Anuel shook his head. "Sorry. I'm just…"

"Don't worry about it. I know. I didn't know the consequences before I fell, and you do, because you've seen them in me."

Anuel seemed to contemplate for a moment, and then he asked, "Icharus… how did you fall, exactly?"

Icharus exhaled very slowly. "Well." He said, "That's a story for you, isn't it?" He looked up at the dark, smoggy sky and leaned against the bricks. "A few hundred years ago, I was a Guardian angel. My ward at the time was a little girl. This was before the Res, when things on Earth actually made sense." He smiled, remembering, "Her name was Emma, and at the time she was six, with dark curly hair. I had been assigned to wards before, and been with them when they were born and when they died. I had loved all of them, but when they died, whether in natural time or early, I had let them go easily, because I knew that was how it worked. But I loved Emma more than I had ever loved another human. She had the purest soul I had ever seen. I wanted to see her grow up and become a woman and get married and have children. And then one day, seven years old, she was hit by a truck and died right there in the street." He paused. It was the first time he had ever told this story. His eyes felt hot.

"And I had to stand there on the sidewalk and watch that Death Angel hold her still while the truck came on blowing its horn and squealing its brakes. And she died. And I went back up, and I waited for a new ward. But I couldn't get over it, I kept reliving it, watching her get plowed under over and over again and being able to do nothing." He swiped at his eyes but kept going, speaking faster and faster. "So I went to find the angel that had killed her. He was waiting for a new assignment when I found him. I tried to talk to him, I don't know what I wanted to do, I just wanted him to see the pain that he had caused me by killing her. It wasn't even his fault, it was just his job, but I couldn't see that, I was so hurt and so angry and I-" He broke, and tried again. "I killed him. I murdered him, right there, with his own scythe."

He looked down at his hands shaking in his lap. "It felt so good to have that blade go through him…as if he was made of flesh." His face was pinched, red, trying to keep tears back. "They didn't know how I did it. I don't even know. He was immortal, and I killed him. Somehow his impermeability failed. They just knew that I had done it, and as punishment I fell." He put his head in his hands. "I've lasted this long because I know that it's better to be fallen than to have to live through another death of someone I care about. And I did a good job of keeping to myself. For a few hundred years, I just wandered around, helping where I could and learning how to be useful to needy people. And then the Res happened, and there really was need, and I helped wherever I could. And then there was Mirrotech, and I…" He shook his head. "I met people who accepted me, and we joined AGES, and we beat Mirrotech into submission and a lot of people were killed and AGES broke under pressure…and I went back to wandering around."

He glanced at Anuel, saying, "I guess you-" but he didn't finish. Anuel was looking at him with an expression of empathetic awe that stopped him. Anuel opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. Then he threw his arms around Icharus' middle and hugged him. Icharus was shocked into laughing, "Anuel, what the-"

Anuel interrupted, "I had no idea about any of that and I'm so sorry I made you relive it." His voice was muffled by Icharus' shirt. Icharus laughed again and patted him amiably on the back.

"It's okay, Anuel. Don't worry about it." Anuel pulled back and looked at him. "Really, it's all right. No harm done, or anything." He felt a little awkward. He didn't know if he deserved that kind of empathy – but he knew that he liked it, and it made him feel better. At the same time, a little weight came off and a little weight was added. No harm done.

They looked away from each other and sat in awkward silence for a few minutes.

"So…" Anuel said softly, "What's Arend's story?"

"Hmm?" Icharus looked up, then thought for a moment. "You know, I don't know. She doesn't talk about her past at all. She never has. I would never ask, because there's already a tentative enough balance between us, and it's pretty much been an unspoken agreement that I won't ask." He paused. "I'm not exactly sure why, or when that came about."

Anuel was incredulous. "You've known her for years and you still don't know?"

Icharus chuckled. "When you say it that way, it sounds pretty bad. And don't get me wrong, it is. But 'knowing her for years' has really been 'being around her for a year or two and then watching over her on and off for a few more.'" He laughed at how horrible that sounded. And it really was horrible. "We – I don't know what's wrong with us. We just are as we are. I'm afraid of getting to close to someone again and she – I don't know. It feels like she has the same problem. I think she's also probably wary of me. She can sense something wrong with me." He looked away. "She doesn't know what it means to be fallen, but I have a feeling she's putting the pieces together. They've been laid out pretty obviously. I've changed in front of her twice now."

"You know, Icharus," Anuel said, almost laughing, "You should probably talk to her about it. I know it probably feels better to be all mysterious rather than to be understood, but if it's pushing her away not to know, wouldn't knowing bring her closer? Don't let her figure it out for herself. Tell her. And maybe she'll open up to you."

Icharus stared at him and opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment at the mouth of the alley he saw Arend running as fast as she could. He leapt to his feet and ran after her without a word, leaving Anuel staring after him.