No matter what I say, someone won't like it. Better to side with the majority.
The writer bit on his lip, wondering if it wouldn't be wise to remain standing so close to him. "I don't; I can't," he said, making sure to look at Alton when he did, so he could see that he was just as concerned as the others. "I haven't seen them since that day either, and Gabriel said he couldn't heal them. How can I say that they're healed, Alton, when I don't believe you either?"
Alton's smile faded again, and for a brief instant, his eyes shone red. But the moment of anger quickly dissipated into a sigh, and he turned away from all of them, wrapping his arms around himself and facing the wall. "I don't want to show them," he said with a glance over his shoulder. "When there's nothing that can be done to make them heal any faster, why bother?"
"Because we're worried about you, that's why." Enya uncrossed her arms and set her elbows on her knees, leaning against her hands. "What's the big deal about showing them anyway? Not like any of us here haven't seen them before."
"Not like this."
"Lumiel," Micah breathed, stepping forward and touching his shoulder, frowning when Alton flinched. "I have seen your wings in poor shape before..."
"I repeat: not like this." He shrugged the other angel off and turned to face him, running his fingers through his hair. "You're going to be upset when you see."
Micah snorted and shook his head. "Is that why you are hiding them from me? You are worried about my reaction?"
"I'm worried, yes." Alton was quiet for a moment. "I know what you'll say. You'll tell me I need to call off Nathan's game for my own safety." He looked towards the writer with a sarcastic smirk. "He'll want me to kill you to save myself."
Before Nathan could respond to that, Micah snarled and frowned at Alton. "I will do no such thing!"
"Really?" The drawl in the Devil's voice was all too familiar. A knot twisted in the pit of Nathan's stomach as he recognized both the tone and the devious smirk that spread across Alton's face. Micah, however, didn't seem to notice and was not amused.
"How is it that, when you know I am incapable of lying, you still do not trust me?" the angel asked, frowning at him. "I have said before, and I will say it again: I have no intentions of killing Nathan."
"Ah, perhaps now," Alton agreed with a sneer. "But only as long as he is useful. Don't think I don't know about your objections to my game, now that the Sins have started playing their own. I know you're worried about them being released further, and the only way to guarantee that won't happen is by ending my game. The quickest way to do that would be to kill Nathan."
"I will not kill Nathan if you show me your wings."
While this exchange occurred, Enya looked over at Nathan with a mixture of confusion and horror. "What are they talking about?" she signed to him.
The writer sighed and shrugged, even as he signed back, "Alton is testing me. If I fail his test, or if his game ends, I die."
"What's that got to do with the Sins?"
"They're taking over his game." Nathan paused, not sure how to explain, not sure of the reason himself. "I'm a major part of their plans, so killing me..." He didn't get to finish signing the rest, hearing Micah growl in frustration.
"You are going to bind me in contract over this, Lumiel?" the angel asked, rubbing his temples. "You really trust me so little now?"
"I trust you," Alton said, his smile fading. "You know my Name, and yet you haven't forced me to show you my wings. You're letting me a rare opportunity to choose. I only want your word you will not kill him because I know the other rules you are bound to may force you to try." He looked over at Nathan. "Despite my meddling and antagonistic tendencies, I do want you to pass. It is only my job to hinder you. Killing you outright defeats the purpose of the game."
"Thanks," Nathan said, unable to keep back his sarcasm, feeling no less queasy for the reassurance. "Glad to know you care."
"You're welcome," Alton drawled right back, before turning to Micah again. "So, do we have a deal? You won't kill Nathan once I've shown you my wings, no matter how conveniently it would bring the game to an end."
Micah closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. "I will not try to kill him, not for these circumstances. I reserve the right to do so for any other reason, save for, as you put it, conveniently ending your game." He opened his eyes and glanced at Nathan. "Do not do anything that gives me that reason."
"Duly noted," the writer said with an uneasy nod. "I'll try not to piss you off."
Micah growled quietly but returned his attention to Alton. "You have my word, Lumiel. Now, show me your wings."
Satisfied with his answer, the shopkeeper bowed his head and turned around again. He held his arms out to the side, wisps of black smoke curling out from his back, slowly taking on the form of wings. They were folded once they fully appeared, and he winced as he stretched them out for the others to see. His movements were stiff, and even after weeks of healing, there were still patches where the feathers were bent, torn, or outright missing. Along the main limbs, where the hooks had been embedded, the skin was scarred and dark, but the wounds were at least closed.
Enya gasped and covered her mouth when she saw his wings. Micah, however much he was trying to keep his stoic demeanor, couldn't hide the pain seeing this caused. His brows knotted deeply and he carefully reached to touch one of the wounds, starting when Alton hissed and winced. "Are they broken?" the angel asked softly, his tone disturbingly frightened. Alton shook his head.
"Damaged, but not broken. I could use them if I need to, but I have no doubts that it would be excruciating." He looked back over his shoulder, laughing softly, sadly. "You're awfully quiet, Nathan. Are you surprised? Worried? You wanted to see them too; please, speak up."
Am I worried? Surprised? I don't know what to say. I have a nagging feeling that this was my fault... he was in the hospital when he was captured, and it was my fault he landed there. The only reason they look better than before is because they aren't bleeding... but what do I say to him? He'll know if I'm lying, but won't he understand if I don't want the others to know how guilty I feel?
What should I say?