Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU
C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 07
The loud pounding of falling rain becomes a soft pattering drum against the outside surfaces the moment the door closes behind him, the tall Angel stepping into the large main room before stopping, his sodden garments dripping puddles around his feet. Early dawn flecked white fight to stay open as the cold overtakes him, his body shivering steadily and his recently racing heartbeat slowed to an erratic offbeat drum. His heavy lidded gaze travels over the luxurious furnishings, dark in the surrounding gloom yet highlighted enough from the strips of dim light shining in through the slats of closed shutters from the overcast skies outside.
The air while stale has a faint lingering smell to it, two distinct scents from two different people. One he doesn’t recognize, but the other is more than familiar. It’s old and faint, but here on every unused surface and floating in the air -a scent his mind refuses to accept as real. He’s never been in this house before. He’s never even been to this realm.
Heavy lids lift, his slightly glazed gaze skimming over the plush leather sofa, the matching chairs and the tables, the plush rugs, shelves with various books and knick-knacks placed upon them, then finally over to the cold stone fireplace and the frames set here and there along the mantle. He stares at it for long minutes without movement, the darkness shrouding the pictures beneath the glass from view. He wants to move closer, to see whose faces lie beneath those thin panes of glass and he spends a moment attempting to will his body forward, finding that it’s utterly unwilling to comply. Something inside of him refuses to obey the command and it’s as if he has an invisible force field keeping him from taking the necessary steps. All he has to do is close the distance but he isn’t able to. Try as he might, he can’t move his body, no matter how hard he wishes for it, he simply can’t.
Pulling his gaze slowly from the fireplace, the white haired man turns towards the adjoining open kitchen instead. Each step is taken slowly, his body starting to feel as if it’s made of lead. Without thought, long fingers reach out to touch at the immaculate island countertop as he steps onto the tiling, stopping a half an inch from contact when he realizes he’s made the movement at all. His hand detours up to push at his heavy overcoat, his steps faltering a little when he finds it difficult to shed the wet fabric away. Peeling the coat from toned arms, it squelches heavily in a pile at his feet, the loss of its weight doing nothing to alleviate the heaviness of his frame.
Continuing onward, Jun leaves the kitchen behind, detouring momentarily to find bathrooms and smaller bedrooms before he’s drawn back to make his way to the stairwell that will lead him to the floor above. One step is taken, then another and another – his legs dragging in the slightest as if he has weights attached to his ankles, making every step up harder than the last. Nearing the top the Angel falters, his lithe frame swaying dangerously back when his surroundings decide to spin in a circle. He almost doesn’t get his arms out in time to stop his fall, his head sinking down as his hand presses against the wall and even the wet mass of his hair starting to feel as if it has a gravity of its own. Blackness rises up in an instant and attempts to overtake him, beckoning for him to enter its comforting fold. He fights against it by forcing heavy lids back open, bracing himself before pushing upwards until he’s taken the last few crucial steps onto the landing above.
Once both legs are steady, Jun moves on instinct towards the doorway up ahead, his fingers pressing against the closed double doors to push them. Finally coming to a halt, he stops a few feet past the threshold where his eyes skim the dressers and other furnishing, before settling on the room’s wide, abandoned bed. Dark green bedding is draped neatly over silken sheets, sets of plush pillows with matching pillowcases line a shadow strewn headboard highlighted softly by the backlit shut blinds of the spanning windows behind.
My early dawn hued eyes clench tighter as the curtains are pulled back and I reach out blindly to my side, wrapping my fingers around the nearest pillow before dragging it towards me to cover my head.
“Come on Beautiful, it’s past noon.” I hear my boyfriend chime and I have the urge to throw the pillow I just grabbed at him in response. He’s far too cheery for my tastes considering the time.
“Don’t care,” I grumble in irritation, knowing it can be heard in my tone despite the layers that muffle it. Without letting go of my pillow barrier, I roll away from both the offending light and the one I love just because I can.
“There’s coffee.” Behind me, the bed sinks in just a little, the addition of the new weight causing my lithe frame to slip back in the slightest, which only succeeds in making me curl into a tighter ball as I’m determined to remain beneath the covers no matter what offers he’s about to throw at me in order to lure me out.
“And pancakes…” god, I can practically see the grin that accompanies those words and despite my annoyance over how early I’m being woken up today, I can’t help the smile that forms on my lips in return. It’s rare he bothers trying to get me out of bed before evening because he learned a long time ago that it’s a battle he’ll never win, but every once in a while we do this just because I think he enjoys the challenge.
In truth, I enjoy it as well. He may be stubborn, but so am I so let the game begin.
“S’ not good enough,” I throw back, “you want me up, it’s going to take waffles.” With the challenge issued, the small laugh that spills from behind me tells me it’s been accepted and in response, I attempt to curl myself into an even tighter ball.
My efforts are as always, pointless when the blankets that cover me suddenly tear away. A protesting grunt is torn from my mouth and I pull a hand from the pillow to reach back in an attempt to regain my barrier only to have the pillow taken as well. Tapered fingers wrap around my shoulder and with one, swift movement I find myself flipped onto my back. My legs are pushed open and the one I love slides his body in-between, one of his hands settling close to my sleep mussed short layered locks while the fingers of the other trace a path from my collarbone down to my chest, causing a line of fire to blossom in their wake. Despite the rise of fire, I keep my eyes closed, denying the other man a complete victory by turning my head towards the bedding beneath my head. I feel his breath warm against my skin, his mouth so close to my own that I can practically taste him already and despite myself, I can’t help the sound torn from my lips when he nips at my jaw, neither can I stop the small gasp that escapes me when he continues to trace down over each line and curve of my body until he’s reached the drawstring of my loose pants.
Slipping my legs around his body, I respond my locking my feet together, my hands slipping blindly up beneath the hem of his shirt. I know my touch is immediately effective by the soft intake of breath that spills against my skin and the press of his toned frame against mine that pulls approving sounds from us both. We’ve been together now for thirty-two years and I never tire of this. I know I never will. What I feel for him is more than simple love, it’s beyond simple lust and runs deeper than base desire. It’s an unending need that grows with every new day that greets us, a want so strong that it often makes me dizzy. He is my heart. He is my soul and I would do anythi-
Words from behind rip the Angel from the vision, the tone cold and distant and demanding an answer to a question he isn’t quite able to grasp onto. The voice however is familiar and despite the fog in his head, he’d recognize it anywhere as it’s the same voice of the person he’s been dreaming about for months. That voice belongs to someone whose arms he’s died in over and over again -the blonde with the deep blue and golden eyes.
It takes considerable effort for Jun to lift his head and when no other words are spoken, he finds he’s not even sure that he isn’t simply experiencing another waking dream, one that’s already come to an abrupt stop. Ever so slowly, the Higher’s dual colored gaze shifts over his shoulder and he finds the shadow engulfed figure’s lean, tall frame standing in the doorway behind. While it’s hard for him to see any distinctive features, his scent is one he’s already taken in as it’s the same faint scent lingering in this place alongside his own.
Turning around, the movement is fluid despite being obviously slowed as his pink tainted white eyes settle on the other and for the first time since the dreams began, he finds a face that’s not obscured. He may be draped in shadow, his features wracked with an underlying pain yet he’s visible to him just the same. Colorless eyes lock with his half lidded own and for a few minutes, the two remain frozen and immobile, simply staring at one another and unable to utter even a single word.
“Backlash.” Jun finally whispers, his voice causing the Seeker to suck in a sharp breath . “He told me… that you were only… backlash.” Even as he speaks, the Higher’s dual colored gaze is closing, his head too heavy to support any longer and his chin slumping downward towards his neck “but I can finally see…” His lithe body follows as the blackness rises up to swallow what’s left of his senses. “…your face ,” he manages moments before his knees contact with the hardwood floor below, his slender frame curling over and arms dropping limply to his sides, his head sinking down to his chest.
After what seems like an impossibly long moment after he’s spoken, the Angel turns, and as his face comes into view in the patchy light of the bedroom, Zephyr finds that his lungs are suddenly unable to draw breath, his heart shudders to a stop, the blood in his veins seizes, the pain that wracks his head falls into the background, and everything–every thought, every word–comes to a screeching halt as the bottom falls completely out of his world. Ten years he’s spent miserable and alone, aching for the one he loves in his very bones. He’s watched, over and over in his memories as Jun is torn from him, bleeding out as he begs for him to stay. Even these years later he still wishes for him with every breath and reaches for him in bed at the darkest part of night. How… how is this possible? He felt Jun die in his arms, felt the last slow pump of his heart and the warmth of his blood on his hands, and yet somehow he now stands just steps away.
But the eyes that meet his are those of a stranger, flecked only slightly with the dawn hue he’d come to love so much. Once he notices it, the spell is broken and other inconsistencies are easily picked out. For starters, this man is too tall, at least several inches taller than Jun. Also, while very subtle, his face is not quite the same, less rounded and more chiseled. If not for their long association, it’s something he might easily miss, although now that he’s noticed, the differences seem glaring. Yet it’s the voice–a voice he’d never thought to hear again and causes a sharp intake of air–that finally allows him to place all the pieces of the puzzle together.
This Angel, who sounds identical and looks nearly identical to Jun, is a clone. He knows, both from Jun and Lan and his own resources, that those bastards in the Heavens run all types of experiments, some perhaps out of twisted interest, but others out of a need to repair their dwindling numbers and their lack of an ability to procreate. Faced with the failure of their race, it doesn’t seem like such a far stretch for them to clone one of their own. Jun had broken their seal and lived in spite of the killswitch they’d built into it. He’d also overcome the resets on his memories. Neither one of those things are something that should not have happened to a normal Angel. Jun was different, he was special, and it seems like they took an interest in seeing if they could recreate that specialness.
Why this Angel has chosen to come here and what he thought to achieve by doing so, the Dark has no idea, and before he can tell the Angel to get out, the white-haired man collapses to his knees. Zeph had lived with Jun long enough to recognize a full shutdown when he sees one, but for a long minute he doesn’t move, simply staring at the prone figure. Every instinct he has says to teleport this stranger to some wasteland and leave him, or simply run him through with his sword and dump the body, but either option may bring a host of Angels to his doorstep and he has enough to deal with without adding them to the mix. Consciousness will return once the Angel warms up, and then he can let him know in no uncertain terms that no matter what reasons brought him here, he’s unwelcome.
Decided on a plan that allows him to move more and think less, the Seeker closes the short distance between them, stepping close enough so that his leg touches the other man’s shoulder and sketches the runes to teleport. The furnishings of the master bedroom fade away to be replaced by those of one of the guest rooms on the first floor. Pulling back the heavy quilt and underlying blankets that haven’t been used in over nine years, he lifts the slender frame of the unconscious Angel and lowers him to the mattress. With almost clinical detachment, Zephyr strips away the sodden garments one at a time, noticing as he does so that the tattoo and piercing that had once adorned Jun’s midsection are missing, a fact that only bolsters his theory that this stranger is a clone . Drawing the linens across cool, pale skin, he tucks them beneath one side of white-haired man’s body in order to keep as much heat around him as possible. One at a time he takes the pants and shirt and jacket and shoes and wraps each with a weave of fire runes he’d learned a while back from Lan, drying each in just a few moments. Leaving them next to the Angel–he will not refer to him as Jun because this man is not Jun–the tall Selestarri makes his way down the hall and into the kitchen.
For the span of several minutes he simply stands beside the wide island as rapidly darkening eyes stare out into the adjoined living room. In every piece of furniture, every framed picture, every plate and pot and glass, every inch of painted wall there are memories of his life here with Jun. Cooking, watching movies, breaking in the new couch over and over on the day it was delivered, Christmas trees and stockings, stormy spring nights, warm summer days, laughing and smiling, pain and struggle, the images play out no matter where he looks. This is why he no longer comes here. Each time the memories assault him, ripping off the bandages from wounds that never heal, that are so deep and traumatic they can never possibly heal, not in ten years, not in twenty, and probably not even after he crosses to Eviternity. But this is also why he couldn’t let this place go when he moved to Nova. For all that the memories hurt him, they’re all he has left of someone who is more precious to him than words can describe. To lose this last place where they were happy was another loss he couldn’t bear with his shattered heart, and so he closed it up and walked away.
Sharp pain lances through his head, breaking up the images as a wave of dizziness sweeps over, sending the blonde staggering into the nearest wall. Slumping against the painted surface, his lean frame slides down until he hits the floor, knees drawn up to his chest. Eyes clamp shut and shaking hands lift to cover his face, a muffled sound breaking from deep within, one’s not sure is caused by the throbbing of his head or the aching of his heart. He’s known for years and years that the Angels are unrepentant assholes, but how could they? There is only one person in this world he loves, only one he’s given his very soul to, and now to find a second, one that looks like Jun despite those subtle differences, that sounds like Jun, that even smells like Jun, tears a fresh wound deep inside. He’s dreamed about finding his boyfriend again, of waking to see him in the bed at his side, of spotting him on the dancefloor of a club or in the line at a coffee house, years and years of dreams that felt so real, but he knows too well that his Jun died in his arms ten years ago, leaving him alone in a world he doesn’t want to be part of, that he’s tried three times to escape . So now to come here today after years of avoidance, to hear words he doesn’t understand about backlash and be faced with this… this copy who is not his Jun, not the person he gave all his love to is overwhelming. His heart is too damaged and too scarred, and he just can’t do this. He just can’t …
The blackness is as slow to peel away as it always is, though as Jun remains still with his dual colored gaze closed to his surroundings and his lean frame wrapped tightly in the bedding, he can’t help but notice that something is different overall. There’s no light felt on his closed lids, no breeze shifting in from the windows Haniel always opens when the other Higher first wakes, no distant sounds of nature or the city and the scents that reach his nose are not that of the other Angel, but of someone new.
Furrowing his brows, pink flecked white crack open and he finds not the high patterned tiles above his head that he’s used to but a low plain ceiling of a room he’s never before seen, shrouded in darkness instead of light. The sound of rain bleeds into his senses shortly after and for a minute, he does nothing but stare at the emptiness above in confusion, still and immobile and cocooned in foreign bedding while he tries to remember what had happened to bring him where he currently is.
He remembers the night prior. The new dreams and new visions, how they’d pulled him from his home and to the edges of the city, and how his superior brought him back. He remembers the next day when he’d gone to Central despite promising Haniel he wouldn’t, petitioned for travel and had it granted, succeeded and found himself on Earth in a place he shouldn’t have been. Then there was coffee, the rain and the cold, the never ending miserable cold that had begun to affect him in a way he never dreamed it could. He’s never experienced anything like it… he couldn’t think, he couldn’t move and every part of him had grown so heavy. It was if his body had decided to shut completely down.
Before he lost consciousness, he remembers that a new waking dream had plagued him, one that was so different from every other that’s come before. The blonde was there but he wasn’t the same, and reflected in his eyes he could see that neither was he. He remembers seeing not the other slightly altered version of himself in a gaze that was neither blue nor gold, but himself as he is now and for the first time since the dreams had begun, he was also able to see the blonde’s face clearly.
But then the blackness took him and there was nothing else, and now that he’s woken, he finds himself not in his home as he always is, but in someplace new. He’s lost another moment in time and the thought of it frustrates him beyond belief. Ever since the dreams began, he’d begun to think that if he could just succeed where he’d previously failed, make it to Earth and see the realm for himself that maybe everything that had gone wrong in his head would be set right again . He’d grown sure that the dreams would stop, the ghost he’d created would quit haunting him and his life could finally return to the way it’d been before.
But it hasn’t happened. Instead, from the first moment he stepped from the portal and found himself not in Central as he should have been but in an abandoned building in some place he can’t even seem to function properly in, everything seems to be getting worse. He’s had another lapse in time, more new dreams and along with them, the blonde’s presence feels stronger than it’s ever been before.
Haniel was right. He shouldn’t have attempted travel again without training harder first. He acted brashly out of desperation and it’s done him absolutely no good.
With a heavy sigh, Jun pushes the plush comforter and sheets away from his lean frame before sitting up. His gaze travels immediately down to find himself naked before glancing around to find his clothing sitting dry, nearby. He doesn’t remember this either so when did he…?
Shaking his head once to clear it, he pulls his garments from their place before rising up to dress. With the dry silken fabric covering him once more, he reaches back to tug the remains of his once immaculate braid from his shirt. Pulling the long locks over his shoulder, he slips the small golden clip from tangled ends and slides it up to his lips. Combing long fingers through the damp mass, he loosens the strands before gathering the snowy locks together and with a few easy, well practiced twists, his hair is woven together once more. Securing the ends with one hand, he reaches for the delicate filigree clip with the other only to have his movements come to a sudden and abrupt stop when another strong sense of déjà vu washes over his lithe frame.
He’s done this before, he’s certain of it. Only he wasn’t standing in this room, he was elsewhere. His hair had been shorter, his eyes a single color and his bangs dyed perfectly to match. As swiftly as the feeling set in, it changes and without warning, the walls begin to feel as if they are closing in on him, stifling what little breath he has left in his lungs.
Something inside of him is screaming at him to get out, to get as far away from this structure as he can, return to the Heavens and never look back. The need is overwhelming, causing a panic to rise up in him that he’s never experienced before and as it was the night prior when he found himself running away from Haniel and his home, the clip is torn from his mouth, secured around his hair before his feet begin moving on their own.
Tapered fingers grasp at the room’s doorknob and he twists it hastily, tearing the door open before stepping into the hall. His steps are swift as he moves down the darkened hallway and into the kitchen, his damp overcoat left on the island counter ignored as he moves around it towards the living area beyond. There’s no thought at all to his movements, his body compelled on its own and every step taken as fast as the beating of his heart. But just as he clears the island, his footfalls come to an abrupt stop when he finds the Seeker slumped over against the wall, his knees pulled to his chest and his face buried in his hands.
There’s no movement from either man as he stares down at the blonde for what feels like an eternity in disbelief, working frantically to pull his thoughts together while attempting to determine whether or not the other man is even there. His scent is solid; he knows that much, but he created the blonde, his mind made him up so how can he possibly be sitting here in front of him now? How can he possibly be real?
A minute passes, then another and finally, the one before him slowly begins to lift his head. When black eyes rise upwards to meet his dual toned gaze something inside of him snaps and like a floodgate being torn open, the memory of him dying streams mercilessly through his head. He fights alongside the blonde whose golden eyes are blazing, seeking him out for a moment of comfort when he knows he shouldn’t before there’s pain, searing and terrible inside of his chest that sends his body falling towards the ground. He’s caught a moment later and a face no longer obscured is looking down at him in despair, yelling his name, pleading for him to fight while the life in him is draining steadily away. Again and again he watches it happen, and again and again, he feels himself die. Crying out, the palm of his hand flies upward to press against his eyes in a futile attempt to block the visions out while the other clenches tightly around the fabric covering his chest when he’s stabbed for the hundredth time, the pain he feels real and tangible, searing and blinding as it strikes his heart.
“Stop it.” Jun breathes through gritted teeth, pleading to the visions just as he did the night prior. But his plea goes unanswered when they continue to flood him time and time again, his words taking on an almost desperate tone. “It hurts too much so please, please just stop.”
Zephyr: He has no idea how long the Angel has been standing near him in the kitchen before the throbbing of his head eases enough for him to notice his presence. Maybe whatever he came here for has been found and he’ll just walk away, out of this house, and as far away from him as possible. He can return to Nova to nurse these new wounds and immerse himself in his duties so deeply he has no time to dwell on this violation that’s been committed against the one he ones. Because a violation is exactly what this is, a defiling of Jun’s memory and the life he lived, a corruption by the creation of this clone.
Black eyes crack open enough to see immaculate white shoes just a few steps away, and he stares for a long moment until it becomes apparent that they’re not intending to take any further steps. With effort he lifts his head, gradient-shaded white-gold and coal dark hair slipping over one shoulder. Traveling up the slim frame once again clad in silken, monochromatic clothing, his gaze meets the stranger’s, struck once more by how very similar he is to the one he loves. So much is nearly identical–the lips he kissed a million times, the tapered fingers that had teased him time and time again, the feather softness of his hair, the pale, velvety skin, the slim width of his shoulders and hips. Those bastards got most of this copy correct, it pains him to admit, the likeness more the same than different, but the realization serves only to intensify the leaden pain in the blonde’s chest.
The white and pink flecked eyes that stare down are filled with a confusion that’s matched on delicate features, one Zephyr doesn’t understand. If anyone should be confused, it should be him, and all he feels aside from shock and hurt is a building anger. The Angel is the one who came here, who invaded his home, so what the hell is his problem? Did he think he wouldn’t come when the alarms were triggered? It’s true that he no longer lives here, but this place is precious to him, and he doesn’t appreciate the intrusion by a clone. He’s about to tell the stranger to get out, to leave and never return, when a cry tears from the Angel’s lips. Pain crumples his face, dual-tinted eyes slamming shut just before one hand rises to press against them. The other knots in the fabric directly over his heart, clenching the delicate fabric as the request for whatever is suddenly assaulting him to stop is uttered through grit teeth.
Setting one hand against the wall at his back, Zephyr rises to his feet with a fluidity and grace that belie the pulsing ache in his head and the surge of dizziness that follows. “That’s enough,” he tells the stranger, unsure whether this is some kind of act or whether the shorter man is actually in distress. When the only response is another whimper and appeal for the pain to stop, he tries again, his tone cold and demanding. “Whatever this game is, you will end it. Now.”
The Selestarri’s demand goes ignored, the hand the Angel holds over his heart clutching at the fabric of his jacket so tightly it seems it will tear at any moment. Every muscle is held rigidly, braced against an attack the Seeker can neither see nor understand. Again that voice–Jun’s voice–implores the pain to cease, almost breaking with a desperation so plain it catches Zeph’s breath. He stands for a moment, able to do nothing but watch as the stranger continues to plead, to beg, for an end with a face that’s so close to Jun’s it’s as though he’s watching the person he loves in agony. It cracks something in him, something deep that triggers instincts that have lain dormant for ten years . Reaching out, he wraps his hand around the Angel’s, holding it tight even as his voice snaps out to echo through the house with the commanding sharpness he reserves for the battlefield, unable to stop himself from using a name that doesn’t belong to this copy. “Jun, look at me! Look!”