The lights were brighter than I expected. Eyes that had not seen the light in four months blinked shut almost as soon as they had opened, but the sudden movement had caught the eye of at least one person in the room. Marc was at my side almost immediately, and he was gripping my hand to let me know he was there. I smiled, though I kept my eyes closed and murmured, “Hey there beautiful.”
He laughed weakly, and the relief was palpable in his voice. “Hey beautiful to you as well. Glad to see that Keith finally found you. I knew you were in there.” He reached out with the hand that wasn’t holding mine and caressed the side of my face. I let my eyes open just a sliver to start adjusting to the light, and took in the sight of his face. His eyes still held worry, but I knew that he was simply excited I was awake.
“Man, am I tired!” Keith said from the other side of the room. I heard him get up from his chair and move to my other side; slowly. I saw his face appear across from Marc’s and he rested a hand on my shoulder. “I’m glad I found you too. Welcome back to the land of the living, Damien.”
“Hey, I was never dead,” I replied as I opened my eyes a little wider. Keith’s tired smile widened as I added, “You prick.”
“I suppose I should probably call your dad now,” Marc said reluctantly. I knew his reluctance was from not wanting to let me go. I held on to him tighter. I wasn’t ready to let him go again any more than he was. Even though my perception of time passing was different than his, I could feel his need for it, and that increased my own need.
“I’ll do it. You guys just sit and enjoy the moment,” another voice piped up from across the room. I tried to incline my head to look for the source, but found it incredibly difficult. It turned out that I didn’t need to, because soon a third head popped up over me, next to Marc’s. I vaguely recognized him as the other kid who had been in the restroom when I had been knocked out. Keith had also mentioned that there had been a new kid hanging around us named Alan, and I figured it was likely that the name matched the face.
Marc smiled and fished his phone out of his pocket, handing it to the other boy. A few buttons later and Alan was speaking half of an incredibly excited conversation. As the call was being made, Marc leaned down to me and kissed me gently. It was the perfect kiss. It spoke of the longing and the heartache he had endured for his time spent over the last four months. I was captivated by the kiss more than I had ever been by him, and I tried to respond by bringing my arm up to pull him into me, but my arm was still too weak.
He pushed my arm back down gently and whispered to me, “No, let me do this. Let me help you. I have been helpless to do anything for you for the last four months, and it was my failure as a guardian that got you into this mess.”
Though my voice was weak, I spoke slowly and deliberately to make sure he heard what I said. “You have never failed me, Marc. It was I who sent you away. I made the decision that put me into this mess. Don’t beat yourself up about it. I am just glad that you showed up when you did, or who knows how badly they would have beaten me.”
“But I should have been there! It is my duty to protect you from harm. I can’t begin to ask, or hope for your forgiveness,” he replied bitterly and hung his head in shame.
I shushed him, and despite my weakness I managed to finally get one of my hands up to his face to lightly caress his cheek. “Your duty is to protect me from angels trying to harm me; I don’t remember anything about what humans would do to me being in that contract. Remember that this was done by my own kind, and not by theirs. We had no way of knowing that this was going to happen. Besides, it was my choice to kiss you in the lunchroom that got them on my case in the first place. There’s nothing to forgive my love. Nothing at all. Let it go, and simply be glad that we are together now, and can be until the end of our days.”
“I love you so much, there’s no way I could live without you. So stop your crying and give me another kiss,” I finished with a smile. He looked down at me with tear-stained cheeks and stared into my eyes. I did everything I could to put my sincerity into my expression. It took him a moment, but I could tell that he finally believed me. He leaned in and kissed me again, and if I thought that the kiss before had been profound, this one was full of renewed passion and hunger that would have surpassed the levels of any romance hero.
“I love you too,” he said as he finally pulled away. “I love you more than I could have thought possible. I never expected it to end up like this, but I am so glad that it has. I expected to be your silent guardian, not to fall in love, but you have made this entire journey worth every step. Screw my father; I’m mating with a human.”
Keith was smiling through the whole exchange, and was about to comment in a manner that his expression said would be sarcastic, when we heard someone clearing their throat. Alan stood with the closed phone in his hand and looking at us like we were a bunch of nut jobs. The thought seemed to cross all of our minds at once. We had been talking about angels and demons with another person there.
It was Keith who managed to respond first. “Hey Alan, what’s up? You got a hold of Damien’s dad then?” He said smoothly, ignoring the questioning look on Alan’s face. Alan shook himself and then replied with a quirky grin and a nod. “Good. So I assume he’s on his way?” Alan nodded again, and apparently let the issue drop.
I felt the presence of another person in my mind, and since Keith was the only telepath I knew in the room, I figured it was him and let him in. Once inside Keith said, “It’s the best way to keep him away from any subject. The kid has ADHD or something, so it’s real easy to distract him.”
I responded in kind, “Got it. So you say that he’s attached to me huh? That’s a little weird isn’t it? I mean, I’ve only seen the kid once while I was blacking out. I don’t think that is much of grounds for a lasting friendship.”
The amusement was plain in Keith’s mind as he replied, “Well, you’re kind of a hero to him. Apparently kissing your boyfriend in the middle of a crowded lunchroom gets you two kinds of reactions. People trying to kill you, and closeted gay teens to worship you. The fact that your boyfriend kind of kicks ass just increases his hero worship. It’s kinda funny that he’s latched on to you though and not Marc, I mean, Marc is the manlier one.”
“Once a prick, always a prick,” I replied, and then ended our link. Keith laughed at my rebuttal and patted me lightly on the shoulder. Marc rolled his eyes at us and then kissed me again. We didn’t stop kissing until we heard the door open a minute later. Alan and Keith said they were going to leave and get a doctor since it would probably be best if the hospital knew I was awake. That left Marc and I alone, which gave me a moment to ask him a question that I was dying to know the answer to.
“What happened to the kids in the restroom, Marc? Did you kill them?” The thought of Marc killing anyone still didn’t sit well for me, unless it was absolutely necessary. I knew that he had been emotionally compromised at the time though, so I understood that he might not have had my feelings in mind. I should have given him more credit.
His eyes seemed to be making a decision about how much to tell me, but with a sigh he gave me an expression that told me he had decided on full disclosure. “No, though I admit that I wanted to. If you hadn’t been knocked out on the floor, with blood coming out of your head, I would have probably killed Karl at least. That being said, it was actually probably Alan that stopped me from doing so. He’s the one that pulled me off of Karl and pointed out the severity of your condition to me. Considering what I did to the bullies, I’m kind of surprised that he had the guts to interfere with me. It did earn him a black eye before I realized it was him. All of them are pretty much recovered now, though I’m sure they won’t forget their lesson anytime soon.”
“Did you have any problems with the legal side of things?” I asked hesitantly. I hoped that there wasn’t some residual problem that would still haunt us. More than anything I just wanted to look forward, and not dwell on the incident.
“For a little while. Alan was able to corroborate my side of the story, and so were a number of kids that said that Karl and his cronies followed you into the restroom. Apparently the kid had a reputation, so it wasn’t that hard to find people against him once someone had kicked his ass. Plus two of the bullies backed up my story as well. Getting a taste of their own medicine helped out a lot.”
“Good, glad that’s out of the way. Now come back here,” I said and puckered my lips in invitation. He was about to dive back in when a doctor rushed in and ruined the moment. My puckered lips became a pout as the barrage of tests and questions started.
About twenty minutes in my dad arrived, interrupting the doctors and giving me my second grand reunion for the day. With him it was a little bit different though. I distinctly remembered eating breakfast with a younger version of him only a half hour before, while for him it had been four months. It was slightly awkward, to have him crying as he embraced me and told me how glad I was back, but I did the best I could to play into the situation, and told him how happy I was to see him too.
Then the tests resumed, and suddenly I was being fed a new IV and a dish of hospital food. From the way it tasted I wished it was being fed to me through an IV as well, and I was surprised when I managed to finish the entire tray. I was incredibly hungry, and I realized that the excitement of waking up had tired me back out again. With chagrin I told my father and friends that I needed some rest. After another thirty minutes of clinging on to my conversation they acquiesced and left me.
I didn’t wake up again until the next day, but since it was a Sunday, the entire crew was available again. Marc was the first one to notice again, and greeted me with a kiss before texting everyone else that I was awake and ready. Soon they were gathered in my room again, and I was being fed with all sorts of information that I had missed out on. Alan told me about school, Keith and Marc spoke on current events, and my Dad spoke about his business and what his side of the extended family was up to. All in all it was a great day, and I was already beginning to feel a lot better. Being surrounded by my friends was quickly giving me my strength back.
We were in the midst of great conversation when there was a knock on the door. Everyone turned to see a young woman open the door and walk through. Her punk style gave her away almost immediately, even though she had a hood pulled up to hide her face. Verina. I didn’t know how she had found out that I had woken up, but I figured she had her sources, so I wasn’t too surprised that she had decided to show up. In fact, I was kind of pleased.
“Hello handsome,” she said in a playful tone which received a frown from both Marc and my dad. Keith was scowling at her before she had even opened her mouth. He had no love of angels at all, and was more than happy to show his displeasure.
I looked at all of them and shrugged before I turned back to her and replied, “Hello Verina, thanks for coming. I had a feeling that you might show up eventually. Please, come in.”
“Thanks, Damien. I must confess though, I didn’t come alone,” she replied with a nod toward the door. I followed her nod with my gaze and had my sight greeted by a beautiful middle-aged woman. She was dressed all in white, except for a red sash that tied her simple dress together. Her hair was the exact same shade of red as her sash, and was pinned back slightly to hang over her shoulders but out of her face. Her mouth quirked up slightly as she noticed I was regarding her and her eyes twinkled with a hint of mischief. For a woman who appeared to be in her early fifties, she was quite attractive.
“And who might your lovely friend be?” I asked politely, bowing my head slightly in greeting to the newcomer.
Verina didn’t answer, and instead the woman fixed me with her eyes and said, “You are Damien? Excellent. I am Lucifel, and I have come to take you with me. I need to take you to Hell.”
Everyone was too stunned to speak, or even react beyond staring open-mouthed at Lucifel; everyone except Verina that is. Verina simply cleared her throat to bring us out of our dumbfounded state, and all at once the room exploded. Marc moved into a defensive position between me and the devil. Keith reacted by gripping several loose objects in the room with his telekinesis, and I could feel that he was summoning all the power he had available. I didn’t know what to expect, but I pushed myself as far back as the hospital bed and my limited strength would allow me, giving me as much distance between myself and the fallen angel as I could. Alan had a similar reaction to me; he was eying the door to see if he could somehow get past her and make an escape. The biggest reaction though came from my dad.
At first the sudden laughter seemed incredibly out of place, but then the laughter turned bitter, and it became as music to our scene. I turned to look at him, despite the fear I felt at being in the presence of so powerful a being, and I saw him rise to his feet in anger, and suddenly he was coming toward Lucifel with his eyes blazing.
“What kind of a joke is this? You’ve got some sick sense of humor to barge in on our privacy and claim that you’re the devil who’s come to take my sick son away. Do you even realize that he just woke up from a coma that he’s been in for four months? ‘cause if you did know that’s even worse!”
She narrowed her eyes at him, which seemed to only make him angrier. Then she laughed, which again caused my father to seethe even more. He was about to reach out and slap her when a large man materialized out of thin air behind the angel. He was around seven feet tall, and looked to weigh around six hundred pounds, all in thick muscle. His scalp and face were clean-shaven, and his eyes were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. He wore a black suit and a black tie over a white dress shirt. With one massive forearm he reached out and stopped my father’s slap mid-swing. My father took an involuntary step back which was quickly followed by several voluntary ones until his back hit the wall.
“The Lady would prefer to not be slapped, human. Would you mind taking a seat so that we can discuss this as rational beings?” The large man said in the deepest voice I had ever heard. Noticing that neither Marc nor Keith had changed at all in their reaction to the unfolding events, the identity of this new individual was easy to surmise. Shatan, the dragon, had tagged along with his partner.
“Now, as I was saying before that man rudely interrupted me, we need to go, son of Merlin. It is no longer safe here. Michael has learned of your recovery and is sending agents to kill you. I cannot allow that. I have much riding on Merlin’s promise being true, and I would prefer to keep you alive. So, we need to get you out of this hospital.” Lucifel spoke with a certainty that things were going to happen her way or not at all. Surprisingly to me, it didn’t feel arrogant of her, just certain.
“Hang on a minute, devil,” Marc responded in a mocking tone,” You think you can just show up out of nowhere and take away my charge? You’re going to have to go through both the High Druid and I if you want him, and that’s a promise.”
Lucifel stared at him like he had lost his mind. “You seem to think I was asking, prince. I am more than a match for your High Druid. As for you, you do realize that the person who invented the martial art you are so skilled at is standing behind me, don’t you? I am very confident in Shatan’s ability to take on you and everyone else in the room, and still have the ability to carry Damien with us when he’s done.”
“There is always a student who surpasses the master, are you sure I’m not the one to do so?” Marc replied with equal seriousness. I was impressed that neither he nor Keith had wavered outwardly, especially once I got a hold of my wits well enough to activate my telepathy. Reading both Keith and Marc’s thoughts told me that they were nearly scared to death, but that their discipline was keeping them able to function. My father and Alan, on the other hand, were just scared. Verina was nervous, and to my surprise and horror, I could get no read on either Lucifel or Shatan. It was as if their thoughts did not exist
“Now you are a brave one aren’t you? Well, if you insist, we could make this a battle, or you could just come with us. I didn’t say that only Damien had to come now did I? I do not care if anyone comes with us, except that annoying one who tried to slap me. He can stay here.”
My father had apparently recovered enough to respond to her remark, apparently fueled by his hysteria. His anger was back, but there was a wild look in his eyes as he said, “There is no way I am letting you take my son! If I have to die trying to keep you from him, then so be it.”
He launched himself toward Lucifel, but suddenly found himself stopped in mid-air. I looked to Keith who nodded at me, acknowledging that he was the source of my father’s sudden halt. I watched my father get dragged back to his spot by the wall and twitch against Keith’s telekinesis in rage.
“Whatever kind of demon you are, I’ll make sure you pay for this!” He shouted. Everyone else in the room winced except Alan at his reference to demons. Lucifel leered toward him with a smirk and said, “Although demon is preferable to other things you could call me, I am offended by you yet again. Don’t make me kill you for your insults. As of yet I have not voiced any intention to harm your son, only to take him with me. Is that really all that terrible? What if I promise to bring him back after he has served his purpose? Will that sate your puny human brain?”
“Go to hell!” My dad shouted back.
“That has been my intent all along. Haven’t you been listening? I tire of this one. Shatan, make him shut up.” Lucifel ordered, and Shatan moved to comply.
He was a foot away from my father when I shouted, “No!”
Everyone looked at me except Shatan. He turned back to Lucifel with a questioning look. I kept speaking, hoping to at least delay my father’s fate. “I’ll go with you. But Marc comes with me, as well as Keith if he is willing. You must also allow us to communicate this plan to the Demonic royal family. I am not going to walk off with any angel without covering my ass. No offense meant to you milady.”
I was doing my best to be polite, and the intent was not lost on her. She regarded me thoughtfully. After an awkward moment she replied to my request, “Yes, I can see how that would be reasonable. Very well, Dae’Marca, Keith Morgan, would you like to accompany us to Hell? I will guarantee your safety while you are among us, the same guarantee I extend to Damien. And, I will allow you to contact King Ikarus. You are very polite for a human. It must be your mother’s side.”
Marc nodded immediately, and Keith nodded after only a moment’s hesitation. Lucifel seemed satisfied and waved Shatan back to stand by her side. “Well that settles things then. You say your goodbyes to this father of yours and we will meet you outside. Or do you need Shatan to carry you?”
“No, Lady Lucifel, I’ll be fine. I have Marc and Keith to help me out. We will meet you in fifteen minutes. Is that acceptable?” I replied, as calmly as I could. I latched on to the idea of having at least a brief moment to explain things to my father, and at that moment I wanted more than anything to convince her to give me that time.
“Very well, but do not dally for long. My patience has been tried enough already today. I have already arranged for you to leave the hospital today, despite those doctors that don’t know what they’re talking about. Money has a way of changing minds, after all.” Lucifel said nonchalantly. She turned on her heel and walked out the door, Shatan following closely behind.
Verina hesitated for a moment as if she was about to say something, but Keith raised his hand to stop her and said with venom, “You’ve done enough today, bitch. Go follow your whore patron. You’ll see us soon enough, and then you can waste words trying to explain yourself. Leave.”
She quivered with anger, but she apparently thought better of challenging Keith, and walked out of the room without saying another word. That did little to quiet the room though, for my father spoke up almost as soon as she disappeared. “Will someone please tell me what is going on?”
“Dad,” I answered weakly, “That really was the devil, and we really are leaving. I’m sorry, I wish that we had the ability to stay here and explain every detail, but you’ll have to settle for the summary.” I proceeded to give him the run-down on everything that had happened since we had moved. Everything I could remember anyway. Marc and Keith supplied small details every now and then, but they let me have the main job of explaining everything. My father listened as calmly as he could, but I could tell he was having a hard time swallowing the tale.
When I was done, he voiced his primary concern, “So the sum of all this is that a fallen Angel wants your help to stop the Angelic forces, and end a shadow war that has been plaguing the world for thousands of years? And you want me to be okay with letting you walk off alone with her? Son, I just found out less than thirty minutes ago that Angels and Demons existed. I don’t care if you’ve got psychic powers; this is not going to happen.”
“The problem is, dad, that neither you nor I can stop this,” I explained as calmly as I could, though my heart was still pounding in my chest, “If I don’t go now, Lucifel will do everything in her power to see to it that I do come, even if that means harming the people that I love, such as yourself. I don’t really know what her plan is for me, but she did guarantee my safety. Plus, I’m not going alone. I’ll have a very powerful bodyguard and the most powerful living psychic by my side.”
“I’ll be going with you too!” Alan piped up from the side. In all the excitement, we had once again forgotten that he was there. Now, everyone else turned incredulous looks in his direction, but he didn’t shrink under any of them.
“What makes you think that, Alan?” Marc asked with little enthusiasm, “No offense meant, but you are not physically powerful or a psychic. Besides, what about your family and school? They’ll be missing you.”
“If this is your fight, it’s my fight,” he replied with determination. His face told me he was serious, and I reached out with my telepathy to find out how much of it was an act. To my surprise, I found only the same determination reflected in his thoughts. I looked to Keith who had a similar expression of surprise, and I knew that he had probably read him as well.
“You still didn’t answer the other half of my question, Alan,” Marc continued, and he seemed to be growing impatient. I understood his impatience, though I didn’t share it. The clock was ticking, and our fifteen minutes were almost up.
“You’ve had other things on your mind for the last four months, but maybe you should consider why I spend all of my time here with you,” Alan continued, his determination only strengthening, “I don’t have any friends, and I’m a foster kid. My parents died when I was really young, and there were no living relatives, so I got thrown into the system. No one is going to miss me if I go with you, they’ll just think I ran away. Also, don’t you think I could learn to fight? This war involves all of us doesn’t it?”
Marc was speechless, an unusual trait for him. I took the opportunity to speak instead. “You really want to come?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. He nodded his reply and after a moment I nodded back. “Alright then, you can come, but you’ve got to listen to everything we say, got it? If you get yourself in trouble, we’re going to feel responsible. You have to follow our lead.”
My boyfriend was about to protest, but Alan overrode him. “Done. I will follow your lead, Damien.” Marc just shook his head helplessly when I turned my determined stare toward him. He was not pleased with my decision, but he let it stand.
“Very well then. I’m sorry, dad, but we have to go,” I said as I sat up in the bed. I was still weak, but I was able to move enough to start undoing my IVs. Marc, Keith, and then Alan moved to start helping me. I whispered to Alan to go see if there was a wheelchair we could use. As he rushed out, my father came up to my bed and stopped all the commotion.
“I suppose I have to accept this then, and that this is really happening. I don’t understand it, and I only believe what I believe because of what I’ve seen. I love you, son, be careful. If that bitch lets you call me, please call me every day. I want to make sure that you’re safe, and if you aren’t I’m going to move heaven and earth to find her and kill her.” He said with fury in his eyes. I knew that he was as serious as he had ever been about anything.
“Don’t worry dad, I’ll be fine,” I replied with as much conviction as I could muster. It wasn’t much, but I hoped it would be enough. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and then gave me the longest hug I had ever received from him, even longer than when he had told me that my mother was dead. When we broke the embrace, he patted me on the shoulder and stepped away.
We managed to get me into the wheelchair and within a minute I was being wheeled off down the hallway, my heart breaking with the image of my father sitting with his head in his hands, weeping. I could only hope that he would be alright.
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