Chapter 60 – A Deal with an Angel
Salvador hadn't expected any of this. From the moment he saw the roc he'd only felt a sense of futility. Nothing could be done. There was nothing he could do to get out of this situation. He was going to be dismissed from this position and returned to heaven. He could only hope that his death would be quick and painless and his punishment in heaven would not be too severe…and that his replacement would treat his friends with the kindness they deserved.
He didn't want for it to happen. If he was honest with himself…he didn't want that at all. He wanted to stay here. He wanted to stay with Lalia. He wanted to continue his relationship with Ethan. He wanted to pursue a career in baking. He wanted to continue to see his mother. He may be an angel but these mortal relationships were important to him…his mortal life was important.
It was selfish…
He was being selfish.
He knew he shouldn't but when Lalia had asked him what he truly wanted he could not stop himself from being honest. Telling her the truth. As the moments had passed on and she had revealed more and more of her ideas he had felt an odd sensation in his heart. There was hesitation and fear that it wouldn't work but there was also…hope.
They had returned to the university campus with Quinn's help. Ey had insisted despite eir injuries to allow them passage there. By the time they had returned it was well near midnight and Lalia suggested they retire for the evening. There was no need for them to rush and do things tonight, furthermore it was uncertain if Sierra had found an appropriate spot for it.
They had returned to their dorms and Salvador had allowed Ethan to follow him to his room. "You should stay with Lalia tonight," Salvador told him softly.
"I should stay with you," Ethan argued back, "Lalia is fine. You're the one that's stressed out. You look ready to pass out."
"I feel like it," Salvador said, "Which is why I should honestly just…sleep. You don't need to be here for that."
"Are you…" Ethan started but Salvador silenced the other, taking the other's shoulder in his hand.
"I'm not pushing you away," he reassured him in a low voice, "If you need me to make it clear, I will. I'm not going to run away. I'm not going to end our relationship because I can't. I want to grasp for a future on my own, as selfish as it is, and you're part of that future. The truth of the matter is that I'm just really tired and I need some time to think on my own."
"So this really hasn't…spooked you into ending things?" Ethan asked cautiously. "Given your track record of following heaven's rules I honestly thought you might."
"If you had asked me a year ago I wouldn't have even considered it," Salvador said, "But a year ago I wouldn't have started dating you a year ago. I was a bit of an asshole a year ago. I'm different now and…you've helped change that, just as much as Lalia has. The rules set down…perhaps there's more reason for them to be bent."
"So you're asking me to go to Lalia because…?"
"Because she seriously knew nothing about our relationship and you need to reassure her that she's still important," Salvador explained gently, "And I kinda want to sleep by myself. Is that okay?"
"Okay," Ethan agreed, leaning forward and pressing their lips together in a momentary and chaste kiss. Salvador felt the skin of his face grow hot and his lips tingled as they always did when Ethan pulled away. "Does this mean I can do that more often?"
"I'm still not a fan of public display," he muttered, concealing his mouth with the back of his hand. "But maybe. Anyway, get on your way." Reaching out he gave the hell hound a bit of a shove. This earned him a smirk from Ethan but the other quickly transformed into his animal form and dashed off in a flurry of smoke. He had vanished before he even hit the stairs.
Salvador stood in the hall a few extra moments, staring into the space where Ethan had just been. Was it right of him to be doing this? Was this even something Heaven would approve of if they knew? Unlocking his room and stepping inside he closed the door behind himself and pressed his back against the surface. Turning his eyes skyward he inhaled deeply.
"I'm not…asking for permission," he said softly before scoffing, "Perhaps I am. I want to be there for her. My purpose still stands. But is it wrong of me to want more? To believe I can do more than just protect her…that I can live for myself on top of that?" Letting his head drop forward he drummed his nails against the door. He should know Heaven's response. Yet, here he now waited for a sign. Nothing came. Typical.
He took some time to go over his room. What should have been a sparse and purely functional space was instead full of textbooks and he had been posting recipes for baked goods upon the pin board above his desk. There was colour here, there was life…there was more than his purpose. He wanted to expand on it. He wanted to transform a space into his own, fill it with pictures of his family and friends. He wanted to have items from his parents' hometowns in Mexico to remind him of his human heritage. He wanted to have space to bake. He wanted to have space to entertain. He wanted to learn.
He wanted this.
The next morning there was a knocking at his door. It had been difficult to speak and despite the early hour he had been up for quite some time already. He went to the door, opening it a crack and looking to Sierra in the doorway.
"Good morning angel," she purred with a smile. She gave him a once over with her eyes, "You didn't get much sleep did you? Be careful, your fragile human body needs it. Though I must say, the frazzled look is attractive on you."
"Hello Sierra," he nodded with weak acknowledgement, "What's the plan?"
"You're no fun," Sierra teased with a smile, "What's wrong with a bit of flirting? Don't tell me getting a boyfriend hasn't improved that flaw?" His response to this was only a flat expression and she rolled her eyes, "I found a nice secretive spot for you all. Lalia is already headed there so I've come to escort you."
"I'll grab my coat," Salvador turned into his room and grabbed his light jacket, wallet and keys before stepping out into the hall. He pulled it on as he tested the lock on his door.
They started walking and it was a few moments before Sierra spoke, "I'm happy for you," she finally said.
"That I'm dating Ethan?"
"No, that you're choosing to do this," she shook her head, "I always thought you celestials were pompous creatures with sticks up your asses."
"We mostly are," Salvador found himself cracking a bit of a smile.
"See, there you go joking," Sierra laughed lightly, "Accepting me, dating a demon and now choosing to potentially give up heaven to keep what you have here. I'm shocked to be honest. Not that I thought you'd roll over and die but…I did think you'd bow down to heaven's will before doing something like this."
"What can I say…" Salvador replied, looking down to the ground with a smile, "Lalia has a convincing personality. She's forced me to interact with people and creatures I never would before. She brought my world in many shades of grey and…through those shades I've come to form connections I don't want to lose." He sighed as he held open the door for Sierra to exit. "Though part of me thinks I'm being ridiculous for doing this."
"Thank you doll," Sierra passed by him, casting a look over her shoulder and her red waves bouncing around her face. "You are but that's what makes this more fun." Salvador wasn't sure what he wanted to say in response so he resorted to simply following Sierra as she walked him around campus. They took a less used sidewalk on the edge of campus until they had completely left it. They were headed towards the beach, that much was clear, though she seemed less inclined to grab a bus. There were lots of forested areas on the way to the beach, most of them overrun with weeds and tall grass. There would be plenty of spots for them.
Eventually they came to a small forested area. The trees were young on the edge and Sierra swept her way through the tall grass without concern. Salvador noted there were some parts of the grass that were already damaged and it was likely his friends had already passed this way. Casting a look over his shoulder he noted they hadn't been followed. No one walked in this weather. The school provided a bus pass with tuition and thus most students took the bus off campus to the downtown area, the beach or whatever other area they wished to visit.
After pushing through the grass they came to thicker trunks and better foliage cover. It was even cooler under here but there was less of the chilled wind. He spotted Lalia and Ethan quite a time before they actually met them. There was another figure there as well, the familiar and petite shape of the siren. That both made sense, as they were close to the lake, but also didn't.
"Aristai," he nodded to her first as they got closer, "Nice to see you again." She was wearing the yellow summer dress again and did not seem the least bit perturbed by the temperature.
"Hi," she chimed with a smile, bounding closer. "I heard you and Ethan are a couple!" She grabbed his arm, looking up to him with eyes sparkling. "That is so romantic!" She squealed in delight, cozying up close.
"Uh…yes…" Salvador said, uncomfortably removing her arm. It didn't feel nice to have her so eager about it. "Good morning Lalia," he said, "Is there…a reason Aristai is here?" He quickly glanced over, "No offense."
"Well," Lalia pointed out as she finished moving some branches to clear out a circle, "When Ethan and I made the deal we had witnesses from both heaven and hell. I feel like that legitimized it more. So I didn't want the only witnesses to be from hell. Since we don't have any other heavenly beings I thought earthly magic would be okay. Plus…" She looked to Aristai with a weak smile, "She seems keen to have friends."
"Is there something wrong with my being here?" Aristai asked with a pout.
"Not at all," Salvador stumbled defensively, "Just…I'm not…"
"Salvador doesn't want our relationship to be the main talking point," Ethan pointed out as he came closer, "He's a private guy. And our relationship is ours, not for observers." He said this with such strength and Salvador found himself impressed with how the other had matured away from his playful fun. Though the hell hound quickly glanced over, "That's what you're getting at right?"
"Yes, right," Salvador found himself sighing.
"I'd be more than happy to show him off," Ethan pointed out proudly, "But part of being a good lover is respecting the boundaries of the people you love." He placed a hand to his chest, turning his nose up slightly.
"You are…such a wonderful boyfriend!" Aristai practically cooed.
Salvador rolled his eyes and sidestepped them to join Lalia. She had made an arrangement of string and other items on the ground. It was different from when she had joined with Ethan. She'd gone with more religious artifacts this time around. A cross, a star of David, a crescent moon and star, a miniature Japanese shrine gate, a small golden Buddha and more. "Impressive…" Salvador mused.
"Well," Lalia propped her hands on her hips, "At the end of the day heaven exists both outside of our human designed religions but also inside all of them."
This brought a smile to his face because it was indeed the truth. Humans had designed religion to try and explain their relationship with heaven and they had all gotten it right and wrong at the same time. It was understandable because heaven was…beyond comprehension in its entirety. There was no issue with any of their symbols and heaven could come to all with an open and loving heart. "It's wonderful," he nodded.
"I even went to the local church," Lalia walked to her backpack and pulled out a water bottle, "Holy water!"
"Lovely," Salvador accepted the bottle. He could feel the blessing upon it, warm within his palm. "I'm not exactly sure how to go about doing this," he admitted, taking his eyes off the bottle and to Lalia's face.
"Yeah, me neither," she confirmed with an easy smile, "But I didn't really know with Ethan either so I'm just going to….go with what feels right. I think I remember a lot of what I did with Ethan." Reaching out she took his hand and guided him within the circle of holy items. There was a feeling of energy in the air around him.
"I have to speak first don't I?" he asked in a low voice, casting an uncertain glance over his shoulder towards Ethan. The demon had known what pacts looked like and that had likely made it easier. What did he say?
"Close your eyes," Ethan encouraged, "Reach deep inside yourself."
Pinching his lips into a thin line Salvador looked back to Lalia and the hand she held. He released it and unscrewed the water bottle, letting the holy water coat his hands and hers before taking her hands again. Closing his eyes he focused. What was his purpose here? What did he want? He wanted to support her. He wanted to protect her. But he wanted more…he wanted permission to be himself. To embrace this new life of his and the people in it. He wanted permission to do both.
He felt a warmth inside his chest, a swelling of heat that spread out from his heart and embraced his shoulders. Swallowing him up and before he realized it his mouth had opened and he was speaking. "Under the sky and the watchful eyes of my breathren in heaven," he found the strength to say, "I call upon them as witnesses to this pact, along with representatives of Earth and Hell. I, so named Sariel by my Creator, give myself to you Lalia Greenfield. I do this out of my own free will. It is my truest desire to offer up my entire self, body and soul, to your servitude and protection."
He felt the hands tighten around his own and he opened up his eyes. The sight that greeted him was dazzling. Lalia stood there but there was something completely different about her, she was surrounded by beautiful and sparkling golden lights. Like thousands of tiny fireflies dancing an inch from her body.
"Sariel," she replied, "My dearest Salvador." Her voice was sweet and gentle and as she spoke he could feel the warmth spreading from her hands towards him and the golden lights traveled with it. "I accept your pact. In return I promise to care for our friendship always. My strength is yours. In front of these witnesses I swear you to be mine. A friend, an ally, loved and cherished."
The last time Ethan had spilled blood but this time there seemed to be no need. The holy water that had run across their hands began to flow of its own accord, snaking around their joined hands as though handcuffed together. A surprising wind picked up within the circle and he noted the warmth that came with use of his magic, his wings sprouting from his back….far more real and actualized than they had ever been before. Spreading out behind him to their full length as the wind pulled and shook at the feathers. The golden lights that covered Lalia flew through the air as well, encircling them in a vortex of intermingling magic.
He felt calm though. Surrounded by his magic and Lalia's own. He had watched her pact with Ethan and the wind had been more ferocious and it had looked like she had to fight against it. Now she stood as it caressed her standing form, making her look more like an angel than he felt.
"He's mine," he heard her say, barely above the wind.
The need was strong and he followed through, tugging her closer into an embrace. He could not explain it beyond the strongest of urges. She wrapped her arms around his waist and he let his wings curl around them protectively as the wind consumed them.
"So I shall be," he whispered into her ear, pressing his face down into her shoulder, "Forever."
He held her tight even as the wind dropped from around them, a few green leaves torn from the trees around them falling upon their heads. He was scared to back up, not sure what had happened. He felt the same still. Or did he? He could feel Lalia's heart pounding against his own. She was worried. He could feel it.
Slowly he pulled back, unfurling his wings. Yes…they were still there. Though he caught sight of them briefly as they retreated into light. Hints of golden feathers among the fluffy white. He would have examined them more but Lalia had reached up to take his face in her hands to examine him.
"How do you feel?" she demanded, "Still like an angel?"
"Yes…" he mumbled within her tight grip.
She furrowed her brow and at once he felt thoughts within his mind that were invasive and not his own. Concern.
"Yes, I'm fine," he responded, breathing a sigh of relief, "And I think it worked." Breathing deep he attempted to reach out to her with his own thoughts, testing to see if he could connect with her and convey his relief. Her face immediately relaxed into a smile and she released his face. There was a strange feeling tingling through his body, like a thousand invisible threads that were connecting them in ways he'd never felt before. He'd always felt a connection to heaven, a warmth that surrounded him when he prayed or used his magic, but this was present in a way that felt tangible.
"Your hair didn't change," Lalia's words cut through the silence.
"You sound almost disappointed," Salvador found himself joking gently.
She shrugged and smiled, "I'm happy you're still here."