It wasn't worth anyone's effort to try and guess who I was on first glance. Soft golden hair, deep grey eyes, I looked like a child.
I was not.
Wearing a long black coat with golden buttons, I was protected from the chill air and the trilling wind that howled in shrill tones. I had only one place to go: ahead. And here I was, moving.
People part for you in crowds if you stare them in the eye. The city streets were busy, workers off to work and others wandering to places I didn't care enough to think about. Nothing stopped me, but no one could resist staring.
Vainly, I pretended it was because I was good looking.
Not because of my wings.
One dragged behind me, fifteen feet of white feathers slowly blending into the dark tar of the street. The other was folded, neatly, like the polite angel that I was.
I kept walking, the fog I exhaled trailing behind me like a beacon. The crowd kept parting, staring, watching.
Until there was one. His skin was olive gold, an off hue, and his hair was thin and straight. Cut conservatively. Ill, I decided. I met his dull eyed gaze, and soon it became a challenge for the both of us. Who would move, the corpse or the downed bird?
Neither of us. It was a game that felt ridiculous the moment the gap between us was a gap, and silly the second I toppled against him.
I was too hurt to stand, and I lay upon his chest feeling quite stupid. And then very stupid. This boy was glorious. Maybe I needed glasses for not having noticed it earlier. His short black hair reminded me of a midnight blue, framing his head like some old roman emperor. His eyes were dull, yes, but a dull gold. Like a sunrise under a layer of fog.
His body was killer too. As I got up, I pressed a hand against his chest and felt how strong his muscles were. What I'd give to see him shirtless!
I sat up. I had to keep going. But my eyes continued to linger on the obscene glory of the boy I had just stumbled onto.
"You okay?" He asked, all in a flush. "You must be an angel, right? Do you speak English?"
I didn't answer him. What was I doing? Sitting in the street like this would get me killed. My pursuers...
I continued limping.
"Sir?" He asked. I paused. That was another assumption people made of me. A wrong one.
A wrong one that could keep me safe. A nasty smile crept onto my face. If I could get this boy to take me somewhere, lead me thinking I was a boy, the people on my trail would have a harder time looking for me. And then, of course, my wing would heal and I would be safe again.
"My name is Eden." So it was. Gender neutral enough. "Eden Faust."
"I'm Cyrus Tenbrook. My family has a house right around the corner. We'll take you in until your wing can heal."
"Thanks." I huffed out. It hurt my voice to sound masculine, but I had had a lot of practice.
Cyrus wrapped his arm around my back so I could lean against him. I would've pointed out I could walk pretty fine, it was my wing that hurt like hell, but I was enjoying the scent of his neck too much. He smelt of dark wood, old fires, and new pine. I could fall asleep like this, breathing in his intoxicating scent against the warmth of his body...
We made it around the corner and halfway down the next street before anything went wrong.
And then everything went horribly wrong.
Shouting. Yelling. A burst of light.
My pursuers had found me.
Auriel came running out of the crowd like a well-aimed bullet. Even now, even after all that had happened between us, I missed him. His strong legs easily carried him towards us, and as I looked back at him with fear, I fondly recalled how not too long ago I'd have been happy to see him.
Running for me. Saving me.
Except no, not today.
He tackled Cyrus and I to the ground, toppling us both onto the pavement but pinning only me. His breath was hot on my neck. In his mesmerizing blue eyes I thought I spied remorse... as well as what I was feeling now, nostalgic desire.
For a moment he paused, inches from my face. I swore he was going to kiss me, and I longed to run my fingers through his untidy red hair and kiss him back.
But who was I kidding? I was a criminal. He knew his duty. He flipped me over onto my back, taking a moment to rest his hands on my hips. But that moment of remembrance was soon overshadowed by force, as he tore my coat off and, with a knife, cut a clean line through the back of my shirt.
He spread the remains of my shift aside, exposing my back to the harsh air outside. Everything seemed to exist in this moment of dread. I knew what was coming next. I couldn't think beyond it, consider what else might be going on around me.
He grabbed my injured wing and began to saw.
And I began to scream.
And kick and snarl and fight and cry and moan and yell.
And generally, scream.
And then it was onto the good wing.
Rinse and repeat. The same deal again. The same pain, and suffering.
Multiply the tears though. What is an angel without its wings?
His job done, Auriel stood up and gathered my wings, the heavy slabs of meat that they now were. I thought about making a run for it now, but knew I wouldn't get far. He must have a companions with him that I hadn't noticed.
Speaking of not noticing...
Auriel gave my coat back to me, and I carefully put it on, making sure as to not expose my body to the crowd. He tolerated as I put it on, buttoning it up slowly. Then he grabbed me by my collar, and my face was too stained by tears to notice anything off.
Then something hit Auriel in the face, and he dropped me to the ground. I looked around.
Cyrus was gone.
And someone, moving with speed I could never have imagined, was attacking Auriel.