I awoke with a start, a warm hand touching my cold cheek. I opened my eyes to see a woman with dark skin and warm brown eyes smiling at me, dressed in white robes. What should have been weird were the broad brown wings she had at her back, but for some reason, they made total sense. Of course they should be there, I thought. She's an angel, duh.
"You've had quite the journey, little one," she murmured as she helped me stand. I was cold, but not in pain. Memories of what brought me here were starting to surface, and she looked at me kindly. "But it's all over now. You're safe. You're home. Let's get you all the way there."
She offered her hand, and I took it cautiously. I knew I was dead, that much was obvious. I was more surprised that I wasn't upset about it. The last time I'd died—boy was that a weird sentence—I hadn't wanted to leave, hadn't wanted to be dead. But now… now I was fine. This felt… well, not right, per se, but… alright.
I followed her without a look back at my body on the ground, without a look back at the scene of my death, up into the whiteness of what I assumed was Heaven. I was warm now, filled with serenity and a sense of safety. She was right. It was all over now. I didn't have to go through that anymore. I'd be okay.
"Normally I'd take you to rest," she said, slightly apologetic, "but the archangels really insisted that we have the trail as soon as you arrived. There is much to be done. But you are safe here. You are home. You just have decisions to make."
Before I could ask what she meant, we reached our destination. It didn't look particularly special, except for the fact that there were seven archangels in a semi-circle on a dais before me, leaving me in the middle to be stared at by all of them as my angel friend left me with a reassuring smile. I looked at each archangel warily, staying silent as they got their fill of me.
"So this is the halfling that has been through so much trouble," one of the archangels, a woman with russet wings and fair skin, said. She eyed me with interest, and I couldn't help but swallow.
"Indeed it is, Michaela," the archangel in the middle said. She had chin-length black hair and black and grey specked wings. "Daughter of ex-archangel Jev, and Changed Nephilim Nora Grey. She wears his old necklace, a gift from shortly after her birth. You realize that necklace has guided you throughout your entire life, don't you?"
I startled at the direct addressment. "No," I answered honestly. "I don't know what you mean."
"It is engraved with a message, a charm that protects the wearer," the angel explained. "Yours says, 'Veritas regnat in oculis caelum.' 'The truth prevails in the eyes of heaven.' You've known the truth all your life. You can thank your father for that, even if he didn't know about that perk."
It explained so much—all my life, I'd been able to see through lies, had been able to detect them when they were sent my way. All because of this necklace my father had given to me when I was three months old. And when I didn't wear it, I'd been vulnerable and unable to tell the difference between a truth and a lie. My mind flashed to the night I'd left it with Keith, and a sharp pain stabbed at my heart—I knew now that he'd been following orders from Dabria that night, and that hurt, even now that I knew the reasons.
"Fallen Angels and Devil Craft have been eradicated with the end of this war," Michaela said. "We owe your mother a favor. And that favor shall be a choice—for you."
My breath caught in my throat, brows drawing close in a frown. "Me?"
"You have been through a lot in your short life, particularly in the last year of your time alive. We extend to you a choice: stay in Heaven. Put all the suffering and pain you've experienced behind you. Stay and reunite with your friends. And, should you choose to take the responsibility, train to become an angel—a Guardian, an Angel of Death, whatever your heart desires."
As she spoke, she lifted a hand up to someone behind me that I couldn't see. Instinctively I turned and my heart soared in my chest at the sight.
"Sarah!" I cried, running towards my best friend with tears streaming down my cheeks. We collided half-way, but I felt no pain; only relief and joy filled me as I held Sarah in my arms, reveling in the laughing sobs shaking her shoulders, the pinkness of life in her cheeks, the strength in her grip around me. I pulled away and held her face in my palms, committing this sight of her to memory—lively, breathless and joyfully tear-stained, a total opposite to the bloodied anguish on the battlefield.
There was movement over her shoulder that caught my eye, and this time my heart flew into my throat at who I saw. Sarah moved knowingly out of my way and shoved me towards the two figures behind us, snapping me out of my shocked trance and sending me running towards them.
Keith was running towards me with just as much desperation, arms locking around me as soon as I was within reach, and I kissed him hard, the audience of Archangels and a certain Guardian angel behind Keith disappearing from our minds. I poured out every ounce of emotion into the kiss, breaking away for breath but not moving far, pressing our foreheads together to keep him close. The emotions were overwhelming, rolling over me in waves, but it felt so good to feel so much that I couldn't complain. I ran my fingers through his hair, his grip on my hips tightening slightly as his thumbs ran circles into my hipbones.
The angel behind Keith stepped forward, and my gaze flicked over to him. Brian stood there, green eyes watching us closely with something akin to… remorse, regret, and acceptance. He knew where my heart was, and he respected that although it once could have been with him, it just wasn't. I held my hand out to him in silent greeting and thanks. He took it in his, squeezing it lightly.
"I'm so glad you're all safe," I croaked as we joined Sarah and the Archangels again. My hand tightened in Keith's, the unspoken I'm glad you're all here, in Heaven, ringing in our heads.
"Sarah passed valiantly in battle trying to keep you safe," Michaela said. "And Keith, although a part of the grand scheme in the war and its efforts, had purer intentions in his heart. He wanted nothing more than to keep you safe, knowing that whether he cooperated or not the war would not be stopped. He somehow managed to keep you safer than your assigned Guardian Angel did."
A soft glare was directed at Brian, who frowned and averted his gaze in shame and chagrin.
"He did what he thought was necessary, especially when dealing with the Nephil in the alley behind the restaurant, but he was not as cautious as he perhaps should have been, and was not prepared for you to keep him away from you," the Archangel said to me, and I nodded in response. That was all in the past now. Technically speaking, I was dead at the moment. No need to keep grudges when we've made it this far.
"So option one, I stay here with my friends in Heaven," I said, bringing us back to topic. "What's option two?"
"You return to earth just as you were and live the rest of your life among those still living," Michaela said, though her face took a grave turn. "I must warn you of all that entails, however. You are the first of your kind; a combination of angel, Nephilim, and human. You were not meant to exist, and yet here you are, and there you were. Your life has always been very delicate; the fact that you made it past conception and were born alive and lived to your age was nothing short of a miracle. You have an odd knack for defying the odds. However, your luck would have run out quite soon. Your life force, due to the amount of stress you had undergone in the last year or so of life, was beginning to weaken. You would only live another few years before it would all be too much. Add on the grief of losing your loved ones…"
She trailed off, shaking her head. "Those are your choices. The choice is purely yours. Your companions will remain behind us so as not to influence you, but you must make the choice here."
In a blink, Sarah, Keith, and Brian were behind the council of Archangels, backs towards me and unmoving. A whirlwind of thoughts took over my mind. Two choices and I had to pick one to live with—die with? Aren't I technically dead right now? What in the world is happening?
My mind drifted over to my parents—birth and adopted. I could spend a few years with them down on earth and attempt to rebuild and live a normal life. I could live the life I was meant to live. Finish high school, get to know my parents, see Vee's baby…
There was no anxiety, no question about my choice. I looked up, catching Michaela's gaze. She saw the answer in my eyes instantly.
"I see," she said, offering me a serene smile. "You've made your choice."
I nodded. "But…" My eyes flickered towards the backs of my friends. "I want to see them one last time."
Her smile grew wider as if she knew I'd request that. "Of course. Brian will escort you."
There was a small woosh of air at my shoulder and suddenly a hand was grabbing my arm. "We'll be right back," Brian said, nodding towards his superior. He stretched out his arms for me and I jumped into them, locking my arms tightly around his neck as he took a leap…
And we descended below, the battlefield coming into view in seconds. It was a bloodbath, but even as we watched, angels only visible to us were making their way around and cleaning up the remnants of Devil Craft that the fallen were reduced to. There was a small group of people huddled together at the edge of the cemetery, one with particularly big wings standing a bit away, but obviously talking to them. The figure took a step back as we neared, and then took off past us, heading back up to Heaven. He looked incredibly familiar, but he was gone with a wink at me before I could verify.
We touched down on the ground, a ways away from the group, and I climbed out of Brian's arms to stand on my own, feet bare on the dewy grass. Nora and Patch took notice of our presence first, faces tear-stained and absolutely shocked at our appearance. Vee and Scott noticed us right after, reactions identical, and they all came running to ambush me all at once. The impact didn't hurt me; I was immune to pain, it seemed. I returned their hugs with the same fervor, a small twinge of sadness starting in my heart.
This is the last time I'll get to hug them, I thought as I squeezed them harder.
"Oh Naomi," Nora gasped, tears streaming down her face. "We saw what happened—we were too far away—I saw her when she—"
The words refused to come out of her mouth, and I gently reached up and swiped the tears from beneath her eyes. "I know, Mom," I said, the word rolling off my tongue before I could stop it. "It's okay. I'm okay."
"What are you doing here?" Patch asked, his own voice rough with emotion. His eyes flickered to Brian behind me, his own angelic experience probably giving him an idea of what was going on.
"Did they bring you back to life again?" Scott asked, one of his arms wrapped tightly around Vee.
I couldn't help the bittersweet smile that tilted up the corner of my mouth. I shook my head. "I asked them to let me see you one last time," I said, eyes welling up with tears of my own. "If they had brought me back, I would've lasted only a few more years and then… died again."
I was bundled up once again, earnest sobs surrounding me. It was so hard to stand there in my parents' arms, knowing that I'd be leaving them for good soon. Not another hug, or kiss, or word passed between. This was goodbye.
"I'm sorry," I burst out suddenly, words crawling up my throat to get out. "If I hadn't overreacted, none of this would've ever happened. If I'd been able to look past the hurt I felt over all of this, we could've fixed it and—Sarah wouldn't have died, and Keith wouldn't have died either, we just… we would've had more time or something…" My ramble dissolved into shoulder-shaking sobs, and I hid my face in my hands.
"You had every right to be upset, Naomi," Nora sniffed, taking my hands away from my face. "If anyone should be using 'if's it should be me. If I hadn't thought to separate you from us. If I hadn't taken the leadership role of the Blackhand. If I hadn't made us wait so long to come into your life. If I hadn't kept us apart without contact. So many things would've been different. If you'd known the truth from the beginning… none of this would've happened the way it did."
My eyes met hers, the stormy grey I'd inherited, equally as teary as mine, and was struck by sudden clarity. Sure, we could sit and share the blame for hours and hours on end, but there was no changing the outcome of all events that had come to pass. No amount of tears or apologies would take the hands of time and turn them backwards. This was our reality now. We'd made our choices, done our best, made our mistakes—and now we were paying the price.
"I'm glad for the time I got to know about you," I said, sniffling. "I know not all of it was good, but I'm grateful for the knowledge that you were out there missing me, loving me, even if I didn't know it."
I turned to Vee and Scott. "And you two," I continued, "I'm grateful for you both. You were so wonderful to me, loved me like your own even though I was so blatantly not. You gave me the best life you could give, and I can't thank you enough for that. Take care of my little sibling in there, okay? Give them better. Love them harder. And teach them about me, yeah? Let them know I love them. That I'll be watching them, all of you, from up where I am."
I gave them one last teary-eyed look, taking a small step back. "It's gonna be okay," I assured them. "You're gonna be okay."
I was enveloped in one last smothering hug before I truly stepped back, finished business taken care of. I gave them the best smile I could muster before turning my back and walking back to where Brian stood a little ways off, giving us privacy.
"Ready?" He asked gently. I nodded, and he scooped me up into his arms and took off into the sky. His wings flapped gently but powerfully, lifting us higher and higher into the clouds until earth was no longer visible to me anymore.
"It's gonna be hard, having to never see them again," I muttered, turning my gaze up and away from my old home.
Brian pursed his lips, shrugging a bit. "I wouldn't say that," he said, sounding suspiciously like he knew something I didn't.
I narrowed my eyes at him scrutinizingly. "What does that mean?"
"Well, I don't know," he said with another shrug. "Let's just say we work in mysterious ways up here."
5 Years Later…
"Michaela," I said calmly, a huge contrast to her shout across the field of Heaven.
She looked at me, startled. "Oh! I didn't realize you were right here. You have a new assignment, dear. You did very well on your last one, got that guy out of a real jam. But I think you'll enjoy this one even more."
I took the folder I was handed with a smile, but I couldn't help myself from teasing my superior. "And here I thought I was getting promoted for my good work. I was hoping to hear you go from 'Naomi, Guardian Angel' to 'Naomi, Angel of Death.' It has a nice ring to it, in my opinion."
"You and Sarah will reach your desired status in due time," Michaela said, rolling her eyes. "Honestly, you're both so impatient sometimes, it's no wonder Keith didn't want to join you in training for Angelic Service. You've done very well, I will give you that. Three-hundred charges in 5 years is quite the feat for someone as new as you, but even still, you must train properly. Sarah is a year less experienced than you, and I really want you to go through this assignment before I even consider such a promotion for you."
I sighed loudly, smiling at her to show I was just kidding. "Fine," I groaned playfully. "Let's see who it is." I opened the folder for my newest charge.
She watched me, face expressionless. "Naomi."
I was frozen to the spot, brain short circuiting, not knowing what to think.
A gentle hand was placed on my shoulder. I looked up, finally moving, meeting Michaela's equally gentle eyes.
"I wouldn't give you this assignment if I didn't think you were ready," she said softly. "Go. Do well. Like I know you will."
With a heavy swallow, I nodded, taking the file with me and making my way through Heaven to the edge. Despite the literal hundreds of times I'd done this before, this time felt so much heavier than any other. With a breath and a leap, my black wings unfurled, carrying me gently down to earth, my bare feet touching the ground gently. My white robes had changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top, blending me in with the rest of humanity in their mid-summer day.
The street I'd landed on was scarcely populated, a few families out on their lawns, few cars rolling through, children and pets playing in the yards. My eyes landed on one child in particular, our Guardian-Charge bond drawing me to her.
Blonde, blue-eyed, cheerful as could be, wearing a colorful shirt and jean shorts and tiny sandals, all of five years old with so much life in her tiny little body. I walked slowly closer, watching as she played with her blue bouncy ball alone in her driveway, parents on the other side of the yard watching her.
My guardian senses zapped, and I saw the scene of danger like a vision play out before me:
My charge, playing and having fun. A teen, distracted by her phone going off with a text. Her parents, taking their eyes off her for just one second. The ball rolling off into the streets. The teen behind the wheel, distracted by the text, eyes off the road. And finally my charge, running after her ball…
Her parents stood, just as they saw their daughter run off, calling her name in panicked voices I knew all too well.
"Talia," I said to her, and she turned to me in wonder and gave me a bright smile, ball forgotten in favor of being lifted into my arms. The teen looked away from her phone at the sound of panicked shrieking, wide eyes locked on the parents, then on me, her foot having slammed on the breaks. I gave her a stern stare, signaling with a free hand to drop the phone, and she did, looking thoroughly chastised. I turned back to the child in my arms with a soft smile. "Let's go get your ball."
It hadn't gone far, but her parents were still panicked, now at the supposed stranger who'd taken their daughter into her arms without warning.
"Excuse you!" Talia's mother said. "What do you think you're doing—"
All words died as I turned and revealed myself, gazing upon Vee and Scott Parnell-Coranda for the first time in five years. Their expressions were beyond shocked, unable to believe the sight of me before them. I smiled, walking to them with Talia Naomi Parnell-Coranda in my arms.
"Hello," I greeted them calmly. All the nerves I'd previously felt were gone, my role as Guardian Angel taking over. "Long time no see. I'm here on assignment."
"Are you Naomi?" Talia asked, confused by the tearful hugs I was receiving. She didn't look afraid, and there was no reason for her to be. Our bond helped with that, somewhat, but there was more to it than that. She already knew who I was, through pictures and stories told by her parents and mine. Just as I'd asked.
"Yes, little one," I said gently. "I'm Naomi. I'm your Guardian Angel; I'm here to keep you safe for a long, long time."
It had taken a lot to get here. Struggle, heartache, literal death. But if I were given the choice, I'd do it all again without changing a thing. This was the best outcome we could have hoped for. Despite the sadness my family felt, I could find only relief and joy that they were still alive to feel the sun on their faces and live the lives they truly deserved from the start. Finally, after life and death and life and death again, I was done living a lie. Finally, I was living my truth, as it was all meant to be.
And that's a motherfucking wrap, y'all.
I honestly cannot tell you how grateful I am for the support you have given me since the start of this fucking thing. I started writing this shit when I was twelve years old, and now I'm twenty and it's finally finished and it's because of those of you who didn't give up on me and kept reading and reminding me to update it, encouraging me when I didn't have the motivation or the will to carry it on. But ya girl did it!
I went through middle school, high school, half of college with this fic. Can you believe? I went through so much, and brought it along with me, and I feel something with its ending. Such bittersweet sorrow I feel to close this chapter of my life, this project that I put so much heart and soul into.
It's done. And now I move on to bigger and better things. (Original works, bitches, ayyyye)
I'd love it so much if you guys followed and kept in touch on social media! I'm chyeahlex16 on tumblr and snapchat, and I'm Gaylex16 on twitter if that tickles your fancy. Come talk to me, let's be friends! I'm friendly and chill, I swear lmao.
God, I still can't believe it.
It was an honor writing this fic for you all.
For the final time on this story...