I need to approach this slowly, but first I need clarification. Somehow, I get the feeling what Raphael said is important, and I need to know...
Nathan waited until Gabriel's crying softened, figuring it would be best to approach this after he'd calmed a little. When the angel sighed again and looked up at him, it was still hard not to feel bad about what he was about to say. "Gabriel," the writer began slowly. "I'm sure there's a lot going on here that I shouldn't be sticking my nose into, but you know I can't just sit around and be an observer to all this and not do something."
Gabriel laughed a little and smiled, nodding his head while he began to stand. "I think Lumiel put it lightly when he said that Raphael and I have a history. I suppose you want to know what that was all about."
"No." Nathan rose with him. "I figure whatever's going on between you two is your business, but if I ever walk in on something like that again, I may have to call in the big guns."
"Big guns, Nathan?" The angel's mood improved immediately, and he laughed at his suggestion. "No offense, but have you forgotten that he's an angel? The guns don't get much bigger than that." He blushed some. "And a rare few mortals can actually call on the power above us. The last time a mortal had that amount of faith was centuries ago, and she never actually called on the power, though she could have if she wanted to. Typically, the ones who can are also the ones with the least desire to do so. But anyway..." He chuckled again. "What are these big guns you're talking about?"
Nathan shrugged. "Well, I was thinking of calling Micah in. Seems an appropriate situation to use his Name for, so..."
"Wait." Gabriel's smile vanished. "Michael told you his Name?" He stared, but didn't wait for an answer. "I'm surprised," he muttered in awe, apparently to himself as he looked off to the side. "Maybe with the circumstances he feels more comfortable, but such a risk, to tell a mortal..." He shook his head, the smile returning, though light, as he looked at Nathan again. "Okay, I'll give you that one: calling in one warrior angel to face another makes sense, and as far as I know, Raphael doesn't know his Name to counter your summons. You could very effectively command Michael to act as a guardian on my behalf." The smile turned down. "But by contrast, Raphael could do the same of me, so it could escalate very quickly. It would all depend on how afraid he is of Michael, which I'm not sure of. It's probably best that you try to avoid summoning him, if you can."
It was frustrating to hear that his one idea to protect Gabriel wasn't as good as he'd thought, but the angel's explanation inadvertently answered another question he'd had. Curious to know if his assumption was right, Nathan looked at his guardian quizzically. "Raphael knows your Name, doesn't he?"
The angel sighed, but nodded. "A mistake he has made me regret since I shared it with him. I'd rather not go into the details; I already feel the fool for having trusted him too easily. I should have been skeptical from the moment he asked for it, and even more so when he refused to return the favor and share his with me." Gabriel's shoulders slumped, and he gave Nathan a desperate smile. "I hope further explanation about that wasn't what you were going to ask me."
"No," the writer said again. "I told you: that's your business. What I want to know has nothing to do with that."
"Then what is it you want to know?"
Nathan swallowed loudly, but didn't hesitate. "What did Raphael mean when he called me one of your special cases? I noticed your reaction, and I have a feeling you don't want to tell me..."
"No, I don't," Gabriel readily agreed, frowning. He moved over to the sofa and sat down, propping one leg across his knee. "But if I don't say something, he's bound to, and he won't be as tactful about it. You may want to sit down for this, Karol."
It was the first time his guardian had addressed him by his actual name, indication enough that it was very serious. Nathan took a seat next to him, looking over at the angel patiently, even though Gabriel closed his eyes and wouldn't look back. He drew a deep breath and braced himself. "I'm listening."
"A special case," the angel began, "is a colloquialism I and other angels of death use to reference suicides and those who are suicidal. We are not supposed to intervene when a mortal has chosen specifically to end his own life, since doing so is technically a violation of that mortal's free will. However, we are not explicitly forbidden from doing so." He turned to Nathan. "Raphael was teasing me because, as both a guardian angel and Death, I occasionally have charges that I must both protect and reap. It doesn't always happen; sometimes, the mortal I am guardian for dies when I am not the nearest angel of death, but it does occur, and when it does, it is almost invariably a special case." Gabriel lowered his head.
Nathan couldn't help his immediate reaction, his ears burning with heat. "I'm not suicidal. I've h-had tendencies, but that d-doesn't mean I ever real-really wanted t-to..."
"You made seven attempts after Marni's death, Karol." The angel turned to him again, eyes glowing. "And don't tell me you had no intention of going through with it. When... when a special case really wants to die, truly desires to take control of his final moments..." His brows knotted and his eyes narrowed. "His guardian angel can't sense he's in danger. I suspected you would be a special case when I protected you from the accident, so I kept close watch..."
"Bullshit!" Nathan snapped at him. "That's complete and utter bullshit! That's... no. Just... it can't be true!"
Gabriel sighed and gently placed his hand on the writer's shoulder. "I can't lie to you," he reminded him. "Perhaps I've been too vague in the past. Remember when I said I couldn't protect you from everything, even yourself? That should have been especially yourself." He frowned and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "In complete honesty, I can't sense it all when you choose to hurt yourself, unless you're doing so deliberately for the attention. Like when Alton was hurt and you had no other means to summon me, or when you protected Avery."
That didn't make Nathan feel much better. It made him realize that Alton was right when he said that even angels who can't lie can still deceive. "I thought such manipulation was not in your usual repertoire," he said bitterly, deliberately echoing Raphael's words.
Gabriel frowned, his eyes beginning to water. "I've only done so to protect you." A few tears slipped free and he wrapped his arms around himself. "Your reaction to this is exactly why I haven't told you. I was hoping you would just assume that, as your guardian, I would protect you as long as I was able, so you might think twice the next time you consider suicide your best option."
It was seeing the angel cry again that finally calmed him, and Nathan's anger quickly waned. He knew his face was still red, and he took a few deep breaths before he turned to Gabriel again. He realized that it wasn't his guardian who was to blame here. "So really, all Raphael was doing was trying to trick me into asking you about it," he said as that realization sank in. "He brought up special cases figuring I'd ask, if you hadn't said anything yet."
"He knew I hadn't," Gabriel said, wiping his eyes. "He knows I actually care about my charges. Absolutely delights in making my job more difficult by goading my special cases into acting on their desire to die." He slid a worried glance his way. "I fully anticipate him messing with you just to get to me, and I apologize in advance. All I ask is that you are very cautious around him. He's the patron angel of knowledge and will use that knowledge against you." The angel straightened and leaned back into the sofa. "He knows there are secrets I'm keeping from you, and may even know what they are" He looked directly at Nathan and caught his gaze, locking him in place. "If I tell you the complete truth about what is happening, why you must play Lumiel's game, every detail I know, then you. Will. Die. And nothing would bring Raphael more joy than if I fail so spectacularly at protecting one of my special cases." He broke his gaze and stared out at the wall. "I'm taking a risk telling you this, but I'd rather you hear it from me than him: you are a very special case, Mr. Karol Nathan Keene. Suffice to say the only reason you're in Virtue at all is because of my intervention. And that's all I want to say on the matter."
Nathan wished he hadn't asked, especially knowing he'd played right into Raphael's game to upset Gabriel. He wasn't even sure what to make of this revelation, that he was considered a special case because he had tried to kill himself. Multiple times. The whole thing made him uncomfortable, and after all that, he was ready to leave. He rose from the sofa and started towards the door.
Gabriel's voice made him pause and look slowly back. The angel gave him a weary smile. "Why did you come visit me anyway? You never did say why you were standing at my door when Raphael and I were arguing."
I completely forgot! I meant to ask him about Superbia, whether or not he might have put it in her head to oppose Lumiel... but after everything he's been through today, should I still ask? I know I told Alton I would, but maybe I shouldn't. At least not now.
What should I do?