May as well stick in a reminder to anyone just starting to read this; you’re doing it wrong. Ha! Go back to Muse (1) and start there. Ever try to watch an episode of 24 midseason? That’s what you’re doing right now. Start at the beginning, trust me.
Thanks again to everyone else for sticking around and following this; mad love to you all.
And I Won’t Pray For You…
“I don’t think you understand how serious this is, Michael,” Paul said through the phone into my ear. “Every time I talk to you I feel like I’m just repeating myself.”
“You’re fuckin’ kidding me, right? I’m the one out here doing it, Paul. How could I not know how serious it is? I lit a guy on fire two days ago.”
There was a heavy sigh, distorting the phone before Paul went on. “I know, you told me already. This is exactly what I’m talking about, though. You’ve taken this really far, Michael.”
“It’s far from over, Paul. It’s probably going to get worse before it’s over. Fuck all that, though. How’s my mother?”
“She’s terrified! How did you expect her to be!?” Paul yelled down the line.
“I meant are you keeping her clear of all this?” I asked him.
“As best I can, yeah. There’s a lot of heat, Michael…a lot. Do you watch the news? Read the papers?”
“No…not really. Why? Should I?” I asked.
“Let’s just say you guys are a hot topic right now. You’ve been going around the country massacring criminals and leaving bodies knee deep behind you. There’s offers too…”
“Offers?” I asked Paul. “What kind of offers?”
“Books, movies, TV, interviews. You name it. I could get you millions right now if you came in, fucking millions Michael. Of course you’d also get the death penalty so you wouldn’t be able to spend any of it.”
“I don’t give a fuck about money, dude. You know that,” I told him.
“I know,” Paul replied, then shifted gears on me. “Did you hear what I said about the death penalty? This is serious, Michael.”
“I heard you, Paul. I just don’t care. Not for me anyways. Start finding a way to get Bec and Sam and especially Magda out of this if it all goes south.”
“How do you expect me to do that, exactly? You all laugh at security cameras. You don’t even wear masks. You do this shit on public streets doing the fucking daytime. I don’t have any options here. There are no loopholes for what you’re doing. You understand that, right?”
“I guess,” I said, quieter. “What about Sam’s old NSA stuff? From the war…”
“There were people in places of power that knew about the angels and demons and all that and they had their backs. They weren’t going around killing civilians. You on the other hand…”
“…are going around killing civilians. I get it. We’re fucked then?” I asked him.
“You’re pretty much fucked Michael. I wish I had better news for you, but I don’t know what you thought I could do anyway. I was just a public defender when this all started. I’m probably going to end up fucked over all of this, too. I’m calling you from a payphone right now because the FBI bugged my office. I’m still with you though, don’t worry about that.”
“You’re solid shit, Paul. Thanks. Let’s talk about the ‘whys’ for a bit and I’ll let you go. Grab your notebook.”
Paul took down the things I had to say, the ‘deeper underlying shit’ as I saw it. Those notebooks he scribbled it all down in must have read like a crazy person’s description of a lunatic. Endless justification for Wrath. The mental meanderings of a mass murderer. He was building a map of my own twisted morality. A manifesto of some violent and demented road trip that could only end one way. His career was completely fucked, he was right.
“Alright, you should go,” I said to him. “But I need something else from you. For you actually.”
“Okay…” Paul said, his tone a familiar acceptance of the bent and macabre.
“Pick the best book offer and take it,” I said.
“You’re going to write a book?”
“No, you are. Take it for yourself. I don’t want anything to do with it. If only one person lands on their feet out of all of this I want it to be you. Just don’t make me look like a dick.”
“I don’t think I want to write a book, Michael.”
“Then don’t. I’m just sayin’ Paul…you need to get something for all of this shit I’m putting on you.”
“I’ll think about it,” he said. “Just take care of yourself out there. Don’t get caught…”
I hung up and thought about what he said. If we did get caught we really were fucked. Totally fucked. I wasn’t about to start killing cops. None of us were. What happened with the trucker and the cyclist was as bad as I was willing to let it get. I let it slide for now; Christopher could hook us up, Samael had people too. I couldn’t imagine anyone worth their job giving up on searching for me, but there were some pretty deep places to hide in the world.
We were half a day’s drive from New York and everyone was waiting for me to get off the phone with Paul so we could get there and finish this. I got back into the car where we were parked at a roadside turnout along the highway and Sam started driving.
“You guys need to do something for me,” I said after a bit of silence, just the whir of the tires on the road and the radio barely audible. “When this is done you all need to get far gone. We haven’t talked about that part yet.”
“There’s places,” Samael said. “We’ll be fine as long as no one here wants to live large afterwards, yeah?”
“I know you’ll be fine. They’ll look for me forever though. Take care of yourselves first, alright?”
“What are you talking about, Michael?” Magda asked in her soft voice.
“Nothing. Just rambling. Thinking out loud. You three are the first priority though, alright?”
“We’ll be fine,” Magda said, lacing her fingers with mine and holding my hand in both of hers. “Maybe we’ll live in some little village on a mountain or something.”
I squeezed her hands with mine and tried to smile. Becca was looking back between the front seats at me, just her face turned over her shoulder to make eye contact with me.
“What’s the deal, Michael? Already planning for the end?” she thought at me, hard enough to get my attention.
“Leave it alone, Bec,” I thought back.
“No. If you don’t tell her what you’re planning, I will.”
“Oh? What am I planning?” I shot back at her.
“You’re going to give yourself up so we can get away. It’s bullshit and you know it. Pariah to messiah to martyr; and you’re not even going to tell her?”
“No one said anything about me giving myself up,” I told her in her head. “You’re being melodramatic.”
“And you’re being a little cunt,” her thoughts seethed at me. “You don’t have to say it, I can tell.”
“I didn’t think it either. It was just an option.”
“You didn’t have to think it, it’s all over your face,” Becca thought while turning back to face front. “Just don’t do anything stupid. She loves you, and despite what a little shit you are you guys are good for each other.”
“Why are you such a bitch to me sometimes, Bec? What did I ever do to you?”
“You think I’m a bitch? You should meet my mother. Just tell Magda before you do anything stupid or I’ll never forgive you. Leave me alone now, get out of my head Michael.”
“Is everything okay?” Magda asked me when I sneered a bit and looked out the window.
I looked back to her, trying again to smile, nodding my head at her. “What? Yeah. It’s all good.”
Becca let out a little disgusted snort of laughter in the front seat. I could tell by the way Sam looked at her then at me in the rearview mirror, cocking his eyebrow at me, that he knew something was up.
“Good,” Magda said, leaning her head on my shoulder.
The city was looming ahead of us despite the distance. Ephra was there. The future was there, and in a way so was the past. A whole hell of a lot of past. The silence, normally my friend, was getting to me. The tension in the car, courtesy of me and Becca, was a tangible thing.
“Someone tell me something I don’t know,” I said just to break the mood.
“Who has that kind of time?” Becca asked acidically.
“Fuck you Bec,” I thought to her.
She looked over her shoulder at me again, her eyes narrowed. “Little Michael wants a story? Fine. I’ll tell you a story if you want.”
“What’s going on you two?” Samael asked.
“Nothing,” I lied.
“Just cranky today I guess,” Becca told him. “Want to hear a story about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, Michael?”
“What’s with this subtext?” Sam asked her. “Are you two in a spat over something? I’m missing something, yeah?”
“It’s nothing,” Becca replied, kissing Sam on the cheek. “Motels are just making me cranky. Hey Magda…want me to tell you how Sam and I got married?”
“Sure…” Magda said, lifting her head off my shoulder.
“Oh not this,” Samael said pleadingly. “This makes me sound like a royal arse. Don’t take the piss, Bec.”
She smiled at him then glared at me.
This Scar Makes Her Heart Stronger…
I’d grown up seeing my mother on TV, but seeing her on TV in the middle of some kind of supernatural urban battlefield was something you just don’t get used to easily. Me and my sister Jasmine had pulled out of school to study at home as soon as we moved in with Mark and Lisa. I missed our house, but apparently it was for our own safety. Our mother, Cassidy, was making enemies all over the place and there was no telling what these types of people would do to get at her. Mark and Lisa’s house was supposed to be safe though, there was something about Aliona that made their enemies stay away from there.
I didn’t really get it at the time. With what they were doing, how could their enemies make it worse by coming after her home? I didn’t know what Wrath was. I knew mad, I knew angry, I even knew a bit about rage. I didn’t understand Wrath though until I saw Sara die on TV. My heart felt like it had stopped and then burst in my chest as I watched her wing cleaved from her body and a sword rammed through her guts. My mouth locked open in a silent scream and as upset as I was tears wouldn’t come. Jasmine ran out of the room and found Mark and Lisa but none of them could make me snap my eyes away from the screen, even after they turned it off.
I suppose that explains how I know so much about loss. I’d only known her a few months but I’d fallen for her hard. She’d been the first person to make me feel like I was my own person and not some extension of my mother’s personality and drive to control the world around her through her presence. I’d only been with her, I mean really been with her, twice. All afternoon and evening the day I met her, and again before her and Sam left to go fight their stupid war. After that they stayed away from me to keep me safe. I loved her though. I really liked Sam, but I loved Serielle. I thought I’d found a best friend, a soul mate, someone I’d have at my side forever.
None of that explains how I came to understand Wrath though. For that I have Sam to thank. It was the look on his face as Sara was killed. It was like a collapsing star, all the light turning into a deep blackness and sucking everything in around it. He’d always seemed so gentle, so caring. I was so jealous of him at that moment. Jealous that he had the power to do what I could not; avenge Serielle. These were the thoughts in my mind, but you couldn’t have known that if you were in the same room as me. For three weeks I didn’t say anything; I just sat wide eyed and tried to cry and couldn’t. Inside I was churning and spinning out of control with how badly I wanted her back, but on the outside I was just this shocked and staring girl.
Jasmine tried to snap me out of it by showing me the footage of Samael killing the angel that had killed Sara but that didn’t make it any better. It didn’t make it worse; it couldn’t possibly have been worse. It didn’t make it any better either, though. The camera angle was perfect. That weird sicko Gavin was a master behind a camera. You could still plainly see Sara and her torn wing in the shot. My sister was worried about me. Worried that I’d never snap out of it. Worried that I’d never eat or sleep again. Worried that her big sister was gone for good.
Eventually I did of course. I slowly came out, a little bit at a time. Mark and Lisa gave me my space. Jasmine tried every now and then to help me get better. No one was really happy around there. It was a weird place to live at a weird time in the world’s history. Angels and demons warring on TV, angels killing each other, people waking up to what had been going on around them in the margins for thousands of years. Those of us that were close to the ones doing it but who couldn’t get involved and help out were all cooped up there together…waiting. Waiting for it to be over. Waiting for someone else to die.
As the war went on and I slowly started to talk and do things again I watched everything I could about it on TV. I’d do it alone in my room because I couldn’t bear to be in the same room with a bunch of other worried people, watching with their hands over their mouths and tears in their eyes. I didn’t really care about them or what they were feeling. I was just watching to see Samael do something else I couldn’t do. Take someone’s head off. Rip someone apart with his hands. Spread his blood covered wings and leave a swath of dead in his wake. I became obsessed with the violence and the death and how through him I hoped to have my own burning anger quenched in blood.
It ended eventually, in Cairo in the summer, and suddenly they were all just normal people like me. None of them had the power anymore to help me find catharsis through their actions. I was still mad. I still missed her. She was still gone. They all came home and the whole galaxy seemed to change its rotation so that little baby Michael was at the center of it. No one even seemed to remember Serielle and I hated that stupid little brat for it. He cried a lot. Aliona and Lisa doted over him, which was fine with me because I didn’t actually like either of them very much; Lisa was really bossy and Aliona always freaked me out a little bit. Mark basically disappeared, which sucked because he had a way of just sitting there being calm on the outside that made me feel a little better inside. Jasmine always wanted to hold the baby, which bugged me because all the attention she’d been giving me was his now. And Samael…well Samael just loomed and said nothing.
I couldn’t tell you exactly why but I was really angry with him. I’d expected him to come back with a look of accomplishment in his eyes and through that I wanted to know that it was done. Instead his eyes were just…empty. Seeing him on TV, laying waste with the Wrath of the ages, had been very different from being in the same room with him when it was all over.
One day he was over at the house and I didn’t know it. I went down into the basement to see if Mark was there in his studio but instead I found Sam sitting in the chair behind the control desk listening to some old German music of some kind. He had it turned up really loud and his back was to me. Somehow I could hear him though. It’s more like I could see what he was thinking, not hear. They were images of Serielle, dancing to the music he was listening to. Her twinkling green eyes, her red hair spinning around her as she twirled around on her toe and did a pirouette. It was beautiful and it broke my heart. Before I could think about what I was saying, something resolved in my mind. A focus was achieved, legitimate or not. I spoke.
“Why’d you let her die then?” I asked. Sam didn’t move, he couldn’t hear me over the music, his elbows were still on the desk and his face was in his hands. I spoke louder, not realizing it but yelling with my mind as well. “Why’d you let her die!?”
Samael’s head snapped up and he spun the chair around to face me, sliding down a fader on the mixing desk as he did so. Suddenly we were in a silent room together and you could cut the air with a knife. His face was a mask of grief quickly turning to anger but he didn’t say anything. Sometimes when you get mad it takes over and find yourself somewhere above yourself and to left, watching on in shock as you do and say things you would never normally do or say.
“Why’d you let her die, Sam!?” I yelled, grief tearing wide a hole and pouring out for the first time since she’d died. “WHY!?”
“Don’t do this,” Sam said quietly, narrowing his eyes and shaking his head. “You’re just a girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Just a girl? JUST A GIRL!?” I shouted, sobbing. “I LOVED HER! AND YOU LET HER DIE!!!”
He was biting his lips, flaring his nostrils, breathing hard and shaking. He gripped the arms of the chair hard like he was trying to hold himself in it. His voice quavered as he spoke, quietly. “Seriously…shut the fuck up, yeah?”
“FUCK YOU!” I screamed at him.
Before I knew it I’d stepped over and slapped him across the face. I was drawing my hand back to hit him again when he came out of the chair. His left palm hit me in the stomach and threw me back across the room as his right backhanded me across the cheek. I curled up and looked between my arms up at him standing over me and I didn’t recognize him. Not as the Samael I’d known anyways. He was the Samael from TV all over again, his arm raised to strike down at me again. I shrieked in fear; I’d never been so afraid before. I saw flash through my mind all the things I’d seen him do during their war, not the things we’d done together when Sara was still alive.
As his arm came down towards me I huddled tighter into a ball as he struck me. He raised his hand for another blow, but it never came. There was a crashing sound and I looked up to see someone else standing over me, one foot on each side of my body. Sam was sprawled on the floor, coming quickly to his feet. He lunged at the guy standing over me, Christopher, only to get a fist in the side of the neck and put into a choke hold.
“Sam! What the fuck are you doing!?” Christopher was grunting as Samael struggled to free himself. He jerked harder on Sam’s neck, lifting him from the ground, and Sam’s body went limp.
I was too scared to move. I pushed myself up part way and leaned against the doorframe as Christopher let Sam slip to the floor. He turned and knelt beside me, asking me if I was okay. I couldn’t answer, all I could do was stare at Samael.
“Hey!” Christopher said to me, snapping his fingers in my face. “Are you okay?”
I put my hand to my cheek, tears coming to my eyes and my bottom lip shaking.
“Come on, get up,” he said softly, taking my hand and pulling me to my feet. Sam was starting to stir on the floor of the studio and I flinched when he moved. “Go upstairs.”
I backed out of the room and as soon as Sam was out of sight I turned and ran up the stairs, past the curious and concerned in the kitchen, up more stairs, and slammed the door of my room. I hurled myself onto my bed and buried my face in my pillow. Some minutes later someone came in and put their hand on my back, making me jump.
“Shhh,” Avrielle said. “It’s only me.”
“Get out!” I yelled into my pillow. “LEAVE ME ALONE!”
“I just want to talk about what happened. Christopher told us…”
“GET OOUUTT!!!” I screamed.
“Do it,” I heard Christopher’s voice say. “Get out Av.”
The bed moved and I heard her leave, closing the door behind her. I thought I was alone so I looked up to see Christopher standing there.
“Can I sit?” he asked me, pointing at the chair by the window. I nodded mutely, wiping my face. I’d never spent any time around Christopher, but he had a calm bearing, much like Mark, and I didn’t mind his presence for some reason. I felt like I had something in common with him, though I wouldn’t know for years yet what that was.
“Don’t try and make excuses for that asshole,” I said, my voice still thick with tears.
Christopher held up his hand, palm out, shaking his head. “I won’t. I’m not going to pat your back and tell you that it’s okay. Don’t worry though, he’s gone. He left. Aliona kicked him out. You would have liked to have seen that…”
“I’m not worried,” I said, trying to sound tough. “I dare him to come back.”
“Don’t say that, you don’t mean it,” Christopher went on. “Becca, do you know what PTSD is?”
“Some sort of psychological thing soldiers get.”
“I’ve been doing this sort of thing all my life. I’ve seen really great men come home from a fight and beat their wives. Rob banks. Drink themselves dead. You name it, I’ve seen it. Sam’s rattled really bad, Becca. Really bad. You’ve seen what he’s done, right?”
“Yeah, so?” I asked stubbornly.
“He’s got nothing left, Becca. Nothing. He lost everything when Serielle died but he kept fighting. It made him harder. It made him better at the job. But now that’s over and he’s got nothing.”
“I think…I loved her. He’s not the only one that lost something, you know,” I was trying not to start crying again and failing bad. Christopher made no move to comfort me or even offer me a tissue from the little table beside where he sat and something about that I kind of liked.
“Maybe that would have been a better thing to say to him,” he told me calmly. “You’re not the only one who loved her.”
I writhed inside, trying to accept that maybe Samael felt at least as bad as I did. I was 19. Selflessness wasn’t exactly a strong suit of mine, especially with the female role model I’d grown up with. It wasn’t mean, it was a fact; my mother was a complete bitch.
“Yeah…maybe…” I said meekly. “Should I talk to him?”
“No. You shouldn’t. Not right now. He blames himself for what happened and all you did was tell him he was right. I’m not going to tell you it’s not your fault…because it is,” Christopher explained. I started to protest but he cut me off. “Not that he hit you, Becca. But it’s your fault for what you said. Own that. You said it.”
“Fine,” I said. I didn’t want to own it. I wanted to be mad at Sam still for letting Serielle die. “Fine. I guess.”
Christopher smiled a crooked smile at me. “Just keep saying that until it’s true, Becca.”
“I should apologize to him…” I started.
“No,” Christopher repeated. “I told you, not now. Give it a bit of time. I’m going to go find him and try to help him straighten his head out. What would you do if he snapped again? I know what I’m doing. You’ll get your chance.”
“Okay,” I said, getting up and wiping my eyes and nose with a tissue. “Thanks. For stopping him.”
“Don’t mention it. I’ll help him out somehow. You need to do something for me though.”
“What’s that?” I asked, sitting on the edge of my bed.
“Samael told me that you got in his head somehow. I’ve got a theory on something and I need your help. I’ve done it too, with Av. Aliona thinks there’s something not quite normal with Mark as well. Lisa told me you’re sharp…really sharp. If anyone can do this it’s you. I want to find out what all this means because I think it’s important. Or at least it will be.”
“Are you…are you offering me job?” I asked, confused.
“You and I both know that no one here needs to work a real job. Between Av, Sam, and Aliona there’s a fortune sitting around the world in banks and vaults. They’re old. No Becca…I’m offering you a chance to actually do something.”
“How’d you know I felt so useless?” I asked him.
“Look at the company we keep, kid. We were third wheels all along, all of us mortals. They’re all pretty much normal now; that makes it our turn to do something for a change. I’m offering you protection anywhere you need to go. I can get us places. I’m just not content to never know why we’re different. Are you?”
“I guess not,” I told him. I wasn’t. I knew there was something different about me, I just hadn’t thought too hard about it until that day. “I’ll do it…as long as you can bring Sam around.”
“I’ll get it done,” Christopher said. He stood up and shook my hand then left my room. He wasn’t patronizing me, he was treating me like an equal and I liked it.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to Sam for almost a year after that, though. Christopher took him on some globetrotting road trip. Jerusalem, Machu Pichu, Europe, Tibet. They went all the places Sam had ever been before in his long life as he tried to gain closure on a part of his him that was over and was never coming back. In the meantime I had started me and Christopher’s project in earnest. It started with family trees and went from there, deeper and further back into mankind’s history.
Even after a year it wasn’t easy talking to him. He was different. The light was back in his eyes. It dimmed when he first saw me though, me and Avrielle at the airport to meet them. A shadow crossed his face and he frowned and wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I told Christopher and Avrielle to go ahead of us and I pulled him to the side, jangling my keys in the air.
“You’re coming with me,” I said to Samael. He just nodded quietly and walked beside me.
We drove in silence and Samael didn’t even realize where we were until we arrived. No wonder though; you couldn’t recognize it anymore because of the park and the monument at its center. It was big and stone and permanent. Bigger than life size. Her wings spread, her arms in delicate poise, her left leg tucked up with her foot along her thigh and her right supporting her on her toe, her hair in ringlets around her shoulders and across her face, her head tilted gracefully to the side. Exactly as I’d seen it in Samael’s mind the last time I’d seen him.
We sat in my car and Sam stared out the window silently, eventually getting out and walking over to the base of the statue. I left him for a moment and then joined him at his side.
“You did this?” he asked quietly, his voice cracking.
“Mhm.” I let the next silence hang until he was ready.
“It’s perfect. How?” Sam whispered.
“Lisa drew it from my description. I put it in her head so she could see it. Then a sculptor sculpted it. That’s about it really.”
“You have no idea…” he started but had to stop to choke back a sob.
“Sure I do,” I told him. “That’s why it’s here.”
“Thanks,” he said softly.
After another minute of looking up at the monument built in a park that was once the intersection where Serielle had given her life, Sam turned to look at me. A bird chirped as it flew by, two lovers walked past holding hands, a mother held her crying baby as she sat on the edge of the other side of the statue, a jogger stopped to catch his breath.
“I’m sorry Becca.”
I shook my head and took his hand in mine. “Don’t be, Samael. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know,” Sam said to me. “I meant about the last time…when I…”
“Oh that,” I joked, pretending I didn’t know. “I forgive you. Just don’t do it again or I’ll castrate you, ‘kay?”
He smiled an easy smile and we just stood there looking into each other’s eyes for awhile.
“Can I tell you something a little twisted?” I asked him.
“I don’t think you can say anything that’ll surprise me, yeah?”
“We’ll see,” I said, adrenaline flooding my veins. “You’re all I have left of her Samael. I don’t want to lose that.”
His eyes went wide and he let go of my hand. His voice was odd…almost boyish…when he spoke. “What are you on about, Bec?”
“I think I know how you felt about my mother, and I know how you felt about Sara. I know how I felt about her too. We’re all the other has left of any of that.”
“And…?” he prompted me.
“Will you marry me, Samael?” I took a ring out of my jacket pocket and held it out to him. “This was my father’s. I want you to have it…”
He just stared at me dumbly like I’d slapped him. I felt foolish suddenly and blushed, tears coming to my eyes. Samael put his hand on the side of my cheek and took the ring from my hand before I could clench my fist shut around it and put it away.
“I’d be honored Becca.”
“This is a weird reason to get married, I know. I just…I want to…I can’t…you’re all that…” I stammered.
“Don’t explain,” Sam said, putting his arms around me and holding me close against his chest. “I get it, yeah? Don’t explain.”
We were married on a Tuesday in front of the monument to Serielle and everyone was there. I don’t think any of them got it at first but no one asked. Michael didn’t even cry during the ceremony and Aliona dressed somewhat less revealing than usual. As weddings go it was wonderful. The next week we left the country, me and Sam and Av and Christopher, searching for my roots in dark and faraway places. For most of them it felt like it was over, for me it was just beginning.
We talked about Serielle all the time and eventually fell in love.