A/N) Hooray, a story. Let's hope I don't give up and delete it again. :D

Welcome to Azka's Rage, and I really hope to keep this story going.

...Unfortunately, my motivation usually goes low after a while, so um. Help me keep it up? :'D

I'll give you cookies - no wait, I don't have them.

Warm eyes brightened with pent-up anger as Michael stomped towards the golden gates. He was unusually angry today for some unknown reason even to himself, and he needed to head towards the gates to throw it off his back. Even if it didn't work, at least he would have someone to talk to - not only was he angry, he was bored - no one ever talked to him. Talk to the Angel famous for Rage-Quit and also one of the most powerful? No way.

Only demons would talk to him by now - and good for him, he knew just the one. He stops by the gate, poking a hand through it. "Ray?" he calls softly, and immediately a pair of dulled brown horns poked up from the clouds, followed by the rest of the person - a barely-tanned man with dorky black-rimmed glasses and a rather queer black tuxedo with some red thing poked through its lapel that he always wore despite the heat.

"Hey, Michael," Ray says happily, and Michael grins, feeling a slight bit of his anger melt away. "Dude, what's wrong? You look even angrier than usual today. Was there any hard work for you? I brought you a gift if it would cheer you up, but I think it would be better if I just heard you out a bit first. You look like you'll bite my head off if I try anything."

Michael exploded the moment he had been given the go-ahead. "It's Skit again. He's a little younger than me but he's higher-ranked and his job is preposterous. 'Michael, go towards the Northern Wall and check for any intruders or strange marks on it,' he says one minute, then the next he's all up in my face like 'Michael, why haven't you went yet?' Like dude, it's only been like five seconds, I haven't had the time to leave, I was waiting for further instructions. Then he never elaborates and leaves me hanging and I don't even know what I was supposed to be looking for! I mean, have you ever seen the Northern Wall!?"

Ray nods. "Yeah, I saw it once. Scratches and dirty marks everywhere, and I don't think it was from me when you tried to pull me over once. I still don't know how no one caught you trying to sneak me over. I mean, I'm pretty okay-looking, but I think they would've chased me out immediately. Boring place you live in, by the way." Ray snorts, and Michael glares. "No offense," he adds quickly, "but it's pretty hard to impress me when I've seen a lot of things."

"What did you bring me today?" Michael asks, and Ray grins, pulling the red thing out of the lapel and handing it over. Michael takes it, and drops it immediately, watching it fall through the cloud floor as pinpricks of blood rise over his palm. Ray ducks, snatching it up and handing it back. "What is that?" Michael asks, taking it more carefully, keeping a watch for the tiny green pricks that seemed to exist over the stick end of the thing.

"It's a rose," Ray says. "It's my favorite type of flower, and red ones are the best. We're talking about flowers today, by the way." Michael frowns, and Ray answers the question that blossomed in his mind. "Okay, so most flowers are like that. You see the red parts? Those are petals - no, don't pull them apart, I've worked hard trying to grab that without ruining it - and each flower has a certain number, but some alternates. The petals have different colors depending on the flowers... like bluebells are sort of droopy and purple-"

"Why call them bluebells then?" Michael asks, and Ray shoots him a look that says 'don't interrupt my lesson this is important to me, you need to know about these flowers I'm telling you about'. "Okay, okay," Michael snickers, and Ray sighs in exasperation that tells him to keep quiet and let him talk already. "I'll shut up, go on with your all-important lesson."

"Anyway, before I was rudely interrupted by a certain ginger-haired Angel, bluebells are droopy and purple and they look like roses, but their petals are tighter wound around the centre of the flower and have fewer petals. The part with the thorns is a stem, and bluebells have it curved in a sort of upside-down 'u', and there are multiple flowers connected to a single stem. No, not all stems have thorns - roses are just one exception."

Michael imagined it, a smile brightening over his face. Ray laughs. "I'll bring you more flowers tomorrow, and then I'll tell you about them. You should really see the sunflower - they're big, and their centres are large and brown, and their petals are smaller but they're yellow, and they always face the sun," Ray describes, and Michael grins. The flowers were pretty cool.

He wishes he could've seen them in person for himself, though.

"Were you talking to that Demon again?"

Michael blinks, his happy mood dissipating as he clutches the rose closer to himself. A man was gazing at him with dark brown eyes, an amulet round his neck. The amulet wasn't anything special in particular - it was simple, a ring of gold around a purple jewel on a silver chain. Only two people had that amulet, and this man was one of them. "What if I was?" he asks hesitatingly, and the man shakes his head.

"Shouldn't have expected anything else. You've got something from the Overworld in your hand. Drop it, now." The angel stepped closer, his dark brown eyes narrowing, his stance speaking volumes about the strict teachings in the Training Academy. "I mean it, Michael. Drop it. It doesn't belong to our realm." His eyes softened. "Look, Michael, I won't tell anyone - but Azka will know, and you'll lose it anyway."

"...Let me have it for a little while, Ant," Michael spits out - he knew better than to speak rudely against one of Azka's Guards. "It's important to me. If I lose it later, so be it, but let me have it. Even if it's just for a few minutes more." Ant stares back with calm eyes and nods slowly. "Thanks, Ant. I owe you one." Not really. Michael didn't really feel like upholding that promise.

"I hope you know what you're doing," Ant says. "You know how the teachings were. You know how they taught us. You know what they said about the Demons. How they are filthy liars, how they never speak the truth, only double-meanings, and how they would stoop to any level to bring us down. I don't care what you do with your life, Michael... I just hope you know what you're doing."

"Ray isn't like what they said in the books," Michael murmurs. "He spent so much time with me, just talking to me and telling me about the things he sees. Ant, why do they keep us locked up in here? Why aren't we ever allowed out? Ant, please, just answer that question and I'll stop. I won't promise I'll stop listening to Ray, but I'll stop taking things from him."

"...I don't know," Ant answers after a moment of deliberation. "We never were taught about that subject, so I can't really say. Not even the Guardian Angels are let out, and they have the most important job of all - protecting children and keeping them from a premature death."

"...There are other things than books and rules," Michael says, and Ant's eyes hardened at that sentence. "We don't always have to listen to them, Ant. Why do we have to? Why do I listen? Why should I? There is nothing left for me here. No one here respects me - they fear me, and it isn't the same. I want someone to listen to me, Ant, and if that someone is Ray I would be happy enough to leave the Aether and gallivant off with him."

"...This 'Ray' of yours has been planting ideas in your head," Ant says sharply. "I suggest you quit listening to him immediately. Azka would not be happy about this, at all - and he would not be happy with me if I were to let you go without any punishment. And Michael, you are the most feared because you are Azka's strongest warrior - what is making you have these thoughts now?"

Michael falls silent, and Ant stares at him, probing for an answer. Michael swallows - a dozen answers swimming through his mind - Because I want to be free. Because I want to have a friend. Because I want to feel heard. Because I don't want to be feared. Because up here I have nothing left for me to have. Because here, there is no one I can fully consider a 'friend'.

His silence seemingly answered Ant's question for him, and Ant lets out a massive sigh. "Don't leave the Aether, Michael. It's dangerous outside the walls." Before Michael could shoot back an answer, Ant spreads his large wings and surges into the sky, calling out to Michael as he leaves. "I don't care what you do, I have just one promise I want you to make - don't have any ideas that would make Azka want to turn on his best soldier."

Michael swallows - and he knows why he feels such a nervousness that truly renders him immobile for a second, even as he watches Ant disappear through the cloud level to where Azka resides, and he falls, leaning back against the Southern Wall, closing his eyes.

I can't promise that, Ant. I'm sorry.

A/N) Premature cut? Yes. I apologize for that, but it looked like the perfect cliffhanger. :'D