I'm back. I'm also getting on with it, because inspiration has struck. Gabriel's first word!

Disclaimer: Very much not mine.

Chapter Five: The Dreaded Words Begin (Still same age)

"F'ck."

"What is he trying to say, exactly? Because I really hope it's flower." Irakiel had given up on trying to get his unexpected guests to leave his garden and instead reluctantly sat staring at the fledgling laying happily on his back in the grass. Said fledgling was currently making interesting sounds with his mouth that sounded like speech, but more like blowing bubbles. The evidence of that being the spit currently running down his chin. Twitching in disgust, he watched Erael absently wipe it away with his sleeve. "What are you going to do with him, anyways?"

"Actually, I was hoping you could fly him over the gates."

Idiot. He refused to kick his brother for a third time. Instead, he stared into the encompassing golden eyes that stared unblinkingly up at him and counted to ten. As his temper calmed, he saw the babe start to smile in a way that delicately wrinkled his pert nose and offered up a single dimple on his cheek. He summarily refused to return it and instead said flatly, "I can't fly. Never could, really. My wings are too small to lift me off of the ground."

The baby babbled again, "S't," and somehow managed to wriggle his way not only towards Irakiel but also into his lap, up his chest, over his shoulder and to his deformed wings. He cooed happily at the muted yip the gardener gave and started to pet the beyond messy feathers. It…well, it actually felt really good. Sighing blissfully, he allowed the little one to shake all of the dead feathers loose and straighten them in a babyish parody of preening. It's babyish because the feathers were still all over the place, the mess just included his hair now. Another giggle brought him up and over back onto the ground in a surprisingly agile slide. Pumping his chubby arms up and down he pouted and cooed, "'ikkel. 'ucver. 'phael."

"Did he just say Michael, Lucifer and Raphael?"

"No, I'm pretty sure I heard little, ulcer and fail. Relax, Irakiel, he can't speak yet." Erael looked completely unconcerned that his charge had, albeit in a language completely unknown to adult angels, invoked the names of the Archangels.

The baby pouted angrily and shrieked, "F'ck!"

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he picked up on my swearing." This statement garnered him an exasperated look that screamed 'do-you-really-think-so?' "What?" he defended. "It's not like I spelt them out for him. Honestly, you've never sworn in front of a fledgling?…stop looking at me like that." Bitch-face number one. Like, first ever. Now you know. He sighed. "Okay, fine. I am a terrible minder who should, admittedly, not be anywhere within a hundred miles of a fledgling." Pause. "Ever."

Golden eyes condemned him. Pink lips that shaped the sound barely off from 'fuck'. He got the sense that he should be proud of his influence over the young angel but, really, Baby's First Swear Word? Not a momentous occasion. Sighing, he rubbed his face with a hand and shrugged. "So, what are we going to do with him? Raise him out here, where wild things and demons can murder us all or toss him over the gate and hope he learns to fly?"

Erael gave him a look of disbelief and exasperation. "You mean you haven't noticed yet?" At his brother's hesitant headshake, he muttered, "Of course you haven't." Louder, he said, "Look at his eyes. Don't they remind you of someone else's?"

Grumbling, he looked deep into the golden eyes and didn't look away. The fledgling didn't blink, allowing him to look into his gaze without obstruction. This continued for a good long while, too. So long, in fact, that twenty minutes later the fledgling was starting to nod off. Irael hadn't really noticed anything different about the golden eyes, other than their colou-wait. Was that… "Amber. His eyes are gold and amber. Aren't Lucifer's said to have a ring of violet on the outside?"

"And Michael has silver while Raphael has red."

"…Oh, Father. He's an Archangel, isn't he?"

As if to commemorate the occasion, the fledgling trilled a perfect B flat and grabbed his tiny wings. Erael managed to stop him from suckling on them, then flipped him over gently onto his belly amidst the squeals of laughter. Giving him a gentle poke earned him another ecstatic giggle and then he was running fingers over his back to try and find the extra joints. Archangel wings grew slowly (and, judging by the fuss Raphael had made, painfully) from the joints beneath their skin until the time was suitable during angelic puberty to make their bid for freedom. Erael had never been so glad to be a member of the Legion. He was also thankful that Michael and Lucifer had been specifically created with six wings; both had been so spoiled, he would have hated to see what would happen when the time came. He imagined mass panic.

They were there protruding delicately against the milky white skin; bony little knobs that would grow over thousands of years to form the Archangel's signature six-winged grace. He traced them with his finger in wonder until he pressed a little too hard and made the fledgling cry. They were also sensitive, evidentially. Amazingly enough, it was Irakiel who picked him up. He held him above his head and gave him a gentle toss, much to the delight of the now laughing fledgling. "You aren't that bad with him," Erael commented. "You could probably handle one of your own, if you cut back on the swearing and violent tendencies."

Irakiel shivered and decided not to say something stupid, such as I'll show you violent tendencies! The wide eyes of the fledgling were innocent, surprisingly enough. He…didn't want to change that. Not so soon. "It's not that I don't want a fledgling, brother. I know how to take care of one and I actually have before, but…I'm just not ready for another."

Sudden understanding dawned in Erael's eyes. "What happened to it?"

Irakiel swallowed. "Her name was Acarael (AN: A-ka-rell. It just sounds better that way). She was a beautiful little bugger, too. All dark hair and oversized wings, full of mischief and always underfoot. It's my fault, you know. See, I'm supposed to protect this garden with my life and I can never leave it. This is the job that God gave me as soon as I was out of my down feathers. Then he gave me Acarael and I had another thing to look after, something just as important to me as this garden is to Father. She loved me, I think. Looked up to me, certainly, or else she never would have done what she did.

We're outside the gates, obviously, so the demon attacks are horrendous but they never get through the battalions. Well, one did. A great big brute with red eyes and horns the length of Michael's wings. He was covered in blue blood, too. From head to toe there wasn't a place left on his soul that hadn't been coated in angelic gore." Irakiel paused to swallow. A tiny chirrup escaped the fledgling's throat and he looked up at the gardener with an intense stare and snuggled deeper into his cradle. "And so, I took up my bow and fired three arrows straight into his chest. They didn't even make him stagger and suddenly, there was a horn imbedded in my shoulder. It's… I barely even remember it anymore."

Erael whispered, "The attack?"

"No, fool. The pain. I think it hurt, but all I could remember was a tiny little blur speeding through the trees, bearing the smallest sword I'd ever seen in my entire existence. Her aim was perfect; my little girl hit him right in the eye. Killed him instantly, but the beast hit the ground before I could move. Hit her. He skewered her right through the middle, a perfect slice through her midsection and then, she was gone. I'd been thrown off when the demon fell and…well, I tried to put her back together again. Acarael was gone, though. She was too young to turn to soot, so I was still holding her when Michael himself came. By my Grace, I have never seen any being look at something so small with such distain. It was like the death of a fledgling was perfectly fine to him…"

Angel unnoticeably stiffened in anger. It was a new emotion for him and his entire body howled with it. Jibril whispered in his head about how bad that was, how Michael had betrayed both himself and others with his distain of the Legion and all that they entailed. How a simple gardener was not worthy of the presence of Heaven's prince. The words were cold and bitter when he whispered We will show them, one day. They will learn how precious life is the hardest way possible and we will learn as well. How easy it is to take it away when it doesn't mean anything to you. How easy it is to simply tear off their wings and let them fall to Hell and into a blistering inferno, to be worshipped as a monster forevermore. Or, maybejust how easy it is to want to forget.

Angel stared solemnly at the crying angel and patted him softly on the cheek, because that was what Jibril told him to do. He babbled nonsense and stared up at him through thick blonde eyelashes, amber ring glowing and swirling as he batted his wings around restlessly. His lips tried again and again to form the word he wanted so desperately to say. After a few bumbling tries, he got out his first articulate word. And it wasn't a swear. "Live."

And that was that. The two angels stared at the little one in their midst and murmured, "Well, that was anticlimactic."

Angel squawked in indignation and promptly stomped away from his unimpressed audience. Here, he tries to give good advice and they were eyeing him as if he had something more to give! Squeaking grumpily, he threw himself down about twenty feet away from the grown angels and started pouting with all his might. Irakiel raised an eyebrow at the tiny back and, unimpressed, snorted, "Yeah, yeah, we get it. You aren't happy. Come back over here, little brat." Walking over in just a few strides, he scooped him up and peered into heavy-lidded eyes. "Oh, you're tired are you? Need a lullaby?" The fledgling stared at him and instead began to sing to himself. The notes rose and fell soothingly and before long, the babe wasn't the only one who needed a good nap. Sighing sleepily, he murmured, "You're good, I'll give you that. Come on. I need a little communion after that."(AN: Adult angels don't sleep.)

Erael had already nestled himself against a tree trunk and had his eyes half-lidded, attempting to cut through the jumble of angelic voices to send out a rescue beacon. The gardener settled in a patch of long grass that sighed and wrapped itself around him like an over affectionate duvet with the fledgling laying horizontally in his lap. Strangely enough, his blanket was made of butterflies. Irakiel blinked and shook it off. Archangels were mysterious creatures. It was better not to question what happened around them for fear of going quite moderately insane. Soon, amazingly loud snores started issuing from the throat of this particular Archangel, one that made the gardener question how in the name of Heaven such a small creature could be so remarkably loud.

Shaking his head and staring up at the stars, he whispered the old lullaby that he used to sing for Acarael before falling into a trance, praying that they all wake up the next day.

In the darkness, God breathed unto the earth and whispered, May there be life and love forevermore.

True to his prayers, he did indeed live to see another glorious sunrise. Oddly enough, the sun almost seemed to beat down on him until, even odder, the moon started to rise again. After that, it cooled down rather quickly. With a curious hum, he carefully extracted himself from the fledgling and his butterfly blanket and began to do his duty to the garden. Singing under his breath, he gathered water in a golden bucket and, taking handful after handful, sprinkled it with ease over all over the plants that resided in his home.

He did the same thing every morning just as the sun rose from the east and again the moment it started to set in the west. This ensured that every living thing thrived under his tender care. He crooned to the crocuses, stroked the petals of a lily and carried the water plants to the lake. The trees swayed and groaned as he stripped them of their dead, heavy burden of leaves and the birds flitted around showing off their perfect wings. Sighing, just like he did every other morning, he ignored them but his song became a little more strained.

The unhappy coo of a child stopped the bird in their mystical and unattainable flight. They froze, wings still beating, and landed on a tree. The babe scowled at them and rubbed his eyes with a chubby hand, hair unruly from sleep and falling down in a combination of curls, waves and complete ringlets. The infamous fledgling hair; it will get better with age, Irakiel thought wryly. Or at least I hope it will. Finger-combing the snarls, he lifted the babe to sit on his hip as he scolded the birds. Most definitely an Archangel, he thought in amusement as the birds hung their heads in shame.

Bowing his head to hide his smile, he made his way over to the small pond and the willow trees growing around it. The matriarch lifted the child with tendrils as the glade buzzed with excitement. "She will watch you for me, child. Or at least until Erael finally gives up all hope of rejoining his garrison." It sounded cruel, but it was true. Nobody wanted to visit God's glorious garden or it's sullen keeper. Not even for family, evidently. Sighing, he muttered as he walked away, "The sooner he realizes it, the better."

Angel watched him go sadly, with a look in his eyes that spoke of things to come that he would never be able to avoid. Looking away, he stared at the entrance to the garden and finally, after a few moments of simply staring, closed his eyes. Erael had a destiny to fulfill and he wasn't a part of it. He enjoyed looking to the future because it was so much brighter, until he looked maybe just a little teeny-tiny bit too far. Then it was more like Hell than home. Sighing, he curled up in the willow tree and listened to her steady thrumming whispers. Looking to the sky, he repeated the word, "Live." Please.

Meanwhile, Erael had finally given up. Fourteen hours of communion and he had been drowned out by praises, song and Michael giving foolish commands to a very unimpressed and equally loud Legion. Pinching the bridge of his nose and resisting the temptation to just scream, he got up and started following his brother's trail of Grace. Walking through a heavy copse of trees, he slowed to watch Irakiel trail a finger across an unopened flower, making it quiver and burst into a full beautiful bloom. The humming of a bee coming up behind him made him glance over to see another plant in full bloom, perfect for the gathering of insects coming his way.

Stepping less lightly, he made his presence known with a soft hum and the snap of a stick. Irakiel's head snapped towards him in surprise, before he gave a sardonic, bitter smile. "Finally gave up, then?"

He didn't deign his brother with a response. Shuffling gracefully around the clearing, he delicately stroked a yellow songbird's black-capped head before turning to Irakiel and muttering, "I know you think me a fool but I have faith in our Father and our siblings to do the best that they can to find me. I love our family and I will spend the next hundred years trying to speak to them, if that is what it takes. They may think me a coward for not dying just as you think me a fool for trying to die, but at least they have accepted me."

That…stung. Erael had a slightly shocked look on his face as he took in his previous words. I'm sorry, brother, was what he wanted to say but he refrained in the interests of keeping his limbs attached to the rest of his torso. Irakiel had a stormy look on his face that warned against any kind of interaction friendly or otherwise. He swallowed and just let him walk away before he said something else he knew he would regret.

Angel peered curiously between the trees as Irakiel stormed between them but he knew better than to make a sound. Chirping a little, he sat against a large cougar that laid purring contentedly on the branch. Jibril was telling him sad things that he was trying to ignore, even if he knew they were true. Nothing lasts forever was a big one. They won't remember us for much longer and it won't hurt much. I promise, was one he could take to heart. It did hurt, though. It hurt so, so much that he completely blocked out the pain and put a toothy little smile on his face, one that may have looked a little too forced but Jibril had assured him would become much better over time. He wasn't quite sure he wanted that.

Burbling and waving his arms in pretty patterns, he played with the rain and created pictures of angels he had never met and maybe never will. He just wanted to see he was missing for the little while longer that he was outside the big golden gates. Angel squealed in ecstasy when his pictures landed on a golden-haired warrior with six incredibly slender, strong wings and markings in old Enochian with the same toothy smile as the one he was wearing now. Jibril was right; it did get better. Or at least more believable. Another angel with white-blond hair shorn close to his head and with sharper runes glared out of the water, commanding respect in a way that was both awing and kind of annoying.

The next angel brought a hush to the clearing as everything turned to look at his picture, just as beautiful as he was in real life. Lucifer, the perfect Morning Star. White wings were speckled delicately with warm shades of gold, soothing browns and a dozen shades of red all coating the softly shimmering white-grey feathers. They were immaculate, just like the emotionless mask on his olive-toned skin. Grey eyes shone with violet, matching his shining grey armor and the longbow etched with protective runes. He was everything that Angel could hope to be. No, whispered Jibril. WE are everything we can hope to be. Lucifer has his own path that we cannot follow.

Angel wrinkled his nose and disagreed. Lucifer was loved and immortalized in the hearts of all of Heaven, even their Father's. Everyone knew that the Morning Star was God's favorite, even Michael. He was proud of his brother for all that he had done. Who was there to be proud of him? Certainly not God. There was a sense of bitterness to the thought that Jibril evidently caught, but he remained silent. Sighing, Angel climbed higher into the willow tree with a sense of resignation and knowing that his involvement would only ruin more lives.

And the protector, Michael, became a light in the darkest evening to light the evil so they would be found

Irakiel blinked up at the midday sun as he gently prodded at a beetle to move on from a white lilac bush, while at the same time shaking pineapple juice from his hands. Don't ask him why. He hadn't seen Erael since that morning and he was starting to wonder if the younger angel had simply left the garden and his fledgling behind. From what he could see, the babe had climbed farther up the tree under the narrow-eyed watch of a cougar. He would keep watch in case the little Archangel started to fall but so far everything had gone safely.

Crashing in the underbrush made him jerk his head to the side. Snorting in irritation, he waited for Erael to show his face so he could kick him again but instead he got hit with a breeze filled with tainted sulfur and scorching hellfire. It made him choke on his next breath as he looked from the fledgling to the forest he had been commanded to protect with his life. The babe stared at him sadly and hid himself in the crook of a branch before the willow tree hid him from sight. Moving quietly, he sprinted to his weapons cache and withdrew his longbow and short sword before creeping through the bushes and tracking the burning footprints.

Running through the garden, he quietly mourned every fallen tree and crushed flower that had been his only companions for centuries. There were claw marks in the ones that hadn't been mowed down by the demonic presence in his paradise. Seething as the soft cries of pain entered his ears, he put on a burst of speed and entered the clearing. Quickly setting one end of his bow on the ground, he drew back a celestial steel pointed arrow and aimed directly for the back of the beast. But then it turned.

And his heart nearly stopped.

Here was the demon, goat-footed and long-horned, that had killed his little helper. Who had ended his happiness forevermore with one charge. He knew it was the same one because it was looking at him through the heavy rheum spraying from every orifice on his body. It grinned at his, flat-toothed and bony with flesh both rotting and putrid. Irakiel trembled in horror at the recognition and loathing in that stare before the cries of his garden once again filled him with anger. But it was too late. Head down, the demon charged at him with it's massive horns.

A massive battle cry and a sword through the leg halted it's charge, but it didn't fall. Erael twisted his sword through the air, just as the drill masters had taught his class, and created the song of metal and blood. The horrible screech of the damned rang through the air, calling the Legion to battle once again. Erael stared at it victoriously then suddenly fell back screaming and clawing at his eyes. It had happened so fast that Irakiel had almost missed it and before he could process it, he had dropped the longbow and started to run. The demon had spit venom right into Erael's eyes.

Placing himself in front of his brother, he raised his sword and snarled a warning. But he had never been trained with a sword and so it wasn't long before he was sent flying into the trees. With a loud crack, his head was smashed against a rock and he lay slumped on the ground. The demon roared and picked up Erael, ready to toss him down his gullet.

A sudden shower of gold revealed the Archangel he had seen in his watery pictures, standing tall with twin swords and a horn hanging at his side. Wings flared, he murmured, "Well, can't say I forgot this one. I am pretty amazing, after all. Let's get this over with." Glancing at the willow tree, he gave his toothy grin to his counterpart peeking out of the tree and crooned, "I am so adorable at that age. Too bad we'll remember this, eh, mini-me?"

Angel squawked in surprise. The voice in his head and the picture in the water were from the same person. Him. Scrambling up, he watched as Jibril faced the demon and stared a foot down at the massive beast, who was gawking slightly at the six golden wings. Jibril smirked and pried the massive fingers from around Erael's arm before placing him gently on the ground. Staring at the demon, he lifted his horn and blew.

A massive blast of sound left the clearing and within seconds, the beating of dozens of wings filled the silence. With one last grin, Jibril vanished without a trace. Seconds later, the battle scarred Sergeant was kneeling by a weakly twitching Erael. Uncovering his eyes, he traced the acid burns before pulling back and hissing softly in grief. The Legion gathered around and laid hands on their brother, stroking and smoothing his wings as they poured generous amounts of grace into his own failing light as they tried to keep him alive.

Before they found him, Jibril went quickly to Irakiel and held his face just above his former caretaker's. Breathing in a small piece of the grown angel's grace, he exhaled some of his own. You are Joshua, gardener and keeper of our Father's paradise called Eden. You will forget about all of your grief and bitterness and no longer be condemned to a life of loneliness. You will no longer remember Acarael, the unnamed Archangel or Erael. You will live your life as Joshua from now until Apocalypse come. Dew frosted Joshua's face as the water lightly healed the head wound. Then Angel leaned down and gave him a light kiss on the head.

Hiding behind a tree, he watched as both of the angels were carried away before moving forward to hang tightly onto the sling Erael was being flown in. No one saw the fledgling tucked under one limp wing as they opened the gates, even when he silently dropped off and into a tree not too far from the gates. Exhausted, he curled into a ball and slept until nightfall.

And Lucifer, distant and cold, chose the path of the morning and announced the new day with his light.

God looked up at the noise from the Gate and soon, was sprinting towards his two injured sons. Michael was discreetly gaping at him from off to the side for one, actually running, and two, running to the side of two apparent members of the Legion. He mentally shook his head before focusing on Irakiel an- no. Not Irakiel. Frowning lightly, he felt gingerly around the mismatched Grace that screamed the name Joshua as well as forget, grief and lonely. Breathing out a sigh, he gently cradled his son's head and moved him to the pantheon in one easy move before going to Erael.

God traced the starburst of scars all around his eyes before gently prying open an eyelid, wincing at the angry redness of the entire sclera. Ripping off a piece of his robes, he wiped away the bloody tears that fell and then peered into the now milky white depths. He sighed. There was nothing he could do; this was fate and he dare not fight it. Instead, he ripped off another piece of his robe and gently wrapped it around his head, hiding and protecting the sightless eyes. He caught Michael looking around him with carefully hidden revulsion and wished more than ever that his plan would hurry up and come to pass.

He was so tired of this.

After leaving them to their own devices with the promise to check up on them regularly, he quickly walked into the armory and carefully lifted a heavy metal case. Underneath sat a beautifully polished horn, made of light gold and shining ivory with silver trimmings. The writing on it, however, spoke of terrible things to come. God sat down with it in his lap, wondering how the Horn of the Apocalypse could have been blown when not a soul knew it had been created.

And Raphael, hidden behind his brother's glory, remains by Michael's side, always bright and wary.

As angel looked up at the stars, Jibril whispered in his ear who's Grace it belonged to and where they were and who they used to be. Some were of the Legion, some were Seraphim and some were from a Choir so high that their betrayal was completely taboo. Jibril laughingly told him despite that. He made the stars dance behind his eyes and told him stories that made him giggle or cry. He told him that if Lucifer was the Morning Star and Michael the Evening Star, then he was the Wandering Star who would guide every living being home at night. Behind the gates, even if he was relatively alone, was surprisingly peaceful.

He liked it.

Well, most of you probably saw this coming. So vote in the poll or Gabriel dies. Again. It's on my profile. Vote. Now. And he's only called Angel when it's in his own head; otherwise, it's just various words for 'the baby'.