|The Roslyn Chronicles Book One: Grey
Author: PrincipalityJokes PM
Angels are watching over Ben Roslyn. At least, that's what his father always told him. And now he's starting to believe it.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Family - Chapters: 28 - Words: 69,999 - Reviews: 27 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 04-15-13 - Published: 09-07-11 - id: 2950330
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
He was burning. Tongues of blistering flame licked at his skin. Scorching heat… was he in Hell? He squirmed, tried to struggle. His limbs felt like lead, heavy and uselessly uncoordinated.
Something cool and damp swabbed across his forehead.
"Shh, easy perrito," a soft voice told him, warm and lilting with a pleasant accent eased. A gentle hand stroked his sweaty hair. "Easy, baby, you have a fever."
He wrinkled his brow, a weak cough rattling his ribs.
"Amy, why are we doing this?" A man's voice, tired and quiet.
"Amy, there is a kid in our spare room, sent here by an angel. We don't know who he is, why he's here, and you're practically itching to adopt him. Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Gentle fingers card through his bangs, a cool touch against his blazing forehead. "We can't throw him out on the streets, Tyler. He's just a baby. And Ramiel said-"
"I don't care what Ramiel said, Amy. I don't… I don't like this."
"He's sick, Tyler. Look at him, does he look bad to you?" The woman sighed and the fingers stopped their rhythmic stroking. "At least let him stay until he's better."
The conversation faded, lulling Val back into oblivion, riding the tides of unconsciousness.
. . .
In his dreams he saw the Roslyns. They grieved for Charles, struggled through the grey of mourning, fought to carry on their lives.
He watched Jack, working the diner, forcing on a smile every day. Lenore, baking, flipping through pages of scrapbooks, reminiscing. Robert, serious as always, throwing himself into his work, saving every life he could and knowing it would never make up for the loss of his uncle. Catcher, up to his elbows in motor oil and machines, losing himself to the music in his garage. And Ben, dear God, lost and broken Ben…
"Hey," Catcher flopped onto the tartan couch, eyeing the book in Ben's hands. "The Crusades? Is it interesting?"
Ben nodded, looking up at his cousin with blank, tired eyes. His skin had taken on a mournful, ashen appearance, dark circles smeared under his eyes by one-too-many sleepless nights.
God, he looks awful. This is all so messed up.
Catcher didn't notice the way Ben winced and shook his head, trying to dislodge the phantom voice from his mind. Digging under the coffee table, the mechanic produced a chessboard, setting up the pieces with careful deliberation. "You still play, right?"
"Yeah," Ben reached out, rearranging the pieces in their correct line-up. "Dad and I played sometimes." He remembered rainy evenings, curled on the couch in whatever apartment they'd moved into, the chessboard between them, each carefully plotting their strategy.
"Well," Catcher sat back, folding his hands with a funny sort of smile. "I challenge you to a match, then."
Somehow Ben managed a smile, the expression feeling unwieldy and strange on his face. "You really want to do that?" He asked, raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Catch, you suck at chess."
Catcher shrugged, moving a pawn. "Then I'll accept defeat when it comes. Your move."
Setting aside his book, Ben 'hmm'ed thoughtfully, studying the board. He leaned forward, setting his own piece into play.
Nodding, Catcher murmured "good move, good move." As if he actually had any idea what Ben was doing.
Ben snorted, watching carefully as Catcher made his move. "Do you have any idea how to play, or are you just moving the pieces around?"
"Mostly just moving pieces," Catcher admitted with a smile. "How've you been feeling, since… you know-?"
Since the crash. The funeral. Since his world had started falling to bits. How could he describe the aching emptiness in his heart, the rage and grief and feelings of 'I should never have survived, God, what's happening to me'? Ben didn't think there were words for what he felt. "Honestly, Catch, I feel like a big freaking mess right now. I… I still need time to just wrap my head around things." He frowned. "That's a stupid move."
Catcher shrugged, hazel eyes drifting up from the chessboard to study Ben. "We're all worried about you, kiddo. I get that you're grieving, we all are, but, if you need to talk about it…" He sighed. "We can't lose you, too, Ben."
Ben smiled sadly, claiming his cousin's bishop. "You're worried I'm going crazy. Some sort of post-traumatic break with reality thing, right?"
"What am I supposed to think, Ben? You've been… not you. Spaced out." He raked his nails through the scruff along his jaw, worried. "Are you gonna be okay?"
"Honey, what are you doing?"
Ben's head snapped up, silver eyes locking on Lenore. "Huh?"
Standing in the kitchen entryway, his aunt watched him with curious, frightened hazel eyes. "Playing chess with yourself?" She asked, trying for levity. Ever since the accident, he's been… off. I hope this gets better…
"No…" Ben frowned at her, gesturing to the couch. "Catch is…"
In the time it had taken for Ben to look away from the couch, to his aunt, and back, Catcher had disappeared.
"Catcher is what, Ben?" A little furrow appeared between Lenore's brows.
"He was right here!" The young man exclaimed, gesturing wildly at the couch. "Just a second ago. We were playing chess… He, he was…"
"Honey, Catcher's been down at the shop all afternoon," Lenore breathed, twisting the dishtowel in her hands. What's wrong with him? "Are you all right?" Crossing the carpet she felt his forehead. "No fever…"
"I'm…" Ben stared at the empty spot on the couch. He could have sworn… God. Was he losing his mind? "Yeah, Lenore. I'm… I'm all right."
"Are you sure, honey? You look like you've seen a ghost." God, he's sick. Is he delirious?
Running a hand through his hair, Ben sighed. "I'm fine. I think the painkillers they gave me are making me feel a little woozy, that's all."
Lenore pursed her lips, skeptical.
Ben tried for a winning smile and failed miserably. "Seriously, I'm gonna be fine," he lied. He wasn't fine, wasn't going to be fine in any sense of the word. He was falling apart, spiraling. How long until he crashed and burned?
"Are you sure you don't want a glass of water or something?" He loved Lenore and everything she'd done for him, but at that moment, all Ben wanted to do was run and hide from her mothering glances.
"I'm sure," he assured her, hastily scooping up the chess pieces and returning them and the board back to their home under the coffee table. "I'm fine. I'm just going to go upstairs, lie down for a little while…" His hands trembled, chest tightening as he backed away, racing up the stairs.
Breathing hard, vision blurring, Ben stumbled into the guest room, locking the door. Hold it together… calm down… just breathe… He sagged bonelessly, like a puppet who's strings had been cut, sprawling lifelessly onto his bed as the first sobs wrenched past his lips.
"What's happening to me?" He asked the pillows, screwing his eyes shut against the pain. "Why? Why me?" He punched the pillow, enjoying the lance of pain up his arm as his knuckles collided with the headboard. "First Mom, now my Dad… and, and now…" A hysteric laugh bubbled up in his throat. "Now I'm going crazy!"
"You're not crazy," a soft voice assured him. "At least, I don't think you're crazy."
Biting back a scream, Ben flinched, turning to face the voice. "You!" The green-eyed angel, Val, or something like that, blinked at him. "You are not real!"
Val looked better than the last time Ben had seen him. His young face was weary, dark circles smeared beneath his eyes, and he was trembling and pale, but at least he wasn't screaming and bloody anymore. "Are you all right?" he asked, ignoring Ben's horrified exclamation.
"No, I'm not 'all right'!" Ben huffed tiredly, scrubbing the tears from his eyes. "There is nothing 'all right' about me. My parents are dead, apparently there are demons after me, and now I'm talking to people who aren't real!"
Val frowned at him and, honest to God, it looked like he was pouting. The angel sighed heavily, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "This isn't going at all the way I'd hoped it would," he muttered.
"You and me both, pal," Ben groaned, flopping back onto the bed. Something snagged at his mind, and he popped up. "Where are your wings? If I'm imagining you, why can't I see your wings now?"
The angel sighed, exasperated. "You aren't imagining me. I'll prove it to you sooner or later." He glanced over his shoulder, as though noticing the absence of the tawny feather for the first time. "Huh. I'm not sure where they went. I guess I lost them when I changed."
Ben blinked. "What?"
The sigh that emerged from Val's lips was heavy enough that it could have bowled the angel over. "It appears I have a lot of explaining to do." He gestured at the end of the bed near Ben's socked foot. "May I?"
"Knock your socks off," Ben shrugged, drawing his knees up. Might as well listen to the crazy angel hallucination…
Val settled cross-legged on the edge of the bed, chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip. "I wish I'd had more time to speak with your father," he mumbled low enough that Ben almost missed it. "He could have explained this so much better than I can-"
"Wait…" Ben held up his hands, shell-shocked. "You saw my father? Is… is he-?"
"He's in Heaven," Val nodded solemnly, a small, mournful smile creeping onto his lips. "He was reunited with your mother the night before I fell. They're so proud of you."
Ben gaped, speechless. "They… they're happy, right?"
Val nodded, his bright eyes heavy with sorrow. "They're at peace. But they miss you."
Ben closed his eyes, holding his head in his hands. This couldn't be happening… "This is… this isn't real. Tell me this is a dream. I'll wake up, and everything will be just fine…"
"I'm sorry," Val said, shaking his head. "I wish I could. There are so many thing I wish I could fix. But I can't… I can't do anything anymore." He couldn't bring himself to look Ben in the eye, instead staring at his hands as he twisted and tangled his fingers in his lap. "I thought maybe I could help you. But… I think I just made things worse."
"What'd you do?" Ben whispered, hushed in awe and fear.
The compelling little angel looked up at him with the saddest of smiles. "A lot of things I probably wasn't supposed to." He sighed. "I… see things. And, I paint what I see. The future, all different versions of it. I'm not very good at it. I get confused, and I can't look very far or I get lost. But I've been watching over your family for a long time. I saw you die in that accident, but I've seen your future. It's so bright. And, I couldn't let it go to waste. I couldn't lose you." Rubbing awkwardly at the back of his neck the boy looked down at the mismatched pattern of the quilt he was sitting on. "Vigil in my position aren't allowed to intervene. We're not supposed to do anything to alter the course of events unless expressly ordered to do so by our superiors. I intervened, though. I saved you."
The golden light. The angel in the hospital, turning up again, bloody and hurting in Ben's bedroom. "They punished you for it?"
Val nodded absently. "They put me in the Dark Rooms for a week. Very bad place." He blushed. "Sorry for scaring you like that… I didn't mean to appear to you. It just sort of… happened. I was put on trial before the Council. They think I'm dangerous," at this the boy outright laughed. "I have no idea why. But, I got cast out."
"Out of Heaven?" Ben gaped. "Like… like a Fallen angel?"
Cradling his head in his hands, Val couldn't even bring himself to look at Ben. "Yes," he whispered. "I-I thought it was a good idea. I couldn't stay on Earth without the permission of the Council, and there's no way in Heaven, Hell, or Earth that they'd agree to that. So, I thought I could drain my Grace. Stay on Earth as a human… protect you." Val sighed. "I-I think maybe that was a bad idea."
"Why?" Ben could hardly believe what he was hearing. He had a guardian angel? Who was 'the Council'? How could Val see the future? What were 'Dark Rooms'? And why was Val doing all of this?
Val gave him a self-deprecating look. "I didn't really think things through," he admitted softly. "I'm not so sure what I'm doing. But I promise, I will do whatever it takes to help you. I just… I need time to think." Were Ben's eyes playing tricks on him, or was Val slowly fading out of focus?
"Can I ask you something?"
It was the question that had been weighing on his mind since the beginning of all of this. One that he still didn't have an answer to. "Why me? Why is all of this happening to me?"
Val shrugged, smiling. "That really is the question, isn't it?" He mused softly. "And I'm afraid I don't have a very good answer."
Ben blinked. "Did you just… flicker?"
Val looked down at himself, a little puzzled frown on his face. "I think I did. I'm being pulled back to my corporeal form. I think I was sick. Something called a 'fever'." And, yeah, he was definitely fading, growing paler and more indistinct by the second. "I'm sorry. I have to go. But I'll be back," he was quick to assure Ben. "Sooner rather than later, I hope."
And then he was gone, leaving Ben staring at the wall and wondering if he really was crazy.
It was almost an hour before the whispers started again.
. . .
"-is going on here, feather duster?"
"I apologize, Tyler, Ambriel." That voice. "I realize that this might be rather… inconvenient for you. I would have come sooner, but thing have been difficult in light of recent events."
Groaning, Val forced his heavy, uncooperative limbs to respond, pushing off the bed sheets. His chest rattled and he coughed roughly, lurching upright. Frowning, he blinked sleepily at the unfamiliar surroundings. A small, shabby apartment decorated with a hodge-podge of color and conflicting styles. He was curled up on a dilapidated blue futon, the white sheets pooled in his lap as he stared.
From somewhere behind him, a voice he knew as well as his own rumbled "Val?"
"R-Ramiel?" The little blond croaked, his voice sore and weak from disuse.
"Some part of me is inclined to think that you enjoy making me worry, little one," Ramiel sighed, eyeing his student with a reproachful smile. He looked funny in human clothes. Light jeans and a handsome leather jacket. It was… different from the flowing robes and sleek wings Val was used to.
Val offered a lopsided smile. "It does seem that way," he admitted mirthfully. The warmth faded from his eyes and his face turned solemn. "I messed everything up, didn't I?"
Ramiel's eyes slid away from his like oil over water. "You followed your own path," the Superior Vigil said at last. "You always have."
"How are you feeling, perrito?" A warm voice asked. A woman, young and vivid, seated herself carefully on the edge of the coffee table, taking his head into her soft hands. "Your fever is broken now, but for a while you had us all very worried."
There was something in her musical accent that made Val like her immediately. He opened his mouth to answer-
"All right. Somebody want to clue me in?" A harsh voice griped. "You've got some explaining to do, Ramiel."
The woman turned to arch an eyebrow at the speaker, a tall, broad-shouldered man with low, scowling brows. "Tyler!" Turning back to Val she sighed, shaking her head despairingly. "My fiancé. I'm Ambriel." Looking between Tyler and Ramiel, Ambriel sighed, pursing her full lips. "I think we all have some explaining to do," she agreed, mimicking Tyler's statement. "Let's start with why he's here," looking to Ramiel she nodded at Val.
Val suddenly found the threadbare carpet very interesting. "Iwasbanished," he mumbled.
"What?" Tyler leaned in, biceps straining unhappily at his sleeves.
"I was banished," Val whispered in a tiny voice, his green eyes flitting uncertainly toward Ramiel.
Squeezing his student's hand encouragingly, Ramiel nodded, picking up where the little blond's voice failed him. "Valoel was assigned to watch over a family known as the 'Roslyns'. He intervened where it was not allowed to save the life of one of the family members. This act of insubordination, coupled with other… circumstances, led the Council members to vote in favor of his exile." He turned to Val with a raised eyebrow and a wry smile. "I still fail to understand what you were thinking, giving up your Grace like that."
Val twisted his hands, worrying at his lower lip. "I... thought that if I could make myself human, give my power to Ben for protection... I don't know. I'd hoped that things would be easier on Earth. That once I was here I could find Ben and protect him..."
"And how's that workin' out for you?" Tyler sniped.
Val sighed. "Maybe not so well..." Glancing sheepishly at Ramiel he murmured "is the Council angry?"
Ramiel nodded. "Furious. Things have been... difficult. Val, I need to know; is what you are doing right? I have risked a great deal defending your actions." He lowered his voice, eyes earnest. "I love you like a son, Val, I should not. But I do. However, my duty is to Heaven. Are you absolutely certain that Ben Roslyn needed to be saved? By changing his fate are you certain you have changed events for the better?"
Every pair of eyes in the room had fallen on Val. He shivered beneath the weight of their stares. "I hope so," he admitted softly. "But I'm not certain of anything right now."