Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU
C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 05
Pink flecked white eyes stare up at the patterned tile of his ceiling, the Angel immobile as he lays center in the wide bed, his gaze a little flat and fixated above. The afternoon sun plays across the inlaid patterns, light dancing every time the soft breeze from the open windows blows in to rustle the sheer embroidered curtains that line them. The thick brocade bedding is folded down at his waist, leaving his bare stomach, toned chest and arms free while loose snowy strands fan over the plump pillow beneath his head, spilling downward onto the silken sheeting below.
He hasn’t moved for hours, he hasn’t blinked, he hasn’t spoken, not since the night before when Haniel retrieved him from the borders of the city and carried him home. He’s done nothing but lay in their shared bed since –first and for what became the rest of a very rough night, curled up tightly against the other Higher with his eyes shut against the pain, then as he is now, eyes open and mind finally free of the visions that had plagued him over and over again. Haniel has managed to get him excused from his duties today and he made him promise he would stay where he is, in their home or in their bed resting until he returns from his own. The other man has risked a lot in covering for him and while he’s grateful, he hates it as well. It’s ridiculous that he’s repaid the other Higher’s kindnesses by acting as weak and pathetic as some Youth, tearing from their home and from his side as if he were a disease in a blind attempt to get as far away from what was happening to him as he could.
He doesn’t deserve Haniel for that alone. He doesn’t deserve his kindness and he’s starting to think that even after all of these years, he might not deserve his love either.
He feels like he’s starting to fall apart and he doesn’t know what to do about it. This newest onslaught weren’t like the dreams he’s had prior, nor did they feel as if they were some kind of simple vision.
They felt like memories to him… someone else’s memories, yet strong and familiar enough that they could easily be his own.
He didn’t tell Haniel that, neither has he told him about the losses of time he’s begun suffering. Just as it was when he ran to the edges of the city and found himself unable to step through the gateway into Second House, there’s something inside of him that’s holding him back from disclosing it all to the one he loves. He doesn’t understand why though, he doesn’t understand what it could possibly be. Haniel has done nothing to warrant it and he’s never kept secrets from him before, so what is it that’s holding him back now? Jun frowns and finally allows his eyes to slide shut, the first movements he’s made in hours.
His superior keeps telling him that he just needs to train his mind better, he keeps assuring him that the dreams and visions pass once he’s able to discipline himself against them but he is starting to doubt that any amount of training will make them go away. They haven’t gotten better, instead they’ve become more frequent and now not only is he getting them while he’s awake, they’ve changed as well.
They are no longer the single dream where he dies, but now there are others where he’s alive during different periods of time. And that one, the blonde… he’s always by his side, he’s always there. Before he could never quite see his face –he always looked at him as if he were standing on the opposite side of a pane of frosted glass, but in these he was there in front of him and while his features remained skewed and slightly out of focus, he was still clearer than he’d ever been before. And those eyes… this time he could see that the golden eyes that always reflects him but differently were actually the deep midnight blue he knew them to be all along.
They were piercing, striking him deep to his core and every new time he found himself there, looking at the stranger and being looked at in return, the ache he felt grew.
Slipping his arm from his side, Jun pulls tapered fingers up to his chest and flattens his hand over his heart.
It wasn’t just an ache this time though, it was pain and it was raw and unbearable, as if a part of him has been taken, ripped from his body and shorn from his soul. As it has been in the dreams, he’s starting to feel as if he has a hole in his chest, one that no amount of training will be able to fill. Long minutes pass where the white haired man remains as he is, his eyes closed to his room and his hand pressed against his heart before he makes a decision that pulls him from his bed. Without warning, his eyes slide back open and he slips his fingers away from his chest, pushing his lithe frame up. He has to do something, he knows he promised Haniel that he’d stay put and rest but he can’t simply sit around waiting for another dream or another loss of time to strike him. He can’t sit around waiting for his superior to help him, he needs to do what he’s meant to do since this all began. He needs to stop allowing this weakness to consume him, act again as he is –a Higher of rank and dignity. He needs to help himself.
Snow colored locks tumble to his lower back as he lifts himself up bare feet padding across the sun warmed floor as he moves with swift ease to the arched doorway of the room’s walk in closet. Stepping inward, he dresses quickly –form fitting pants pulled up over his toned legs and left low on his hips, a double breasted jacket top with rows of gleaming silver buttons fastened high on his neck, his feet slipped into sleek patent white shoes before he drapes a thigh length overcoat around his frame. Moving back to the vanity area and the spanning mirrors, he quickly secures his hair –the long locks pulled into three separate braids then braided together into one.
The time it takes him to move from his own home to his destination is short, the Angel navigating the glittering white stone paved streets with little to no thought. Central is as it always is, quiet with only a few going in or coming out, the tall looming Hall atop a long set of spanning wide steps. Lining the walkway are immaculate marble statues, the ancients of olde with their beauty shining beneath the overhead sun and their wings stretched out to encompass the Heavens themselves. He pays them no mind as he makes his climb to the tall arching doorway ahead, his footfalls echoing quietly the moment he steps past the threshold and onto the white marbled flooring inside.
Center to the great hall to his front is a portal, the ambient blue light of the glowing scrolled Angelic runes that swirl lazily in a circle stretched out from the floor to the cathedral length ceiling far above. His pale features are illuminated softly as his footfalls come to a halt and speaking a word of Angelic, the runes halt in their unorganized path before slipping from the outer stream and inward to the center. They swirl counterclockwise for a few moments, each new round hastening until they begin to blend and take form. Before long and directly center of the portal is a figure made purely of blue light, his body floating as if he were gliding just beneath the surface of an ocean, long plaited hair and clothing alike rippling gently along with an invisible tide.
Name, Rank and Purpose. The figure states, neither mouth moving nor words spoken aloud.
“Jun, Higher, first class.” The Angel replies steadily. “Application for Travel. Earth Realm.”
The blackness that wraps his mind in thick, clinging tendrils is slow to recede, grasping tight each time he attempts to rise far enough to break free. There’s an ache as well, thumping steady and low in the background, like the beating of a drum. Dimly he can sense, more than actually feel, the very gentle motion of a hand stroking his hair, the touch helping to ground him as he struggles against the darkness. Jun? He whispers, whether aloud or telepathically, he’s not sure, but he knows from the careful movement that it must be the Angel. His thoughts are swirling and confused, but this he’s sure about. The other man is always close by, always lending him comfort and ensuring he’s not alone. For a moment the motion pauses, and there’s a voice at the very end of a long tunnel, but he can’t quite make it out.
Fighting hard against the darkness that wants so desperately to keep him under, Zephyr finally wins, and it dissolves into thin, gray patches. Black eyes crack open only to immediately slam shut as pain lances through his head, and inhaling sharply, he grits his teeth as it rolls downward to turn his stomach over with nausea. Shit, what has he been doing? It feels like he’s been hit by one of Sashi’s psionic attacks or leveled by a bus, he’s not sure which, but maybe it’s both. Probably too many drugs and too many drinks at the club last night. God, these morning afters are such a bitch…
“Zeph?” This time he very clearly hears the voice and it’s not the voice of the one he loves more than anything in the world, but that of his partner. It’s Innic who sits at his side and not Jun, and the heavy recollection that it hasn’t been the Angel at his side in a long time dulls all the agony in his head as it stabs directly into his chest. One hand lifts to press blindly against his heart even though he’s well aware it will have little effect in blunting the hurt, and the other knots in the bed linens as he tries to ride it out. His best friend gently continues to soothingly stroke his hair, sitting quietly until the sharpness of the pain eases before speaking. “You have a pretty serious concussion.”
Concussion explains the throbbing of his head and the nausea. Carefully opening his eyes, the Seeker slowly turns his head toward the other Selestarri. Innic sits with his back against the headboard of their wide bed, a large, leather-bound book perched on his lap. Faerie lights float through the darkened room, their soft golden glow illuminating the space like small candle flames. “How long?”
The dark-haired man closes the book and sets it aside. “A day and a half.”
Tightening the muscles in his core, the blonde begins to roll to one side so he can get up, only to find Innic’s hand on his shoulder, pressing him right back down to the bed. “Listen to me carefully, Zephyr. You fight me on getting out of this bed before I think you’re ready, and this time it will be me holding the weapon that smacks you.”
The sparring match comes back in a rush of images and sensations: the cheering from the crowd, the crack of wood, muscles straining, panted breath, battle hardened reflexes put into play, the smell of sweat and blood, the strikes and counterstrikes, parries and thrusts, pivots and turns, intricate stances… “Carrow hit me?” he finally asks after the last of the skirmish fades.
“Not intentionally and he feels horrible about it.” His partner pulls his hand from Zeph’s shoulder to push thick, coal black strands from his sunset-tinted gaze. “One minute you were moving and the next you weren’t. I only spotted the color leaving your eyes at the very last moment, and I wasn’t quick enough to stop him.”
The Seeker lets it sink in for a moment, recalling that he’d been set to drop out of Carrow’s path when the memory had struck. With a frown, he attempts to rise once again. “I need to go check on the webs.” The rooms in the fortress filled with weaves of silver razor wire were mostly inherited from his predecessor, a magically-rooted method of gaining information on both floating islands and the Earth below.
Innic gently, but firmly, returns him to the mattress. “Sashi was here earlier and he said nothing has changed.”
The frown deepens. “There are reports to read.”
The other Dark nods. “I’ve already read them,” he reassures him.
Not to be put off so easily, the blonde tries again. “There are informants to check in with.”
Another nod. “I did that as well while your brother sat with you through the afternoon.”
“This isn’t my first concussion,” he snaps. He tries to glare at his best friend, but the attempt sends a spike of pain into his temple, so he has to settle for expressing his unhappiness with another frown.
“And this isn’t my first time playing your nursemaid,” Innic counters. “You never take the time to rest. So you will take this,” he reaches over to a table that’s been set up beside the bed and holds up a glass filled with water, “and this,” a small bottle with a label promising headache relief rattles when shaken, “and you will stay in this bed for at least the next 24 hours.”
“I want chicken soup.”
The other man gestures toward the main area of the room. “I figured you would, so I sent Carrow to the ground to fetch some. It’s on the warming tile right over there.”
With a sigh, Zeph concedes the win to his partner, closing his eyes before turning gingerly onto his side, his face pressed against the side of the other Selestarri’s leg. His head throbs, his stomach feels as though it will empty itself at any moment, and even that small movement has sent the world careening in waves of dizziness. The last time he’d had a concussion it hadn’t been Innic who had fussed over him, it had been Jun. The Angel had been the one to comfort him, to hold him as he rested, to reassure him when the headaches were bad, and to sit in the dark when he couldn’t stand the glare of any light. He’d supported him when the dizziness made it hard to walk, patiently repeated questions when he couldn’t remember what was asked, nursed him through the nausea and vomiting, and stayed up with him when he couldn’t sleep properly. The one he loves had taken excellent care of him then and every time he’d been injured, and right now all he wants is to feel that comfort again. He wants the Angel’s familiar scent, his gentle touch, and his soft words. He wants an end to this misery of being alone. Guard torn down and the layers of entrenched cold momentarily melted, he whispers, “I want Jun.”
“I know you do,” Innic replies quietly, his hand once again threading into gradient-colored hair. “I know…”
Long minutes pass where the figure is quiet, the blue light that makes up his body glowing softly as he continues to float center in the portal, his plaited hair and clothing shifting in gentle waves.
Jun, Higher, first class… the words finally echo out, glowing blue eyes despite being sightless, now holding his dual colored gaze steadily. Travel has been sanctioned. Be warned. The High Council will not tolerate another failure. This will be the final allowance for passage to Terra should you fail.
“Understood” Jun replies, careful to keep the relief he feels from surfacing in his tone. The Council’s decisions are usually swift and the length of time it took was unusual, so after one minute passed in silence, then another and another, he’d begun to worry that his application might be rejected after all. “I won’t fail.”
The figure’s body begins to glow brighter before the runes that make his form start to break apart, swirling clockwise in rushing circles then returning to the portal’s outer stream. Once the scrolled Angelic writing is again drifting all about, the white haired man moves forward, stepping into the stream to stand center of the portal himself.
Long braided locks and silken clothing alike are disturbed the instant he’s in place, his lithe body carried from the marble tiling while his garments and hair ripple as if caught in a strong upward wind. Steeling himself against the initial jolt, Jun closes his dual colored gaze, attempting to do what he was unable to achieve the last time by bracing while emptying his mind.
Silence engulfs the Angel and the floating runes pull inwards again before they start to circle and taking a deep breath in, he concentrates on nothing but his destination alone. Suddenly the lit runes stop, each expanding briefly before slamming against his body, the writing stretching and twisting around his lean frame until he’s bound completely in bright streaks of blue light. The instant the runes attach themselves, Central begins the fade in the background, leaving nothing but the still air of the portal itself and an encompassing blackness in its wake. A moment later, he’s struck with a feeling of being sucked through a vacuum while simultaneously, every part of his body feels as if it’s being ripped into shreds.
The pain is overwhelming and he grits his teeth against it, determined not to allow himself to fall apart as he did the first time. He hadn’t been ready for the sheer amount of pain that travel brings, every small part of him feeling as if he’s being torn and his mind feeling as if it’s being consumed in an inferno of flames. He’d ripped himself from the stream before he managed to shift at all and even now, while every part of him wants to cry out as each new inch is taken from his body -it takes all that he has to remain immobile, to not tear free and allow himself to be shredded inch by agonizing inch.
For as much as he wants the pain to stop, he allows the runes to sink fully in, fighting through the haze and the rush of blood in his ears to find the place he longs to see. This is his last chance to prove that he isn’t as weak as his first attempt showed him to be and to perhaps reset all that had been undone in his head with his failure. He won’t be able to face Haniel again if he doesn’t succeed this time, especially after promising him that he wouldn’t do the very same thing he’s about to do without training more. He wants to see Earth as well and maybe find answers to questions he hasn’t even asked, and most importantly, he wants to finally put an end to what’s been happening to him so he can regain the normality he had before.
He doesn’t know why or even how, but he knows all of what he wants and everything he seeks, all of his answers lie on that planet and he isn’t going to allow anything to stop him this time around.
The floor drops out beneath him, then the ceiling and then the blackness, sending the Higher freefalling into emptiness before his feet suddenly contact with solid ground. As quickly as it began, it’s over, the runes flashing once then releasing their vice grip to send Jun stumbling slightly backwards from the portal’s stream a second before it snaps from view. Managing to steady himself swiftly, long plaited locks spill over his shoulder as he curls partially over, gasping desperately for the air that’s been stolen from his lungs. He feels as if the wind has been knocked from him and it takes Jun a few minutes to regain his composure before he’s able to take a full breath in.
Panting slightly, early dawn flecked white slide over his surroundings, confusion setting in immediately when he finds himself not where he expected to be but somewhere unfamiliar and new. The room in which he stands is dark and the air stale, similar to the main hall of Central back home yet clearly abandoned with only the faintest trace of any Angelic scent lingering about.
Straightening himself and his clothing, Jun gathers his senses and moves towards the front entrance before him, the inlaid Angelic writing of older placed wards lighting up the moment he draws near. The doorway clicks open to allow him access, foreign scents slamming into him the instant he steps onto the walkway just outside. The white haired Angel is struck for a moment as he takes in his newest surroundings, the cold in the air seeping in immediately despite the thick overcoat he wears. Tapered fingers rise upwards to pull the fabric closed and the collar close to his nose in an attempt to lessen being overwhelmed by it all.
He stands under aged awning against a building that looks to be abandoned, the outside appearing small and gated and nowhere near the size that’s actually contained within. The door seals shut behind him once he’s past the threshold, a thin blue line of light snaking over the archway momentarily before it’s gone. The street at the end of the walkway is empty, yet the occasional car zips by on the road stretching before him, sending water splashing onto the paved sidewalk up ahead. Streaming down from the overcast skies is heavy rain, the thick droplets drumming against every surface and the cold it carries seeping through his clothing and chilling him down to the bone.
For a few minutes, Jun stands confused beneath the overhead that keeps him dry, his lithe frame shivering subtly beneath his clothing. He’s not sure of where he is, but despite the overwhelming foreign scents that are only mildly dampened by the rain surrounding him, he does recognize them just the same. It’s the same scent Haniel has sometimes brought home with him when he’s been called out for duty, a lingering smell distinctive to only one kind. He smells humans, which means he’s did it. He succeeded.
He’s on Earth.
And while he doesn’t know where on the planet he actually is, or what to do now that he’s here, and despite the cold that’s trying to consume him, he finds himself unbelievably happy that he made it just the same . Once he can gather himself completely, and can muster the will to step into the downpour raining from above, he needs to find out what happened and why he isn’t in Central as he should be…
“I’m saying this whole meeting is a bad idea.” Innic stands in the rectangular dressing area just off their bedroom, his back against one of the tall doors concealing clothing and shoes. The frown that’s darkened his features for the past ten minutes is still focused on the room’s other occupant. “Your concussion is severe. There’s nothing you’ll say to her today that can’t wait a few more days.”
Pushing the waistband of loose pants off his hips to puddle on the floor around his ankles, Zeph pulls a pair of black pants from the wardrobe and steps into them, fastening the button at the waist and then slipping a belt through the loops right after. Sinking down to a padded bench, he reaches for his socks and boots, steadying his hands to keep them from shaking and betraying to his best friend that he’s not as okay as he pretends. “It’s not up for debate, Innic. I requested to meet with the Oracle, and the day for that meeting has come.” Tugging the socks over his feet, he moves on to the boots. “I know you’re concerned about my concussion, but the truth is, even if I’d taken a sword and not a staff to the head three days ago, I’d still have to meet with her.”
Folding his arms across his chest, Innic offers, “I’ll go in your place.”
One white-gold eyebrow arches at the suggestion. “You’re my best friend and partner, and you have many skills, but public relations isn’t exactly your strong suit.” Fastening the buckles on the boots, the Seeker reaches for his top and tugs it over his head, the soft black fabric slipping over toned muscle snugly. “Showing up and telling her to get her shit together probably isn’t going to do it.”
Orange eyes meet black for a moment as Zephyr rises to his feet and crosses to the mirror. retrieving a brush from the closest cabinet, he begins to gently pull it through the long strands of hair. “Right, and what are you going to tell her?”
Gathering the black and white-gold strands behind his head, he secures a tie around their bulk and lets it free to swing against the lower part of his back. “Pretty much the same thing, only in a slightly less blunt way.”
“I still don’t like it.”
Turning away from his reflection, he selects a long black wool overcoat from behind another door and slips into it. “I know you don’t,” he tells his partner while fastening the buttons. “But once I get back, you can fuss over me all you’d like.”
Adjusting the tall collar and finishing up with a heavy scarf, Zeph glances one last time at Innic, the other man continuing to frown as he waves him away dismissively, and then the teleport takes him from the fortress…
Twenty minutes and another teleport later, he walks beneath the winter sky up a hill in a mostly empty park. He can see the ocean in the distance to the right, tiny black dots he knows to be seabirds dropping into the waves to snag fish. Much closer, a playground is occupied by a handful of children and their hovering parents and a scattering of bikers and joggers move about the paved trails. His head is unhappy with his general existence and every few minutes the world tries to spin out with a dizziness that rocks his stomach, but there is nothing to do other than make this meeting as quick as possible.
Behind mirrored sunglasses, black eyes pick out another walker ascending the hill from a different pathway, a woman taller than any of the others he’s seen. She wears a richly embroidered coat of light blue and silver, the bottom half flaring down over her narrow hips in a large bell shape to fall just past her knees. Beneath the coat are navy pants so wide they almost appear to be a skirt and they hide her shoes from sight completely. Held back with intricate combs of polished silver, her lavender-tinted hair is much lighter than the deep purple from Innic’s description, the slow bleaching occurring after she’d become the Oracle. Her eyes are in a similar state, the depths that meet his a very pale green, but the fact that she still retains her sight is a testament of how new to the title she still is.
Having left the Eyrie before Rallibrid was born, he’s never met her, and Innic was more familiar with Galenna, the woman who had died while training to replace Lakydra. He knows little of the Bright who comes to a stop when only a half dozen feet of pavement separate them. They stand in silence for a long moment, a strong breeze tugging at hair and clothing before the Bright offers the standard pleasantries, her voice cool and smooth.
Zeph returns them before cutting right to the point while ignoring the sudden dizziness that threatens to tilt the world precariously. “Let’s keep this short. I trust Lakydra spoke to you of the balance that must exist between us.”
“Between us? Yes.” Rallibrid slides her gloved hands into the pockets of her coat. Despite the dichotomous nature of their positions among the Selestarri, there has always been a degree of balance between those who hold the title of the Oracle and the Seeker. As sisters, Lakydra and Mercerdryn had taken the scheming and plotting to new levels, forcing a type of peace between the two islands that was almost stifling. “Between our factions? There is no such thing.”
“Nor will there be,” he promises. The Bright and Dark will never harbor any love for one another, the rifts between them are simply too deep to be bridged. “But you’ve had large scale defections over politics, and in order to ensure a future for any of us, the numbers need to even out.” As little as he cares about how many Bright remain a part of their faction, once they cross to the Dark, they lose the ability to procreate, and in the long term, it will spell disaster for them all. “I have my faction in hand, but yours remains splintered. You must bring them to heel.”
Rallibrid frowns, the first hint of emotion she’s displayed. “I understand your concern, and I’m working with the Council of Eleven, but I remain hindered as long as you refuse to free the island.” In the last days of the recent war, he’d convinced Sashi to manipulate the greater magic of the Eyrie to fix it in place . During the unrest on the Eyrie that followed and then rose to even higher levels with Lakydra’s death, he’d asked his brother to keep it locked stationary, hoping it would force the Bright to restore order. Until they do that and some sort of stability is formed, he will continue to refuse their demands. Truthfully, he cares little which way they align, either with the rigid and conservative Council or the traditional leadership of the Oracle, but this disarray can’t be allowed to continue.
“You are no favorite of the Council given what you did to those who sat in their places previously,” the Bright continues, “and they use your hold over the Eyrie to rally support for their agendas.”
“Perhaps they should have considered that before sending the assassins.”
The frost in his voice gives her pause, as though for a moment she’s unsure whether to agree or disagree. “As you say,” she finally concedes, “but your decision hampers my efforts.”
Pain spikes hard through Zeph’s head, and having said what’s necessary, he finds that he is, in fact, going to be just as blunt as he’d accused Innic of being. “Get your people in line within the next two months, Rallibrid, or I won’t hesitate to clean house on the Eyrie again.” Turning away, he leaves her on the hilltop, lost from sight as he descends the paved path…