Chapter Eight: Only a Dream?
Consciousness came to Miranda in such a way that she thought she was waking from a dream, or a nightmare.
Miranda rose slowly through one last set of visions – the ones that led up to the present. Cabal and his Trinity were on rotation when the alert came through and were assigned the rift in her living room. She watched as her husband warred between the dangers of exposing his new existence to people he knew in his previous life and the urgency to arrive before the demons could rip the place apart – his fear for her safety paramount among the mental arguments. She found herself inside his head as he did everything in his power to keep Miranda from figuring out it was him after their arrival. How he resigned himself finally to the idea that she had realized the truth.
As consciousness encroached and the images faded, Miranda found her brain trying to reject all that the nightmare had shown her. The demons – the rescue by an angel band including her dead husband –all seemed surreal and silly. The fantastic journey she'd been shown in between – Cabal's training and trials seemed stranger still.
As she rose further towards the real world, she held onto that rationalization tightly.
By the way her body was arranged she was lying on her right side on the couch in the Commons. Though she couldn't remember going to sleep there, it explained a lot about what she was waking from.
Miranda opened her eyes to peer across the space – finding all the residents of the House still gathered around the commons and talking quietly among themselves – they seemed nervous, shocked – knocked back. As she saw all the familiar faces, the destruction of furniture, and scars on her friends, realization began to set it – it hadn't been a dream at all. She had been a part of – witness to – a demon invasion. Angels had really appeared in her home and saved all that she still held dear.
That meant the last part happened too…
Her breath caught in her throat as she felt the weight of someone settled next to her on the couch – as if protecting her. Darting her gaze that direction, Miranda's heart leapt as the form and posture of her companion was familiar. He was staring across the room, his elbows perched on his knees and his gloved fingers laced loosely together. A straight fall of shoulder length black hair nearly hid his profile from her view.
For a moment she wanted to believe she was still dreaming. He was wearing the armor – the armor he'd steadily been bestowed through the training she'd witnessed. Brass frames glinted in the light, highlighted blue by the methane flames in the fireplace. The thick leather between creaked slightly as he sat there. There were white and gold accents to each piece of the armor, stylized feathers covering the latches that surely secured one piece to the next and decorating the gauntlets protecting his arms. The armor made him seem thicker through the chest and shoulders than she remembered.
The wings – she remembered him in wings. Those were absent now, and she could see a section in the back of his armor that was open, as if they had sprouted from and then disappeared into his back.
"C…Cabe?" she muttered, some part of her hoping she was still trapped in the dream.
His fingers untangled as his head whipped toward her. Placing his hand on his thigh, he twisted his upper body towards her. His other hand was suddenly cupping her cheek, proving more than anything could the reality of the situation. "You're finally awake," he sighed.
"She is conscious now…are you satisfied? We must go!" a female voice hissed. "There are other gates in need of sealing!"
"A moment…" he snarled at the woman, but lowered his voice as he added, "Please, Piera."
The woman bared her bright teeth at Cabal, but fell silent.
Cabal returned his attention to Miranda. "She's right, I really must go. Only, I couldn't leave you with that to remember me by."
"You're…really here," wisped out of her throat.
"I am. I…feel bad for doing this to you, for opening the wound again now that you're finally settled."
His smile was bittersweet. "I can't explain it better than you've already guessed – than you've already seen."
"That…It wasn't a dream?"
He shook his head slowly. "That's what I've done since I left you, yes. It was the easiest way to explain."
"But it was such a short time…" Miranda shook her head.
"Not so short a time for you." Cabal ran his hand down her face once again and then leaned in to kiss her forehead. When he leaned back he shook his head. "It's really good to see you again."
He rose to his feet and turned away. As he came within feet of the other two angels, a patina of light glowed brighter around his frame. The glow grew larger, reshaping until those raven black wings once more graced his back. The other two were quick to resume their warrior forms.
They seemed to be preparing to depart when Miranda finally regained enough of her wits to move.
"Wait!" she cried as she leapt off the couch, barreling across the short space between them. Cabal turned toward her as she lashed her arms around his middle and buried her head in the hard form of his chest plate. At first he stood stiffly in her embrace. Slowly the stance relaxed. His arms wrapped her shoulders tightly and his cheek came to rest atop her head. It took her longer to realize that the soft down of feathers tickled her bare arms, and she peeled her eyes open long enough to find herself cocooned in raven-black pinions.
She hugged him yet tighter. "Don't go!"
A heavy sigh escaped Cabal's lips – almost as if he was as pained as she was at this parting. As reluctant as he was to embrace her, her mate peeled her carefully off of him. Stooping a bit to come even with her gaze, he shook his head. The regret was clear to read in his expression. "I can't. You know that. I…I died, Miranda. The flesh is gone – this appearance merely a mirror of my most recent life. I'm no longer a being of this plane – no longer corporeal."
As if to emphasize, he raised one hand, and Miranda watched, at once appalled and fascinated, as the extremity became see-through – intangible. A moment after that, as if once more flesh and bone, Cabal's hand was cupping her closest cheek.
"Take heart in the thought that it doesn't end after this life. You and I? We'll see each other again, just…not again on this plane." His smile this time seemed to be to take the sting out of his words. "Goodbye, Miranda. I love you."
The thought of further begging on Miranda's part was interrupted as the front door banged open. A tall, thin figure rushed through the crowd at the outskirts of the gathering. "Mom? Mom!"
Miranda glanced over her shoulder at the sound of the young man's voice. "Jonathan?"
The slim figure came to a skidding stop as he realized what Miranda was standing near. His mouth gaped open a moment, shut long enough for him to swallow, and then fell open once more. He took enough time to push his feathered black bangs out of his ice blue eyes, but it was an absent motion.
"Mom," he sidled closer, a bold move considering the fear in his voice. Wrapping long dark fingers around her upper arm, he tried to pull her away. "What the hell is going on? They said they'd lost communication…and…are these angels? Tell me I'm…"
Miranda looked at her son as the statement trailed off. Slowly the boy lifted one finger, pointing directly at Cabal. She followed his gaze and his pointing to find the Archangel looking just about as flabbergasted. "That…" His gaze was suddenly locked on her. "You said he was dead."
"Miranda?" Torn between explanations to her son or to her husband, she made herself focus on Cabal. There was a question in his expression, and all Miranda could do was nod at him. His eyes widened a bit before a flush worked into his cheeks and pride filled his eyes.
"Archangel Cabal!" Piera growled.
Cabal's gaze dropped and his eyes slid to one side, not that it would bring the leader into his view.
"We have lingered overlong! There are other souls we must save this night."
"Right." His expression shut down and he sidled closer to the other angels. Peering back one last time, he mouthed, "goodbye."
Miranda lifted one hand, unable to verbalize anything useful.
Their glow was already brightening by the time he turned to face the center of their triumvirate. With another blinding flash, the three figures disappeared from view, leaving the staggered residents and the ruined furniture to mark their passing.
Miranda could only stare at the spot where they had stood, feeling a bit as if she'd been caught in a tornado these past couple hours. She regretted not being able to speak with her husband longer on matters he'd missed since his death – one of those being the young man trying to get her attention back.
"Mom?" Jonathan's strained voice finally cut through her mental musings.
She lifted her gaze to find she could only see Cabal's face in her son's. She shook her head minutely, the face was thinner, and the hair a different cut – the details brought her back to reality.
"You mind explaining to me this…madness?" He shook his head. "You told me Dad was dead…"
"He is." She blinked.
Once more his mouth gaped open. With a snap, he shut it and formed his next sentence. "Then who was that? Or…were they?"
"You said it yourself…angels."
"But…" he shook his head. "I didn't think they…"
"I didn't either." She looked wistfully at the spot where they had been. "Your father makes a very good one, I imagine."
"Wait, you said…"
Miranda smiled at her son. "Your brother and sister both can vouch for your father's death. I just didn't know until now what lay beyond this realm."
"Truthfully Jonathan, so am I." She wrapped her youngest son up in a hug.
They stood this way for a long time. Miranda made herself shift subjects to keep from thinking too long on what she had just seen and participated in.
"So it takes a demon horde to get you out for a visit?"
"Wait…what?" He quit her hug and pushed away.
Miranda ignored his frantic question. "I mean it's been nearly a year, and you're only like what an hour and a half away by hover?"
"Don't change the subject. What happened?"
Miranda smiled sadly at her son. "Stay the day. The factory can run 12 hours without you, I'm sure. Stay and I'll do my best to explain it all."
Jonathan looked dubious, but managed to nod. "All…right…I guess I can do that. I'll tell Peter to hold down the fort."
"Good, we need to catch up anyway."
A/N: Okay here we go...I tried to upload this yesterday but evidently there was a bug in the system that was preventing the upload from being accepted by the server. Thanks to Zack for being patient and pursuing the issue to resolution the past two days. It was very nice to get a response from the help desk (I can remember past issues where I never received even a "okay we got your message let us look into it." Much less a resolution.) So I was very pleasantly surprised by the change in handling!
But that has nothing to do with the story right? Anyway, I'm not entirely happy with the tone of this chapter at the end, yet I was unable to find a way to fix it like I wanted without throwing out the revelation about Johnathan. So I hope that it is acceptable. Though when I get to this story for publishing (way down the road) I will probably look back into this and see about fixing it!
Hope you all have enjoyed this little delving...feedback is always welcome!