Gabriel is my guardian. If there's anyone I should talk to, it should be him.
With a hesitant smile, the writer turned towards the angel again. "Alton," he said calmly. "Why don't you let Lidia keep you company for the day? Lately, you've seemed happier when she's around. I'll stop by Gabriel's and talk with him. Maybe if I confront him, I can trip him up, find out if he's done anything. I still doubt it, but you never know. He might tell me, especially if he feels guilty about it."
Alton lifted his head and looked at Nathan wearily, but a weak smile appeared on his lips. "It's been a very long time since I've been so challenged," he said with a sigh. "I'm not on my game as much as I used to be. I appreciate your offer, but I'm not sure it will be worth the effort."
"Will it hurt to try?"
The angel thought about it, then sighed, shaking his head as he straightened. "No, it won't hurt to try, and I'll gladly watch Lidia in the meantime. She can come back with me to the shop when lunch is finished. Perhaps we can do some shopping of own, get her a few toys." He turned to the little girl, lifting his hands to sign while he talked. "Would you like to spend the rest of the afternoon with me, Lidia? We can have a day out shopping, if you'd like."
Lidia squealed happily and clapped her hands, nodding. "Can I get a puppy to play with?"
Both men laughed at her enthusiasm. Nathan quickly shook his head before Alton got any ideas, drawing the child's attention. "No," he signed as he spoke. "I can't have pets here, but you can get a puppy stuffed animal, if Alton says it's okay."
"I'm fine with that," the shopkeeper agreed, nodding. Lidia bounced in her seat then reached over to hug his arm. Alton sighed and smiled, stroking her hair. He looked back at the writer. "Thank you, Nathan. You have no idea how much I appreciate your genuine sympathy."
Nathan smiled back and ate more of his lunch. "Well, you've more than earned it."
The weather was getting swiftly colder, so Nathan was forced to take the bus part of the way there. It was nerve-wracking, considering his phobia, but he knew it was something he'd have to learn to cope with, since winter was quickly approaching. Walking everywhere in the snow was not something he wanted to do.
He was really missing his car.
Arriving at Gabriel's apartment building, he jogged up the four flights of stairs and straight to his door. He was just about to knock, but stopped, surprised to hear talking on the other side. Nathan became as quiet as he could. Who could he be talking to, he wondered, pressing his ear against the door...
"... why you are so surprised. Someone has to take on your responsibilities next month, and you know I am always up to the task. Besides, I enjoy visiting you on your break."
"And I've told you before, the feelings are no longer mutual."
Nathan's breath caught, recognizing both voices. The second was most definitely Gabriel, but he was surprised he was familiar with the first. Even though he was speaking in English this time, it was definitely the same angel who'd threatened Alton the night before, and he pressed closer to the door to continue listening. The angel laughed his melodic laugh.
"You say so now, but I have known you a long time, Gabriel. You have changed your mind about your feelings before."
"Yes, from my delusions about you to my current opinions. You're not welcomed here, Raphael."
"Welcomed or not, I am needed, so you may as well..." He abruptly stopped, and Nathan strained to hear if he'd lowered his voice. Suddenly, the back of his shirt was twisted and he was yanked away from the door, his collar pulling so tightly on his throat his scream was choked back. His feet lifted from the ground, and the next thing he knew he was face to face with a pair of vibrant green eyes. He heard the door behind him open.
"Raphael! Put him down!" Gabriel shouted, moving around to where Nathan could see him and placing a hand on the other angel's shoulder. He gave the writer a worried glance before looking at Raphael again. He squeezed his shoulder tighter. "He's my charge."
Raphael turned to him with an eyebrow raised, some of his brown hair falling into his face, but then he shook him off and looked back at Nathan with an amused smirk. "Your charge, Gabriel? Awfully lively for one of your charges." Still carrying him by the shirt, he walked back into the apartment. "Or have you decided to keep this one for your own interests? He is quite handsome... ah, is this why you do not want me here? You did not want me to see what you have done?" His eyes flashed as he looked back at Gabriel scrambling after him. "Or will do?"
"No!" Gabriel's eyes glowed brightly, and he slammed the door behind him. Catching up, he took Raphael's arm and wrist, this time twisting. "Put. Him. Down!"
Nathan was abruptly dropped, and though the hold hadn't been enough to keep him from breathing, it had hurt, and he rubbed his throat from where the cloth had dug in. He looked up in time to see Gabriel hurl Raphael across the living room and into the wall by the kitchen, then quickly kneel beside him, carefully touching his arm. "Are you alright, Nathan?"
"Yeah," the writer said, his voice a little hoarse. "What the hell...?"
Raphael laughed as he stood, brushing himself off before crossing his arms and looking down at them. "Are you sure you do not have ulterior motives, Gabriel? I do not think I have ever seen you so defensive of one of your charges before."
He took a step forward and Gabriel stood, standing in front of Nathan, his eyes narrowed. "I don't fancy humans the same way you do," he said through his teeth. "And as far as I'm concerned, our conversation here is over. Get out of my apartment, Raphael. If you have to be in Virtue, at least do me the courtesy of leaving me alone."
The other angel once again laughed, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. "You have no grounds to give me orders. I, on the other hand..." His smile eerily reminded Nathan of Alton's. "Would you prefer I show your paramour how well I know you? Perhaps he could use the demonstration."
Gabriel balked and swallowed loudly, his hands balling into fists in a futile attempt to stop them from shaking. "You wouldn't..."
"I can, and I will." Raphael's smile became a dark, devious grin. "Unless, of course, there are any objections. You could say no, but then you know I have my ways of making you say yes."
Nathan was finally on his feet, still behind his guardian angel. He could hear Gabriel's rapid breathing, see him desperately trying not to shake and stand his ground, but just like Raphael clearly noticed, he knew he was terrified. The other angel tapped his foot and tucked a loose strand of hair behind his ear.
"What will it be, Gabriel?" he asked again. "You can play coy with me or simply concede. If you are nice to me, perhaps I will spare your pet from watching. Then again, he may want the advice. I have known you much, much longer, after all..."
I don't like this. I don't like this at all. I know getting between them could be extremely dangerous, and not just for me, but I can't abandon Gabriel, can I? What do I do? What do I do?