Kate leaned back against the trunk of the maple tree and braced one foot against a nearby branch in order to adjust the earbud which was about to fall out of her right ear. Having popped the tiny thing back into her ear, she skipped her mp3 player ahead a few tracks to herLord of the Dance collection and sighed, unbracing her foot and rolling her ankle to work out the stiffness. She winced and hissed softly as the rough bark scratched her back through her thin t-shirt. Damned wings, she thought irritably as she squirmed slightly on the branch, trying to readjust her body into a position that didn't involve her shoulder blades pressing up against the tree. She stared off into the distance as another cloud skittered across the setting sun, casting long shadows over the yard.

The faint smells of spaghetti and steamed vegetables wafted across the driveway from the open kitchen window. Usually, this would make Kate swing down from her branch and run inside to get some food before her brother came home from various places with his hungry friends (even though Tom was currently away at a friend's house for the week). Today was different. Today the familiar aroma of tomato sauce and noodles smelled completely alien, as if she were smelling it for the very first time. She turned the page in her journal and wrote, Feeling very odd again today, but I can't decide if it's the good odd or the bad odd or maybe just the PMS odd. You'd think I never ate spaghetti before…I dunno, why do people have to eat, anyways? Why do I have to eat? I mean, it's not like…oh, right: human body, I forgot. Damnit. Damn the necessity of food! Damn lousy mp3 players! And damn having a five-three human body with terrible eyesight and no physical wings! …Wow…I'm really crabby today, aren't I? I suppose I should go in and eat, but I'm not hungry. I think I'll stay out here a while longer.

The back door of the house cracked open and a woman's voice called out, "Kaaaaaate! Dinner's ready!" A middle-aged woman with short brown hair stuck her head out the open door when no response or movement came. "Kate, now, please!"

"But Mom, I'm not hungry yet! Honestly!" Kate rolled her green eyes at the warning tone in her mother's voice. "Geez, Mom, I'm in college! I think I can feed myself!" She ran her fingers through her dark blond hair and sighed. Honestly, the woman treated her like a child!

The woman stalked to the foot of the tree, her brown eyes staring up into the branches. "On what? Chips and pizza? Young lady, I don't care how old you are; while you're still in my house you're going to eat dinner when I say you're going to eat dinner. In the house, now."

"Mom, what part of 'I'm not hungry' don't you get?! Gah! Just…leave me alone! I'll come inside when I'm ready to eat!" Kate shifted slightly, making it clear that she was not going anywhere until she felt like it.

"You know what? Fine. Eat whenever you want, whatever you want, I give up." Kate's mother threw her hands up into the air in defeat and went back inside, slamming the door in displeasure.

Kate scowled at the closed (and now quite probably locked) back door. "Guilting me isn't gonna work this time, Ma," she muttered. Her lips twitched into an almost-smile as the fireflies began to come out. Crap, I should have brought out a jar so I can catch some, she thought regretfully, but right now, getting one would involve going inside, meaning Mom wins. Nuh uh, ain't gonna happen. Then her entire body tensed as every hair on the back of her neck stood up straight. Her eyes scanned the yard warily, then she sighed. "Okay, going to play hard-to-get, huh?" she asked softly of the empty back yard. She closed her eyes, brow furrowing slightly in concentration. Oooh, I wish I did this more often; I'm really out of practice. She nervously bit her lower lip and focused even deeper, then swore under her breath as her back spasmed, nearly sending her toppling out of the tree.

Kate breathed a little sigh of relief and allowed her eyes to slit open as she felt energy, pure, bright, and familiar, flood down her arms and pool in the palms of her hands. Unfocusing her gaze, she glanced down at the baseball-sized spheres glowing gently in her hands. "Okay, here's the deal. I'm gonna ask you to leave, nice and politely. I'm only gonna ask once. If I still feel you here and have to ask a second time, these little bits of energy are going to end up somewhere on or in you. Got it? And God help you if I have to come down outta this tree to kick your ass, because then I'll be doubly pissed."

The sensation of being watched doubled, then tripled. Instinctively, Kate shrank back against the trunk of the tree, allowing more energy to flood into the balls in her hands. She got the distinct impression of someone smiling in amusement, then nothing.

Gradually, she let the collected energy flow back up her arms, then closed her eyes and rested her head back against the tree. Jesus Christ girl, she thought, mentally kicking herself, you're an angel, and you're cowering in terror at the feeling that someone is staring at you. How pathetic. Opening her eyes, Kate threw an eyebrow-raised glance in the general direction of 'south'. "Nem, if that was you, I swear…" Great, now you're talking to yourself. Besides, Nem's probably got her own issues to deal with. Way to go, Sach, make yourself look like a complete and utter fool. …again. She reached back over her shoulder and wrapped her fingers around the edge of her left wing, vaguely surprised that they felt so real today. Resting her head back against the flaking, rough bark, she chuckled silently; that was probably, she thought in amusement, the angelic equivalent of thumb-sucking or sleeping with a teddy bear. Closing her eyes again, she decided to take a little nap, and pray she didn't fall out of the tree.

With a muted thud, the journal hit the ground. Kate stretched uncomfortably, grimacing at the stale taste in her mouth. Duuude, how long was I out? She noticed with mild surprise that a faint crescent moon hung in the sky, surrounded by washed out stars. Glancing at her watch, she reared her head back slightly as she read the time: 11:46 PM.

A shadow swept over the night sky, dimming the silvery moon and completely blotting out the stars. Holy crap, what the hell was that?! That thought was quickly swept from her mind by the stinging, stabbing sensation in her back. Kate squeezed her eyes shut against the searing pain. Oh good Christ…not again…please not again…I've had enough weird shit happen for one day…She felt herself tip sideways, and let out an involuntary squeak of terror as she toppled off the branch. She hit the ground hard and curled up into a ball, arms wrapped around herself, teeth clenched together, panting slightly in pain and fear.

The pain abruptly worsened, and Kate whimpered, trying to squirm away from whatever was causing it. It felt like someone was trying to wrench her spirit from her body. Inwardly, the angel shrugged. If someone wants to play games, I'll be happy to oblige. Her body went limp, and she realized with a nasty shock, I'm entirely outside my body. That'd…oh God…physically, that'd make me…dead. That wouldn't be good. She sighed, knowing how much she was not going to enjoy waking up and eased herself back into the body lying motionless in the grass.

Cloudy blue-green eyes slowly flickered open and blinked hazily in the moonlight. Sachael groaned softly and pushed herself up on her elbows. "What just happened?" she murmured groggily, sat up, then froze, staring down at her hands. The large brown scar on her left hand that was the result of a bike accident was gone. As she bent her head to examine the area more closely, a cool, comforting weight pressed against her spine. Almost afraid to believe the truth, Sachael reached back behind her head; her fingers met soft, pleasantly cool feathers. Gently tugging one wing forward, she inspected it curiously, smiling. They were just as she remembered them: a deep, pearlescent teal, fine to the point of being translucent, and shimmering gently like vapor thrown from a waterfall.

The angel glanced down once more at herself, noticing with faint surprise that her skin shimmered softly under the stars. This, she realized, was not the human body she had inhabited for nearly twenty-two years. It was her own form, her preferred physical one; what had happened to her human body, she didn't know, and at the moment, didn't care all that much.

She pushed herself up, then stopped. Tilting her face up to the sky, Sachael smiled, a single, tiny tear working its way down her gently glowing cheek. "Thank you," she whispered, her heart singing. This, she suddenly knew, wasn't the end. Not going Home. Not yet. There were still things she had to do before that happy day arrived. Things that could only be done without the fetters and restraints of a human body.

Sachael stood, reveling in the feel of the cool breeze against her face. She smiled to herself- she was taller now by a good foot and a half. She picked up the fallen journal, pencil, and mp3 player and started towards the darkened house, then paused and reached back to touch her wings again. She stood with her mouth open slightly, mind racing as she realized she looked very different than the human body she had had before. What if Mom sees me like this? Her now grey eyes shut in consternation. Oh, snap.

The angel sighed briefly. What would happen would happen. If her mother saw her as she truly was, so be it; she'd find time to somehow explain later. She turned the doorknob, a bit surprised that it was still unlocked this late at night-no, she corrected herself after a cursory glance up at the sky (her watch had shattered in the fall from the tree), it was now after midnight, making it, in all technicalities, morning.

Stepping into the dark kitchen, Sachael felt a very human surge of trepidation. It was nearly one in the morning; she would be in trouble if anyone woke up. Despite her nearly silent footsteps, she still had weight, though only slight, and it came down squarely on a squeaky floorboard.

Almost instantly, the lights in the dining room and living room flashed on. Uh oh. How to explain…"Look, Mom, I know it's late-" she began, praying her mother wouldn't have a heart attack.

"Just go to your room. I'm too tired to get into another argument …to..night…" The woman's face went dead white, her eyes opened wide, and she frantically crossed herself. "Who…who are you?"

Sachael pressed one hand to her head, stricken. "I knew you were gonna take this badly…" She sighed, then said, "You know…gah…you know how I said I was on this roleplaying forum, that I was RPing as an angel? All those notes and stuff you found in my room? Well, umm…" She shifted uneasily, suddenly feeling very lost. "Momma," she began, then had to swallow around the sudden lump in her throat. "Momma, it's me. It's Kate. It's really me, just…different."

Receiving an uncomprehending stare, Sachael took a step forward and gently placed her hands on her mother's shoulders. Her mother jumped slightly. "Look, I know this is a lot to try and understand, I really do…I tried to tell you…I've been trying for three years…" She pulled her mother into a tight hug, and murmured against her hair, "Please…I'll try to explain someday…Right now I have to go…"

Breaking away, Sachael turned and crept silently up the stairs to her room. She grabbed two other worn-looking journals off her bookshelf, a jade amulet and small blue crystal from underneath her pillow, shoved the amulet and stone into her jeans, and walked into her closet. Stripping off the ruins of her t-shirt (which, she remembered with a twinge of guilt, her boyfriend had given her), she pulled a blue halter top off its hanger. She stepped into the shirt, pulling it up over her small hips, and tied the ends around her neck.

Sachael crossed the hallway and gazed down at her soundly snoring father. Reaching back, she gave her right wing a firm tug. Several feathers detached after a little resistance, and she laid these on the dresser. Tearing a blank page from her journal, Sachael wrote, Dad, this will take an unbelievable amount of explaining, so I'll leave that to Mom. Please don't tell Tom after Mom's explained everything; having this spread around would be quite awkward. Happy Birthday. She laid the note on top of the feathers and hurried back down the stairs.

Hurrying into the den, the angel picked up the cordless phone, her fingers punching in the number she knew by heart. Come on, pick up, she prayed, I know you're still awake, pick up your cell… An impatient female voice picked up on the second ring. "Whoever this is, it had better be good. I'm kinda in the middle of a major crisis here!"

"It's me," Sachael said breathlessly. "Anything really weird happen to you today?"

"Umm, let me think. I dropped my ice cream earlier…My cat's been going beserk the entire day…oh yeah! I'm now a lot taller and I have wings sprouting out my back that EVERYONE CAN SEE! WHY AM I SUDDENLY MYSELF?!"

"Umm, Nem?" she asked timidly. When the rant continued, she sighed in exasperation. "Nem? Nemamiah, calm down and frickin' listen to me! Same thing happened here. Look, I'll be over at your house in a few minutes, okay?"

"You'd better be, betch. My dad has completely lost it and my mom is sitting there staring at me. Oh, yeah, 'cause if you don't get here soon, I have nice fiery wings stickin' outta my back that'll burn ya to a crisp. I hear A1 sauce goes great with barbequed Sach." Then she promptly hung up.

Sachael ran out the door, calling over her shoulder, "Mom, I'll be at Jess's house, don't know when I'll be back." She threw the door shut behind her and took to the air, reveling in the long-missed feeling of flight.

Something tickled at the edges of Sachael's mind, and she frowned. Then, a jet of water as powerful as one from a firehose hit her squarely between the wings, sending her reeling arse over teakettle in midair. A brownish-red Oriental dragon soared past her, golden eyes sparkling with laughter. Hahahahaha gotcha good! echoed through her mind; the dragon flicked out its golden claws, spraying Sachael with more water. "DAMN YOU, SCOTT!" she shrieked, diving after the still-laughing dragon. Jeez, attacked with my own element…how lovely. "Did you call Jess? Does she know about…" The diminutive angel gestured at the dragon, eyebrows raised.

Yup. Quite pissed, too, I might add. Pissed that I didn't call her sooner. Hah, like I had the time! Sorry, I was a bit busy sprouting scales, wings, and a tail! The dragon turned its armored head and looked at her with an uncomfortably appraising eye. Daaaamn.

"What?" Sachael pulled up short, frowning suspiciously.

You're hot in this form! Flashing a toothy grin, the dragon shot off into the dark sky.

"You have a girlfriend, ya dip!" Sachael called after him.

Minutes later, both dragon and angel landed lightly in front of a small red house. Another angel stormed outside, flaming wings spread wide and dark eyes narrowed. "What the hell took you guys so long?!" She reached back behind her head and suddenly there was a quite large, quite sharp, and quite burning sword in her hand, which she pointed right between the dragon's eyes. "And you," she growled. "I heard the 'you're hot' remark, mister. Best forget it fast if you want to stay with me."

The dragon's topaz eyes widened. Uh, sorry, babe, he stammered. Now, uh, would ya mind pointing that thing somewhere else?

Sachael looked around as a wolf with liquid brown eyes slunk down the street towards them ("Hey, what up, Eric?" Oh, shut up. Ehehe, you were right. Bite me. "I'd rather not." Her only response was a vicious snarl.). A dark, inky blur flowed through the shadows, and a boy with dark, unfathomable eyes and an impish grin gave the trio standing near the house a fancy bow and a fang-revealing smile before fading away into the darkness, laughing softly to himself . The two angels groaned in unison. "Oh, God…the manwhore. Shoot me now."

A young woman with red-brown hair walked confidently down the street towards them, surrounded by a faint pearly glow, and waved cheerfully. "Oh, great," muttered Nememiah. "The cavalry's here." She tossed her hair away from her eyes and gave the latest newcomer a look of distaste as she slid her sword back into its scabbard along her spine.

Sachael shot her friend a warning look, emerald eyes sparkling with a mixture of annoyance and laughter. "Don't even start," she warned. "Besides, tonight is gonna be fun!…Er, today…Ah, who cares…ladies, gentlemen, and gender-neutral beings, let the fun begin!"